Download BOTH of my books on Kindle for FREE: November 1 – November 5

As an After Halloween Treat, for a limited time you will be able to download both of my books – my newest — “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” and also “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names.” TOTALLY FREE!!

This is part of the Trick-Or-Treat Book Blog Hop hosted by Author Patricia Lynne.

Both of these volumes are collections of my many travels across the United States and Canada. As you know, I have photographed well-known and not so well-known attractions along the way. In this book I share my experiences and occasional challenges, but always provide some fun and personal anecdotal stories of the quirky and offbeat places that the large and small communities offer.

My first book is all about Unique Town Names and is all in black and white.  My Second book features dozens of quirky and offbeat attractions from all over the U.S. and even in Canada.  ALL of the photos are in FULL COLOR.

If you like what you see, please kindly leave a review for the book/books on Amazon.  A certain author will deeply appreciate it!

Both books will be available for FREE and forever download from November 1 at 3 AM EST thru November 5 at midnight.

You can get the Quirky and Offbeat Attractions download here.

You can get the Unique Town Names download here.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the FREE download beginning Nov. 1.  Then, ENJOY THE READ and go forth and ENJOY THE RIDE!!

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Welcome to Uranus (Missouri) – Really?

One of the Uranus Billboards along Interstate 44

In late July and early August 2018 I had been on the road traveling with my granddaughter for nearly two weeks and we finally made our way to US Route 66 in Oklahoma and Missouri. On our last night on the road, we spent the night in Springfield, Missouri. As we departed down Interstate 44, one of the first things I saw was a sign telling us to visit Uranus at exit 163! REALLY? In all my years of traveling, I had never heard of this place. As we headed east we continued to see signs…you know, the “Tourist Trap” type of signs that try to draw you in.

Thanks for Picking Uranus
Help Keep Uranus Clean

The term “Tourist Trap“ tends to be used in a derogatory fashion for a place that tries to draw tourists in with unique offerings and then once the tourist is drawn in, they are “trapped“ such that they will likely purchase items that they don’t probably need. As a seasoned traveler on the back roads of America, I have run across many of these so-called “tourist traps.“ I find them rather fun! Many of them offer similar things like cups or small shot glasses emblazoned with their particular business name and logo. Perhaps, it might be better if you call a “Tourist Trap“ a “Tourist Haven.“ Why? Well, these places are usually a perfect place for a break from the driving, a restroom break, cold drinks and snacks and a chance to have a little fun while on the road. Entertainment for smaller kids and entertainment for adults…all in one convenient location.

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Big signs and a big rocket in Uranus
Uranus Shot Glasses

Of course, you will be able to find the T-shirts, the magnets and the many other kitschy souvenirs and memorabilia that you can take home to remember your visit to the “little tourist trap.

In 2002 the current location was purchased by two guys named Louie Keen and Vernon Brejcha. Keen had run some other businesses on the property before he came up with the idea of opening up a Fudge Factory in 2015 and naming the place Uranus. He is now the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Uranus.” From there he began an aggressive marketing campaign with signs that said things such as “81 Miles to Big Fun in Uranus”, “the Best Fudge Comes From Uranus”, etc. Of course, the name… most of us know the joke. No need to elucidate upon that, especially since the photos of the T-shirts and shot glasses that I provide in this post will give plenty of that kind of fodder for either laughter, eye rolls, guffaws or just the general “ewww.”

Uranus Parks T-shirt
Uranus Meat and Sausage sign
Fudge Packers Union t-shirt from Uranus
Wall Drug sign in southwest Minnesota

As with all Tourist Havens, the signs can be seen for miles before you get there. I think of the best example of this can be seen across the northern highways in the US, pushing the destination known as Wall Drug, which is located in Wall, South Dakota. I have seen signs advertising Wall Drug as far away as eastern Minnesota, and I’ve heard that there may be some even further east in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California

They actually even include the mileage to the location. Then there are the series of “Tourist Havens“ along the highways in southern New Mexico and Arizona, predominately on Interstate 10 owned by Bowlin Travel Centers of Albuquerque. Their travel centers typically incorporate a Southwestern “Trading Post” theme (not uncommon along Route 66, even in Missouri and Illinois), in the manner of small stores commonly found along Old Route 66 prior to the construction of the Interstate. Many were former independent businesses. They have names like “Flying C Ranch”, “Old West”, “Bowlin’s Running Indian”, and “Continental Divide”. The most iconic of the Bowlin businesses is one known as “The Thing,“ which adds the drawing card of a sideshow within the confines of this business that one must pay for in order to go see. But on the way in you can buy your “The Thing“ shot glasses, mugs, “Kick Ass Peanuts,” and other fine touristy memorabilia.

A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Mugs from Hell – “I’ve been to Hell and Back.”
Rabbit Hash Mugs – Rabbit Hash, KY
Seems like most tourist traps have their “resident aliens”

All of these places are worth a visit, if for anything else, just to catch the theme, see what’s going on, take some fun pictures and have a laugh. They do sell legitimate products, they sell soft drinks, they sell candy and often times things such as homemade popcorn in various flavors, or fudge. Off the top of my head, I can list off more than a dozen of these quirky tourist locations throughout the country. And there are a number of smaller ones that I’ve been to as well. But, there is something special about Uranus and the strip mall of quirky and offbeat shops located therein.

Uranus, Missouri water tower
Uranus is Expanding
My granddaughter and I with the Uranus Fudge Factory sign

When we pulled off the interstate and then drove along the old Route 66, we could see that this particular tourist attraction covered a couple or 3 acres and had a number of smaller businesses within it, all owned and run by Keen apparently. In the middle of the parking lot is a big water tower that mimics other town water towers – “Uranus, Missouri – Home of the Pirates.” I don’t think I get the joke, but I am sure there is one. Of course, along the way, the signs would say – Uranus, Missouri – not a town, but a destination – or something like that.

The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Making Uranus Fudge
Uranus Fudge – 18 different flavors daily
Uranus Fudge T-shirt

As noted above, the main drawing card is the Uranus Fudge Factory. Herein they advertise that the “Best Fudge Comes from Uranus.” You walk in the door and are immediately greeted by smiling staff members (known as Uranus Fudge Packers) who, without any hesitation or embarrassment, yell out “Welcome to Uranus!“ And that is after you have already taken photographs outside with the sign that says “Uranus on Route 66”, and the bland white sign that says “Thank you for Picking Uranus.” Keen actually got an online Chocolatier Certificate so he could begin doing his fudge.

A scene from Uranus
Another scene from Uranus
Uranus Gas ‘N Lube

Once inside this rather large shop, your eyes are filled with the eye candy temptations of a tourist trap. There is no doubt about that! All of the “trappings” are there… Numerous T-shirts with sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, and even a sign above the fudge counter that says “The Best Fudge comes from Uranus.”

After receiving your gracious welcome, your eyes are loaded with the eye candy of the “trappings“ of this shop. The colorful T-shirts with all of their unique sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, the snacks, souvenirs. They even sell things like Route 66 Root Beer.

Route 66 Sodas
Men’s Restroom Sign
Sign in Restroom

As with any “destination” of this sort, there are the cheap little toys for the kids that are bored on their long road trips. There is the candy in abundance and the cold drinks. There is a restroom, and, to my surprise, there was not much written on the door of the restroom or within the restroom, which for a place called Uranus, is a big surprise to me.

Big Fun in Uranus

The one thing I did notice, is that every tourist that walked through that door was smiling and/or laughing about things within the shop and that is exactly what the owners want you to do because a smile or laugh will likely equivocate into a purchase. And that is why places like this are called a “tourist traps.“

Uranus Police
Uranus Police Car
Uranus Bus

After spending a good deal of time and even a little money for a T-shirt for my granddaughter (yes I used a 20 dollar bill in Uranus), and after numerous photographs were taken, we meandered our way out into the rather large parking lot and drove around to grab shots of some of the other things to be seen. The absolutely funniest attraction was the plywood cut outs. Every tourist trap has some kind of these. You know, the kind where there’s a hole in there for you to stick your head in and get a picture taken! This Uranus version has one of an elephant, as zebra, a giraffe, an antelope and a couple of other animals. Beautifully painted and very realistic looking. The only difference is that these are on the butt end of the animal so when you are sticking your head through the hole, it appears that your head is coming out of the … well, I think you can guess. Just check out the pictures.

Granddaughter with a Zebra….
Pet Control in Uranus
Chicken Bones Billiards in Uranus
Gas in Uranus
Please Pick Up in Uranus

According to a couple of recent articles I read about Uranus, Keen expects that there are about 250,000 visitors a year to the place. No wonder Uranus is expanding!!

What is a Tourist Trap with a Dinosaur or two roaming around?
Uranus City Jail
Big Mugs
Having a Gas in Uranus
Uranus T-Shirt
Thanks For Picking Uranus

So, if you are driving to central Missouri on interstate 44 are trying to travel some of the remnants of old route 66, then the trip to Uranus should be included in your planning. Just make sure that you bring enough money because, you would not want to have the paper content of your wallet wiped out in Uranus.

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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Sign post in Broadus, Montana

One thing that we all see when traveling America’s highways is signs.  All kinds of them: road signs, exit signs, mile markers, billboards, “Welcome to Our Town” signs and the massive assortment of business signs from fast food places to local eateries.  Indeed, our eyes and minds are deluges with them!

Over the course of my 6000 mile road trip to Washington State and back, I probably saw way more than a sign a mile (on average).  Yes, there are many places with no signs, but then, there are others, such as going through small towns, where they are in abundance.

One of hundreds of Wall Drug signs to be seen on I-90 from as far away as Minnesota.
Lostant The Mint Bar and a Coca-Cola Wall Art sign in Livingston, Montana
Zigzag Inn – Zigzag, Oregon

This post presents a variety of signs from the road.  This “eye-candy” is just one more fun piece of the travel puzzle.  Discovering new signs, whether they be unique neon signs advertising local burger joints to the unique town signs and water towers, these signs are the little “color fillers” on the grand expanse of two lane highways zig-zagging this nation.

I always watch for fun town name signs. This one is in Illinois….not sure if they found the ant.
Welcome to Gold Bar, Washington.

Follow me along on this colorful journey (in no particular order) to see some of the signs I saw along the way.  And watch for the occasional Wall Drug sign to pop up on the ride (just like they do on I-90).

Saigon Rendezvous Restaurant – Olympia, Washington
Starve Rock State Park – Illinois
Luxury 5 Cinema in Mitchell, SD
Billy Burgers – Wilbur, Washington
Old Piggly Wiggly Ad on the side of a building in Helper, Utah
Wall Drug Sign on I-90 in South Dakota
A Sign at a convenience store door in Ferdinand, Indiana. So bummed! Wanted to go into store Donald Duck style….
Sunset Motel Ad on building in Belle Fourche, SD
Classic neon Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho
Welcome to Nevada – Denio, Nevada
Sasquatch Sign Company, Manitou Springs, Colorado
Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
Welcome to Henry, Illinois
Livingston Bar & Grille – Livingston, Montana
Wall Drug sign in southwest Minnesota
Safeco Field Sign in Seattle, WA
Murray Theatre – Murray, Utah
Welcome to Tonica, Illinois
Welcome to Davenport, Washington
Logger Restaurant in Astoria, Oregon
Al’s Oasis in Chamberlain, South Dakota – Largest stop for 200 miles (next one down the road is Wall Drug
Brothers Stage Stop – Brothers, Oregon
Custer Battlefield Trading Post – Crow Agency, Montana
Welcome to Kingston, Washington
Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs, CO. I stayed there. Nice place. That is Pkes Peak in the background.
Iowa River Greenbelt – Iowa Falls, Iowa
Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery Barn Ad in Waterville, Washington
Kit Carson Trading post, Kit Carson, Colorado
Oyster Capital of the World – South Bend, Washington
Winners Casino – Winnemucca, Nevada
Lame Deer, Montana
Roxy Theater – Ottawa, Illinois
Old Hotel Newhouse neon sign in Helper, Utah
Punkin Center, Colorado. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere
Cenex Sign on I-90 warning of last gas station for miles. Chamberlain, South Dakota
Wall Drug Sign on I-90 in South Dakota
Warrior Trail – US Hwy 212 in Montana…taken near Ashland, Montana
Solomon, Kansas
Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction, UT – The middle of nowhere touristy stop for gas, snacks and odds and ends quirky souvenirs.
Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Jerry Strong Landing on the Illinois River in Lacon, Illinois
Sign at door of Belle Restaurant in Belle Fourche, SD
Cutter’s Barber Shop in Olympia, Washington
Portway Tavern – Astoria, Oregon
Direction Signs in Wallace, Idaho
Black Bear Clothes wall ad in Sultan, Washington
Wallace, Idaho
Yet another Wall Drug Sign – in Western Minnesota
The Empire Theater in Livingston, Montana
Big Foot Road, near the Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Kountry Korners Krazy Kreatures in Kingston, Washington
Welcome to Helper sign with old Coke Wall Ad in background
Welcome to Kentucky, home sweet home
Wall sign in Olympia, Washington
Colorado State Line

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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