Less Beaten Paths of America: Book 2 Update

Less Beaten Paths of America: Book 2 Cover

Still working hard on my new book, titled Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions.

Writing a book is always a challenge.   It takes time to do it correctly and, unfortunately, I have had numerous other things tugging at my time over the past few months, which has put my release date later and later.

Well, I want you all to know that I am working diligently on the book and have a number of chapters completed.  When finished, this book will be well over 200 pages and chock full of color photos of some of America’s offbeat roadside attractions.

Check out Book 1: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names

Do you have Book 1 yet? – Click on the photo above to order (if you don’t have one yet)

Some of what you’ll see in Book 2

Here is a brief overview of many of the chapters (and even a few photos) to whet your whistles.

Paul Bunyans

Chapter 1: Paul Bunyan Across America – including the story of how my wanderlust started as a youth

Quirky Car Art

Chapter 2: Quirky Car Art – A tour to some of the wonderful “car art” places in America

Scrap Metal Art

Chapter 3: Amazing Scrap Metal Art – America’s artists are ingenious in their use of scrap metal to make things

America’s Giant Statues

Chapter 4: America’s Giants – Some of America’s tallest statues

Muffler Men, Uniroyal Gals and Big John

Chapter 5: Muffler Men, Uniroyal Gals and Big John

Big Native American Things

Chapter 6: Big Indians (Statues of Native Americans)

Big Cows, Bison and Pink Elephants

Chapter 7: Giant Cows and Pink Elephants

Big Fish and Big Birds

Chapter 8: Big Fish and Big Birds

Dinos and Dragons

Chapter 9: Dinosaurs and Dragons

Smiley Water Towers

Chapter 10: Smiley Water Towers

All Sorts of Quirky Things

Chapter 11: The Really Offbeat Things – Giant Twineballs, Giant Pistachios, Giant Pinto Bean Guys

Roadside America

Chapter 12: The History of the Website – Roadside America.com and how to use the site to find your own quirky and offbeat attractions.

Selfie at Rugby, ND

Check out my Amazon Author Page for more details.  Bookmark it for future reference.  I plan on a series of 12 books about my travels on the backroads of America.

Book 3: The Highways – A look at some of America’s most amazing highways

Book 4: The National Parks and National Monuments

Book 5: Scrap Metal Giants and Other Road Art

Book 6Tourist Traps, Unique Museums, Offbeat Eateries and more

Book 7Mural Towns, Graffiti Walls and Wall Art Across America and Canada

Book 8Geologic Wonders

Book 9Beyond Description – The Really Strange, Fun and Unique

Book 10: Buildings, Bridges and Other Structures

Book 11Other Stories from the Road

Book 12: From Sea to Shining Sea – Scenes of America – A Photo Book

 

(34)

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

(32)

April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: US Route 2 in Washington

US Route 2 in Washington

Over the years I have been able to travel the majority of US Route 2 from Michigan all the way to the other side of Glacier National Park.  But I have never had the opportunity travel Route 2 in Washington, which would effectively let me finish the western segment of the highway, which, ultimately stretches 2,112 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA.  Within Washington, the highway traverses a 326.36-mile-long route that connects the western and eastern regions of the state as a part of the state highway system and the National Highway System. US 2 also forms parts of two National Scenic Byways, the Stevens Pass Greenway, which goes over a portion of the Cascades, and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway near Coulee City, which offers some wonderful views of the Grand Coulee Dam. The drive also goes through one of Washington’s fruit tree country and provides views of the massive orchards that cover the landscape.

Map of Route 2 from Spokane to Everett
Power lines seem to go on forever over the steppe landscape in Eastern Washington

I started my early April morning traveling from Wallace, ID and enjoying a nice breakfast in Coeur D’Alene with a an old friend. I was then off on my last leg of a year’s long quest to complete a drive across US Route 2.  The drive from Spokane enters the northern reaches of the Columbia Plateau, which is a high desert shrub-steppe environment and is pretty much this way all the way past Coulee City to the small community of Waterville.

US Route 2 between Davenport and Wilbur, WA
US Route 2 just west of Spokane, WA
Welcome to Davenport

My first stop along the way was in Davenport, WA.  As I drove through I noticed a quirky old place called the Black Bear Motel so I just had to stop.  I also decided it was a good place for a restroom break, so I headed over to a gas station/convenience store.  I was overly amused by the signage, so, in the nature of Sumoflam fun, I took full advantage of it!!

Black Bear Motel/Campground in Davenport, WA
Old Cigar Store Indian at entrance to Black Bear Motel in Davenport
Bucking Broncos in parking lot of Black Bear Motel
An Indian on a horse appears to be guarding the Black Bear Motel
Old signage at the Black Bear Motel
Just Five Cents sign at Black Bear Motel

And then there is that Restroom at the Gas Station!!

This is the sign on the Restroom Door at the Cenex Station in Davenport
Had to make a purchase to become a customer so I could get the valuable key to the throne.
WooHoo! I became a customer and got the key!!
This was the sign above the urinal in the restroom. I laughed pretty hard… and no, I did not throw in any coins…

After that fun adventure, I was back on US Route 2 heading west towards Wilbur.

US Route 2 east of Wilbur, WA
Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the spider??
Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the pig? The pig is Wilbur, the spider is Charlotte. HA!
Hanging with Wilbur in Wilbur, WA
Billy Burgers classic neon in Wilbur, WA
Old theater turned Beauty Salon in Wilbur
Welcome to Coulee CIty, WA

The next leg of the trip continued through the high desert steppes until near Coulee City.  Coulee City sits at the southern end of the 27 mile long Banks Lake, which was been created as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, which sits at the northern end of the lake.

History of Coulee City, WA
View of Banks Lake as seen from US Route 2 west of Coulee City

From Coulee City, US Route 2 meanders into a massive basin near Sulphur Canyon as it runs along one of the walls of the canyon.  It was actually quite a site.

US Route 2 heading west from Coulee City towards Sulphur Canyon
Route 2 west heading into Sulphur Canyon basin
One of the walls of Sulphur Canyon as seen from Jameson Lake Rd. and US Route 2
Welcome to Waterville, WA

Route 2 eventually gets into the small community of Waterville, which is about the halfway point on Route 2 between Spokane and Everett. I took a quick drive through town and found a couple of goodies in this historic little community.  Perhaps the most interesting thing was the whimsical “Lumpy Dowser” Statue that sits outside the Douglas County Museum , and was sculpted by local artist, the late Rich Beyer (1925-2012).  (Note:  I also got a shot of his work “The Kiss” while in Olympia, WA on this same trip.  It will be in my Olympia Post). Dowsing is using a stick to find water…a unique piece of art for a town named after water.  During the sculpture’s dedication in July 1996, local resident Joanne Whitehall compiled a history of water dowsing. The last paragraph of her composition follows:

“Not everyone has the ability to dowse. Many of those who have, attribute it to a gift, as it has not been a learned art. Judged by scientific standards, the practice has little basis in fact. However, the countless good sources of water found by this method is hard to dispute.”

The “Water Dowser” by Richard Beyer
Close up of the Water Douser’s whimsical head
Dr. Pierces Tonic (photo from Smithsonian Institute website)

Living in the eastern US, I am used to seeing advertising on the sides of barns, typically Mail Pouch chewing tobacco.  While stopped for gas in Waterville, I noticed a barn with an ad for Dr. Pierce’s General Tonic on it.  I had to look it up and see what it was (or is).  Turns out it supposedly resolved a number of health issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, sore throats, constipation, indigestion and other problems.  Its main ingredients included water, borate of soda, golden seal root, queen’s root, stone root, black cherry bark, mandrake and glycerine.  It was available from around 1890 to 1900. As for the barn ad shown below, some research indicates that these ads were on the sides of barns in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Fun discovery!

Dr. Pierce’s ad on a barn in Waterville as seen from Route 2
Mailboxes under a Douglas sign. Douglas is the county name and Waterville is the county seat.

From Waterville, US Route 2 continues west to Orondo and then heads dues south along the beautiful Columbia River into the fruit orchards of the Wenatchee Valley.  Wenatchee sits at the edge of the Cascades on one side and borders the high desert on the other.  Honestly, Wenatchee deserves an extended visit.  They also claim to be the Apple Capital of the World.

One of the lovely scenes of the Wenatchee Valley and the Columbia River
A verdant view of East Wenatchee near Wenatchee Confluence State Park

US Route 2 crosses over the Frances Farmer Memorial Bridge just north of the confluence of where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River. Absolutely lovely scenery here! And then there are the apple orchards.  I really am kicking myself that I didn’t go into town to get pictures, but I was running behind on schedule.  Next trip to Washington, Wenatchee is a destination!

Apple Orchards as seen from Route 2 heading west
Seems like fruit trees go on for miles

Once across the Columbia, Route 2 continues west and follows the Wenatchee River as it the road begins its ascent into the Cascades with fruit orchards on both sides of the highway continuing into the small community of. Dryden.  I then made my way into Leavenworth, WA, the next sweet surprise for me on this route.

US Route 2 is a four lane heading into Leavenworth, WA
Downtown Leavenworth, WA

Located in the midst of the Cascades, members of the community decided to give the town a unique Bavarian flair since it sits in the lovely alpine environment.  Everything about the town screams tourism, but it is also a lovely place.  I had to take a few minutes to drive around and grab some pictures.  As with the Wenatchee Valley, I plan on an extended visit to Leavenworth on my next trip to Washington.

Welcome to Leavenworth
All of the buildings are colorfully painted and use Bavarian script
Another of the colorful buildings in Leavenworth
A scene from downtown Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth sits in the central Cascades
Leavenworth road sign — everything is Strasse and not Street
Carriage Rides through the town are offered
And the town has its huge Maypole, used in their annual Maifest
Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass

From Leavenworth, US Route 2 heads due north into the Cascades and proceeds to the highest point on the road at 4,061 feet, where it crosses over Stevens Pass.  Even though it was April when I took this trip, as I got up higher, both sides of the highway had “snow walls,” some taller than six feet.  It was truly a winter wonderland.

It is hard to image so much snow at an altitude of only 4,000 feet.  I saw similar snow walls along the route up over Beartooth Pass in Montana on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, but it was up at the 11,000 foot range.

Deep snow at Stevens Pass on US Route 2
A Winter Wonderland at Stevens Pass, WA
US Route 2 heading west towards Stevens Pass
The snow was so deep that it nearly covered the Stop Sign
More deep snow at Stevens Pass
US Route 2 just past Steven’s Pass
A Mountain scene on US Hwy 2 – with blue sky peaking through the clouds
The mountains through here were beautiful

With the descent, US Route winds westward into the mountain towns of Skykomish, Gold Bar, Startup and others.  The scenes from the road were marvelous and, at times, even breathtaking.

Many cascading waterfalls could be seen along the highway
Welcome to Skykomish, WA
Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish

The Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish is a vestige from the early days of the former Great Northern Railway. Originally built in 1894, the depot is a one-story rectangular wood-frame building that consisted of a passenger waiting room, the station agent’s office and a freight room.  Passenger service on the railway ended in the 1950s and  this depot has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last Great Northern depots still remaining in the State of Washington.

Skykomish setting in the midst of the mountains
The south fork of the Skykomish River flows through the town of Skykomish
US Route 2 through the pines west of Skykomish
Tall pines frame the mountains west of Skykomish
Driving in to the lovely and rugged cascades west of Skykomish

For miles US Route 2 wandered its way along the Skykomish River and through some awe-inspiring mountain scenery.  I felt like I was in heaven as I passed through towns with names like Gold Rush, Startup and Sultan.

US Highway 2 near Goldbar, WA
Welcome to Gold Bar, WA
Gold Bar, WA – Gateway to the Cascades
Entering Startup, WA
The Post Office at Sultan, WA
Train Mural on a wall in Sultan, WA

Finally, US Route 2 had made its descent into the Everett area.  Unfortunately, due to having to catch the Edmonds Ferry and meet up with my family at the ferry, I had to cutoff at Interstate 5 and go south to Edmonds.  I had hoped to get to the end of Route 2 in Everett, which was about a mile away in downtown.  But, effectively, I can really say that I pretty much have now driven across the 2,112 mile stretch of US Route 2!

US Route 2 sign at Stevens Point, WA

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

(39)