Everywhere a Sign – Some U Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Its a unanimous understatement to say that I love traveling the back roads of America looking for the interesting and unique. It is ultimately my utmost passion (well, besides my family and my grandchildren).

I will also do something in this post. I will be posting some of the US Highway signs I have picked up, most specifically in 2018. I’ll explain down below.  I hope you enjoy some of the U Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Uranus, Missouri

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Uranus, Missouri water tower
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Sounds yummy
Help Keep Uranus Clean
The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Uranus Parks T-shirt

Might as well start this post on a humorously low point.  Yes indeed, there is a place in Missouri called Uranus. And yes, it is pronounced “Your Anus” (and by the way, I heard a question on Jeopardy recently and Alex Trebek pronounces it that way).  And yes, the main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory where all of the employees (affectionately referred to as Fudge Packers) all yell out “Welcome to Uranus” when you walk into the shop.  Indeed, the owners and creators made sure it was quite the attraction.  Rather than go into detail on this post (I think the pictures above give you enough hints), please go visit my detailed post about Uranus from last year.  You can see more about Uranus here.

US Highway Shields / Route Markers

US Route 61 in Mississippi, also known as The Blues Highway (taken in 2017)

OK.  You are probably thinking “How can looking at numbers on signs be interesting?”  And, I would give that to you.  To many they probably aren’t.  But look at the signs…they look like shields or badges.  And, to me, as a collector of road trip memories (via photos and memories), these are like Boy Scout merit badges.  I am always after yet another number for my collection.

For consistency, in my blog I refer to them as US Highways, though they are called Route XX in other places…ala Route 66.  But, they are definitely interchangeable.

US Highway 1 signs in Baltimore, Maryland. US Highway 1 actually goes along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine… a total of 2,369 miles.

US Highway 1 is the easternmost route in the US and runs north-south (as do ALL odd numbered highways) along the Atlantic Coast.

The first highways were numbered with this universal system in 1925.  Nowadays,  the U.S. Numbered Highways (or Routes) are the original interstate highways, dating back to 1926. U.S. Highways are numbered in a grid: even numbered for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along Canada) and odd numbered for north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the Atlantic Ocean). Three-digit highways, also known as “child routes,” are branches off their main one- or two-digit “parents” (for example, U.S. Route 202 is a branch of U.S. Route 2). However, US 101, rather than a “child” of US 1, is considered a “mainline” U.S. Route.

US Highway 2 in Hurley, Wisconsin (taken in 2016)
US Highway 2 at Stevens Pass in Washington

US Highway 2 is the northernmost long highway in the United States.  Completely, it covers 2,571 miles from east to west, starting in Houlton, Maine and ending in Everett, Washington.   In 1926 it was intentionally split.  The eastern section ends in Rouses Point, New York, where it meets US Highway 11.  Then, the highway kicks in again in St. Ignace, Michigan and traverses across the northern US, ending in Everett, Washington.  I have actually driven (at different times) the entire length of US Highway 2 from Ironwood, Michigan to Everett, Washington.

US Highway 101 in Southern Washington

US Highway 101 was the only original highway to have a three digit number.  This is the westernmost north-south highway and runs from Port Angeles, Washington to Los Angeles, California for about 1,550 miles.  In some places it is nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway and in California it is also called the El Camino Real (the Royal Road).  I have been on portions of this highway in Washington, Oregon and California.

US Highway 90 near Garwood, Texas

Like US Highway 2, US Highway 90 is the original southern route going east-west.   It basically begins in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and ends in Van Horn, Texas.   It has a length of about 1,633 miles and, in some places is called the Old Spanish Trail.  I have driven portions of this highway in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, most of it in 2018 when I drive to Houston via Mobile, Alabama, through Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi, Lafayette, Louisiana and as far west as San Antonio.

Route 66 – Getting my kicks
Route 66 in Missouri … near Rolla, Missouri
Visiting Route 66 in White Oak, Oklahoma
Historic Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois

Though I have not even come close to gaining all of the “badges,” I have many.  Following are a few of the other US Highways I have been on.  Just for your interest…my favorites are (in order)…  US 2 (from Wisconsin to Washington), US 89 (from northern Montana to Southern Arizona), US 66 (naturally), US 61 (along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Mississippi), US 50 (another cross-country east-west highway that cuts through the heart of America for over 300 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California), US 101, US 60, which cuts across the heartland of the United States and sometimes joins with Route 66, and finally, US 31 (which runs from Northern Michigan to Mobile, Alabama including a long stretch through Kentucky).  But, I love many more of them!

Following are a few random photos I took in 2018 to add to my “badge collection” of US Highway Signs.

US Highway 68 taken in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. This highway runs for 560 miles from Toledo, Ohio to Reidland, Kentucky
US Highway 177 taken near Byars, Oklahoma. This is a spur of US Hwy 77 and goes for 233 miles from South Haven, Kansas to Madill, Oklahoma
US Highway 81 in Ringgold, Oklahoma

US Highway 81  is a major north-south highway that extends for 1220 miles in the central United States and is one of the earliest United States Numbered Highways established in 1926 by the US Department of Agriculture Bureau of Public Roads.  It begins in the north near Pembina, North Dakota at the U.S./Canada border and ends in Fort Worth, Texas at Interstate 35W.

US Highway 287, also pictured above, is a north–south (physically northwest–southeast) United States highway that stretches for 1,791 miles.  It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.  I have actually been on many portions of this road.

US Highway 271 near Arthur City, Texas. It is about 297 miles in length from Tyler, Texas through Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Arkansas
US Highway 183 near Florence, Texas. It was the last route to be completely paved (in 1967). It runs north-south for 1250 miles from Refugio, Texas to Presho, South Dakota. I have been on many sections of this highway over the years.
US Highway 51 near Dyersburg, Missouri.

US Highway 51 is another major south-north United States highway that extends 1,277 miles from Laplace, Louisiana, to Hurley, Wisconsin on the  Wisconsin–Michigan state line where it ends in a T interchange with US Highway 2 near Ironwood, Michigan.  I actually stood at that very corner for my US Highway 2 photo (see above).

US Highways 79 and 190 in Milano, Texas

US Highway 79 is officially considered and labeled as a north-south highway, but it is actually more of a diagonal northeast-southwest highway. The highway’s northern/eastern terminus is in Russellville, Kentucky, at an intersection with U.S. Highway 68 and KY 80.  I have driven US 79 from Russellville all the way through Clarksville and Paris, Tennessee and then on to Memphis (where I took US Highway 61 south into Mississippi).  On other trips, I have taken US 79 in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  US Highway 79 covers about 855 miles.

US 190 has been around since 1926.  It covers about 875 miles as an auxiliary route to US Highway 90.  It starts in Slidell, Louisiana and ends in Iraan, Texas.  It passes through Baton Rouge as well as Huntsville and Temple, Texas.  I have driven a good portion of US Highway 190.

US Highway 58 near Damascus, Virginia

This is a beautiful stretch of highway starting at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and heading about 508 miles across southern Virginia eventually to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia.  At one time or another I have driven the entire length of this highway.

US Highway 89 and US Highway  2 meet up in northern Browning, Montana

US Highway begins in the northernmost region of Montana north of Babb on the Canada/Montana border. It goes south ending in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Over the course of my life I have traveled every inch of this 1,252 mile highway which was first established in 1926.  I would argue that this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.  It passes seven National Parks (thus the nickname the National Park Highway.  These include, among others, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Grand Canyon.  Along the route it also passes a number of scenic National Monuments as well.  In fact, National Geographic magazine has called this the “No. 1 Driver’s Drive in the World.”  I would concur.  You can experience mountains, high plains, deserts and canyons on this route.

US Highway 60 on Midland Trail in West Virginia

Last sign for this post is a biggie.  US Highway 60 is an east–west United States highway, traveling 2,670 miles from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with Route 66.

US Highway 60 cuts through West Virginia as the Midland Trail and also passes through Central Kentucky and westward.  I have driven the entire length from Norfolk, Virginia through Lexington, Virginia and on through West Virginia, Kentucky into Cairo, Illinois.  This has been a major route for me for many years, especially since it extends out of Lexington both east and west.

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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My Travels in 2018

Life gets so busy. The first two months of 2019 have been exceptionally busy and so I am just now getting to my annual review posts for 2018.

Visiting Route 66 in Oklahoma

At the beginning of 2018 I didn’t have very high hopes for many travel opportunities. I had begun a new job in early October of the previous year and I didn’t have any definitive travel plans. But, I had also learned to roll with things and, as good fortune would have it, 2018 actually became a really good travel year.

Over the course of the year I was able to travel through 26 different states and drove nearly 12,000 miles. I was able to add a plethora of photos (I took over 15,000 travel photos in 2018) and content for use in future blogs and books. Though many of my travels were alone (which I love), I also was able to travel with family on some of the trips (which I also love!).

Morning sky taken between Bend, OR and Brothers, OR (near Millican, OR) on US Hwy 20 heading east.
A sunset scene taken from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry in Washington
Lovely sunset after a windy day. Taken on a side road of Interstate 70 just east of Abilene, Kansas
Mt. Aetna as seen from US 50 near Monarch Pass, Colorado.
Desert and snow-covered peaks in Nevada

My major trips included:

  1. A trip to Nashville in January to visit with my new employer ComicBook.com. On this trip I also visited the cool and “off-beat” Paradise PointMarketplace
    Welcome to Paradise Point
  2. In late January I made a trip down to Barren River Lake State Park in southern Kentucky to view the sandhill cranes which had migrated down there.
    Sandhill Cranes take flight
  3. In February I was asked by son Seth to come down to Cypress, Texas to watch his two sons for a couple of weeks while he and his wife were off on a cruise. The trip south took me through Calvert City, KY where I visited the Apple Valley Toy Land and Hillbilly Gardens. I also found my way to Kenton, Arkansas, home of the white squirrels, then to historic Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to see some fun Beatle’s things. I then meandered my way into Louisiana and visited a few fun places. While in Cypress with the boys I also visited Austin and then took the boys venturing out on some of the back roads around the Houston area where we discovered some fun places. My return trip took me up to Keller, Texas to visit my sister and while there I found a few more fascinating places. I then made my way home through Oklahoma and Arkansas, traveling back roads all the way and discovering some fun places. I finally returned to Lexington at the end of February.                                                                                               
    Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden – Calvert City, Kentucky
    Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR
    The Beatles in Houston, statues by Houston artist David Adickes
  4. March saw me again on the road for a quick trip up to Cleveland, Ohio. On this trip, with my wife, we visited sites in Cleveland and then on the way home stopped in Columbus to see the famed Topiary Garden Park. It was a quick, yet fun and interesting trip. 
    Topiary Garden Park of Columbus
  5. On April 2 I set off on one of the biggest road trips I have had in a couple of years. We had a family event taking place in Port Orchard, Washington. I drove while my wife flew (she had a tighter schedule and needed to take some PTO time). I set out heading west through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. I had hoped to go up through Minnesota, but a major snowstorm diverted much of my initial plan. Nonetheless, I always find something. This trip allowed me to visit seven different Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” , which also took me to other unique places along the way. I ultimately made my way through Iowa Falls, Cedar Rapids, northern South Dakota and overnight in Belle Fourche. I then headed northwest into snowy southeastern Montana and crossed the state from there through Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and overnight in scenic and touristy Wallace, Idaho. From Wallace I made my way to Spokane and then east on US 2, to complete my travels on the western portion of that highway (other parts I had driven on in previous road trips. This took me through Washington’s high desert and then into the Cascades and back down into apple orchard country. I ultimately made my way into the Seattle area. The return trip went down through Olympia and then into Oregon on US 101 and then across Oregon’s high desert, through Winnemucca, Nevada and then into my old stomping grounds in Murray, Utah, near Salt Lake City. I then ventured to Colorado Springs to see my son Solomon and then across Colorado’s high deserts into western Kansas, and finally back home through St. Louis and Louisville. It was an amazing two week adventure! 
    Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starving Rock State Park in Illinois
    One of over 200 sculptures from around Raymond, Washington
    A stretch of Oregon Highway 205 south of Burns, Oregon
    Leavenworth, Washington
    Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass in Washington
    Helper, Utah
    Dignity: Of Earth and Sky – 50 foot tall statue by Dale Lamphere near Chamberlain, South Dakota
    Men’s Room Door at a gas station in Ashland, Montana
    US Hwy 101 in southern Washington
    Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, Colorado
    On the road somewhere in NW Nevada
  6. I didn’t really venture out on a road trip again until mid-June when my wife and I took a day long trip up to Cincinnati to see some things we hadn’t done before. It was a nice sightseeing adventure.
    A day trip to Cincinnati with my wife
    The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as seen from Carew Tower in Cincinnati. When opened on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet main span.
  7. In late July I was joined by my oldest grandchild Autumn for a fun adventure to Cypress, Texas. I was again asked to babysit my two granddsons for about ten days. Autumn and I meandered our way down there through Tennessee and Alabama down to the gulf coast and into Biloxi, Mississippi. We traveled along the Gulf Coast into Louisiana and eventually into Texas. While in Texas, the four of us made a few trips as well, including a day-long adventure to the weird city of Austin. Autumn and I then returned home through central Texas and up to Keller to stay with my sister and allow Autumn to hang with her cousin, who is the same age. After a couple of days in Keller, Autumn and I returned home through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Missouri, where we visited the unique touristy place called Uranus and then finally home. It was an amazing fun trip.
    Sharkhead in Biloxi, Mississippi
    Decatur, Texas
    Welcome to Uranus Missouri
    Getting stabbed in Bowie, Texas
    One of hundreds of frog statues in Rayne, Louisiana
    Peach Water Tower in Clanton, Alabama
    One of a number of murals in a section of Houston
    Vulcan Statue, one of America’s tallest, in Birmingham, Alabama
    Woody Guthrie Water Towers in Okemah, Oklahoma

    Over the next few posts, I will try to catch up with content about different themes…road scenes, wood art, murals, roadside attractions and more.

    I hope you will enjoy the ride with me as I revisit these adventures.

Have you seen my most recent book yet? “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” is available on Amazon!

The book is 130 pages of FULL COLOR whimsy and kitsch as I tell stories of my visits to these places all over the U.S. and Canada. Definitely was fun taking these back roads trips to quirkville and I am excited to share them with you in words and photos.   I hope you will be able to check out the book or even get it on Kindle.

You can order the book here:   See Offbeat and Quirky Roadside Attractions

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