I have always been skeptical of the "taking businesses from red to black ink" explanation for the term Black Friday, since the phrase as it's used any other time holds a derogatory connotation.

Turns out I was right in that said explanation is a PR spin on what is, and should be, a derisive reference for a horrible, horrible day.

Ben Zimmer and Kevin Drum will explain.

I can tell you from experience that it takes a lot of research and planning to find out just what lies along a particular route that's worth making a stop for. But OnTheWay, a new trip-planning website, is set to relieve detourists of some of that work.

Enter a starting location and a destination and, using Google Maps, OnTheWay will point out what's available along your given path.

Unfortunately, the database doesn't appear to be all that robust, and the site is lacking a host of useful features, but this is one site to keep an eye on for any avid road tripper.

See video

Photographer Brian DeFrees recently completed a 12,225-mile loop around the United States, an epic road trip that he's consolidated into a single 5-minute video.

With his camera positioned for a driver's-eye view, he rigged it to pop a photo every 5 seconds. He then compiled the resulting frames to create a time-lapse journey recording every highway, back road, bridge and tunnel along the way.

The full compilation of photos added up to two and a half hours of footage, but thanks to some selective editing, you can enjoy the whole trip in just over 5 minutes.

Back in June, it looked like Austin's beloved Cathedral of Junk, a towering maze of miscellaneous materials, was going to be torn down after its creator, Vince Hannemann, was unable to work things out with city officials who seemed determined to legislate the landmark into obliteration. However, it looks like the Cathedral has life in it yet!

I spoke with Vince this week and he told me that, after he had decided the seemingly endless effort to bring the Cathedral under building code was no longer worth it, the city of Austin stepped up and worked things out with him.

It looks like the city finally came through and respected the citizens' wishes to "Keep Austin Weird."

It's been quite a while since the release of my last book, Weird Arizona, but the time has finally come. Weird Oklahoma is officially on the shelves!

Weeks on the road, months at the keyboard, hundreds of gallons of gas and nearly as much beer, and it's finally here. Head on over to the Souvenir Shop and find out all the bizarre stuff I've dug up across the Sooner State.

Stay tuned for excerpts, bonus photos and videos from my myriad research trips!

Love classic, midcentury signage as much as I do? Well, now you can own a piece for your very own, available at my new site, Satelluxe!

In all the time I've spent on the road researching my books, driving through aging and historic towns, I acquired an insatiable love of Googie, a style of design prevalent in old motels and their eye-catching signage. These days, I can't hit the road without stopping repeatedly to photograph a collection of big arrows, oversize type and flashing neon.

Unfortunately, such treasures are quickly disappearing from the roadside, and acquiring a piece for oneself is becoming exceptionally difficult due to surviving signs' size or deteriorating condition. For this reason, I started producing designs of my own, inspired by the very items I see out on the road.

If you've ever hoped to grab a piece of Googie to take home with you, head on over to Satelluxe and have a look. And keep checking back, because there's more to come soon!

Rumor has it actor Russell Crowe, star of Gladiator and 3:10 to Yuma, has purchased the Arizona ghost town of Two Guns and plans to film his newest movie there.

Two Guns, located a few miles east of Flagstaff, remains one of the most intriguing sights I've yet to visit in my travels, both visually and historically. For decades, it's come and gone as a roadside attraction, dating back to the earliest days of Route 66, and has been the site of numerous gruesome deaths.

Now the site is due, it seems, for another resurgence in popularity. As reported over at Zimbio, Crowe recently purchased the site for $3 million and has begun plans to use it in a reimagining of Westworld, a 1973 science-fiction thriller. The film, the first directed by the late Michael Crichton, follows visitors of a historical theme park populated by lifelike robots that malfunction and go on a killing spree. ... Continued

Thanks to Greg Bond for the tip!

Looks like Texas has lost yet another of its great roadside attractions. Before, it was Austin's Cathedral of Junk. This time, it's Forbidden Gardens, the Chinese tiny town that's quietly stood outside Houston for the past 15 years.

It was the pet project of reclusive millionaire Ira Poon, who spent a reported $20 million recreating the extensive imperial palace in Beijing known as the Forbidden City in one-tenth scale, as well as a one-third-scale recreation of the awe-inspiring 6,000-piece, terra-cotta army of Emperor Qin.

Throughout its life, the park has seen little attendance due to Poon's unexplained aversion to advertising. Couple that with the staff's struggle to keep the park in shape due to the region's harsh heat and humidity, and the attraction has long seemed destined for an early closure.

Unfortunately, I didn't find out about Forbidden Gardens' demise till the last minute, and even then I was out of the state. So, with great regret, I was unable to attend the park's swan song, a mass sell-off that occurred over the weekend. ... Continued

The queen of the "World's Largest Things," Ericka Nelson, appeared on Conan last night sharing some of her favorite roadside attractions and her diminutive replicas of such.

If you aren't familiar with Ericka, she's the curator of The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things, a traveling exhibit of, well, exactly what it sounds like. She visits the nation's biggest roadside attractions, creates tiny versions of each and puts them on display in her well-traveled Winnebago.

If you missed her appearance on TBS last night, you can catch it below: ... Continued