B is for Back Roads – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

I live to travel the back roads of America. These are the core of my travels around the United States and Canada. They always offer the best of everything: scenery, traffic conditions and a myriad of surprises.

 

A gravel road south of Belvidere, SD
A road approaching a checkerboard wheat farm near Cut Bank, MT

To me, the definition of a back road is anything that is not an interstate highway. However, I prefer the kind that are two lane and in many cases don’t even have stripes down the middle. Those are the best! I am even happy to be on a gravel road at times!

In this day of GPS maps and tracking, taking a back road is all the more opportune! If I take a road and get lost, I can typically depend on my GPS to get me back on the road where I’m going.  But, more often than not, I don’t care where I’m going, I just want to see where I’ve been.

Killdeer Road near Athens, WI
Interstate 5 near Sunny Valley, Oregon
Heading into a wind farm near Rugby, ND
On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
A road in the middle of a cornfield near Bloomington, IL

Back roads are the threads and fibers of our country. Many might travel the big interstate to get from one place to another, but sometime along the way they will need to leave the highway and get on to a smaller road to get to their final destination.  For me…the back road is ALWAYS my destination!

Back roads lead to numerous discoveries. I have driven back roads through every state in the United States (except for Alaska — I took a bus in Juneau, so does that count?) and always have come across something unique or interesting.  I have driven through cornfields in Iowa and pineapple groves in Hawaii.  I have seen many a wheat field in Montana and Saskatchewan.  I love driving the roads through the mountains of Colorado, Montana and Idaho, but am just as happy on a desert road in New Mexico or Texas.

The Road through Juneau, Alaska
Following the Amish on a road near Aylmer, Ontario in Canada
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington

Sometimes my back road adventures are planned. I will have learned about something unique in a certain area and will try to go there via a back road. (You may want to check out my road trip from Bugtussle, KY to Bugtussle, TX — through Only, TN, for instance. See it HERE.) Other times, I just take a road and see where it leads.  And that is often the most fun!

Not every back road leads me to where I want to go. I specifically recall a time on a trip in Missouri. Driving down the highway I saw a sign pointing to Romance. And as I turned there was also a sign pointing to Romance Church. Since it was only 2 miles down the road, I decided I would take the road to romance. It was a windy, narrow little road that eventually turned into a gravel road and by the time I got to the end of the road there was a large building with some people sitting out on the porch. It looked as if it might’ve been a church at one time, but it was obviously a residence. I believe that this was once the community of “Romance.” But there was nothing there indicating such and so to this day I claim that I took a road to Romance and it was a dead end.

I took the road, but never did find Romance in Missouri in 2011
Success, Missouri direction

On a similar trip in Missouri I saw another sign to a town called Success. Obviously, my penchant for wanting to go to towns with unique names has always sent me down those roads. I turned left out of the town of Houston, MO and headed down the 16 mile road to Success. Much to my surprise, all the way along the road I could see abandoned old trailers and rusty old cars littering both sides. Granted, this is in a section of the Ozarks that is known for its poverty. I finally made it to Success and even got a photo in front of the Success Post Office. But I learned quickly, that, at least in Missouri, the road to Success is not very glamorous.

Success, Missouri

One time, on a road trip with the family through Louisiana, we came across a café in the middle of nowhere. We decided to stop and maybe try some Cajun food. They had blackened alligator! None of us had ever eaten alligator. But what was more fun was the Cajun music that was being played. There was a Zydeco band with lots of dancing and some of the dancers actually came after my children and asked them to dance. It was a wonderful and totally unplanned experience that we would’ve never seen had we not taken a back road.

Wind River Canyon, WY

Back roads always lead to somewhere, even if it is only a dead end. However, you’ll never know what’s there unless you take one! Following are a few more photos of some of the back roads I have been on.  I have hundreds of these, so this is just a sampling.  Enjoy the ride….  and preferably on a back road!

Rolling road near Gurney, WI
Downtown Ironwood, MI. Check out the giant Hiawatha Statue at the end of the road
On a quiet road near Baggs, WY
Three Turkey Vultures block the road near Gray Hawk, KY
Road leading to the Bridge of the Gods near Cascade Locks, Oregon
The Canadian highway near Fleming, Saskatchewan
NM 152 near Truth or Consequences, NM
The road to Alta, WY near Teton Valley, ID
Loop Road west of Sweet Grass, Montana right on the Canadian border
The highway leading to Carhenge in Alliance, NE
A local road near my home in Lexington, KY
The road through Bedias, TX
Driving along the coast in Galveston, TX
The cornfields near Adair, IA
I-80 near Green River, WY
A gravel road east of Craig, CO
Main Street in lovely Stanley, ID (yes it is a gravel road!)
SD 79 just south of the North Dakota border
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Drive through the pines trees along OR 38 near Reedsport, OR
Driving in the autumn colors of Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada
The road in Ketchikan, AK ends with a cruise ship
Share the road with the Amish in Arthur, IL
The lonely road into Lost Springs, WY – Population 4

 

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South Dakota Backroads: The Oyate Trail across southern South Dakota

Land of the Pheasants - southern South Dakota
Land of the Pheasants – southern South Dakota

In early April 2013 I had the opportunity to drive across the Hi-Line (US Route 2) in Northern Montana and then made our way to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and all the across South Dakota to Mitchell and the Corn Palace.   With another work trip to Idaho, I took a different route and, similar to the Hi-Line Drive, I mainly took US Route 18 (also known as the Oyate Trail) as it crosses most of South Dakota.  It goes through many small and unique towns.

Oyate Trail
Oyate Trail

The Oyate Trail is a 388 mile route that generally follows SD 50 and US Route 18 across southern South Dakota.  The name is derived from the Lakota word “Oyate”, which means “a people or a nation” and “Ochanku”, which is Lakota for “trail.”  Thus, the trail of nations, initially meaning the trail to the various Lakota Nations — the Yankton, the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Sioux nations.  But, the meaning is even more complex with the coming of the Europeans and the mixture of their cultures along the trail.


Oyate Trail across South Dakota

Elk Point, SD - "Where South Dakota Begins"
Elk Point, SD – “Where South Dakota Begins”

I started off in Kentucky on May 31 and spent the evening near Omaha, NE.  On June 1 I headed north towards South Dakota, entering South Dakota in Sioux City on I-29.  I took the freeway into the small town of Elk Point, another of the many places that Lewis and Clark had visited.  They made camp nearby the area in August 1804.

Downtown Elk Point, South Dakota
Downtown Elk Point, South Dakota

My main stop in Elk Point was at Edgar’s Soda Fountain, a throwback to the good old days.  Originally opened in Centerville in 1906 in a drug store, the soda fountain was taken out of the drug store in the 1960s.  It eventually was rediscovered and rebuilt by the granddaughter of the drug store owner.  They have even brought out the old manuals and have some concoctions directly from those manuals, such as The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages.

Edgar's Soda Fountain Bar
Edgar’s Soda Fountain Bar

Owner Barb Wurtz was there and the staff was ultra friendly.  They had an old-fashioned candy case, nice neon, original wooden booths and bar seating.  Its a great place to take a quick break off the road.

The Fountain
The Fountain
Old Soda Bottles
Old Soda Bottles
Outdoor Signage at Edgar's
Outdoor Signage at Edgar’s
Candy Counter at Edgar's
Candy Counter at Edgar’s

I also wanted to drop by Edgar’s with my good friend and amazing guitarist Edgar Cruz in mind.  So, “Welcome to Edgar’s!”

Welcome to Edgar's
Welcome to Edgar’s

After consulting with the great staff at Edgar’s, I determined to make my way along US Route 18 (the Oyate Trail), which would take me across the lush prairies of southern South Dakota and into some small and unique towns.  After visiting the Lewis and Clark Campsite monument n Elk Point, I headed north on I 29 to Exit 47 near Beresford and then west to Viborg.  The Oyate Trail actually starts in Vermillion, SD, just NW of Elk Point, but I wanted to hit Viborg first.

Lewis and Clark Campsite - Elk Point, SD
Lewis and Clark Campsite – Elk Point, SD

After leaving I-29, I headed west on SD 46 to Viborg, South Dakota.

Velkommen to Viborg
Velkommen to Viborg

Viborg is a town of around 700 and was settled by Danish immigrants in the 1860s.  The town is named for Viborg in Denmark.  The town was originally named Daneville, but with the coming of the railroad in the 1890s, the residents had to move a bit north so they could be along the railroad.  Thus Viborg was born and was finally incorporated in August 1903.

Welcome to Viborg
Welcome to Viborg
Kountry Kookin' Cafe - Viborg, SD
Kountry Kookin’ Cafe – Viborg, SD

As I drive through town I got glimpses of the culture.  The Kountry Kookin’ Cafe, with its built in neon sign above the door, gave me cause for chuckle.  The window on the right says “Dis is vare Sven loves the dinners” and the window on the left says “Dis is vare Ole gets the pie.”  Had there been time, it could have been “Dis is vare Sumoflam gets the lunch!”

Viborg Movie Theater
Lund Theater in Viborg

Like many small towns, there are the old fashioned theaters that thrived in the 1950s and 1960s.  But these are a dying breed so I try to get shots of them when I go through these small towns.

Decorative Glazed Block Silo near Viborg, SD
Decorative Glazed Block Grain Silo near Viborg, SD

On the outskirts of Viborg I came across this unusual, yet decorative grain silo.  As I drive the back roads of this country, whether in Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin or elsewhere, silos are a common site.  Yet, I don’t recall ever seeing brick silos like this one, nor do I recall the decorative nature.  After a bit of internet research (thank you Google!!) I have learned that these are Glazed Block Silos.  They are apparently very common in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.  I am assuming that they are of Scandinavian origin, though I have not yet found anything definitive.

Horses Frolicking near Viborg, SD
Horses Frolicking near Viborg, SD

Living in Lexington I see plenty of horses.  But, I couldn’t help but notice this happy trio in the lush prairie grasses near Viborg.  I sat and watched them for a few minutes as they frolicked and played.

Old remnants of yesteryear near Viborg
Old remnants of yesteryear near Viborg — I love old cars!

From Viborg I headed straight north on SD 19 past Swan Lake to US 18 and began my trek across the state.

Turkey Ridge Store - Hurley, SD
Turkey Ridge Store – Hurley, SD
Meridian Corner Steak House at US 18 and US 81 junction
Meridian Corner at US 18 and US 81 junction – Freeman, SD

I passed the two establishments along the road.  Both were basically in the middle of nowhere.  Meridian Corner has a fairly active Facebook Page.  They are apparently quite popular and have T-shirts, etc.

Menno, SD
Menno, SD
Menno, South Dakota
Menno, South Dakota

I rolled into Menno, SD next. Menno was settled by German-Russian immigrants around 1874.  Continuing west my next stop was in Tripp, SD.  This was the first Tripp I have experienced on my many trips!!  The town slogan “Easy to Find, Hard to Leave”.  For me, its as my friend Antsy McClain says “Its All in the Trip”.

Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota
Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota

Tripp recently became a destination for a group of Amish families that moved from Wisconsin in 2010.  This, of course, brings the need for a blacksmith.  The name on the barn reminded me of the Amish, so I checked and indeed, as the link above explains, the first Amish in South Dakota are in this area.

Heine Prien - Blacksmith - Tripp, SD
Heine Prien – Blacksmith – Tripp, SD
Flag painted in Window - Tripp, SD
Flag painted in Window – Tripp, SD
Old Neon Sign - Tripp, SD
Old Neon Sign – Tripp, SD
My version of a John Deere ad - outside of Tripp, SD
My version of a John Deere ad – outside of Tripp, SD

I continued west on US 18 passing by farmland and a few trees.  I found one set of trees that struck me…these were near the junction with US 281, where US 18 heads due south towards Ravinia, SD.

Trees on US 18 near US 281
Trees on US 18 near US 281
Farmland near Ravinia, SD
Farmland near Ravinia, SD

US 18/US 281 again heads west near the base of Lake Andes, which is a National Wildlife Refuge.  As I drive along the southern border of the lake, I saw a huge flock of white birds.  From my viewpoint I thought they were swans, but I decided to take a closer look so I took a drive into the small park just before getting to the town of Lake Andes, SD.  I was thrilled as I got closer and discovered it was a huge flock of pelicans!!

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
More Pelicans - Lake Andes, SD
More Pelicans – Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight - Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight – Lake Andes, SD

Seeing the Pelicans was a real thrill for me as these were birds that I have never had a close encounter with.  While at the lake, I also saw some beautiful purple wildflowers.

Purple Wildflowers near Lake Andes, SD
Purple Dame’s Rocket Wildflowers near Lake Andes, SD

From Lake Andes I continued south on US 18/281 to cross over the dam at the Randall Creek Recreation Area.  At the top of the hill past the dam I had an excellent view of the Old Fort Randall Cemetery.

Old Fort Randall Cemetery
Old Fort Randall Cemetery

US 18 continued west, then southwest for a while and then began heading northwest again towards the town of Bonesteel.

The road goes on forever - US 18 in southern South Dakota
The road goes on forever – US 18 in southern South Dakota
More winding roads in South Dakota
More winding road in South Dakota

The town of Bonesteel was basically the first town of many on the actual Oyate Trail that I would hit on this drive.  Bonesteel has an interesting name, named after H.E. Bonesteel and hasjust about 300 people.

Bonesteel Welcome Sign
Bonesteel Welcome Sign
Battle of Bonesteel Commenmorative Sign
Battle of Bonesteel Commenmorative Sign
Bonesteel Mural
Bonesteel Mural

The railroad first made its way into Bonesteel in 1902.  there were a limited number of registrations for land ownership and eventually many of the prospective homesteaders fought leading to what was called “the Battle of Bonesteel.”

Bonesteel Mural
Bonesteel Mural
Another Bonesteel Mural
Another Bonesteel Mural

On the outskirts of town is a small little restaurant.  Great name…

TeePee Cafe - Bonesteel, SD
TeePee Cafe – Bonesteel, SD

The next town on the trail was Burke, SD, another town with about 600 people.  As I approached town I ran into a place called Rooster Tales Hunting Service.  They had a unique sign and even a patriotic hay bale!  Turns out that they have a Pheasant hunting service.

Rooster Tales Hunting Service - Burke, SD
Rooster Tales Hunting Service – Burke, SD
Rooster Tales Mailbox in a milk can
Rooster Tales Mailbox in a milk can
Patriotic Hay Bale at Rooster Tales
Patriotic Hay Bale at Rooster Tales

This part of South Dakota is considered the pheasant capital of the U.S. (including a number of towns competing for the title).  So, despite the small towns, there are hotels and accommodations for pheasant hunting enthusiasts.

Old style motel - Hillcrest Motel - Burke, SD
Old style motel – Hillcrest Motel – Burke, SD
Burke, SD Water Tower
Burke, SD Water Tower

Despite its size, Burke is also home to the Burke Stampede Rodeo, supposedly the largest amateur rodeo in the Midwest.

Burke Stampede Rodeo - Burke, SD
Burke Stampede Rodeo – Burke, SD

The next major stop on the road is Gregory, South Dakota.  This is in the midst of pheasant country.  South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….)

Welcome to Gregory
Welcome to Gregory
Gregory - Home of the Gorillas
Gregory – Home of the Gorillas
Gregory Wall Art
Gregory Wall Art
Mary Bob's Bar - Gregory, Idaho
Mary Bob’s Bar – Gregory, Idaho

I got a kick out Mary Bob’s Bar — out in Kentucky we hear of “Jim Bob” all the time, but I have never heard of “Mary Bob.”

Hipp Theater - Gregory, SD
Hipp Theatre – Gregory, SD

The Hipp Theatre in Gregory is a community volunteer run theatre, but does show up to date first run movies.

Gregory - The Happening Place
Gregory – The Happening Place

Then there is the giant pheasant….

Giant Pheasant - Gregory
Giant Pheasant – Gregory, SD
Sumoflam and Giant Pheasant
Sumoflam and Giant Pheasant

Apparently Gregory is “The ground-zero of pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992.

Pheasant Sign - Gregory, SD
Pheasant Sign – Gregory, SD

Next stop was not too far — Dallas, South Dakota

Welcome to Dallas, SD
Welcome to Dallas, South Dakota

Dallas is a really small town but has some interesting things…

Water tower in Dallas -- in the middle of the road
Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road
Frank Day's Lodging House
Frank Day’s Lodging House

Frank Day’s looks run down, but, apparently it is one of the “happening places” on the Oyate Trail. They have fashioned themselves as an old western-style saloon and also seem to be an attraction for bikers.

Frank Day's Signs
Frank Day’s Signs

Moving west on US 18 I finally arrived at one of my “planned destinations.”  Those that follow my blogs know that I am always looking for unique town names like Uncertain (TX), Boring (OR), Peculiar (MO), Tightwad (MO), Odd (WV) and more.  Well, this town is a real Winner!!!  Yes, Winner, South Dakota.

Welcome to Winner, SD - Pheasant Capital of the World
Welcome to Winner, SD – Pheasant Capital of the World

Winner was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and later part of the Dakota Territory, which was established by an act of Congress and a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.  Winner was named because it was the “winner” in the struggle to establish a town along the railroad right-of-way when the Chicago North Western began moving west from Dallas, SD in 1909.

Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota
Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy

Frank Leahy was one of Notre Dame’s most famous coaches.  He grew up in Winner.

Downtown Winner, SD
Downtown Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

While I was in Winner, I stopped for a drink and a snack at a gas station.  I just had to ask…had anyone ever won it big in the lottery in Winner.  And, believe it or not, there was indeed a winning ticket sold, and, ironically, the winner’s name was Neal Wanless (awfully close to Winless…).  Wanless was a Winner in Winner to the tune of $232 million.  He apparently has many friends that frequent the Pheasant Bar.

Pix Theatre - Winner, SD
Pix Theatre – Winner, SD

Want a winning place to buy groceries?  Try this place….

Winner Food Center, Winner, SD
Winner Food Center, Winner, SD
Winner Westside Motel
Winner Westside Motel

The Motel Parking lot above is home to another Pheasant Statue, as seen below…

Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD

Now, for that “Pheasant Capital” bit….  Research has shown me that Redfield, South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World” and they have even registered the phrase.  Redfield is in the northeast section of South Dakota, north of Mitchell.  As late as 1994 there has been a dispute between Winner and Redfield as to which is the “official” capital.  I found an interesting article that shows that on October 26, 1994 Redfield had trademarked the phrase.  Winner still claims it as well.  But, Gregory is still the “ground-zero of pheasantdom.”  I think this argument has gone to the birds!!!

Here is the REAL WInner!!
Here is the REAL Winner!!
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
Heading west on US 18 out of Winner, South Dakota
Heading west on US 18 out of Winner, South Dakota

I continued to head further west to Mission, which would be my last stop on the Oyate Trail as I planned to head north to the Badlands from there.  By the way, Mission, SD is the home of Bob Barker, famous as the host of The Price is Right. The town of Mission is in the Rosebud Indian Reservation, home of the Sicangu Lakota tribe of the Sioux Nation.

Catholic Church in Mission, SD
Catholic Church in Mission, SD
Buffalo Jump Restaurant - Mission, SD
Buffalo Jump Restaurant – Mission, SD

While driving through Mission I came across this colorful restaurant called the Buffalo Jump.  It is owned and operated by Native Americans and offers buffalo burgers, Indian tacos, and, yes, Asian, Mexican, Italian, seafood and other goodies.

Mural in Mission, SD
Mural in Mission, SD
Another Mural in Mission, SD
Another Mural in Mission, SD

From Mission I headed north on US 83 until I arrived at SD 63.

US 83 in South Dakota heading north from Mission
US 83 in South Dakota heading north from Mission

I found it interesting that my GPS sent me onto SD 63.  I think my GPS is learning my penchant for back roads.  SD 63 is 23 miles GRAVEL ROAD that cuts mainly through the Rosebud Indian Reservation to Belvidere, SD on I-90 near Badlands National Park.  What a wonderful drive it was!!

SD 63 near Norris, SD -- 23 miles of gravel road
SD 63 near Norris, SD — 23 miles of gravel road
Sioux Burial Ground - I think
Sioux Burial Ground – I think
Sunlit badlands on SD 63
Sunlit badlands on SD 63
SD 63 going though prairie grasslands and badlands
SD 63 going though prairie grasslands and badlands
Long gravel road
Long gravel road
White River as seen from SD 63 south of Belvidere, SD
White River as seen from SD 63 south of Belvidere, South Dakota

I crossed over the White River just south of Belvidere.  The White River is the 36th longest river in the US at 506 miles.  It truly is whitish gray as a result of the clay, sand and volcanic ash it picks up along the way.

Belvidere, SD
Belvidere, SD – Population 63

I finally got back onto pavement as I entered Belvidere, just a small town with 63 people and perhaps that many horses and goats….

Foal jogging in Belvidere
Foal jogging in Belvidere
Community grazing tree in Belvidere
Community grazing tree in Belvidere
Grandpa Goat
Grandpa Goat
Rural Scene near Belvidere, SD
Rural Scene near Belvidere, SD

It was time to fuel up so I stopped at the Badland’s Travel Stop in Kadoka just off of I-90 west of Belvidere.  I loved the skies behind it.

Badland's Travel Stop - Kadoka, SD
Badland’s Travel Stop – Kadoka, SD
Teepee Picnic Area at Badland's Travel Stop
Teepee Picnic Area at Badland’s Travel Stop
Kadoka, South Dakota water tower
Kadoka, South Dakota water tower

Kadoka, South Dakota is “The Gateway to the Badlands.”  The name Kadoka is a Lakota word which means “Hole in the Wall,” but the town doesn’t seem that way….

 

Badlands Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, SD
Badlands Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, SD
Flag Benches in Kadoka, SD
Flag Benches in Kadoka, SD

I really got a kick out of all of the homemade signs in Kadoka…..

Pocketful of Posies - Kadoka, SD
Pocketful of Posies – Kadoka, SD
Museum - Kadoka, SD
Museum – Kadoka, SD
Hotel Pearl - Kadoka, SD
Hotel Pearl – Kadoka, SD

And then there is the old Wagon Wheel motel sign…

Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, SD
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, SD
Dr. Pepper Sign in Kadoka, SD
Dr. Pepper Sign in Kadoka, SD

And that was the end of the road to the Badlands — Kadoka is the “Gateway!”

Prairie Dog -- watch for me soon
Prairie Dog — watch for me soon

On my next post I will have some great shots of prairie dogs and badlands!!

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