My Travels in 2018

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.

Visiting Route 66 in Oklahoma

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!).

Morning sky taken between Bend, OR and Brothers, OR (near Millican, OR) on US Hwy 20 heading east.
A sunset scene taken from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry in Washington
Lovely sunset after a windy day. Taken on a side road of Interstate 70 just east of Abilene, Kansas
Mt. Aetna as seen from US 50 near Monarch Pass, Colorado.
Desert and snow-covered peaks in Nevada

My major trips included:

  1. 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
    Welcome to Paradise Point
  2. 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.
    Sandhill Cranes take flight
  3. 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.                                                                                               
    Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden – Calvert City, Kentucky
    Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR
    The Beatles in Houston, statues by Houston artist David Adickes
  4. 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. 
    Topiary Garden Park of Columbus
  5. 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! 
    Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starving Rock State Park in Illinois
    One of over 200 sculptures from around Raymond, Washington
    A stretch of Oregon Highway 205 south of Burns, Oregon
    Leavenworth, Washington
    Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass in Washington
    Helper, Utah
    Dignity: Of Earth and Sky – 50 foot tall statue by Dale Lamphere near Chamberlain, South Dakota
    Men’s Room Door at a gas station in Ashland, Montana
    US Hwy 101 in southern Washington
    Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, Colorado
    On the road somewhere in NW Nevada
  6. 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.
    A day trip to Cincinnati with my wife
    The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as seen from Carew Tower in Cincinnati. When opened on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet main span.
  7. 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.
    Sharkhead in Biloxi, Mississippi
    Decatur, Texas
    Welcome to Uranus Missouri
    Getting stabbed in Bowie, Texas
    One of hundreds of frog statues in Rayne, Louisiana
    Peach Water Tower in Clanton, Alabama
    One of a number of murals in a section of Houston
    Vulcan Statue, one of America’s tallest, in Birmingham, Alabama
    Woody Guthrie Water Towers in Okemah, Oklahoma

    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.

You can order the book here:   See Offbeat and Quirky Roadside Attractions

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A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The B 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.

 

Blueberry, WI

Old Antique Store in Blueberry, WI

Brazos Bend State Park – Needville, TX

Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Another Gator in Brazos State Park

Bruce Windmill Farm – Woodstock, ON

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places

Bison/Buffalo – Yellowstone National Park

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone

A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

Blackwater, Missouri

City of Blackwater, MO

Boring Post Office – Boring, Oregon

Boring Post Office

Entering Boring

Bridges of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Bridges of Pittsburgh

Bugtussle, Kentucky

Remember Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies??

What remains of the Bugtussle General Store in Bugtussle, KY

Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa

Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa

Beloit Smiley Water Tower – Beloit, WI

Beloit’s Smiley Water Tower greets visitors to Wisconsin

Two-State Sign – Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA

Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Beatles Tribute – Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

This way to Beatles Park at the corner of US 67 and Abbey Rd. in Walnut Ridge, AR

The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture in Beatles Park.

Big Fish Supper Club – Bena, Minnesota

Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, MN

Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN

Blue Heron Photos – Lexington, Kentucky & Uncertain, Texas

Blue Heron grabbing some breakfast

Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky

A blue heron flies by on Caddo Lake near Uncertain, Texas

Booger Hollow, Arkansas

Booger Hollow, Arkansas in 2007

Barbed Wire Sculpture at Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

Barbed Wire Indian Chief and Horse – Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

Bob Evans Headquarters – New Albany, Ohio

Bob Evans Farm HQ – New Albany, OH

Butte, Montana

Welcome to Butte, Montana

Blue Banana Espresso – Lostine, Oregon

Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon

Bessie the Cow – Janesville, Wisconsin

Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI

Blues Highway – US 61 in Mississippi

Sumoflam at the Blues Highway in Mississippi

Beatles Statues – Houston, Texas

The 35 Foot tall Beatles statues by David Adickes, currently on display outside Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery

Hot Spring Shower in Hot Spring Capital of Japan – Beppu, Japan

A hot spring shower in Beppu…and yes, the towel was necessary. 1990

Brown Pelicans in Formation – Galveston, Texas

Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX

Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston

Beartooth Pass – near Red Lodge, Montana

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.

At the Beartooth Highway in May 2015

Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Big Stone Gap, VA

Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles – Ashland, Wisconsin

Boudreau’s Antiques Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

Big Jud’s Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho

Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID

Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger

Tersier Monkey in Bohol, Philippines

A Tersier in Bohol

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park in SD

Sunset at the Badlands in South Dakota.

Big Apple – Medina, NY (Yes, the OTHER big apple in New York)

Big Apple Medina, NY

World’s Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, North Dakota

World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND

Big Bone Lick State Park – Union, Kentucky

Big Bone Lick State Park, Kentucky

Big Indian – Bemidji, Minnesota

Big Indian in Bemidji, MN in front of a souvenir shop

Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum – Vicksburg, Mississippi

Biedenharn Museum Sign, Vicksburg, MS

Big John – Great Falls, Montana

Cowboy Muffler Man – Big John in Great Falls, Montana

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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Beatles in the South – Arkansas/Texas: February 2018

Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR

It is not every day that one takes a road trip and comes across not one, but two memorials to the famed Beatles.

The first of these is a fascinating little story about a small little town in Arkansas named Walnut Ridge (population abt 5000). It was in 1964 and the Beatles were in the midst of their first tour of the United States. On September 18 of that year they had just finished performing in Dallas, TX and were in for a well-deserved break. A rich rancher from Missouri named Reed Pigman had a nice little dude ranch in Alton, Missouri (see the Pigman story here). Pigman also had a charter plane and flew the Beatles into the closest airport that could handle their large airplane. It was the Walnut Ridge, Arkansas airport.

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Somehow, some teen fans heard about it and when the Beatles returned from their visit to the Pigman ranch and to the airport on September 20, there was quite a little crowd there to greet them and see them off as they flew onto New York for their final shows. There were a few photos taken and a few autographs signed before the Beatles headed east. It was apparently the only time the Beatles ever set foot in the state of Arkansas.

British Flag Fire Hydrant on Abbey Road in Walnut Ridge

Yellow Submarine on Abbey Road

This way to Beatles Park at the corner of US 67 and Abbey Rd. in Walnut Ridge, AR

Welcome to Walnut Ridge

This little event left such an impact on the town that a whole street and a little town square in Walnut Ride is dedicated to the Beatles. There is a beautiful sculpture in Beatles Park with the Beatles doing their walk across Abbey Road. Titled “The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture,” this piece was created by local artist Danny West (who also owns the little yogurt shop and coffee shop on Abbey Road) and is about 10 feet by 200 feet. The street has permanently been named Abbey Road and the sculpture is at 110 Abbey Road. (See more here)

The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture in Beatles Park. Artwork by Danny West

The Beatles sculpture from a different angle

Artist Danny West is also the owner of the Art and Culture Yogurt shop and The Dark Side Coffee shop, next door to the park

According to Beatles at the Ridge Website:

The entire street scene is featured, along with more than 30 hidden references to Beatles song titles and album names. There are also a few hidden surprises that were added in by the artist that are unique to our city, and tie the whole sculpture to our town.  As lighting changes throughout the day, the hidden details in the sculpture reveal themselves to the observer, and at night, under the powerful lighting, the scene takes on a surreal quality, and more secrets can be seen.

The Imagine Shop on US 67 and Abbey Road

Darkside Coffee artwork of Ringo

Some art made from musical instruments at the entrance of the Darkside Coffee house

Scene from Abbey Road, Walnut Ridge, AR

Imagine

There are also shops named after Beatles songs such as “Imagine.” And, in this one little section there are also wooden cutouts of the Beatles, a painting on a window of the Beatles album and a lot of little history and trivia regarding the Beatles.

The town even has a musical festival and other events as well as a different park commemorating other musicians on Route 67.

The Guitar Walk recognizes some famous musicians who had performed along US 67 (dubbed the Rock and Roll Highway)

Large Guitar sidewalk

Rock and Roll Highway, Route 67 in Walnut Ridge, AR

Hi there John!

I don’t think that the Beatles ever made their way back into Walnut Ridge either as a group or as individuals, But I am sure that they would be honored by the dedicatory art and imagination that the people of this small community have put together. For Beatles fans, it is just another drawing card and a unique place to stop, which I did!

The Beatles in Houston, statues by Houston artist David Adickes

A few days later, I was in Houston and intentionally went downtown so that I could see another Beatles dedication that I’ve always wanted to see for the last few years. It is a set of four large, nearly 36 foot tall statues of John, Paul, George and Ringo created by Houston artist David Adickes, whom I have referred to in previous posts on this blog (see my post on the Three Giants of Texas). These statues have been moved to a couple of locations and currently reside in the parking lot of local 8th Wonder Brewery. I was able to get up close and personal with the statues, get some nice selfies and get a few other angles.

The Beatles statues by David Adickes, currently on display outside Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery

George Harrison

John Lennon

Paul McCartney

Ringo Starr

Alternate View with the 8th Wonder Truck to give a better idea of the size

The Beatles from behind the fence (what you would see if the gate were locked)

Another view of John Lennon

When I departed for my trip to Texas in early February 2018, I had indeed hoped to visit the Beatles statues in Houston, but had no idea about the Walnut Ridge story. Thanks to my trusty RoadsideAmerica app, it made for a unique theme to this long and winding road trip from Kentucky through the back roads of Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

I loved this…ya, ya, ya!!

 

Get the Roadside America App!

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