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
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Sandwich, New Hampshire
WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!
Story Inn – Story, Indiana
San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho
Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana
Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia
Scary Creek, West Virginia
Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado
Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa
Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan
Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington
Seth, West Virginia
Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas
Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa
Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois
As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around
Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas
And finally…one without a Smiley Face….
Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho
Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia
Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota
Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana
Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa
Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho
Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska
A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin
Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio
Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma
Santa Claus, Indiana
Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota
Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska
Seabrook, New Hampshire
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois
Sam Black Church, West Virginia
Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona
Silver Dollar Saloon – 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.
This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1Part 2 )
After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year. In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones. These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah. Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another. It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….
In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed). So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington. Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:
This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time. We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took. Along the way we saw a few fun things…
After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.
After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.
The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together. This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie. As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well. Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)
The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride. We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike. This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL. It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video. In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.
From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota. We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!
Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN
From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta. It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….
I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain. We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…
We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…
We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie. During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass. We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…
We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls. Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…
During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out). But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington. Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook. John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody). Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie. So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh. It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.
This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me. We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management. After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.
From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!). It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”
We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky. More unique stops were made along the way…
After a long trip, we finally made it home. This was to be the last of my trips with just my children. All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips. I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.
Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…
In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin. We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)
On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more. See more here.
We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.
I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them. However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us. I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips. Here are a few scenes…
My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18. Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between. Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well. Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.
Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!
Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.
Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly. That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….
Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!
One of the more unique American traditions along the Less Beaten Paths is the recycling of auto parts for art. Indeed, a couple of the most famous roadside attractions in the US are made from cars. This post will look at a few pieces of “car art” that I have seen over the years and, then, at the end, I will note a few others that are out there and worth a visit from all of us — some that I hope to get to over the next couple of years.
Probably one of the two most famous Car Art pieces that I am aware of, this car shish-kabob called “Spindle” and created by artist Dustin Shuler (1948-2010), became ultra famous after being featured in Wayne’s World. It has also been featured in on the cover of a book (called Oddball Illinois: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places), on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps. It was originally commissioned by the shopping center owner, David Bermant, who donated his BMW car to be placed second from the top of the sculpture.Shuler himself owned the red 1967 VW Beetle that crowned the sculpture.The foundation of the sculpture reached nearly 30 feet into the ground; the cost of erecting it was over $75,000.
The cars on a spike never did res well with some of the citizens of Berwyn, Illinois, and thus in 1990 they voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued that it drew tourism to town and had become an icon. The owner of Cermak’s Shopping Center argued the same. But, alas, in July 2007, it was announced that the shopping center was to be redeveloped and that the site of the sculpture was earmarked for a new Walgreens store. New controversy ensued and finally, in May of 2008 the structure was taken down.
The impaled cars on the spindle, from top to bottom, were:
1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
1981 Ford Escort, blue
1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
When I was at Cermak’s in 2007 I actually made a video of Spindle along with some of the other art at Cermak’s. Here it is….
Perhaps just as famous is the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas. Like the “Spindle“, this site has had controversy and has been featured in movies, advertisements, comics, etc. It is most certainly one of the most well known Roadside Attractions in the U.S.
It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, supposedly at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
The cars have gone through numerous iterations…completely black, completely white, stc., when used for ads and commercials. But, soon thereafter, the tourists with the spray paint cans make their way to make their marks on the cars. So, this ends up being a “stationary attraction” always in a state of change.
Due to the popularity of Cadillac Ranch, there have been a few imitators, none of which I have been to yet, but hope to get to sometime in the near future. These include:
This place even has their own website (see combinecity.com). According to their site, “Combine City began with one Combine Harvester planted in the ground. Over time, that solitary Combine has welcomed 13 more. In total, 14 Combines are planted, standing as a tribute to the great nature of the West Texas farmer.” Unlike Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, Combine City does not allow folks to come in and spray paint.
Indeed, this is not cars…it is Airstreams, but these are a great addition to this collection. These are located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida and have been the subject for many photos in the past. My good friend, the musician Antsy McClain has actually done a photo shoot here for some Trailer Park Troubadours stuff (see below).
Like Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, the Airstream Ranch has not been without controversy. Neighbors have argued that it was unsightly, but, ultimately, the Tourist Attraction and Art Factors won out.
Like the other sites, this attracts tourists from all over and has been used in advertisements, etc.
The historic value of Airstreams in travel always leads to an interest in these aluminum domiciles on wheels. There are rallies all over the country and one can always see them on the road. Indeed, many are happy to be “Living in Aluminum” and following the Aluminum Rule – “Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those iconic Route 66 stops on the back roads of America. Located just west of Interstate 55 in southern Illinois (and a short drive north of St. Louis), it lies along the old Route 66. Along with tons of Route 66 memorabilia, they have a set of buried cars.
As with the others above, there are buried cars, but, in this case the creators of Carhenge tried to emulate the famed Stonehenge of England. They too have their own website, including a history of the Jim Reinders creation. This 1987 piece of Car Art has 38 automobiles and there are other pieces of Car Art on “Car Art Reserve”. Like the locations above, Carhenge has been the subject of numerous commercials and film productions.
All of the locations above are big tourist attractions for the back roads adventurer seeking the offbeat and quirky. But, there are many other smaller pieces of car art and/or “car displays” around the country, many of which I have had the opportunity to see. Here are a few.
The flattened car (called “Pinto Pelt“) is another creation by Spindle artist Dustin Shuler and is also located in Cermak’s Plaza. This too went the way of the world apparently in the reconstruction project in Berwyn’s once famous shopping center.
The Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas is dedicated to true Art Cars, those cars that have had art added to them. According to the “Art Car Manifesto“, “an art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and style that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.”
The Art Car Museum website has a great Photo Gallery of some of the more unique cars featured at the museum. When I visited in 2010 the museum was not open so I didn’t get a chance to get any good car shots. But, along the way I have found a couple on my own…
Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:
“The Smoke Sax” was built in 1993 by artist Bob Wade of Austin, TX. It is 70 feet tall and is made of an oil field pipe, an upside down Volkswagen Beetle, beer kegs, canoe, hub caps, a surf board and chrome. Until March 2013 this was located at the Horn Bar and Grille on Richmond Avenue in Houston, TX. However, in March 2013 it was disassembled and will be eventually added to the unique folk art center called the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. They also are the sponsor of the Houston Art Car Parade.
Clear across the country in Wolf Creek, Oregon an artist has created two Spider Bugs out of old Volkswagens. Roadside America covered these and, it turns out that these are not the only ones around. There are actually dozens of them. The website Weburbanist has a fine page dedicated to a number of these from around the U.S. including Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Ontario, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and even in the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Heading back eastward one can venture into Kadoka, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park and see a unique piece of art made from car parts, including a smashed car as a base…
Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho
More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas
Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising
Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:
Big Daddy’s is located in the heart of NASCAR Country in North Carolina. And to prove it they have a number of cars on their roof and on their lot.
The Route 26 Mart in Scottsbluff, Nebraska touts itself as an Americana Convenience Mart and has on old finned Chevy on its roof to pull you in….
The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…
Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.
Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??
I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the iconic and well known Nash AirFlyte that sits outside of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Iowa, better known as the home of the History Channel’s American Pickers.
The only Corvette Factory in the world is in my home state of Kentucky, in Bowling Green. They are also the home of the Corvette Museum and they have a nice one on a pedestal…
Finally, there are all of those old trucks and cars that scatter the landscape in yards and fields around the U.S. These can be seen on back roads and some are obviously used as yard decor…
I have a dozen more of these, but I think you get the “pictures.” So, get out and Enjoy the Ride and be on the watch out for those old vehicles that helped someone else Enjoy the Ride in the past!!!