During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The R Towns
Roswell, New Mexico
How can I do a post about towns that start with the letter R and NOT include Roswell, New Mexico? I can’t!! Roswell is perhaps the most out of this world town in the United States (I’ll cover Vulcan, Alberta as Canada’s out of this world town in the V Towns post next week). On a return trip from Arizona, my daughter, son and grandchildren drove through Roswell and then home through Texas. I didn’t write a post about this trip though I do have a number of photos from the trip on my Pinterest and SmugMug pages. Roswell is a fun place!
Regent, North Dakota
Regent, North Dakota is the southern Gateway to the Enchanted Highway, one of the most amazing offbeat and quirky drives in the United States. The 32 mile drive features a number of pieces of the unique (and massive) 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. To me, this is a Top Ten Road Trip Destination. One of my most popular posts on this blog is my complete photo/travel review of Regent and the Enchanted Highway. Check it out – complete with maps, descriptions, mile points, satellite photos — its right HERE.
In 2012 I took a three day trip to Wisconsin with one of my daughters and her daughter. We visited Jurustic Park (see my M Town Posts), Green Bay, Egg Harbor (see my E Town Posts) and also made our way north on US 51 until we hit US 8 and then headed east toward Rhinelander, also known as the “Heart of Hodag Country.” What, pray tell, is a Hodag? There is a great unique writeup HERE. According to the Rhinelander website, the Hodag is a mysterious woodland creature that makes its home in the Rhinelander Area. Why the Hodag is only found in the Rhinelander Area is not certain. However, many people believe that it is the clean lakes, dense forests and incredible natural beauty that ties the Hodag to the Rhinelander Area. See more about this trip HERE.
Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
One of the country’s uniquely named towns is a small Ohio River town known as Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. According to the Rabbit Hash website: “The town’s name, “Rabbit Hash” is said to have originated during the flood of 1847 when the abundant local rabbit population was driven to higher ground and became a food staple in a special stew called “hash.” Little documented history of Rabbit Hash actually survives, primarily because devastating Ohio River floods in 1884, 1913 and 1937 deluged the little town and ruined many records.” See more about my 2008 visit to Rabbit Hash. A fun side trip for anyone! Read it HERE.
Raton, New Mexico
Head south on Interstate 25 out of Trinidad, Colorado, cross into New Mexico and you come into the throwback touristy town of Raton, NM, which is also at the intersection of US Highways 64 and 87. The town is dotted with 50s and 60s style neon signs and motels, a nice retro downtown area and a great Visitor’s Center. You can see more about my Colorado/New Mexico trip and my visit to Raton HERE.
Red Lodge, Montana
Red Lodge, Montana is one of the gateways to the Beartooth Scenic Highway (US Highway 212), perhaps one of the most scenic and splendid high mountain drives in the country. The town itself is beautiful, though touristy as it also promotes itself as a Gateway to Yellowstone National Park as well. Read about my 2014 Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge experience in more detail HERE.
Riverside, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
If you are a Star Trek fan than you know about Riverside, Iowa. It is most likely the only town you can find that is the FUTURE BIRTHPLACE of someone, in this case, Captain James T. Kirk, who is scheduled to be born on March 2, 2228. Touting itself as the place “Where the Trek Begins,” you can find some Star Trek memorabilia, a Starship replica and more.
Rugby, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
You may think North Dakota is in the northern climes, but, actually, when considering North America, it is almost in the middle. In fact, the small town of Rugby IS the Geographical Center of North America. Not too far off of US Highway 2 in North Dakota, its a good photo opportunity. See more about my US Highway 2 Zip Trip across North Dakota HERE.
Rudyard, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Further west on US Highway 2 in Montana is the town of Rudyard. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things. You can read more about the town and surrounding towns on Montana’s Hi-Line (US Highway 2) — HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
One of the important facets of traveling the less beaten paths of America (and Canada) is the food. As I travel the country, I look for good food at local places. This post covers some of the restaurants, steak houses, cafes and fine (or semi-fine) dining places. Subsequent FOOD posts will include Diners/Drive-Ins, Barbecue Joints, Burger Places and Bakeries/Donut Shops.
Ric’s Grill is one of those REALLY unique places to eat. I visited Lethbridge on a cross-country trip from Kentucky to Washington in 2005. I have friends in Lethbridge who took us here for dinner.
Though it looks strange from the outside, actually, the atmosphere and food is very high class. This is a top notch steak house with fancy china, excellent waiters and delectable food. There are 11 Ric’s Grills in western Canada, though this is by far the most unique one.
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge – Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse is a unique steak house in the small town of Paxton, Nebraska. Opened on August 9, 1933 (the day after prohibition ended) as a bar by Rosser O. Herstedt (locally known as “Ole”). Originally stared as a tavern, Ole and his friends would talk about their hunting trips. Then, in 1938 Ole bagged a nice buck and was so proud of it he had it displayed in the tavern. This was the first of many animals to make their way into the tavern that later became Ole’s Steakhouse and Lounge. Ole’s also serves breakfast.
So, now one can sit and enjoy a wonderful steak with a moose or an elephant or a buffalo peeking over your shoulder.
All totaled there are over 200 mounts now showcased at Ole’s with animals from all over the world.
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – Ozark, Missouri
Another fun place to eat and enjoy a great meal is Lambert’s Cafe, the home of “Throwed Rolls”. I have been to the two restaurants in Sikeston and Ozark, Missouri (which is near Branson). They have one more in Alabama.
So, why “Throwed Rolls”? I am not sure, but Lambert’s serves the side dishes family style, all you can eat. The seating arrangement is in a big square with an open center for the staff to bring in the food and throw the rolls.
If you miss the flying rolls, too bad…. But, there will be more. According to their website’s Fun Facts, their ovens turn out rolls from 9:15 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. usually without stopping. and they average baking 520 dozen rolls per day, for a grand total of 2,246,400 individual rolls. in one year. Pass the butter please!!
Besides the rolls, Lambert’s also has what they call “Pass Arounds”, sides that come with the meal and include Black-Eyed Peas, Fried Okra, Macaroni & Tomatoes, Fried Potatoes & Onions and unlimited Sorghum to go on the rolls.
Astoria Shish Kebob House – Toronto, Ontario
If you are in the mood for some awesome Greek food in a totally Greek atmosphere, then try the Astoria Shish Kebob House in Toronto’s Greek Town. We went to Greek town on a whim and fell in love with this place. We enjoyed Saganaki (pan-fried and flaming kefalotyri cheese) and then shish kebob with some of the most savory tadziki sauce my tongue has experienced.
Saganaki is a small Greek frying pan that is best used for frying a variety of sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. Astoria uses kafalotyri, which is a hard and salty cheese. When fried it actually flames and that is how they bring it to the table.
Astoria serves a variety of shish kebob and we tried some. It too was YUMMIFEROUS!!
While at Astoria, I got to meet the owner, who loves having his photo taken with patrons, including numerous celebrities. I am now included in the menagerie!!
Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon
Mo’s Seafood is not a fancy place in terms of the dining area. It is nice inside, but the tables are picnic tables. But don’t let that fool you. Their seafood is amazing.
Mo’s gets its name from Newport native Mohava Marie Niemi, who started the restaurant in 1946 with her partner Freddy Kent.
Mo’s is especially famed for the luscious and buttery clam chowder. Indeed, they claim it to be World Famous, and I can see why. So, I ordered the Halibut (so I could say I came to Mo’s just for the halibut”, but also enjoyed the creamy buttery clam chowder, which was almost so thick my spoon could stand up in it!!
It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful experience to see the Pacific Ocean out the window while enjoying the bounty of the ocean inside.
Armadillo Palace – Houston, Texas
Deep in the heart of Houston, Texas is a cafe and bar and home to some good live music – The Armadillo Palace. Protected by a 20 foot tall silver armadillo, this place is a real kick and gives you a real down home cowboy feel.
This restaurant, owned by the Goode Company, a purveyor of a number of good restaurants in Houston covering the gamut from BBQ, seafood and Mexican, the Armadillo Palace is decorated with mounted longhorns and buffalo, has a bar with saddle seating and the western decor and photos take you back to the days of the Old West.
The old decor and the smell of leather just add to the flavorful and generous portions dished out at Armadillo Palace. One of their signature dishes is Chicken Fried Steak and this slab of yummiferousness is almost as big as the plate. Their spicy green beans and special mashed potatoes help make a rib sticking dinner!
Frontier Bar and Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
A few miles east of Shelby, Montana, on US Highway 2 (The Hi-Line), is a non-descript old whitewashed building with an old yellow sign (above). The Frontier Bar and Supper Club certainly does not look like much, but once you are inside, the atmosphere is rustic and the steaks are to die for!
Upon arrival you are greeted by the whimsical mailbox dude. I don’t know what to call him, but he is a work of folk art.
The atmosphere inside is like many Montana bars. Lots of longhorns, neon signs, a country music jukebox. The dining room is decorated with wood paneling adorned by the many cattle ranch brands of the area. But the best part of this place is the blackened steaks. On this visit I had the Chipotle Blackened New York Steak…. spicy and pricy but tasty good!!
El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery – Roswell, NM
Ok…so, you mix Mexican food and aliens and you get this weird mix…only in Roswell…
Of course, we were hungry so we had the real food….
The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant and Tavern – Heidelberg, Ontario
Olde Heidelberg Restaurant in the small town of Heidelberg is family restaurant and also has a mini brewery. Located in the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite and Amish country, this place is famous not only for its Weiner Schnitzel, but also for its pig tails, something I had never had in the past.
But, I don’t drink the beer, just eat the good food…and here is what I had
Past Time Cafe – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Yes, there are less beaten paths in Kentucky and many of them lead to Amish Country. Crab Orchard is in the heart of Kentucky Amish country and the Past Time Cafe is right there in Crab Orchard.
This cafe has generous portions of country cooking and is well known for their fried catfish, their soup beans and corn bread. The walls in the place are covered with the history of Crab Orchard and surrounding communities, including many old newspapers and photos. Plenty to browse while waiting for a good meal.
Chriswell’s Trails Inn – Ashton, Idaho
Ashton, Idaho is one of the southern gateways to Yellowstone National Park and is also a western gateway to the Grand Tetons. The small Idaho town is a touristy place and on the edge of town is Chriswell’s Trails Inn restaurant. This rustic place is a steak house and also has some other great meals. Like Ole’s and Armadillo Palace, this place is full of mounted animals, included a rare White Buffalo Head.
Of course, the food is why we were here. We were starved and this placed fit the bill.
This chicken fried steak was HUGE!! Covered the whole plate. Of course, the potatoes were huge too and stuffed goodness!!
Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
I have written about Tightwad in earlier blogs, especially concerning the famous Tightwad Bank. But, there is also a great little cafe in Tightwad called Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe. Originally just called the Tightwad Cafe, owner Carrie Fields purchased the once Cafe and Bar from her aunt and then closed the bar. Carrie is unabashed and very friendly, but she doesn’t take credit cards…doesn’t want to pay the fees (HA!). But, she also insists that she is not a tightwad!
Carrie was correct about the not being a tightwad part. The meals at the cafe are not expensive and they are very large portions. No skimping on the food!! I had “Delmer’s Big ‘In” for breakfast this day which included 3 eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns and biscuits and gravy, all for about $8.00 (try to beat that McD’s!)
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a wonderful little town in the Ozarks. In the midst of town is a shopping section known as the underground and housed within is the Mud Street Cafe. This is a one and all – Coffee shop, Bar and Cafe, all in one. My wife and I visited for breakfast one nice morning in November 2012. What a great little cafe!!
Once downstairs we were enthralled by the kitschy decor. Painted chairs, painted glass, sculptures, tapestries…decor that was nice and cozy.
But, the coziness was nothing compared to the food. Freshly made HUGE muffins, fruit salads and tasty breakfast food.
Just a few more places to note….
Coming soon – FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 2: Barbecue Places and Diners
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”, 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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
FISHERMAN’S DREAM – STOP #4
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.
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.
PHEASANTS ON THE PRAIRIE – STOP #5
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.
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!!
TEDDY RIDES AGAIN – STOP #6
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.
THE TIN FAMILY – STOP #7
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.
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.
REGENT, NORTH DAKOTA – STOP #8
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.
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.
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!!