U is for Unique Monsters: Dinos, Dragons & Other Monsters – #atozchallenge

People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons.  Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive.  All we have are fossil evidences and legends.

A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon.  I have seen hundreds in my travels.

Dragon Biting my head off – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.

Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI

Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first.  First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI.  According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”

A giant monster sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller

Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country.  In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center.  Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.

20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI.  Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.

Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit.  Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!

Big Dragon – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Welcome to Jurustic Park

And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.

Hungry Dinosaur – Wally Keller collection near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Scrap Metal Dinosaur – work done by Wally Keller – near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.

Sumoflam and Larry Vennard at his Iron Sculpture Park in Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway “T” Rex near Centralia, MO
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL

This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

 

A closeup of the fire!
Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

There are, of course, many other dragons out there.

“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Dragon with Cowboy Boots at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX
Metal Dragon on a Building – Clayton, New Mexico
Guitar Playing Scrap Metal Dragon – Harrietsville, Ontario
Dragon head – Salida, Colorado
Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

But, its the dinosaurs that impress.  Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters.  In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Connecticut
A T-Rex at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, MD
A 15 foot dinosaur overlooks Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs – located in Choteau, Montana on the “Dinosaur Trail”
Big dino in Bynum, Montana
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY

Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Life size and REALLY REAL looking.

Dinos break out of Indianapolis Children’s Museum
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum

And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country

A Dinosaur Sighting outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural history
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Colorful Dinosaur near Carnegie Museum, originally part of DinoMite Days in 2003
Scrap Metal Dinosaur chasing a ram – Glasgow, Montana
Rudyard Dinosaur, Rudyard, MT
Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Grazing Dinosaur – Harrietsville, Ontario
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino, in Wall, SD

and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America, WY

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Car Art: Cars in art around the US




DSC_9365One 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.

"Spindle" by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008

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.

Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007
Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007

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:

  1. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
  2. 1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
  3. 1981 Ford Escort, blue
  4. 1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
  5. 1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
  6. 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
  7. 1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
  8. 1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.

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.

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

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.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

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.

Bottom of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
Underside of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo

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:

VW Slug Bug Ranch – Conway, Texas

Slug Bug Ranch - this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com
Slug Bug Ranch – this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com

The Slug Bug Ranch consists of five VW Beetles buried nose first in the ground. There is also an older 1930s car on the site. As with Cadillac Ranch, people have left their mark in spray paint.

 

 

 

Combine City – Canyon, Texas

Combine Ranch
Combine Ranch – photo borrowed from Lovin Our Life Blog

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.

 

Airstream Ranch – Dover, Florida

Airstream Ranch - located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida
Airstream Ranch – located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida

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).

 

Antsy McClain - Airstream Ranch
Antsy McClain – Airstream Ranch

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 – Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Rabbit Ranch - Staunton, Illinois
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

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.

 

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge – May 2014

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.

Flattened Car - Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois
Pinto Pelt – Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois

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.

Art Car Museum - Houston, Texas
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

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.”

Art Car Museum
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

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…

Art Car at Third Street Stuff - Lexington, Kentucky
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:

The Smoke Sax - Houston, Texas
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas

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.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax

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.

Spider Volkswagen - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Car - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Karmann Ghia – Wolf Creek, Oregon

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…

"Scrappy" the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang - Kadoka, South Dakota
“Scrappy” the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang – Kadoka, South Dakota

Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In - Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud Drive-In – Driggs, Idaho

More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall - Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Old Trucks - Rio Brazos Music Hall - Granbury, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising

Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma
Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma

Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:

Big Daddy's Restaurant - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s Restaurant – Lake Norman, North Carolina

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.

Big Daddy's - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s – Lake Norman, North Carolina

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….

Route 26 Mart - Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Route 26 Mart – Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…

Pioneer Auto Show - Murdo, South Dakota
Pioneer Auto Show – Murdo, South Dakota

Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.

Angel's Diner - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner – McAlester, Oklahoma

Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??

Longhorn Limo - at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limo – at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, home of the 72 Oz steak, offers rides in their Longhorn Limos.

Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas

I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:

Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon
Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, 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.

Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa

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…

Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

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…

Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old Car with mannikin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car with mannequin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota

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!!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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