Road Trip: Dallas to Lexington, KY via Branson, MO

Metals Horses in Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen in Durant, Oklahoma

After being gone for nearly a month in Idaho and then a few days in Dallas for work in mid June (2013), I took the final leg of this adventure and a two day trip to return home to Lexington via Branson, Missouri, where my wife was visiting with her sister.  This would turn out to be another fun adventure as I traveled through Oklahoma and the Ozarks.  Following is the route I took for the trip.  I left in the afternoon and arrived about midnight in Branson.


View Larger Map – Dallas, TX to Branson, MO

I headed straight up US 75 to Denison and while there at least got a glimpse of the HUGE Eisenhower statue that can be seen off of the freeway.  I took a photo of it while driving by, so it is not as good as I would have hoped.

Eisenhower statue in Denison, TX - Burthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower statue in Denison, TX – Birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower

I continued north on US 75 until it turned into US 69 as I crossed into Oklahoma and made my way into Durant, Oklahoma. Durant is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.

Bench in Durant, Oklahoma
Bench in Durant, Oklahoma

Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.  It is in a very nice area near lakes and rolling hills.  There are colorful horses dotting the town and some other surprises as well!!

Painted Horse in Durant, Oklahoma
Painted Horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse with Native American designs in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse with Native American designs in Durant, Oklahoma
Old Wall Advertisement in Durant, Oklahoma
Old Wall Advertisement in Durant, Oklahoma

Turns out that Durant, Oklahoma is also home to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.

World's Largest Peanut
World’s Largest Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant's Giant Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant’s Giant Peanut

Finally, on the way out of town I ran into these unique scrap metal horses in a park in Durant. These appear to be the handiwork of South Dakota “found metal sculptor” Doug Owen.

Scrap Metal Horses - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap metal horse - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap metal horse by Doug Owen – Durant, Oklahoma

From Durant I headed north on US 69/75 through a number of small towns until I got to Atoka, Oklahoma.

US Routes 69/75 north of Durant, Oklahoma
US Routes 69/75 north of Durant, Oklahoma

Atoka, Oklahoma is a town of a little over 3000 people.  It was settled in the mid-1800s and was an important stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Road.  The small town was considered the capital of the Choctaw Nation in the late 1800s and was named after Captain Atoka who led his people here during the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830s.

Large White Buffalo statue in Atoka, OK
Large White Buffalo statue in Atoka, OK

Due to my time constraints, I didn’t have a lot of time to stop along the road on this trip, but I did make my way past the beautiful Atoka Reservoir and into McAlester, Oklahoma.

US Route 69 north out of Atoka, Oklahoma
US Route 69 north out of Atoka, Oklahoma
US 69 heading towards Atoka Reservoir
US 69 heading towards Atoka Reservoir

Upon arrival in McAlester I got to see a throwback to the 1950s…at the Happy Days Hotel there are 50s themed rooms including the “Elvis Suite,” “I Love Lucy,” James Dean and Marilyn Monroe rooms at the hotel.

Happy Days Hotel and Angel's Diner - McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel and Angel’s Diner – McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel - McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel – McAlester, OK
Angel's Diner store front - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner store front – McAlester, Oklahoma

Angel’s Diner has the black and white checkerboard floors, diner seating and more.  I wish I would have had time to stop in…..but I had to continue on to Branson

Eufaula Lake, Oklahoma
OK Hwy 9 bridge across Eufaula Reservoir, Oklahoma

One of the more spectacular sights along the drive north on US 69 is the huge Eufaula Lake, with over 600 miles of shoreline, it is the largest lake in Oklahoma.   It was beautiful as I approached close to sunset.

Another shot of Lake Eufaula
Another shot of Lake Eufaula

Shortly after passing by the lake I arrived in Checotah, Oklahoma and then headed west on Interstate 40.  It was getting dark, so I zipped my way on to Branson, Missouri through Arkansas.  Sorry…too dark for photos…

Branson, Missouri water tower
Branson, Missouri water tower

The next morning my wife and I took two cars and drive back from Branson to Lexington, Kentucky.  We had to get back, so we didn’t have much time to see anything in Branson.  I did get a photo of a huge guitar sticking out of a building….

Grand Country Fun Spot - Big Guitar neck - Branson, Missouri
Grand Country Fun Spot – Big Guitar neck – Branson, Missouri

Our route from Branson to Lexington was not a direct route as I wanted to take my wife by Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MO for lunch, as you will see later on.  Here is our nearly 600 mile route for Day 2:


View Larger Map – Branson, MO to Lexington, KY

The drive across southern Missouri is always nicer OFF of the freeways.  I had been on US 60 between Branson and Sikeston three or four times.  But, of course, there are always interesting things to see along the way.

US 65 North near Busiek State Forest south of Springfield, Missouri
US 65 North near Busiek State Forest south of Springfield, Missouri
Uncle Rooster's Restaurant near Seymour, Missouri on US 60 East
Uncle Rooster’s Restaurant near Seymour, Missouri on US 60 East

Gotta love a name like Uncle Rooster’s!!  They even have a giant rooster out front….

Uncle Rooster's Big Rooster on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri
Uncle Rooster’s Big Rooster (ROHO) on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri

From Seymour, the countryside becomes mainly farmland until about Mountain View and Cabool.  We saw thousands of rolled bales of hay and other nice rural scenery along the way.

Rolled hay bales on US 60 east of Seymour, Missouri
Rolled hay bales on US 60 east of Seymour, Missouri
Long Train Running along US 60 near Norwood, Missouri
Long Train Running along US 60 near Norwood, Missouri
US Route 60 west of Mountain Home, Missouri
US Route 60 west of Mountain View, Missouri
More bales of hay near Mountain Home, Missouri
More bales of hay near Mountain View, Missouri

We stopped in Mountain View, Missouri for a quick rest break and a drink.  While there, lo and behold, I saw some scrap metal horse sculptures that looked amazingly similar to the ones I had seen in Durant, Oklahoma the day before.  I believe they are the work of South Dakota artist Doug Owen.

Scrap Metal Horses in Missouri
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen in Mountain View, Missouri

From Mountain View we proceeded eastward on US Route 60.  Here are a couple more scenes from the road:

US Route 60 east of Mountain View, Missouri
US Route 60 east of Mountain View, Missouri
Low flying plane near Dexter, Missouri (aerial spraying)
Low flying plane near Dexter, Missouri (aerial spraying)
Aerial Spray plane rounding a turn near Dexter, Missouri
Aerial Spray plane rounding a turn near Dexter, Missouri

Not soon after seeing the aerial acrobatics of the plane above, we made our way into Sikeston, Missouri.  Sikeston is at a major junction of US 60 from the west, Interstate 55 (N-S thru Sikeston) and Interstate 57 from the east.  But for me, the real highlight was being able to once again visit Lambert’s Cafe.  I had been to the one in Ozark, Missouri a number of years ago, but never to this one.

Sumoflam and wife at Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

Lambert’s is one of those places that buses full of tourists stop at, highway drivers stop and more.  All sorts of Kitsch with license plates everywhere, old photos and, most importantly – good food and LOTS of it.  But, perhaps the real drawing card is the “Throwed Rolls”, a tradition at these stops since the beginning.

The Throwed Rolls Guy - Lambert's Cafe, Sikeston, Missouri
The Throwed Rolls Guy – Lambert’s Cafe, Sikeston, Missouri
Throwing Roll's at Lamberts - this guy chucked them clear across the room
Throwing Roll’s at Lamberts – this guy chucked them clear across the room

To get a roll you must raise your hand and they throw it to you.  You miss and hits the floor….too bad!

Throwed Rolls soaked in Sorghum Molasses
Throwed Rolls soaked in Sorghum Molasses

Sometimes the roll throwers do miss.  We saw some up on the overhangs…

Oops - missed
Oops – missed

The unique thing about this place is the Family Style servings.  You order your food and a side and then they bring you a number of other sides – fried potatoes, fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas and more.  These are as much as you care to eat.

Bringing around the potatoes at Lambert's
Bringing around the potatoes at Lambert’s
More throwed rolls!!
More throwed rolls!!

The environment there is fun as well….

Flags hang in front of Lambert's Cafe
Flags hang in front of Lambert’s Cafe
Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri - big place
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
Walkway in Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri
Walkway in Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri
The Original Roll Thrower
The Original Roll Thrower
Eagle at Lambert's
Eagle at Lambert’s
Big Metal Chicken on overhang at Lambert's
Big Metal Chicken on overhang at Lambert’s
Need a big cup? Plenty of souvenirs at Lambert's!!
Need a big cup? Plenty of souvenirs at Lambert’s!!

After a hefty lunch, we really wanted a nap, but we actually had to scoot onwards towards home.  Just a short zip up I-57 and we were in Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet for one of the biggest confluences in the country.  There are two big bridges to cross at this point.

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois
Crossing the Mighty Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois

One moment you are in Missouri, a few minutes later you go through Illinois and straight into Kentucky.

Welcome to Wickliffe, Kentucky - just after crossing over the second bridge
Welcome to Wickliffe, Kentucky – just after crossing over the second bridge
I love it when Kentucky welcomes me home with flowers
I love it when Kentucky welcomes me home with flowers after being gone for a month
Sign to Future City, Illinois...I guess it is not there yet??
Sign to Future City, Illinois…I guess it is not there yet?? Or have I come “Back to the Future?”

After driving the narrow KY Hwy 286 to Paducah, we were excited to get on the freeway, but, I got a taste of Dallas in rural Kentucky as we were stuck in non-moving freeway traffic for well over 30 minutes.

Stuck in traffic on I-24 east of Paducah - shades of Dallas....
Stuck in traffic on I-24 east of Paducah – shades of Dallas….

But, after it all cleared up, we were on I-69 breezing away and then eventually onto the Bluegrass Parkway.

Bluegrass Parkway near Bardstown, Kentucky
Bluegrass Parkway near Bardstown, Kentucky

And, finally, back home in Kentucky after being away and on the road for over 5500 miles, 33 days and driving through 15 different states during that time.

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Traveling the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota

If you are at all interested in the whimsical, unique and humongous roadside attractions of this great country, then a drive down the amazing Enchanted Highway in North Dakota is a MUST!!

On April 2, 2013, I finally had the opportunity to drive one of the “Bucket List” trips for me in all of my travels across the country.  The 32 mile drive features a number of pieces of the amazing artwork of retired Regent, ND school teacher Gary Greff who has taken on this effort in order to keep the small dying town from becoming a ghost town.  I hope to have a pretty comprehensive overview of the entire route, including the map below and detailed directions, mileage, photos and even some details about each stop along the way.


The Enchanted Highway – from I-94 near Dickinson to Regent, ND

GEESE IN FLIGHT – STOP #1

To get started you must get to Exit 72 on I-94 east of Dickinson, ND.  You most certainly cannot miss the first stop, which is called “Geese in Flight” and has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records.

"Geese in Flight" - Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
“Geese in Flight” – Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
Sumoflam at Geese in Flight
Sumoflam at Geese in Flight

“Geese in Flight”, in my opinion, not only has the geese, but the giant backdrop appears to look like a giant eye looking out towards the Enchanted Highway. For my trip south on the Enchanted Highway, this is Mile Point 0 (zero).

The road to geese in flight, lined with dozens of metal geese
The road to Geese in Flight, lined with dozens of metal geese all the way to the top of the hill
One of the dozen of small geese lining the road to Geese in Flight
One of the dozens of small geese lining the road to Geese in Flight

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 (it was a clear day for us – thank goodness!!).  Gary Greff used oil tanks and oil well pipe for the materials to construct this humongous piece of art.

Giant Goose on the Structure - 30 foot wing span
Giant Goose on the Structure – 30 foot wing span
Close up of Geese in Flight
Close up of Geese in Flight
Geese in Flight from Google Maps satellite shot
Geese in Flight from Google Maps satellite shot
View of "Deer Crossing" from "Geese in Flight", about 3 miles away
View of “Deer Crossing” from “Geese in Flight”, about 3 miles away

DEER CROSSING – STOP #2

The drive from Stop 1 “Geese in Flight” to Stop 2 “Deer Crossing” is about 3.4 miles.  As shown above, you can see Deer Crossing and the Enchanted Highway from the top of the “Geese in Flight” hill.

Enchanted Highway Stop #2 - 'Deer Crossing"
“Deer Crossing” – Stop #2 on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam at Deer Crossing
Sumoflam at Deer Crossing

“Deer Crossing” is one of the newer works by Mr. Greff.  It was erected in 2002 just a bit south of the small town of Gladstone. The jumping buck is 75 feet tall and 60 feet long.  The doe is 50 feet long and 50 feet tall.  Mr. Greff used oil well tanks for the material to construct this.

Geese in Flight as seen from Deer Crossing
Geese in Flight as seen from Deer Crossing – over 3 miles away
Deer Crossing as seen from Google Map Satellite
Deer Crossing as seen from Google Map Satellite

GRASSHOPPERS IN THE FIELD – STOP #3

The next stop on the trek south to Regent is “Grasshoppers in the Field”.  It is about 12 miles down the road from “Deer Crossing”.  You must pass the small — nearly ghost town — of Lefor, ND before the giant grasshoppers appear on the right side of the road.

First sight of "Grasshoppers"
First sight of “Grasshoppers in the Field” as seen coming south from Lefor, SD
Giant Grasshopper
Giant Grasshopper

Unlike the first two on the drive, “Grasshoppers in the Field” was a complex set of sculptures.   There is one large grasshopper and a couple of smaller ones.  As well, Mr. Greff had added large strands of wheat to the sculpture (made of metal of course!!).  The design of the grasshoppers was similar to the Balsa Wood animals and insects that can be purchased at hobby shops.

Medium Grasshopper
Medium Grasshopper
Wheat and Grasshopper
Wheat and Grasshopper
Closeup of Giant Grasshopper
Closeup of Giant Grasshopper

All of the grasshoppers have stringed lighting so I am assuming they can be lit up at night as well.  This work was completed in 1999.  The Giant Grasshopper 60 feet long and 40 feet tall.  The Medium Grasshopper is 24 feet long and 12 feet tall.  Some of the wheat pieces are well over 40 feet tall.  Fuel tanks and oil well tanks were the predominant materials used for these pieces.

Sumoflam with Giant Grasshopper
Sumoflam with Giant Grasshopper
Grasshoppers in the Field looking north
Grasshoppers in the Field looking north
Grasshoppers in the Field as seen from Google Maps Satellite view
Grasshoppers in the Field as seen from Google Maps Satellite view

FISHERMAN’S DREAM – STOP #4

Fisherman's Dream
Fisherman’s Dream

The next stop on the Enchanted Highway is the newest of Mr. Greff’s creations.  Called “Fisherman’s Dream”, this complex and beautiful work is 14.8 miles south of the “Grasshoppers in the Field”.  Greff completed this work in 2007.  It includes 6 large fish of different sizes including a 60 or 70 foot leaping trout going after a giant dragonfly.

60 foot tall trout - centerpiece of "Fisherman's Dream"
60-70 foot tall trout grabbing dinner – centerpiece of “Fisherman’s Dream”
Fisherman's Dream as seen from "underwater"
Fisherman’s Dream as seen from “underwater”

I must say that I was most impressed with this stop more than any of the others.  All of them are impressive, but the use of colors, the variety, the complexity of the fish scales and even the use of the small fisherman in the boat was just fabulous.

Giant Catfish at "Fisherman's Dream"
Giant Catfish at “Fisherman’s Dream”
Giant Blue Gill at "Fisherman's Dream"
Giant Blue Gill at “Fisherman’s Dream”
Another fish
Another fish
Happy Fisherman at "Fisherman's Dream" floating on the lake
Happy Fisherman at “Fisherman’s Dream” floating on the lake
Another view of "Fisherman's Dream"
Another view of “Fisherman’s Dream”
Sumoflam at "Fisherman's Dream"
Sumoflam at “Fisherman’s Dream”
Fisherman's Dream as seen from Google Maps satellite view
Fisherman’s Dream as seen from Google Maps satellite view

PHEASANTS ON THE PRAIRIE – STOP #5

Pheasants in the Field as seen approaching from the north
Pheasants on the Prairie as seen approaching from the north

Continuing south for about 4.5 miles from “Fisherman’s Dream” is the next stop, called “Pheasants on the Prairie”.  This is also a quite impressive work of art with a giant rooster and hen and their three chicks.

Pheasant Chicks as seen from the Road
Pheasant Chicks as seen from the Road

This work was erected between 1996 and 1997.  The pheasant rooster weighs over 13,000 pounds and is 70 feet long and over 40 feet tall.  The hen weighs 12,000 pounds and is 60 feet long and 35 feet tall. Each of the chicks are about 5000 pounds and are about 20 feet long and 15 feet tall.  Greff used pipe and wire mesh to construct these.  Ironically, the mesh construction was conducive for numerous birds to build nests in!!

The Hen at Pheasants on the Prairie - over 12,000 pounds of bird
The Hen at Pheasants on the Prairie – over 12,000 pounds of bird
The Rooster at Pheasants on the Prairie weighs over 13,000 pounds is over 40 feet tall.
The Rooster at Pheasants on the Prairie weighs over 13,000 pounds is over 40 feet tall
Chicks looking down - make you feel like you are bird food
Chicks looking down – make you feel like you are bird food
Sumoflam at Pheasants on the Prairie
Sumoflam at Pheasants on the Prairie
Pheasants on the Prairie as seen from Google Maps satellite view
Pheasants on the Prairie as seen from Google Maps satellite view

TEDDY RIDES AGAIN – STOP #6

Teddy Rides Again as seen approaching from the north
Teddy Rides Again as seen approaching from the north

The next stop is quite different from most of the others.  It is about 2.2 miles south of the “Pheasants on the Prairie” and honors the inventor of the National Park System in the United States. This is more like a giant wire sculpture of Teddy Roosevelt.  Erected in 1993 out of well pipes, it is 51 feet tall and weighs over 9000 pounds.  This little park also includes a small wooden stage coach being pulled by horses.

Closeup of Teddy Roosevelt
Closeup of Teddy Roosevelt
The Wooden Horses at "Teddy Rides Again"
The Wooden Horses at “Teddy Rides Again”
Another view of the Stagecoach
Another view of the Stagecoach
Sumoflam at Teddy Rides Again
Sumoflam at Teddy Rides Again
Teddy Rides Again as seen on Google Maps satellite view
Teddy Rides Again as seen on Google Maps satellite view

THE TIN FAMILY – STOP #7

The Tin Family as seen approaching from the north
The Tin Family as seen approaching from the north

The last big stop on the road to Regent is the Tin Family.   It is about 3.4 miles south of “Teddy Rides Again” and can be seen for a distance before you get there.  This one has a Dad, a Mom and a son. The Dad is 45 feet tall, the Mom is 44 feet tall and the boy is 23 feet tall.  Mr. Greff used farm tanks, telephone poles, barbed wire and augers to make these, the first of his sculptures.

Mom and Dad and "Tin Family" Kiosk
Mom and Dad and “Tin Family” Kiosk

As can be seen in the photo above, each of the sites has an informative kiosk that notes the name of the work, notes the names of donors and other information.

Mom Closeup
Mom Closeup
Mom's Flower Bouquet
Mom’s Flower Bouquet
Dad Closeup
Dad Closeup
The boy and sucker closeup
The boy and sucker closeup
The whole Tin Family
The whole Tin Family
Sumoflam with Mom and Dad
Sumoflam with Mom and Dad
Tin Family as seen from Google Maps satellite view
Tin Family as seen from Google Maps satellite view

REGENT, NORTH DAKOTA – STOP #8

Welcome to Regent and Enchanted Highway Road Map
Welcome to Regent and Enchanted Highway

Continuing south from the Tin Family about 1.9 miles you pull into the small town of Regent.  Though we arrived around lunch time on a Tuesday (April 2), the town was pretty much dead.  There was a gas station (and believe me…you better fill up here!!) and a small grocery store.  We inquired about cafes and there were two and both were closed.  Even the Enchanted Highway Visitor Center was closed.  Off season I guess.

Enchanted Highway art in downtown Regent, ND
Enchanted Highway art in downtown Regent, ND – whirlygigs and more
Enchanted Highway Gift Shop in Regent, ND - closed the day were there
Enchanted Highway Gift Shop in Regent, ND – closed the day were there
More Enchanted Highway Scenes in Regent, ND
More Enchanted Highway Scenes in Regent, ND – the bison are all fabricated metal
End of the Road - Enchanted Hotel in Regent, ND
End of the Road – Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent, ND – even has a Drawbridge!!

After filling up with gas, we meandered our way to the end of Main Street to see the Enchanted Castle Hotel, which was apparently built from an old school.  We didn’t have time to stop there as we continued to head south.

Enchanted Highway Kiosk
Enchanted Highway Kiosk

The Enchanted Highway makes for a great diversionary trip, especially if you plan to head south to Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.  Definitely one of the Dream Places!!

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