When I decided to expand my neon project across Massachusetts I knew I needed backup.
So I recruited an old friend to team up with me on the road. (She’s Internet-shy, so I’ll just leave her name to your imagination.)
She was a combination researcher, sounding board, motivator, sparkling conversationalist, and – yes – driver of a big comfy SUV. I was the planner, scheduler, equally sparkling conversationalist, and sometimes directionally challenged navigator. Neither one of us likes selfies.
It was a perfect match.
Worcester beckoned first, and then Springfield and Lowell. Other excursions took us to Lynn and Revere and Shrewsbury and Palmer. No matter where we went, we found amazing signs. And while I always researched multiple sources to develop an itinerary, we would inevitably discover other photo ops along the way. Sometimes locals would direct us. Other times it was serendipity.
And sadly there were times when I found that a sign on my list had been torn down.
Google Maps saved us multiple times when we missed an exit or got turned around in a rotary. But even Google – or Lady Google, as I dubbed the calming voice on my phone – had its limits. The sign for the Lowell Sun proved surprisingly elusive. Google kept directing us to a neon-less building and the sign was nowhere to be found. After we circled the block a few times, I starting dialing and eventually found someone at the newspaper who cleared up our confusion. The paper is no longer published in the building that bears its name, but that helpful employee directed us to Kearney Square where the neon Sun sign still stands.
The unexpected bonus on these road trips? Checking out a few of the Commonwealth’s diners. Some still boasted neon signs, of course, and many had original interiors. I’m no diner expert – I leave that to Larry Cultrera and others – but it’s easy to appreciate these vintage gems. And most served up a satisfying breakfast no matter what time we arrived: Corned beef hash and eggs for me, an omelette with a bagel for my mystery friend. Well worth the trip.