This fall I’ve been making weekly once a week trips to Bethesda for business reasons that I can’t get into here, other than to say that it’s a temp gig and it will end on December 8. I have to arrive at the crack of dawn and the workday ends for me while it’s still morning.

On this particular day after my work ended, I decided to check out a few things while I was in the area, starting with this lovely fall garden scene.

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The Roadside America website had two off-beat attractions listed that are both located just a few blocks from each other in downtown Bethesda. One is a wall mural featuring Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night, except this version has been recreated using door knobs.

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It’s a really interesting take on such a famous painting and it looks just as interesting when you view it very closely. You realize that there are so many different types of doorknobs that are out there and the artist was able to use different ones to simulate the broad brush strokes of the original painting.

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The mural is located outside a hardware store known as Union Hardware. I’ve been in hardware stores before and they tend to have simple interior design that’s more focused on filing away various tools and parts on specific shelves while having a few larger items (such as light fixtures and toilets) on display. Such design tends to be focused on the customer going in, finding what he/she needs, then leaving after paying for the item(s). But if one looks through the windows at Union Hardware, you’d see a very fancy showroom display that makes it look more like an upscale furniture store than a hardware store.

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Union Hardware also has this really cool looking mural lining the top of its store on the outside, which isn’t listed on Roadside America’s website.

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Just a few blocks away is another Roadside America landmark known as the Madonna of the Trail. I first encountered that statue years ago when I was working as a data entry clerk for the marketing department of a now-defunct computer reseller. The department decided to have an off-site social get-together at a Pizzeria Uno in Bethesda. I was relatively unfamiliar with Bethesda at the time since I usually don’t have a reason to travel to that area so I parked in a parking garage located several blocks away from the Pizzeria Uno when, it turned out, there was another one that was closer. (I remember that many of the managers in that department actually lived in Bethesda because they considered it to be THE place to live in.) In any case I was walking along the downtown area while noticing how glitzy it was with its upscale shops and restaurants. Then I came upon this statue that seemed out of sync with the rest of downtown because it depicts a woman wearing simple old-fashioned pioneer clothes carrying an infant while her young son clutches her skirt.

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The statue stands between the post office and the Hyatt Hotel. While the post office is a stone building and it has a nice rustic look that compliments the statue, the upscale Hyatt Hotel definitely provides a contrast to the pioneer life that the statue commemorates.

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This statue is one of 12 identical statues that have been placed in various town all across the United States to both mark the old US 40 route and commemorate those who literally risked their lives to move west in their covered wagons despite the numerous hardships they faced (such as facing hostile Native American tribes who were rightfully concerned about the pioneers eventually taking over their lands).

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After reading about these identical Madonna of the Trail statues, I began to think that this would make an interesting cross-country road trip that I would love to take one day if time and finances would allow. I would rent a car and start with the Bethesda statue then continue to go to town after town visiting the identical statues while also visiting other interesting attractions I might encounter along the way. At the end of the trip in California (where the last of the statues is located) I would return the rental car then take the plane back east. It would be a bonus if I could rent one of those self-driving cars that I keep reading about that might happen for real within the next few years. In a self-driving car I could look at the scenery or read a book or work on some knitting/crocheting/embroidery project while the car automatically drives me to my next destination.

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Downtown Bethesda has a few interesting sights, none of which are mentioned in the Roadside America website. There’s this historic Bethesda Theater, whose Art Deco exterior provides a contrast with this more modern building behind it.

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Finally here is this statue which is made up of various types of stones and glass.

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