Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

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.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

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.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

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!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

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!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

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.

More Screaming Heads

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.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

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.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

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.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

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?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

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.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

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

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

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.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

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.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

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.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

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.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

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!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 4: Omaha, Council Bluffs and offbeat Central Missouri

Home of Sliced Bread - Chillicothe, Missouri
Home of Sliced Bread – Chillicothe, Missouri

After a good day of rest in Nebraska City, we were off the next morning.  My daughter was to meet her friends at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha (which by many reports is one of the Top Ten Zoos in America) and I was going to visit some places in Council Bluffs while they were all at the zoo.  I actually visited the Henry Doorly Zoo in 2012 during the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials though I didn’t write any blog posts about the visit.  So, I will include some of my photos from my visit as well as a couple of my daughter’s photos.  After my visit to Council Bluffs we were then to make our way east  into central Missouri with a planned overnight stay in Columbia. Following is a map of our adventures!


View Larger Map – Nebraska City – Omaha- Columbia, MO

The early morning drive to Omaha from Nebraska City on Interstate 29 afforded us an opportunity to enjoy a Nebraska sunrise.

Sunrise in Western Nebraska
Sunrise in Western Nebraska
Sunrise over Western Nebraska
Sunrise over Western Nebraska
Sunrise colors behind the Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City, NE
Sunrise colors behind the Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City, NE
I-29 north heading to Council Bluffs
I-29 north heading to Council Bluffs

Before we hit the zoo, we had to make sure the kids got some breakfast.  We saved up for a visit to the International Bakery in the Little Mexico part of Omaha.  This is the ultimate in Mexican Panderias….the protocol consists of picking up a tray and tong by the entrance, and look around the large interior at the myriad choices and then get what you want. Pay the cashier in cash only, but items are either 50 cents or one dollar.  Really cheap and ultra tasty.

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bolillos - to die for!!
Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bolillos – to die for!!
International Bakery - Omaha, NE
International Bakery – Omaha, NE
Mexican Cake Rolls at the International Bakery
Mexican Cake Rolls at the International Bakery
Mexican Sweets
Mexican Sweets
Shelves of Mexican pastries and breads at the International Bakery in Omaha
Shelves of Mexican pastries and breads at the International Bakery in Omaha
Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles - only 50 cents!!
Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles – only 50 cents!!

Little Mexico not only has this tongue tantalizing bakery, but there is also plenty of eye-filling goodness in the district with beautiful architecture, amazing wall murals and some interesting artwork.

Giant Wall Mural in Little Mexico district of Omaha
Giant Wall Mural in Little Mexico district of Omaha
Close up of a Tom Selleck-esque Bandito
Close up of a Tom Selleck-esque Bandito
Another Little Mexico Wall Mural in Omaha
Another Little Mexico Wall Mural in Omaha
Closeup of an Aztec shooting an arrow
Closeup of an Aztec shooting an arrow
Colorful Buildings in Little Mexico district of Omaha make you feel like you are in Mexico
Colorful Buildings in Little Mexico district of Omaha make you feel like you are in Mexico
Mexican Pottery shop in Little Mexico
Mexican Pottery shop in Little Mexico

Then there are the pieces of art and tile work in the six block area

Tile work on a fountain in Little Mexico
Tile work on a fountain in Little Mexico
Interesting Tree Sculpture in Little Mexico
Interesting Tree of Life Sculpture in Little Mexico
Closeup of the designs on the tree
Closeup of the designs on the tree

The “Tree of Life” was designed and built by RDG Dahlquist Art Studio with Iowa Metal Fabrication.  It is 36 feet tall.  The Tree is actually just the main center piece to a more comprehensive streetscape project that was finally completed in 2013.

One of the Pillars along 24th Street
One of the Pillars along 24th Street

The tree and many of the pillars light up in the evening to add color.  These have become a good drawing card in bringing people to this cultural district of Omaha.

Old Wall Advertisement in Little Mexico District
Old Wall Advertisement in Little Mexico District

After some pastries and a quick jaunt through the cultural district, it was off to the zoo. I had the opportunity  to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo back in June 2012, so I opted out of this so Marissa could enjoy her friends.  But, along with her photos, I am including some that I took last year.

Famous dome for the Desert Exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Famous dome for the Desert Exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Meep Meep - Roadrunners at the Omaha Zoo
Meep Meep – Roadrunners at the Omaha Zoo
The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo.  This one posed for me!
The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo. This one posed for me!
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo

Another great feature of this zoo is the penguins

Penguins at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha
Penguins at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha
Grand daughter Joselyn face to face with a Penguin (photo by Marissa Noe)
Grand daughter Joselyn face to face with a Penguin (photo by Marissa Noe)
A Stately Penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo
A Stately Penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Sculpture outside the Henry Doorly Zoo's aquarium exhibit
Sculpture outside the Henry Doorly Zoo’s aquarium exhibit

During their visit to the zoo, Marissa and friends made their way to the tropical rainforest exhibit.  I didn’t see this one on my visit.  Here are a couple of pix.

Rainforest bridge at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Kids cross over the Rainforest bridge at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Monkeys in the Rainforest (photo by Marissa Noe)
Monkeys in the Rainforest (photo by Marissa Noe)

The aquarium has a number of great things besides the penguins.  The Jellyfish are always amazing….

Amazing Jellyfish at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Amazing Jellyfish at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)

Just outside of the zoo were too photo-ops – a giant burger clasping King Kong (for King Kong Burgers) and an old Zesto Ice Cream sign at a closed location.  Zesto now only has three locations, all in southern Indiana, where they actually got their start.  King Kong Burger has four locations in Nebraska.  The two were kitty corner from each other at the entrance to the zoo.

Old Zesto Neon near the Omaha Zoo
Old Zesto Neon near the Omaha Zoo
King Kong Burgers in Omaha, near the Omaha Zoo
King Kong Burgers in Omaha, near the Omaha Zoo

As noted above, I didn’t visit the zoo with them, but made my way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the twin city to Omaha.  It is the county seat of Pottawattamie County (I love that County Name!!!) and is also considered the starting point for the historic Mormon Trail, which is also known as the Emigrant Trail since the Oregon Trail and the California Trail tend to follow the same route for much of the way west.

Welcome to Council Bluffs
Welcome to Council Bluffs

As is evidenced from the Welcome Sign above, Council Bluffs was and is a railroad town. With the completion of the Chicago and North Western Railway into Council Bluffs in 1867, the transcontinental railroad in 1869, and the opening of the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1872, Council Bluffs became a major railroad center. Other railroads operating in the city came to include the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, Chicago Great Western Railway, Wabash Railroad, Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.  Today there is a nice Railroad Museum and more.

Old Council Bluffs Railway Station
Old Council Bluffs Railway Station
Wide view of Council Bluffs Station
Wide view of Council Bluffs Station
Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Finally, as a tribute to the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Rail Lines which were joined together in May 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah with a Golden Spike, the town of Council Bluffs has a commemorative Golden Spike Monument, which was erected in 1939 and stands 56 feet tall.  It can be found at South 21st Street and 9th Avenue in Council Bluffs.

Golden Spike Monument - Council Bluffs, Iowa
Golden Spike Monument – Council Bluffs, Iowa
Sumoflam and the Golden Spike in Council Bluffs, IA
Sumoflam and the Golden Spike in Council Bluffs, IA

More than the railroad, the most striking aspect of Council Bluffs is its collection of outdoor modern art.  That was the drawing card for me. Driving along Interstate 29/80 from the east and towards Omaha, one gets a real glimpse of the artwork.  From a distance one can see what appears to be like 4  giant “Decepticons” from the Transformers movies.  In fact, my 4 year old grandson even said so!!  Actually, the four huge rusty works of steel, named Odyssey, are the handiwork of metal artist Albert Paley.

Odyssey by Albert Paley on 24th Street Bridge in Council Bluffs, IA
Odyssey by Albert Paley on 24th Street Bridge in Council Bluffs, IA

These huge weathering steel structures are from 46 feet tall to 60 feet tall and can be seen from a long ways away.  Each of them is unique.  These were assembled and added here in 2010.

Odyssey by Albert Paley
Odyssey by Albert Paley
Odyssey by Albert Paley, Council Bluffs, IA
Odyssey by Albert Paley, Council Bluffs, IA

The Odyssey pieces were just a small piece of a much larger set of projects carried out by the Public Art and Practice, LLC out of Indianapolis and St. Louis.  In Council Bluffs they created Master Plans for three areas – Bayliss Park, the Haymarket District and the Mid-America Center.  They also oversaw the 24th Street project (above) and the Broadway Viaduct. I made it a point to visit all of these places and got some great shots of the massive art works that were completed.

Mid-America Center Art and Sumoflam
Mid-America Center Art and Sumoflam

The Mid-America Center is right off of the 24th Street Bridge so it was my first stop.  Three different artists were commissioned for work in this Convention Center, Shopping Center and Entertainment district. The first of these was Jun Kaneko, a Nagoya, Japan born artist and now based in Omaha (since 1986). His work at the Mid-America Center is in the form of a sculpture garden and is named Rhythm (see a slide show of the entire plan here). His commissioned sculpture garden includes 21 works of art on 400 feet of patterned granite. These 21 works include 11 columnar-shaped Dangos, 5 wedge-shaped Dangos, 3 bronze heads, and 2 large ceramic walls.

Jun Kaneko's Dangos at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.
Jun Kaneko’s Dangos at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs
Jun Kaneko Bronze Heads at the Mid-American Center
Jun Kaneko Bronze Heads at the Mid-American Center

The second sculptor with works at the Mid-American Center is New York artist William King, who has three pieces at the center. His three works (Sunrise, Circus, and Interstate) are fabricated of 1″ thick plate aluminum and were installed in October 2007.

Sunrise by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs
Sunrise by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs

One of my favorites pieces from all of my travels, Sunrise memorializes the pioneers.  I like how they have let grass grow around it to give the appearance of the pioneer couple walking through the prairie. This work is 24 feet tall.

Interstate by William King at entrance to Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Interstate by William King at entrance to Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Another view of Interstate
Another view of Interstate

Interstate gives the appearance of a driver in a convertible with his hair blowing in the wind. This work is almost 16 feet tall and sits at the corner of 24th Street and Mid-American Drive adjacent to Interstate 80.

Circus by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Circus by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA

The last William King piece is called Circus and is at the West Arena Entrance. This fun piece is 23 feet tall and brings to mind the acrobats of a circus.

Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA

Jonathan Borofsky is a sculptor who currently lives in Maine, but graduated in art from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  I have actually seen two other pieces of his:

Man With Briefcase by Jonathan Borofsky - Fort Worth, Texas
Man With Briefcase by Jonathan Borofsky – Fort Worth, Texas
Walking to the Sky by Jonathan Borofsky in Pittsburgh, PA
Walking to the Sky by Jonathan Borofsky in Pittsburgh, PA

Borofsky’s Molecule Man is immense with each of the three human figures standing 50 feet tall.  The originals of this sculpture were done in Los Angeles and Berlin. Both are 100 feet tall.

Sumoflam and Molecule Man in Council Bluffs, IA
Sumoflam and Molecule Man in Council Bluffs, IA

Just outside of the Mid-America Center is another Sapp Brothers Truck Stop, the ones famous for the Coffee Pot Water Towers.  The one in Council Bluffs is a bit smaller but I was able to get closer.

Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs, IA
Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs

I left the Mid-America Center and then headed into town for a few more sites.  My first stop along the way was to take the Broadway Viaduct and see one of the most unusual pieces of bridge art I have ever seen.

Broadway Viaduct by Ed Carpenter
Broadway Viaduct by Ed Carpenter

The Broadway Viaduct was completed in October 2012 by Portland, Oregon artist Ed Carpenter.

Wellspring by Brower Hatcher in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, IA
Wellspring by Brower Hatcher in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, IA

Bayliss Park is in downtown Council Bluffs and has been a focal point of the downtown Council Bluffs area since the mid-1800’s Since a renovation in 2007, the park is now filled with unique art, much of which was done by Providence , Rhode Island artist Brower Hatcher. The centerpiece of the park is the amazing Wellspring water fountain. It is not only unique during the day, but has LED lights at night for amazing color shows.

Oculus by Broward Hatcher, at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs
Oculus by Broward Hatcher, at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs

Oculus provides entertainment opportunities for the community such as large swing band concerts, and local ballet and theatre performances.

Black Squirrels in Bayliss Park
Black Squirrels in Bayliss Park

Broward Hatcher also designed six black squirrels which are “touchable art”.  The children’s interactive water area includes the six cast black squirrels (in bronze) standing nearly 30″ tall. Integral to the design is a water feature that turns on when activated by children.

Black Squirrel in Bayliss Park
Black Squirrel in Bayliss Park
Sumoflam and Squirrel
Sumoflam and Squirrel

To the side of Bayliss Park is a nice Veteran’s Plaza with a wall that includes the names of all residents who gave their lives to war.  Some unique statues are there, including one of a couple looking at the wall.

Veteran's Plaza in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran’s Plaza in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran's Plaza - Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran’s Plaza – Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs

Just a couple of blocks from Bayliss Park is the Haymarket Square District of Council Bluffs. This is a historical shopping district with unique shops, antique stores and old storefronts. Like other parts of Council Bluffs, it has had some unique artwork installed in recent years.

Haymarket District Sign - Council Bluffs
Haymarket District Sign – Council Bluffs
Haymarket District Storefronts - COuncil Bluffs
Haymarket District Storefronts – Council Bluffs

The artwork of Omaha artist Deborah Masuoka has been placed in Haymarket. Masuoka is most recognized for her large-scale “Rabbit Head” sculptures, which are painted in stone-like colors such as cobalt blue, green, rust, burnt orange and yellow. These sculptures can weigh as much as 1200 pounds and are over seven feet in height. Three of these sculptures adorn the island flower beds of the district.

Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Head - Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head – Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head - Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head – Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs

Just a couple more blocks away from Haymarket Square is the Council Bluffs Library.  This site also has a couple of unique pieces of artwork.  The most unique is the stack of books called Imagination Takes Flight by Omaha artist Matthew Placzek.

Imagination Takes Flight - Matthew Placzek in front of Council Bluffs Public Library
Imagination Takes Flight – Matthew Placzek in front of Council Bluffs Public Library
Sumoflam at Imagination Takes Flight
Sumoflam at Imagination Takes Flight
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library

Council Bluffs is truly a wonderful, clean town to visit and see some of the great artwork.  I am glad I had the opportunity to do so.  But, I had to head back to Omaha to get the kids so that we could head east to Missouri.  Along the way in to the zoo I ran across some slick Wall Art….

Urban Wall Art in Omaha
Urban Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha

We finally got away from the zoo and commenced to head east to Council Bluffs and then south on I-29. Along the way we passed the Sapp Brothers BIG Coffee Pot Water tower….

Sapp's Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City
Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City

And we also passed the small town of Hamburg, Iowa.  I wanted to stop, but we didn’t have time. On a previous trip I did drive into town just to get a photo of this place.  Since I have not included it in a blog in the past, I’ll add it here…

Welcome to Hamburg, Iowa
Welcome to Hamburg, Iowa
Stoner Drug - Hamburg, Iowa - what a name for a drug store
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa – what a name for a drug store

The drive down I-29 soon had us into the far northwestern corner of Missouri and through some scenic countryside, even for an interstate!!

South on I-29 past cornfields and farmland of NW Missouri
South on I-29 past cornfields and farmland of NW Missouri

After a fairly long drive we were at our next destination – Chillicothe, Missouri.  I wanted to stop here specifically for this….

Chillicothe, Missouri - The Home of Sliced Bread
Chillicothe, Missouri – The Home of Sliced Bread – by Kelly Poling

Yes, Chillicothe is officially the “Home of Sliced Bread” and they are proud of it. They even have a page dedicated to the making of the above mural.  It is HERE. And there is also a page with a pictorial history.  Basically, the story goes that sliced bread was first offered for sale in Chillicothe in 1928. A product of the Chillicothe Baking Company, it was sliced on a Rohwedder Bread Slicer which was invented by Iowa inventor Otto Rohwedder. The owner of the bakery, Frank Bench, became the first commercial baker to slice bread mechanically.  Though I thought this would be the best thing since sliced bread, I was doubly happy to discover that there are many other murals in Chillicothe.  As a “collector” of murals, this was a blast.

Old Chillicothe Train Station Mural
Going Somewhere – by Kelly Poling This is a reproduction of the old Milwaukee Train Depot

Chillicothe mural artist Kelly Poling is responsible for painting at least 17 of the more than 20 larger than life murals in Chillicothe.  Here are a few more of the paintings we discovered while driving around the town.  See more details about the murals HERE.

Chillicothe Business College mural by Kelly Poling
Chillicothe Business College mural by Kelly Poling
Chillicothe Business College as seen with building
Chillicothe Business College as seen with building
Locust Street View - Kelly Poling
Locust Street View – Kelly Poling
The Wave in Chillicothe
The Wave in Chillicothe
Milbank Mills - Kelly Poling
Milbank Mills – Kelly Poling
Portion of Window in Time
Portion of Window in Time
Part of Window in Time -Glove Capital of the World
Part of Window in Time -Glove Capital of the World

Apparently, the Midwest Glove Company was moved from Milwaukee to Chillicothe in 1962.  By the 1970s there were three glove factories in Chillicothe, and it got the name of the Glove Capital of the World.

Silver Moon Plaza in Chillicothe, MO
Silver Moon Plaza in Chillicothe, MO

Silver Moon Plaza is a small park in downtown Chillicothe.  We stopped here to let the kids run around.  It was a wonderfully pleasant day and the kids needed the break.  I did some research about the park and the entry gate, which in and of itself is a unique piece of art. The park was begun in 2007 as part of a revitalization program called DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri). The town worked with PGAV Planners, an Urban Planning and Development Company out of St. Louis to work on this project. The focal point is an ornamental metalwork composition depicting local crops: corn, soybeans and wheat. An abstracted lunar cycle icon completes the arrangement and adds a sense of whimsy to the plaza.

Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Old First National Bank Building in Chillicothe
Old First National Bank Building in Chillicothe
Mural in Chillicothe
Mural in Chillicothe
Railroad Boom mural in Chillicothe
Railroad Boom mural in Chillicothe

After our brief stop n Chillicothe, we had two more stops along the way.  The first was to book it to a place just north of Centralia to see something I really wanted to see.  My plan was to visit Larry Vennard’s Metal Sculpture Park, which is actually in Wilson, MO on County Hwy T a bit north of Centralia. So,  we headed east on US Hwy 35 towards Macon, south though Moberly on US 63 and then east on MO Hwy 22 near Sturgeon, MO.  From there we eventually made our way to Larry’s Place.

US Highway 35 East
US Highway 35 East
Rural Scene in Central Missouri
Rural Scene in Central Missouri
Sunset near Centralia, Missouri
Sunset near Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard is one of those quiet types who loves what he does and loves seeing his work’s impact on others.  In the same breath as Jurustic Park in Wisconsin, the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose and a few others around the statesm Larry Vennard’s scrapa metal art would certainly need to be included.  Recently I posted Yard Art: Creativity with Scrap Metal, Chain Saw Art and “stuff” collections about a number of these from around the US and Canada.  I had not yet been to Larry’s and his most certainly fits in.  As such, I am doing a dual post this time with a separate post on Larry Vennard and only a couple of photos here to finish off this post.  See my complete Post HERE.

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard's Highway "T" Rex near Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway ‘T’ Rex near Centralia, MO

After our visit with Larry we were off to our overnight stay in Columbia, MO and planned on the last leg of the trip back to Kentucky…

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Sumoflam’s Guide to Planning an Offbeat Road Trip




Learn How to Get there
Learn How to Get There

I love to travel the back roads of America. I also love to see Offbeat Attractions. Of course, I must drop by those strange named towns (see photo above). But, I also want to visit historical sites, National Parks, scenic locations, covered bridges and more that may be along the way. So, in this post I will lay out the “Sumoflam Guide” and the process I go about in planning almost all of my trips. Hopefully, you as the readers will be able to glean some helpful information in your plans and do as I do…..ENJOY THE RIDE!

WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO?

Where Are We Going? (This sign in Millersburg, Ohio)
Where Are We Going? (This is in Millersburg, Ohio)

For the purpose of this particular guide, I am going to create a sample trip from St. Louis to Kansas City and back. My approach to this trip will begin at the St. Louis Arch and end up back there with very little back tracking along the way. Further, for simplicity, I will plan this as a four day round trip.

THE PLANNING “TOOLS”

Know Your Directions (Florence, Oregon)
Know Your Directions (Florence, Oregon)

Before I ever take off on a trip, I first get out the “tools” of the trade and begin mapping out a course.

  • First and foremost I go to Google Maps. This helps me see the general course I will be taking. It will allow me to hone in on probable routes, preferably off of the Interstates and perhaps even on county roads, if time allows. Obviously, my goal is NOT to take the fastest or most direct route, but to take the one that provides me the greatest mix of places to visit, sites to see and photographs to take.
  • After determining probable routes, I then go to my handy-dandy OFFBEAT ATTRACTION site – Roadside America – for the ultimate guide to the best offbeat attractions in my route area. I will provide details on this later on below.
  • There are a number of other reference sites I may visit depending on the routes and locations. I will list a number of my favorites later in this post. They include websites that cover the quirky, the offbeat, the giant/big things, National Parks and Monuments, historic sites, etc.
  • Finally, since there will likely be hotel stays along the way, I typically go to my favorite site for hotels, which is Choice Hotels. Since I am a “Choice Privileges” member, I gain points and free nights by staying in their hotel brands whenever possible. But, there are many other sites out there, so choose your favorites.
  • After mapping things out, I glean information about towns from Google and Bing. I may do a search on a town or an offbeat site to get more information, look at images, etc.
  • For many towns I may also do a search in Wikipedia. This is a great source of detailed information
  • Finally, after searching through all of those, I find my way to the numerous town websites, tourist sites, chamber of commerce sites, etc.

Isn’t the World Wide Web Wonderful?

MAPPING OUT THE ROUTE

ROAD TRIP!
ROAD TRIP!

Google Maps is an amazing tool and it is also fun. With their Street View program you can practically take a virtual trip to anywhere — from the comfort of your home. Of course, there is really nothing like being there in person.

Google now has a new version of Google Maps, which has some nice features. But, I prefer the Classic Maps version chiefly because I can include multiple destinations. Returning to the sample trip from St. Louis to Kansas City, this is what the initial search would give me on Google Maps:

GoogleMap1
New Google Maps – St. Louis to Kansas City

On the map above you can see that I mapped a trip from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. It provided me with two driving routes — one direct down the Interstate and another quite a bit out of the way (if you are wanting a direct route). However, if I wanted to map an intermediate destination, I would not be able to include it and also include Kansas City. So, I will use the “Classic Maps” version by going to the settings in the upper right corner and select Classic Maps.

Switch to Classic Maps
Switch to Classic Maps

The best part of the Classic Maps view is the multiple destination selection option. With this option you can select up to 25 locations for Google to map out and create a route.

Multiple Destination Selector
Multiple Destination Selector

Following is what I used to create the ROAD TRIP! shot above:

Multiple Destination Options
Multiple Destination Options

After selecting the main destinations – in this case, St. Louis to Kansas City, it is time to dig deeper and find those offbeat attractions and other places of interest and then plug them into Google Maps.

NOW THE FUN BEGINS – FINDING THE PLACES ON THE ROAD

RABannerThe guys at Roadside America are phenomenal. They offer maps, directions and tourist attraction details as a convenience to their users. As they say it on their website – “RoadsideAmerica.com is a caramel-coated-nutbag-full of odd and hilarious travel destinations — over 10,000 places in the USA and Canada — ready for exploration.” I should note that any content from Roadside America used on my site is done so with the written permission of Roadside America. The wonderful thing about their site is that they take hundreds of user submitted photos and details and include them on the site. It is THE Honey Hole of Offbeat Travel!! If you have never visited them, check out their About Page and learn all about the great work that Doug, Ken and Mike have compiled over the years.

Roadside America Maps
Roadside America Maps

The next step in a fine back road trip is finding the unique places. The first stop should ALWAYS be Roadside America. Once on their site, click on the “Maps” link as shown above. You will get to the Roadside America Maps Page as shown below.

Roadside America Map Page
Roadside America Map Page

Since we are doing a Missouri Trip, you would click on the Missouri part of the Map (or select the state on the left hand list). This will bring up the Roadside America Missouri Page.

Roadside America Missouri page
Roadside America Missouri page

On each state page there is a ton of information….best sites, oddities, etc. There is also a small link to the Missouri Offbeat Attractions Map. Click that link and you will get the map below:

Roadside America Missouri Attractions Map
Roadside America Missouri Attractions Map

Each red pin on the map represents a unique site which you can refer to in conjunction with you Google Map trip plan. There is also an alphabetic list (based on town name) on the left side of the map. For convenience, I have circled the area from St. Louis to Kansas City to provide an idea of how many attractions there are. Bear in mind that these are predominantly the Offbeat Attractions and may not include historical museums and sites, national and state parks, scenic locations, etc.

Roadside America Map of downtown St. Louis
Roadside America Map of downtown St. Louis

When you open a state map, you can mouse over a section and double-click and the map will zoom in (it uses Google Maps technology). this will provide you with a closeup view of the area and the related pins. Click on a pin and it will pop up the Offbeat Attraction for that pin. Each attraction also has a “More” link, which, when clicked, will open up the page with details on that specific attraction. There are over 10,000 of these pages on the Roadside America site.

A typical Roadside America Attraction Page
A typical Roadside America Attraction Page

By viewing the attractions page you can find out where it is, see photos of the site, get other visitor’s comments and also see a site rating to let you know if it is “Well Worth the Visit” or just a site that may be of interest.

Roadside America iPhone app
Roadside America       iPhone app

And, while on the road, you can use the amazing Roadside America app for your iPhone.  It even has a GPS locator and will tell you the sites closest to your location on the road.  A must have for the back roads offbeat traveler!!

HONING DOWN THE ADVENTURE

Which Way Do I Go?
Which Way Do I Go?

Since the St. Louis to Kansas City trip will be a four day round trip, I typically will create a more detailed plan for each day. Since I can get actual addresses of sites along the way from Roadside America, Google and other sites, I can actually plug those into the Google Map directory. So, I will add the numerous sites from day one…initially with the sites from Roadside America. Then I will take my next step, based on those sites, and see if there are other sites of interest along the way, such as scenic views, state or National Parks, etc.

Sample Trip Day 1
Sample Trip Day 1

While adding these sites, I also create a document with the names of the places in their order. You can see from the map above that a number of places were selected in the St. Louis area. All of the locations on this map are just from Roadside America. Since Chillicothe will be the end point for the day, I will then fill in the blanks for other interesting sites along the way… As I look at the route, the following towns pop up along the way… St. Charles, St. Peters, Wentzville, Foristell, Wright City, Warrenton, Jonesburg, High Hill, New Florence, Danville, Williamsburg…and many more. I also notice that for a good part of the way I can go down Old U.S. 40 (called Booneslick Rd along part of the way and Old US 40 as well.) To me, this would be my option rather than the interstate, though, at many points it may parallel the interstate. When I hit Danville, it veers away onto some county roads, but returns to Old US 40 in Williamsburg. I will follow these roads until I hit US 54 which heads north at Kingdom City (which is an interesting place to visit by the way!!)

Kingdom City Water Tower
Kingdom City Water Tower

US 54 heads north to Mexico, Missouri, but veers off just south and turns into Missouri 22 before it goes into Mexico.  So, basically, all towns along that route are game for my search for interesting places.

GETTING TOWN INFORMATION

Mexico, Missouri
Mexico, Missouri

Perhaps one of my more unique methods of finding interesting places on the route is by using Google Maps, Google Search, Google Images, Wikipedia and miscellaneous town websites in combination.  It is almost like taking a virtual trip before I ever get on the road.  And I typically plan to hit more spots than I am actually able, but it really provides for some flexibility and it is fun.  Part of the reason for the flexibility is that you never know what you will see along the way that was unplanned.

Google Images for Mexico, Missouri
Google Images for Mexico, Missouri

Since it is halfway on the route, I randomly selected Mexico, Missouri to provide an example of how I go about finding places.  I have never been to Mexico and so, as I write this, I have no idea if there is anything of interest in this small central Missouri town.  My first step is a Google Search and then I switch over to images, some of which are above.  I didn’t really see anything that struck me there, so I went back to Google and found a website for Mexico, Missouri.  When I hit that page I immediately discovered that there is a Statue of Liberty in downtown Mexico (see photo below).

Mexico Web Page
Mexico Web Page

There are a few Statues of Liberty dotting the U.S. and it is always fun to capture them.  Since Mexico is on the route, this is a definite stop for a photo.  On further study of the Mexico website I also learn that it is the “Firebrick Capital of the World,” and that this industry has kept the town alive.  They have a Firebrick Museum with memorabilia and other items, as well as a Firebrick walk in the front.  This too could be of interest.  Being from Lexington, KY, the “Horse Capital of the World”, I also find it interesting that one of the few Horse Museums outside of the Kentucky Horse Park is located in Mexico.  It is the American Saddlebred Horse Museum and is the oldest Saddlebred Horse Museum in the nation.  This information alone would warrant a stop in Mexico as we pass by on our roundabout trip to Kansas City.

Centralia Triceratops
Centralia Triceratops

Of course, we were going through Mexico because of one of the sites we selected from Roadside America.  In this case, it is Larry Vennard’s Outside Sculpture Park of dinosaurs and other critters.  Those of you that follow my blogs know I have visited others like this in Canada, Washington and then, of course, the famous Jurustic Park in Wisconsin. (See an entire post dedicated to “Yard Art”).  This is certainly one of my passions out on the road….seeing these.  So, on this trip, I will be stopping here!!  Then, continuing west towards Salisbury, MO, there are the Scrap Metal Grasshoppers.  This too is a likely stop along the way.

Locust Creek Covered Bridge, Missouri
Locust Creek Covered Bridge, Missouri

I also have a fascination with Covered Bridges.  I have seen dozens of these old monuments to bridge building history, so a stop at the Locust Creek Covered Bridge State Park naturally is on the agenda before I finally hit Chillicothe, Missouri for an overnight stay.  By the way, Chillicothe is the “Home of Sliced Bread.”

Of course, I also explore interesting places to eat and scenic drives…and the list goes on and on.  Hopefully, this provides a piece of my mind and thought process as I plan my road trips.  The planning is almost as fun as the trip itself!!

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