People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons. Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive. All we have are fossil evidences and legends.
A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon. I have seen hundreds in my travels.
In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.
Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first. First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI. According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”
Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country. In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center. Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.
Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.
Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit. Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!
And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.
There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.
One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL
This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!
There are, of course, many other dragons out there.
But, its the dinosaurs that impress. Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters. In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.
Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Life size and REALLY REAL looking.
And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country
and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?
For most of my 250+ blog posts on my Less Beaten Paths Blog, I have discussed the back roads of America and Canada.
But for today’s post in the A-to-Z challenge, I want to note some of my other travels outside of the country. I would like to say I’m a world traveler, but I have yet to visit Europe or Australia or New Zealand or South America. But, I have been very fortunate to have lived in Japan for a number of years. From 1987 to 1991, my family also lives there with me. I have also spent a number of weeks working in the Philippines and spend some time working in China near Shanghai and Suzhou. Finally, I should note that I have also visited the mainland of Mexico during a cruise and was able to see the ruins at Tulum.
My first venture overseas was to Japan in 1976 as a missionary for the LDS church. I served in what was then called the Nagoya mission and worked in cities throughout Central Japan including, in order, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Fukui, Takaoka, Ogaki and finally, Fuji City. It was an amazing 22 month experience for me as a young 19 to 21-year-old.
Though most of my time was spent doing missionary work, I did have occasion to travel and visit parts of Japan back then. I also was very lucky to live at the base of the beautiful Mount Fuji, one of the most well known symbols of Japan. Many of the following photos were scanned from old Fujichrome slides taken between 1976 and 1978.
After my return to the states, I went to school, got married, had children and eventually graduated from Arizona State University with a Masters Degree in International Political Science. At that time, in 1987, Japan’s Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Education had started a brand-new program called The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program). After consulting with my sweet wife, I decided to apply for that in hopes that maybe we could go to Japan as a family and experience that country together.
Since we were in the Los Angeles district for registration, I really worried that I would not qualify despite my language skills. But I did and was one of the first 38 individuals selected to participate in the program as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). There were about 400 others selected as assistant English teachers.
My assignment would be to work in the office of the governor of Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Oita’s governor Hiramatsu was a nationally known progressive governor. He had programs that he had instituted to produce locally and think globally. During my two-year stint as a CIR, I got to travel extensively throughout the prefecture and got to meet many wonderful people and experience many wonderful things, as did my family. Also, as a CIR, I participated in a number of TV programs and my children were in numerous television and print commercials. It was an amazing experience for us all.
On the day that my assignment ended, July 31, 1989, I got onto an airplane to fly to Fukui where I had once served my mission. August 1 would be my first day as the Director of International Planning for a nationally known company called Asahi Solar Corporation, which was also headquartered in Oita. I was the first foreigner to work for that company and I traveled throughout the country with the president of the company. We also made trips to China, Hawaii and other places within the United States in search of improving the solar industry. We even brought a solar water heater to donate to the solar foundation at the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona.
During my four years in Japan from 1987 to 1991, I’ve visited every prefecture in the country except for Okinawa and Hokkaido.
We got to visit many wonderful places and famous places. We attended the national Sumo Wrestling Tournament in Fukuoka. We visited some of Kyoto’s famed sites and more.
Indeed, Japan was a wonderful experience. Our family returned to the US in late 1991 and eventually made our way to Kentucky. While in Kentucky I worked for a number of Japanese companies as an interpreter. I eventually made my way to Lexmark International, where I worked with the software development team to get the Japanese, Chinese, Korean (and other language) versions of their software localized. While an employee of Lexmark, I made two training trips to Cebu, Philippines, yet another great experience. You can read a detailed post of my adventures at my Cebu Journal
My only other real big overseas trip was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. During this cruise we also got to take a small boat to mainland Mexico and visit the old Mayan ruins of Tulum.
As a lover of history, this was a fascinating visit and one I will not soon forget.
I am glad that my sweet wife was able to accompany me. You can see the entire story on the Polyesterfest Cruise Post of mine.
There are some super huge statues in this country. Giant behemoths that can be seen from far away.
Perhaps there is no place better for BIG than in Texas, where everything is supposedly bigger. Texas actually has three of the tallest statues in the United States, including two that honor the great Texas heroes Sam Houston and Stephen Austin. All three giant free standing statues exceed 70 feet in height (including the pedestal/base). This puts these giants in the top seven tallest monuments in the United States.
“Tribute to Courage” – Sam Houston Statue – The First Texas Giant “World’s Tallest Statue of an American Hero”
The tallest of the three is the “Tribute to Courage” statue of Sam Houston, located in Huntsville, Texas home of Sam Houston State University. This one stands 67 feet but also has a 10 foot pedestal, giving it a ground to top height of 77 feet. It was built in 1994.
This giant Sam Houston statue can be seen from far off when driving on Interstate 45, especially coming from the south. It stands on the right looking over the interstate proudly.
This statue, along with the one of Stephen Austin were both done by Houston Artist David Adickes from his Sculpturworx Studio.
Soon after artist David Adickes unveiled his Sam Houston statue, a group of Brazoria County businessmen decided that it was time to honor Texas founder Stephen F. Austin, too. Adickes agreed to do the statue, which was named “The Father of Texas,” at the same time he was working on his series of gigantic presidential busts for his Presidents Park in Lead, SD. By 2003, Adickes was ready to start assembling the concrete and steel statue. He assembled the 15 sections of the statue on a 12-foot, five-sided granite base, that took almost a year to piece together.
Much like the Sam Houston Statue, this one is 60 feet tall and sits atop a 12 foot tall pedestal, giving a total height of 72 feet. It can clearly be seen from Highway 288.
The third giant doesn’t quite fit the nature of these two Texas heroes. Instead, the Quan The Am Bo Tat (Also known as Quan Am – Mother of Buddha) statue in Sugar Land stands 72 feet tall as it towers over the Vietnamese Buddhist Center.
Quan Am – The Mother of Buddha
The idea for this statue was conceived in 1994 as the Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, sought for an artist to do one. By the end of June 2001, this 72 foot tall statue was dedicated.
The statue was designed an build by New Orleans artist Mai Chi. She escaped from Vietnam in 1989 and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia. She has a literature degree from the University of Saigo and took up sculpting clay religious figures for Buddhist, Catholic and Muslim refugees while there. She also took up wood carving. After being asked to build this, Chi took a year to design the statue. According to Chi, the face came from dreams she had during the design period.
The statue is garbed in a long stately robe. Her right hand forms the circular Buddhist finger symbol meaning happiness and compassion. In her left hand, she holds a container of dew that brings peace and harmony. She stands atop a lotus flower, a universal symbol of Buddhism.
Without a doubt, perhaps the most interesting part of this work was that Mai Chi turned to her artistic mentor, David Adickes, the sculptor of the other two giants, for advice on the designing the interior. She completed the statue in seven sections and erected it in January 2001.
Other Giants of the U.S. that I have been to
Over the years, I have traveled and seen many other giants. Following are some of the others I have visited over the years.
The Statue of Liberty in New York is the tallest of all statues in the United States. It is 151 feet tall and stands upon a 154 foot pedestal giving it a total height of 305 feet. This was completed in 1886 and was designed and sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi. I have visited the Statue on four occasions. The photo above was taken in December 1991.
The second tallest statue in the United States (according to the Wikipedia list) was completed in 1985 high on a mountain in Butte, Montana. Designed by Laurien Eugene Riehl, this statue stands 88.6 feet tall and can be seen from Interstate 15 in Butte. I took the photo above in March 2013 from way below using a zoom lens to capture it.
Standing 65.5 feet tall, the Jesus of the Ozarks statue was completed in 1966 and overlooks a nice park in the touristy town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I got to visit this statue in 2012.
The “Keeper of the Plains” statue in Wichita, Kansas only stands 44 feet tall, but it also sits atop a 30 foot pedestal making the total height of 74 feet. This was designed and created by Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin in 1974. It stands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. I visited this in 2012.
The “World’s Tallest and Largest Indian” Statue of Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI is another wonderful giant. Hiawatha stands at 52 feet and weighs 16,000 pounds, including anchoring internal steelwork, and is engineered to withstand 140 mph winds. Hiawatha was built in Minneapolis in 1964, transported to Ironwood and erected in the “caves area,” on the site of the Old Norrie Iron Mine.
An icon of television advertising, the 55.5 foot tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN is another giant. This was built in 1979 by a radio station owner and commissioned by a Wisconsin company to build it. I have visited twice and both times was not able to do much due to torrential rains. The picture above is of my son Seth from a trip he took in 2005.
One of the last “giants” that I have visited is along the highway near New London, MO. This nearly 45 foot tall statue of Mark Twain is kind of funky with a giant head and small hands, but, it definitely fits the category of “giant”