A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The T Things #AtoZChallenge

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.

 

Talent, Oregon

Welcome to Talent, Oregon
Talent Mural
Talent Police

Tee Pee Motel – Wharton, Texas

Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Sumoflam at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX

Thoroughbred Park – Lexington, Kentucky

Thoroughbred Park, Lexington, KY
Horse and jockey racing down the track. Perhaps my favorite photo of all from Thoroughbred Park

Tightwad, Missouri

Tightwad, MO
Tightwad Bank – no longer in business, but was fun to see while there

Tornado, West Virginia

Tornado, WV
Tornado Church

Top of the World Store – Beartooth Pass – near Cody, Wyoming

Welcome to Top of the World Store on Beartooth Pass Highway north of Cody, Wyoming.
Sumoflam at Top of the World on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming

Tulum, Mexico

Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Tews Falls – Hamilton, Ontario

Tews Falls in Hamilton, Ontario
Tews Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

Trailer Park Eatery – Austin, Texas

Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
Trailer Park Eatery. Check out the Airstreams!

Teddy Rides Again – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota

Enchanted Highway Stop #6 – Teddy Rides Again
Sumoflam at Teddy Rides Again

Two Medicine Dinosaur Center – Bynum, Montana

Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana

Texas Instruments Sculpture – LSA Burger Co. – Denton, Texas

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
A section of the Texas Instruments

Three Sisters – Sisters, Oregon

Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sister’s Oregon

Toad Suck, Arkansas

Toad Suck, Arkansas
Sumoflam in Toad Suck, AR

Trillium Woods Provincial Park – Woodstock, Ontario

A walking trail at Trillium Woods Provincial Park

Torch, Ohio

Torch, Ohio

Tacoma Narrows Bridge – Tacoma, Washington

Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge
Mt. rainier as seen from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Turkey Vultures – McKee, Kentucky; Versailles, Kentucky; Taylorsville, Kentucky

Turkey Vultures guard their meal near McKee, KY
A Turkey Vulture, also called a buzzard, flying way overhead in Versailles, KY
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky

Thermopolis, Wyoming

Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis

Trail Town USA – Damascus, Virginia

Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
At the Cross Roads of the Virginia Creeper and Appalachian Trails

Ten Sleep, Wyoming

Crazy Woman Cafe in Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Ten Sleep Canyon on US 16 near Ten Sleep, WY

Thronehenge – Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden – Calvert City, Kentucky

Thronehenge in the Hillbilly Garden

Tomahawk, Wisconsin

Tomahawk, WI
Big Bull Moose in Tomahawk, WI

Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

Texan Motel neon in Raton, New Mexico

Teton Drive In – Rexburg, Idaho

The old Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

This Way and That Way – Lake Jackson, Texas

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
This Way U Turn
Plaque describing the naming of the roads This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

Taughannock Falls – Ulysses, New York

Taughannock Falls in New York

Turtle Twist Ice Cream – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Turtle Twist Ice Cream in Canonsburg, PA

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, South Dakota

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Teepee Cafe – Bonesteel, South Dakota

TeePee Cafe – Bonesteel, South Dakota

Taisekiji – Fujinomiya, Japan

One of the huge buildings of Taisekiji in Fuji-no-miya (ca. 1978)
Towering pillars of Taisekiji. Notice the little dots at the bottom…those are people. (ca. 1978)

Tower Rock State Park – Cascade, Montana

Missouri River in Tower Rock State Park
Hardy Bridge in Tower Rock State Park

Tioga, Texas

Tioga, Texas – Birthplace of Gene Autry
Tioga Heritage Museum
Rustic shopping area of Tioga, Texas

Tallman Hotel – Upper Lake, California

The Tallman Hotel
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA

Tersier (Actually called a Tarsius) – Bohol, Philippines

A Tersier on Bohol

Tunica, Mississippi

Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS

Thorncrown Chapel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Tom Sawyer’s Fence – Hannibal, Missouri

My two sons, Seth and Solomon, at Tom Sawyer’s Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001

Threadgill’s – Austin, Texas

Threadgills in Austin
Janis Joplin painting at Threadgill’s

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, NM
NM 152 near Truth or Consequences, NM

Two-Tailed Walleye – Shell Lake, Wisconsin

Two Tailed Walleye Statue in Shell Lake
Sumoflam with the Shell Lake Two-Tailed Walleye

Train Murals – Gauley Bridge, West Virginia; Ravenna, Kentucky; Glasgow, Montana

Train Mural in Gauley Bridge painted by Nancy Lane to commemorate the rich rail heritage of the town.
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
Train mural in Glasgow Montana on the side of a building

Texas Pipe Supply – Houston, Texas

Giant Armadillo – Texas Pipe Company – Houston, Texas
Big Scrap Metal Stegosaurus – Texas Pipe Company – Houston, Texas

Twin Buttes – Atomic City, Idaho

Twin Buttes near Atomic City as seen heading west to Arco, ID

Three-Legged Willie – Georgetown, Texas

Statue of Three-Legged Willie in Georgetown, TX

Totem Poles – Neah Bay, Washington; Blueberry, Wisconsin; Ketchikan, Alaska; Superior, Wisconsin

A totem pole in Neah Bay, WA
Scrap Metal totem pole outside of Blueberry, WI Antique store
Sumoflam with a Totem Pole in Ketchikan
Wooden Bear Totem Pole – Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin

Troll City – Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
Ahhh..trolls
Another Mt. Horeb Troll (or two?)
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI
Another Mt. Horeb Troll – for good measure

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.

Books 1 & 2

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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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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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