We had to really fly from a late afternoon arrival in Chillicothe to get to Larry’s place on 13178 Highway T in Centralia. But we did get there just at dusk and I got to meet Larry and learn more about his work. He has been doing these sculptures for a number of years and really loves the attention he gets. When we arrived and got out for a look see, the jovial Larry strolled out of his small farmhouse to greet me (along with his barking dog). Larry suffered a disastrous car accident in the early 1990s. He got a broken back that forced him to retire from his traveling construction work. He walked out with a cane and a nice smile.
If you look at Google Maps, it actually provides you a nice quick shot as can be seen below:
Fortunately, we arrived just at dusk so I could clearly see all of Larry’s pieces, but, it got dark quickly, so most of the photos below are done with a flash and I tried to edit in some brightness….
Vennard’s “Highway ‘T’ Rex” is about 20 feet tall and is by far his biggest project. You can’t miss it either as you drive east on Highway T coming from Centralia. He looks like he is ready to reach out an grab you!! Following are a few other pieces I was able to capture…
Larry has a number of other goodies on the grounds. His is one of those “MUST SEE” places on the back roads of America. He is a nice, humble man doing what he loves and loving how his work impacts others in a positive way. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet Larry Vennard and I hope many of my readers will get the same opportunity!!
As I travel the backroads of America and Canada I always run across all sorts of what some call “Yard Art”. Others call it folk art, offbeat art, quirky things, etc. Well, there is the whimsical and fun, there is the unique and then the downright strange. Some of the sites, like Cadillac Ranch above, are world famous. Others are in the middle of nowhere and are happenstance and unexpected. Following is a menagerie of quirky and offbeat whimsy and creativity that I have seen. Enjoy the ride and see if you have been to any of these places…
SCRAP METAL DINOSAURS AND DRAGONS
Perhaps one of the most common types of yard art I see is scrap metal work. And it seems that dinosaurs and dragons are the most popular. Here are a few.
(UPDATE II – May 2015: On a recent trip to California, I discovered this great piece called “Horn Dragon” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris. It certainly fits into this post!)
(UPDATE – October 2013: I have found another great scrap metal artist besides those noted below. Visit my post on Larry Vennard from Centralia, Missouri)
SCRAP METAL CRITTERS
Of course, dinosaurs and dragons are not the only creatures (critters) that can be seen out on the road. Here are a few more scrap metal (found metal) critters from all over…
Of course, dinos and critters are not the only things made out of scrap metal. People are too. Perhaps the biggest and most impressive scrap metal people I have ever seen are the three that comprise the “Tin Family” at the end of the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota (if driving from I-94 or first one if driving from Regent, ND). The Dad is 45 feet tall, Mom is 44 feet tall and the Tin Kid is 23 feet tall. But, there are many more that are unique. Here are a few scrap metal folk found on the road…
Then there is the most magnificent of all scrap metal art pieces, the World’s Largest (according to the Guinness Book of World Recrod’s). This is at the entry of the amazing Enchanted Highway in North Dakota:
CHAIN SAW ART
Obviously, scrap metal is not the only medium used in the creation of yard art. There is a ton of work don with chain saws and wood. I have seen hundreds of pieces dot the country. Here are a few from all over…
The epitome of Chain Saw Art is the Chain Saw Totem Pole forest in Medford, Wisconsin. Chainsaw Gordy has gone to a whole new cut above…. 21 poles with nearly 400 chainsaws in them, all done by Gordy Lekies.
MAILBOXES AS PART OF THE ARTWORK
Though not nearly as prevalent as Chain Saw art and metal art, there are the occasional unique mailboxes to be seen on the back roads of America. I have passed dozens of plastic John Deere mailboxes, fish and cow mailboxes, etc., but then there are the really unique ones….
TOTALLY JUNKED OUT PLACES
Folk art abounds in this country, but there are some who have taken it to excess with knick-knacks, whirly-gigs, old toys, old stuff and more…and all in one place. Some in the name of art and some just to, well, have a place for their stuff. Though I have seen many across the country, here are some of the more outlandish examples (with two or three shots from each place)
Moving on to Woodstock, Ontario and Cliff Bruce’s Windmill Hill, another menagerie of the unusual….(see my writeup here)
Then there is the Flower Man House in Houston, Texas. Built by a man who had been a homeless alcoholic for years, he decided to turn his life around and began putting together his interestingly eccentric colorful house, which sits in an otherwise bland neighborhood.
And just around the corner from the Flower Man’s House is another quirky place – the Law Offices of Tim Hootman. His office is in a brightly colored boxcar and has some unique art sitting outside the place. Really funky…
If these are not quirky enough, how about this place in Lima, Montana…is it a shop, a restaurant, a hotel or just someone’s knick-knack collection? It was closed, so I couldn’t really find out….
If you liked the place in Lima, how about the Junk Store in Buena Vista, Colorado? This place seems to everything (you may not want or need)!!
I came across this fence in Parker, Idaho… completely made of roadsigns
In the small town of What Cheer, Iowa, a lady has gussied up her yard with old wheels, implements and even has a real “flower bed”!
Came across this little “health food store” in Gardner, Colorado, called H Food Store – Huajatollas Foods (see YouTube Video):
And finally, we discovered a couple of places on a back road in central Kentucky. We took Highway 77 (Nada Tunnel Road) and first came across a barn with a hubcap collection:
And we also came across this house near Orlando, Kentucky
Finally, this unique house in Talent, Oregon along with their Shoe Tree:
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
From Durant I headed north on US 69/75 through a number of small towns until I got to Atoka, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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….
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:
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.
Gotta love a name like Uncle Rooster’s!! They even have a giant rooster out front….
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.
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.
From Mountain View we proceeded eastward on US Route 60. Here are a couple more scenes from the road:
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.
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.
To get a roll you must raise your hand and they throw it to you. You miss and hits the floor….too bad!
Sometimes the roll throwers do miss. We saw some up on the overhangs…
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.
The environment there is fun as well….
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.
One moment you are in Missouri, a few minutes later you go through Illinois and straight into Kentucky.
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.
But, after it all cleared up, we were on I-69 breezing away and then eventually onto the Bluegrass Parkway.
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.