Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bowl-O-Rama: Wagon Wheel Bowling

Much time has passed since we last brought you a Bowl-O-Rama feature; the reason being that we had visited so many beautiful, old, local alleys that it seemed we'd begun to exhaust our natural resources.  With just split seconds left before the wacky tacky fracking for bowling alleys began, we remembered a rich deposit of Bowl-O-Rama that was just waiting for our greedy exploitation at Wagon Wheel Bowling (est. 1953) in Oxnard, CA.

Alright, alright, the facade of Wagon Wheel Bowling is about as unprepossessing as
it gets, but do you really doubt our abilities to bring you the best in Bowl-O-Rama?
That multi-colored thumbprint glass alone was worth a little look-see.  

A landmark of a certain stretch on the 101 Freeway (of which I made mental note on countless childhood road trips), my backseat view of Wagon Wheel Bowling always elicited scenes of trail-weary pioneers so thankful to have reached the land of plenty that the only fitting expression of gratitude for their salvation was thirty-two gleaming lanes and tricolor shoes in every size!  However, it was never my fate to explore the realities of this minivan daydream.  In an axiom-shattering example of the early bird failing to get the worm, we always passed the Wagon Wheel long before the lights were switched on; by the time it was open for business we were already begrudgingly giving hugs to relatives in the northern reaches of the state.

One of the greatest things about Wagon Wheel Bowling is that it's the lone
survivor of Wagon Wheel Junction (a complex of offices, a restaurant, a motel,
and the eponymous bowling alley).  Fortunately the incredible, neon-stagecoach
sign for the demolished restaurant and motel still stands; in an era of rampant
"bulldozery," we hope that it continues to take pride of place along the freeway
or at least finds a good home! 

This trip to the bowling alley was no exception to our typical time-table folly; we arrived at Wagon Wheel hours before opening.  Pledging to come back during business hours, we took the opportunity to capture the bowling alley's gorgeous sign by daylight.

The details of this incredible, double-sided sign include the bent arrow, the ball and pin, the sign-painter
script, the faded turquoise-and-red color story, and that bold, bowling font all highlighted by glorious neon!!!

Well, we made good on our promise.
How's that for form and follow-through??!!

While there were absolutely no bonneted pioneer women tending to cast-iron cauldrons over a campfire, nor wagon trains, nor trail masters, Wagon Wheel Bowling provided all the comforts and charms that a mid-century bowling alley ought to offer.

We were thrilled to find an intact western motif (one of our favorites) and original fixtures - interior
shed roofs, old championship rosters, shingle signs, and of course, wagon wheel light fixtures.

The bar/billiard room/banquet hall came complete with vintage furnishings, a quaint brick-and-flagstone
fireplace and the queen of all pinball machines, Elvira!  Erika schooled us on how not to win at pinball...

Like any bowling alley worth its salt, Wagon Wheel Bowling is home to a coffee shop;
the current occupant is Doña Rosa's Mexican Food.  We had just eaten but that didn't
stop Ben & Erika from getting cozy in one of the original, naugahyde booths.  Wouldn't
it be a dream to have a space like this to make into a wacky tacky diner?

Mr. Tiny makes like a wagon wheel with the Wagon Wheel sign.

The Wagon Wheel holds a special place in our hearts because one of Tiny & Mary's signature tunes (an original) is titled "Wagon Wheel."  I can't say with absolute certainty but, having the sign stamped in my subconscious after so many road trip sightings, it is safe to say Wagon Wheel Bowling may have very well been the inspiration for the song.

"Wagon Wheel" - Tiny & Mary
(Filmed by our pal James)

Just like that old wagon wheel, we'll keep rolling along looking for the next Bowl-O-Rama.  Do you know of any beautiful bowling alleys that we simply must visit?  Have you ever been to Wagon Wheel Bowling?  Did you ever eat at the restaurant or stay a night in the motel?  Our high score at Wagon Wheel Bowling was just exploring its history but we want to know, what was your record bowling score?

Wagon Wheel Bowling
2801 Wagon Wheel Rd
Oxnard, CA
(805)485-4915

wagonwheelbowling.com


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

24 comments:

  1. So much kitschy beauty. Love those mod signs!

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    1. Doesn't great signage just make you happy? Particularly neon signs!

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  2. This bowling alley is awesome, and I recently wrote about finding vintage lanes so I know how challenging that can be. "Bulldozery" - awesome word for a horrible practice.

    Always a joy reading your posts! Makes Mod B feel like a bit of a Retro Roadslacker, but we've got snow to deal with here in PA :-)

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    1. Don't feel bad! I don't have the snow excuse, and I haven't been out in ages!!! You get extra points for even venturing out your front door in that weather (says the spoiled Californian). At least you're enjoying our weather now - welcome back!

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  3. Thanks for revealing this place. Like you, I've passed this bowling alley on the 101 countless times on road trips north and wondered about this place, but never made a special trip over to see the lanes. I wish bowling lanes were more popular in the way they once were and not just with the tween and kiddie crowd. Sounds like I'll have to make a trip to get some Mexican food and hit some pins.

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    1. I always have to remind myself to stop at these places because there is no guarantee that they'll always be there. It has happened to many times that I've meant to go somewhere and when I finally do, it's long gone! Let me know how doña Rosa's food is!

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  4. Mr. Tiny! That is the first time I have ever heard you sing, you have a lovely voice! Wish I lived closer, I'd love to come see you and your sister! :-)

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    1. Thanks RS!! That's very kind of you to say!

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  5. So great to see a clip of you and Mary at last! What a great voice you have!

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  6. OH Oxnard! (where the sewer meets the sea - as my dad used to say). I grew up very close but my parents always REFUSED to take me there. I was so sad when the motel that went with it was torn down. Supposedly it was full of crackheads but it was VINTAGE! I love this post - I'm dusting off my bowling shoes! Your "Wagon Wheel" song rules.

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    1. Isn't it sad that some of the coolest motels turn drug dens turn pile o' rubble? I love "where the sewer meets the sea." Hilarious!

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  7. Holy smokes! That place is beautiful!! I am dying over the original floor tiles too. I'm going to have to plan a long-way-back road trip up 101 next time I come back from Southern CA so I can stop there. As a bowling league member (and official member of the United States Bowling Congress -- I know, I'M FANCY) I am always so thrilled when I see these old alleys still hanging in there. Especially one like this that seems to have remained unmarred by ill-advised updates.

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    1. We're lucky to still have a few awesome alleys hanging around. There is an alley from the 30's(?) in highland park that still has the original lanes but they're hidden behind faux walls/curtains; the place functions just as a venue for bands. I would live to see it brought back to life!

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  8. You two are terrific -- loved the video!

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    1. Thanks, Peter!!! That means a lot coming from the master of sewing and song!

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  9. All that glorious neon and Naugahyde! I love the lettering and the lenolium floors! What a cool little spot, make me wish the motel was still around.

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    1. Me too! What a great mini vacation it would have been to stay & play!

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  10. Yay bowling! The coffee shop is killing me. I love it so much. Also HOLY MACARONI! Y'all can SING!!

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    1. I am so weird...I don't like steak but I love steakhouses; I don't like bowling (mostly because I'm terrible) but I love bowling alleys! Thanks for your kind words!

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  11. It had been far too long since I listened to you two singing Wagon Wheel! I’ll be humming that all around the office today! That bowling alley has some fabulous details. What a relief that the signage for the restaurant and motel survives. Amazing!

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    1. Uh oh....I have a feeling you're going to hate me in about 15 minutes when you realize that song is stuck in your head! I'm so glad the sign is still there; I'm hoping it will continue to live!

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  12. I love the Wagon Wheel song! Y'all need to come perform in Nashville.

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    1. Thanks Lauren! We would love to come to Nashville - it's just as dramatic as the TV show, right? Hahaha! Seriously, all you fine folks in TN keeps Nashville at the top of my must-visit list!

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