In this Flashback Edition of Less Beaten Paths, I take you back to August 2007 when I visited with James Frank Kotera in the town of Highlands, near Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. Kotera, who just refers to himself as JFK — the most famous JFK — claims to have the world’s largest ball of twine and my son and I had to see it. And trust me, it as an out of the way drive worth taking!! (Don’t miss the video below!!!)
View Larger Map – JFK, The Twine Ball Man -8009 S. Oakdale Rd., Lake Nebagamon, WI
Exact directions: From Solon Springs, WI, go north on US 53 to Wisconsin Rd. L. Turn right on L and go all the way to Rd. P. Turn left on P and head north along the east end of the lake to E. Minnesuing Rd. Turn right and drive about 2.5 miles to S. Oakdale. On the right corner you will see a small house with a bunch of flamingos and ducks on sticks in the yard. This is the place.
For those travelers who are always looking for offbeat and interesting roadside attractions, big balls of twine have always been one of the sought after treasures. The most famous twine balls include the one on Darwin, Minnesota (Weird Al Yankovic even has a song about it). The Darwin ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs about 17,400 pounds. Then there is the Cawker City, Kansas twine ball which was a community effort. It has a 40 foot circumference and weighs 14,687 pounds. Finally, there is one in Branson, Missouri that is 13 feet tall and has a 41 foot circumference. It weighs in at a measly 12,000 pounds.
JFK started his twine ball in 1979, and by the time we got there in 2007 he claimed that his ball weighed 19,680 pounds. He gave us his “business card” at the time which explains it all…
During our visit, JFK explained that with a famous name like JFK he needed to do something “famous” and had heard about other twine balls. As an employee of the Sanitation Department for the Town of Highland (as he says anyway – The only Highland in Wisconsin is 5 hours south of him), he has collected twine and assembled this ball lovingly for over 30 years. As he gets twine ready to put on the ball, he puts it in a bag and weighs it and then adds it to the twine ball. He records each weigh in so he has “accurate” records.
As to being the “Biggest in the World”, apparently the Guinness World book of Records noted in 1993 that the Branson ball was the biggest, but it is obviously the smallest of the four noted above. I would venture to say that JFK’s is by far the largest. In fact, it has been 6 years since I was there and I’ll bet it now exceeds 20,000 pounds!!
In early April 2013 I had the opportunity to drive across the Hi-Line (US Route 2) in Northern Montana and then made our way to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and all the across South Dakota to Mitchell and the Corn Palace. With another work trip to Idaho, I took a different route and, similar to the Hi-Line Drive, I mainly took US Route 18 (also known as the Oyate Trail) as it crosses most of South Dakota. It goes through many small and unique towns.
The Oyate Trail is a 388 mile route that generally follows SD 50 and US Route 18 across southern South Dakota. The name is derived from the Lakota word “Oyate”, which means “a people or a nation” and “Ochanku”, which is Lakota for “trail.” Thus, the trail of nations, initially meaning the trail to the various Lakota Nations — the Yankton, the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Sioux nations. But, the meaning is even more complex with the coming of the Europeans and the mixture of their cultures along the trail.
I started off in Kentucky on May 31 and spent the evening near Omaha, NE. On June 1 I headed north towards South Dakota, entering South Dakota in Sioux City on I-29. I took the freeway into the small town of Elk Point, another of the many places that Lewis and Clark had visited. They made camp nearby the area in August 1804.
My main stop in Elk Point was at Edgar’s Soda Fountain, a throwback to the good old days. Originally opened in Centerville in 1906 in a drug store, the soda fountain was taken out of the drug store in the 1960s. It eventually was rediscovered and rebuilt by the granddaughter of the drug store owner. They have even brought out the old manuals and have some concoctions directly from those manuals, such as The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages.
Owner Barb Wurtz was there and the staff was ultra friendly. They had an old-fashioned candy case, nice neon, original wooden booths and bar seating. Its a great place to take a quick break off the road.
I also wanted to drop by Edgar’s with my good friend and amazing guitarist Edgar Cruz in mind. So, “Welcome to Edgar’s!”
After consulting with the great staff at Edgar’s, I determined to make my way along US Route 18 (the Oyate Trail), which would take me across the lush prairies of southern South Dakota and into some small and unique towns. After visiting the Lewis and Clark Campsite monument n Elk Point, I headed north on I 29 to Exit 47 near Beresford and then west to Viborg. The Oyate Trail actually starts in Vermillion, SD, just NW of Elk Point, but I wanted to hit Viborg first.
Viborg is a town of around 700 and was settled by Danish immigrants in the 1860s. The town is named for Viborg in Denmark. The town was originally named Daneville, but with the coming of the railroad in the 1890s, the residents had to move a bit north so they could be along the railroad. Thus Viborg was born and was finally incorporated in August 1903.
As I drive through town I got glimpses of the culture. The Kountry Kookin’ Cafe, with its built in neon sign above the door, gave me cause for chuckle. The window on the right says “Dis is vare Sven loves the dinners” and the window on the left says “Dis is vare Ole gets the pie.” Had there been time, it could have been “Dis is vare Sumoflam gets the lunch!”
Like many small towns, there are the old fashioned theaters that thrived in the 1950s and 1960s. But these are a dying breed so I try to get shots of them when I go through these small towns.
On the outskirts of Viborg I came across this unusual, yet decorative grain silo. As I drive the back roads of this country, whether in Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin or elsewhere, silos are a common site. Yet, I don’t recall ever seeing brick silos like this one, nor do I recall the decorative nature. After a bit of internet research (thank you Google!!) I have learned that these are Glazed Block Silos. They are apparently very common in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. I am assuming that they are of Scandinavian origin, though I have not yet found anything definitive.
Living in Lexington I see plenty of horses. But, I couldn’t help but notice this happy trio in the lush prairie grasses near Viborg. I sat and watched them for a few minutes as they frolicked and played.
From Viborg I headed straight north on SD 19 past Swan Lake to US 18 and began my trek across the state.
I passed the two establishments along the road. Both were basically in the middle of nowhere. Meridian Corner has a fairly active Facebook Page. They are apparently quite popular and have T-shirts, etc.
I rolled into Menno, SD next. Menno was settled by German-Russian immigrants around 1874. Continuing west my next stop was in Tripp, SD. This was the first Tripp I have experienced on my many trips!! The town slogan “Easy to Find, Hard to Leave”. For me, its as my friend Antsy McClain says “Its All in the Trip”.
Tripp recently became a destination for a group of Amish families that moved from Wisconsin in 2010. This, of course, brings the need for a blacksmith. The name on the barn reminded me of the Amish, so I checked and indeed, as the link above explains, the first Amish in South Dakota are in this area.
I continued west on US 18 passing by farmland and a few trees. I found one set of trees that struck me…these were near the junction with US 281, where US 18 heads due south towards Ravinia, SD.
US 18/US 281 again heads west near the base of Lake Andes, which is a National Wildlife Refuge. As I drive along the southern border of the lake, I saw a huge flock of white birds. From my viewpoint I thought they were swans, but I decided to take a closer look so I took a drive into the small park just before getting to the town of Lake Andes, SD. I was thrilled as I got closer and discovered it was a huge flock of pelicans!!
Seeing the Pelicans was a real thrill for me as these were birds that I have never had a close encounter with. While at the lake, I also saw some beautiful purple wildflowers.
From Lake Andes I continued south on US 18/281 to cross over the dam at the Randall Creek Recreation Area. At the top of the hill past the dam I had an excellent view of the Old Fort Randall Cemetery.
US 18 continued west, then southwest for a while and then began heading northwest again towards the town of Bonesteel.
The town of Bonesteel was basically the first town of many on the actual Oyate Trail that I would hit on this drive. Bonesteel has an interesting name, named after H.E. Bonesteel and hasjust about 300 people.
The railroad first made its way into Bonesteel in 1902. there were a limited number of registrations for land ownership and eventually many of the prospective homesteaders fought leading to what was called “the Battle of Bonesteel.”
On the outskirts of town is a small little restaurant. Great name…
The next town on the trail was Burke, SD, another town with about 600 people. As I approached town I ran into a place called Rooster Tales Hunting Service. They had a unique sign and even a patriotic hay bale! Turns out that they have a Pheasant hunting service.
This part of South Dakota is considered the pheasant capital of the U.S. (including a number of towns competing for the title). So, despite the small towns, there are hotels and accommodations for pheasant hunting enthusiasts.
Despite its size, Burke is also home to the Burke Stampede Rodeo, supposedly the largest amateur rodeo in the Midwest.
The next major stop on the road is Gregory, South Dakota. This is in the midst of pheasant country. South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….)
I got a kick out Mary Bob’s Bar — out in Kentucky we hear of “Jim Bob” all the time, but I have never heard of “Mary Bob.”
The Hipp Theatre in Gregory is a community volunteer run theatre, but does show up to date first run movies.
Then there is the giant pheasant….
Apparently Gregory is “The ground-zero of pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992.
Next stop was not too far — Dallas, South Dakota
Dallas is a really small town but has some interesting things…
Frank Day’s looks run down, but, apparently it is one of the “happening places” on the Oyate Trail. They have fashioned themselves as an old western-style saloon and also seem to be an attraction for bikers.
Moving west on US 18 I finally arrived at one of my “planned destinations.” Those that follow my blogs know that I am always looking for unique town names like Uncertain (TX), Boring (OR), Peculiar (MO), Tightwad (MO), Odd (WV) and more. Well, this town is a real Winner!!! Yes, Winner, South Dakota.
Winner was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and later part of the Dakota Territory, which was established by an act of Congress and a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Winner was named because it was the “winner” in the struggle to establish a town along the railroad right-of-way when the Chicago North Western began moving west from Dallas, SD in 1909.
Frank Leahy was one of Notre Dame’s most famous coaches. He grew up in Winner.
While I was in Winner, I stopped for a drink and a snack at a gas station. I just had to ask…had anyone ever won it big in the lottery in Winner. And, believe it or not, there was indeed a winning ticket sold, and, ironically, the winner’s name was Neal Wanless (awfully close to Winless…). Wanless was a Winner in Winner to the tune of $232 million. He apparently has many friends that frequent the Pheasant Bar.
Want a winning place to buy groceries? Try this place….
The Motel Parking lot above is home to another Pheasant Statue, as seen below…
Now, for that “Pheasant Capital” bit…. Research has shown me that Redfield, South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World” and they have even registered the phrase. Redfield is in the northeast section of South Dakota, north of Mitchell. As late as 1994 there has been a dispute between Winner and Redfield as to which is the “official” capital. I found an interesting article that shows that on October 26, 1994 Redfield had trademarked the phrase. Winner still claims it as well. But, Gregory is still the “ground-zero of pheasantdom.” I think this argument has gone to the birds!!!
I continued to head further west to Mission, which would be my last stop on the Oyate Trail as I planned to head north to the Badlands from there. By the way, Mission, SD is the home of Bob Barker, famous as the host of The Price is Right. The town of Mission is in the Rosebud Indian Reservation, home of the Sicangu Lakota tribe of the Sioux Nation.
While driving through Mission I came across this colorful restaurant called the Buffalo Jump. It is owned and operated by Native Americans and offers buffalo burgers, Indian tacos, and, yes, Asian, Mexican, Italian, seafood and other goodies.
From Mission I headed north on US 83 until I arrived at SD 63.
I found it interesting that my GPS sent me onto SD 63. I think my GPS is learning my penchant for back roads. SD 63 is 23 miles GRAVEL ROAD that cuts mainly through the Rosebud Indian Reservation to Belvidere, SD on I-90 near Badlands National Park. What a wonderful drive it was!!
I crossed over the White River just south of Belvidere. The White River is the 36th longest river in the US at 506 miles. It truly is whitish gray as a result of the clay, sand and volcanic ash it picks up along the way.
I finally got back onto pavement as I entered Belvidere, just a small town with 63 people and perhaps that many horses and goats….
It was time to fuel up so I stopped at the Badland’s Travel Stop in Kadoka just off of I-90 west of Belvidere. I loved the skies behind it.
Kadoka, South Dakota is “The Gateway to the Badlands.” The name Kadoka is a Lakota word which means “Hole in the Wall,” but the town doesn’t seem that way….
I really got a kick out of all of the homemade signs in Kadoka…..
And then there is the old Wagon Wheel motel sign…
And that was the end of the road to the Badlands — Kadoka is the “Gateway!”
On my next post I will have some great shots of prairie dogs and badlands!!
Today (Feb. 15, 2013) was one of those delightful days when I got to enjoy most of my passions…mainly travel, photography and music. Ultimately, the main reason for the trip was to go to Elizabethtown to see Tommy Emmanuel and Michael Kelsey. But, I took the long way to do it. Following is a map with the stops I made.
I drove from Lexington thru Danville and then into Perryville. I made a quick drive through the old Merchant’s Row area of Perryville.
After Perryville it was on to the small village of Gravel Switch, KY. grew up around a gravel quarry on a spur line of the L&N railroad around 1870. There is not much there now but a small Amish school, a Post Office, a bank and a few houses.
Not far from Gravel Switch is perhaps the most famous place in the area…Penn’s Store.
According to its website, “Penn’s Store is the oldest country store in America being run continuously by the same family. It has been in the Penn family since 1850.” There is a nice writeup about it here.
The drive from Gravel Switch to Penns Store Road is a bit complicated, but, once I figured it out, it was easy… After passing through Gravel Switch, follow Hwy 243 until you get to a fork in the road where 243 goes left and Hwy 337 goes strait to Bradfordsville. Follow Hwy 243 past the Forkland Community sign and continue until you go over a big bridge at the point where Forkland Rd. continues to the left and Hwy 243 goes right. Immediately after the bridge you will see the signs above. Penn’s Store is straight ahead.
When I arrived I was met by some very friendly white Labradors. They greeted me with total friendliness. Unfortunately, those were the only greeters as the store is currently closed for repairs from a big flood a couple of years ago. They hope to reopen in mid-April 2013.
Perhaps one of the more famous stories is the dedication of the Penn’s Privy outhouse. The outhouse was built in 1992 and is made of poplar and has a tin roof. It is a “one-holer.” The dedication was held with several musical friends lending their talents to the days festivities. The shows were headlined by Chet Atkins and Billy Edd Wheeler (who wrote the Grammy awarded Johnny Cash song “Jackson”). Billy Edd also wrote the song “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back”. The Chet Atkins connection is pretty unique since the evening show with Tommy Emmanuel will have some dedicatory pieces for Chet. Read the amazing story of Chet and Tommy here. In Nashville in 1999, Tommy was honored by his mentor, Chet Atkins with the title of “Certified Guitar Player” for his contribution to fingerstyle guitar, a rare distinction shared by only four other people in the world (Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, John Knowles and Paul Yandell). More about that later.
I soon left the little knob in the woods and headed back up to Hwy 337 to venture towards Bradfordsville, another quiet little town of a little over 300. Needing a pit stop, I stopped at Patches Mini Mart…an old style country gas station and Mom and Pop type of cafe. As I found out when I went in, “Patches” is the nickname for owner Patsy Morgeson, who is the chief cook and bottle washer too. She was a charmer and let me take some photos inside. I was hungry and though on a mainly vegan regimen, I broke down to have her speciality – fried bologna sandwich with egg and cheese. Yes, the total antithesis of vegan… But it was really really good.
I was reminded of Antsy McClain’s song “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More,” as I spoke to Patches. Located only 9 miles from Lebanon, KY, she is seeing many of her clientele go there to the fast food joints and big box store. She told me that she is not sure how much longer she will be able to stay in business. I hope Patches and the hundreds of others like here across this country can stay in business so that they can live the dream.
I soon found myself back in the car headed toward Lebanon as many of Patche’s customers now do. But, Lebanon, the geographic center of Kentucky, would have only have one stop on the road for me…the National Cemetery…in the dead center of Kentucky!!
Lebanon National Cemetery, is the final resting place for more than 800 Union Civil War veterans, many of whom are buried as unknown soldiers. Like its sister cemetery Camp Nelson in nearby Nicholasville, KY, the site is comprised of nicely laid out rows of white marble grave markers of both the unknown soldiers as well as many other veterans. In fact, as I was taking this photo, a procession was on its way into the grounds for another veteran burial.
From Lebanon I made my way to Raywick (per recommendation of Patche’s and her assistant at the Mini Mart). This small village was first settled in 1778 by Henry Prather and James and John Ray. In 1811, Lloyd Ray married a Nancy Wickliffe, thus the name Raywick. Raywick is also home to a large Catholic Church.
Heading west from Raywick I meandered towards Hwy 527, also known as Scott Ridge Rd. Saw this sign on the way out of town…notice it says “Your Leaving”… LOL
The drive up Scott Ridge is very scenic as it takes you high up on a hill overlooking the valley below. At the crest of the hill is a cement lookout, which lets you see over 100 square miles of the scenic Rolling Fork River valley below. Using my iPhone Panaorama feature, I captured the following photo of the view below:
Here are a couple more from my Nikon:
I proceeded south on 527 to Maple Road and turned right. I followed this windy path of a road to Social Band Road (what a name…)
I continued north to Atilla Rd and then West to KY 210 (Campbellsville Rd.). I went north on that road to Hwy 1192 (Bailey Rd) and followed it all the way to Mt. Sherman Ward Rd. This road winded southward eventually passing Buck Rub Lane and Fatboy Blvd. You gotta love the names of some of these roads.
Further down the road I came across this little white house with a sign “God’s House” on it. I am assuming it is a church, but I wondered if God’s house is really this small….
I continued west on Hwy 1906 towards Magnolia. Very rural scenery continued. I love old barns and reminders that I am in Amish country.
I followed KY 1079 west and then proceeded north up Munfordville Rd. to Hwy 1517 (Oak Hill Road). At that corner I came across an old log cabin, shown below. This is one of those delights you run across while traveling the less beaten paths.
I headed north up Oak Hill Rd until I got to Talley Oak Hill Rd, where I tool a left and then the next right was my second goal location of the trip (first was Penn’s Store). Here I came across Wonderland Rd. The name drew some interest for me…but there really isn’t much of a wonderland on this road.
The trailer above had smoke coming out of the smoke stack, no apparent electricity and only a bike parked in front. Makes me wonder who is really living in wonderland….
Wonderland Road ended up at Sonora Road, where I took a left and that brought me to US 31W. I headed south towards Bonnieville and then into Munfordville.
Before getting into downtown Munfordville I drove by a Barbecue place called Big Bubba Bucks Belly Bustin BBQ Bliss. I have always loved the names of local BBQ joints (and I have also enjoyed stopping at them to eat). Unfortunately, I was running out of time so I wasn’t able to stop. Catfish, fried pickles, sweet tater fries, collard greens and BBQ. Hmmm…
My third planned stop on this trip was Kentucky Stonehenge., a small replica of the fabled Stonehenge from England. Actually, it really isn’t quite a replica, but is fun and worth the stop. Located just off of Interstate 65 at exit 65, go just a bit south on US-31 towards Munfordville. Turn right on Maple St (where you should see the sign above) and then left on Lynn Ave. You will see it in the back yard of a house on the right. The owners have even created a parking area for visitors.
Over the years I have become close friends with many of these performers thru Eddie and Antsy McClain. I was thrilled to also see Edgar Cruz, an amazing Flamenco guitarist from Oklahoma City who came out to the show. I also visited with Bardstown, Kentucky fingerstyle guitarist Pat Kirtley. All of these guitarists are the best in the business, but also are amazing entertainers. All have performed at the John Hardin Performing Arts Center due to Eddie Mattingly’s great efforts. Their posters adorn the wall of the PAC Green Room:
Needless to say, the show was not only magical, it was breathtaking. Both Michael, who opened the show and then Tommy, played sets that astounded the crowd and kept us totally entertained and amazed at the same time. It is by far the best musical show I have ever been to. And I have been to some pretty amazing ones over the years!! The photography from the show was by my good friend and photographer Marc Manning. One of the best horse photographers in Kentucky, he is also a premiere concert and landscape photographer.
This day began with me Enjoying the Ride, but ended with me on an absolute high from the music, the friends and the road trip. It was an unforgettable day!!
Though I can’t add video from last night’s show, you may want to check out some of the videos on YouTube and on their sites.