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.
Fiberglass Snowman – Lewisburg, West Virginia
Fireplace of States – Bemidji, Minnesota
Fat Smitty’s – Port Townsend, Washington
Futuro Flying Saucer House – Covington, Kentucky
Four Corners – Teec Nos Pos, Arizona
Frank L. White Grave Marker (The Cream of Wheat Guy) – Leslie, Michigan
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Fair Play, South Carolina
Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Fisherman’s Dream – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
First Church of Peculiar – Peculiar, Missouri
Fox in the Snow – Grand Teton National Park
Fallasburg Covered Bridge – Fallasburg, MI
Forest Fire Department – Forest, Mississippi
Flatrock Coffee – Nashville, Tennessee
Flying Saucer Monument – Mars, Pennsylvania
Frank Sinatra Park – Hoboken, New Jersey
Flower Man House – Houston, Texas
Future City, Illinois
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Frog Pond Bar-B-Que – Frog Pond, Tennessee
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center – Glen Rose, Texas
Flood Wall Murals – Paducah, Kentucky; Jeffersonville, Indiana; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; Portsmouth, Ohio
Fort Worth Stockyards – Fort Worth, Texas
Floodwood Catfish – Floodwood, Minnesota
Friendly, West Virginia
Fort Steuben – Steubenville, Ohio
Findlay Market – Cincinnati, Ohio
Frontier Bar & Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
Mount Fuji – Fuji City, Japan
Flower Bed Art – What Cheer, Iowa
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.
Over the years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles of back roads across the United States (only missing Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont…they will be hit soon!). Through all of these travels I have seen the many “famous” unique and quirky tourist spots like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX (the one with all the Cadillacs in the ground), the giant Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN, the Enchanted Highway in ND or the competing Eiffel Towers in Paris, TX and Paris, TN.
Among the 100s of places I have been, there are a few that really stand out to me and I would consider as future MUST SEE spots for the adventurous travelers. In no specific order, here are ten of my “Obscure Quirky Places” you should visit while you are out and about on your July road trips…. You can click on the links to see more details of these visits from my earlier blog posts.
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
In central Alberta is a small town called Vulcan. Named by a surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1915, the town has become a center for Star Trek history with a museum and all sorts of fun stuff. There is even a huge Starship Enterprise on the grounds. Truly a unique place to visit and think about going where no man has gone before. (You may also be interested in “The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk” in Riverside, Iowa)
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.
Who would have known that the US Military built a huge Pyramid shaped building in the middle of northern North Dakota? Well, its there in the tiny town of Nekoma. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.
We all know that Superman lived in Metropolis. But, this Metropolis in Illinois looks nothing like the NYC style Metropolis of the movies. Despite this, like Vulcan above, the town has taken on the persona and has Superman everywhere. Even has the Daily Planet as the newspaper!
8. Hamtramck Disneyland – Detroit, MI
A little bit of magic is hidden in the backyard of a small two-story residence on Klinger Street in the Detroit area of Hamtramck. Known as “Hamtramck Disneyland”, the offbeat artistic vision of former homeowner Dmytro Szylak, who passed away on May 1, 2015. Szylak began to convert his backyard into an art yard after retiring from General Motors in 1992.
The quirky nature of Szylak’s creations still causes some controversy, but many consider it a local tourist attraction. I concur. I visited his place in 2008 and found his collection fascinating.
In my opinion, one of the quirkiest places in Cincinnati, the Mushroom House is located in the Hyde Park District at the corner of Erie Ave. and Tarpis Ave. It was created by architect/artist Terry Brown (who died in a car accident in Texas in 2008). As a professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, Brown created the building with the help of university students from 1992 to 2006.
The house was built using a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, shell, ceramics, and various metals. Care was taken to craft these materials into irregular shapes like those found in nature.
Douglas, Wyoming is the “Jackalope Capital of the World.” Everywhere you look in town there is a jackalope lurling somewhere. There is even one up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.
The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Ironically, the word “jackalope” is a mix of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a technically a rabbit, and the American antelope is not technically an antelope.
There are dozens of other obscure but fun quirky sites in the America’s. Visit my blog or my favorite home of the roadside quirkies – Roadside America – to find more of these. You’ll enhance your travel experience!!
Everywhere I go I see old neon. These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled. Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place. But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots. Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs. There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs. And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names. Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.
Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories. My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968. At the time I was only 12. It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch. We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).
And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….
CAFES AND RESTAURANTS
After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint. Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)
How about some burgers for lunch?
Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed. This one deserves two photos
Don’t want a burger or a corn dog? How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?
Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?
And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….
Okay. So this next one is not neon. But it is certainly Vintage. And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?
There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant. And many have unique signs. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.
And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….
Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….
Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak? How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)
Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls
Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV. A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.
Too cold outside? Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.
Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES
Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section. That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items. There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”
I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I want to include in this section.
Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?