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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A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The S Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Sunset Motel – Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Great little place in the geographic center of the continental US!

Always like places with these old keys!

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Sandwich, New Hampshire

WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!

Sandwich, New Hampshire – Cool little village as long as you don’t want to find a sandwich

Signposts in Sandwich, NH. No restaurants!

Story Inn – Story, Indiana

Sumoflam at the Story Inn in Story, IN

The nice old wooden floors of the Story Inn dining area

Antique Checkerboard on the Story Inn front porch. Checkers are actually old pop bottle caps

San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson

Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Success, Missouri

Finding Success in Missouri

Shoshoni, Wyoming

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY

Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, MN

Sumoflam with an Alienized Smile at Space Aliens

Space Aliens Grill & Bar, Fargo, ND

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Screaming Heads. Canadian secondary school teacher Peter Camani created these spooky yet fascinating landscape artwork. Since the mid-1970s besides being a teacher, he has built these massive structures and amazing castle.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho

The Spud sign – Teton Valley, ID

Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana

Sandhill Cranes take flight

1000s of sandhill cranes converge on a field near Cecilia, KY

Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Dell, Montana

A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain, GA in 2015

Scary Creek, West Virginia

Scary Creek Church of God sign

Scary Creek Paintball billboard

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, CO

Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City

Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs, IA

Solomon, Kansas

US Post Office, Solomon, Kansas

Solomon Water Tower

Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Ahoy matey…how about some lunch at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor, WI

Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan

Enjoying a visit to the famed Suizenji Park in Kumamoto

Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington

Spar Cafe – Olympia, WA

Inside the Spar Cafe in Olympia

Salida, Colorado

Salida, Colorado

Odd metal buffalo in Salida, Colorado

Seth, West Virginia

Seth, West Virginia

Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas

77 Foot Tall Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, Texas

Sumoflam with Big Sam Houston towering behind him in Huntsville, TX

Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa

Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007

Live Long and Prosper – Sumoflam and the Starship Riverside

Shiner, Texas

Shiner, Texas

Shiner Barbeque Company, Shiner, Texas

Sarris Candies – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Sarris Candy in Canonsburg. One of the world’s largest candy stores

Sarris Candy Castle weighs 1500 pounds

Sisters, Oregon

Welcome to Sisters, Oregon

Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters Oregon

South Congress Cafe – Austin, Texas

South Congress Cafe in Austin

I had breakfast at the South Congress Cafe. It was truly an upscale cafe, if there is such a thing

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, May 2015

Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

At Golden Gate Bridge in in San Francisco, CA May 2015

Skykomish, Washington

Welcome to Skykomish

Springfield, Illinois

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001

Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois

Seagulls – Port Orchard, Washington; Puget Sound, Washington; Galveston, Texas; Ashland, Wisconsin

Seagull with clam in Port Orchard

A flock of seagulls on the deck of the Hyak in Puget Sound, WA

A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over a lake in Ashland, Wisconsin

Seagull in flight in Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas

A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington

Chief Standing Brave – Big Cabin, Oklahoma

Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK

Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois

As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around

The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh

Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa

Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

Beloit, WI Smiley Water Tower

Smiley Water Tower – Cedar Creek, Texas

And finally…one without a Smiley Face….

A Smiley Water Tower without a Smiley Face…Smiley, Texas

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel Neon sign – Wallace, Idaho

Seattle, Washington

Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound

Welcome to the Seattle Waterfront

Seattle’s famed “Great Wheel”

Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia

Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter Sunday 2017

Easter Sunrise as seen from Shenandoah National Park

Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017

Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota

Closeup of the Biker Skeleton at Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA

A skeleton pirate guards the entrance to a shop in Fisherman’s Wharf

A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota

Closeup of Murdo Skeleton

Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

The Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, MT taken in June 2005

Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food

Canned Delicacies at Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE

Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA

The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug

Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho

Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho

Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID

Sawtooth Range as seen from Galena Overlook

Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE

Barbed Wire Indian Chief and Horse – Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin

Superman Mural in Metropolis, IL

At the house that used to be the home of Jerry Siegel, the Creator of the Superman stories. This is in Cleveland, Ohio

Superman is hung forever on the side of Boudreau’s antiques…saving a little doll?

Sumoflam and the 12 foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis (not fiberglass, but a neighbor to Big John)

Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota

Livestock Sign – Newell, SD

Sign at the door of TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.

Shelby, Montana

Shelby, MT Amtrak Station

Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana

Shelby, Montana

Shelby, Mississippi

Welcome to Shelby, MS

Colorful buildings of Shelby, MS

Daniel’s Snack Shack, Shelby, MS

Sedona, Arizona

Agave in Sedona, Arizona

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ

Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ

Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Stinky’s Sign – Gilboa, Ohio

Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma

Showmen’s Rest in Hugo’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery

Sumoflam with an Elephant Headstone at Showmen’s Rest

A final view of Showmen’s Rest

Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Welcome Sign

A Santa Selfie at Santa Claus Post Office

Santa Claus Police

Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND

The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario

Sparta House Tearoom – Sparta, Ontario

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2

Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey

Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

Seabrook, New Hampshire

Sign Post in Seabrook, NH

Welcome to New Hampshire! US State #48 for me.

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Shakespeare, Ontario

Welcome to Shakespeare

Antique Shops in Shakespeare

Steubenville, Ohio

Welcome to Steubenville, OH

Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville

Sumoflam and Dino in Steubenville

Swedesburg, Iowa

Welcome to Swedesburg

The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg.

Caution – Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA

Sam Black Church, West Virginia

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV

Sam Black Church historical Marker

Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona

Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

Silver Dollar Saloon – Leadville, Colorado

Silver Dollar Saloon storefront – Leadville, Colorado

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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Quirky Roadtripper Haven: Paradise Point Market Place, Scottsville, KY

From one hot dog to another…

During the break between Christmas 2017 and New Year’s Day 2018 I took some of my family down to Barren River Lake State Resort Park in Lucas, KY. It was a wonderful time relaxing and going out around the lake and surrounding area looking at sunrises, sunsets and chasing down sandhill cranes, which have migrated in for the winter.

They put the FUN in Funky!

The Junk Truck at Paradise Point

While there, we came across a fun little spot on US 31E, heading towards Scottsville, KY.  During the winter, the place is closed, except on weekends, and I first saw it on a Thursday and HAD to stop for a few photos as it is right down my quirky little alley.

Paradise Point Market Place store front

Paradise Point Market Place as seen from the end of the parking lot.

Called Paradise Point Market Place, it sits off the highway and on the edge of a funky little trailer park.  Their building was surrounded by all sorts of quirky junk, old cars with signs, and more.  I had to walk around and snap shots of all of the stuff.  These folks really put the FUN in Funky! Meandering around the place we saw a car painted with happiness.  There were little signs here and there, some junk and various other things.  It was really something!

The adjoining junk house

The Happiness Car

Better be hungry — the food is awesome

Its a Hot Dog Place

Don’t know what they call it… I call it the Eye Head

Barbie and Ken? Or aliens from planet orange?

After walking around we noticed something else fun across the street.  I think the photos speak for themselves!!

Nudist Colony Bus

Hang Out With Us All Winter sign

I had to get a selfie with this bus (notice the gas tank??)

Who needs a tiger in your tank when you can have a flamingo??

Sign on back of bus — CLASSIC!!

A stack of old records by the front door

After looking at the bus, I went back and checked out the front door and saw that they would be open for breakfast on the weekends in the winter, so I decided they would be in for another visit from us on Saturday (December 30) before we headed home.

Even around the front door there was enough eye candy to keep a quirky roadside blogger/photographer busy for quite a while.  But my Sweetie (see photo below) wanted to get back to the hotel and get warm.  It was quite cold out.  So, we snapped a couple more pictures and were on our way back to the resort park.

I said she was my Sweetie — they just can’t spell!!

Assorted signs bowled me over

Now how’s this for a thermometer?

Eye Candy – I actually remember old soda coolers like this one (and even have a unique story to tell about them — ask me sometime)

Choose Happy!!!

So, Saturday morning came along, we checked out of the room and headed straight for Paradise Point.  I just had to check out the inside of the place and possibly even try out their purported amazing homemade breakfast.

I was Happy!!

Sumoflam and Sebrina Erskine of Paradise Point

When I first got in, I introduced myself to the gal behind the counter and let her know I was a travel blogger and had to check it out.  She introduced herself as Sebrina and then went on to tell me a bit about the place and made sure we knew about the GOOD food!   She then went on to introduce me to her husband John…who looked EXACTLY how I assumed the proprietor of a place like this would appear!!

Hanging with John Erskine — not only a unique artist, but apparently one of the best chiropractors in Bowling Green

I told John more about what I do since Sebrina was busy doling out her beautiful breakfast.  Told him about my blog, my new book (have you gotten one yet??), and he asked me to put my blog info on a postcard that had an Airstream trailer on it.  That led me to chuckle and mention that I was also the web guy for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.  To both my delight and amazement, not only had he heard of them, but he had a couple of CDs!!!

Amazing food — even better than reported!

So, I walked around the place and took a few photos before settling down to a wonderful breakfast burrito, homemade biscuits and gravy (Dr. John’s Biscuits and Gravy) and a knock-em-dead cheesy hash brown casserole — potatoes, sour cream, cheese and topped with Sugar Frosted Flakes!!!

The shop favorite is always Dr. John’s version of biscuits and gravy. He starts with Steenbergen’s fresh pork sausage and well, the rest is his secret!   They make it all in advance and when it’s gone, it’s gone…

Owners John and Sebrina Erskine — they ooze with Happy!!

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with breakfast and thrilled to meet John and Sebrina who epitomize happiness.  And then there was the market place!!!

One view of the market place with their unique variety of gifts and goodies

Another view of the shop

They carry the usual kinds of “gift shop” types of things in the shop — you know, little towels with sayings, signs, coffee cups, trinkets.  They also have a variety of offbeat and quirky…maybe even close to gag items. Walking around looking at the various and sundry items was enthralling…really, it was!

Breath Sprays for every occasion — really!!

Understand Your Mother Breath Spray

Understand Your Dog Breath Spray

Go This Way — I need one of these!!

Choose Happy — Again!

Salt and Pepper Shaker

Their son was working the register and was as friendly as his folks.  But what caught my was the odd collection on the shelves behind him…

Fun Stuff

Weird PeeWee Herman dolls

Monsters of various kinds??

Authentic Tchotchke (go ahead — look it up!)

Misc. Bobbleheads. The one on the left reminds me of Antsy McClain (kinda)

I really could have spent hours documenting and taking photographs, but some of the others in my party wanted to get on the road and head home.  With tummies full and eyes bulging, we left.  But I grabbed a few last shots…

Had to do the required stick face in hole and get a photo (with daughter Chelsea and granddaughter Autumn)

Two Heads are better than one? Well….hmmmm

Oh yes…what a shame

Special Delivery

Relax — Its only collectible junk!

Welcome to Paradise Point

John and Sebrina Erskine

Needless to say, we had a fantastic visit at Paradise Point.  John and Sebrina are great hosts and some of the happiest folks you may never meet (unless of course you make your way to southern Kentucky to visit them!!  Be nice when you do or you may be ushered out….

Paradise Point

Be Nice…or Leave. How can you NOT be nice at this place?

No…it may look like junk, but don’t let that fool you.

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