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.
Lost Springs, Wyoming (Was Population 1, now Population 4)
Lake Andes, South Dakota
Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls – Sikeston, Missouri
Lexington Cemetery in Spring – Lexington, Kentucky
Letchworth State Park – Castile, New York
Lindley Sign Post Forest – Danville, Illinois
Lake Oswego Art Walk – Lake Oswego, Oregon
Lawn Order – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Lincoln Mural – Lexington, Kentucky
Lordsburg, New Mexico
Leland, Mississippi – Birthplace of Kermit the Frog
Lake Wobegon Trail – Avon, Minnesota
Libby’s Pumpkin Factory – Morton, Illinois
Lookout, West Virginia
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Lucy in Disguise Costumes – Austin, Texas
Larry Vennard Iron Sculpture Park – Centralia, Missouri
Leif Erikson Statues – Cleveland, Ohio and Duluth, Minnesota
Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Abraham Lincoln Statue – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Leaning Tree Cafe – Babb, Montana
Large Wooden Trolls – Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Welcome to Louisiana
Laughing Ladies Cafe – Salida, Colorado
Langdon Wind Energy Center – Langdon, North Dakota
Little Big Horn National Monument – Crow Agency, Montana
Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Lucille Ball Birthplace – Jamestown, New York
Landry and Lombardi – NFL Coaching Icons – Dallas, Texas and Green Bay, Wisconsin
Longaberger Baskets – Newark, Ohio
Lynn’s Paradise Cafe – Louisville, Kentucky
Unfortunately, this place closed down around 2010 or so.
Lovesick Falls – Ontario, Canada
Little Italy – Cleveland, Ohio
Lopatapillar – Butterfly House – Chesterfield, Missouri
Logan’s Shoe Shop Neon Sign – Denton, Texas
Little River Cafe – Oregonia, Ohio
Troy Landry – Swamp People icon – Pierre Part, Louisiana
LSA Burger Company – Denton, Texas
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
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.
Traveling US Route 2 across Wisconsin was beautiful and had its share of offbeat and quirky places, but Minnesota’s section of US Route 2 is one to be reckoned with when it comes to quirky and fun destinations on the same road. Entering from Superior, Wisconsin, Route 2 starts south of Duluth and proceeds through Proctor, MN. From there the road heads northwest into the beautiful lake and birch country that gives Minnesota its name “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”
Before I go any further, I do need to give a SHOUT OUT to fellow travel blogger Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog (also see @HHighlights on Twitter and highway_highlights on Instagram). He provided me loads of information on spots to visit along US Route 2 in Minnesota (though I didn’t have time for them all!). Give him some love and visit (and LIKE) his sites.
My first stop in Minnesota was in Floodwood, about 45 miles west of Duluth. There are just over 500 folk in this small town, which is known for its Catfish Festival in July.
Floodwood claims to be the “Catfish Capital of the World” because of its festival. (There is apparently another place in Mississippi that claims the same…Belzoni, MS).
Floodwood is the home of the first of three big fish that get bigger and bigger the further west you go. They have a moderately sized catfish statue in the city park as one enters town. Always a great photo op….
From Floodwood the highway enters pine and birch forests as one gets closer to Grand Rapids.
Next stop along Route 2 is Grand Rapids, MN. The town is a well known tourist spot for outdoorsmen, but is probably better known as the Birthplace of Judy Garland, though I found no Yellow Brick Roads!
First thing I saw as I entered town was a giant Adirondack chair which is apparently called “Paul Bunyan’s Big Chair.” It was dedicated in October 2013, so its a fairly new attraction, though there had been a smaller one there built in 2008 that eventually became dilapidated. The chair is at the main intersection of US Route 2 and Pokegama Ave.
To get to Judy Garland’s birthplace I turned left on Pokegama Avenue and made my way to the “Land of Oz” which is the home of the Judy Garland Museum.
After the brief photo ops and a quick stop for lunch in Grand Rapids, it was Westward Ho on Route 2 again. I was headed for Deer River, home of the next big fish statue – a larger than life Northern Pike with a toothless grin.
While in Deer River I came across two classic neon signs for the Bahr’s Motel, which apparently sat on the grounds behind my fish friend. All that remains are the two signs. I did find a photo of the old 60s style motel here.
Continuing west along the lakes and the woods I collected 1000s of bugs on the front bumper as I passed by Ball Club, MN, my sole “unique town name” for the day.
The majority of the community is populated by Native Americans of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, but I am not sure how the town got its name. The Mississippi River surrounds Ball Club on both the East and West side of the community. Indeed, the Mississippi up here is not “mighty” at all as it meanders its way from its headwaters nearby.
Traveling through the Chippewa National Forest I enjoyed the cool breeze and fresh smells of the trees and lakes. Then, out of nowhere came this interesting site called the “Big Winnie General Store” which is a national historic landmark. According to some histories, the store was built in 1932 by Ernest Flemming, but he apparently got some design sketches from none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the link noted above “The unique architecture of the store was influenced by a world-renowned architect. Back in the early 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright was staying on Lake Winnibigoshish when Flemming and Wright met and got to know each other. Flemming explained that he was looking to build a store outside the Bena city limits and wanted an Asian and Bavarian look to the building.”
Just down the road is another “Big”…in fact, it is the “Big Fish Supper Club.” I am not sure how the food is there, but there is certainly a BIG FISH there!! This toothy muskie appeared in the opening credits of National Lampoon’s “Vacation” with Chevy Chase. (Ironically, this movie was also filmed in Flagstaff, AZ and Monument Valley while I worked as a tour guide and I watched them film the scene with Chevy Chase and family driving through the rain near the Grand Canyon.) And here are 25 things you may not have known about “Vacation“ — just for fun. But I digress, back to the fish….
Indeed, this is the kind of site a quirky roadtrip should have. But US Route 2 in Minnesota certainly was not finished providing amazingly fun road trip stops. Next stop….Bemidji, MN!
Bemidji, Minnesota is one of the ultimate “quirky places” to visit in Minnesota, but perhaps in the U.S.! In fact, I will have a feature post of Bemidji with many more photos and details about the place. But for now, here is the real story for me:
My whole fascination with travel and the birth of my wanderlust can be traced back to 1963 when I was flipping through a book about the U.S. that was published by LIFE Magazine. Almost all of the photos were black and white in the book, but I was determined that one day I would see the sites. One of the ones that struck me as “exotic” as a 7 year old was the Paul Bunyan picture (as shown above). The photo above was taken from the 1945 issue which they have in the Visitor’s Center and which I held in my hands. My 50 year old dream had come true as I made my way to one of the oldest “roadside attractions” in the country (this one was made in 1932!!). History of this unique attraction can be seen HERE.
I have written more about all of this in my special feature blog post on Bemidji (CLICK HERE).
These sculptures are at the Visitor’s Center in Bemidji, which also has the “Fireplace of States”. The Fireplace of States was constructed in 1934-35 under the U.S. Federal Works Program. In 1995, this fireplace was moved to its present location in the new Tourist Information Center on the Lake Bemidji waterfront.
Besides the Paul Bunyan, Bemidji does have a number of other things to see and do, much of which I didn’t have time for. Though covered much more in my Bemidji feature post, here are a couple of more unique sites from Bemidji:
A big Muffler Man statue was converted to an Indian Muffler Man just across the street from Paul Bunyan’s statue. It is apparently supposed to be of Nanabozho, a Paul Bunyan nemesis.
Nanabozho was considered a spirit father among the Ojibwe tribe. He most often appears in the shape of a rabbit and is characterized as a trickster. He was sent to Earth by Gitchi Manitou to teach the Ojibwe. One of his first tasks was to name all the plants and animals. He is also thought to be the inventor of fishing and hieroglyphs. This deity is a shape-shifter and a co-creator of the world. There are myths among the Ojibwe that tell how Nanabozho saves the forests from Paul Bunyan. The story goes that they fought for forty days and nights, and that Nanabozho killed Bunyan with a Red Lake walleye.
Nanabozhou is not the only Native American representation in Bemidji. As part of the Bemidji “Sculpture Walk” series, this piece was created by Wanda Odegard. Niimii is a 12 foot tall northern traditional Powwow Dancer made of steel. The traditional head piece is the essence of a large porcupine hair roach. Niimii wears a breast plate made of metal pipes which in real life they would be made of bone.
Bemidji has been doing their Sculpture Walk since 1999 and there are a number of unique pieces around town. I took shots of many of them and will include them in my more detailed Bemidji post. Here is one last one for this post — there is also a nice map of the Sculpture Walk HERE.
It was getting later in the day so I had to move westward and continued my trek across Minnesota on US Route 2.
I made way into McIntosh after passing a few other small towns. I had to stop for the metal rooster (one of four or five I have now captured in road trips). I also liked the huge historic wall mural in the town.
From McIntosh it was on to Crookston, MN, the last town before North Dakota. The town has a huge Ox Cart as you roll in from the east. They celebrate an annual Ox Cart Days in Crookston. There is also a nice Welcome Mural in town.
Next post will cover US Route 2 across North Dakota.
This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1Part 2 )
After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year. In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones. These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah. Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another. It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….
In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed). So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington. Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:
This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time. We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took. Along the way we saw a few fun things…
After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.
After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.
The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together. This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie. As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well. Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)
The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride. We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike. This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL. It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video. In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.
From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota. We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!
Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN
From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta. It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….
I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain. We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…
We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…
We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie. During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass. We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…
We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls. Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…
During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out). But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington. Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook. John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody). Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie. So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh. It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.
This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me. We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management. After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.
From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!). It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”
We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky. More unique stops were made along the way…
After a long trip, we finally made it home. This was to be the last of my trips with just my children. All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips. I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.
Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…
In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin. We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)
On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more. See more here.
We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.
I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them. However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us. I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips. Here are a few scenes…
My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18. Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between. Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well. Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.
Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!
Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.
Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly. That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….
Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!