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.
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.
Today is day one of the A to Z bloggers challenge. I am focusing on Wanderlust and for my first post I will look at what is probably the biggest result of wanderlust. That is, adventure.
Those that travel in most cases do so for the adventure. Indeed, the opportunity to discover new things, experience new things and taste new things — all are part of the adventure of traveling.
For me, as a back road travelographer, seeking adventure at every corner in a modus operandi. I have traveled thousands of miles on back roads of America, most of which I had never traveled on before. Therefore, each mile, each yard even, might present a new adventure for me.
These adventures equal discoveries. On
one such adventure, I was driving along a back road in South Dakota and in the distance I saw a lake. At the time, I didn’t even know the name of the lake, but it turns out I later discovered it was called Lake Andes.
As I got closer to the lake I saw a big patch of white in the lake and I knew it was some kind of a flock of birds. I decided to find a road back to that area and was fortunate enough to find one. I parked and had to walk about 50 yards to the lake only to discover a huge flock of white pelicans, birds that I had never seen in their natural setting before.
Another great opportunity for adventure is to drive through the small towns that lie upon the outskirts of the highway. I recall another trip along US Highway 2 in Montana. The locals call this the Highline and it is the most northern highway in the United States. It pretty much parallels the Canadian border by just a few miles in some cases.
About every 20 to 30 miles there is a small town along the way. Each little town has a welcome sign and they each have their own little personalities whether they be something unique downtown, an old movie theater or just an old grain elevator. And as you get into the town you never know what you will see. That is the joy of adventure to me.
When I plan a road trip, I make minimal plans. I usually know what my starting point is and I usually have a destination set. However, my final destination usually is in a place that I come to after sundown. The reason I do this is also centered on the adventure part. I may come across a sign pointing to a road that takes me off of my main course a bit.
Oft times I have come across signs in the eastern United States that. Two covered bridges or museums or some other historical or unique site. One never knows what is around the next corner.
Of course, there are always limitations to traveling long-distance is, so many times I will take a local “staycation” just to be able to continue to fulfill my desire for adventure. It might be taking a back road to some small eatery in some small town. Or, it just might be driving over to the local lake to get photos of the wildlife.
To me, the thrill is in the seeking. The opportunity for adventure is always there.
Following are a few more photographs of my “adventure discoveries” from my travels.