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.
Dinosaur National Monument – Vernal, Utah
Dolphin Swimming in the Atlantic – Ocean City, Maryland
Deer Photos – Shenandoah National Park, VA; Mt. Rainier National Park, WA; Lewistown, Montana
Duck Commander, home of Duck Dynasty – West Monroe, Louisiana
Delaware Seashore Bridge – Sussex County, Delaware
DFW Elite Toy Museum – Haltom City, Texas
Dragon Murals – Oak Creek, Colorado & Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Discovery Bay, Washington
Texas Country Restaurant – Dundas, Ontario
Dutch Letters at Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers – LeClaire, Iowa
Big Spider – Denver, North Carolina
Dean Martin Mural – Steubenville, Ohio
Disaster Memorial Statue – Galveston, Texas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas
Deer Crossing on Enchanted Highway – near Regent, North Dakota
Dave Thomas Statue – Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
Duck Lake, Montana
Watertower in the middle of the road – Dallas, South Dakota
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.
My wife and I took a quick whirlwind trip to Palmyra, New York this past weekend (July 19-21, 2013) to attend the spectacular Hill Cumorah Pageant, which is presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Naturally, along the way we made a few stops. The three day trip was a lot of driving and a lot of fun. Following is a map of the trip.
The first part of the drive was straight up through Cincinnati and Columbus with just a small gas stop in Grove City, Ohio. I have traveled these roads so often, I think I have run out of places to see. (Actually, I am sure there are a number of smaller roads I could still do!!). We stopped overnight in the Akron, with a quick stop in Green, Ohio to have dinner at Menches Brothers, the Inventors of the Hamburger and the Ice Cream Cone.
According to Menches Brothers history, “History recorded that Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork for their sausage patty sandwiches at the 1885 Erie County Fair. Their supplier, reluctant to butcher more hogs in the summer heat, suggested they use beef instead. The brothers fried some up, but found it bland. They added coffee, brown sugar, and other ingredients to create a taste that stands distinct without condiments. They christened this sandwich the “hamburger” after Hamburg, New York, where the fair was being held. At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Frank and Charles baked waffles in Parisian waffle irons and topped them with ice cream. They then had an idea to wrap the warm waffle around a fid, a cone-shaped splicing tool for tent ropes. The waffle cooled and held its shape to provide an edible handle for eating ice cream. Returning home to Akron, the Menches began production of “premium” cones at their Premium Popcorn Works factory.” Menches currently has 50 different varieties of burgers on their menu.
Interestingly, neither my wife or me tried their hamburgers, which still use the original recipe. I tried their Perogie Pizza, which is also fairly famous. It is a pizza made with garlic mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and bacon. And really yummy!
As for the actual inventor of the hamburger — I have been to Seymour, Wisconsin where Charlie Nagreen claims to have invented the hamburger (see my original post about this). Further, Wikipedia has a great entry about the various claims (see Wikipedia article). Ironically, both the Menches and Nagreen make their claims ca. 1885. One thing is for sure, there was nobody with the name of McDonald that has a claim on the first hamburger!!
After a good night’s rest we were on the road eastward. Our firs stop was in Sharon, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour east of the Akron area and just over the border from Ohio. Sharon is the home of Daffin’s Candies, which claims to be the “World’s Largest Candy Store.” It is also home to the “Chocolate Kingdom.”
The 20,000 square foot store is chock full of every candy imaginable, including a huge variety of chocolates. I saw some candies I hadn’t seen in years.
The original candy store was started in 1903 by George Daffin in Woodsfield, Ohio. After a couple more moves over the years, the store made its way into downtown Sharon, Ohio in 1947. It was also the factory for making the chocolates at that time. They eventually got so busy they had to move. Besides the store, they now also have a 30,000 square foot factory.
For me, the drawing card to Daffin’s was not necessarily the size of the store, but rather the unique “Chocolate Kingdom” housed in the back of the store as it fits the whimsy and quirky characteristics of places of I like to visit. The Chocolate Kingdom includes large chocolate animals and two large castles, and an entire miniature village with chocolate houses and railroads. The big drawing cards are a 400-pound chocolate turtle, a 125-pound chocolate reindeer and 75-pound chocolate frog, not to mention a few other animals. There are also chocolate castles, a train, a village, and a Ferris Wheel.
After picking up a few pieces of chocolate, we were on the road again. While in Sharon I saw a unique building with some cool lamps. Also saw a nice wooden sculpture across the street from Daffin’s.
The Buhl Mansion is considered one of America’s Top 10 Most Romantic Inns and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by noted Youngstown architect Charles Owsley (1846–1935) and built in 1891. It is a 2 1/2-story, ashlar sandstone residence with Richardsonian Romanesque style features. It features round arches, steep gable wall dormers, an inset porch with heavy arches, stone finials, and several turrets with copper capped spires.
From Sharon we headed east on US 62 through Hermitage and Mercer to I-79 and then headed north. This is a very scenic stretch of interstate as it goes through the beautiful hills of the Allegheny Plateau with the offering of plenty of rural scenery. We proceeded north until we got to the Meadville exit (147A) so we could stop and see an assemblage of artwork on the roadside….all made from road signs.
Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). 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 (photos below).
Under the direction of Professor Geffen, art apprentices worked in collaboration with PennDOT welders, road crew and heavy equipment operators to create a sculptural garden that speaks of our human impact on the planet. Twelve enormous (10′-12′ high) road sign flowers and rolling mounds echo natural forms.
Just a couple of blocks away is the Read Between the Signs work. This work is a 1,200’ x 9’ sculptural relief constructed from reclaimed road signs that is located at the gateway into Meadville. This is really quite amazing work considering the media used to make it. (Some of the photos below were taken during a trip through here in 2011 – thus the snow…)
After the little “Sign Break” in Meadville, we were back on the road to New York. We made it to I-90 and zipped on past Erie and Buffalo with an occasional nice view of Lake Erie to the north of us. By 3 PM we were a bit hungry so we took the Pembroke Exit off of the Toll Road to find somewhere to eat.
From Kutter’s we drove down the road to the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant, also in Corfu. This rustic little restaurant/bar is built along the Indian Falls of Tonawanda Creek, which flow over the Onondaga Escarpment. Though not huge, the falls are certainly scenic. The falls are a curtain falls with a height of about 20 feet and a crest width of roughly 100 feet.
The restaurant has a nice room with open windows that overlooks the falls. We enjoyed our lunch with the sounds of rushing water and a great view. In fact, the best view of the falls is from this little restaurant.
We did have a nice lunch by the way… Their Sweet Potato Fries are sweetened and then come with a nice cinnamon sugar butter dipping sauce.
After lunch we continued east to Palmyra, New York and the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. We arrived around 6:30 PM. The Pageant would not start until around 9:15 PM, so we hung around, relaxed, and I took pictures of what was going on.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant began in the early 1920’s when a small group of missionaries from New York City gathered for the Cumorah Conference at the Joseph Smith Farm in Palmyra to celebrate Pioneer Day, the day when Brigham Young first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. In July of 1934, the conference was moved from the Farm to the Hill Cumorah, the large hill behind the visitor’s center. Today the Pageant, with its incredible staging, lighting, special effects and colorful costuming is still carefully designed to keep its message about Jesus Christ both simple and pure. I actually plan on writing a more complete post about the Pageant with many photos soon. (Link will be here when completed)
The performance was a grand spectacle and very moving. I have been to other LDS Church Pageants (in Mesa, AZ; Manti, UT and Nauvoo, IL), but this one was perhaps the most amazing of all of them with fires, mists, volcanoes and storms all on the stage.
After the pageant we headed back towards Buffalo, New York for an overnight stay in Williamsville, NY. Though over an hour away, it was the closest place to find a reasonably priced motel. The pageant draws visitors from all over the U.S. and hotels are filled a year in advance or more.
The small village of Williamsville is replete with numerous bronze works of art thanks in great part to the hotel and restaurant entrepreneur Russell J. Salvatore, the owner of a number of places in the area (along with his family).
Perhaps the most unique of all of the pieces in the area is the Lunchtime on aSkyscrapersculpture by Sergio Furnari, which is based on a popular photograph taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932. An Italian sculptor, Furnari owned a mobile tourist attraction which he took around New York and which he created himself. Sergio made his living driving it around New York and selling souvenir versions of the statue to people. Russ Salvatore offered to buy it from him and eventually purchased it for $50,000 and then paid to have it moved to the front of his Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville.
Once the ten-ton crane positioned the sculpture, Russ then hired local mural artist Tim Martin to create a mural of New York City below the men. The hand-painted billboard makes the statue look authentic, as if they are truly eating lunch 38 stories up in the sky.
There are a couple of other unique sculptures
After breakfast we were on our way home again. I always like to take a different route whenever possible, but we also had our schedule to consider. Nonetheless, we dropped south towards Jamestown, NY. We went west on I-90 until the Fredonia exit and then south on NY Hwy 60 towards Jamestown.
Along the way we drove through the small town of Gerry, NY. I had to stop for a photo as one of my good friends in Lexington is named Gerry. Took this in his honor!! (Hope you are reading Gerry!)
Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball. There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town. We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities (The Lucy Desi Museum and the Desilu Studios) from the outside.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to see her grave marker in the cemetery. I did get a shot of a huge mural however… The mural was done by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr. and completed in October 2012.
From Jamestown we headed west on Interstate 86, also known as the “Southern Tier Expressway.” This used to be US Rte 17, but, as of 2013, much of this has been converted to interstate. The section we were on goes all the way to Lake Erie and is a very scenic drive. We eventually hit I-90 in Erie, PA and then headed south to I-79, which we followed towards Pittsburgh. Along the way we were stuck in a huge traffic jam due to road construction near Moraine State Park (Exit 99) in Pennsylvania. It did allow me time to get some wildflower photos from the car….
The rural scenery is also wonderful on I-79 as it rolls through the Allegheny Plateau.
We eventually got off at Exit 88. I wanted to visit the town of Zelienople, chiefly because I had not been to a town that started with the letter Z (as far as I could recall – turns out I had been to Zanesville, Ohio in the past and we passed through Zanesville all on our way back on this trip too!! – 2 Z Towns in one day). Taking the road to Zelienople, we passed a turn to Harmony, Pennsylvania. Seemed to me that our church founder Joseph Smith had spent time in Harmony, so we decided to drop in. As we looked at the historic buildings we saw nothing there about our church. So, we Googled it and found out that the “old” Harmony, PA is now called Oakland (in NE Pennsylvania). Nonetheless, THIS Harmony was a quaint little town and was worth the visit anyway. Zelienople and Harmony actually share a Chamber of Commerce and are practically one in the same place. The towns are located in the Connoquenessing Valley.
Harmony is on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was settled by a German religious group known as Pietists, who broke off from the Lutherans and came to America in 1804. The first group of settlers arrived in Harmony in November 1804 and erected nine log cabins. They also laid out the town with three streets running north and south with three streets running east and west with a large diamond in the center. (More History here)
From Harmony we returned to I-79 and continued south and then west on US 22 towards Steubenville, OH, crossing a narrow strip of West Virginia. There is about a 5 mile section of West Virginia’s panhandle that is squeezed between Pennsylvania and Ohio. We stopped in Weirton, WV for lunch) through However, it is actually not the narrowest neck of land in the U.S. My research shows that the panhandle of Maryland’s mountainous western area is a geographic anomaly, a 1-mile-wide strip between Pennsylvania and West Virginia (near Cumberland). As for Weirton, WV, it too has some geographic significance. The town extends from the Ohio border on the west to the Pennsylvania border on the east. This makes it the only city in the United States that borders two other states on two sides, and its own state on the other two sides.
My main reason for the stop in Steubenville was to get a photo of the huge Dean Martin mural. I had been to Steubenville (also known as the “City of Murals“) once before (in 2008) and had many of the murals (see the full post here). But the Dean Martin mural eluded me (I had added a photo to my post that I found elsewhere). This time I did find it…
Dean Martin was originally born Dean Crocetti and is Steubenville’s most celebrated citizen. They have a Dino Festival in town every June. The Mural below was painted in 1998 by Robert Dever.
From Steubenville we followed the scenic drive along the Ohio River, passing through Brilliant, Ohio… (love the name).
From Brilliant we continued south through Columbus and on to Lexington. What a whirlwind trip!!
March 28, 2013: On our way back to Kentucky from Rexburg, Idaho we made a three day detour to Shelby, Montana to visit our daughter and her husband and their 4 children. Thanks to our new best trailer tires we were able to go on rough roads quite smoothly, and I have to say till date they have been my best investment on the RV. During our three days here, we were very busy with a trip to the base of Glacier National Park, a drive around town capturing the “Neon Essence” of Shelby, and a trip north to Sweetgrass, just south of the Canadian border, where we also visited a Hutterite colony and learned of their amazing communal ways. This post will cover these activities through photos and some details.
Shelby is a city of about 3400 people (including 6 of my children/grandchildren!!). It was started as a railroad town and continues as such today. Named after Peter O. Shelby of the Montana Central Railway, the town really got its start in 1891 when the Great Northern Railroad was making its way to the Marias Pass. The story goes that the builders threw a box car from the train and called it a station.
One of the endearing characters of Shelby is all of the old neon signs still hanging around the town. Obviously, as an Amtrak town, there are still lots of motels in Shelby. As well, it is a nice pit stop for many.
There are lots of bars and restaurants as well…
On a previous trip I took the kids to see a movie at the Roxy. Old style theater still in operation. It was fun.
Here are a few other scenes from around the town itself…
Vietnam War Veteran John Alstad of Sunburst created most of the pieces at the Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby. He estimates he spent nearly 700 hours working on the various pieces at the monument, the most prominent of which is the Iwo Jima piece.
As I noted, Shelby is a railroad town. As I drove around town getting the shots above, we were stuck at a track for nearly 20 minutes as a long train made its way to a grain elevator. The photo at the top shows the train at the elevator.
I have always enjoyed looking at the graffiti on trains. You see it all over the country. Here are a few examples I got as the train moved slowly past us. I couldn’t go anywhere, so, why not?
After the trains, I drive a bit east of town on US 2 to get a view of Shelby from the hill. We came across this unique Historical Marker.
One of the evenings Julianne and I went with my daughter and her husband to the “premier” steak place in the Shelby area. Trust me, you would never know how good this place was inside by driving by it!! It is in an old whitewashed building literally in the middle of nowhere in a place called Dunkirk, on the outskirts of Shelby. All that is indicated is the sign.
Once in the place, it is a whole different story. Linen napkins and nice china. The water glasses were the nice stem ware one sees in an upscale restaurant. The prices are also synonymous with ritzy… But so was the meal.
After a nice dinner, we walked out of the restaurant and OH WHAT A VIEW!!
The next day my son in law Aaron, his two boys and I all took off west towards Glacier National Park. Though it was officially closed, we were able to get close enough to the mountains to catch a beautiful sunrise. I will have a special photo album of shots of the mountains, but will include a couple of them here as well.
We left early, while still dark and headed towards Cut Bank and Browning. We then took Hwy 464 towards Duck Lake. As we headed north towards Babb, the sun began to rise.
After the sun was finally up, we backtracked to Babb and dropped in at the Leaning Tree Cafe, which is about a mile from the US 89 Junction. It opened at 8 AM and it was time for a great meal.
You can see a complete gallery of the Glacier N.P. Mountains –> Click Here
We headed back towards Browning, and along the way saw a couple of bison. Not too good of shots, but, I didn’t want to get out of the car
We made our way into Browning, Montana. The mountains were beautiful, but I was actually quite shocked at all of the garbage in the fields (mind you, I come from Lexington, KY which always looks like a park)
From Browning we headed east again towards Cut Bank, we took a small detour off of US Hwy 2 to visit the Camp Disappointment historic site and monument near milepost 233. There is a historical marker as well as a large obelisk monument dedicated to the site.
The biggest disappointment is all of the graffiti on the obelisk. I don’t know why people feel like they need to vandalize monuments like this.
From Camp Disappointment we continued east into Cut Bank. The skies were clear blue and it was a great opportunity to stop and get some close up shots of the Blackfoot Warriors, made out of scrap metal. These were created by native Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber and were commissioned by the Blackfeet Tribal Leaders. They were created in 2000. He actually created a set of these to welcome travelers into the Blackfeet reservation from all four directions — the northern site is at the US/Canadian border on US 89, the eastern site in East Glacier on US Hwy 2, the western site is near Cut Bank on US Hwy 2 (these are below), and the southern site is on US 89 near Birch Creek and Heart Butte.
From the warriors we went through town and made the requisite stop at the world’s largest penguin!
Being another train town, there is a large Train Bridge in Cutbank
Even though we had a busy morning and got into Shelby around noon, we were then again back on the road north towards Sweetgrass and off to visit a Hutterite colony, which was an amazing experience.
From Sweetgrass we headed west on a dirt road towards the Hillside Colony of the Hutterites. AS we visited we learned some amazing things: the Hutterites are almost totally communal. All of them share everything. Unlike the Amish, the Hutterites have adopted technology and are fabulously industrious. They make their own clothes, they grow most of their own food, they all live in a small community. Their homes are sparse. It should be noted that I took a number of photos, with their permission, but, by their request, very few and only select photos are being added below.
We saw the above rock formations on the way to Hillside. However, these were just an inkling of the bigger ones, which I have visited in the past.
As seen above, the Hutterites in Hillside Colony live in the prefab buildings as seen above. The apartments are small and have little or no belongings in them. Each of the steps represent a single domicile.
One thing noticed immediately, there are no stoves, ovens or refrigerators in the homes. They have a couple of chairs, perhaps a bench, a bed or two and some dressers. The bed frames, dressers, kitchen tables, the cup holder above and the chairs are all hand made in the community.
All meals are eaten together as a community — men on one side, women on the other. The women prepare the meals while the men work out on the farms, the chicken coops, the woodworking section, or otherwise.
Overall, we were so impressed about the kindness of the Hutterite folk. We picked up some potatoes, home made sausage and some of their wonderful bread. They are as industrious as bees and ants and all share completely. Each individual has their own assigned jobs, many for life. It was a great visit.
One last little visit was made while we were in Shelby. We got to visit Harry J. Benjamin, who makes all kinds of trains and pedal cars. Below is his “De-Railed” Steam Engine, which he shows off in parades in northern Montana. This engine pulls a set of cars that reaches 60 feet long.
Well past his 80’s, Mr. Benjamin, a former farmer and mechanic, is famed in the area for building things out of junk parts and pieces. He has built a number of trains, some other vehicles for the local high school and a number of children’s toys.
Here’s a video of one of his creations:
But, I must admit, the BEST part of the entire visit to Shelby was this….
Next stop…heading home via US 2. Watch soon for the next great adventures on Less Beaten Paths.