Memorable gas stations for your next road trip

Special to USA TODAY

Published 7:52 AM EDT Oct 5, 2018

Memorable gas stations for your next road trip

A service station doesn’t have to be an obligatory stop on a road trip – it can be part of the fun. “A gas station can draw you in to a place,” says Sascha Friesike, author of "It’s a Gas! The Allure of the Gas Station" (Gestalten Books, $60). The assistant business professor in Holland fell in love with filling up during childhood trips to America with his parents and shares some favorite finds with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Helios House
Los Angeles

This futuristic station made from recycled stainless steel opened in 2007 as an example of eco-friendly construction. It has solar panels and collects rainwater on the roof to help meet the station’s water needs. “A gas station doesn’t have to look like a gas station,” Friesike says. “This looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.”

Frank Seneca Gas Station
West Allis, Wisconsin

In the early days of the automobile, Wadham’s Oil and Grease Co., a Milwaukee-area chain, set itself apart with distinctive stations topped with a Japanese pagoda-style roof. This rare remaining station is on the National Register of Historic Places and preserved by the city.

New Braunfels, Texas

Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the world’s largest gas stations is found in Texas. Owned by a Lone Star chain, the station has 120 gas pumps, 1,000 parking spots and a 67,000-square-foot convenience store. “Everything is bigger in Texas. So are the gas stations. You could fit more than 20 average size 7-Elevens in that space,” Friesike says. Another location in Katy, Texas, has the world’s longest car wash, stretching 255 feet.

Chevron fuel barge
Vancouver, Canada

Cars aren’t the only vehicles that have to gas up. Boats float up to the downtown Vancouver waterfront to refuel at this unique barge, which was updated just in time for the city-hosted 2010 Winter Olympics. The station has an over-sized illuminated sign, visible from the city. “The middle of a bay is prime real estate for a billboard,” Friesike says.

Roy's Motel and Cafe
Amboy, California

Drivers through the Mojave Desert have long considered this Route 66 fuel stop an oasis. Now partially restored, it’s a prime example of Googie architecture, a flashy mid-century design. “It’s a very American, very West Coast style,” Friesike says.

Arcadia, Oklahoma

It’s not just cars that get to refuel at this Sooner State spot. Humans have their choice of 700 different types of soda. “It’s completely nuts. They built this gas station around the idea of selling soft drinks,” Friesike says. It opened in 2007 as a modern roadside attraction, marked by a towering 66-foot LED-illuminated soda bottle, which puts on a light show every evening.

Scallop Shell
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

In the 1920s and '30s, a North Carolina Shell oil distributor came up with the plan to attract customers by building shell-shaped gas stations. At least eight of these small scallop shell stations were built. Today this one is a National Historical Landmark.

Hat ’n’ Boots

Once a compelling cowboy-themed gas station, this spot closed in 1988 and deteriorated for years. But residents rallied, and the towering 22-foot-tall boots and 44-foot-wide hat that once held the office were restored and have been moved to the city’s Oxbow Park. “It’s a picture-perfect example of American theme park architecture, a fascinating reflection of a certain time,” Friesike says.

Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum
Buffalo, New York

In 1927, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a Buffalo gas station that was finally completed in 2014 as a museum exhibit. The two-story station is hardly a typical gas-and-go. It features a fireplace in a second-story observation room, along with a copper roof. Wright called his design “an ornament to the pavement.” Another Wright-designed station is in Cloquet, Minnesota.

Twin Arrows
Near Flagstaff, Arizona

This gas station, long a landmark along the old Route 66, gets its name from the two arrows (formerly telephone poles) sticking out of the ground in front of the building, as if they were shot by a giant archer. No longer operating, the decaying station was partially restored in 2009 and is near a Navajo casino. “Once you see it, you can’t forget it. There’s a certain beauty in these abandoned gas stations,” Friesike says.

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