Kentucky to Montana: Random Shots from the Road

An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota

I have been on the road to Montana (chiefly along US Route 2) for the past three days now.  I will be writing detailed bogs about the trip, but wanted to post a few random shots from the drive.  The weather has been awesome the entire trip (May 20-22, 2014).  Following are just a few shots from the trip…..

Ran across this old piece of Americana in El Paso, IL
Ran across this old piece of Americana in El Paso, IL
On I 39 North near Bloomington, IL.  Looks like we will drive right into the wind turbines
On I 39 North near Bloomington, IL. Looks like we will drive right into the wind turbines
Beloit, WI Smiley Water Tower
Beloit, WI Smiley Water Tower
The famous pink elephant of DeForest, WI
The famous pink elephant of DeForest, WI
This was actually funny... a giant cow in front of Burger King and the sign is advertising chicken.  Shades of Chick-Fil-A
This was actually funny… a giant cow in front of Burger King and the sign is advertising chicken. Shades of Chick-Fil-A
Grampa's Swamp Side Cafe...sounds yummy.  Seen in Endeavor, WI
Grampa’s Swamp Side Cafe…sounds yummy. Seen in Endeavor, WI
Amazing Clouds seen from the highway in northern Wisconsin
Amazing Clouds seen from the highway in northern Wisconsin
A sign from the past...Ironwood Motel in Ironwood, MI
A sign from the past…Ironwood Motel in Ironwood, MI
Wood Carving of Iron Workers in front of Ironwood Station in Ironwood, MI
Wood Carving of Iron Workers in front of Ironwood Station in Ironwood, MI
A portion of a mural honoring 100s of iron workers in downtown Ironwood, MI
A portion of a mural honoring 100s of iron workers in downtown Ironwood, MI
The start of US Route 2 heading west out of Ironwood, MI
The start of US Route 2 heading west out of Ironwood, MI
Another vintage roadside motel sign on the outskirts of Ironwood on US Route 2
Another vintage roadside motel sign on the outskirts of Ironwood on US Route 2
A couple of old cars near Hurley, WI as seen from Route 2
A couple of old cars near Hurley, WI as seen from Route 2
Antiques or old junk? Hurley, WI
Antiques or old junk? Hurley, WI
US Route 2 rolling hills in eastern Wisconsin
US Route 2 rolling hills in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Part of the front display of a "collectibles" shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Two gulls look at the view of Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
Two gulls look at the view of Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
One of a number of colorful murals in Ashland, WI
One of a number of colorful murals in Ashland, WI
A large mural depicting actual veterans from Ashland, WI
A large mural depicting actual veterans from Ashland, WI
Gulls relax on the beach of Lake Superior near Ashland, WI
Gulls relax on the beach of Lake Superior near Ashland, WI
An old Standard gas sign at Pagac's Bar west of Ashland, WI on US Route 2
An old Standard gas sign at Pagac’s Bar west of Ashland, WI on US Route 2
Sign on an old antique store in Blueberry, WI
Sign on an old antique store in Blueberry, WI
US Route 2 sign in Blueberry, WI
US Route 2 sign in Blueberry, WI
Giant wood carved grizzly head at Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Giant wood carved grizzly head at Grizz Works in Maple, WI
A Catfish monument in Floodwood, MN where they claim to be the Catfish Capital of the World
A Catfish monument in Floodwood, MN where they claim to be the Catfish Capital of the World
A great northern carving on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
A great northern carving on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
Old Neon sign for Bahr's Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Old Neon sign for Bahr’s Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Big Fish at Big Fish Restaurant
Big Fish at Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, MN
The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN
The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN
Crookston, MN Wall Mural
Crookston, MN Wall Mural
The Smiley Water Tower of Grand Forks, ND
The Smiley Water Tower of Grand Forks, ND
US Route 2 sign west of Grand Forks, ND
US Route 2 sign west of Grand Forks, ND
Crossing the tracks in Petersburg, ND
Crossing the tracks in Petersburg, ND
An old barn on ND Hwy 1 heading north
An old barn on ND Hwy 1 heading north
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful bird rests near a pond on ND Hwy 1
A colorful bird rests near a pond on ND Hwy 1
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
A duck enjoys a swim
A duck enjoys a swim
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
Th North Dakota Pyramid in the distance north of Nekoma, ND
Th North Dakota Pyramid in the distance north of Nekoma, ND
A nice rural scene on ND Hwy 5 west of Langdon, ND
A nice rural scene on ND Hwy 5 west of Langdon, ND
Trees along ND Hwy 20 south of Langdon, ND
Trees along ND Hwy 20 south of Langdon, ND
Randy's Revival Church in Cando, ND
Randy’s Revival Church in Cando, ND
Now this is a police crew that Can Do the job in Cando, ND
Now this is a police crew that Can Do the job in Cando, ND
Grain elevator rural scene along ND Hwy 17 west of Cando, ND
Grain elevator rural scene along ND Hwy 17 west of Cando, ND
Driving south of ND Hwy 3 heading towards Rugby, ND
Driving south of ND Hwy 3 heading towards Rugby, ND
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND
US Route 2 west of Minot, ND
US Route 2 west of Minot, ND
Boomtown distress ran rampant in Williston, ND
Boomtown distress runs rampant in Williston, ND
Grain elevators and a barn with a collapsed roof in Bainville, MT on US Route 2
Grain elevators and a barn with a collapsed roof in Bainville, MT on US Route 2
A lovely view of the Big Sky in Montana as seen from US Route 2 west of Bainville, MT
A lovely view of the Big Sky in Montana as seen from US Route 2 west of Bainville, MT
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT
An old church on the horizon east of Wolf Point, Montana
An old church on the horizon east of Wolf Point, Montana
A Lonely Tree basks in the sunset east of Wolf Point, MT on US Route 2
A Lonely Tree basks in the sunset east of Wolf Point, MT on US Route 2
Trees silhouetted in sunset east of Glasgow, MT
Trees silhouetted in sunset east of Glasgow, MT
Sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
Sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2

Watch for detailed writeups in the next few days!

 

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A Quirky and Offbeat Weekend in Cincinnati

The Singing Mural - Cincinnati
The Singing Mural – Designed by C.F. Payne

The first week of April 2014 provided a great fun time for my wife and I as we went to Cincinnati for a weekend getaway.  The main reason was to see my good friend Antsy McClain perform with a new “Trailer Park Troubadours” band that included amazing Aussie musician Pauly Zarb and the fabulous finger picking virtuoso Pat Kirtley and his brother.  We decided to make a weekend of it and visit a few places around Cincy that we have not seen yet.

Cincinnati Skyline
Cincinnati Skyline

Our first stop in town was a place that I have wanted to visit for quite a while.  Called the “Mushroom House,” it is truly one of the quirkiest places in the city.  The Mushroom House is located in the Hyde Park District of the city at the corner of Erie Ave. and Tarpis Ave.  It was created by architect/artist Terry Brown (who died in a car accident in Texas in 2008).  As a professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, Brown created the building with the help of university students from 1992 to 2006.

The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati

The house was built using a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, shell, ceramics, and various metals.  Care was taken to craft these materials into irregular shapes like those found in nature.  Following are a few shots of the house I took.

Mushroom House front side
Mushroom House front side
Mushroom House Chimney
Mushroom House Chimney
Mushroom House side wall
Mushroom House side wall
Mushroom House back side
Mushroom House back side
Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
One more view of the Mushroom House
One more view of the Mushroom House

From the Mushroom House we made our way to the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincy.  Over-the-Rhine (OTR) has been around since the 1780s and encompasses 362.5 acres of the original German community. The majority of structures are two-, three-, and four-story brick or stone edifices erected in the last half of the 19th century for residential and commercial uses.  All types of architectural styles can be found including Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne. The area was once one of the largest German-American neighborhoods in the United States.

Historic buildings in the Over-the-Rhine district
Colorful historic buildings in the Over-the-Rhine district

Over-the-Rhine is also home of the Findlay Market.  The Market is touted as Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market  and is considered one of Cincinnati’s most cherished institutions.

Findlay Market, Cincinnati
Findlay Market, Cincinnati

Findlay Market is home year-around to about two dozen indoor merchants selling meat, fish, poultry, produce, flowers, cheese, deli, and ethnic foods. On Saturdays and Sundays from April to November the Market also hosts a thriving farmer’s market, dozens of outdoor vendors, numerous street performers, and lots of special events.  We got there a little late for the farmer’s market, but had a nice time shopping in the crowded indoor market.

Findlay Market indoor shopping
Findlay Market indoor shopping

We love spices and were thrilled to see a “Gourmet Spice” shop…  Colonel De Gourmet Herbs and Spices has an amazing variety of spices and mixed herbs and spices.  We couldn’t resist the temptations.

Spicing it up at Findlay Market's "Colonel De" Shoppe
Spicing it up at Findlay Market’s “Colonel De” Gourmet Spice Shoppe
Spices Galore!
Spices Galore!
Colonel De's Gourmet Herbs and Spices
Colonel De’s Gourmet Herbs and Spices

We also found some unique Mediterranean pastries, some unique Olive Oils, vinegars and more.  One can find fresh meat, fish, vegetables and lots of other wonderful goodies.

Sumoflam at Findlay's Market in the Over-the-Rhine District of Cincinnati
Sumoflam at Findlay’s Market in the Over-the-Rhine District of Cincinnati
Frank's Fish & Seafood in Findlay Market
Frank’s Fish & Seafood in Findlay Market

All around the neighborhood there are murals and wall art.  Those who follow my blogs know how much I enjoy seeing these great works of art.  There are actually murals all over the city thanks to the ArtWorks organization.  A partial photo listing of many of the great works, including their locations, can be seen here.

Murals on wall near Findlay Market
Murals on wall near Findlay Market represent different shops
Mural representing Findlay Market
Mural representing Findlay Market
Sunflower Wall mural near Findlay Market parking lot
Sunflower Wall mural near Findlay Market parking lot

The most unique mural we saw was a huge one on the side of a building on Race Street called “The Migration of Tradition.” It is a beautiful work made with tiles and paint. It was designed by Tina Westerkamp, another Cincinnati artist.

"The Migration of Tradition" by Tina Westerkamp on Race St. in Cincinnati
“The Migration of Tradition” by Tina Westerkamp on Race St. in Cincinnati
Detail of "The Migration of Tradition"
Detail of “The Migration of Tradition”

All of the shopping and looking piqued our appetites (and it was already 3 PM), so we sought for a local place that offered some vegan faire.  We found a place called Myra’s Dionysus, a small place with an eclectic menu.  They had a variety of Mediterranean Cuisine as well as some other entrees, many of which are vegan.

Sumoflam at Myra's Dionysus in Cincinnati
Sumoflam at Myra’s Dionysus in Cincinnati
Myra's Chalkboard Menu
Myra’s Chalkboard Menu
Inside Myra's - small but clean
Inside Myra’s – small but clean
My meal at Myra's Dionysus - a pesto fettucine, some bread and hummus.
Our appetizer at Myra’s Dionysus – sesame noodles, pita and some tabouli

After our meal we took a drive down the Central Parkway so we could see the mural I had long wanted to visit.  Called “The Singing Mural,” this mural represents the community coming together in celebration of the arts.  It was designed by nationally renowned Cincinnati artist and illustrator C.F. Payne and completed in 2011.  At 25 feet tall and 135 feet long, it is Cincinnati’s largest mural and features some famous faces including Elton John, Bach, Sesame Street’s Grover, Cab Calloway, Beverly Sills, Mr. Rogers and even “Mr. Redlegs.”

Cincinnati's "The Singing Mural" (detail) by C.F. Payne
Cincinnati’s “The Singing Mural” (detail) by C.F. Payne
Another detail of "The Singing Mural"
Another detail of “The Singing Mural”

From the mural it we headed across the river to Hebron, Kentucky to our hotel and then back north to Harrison, Ohio where we would watch the always quirky and fun Antsy McClain and his friends perform.  We visited with them before the show — got to see Antsy’s new grandchild, got to see Pauly (who has been performing in Europe for the past year) and then Pat.

Looking at Antsy's new granddaughter - a real cutie!
Looking at Antsy’s new granddaughter – a real cutie!
Hanging with my Aussie mate Pauly Zarb, who came to the states for a few shows and then back to England
Hanging with my Aussie mate Pauly Zarb, who came to the states for a few shows and then back to England
Kentucky musician Pat Kirtley was on hand to help Antsy.  Pat is an amazing guitarist.  I have known him for about 4 years.
Kentucky musician Pat Kirtley was on hand to help Antsy. Pat is an amazing guitarist. I have known him for about 4 years.
AntsyCincy
Antsy McClain performing live in Cincinnati

After Antsy’s amazing show, Julianne and I returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest (needed!!).  The next morning (late), we headed to Cincinnati’s Northside area for a breakfast brunch at a small eclectic place called Melt. They have an awesome variety of dishes including quite a few vegan and vegetarian dishes.  The food was fabulous!!!

Melt in Cincinnati
Melt in Cincinnati
Great Vegan Brunch at Melt
Great Vegan Brunch at Melt
Melt Cafe
Melt Cafe – Cincinnati
One of Melt's Menu Boards
One of Melt’s Menu Boards

After breakfast we took a drive around the Northside… more murals and a great Graffiti wall reminiscent of what I saw in Toronto a few years ago.

Large Mural on side of building representing the Northside district
Large Mural on side of building representing the Northside district
Artist at work on Graffiti wall in Northside
Artist at work on Graffiti wall in Northside
Colorful Graffiti wall in Northside of Cincinnati
Colorful Graffiti wall in Northside of Cincinnati
More colorful graffiti in Northside
More colorful graffiti in Northside
Graffiti everywhere - very colorful
Graffiti everywhere – very colorful
Sumoflam at Northside graffiti walls
Sumoflam at Northside graffiti walls

A few blocks away was another giant mural on the side of a building.  It too was unique and really stood out….

Tall mural on side of a building in Cincinnati's Northside
Tall mural on side of a building in Cincinnati’s Northside

Sadly, all things mus come to an end.  After a drive around the Northside, it was back on the road south to Lexington.

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New Book on Texas Travel: Tui Snider – Unexpected Texas

Tui Snider - author of "Unexpected Texas" (courtesy of Tui Snider)
Tui Snider – author of “Unexpected Texas” (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Throughout my time as a travel blogger I have had the opportunity to correspond and exchange notes with many other travel bloggers who are also find of the offbeat and quirky. One of those with whom I have worked with often is Tui Snider, from Azle, Texas.

Tui is a freelance writer and travel blogger specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cultural traditions, and quirky travel destinations. Her articles and photos have appeared in BMIbaby, easyJet, Wizzit, Click, Ling, PlanetEye Traveler, iStopover, SkyEurope, and North Texas Farm and Ranch magazines, among others. She also wrote the shopping chapter for the “Time Out Naples: Capri, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast 2010” travel guidebook. Unexpected Texas is her first book.

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)
Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

First off, I am honored to have been asked to be a part of her “Blog Tour” and to help interested travelers find another valuable guide for seeing some of the more unusual and fun parts of our great country. (Also, some lucky viewers will won some nice prizes….see below for details!!) I have had a chance to peruse this book and it is really chock full of splendid places on back roads you never heard of. Having traveled 1000s of miles of Texas backroads myself, I know that this will likely be Tui’s first book, but not last, on the wonders of Texas.

Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)
Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)

Some of the places, such as the Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower that adorns her cover are places I have been.

 

Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)
Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)
Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)
Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

For Tui, travel is a mindset. Her motto is “Even home is a travel destination,” and she believes that “The world is only boring if you take everyone else’s word for it.” She has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. Her first book, “Unexpected Texas” is a guide to offbeat and overlooked places within easy reach of the Dallas – Fort Worth region of North Texas.

The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider's book.
The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider’s book.

Tui provides a nice overview of the quirky, offbeat and even scary places around north Texas, sharing often overlooked travel tips for places within a day’s drive of Dallas and Fort Worth. Some of the quirkier chapters include details on how to visit the:

  • Gravesite of an alleged space alien.
  • Courthouse displaying an embalmed lizard in a velvet-lined casket.
  • Statue of Jesus wearing cowboy boots.
  • Museum commemorating the lynching of Santa Claus.
  • Life-sized wax replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
  • Building made entirely of salt.
  • 65 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica.
  • Petrified wood cafe.
  • World’s smallest skyscraper.
  • Only Michelangelo painting in America.
The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)
The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Personally, I have driven hundreds of miles of roads in Texas and visited over 100 cities and towns, including a few of the places Tui covers in her book, such as Mineral Wells and the famous Douglas Hotel, where it was rumored that Bonnie and Clyde had stayed numerous times. I have also been to the Fort Worth Stockyards, Granbury, Denton, the Fossil Rim Animal Park and more. But I have barely scratched the surface in terms of the number of places Tui details in this great book!

Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)
Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

As an author, Tui now has a page of her own on Amazon

You can also find Tui all around the web. Feel free to drop by and say say hi:

Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel Blog

Tui Snider’s Facebook Author Page

Tui Snider’s awesome Instagram Page

Tui’s Pinterest Page

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!
Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

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