But sometimes what’s cool about a gas station is – the gas station itself. It might be the gas station that’s made to look like something else (a seashell, a teapot), or the gas station that looks like it was lifted out of the Jetsons. So here are some stations that caught our eye (and if you have a favorite that’s not on our list, tell us about it):
1. Let’s get this one out of the way first. Yes, there really IS a gas station that looks like a giant teapot.
(Photo by Steven Pavlov, from Wikimedia Commons)
And WHY a teapot? That’s a lesson in American history. It was built to remind folks about the Teapot Dome Scandal (if you’re not up on the presidency of Warren G. Harding, that link will take you to Wikipedia’s account of the scandal). This teapot is in Zillah, Washington, which is about 3 hours from either Seattle or Portland. The address is 117 First Avenue – but make sure you fill up beforehand – because like the Teapot Dome scandal, this teapot is also history (as a gas station). It’s just a tourist attraction today.
2. Now if you know your fuels, you might have guessed that a gas station which looks like a shell, might be a Shell station – and if you did, you’re right. This Shell…
(Photo by David Bjorgen, from Wikimedia Commons)
…is also just a stop-and-look site, so you’ll have to get your Shell gas elsewhere in town (Winston-Salem) – but it DOES make an excellent spot for a selfie. There were eight of these built in the 1930s, but only this one, on 1111 E Sprague Street, is still around.
3. Ok, now for some places where they still combine cool and fuel. If you’re on the road in Oklahoma at night, thirsty drivers and their cars might pull over when they see this…
(Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from Wikipedia Commons)
…because “that”, would be Pops, featuring a 66-foot high soda bottle. In addition to gas and a restaurant, they’ve got more than 700 varieties of soda (Fitz? Moxie? Martian Poop? Dog Drool? Ale-8-one? And if you don’t like any of those, there’s another 695+ to choose from.). “Pops”, by the way, is named for the boss’s dad, not for what folks in the Midwest call soda. You’ll find Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma, which is on Route 66! (in case you needed another reason to go) a bit northeast of Oklahoma City. The soda bottle is there 24 hours, but you want to see it lit up at night. Trust us.
4. And speaking of gas stations that look good at night…
(Photo from Flickr/Thomas Hawk, via Thrillist)
If this Union 76 station in Beverly Hills looks a bit like a wing, swooping up into the sky – that’s probably because this gas station was originally designed (in 1960) to be part of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) – for drivers and their rental cars. When that didn’t work out, this futuristic look made its way a few miles north. To give your drive a little Jetson-esque flair, the corner of Crescent Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard is your starting point.
5. Now, should you find yourself in the northern half of the state, you can find a variation on that “wing” theme in Sacramento:
(Photo from Roadside Architecture)
This Orbit gas station encompasses the Googie architectural design — a style of building that became popular in the 1950s for its exaggeratedly modern, space age features. There used to be about a dozen of these gas stations in the Sacramento-area but this is the last of its kind. And as a bonus, the gas station usually has some of the lowest prices in the area too.
6. Back in LA, a short drive from Beverly Hills brings you to a slightly different take on the future…
(Photo from Flickr/ C-Monster, via Thrillist)
…Helios House. A more recent try at the future, this station is made mostly from recycled materials (glass, for instance, incorporated into the concrete) or recyclable elements (the steel panels). It’s LEED-certified, and up on the roof (sorry, you can’t see them), there are basins with plants to catch and use rainwater. And BP/ARCO is what your ride will be filling up on. And you can do that, at 8770 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles.
7. You won’t find the 21st century look at the Hollow Mountain Service, in Hanksville, Utah. In fact, you might feel like you’re back in the 19th century (except for the gas station part). The gas is good (Phillips 66), but the real draw here is the convenience store, which is how the station gets its name.
(Photo from Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons)
Yep, it’s tunneled INTO the mountain. So that probably means even on hot days the cold drinks are naturally cold, but it definitely means you want to make a bathroom stop here. Even if you don’t have to. Because the bathrooms are all the way in the back, which is about 100 feet past that arrow up there. And if you’re on the way to Lake Powell on State Route 95, you’ll be passing right by.
Now, if you’re like most of us, you probably don’t have a driving trip across another continent planned for anytime soon. So these last two gas stations aren’t likely to be much practical help. But they ARE extremely cool to look at.
(Photo from Flickr/Ned Trifle)
…and really, what could we add to that (other than to tell you that if you’re in the UK, in Leicestershire, ask someone for directions to Red Hill Filling Station).
9. And finally…
(Photo from Flickr/David Stanley)
…which stands ready for take-off, in Asmara, which is the capital of Eritrea. (And “Fiat Tagliero”, because this station dates back to Italy’s colonialist days in Africa.)
But while the look of gas stations over the years has changed, changed again, changed back to something retro, or jumped ahead to something space age – the gasoline those stations pump has changed too. And that change has been in just one direction, progress toward better, cleaner fuel. You can read more about that here.
And with that, we turn the road back over to you. And have some fun out there when you fill up.