Everywhere a Sign – Some V Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Its a very exciting time when I can visualize a future trip on the back roads of America. I tackle all of my trips with Vim and Vigor.  I feel validated after even the most vexing of trips.

As I wind down the month of April and the 2019 blogging challenge, I can see the finish line and can tast victory.  Maybe I will celebrate with Voodoo Doughnuts!! I hope you enjoy some of the V Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Voodoo Doughnut, Austin, Texas

Voodoo Doughnut, Austin, Texas
Voodoo Doughnut, Cash Only
Voodoo Doughnut emulating Wall Drug (see below)
Where the Heck is Wall Drug?

There are not many unique doughnut places.  But, in my opinion, of all of the unique ones, Voodoo Doughnut rides the Top of the list.   My first experience with Voodoo was in 2011 in Portland, Oregon.  I visited the mother ship in Old Town Portland and took my place in the never ending line of folks waiting to get their out of this world unique doughnut fix.  Portland is a strange and quirky town, especially in the Old Town area, so Voodoo fit right in.   The original shop opened in 2003.  After three shops in Oregon, in December 2013 they ventured out of the safety of Oregon to open in Denver, on Friday the 13th.   Well, Austin is another weird town and Sixth Street is the place to be.  Sometime in 2014 or 2015, Voodoo opened their fifth shop in Austin.  I got to visit there twice in 2018 with my grandchildren.  What a kick!  Just an FYI, the Universal CityWalks in Hollywood and Orlando now have a Voodoo Doughnut.  So, if you are out and about…make your way to Voodoo!

The Vulcan Center in Birmingham, Alabama

The Vulcan Center, Birmingham, Alabama
Vulcan Statue, one of America’s tallest, in Birmingham, Alabama

The Vulcan Center in Birmingham, Alabama is home to the Vulcan statue, which is the largest cast iron statue in the world.  It is the city symbol of Birmingham, reflecting its roots in the iron and steel industry. The 56-foot tall statue depicts the Roman god Vulcan and was created as Birmingham’s entry for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in the 1904 World’s Fair. The statue is one of the tallest statues in the United States.  I wrote about the Vulcan statue along with my other 2018 highlights in THIS POST.

Like what you see? Well, there is lots more!  I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

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Everywhere a Sign – Some U Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Its a unanimous understatement to say that I love traveling the back roads of America looking for the interesting and unique. It is ultimately my utmost passion (well, besides my family and my grandchildren).

I will also do something in this post. I will be posting some of the US Highway signs I have picked up, most specifically in 2018. I’ll explain down below.  I hope you enjoy some of the U Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Uranus, Missouri

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Uranus, Missouri water tower
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Sounds yummy
Help Keep Uranus Clean
The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Uranus Parks T-shirt

Might as well start this post on a humorously low point.  Yes indeed, there is a place in Missouri called Uranus. And yes, it is pronounced “Your Anus” (and by the way, I heard a question on Jeopardy recently and Alex Trebek pronounces it that way).  And yes, the main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory where all of the employees (affectionately referred to as Fudge Packers) all yell out “Welcome to Uranus” when you walk into the shop.  Indeed, the owners and creators made sure it was quite the attraction.  Rather than go into detail on this post (I think the pictures above give you enough hints), please go visit my detailed post about Uranus from last year.  You can see more about Uranus here.

US Highway Shields / Route Markers

US Route 61 in Mississippi, also known as The Blues Highway (taken in 2017)

OK.  You are probably thinking “How can looking at numbers on signs be interesting?”  And, I would give that to you.  To many they probably aren’t.  But look at the signs…they look like shields or badges.  And, to me, as a collector of road trip memories (via photos and memories), these are like Boy Scout merit badges.  I am always after yet another number for my collection.

For consistency, in my blog I refer to them as US Highways, though they are called Route XX in other places…ala Route 66.  But, they are definitely interchangeable.

US Highway 1 signs in Baltimore, Maryland. US Highway 1 actually goes along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine… a total of 2,369 miles.

US Highway 1 is the easternmost route in the US and runs north-south (as do ALL odd numbered highways) along the Atlantic Coast.

The first highways were numbered with this universal system in 1925.  Nowadays,  the U.S. Numbered Highways (or Routes) are the original interstate highways, dating back to 1926. U.S. Highways are numbered in a grid: even numbered for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along Canada) and odd numbered for north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the Atlantic Ocean). Three-digit highways, also known as “child routes,” are branches off their main one- or two-digit “parents” (for example, U.S. Route 202 is a branch of U.S. Route 2). However, US 101, rather than a “child” of US 1, is considered a “mainline” U.S. Route.

US Highway 2 in Hurley, Wisconsin (taken in 2016)
US Highway 2 at Stevens Pass in Washington

US Highway 2 is the northernmost long highway in the United States.  Completely, it covers 2,571 miles from east to west, starting in Houlton, Maine and ending in Everett, Washington.   In 1926 it was intentionally split.  The eastern section ends in Rouses Point, New York, where it meets US Highway 11.  Then, the highway kicks in again in St. Ignace, Michigan and traverses across the northern US, ending in Everett, Washington.  I have actually driven (at different times) the entire length of US Highway 2 from Ironwood, Michigan to Everett, Washington.

US Highway 101 in Southern Washington

US Highway 101 was the only original highway to have a three digit number.  This is the westernmost north-south highway and runs from Port Angeles, Washington to Los Angeles, California for about 1,550 miles.  In some places it is nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway and in California it is also called the El Camino Real (the Royal Road).  I have been on portions of this highway in Washington, Oregon and California.

US Highway 90 near Garwood, Texas

Like US Highway 2, US Highway 90 is the original southern route going east-west.   It basically begins in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and ends in Van Horn, Texas.   It has a length of about 1,633 miles and, in some places is called the Old Spanish Trail.  I have driven portions of this highway in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, most of it in 2018 when I drive to Houston via Mobile, Alabama, through Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi, Lafayette, Louisiana and as far west as San Antonio.

Route 66 – Getting my kicks
Route 66 in Missouri … near Rolla, Missouri
Visiting Route 66 in White Oak, Oklahoma
Historic Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois

Though I have not even come close to gaining all of the “badges,” I have many.  Following are a few of the other US Highways I have been on.  Just for your interest…my favorites are (in order)…  US 2 (from Wisconsin to Washington), US 89 (from northern Montana to Southern Arizona), US 66 (naturally), US 61 (along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Mississippi), US 50 (another cross-country east-west highway that cuts through the heart of America for over 300 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California), US 101, US 60, which cuts across the heartland of the United States and sometimes joins with Route 66, and finally, US 31 (which runs from Northern Michigan to Mobile, Alabama including a long stretch through Kentucky).  But, I love many more of them!

Following are a few random photos I took in 2018 to add to my “badge collection” of US Highway Signs.

US Highway 68 taken in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. This highway runs for 560 miles from Toledo, Ohio to Reidland, Kentucky
US Highway 177 taken near Byars, Oklahoma. This is a spur of US Hwy 77 and goes for 233 miles from South Haven, Kansas to Madill, Oklahoma
US Highway 81 in Ringgold, Oklahoma

US Highway 81  is a major north-south highway that extends for 1220 miles in the central United States and is one of the earliest United States Numbered Highways established in 1926 by the US Department of Agriculture Bureau of Public Roads.  It begins in the north near Pembina, North Dakota at the U.S./Canada border and ends in Fort Worth, Texas at Interstate 35W.

US Highway 287, also pictured above, is a north–south (physically northwest–southeast) United States highway that stretches for 1,791 miles.  It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.  I have actually been on many portions of this road.

US Highway 271 near Arthur City, Texas. It is about 297 miles in length from Tyler, Texas through Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Arkansas
US Highway 183 near Florence, Texas. It was the last route to be completely paved (in 1967). It runs north-south for 1250 miles from Refugio, Texas to Presho, South Dakota. I have been on many sections of this highway over the years.
US Highway 51 near Dyersburg, Missouri.

US Highway 51 is another major south-north United States highway that extends 1,277 miles from Laplace, Louisiana, to Hurley, Wisconsin on the  Wisconsin–Michigan state line where it ends in a T interchange with US Highway 2 near Ironwood, Michigan.  I actually stood at that very corner for my US Highway 2 photo (see above).

US Highways 79 and 190 in Milano, Texas

US Highway 79 is officially considered and labeled as a north-south highway, but it is actually more of a diagonal northeast-southwest highway. The highway’s northern/eastern terminus is in Russellville, Kentucky, at an intersection with U.S. Highway 68 and KY 80.  I have driven US 79 from Russellville all the way through Clarksville and Paris, Tennessee and then on to Memphis (where I took US Highway 61 south into Mississippi).  On other trips, I have taken US 79 in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  US Highway 79 covers about 855 miles.

US 190 has been around since 1926.  It covers about 875 miles as an auxiliary route to US Highway 90.  It starts in Slidell, Louisiana and ends in Iraan, Texas.  It passes through Baton Rouge as well as Huntsville and Temple, Texas.  I have driven a good portion of US Highway 190.

US Highway 58 near Damascus, Virginia

This is a beautiful stretch of highway starting at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and heading about 508 miles across southern Virginia eventually to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia.  At one time or another I have driven the entire length of this highway.

US Highway 89 and US Highway  2 meet up in northern Browning, Montana

US Highway begins in the northernmost region of Montana north of Babb on the Canada/Montana border. It goes south ending in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Over the course of my life I have traveled every inch of this 1,252 mile highway which was first established in 1926.  I would argue that this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.  It passes seven National Parks (thus the nickname the National Park Highway.  These include, among others, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Grand Canyon.  Along the route it also passes a number of scenic National Monuments as well.  In fact, National Geographic magazine has called this the “No. 1 Driver’s Drive in the World.”  I would concur.  You can experience mountains, high plains, deserts and canyons on this route.

US Highway 60 on Midland Trail in West Virginia

Last sign for this post is a biggie.  US Highway 60 is an east–west United States highway, traveling 2,670 miles from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with Route 66.

US Highway 60 cuts through West Virginia as the Midland Trail and also passes through Central Kentucky and westward.  I have driven the entire length from Norfolk, Virginia through Lexington, Virginia and on through West Virginia, Kentucky into Cairo, Illinois.  This has been a major route for me for many years, especially since it extends out of Lexington both east and west.

Like what you see? Well, there is lots more!  I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

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Everywhere a Sign – Some S Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Since man could walk, travel has been a part of life.  The sensational opportunity to see the world has kept most of us from being sedentary. The singular driving force is the strong desire of discovery.

For nearly 50 years I have sought the sensation, the scintillating, the stylish and the silly in my travels.  In 2018, that striving for something special continued.  I hope you will enjoy some of the S Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels. Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Smiley, Texas

Smiling in Smiley, Texas
Smiley, Texas – didn’t find many smiles here
The Smiley Water Tower. Not even a Smiley Face on it!

I was down in Houston in February 2018 and took the grandsons on an expedition.  One of my “goal places” was Smiley, Texas.   I always love places with unique names.  The small community’s name has nothing to do with smiles.  Rather, it was named after trader and sheepherder John Smiley in the 1870s.   The town of about 450 is located at the intersection of US Highway 87 and Farm Roads 3234 and 108.  Honestly, the town looked very depressed and run down.  Probably not much to smile about.

Sunset Motel, Belle Fourche, South Dakota 

Great little place in the geographic center of the continental US!
The Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche, SD
Sunset Motel Sign on a building in downtown Belle Fourche.

When I take a long road trip, I don’t typically plan on a place to stay until late in the day.  I never know how far along I’ll get before it gets dark.  Such was the case with my visit to Belle Fourche.  After traveling west on Interstate 90 thru to Wall, SD, I decided to head northwest on US Highway 85 towards Montana and made it into Belle Fourche.  I always try to stay at a local, vintage motel on these trips nowadays, just for the experience (good or bad).  I got to Belle Fourche at sunset, just in time to get a nice shot of the sunset with the Sunset Motel 5 sign.  It was a nice stay.

Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby, IL
A Starved Rock Carving

I made my way to Starved Rock State Park which is a huge natural park situated on the Illinois River just south of North Utica, Illinois and east of Oglesby, Illinois.  My sole purpose was to track down one of the Whispering Giant carvings by artist Peter Toth.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and hope to visit there for a more extended trip sometime in the near future.  The park has 18 small canyons and numerous waterfalls that can be seen from a number of hiking trails.

Skykomish, Washington

Welcome to Skykomish, WA

Skykomish – interesting name and splendid vistas!  I pulled into Skykomish on a beautiful April day after coming down from the snow-packed Stevens Pass on US Highway 2.  Though the altitude is only 928 feet, it feels completely like a mountain town as it is surrounded by the tall scenic mountains of the Cascade Range.  The name “Skykomish” derives from the Skykomish or Skai-whamish tribe who inhabited the area before any Europeans arrived. The town of Skykomish was officially incorporated on June 5, 1909.  The main purpose of the town was to be a fueling station for the railroad.

Sabine Theatre, Many, Louisiana

Sabine Theatre, Many, Louisiana

The old classic move marquee is slowly disappearing, so, whenever I hit a small town with a huge classic marquee, I want to grab a shot. Such was the case of the Sabine in Many, Louisiana. Built in 1947, the Sabine Theatre was acquired by the town of Many in the mid-1990’s. Like many theatres across the country, the Sabine is now typically used for live theatre, musical performances, occasional movies, and other community events.

Shiner, Texas

Welcome to Shiner, Texas
Shiner Barbeque Company

When I hear the word shiner, I usually think of a black eye.  So, on my trip to see Smiley (see above), I also went through the town of Shiner, Texas.  Located on US Highway 90, the town is now locally famous in Texas as the home of the Spoetzl Brewery,  best known for producing Shiner Bock, a dark German/Czech-style beer that is now distributed in 49 states.  I didn’t visit the brewery, but learned that the town was named for Henry B. Shiner, who donated 250 acres of land in 1887 and then incorporated in 1890.

Sublime Baptist Church, Sublime, Texas

Sublime Baptist Church in Sublime, Texas

Continue East on US Highway 90 from Shiner and you’ll pass through the small community if Sublime.  Isn’t that just sublime?  There isn’t much here.  The population is about 75, and has been since the 1950s. The name was set in 1875 when a post office was established there.

Stardust Motel, Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho
Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Like the Sunset Motel in South Dakota, I ended up in the mountain town of Wallace, Idaho on my way west to Washington in April 2018.  I just stopped in and got a room at the Stardust.  Classic vintage motel sign drew me in.  Nice rooms, good rates and a lovely little town.

Spar Cafe, Olympia, Washington

Spar Cafe, Olympia, Washington

I stopped in to Olympia to have breakfast with some old friends.  We ate the Spar Cafe in downtown Olympia.  First established in the 1930s, the eatery is filled with interesting art.   Originally touted as a “fine eating and recreation parlor,”  can you still see the original bar, artwork, chandeliers, and other furnishings.  I heard that even the drinking water is served up old school—straight from its own artesian well.

Like what you see? Well, there is lots more!  I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

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