I've stayed in a lot of motels. Some good, some ... not so good. For the most part, they all look the same. Same bedspread, same remote control, same individually wrapped plastic cups.

Of course, that's what you get when you stay almost exclusively at chain names. Problem is, when you don't, you really take your chances. I love a good independent motel, but too often the accommodations are less than agreeable.

I've often longed for the days that preceded me, when lodges with names like the Hiway Host and the Come On Inn could be counted on to provide a clean shower and a pleasant night's rest without the peeling ceilings and questionable sounds coming from the room next door.

Well, someone's finally turning back the clock. Smalltown America Inns, Lodges and Motels has launched an effort to buy up classic roadside motor courts and restore them to their former glory, with a few modern amenities thrown in. ... Continued

You ever talk so much, your face gets tingly? You know, like a nice little facial buzz? Well, I don't know if it's all the talking I did over the last half hour or if it's the three cups of coffee I downed at 6:00 a.m. to wake myself up, but I've got that prickle in my cheeks like I've been making out with someone for the last 20 minutes and I've just come up for air.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. But I'm not all that disappointed. Fact is, I just got off the phone, having completed my first official interview for Weird Arizona! The promotion frenzy has begun.

And I'm happy to say that it's off to a good start. Had a nice long chat with Charles Goyette on Phoenix's KFNX, entertaining the capital's morning commuters with tales of ghosts, yoofos and roadside attractions. ... Continued

Anyone who knows me knows my unhealthy fascination with Googie signage. You know the stuff — midcentury "futuristic" designs advertising motels and bowling alleys.

Well, it's just come to my attention that someone's got a somewhat Googie-style sign up on Ebay that's set to go by Tuesday. It's reminiscent of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair Unisphere (which still stands in Queens) and appears to be 20-25 feet tall, not including the spire. The current bid? One dollar!

From the lettering that bands its equator, which appears to read "Wings of Healing," it's presumably from a defunct church of some kind. Of course, you can always repaint it once it's in your living room.

Two weeks after dozens of Stephenville, Texas, residents reported seeing strange objects hovering in the night sky, the Navy has announced "our bad!"

Maj. Karl Lewis, spokesman for the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, issued a press release today saying he was mistaken in his original report in which he insisted there were no military exercises in the area on Jan. 8, the night locals reportedly saw the unusual lights.

Lewis, who had originally said he was "90 percent sure" the lights people saw were caused by the setting sun reflecting off a commercial jet, now admits that "10 F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron were performing training operations from 6 to 8 p.m. ... in the Brownwood Military Operating Area (MOA), which includes the airspace above Erath County." An "internal communications oversight" was supposedly the cause of the original misinformation. ... Continued

Stephenville, Texas, a town of about 15,000 residents — including, irrelevantly, singer-songwriter Jewel — has recently made international headlines for its extraordinary UFO sighting.

Dozens of witnesses have come forward, claiming to have seen intensely bright lights hovering over town the evening of Tuesday the 8th. The general consensus among locals is that the lights remained for about 5 minutes before tearing off at a phenomenal speed.

Several witnesses claim the lights were followed by two fighter jets, although, predictably, the region's military bases report that none of their planes were in the area at the time.

Witnesses describe the object as having multiple lights and flying very low to the ground. Some have compared the descriptions to that of the infamous Phoenix Lights (Weird Arizona, p.66) that made headlines in 1997.

Veteran pilot Steve Allen spotted it over the nearby town of Selden and described it as "bigger than a Wal-Mart," although we're left to wonder if he was referring to a regular or a Super. ... Continued

As with so many of my adventures, last night's began with an unusual odor. A burning odor. An odor like a bug caught in a halogen lamp. You know the kind — a choking, full-bodied aroma that makes you yearn for the fresh scent of bovine colon.

At first I thought it was my space heater causing trouble again. But that wasn't it. I traced the smell out into the hall, then into the bathroom. And that's where I discovered smoke. Not a lot of smoke, but enough, say, to reveal a flashlight beam. It seemed to be coming from the exhaust vent.

Now, most exhaust vents exorcise offensive odors. Mine invites them in. I've smelled neighbors' cooking wafting through the bathroom before. And, on occasion, their baking, if you know what I mean. So, it was no stretch to me that the same fan grate was the origin of this faint and mysterious smoke.

I threw on a sweater and walked around to the other side of my apartment building to find an answer. I figured it would be a logical assumption that the smoke was coming from either the apartment directly behind my john, or possibly the one below it. ... Continued

So, you may notice quite a gap in my blog. Well, that's because any spare time I've had the past few months I've spent trying to get this Web site up and running. It's my biggest online endeavor to date, far more complex than any site I've created before.

I've actually had to learn some programming to get things working the way I want. And being an incurable perfectionist, I've spent weeks tweaking things. You might be surprised what it takes just to get an alphabetized list of stories to ignore the's and a's or to get a row of thumbnails to line up in a way that doesn't make my eyelids spasm.

I've got a huge backup of stories and photos waiting to go, and even some blog entries hiding away elsewhere, but I realized a few weeks ago that if I were ever to get any of it up, I'd have to let some things slip for a while and concentrate on the backend. Thus, the gap. ... Continued

Sad news today. I was just informed that the publisher will not be sending me to the Grand Canyon State for the release of Weird Arizona.

To be honest, I never assumed they would, but I was hoping they might, at least for a few signings in the major cities. I was looking forward to the possibility of a fourth trip through the state so I could hit a few of the things I was unable to see on my previous drives, and then I could write about them for the Roadside Resort. Unfortunately, that won't happen, at least for the foreseeable future.

What's more, I won't be able to drop into Wickenburg to pick up a tiki like I'd planned.

Another great find at the Dollar Tree!

I almost passed these beauties over. I was convinced they were pretty useless as mats (their apparently intended function) and promptly decided they weren't much good as window blinds or any sort of decorative trim, either. But after laying a few out on the floor and letting them titillate my right brain a minute or two, I began to realize their potential if only they were unleashed from their kite-string shackles.

The bamboo itself is actually pretty good quality, nice and rigid. And each mat appeared to consist of one of three different bamboo thicknesses: narrow, medium and large. I saw picture frames, chimes, beer holders — all sorts of small projects. The clincher was the 3-D, bamboo-lettering sign I envisioned hanging out on my tiki patio.

So, I gathered as many as I could buy with the $7 in my wallet and schlepped them up to the register. Now all I need is a free weekend and a bag of hot-glue sticks.

The end is in sight! I finished out the Personalized Properties chapter today, and I don't think I could've chosen a better attraction to end it with. Gus Brethauer's Somewhere Over the Rainbow has to be among the top five most fascinating sights I encountered in Arizona. Here's a taste of my description:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow has everything under the sun. To its creator and curator, Gus Brethauer, nothing isn't worth saving. He's got rocks of every kind, some on prominent display, some in piles. He's got artifacts salvaged from ill-fated buildings. He has what he claims to be the world's largest collection of petrified wood. There are also dinosaurs, UFOs, tuberculosis shacks and hieroglyphs. And it's all lined up for thorough perusal.

... Continued