A to Z Challenge: The L Towns #atozchallenge

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

LThe L Towns

LeClaire, Iowa

Antique Archaeology's famous old car
Antique Archaeology’s famous old car
Antique Archaeology closed for filming
Antique Archaeology closed for filming
Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with Danielle Colby Cushman - June 20, 2012
Sumoflam with Danielle Colby Cushman – June 20, 2012
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa

First stop on the L Town Road Trip is LeClaire, Iowa.  This town literally sits on the shore of the Mississippi River and is definitely a river town.  Today the town is perhaps most well known for the shop known as Antique Archaeology, home of the famed History Channel TV Show American Pickers.  The show has enjoyed 14 seasons and has nearly 200 episodes as Mike and Franks travel the back roads of the U.S. looking for the rare and valuable items in old barns and other odd places.  Their Office Manager Danielle frequents the show as well.  I got to meet her in 2012 (see photo above). But what many don’t know is that the western icon Buffalo Bill Cody was born here. Born near LeClaire in Scott County, Iowa, in 1846, Buffalo Bill rode on the Pony Express at the age of 14, fought in the American Civil War, served as a scout for the Army, and was already an Old West legend before mounting his famous Wild West show, which traveled the United States and Europe. There is a museum in his honor in LeClaire. Cody, Wyoming is named for him.  The town has a number of unique antique shops and eateries.  Definitely worth a visit. I like the place so much I have been there FOUR times!! See more detailed posts about  my visits HERE and HERE.

Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin

JFK's Twine Ball - 19,600 pounds
JFK’s Twine Ball – 19,600 pounds
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007

On a trip I took with my son back in 2007 to the western US, we made our way into a backwoods town in northern Wisconsin in search of the famed Largest Twine Ball in the World.  We finally found the 19,000 pound monstrosity on the shores of Lake Nebagamon just east of US Highway 53 and south of US Highway 2 near Superior, WI.  As unique as the ball was, were fascinated by the creator of this iconic attraction, James Frank Kotera, who calls himself “JFK the Twine Ball Man” and claims to be the most famous JFK.  I even made a video of this guy….enjoy a laugh.  You can see a flashback post of my 2007 visit HERE and then check out my 2007 Mockumentary Video with JFK below.

Lesage, West Virginia

Hillbilly Hot Dogs - Lesage, WV
Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, WV
Yes, they do have a Website!!
Yes, they do have a Website!!
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, LeSage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, LeSage, West Virginia

Drive along the Ohio River out of Huntington, West Virginia and a few miles up WV Highway 2 you’ll come across what appears to be a junk collectors’ paradise.  What it really is may surprise you…it is a world famous hot dog joint known as Hillbilly Hot Dogs. The place has been features on Diners, Dives and Drive Ins as well as a number of other shows.  And yes, they do make a killer hot dog!!  Check out my really fun 2008 Slide Show HERE.

LeRoy, New York

Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Always Room fro JELL-O
Always Room fro JELL-O
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum

So, you have had the Hot Dogs and you want dessert?  How about taking a trip to the community of LeRoy, New York on New York Highway 5 and visit the funky little JELL-O Museum. A ceiling full of spoons, a couple of “Did You Know JELL-O quizzes,” Bill Cosby memorabilia and lots of JELL-O souvenirs. See my 2008 trip report that includes more about the JELL-O museum HERE.

Lizard Lick, North Carolina

Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Lizard Lick lizard on top of gas station
Lizard Lick lizard on top of gas station
Lizard Lick Towing mural on sign outside of towing place
Lizard Lick Towing mural on sign outside of towing place

Travel along NC Highway 97 and you will eventually hit a crossroads at Lizard Lick Road and come across the small community of Lizard Lick, NC.  The town supposedly got its name from a “passing observer who saw many lizards sunning and licking themselves on a rail fence.”  In any case, it really became famous in 1998 when Nintendo did a big splashy introduction of their game called “Yoshi’s Story.” Then, in September 2009 Lizard Lick once again received publicity, this time on a national level when TruTV became aware of a local towing and recovery company owned and operated by evangelist and Lizard Lick honorary “Mayor” Ronnie Shirley and his wife Amy Shirley, called Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery.  The program, called Lizard Lick Towing,  ran for four seasons from 2011-2014

Lake Jackson, Texas (Honorable Mention)

So, which Way do I take?
So, which Way do I take?
This Way is not until the next signal
This Way is not until the next signal
Ahh...there it is...This Way
Ahh…there it is…This Way
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way

On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I was apprised of a town called Lake Jackson, Texas.  Located on Texas Highway 288, it doesn’t necessarily offer too much, but it has a REALLY curious street name — in fact, a couple of them.  The main street through town is called This Way and downtown it intersects with another street called That Way.  You can read the story on the photo of the plaque above.  Definitely a fun quirky place.  Read more about my visit HERE.

Lost Springs, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007
Lost Springs in 2014 - ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!
Lost Springs in 2014 – ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!
Welcome to Lost Springs
Welcome to Lost Springs

Back in 2007 I made a trip through central Wyoming on US Highway 20 with my son Solomon and we came to a place named Lost Springs, which had a sign proclaiming Population 1.  At that time it was one of only three or four towns with that population.  On a return visit in 2014, the town had grown by three. There is a Post Office, Bar and Antique shop…all were closed on both visits. The entire town must have been on vacation…all four of them. See my original 2007 Post HERE.  My 2014 Return Trip is documented HERE.

Langdon, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND

Finally, there is that small town north of US Highway 2 in North Dakota called Langdon. Located at the crossroads of ND Highway 1 and ND Highway 5 very close to Canada, my interest in the town was its Spartan missile in the park. You can see more photos and read more about it HERE.

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From Cody to Carhenge with a Jackalope in-between

DSC_7698After a marvelous time in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was time to head east through the high deserts of Wyoming and across Nebraska and eventually back home to Kentucky.

Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska
Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska

After a restful evening at the Moose Creek Lodge in Cody, Wyoming, I was ready to hit the road running early the next morning. I had visited Cody in 2013 and so I didn’t spend a lot of time, but I did want to get back over to the Buffalo Bill Center and take some pictures of some of the numerous statues there.

Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at buffalo Bill Center
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at Buffalo Bill Center
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY

After about 30 minutes in Cody, I was soon heading southeast on Wyoming Highway 120 towards Thermopolis. This is a scenic drive through rolling hills of sage brush.

Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 heading east
Wyoming 120 heading east
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 - I believe this is Wapiti Ridge
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 – I believe this is Wapiti Ridge and the Absaroka Range
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY

I drove through the town of Meeteetse (Where Chief’s Meet) and then on to Thermopolis.

Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse

The drive from Meeteetse to Thermopolis is generally through high desert grasslands and hills. This is the vast interior of Wyoming, the open range land of ranchers and of solitude. You’re more likely to encounter more antelope than cars along this route, which was my case (which I did!!)

Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope just stared back at me...didn't run
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120

As the drive gets closer to Thermopolis, there are numerous unique rock formations which break the monotony of the seemingly endless sage brush grasslands. These open up to layers of mesas which provide a visual texture for miles. (OK, I lied, there were more cars than antelope – see photos below!)

The Road to Thermopolis
The Road to Thermopolis
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120

Hwy 120 ends in Thermopolis. This town is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. From the south Thermopolis is the gateway to Yellowstone Country, and coming from the north it is the gateway to the Wind River Canyon.

Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Flags fly in Thermopolis
Flags fly in Thermopolis

Of course, I always keep my eyes peeled for unique things when I drive through a town.  Here are a couple of good ones.

Antler Arch in Thermopolis
Antler Arch in Thermopolis
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn

Since I was pushing to get to Carhenge before dusk,I rushed through Thermopolis and proceeded east towards the Wind River Canyon on US Hwy 20.

US Route 20 is actually the longest highway in the US, spanning 3365 miles across the country from Newport, Oregon through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and ending in Massachusetts.

US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park
US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park

The Wind River Canyon drive follows US 20 along the Wind River for about 14 miles and into the depths of the canyon, sometimes 2400 deep. It is amazingly scenic as the highway winds it’s way around 34 miles of bends and through Rock carved tunnels, finally opening up near Boysen State Park and ending up in the small town of Shoshoni.

Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon

I have been through this canyon twice before and have always been amazed at the engineering genius of gnawing a path through this wild gorge. There are even a number of pullouts that provide unique views up and down the length of the canyon.

One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon

As I left the canyon, the spacious Boysen Reservoir was to my right (looking West) and beyond the lake in the distance were the snow capped peaks of the Wind River Mountain Range. Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain at 13,804 feet, is part of this massive range that stretches about 100 miles from north to south. There are more than 40 named peaks over 13,000 feet in this mountain range. US Highway 26 and US Highway 287 skirt this range to the east in Wyoming through Dubois and Lander. I hope to drive those roads sometime in the future.

Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY

Just past the south end of Boysen Reservoir, US 20 continues into Shoshoni and the southeast towards Casper. Shoshoni had the appearance of a dying town to me. There were a few old buildings with some nice Native American murals, but the town really appeared dead.

Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY...part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY…part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail

The Sand Creek Massacre Trail in Wyoming is dedicated to the remembrance of the Sand Creek Massacre which took place on November 29, 1864.  The trail follows the paths of the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne in the years after the massacre. It traces them to their wintering on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Riverton in central Wyoming, where the Arapaho remain today. The trail passes through Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Shoshoni and Riverton. The trail was dedicated August 6, 2006

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo

Heading east on US Routes 20/26, I immediately drove by a number of unique rock formations along the side of the road. The sandstone pillars have been eroded away over centuries of time to create these nice designs.

Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY

US Highway 20 then provides us with a typical long drive through the sagebrush of Wyoming…

US Route 20 in Wyoming
US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming

It is a bit of drive, but fortunately, there is a rest area east of the small town of Hiland.  A couple of nice history signs as well.

Wyoming's Wildlife?
Wyoming’s Wildlife?
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland

About 4 miles from the rest area on the south side of the road is a turnoff to Hell’s Half Acre (near Powder River, WY), a large scarp with deep ravines, canyons, caves, rock formations and hoodoos.  I have a love of these types of things.  I was so very disappointed to see a chain link fence keeping visitors from being able to grasp the full extent of this place.

Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell's Half Acre, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre

It was here that I met a new friend…a fellow traveler, a fellow photographer, a fellow blogger.   A a professional photographer, Derek Ace does some amazing work.  You can see some of his best work HERE. Turns out that Derek is from Middleton, Wisconsin, which had me talking right away since Middleton is also the home the National Mustard Museum, one of my favorite places (see my post about this from my old blog).  You can really get a nice sense of Derek’s work from his Facebook Photo stream.  I am glad to have made his acquaintance on this trip and I am looking forward to what I believe will be an amazing set of photos from HIS visit there.

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming

Not too far east of Hell’s Half Acre is the little dot on the map known as Powder River, Wyoming.  There are probably less than 40 people here. However, there was one place that took me back…and in the middle of nowhere too.

An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY

Apparently, as late as 2005, this place was being used a strip joint and oil workers, folks from Shoshoni and nearby Casper, would venture their way to this hole in the wall place. It closed in November 2005 and now sits as another ghost on a basically deserted highway in the middle in Nowheresville, welcoming the passersby.

Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Entering Casper, Wyoming
Entering Casper, Wyoming

I really didn’t have much time to spend in Casper, but I needed gas, so I stopped and filled up.  While at the gas station, a giant Cloud Troll decided to show me the direction I needed to go in as I headed towards my next stop, which was Douglas, WY. (By the way…I LOVE looking at clouds!!)

A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY
A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY

From Casper I jumped on Interstate 25 to head east toward Douglas.  This was one of the few Interstate ventures I took while on the road.

I-25 East out of Casper, WY
I-25 East out of Casper, WY
There's a jackalope in them thar hills!!
There’s a jackalope in them thar hills!!

On the approach to Douglas, which is the “Jackalope Capital of the World”, there is a giant jackalope up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.  It is the first sign of Jackalope everywhere….

Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope
Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope

This trip was my second one to Douglas, the first with my son Solomon back in 2007.  I also wrote a guest post about the Jacakalope for author/blogger Tui Snider’s Mental Mosaic Blog (see my article HERE).  However, on this trip I wanted to make sure I also got my Jackalope Hunting License.

Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center
Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY

In the visitor’s center I was kindly greeted by Chamber Assistant Director Patty Morrell who took time to show me around, tell me a bit of history AND get me all set with my OFFICIAL “Limited Non-Resident Jackalope License”.  She also was kind enough to slip me a Jackalope Sticker and a Jackalope pin.

My Official Jackalope License
My Official Jackalope License – I love the Chief Licensor’s name – Adam Lyre

The Visitor’s Center has a number of unique Jackalope goodies…here are a few

New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
Stagbunny "The Movie" Promo
Stagbunny “The Movie” Promo

In 2006 there was a movie called “Stagbunny” about one man’s hunt for the elusive Jackalope.  Here is the trailer (get ready to chuckle)

Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye

I should note that the Douglas Visitor’s Center also has some nice trains to look at if you are interested in these.

Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor's Center
Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor’s Center

Before heading out of town I came across the White Wolf Saloon in downtown Douglas.  Another great Kitschy place.  Had to take a couple of shots.

White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon

Of course, I had to move on to get to Carhenge in time so I was back on US 20 heading east towards Lusk, Wyoming. US 20 and US 26 split at Orin Junction south of Douglas and that is where US Route 18 begins and joins with US 20.

US 18/20 to Lusk, WY
US 18/20 to Lusk, WY

This section of highway parallels the railroad tracks from Orin to Lusk and is pretty desolate, but there are a few things to be seen…

US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20

But, one of the more unique dots on the map on this stretch of highway is Lost Springs, WY.  In 1976 the town was designated as the smallest incorporated town in America.  At the time, its population was eleven.  In 2007 I drove through and, at the time, it was one of only a handful of towns in the US with a population of 1.  Here is a photo of me from that visit.

Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007

On this visit the town had boomed back to a population of FOUR….

Lost Springs in 2014 - ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2014 – ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!

I had hoped to actually drop into their Post Office/Shop, but they were closed.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of shots of Lost Springs today (I took some in 2007 too).

Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Welcome to Lost Springs
Lost Springs Welcomes You. Well, not quite…nobody was home.
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Public Facilities
Lost Springs Public Facilities (Better than those in Hell, Michigan mind you….)
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??

Back on US 18/20 I continued east.  Lots of highway and long trains and even an old truck stop in the middle of nowhere.

US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY

From Manville it was on to Lusk, Wyoming.  Yet another small town on the road, Lusk boasts a population of about 1500.  Just a stop on the railroad tracks, it does offer one unique site….an old wooden train water tower.

Lusk, Wyoming
Lusk, Wyoming
Old Red Wooden Water Tower
Old Redwood Water Tower
Redwood Water Tank
Redwood Water Tank in Lusk, WY

IMG_6595The old water tower was originally built in 1886 to furnish water for the Fremont, Elkhorn, Missouri Valley Railroad Steam Engines. The town of Lusk was established at the same time. The wooden tower is round, with a diameter of about 25 feet. The tank is about 25 feet high on a 25-foot base. The structure is believed to be composed of Douglas fir, while the tank itself is redwood. It is apparently the only surviving structure of its kind in Wyoming.

US 20 East out of Lusk, WY
US 20 East out of Lusk, WY

After a brief stop  in Lusk it was eastward towards Nebraska, with a flyby past Van Tassell, the last town in Wyoming.

Van Tassell, WY
Van Tassell, WY – Population 15
A scene from Van Tassell, WY
A scene from Van Tassell, WY

And into Nebraska I rolled….

Sumoflam in Nebraska
Sumoflam in Nebraska
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it....
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it….

This section of US 20 is also called the “Bridges to Buttes Scenic Highway” and runs for about 200 miles across northern Nebraska. This is Nebraska in its rawest form, as the subtle and rolling sandhills transform into striking and majestic bluffs and buttes.

Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska

From the rolling hills, the scenery opens up into beautiful buttes on the approach to Crawford, Nebraska.

Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
Legend Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country

After the long drive from Casper through the prairies of eastern Wyoming, I had to make stop in Crawford, “The Garden Beyond the Sandhills.”

Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Old house in Crawford, NE
Old house in Crawford, NE

From Crawford I headed southeast on Nebraska Highway 2 towards Alliance.  This highway was a nice drive through the small town of Hemingford, Nebraska.

Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Hemingford water tower
Hemingford water tower

I loved the little police station in downtown Hemingford.  One of the smaller ones I have seen.

Hemingford Police Station
Hemingford Police Station

From Hemingford it was on to Alliance, one of my main destination goals for this trip….

Alliance, Nebraska
Alliance, Nebraska

My object in Alliance was the famed Car Art spot “Carhenge.

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Wide view of Carhenge
Wide view of Carhenge

Due to the nature of this great roadside attraction, I have actually done a full blog post on Carhenge.  You can see that HERE. So, I’ll just add one last photo below…you can see the rest on my other post.

Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

From Alliance I still had a ways to go as I continued on Nebraska Hwy 2 towards my final destination for the day, Grand Island, Nebraska.  This section of Hwy 2 is also known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey

The drive from Alliance to Grand Island was still about 272 miles so I was literally driving into the sunset over the beautiful rolling Sandhills of Nebraska. The Sandhills represent the largest remaining grassland ecosystem in the United States that is still virtually intact for both flora and fauna. It is the largest sand-dune area in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. I wish I could have taken more time to see it, but I did get to enjoy a fabulous sunset as I passed the small town of Hyannis, Nebraska.

Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska...
Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

I continued for a couple more hours on Nebraska 2 finally arriving in Grand Island about 1 AM after a drive of about 720 miles and on the road from 7 AM to 1 AM – 18 hours.  Yes, I was tired, but I was certainly happy with the wonder of the day’s journey.

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 1: Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

Danville, Illinois
Danville, Illinois

On September 9, 2013 I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter and three grand kids on a an adventure across the midwest from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska.  She wanted to visit her close friend there and needed a “tour planner and driver.”  I was free and able to make the journey.  All totaled, we spent 5 days on the road visiting spots in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.  This post covers our adventures on Day 1 as we made our way to Walcott, Iowa, home of the World’s Largest Truck Stop.


View Larger Map – Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

We left plenty early so that we could hit Indianapolis by early morning with the intent to surprise the three grand kids with a “Dinosaur Sighting”.  As we arrived in downtown Indy near the Lucas Field, I saw my first “Football” Wall Art.  There was an entire wall of a building dedicated to the Indianapolis Colts.  Here are a few shots:

Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural

A few blocks later we arrived at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Unfortunately, it was the first Monday after Labor Day, so the museum was closed.  But, our main concern was seeing the amazing dinosaurs busting out of the building.  Needless to say, the kids were thrilled!!

Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children's Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs "breaking out" of building
Dinosaurs “breaking out” of building
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!

After looking at the dinosaurs, we were walking past the building and peeking in.  The kids got all excited as there was a GIANT Transformer in the lobby.  To our total delight, one of the staff members came to the door and invited us in to see the Autobot “Bumblebee.”   This huge model was actually a prop from the original 2007 Transformers movie.

Transformer "Bumblebee" movie prop at Children's Museum
Transformer “Bumblebee” movie prop at Children’s Museum
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee

The outside of the museum also has a couple of nice bronze sculptures of kids at play and a nice “Walk through History” of some of the unique buildings of the world…

Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children's Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children’s Museum
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Sphinx and grandkids
The Sphinx and grandkids
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis

This first part of our trip was a real splash for the kids and got us on the fast lane for the remainder of the day.   From Indy we headed west to Danville, Illinois.  Danville has put in a great deal of effort to color up the town with beautiful murals and the Lindley Signpost Forest.

Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy
Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy

Danville, Illinois is a town of a bit over 33,000 people.  It is literally on the border of Inidana. The town has a colorful history and was the home to famous actors Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman.  The Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount was also born in Danville.

Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville...60's neon.
Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville…60’s neon
Royal Donut in Danville, IL.  Great prices and old fashioned goodness
Royal Donut in Danville, IL. Great prices and old fashioned goodness

Today the charming town features antique shops and other shopping, a number of historical museums and a smattering of colorful Wall Murals created by Walldogs. In August of 2010, one hundred and sixty-two Walldog artists traveled to Danville from all over the world for a four day meet (see a complete Gallery here). During that span, they forever changed and enhanced the city with sixteen murals in a 7 block area.

Tiger Head Malt Syrup
Tiger Head Malt Syrup mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Colorful mural depicting Balloon Classic
Colorful full wall mural depicting Balloon Classic
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it....
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it….

And perhaps the best one of all of them….

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke

Along with the numerous murals in town, Danville also set a park aside downtown to create the Lindley Sign Post Forest. This was created in honor of Danville resident Carl Lindley. He was a soldier who became homesick while working on the Alaska Highway in 1942. While there, Lindley erected a sign at Watson Lake in the Yukon showing how far it was to his hometown of Danville — 2835 miles. Since that time more than 40,000 signs have been added to it at Watson Lake. The Danville version of the Sign Post Forest was originally built in 2010 along with the painting of the Walldog murals.

Carl Lindley and his wife at the original Sign Post Forest in Alaska (photo from www.signpostforest.com)
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest

And following are a few more sign posts….

Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest

And a few more scenes from Danville….

The Old Fisher Theater in downtown Danville
The Old Fischer Theater in downtown Danville
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

More on Danville USA Sculpture here

Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone

We let the kids play at the AMBUCS Playground for Everyone, which has been specifically designed to accommodate not only children, but also handicapped individuals and adults.  It was actually quite unique.

Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard
Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard

From Danville, it was westward to Champaign, Illinois.  Obviously, with the kids, I had hoped to get them to the Curtis Orchard Pumpkin Farm to see the Wizard of Oz themed things and for them to “follow the yellow brick road”.  Unfortunately, only the youngest, little Lyla, was awake.

Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards

From Champaign we continued northwest on I-74 through the windfarms near Bloomington and onward into Morton, Illinois, the Pumpkin Capital of the World and home of the Libby’s Pumpkin Canning Plant.

Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
Welcome to Morton, Illinois - Pumpkin Capital of the World
Welcome to Morton, Illinois – Pumpkin Capital of the World
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days.
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days

From Morton it was up I-74 into East Peoria.  This was a very hot day (around 100 degrees) and the kids needed some cooling off.  Where better than to go to the M & M’s Twistee Treat?  This is one of those iconic Ice Cream/Hot Dog places where going there is as much fun as eating the ice cream.

Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, IL
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, IL

Though built in the 1980s, there are flashbacks to the 1960s in here and also a collection of M & M stuff….

Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat

Just down the street from the Twistee Treat is Carl’s Bakery, home of the giant Rooster with a Top Hat.

Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl's Bakery in E. Peoria
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria

From Peoria is was north to Le Claire, Iowa.  My daughter Marissa was keen on visiting Antique Archeaology, home of the American Pickers TV Show.  So, we zoomed on up the freeway.

Peoria, Illinois skyline
Peoria, Illinois skyline
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74

We arrived in LeClaire around 5 PM knowing that Antique Archaeology closed at 6 PM.  Marissa was very excited to visit.  But, lo and behold, on this, my third visit and her first, we saw the following sign when we got there….

Antique Archaeology closed for filming
Antique Archaeology closed for filming

That did not stop us from taking a few shots from the outside.  We also got a chance to meet Mike Wolfe’s brother Rob, who was on hand for the filming that day.  Danielle Colby was nowhere to be found, likely because she is running her clothing shop in Chicago.  Last year I did get a chance to visit her as well (and I have included that photo for fun).

American Pickers production staff takes a break
American Pickers production staff takes a break
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology picks
Antique Archaeology picks
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with Danielle from American Pickers (taken June 2012)
Sumoflam with Danielle Colby from American Pickers (taken June 2012)

And the best picture of all….

My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash
My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash as seen on American Pickers

Of course, LeClaire is not only known for American Pickers. It is also the birthplace of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in April 1846.  The family left LeClaire in 1853 to move to Leavenworth, Kansas.  Eventually, Buffalo Bill made his way west.  Cody, Wyoming is named after him and has a large museum (which I visited earlier this year).  We dropped by the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire for a couple of shots to round off my visit to Buffalo Bill Cody Museums in two locations!

Buffalo Bill Museum - LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa

After our brief visit to LeClaire, we were hot, tired and ready to settle down, so we headed straight to our motel in Walcott, IA, next door to the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – the World’s Largest Truck Stop.

Sunset in Walcott, IA at the World's Largest Truck Stop
Sunset in Walcott, IA at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – World’s Largest Truck Stop

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