The Daily Blabber Blog

  • Search the blog


A Little Birthday Trip To San Luis Obispo: Bubblegum Alley And Madonna Inn.

Bubblegum Alley: where all wads of bubblegum go to die.

As I mentioned recently, my birthday was the day after Christmas, and since L.A. practically becomes a ghost town during the holidays each year, we decided to take a little road trip of our own because the prices of airline tickets were inexplicably astronomical. One of the places I had been intending to visit for a long time was San Luis Obispo because it was home to Bubblegum Alley. When we did our Great American Roadtrip a few years back, I remember reading about this awesomely kitsch little attraction in California. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the towns we'd be able to hit during our epic cross-country journey, so I swore we'd visit it at some point in the future instead. Now I'll take any excuse I can get to drive up the incredibly scenic Pacific Coast Highway anyway, and since I didn't want to stay home for my birthday, this was finally the perfect excuse to pay San Luis Obispo a long overdue visit.

As you can see from the photo above, Bubblegum Alley certainly lives up to its name (click here for a larger view). Located off of Higuera Street, I was surprised at how they don't even make a big deal about it. There aren't any signs alerting each passerby to its existence, and it's definitely not something you'd notice from your car. I can only wonder how many people have driven through this small town not even realizing they missed the opportunity to view one of mankind's greatest achievements: an alley completely covered in bubblegum.

Five bucks says the person who made this is roasting in hell.

Walking through the alley, you can't help but be simultaneously overcome by a sense of awe, amusement and disgust. What amazed me was how many people walked through the alley and actually touched various wads of gum on the walls. It was as if these people didn't believe what they were seeing and had to touch the gum to make sure it was real. I, however, needed no such verification for I actually tend to trust my eyesight.

In addition to the random wads, many people actually formed words and designs with their gum. I'm sure Jesus appreciated the classy tribute seen in the photo above.

Free advertising on a nasty wall of gum? Sure! Why not?

Another thing a lot of people seemed to be doing was sticking their business cards onto the walls o' gum, and who was I to break with tradition? I gotta say though, I really do wish I had brought some Big League Chew with me so I could've contributed something more impressive than a business card to the wall.

Amusingly enough, many of the local retail shops have big gumball machines strategically placed in front of their shops so tourists can make their own squishy contributions to the alley. I should note that some people actually hate Bubblegum Alley and consider it to be more of an eyesore than an attraction. Hey San Luis Obispo. It's me, RoG. I've got news for ya. If it wasn't for Bubblegum Alley, I wouldn't have even made the trip up to your little town for my birthday. So yeah, don't even think about ever getting rid of Bubblegum Alley. It's an ongoing work of art created for the people, by the people. Chew on that.

In addition to Bubblegum Alley, Higuera Street had some great little shops I enjoyed checking out. Captain Nemo Games & Comics really impressed me with how much vintage gaming gear they had in stock. It's one of those places I could easily spend an entire afternoon at while sifting through all of the merchandise. I actually managed to find some old Intellivision cartridges on the wall at reasonable prices there. Was hoping to find a Vectrex system, but unfortunately they didn't have one in stock at the time.

Then there was a shop called Therapy which had a nice variety of knick-knacks including a massive 1lb Sugar Daddy (guaranteed to send you into a diabetic coma) and Domo-Kun energy drinks (which I've yet to try, because I can't imagine Domo tastes all that great) among other amusing things that nobody really needs but everybody wants. Definitely a place worth checking out if you happen to be in town.

Lastly, there was Tom's Toys, an independent bi-level toy store with more Playmobil products than you can shake a fist at. It's the kind of place that has a lot of charm to it because they carry a lot of things that most cookie-cutter retail toy shops simply wouldn't bother with. And nothing drives that point home more than their fantastic Christmas window displays:

That song will never die.

First was this great tribute to that classic country Christmas tune we've all heard a bajillion times, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. Nowhere in sight was the offending reindeer to be found, but all the evidence was right there before my eyes.

Damnit Robin! Not again!

On the opposite window, there was this fantastic scene paying homage to one of my favorite playground song spoofs of Jingle Bells. In this scene, however, Robin has taken on the form of an actual egg-laying Robin instead of the boy wonder. And somehow, this display is still way less insane than Frank Miller's treatment of the goddamn Batman.

After we were done exploring the town, we checked in at our hotel - the Madonna Inn. Now any of you who have heard of this place know that it's famous for having some truly insane rooms. Some look like caves, others look like palaces. Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay in any of those immaculate rooms because this trip was a last minute decision of ours and they only had two rooms left. We ended up staying in the "Swiss Chalet" room, which was supposed to make you feel like you were staying at a cabin in the Swiss Alps, but instead felt like we were spending way too much money on a room with very little novelty to it. I have no problem spending some extra cash on a room for my birthday, but if I ever stay at the Madonna Inn again, I'm gonna plan it way in advance so I can get one of the more bizarre rooms that look like a cave. It's just not worth the price unless you're getting one of those rooms since there are other nearby hotels that are right on the ocean and provide you with far better views and amenities.

The other main attraction at the Madonna Inn is their Gold Rush Steak House which goes above and beyond with decorations come Christmas time each year. Check it out...

The Gold Rush Steak House at the Madonna Inn puts the electric company to the test.

As you can see, this place must rack up one hell of a monthly electric bill, so it's not surprising they're a bit overpriced. Still, considering how many Christmas decorations they had on display, it was worth checking out.


Some of the decorations, such as this one, felt less Christmassy and more creepy than anything. Amidst all the lights, Santas and snow-covered trees, this little demon cherub girl just swung from the ceiling with those cold dead eyes that just screamed, "I'm going to come to your Swiss Chalet tonight and murder you in your sleep."


Our friends told us this photo was "magical" looking, so I'm including it in this post. A note to anybody who goes to the Gold Rush Steak House: tell them it's your birthday and they'll give you a hefty slice of their black forest cake and then you too can take your very own magical photo. In all honesty, it was the best part of our meal.


They also gave me a birthday balloon, but I left it behind. The way I figure it, it was my way of paying the demon cherub girl to not track down and murder me.

All in all, a fine birthday getaway if I do say so!



A.D.O. (Guest) on 01/05/2009 5:20 pm

Awesome. I grew up in SLO so this brought back a lot of memories. I didn't stop by Bubblegum Alley the last time I passed through town, but I sure hope that bubble gum version of the Rolling Stones logo is still up there somewhere.

User avatar

MissEvie on 01/05/2009 6:22 pm

Hey RoG let me know if you are still looking for a vectrex system. Hubby has one sitting upstairs in box (opened and used) but still have box. I think there are even a few games for it.

User avatar

Doctor_Who on 01/05/2009 6:27 pm

I've never even heard of Bubblegum Alley, but now it is my life's mission to witness this eighth wonder of the world for myself.

Someday archaeologists will uncover the ruins of San Luis Obispo, witness this shrine to all things chewy, and determine that our society's chief deity was Bazooka Joe.

I love the idea of futuristic eighth graders studying the tiny comic strips for their "Joe Mythology" class. Then Disney (which will still be around as Walt's head will have been discovered and thawed out by then) will make some crappy movie about it and the magic will be lost forever.

User avatar

captain516 on 01/05/2009 7:24 pm

That doesn't look like any Batman action figure I've ever seen. Is he wearing swim trunks? But still, I'm glad you got to see gum alley, I always make a point of seeing it whenever I'm heading south.

User avatar

Copper on 01/05/2009 7:56 pm

Okay, so it's wrong of me to comment on your birthday photo, but I love the effect of the green balloon behind you in the last picture there *snickers* It kind of adds something to your facial expression.

User avatar

Hangie on 01/05/2009 8:00 pm

Wow, that looks pwnful. Congratulations on however old you are :D

User avatar

Silver on 01/05/2009 8:10 pm

I just read today in a local free newspaper about how many germs a single wad of bubblegum can collect. Apparently, they are a threat to your health by picking up to 50,000 different kinds of germs. There are rumors of a campaign to be launched here in Mexico about asking vendors to give a new bubblegum to every person who passes by and drops his chewed gum in the trash can.

The first impression the Gold Rush Steak House gave me was that of either a restaurant in a honeycomb or the innards of the Titanic. Fancy!

User avatar

Kat on 01/05/2009 11:31 pm

It's too bad it's not a real attraction.

Maybe then I could know some history on it.

Such as...who the hell started such a thing? How long has it been there? Why has this founder not been given a nobel prize?

So many questions...But regardless, Happy Birthday Rog!

User avatar

Jeff The Ninja on 01/06/2009 1:05 am

One can only imagine the number of little bastard children who pick the pieces of gum off the alleyway and eat it. Kind of like a desk in grade school.

User avatar

bountyhunterseven on 01/06/2009 2:27 am

BUBBLEGUM alley beats THE THING(?) just outside of Arizona/New Mexico border any day!!

User avatar

greenimp on 01/06/2009 3:47 am

how much money do you think you could make by chewing some gum and selling it as "souvineers" (scuse spelling, that word has always eluded me)


I-mockery Kicks Ass like Emeliianenko Fedor! (Guest) on 01/06/2009 4:22 am

I've been up to SLO to see Chuck Liddell train for his fights, but other than that I'd never heard of the places that were mentioned here. Thanks for letting the world know about it. Maybe I'll spend a weekend up there just to scope these places out. You're such a lucky dude RoG. I bet you can write off these expenses since these are for your website amirite?


trixie (Guest) on 01/06/2009 11:27 am

Ahhh!!! I've wanted to go to the Madonna Inn ever since I heard it was the inspiration behind the Ye Olde Off Ramp Inne on the Simpsons! Did you use the waterfall urinal in the lobby of the hotel? If you didn't get a picture of that, I'm totally disappointed in you. But maybe next time you go, you can stay in one of the crazy ass cave rooms, have a waterfall shower, and use the waterfall urinal.

Though I'd caution you, I'm thinking once you take a wizz in a waterfall a regular urinal just won't seem good enough anymore...

User avatar

El Sammo on 01/06/2009 12:59 pm

Well Trixie, after pissing in the ocean, my local swimming pool just didn't do the trick anymore, so perhaps you are right.

User avatar

Psionic Pangolin on 01/06/2009 2:01 pm

I grew up in Morro Bay (I always say "San Luis Obispo" instead because people recognize that one and it's close enough to the truth) and have visited the Bubblegum Alley more than once. :)

I was also a great fan of Nemo's and Tom's Toys (haven't been to Therapy), but I haven't been there since I moved. Tell me RoG, did you happen to see if Nemo's still carried their huge selection of Warhammer figurines? I'd heard that they cut that line when they underwent a management change.

(Final note: this piece made me make an account, as I don't like commenting as a guest. Been a reader for years.)

User avatar

Tadao on 01/06/2009 2:57 pm

Did you stop at Pea Andersen's? I think it's south of Madonna Inn.

User avatar

-RoG- on 01/06/2009 3:22 pm

Thanks for the extra birthday wishes all!

A.D.O., thanks for the comments. As for the Rolling Stones logo made of bubblegum, I don't recall seeing it, but there was obviously a lot to look at there so it may still be around.

MissEvie, yeah I'm still looking for one, but I wouldn't want to deprive your husband of a fine classic console such as that! Thanks for offering though!

Copper, yeah it kinda looks like the green balloon is peaking up from behind and staring at the big clear happy birthday balloon with jealous disdain. Beware the green with envy balloon!

Jeff The Ninja, oh I'm sure that's happened plenty o' times. When I got there I instantly thought of Will Ferrel in "Elf" when he starts eating all the gum he finds stuck to the railings in the city. Eugh.

greenimp, I don't think I'm enough of a celebrity to be able to sell off my pre-chewed gum to adoring fans. Some day though... some day...

like Emeliianenko Fedor, heheh sometimes I can. Just depends on what I'm doing on the trip. Things like Comic-Con are a write-off, so that's always nice. Anyway, yeah, you should definitely go spend a weekend up there.

trixie, haha I actually did go down to see the waterfall urinal since I had heard so much about it, but there was a dad in there teaching his infant son how to piss and it was just not the kind of thing I wanted to hang around and see. So yeah, that's why there were no photos of the waterfall urinal.

Psionic Pangolin, They still had a bunch of RPG stuff there, but since I don't play games like that, I can't say whether or not they had a huge selection of the stuff. The room where all the RPG products were had way more DVDs and comic books than anything though if that helps give you an idea. The room to the right was where all the music and video games were stored. Also, thanks for signing up after all these years. Glad to have ya here!

Tadao, nope, can't say I did. I take it you're referring to the place that all the billboards on the highway proudly stated was "The Home of Split Pea Soup" right?

User avatar

Tadao on 01/06/2009 4:39 pm

Correct. I stop there every chance I get. ONLY 17 MORE MILES!


Sandy Botkin Rules (Guest) on 01/06/2009 8:27 pm

Oh RoG you're so lucky to be a 1099 guy. Sign I have to deal with a bullshit W-2.

User avatar

Bavles on 01/06/2009 8:27 pm

Hmmm...I wonder if Tom's Toys is a chain. Because in my hometown of Montrose California, there's a toy store with the same name that's exactly like that. I've never heard of any other one.

User avatar

Dr. V on 01/08/2009 6:52 am

Rog, you should have gone into the public restroom in the hotel. It's got a freaking waterfall for a urinal!

User avatar

Dr. V on 01/08/2009 6:55 am

Crap, someone already suggested the waterfall of piss. Oh well, happy birthday you old fart.


Akumyo (Guest) on 01/12/2009 5:49 am

Hey -ROG- my grandparents used to live in SLO so I'm quite familiar with the area. I've been to all those places several times, really takes me back. Makes me sad they picked up and moved to Sacramento. It's about fifty degree's hotter and the the only "interesting" tourist attraction they have up there is their "Thomas Kinkaid" gallery EEW!


eirik (Guest) on 01/22/2009 9:32 pm

The landmark I miss is Earthling books, the bookstore killed by a renovation. They were going strong when I started school there in the 1990's, but sometime around 1995 they decided to move across the street to a larger location, and they just tanked the place. I think the new location was open about a year before they closed. The Barne's and Nobel that came in shortly after just wasn't the same.


Brandon (Guest) on 08/12/2011 1:58 am

I honestly have not heard of Bubblegum Alley before. That being said, viewing it through photos is enough for me. I'd be too disgusted to walk through it personally.

Leave a Reply

Available BBCode: [b] = bold, [i] = italics, [u] = underline,
[img] = insert image, [url] = insert hyperlink. See the full list.

Previous post: Obligatory New Year’s Eve Thread.
Next post: Where In The World Is Protoclown?