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.
Mystic Pizza – Mystic, Connecticut
Moon Township, PA
Muscovy Duck – Damascus, Virginia
Mammy’s Cupboard – Natchez, Mississippi
Mail Pouch Barns – Brinkhaven, Ohio; Friendly, West Virginia; Hargett, Kentucky
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield – Brownsville, Tennessee
Mr. Roger’s T-Rex Statue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mountain Bluebird – The Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Mac the Moose – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Monument Valley – Utah
Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, Ontario
Melt Eclectic Cafe – Cincinnati, Ohio
Metal Green Bay Packer – Pagac’s Bar – Ashland, Wisconsin
Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico
Midlothian Castle – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Home of Mayberry – Mount Airy, North Carolina
Mount Rainier National Park – Greenwater, Washington
Migrating Snow Geese – Arkansas
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Mickey Mantle Statue – Commerce, Oklahoma
Memorial Falls near Great Falls, Montana
Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Dinosaur Tracks – Moenave, Arizona
Mama Santa Pizzeria – Little Eatery – Cleveland, Ohio
Montour Trail – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Miner’s Memorial Mural – Ironwood, Michigan
Mt. Fuji – near Fujinomiya, Japan
Multnomah Falls – Multnomah County, Oregon
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Memphis Egg – Memphis, Tennessee
Mothman Museum – Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California
Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop – Mapleton, Ontario
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.
There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind. Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird. On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.
Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat. I think we all make those determinations ourselves. In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.
I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts. Why quirky? Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?
The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.
In fact, there are many “quirky” scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country. Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.
One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA. Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist. I visited his shop back in 2007.
I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA. After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!
Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places. You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!
I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.
Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani. He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.
There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.” See my original post HERE.
Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.
Quirky is not only centered on art. There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.” That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.
And they don’t have to be antique shops either. How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US… Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?
And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit
Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.
Then there are places that defy description. One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.
One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.
This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal. I was fascinated.
And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.
Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322
I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there. Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.
The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough. But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.
And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.
Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get. Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world…. and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.
I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece. That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.
This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations. Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did. I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested. See it here.
By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons. The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall. The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet. On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!
So much quirk and so little time and space. Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.
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 towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The B Towns
Visiting Bemidji, MN was a lifelong dream of mine believe it or not. As a young kid in the 1960s I had seen black and white photos of the giant Paul Bunyan Statue with his giant ox in LIFE magazine. I finally got to visit this iconic statue as well as a myriad of other sites in Bemidji, which is on US Highway 2 in western Minnesota. See my full post about Bemidji and my US Highway 2 cross country road trip HERE.
In 2012 I visited Oregon on a couple of occasions for business. While in Portland, I was fascinated with a town called Boring and wanted to have the opportunity to visit there and see if it lived up to its name. The town actually has about 8000 people and is a distant suburb of Portland and is reached on Oregon Highway 212. It offers some fabulous views of the massive Mt. Hood and provides a few chuckles with places like the Boring City Hall, the Boring Fire Department and a few other Boring places. The community was named after William H. Boring, an early resident of the area who began farming there in the 1870s. See more about my Boring visit HERE.
In 2013 I took a two week business trip to Rexburg, Idaho. While there I made a visit to Blackfoot so I could see the famed Idaho Potato Museum and the worlds largest baked and buttered potato. The town is at the end of US Highway 26 and is crossed through by Interstate 15 and US 91 and is almost exactly between Idaho Falls and Pocatello. The town has a number of nice murals, a great Uniroyal Gal statue and a couple of awesome drive-in eateries including Rupe’s Burgers and Martha’s Cafe. For more on my visit to Blackfoot and the surrounding area in 2013, click HERE.
Burk’s Falls, Ontario, Canada
I worked in southern Ontario during a good part of 2008 and one of the most quirky and unique places I ever visited was on a farm just outside of Burk’s Falls, Ontario. Canadian secondary school teacher Peter Camani created these spooky yet fascinating landscape pieces of art, which cover quite a bit of acreage. Since the mid-1970s besides being a teacher, he has built these massive structures and amazing castle. Burk’s Falls is way up north in Ontario, on Canadian Highway 11 west of Algonquin Provincial Park. Once there, you need to find Midlothian Road and head west. You can’t miss this freaky place. Read more about my visit and see more photos HERE.
Booger Holler, Arkansas
When a town has a name like Booger Holler, how can you NOT go see it. On a trip through Arkansas on my way to Fort Worth, Texas in 2007, I went 30 miles out of my way to visit Booger Holler. Obscurely located on the winding AR Hwy 7, the place is barely a dot on the map. At one time it Booger Hollow was once a popular tourist attraction along the Scenic 7 Byway. Though it is a “ghost attraction” today — closed and abandoned, it’s still worth a stop for its interesting photo opportunities, especially the main attraction — a two-story outhouse. You can read more about this unique offbeat and quirky attraction on a distant back road in Arkansas by clicking HERE.
On a road trip to Galveston in 2014, I made it a point to take back roads all the way from Lexington to Galveston. Along the way, I hit a number of unique attractions before making my way to US 61 and the Blues Highway in Mississippi. One of my stops was in Brownsville, Tennessee, home of the uber quirky Billy Tripp’s Mindfield, which was built to honor Mr. Tripp’s parents. A towering and dizzying metal sculpture, it was most certainly not something one would expect in a quiet little Tennessee town like Brownsville, which can be reached on US 79 northeast of Memphis. Read more about this strange attraction and quaint town HERE.
On a number of occasions I visited family in Shelby, Montana. On one trip we took a ride to the edge of Glacier National Park and visited the little community of Babb, Montana. We ate breakfast at the Leaning Tree Cafe and enjoyed a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains. Babb is located on US Highway 89, one of America’s most scenic highways and it is the first US town south of the Canadian border on that highway. See more about this lovely place HERE.
I like visiting towns that are named in songs. In the past I have visited China Grove, TX and LaGrange, TX and on one trip I drive into Blackwater, MO for a quick look see. Blackwater is the home of the Bucksnort Trading Company (not to be confused with Bucksnort, TN) and can be reached by taking Missouri Highway K north of Interstate 70. Fun little place with Antiques, some great old Wall Art and more.
Last stop on the B Town visit is the town of Bena, Minnesota, another of the many fascinating places to be seen on US Highway 2 in Minnesota. It is home of the Big Fish Supper Club including the giant walk in fish. Bena is also home to the historic Big Winnie Store and RV Park. Built in 1932, this place has been a haven for travelers for over 80 years. Bena is actually not too far from Bemidji (see above). The long US 2 trip report from 2013 can be seen HERE.
Bucksnort, Tennessee (Honorable Mention)
Honestly, since I mentioned the Bucksnort Trading Company in Missouri, how can I forget adding the unusual community of Bucksnort, TN. It is located near Exit 152 on Interstate 40, a few miles east of the Tennessee River. Strange name with just a small truck stop and convenience store. I visited here in 2010 on a trip from Bugtussle, KY to Bugtussle, TX (all in one day — see below)
Bugtussle, Kentucky and Bugtussle, Texas (Honorable Mention)
And finally, how about a couple of places named Bugtussle? In February 2010 I had a crazy notion – how about driving from my home in Lexington, KY to Bugtussle, KY and then drive all the way to Bugtussle, TX on the same day, taking back roads through Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. I had known the name Bugtussle from the Beverly Hillbillies and so, in my own quirky way, I thought it would be fun! Bugtussle, KY is a small community on the border of Tennessee on Kentucky Hwy 87 south of Glasgow, KY. Bugtussle, TX is just a corner at the intersection of Texas Farm Road 1550 and Texas Hwy 34, southwest of Paris, TX. On the same trip I visited Bucksnort, TN (see above) and on the way home visited Uncertain, TX (which will be featured on my U Towns post later this month). See the original Bugtussle trip post HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.