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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Everywhere a Sign – Some R Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Road trips can be redundant. Road trips can be real fun. Rarely is there anything dull along the way. Visit a small town on a back road and you will find something. Here are some R signs, including a collection of Roxy Theaters and Restroom signs…yes, some potty humor.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

 

 

Rustic Rose Mercantile, Evant , Texas

Rustic Rose Mercantile, Evant, Texas

Don’t know a thing about this place, but sure love the sign.  Evant, Texas is a small community at the intersection of US Highway 281 and US Highway 84. I drove through here on my way from Lampassas to Hamilton.

Rover, Arkansas

Rover, Arkansas Post Office

Rover, Arkansas is a small place on Arkansas Highways 27 and 28 on the border of the Ouachita National Forest. Just a quick photo stop for me.

Red Light Garage Antiques and Restaurant, Wallace, Idaho

Red Light Garage Antiques and Restaurant, Wallace, Idaho
Red Light Garage, Wallace, Idaho

I spent the night in Wallace, Idaho on a snowy April evening.  Beautiful little town off of Interstate 90 between Missoula, Montana and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  It is one of those places I would love to have an extended visit to.  I got in late and so this restaurant was closed.  Maybe next time.

Rayne, Louisiana

Rayne, Louisiana — Frog Capital of the World

Rayne, Louisiana has laid claim to be the moniker of “Frog Capital of the World.”  To celebrate that, they have dozens of small frogs at store fronts around the town.  There are over a dozen frog-themed murals all over town as well. A fun little place.

Rayne is located off of Interstate 10 or US Highway 90 between Lake Charles and Lafayette.

Rusty Rooster, Elmore City, Oklahoma

Rusty Rooster Resale Shop, Elmore City, Oklahoma

On our way home from Texas in April 2018, we drive through Duncan, Oklahoma and then took US Highway 81 north to Marlow and then east on OK Highway 29, where we passed through Elmore City.  Loved the building that we saw there.  This is one of the reasons I always go through small towns on back roads.

Ronald Reagan Trail, Sparland, Illinois

Ronald Reagan Trail, Sparland, Illinois

I always enjoy taking labeled scenic highways and “trails.”  In early April 2018 I drove to Washington State and passed through Illinois along the Illinois River Road, which, at least in Sparland, Illinois included the Ronald Reagan Trail. The trail runs from Reagan’s ancestral home in Fulton, Illinois along the Mississippi River, where both of his parents came from, to his own birthplace in Tampico, Illinois, where one can still visit the apartment on the town strip where he was born. The Reagan Trail includes his boyhood home of Dixon, his birthplace in Tampico, his homes in Galesburg and Monmouth and the place which helped make him into a leader, Eureka College.  I took Illinois 29 north through Hopewell and Henry and followed the trail there a bit.

Roxy Theater Marquees – All Over the Place

Roxy Theater , Franklin, Kentucky
Roxy, Lexington, Kentucky
Roxy Theater, Ottawa, Illinois
New Roxy in Clarksdale, MS
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Langdon, ND
The Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana

There are many theaters named Roxy dotting small towns and big towns across America.  Some of these above I have found (some were actually in 2017 travels as well).

What I didn’t know until this post, was that the name “Roxy” comes from the famed American dance/theatre/vaudeville and cinema entrepreneur Samuel L. Rothapfel, whose nickname was “Roxy.” It was Roxy that was responsible for the great appeal of spectacular movie palaces.   His philosophy:

Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don’t know what they want. They want to be entertained, that’s all. Don’t give the people what they want–give ’em something better.

Roxy is also the man who created the Radio City Music Hall.  So, next time you go to a great old grand movie theater, think about Roxy!

Restrooms on the Road – A fun look at some of the places

When you are on a long road trip, face it, you gotta go.  Many places take advantage of this by creating an interesting “going experience.”  I keep my iPhone with me at all times just in case.  Here are a few that I came across over the past year.  Go with me on this potty adventure…and don’t forget to wash your hands!  And yes, I do take Selfies in the Restrooms.

I don’t care… I do take selfies in the bathroom sometimes.
King Cotton Restroom, Cotton Gin Cafe, Prosper, Texas
Men’s Room at Uranus Fudge Factory, Uranus, Missouri
Staff Must Wash Hands, Uranus, Missouri

I personally get a kick out of signs that say Employees Must Wash Hands

Employees Must Wash Hands – can’t remember where this was
Wash Hands, Hurts Donut in Katy, Texas
Another one. Can’t remember where
Yet another one…and they NEVER come in and wash my hands!!
Restrooms Sign, Star Pizza, Houston, Texas
Just one more…
Boys Restroom , Nan’s New Orleans Cafe and Po’ Boys, Mandeville, Louisiana
Sign at a gas station in Davenport, Washington
Sign in the same Davenport Gas Station, inside the restroom
Toilet Sign at the DFW Elite Toy Museum, Haltom City, Texas
Virol Sign above urinals at The Spar Cafe in Olympia, Washington

VIROL was a brown, sweet and incredibly sticky Malt Extract that was pushed as a potion for good health in the 1920s.

Sprinkle Tinkle sign in a restroom in Ola, Oklahoma
Outhouse with a toilet planter in Frenchglen, Oregon. Funny how they don’t have a flushing toilet…  And there is a “Public Restroom” sign on the door
The Sign to the Bathroom at Sunshine General Store, Brookeville, Maryland (Actually visited in 2019)
Men’s Room Door at a gas station in Ashland, Montana
Don’t Flush sign at Sunset Motel (where I stayed one night), Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Sign on a Convenience Store door in Ferdinand, Indiana. Not technically a bathroom sign, but it kinda fits the theme!!
WooHoo… I was considered a customer at the station in Davenport, Washington  Don’t think I can take that key with me.
You can hit a deer, but can’t hit the toilet… At a restroom in Ola, Oklahoma
Men’s Room at Sharkheads in Biloxi, Mississippi
Restroom Entrance at Sharkheads in Biloxi, Mississippi
Restroom Door at The Outpost, Fanning, Missouri

Well, you are probably feeling wiped out after seeing all of these.  I’ll quit here.

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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Travel in 2018: The Best of the Roadside Attractions – Part 1

Sharkheads in Biloxi, MS

Obviously, one of my favorite things to do on road trips short or long is locate the fun, unique and offbeat roadside attractions.  And, fortunately, 2018 provided me a plethora of these.  I have already written about a few of them individually in past months, but this post will be a nice little “photo tour” of some of my favorites.

Having been through 26 different states in 2018, I had plenty of sites and loads of fun.  I got to share many of these with grandchildren, which made it even better.

Dignity: Of Earth and Sky – 50 foot tall statue by Dale Lamphere

Sumoflam with Dignity near Chamberlain, SD

Perhaps my favorite from 2018 was the amazing giant Dignity: Of Earth and Sky statue in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  This giant 50 foot tall steel statue honors the women of the Lakota and Dakota tribes.  It was created by artist  South Dakota Dale Lamphere.  It sits in a rest area overlooking the Missouri River and can be seen from quite a distance.

The statue also features a Star Quilt that has more than 100 blue diamond shapes that move in the wind.  Really a wonderful site and it is also one of America’s tallest statues (the 20th tallest according to Wikipedia listing).

80 Foot Long and 37 Foot Tall Brontosaurus statue in Wall Drug created by Emmett Sullivan

Sumoflam takes a selfie with Wall’s giant Brontosaurus

Another giant is just down the road from Dignity. Wall Drug’s giant brontosaurus stretches 80 feet and sits 37 feet tall as it overlooks Interstate 90  at the Wall Exit.  Even there is no time for a visit to Wall Drug, there is always time to stop for a photo-op with a giant friendly dino!

 

Dinosaurs seem to be all over the country and on my four big trips in 2018 I came across a few more of them.  Always fun!

A Scary Dino in Uranus, Missouri

A colorful scrap metal dinosaur in Carmine, Texas

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, SD

Scary Dino in Price, Utah

Another Giant dino in Uranus

A T-Rex stands at the entrance to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas

Grandson Rockwell and I hanging with Ms. Pearl

Dinosaurs are not the only giants that I came across on the road in 2018.  One of my favorite “giants” was “Ms. Pearl” the giant squirrel in Cedar Creek, Texas at the Berdoll Pecan Candy factory.   Created in 2011, it stands 14 feet tall and currently lays claim to be the tallest squirrel statue in the world.  Like many “roadside” attractions, this one is very visible off of TX Hwy 71.

Nice thing about Berdoll’s is that you can get your picture with Ms. Pearl and even get some Pecan goodies from their 24/7 Pecan Vending Machine.

Ms. Pearl, the 14 foot tall squirrel in Cedar Creek, Texas

Other big things I came across in 2018

A Big Bull and Bison at Chef Louie’s steakhouse in Mitchell, SD

There is a big pig (named Wilbur of course) and then a spider web, with Charlotte, in Wilbur, Washington

Giant Shark Head at Sharkheads in Biloxi, Mississippi

A Giant Metal Owl in southern Houston

Giant Spurs in Hico, Texas

The Giant Bowie knife in Bowie, Texas

The Big Black Muffler Man wielding a miner’s ax in Helper, Utah

Then there are the big Muffler Men and Big John statues.  There are dozens and dozens of these dotting the landscape.  I came across a couple of fun ones in 2018.  In Helper, Utah there is one that is painted totally black…to represent the Coal Miners.

These guys are about 15 feet tall and basically all look alike except for the additional things added to them by the local sites.  Over the years I personally have photographed nearly 40 different versions of Big John, Muffler Men or Uniroyal Gals.

You can find them looking like Paul Bunyan, cowboys, Indians and other fun things.

I always like coming across these unique pieces of funky Americana.

Another look at the big black muffler man in Helper, Utah

A Big John at Steppin’ Out Western Wear in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma

Then there is the Big John in Hochatown, Oklahoma…with a golf club

I am working on Part 2 of this travel report with more big and unique things to see.  Watch for it soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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