Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Art of the Bowling Ball

You just never know what you might find out there cruising the backroads of Oklahoma. Like maybe a yard full of bowling balls?

Art of the Bowling Ball

About a mile northeast of Nowata you'll find a curious art installation- made completely of bowling balls. A sign at the driveway invites you in and encourages visitors to see the "special bowling balls" in the little house. Of course the little house is made from, you guessed it... bowling balls!

The installation is the work of Chris Barbee, a retiree who just wanted something to do with his newfound spare time. His wife's rose garden needed some extra ornamentation so Chris added some homemade "gazing balls." They were old bowling balls. Those gazing balls gave him the inspiration- that plus a huge surplus of bowling balls- so next he built a fence.

As the popularity of bowling in America declined, the supply of unloved bowling balls skyrocketed. Disposing of something so indestructible was challenging, even resale shops and thrift stores stopped accepting the hefty orbs. So when Chris posted a sign in front of his home asking for old bowling balls, the responses literally rolled in.

Today the installations include a rosary, the alphabet, an American flag, a pool table and many more. It's become so popular there's even a website devoted to the Bowling Ball Man and a listing on Roadside America. If you'd like to visit the Bowling Ball Man head toward Nowata on your preferred highway- it's at the junction of US-60 and US-169. Depending on which way you're traveling watch for a sign on Road E021 or N4150- then go a little over a mile up the gravel road.

Here's a slideshow with some more photos from our visit to Nowata and the bowling ball lawn art...

Chris continues to expand his collection. If you have bowling balls, trophies, bowling pins or other related memorabilia be sure to load it up and donate it!

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It's a Travel Show

Two Wheel Oklahoma is a television travel show featuring the motorcycle rides of Brad Mathison and Rex Brown along the scenic highways and backroads of Oklahoma.

Each episode highlights a stretch of road or historic route and explores unique destinations along the way. Tune in three times a week on the Cox Channel.

We hope you'll come ride along.

Brad and Rex: co-hosts of Two Wheel Oklahoma