Obviously, one of my favorite things to do on road trips short or long is locate the fun, unique and offbeat roadside attractions. And, fortunately, 2018 provided me a plethora of these. I have already written about a few of them individually in past months, but this post will be a nice little “photo tour” of some of my favorites.
Having been through 26 different states in 2018, I had plenty of sites and loads of fun. I got to share many of these with grandchildren, which made it even better.
Perhaps my favorite from 2018 was the amazing giant Dignity: Of Earth and Sky statue in Chamberlain, South Dakota. This giant 50 foot tall steel statue honors the women of the Lakota and Dakota tribes. It was created by artist South Dakota Dale Lamphere. It sits in a rest area overlooking the Missouri River and can be seen from quite a distance.
The statue also features a Star Quilt that has more than 100 blue diamond shapes that move in the wind. Really a wonderful site and it is also one of America’s tallest statues (the 20th tallest according to Wikipedia listing).
Another giant is just down the road from Dignity. Wall Drug’s giant brontosaurus stretches 80 feet and sits 37 feet tall as it overlooks Interstate 90 at the Wall Exit. Even there is no time for a visit to Wall Drug, there is always time to stop for a photo-op with a giant friendly dino!
Dinosaurs seem to be all over the country and on my four big trips in 2018 I came across a few more of them. Always fun!
Dinosaurs are not the only giants that I came across on the road in 2018. One of my favorite “giants” was “Ms. Pearl” the giant squirrel in Cedar Creek, Texas at the Berdoll Pecan Candy factory. Created in 2011, it stands 14 feet tall and currently lays claim to be the tallest squirrel statue in the world. Like many “roadside” attractions, this one is very visible off of TX Hwy 71.
Nice thing about Berdoll’s is that you can get your picture with Ms. Pearl and even get some Pecan goodies from their 24/7 Pecan Vending Machine.
Other big things I came across in 2018
Then there are the big Muffler Men and Big John statues. There are dozens and dozens of these dotting the landscape. I came across a couple of fun ones in 2018. In Helper, Utah there is one that is painted totally black…to represent the Coal Miners.
These guys are about 15 feet tall and basically all look alike except for the additional things added to them by the local sites. Over the years I personally have photographed nearly 40 different versions of Big John, Muffler Men or Uniroyal Gals.
You can find them looking like Paul Bunyan, cowboys, Indians and other fun things.
I always like coming across these unique pieces of funky Americana.
I am working on Part 2 of this travel report with more big and unique things to see. Watch for it soon.
Life gets so busy. The first two months of 2019 have been exceptionally busy and so I am just now getting to my annual review posts for 2018.
At the beginning of 2018 I didn’t have very high hopes for many travel opportunities. I had begun a new job in early October of the previous year and I didn’t have any definitive travel plans. But, I had also learned to roll with things and, as good fortune would have it, 2018 actually became a really good travel year.
Over the course of the year I was able to travel through 26 different states and drove nearly 12,000 miles. I was able to add a plethora of photos (I took over 15,000 travel photos in 2018) and content for use in future blogs and books. Though many of my travels were alone (which I love), I also was able to travel with family on some of the trips (which I also love!).
My major trips included:
A trip to Nashville in January to visit with my new employer ComicBook.com. On this trip I also visited the cool and “off-beat” Paradise PointMarketplace
In late January I made a trip down to Barren River Lake State Park in southern Kentucky to view the sandhill cranes which had migrated down there.
In February I was asked by son Seth to come down to Cypress, Texas to watch his two sons for a couple of weeks while he and his wife were off on a cruise. The trip south took me through Calvert City, KY where I visited the Apple Valley Toy Land and Hillbilly Gardens. I also found my way to Kenton, Arkansas, home of the white squirrels, then to historic Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to see some fun Beatle’s things. I then meandered my way into Louisiana and visited a few fun places. While in Cypress with the boys I also visited Austin and then took the boys venturing out on some of the back roads around the Houston area where we discovered some fun places. My return trip took me up to Keller, Texas to visit my sister and while there I found a few more fascinating places. I then made my way home through Oklahoma and Arkansas, traveling back roads all the way and discovering some fun places. I finally returned to Lexington at the end of February.
March saw me again on the road for a quick trip up to Cleveland, Ohio. On this trip, with my wife, we visited sites in Cleveland and then on the way home stopped in Columbus to see the famed Topiary Garden Park. It was a quick, yet fun and interesting trip.
On April 2 I set off on one of the biggest road trips I have had in a couple of years. We had a family event taking place in Port Orchard, Washington. I drove while my wife flew (she had a tighter schedule and needed to take some PTO time). I set out heading west through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. I had hoped to go up through Minnesota, but a major snowstorm diverted much of my initial plan. Nonetheless, I always find something. This trip allowed me to visit seven different Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” , which also took me to other unique places along the way. I ultimately made my way through Iowa Falls, Cedar Rapids, northern South Dakota and overnight in Belle Fourche. I then headed northwest into snowy southeastern Montana and crossed the state from there through Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and overnight in scenic and touristy Wallace, Idaho. From Wallace I made my way to Spokane and then east on US 2, to complete my travels on the western portion of that highway (other parts I had driven on in previous road trips. This took me through Washington’s high desert and then into the Cascades and back down into apple orchard country. I ultimately made my way into the Seattle area. The return trip went down through Olympia and then into Oregon on US 101 and then across Oregon’s high desert, through Winnemucca, Nevada and then into my old stomping grounds in Murray, Utah, near Salt Lake City. I then ventured to Colorado Springs to see my son Solomon and then across Colorado’s high deserts into western Kansas, and finally back home through St. Louis and Louisville. It was an amazing two week adventure!
I didn’t really venture out on a road trip again until mid-June when my wife and I took a day long trip up to Cincinnati to see some things we hadn’t done before. It was a nice sightseeing adventure.
In late July I was joined by my oldest grandchild Autumn for a fun adventure to Cypress, Texas. I was again asked to babysit my two granddsons for about ten days. Autumn and I meandered our way down there through Tennessee and Alabama down to the gulf coast and into Biloxi, Mississippi. We traveled along the Gulf Coast into Louisiana and eventually into Texas. While in Texas, the four of us made a few trips as well, including a day-long adventure to the weird city of Austin. Autumn and I then returned home through central Texas and up to Keller to stay with my sister and allow Autumn to hang with her cousin, who is the same age. After a couple of days in Keller, Autumn and I returned home through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Missouri, where we visited the unique touristy place called Uranus and then finally home. It was an amazing fun trip.
Over the next few posts, I will try to catch up with content about different themes…road scenes, wood art, murals, roadside attractions and more.
I hope you will enjoy the ride with me as I revisit these adventures.
Have you seen my most recent book yet? “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” is available on Amazon!
The book is 130 pages of FULL COLOR whimsy and kitsch as I tell stories of my visits to these places all over the U.S. and Canada. Definitely was fun taking these back roads trips to quirkville and I am excited to share them with you in words and photos. I hope you will be able to check out the book or even get it on Kindle.
I love having the opportunity to come upon new and unplanned discoveries in my roadtrips. While traveling, I constantly check my Roadside America app (which is available for iPhone download here) which has a handy dandy location finder and will tell you the closest of their featured attractions. While driving through South Dakota near Chamberlain, I did so and came across “Dignity: A 50 foot-tall Indian Woman” statue entry. Turns out it is located at a rest area near Chamberlain, SD overlooking the Missouri River valley way below. It was also a Lewis and Clark stopover.
Dignity (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky) is a 50-foot high stainless steel statue by South Dakota artist Dale Lamphere that depicts an indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. The massive sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota. Lamphere notes on his website:
“Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota cultures in South Dakota. My intent is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place. My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.”
I am always interested in things about the various Native American tribes. Having worked as a tour guide in Arizona, I became somewhat expert on the Navajo and Hopi as well as the old Anasazi cultures. My travels across the United States and Canada have allowed me to pass through many Native American reservations and lands. In these travels I have come across many large statues dedicated to these great indigenous peoples (such as the Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI – which stands 52 feet tall and the Standing Brave statue in Big Cabin, OK – which is also nearly 50 feet tall). And of course, in an earlier post on my April road trip, I mentioned the “Whispering Giants” series by Peter Toth, of which I have seen more than a dozen. And there are the Blackfeet Warrior metal sculptures that are at all four entries to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. The 44 foot tall Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, Kansas is another good one. I believe the tallest Native American statue is the 62 foot tall Indian of Skowhegan in Skowhegan, Maine, which I have not visited.
Back to Dignity – Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the 50-foot Native American woman wears a dress that is patterned after a two-hide Lakota or Dakota dress of the 1850s. She also holds a quilt that has 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. Apparently, the quilt was also bedecked with LED lights that cause the diamond shapes to glow in the night sky which can be seen from Interstate 90 (which I would have loved to have seen). The quilt is very impressive as you can see in the photo on the left as well as the expanded one below.
Dignity is not only 50 feet tall, but her base is 16 feet deep (to help withstand the strong South Dakota winds on this bluff) and is 32 feet wide. The statue weighs in at nearly 11 tons and cost over $1 million dollars to make. The money was kindly donated by a couple from nearby Rapid City, South Dakota. The statue was officially dedicated in September 2016. It is truly a sight to see and I was so glad to have been on this highway.
At 50 feet tall, the statue is one of the 25 tallest statues in the United States. I have been to 13 of the 25 including #2 – Statue of Liberty in NYC (151 ft tall); #4 – Our Lady of the Rockies in Butte, MT (88.6 ft. tall); Tuo Phat Quan Am in Houston, TX (72 ft. tall); Brachiosauraus in Indianapolis, IN (70 ft. tall); Giraffe at Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX (67.6 ft tall); A Tribute to Courage – Sam Houston in Huntsville, TX (67 ft. tall); Christ of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR (65.5 ft. tall); Stephen F. Austin in Angleton, TX (60 ft. tall); Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI (52 ft. tall); Standing Tall in Big Cabin, OK (50 ft. tall); Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN (49.2 ft. tall); Hammering Man in Seattle, WA (48 ft. tall); and The Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, KS (44 ft. tall).
The view from Dignity is impressive as it overlooks the Missouri River valley down below. This was also a Lewis and Clark observation point.
Finally, I would like to note that South Dakota is proud of its tourism and especially its numerous sculptures which would include the famed Mt. Rushmore, the giant Crazy Horse statue still under construction and the giant brontosauraus at Wall Drug. They have a website especially focused on the sculptures of South Dakota called the South Dakota Sculpture Trail.
In closing, I want to note that in my upcoming book (hopefully to be released at the end of June), I will have a complete chapter on Native American statues and art.
ENJOY THE RIDE! CHOOSE HAPPY!
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, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.