Montana Roadtrip: Gliding Across Wisconsin on US Route 2

US Route 2 and Lake Superior Circle Tour beginning in Ironwood, MI
US Route 2 and Lake Superior Circle Tour beginning in Ironwood, MI

One of my “bucket list trips” is to drive the entire length of US Route 2 from the East Coast to the West Coast. Not necessarily in one trip, but to have been able to drive the length of that highway as the opportunity affords itself. 

Sumoflam at the starting point of his Route 2 adventure in Ironwood, MI
Sumoflam at the starting point of his Route 2 adventure in Ironwood, MI

Route 2 is one of the longest continuous highways in the continental United States, spanning 2,571 miles and is also the northernmost US numbered route in the country. The western segment of US 2 extends from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan across the northern tier of the lower 48 states. Most of the western route was built roughly paralleling the Great Northern Railway. US 2 adopted the railway’s route nickname “The Hi-Line” as the most northern crossing in the U.S.

Ironwood Train Station, Ironwood, MI
Ironwood Train Station, Ironwood, MI

On this trip to Montana, I chose to drive north to Ironwood, Michigan (see the first leg of the trip here if you missed it) and use that as my starting point for the trip westward on US Route 2 since it represents the western end of the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I would then traverse across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and a good part of Montana all the way to US Route 89 near Glacier National Park.

Downtown Ironwood looking towards the giant Hiawatha statue
Downtown Ironwood looking towards the giant Hiawatha statue
Downtown Ironwood, Michigan
Downtown Ironwood, Michigan

Ironwood also has a number of unique things to see including a giant Hiawatha statue which is touted to be the biggest Native American Indian statue in the United States. They also have some nice murals and a few other unique things to see, so this would be how I started my day off.

A house in Ironwood has an old Hollywood video sign attached to an out building... Hollywood in Michigan!!
A house in Ironwood has an old Hollywood video sign attached to an out building… Hollywood in Michigan!!

As the name implies, Ironwood is a town that was settled due to iron mining. It’s history goes back to the 1800s. There are a couple of monuments to the iron workers in this town including a beautiful mural with paintings of the faces of almost 100 of the former iron workers. There is also a nice chainsaw carved sculpture in front of the old train station.

Wood Carving of Iron Workers in front of station in Ironwood, MI by Potlicker Sclupture
Wood Carving of Iron Workers in front of station in Ironwood, MI by Potlicker Sculpture
The men in Miner's Memorial Mural represent the thousands of men who worked in the Gogebic Range Mines of Michigan and Wisconsin.
The men in Miner’s Memorial Mural represent the thousands of men who worked in the Gogebic Range Mines of Michigan and Wisconsin.
A section of the Miner's Memorial Mural in Ironwood, which was completed in 2012
A section of the Miner’s Memorial Mural in Ironwood, which was completed in 2012

According to roadsideamerica.com, Ashland artists Kelly Meredith and Sue Martinsen spent over four years researching and painting the mural, which depicts over 100 real miners. It was unveiled on June 16, 2012, and proved so popular as a photo-op that in 2013 the city created a car-free zone in front of the mural.

Sumoflam and Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Sumoflam and Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI

Perhaps the biggest drawing card is the aforementioned Hiawatha statue which stands 52 feet tall in the midst of a park in town. I have been to many tall statues over the years including the Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota (55 feet), the 15 foot tall Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois, and of course the giant “Salem Sue” cow statue in New Salem, North Dakota (38 ft tall, 55 foot long), among others. But this Hiawatha was quite amazing. It was built by Gordon Displays of St. Paul, Minnesota and erected in 1964, so it is quite a long-running Roadside attraction. It was made totally out of fiberglass and weighs 18,000 pounds. Amongst the “big things” of this country’s unique tourist attractions, this is certainly one of the bigger ones.

52 foot tall Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI
52 foot tall Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI
Another angle of Hiawatha statue, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US
Another angle of Hiawatha statue, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US

Ironwood also has one of those classy looking theater fronts at the Historic Ironwood Theatre. A drive around the town also shows a number of vintage motel neon signs, which are always of interest to the seasoned back roads traveler.

Historic Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood, MI
Historic Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood, MI
Detail of Gargoyles at the Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood, MI
Detail of Gargoyles at the Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood, MI
Old Ironwood Motel neon sign
Old Ironwood Motel neon sign
Old Quinn Motel Neon sign in Ironwood, MI
Old Quinn Motel Neon sign in Ironwood, MI
A Route 66 type of vintage neon sign at the Royal Motel in Ironwood, MI
A Route 66 type of vintage neon sign at the Royal Motel in Ironwood, MI

As I left Ironwood, I made sure to get the requisite selfie with the Welcome to Wisconsin sign (one of 100 planned selfies on this trip!)

Wisconsin welcomes Sumoflam on US Route 2
Wisconsin welcomes Sumoflam on US Route 2

By morning I was well on my way westward on US Route 2 traversing across the birch forests and farmland of northern Wisconsin.

Driving on US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Driving on US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
A typical farm scene along US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
A typical farm scene along US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Birch forests line the highway on US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Birch forests line the highway on US Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin

As I neared WI 169 I saw a sign to Copper Falls State Park. There was no distance noted, so I made a left and headed down the road towards Gurney, WI. Great drive, but after about 8 miles I figured it was too far, so I headed back. I had wanted to head to Copper Falls because a verse of my friend Antsy McClain‘s song Field Trip.

Going on a Field Trip to Copper Falls....actually, never made it
Going on a Field Trip to Copper Falls….actually, never made it
Welcome to Gurney, WI
Welcome to Gurney, WI
Road to Gurney, WI...rolling hills in the birch forests
Road to Gurney, WI…rolling hills in the birch forests

Back on US Route 2 on continuing west one enters the Bad River Reservation, which is the home of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe. After driving past the Bad River Casino and the very small town of Odanah (pop 13), I came across a most unique “Collectibles Shop” on the side of the road.  This is one of those really unique “junk all over everything” places.  In some ways it is another form of Americana Art as far as I am concerned.  Here are a few shots of the place….which some research showed me was Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles with an Ashland, WI address (65782 Hwy 2).

Boudreau's Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
An alternate view of Boudreau's Antiques and Collectibles
An alternate view of Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles
Front porch of Boudreau's Antiques...how many things can you spot?
Front porch of Boudreau’s Antiques…how many things can you spot?
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau's Antiques
Part of an old Dodge hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Superman is hung forever on the side of Boudreau's antiques...saving a little doll?
Superman is hung forever on the side of Boudreau’s antiques…saving a little angel?
Boudreau's and US Hwy 2
Boudreau’s and US Hwy 2

Once I left Boudreau’s and headed further west I could see Lake Superior to my right (north) and seagulls were everywhere.  Definitely near water!

A small lighthouse at the end of an island near the shores of Lake Superior east of Ashland, WI
A small lighthouse at the end of an island near the shores of Lake Superior east of Ashland, WI
A seagull rests comfortably in the grass of a park next to Lake Superior
A seagull rests comfortably in the grass of a park next to Lake Superior
A couple of seagulls "converse" as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior

Ashland, Wisconsin sits on the shore of Lake Superior and is a nice little town with numerous brownstone buildings.  It is also called the “Mural Capital of Wisconsin” due to its 13 wonderful murals. It is also the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The Lakeshore features 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland and hosts a unique blend of cultural and natural resources.

Downtown Ashland, WI
Downtown Ashland, WI

The Ashland Mural Walk offers some amazing work by Ashland mural artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice-Martinsen.  They have also done murals in Ironwood, MI and other spots in northern Wisconsin.  The first of their murals is a three story tall mural called the Asaph Whittlesey mural, which was completed in 1998.

Asaph Whittlesey Mural, completed in 1998 by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice-Martinsen
Asaph Whittlesey Mural, completed in 1998 by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice-Martinsen

The next mural is actually a set of three along the same wall and is called the Ellis Avenue Historical Mural and features three famous redstone buildings including Northland College’s Wheeler Hall, Ashland High School and the Knight Hotel.  these were apparently completed in 2012.

Wheeler Hall Mural on Ellis Avenue in Ashland, WI
Wheeler Hall Mural on Ellis Avenue in Ashland, WI
Ashland High School Mural in Ashland, WI
Ashland High School Mural in Ashland, WI
The Knight Hotel Mural in Ashland, WI
The Knight Hotel Mural in Ashland, WI

In 2007 the artists painted the “The Bus Stop Waitresses,” which I actually enjoyed quite a bit as it is somewhat whimsical.

The Bus Stop Waitresses, a mural in Ashland, WI painted by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen
The Bus Stop Waitresses, a mural in Ashland, WI painted by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen

The next one is quite large and is called the Ore Dock Mural. This mural depicts the Ashland Ore Dock, which was built in 1916. The top portion of the mural is a “to scale” painting of the ore dock itself, including every properly numbered ore chute. The lower section includes 21 “postcards” telling the history of the varied uses of the structure over the years.

The Ashland Oredock Mural in Ashland, WI
The Ashland Ore Dock Mural in Ashland, WI

Another extensive mural is the “Veteran’s Mural” which runs along the side of the old Bay Theatre.  This mural features 41 veterans and all the veterans painted in the mural are actual people from the area.

Veterans Mural in Ashland, WI features the real images of 41 veterans from the area
Veterans Mural in Ashland, WI features the real images of 41 veterans from the area

Another nice mural is the “Lighthouse Mural.” Completed in 2000, the mural depicts three Apostle Island lighthouses and their “keepers.”

Lighthouse Mural in Ashland, WI
Lighthouse Mural in Ashland, WI

A smaller yet unique mural is the “Dhooghe’s Store Mural” on the front of the Chequamegon Food Co-op building in Ashland.

Dhooghe's Store Mural in Ashland, WI
Dhooghe’s Store Mural in Ashland, WI

Finally, there is the “Lumberjack Mural.”  This one was also completed in 2000 and depicts some of the men (and one woman) of Ashland’s lumber era.

Lumberjack Mural
Lumberjack Mural

Due to all of the murals, some other shops have gotten in on the action and done their own.  The one below was quite colorful and was in a back alley.

Unknown mural on the back of a building in an alley in Ashland, WI
Unknown mural on the back of a building in an alley in Ashland, WI

But murals are not the only attraction in Ashland.  Like many small towns, they still have their old theatre front, in this case, the Bay Theater.

The Bay Theatre in Ashland, WI
The Bay Theatre in Ashland, WI

On the wet end of town is a nice park on the shores of the lake and I had to get a couple more seagull shots…

Seagull in Ashland, WI
Seagull in Ashland, WI
Seagulls relax on the shore of Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
Seagulls relax on the shore of Lake Superior in Ashland, WI

After a 30 minute stopover in Ashland, it was time to get moving so I continued west on US Route 2.  Not too far out of town I cam across Pagac’s Bar on the south side of the road.  The drawing card here was the robotic looking Green Bay Packer quarterback made out of scrap metal and a keg.  Pretty unique.

Pagac's Bar west of Ashland, WI
Pagac’s Bar west of Ashland, WI
Robotic scrap metal quarterback.  The guy in the bar said you can plug it in and it actually moves!
Robotic scrap metal quarterback. The guy in the bar said you can plug it in and it actually moves!
Creepy Face
Creepy Face
Couldn't resist the old Standard Oil sign
Couldn’t resist the old Standard Oil sign
Touchdown?
Touchdown?

Continuing west on Route 2 I came to the small town of Iron River, WI.  This small town also had a huge mural by the same artists that did the Ashland murals.  They began this project in 2006 sponsored by the Iron River Lion’s Club.

Iron River, Wisconsin
Iron River, Wisconsin
Iron River Mural in Iron River, WI
Iron River Mural in Iron River, WI

Continuing west the drive was lovely as it took me into the small community of Blueberry, WI

US Hwy 2 east of Maple, WI
US Hwy 2 east of Maple, WI
Old Antique Store in Blueberry, WI
Old Antique Store in Blueberry, WI
Scrap Metal totem pole outside of Blueberry Antique store
Scrap Metal totem pole outside of Blueberry Antique store
Yet another junk collector along US Route 2 at the Blueberry Antique Store
Yet another junk collector along US Route 2 at the Blueberry Antique Store

Not too much further down the road I came into Maple, WI and discovered a wonderful place called Grizz Works. This place does chain saw and wood work and has some fabulous pieces.  I stopped and spoke with Justin Howland, the owner.  He was very pleasant and amenable.  In fact, I will be doing a separate post just for them. But here are a couple of shots…

Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI.  Giant Grizzly is amazing!
Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI. Giant Grizzly is amazing!
Giant Grizzly at Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Giant Grizzly at Grizz Works in Maple, WI
A carving of an Indian at Grizz Works
A carving of an Indian at Grizz Works
More Grizz Works art
More Grizz Works art

US Route 2 out of Maple eventually heads into Superior, WI, which is the end of the road in Wisconsin.  Just before town is one of those offbeat eateries…this one is called Gronk’s Grill and Bar.  This is one of thos places that has a Burger Challenge (which I did not try….but would have liked to have….) .  Called the Great Divide Challenge, it  involves eating 8 pounds’ worth of burger and fries.  The first person to accomplish this was a woman!!  It was named after the Great Divide (which is south of Superior and not visited on this trip).

US Route 2 heading west out of Maple towards Superior, WI
US Route 2 heading west out of Maple towards Superior, WI
Gronk's Grill and Bar in Superior, WI
Gronk’s Grill and Bar in Superior, WI
Cheese Head Raccoon at Gronk's in Superior, WI
Cheese Head Raccoon at Gronk’s in Superior, WI
A Jackalope Bird or something at Gronk's
A Jackalope Bird or something at Gronk’s
The fickle finger of fate at the entrance of Gronks in Superior, WI
The fickle finger of fate at the entrance of Gronks in Superior, WI
Chain Saw carved bears for sale at Gronk's.  I thought the first one was pretty funny
Chain Saw carved bears for sale at Gronk’s. I thought the first one was pretty funny

After fun at Gronk’s it was back on the road and to the bridge crossing over into Minnesota.

US Route 2 bridge crossing over into Duluth, MN
US Route 2 bridge crossing over into Duluth, MN

(4900)

Montana Roadtrip – Day 1: A Cheesy Drive to Yooperville

Excitement at 4 AM as I get ready to leave on a long roadtrip!
Excitement at 4 AM as I get ready to leave on a long roadtrip!

I began my 4600 mile trek to Montana and back by driving from Lexington, Kentucky to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (these folks call themselves “Yoopers”) and the small town of Ironwood.

Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading east on I-74 in central Indiana
Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading west on I-74 in central Indiana

As with most of my long road trips, the first leg did require a bit of driving on the interstate which I try to avoid once I get into the midst of a trip. For a change of pace, I headed north to Cincinnati and then west on I-74 to Indianapolis and then continued on I-74 all the way to Bloomington, IL.  I have made numerous trips to Indianapolis and into Illinois, so I am not documenting much about those states in this post. I should note however, that from Bloomington I followed US 51 north, though much of it was along I-39 all the way into the middle of Wisconsin.

Welcome to Illinois on I-74 at Indiana/Illinois Border
Welcome to Illinois on I-74 at Indiana/Illinois Border
Driving north out of Bloomington, IL
Driving north out of Bloomington, IL
Driving north on I-39 / US 51 towards Beloit, WI
Driving north on I-39 / US 51 towards Beloit, WI

Of course, whenever possible, I do try to take some side trips off of the interstate to visit new places. On this particular venture, I strolled into El Paso, Illinois for a looksee. This is one of those small towns that give you a good taste of Americana. I had seen a photo of this old bed-and-breakfast type restaurant with an old neon sign. So, I wanted to check it out myself and see if it was still there. And, to my joy it was!

Visiting "The Elms" in El Paso, IL
Visiting “The Elms” in El Paso, IL

If I were a filmmaker, I would add “The Elms” restaurant and the building that it used to be housed in as part of the set of “Bates Motel.”  It has that old feel, yet it also has a spooky appeal to it.  The restaurant opened in the 1940s and finally closed down in March 2003. In its heyday it was a draw from all around.

The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL.  Vintage neon and a classic old building.
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL. Vintage neon and a classic old building.

From El Paso, I continued north into Rockford, Illinois. I had a number of places I’d hoped to go see, but due to time constraints and my desire to get to the Upper Peninsula before dark, I skipped over all but one site there. I made my way to the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza since it was right off of the road. Established in 2002, the plaza celebrates the United Nations’ official September 21 International Day of Peace. The plaza showcases 44 flags, and has messages of peace in more than 60 languages. The photo below is of the “Harmony Index” it was designed for this particular location by nationally known sculptor Lee Sido.

Harmony Index at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza designed by
Harmony Index at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza designed by Lee Sido
Over 60 flags fly at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza in Rockford, IL
Over 44 flags fly at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza in Rockford, IL

After Rockford, I headed north into Beloit, Wisconsin. People that make it into Beloit are greeted by the uber-friendly Smiley Water Tower. Of course, entering Wisconsin also brings you face on with cheesiness everywhere!

Beloit's Smiley Water Tower greets visitors to Wisconsin
Beloit’s Smiley Water Tower greets visitors to Wisconsin
Say "Cheese!" - You're in Wisconsin!
Say “Cheese!” – You’re in Wisconsin!

In this case, I don’t necessarily just mean cheese as in the food, but Wisconsin is dotted with unique big animal statues. My first bout was with a big bulldog near the water tower. This is the mascot for the Road Dawg Restaurant in Beloit.

The Big Bulldog mascot of the Road Dawg Restaurant
The Big Bulldog mascot of the Road Dawg Restaurant

And around the corner things got even cheesier at the Cornellier Superstore (cheese-r-us.com)! There is cheese all over the wall (outside that is) and a number of cheesy looking statues of animals outside as well. If you like taking cheesy selfie photos, then this is a good place to start!

The famous mouse with sausage and cheese outside of Cornellier Superstore in Beloit
The famous mouse with sausage and cheese outside of Cornellier Superstore in Beloit
Who stole my cheese?
Who stole my cheese?

Besides the cheesy mouse, there is a big Holstein cow at front. If you’re not into cows, there is also a big cuddly bear with honey and lots of interesting things inside the shop. And, of course, you can get all kinds of cheese!

The Beloit Holstein Cow outside of Cornellier Superstore
The Beloit Holstein Cow outside of Cornellier Superstore
Cuddling with the Honey Bear in the front of Cornellier Superstore
Cuddling with the Honey Bear in the front of Cornellier Superstore

From Beloit I continued north to Janesville. It is the home of “Bessie the Cow.”  I was really udderly fascinated by the big brown cow out front of the Arby’s Restaurant. Though not nearly as big as “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota (see my photo from 2005), it is the second largest cow statue I have ever seen! (And I do have a collection of them)

Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Udderly Amazed at the size of this cow!
Udderly Amazed at the size of this cow!

Continuing north, I made my way into DeForest, Wisconsin. As a traveler, if you were at all interested in the quirky or offbeat, then this is a must stop if you are in the area! Their famous pink elephant with big Buddy Holly glasses is a site worth beholding and worth getting into a photograph with. I understand that there are a few of these elephants around the country, but this is the only one that I am aware of with glasses. And, if you go into the Shell gas station, they sell pink elephant magnets, T-shirts, stickers, and they even have a pink elephant liquor store.

The Pink Elephant of DeForest at exit 126 on I-94
The Pink Elephant of DeForest at exit 126 on I-94
Check out the glasses on this dude!!
Check out the glasses on this dude!!
Need a Pink Elephant T-Shirt?  I know where you can get one!
Need a Pink Elephant T-Shirt? I know where you can get one!

Just down the street from the Pink Elephant is Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. They have a big Holstein Cow as well.  This one is named “Sissy the Cow.” Sissy is very close in size to Bessie.  Indeed, they may be sisters!!  I was really lucky to get the shot I did as Bessie has done a “Chick-Fil-A” to Burger King….look carefully….

Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI.  Playing a little "Chick-Fil-A" on Burger King!!
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little “Chick-Fil-A” on Burger King!!
One of the two murals that decorate the outside of Ellenbach's Cheese Chalet
One of the two murals that decorate the outside of Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet

As is known to many of the followers of my travel blog, I always endeavor to find towns with unique names. This time, I actually came upon one named Endeavor in Wisconsin.

Endeavor, WI
Endeavor, WI
Grampa's Swamp Side Bar & Grill in Endeavor, WI.  Not sure how it is, but love the name!
Grampa’s Swamp Side Bar & Grill in Endeavor, WI. Not sure how it is, but love the name!

One of the reasons I take joy in driving the back roads of America is that I run into places that are an expected. I’m always looking for a Smiley Water Tower, or barn with a smiley on it. But this time as I passed through Hancock, Wisconsin I came upon Smiley’s Old Time Diner! Now, how fun is that! I just wish I would’ve had time to stop and check out the menu (which includes things like meatloaf o Monday, etc.) but had to press onward.

Smiley's Old Time Diner in Hancock, Wisconsin
Smiley’s Old Time Diner in Hancock, Wisconsin

I continued north on Interstate 39 until I got to Wausau, Wisconsin. From there the freeway ends and US 51 continues on its own past the colorful town of Tomahawk, Wisconsin (which I visited in 2012 and you can see pictures of it here). US 51 continues north and passes numerous lakes, ponds and touristy towns such as the scenic town of Minocqua, Wisconsin, which is basically on an island in the midst of Lake Minocqua.

Skies at dusk in northern Wisconsin on US 51 south of Minocqua, WI
Skies at dusk in northern Wisconsin on US 51 south of Minocqua, WI
Sunset at Lake Minocqua, WI
Sunset at Lake Minocqua, WI

I pulled into this small lovely village right near sunset, and so I was blessed to get some beautiful sunset pictures with the lake. As well, they have a big diner called Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, which was closed at the time, but has a big old Bunyan and Babe statue and so I joined them for a photo opportunity!

Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Sumoflam in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Sumoflam in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Babe at sunset in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Babe at sunset in Minocqua, WI

Continuing north on 51 hit got darker and so I just pressed forward missing some other sites such as the second largest black duck statue and a couple of others along the way. I finally made my way to my hotel in Ironwood, Michigan fairly late in the evening.

Sunset over Lake Minocqua, WI
Sunset over Lake Minocqua, WI

This long “Day One” trip covered approximately 825 miles and I was on the road for over 16 hours in total enjoyment!

Typical Red Barn in Wisconsin
Typical Red Barn in Wisconsin

The next leg of the trip will be covered in my next post and will feature the sites of Ironwood, Michigan and the drive all the way across Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota.

(1056)

4600 Miles of Back Roads Bliss

Following My Bliss
Following My Bliss!
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

As I returned home from my long nine-day trip across America I wanted to take a quick look back at all the events.

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

Over the course of this trip I have covered 12 states, over 4600 miles, taken almost 2000 photos (including over 100 “selfies” and have seen all kinds of things.

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

The big highlights of this trip were visiting the Paul Bunyan and Big Blue in Bemidji, Minnesota, driving up the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming/Montana, and hitting Carhenge in Nebraska.

The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.  One of the highlights of the trip
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. One of the highlights of the trip

Along with these, I saw many other interesting places. I had numerous oddball sites along the way including a pink elephant, big bears, Jackalopes and many other roadside attractions.

Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming
Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming

This trip took me along many US highways as I generally avoided the interstate whenever possible. I was fortunate enough to drive a big chunk US Route 2: all the way from Ironwood, Michigan to the eastern edge of Glacier National Park where US 2 intersects with US 89. That route has some amazing scenery, lots of variety and other wonderful things.

US Route 2 in Wisconsin
US Route 2 in Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana

As I noted above, I took Route 2 all the way to where it met US Highway 89. I later drove US 89 from the US 2/US 89 intersection near Glacier National Park along the eastern rim down to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Throughout my years of travel I have covered a good portion US 89 all the way down to Mexico and all the way up to Canada but never in one fell swoop. In my opinion, US 89 is probably the most scenic of all the US highways. US Route 66 may be the most famous, but US 89 passes by a number national parks and monuments, as well as numerous other scenic places. From the north you would drive by Glacier, then Yellowstone, continue south through the Rocky Mountains, down through southern Utah near Bryce and Zion national parks, crossover Lake Powell at Glen Canyon dam, head towards Flagstaff and pass Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, then pass the Grand Canyon, and continue south all the way to Mexico. An amazing drive down nature’s “Grand Staircase.”

Scenes from US 89
Scenes from US 89
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

As with most of my trips, I also captured the abundance of wildlife, some of which I was able to photograph. I had close-ups of deer, antelope, bison and a few waterbirds. I drove through the wetlands of Minnesota, the marshlands of North Dakota, and the sandhills of Nebraska, all of which had an abundance of waterfowl.

Antelope in Wyoming
Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some amazing people along this road trip. I met some expert woodcarvers in Wisconsin and I met with rice growers in Wisconsin. I had a long talk with the people in Bemidji, Minnesota. While in Douglas, Wyoming I got to meet with the people there about the Jackalope got my “official” Jackalope hunting license and other goodies from them. At Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming I met a photographer from Wisconsin who also writes blogs and has many similar interests in travel. I hope to exchange stories and photos with him. Then at Carhenge I met a time lapse photographer and some other interesting people and even donated my MARDUP (Married Up) license plate to the Carhenge gift shop. I don’t want to forget the small Old Trail Museum in the small town of Choteau, Montana with dinosaurs and other unique things.

Hell's Half Acre in Wyoming
Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Donating "MARDUP" license plate at Carhenge
Donating “MARDUP” license plate at Carhenge
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs

As with most of my trips, I didn’t visit all of my planned locations. But along the way there were many in expected surprises that I ran across. These are what really make these trips worthwhile! Perhaps two of my most exciting surprises were visiting Rock City in northern Montana ( with my Grandkidz) and Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming. Both of these are basically uncharted geographic and geologic formations that are really amazing.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana

As always, I was delighted to be around the mountains! I was fortunate to be able drive along the eastern rim of Glacier National Park at sunrise and see the beauty of the snow-covered mountains there. Driving down US 89 from Shelby towards Yellowstone, I saw an abundance of wonderful mountain vistas. Then one of my bucket list trips was accomplished on this as I drove the Beartooth mountain range which sits atop the border of Montana and Wyoming. That was an amazing adventure as I drove all the way up 11,000 feet to the “Top of the World” as they call it there. Deep snow surrounded the roads and the vistas looking down on the mountains were absolutely breathtaking.

A scene from the 'Top of the World" looking down on the Beartooth Range
A scene from the ‘Top of the World” looking down on the Beartooth Range
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park

This trip will actually provide me enough content to warrant a number of blog posts for me as I visited so many locations and saw so many different things. In the past, I have tried to throw it all into one giant blog. But this time around I met with people and I dug a little deeper and took more pictures of various locations so that I can focus on the smaller picture items. For sure I will have blog posts about US Route 2, US Route 89, the Beartooth, Bemidji, Douglas, and probably a few others.

Mountain Scene in Montana
Mountain Scene in Montana
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND

With the new technology of wireless devices, I was able to take a lot of “selfies” along the route. My goal was to get 100 selfies, but I actually got 96 on this trip. Using Instagram, I hash tagged them with #100selfies and shared them on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. Ultimately, I plan on a “100 Selfies” blog post including all of the photographs and the stories behind them.

Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI

Of course, I cannot neglect noting the real reason I took the trip which was my grandson Kade’s baptism. It was amazing to be able to spend time with my four grandchildren and my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron for four days in Shelby, Montana.

With grandson Kade for his baptism
With grandson Kade for his baptism
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana

During the course of this trip, I probably took over 2000 photographs. Much of them were scenery and unique sites. But I also captured the sense of the fading America – the old neon signs, the old abandoned houses and barns, schools and churches, the small-town theaters and their marquees. I captured small-town murals and Wall art.

Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Americana in El Paso, IL
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
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
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

I also captured an abundance of nature including beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing cloud formations, wildlife, wonderful vistas of the prairies and mountains and many many shots of scenes from the road

Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
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
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go

For me, these trips are not about the destinations. These trips are about the experience. It is all in the trip! This nine-day adventure, as with other long trips I have taken the past couple of years, will leave me cherished memories to the day that I die.  Watch soon for detailed posts about the trip.

DSC_7401
Bison poses for me in Yellowstone National Park
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Sandhills Drive - Nebraska Route 2
Sandhills Drive – Nebraska Route 2

(1595)