Road trips can be redundant. Road trips can be real fun. Rarely is there anything dull along the way. Visit a small town on a back road and you will find something. Here are some R signs, including a collection of Roxy Theaters and Restroom signs…yes, some potty humor. Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.
Rustic Rose Mercantile, Evant , Texas
Don’t know a thing about this place, but sure love the sign. Evant, Texas is a small community at the intersection of US Highway 281 and US Highway 84. I drove through here on my way from Lampassas to Hamilton.
Rover, Arkansas is a small place on Arkansas Highways 27 and 28 on the border of the Ouachita National Forest. Just a quick photo stop for me.
Red Light Garage Antiques and Restaurant, Wallace, Idaho
I spent the night in Wallace, Idaho on a snowy April evening. Beautiful little town off of Interstate 90 between Missoula, Montana and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It is one of those places I would love to have an extended visit to. I got in late and so this restaurant was closed. Maybe next time.
Rayne, Louisiana has laid claim to be the moniker of “Frog Capital of the World.” To celebrate that, they have dozens of small frogs at store fronts around the town. There are over a dozen frog-themed murals all over town as well. A fun little place.
Rayne is located off of Interstate 10 or US Highway 90 between Lake Charles and Lafayette.
Rusty Rooster, Elmore City, Oklahoma
On our way home from Texas in April 2018, we drive through Duncan, Oklahoma and then took US Highway 81 north to Marlow and then east on OK Highway 29, where we passed through Elmore City. Loved the building that we saw there. This is one of the reasons I always go through small towns on back roads.
Ronald Reagan Trail, Sparland, Illinois
I always enjoy taking labeled scenic highways and “trails.” In early April 2018 I drove to Washington State and passed through Illinois along the Illinois River Road, which, at least in Sparland, Illinois included the Ronald Reagan Trail. The trail runs from Reagan’s ancestral home in Fulton, Illinois along the Mississippi River, where both of his parents came from, to his own birthplace in Tampico, Illinois, where one can still visit the apartment on the town strip where he was born. The Reagan Trail includes his boyhood home of Dixon, his birthplace in Tampico, his homes in Galesburg and Monmouth and the place which helped make him into a leader, Eureka College. I took Illinois 29 north through Hopewell and Henry and followed the trail there a bit.
Roxy Theater Marquees – All Over the Place
There are many theaters named Roxy dotting small towns and big towns across America. Some of these above I have found (some were actually in 2017 travels as well).
What I didn’t know until this post, was that the name “Roxy” comes from the famed American dance/theatre/vaudeville and cinema entrepreneur Samuel L. Rothapfel, whose nickname was “Roxy.” It was Roxy that was responsible for the great appeal of spectacular movie palaces. His philosophy:
“Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don’t know what they want. They want to be entertained, that’s all. Don’t give the people what they want–give ’em something better.”
Roxy is also the man who created the Radio City Music Hall. So, next time you go to a great old grand movie theater, think about Roxy!
Restrooms on the Road – A fun look at some of the places
When you are on a long road trip, face it, you gotta go. Many places take advantage of this by creating an interesting “going experience.” I keep my iPhone with me at all times just in case. Here are a few that I came across over the past year. Go with me on this potty adventure…and don’t forget to wash your hands! And yes, I do take Selfies in the Restrooms.
I personally get a kick out of signs that say Employees Must Wash Hands
VIROL was a brown, sweet and incredibly sticky Malt Extract that was pushed as a potion for good health in the 1920s.
Well, you are probably feeling wiped out after seeing all of these. I’ll quit here.
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!!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Murals and Metal Art – 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.
Some of the other murals I found in my quick drive through town include the following:
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”.
Cheyenne Murals in a Sinclair Convenience Store – Ashland, Montana
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.
Bear in a Box Wood Carvers – Allyn, Washington
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.
Orval’s Used Cars – Delta, Colorado
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.
Murals and Wall Art – Delta, Colorado
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, 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.
Starved Rock State Park – Oglesby, Illinois
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).
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.
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.