Signs of the times

While I was on my week long road trip to survey weather stations and visit the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC last week, I encountered lots of signs. Restaurant signs, road signs, signs from above, you name it. I think I must have passed 100 Bojangles restaurants and/or road signs. Bojangles is a popular southern chicken and biscuits restaurant. One though, really got my attention.

But please read on for the real “mother of all signs” I encountered.

Then there was Cracker Barrel and Waffle House…

Cracker barrel has an interesting marketing slogan on their supply trucks:

Yeah, I drove some of those….

On good advice from my readers, I avoided every one of these I saw:

This place is the southern version of Bob’s Big Boy and Frisch’s, good eats and a great breakfast bar. I didn’t try the wine though.

There were some other restaurant signs that I didn’t quite understand…

And there were some signs that I often wished I had for use when moderating this blog:

Then there were some signs that really spoke to the mission I was on:

And then there were others that I encountered that didn’t have a hint of southern hospitality at all…

I saw a lot of these at gas pumps, and given how I feel about biofuels, I drove to the next stations where I didn’t have to burn food to finish my trip:

I had mentioned that after surveying too many weather stations at sewage treatment plants that I needed a long shower, but when I saw this while I briefly toyed with the idea, I just didn’t see how it would change anything. I’d just be trading one smell for another.

There was one sign though that left a lasting impression on me, and it requires just a little bit of explanation.

When I was driving in Northwestern North Carolina, I went through many small towns and country roads that had small churches, I must have passed 200 during my trip. One thing I noticed is that pastors in these towns tend to try to out do each other with sermon topics on their front signs. I’d drive into a little town, and I’d see one sign advertising salvation, the next would have salvation plus breakfast, the next might have salvation, confession, a quote from the Bible, and a spaghetti feed, while the fourth might just have a zinger that would put all the others to shame.

This was one of those:

Now a caveat, the mountain road I was traveling on when I saw this had no shoulder and there was a semi truck right behind me. I looked for a place to pull over and turn around, and didn’t see one coming up, I couldn’t even pull over to let the truck pass. Five miles later I was still stuck and gave up on the idea.

Today I Google image searched to see if I could find an image where I could recreate the message, and found this neat web site called the Church Sign Generator, the output of which you see above. The sign and message was real, and didn’t look much different from this example except the top had something about Sunday’s service which I didn’t include because I didn’t get a good look at it.

We should all take this message home with us and live it.


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April 28, 2008 10:57 pm

That final one is from the website that you can generate these slogans with, right?
REPLY: Right, but the original sign at a chruch in NW North Carolina existed, I just could not get a picture of it due to the road I was on. So this was the next best thing

Gary Gulrud
April 28, 2008 11:28 pm

Another image popped into my head. I believe it was Sartre that said “Hell is other people’ or something to the effect.
Now imagine arguing ‘Global Warming’ with say, Al, for eternity! Aiiyeeeee!

April 28, 2008 11:56 pm

It’s funny that you mentioned burning your food. I wrote a blog piece about that 4 weeks ago. It looks like you had a great time and accomplished a bunch. Keep up the good work.

April 29, 2008 12:09 am

Eating at Waffle House is like reading Open Mind because….
You just feel [————-] all over, and can’t get the [———–] out of your [————]

Joe S
April 29, 2008 12:29 am

The Waffle House isn’t so bad. I’ve eaten there off and on for over 35 years. All their food preparation, dish washing and food storage is full view of patrons…right behind the counter.
Open 24 hours a day, at every shift change the crew gets things cleaned up and squared away for the next group to come aboard. I’ve often seen the waitresses cleaning the windows when they get the chance between customers. Often, I’ve had to raise my feet so a waitress can make a quick pass with a mop on the vitrified tile floor. At times, when there’s been a rush of customers, things will not look as neat as they try to keep it. Waffle House is what it is: Short order food quick and consistent from store to store.
Years ago, a fella I knew, a musician, had a day job delivering produce to restaurants in our area. He would tell horror stories of what he saw in some of the kitchens.

April 29, 2008 2:26 am

Agreed about biofuel. It is one of the worst excesses of the modern environmental movement.
In fact, if we want to demonize any particular big business lobby, it should less Exxon etc, rather it should be US agribusiness. Biofuels main function is to drive up the price of corn and attracts huge subsidies. Corn syrup and corn oil are disastrous modern additions to our diet. Manufactured soy derivatives are nefarious but promoted as healthy natural diet additions, when they are neither natural nor healthy (soy oil, soy milk, various soy additives). Meanwhile industrial farming destroys the soil.
It is curious that none of this ever gets any scrutiny from people who seem hypersensitive to lobbying from some other industry groups. Not that the oil and coal lobbies are just lovely folks either of course. But the environmental and health food agendas seem to have been hijacked by a straightforward special interest group – a very big one.

April 29, 2008 2:54 am

Cracker Barrel is great. Shoneys not bad, but it’s been decades since I’ve had breakfast at one. Contrary to your friends advice, I think Waffle House is good, although like any chain may have individual stores which are sub-par. I’ve eaten at them throughout Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee and find them reliably good.

April 29, 2008 5:15 am

When I was requested to help our church develope a website, I turned to the ‘net to see what others are doing for ideas.
During my review of hundreds of sites, I cam across some doozers. But the one that stuck in my mind was “The Church Of The Blind Chihuahua,” which has now become “The Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua” ( Where is the church based? LaLa Land, of course!
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate Project

April 29, 2008 6:41 am

I hate you were scared off the Waffle House. It really is “Good Food Fast”. In GA or TN, where there is no smoking in restaurants serving those under 18, the meal is pretty pleasant. Plus, when you walk in the door, someone always says “Hello”
I have a story about a car trip we took to California. In 1999, the wife, kids and I drove from Atlanta to Yosemite, Monterey, L.A., and the Grand Canyon. I would encourage everyone to take a drive through the heartland of this country. At the Gateway Arch Museum, my wife bought a book about three women’s experiences in the wagon trains. It was interesting zipping along at 70 mph and imagining making the trip at 15 miles a day.
On the west coast, one thing that struck me was the number of times that we were walking out of a store or restaurant where the people in front of us let the door close in my wife or children’s faces. My mother would track me down for a scolding if I did something like that.
On the return leg, we left Dallas one morning, and after being gone 14 days, we were determined to make the 12 hour drive home. We stopped for dinner at the Waffle House in Tuscaloosa AL. We walked in the door, the waitress said “Howdy” and we just stood there. It then struck us that we were finally getting close to home.

Richard Wright
April 29, 2008 7:07 am

I live in the Chicago area and have no choice but to buy gasoline mixed with Ethanol because it’s mandated. An added benefit is we also get to pay more for our special city blend. I’m waiting for the yearly round of congressional hearings on price fixing by the oil companies once gas hits $4 a gallon. I wonder why they never have hearings on price fixing for the price of corn by BIg Agriculture…

Jeff Alberts
April 29, 2008 7:10 am

Too bad there’s more proof for AGW than for god.

April 29, 2008 7:44 am

My family’s favorite “church sign” was found years ago near Atlanta GA. Sign creator apparently forgot to insert an “s”…
“Get to heaven by drinking John water.”

John Andrews
April 29, 2008 7:58 am

My grandson, my wife and I were looking for a quick breakfast recently outside Atlanta. Nothing seemed to suit my wife, so I finally pulled into a Waffle House. My wife sat in the car and pouted while my grandson and I went in and had breakfast. We had a nice breakfast. Fast, clean, busy. The one thing that I noted that this place held the salt of the earth. There were all kinds of people there, many that my wife would not ordinarily associate with. All were welcomed and happy to be there. It was busy, warm, friendly place with good food, greasy, but good. I enjoyed it and so did my grandson. My wife listened to the radio and missed the experience.

April 29, 2008 8:15 am

A rather vague ethanol sticker just popped up on the pumps at my local Shell last week. I didn’t notice it until I was already filling the tank. I went inside and looked for a brochure on the counter (as they sometimes have to promo the company), but nothing about ethanol and whether or not it was in the fuel I had just pumped. Guess this answers my question.
I read last month that Shell has invested in R & D for biofuel using switchgrass and other non-food items, but that might not see the light of day for years, if at all. In the meantime, I’ll be filling up elsewhere.
And Jeff A, as we say down south, “Ain’t that the truth.”

Diatribical Idiot
April 29, 2008 8:15 am

Cracker Barrel is our personal family favorite.
Glad you had a nice trip, Anthony, and were able to look at a few things other than thermometers!

April 29, 2008 8:20 am

I typically don’t look at stranger’s posts. Frankly, the headline rarely interests me, but the title of this caught my attention, so I read on…
This post was so enjoyable! And so TRUE!! Thank you for such an entertaining post!
The most memorable sign I ever saw was a church front sign as well. It was so clever, I found myself chuckling out loud as I passed it. You’re driving along, and see the sign in front of you that reads, “Some people think Jesus is dead and Elvis is alive…” On the other side, it read, “Some people are confused.” lol
It’s been years since I saw that, but still remember it! 🙂

Ron McCarley
April 29, 2008 8:57 am

In case you’re on the road again, and if you’re in a hurry and want quality food/great selection, try Golden Corral restaurants in most states. It’s buffet style at 1 low price, and they serve 3 meals daily. I don’t think you’d be disappointed. Cracker Barrel is OK, but you can plan on spending some time there.

April 29, 2008 8:59 am

Richard Wright said : “I live in the Chicago area and have no choice but to buy gasoline mixed with Ethanol because it’s mandated. An added benefit is we also get to pay more for our special city blend. ”
If you live in the northern burbs, try the two Mobils at the intersection of Half Day Rd (Route 22) and Edens (Route 41). Neither uses Ethanol… as least not yet. But when they do, I’ll find someone else… I hope.
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate Project

Gerald Ingle
April 29, 2008 9:43 am

YeeHaw! Welcome to the south, Anthony…..home of Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, Shoney’s, smalltown churches, and badly-located temperature stations. Hopefully, only the latter will be changing…..

April 29, 2008 10:55 am

RE: Bob_L (06:41:54) :
California was not always like that. I did not realize it growing up but know it now. During the CW, California was actually somewhat of a “border state” in that there was a mix of pro Union and pro Confederate folks. Outside of SF proper, prior to about the late 70s, most of the state, especially the central and southern areas, was sort of a Dixie west. I used to wear cowboy boots to elementary school and it was not considered out of place. You’d even see the odd stars and bars on bumpers or even flying. Well, now take a look at it. Warning – this may happen to your state too.

April 29, 2008 12:06 pm

As someone, who lives in the UK, $4 a gallon is nothing, its $10 a gallon in the UK, and only going up. 58% goes on tax, for petrol here.
I once saw a church with the words GOD is NOW HERE, ok.. unfortunatly the space between the now and hear was covered by a wooden frame.. so it became, god is nowhere.

April 29, 2008 12:36 pm

Steve S and Bob_L.
What’s the difference between and Californian and a New Yorker?
When a Californian says hello, he means F(*&^ you.
When a New Yorker says F(*&^ you, he means hello.
I’ve lived in California all my life. Californians in general are rude, stupid, and primarily oblivious to what goes on around them. If you want to say I’ve hoisted myself on my own petard, well I walked into that one.

April 29, 2008 12:57 pm

Very interesting Steve,
I have relocated in the last 18 months from Metro Atlanta to Knoxville and that 200 mile move is huge. Gone is the agressive driving and traffic of I-285 and life runs a much slower pace. The number of small nuances and phrasing that vary around the country is facinating. My family agreed that we would have to “embrace our inner hillbilly” when we moved. The people here are fantastic though my 10 yo daughter still complains that her teacher calls the first president “George Warshington, and hearing someone say us’ans and yall’ans is still weird.

April 29, 2008 1:01 pm

No Stuckey’s? In my few trips to the southeast I was always amazed by the number of billboards advertising the next one. Perhaps you weren’t quite far enough south.

kum dollison
April 29, 2008 3:23 pm

So, I assume you have done a LOT of research on ethanol, and no. 2 Dent Field Corn, eh?

April 29, 2008 6:01 pm

Sad that in all those pics there are only chain restaurants. Reconstituted glop and thawed entrees, trucked a thousand miles across country, heated up and plopped on a paper plate by some highschool kid who forgot to wash his hands, for your eating enjoyment. I avoid these ‘better living through chemicals’ places whenever I can. Give me a good ol’ mom and pop greasy spoon anyday over any of these sorry excuses for food.

Rod Smith
April 29, 2008 7:03 pm

The ‘best’ sign I have ever seen outside a business wasn’t in the South at all. Years ago I was driving through East St Louis on the way to Scott, AFB and passed a burger joint with a sign that read “Burgers 14 cents each – or 7 for a dollar.”

April 29, 2008 8:05 pm

I didnt even know that Shoneys existed. And WATCH out for all those waffle houses!!! They can spell disaster!

April 30, 2008 6:39 am

rjhend, it’s a bit prejudiced to assume that a chain restaurant serves only “Reconstituted glop and thawed entrees, trucked a thousand miles across country, heated up and plopped on a paper plate by some highschool kid who forgot to wash his hands”. The Waffle Houses I’ve known do this no more than the mom-and-pop greasy-spoon places I’ve loved.
Waffle House is pretty much a bare-bones diner with no pretentions to vanity – you just get grub, not cuisine. Homestyle cooking.

David Walton
April 30, 2008 1:08 pm

I love the South.

May 2, 2008 2:09 pm

Bob L;
Watch out for when someone says, “It’s all yur’an.”
Probably not in Tennessee, though. I ran into that once in West-by-gawd-Virginee.

al bundy
June 24, 2008 6:22 pm

i live around indianapolis, we have all of the chains and mom and pops. i eat waffle houses almost every sunday with my golfing buddies. yuppies all, and we are treated just like everyone else. my daughter however will not eat at waffle house and insists on bob evans or cracker barrel. my buddies and i know much better than she does. the waffle houses are better than the fancy ones and the mom and pops are being fazed out. when we can we will try a mom and pop since we do try out a lot of courses.

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