M is for Mountains – #atozchallenge

I love the mountains.  I spent a good part of my life in the mountains – New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona.  These are the BIG mountains.

Having lived in Kentucky for the past 25 years, I hear of people that live in “the mountains of Kentucky” or heading to “the mountains of West Virginia.” In my perspective these are more like hills. But, by the broader definition, there are mountains in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Maybe even Tennessee.

Purple Mountain Majesties – Sawtooth range in Central Idaho
Here I am at the Sandia Overlook near Albuquerque in 1964

When I take trips to the Western US, I always try to make an effort to get to the REAL mountains….the kind over 10,000′ tall.  I love the fresh air of these mountains.  I long for the spectacular views…both from below and on top.

My first ventures into the mountains were as a young boy living in New Mexico.  My Dad also loved the mountains and we often took rides up to the Sandias. We would hike, take picnics and my dad always took pictures. He always took slides because he thought they were better quality.

In 1968 we moved from Dallas to Denver.  While in Denver, my Dad would take us on various drives up to Rocky Mountain National Park, Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak and other mountains.  As a junior high school youth I went with him for the intense hike up Longs Peak, near Boulder.  This mountain hike was a first for me.  I never made it to the top (since we were bogged down by a massive hailstorm in the middle of summer).  But my Dad left me at the stop station and continued up with a couple of friends.

My Dad Joe at the top of Colorado’s Longs Peak in 1968.

Later in life I had the opportunity to take a trip up to the top of Mt. Evans (by car).  It had changed over the years, but still had the mountain goats and the thin air.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake.
Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise

Living in Bozeman, Montana in the mid 1970s was the final straw.  We actually lived up in the mountains south of Bozeman.  I was hooked and still am.  My goals have always been to visit America’s great mountains, mountain ranges and parks. I have been blessed to have been able to do so.

Over the years I have been to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, the Colorado Rockies, the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, the Beartooth Range and scenic drive in northern Wyoming and more.  I have even been to the eastern mountains of Shenandoah, the Alleghany Highlands in Virginia (where I am as I write this!), the Ozarks in Arkansas and Missouri and the Adirondacks.  They have their own wonderful scenery.

Mt. Rainier in Washington – visited in 2015
Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho in 2013
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sister’s Oregon
Lima Peaks south of Lima, Montana
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park
A far off waterfall in Glacier National Park
Mountains of Glacier National Park near Babb, MT
Mountains near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Our daughter Amaree with the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona in the background taken in the fall of 1981.
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
Washington’s Lake Crescent and Mount Storm King in the background
Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Colorful homes and scenic mountains in Leadville, CO
Mt. Jefferson – at 10,497 feet the second highest peak in Oregon

 

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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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Car Art: Cars in art around the US




DSC_9365One of the more unique American traditions along the Less Beaten Paths is the recycling of auto parts for art. Indeed, a couple of the most famous roadside attractions in the US are made from cars. This post will look at a few pieces of “car art” that I have seen over the years and, then, at the end, I will note a few others that are out there and worth a visit from all of us — some that I hope to get to over the next couple of years.

"Spindle" by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008

Probably one of the two most famous Car Art pieces that I am aware of, this car shish-kabob called “Spindle” and created by artist Dustin Shuler (1948-2010), became ultra famous after being featured in Wayne’s World. It has also been featured in on the cover of a book (called Oddball Illinois: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places), on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps. It was originally commissioned by the shopping center owner, David Bermant, who donated his BMW car to be placed second from the top of the sculpture.Shuler himself owned the red 1967 VW Beetle that crowned the sculpture.The foundation of the sculpture reached nearly 30 feet into the ground; the cost of erecting it was over $75,000.

Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007
Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007

The cars on a spike never did res well with some of the citizens of Berwyn, Illinois, and thus in 1990 they voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued that it drew tourism to town and had become an icon. The owner of Cermak’s Shopping Center argued the same. But, alas, in July 2007, it was announced that the shopping center was to be redeveloped and that the site of the sculpture was earmarked for a new Walgreens store. New controversy ensued and finally, in May of 2008 the structure was taken down.

The impaled cars on the spindle, from top to bottom, were:

  1. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
  2. 1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
  3. 1981 Ford Escort, blue
  4. 1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
  5. 1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
  6. 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
  7. 1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
  8. 1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.

When I was at Cermak’s in 2007 I actually made a video of Spindle along with some of the other art at Cermak’s. Here it is….

Perhaps just as famous is the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas. Like the “Spindle“, this site has had controversy and has been featured in movies, advertisements, comics, etc. It is most certainly one of the most well known Roadside Attractions in the U.S.

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, supposedly at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

The cars have gone through numerous iterations…completely black, completely white, stc., when used for ads and commercials. But, soon thereafter, the tourists with the spray paint cans make their way to make their marks on the cars. So, this ends up being a “stationary attraction” always in a state of change.

Bottom of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
Underside of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo

Due to the popularity of Cadillac Ranch, there have been a few imitators, none of which I have been to yet, but hope to get to sometime in the near future. These include:

VW Slug Bug Ranch – Conway, Texas

Slug Bug Ranch - this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com
Slug Bug Ranch – this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com

The Slug Bug Ranch consists of five VW Beetles buried nose first in the ground. There is also an older 1930s car on the site. As with Cadillac Ranch, people have left their mark in spray paint.

 

 

 

Combine City – Canyon, Texas

Combine Ranch
Combine Ranch – photo borrowed from Lovin Our Life Blog

This place even has their own website (see combinecity.com). According to their site, “Combine City began with one Combine Harvester planted in the ground. Over time, that solitary Combine has welcomed 13 more. In total, 14 Combines are planted, standing as a tribute to the great nature of the West Texas farmer.” Unlike Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, Combine City does not allow folks to come in and spray paint.

 

Airstream Ranch – Dover, Florida

Airstream Ranch - located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida
Airstream Ranch – located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida

Indeed, this is not cars…it is Airstreams, but these are a great addition to this collection. These are located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida and have been the subject for many photos in the past. My good friend, the musician Antsy McClain has actually done a photo shoot here for some Trailer Park Troubadours stuff (see below).

 

Antsy McClain - Airstream Ranch
Antsy McClain – Airstream Ranch

Like Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, the Airstream Ranch has not been without controversy. Neighbors have argued that it was unsightly, but, ultimately, the Tourist Attraction and Art Factors won out.

Like the other sites, this attracts tourists from all over and has been used in advertisements, etc.

The historic value of Airstreams in travel always leads to an interest in these aluminum domiciles on wheels. There are rallies all over the country and one can always see them on the road. Indeed, many are happy to be “Living in Aluminum” and following the Aluminum Rule – “Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”

 

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Rabbit Ranch - Staunton, Illinois
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those iconic Route 66 stops on the back roads of America. Located just west of Interstate 55 in southern Illinois (and a short drive north of St. Louis), it lies along the old Route 66. Along with tons of Route 66 memorabilia, they have a set of buried cars.

 

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge – May 2014

As with the others above, there are buried cars, but, in this case the creators of Carhenge tried to emulate the famed Stonehenge of England. They too have their own website, including a history of the Jim Reinders creation. This 1987 piece of Car Art has 38 automobiles and there are other pieces of Car Art on “Car Art Reserve”. Like the locations above, Carhenge has been the subject of numerous commercials and film productions.

All of the locations above are big tourist attractions for the back roads adventurer seeking the offbeat and quirky. But, there are many other smaller pieces of car art and/or “car displays” around the country, many of which I have had the opportunity to see. Here are a few.

Flattened Car - Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois
Pinto Pelt – Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois

The flattened car (called “Pinto Pelt“) is another creation by Spindle artist Dustin Shuler and is also located in Cermak’s Plaza. This too went the way of the world apparently in the reconstruction project in Berwyn’s once famous shopping center.

Art Car Museum - Houston, Texas
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas is dedicated to true Art Cars, those cars that have had art added to them. According to the “Art Car Manifesto“, “an art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and style that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.”

Art Car Museum
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum website has a great Photo Gallery of some of the more unique cars featured at the museum. When I visited in 2010 the museum was not open so I didn’t get a chance to get any good car shots. But, along the way I have found a couple on my own…

Art Car at Third Street Stuff - Lexington, Kentucky
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:

The Smoke Sax - Houston, Texas
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas

The Smoke Sax” was built in 1993 by artist Bob Wade of Austin, TX. It is 70 feet tall and is made of an oil field pipe, an upside down Volkswagen Beetle, beer kegs, canoe, hub caps, a surf board and chrome. Until March 2013 this was located at the Horn Bar and Grille on Richmond Avenue in Houston, TX. However, in March 2013 it was disassembled and will be eventually added to the unique folk art center called the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. They also are the sponsor of the Houston Art Car Parade.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax

Clear across the country in Wolf Creek, Oregon an artist has created two Spider Bugs out of old Volkswagens. Roadside America covered these and, it turns out that these are not the only ones around. There are actually dozens of them. The website Weburbanist has a fine page dedicated to a number of these from around the U.S. including Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Ontario, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and even in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Spider Volkswagen - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Car - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Karmann Ghia – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Heading back eastward one can venture into Kadoka, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park and see a unique piece of art made from car parts, including a smashed car as a base…

"Scrappy" the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang - Kadoka, South Dakota
“Scrappy” the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang – Kadoka, South Dakota

Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In - Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud Drive-In – Driggs, Idaho

More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall - Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Old Trucks - Rio Brazos Music Hall - Granbury, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising

Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma
Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma

Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:

Big Daddy's Restaurant - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s Restaurant – Lake Norman, North Carolina

Big Daddy’s is located in the heart of NASCAR Country in North Carolina. And to prove it they have a number of cars on their roof and on their lot.

Big Daddy's - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s – Lake Norman, North Carolina

The Route 26 Mart in Scottsbluff, Nebraska touts itself as an Americana Convenience Mart and has on old finned Chevy on its roof to pull you in….

Route 26 Mart - Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Route 26 Mart – Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…

Pioneer Auto Show - Murdo, South Dakota
Pioneer Auto Show – Murdo, South Dakota

Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.

Angel's Diner - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner – McAlester, Oklahoma

Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??

Longhorn Limo - at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limo – at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, home of the 72 Oz steak, offers rides in their Longhorn Limos.

Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas

I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:

Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon
Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the iconic and well known Nash AirFlyte that sits outside of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Iowa, better known as the home of the History Channel’s American Pickers.

Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa

The only Corvette Factory in the world is in my home state of Kentucky, in Bowling Green. They are also the home of the Corvette Museum and they have a nice one on a pedestal…

Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Finally, there are all of those old trucks and cars that scatter the landscape in yards and fields around the U.S. These can be seen on back roads and some are obviously used as yard decor…

Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old Car with mannikin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car with mannequin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota

I have a dozen more of these, but I think you get the “pictures.” So, get out and Enjoy the Ride and be on the watch out for those old vehicles that helped someone else Enjoy the Ride in the past!!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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