Atlas Obscura's Summer Radio Road-Trip - Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura's
Summer Radio Road-Trip

Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'


Atlas Obscura and All Things Considered have joined forces this summer for an epic road trip up America’s Pacific Coast. From the high desert of Southern California to the rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, our mission is to seek out the hidden, the unusual, the wondrous experiences that can still be had along these iconic stretches of highway.


1. Setting Off From the Cabazon Dinosaurs

Our first stop, during a nighttime drive from the Los Angeles airport to the desert, is a classic roadside attraction, the Cabazon Dinosaurs—giant, hand-crafted dinos behind a fast-food restaurant. When we arrived, the attraction itself, a creationist museum (gulp) with dozens of metal-and-concrete dinosaurs, was closed. But the brontosaurus (Dinny) and tyrannosaurus (Mr. Rex) are outside the gates. There was something special about seeing Mr. Rex's eyes and mouth—glowing, 65 feet in the air—on a cool desert night. 

Cabazon Dinosaurs, 50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, California, United States, 92230

Shari Elf's World Famous Crochet Museum, housed in a photo-processing booth. Samir S. Patel
Radio Story

2. Joshua Tree’s High Desert Quirk

The desert surrounding the California towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Landers exert a gravity that attracts artists, visionaries, and mystics. Tourists, too, and there’s a lot here to see and do. The first of our five segments on All Things Considered highlights two unusual stops, the World Famous Crochet Museum and Bob’s Crystal Cave

Listen: Joshua Tree Provides Beacon for Artists and Seekers in the California Desert (Monday, August 6, on NPR's All Things Considered). 

Twentynine Palms Highway

Items in the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum. Panos Damaskinidis/Infringe Magazine
Audio Postcard

3. The Hair-storian Behind a Unique Salon

Jeff Hafler, owner of the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum in downtown Joshua Tree, has been collecting beauty and hair-related items for decades, and now displays them in his shop. We popped in while Jeff had a customer in his chair, unfazed by an impromptu tour.

Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum, 61855 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, California, United States

Oran Z outside of the shipping containers that hold his collection of black Americana. Samir S. Patel
Radio Story

4. A Hidden Trove of Black Americana

North of Los Angeles, we visited Oran Z, a hair-weave magnate and collector of black memorabilia who used to run his own private museum in Los Angeles. For our second All Things Considered segment, we visited with Oran as he struggles with his legacy.

Listen and Read: Through a Looking Glass of Black Americana: The Long, Strange Journey of Oran Z (Tuesday, August 7, on NPR's All Things Considered).

W. Avenue J, Lancaster, CA 93536

A bone model of Santísima Trinidad, a Spanish warship lost in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Samir S. Patel
Audio Postcard

5. Model Ships With a Creepy Origin Story

Before we embarked on this road-trip, we asked Atlas Obscura readers to suggest places we should visit. One recommended the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, where director Peter Crabbe showed us an unusual collection of model ships—made of bone, by ship-bound prisoners.

3900 Bluefin Cir, Oxnard, CA 93035

All of these eggs, in a drawer at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, are from the common murre, a northern seabird. Samir S. Patel
Radio Story

6. Finding All the Eggs in One Basket

Another reader recommendation came from the photographer and artist Rosamond Purcell, who directed us to an undistinguished office park in Camarillo, California. For our third All Things Considered segment, we visit the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, one of the largest egg collections in the world, and its inspiring collections manager, René Corado.

Listen and Read: From a Million Eggs, Putting Together Clues About Science's Past and Future (Wednesday, August 8, on NPR's All Things Considered).

439 Calle San Pablo, Camarillo, CA 93012

Each unique room at the Madonna Inn gets its own name and postcard. This is Room 138, Daisy Mae. Samir S. Patel

7. Pilgrimage to a Monument of Kitsch

You might have heard, in the first radio segment, mention of a unique hotel, the Madonna Inn, recommended to us by, well, several people. One of them specifically pointed out the men's urinal in the lobby, without saying why. It just so happens that we had use for one of those as we spotted the resort from the highway. Everything about this hotel in San Luis Obispo—from its individually themed and named rooms, to its bubble-gum-pink dining room, to the dinosaur fossil hidden in the stone of the massive fireplace—is a testament to the unusual vision of its husband-and-wife creators. The urinal? A stone grotto that turns into a waterfall as you approach. 

Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Rd., San Luis Obispo, California, United States, 93401

Audio Postcard

8. A Hall of Fame on Two Wheels

Some of the best moments on road-trips are when you spot something unexpected, like the mountain bike museum we spied while filling the tank. Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame founder Marc Vendetti guided us through the history of mountain biking—which he helped make.

1966 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Fairfax, CA 94930

Up close with the Mammoth Rubbing Rocks. Gina Kelly/Alamy
Audio Postcard

9. When Backscratching Leaves a Legacy

This dark outcropping overlooking the Pacific Ocean seems to attract a lot of rock climbers. Thousands of years ago, it had the same effect on mammoths, who rubbed patches of it smooth as glass. We rubbed the rocks ourselves.

Mammoth Rubbing Rocks, Duncans Mills, California, United States, 95430

Sea Ranch Chapel. Samir S. Patel

10. A Moment of Zen at Sea Ranch Chapel

This nondenominational chapel was designed in 1984 by architect James T. Hubbell for the nearby community of Sea Ranch, in memory of a resident, Kirk Ditzler. It defies easy description. A flower that floated to the ground? A seashell? A cresting wave? Maybe Gandalf’s wizard hat after it magically transformed into a hobbit house. Inside is a peaceful refuge illuminated by panels of stained glass and almost abstract in its lines. There's a leafy chandelier and a single kneeler, good for appealing to a higher power for safe passage on curvy coastal roads. 

Sea Ranch Chapel, 40033 CA-1, Sea Ranch, California, United States

The glittering glass that gives the beach its name. Samir S. Patel

11. A Detour to Where Trash Became Treasure

For years, residents of Fort Bragg, California, threw trash onto Union Lumber Company land next to the ocean. There were eventually cleanup programs, and the Pacific took what was left and made a wonder out of it, covering the beach in shiny, pebble-smooth bits of glass. Now part of MacKerricher State Park, Glass Beach is a bustling attraction, as people hunt for interesting little bits to take home with them, despite the posted signs. Years of collecting have taken their toll, but when the sun hits wet pebbles, they still glimmer. 

Glass Beach, Glass Beach Trail, Fort Bragg, California, United States, 95437

The hole in the Chandelier Tree wasn't carved with today's luxury SUV market in mind. Alisa Ch/Shutterstock

12. Marveling at the Chandelier Tree

Let's get this straight—it is not cool to tunnel through a 276-foot coast redwood, like landowner Charlie Underwood did in the 1930s. But this giant, the Chandelier Tree, named for its branching crown, survived. There are only a couple of these relics of West Coast car culture left, and we found a thrill in wondering if a plus-size SUV was going to make it. It's clear from scuff marks on the inside of the tree that not all of them do. But watching road-trippers debate whether they should even try is great fun. 

Chandelier Tree, Leggett, California, United States, 95585

An intact Humpty Dumpty at the Enchanted Forest. Samir S. Patel
Radio Story

13. Decades of Fun at the Enchanted Forest

In the 1960s, Roger Tofte saw a roadside amusement park and decided he could do better. For our fourth All Things Considered segment, we visit the Enchanted Forest, a vibrant, busy park now run by three generations of the Tofte family.

Listen and Read: How a Labor of Love Grew Into an 'Enchanted Forest' in Oregon (Thursday, August 9, on NPR's All Things Considered).

8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392

Audio Postcards

14. Nature Is Both Green and Red

In Oregon's Ecola State Park, a winding hike through old-growth forest brings you to peaceful, expansive Crescent Beach, a swath of sand hemmed in on three side by dark cliffs. But, as we found, nature asserts itself even when you’re waiting in line to park.

84318 Ecola Park Road, Seaside, Cannon Beach, OR 97110

Matt Mikkelsen and Fritz, a head-shaped microphone, record the natural sounds of the Hoh Valley. Samir S. Patel
Radio Story

15. Searching for Silence After 2,200 Miles

The Hoh Valley rain forest in Washington state's Olympic National Park is one of the quietest places in the United States, at least when it comes to man-made noise. For our final All Things Considered segment, we hike into the park with audio engineer Matt Mikkelsen, and his head-shaped microphone Fritz, to record the sound of silence.

Listen and Read: Are You Listening? Hear What Uninterrupted Silence Sounds Like (Friday, August 10, on NPR's All Things Considered).

Forks, WA 98331

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