Deep in the Heart of Texas: Galveston-Houston

After a great three days in Galveston, it was time to get back on the road.  I would head north to Houston, then on to Austin and eventually into Fort Worth.

Texas is a BIG state and there is lots of ground to cover.  My first day would cover some backroads from Galveston and meander my way into Houston where I would stay overnight with my uncle.

Heart of Texas Route Day 1 - Galveston to Houston the long way
Heart of Texas Route Day 1 – Galveston to Houston the long way

There were things I had planned to see along the way and found a few things along the way as well.  I figured that I may not get this way again (south of Houston) for a while, so I took advantage of a full day of driving to see some parts of Texas that many may not really get to.

My plans were to drive to Alvin, but along the way I came across an interesting house in Santa Fe, Texas. I had to stop and get a few shots. I discovered an unusual huge estate right on TX Hwy 6.  It is called the Pignataro Estate, though many call it a castle.

Pignataro Castle, Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle, Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas

According to an article I found from the Galveston Daily News, September 20, 1981, the home was originally built in the 1930s by a widow of a well-to-do Danish immigrant.  It has since passed hands a number of times and has been owned by the Pignataro family since the 1970s. This larges estate apparently has 26 rooms and a number of other amenities. Following are a few more shots of some of the many white cement statues in the yard.

White cement statuary of Pignataro Estate in Santa, Texas
White cement statuary of Pignataro Estate in Santa, Texas
White Stallions guard the front gate of the Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
White Stallions guard the front gate of the Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
Closeup shot of one of the cement stallions at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Closeup shot of one of the cement stallions at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Royal Statues of riders inside the fences of Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Royal Statues of riders inside the fences of Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Lion Fencepost at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Lion Fencepost at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas

It is places like the Pignataro Estate that make it so worthwhile to take back roads and see the sites. After my brief photo shoot there, I continued north to Alvin, Texas, the birthplace of famed pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Welcome to Alvin, Texas, hometown of Nolan Ryan
Welcome to Alvin, Texas, hometown of Nolan Ryan

Alvin is about 25 miles southeast of Houston, and like Santa Fe, it is a town originally built around the railroad.  Currently, there are just under 25,000 residents in this town known for its connection to Nolan Ryan.

Alvin Historic Depot Center, Alvin, TX
Alvin Historic Depot Center, Alvin, TX

Nolan Ryan spent a good part of his youth living in Alvin and playing Little League Baseball there and even became a famed high school pitcher at Alvin High School, where some players refused to go up to bat against him because of his amazing fastball. A Hall of Famer now, he serves as an adviser to the Houston Astros organization.

Nolan Ryan Center, Alvin, Texas
Nolan Ryan Center, Alvin, Texas
Nolan Ryan Statue, Alvin, TX
Nolan Ryan Statue, Alvin, TX
Sumoflam with Nolan Ryan in Alvin, TX
Sumoflam with Nolan Ryan in Alvin, TX

After the brief visit in Alvin and headed south to Angleton to visit the first of the Big Three statues in southern Texas. Angleton is home to the Stephen F. Austin statue, which stands 76 feet tall from the base.

Welcome to Angleton, Texas
Welcome to Angleton, Texas

Since I wrote extensively about the Stephen Austin statue in an earlier post, I am just including a couple of photos here.

Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from the Highway
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from the Highway

While at the Stephen F. Austin Statue park,  I came across a couple of what I have learned are Cattle Egrets.  Smaller than a Great Egret, I saw them foraging in the grasses.  I saw some of these birds in a horse field in Louisiana as well. Unique looking, beautiful birds. Cattle egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals.

Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
Another shot of a Cattle Egret
Another shot of a Cattle Egret

From Angleton I headed to the small town of Lake Jackson, TX, to find my way…literally! The “main drag” of Lake Jackson is called This Way and they also have a That Way.  Here are a few fun shots of these unique road names and the story behind them. (And, by the way, Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul spent most of his childhood in Lake Jackson…and he found his way to Kentucky and the US Senate!)

You can see that This Way is actually thatta way
You can see that This Way is actually thatta way
This Way is not until the next signal
This Way is not until the next signal
Ahh...there it is...This Way
Ahh…there it is…This Way

All streets radiating from downtown Lake Jackson end in the word “Way.” Among the streets are Center Way, Winding Way, Circle Way, and Parking Way. There is an intersection of two streets named This Way and That Way. In the same spirit, a local church near Bess Brannen Elementary placed a small sign in their driveway named His Way. There is also an Any Way.

At the Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
At the Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way
So, which Way do I take?
So, which Way do I take?
To confuse, at one point there is a Three Way that leads to Center Way
To confuse, at one point there is a Three Way that leads to Center Way

And then there is the old British Phone Box on This Way

Shades of Dr. Who, not quite a TARDIS, but certainly out of place in southern Texas
Shades of Dr. Who, not quite a TARDIS, but certainly out of place in southern Texas

Speaking of out of place, as I headed out of town on my way to West Columbia, TX, lo and behold, what do I see driving in front of me?

UK Car in Texas.  The driver was all decked out in UK Gear too.
UK Car in Texas. The driver was all decked out in UK Gear too. Check out the License Plate!

The next stop in my roundabout tour of SE Texas was in West Columbia, which was known as the First Capitol of Texas. The first Congress of the Republic of Texas was convened in West Columbia on October 3, 1836, when the town was still just named Columbia.

Entering West Columbia, TX with the note that there are historical markers in town
Entering West Columbia, TX with the note that there are historical markers in town
Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Sumoflam at the location of the First Capitol of Texas
Sumoflam at the location of the First Capitol of Texas

I always have a penchant for old theaters and the Capitol Theater in West Columbia is a classic.

Old Capitol Theater in West Columbia, TX.  A Classic Old Building
Old Capitol Theater in West Columbia, TX. A Classic Old Building

This old theater was first open in 1937 and by 1941 it had its name changed to the Capitol.

Mural on a wall in Damon, TX
Mural on a wall in Damon, TX

From West Columbia I made my way to Damon, TX up Texas Highway 36.  I have a friend in Lexington named Damon so I had to stop and send him a shot or two for fun!

Damon, TX highway sign.  Unusual to see the name of the town on a street sign
Damon, TX highway sign. Unusual to see the name of the town on a street sign
This used to be Eddie's Garage...in Damon, TX
This used to be Eddie’s Garage…in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon.  The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX

Damon was actually a unique little place.  Even the old road signs were still in use and had character, but weren’t too legible.

Corner of Live Oak and ??? in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Woodward in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
West of the Brazos Bar and Grill sign in Damon, TX
West of the Brazos Bar and Grill sign in Damon, TX
Highway 36 in Damon, TX
Highway 36 in Damon, TX
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon...
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon…this “water tower” was about 14 feet tall

From Damon I returned east on Texas Highway 1462 towards Rosharon, TX with a quick turn off on TX 762 to visit the Brazos Bend State Park, known for ts alligator sightings.  I had visited places in Louisiana and Mississippi earlier on this trip in hopes of seeing alligators, but never got to see any.  Maybe this would be the charm!

Turn off to Hwy 762 and Brazos Bend State Park
Turn off to Hwy 762 and Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Maybe I’ll find that elusive gator yet!

Caution - Alligators
Caution – Alligators

And, voila….

I found a gator!!
I found a gator!!

And walking around the swamp area I got another gator view.

Gator Land
Gator Land
Another Gator
Another Gator

The State Park had a couple of miles of rads and a few swampy areas.

Moss Covered Tree in Brazos Bend State Park
Moss Covered Tree in Brazos Bend State Park
Flowering Lily Pads in the swamp
Flowering Lily Pads in the swamp
More Flowers
More Flowers

With my Gator Sighting checked off my bucket list and totally hot and sweaty after my hike around the pond, it was back in the car and on to Rosharon, TX.  Didn’t plan a stop in Rosahron, but I couldn’t resist a couple of shots of the Cherokee Rose Trading Post.

Cherokee Rose Trading Post in Rosharon, TX
Cherokee Rose Trading Post in Rosharon, TX
Pink Pigs and Pink Flamingos for sale at Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Pink Pigs and Pink Flamingos for sale at Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Side view of Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Side view of Cherokee Rose Trading Post

After my quick drive by, I back tracked and headed up Hwy 36 towards Needville, TX on my way to Wharton.  Along the way I saw a good old vintage neon sign for a roadside cafe called “The Jay”, in Needville.

The Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas.  Vintage neon sign
The Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas. Vintage neon sign
A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe...doesn't look like a jay to me.
A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe…doesn’t look like a jay to me.

From Needville, I headed west towards Boling and Iago.

Welcome to Boling, TX
Welcome to Boling, TX
Iago, Texas
Iago, Texas

Nothing in those two towns but the signs were interesting!!  Then it was on to Wharton.  Lots of fun things to see in little Wharton.

Sumoflam at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Sumoflam at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX

My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. This was an era of grand roadtrips, family adventure, and American innocence. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.

Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX

The Tee Pee Motel is reminiscent of the Wigwam Villages (they are still around in San Bernardino, CA; Holbrook, AZ and Cave City, KY).  I visited the one on Kentucky a couple of years back (see photo).

Wodrich mural in Wharton, TX
One of three murals in Wharton painted by Dayton Wodrich. This one is 100′ wide and offers one historical peak at Wharton, TX

Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  Following are a couple more…

Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wodrich
Historical churches of Wharton, TX mural by Dayton Wodrich
Historical churches of Wharton, TX mural by Dayton Wodrich

Wharton has a great old courthouse and theater in town as well.

Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX

After my visit to Wharton I then headed northeast on US 59 and eventually made my way to the outskirts of Houston into the Sugar Land area where I visited the second of the three Texas Giant statues, this one, the giant Quan Te Am Bo Tat statue at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center.  The statue was designed an build by New Orleans artist Mai Chi. She escaped from Vietnam in 1989 and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia.

Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX
Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX
Giant 72' tall Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX
Giant 72′ tall Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX
Sleeping Buddha Statue at the Vietnam Buddhist Center
Sleeping Buddha Statue at the Vietnam Buddhist Center
Marble Lion Statue
Marble Lion Statue
Pagoda at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Pagoda at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
View of the Gardens and Quan Am statue at Vietnamese Buddhist Center
View of the Gardens and Quan Am statue at Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Sumoflam at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Sumoflam at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center

From the Vietnamese Center I headed to my uncle’s for an overnight in Houston.

Next post will cover Houston to Austin via the heart of Texas. (86)

Wall Art in Lexington 2014: PRHBTN & more

IMG_9871
Sumoflam with the newly designed PRHBTN truck

Lexington again has new art covering some of its formerly barren walls around town as the Street Art promoting organization PRHBTN brought in four new world renown street artists to enhance the growing collection of unique murals that dot the town.

prhbtnThe contributing artists this year included How and Nosm (twin brothers Raoul & Davide Perre  originally from Spain), ROA (from Ghent, Belgium), Andrew Hem (a Cambodian immigrant currently from Los Angeles) and MTO (a French born graffiti artist currently from Berlin). Each of these four artists have very unique styles and techniques as can be seen from their photos in this post.

The enormous "I Am MO" mural in the Lexington Distillery District
The enormous “I Am MO” mural in the Lexington Distillery District

Perhaps the most amazing (and controversial) is the behemoth 75 foot tall by 270 feet wide mural by MTO on the side of the Pepper Distillery Warehouse on Manchester. Titled “My Name is MO,” this piece of Street Art is stunning in its accuracy and complexity.  Though MTO is more well known for painting giant murals of famous celebrities, this particular character is not one. Rather, he created a complex story that explains the creation and it is artistically presented in a video that MTO produced.

This particular massive mural has been accused of using gang symbolism. The neighboring garden center has complained that they don’t like being stared down at be this monster mural. But, ultimately was painted on private property and went through the appropriate approvals before a drop of paint made its way onto the brick and mortar canvas.

Detail of "I am MO"
Detail of “I am MO”
Detail of "I am MO"
Detail of “I am MO”
Sumoflam visits "I am MO"
Sumoflam visits “I am MO”

In a nutshell, this MTO mural epitomizes what PRHBTN is all about. PRHBTN is short for Prohibition, which is what many graffiti and street artists face. PRHBTN was started by John and Jessica Winters in 2011 to encourage the growth of street art in Lexington. They have invited well-known international artists to town to create new mural works on vacant downtown walls, getting support from private donors, local business and community organizations (including me through Kickstarter). They work with property owners to secure the brick and mortar “canvases.” Their goal to highlight this new genre of art is turning Lexington into a living street art gallery, as more than 25 large murals and a number of minor ones adorn many of the formerly bare walls of the community. Indeed, one of last year’s pieces, “Abraham Lincoln” by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra, has drawn national attention and is a new drawing card for tourism downtown.

Sumoflam at Eduardo Kobra's Lincoln mural in downtown Lexington
Sumoflam at Eduardo Kobra’s Lincoln mural in downtown Lexington

Adding to the collection this year is the huge mural entitled “Moonshine” by Twin brothers How and Nosm. They are known for their black, white, red and pink color schemes as well as their whimsical work. This mural does not disappoint. Painted on the four story side of the LexPark parking structure in Short Street, it is sure to be missed by those driving down the street. But, for those walking to the garage from Mill St., it is difficult to miss. Try as I might, I have not been able to track down the story behind this giant masterpiece of whimsy.

"Moonshine" by HOW and NOSM, on the side of the Short Street LePark garage in downtown Lexington
“Moonshine” by HOW and NOSM, on the side of the Short Street LePark garage in downtown Lexington

Just down Short Street, about three blocks from “Moonshine,” is another new work on the side of a building, this one by Los Angeles artist Andrew Hem. Titled “The Night Watchers,” it is the latest creation by Hem, a 2006 graduate of Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), and an internationally recognized muralist. Andrew has created public artworks most recently in the Arctic, as well as Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York and London and now Lexington.

"The Night Watchers" by Andrew Hem in downtown Lexington
“The Night Watchers” by Andrew Hem in downtown Lexington
Detail of Night Watchers by Andrew Hem
Detail of Night Watchers by Andrew Hem
Detail of Night Watchers by Andrew Hem
Detail of Night Watchers by Andrew Hem

The fourth artist, ROA, was commissioned to do his mural on the side of building just off of North Limestone in his trademark monochromatic style. His dying bison is about three stories tall and is well worth a ponderous peek.

ROA Giant Bison
Giant buffalo (bison) waiting to die, by Street Artist ROA
Sumoflam with ROA's Bison in Lexington
Sumoflam with ROA’s Bison in Lexington

And, while in Lexington, ROA added a second piece in the Lexington Distillery District on the side of an old water tank. This giant bee appears as if it had rolled over and died.

Bee on its back by ROA, located in the Lexington Distillery District
Bee on its back by ROA, located in the Lexington Distillery District

The annual PRHBTN commissions and party typically happen in October. Apparently, another well-known Chicago-based street artist with a defined style, named Left Handed Wave, just happened to sneak into town and left his mark on the front of the same building that 2013 PRHBTN artist Odeith had painted horses on the side of. His iconic style is a signature in and of itself.

Left Handed Wave work on the front door of the old Bazaar on Bryan location
Left Handed Wave work on the front door of the old Bazaar on Bryan location

But PRHBTN was not the only group commissioning work this year. LexPark, in conjunction with the Saul Good Restaurants and a couple of other companies, brought in Appalachian artist Lacy Hale, with her brother Seth, painted a wonderfully colorful Tulip Poplar mural at the stairwell entrance to the LexPark garage near the corner of Main St. and Broadway (118 North Broadway). The Tulip Poplar is the state tree of Kentucky.

"Tulip Poplar" by Lacy Hale, located at LexPark garage entrance near Broadway and Main
“Tulip Poplar” by Lacy Hale, located at LexPark garage entrance near Broadway and Main
Detail of "Tulip Poplar" by Lacy Hale
Detail of “Tulip Poplar” by Lacy Hale

While on my quest to discover more art work in town, I came across two 2013 pieces by Dronex, Inc., a collaborative of artists headed by Myke Dronez, of Lexington, perhaps the most well known street artist from Kentucky. They have two wonderfully whimsical pieces in town (and perhaps more). The first is of a train hauling bourbon barrels and can be found in the Lexington Distillery District by Buster’s. The other is on the side of a building on Lisle Industrial Ave and is called “Stockyard Commons.” Both have the Dronex drones dotting the work.

2013 Lexington Distillery District mural, by Dronex Inc.
2013 Lexington Distillery District mural, by Dronex Inc.
Dronex "Cowboy drone", detail of Lexington Distillery District Mural
Dronex “Cowboy drone”, detail of Lexington Distillery District Mural
Another Dronex drone on the Lexington Distillery District mural
Another Dronex drone on the Lexington Distillery District mural
Stockyard Commons mural by Dronex Inc., located on Lisle Industrial
Stockyard Commons mural by Dronex Inc., located on Lisle Industrial
Dronex drone riding a bull, detail of "Stockyard Commons" mural
Dronex drone riding a bull, detail of “Stockyard Commons” mural

Another fun discovery was just off North Broadway past Loudon Ave., on Washington St., which is home to the BroCoLoco Agency.  They have painted a flock of migratory origami titled “Origami Tsunami” on the side of a building., apparently completed in early July 2014.

Detail of "Origami Tsunami" by BroCoLoco in Lexington
Detail of “Origami Tsunami” by BroCoLoco in Lexington

UPDATED DEC. 1, 2014

Sumoflam at the mural of some strange characters on the side of Progress Market
Sumoflam at the mural of some strange characters on the side of Progress Market

I heard a rumor that there were a couple of murals I missed in my recent whirlwind tour of Lexington.  The one above is at 600 N. Limestone on the side of Progress Market.  No idea who painted it and can’t locate any info.  Here are a couple more pics.

Long View of mural at Progress Market
Long View of mural at Progress Market
Another view of Progress Market mural
Another view of Progress Market mural

Just down the street a couple of blocks is a small shop called Vintage Creations on Lime. The BroCoLoco Agency recently completed the wall art on the side (facing True Alley).  I really like this one!

Mural on Vintage Creations on Lime painted by BroCoLoco in 2014
Mural on Vintage Creations on Lime painted by BroCoLoco in 2014

In fact, on that coolish day in November I actually made a whirlwind trip around Lexington to do a selfie at as many of these as I could find and get to. I managed most of them. I have created a slideshow of my “Selfie Tour” and posted it HERE. You can also see my posts from last year PART I and PART II for more details.

Custom map of locations for all of the murals and street art works in Lexington is below:

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Ten Giant Reasons to Visit North Dakota

MapLoco States I Have Visited
MapLoco States I Have Visited

In the last few days there has been a viral survey on Facebook (seems like there is one every week!!).  Simply put, “How Many States Have You Visited” is fun for all because it is simple and adds color and is really a “go viral” piece.  MapLoco.com has apparently used it to draw attention to their site.  I did it and my results are above – yes, I only have three states to go.  Many of my friends have done it as well and one common theme I found among many of them….they had not yet been to North Dakota.  In fact, a couple of my friends even indicated that they may never find a reason to go to North Dakota.

North Dakota Map from 1958
North Dakota Map from 1958

North Dakota gets a bad rap from people because in the winter there are unbearable blizzards and snow.  The state is relatively flat and “may not” have interesting places to visit (or so people think).  But, despite the cold winter, there is plenty to see and do in North Dakota for fun, especially if you go in late Spring or during the Summer.  Here are my TOP TEN places to visit in North Dakota.

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yes indeed, there IS a National Park in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named after the President that pushed forth conservation by establishing the National Forest Service, and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

2. The Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32 mile stretch of two-lane highway from east of Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND.  In my opinion, this is one of America’s TOP Roadside Attractions. (See my complete blog post about it here).

Fisherman's Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Fisherman’s Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway

3.  Interstate 94 – The Highway of Giants

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

Interstate 94 from Fargo to Dickinson boasts FOUR of the World’s Largest things (see my post about this part of North Dakota)…the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; the World’s Largest Sand Crane in Steele, ND; Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND (see #6 below); and “Geese in Flight”, the first piece of the Enchanted Highway and the Guinness World Record Holder for the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.

World's Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
World’s Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
Sumoflam at the "Geese in Flight" Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world's largest
Sumoflam at the “Geese in Flight” Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world’s largest

4. Rugby, ND – The Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, ND - The Geographic Center of North America
Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America

I got to visit Rugby in 2014.  The novelty of visiting the Geographical Center of North America was too much to resist (see my post here).

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America

5. Space Aliens Bar and Grill in Fargo, ND

Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND

I have visited three of these locations over the years.  For an out of this world tasty experience (they have BBQ Ribs!!) you must stop by Space Aliens.  They actually have TWO locations in North Dakota (Bismarck as well).  As you can see below, back in 2005 we finished off a massive all-you-can-eat dinner. And the quirky theme restaurant has all of the outer-space kitsch you want too!

Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005
Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005

6. Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, New Salem, ND

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

For an udderly moooving experience, Salem Sue is a must see attraction.  At 38 feet tall, 50 feet long and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this cow is amazing fun.  On a hill near New Salem, ND (I-94, exit 127), this bodacious bovine can be seen from as far as seven miles away on a clear day.

Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing
Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing

7. A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere – Nekoma, ND

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This pyramid is actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  Built in the 1970s. this complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. This lonely 80 foot tall pyramid can be seen for miles. (See my complete post about this part of North Dakota)

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

8. Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

This large four headed thunderbird statue at the Keelboat Park is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms. (See more here)

Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND
Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND

9. Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

A tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian roots, the Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique destination and most certainly worth a visit!! I loved it here.  (See my complete post).

Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with 30 foot tall Dala Horse at Scandinavian Heritage Park

10. Ducks and Ponds and Grasslands

A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1
Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1

Personally, I am not sure why North Dakota deserves the negative attention.  It is really a great place to visit (most times of the year).  Make sure to plan on adding North Dakota to your map of states visited!!  You will certainly have a Smile! (Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND)

Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

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Enjoying the Ride on the Back Roads of America

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