The Road Ramblers

I’ve been a bit irregular in posting over here as of late and here’s why- we’ve been working on a big, super exciting new project- the Road Ramblers.

Since November, we’ve been planning. We bought an old bus in early December 2015 and have been working on gutting and converting it, readying it for a six month trip around the country, during which we will be documenting small towns through interviews, photography, video, art and the collection of artifacts. All of this will be compiled into a web series and then a book, if you’re able to help. We have exciting premiums in addition to the book- namely original art and photography. We’d appreciate your help and love for you to follow along!
Thanks- Alex and Spencer

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/263559793/road-ramblers

Updates on dinerhunter will be sporadic, probably more confined to the east coast leg of the trip when I’ll be able to return to the original mission of this site- diners.

For regular updates from the road through Road Ramblers, check in at theroadramblers.com, our Instagram, and our facebook.
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On the Road: Vegas part 3

We reached Salt Lake City late but with enough time to hit IKEA to pick up a few things for the interior of the bus. With dire predictions of 1-3 feet of snow around Salt Lake City and sleet and snow already falling when we woke up, we skipped many of our thrift shop stops and prioritized the larger of the antique malls. Back on more familiar, older ground, my luck started to change, with a couple of fedora finds. The vintage shops in the area focused more on women’s vintage (with huge selections) and 1970s menswear, but there were a few pieces of vintage kicking around there and the antique malls. There was the usual frustration of 6-3/4 hats (unsellable) and equally unsellable late 1950s-early ’60s suit jackets and overcoats tempting me in lots of the shops. Dodging the forecasted snow in the SLC area and north in Pocatello, we cut west to Twin Falls for the night. Waing early, we drove the last two hours to Boise, where we stumbled upon Ward Hooper Gallery and Vintage Swank, which specializes in the type of vintage clothes that largely make up my own closet. It’s always fun to walk into a place filled with 50-80 year old clothing and be able to recognize exactly who made what without even take it off the hanger. Alex made a major score there, picking up an early 1900s wooden 8×10 bellows camera, a real monster. We hit up a few more antique stores and a couple of thrift shops before reaching the point of critical thrift saturation. Usually we do more sightseeing, more walking through back alleys looking at changes in brickwork and battered neon. This trip we’ve done much too much driving and going from one chain thrift shop to one chain thrift shop, with identical interiors, the same lousy clothes on every rack from one store to the next and seeing the same sprawl. No matter where you go, driving by an Applebees still looks the same.

So on to Pocatello, to recharge at our favorite hotel, the Black Swan Inn Theme Suites. This time we got the Caveman room and what a kitchy roadside treat it was. Back within our 300 mile zone of comfort, we re-traced the footsteps we’ve taken on several other trips through Pocatello and Idaho Falls. We were last in the area in October, and places haven’t had time to fully re-stock, so we saw a lot of the same antiques we’ve passed over before. Still, a tie here, a jacket there, it adds up.

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When it’s all laid out, it’s quite a haul, coats, hats, ties, suits, jackets, and the big score, over a hundred deadstock WWII zippers, mostly Talons and Crowns. I’ve been working on shooting and editing for the past 10 hours, I should have the rest of it ready to show you all by tomorrow. I’m also working on editing some of the video we shot along the way. There’s a definite learning curve, and this probably wasn’t the trip to start with, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

On the Road – Las Vegas 2

Saturday was a new record for me. 20 thrift shops in a day. In Las Vegas, they’re mostly grocery store sized, so where I’m used to a half dozen racks of men’s stuff, these came through with aisle after aisle. Hundreds of suits and jackets all in one place, shirts as far as the eye can see, and decent prices for the large part. I realize Las Vegas is a relatively new town with a transient population, but I hoped it would be a numbers game- 20 shops, thousands of things at each of them, bound to be some vintage in there somewhere. It turned out I was half right. There was no shortage of early ’60s overcoats, tweeds, plaid cotton, largely small collared, fly fronted and raglan sleeved. One or two in nearly every store. Unfortunately, many were stained or moth damaged, and most of the stores were asking $20-$30 for them. This may not seem like much, but the current overcoat market is bad. I could put one of those in the eBay store at $10 and it would probably go unsold for a year. The local vintage shops won’t touch them at any price. Usually it stands that where there is one piece of vintage, more are lurking, waiting to be found. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, and my entire sellable haul from the day’s thrifting was a single necktie, which goodwill had priced at $4, about eight times what I’m used to paying for thrift shop ties.
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After picking Alex up from the photo conference, we met up with Jason T. Smith, star of Spike TV’s “Thrift Hunters”, “Thrifty Business with Jay and Nay”, “Thrifting With the Boys”, etc. at Frankie’s Tiki Room. I compared my experience with my aborted vintage-picking TV show with his two seasons in reality TV, we talked the state of thrifting, eBay sales and how people like us have ruined thrifting for everyone by divulging its mysterious ways. You couldn’t hope to meet nicer people than he and his wife.
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So far, the haul stands at a ’40s English summer suit, a turn of the century sack suit, Hollyvogue tie, vintage Notre Dame Athletics shirt, pair of vintage eyeglasses and a vintage patch.
We made it into Salt Lake City last night only to find we’re due to catch the edge of a potentially 3 foot snowfall. We’ll try to keep it brief here and head west before things hit.

On the Road- Las Vegas 1

By the time we had reached West Yellowstone, the sun had set, temperatures plummeted and it started to snow heavily. We spent two hours white knuckled, through Yellowstone National Park and Targhee National Forest, crawling along in near whiteout conditions with only the tail-lights of a semi to guide us. We pulled in late at the first motel we could find, on the outskirts of Idaho Falls. The motel was the kind we strive to avoid, with crippling stains on the bed and towels. The mattress, pillows and carpet were steeped in decades of nicotine and the heater had given up on life. We spent the night in every piece of clothing we had packed, shivering, and woke up stiff, bloodshot and exhausted.

Snowcovered fields gave way to green and eventually to the stunning red rocks of Arizona. The cold of our previous night was replaced by baking heat and an equally broken air conditioner in our car. Windows down is fine in town, but at 85mph on the highway, the wind is almost as unbearable as the sweat.

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But, after 850 miles of solid driving, we made it. Our hotel doesn’t have free wi-fi (go downstairs, smoke! gamble! drink!) and the pool outside our window is in the process of being jackhammered out. So out into the city! While Alex is at a photography conference, seeing her photographic heroes- I venture out! To the shops!

On paper, there are some 75+ antique, vintage and thrift stores in town. Before leaving, I had plotted them all out with one of those route-planning algorithms developed based on the flight patterns of bees. But with no internet, no printer, and my PDF having converted all my addresses to GPS coordinates, so far I’ve had to wing it. Las Vegas’s antique stores are nearly all clustered in roughly four blocks of the old section of downtown. Left to my own devices, I go into picker mode. Vintage clothes? Vintage clothes? Vintage clothes? No- none here- on to the next store. 5 minutes and done, sticking out like a sore thumb. Dealer. Not from here.

There are a surprising number of vintage clothing boots here in Las Vegas, but dealing mostly in 1970s cheese. Polyester used car dealer jacket? Leisure suit? Three mile thick paisley necktie? You got it, buddy. The older clothes are thin on the ground, but either there’s no market, or they’re out of the dealer’s comfort zone, so I was able to pick up a couple of gems at otherwise outrageously priced places. Along the way, I ran into the star of the reality TV show, “Thrift Hunters”, and unsurprisingly in this strange vintage world we inhabit, we had friends in common. We’ll be meeting up for drinks at one of the local tiki bars- more on that later. Tomorrow should be my big thrift day, but after the couple I hit yesterday and the day before, I don’t have high hopes. They’re around in abundance, and are the enormous Goodwill-type shops, so no shortage of things to go through. But so far what I’ve been seeing is mostly very low-end suits from the 1990s, stained rental tuxes and novelty print neckties. It could be a numbers game- dig through a few thousand and maybe something will have fallen through the cracks.

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Stay tuned, more to come over the course of the next week as we finish up in Nevada and work our way through a few more states.

On the Road- Helena, Feb 20

We went off to Helena on Feb 20.

Our first stops, in Townsend, were a bit bizarre.  I’ve had good luck at the antique mall there before, and while it’s still mostly antiques, a tanning parlor has moved into one of the booths, while another is selling nothing but discount toilet paper and tissues. The windowless junk shop at the other end of downtown said it was open, and sure enough, the door was unlocked, but the lights were off and no one was in. We awkwardly let ourselves out. We’ve been to Helena enough times at this point that we’ve pretty much seen the sights- the downtown, the neighborhoods, the back alleys, the sprawl and the hidden gems.  No, this trip was strictly business, hitting the shops looking for vintage clothes and things for the bus. I made some pretty good finds, a Pendleton half-belt gabardine jacket, ’40s 3 piece suit, a few other jackets, shirts and odds and ends. One of my favorite thrift shops in town separates the vintage clothing from the regular stock and puts it in its own room. The prices are a bit more than the regular racks, but nothing outrageous. Unfortunately, it was closed off with caution tape this time around and the lights were off. The side room at one of the antique malls where last time I was there I found buckets of hundreds of vintage neckties was also closed off. I probably bought them out.  Ha! It’s always funny going back to antique stores and seeing the same things that haven’t sold for several years. Sometimes, it’s a blessing, like in Billings where I’ve come back and bought things months later when I had the money and sure enough, they were still there.  Sometimes it’s just clutter, the kind of thing you wonder, “who would buy this”, and realize the answer is “no one”.

I struggle with being recognized. The vintage clothing world is a small one and can sometimes get competitive and weird. On the whole, though, I’ve found dealers more than willing to help each other out and I make an active effort to share my research on brands and labels openly. And it’s always heartwarming for me to run into people in real life and hear that my guide on zippers or Woolrich labels or whatever it happens to be has helped someone to date a piece of clothing. I had found something I wanted at one of the shops on this trip, and as always seems to happen with the things I want, it hadn’t been priced yet. When researching the label to see how much to charge me, the first website that popped up was mine.  I have the same problem when researching things myself. This site seems to be one of the few places that archives past sales and information (other than some of the spectacular Japanese dealers whose pictures I drool over and whose text google translates hamhandedly) and google searches feed my own photos back to me when I try to see what else is out there.  Thankfully, we were able to find a price that suited both of us.

A fun and successful trip, on the whole. On to the next.
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Some of the finds- I kept a shirt for myself and my roommate snagged a m1950 field jacket before it was shot..
I found a nice WWII issue peacoat at the last thrift shop we hit, but wasn’t able to buy it- it had been set aside as a free coat for the homeless as part of a drive and they wouldn’t pull it on a paying basis.
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