This is a tale of Two Towers – both in a place named Paris, but one is in Tennessee and the other in Texas. The map below shows that they are about 8 hours away from each other.
There are seventeen towns in the U.S. with the name of Paris (and one in Ontario, Canada as well — and I lived there for a while). I have been to Paris in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. But the towns of Paris, TX and Paris, TN are the only ones to have an Eiffel Tower that is fairly large. Paris, Michigan has a smaller one. And there are a couple of other places, such as Atlanta, Austin and Las Vegas that have them…. but I am focused on the Paris versions. See this page for a list of NINE replicas around the world.
I took a road trip to Galveston in June 2014 and along the way I had occasion to pass through both of these towns named Paris (Paris, TX and Paris, TN) and capture their versions of the Eiffel Tower. (I’ll have some posts about my trip through the state of TN, MS, LA, TX, AR, MO and some of the unique places I visited coming in August 2014).
Both of these towers were built in 1993 and a battle ensued for the tallest. At first, the Tennessee version of the Eiffel Tower was originally built in 1990 at Christian Brothers University, but was later donated to the town of Paris, where is was moved and reassembled. The tower was designed to scale by Tom Morrison, professor emeritus of civil engineering; Jim Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Roland Raffanti, engineering lab technician, from Christian Brothers University. According to Brother Patrick O’Brien, Morrison designed the model’s design based on the original drawings of Gustave Eiffel. At 60 feet tall, the tower is a nearly perfect 1:20 scale replica of the original.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, TX Texas’s was built by the Boilermakers 902, a labor union representing workers of the former Babcock and Wilcox Paris Plant, and was 65 feet tall.
In 1998 when Tennessee moved its’ tower to Paris they expanded their tower to 70 feet. But, the Texans wouldn’t have it. They made the claim of being “The second largest Paris in the World,” so in 1998 town boosters added a large red cowboy hat to the top of the 65 foot tower, which made it a tad taller than Tennessee’s tower.
Both are dwarfed by the massive Eiffel Tower replica in Las Vegas, but in the battle of the American Paris Towers, currently, the Texas version holds true to things being bigger in Texas….
After a marvelous time in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was time to head east through the high deserts of Wyoming and across Nebraska and eventually back home to Kentucky.
After a restful evening at the Moose Creek Lodge in Cody, Wyoming, I was ready to hit the road running early the next morning. I had visited Cody in 2013 and so I didn’t spend a lot of time, but I did want to get back over to the Buffalo Bill Center and take some pictures of some of the numerous statues there.
After about 30 minutes in Cody, I was soon heading southeast on Wyoming Highway 120 towards Thermopolis. This is a scenic drive through rolling hills of sage brush.
I drove through the town of Meeteetse (Where Chief’s Meet) and then on to Thermopolis.
The drive from Meeteetse to Thermopolis is generally through high desert grasslands and hills. This is the vast interior of Wyoming, the open range land of ranchers and of solitude. You’re more likely to encounter more antelope than cars along this route, which was my case (which I did!!)
As the drive gets closer to Thermopolis, there are numerous unique rock formations which break the monotony of the seemingly endless sage brush grasslands. These open up to layers of mesas which provide a visual texture for miles. (OK, I lied, there were more cars than antelope – see photos below!)
Hwy 120 ends in Thermopolis. This town is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. From the south Thermopolis is the gateway to Yellowstone Country, and coming from the north it is the gateway to the Wind River Canyon.
Of course, I always keep my eyes peeled for unique things when I drive through a town. Here are a couple of good ones.
Since I was pushing to get to Carhenge before dusk,I rushed through Thermopolis and proceeded east towards the Wind River Canyon on US Hwy 20.
US Route 20 is actually the longest highway in the US, spanning 3365 miles across the country from Newport, Oregon through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and ending in Massachusetts.
The Wind River Canyon drive follows US 20 along the Wind River for about 14 miles and into the depths of the canyon, sometimes 2400 deep. It is amazingly scenic as the highway winds it’s way around 34 miles of bends and through Rock carved tunnels, finally opening up near Boysen State Park and ending up in the small town of Shoshoni.
I have been through this canyon twice before and have always been amazed at the engineering genius of gnawing a path through this wild gorge. There are even a number of pullouts that provide unique views up and down the length of the canyon.
As I left the canyon, the spacious Boysen Reservoir was to my right (looking West) and beyond the lake in the distance were the snow capped peaks of the Wind River Mountain Range. Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain at 13,804 feet, is part of this massive range that stretches about 100 miles from north to south. There are more than 40 named peaks over 13,000 feet in this mountain range. US Highway 26 and US Highway 287 skirt this range to the east in Wyoming through Dubois and Lander. I hope to drive those roads sometime in the future.
Just past the south end of Boysen Reservoir, US 20 continues into Shoshoni and the southeast towards Casper. Shoshoni had the appearance of a dying town to me. There were a few old buildings with some nice Native American murals, but the town really appeared dead.
The Sand Creek Massacre Trail in Wyoming is dedicated to the remembrance of the Sand Creek Massacre which took place on November 29, 1864. The trail follows the paths of the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne in the years after the massacre. It traces them to their wintering on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Riverton in central Wyoming, where the Arapaho remain today. The trail passes through Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Shoshoni and Riverton. The trail was dedicated August 6, 2006
Heading east on US Routes 20/26, I immediately drove by a number of unique rock formations along the side of the road. The sandstone pillars have been eroded away over centuries of time to create these nice designs.
US Highway 20 then provides us with a typical long drive through the sagebrush of Wyoming…
It is a bit of drive, but fortunately, there is a rest area east of the small town of Hiland. A couple of nice history signs as well.
About 4 miles from the rest area on the south side of the road is a turnoff to Hell’s Half Acre (near Powder River, WY), a large scarp with deep ravines, canyons, caves, rock formations and hoodoos. I have a love of these types of things. I was so very disappointed to see a chain link fence keeping visitors from being able to grasp the full extent of this place.
It was here that I met a new friend…a fellow traveler, a fellow photographer, a fellow blogger. A a professional photographer, Derek Ace does some amazing work. You can see some of his best work HERE. Turns out that Derek is from Middleton, Wisconsin, which had me talking right away since Middleton is also the home the National Mustard Museum, one of my favorite places (see my post about this from my old blog). You can really get a nice sense of Derek’s work from his Facebook Photo stream. I am glad to have made his acquaintance on this trip and I am looking forward to what I believe will be an amazing set of photos from HIS visit there.
Not too far east of Hell’s Half Acre is the little dot on the map known as Powder River, Wyoming. There are probably less than 40 people here. However, there was one place that took me back…and in the middle of nowhere too.
Apparently, as late as 2005, this place was being used a strip joint and oil workers, folks from Shoshoni and nearby Casper, would venture their way to this hole in the wall place. It closed in November 2005 and now sits as another ghost on a basically deserted highway in the middle in Nowheresville, welcoming the passersby.
I really didn’t have much time to spend in Casper, but I needed gas, so I stopped and filled up. While at the gas station, a giant Cloud Troll decided to show me the direction I needed to go in as I headed towards my next stop, which was Douglas, WY. (By the way…I LOVE looking at clouds!!)
From Casper I jumped on Interstate 25 to head east toward Douglas. This was one of the few Interstate ventures I took while on the road.
On the approach to Douglas, which is the “Jackalope Capital of the World”, there is a giant jackalope up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25. It is the first sign of Jackalope everywhere….
In the visitor’s center I was kindly greeted by Chamber Assistant Director Patty Morrell who took time to show me around, tell me a bit of history AND get me all set with my OFFICIAL “Limited Non-Resident Jackalope License”. She also was kind enough to slip me a Jackalope Sticker and a Jackalope pin.
The Visitor’s Center has a number of unique Jackalope goodies…here are a few
In 2006 there was a movie called “Stagbunny” about one man’s hunt for the elusive Jackalope. Here is the trailer (get ready to chuckle)
I should note that the Douglas Visitor’s Center also has some nice trains to look at if you are interested in these.
Before heading out of town I came across the White Wolf Saloon in downtown Douglas. Another great Kitschy place. Had to take a couple of shots.
Of course, I had to move on to get to Carhenge in time so I was back on US 20 heading east towards Lusk, Wyoming. US 20 and US 26 split at Orin Junction south of Douglas and that is where US Route 18 begins and joins with US 20.
This section of highway parallels the railroad tracks from Orin to Lusk and is pretty desolate, but there are a few things to be seen…
But, one of the more unique dots on the map on this stretch of highway is Lost Springs, WY. In 1976 the town was designated as the smallest incorporated town in America. At the time, its population was eleven. In 2007 I drove through and, at the time, it was one of only a handful of towns in the US with a population of 1. Here is a photo of me from that visit.
On this visit the town had boomed back to a population of FOUR….
I had hoped to actually drop into their Post Office/Shop, but they were closed. Nevertheless, here are a couple of shots of Lost Springs today (I took some in 2007 too).
Back on US 18/20 I continued east. Lots of highway and long trains and even an old truck stop in the middle of nowhere.
From Manville it was on to Lusk, Wyoming. Yet another small town on the road, Lusk boasts a population of about 1500. Just a stop on the railroad tracks, it does offer one unique site….an old wooden train water tower.
The old water tower was originally built in 1886 to furnish water for the Fremont, Elkhorn, Missouri Valley Railroad Steam Engines. The town of Lusk was established at the same time. The wooden tower is round, with a diameter of about 25 feet. The tank is about 25 feet high on a 25-foot base. The structure is believed to be composed of Douglas fir, while the tank itself is redwood. It is apparently the only surviving structure of its kind in Wyoming.
After a brief stop in Lusk it was eastward towards Nebraska, with a flyby past Van Tassell, the last town in Wyoming.
And into Nebraska I rolled….
This section of US 20 is also called the “Bridges to Buttes Scenic Highway” and runs for about 200 miles across northern Nebraska. This is Nebraska in its rawest form, as the subtle and rolling sandhills transform into striking and majestic bluffs and buttes.
From the rolling hills, the scenery opens up into beautiful buttes on the approach to Crawford, Nebraska.
After the long drive from Casper through the prairies of eastern Wyoming, I had to make stop in Crawford, “The Garden Beyond the Sandhills.”
From Crawford I headed southeast on Nebraska Highway 2 towards Alliance. This highway was a nice drive through the small town of Hemingford, Nebraska.
I loved the little police station in downtown Hemingford. One of the smaller ones I have seen.
From Hemingford it was on to Alliance, one of my main destination goals for this trip….
My object in Alliance was the famed Car Art spot “Carhenge.”
Due to the nature of this great roadside attraction, I have actually done a full blog post on Carhenge. You can see that HERE. So, I’ll just add one last photo below…you can see the rest on my other post.
From Alliance I still had a ways to go as I continued on Nebraska Hwy 2 towards my final destination for the day, Grand Island, Nebraska. This section of Hwy 2 is also known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.
The drive from Alliance to Grand Island was still about 272 miles so I was literally driving into the sunset over the beautiful rolling Sandhills of Nebraska. The Sandhills represent the largest remaining grassland ecosystem in the United States that is still virtually intact for both flora and fauna. It is the largest sand-dune area in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. I wish I could have taken more time to see it, but I did get to enjoy a fabulous sunset as I passed the small town of Hyannis, Nebraska.
I continued for a couple more hours on Nebraska 2 finally arriving in Grand Island about 1 AM after a drive of about 720 miles and on the road from 7 AM to 1 AM – 18 hours. Yes, I was tired, but I was certainly happy with the wonder of the day’s journey.
In late May of this year I finally had an opportunity to hit one of my “Bucket List” sites – Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. This “Car Art” site (see my post on Car Art from last August) ranks up there with the other well known sites, Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo, Texas and the former “Spindle” (Cars on a Spike) by Dustin Shuler that was displayed at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until May 2008.
Unlike Cadillac Ranch, which is set up on a farm in Amarillo, Carhenge is actually owned by the city of Alliance, Nebraska and is touted as one of their main tourist attractions.
My trip to Carhenge was on the the next to last leg of my return trip home from Montana (see the full day’s post HERE). I pushed hard to get here from Cody, Wyoming via Douglas (the Jackalope Capital of the World) and then finished the day off with a two hour drive along Nebraska Route 2 over the Sandhills to get to Grand Island for the night.
This unique piece of Car Art is the brainchild of Jim Reinders who completed the work in time to dedicate it on the June 1987 Summer Solstice. Reinders conceived it in 1987 to be a memorial to his father. While living in England, he studied the structure of Stonehenge, which helped him to copy the structure’s shape, proportions, and size.
There are other automobile sculptures that have been added to the the area around Carhenge and the additional name of Car Art Reserve was added for these.
Carhenge consists of 38 automobiles arranged in a circle measuring about 95 ft in diameter. Some are held upright in pits trunk end down, and arches have been formed by welding automobiles atop the supporting models. The heelstone is a 1962 Cadillac. Three cars were buried at Carhenge. Their “gravestone” is a car that reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!”
After the long drive from Cody, I arrived at Carhenge around 6 PM CST as the sun made its way down. There were many nice shadows cast. I dropped in to the small Visitor’s Center and saw that they needed a license plate donation (chuckle)…I pulled out one of my old MARDUP license plates, signed the back and donated it to Alliance employee Beau at the Carhenge Gift Shop.
I also had fun trying out a new app while at Carhenge…my 360 Panorama App…here is what I got….
As I noted above, the actual Stonehenge like circle has 38 cars. I tried to capture a few of them in some of the photos below:
Ironically, cars are not the only feature at Carhenge. There are a couple of cool sculptures made from car parts. Of course, my readers know I love scrap metal art.
One of the first sculptures to be added to the Car Art Reserve is a sculpture of a spawning salmon created by 29 year-old Canadian Geoff Sandhurst.
Then there is a fifteen foot metal dinosaur that overlooks Carhenge
Reinders created a second set as part of the Car Reserve called “Ford Seasons.” It is comprised only of Fords and was inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Season. It was meant to suggest the Nebraska landscape’s seasonal changes as wheat is planted, grows, is harvested, and then the field lies barren during a windy winter.
And finally, a few more scenes from Carhenge as the sun went down and I had to be on my way….
In closing….visit Alliance and Carhenge if you make it to western Nebraska. Well worth the visit!!