the billboard highway:

words, pictures and food from the open road.

July 1, 2012
by drew

mixed messages

visiting family in atlanta, we drove to tampa area florida and along the way captured the following. I think in a way there’s a delicate balance among all the advertisements.

Con State: Prepare To Succeed.

Exit for cakery.

big brother is watching.

“need we say more”

What can wash away my Sin? NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS.

Cerealface’s fixed gaze of faux happiness is only matched in non-sequitur by the antique showroom at this ramada.


Why are you so pushy? :(

Oh fuck. Seriously?

18 DAYS…

Wait a minute… didn’t that last bill–er, nevermind. I’m confused.

And now for something completely different…

This shit again? We got it.

Hmm.. this is all starting to come together.

This wasn’t a cafe at all, by the way.

Only the essentials.

Ok starting to get a bit preachy, Florida.

Why not…

Note the ‘DD’ in the title. Clever.

There are so many messages you see on a daily basis. Isn’t it interesting what you can discover about a place in 8 hours, a snapshot in time? There’s something of a balance to this picture. It was amusing seeing the advertisements of sinful activities juxtaposed by a vague religious ‘solution’ to the guilt for that previous problem. The cause and effect of it was like watching a large period of time reduced to hours. It makes me glad there’s a highway straight through them both.

December 30, 2011
by drew

We’re all doomed.

Just some things that have shown up in Chicago lately..


good ol’ fashioned racism

I think the marketing team behind this was basically thinking of how to integrate Facebook into a campaign and failed miserably. I don’t even know what this means.

October 9, 2011
by drew

Austin, TX


Welcome to Austin. Thanks. I needed a break. Things have been rather lopsided and I desperately needed to get away from everything for a while and let go. I decided that Austin was a city I had to see due to my love of music and things off the beaten path. There was a BBQ being held for Android devs/enthusiasts and I decided to head down to Texas to meet some of my friends from the Android world while also exploring this great city.

Sometimes you just have to get away. Things reach a boiling point inside. I brought my new camera out with me on the trip to capture some things I found interesting along the way. It was mid-day Friday that I landed in Austin. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed towards my hotel.

The view from my balcony
The first night was an awkward social experiment it seemed, people who have interacted for years with each other online finally meeting in person had some predictable results. We set out to find some beer to unwind and socialize a bit. I met up with my friends Bruce and Nathan at the hotel and we decided to check out this bar downtown Austin that a vendor had an open tab at while we waited for our friend Adam and his girlfriend Jess to arrive. The bar started out rather lame but as time went on and more people started arriving it became quite a great experience. It’s rare that I get to talk Android with anyone in my daily life.

Food truck outside the convention
View from the patio
Members of CyanogenMod
Bruce, Adam and Jess
CyanogenMod Panel
I always talk so much shit about these ‘family stick figure’ stickers that have for some reason become trendy. I found this one however to be pretty good.
We decided most of the panels were marketing fluff and/or otherwise uninteresting so we decided to hit Austin for some lunch. Jess was an Austin native so she graciously acted as our tour guide, putting up with car rides full of technical jargon carting a group of nerds around. She recommended this great taco truck called Torchy’s and we hit the road.

Lines are always a good thing
The wide array of options available
I ended up going with a Mr. Pink and the Migas tacos. Both were fantastic. Everyone seemed quiet satisfied but in desperate need of a good drink. Jess and Adam recommended we hit up the Spider House back patio. The climate here was very cool, very laid back and friendly.

The patio at Spider House
More Spider House patrons
Parking lot. Heh
 We decided to venture out in search of cigars and a place to watch ‘the game*’ and continue drinking. *The game refers to whatever sporting event everyone was interested in watching. We found this strange hybrid of a bar, salsa dancing school and cigar shop that had some cool tables made from local, recycled ingredients:


This place runs on AMD
Cigars consumed, we grabbed this photo of an Austin sunset before heading back to the rest of the conference for a local bar crawl on 6th street. This quickly turned into a trainwreck but lots of fun was had nonetheless.

Tim, Bruce, Adam and me.
The next morning before the actual BBQ began, we headed out in search of a gluttonous local treat known as Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts. The guy running it gave off the appearance of not having the ability to give a shit about anything but he cooks a crazy good doughnut so such things can be overlooked.

Nom nom nom…
24 delicious ways to die young
We set out to check out more local sites. Here is some random found art along the way in this beautiful city.

3 legends.
Fear samurai panda.
That sign reads ‘I Luv Bacon’
These awful puns needed to be documented
Cool local graffiti
Don’t hate
Remember the east side
These dogs were pissed off at us walking by. They barked quite a bit
Pray for rain
Welcome to the Jesus Deaf Church
The rest of the BBQ on Sunday, complete with vendor stands full of gadgets

Those are both my beverages, thanks for the counter space
Team Douche
Sunday night after the BBQ and collecting a ton of Android swag, we headed out to a local metal bar for some burgers and conversation. I met a lot of really great people during my trip in Austin, this evening was my favorite conversation and company.

I decided to postpone my flight until Monday evening instead of Sunday evening because I was having such a great time away from everything here. I decided to try and capture more of Austin Monday before I had to go to the airport. Here are some more local sights… including my hilariously childish inclusion of the hotel sink.

I love you too, Austin. Coffee shop with great pastries
Towers of Austin
That guy seems like an extreme spokesman for fire safety
Reflection. This woman was very frightened of dogs but painted a lovely picture
I flew home listening to Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” largely on repeat while I read a book. I learned a lot of important things on this trip, none of them having to do with the reasons I went. Lots of lasting friendships were started and interesting discussions had. Lots of delicious local food and art consumed, and a renewed faith in just happening to be at the right place at the right time.

September 21, 2011
by daniel

Morning in Kzoo and Local Produce

Our second day in Kalamazoo, I woke up a bit early to take a walk through the downtown area and explore a little. What I found was an interesting landscape: older buildings spread out along a wide main-street type boulevard going through the center of town. There were enough interesting signs and architecture to peak my interest and I wandered around the area.

What immediately struck me where the buildings in town. Very few were above 2 or 3 stories, making for an interesting skyline. The area felt very urban yet very rural at the same time with remnants of old manufacturing plants, not unlike many other rust belt cities in the region. In a way I felt that I was taking a stroll into the past where old buildings and neon signs stand proudly rather than hiding in the shadows of large modern skyscrapers and large retail stores. The streets where empty for the most part at times I felt like I was the only one walking around.

I fell in love with the old-school neon signs in town. I was very glad to see that some of the businesses maintained these. I found myself looking up at them and smiling and hoping to return for the chance to see them lit up at night.

Though not a neon sign, I came across this near the end of my walk around town and I knew I had to take a photo:

Driving through Michigan, Drew and I noted the amount of Burger King restaurants everywhere. There seemed to be one at every exit along the way. The one in Kalamazoo however was abandoned. I decided to get a closer look and found seating and colors somewhat reminiscent of the 80s, I also noticed a shack out back which seemed suited for a live person to take orders in place of a call box.

The night before our trip we had dinner at Acre, one of our favorite restaurants in Andersonville. They featured a sweet corn and peach salad featuring produce from J.W. Morlock & Girls farm in Michigan. As luck would have it on our way back home that day I noticed a sign for the farm on the side of the road. We decided to venture into Watervliet, MI and take a look around.

With a lingering craving for the salad, and with the help of the kind folks at the fruit stand, I picked up the same ingredients used in Acre’s salad to make at home. To recreate the salad I combined kernels of fresh sweet corn with sliced peaches and a chunks of goat cheesed. I simply tossed this mixture in a vinaigrette made from lemon juice, honey and olive oil and it was ready to go.

It was incredible to be able to mark the beginning and end of our trip to Michigan with the same dish. The experienced tied to this dish is something we won’t soon forget. I have a feeling that every year when the season is right, we’ll know where to pick up sweet corn and peaches to relive the memories once again.

Kalamazoo, MI.

September 21, 2011 by drew | 0 comments


Michigan. Why not, we ask ourselves? It’s the weekend and we’re thinking of things to do. Both Daniel and I love craft beer and frequently visit breweries and brewpubs around the IL/IN area. Daniel says, “how about Kalamazoo? Bells is up there I think.” The first thing that pops into my head at the mention of Kalamazoo is the Gibson guitar factory, now occupied by Heritage. I had been wanting to play a Heritage 525 model guitar for a while and they’re rather hard to come by in shops around here. “That sounds awesome,” I said. So off we went.

I am notoriously bad about changing my oil and general upkeep of my car as a result, I think, of living in the city for so long and rarely ever needing to use it. I have this panic Friday night and remember that I probably should get my oil changed because it’s been a while. I find a local shop and take it over to have it changed while Daniel and I walked around and looked for a place to eat breakfast. The shop took a bit longer than they claimed so we just waited around and watched this riveting program about power tools. The guy wouldn’t let me pay him for the work because he was behind and ran late. I offered again and he says, “come back and see us next time.” Cool. “I definitely will,” I said. Thoroughly relieved, Daniel and I set out for Kalamazoo.

We have this tradition. Road trips are always an experience for us. There is a particular air to them, a time where guards seem to get let down a bit and stories or experiences we’ve each had come to light, amidst the constant barrage of highway billboards. Billboard that are there to sell you fried food, local oddities, cars, phones and religion. Our tradition is to catalog these things because we find them hilarious, or creepy, or outrageous, or depressing. The kind of truth that comes from our conversations on these trips also fosters a mood that tends to unravel the advertisements, permitting us to look at them in a different light. As soon as we think we’ve seen everything, we see something like a museum with dogs-dressed-as-humans reenacting the Titanic. Why wouldn’t that exist? We see incredibly creepy faces, frozen in some state of synthetic emotion. We see hate. We see love. We see a distance between two places as an experience that is never duplicated.

cinnamon bunz
I’m not sure what’s worse about this. The fact that Holiday Inn thinks that the promise of a questionable looking cinnamon roll is enough to sway you to that particular hotel, or that someone would drive 29 miles to experience it.

“I’ll hold you and never let go forever and ever and ever….”.


whoa, man
We make it to Kalamazoo and check into our hotel. We’re both a bit tired and loopy from the trip and we hop into a cab we called to take us to Bells for the afternoon. Except it’s not a cab, it’s a full out mini-school bus… and we’re the only passengers. “We all out of them cabs so I got this,” she mumbles to us. Fair enough. We arrive to a slightly drizzling front entrance to Bells.

they left the light on for us
The style of this place is self service. We walk in and find a table upstairs, but it soon becomes populated with small children and it’s quite hot, so we sneak downstairs and grab this nice table under the stairs. We saw some cool iron work upstairs, and here is a super shitty no-flash shot of me waiting for beer.

oberiron, get it?
feed me beer
I then go and take a look at my fate for the evening. A few hard to come by brews on the list. This is a good sign. A couple old favorites. Extremely reasonable prices.

approach the oracle with caution

Outside the bathrooms. The other side has some as well.

don't drink and drive
good night, bells… thanks for the beer. The Oracle was ridiculously good but hard to finish, give it a shot if you’re around there. It’s a creeper.

goodnight sweet prince
The next day we decided to go try to find that guitar I was trying to play. At breakfast I happened to ask a nice woman behind the counter if she knew anything about Heritage guitars. She suddenly displayed a look of both utter shock and warm familiarity. She told me that in fact, yes, she knew quite a bit about them. It turns out her husband used to work at the factory. She gave me the number of a close friend of her sons, who told me where the go-to spots were when I called him. I love those kind of interactions, where you just seem to be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately being Sunday and having Labor Day on Monday, nothing was open and I was pretty let down. We decided to go check out the Gibson factory anyway. It is now the home of Heritage Guitars.

what do they need a smokestack for?
nice crooked picture
I put “Brothers” by the Black Keys on the stereo. It was a solemn morning due to my strikeout with the guitar but we made the best of it and headed out of town towards some nice local produce off the beaten path. Daniel will fill you in on the details of that but needless to say I benefited greatly from this detour. A few last interesting sites before we head out of town:

there's a deathcab for cutie joke somewhere in there
feed me beer
I should hope so…
On the way home we decided to stop at my favorite place in the world, 3 Floyds Brewpub, to get some growlers of a beer they just recently put back on tap after a long hiatus. We always pass this sign and laugh but finally decided to grab a pic of it:
don't spill that martini!
I sincerely fucking doubt it.

“Brothers” finished spinning and we listened to the new M83 album. It was a wonderful background for the ride home. We were both all smiles due to our newly acquired beer, produce and understanding of one another.