X is for Xtreme Skies – #atozchallenge

OK.  I know…. Xtreme is not really a dictionary word, but many advertisers use it and there are company names and even a band name.  So, it is fair game.

This post is about xtreme (extreme) skies – unique cloud formations, colorful skies, sunrises, sunsets, sunbeams, moon shots, rainbows and more.  A traveler on the highways of America always sees the skies.  It can’t be helped. For me, I actually pay attention to them for the skies present their own fascinating form of art.

Shining sky above US 79/190 in central Texas
A lovely view of the Big Sky in Montana as seen from US Route 2 west of Bainville, MT

For this post, I will provide an assortment of photos I have taken on my road trips (and a couple of local ones too – let’s face it, I used a road to get there right?).  The skies offer up their own amazing beauty.

I am fascinated by clouds and weather.  I find the amazing colors of the early morning and the post sunset evening to be beautiful.  I am awestruck by the variety that the skies offer…ofttimes changing by the minute.

Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana
Large clouds over central Missouri
Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading east on I-74 in central Indiana
a Cloud cap forms on Mt. Rainier in Washington
Sunbeams peak through the clouds outside of Nebraska City, Nebraska
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go
Morning clouds over the mountains near Orem, Utah
Easter Morning Sunrise 2017 in Shenandoah National Park
Pennsylvania sunrise as seen from Boyce Mayview Park near Upper St. Clair, PA
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Sunrise shot from Leitchfield, KY
Sunrise in Northern Montana, near Great Falls
Trinity Temple Assembly of God in Arkadelphia, AR with a rainbow
Sun Dog – Parhelion over Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY
Easter Morning Sunrise over Shenandoah National Park
Another Shenandoah Sunrise photo
Sunrise over the Montour Trail in Pennsylvania
Beam of Sun at sunset in Cecilia, KY
Full moon over Lexington, KY
Scary cloud over the highway at sunset in northern Georgia
New Year’s Day 2017 sunrise in Ocean City, MD
Sun and trees somewhere in Nebraska
Sunrise over Lexington, Virginia
Sunset in Lake Minocqua, WI
Contrails across the sky in Kentucky
Sunset in Baytown, Texas
Sunset over the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina
Striated Clouds over Kentucky
A lovely rainbow over Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY
The 2017 Easter Morning moon shot with a 600mm lens from Shenandoah National Park
A rare Red Rainbow as seen from Lexington, KY on a morning in April 2017
Lovely parhelion (sun dog) over Jacobson Lake in December 2016
Sunrise near Tyler, Texas
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
Sunset in Port Angeles, WA
Enjoyed a lovely sunset in Dublin, OH in early September
Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
Foggy Sunset in Northern Iowa
Heading into the Sunset as I crossed into Wyoming on I-90
Sunset in Hoboken, NJ
Watercolor skies over Manhattan, KS
Sunset in Yampa, CO
Sunrise Duck Lake, MT near Glacier National Park
Sunrise stuck in Dallas, TX traffic
Kentucky Sunset… the clouds and reflection formed a unique shape….
Fog shrouded sunrise
Sandhill Cranes against a purple sunset sky in Cecilia, KY

 

 

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Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind.  Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird.  On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.

Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat.  I think we all make those determinations ourselves.  In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Why quirky?  Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?

The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

In fact, there are many “quirky”  scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country.  Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA.  Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist.  I visited his shop back in 2007.

I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA.  After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places.  You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani.  He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.

More Screaming Heads

There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.”  See my original post HERE.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Quirky is not only centered on art.  There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.”  That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

And they don’t have to be antique shops either.  How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US…  Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

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.

This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal.  I was fascinated.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

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

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there.  Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough.  But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get.  Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world….  and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece.  That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.

This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations.  Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did.  I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested.  See it here.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons.  The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall.  The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet.  On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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H is for History – #atozchallenge

One cannot travel any road in America or Canada without running into some sort of historical site, monument or building.  That is part of the fun of a back road adventure.  Our country of 2017 is defined in great part by the history of the country dating back to the 1600s (and earlier if you count the Native Americans).

Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park.  This is one of many Lewis and Clark Monuments across the United States.
Monument in Beachville, Ontario commemorating the first baseball game in Canada.

Dotting the roads of America are historical markers that tell about events that occurred in that exact location or nearby. There are literally 1000s of these. In the eastern US many of them are about Civil War incidents while in the west many are related to Indian Wars, Lewis and Clark or pioneers.  They are often interesting to stop and read.  As a History/Geography major in college, I have found these to be a sort of “roadside wikipedia.”

Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
The Overland Trail historic Sign
Pound Gap Historical Sign on the Virginia/Kentucky Border
Rugby, ND in 2014
Alligator Blues Marker in Alligator, MS – One of many markers along the Blues Highway in Mississippi
Plaque describing the naming of the roads This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
Meriwether Lewis meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio in Clarksville, IN

When traveling through the heart of the country, one can come across a myriad of monuments and historical sites dedicated to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark…better known as just Lewis Clark.  From May 1804 to September 1806, these two, accompanied by 29 or 30 others, in what was named by then President Thomas Jefferson as the “Corps of Discovery.” They left Camp Dubois (near St. Louis) and ventured westward to the Pacific Coast.  In my travels I have come across dozens of monuments, plaques, museums and other places all dedicated to or referencing this amazing expedition.  Their pioneer spirit has always amazed me.

One of a number of Lewis and Clark Murals in Independence, MO
A plaque commemorating a Lewis and Clark Campsite near Elk Point, South Dakota
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library

Of course, after them went the pioneers.  There were those who followed the Oregon Trail.  Others, chiefly the Mormons, forged their own trail, now called the Mormon trail.  In the south there was the famed Santa Fe Trail.  Then, along the way there were other smaller, lesser known trails, such as the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, and others.  Travel the roads that follow these trails and an abundance of unique history can be seen.  As a member of the LDS Church (Mormon) I have been able to visit many church historical sites.

A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper overlooks the Shields Valley in Montana
Pioneer brotherhood – Pioneer Memorial, Omaha, Nebraska
Pioneer Monument – Opal, WY
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, ID
LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s Cabin in Palmyra, NY
Martins Cove in Wyoming, part of the Mormon Handcart Trail
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park

Across a good portion of the southeast and all the way into Ohio and Pennsylvania, one will come across a plethora of Civil War related monuments, historical sites and otherwise.   Many sites have annual Civil War reenactments.

The big parks such as Vicksburg and Gettysburg are huge and have a ton of history.  But there are smaller ones, such as Perryville Battlefield in Kentucky that are unique in their historic perspective.

Sculpture at Vicksburg
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
One of four bronze statues that surround the large Civil War monument in Cleveland, OH. Called “At Short Range” it is a representation of the Artillery Group

In the far eastern parts of the United States one comes across places like the Jamestown Settlement and Williamsburg.  There are many others.

Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995
Kids take over the ship at Jamestown, VA – August 1995
Lucille Ball Birthplace

For fun, many cities have the “Birthplace of …” signs when you enter their small towns.  These could be famous actors, historical figures or athletes.  Typically there are monuments or statues.  I have come across many of these.  They are always a fun little side adventure.

I have come across many of these over the years.  Its always fun to “discover” the birthplaces.  (Ironically, Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY…not the same as Jamestown, VA which I posted above.)  Some of the “birthplaces” are a bit on the corny side.

Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Dean Martin mural in his birthplace of Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Singing Perry Como statue in downtown Canonsburg, PA
A couple of my children at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in the 1990s
Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, Leland, MS
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA
Washington County Courthouse in Washington, PA

Then, of course, there are the historical buildings.  Hundreds of unique courthouses and their fascinating architecture can be seen in diverse little towns and counties.  There are old churches large and small.  And many long forgotten dilapidated old buildings.  All of them tell some sort of story about the place.

I have visited dozens of courthouses around the country.  I love the old architecture.  I have some favorites.  Some are more interesting than others. I have added a few below.

 

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Woodstock, Ontario City Hall
Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Courthouse in Buena Vista, CO
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Lit Pillars at Courthouse in Columbia, MO
Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam Gothic at the Grant Wood American Gothic House in Eldon, IA
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre, MT. I wanted this one in black and white…
Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin

 

Finally, there are the many “oddball” or “quirky” historical sites and objects.  One never knows what they will run into in a small town.  A quaint historical museum? An oddball monument? A unique cemetery?

 

 

I have had fun discovering historical sites, quirky museums and other fun stuff.  Here are a few below.

Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, WV
Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013
My son Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN July 2004
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Kregel Windmill Factory Museum in Nebraska City, NE
The Rockpile Museum in Gillette, WY

History is the fabric of our country!

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