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.
Brazos Bend State Park – Needville, TX
Bruce Windmill Farm – Woodstock, ON
Bison/Buffalo – Yellowstone National Park
Boring Post Office – Boring, Oregon
Bridges of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Remember Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies??
Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa
Beloit Smiley Water Tower – Beloit, WI
Two-State Sign – Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA
Beatles Tribute – Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Big Fish Supper Club – Bena, Minnesota
Blue Heron Photos – Lexington, Kentucky & Uncertain, Texas
Booger Hollow, Arkansas
Barbed Wire Sculpture at Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska
Bob Evans Headquarters – New Albany, Ohio
Blue Banana Espresso – Lostine, Oregon
Bessie the Cow – Janesville, Wisconsin
Blues Highway – US 61 in Mississippi
Beatles Statues – Houston, Texas
Hot Spring Shower in Hot Spring Capital of Japan – Beppu, Japan
Brown Pelicans in Formation – Galveston, Texas
Beartooth Pass – near Red Lodge, Montana
Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles – Ashland, Wisconsin
Big Jud’s Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho
Tersier Monkey in Bohol, Philippines
Badlands National Park
Big Apple – Medina, NY (Yes, the OTHER big apple in New York)
World’s Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, North Dakota
Big Bone Lick State Park – Union, Kentucky
Big Indian – Bemidji, Minnesota
Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum – Vicksburg, Mississippi
Big John – Great Falls, Montana
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.
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The J Towns
Jamestown, North Dakota
One of my fun places to stop in North Dakota is Jamestown. It is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue and the National Buffalo Museum. It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh and is one of the giants across the US. See more about my visit to Jamestown HERE.
Known as “The Little Switzerland” of the United States, Joseph, Oregon is a scenic town on the shores of the lovely Wallowa Lake. I visited this community in 2007 and was enthralled by the beauty. Like many towns, they have an art walk with many fine outdoor sculptures, including the intricate eagle sculpture “The Spirit of Joseph” by Steve Parks. Joseph was named after Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe. Joseph is also about an hour away from the awe inspiring Hell’s Canyon. Despite the grandeur and wide expanses of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Hell’s Canyon has been carved much deeper by the Snake River. The canyon is about 100 miles in length and there is one 40 mile section that is nearly 5500 feet deep. But the steepest point from river to rim is at Granite Creek. This is an amazing 7900 foot deep section of the canyon!! The widest expanse across the canyon is 10 miles. The Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway is an awesome way to spend a day driving and taking in the wonderful views. See more about my NW Oregon and SW Washington roadtrip from 2007 HERE.
Just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY is the river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Two different cities and a shared river and bridge. In September 2013 , with camera in hand, I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville. The town has a series of floodwall murals which are delightful to walk along and see. Turns out that the 12 murals depicting the history of Jeffersonville were painted by Robert Dafford and his crew. This project began in 2007 and was completed in 2012. Ironically, I had seen his mural works in previous visits to Point Pleasant, WV, Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. (see Paducah work here and the Point Pleasant work here). Dafford apparently has his photorealistic mural art in over 200 locations around the world. Jeffersonville is also home to The Industrial Terrorplex, a massive haunted house and “horror complex” created using state of the art Hollywood effects, offered up some surprises as I rounded the corner. A couple of huge gargoyles were waiting on the fencepost to pounce down on me. See more about this unique Ohio River town in my 2013 post HERE.
One of the few places you cannot get to on a backroad by car is Juneau, Alaska. Only accessible via air or boat, we visited while on a cruise in June 2004 with other family members. Sitting along the Gastineau Channel, the town is picturesque and touristy. It is the gateway to Mendenhall Glacier as well. Mendenhall Glacier is about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. We also took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain and enjoyed a spectacular view. The tramway’s cars rise 1,800 feet from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the Mountain House, offering expansive views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. The Tramway is one of the most vertical tramways in the world. See the entire report of this trip HERE.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
One of my FAVORITE places in the US is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is the gateway to the Grand Tetons National Park and is a beautiful town nestled in a picturesque valley. See my full post from a 2013 visit HERE. It is one my “Heaven on Earth” places.
Janesville, Wisconsin (Honorable Mention)
Another of the interesting towns in Wisconsin, Janesville is not too far from Madison and north of Beloit. The town has big cows and cheese factories as well as a great history. Definitely worth a visit.
Jackson Center, Ohio (Honorable Mention)
Jackson Center, Ohio is the home of the Airstream Factory. Everyone has seen these iconic trailers on the roads. This is where they come from. They give tours!! Check out a report about my visit there in May 2008 right HERE.
Jamaica Beach, Texas (Honorable Mention)
On one end of Galveston Island in Texas is Jamaica Beach, with nice beaches, condos to stay in and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico. Brown pelicans are in the air everywhere. See my 2014 post with many pelican shots and lots of views of the beautiful gulf coast HERE.
Jamestown, New York (Honorable Mention)
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include another Jamestown. (And yes, I have also been to Jamestown, VA to see the old Jamestown history!!) Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball. There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town. We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities and the murals. See my full report about my New York trip to Jamestown and other places nearby by clicking HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
I began my 4600 mile trek to Montana and back by driving from Lexington, Kentucky to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (these folks call themselves “Yoopers”) and the small town of Ironwood.
As with most of my long road trips, the first leg did require a bit of driving on the interstate which I try to avoid once I get into the midst of a trip. For a change of pace, I headed north to Cincinnati and then west on I-74 to Indianapolis and then continued on I-74 all the way to Bloomington, IL. I have made numerous trips to Indianapolis and into Illinois, so I am not documenting much about those states in this post. I should note however, that from Bloomington I followed US 51 north, though much of it was along I-39 all the way into the middle of Wisconsin.
Of course, whenever possible, I do try to take some side trips off of the interstate to visit new places. On this particular venture, I strolled into El Paso, Illinois for a looksee. This is one of those small towns that give you a good taste of Americana. I had seen a photo of this old bed-and-breakfast type restaurant with an old neon sign. So, I wanted to check it out myself and see if it was still there. And, to my joy it was!
If I were a filmmaker, I would add “The Elms” restaurant and the building that it used to be housed in as part of the set of “Bates Motel.” It has that old feel, yet it also has a spooky appeal to it. The restaurant opened in the 1940s and finally closed down in March 2003. In its heyday it was a draw from all around.
From El Paso, I continued north into Rockford, Illinois. I had a number of places I’d hoped to go see, but due to time constraints and my desire to get to the Upper Peninsula before dark, I skipped over all but one site there. I made my way to the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza since it was right off of the road. Established in 2002, the plaza celebrates the United Nations’ official September 21 International Day of Peace. The plaza showcases 44 flags, and has messages of peace in more than 60 languages. The photo below is of the “Harmony Index” it was designed for this particular location by nationally known sculptor Lee Sido.
After Rockford, I headed north into Beloit, Wisconsin. People that make it into Beloit are greeted by the uber-friendly Smiley Water Tower. Of course, entering Wisconsin also brings you face on with cheesiness everywhere!
In this case, I don’t necessarily just mean cheese as in the food, but Wisconsin is dotted with unique big animal statues. My first bout was with a big bulldog near the water tower. This is the mascot for the Road Dawg Restaurant in Beloit.
And around the corner things got even cheesier at the Cornellier Superstore (cheese-r-us.com)! There is cheese all over the wall (outside that is) and a number of cheesy looking statues of animals outside as well. If you like taking cheesy selfie photos, then this is a good place to start!
Besides the cheesy mouse, there is a big Holstein cow at front. If you’re not into cows, there is also a big cuddly bear with honey and lots of interesting things inside the shop. And, of course, you can get all kinds of cheese!
From Beloit I continued north to Janesville. It is the home of “Bessie the Cow.” I was really udderly fascinated by the big brown cow out front of the Arby’s Restaurant. Though not nearly as big as “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota (see my photo from 2005), it is the second largest cow statue I have ever seen! (And I do have a collection of them)
Continuing north, I made my way into DeForest, Wisconsin. As a traveler, if you were at all interested in the quirky or offbeat, then this is a must stop if you are in the area! Their famous pink elephant with big Buddy Holly glasses is a site worth beholding and worth getting into a photograph with. I understand that there are a few of these elephants around the country, but this is the only one that I am aware of with glasses. And, if you go into the Shell gas station, they sell pink elephant magnets, T-shirts, stickers, and they even have a pink elephant liquor store.
Just down the street from the Pink Elephant is Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. They have a big Holstein Cow as well. This one is named “Sissy the Cow.” Sissy is very close in size to Bessie. Indeed, they may be sisters!! I was really lucky to get the shot I did as Bessie has done a “Chick-Fil-A” to Burger King….look carefully….
As is known to many of the followers of my travel blog, I always endeavor to find towns with unique names. This time, I actually came upon one named Endeavor in Wisconsin.
One of the reasons I take joy in driving the back roads of America is that I run into places that are an expected. I’m always looking for a Smiley Water Tower, or barn with a smiley on it. But this time as I passed through Hancock, Wisconsin I came upon Smiley’s Old Time Diner! Now, how fun is that! I just wish I would’ve had time to stop and check out the menu (which includes things like meatloaf o Monday, etc.) but had to press onward.
I pulled into this small lovely village right near sunset, and so I was blessed to get some beautiful sunset pictures with the lake. As well, they have a big diner called Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, which was closed at the time, but has a big old Bunyan and Babe statue and so I joined them for a photo opportunity!
Continuing north on 51 hit got darker and so I just pressed forward missing some other sites such as the second largest black duck statue and a couple of others along the way. I finally made my way to my hotel in Ironwood, Michigan fairly late in the evening.
This long “Day One” trip covered approximately 825 miles and I was on the road for over 16 hours in total enjoyment!
The next leg of the trip will be covered in my next post and will feature the sites of Ironwood, Michigan and the drive all the way across Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota.