I am always on the lookout for unique and interesting places to visit and we did find one on this particular trip. We visited a little community in Indiana called Story.
Story probably only has about 100 people or less in the village. It was founded in 1851 by Dr. George Story who received a land grant from then President Millard Fillmore. By the 1880s the town had become one of the largest settlements in the area. At one time it had two general stores, a church, a schoolhouse, a sawmill, a grain mill and even a post office. However, the Great Depression took its toll on this town as families abandoned this hilly farm area in search of employment.
The village looks much like it did in the 1930s with a few rustic buildings.
In the center of it all is a unique little country inn called the “Story Inn.” This rustic building includes a little general store, a nice cozy eatery, and some historically rustic overnight accommodations all in a natural setting. They even offer a bed and breakfast.
They don’t have an extensive menu but they do have a few things that are interesting and so we ordered some of the food and had lunch there. My daughter Marissa had a salad with their homemade cilantro vinaigrette dressing. Julianne had a black bean burger and I had their “1851 Burger” that included “bacon jam.” I also had them bring a side of the bacon jam because I wanted to just try that by itself and see how it tasted. It’s essentially a jam type of condiment that has been rendered with bacon and some sugar cane and some other things. It was sweet and bacony.
The most unique things about the Story Inn is their motto which is “One Inconvenient location since 1851“.
The dining area is very rustic with wooden floors, old wooden tables and a few rickety old chairs. I actually had to use a chair from their outside deck because I was afraid to sit in one of their rickety chairs due to my size.
The entry area has some nice stained glass. The shelves are decorated with period era bottles and medicines, etc. The entry also includes a desk where lodgers can get registered and stay the evening if they wish…either in the upstairs hotel or in one of the out building cottages. The place also serves as a Bed and Breakfast.
I did not go upstairs to see the rooms but Marissa and Julianne did and they said the rooms are nice but could be spooky. We also heard some talk about spirits hanging around in the rooms. But, the only spirits I saw were down in the dining area where they have numerous fine wines and other spirits.
I did walk around the premises a bit and found a few unique things there as well. They have a sculpture made out of old car parts and gasoline stand parts including the gasoline pumps. There are restrooms on the outside that have some unique characteristics as well, including the signs that are shown below.
This post is the first in an occasional series of posts looking back on many of my trip journals as posted on my Sumoflam Journals site, which I used for my travel posts prior to the creation of my Less Beaten Paths blog. Since 2004 I have traveled tens of thousands of miles on the backroads of America and have posted 1000s of photos in dozens of trip journals. The Looking Back Series will feature some of the highlights of these trips.
This edition will look back at a return road trip I took from Dallas back to Lexington on February 27, 2010. The complete post can be seen here. The map of the trip is below:
Feb. 27, 2010: Time to return home to Lexington. It was a long busy week in Dallas, but the trip home would promise to be an interesting and fun day. I left Keller fairly early so I could hit the sunrise as I drove east. I almost made it to Tyler, TX by sunrise and pulled off the road in an effort to get some nice shots before traveling further.
After the sunrise, I was back on the road to Uncertain, TX. I was bound and determined to find Uncertain. Indeed, I was certain I would get to Uncertain. Heading east on I-20 I had to take Exit 604 and head north on Texas FM 450 towards Hallsville, TX. Once in Hallsville, I turned right on US 80 and continued east through Marshall, TX to US 59. From there, I went north for a mile or so to TX 43 and continued NE. I stayed on course until I got to Texas FM 2198. At the point, I turned right and a few miles up the road there it was…my first Uncertain sighting!! (See the Road Sign above…)
Uncertain is a village with an unusual name and it is located in an unusual place along the shores of Caddo Lake not too far from the Louisiana border. The town has taken advantage of the name and even has their own website. They call it “The City of Uncertain” (incorporated in 1961) but it is much more a small village, and many of the businesses appeared to me to be seasonal. There are apparently a number of purported reasons for the name but it appears that the most popular theory is the one that says — “once you get to Caddo you’re uncertain as to exactly where you are — and uncertain as to exactly when you’ll want to leave. One thing is for sure, you don’t go to Uncertain by Chance! It’s one way in and one way out” and I am certain of that since I drove the only roads myself. I arrived in February so it was still chilly, but, there was a lot of “fun” there. Following are a few of the signs I found around town:
And my favorite of all of the Uncertain signs!!
There is even an Uncertain Tourist Department (if you can call it that…)
Despite the draw of the name, the REAL draw to Uncertain is the scenery. Uncertain is on the shores of the eerie, yet picturesque Lake Caddo, which stretches across the Texas-Louisiana border. It is the only natural lake left in Texas. The lake is filled with bald cypress trees that are draped and decorated with Spanish Moss. When I first looked at it I wondered if I might see the “Swamp Thing” and sure enough, there is even a sign for that!!
Many claim that Caddo has been dubbed the “best photo spot in Texas.” Though some may question it, I certainly thought it to be one of the more interesting spots I have ever visited across these great United States. I took over 100 photos of the lake/swamp/bayou and even went beyond my normal routine and fiddled with some color settings in some of them to really make them interesting (and somewhat creepy….). Here are a few of the photos of Lake Caddo, which covers over 32,000 acres of channels, bayous and sloughs. I can imagine it would get pretty spooky late at night in mid-summer with the alligators swimming around and Swamp Things and Sasquatch waiting for you around each bend….
Even along the narrow roadways around Uncertain, there are interesting shots to be taken:
I made my way from Uncertain around Lake Caddo and into the Louisiana side of the lake. Here are a couple more swampy photos from the Louisiana side near Pelican Bay, LA.
In the area there were also a few “Uncertain” treasures — unique photo-ops:
All good things must end and for me, with still a long drive back to Kentucky, I left the realm of Uncertain-ty and headed east, driving around the northern part of Caddo Lake and then north up the backroads of the northwest corner of Louisiana. From Uncertain I headed north on Texas 43 and then east on Texas 49 into Louisiana and over the northern leg of the lake. This took me to LA 1 towards the small town of Vivian, home of the Louisiana Red Bud Festival. This town was originally settled as a railroad stop and currently has a population of a little over 4000. It is typical of many small towns where poverty has hit, but, it is a clean town and has some originality.
Continuing north I drove along Black Bayou Lake and then passed through the small town of Rodessa. And yes, I had a purpose. What is it that draws someone to a small little town in NW Louisiana? Two strange frog statues atop pillars with Alabama and Georgia on them and a name…Frog Level. Though the frogs are not really fancy artwork, apparently, the Smithsonian has these catalogued. As the sign below notes, in the 1800s a town meeting was called by store owner Noah Tyson to name the town. Apparently, a man from Alabama, noting the frogs hollering in a nearby pond, jumped up and said “Let’s name it Frog Level.” And so it was. Later the town’s name was changed to Rodessa. The frogs were made by a guy named Buster Dunn and the monument, dedicated in 1976, was fabricated by the Fix-It-Well Company. I do wonder what the Georgia pillar is for. There really is no mention…
After seeing (and actually hearing) the frogs at Frog Level, it was back on the road again. My next goal was to search for the whereabouts of Waldo. Many have spent hours doing “Where’s Waldo” puzzles, in search of the elusive beany topped thing guy with a red/white striped shirt. I even admit to have joined in the fascination many years ago. So, as I drove along the road home to Kentucky, I learned that Waldo might be in Arkansas. I went in search of AND finally found Waldo!!
From Waldo I really needed to push to get home at a decent very late hour, so from there it was back on freeways to Kentucky. But, despite the visit to Uncertain, it was most certainly an eventful 17 hours, which was the eventual amount of time to drive from Keller to Lexington.
And by the way, I finally did get a shot of pelican on the trip….
Watch soon for another post in the Looking Back Series. Next up will be the Erie Canal, Big Bridges and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (New York and Pennsylvania).
On my previous post I covered my travels from Omaha to Kadoka, South Dakota along the Oyate Trail. This post covers the second part of that day, basically, my visit to the hauntingly wondrous Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.
Before I get into the Badlands visit, one more final comment about Kadoka. While at a gas station off if I-90 I came across this giant scrap metal buck. I did some research and found out that it’s name is “Scrappy” and it is the creation of metal artist Brett Prang, who resides in the Badlands area and runs Incredible Metal from his Guest House and their Frying Pan Ranch. I wish I would have known about his scrap metal art while I was in the area….. He also has an amazing 37 foot tall metal cross that I would love to have seen. (See article about Prangs here)
Scrappy was originally created as the mascot of Tivy High School (The Antlers) in Kerrville, Texas. It was auctioned in 2005 to raise funds for the school. It has now returned to its South Dakota birthplace.
Now, off to the Badlands!!
From Kadoka on I-90, I took Exit 131 and headed south on South Dakota Hwy 240 which passes by a big trading post and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site which I did not visit. Another couple of miles south on 240 is “The Ranch Store” which is a tourist stop for Badlands and Prairie Dog mementos, but is also home to the Giant Prairie Dog statue and about a gazillion little prairie dogs. If you make a visit to the Badlands, this is a must stop, especially if you have children and a camera.
According to the Ranch Store’s website, they got their start in Kadoka in the 1950s, but once I-90 was completed their location was no longer viable. So, they moved their store and their 6 ton pink prairie dog statue to its current location in 1971. Not only can you get your souvenirs and ice cream, but you can also feed the prairie dogs that reside in their own huge underground village on the side of the store. I got some nice shots of some of these cuddly looking little guys….
These little Prairie Dogs have great personality!!
I saw this mother prairie dog cuddling her two babies. It was absolutely darling and almost human. Had to put three of the photos together to give a better feeling of her care.
And just one more fond farewell….
Rather than drive the full loop from Cactus Flats, I decided to head back up to I-90 and then take the exit for Wall Drug to head south to Badlands National Park at the Pinnacles Entrance. It had been a long day’s drive from Omaha and across southern South Dakota, so the sun was beginning to set in the west and shadows were beginning to fall on the Badlands, which, in my opinion, was a great time to view the park. Following are a few of the nearly 300 photos I shot in the Badlands.
Of course, the park has herds of mountain goats. As I drive down into a valley a couple of them appeared on the side of the road grazing. Unfettered by my stopping and shooting, they continued. Here are a couple of shots of them.
The Badlands offered many amazing views. I will devote a photo gallery to this trip later on. But, I don’t think there could be a better time to visit than at sunset…
As the sun began its descent, I headed back to I-90 and then west towards my eventual overnight stay in Gillette, Wyoming. My next day would take me west though Cody and into Yellowstone National Park. That will be another a post in a few days.