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.
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).
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!
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.
Other big things I came across in 2018
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.
I am working on Part 2 of this travel report with more big and unique things to see. Watch for it soon.
I am always on the lookout for fun places to visit when on the backroads of America. My travels in 2018 took me to 26 different states and along the way I found more unique town names and fun street signs to add to my collection. In 2017 I published my first book titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names.” (Check out the book here) At the time I wrote it, I didn’t think I would get enough new places to fill up a second book, but , indeed, I have. And 2018 really helped with that.
Obviously, in my road trip plans I did set my sights on a few of these places intentionally. Once such place was Marvel, Alabama. I even bought a Marvel T-shirt to wear in front of the sign. But, having never been there, I had no assurance that there would even be a sign in such a small place. Luckily, my granddaughter Autumn (who also had a Marvel T-shirt for the occasion) and I did find a sign for the Marvel Baptist Church!! LUCKY!
But, I had many more instances where the places just happened to be there.
This post will quickly hit up on some of these fun discoveries, along with photos of signs, etc. ENJOY THE RIDE!
Y City is an unincorporated community in Scott County, Arkansas. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 71 and 270 in the southern part of the county on Mill Creek and the junction is shaped like a Y.
This small community was apparently a “freedmen’s” town. It is located in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma on Oklahoma State Highway 48. It has about 59 or 60 residents.
While in Okfuskee County, we also visited Okemah, the home of famed folk singer Woody Guthrie — you know, the guy that wrote “This Land is Your Land,” and “Bound for Glory,” among numerous others.
Gold Bar, Washington is located on US 20 in Snohomish County, Washington. The town has a little over 200 residents and is located in the heart of the Cascades. Beautiful mountains frame this small town. Gold Bar started as a prospectors camp in 1889, named by a miner who found traces of gold on a river gravel bar.
I never knew that fairies were Baptists nor that they die and get buried. But, there is a Fairy Baptist and a Fairy Cemetery in Fairy, Texas, a very small unincorporated community in the northern part of Hamilton County (north of Hico). It is at the junction of Texas FM 219 and 1602.
Lame Deer is on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Rosebud County, Montana. The community is named after Miniconjou Lakota chief Lame Deer, who was killed by the U.S. Army in 1877 under a flag of truce south of the town.
Sublime, Texas is a small community off of US Route 90 about 60 miles west of Houston. It has a small church and a Post Office.
Goobertown is an unincorporated community in Craighead County, Arkansas, near Jonesboro. You can pick up a Goobertown T-shirt if you want one at the Goobertown Grocery on US 49. The T-shirts feature a personified peanut after which the tiny community is supposedly named.
From peanuts in Goobertown to Punkins in Punkin Center. Punkin Center is a small, rural Unincorporated community in Lincoln Countyat the intersection of State Highway 94 and State Highway 71. Yes, that is literally the middle of nowhere! Originally had a small store that was painted orange (this the pumpkin reference), but it burned down in the 1950s. There are currently “about” 4 residents in this dot on the highway.
Zigzag is another unincorporated community. It is located in Clackamas County, Oregon on US Route 26, near Rhodendron. It is supposedly named after the Zigzag River. It is home to the Zigzag Ranger Station, which was built in 1935.
I am always looking for a smile and I thought Smiley, Texas would be just the place! I have been all over the country and seen many water towers with those fun smiley faces on them. Ala, no such luck in this town. Smiley is located in Gonzales County, Texas on US Route 87 and has a population of about 500 not too smiley people. It is about 60 miles east of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States.
Light, Arkansas was named after Daniel Light, the first settler. The small unincorporated community of 50 or so is located in Greene County at the junction of US Route 412 and AR Hwy 228.
I saw the town of Cloudy, Oklahoma on a map as I planned a return trip home from Texas and figured I needed to try to get there. It was actually more of an adventure than I had planned as Cloudy Road, which heads north out of Rattan, Oklahoma, snakes its way for about 12 miles into some hilly country. Some of the roads were in bad repair. But I made it!! Due to flooding, I had to return back to Rattan to continue the trek home.
Dime Box, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 141 and TX Hwy 424 in Lee County. The community has maybe 200 people in town. There is actually a Dime Box Independent School District and a high school. I’ll feature more about Dime Box in future posts.
Brothers, Oregon is a dot on the map on US Route 20 about 40 miles east of Bend. There is a small stage stop, rest area and post office located in the unincorporated community. The place is in the Oregon high desert and is in the midst of a vast sagebrush field. If you travel about 60 miles northwest on US 20, you will arrive in Sisters, Oregon. I have been there a couple of times and have noted the town in my blog in the past (see post).
Ding Dong, Texas is an unincorporated place on the Lampasas River between Gerogetown and Kileen on TX Hwy 195. I had stopped there in hopes of buying Hostess Ding-Dongs… But, among all of the Hostess Cupcake products in the store, they did not carry Ding Dongs. A Ding Dong fail!! Ding Dong was named when two early settlers in the town, Zulis Bell and Bert Bell, opened a store and hired the artist Cohn Cohen Hoover to make a sign for it. Hoover painted a sign with two bells on it. Inside the bells, Hoover painted the initials of the Bell brothers. Underneath one bell he painted the word “Ding” and the word “Dong” under the other bell. Over the years, because of this sign, this community became known as Ding Dong.
Helper is small quaint community of about 2,200 located off of US 191 just north of Price, Utah in Carbon County. The town is a coal mining and railroad town. It gets its name from the “helper” engines that would help push trains up the long hill to Soldier Summit as trains made their way to Salt Lake City.
Telephone, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 273 and TX Hwy 2029 in Fannin County north of Honey Grove, Texas and just south of the Oklahoma border. There are about 200 folks in this community, which got its name after numerous rejected name submissions to the US Postal Service in 1886.
Startup, Washington is a small community located just west of Stevens Pass on US Route 20. The name was to honor George G. Startup, manager of the Wallace Lumber Company. The Startup post office was established in 1900. There are about 700 people in this very scenic town at the base of the Cascade Mountains.
Many, Louisiana is just east of the Texas border on Louisiana Hwy 6 and the junction of US Route 171 in Sabine Parish. The community takes its name from Colonel Many, who was an officer stationed at nearby Fort Jesup.
Back to Texas (again) to the community of Flat. The town is on TX Hwy 36 northeast of Temple in Coryell County. There are about 850 people currently living here.
Are you looking for Big Foot? Maybe you can take Big Foot Rd. near Wall, South Dakota and find him. I wouldn’t know… I just stopped for a photo of the exit sign on Interstate 90.
Finally, there is the “faux” town of Uranus, Missouri on Route 66 west of Cuba. It is actually a huge tourist attraction filled with fun. The main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory and all of its employees, called Fudge Packers.
And I’ll end this post in Uranus… hope you enjoyed the ride
Looking for a unique and fun gift for yourself or your traveler friends? How about a book about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips? You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Enjoy the Read and Enjoy the Ride!
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.
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!).
My major trips included:
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.