See video

Residents of Russia's capital city were astonished last Wednesday when they witnessed a startlingly strange formation hovering high in the sky. Looking something like an enormous interstellar portal, the bright-white circle reminded many of Moscow's citizens of a scene from the movie Independence Day.

Video of the phenomenon has since hit the Internet and has millions bandying explanations, which naturally cover such topics as aliens, UFOs and the impending 2012 apocalypse.

In reality, the abnormality is probably just a rare meteorological curiosity known as a "hole punch cloud" or "fallstreak hole." Nevertheless, the enormous object is eerily reminiscent of Arizona's unexplained Ring of Mystery, which appeared above Flagstaff in 1963.

I've admittedly been neglecting the Roadside Resort for several weeks now, as I'm attempting to tie up Weird Oklahoma, but I had to at least post about the news that Austin, Texas's beloved homeless cross-dresser, Leslie Cochran, has recently been hospitalized.

Cochran was discovered on Oct. 3 by a taxi driver, who found him lying unconscious on a sidewalk downtown. He appeared to have suffered a serious head injury and was reportedly found to be in a semi-vegetative state after he was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge. Rumors state that he had been seen acting erratically and may have suffered a stroke, but this has not been confirmed.

Cochran, who is known simply as Leslie to Austinites, is a local celebrity and folk hero, famous for wearing thongs, high heels and other women's wear as he wanders the streets of Texas's capital city. He's been outspoken about the plight of the homeless and the treatment by police officers of those in his situation. In 2000, he garnered even more attention when he ran for mayor, a feat he repeated in 2001 and again in 2003, receiving as much as 7.75% of the vote. ... Continued

Kelly Laffey at ShelterPop has published a nifty little gallery showcasing 10 of the strangest examples of roadside architecture visible across the U.S.

Coming in at number 7 is one my favorites, the mysterious Kettle House in Galveston, Texas. Laffey kindly cited Weird Texas as her source of information for the strange, bowl-shaped abode, though she only credited my two esteemed co-authors, inexplicably leaving my name out. Which is odd, really, since I was the one wrote that chapter.

Am I bitter? Nah. 'Cause I know the secret behind the Kettle House ... and I'm not telling Kelly.

Eating while driving. I do it. We all do it. When you're trying to beat the sunset to the world's largest scale model of the Hubble Telescope and you haven't eaten anything since that half-frozen muffin from Super 8's continental breakfast, it's unavoidable.

And we've come to learn that some foods work better than others. Milkshakes, mini hamburgers, Pringles: nice and convenient. Enchiladas: not so much. Though, really, it should be pretty obvious which foods work and which ones don't. Nevertheless, Insurance.com has felt it necessary to publish their list of the top 10 foods to avoid while driving.

At number 6: ribs. Really? Someone needs to be reminded not to eat ribs behind the wheel? At the other end of the spectrum: soda. If there's one ingestible that should always be OK, it's soda. Insurance.com's reason to put it on the no-no list? "Fizz in the nose."

How would you improve the list?

  1. Coffee. Even with a travel lid, hot coffee can find its way out of the opening when you hit a bump.
... Continued

Who doesn't love the Wienermobile? The analogous, frankfurter-shaped vehicles have been an ongoing Oscar Mayer tradition since 1936 and never fail to gather a crowd wherever they stop.

Unfortunately, the crowd that gathered last Friday in Racine, Wisconsin, weren't so much interested in getting their hands on the collectible Wienerwhistles passed out by the sausage wagon's drivers, but rather to get a unique peek at what is probably the most serious auto accident to involve a Wienermobile in its more than 70-year history.

The vehicle's driver reportedly took a wrong turn down a dead-end street, and as she attempted to turn around, accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake, subsequently barreling headlong into a residential home. ... Continued

I just had to share this handcrafted Airstream-shaped coffin currently on sale at Ebay.

Such fantasy coffins, which have become an increasingly popular tradition in the Republic of Ghana over the last 50 years, are created by only a small number of skilled craftsmen. The custom-built caskets are highly desired not only as functioning sarcophagi in and around Ghana, but also as collector's items around the world.

Some of the more unusual creations include coffins shaped like giant crabs, fish, chickens, Mercedes Benzes, outboard motors and shallots, but for me, this scaled-down 26-foot 1956 Airstream Overland takes the cake.

Incidentally, you can read more about such coffins, a collection of which are on display at Houston's National Museum of Funeral History, in Weird Texas.

While looking into the recent news that states are starting to shut down many roadside rest areas, I came across a site that once again proves just how wonderful the Internet is: Restareahistory.org, a comprehensive guide on highway rest stops and picnic shelters.

The site, developed by architectural and cultural historian Joanna Dowling, offers what is probably more than you ever thought you'd want to know about safety rest areas. Dowling has collected photos both recent and historic from across the United States, as well as information on architectural elements, planning, development and preservation, along with links to rest-area-related news items and departments of transportation.

Any serious detourist knows it's crucial to take frequent breaks when covering long distances. Even if it's just 5 minutes to stretch your legs and grab a sack of peanut M&Ms from a caged snack machine, a pit stop helps avoid fatigue and possible accidents on the road.

Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that several states are shutting down many of their highway rest areas. According to The Wall Street Journal, departments of transportation are beginning to see their rest stops as obsolete and have begun barricading exits.

Louisiana has closed 24 of its 34 rest areas since 2000, four of them last year. Maine, Vermont and Colorado have recently announced plans to shutter more rest areas because of cash constraints. Rhode Island, Tennessee, Arizona and others are thinking of doing likewise.

... Continued

This just in: the fantastical Googie sign that was rescued from the now-defunct Sigel's liquor store in Dallas will finally be christened at its new location tomorrow morning.

The sign, which was built in 1953 and stood at the corner of Inwood and Lemmon until just a few weeks ago, was installed at another Sigel's location in Addison, at 15003 Inwood Road, last month. And though its bubbly neon circles and fantastic sputnik topper have already been shining for a few weeks now, Sigel's will officially christen the sign tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

The city's mayor, as well as "a host of other Addison dignitaries" will get on their morning drunk by toasting the historic landmark with a nice bottle of wine. What's more, when the store opens at 10, they'll be having a super sale, including such fine deals as these:

Wine Super Specials - 30%-75% Off
All Other Wines in the Store - 20% Off
Spirits Super Specials – 30-70% Off
All Cigars – 20% Off

Just don't get between me and the Jack Daniel's display.

I can't tell you how many times people have recommended I start carrying a portable black light with me on the road. Useful as it may be to detect those unmentionable mattress deposits left by former guests of motels I happen to stay at, I prefer not to think about it and just take a nice long shower in the morning.

If it's something you find just too jeebie to get past, though, I've come across an alternative you might want to look into. Called the TravelFresh Sleep Sack, it's like a full-body, cotton-blend condom made specifically for motel stays and designed to protect you from both foreign fluids and biting bedbugs.

Just slip it between the flat and fitted sheets and crawl inside. It measures 43 inches by 93 inches — larger than an average adult-size sleeping bag — but folds into a pouch no larger than a pair or two of socks. Plus, it features a built-in pocket into which you can slip a motel-provided pillow, so you don't have to schlep your own.