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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PRHBTN 2018: Five More Murals Now Decorate Lexington

Chalk up another successful year of artwork for John and Jessica Winters and the PRHBTN team of volunteers and donors.  This year brought in four artists from diverse places to add more color and variety to ever-growing mural collection in Lexington, Kentucky.  In fact, this year had some huge and lovely works completed.

More than most years, I was able to follow some of the artists and track their work from beginning to end to see how they do it.  It was fascinating.

Spencer Reinhard Panel Mural – near Lexington Transit Center

Reinhard Eagle

The first of the five works to be completed came from local Lexington artist Spencer Reinhard (who now currently resides in Cali, Colombia), who did a colorful four panel  piece next to the Lexington Transit Center on Vine Street.  Being the bird lover that I am, I instantly fell in love with these four panels.  Reinhard painted these earlier in the summer and then they were placed on the wall near the bus terminal where he touched them up.

The four panels are each separate paintings depicting different themes.

Four Panels by Spencer Reinhard

Panel One (from the Right) seems to depict a city, but I don’t have many details about it.

Spencer Reinhard Panel One

Green Heron

Reinhard, who paints a number of different themes, has a focus on animals and has done some very nice pieces about the lovely Green Heron, one of my favorite birds and a frequent visitor in the summer at Lexington’s Jacobson Park.

His other three panels depict a number of birds and some other animals.

Spencer Reinhard Panel 2

Chick-a-dee

Spencer Reinhard Panel 3

Not only does panel 3 include a couple of Green Herons, but a few other birds including a flamingo, a white pelican, a blue heron and a night heron, all of which (other than the flamingo) have been seen in Lexington.

White Pelican

Flamingo

Panel Four includes a number of other birds.

Spencer Reinhard Panel 4

Fintan Magee Mural – on side of School Sushi on Short Street

Fintan Magee

The next project to get going was by Australian artist Fintan Magee.  Fintan is well known around the world for giant works of art, which includes the large mural he completed in Lexington in early October 2018.  This untitled work is a an instant classic and has come to already be one of my favorites in town.  I got to speak with Fintan about his project and he designed it from a couple of photos that he had.  It shows what seems to be an exhausted couple.  In Fintan style he also included an “Easter Egg” in the upper left corner of the mural.  You must stand at a specific spot in the parking lot to see it properly.  This amazing work only took Fintan three days to complete.  Then he was off to the Middle East for another project.

Fintan Magee completed mural – October 2018

Fintan Magee at work

Magee Easter Egg….coolio

Fintan’s signature

Another view of the Fintan Magee Mural

Alice Mizrachi Mural – on side of CycleYou on Midland Avenue

Alice Mizrachi busy at work on her mural

While Fintan Magee was finishing up his mural, New York artist and art instructor Alice Mizrachi was working on her massive mural entitled “Letters of Gratitude: Dear Mom.”   Alice commissioned a few local artists to assist her on this nearly eighty foot wide mural dedicated to mothers.  This large work took nearly a week to complete but really makes a great addition to the art pieces dotting the city.

Alice Mizrachi Mural – Nov. 2018

I was impressed at the complex and intricate details in her work.  The butterflies, the flowing hair, the flowers.  All were very meticulously done.

Alice Mizrachi detail

Alice Mizrachi detail of butterfly

Alice Mizrachi butterly on flowers detail

Detail of head in Alice Mizrachi mural

Another detail from the far right end of her mural which does not appear in the photo above.

TRAP Murals – Whitaker Bank Ballpark and Distillery District

The street artist known as TRAP, also from New York, accompanied Alice Mizrachi to leave his mark in Lexington.  He was commissioned to do a piece at the Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team.  While in Lexington, he also left another mural hidden away in the depths of the Lexington Distillery District as part of his #trap50stateblockbustertour

TRAP Mural at Whitaker Bank Ballpark

TRAP hidden mural in Lexington Distillery District. He is adding a TRAP mural in each state

Patch Whisky Mural – New Cosmic Charlie’s on Loudon Avenue

Hanging with Patch Whisky

The last mural to be completed in Lexington was another massive and whimsical work by South Carolina street artist Patch Whisky.  A very busy artist, he focused on his mural entitled “Candy Kraken.”  Patch has done contract work for many companies as well commissioned works all over the United States and elsewhere.  You can’t miss his comic-style work.

Patch Whisky is very personable.  I visited with him a couple of times. He started in street art at a young age and enjoys the gypsy type of lifestyle that his art allows him to do.  This piece is lots of fun!

Patch Whisky’s Candy Kraken mural

Patch Whisky hard at work on his mural in Lexington

Candy Kraken detail

Patch Whisky Signature

Sumoflam and Candy Kraken

Have you seen my new book yet? “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” is now 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 NEW BOOK

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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Miscellaneous Leftovers

Steven’s Pass – Washington

On a long road trip like the one I did in April, there are so many places visited, but some didn’t fit into a post for one reason or another.  Here are some odds and ends leftovers from my 6000 mile cross country trek through 14 states.  There is really no rhyme or reason, but the opportunity to address these places in a little more depth.

Papa Joe’s Stop & Go – Crescent Junction, Utah

Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction – fun “tourist trap”

Out in the middle of nowhere in Utah is the small place called Crescent Junction at the junction of I-70 and US 191.  There is really not much there and it is basically a tourist-trappy stopover point for folks heading to and from the lovely canyons of Moab.  At the center of it all is Papa Joe’s Stop & Go.  Called a C-Store (short for Convenience Store), Papa Joe has a number of unique “attractions” in store.

Welcome to Papa Joe’s

Mystery Machine replica (from Scooby-Doo) — flat tire and all

Another funky van at Papa Joe’s

The usual Tourist Trap fare — I have seen this around the country

Gotta get a cup… maybe?

Skullduggery – lots of skeletonesque souvenirs

A Gnasty Gnome…

Crop Circle Popcorn – Strawberry Lemonade

Caramel Crop Circle Popcorn

Sumoflam and alien in Bad Ass Joe’s

The main store has all of the amenities… a restroom (if you are a paying customer of course — but face it, water is in short supply out here), drinks and food and quirky and kitschy knick-knacks and then there is the “gourmet” crop-circle popcorn.  Recently he has opened a second building next door that he is calling “Bad Ass Joe’s Jerky” and it has a UFO-esque theme complete with life size cutouts of Star Wars characters and aliens.

Inside the Jerky Store

Souvenirs

Papa Joe’s “Lightning McQueen”

If you get online, you will see many nasty reviews of the place.  And, honestly, Joe and his gal are really not the friendliest sorts.  But, I am always the optimist and try to find the good out there.  The place offers some fun photo ops, the “gourmet” popcorn is OK.  Prices are quite high, but then, I have been to dozens of places like this across the country.

He has a replica Mystery Mobile from Scooby-Doo, a South Park themed car, a Lightning McQueen “replica (actually an old Toyota Camry) and some other odds and ends.  They are all in poor repair.  Mystery Mobile has a flat tire (or two).  But heck…its quirky.  Just make sure you are filled up with gas BEFORE you get there.

Belle Inn – Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Belle Inn – Belle Fourche, SD

You know you have found THE PLACE to eat when the sign in the door tells Cowboys to “scrape shit from boots before entering.” When I stayed the night in Belle Fourche I sought after a locally owned place that would perhaps have some comfort food.  I found that place in Belle’s Inn.  Not just burgers, but other things like chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, etc.

Sign at Belle Inn front door

A scene from inside the Belle Inn – Be Nice or You’ll Get the Boot

Belle Inn – Comfort Food

There were only four staff members when I got there.  The chef looked like a renegade biker (and turns out that indeed he was!!  From Lead, SD — but he didn’t like his Harley. Preferred his Kawasaki!).  The food was good…freshly made chicken fried steak, onion rings, mashed potatoes.  And it was indeed a comfortable price.

Kreative Korners Krazy Kreatures – Kingston, Washington

Kreative Korners Krazy Kreatures

I am a sucker for wood carving.  And this little collection is a trip!

After we had gotten off of the Ferry in Kingston and were driving to Port Orchard, WA, this place just suddenly showed up on a corner.  I had to turn around and do my thing.

Some fun stuff here.  Most of the carvings are pretty well life size — five or six feet tall.

Some of the Kreatures

Found her! – She’s a mermaid

A bearded guy and a burger bearing bear

Gotta have an eagle!!

A Fish in Jeans…. whaddya call this guy?

Mmmm….. Ice Cream (well, not really)

Murals and Metal Art – Ottawa, Illinois

Detail of “Day of the Great Debate” by Don Gray in Ottawa, Illinois

Yet another town with lots of murals, this is Abraham Lincoln country and Ottawa was where the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas took place.  Murals and park statues depict the scene and the history.

Ottawa calls their mural art projects “A Brush With History,” a program which began in 2002.  There are now eight or nine murals in town including the massive “Day of the Great Debate” mural by artist Don Gray.

Day of the Great Debate mural by Don Gray in Ottawa, Illinois

Some of the other murals I found in my quick drive through town include the following:

Peltier Glass Factory mural by E. Colin Williams and Murals by Jericho.

A Section Ottawa as a Canal Town mural by Gregory Ackers

More detail of Ottawa as a Canal Town

A section of the mural Ottawa’s Earliest Residents by Roger Cooke Fine Arts

The head detail from “Bending”

But murals aren’t all that is in the town.  Over in Allen Park, along the Illinois River, I found one of the Whispering Giants.  While there, I also discovered two big metal sculptures, which I didn’t know anything about. Created by native artist, Mary Meinz-Fanning, these historical art structures were fashioned from parts of Ottawa’s old Hilliard Bridge, originally built in 1933. Ms. Meinz-Fanning built these two to commemorate the bridge: the yellow sculpture is named “Reclining” and the red one is known as “Bending”.

Reclining Sculpture by Mary Mary-Meinz Fanning – Allen Park in Ottawa, Illinois

Bending by Mary Meinz-Fanning in Ottawa, Illinois

Cheyenne Murals in a Sinclair Convenience Store – Ashland, Montana

Men’s Room Door at the gas station

I had to stop for drinks and gas while on US Highway 212.  I was driving over the pass and stopped in Ashland, Montana, which sits in the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  Went into this little Sinclair gas station in the small town and was stunned by the fabulous art.  Turns out the guys working the registers and managing the store were also the artists.

Happy Chief art in the Gas Station in Ashland, MT

An eagle on the all and the women’s restroom

A Sumoflam Staredown!!

Bear in a Box Wood Carvers – Allyn, Washington

Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI.  (2014)

A few years ago I was driving on US Route 2 through Maple, Wisconsin when I ran into a place called Grizz Works.  It was filled amazing chainsaw wood carvings of bears and other unique characters.  I had to feature it on its own post.

On my trip in April, driving down Washington Highway 3 into Allyn, Washington I ran into Bear in a Box, another “must stop and get photos” wood carving place.  Their work was a tad more whimsical than was Grizz Works, but amazing nonetheless.  I loved it.

Bear in a Box – Allyn, WA

Sumoflam at Bear in a Box, Allyn, WA

One of the whimsical Sasquatch carvings at Bear in a Box

Bear in a Box Bear, Allyn, WA

Unique horse carving at Bear in a Box

Another Bear in the Box Horse (and an eagle in the background)

Bear in the Box Owl

Staring down the Sasquatch

Totem Poles at Bear in a Box

Old Smiley the Sasquatch….I love this one.

Bear in a Log at Bear in a Box

Orval’s Used Cars – Delta, Colorado

Orval’s Used Cars – Delta, CO

On my drive down US Route 50 in central Colorado, I came across a most unexpected scene in Delta, Colorado.  I found a “Used Car” lot that carried a couple dozen or more REALLY used cars.  I am talking about antique classics.

In my travels I have come across these kinds of old cars dotting the scenery here and there, and usually only one or two, and sometimes three.  But, in this unique lot in Delta, an out of the way little town in out of the way Colorado, I would have never imagined I would see the collection like this guy had.  In fact, I was so amazed by the collection that I forgot to get a photo of the place’s sign.  But, the place does have a name — Orval’s Used Cars.  And it is like a walk back in time.

Some of the cars in Orval’s

Old Trucks in Orval’s

Some really old fixer uppers in Orval’s

More cars from Orval’s

Murals and Wall Art – Delta, Colorado

Old Egyptian Theater in Delta, Colorado.  Originally built in 1928

While on the subject of Delta, Colorado, a nice little town that came about originally to be a trading post for the Ute Nation and later was the home of Fort Uncompahgre, I should add some of the great murals that can be found here.  I was not able to get all of them, but here are a few.

I am also adding a photo of the lovely Egyptian Theater of Delta, which was built in 1928 and remodeled in the 1990s.  Unusual to find something like this in a small town in the middle of Colorado.

Delta City of Murals mural – “Train’s Arrival” by Seth Weber and Phil Wassell (16′ x 32′)

Delta, like other cities with a number of murals, calls itself the City of Murals as the town boasts at least 15 murals that dot the small city of about 8000.

One of Delta’s many murals – West Elk Wilderness by Ginny Allen

Anna-Dora Opera House Mural by W. Richard Doherty

Mural in Delta, Colorado – Greetings from Delta by Lee Bowerman

Old Advertisement mural in Delta, Colorado

Starved Rock State Park – Oglesby, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby, IL

On my first day of my 6000 mile long road trip across America, I had hoped to hit the three Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” carvings in Central Illinois since they were relatively close to each other.   One of these was located in Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby and Utica, Illinois and not too far from Ottawa (see above).

A Starved Rock Carving

Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois

I had never heard of the park, but some tout it as the #1 Attraction in the State of Illinois (at least, that is what the park says on its website).  I drove around on the main road to find the Peter Toth giant and discovered a number of other wood carvings along the road, a nice lodge and more.  Sadly, this is one of those parks that deserves an all day visit and I couldn’t do that.  The park is apparently full of trails to waterfalls and gorges and more.  All I got to see was a few of the wood carvings and the main lodge.  This is certainly a “visit again” place in the future.

A Boy Scout Carving at Starved Rock

Foxridge Carving at Starved Rock

One of the unique signs at the park. Make sure you know to stay away from the river

A Raccoon Home Sculpture at Starved Rock

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

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, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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