In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Dinosaur National Monument – Vernal, Utah
Dolphin Swimming in the Atlantic – Ocean City, Maryland
Deer Photos – Shenandoah National Park, VA; Mt. Rainier National Park, WA; Lewistown, Montana
Duck Commander, home of Duck Dynasty – West Monroe, Louisiana
Delaware Seashore Bridge – Sussex County, Delaware
DFW Elite Toy Museum – Haltom City, Texas
Dragon Murals – Oak Creek, Colorado & Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Discovery Bay, Washington
Texas Country Restaurant – Dundas, Ontario
Dutch Letters at Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers – LeClaire, Iowa
Big Spider – Denver, North Carolina
Dean Martin Mural – Steubenville, Ohio
Disaster Memorial Statue – Galveston, Texas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas
Deer Crossing on Enchanted Highway – near Regent, North Dakota
Dave Thomas Statue – Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
Duck Lake, Montana
Watertower in the middle of the road – Dallas, South Dakota
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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
While in Fort Worth visiting my sister in late February, I decided to make a trip to Haltom City, Texas to check out some of the old retro neon signs, old hotel signs and things like that (having been referred by fellow travel blogger, author and friend Tui Snider). While I was doing so, I decided I would just check in on my handy-dandy RoadsideAmerica.com app and see if there was anything of interest in the area. One of the places that came up in Haltom City was the DFW Elite Toy Museum. I had a an hour or so to kill and it looked interesting, so I decided to find my way over there and give it a visit, especially since Roadside America had this tagged as a “Needs Research” location. And, moreover, it is a FREE musueum!!
From the location where I was in Haltom City, the route took me through a number of salvage yards and junkyards and a bumpy, pot hole filled and muddy road. I thought to myself “there must be something wrong.” Eventually the road led me to turn left and there were a number of small warehouses and building, many of which were associated with the nearby salvage yards. Unknowingly, I ended up passing the location just because nothing in there seemed to be what I would consider “museum-like.” I went back to RA app and looked again and it noted that the museum was in a building with an ice cream cone on top. Voila! There it was, the building with neon ice cream cone on top.
I got out of the car and walked in and my eyes were engulfed with some really beautiful scale model cars and even a Batmobile. I talked to one of the ladies there and they sent me to the back and there was a giant room full of a variety of sizes and ages and shapes and types of toy cars. Most of them were larger scale metal cars. There were even some toy cars that pre-dated World War II from Japan and Germany.
There were some handmade custom Rolls Royce’s and other hand made toys, many that appeared to be quite expensive. As I perused through all of the display cases, I saw dozens and dozens of unique vehicles and was amazed at everything that was there in this little hidden gem in the middle of Haltom City, Texas.
As if that wasn’t enough, I went into the next room and the first thing I saw were two beautiful Ferrari sports cars.
The DFW Elite Toy Museum was created by owner Ron Sturgeon, a self-made millionaire. When Ron was 17, his father died and he inherited a half-interest in a rusty VW bug and $1500. He also became homeless. Ron started off in the salvage business, with his company called AAA Small Car World in 1978 after humble beginnings fixing a few small cars while driving around in an old VW Bug and living in a trailer. He had started by repairing cars, but then realized he could make more money selling the parts of salvaged vehicles. By the mid-1990s he had over 150 employees and a multi-million dollar business. A voracious reader, in a way you could say he read and learned his way to earning millions. He has also written a number of books, some of which are available at the museum including Green Weenies and Peer Benchmarking.
Ron began collecting his toy and model cars in the 1980s and today has amassed over 3000 of them. He is especially known for his rare Driving School Model collection which is probably one of the largest such collections in the world. He also has a number of other rare collectibles such as a custom-made one-of-a-kind 1928 Mercedes Benz SSK 1/2.5 scale model, some rare Japanese Nomura Dream Cars, a 1950s Ventura Alfa Romeo C6 2500 Spyder and many more. Sadly for me, I only had an hour, which provided plenty of time for photos, but little time to learn about the cars. I hope to make another trip in the future with four hours to learn more. Below are a number of photos of many of the unique items in the museum. There is another room dedicated to dogs and dogs in cars that I didn’t have any time to look at. You can see dozens of photos of the massive collection on the DFW Elite Toy Museum Website.
Ron has not limited himself to Toy Cars. He has a number of other collectibles including an original “Thing T. Thing” prop from the Addams Family TV show, and a few other oddities.
My experience overall was “overwhelmingly surprised and happy” after my visit here. I am grateful to Ron’s staff for all of their kindness and assistance (such as opening the case for a better photo of the Batmobile — which I DID NOT touch.)
Down in southwestern Kentucky, Calvert City (near Paducah) there’s a little back road (actually US Highway 68) that takes you to a place called Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland. It is not necessarily what you would think of as a “garden,” but it is certainly hillbilly fun. And the toyland is amazing!
I visited there in early February 2018 and had a real good time with the proprietor Keith Holt who, ironically, looks like a hillbilly!
I will tell you upfront, this place is not for everyone. Some people may look at it is a big junkyard. Others, like myself, look at it as a large folk art gallery. And, along with that is a fabulous toy collection and some smaller collections of things such as soda cans and beer cans, among other things.
When I arrived, I was met by Keith. In his late 50s or early 60s, Keith has shoulder length hair and a penchant for puns! Right down my alley!
But Keith is also a folk artist. He has taken all those bottles, old tires, old furniture in computer monitors and wires and cords and any other items it some people might consider trash and then turn those into a fun “garden.“ And he is built it at one level more for creativity by making sure that each story about each piece is some sort of a pun or play on words.
Keith has created at least 40 or 50 different “pieces“ that are stretched over what is probably a good acre of land. He is more than willing to take you on the grand tour and walk you around and tell you the stories behind each of the pieces of art did he is created.
I got my biggest chuckle out of a large circle of old toilets which I adoringly called “thronehenge. (see above photo)” He has another place with a couple of old mattresses and box springs and, of course, calls them his hillbilly springs or something like that. He has a Christmas tree that has a number of cans hanging from it. The tree is adorned with “Bud lights.“ How Christmas trees have to have lights, right?
I also got a kick out of a display right near the front that had four or five computer monitors including one on a snowboard. This display was called “surfing the web.“ Ha ha Ha ha ha!
Keith was throwing out stories to me left and right and puns front and backward. But, as a good blogger and a promoter of sites like this, I don’t want to ruin everything for you, the possible visitor, so you can make your own visit and enjoy the PUNishment directly from Keith’s mouth! That is definitely the best way to go!
Keith’s Grandpa Oral Wallace bought an apple orchard and a two room house on 6 acres in November 6, 1928. According to Keith’s website:
“He started making apple cider and selling it at his new produce stand called “Shady Nock”. Then he built an under-ground still hidden in the barn and open up an auto camp with small zoo. He was a musician, so he performed for the guest. In 1931 after hearing HWY 68 was going to be paved the house was added onto so there would be a room to rent. The wood that was left over from the house was used to build a small country store (14’x14′) called Apple Valley. In this small space they had a small barbers chair where Oral would cut hair and a four seat diner where they served chicken dinners. March 24, 1939 Gulf gas was added. Store/gas station closed down when Oral died February 28, 1964. Grandma Myrtle Wallace went back to selling stuff on the produce stand until 1988. Then in 2005, a change blew in !”
That particular room is now filled with a lot of memorabilia about the early beginnings of Apple Valley. There is the old violin and guitar that belonged to Grandpa Oral.
There are hundreds of old soda and beer cans throughout the little building. As a collector (when I was in junior high school), I was thrilled to see the old things, many of which are not around any more.
Before moving from California to Kentucky, Keith was a puppeteer, actor and artist. He made and performed with puppets. Many of his puppets are also on display in this little building.
But, it’s a good proprietor and guide, Keith with sharp enough to leave the best for last. He walked me back to the yard and into a larger building in the backyard area and I was overwhelmed by the thousands of small toys and characters that he is a mast and put on display in this little place.
In the Toyland there’s everything from Star Wars to the old little green soldiers that I used to collect as a young child. And anything in between that you can think of. Cars, trains and thousands of participants in the form of little creatures.
This is one of those places where you would need a few hours to actually see and identify all of the pieces. So much!
Keith told me that the collection in that room was only a portion of what he had and that he still has many others in boxes in a big semi truck to the side because he has no place to put them at this particular point.
The toy collection was not only amazing but lots of fun. Many of the toys I had seen do some part of my life and most thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing back about them. There were others that I had not seen. He made a point to show me numerous places where he had taken certain characters, dogs are action figures and put them together in scenarios, some of which you can see in the photos below. I honestly could not keep up with everything because my eyes were so full of eye candy.