North Texas/Oklahoma Odyssey and beyond

NTexas(Note: This is part 3 of my Texas road trip reports from June 2014, covering the trip from Austin to Ft. Worth and then on to Denton, Paris, Oklahoma, Arkansas and home to Kentucky.)

After spending a nice day in Austin, it was time to head north to Ft. Worth and then on to Kentucky.  Along the way I went from weird to spooky to strange to Friendship.  Here is the map of this portion of the trip.

My route from Austin, TX (weird) to Friendship, AR.  Traveled in late June 2014
My route from Austin, TX (weird) to Friendship, AR. Traveled in late June 2014

On this route I visited friends but also visited some other fun and quirky places.  My first stop was in Georgetown, TX.  Georgetown is home to some lovely Victorian architecture and also has one of the more quirky street statues I have seen.

A Victorian Spire in Georgetown, TX
The distinctive Onion Dome on the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge Building in Georgetown, TX

This building was the home of the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Texas. They built it and met here for over 82 years. For much of that time, locals referred to the building simply as the “Temple.” The building was completed in 1900.

A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings
A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings

Of course, quirkiness seems to be a part of central Texas.  Downtown Georgetown was home to Robert McAlpin “Three Legged Willie” Williamson.  At the age of fifteen, he contracted tubercular arthritis that caused his right leg to permanently stiffen at a 90 degree angle. In order to walk, a wooden leg had to be fastened to his knee. Because of this, he later acquired the nickname “Three-Legged-Willie”. He passed the bar at the approximate age of nineteen before practicing one year of law in Georgia. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto.  In 2013 a life-size commemorative statue of him was i

Three-Legged Willie
Three-Legged Willie – designed by Georgetown artist and photographer Lucas Adams

After lunch with my friend in Georgetown, it was on to Azle, Texas for my first in-person visit with fellow travel blogger and author Tui Snider. I originally became acquainted with Tui online by coming across some of her wonderful blog posts about quirky places to visit in the Dallas/Ft. Worth/N. Texas area.  I contacted her through Facebook and we soon were corresponding, sharing places and experiences.  I had to drop by for a visit since I would be so close.

Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

Tui has written two books on travel in the area.  Her first, Unexpected Texas, is a great read.  Indeed, it is a handbook to the quirky and unique. She gives directions to places such as the Gravesite of an Alleged Space Alien, a Courthouse Displaying a Dead Lizard , the Statue of Jesus Wearing Cowboy Boots (visited on this trip…see below), the Rope used to Lynch “Santa Claus,” a Building Made Entirely of Salt, a Wax Replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, a  65 foot tall Eiffel Tower Replica (visited on this trip too), a Petrified Wood Motel & Cafe, the World’s Smallest Skyscraper, and the only Michelangelo Painting in America.

Tui Snider books as of January 2015
Tui Snider books as of January 2015

Her other book, Paranormal Texas, is a guide to quite a few haunted places in the the DFW Metroplex area.  As with her Unexpected, it is a fun read and well worth the small purchase price.

Visiting the Sniders in Azle, TX
Visiting the Sniders in Azle, TX – note the gargoyle in the foreground

Tui Snider’s home is exactly what one would expect of an eclectic writer.  It was more like a small museum with lots of untold artifacts.  I had to sneak a couple of shots…

A view of the inside of Tui Snider's home.  Note the image on the monitor...she was finishing up her Paranormal book at the time.
A view of the inside of Tui Snider’s home. Note the image on the monitor…she was finishing up her Paranormal book at the time.
A collection of oddities on top of an old old piano
A collection of oddities on top of an old old piano – also note the spiral staircase on the upper left

And I have to point out the fresco painted on their domed front porch….

Pointing out the Fresco on the domed front porch.  Classic!
Pointing out the Fresco on the domed front porch. Classic!

It was a great visit with Tui.  And, while there, she introduced me to another author and ghost lover Shelly Tucker of Denton, TX.  You’ll see my visit with her below. She is the owner of Ghosts of Denton, that provides haunted history tours of the area.  She also authored a book by the same name (get it on Amazon).

Tucker Book
Ghosts of Denton by Shelly Tucker

After visiting with Tui, I stopped in Dallas for dinner with another friend.  We visited the BBQ joint called Bone Daddy’s.  It is a small chain of eight restaurants with succulent BBQ and an atmosphere to match.  They have a dish called “The Flying Pig”, which I ordered. Just the day before in Austin I had a “Flying Pig” Donut at Gourdough’s (see that post and a photo). Both Flying Pigs had ham and maple components.

At Bone Daddy's in Plano, TX
At Bone Daddy’s in Plano, TX
They Buy Road Kill at Bone Daddy's!  Yum!
They Buy Road Kill at Bone Daddy’s! Yum!
I had the Flying Pig at Bone Daddy's
I had the Flying Pig at Bone Daddy’s

After dinner it was off to spend the night with my sister in Keller and then, the next morning I was on the road, with my first stop being an early morning meetup in Denton with Shelly Tucker who introduced me to some of the great places that town has to offer.

Sumoflam with Shelly Tucker in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse
Sumoflam with Shelly Tucker in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse

Denton, Texas is a fun place to visit, almost like a miniature Austin in some respects.  The pinnacle of Denton is the old County Court House, which now serves as a museum. Opened in 1979, the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum is located in the historic 1896 Courthouse in downtown Denton. The museum features rotating exhibits depicting Denton County history. Visitors may walk the halls to discover the history of the settlement of Denton County, learn about their ancestors in the museum’s Research Room, and step into the historical courtroom on the second floor.

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX

The Romanesque courthouse was designed by W. C. Dodson (1829-1914) from Waco.  He also designed a few other courthouses in Texas during his working years. Many consider this to be one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas.

A view of the Romanesque tower on the county courthouse
A view of the Romanesque tower on the county courthouse

Downtown Denton is also a great place for some old neon signs. Here are a few that I captured while downtown.

Campus Theatre Neon in Denton, TX
Campus Theatre Neon in Denton, TX

The Campus Theatre was a grand movie house built in 1949 in downtown Denton. The manager for Interstate Theatres in Denton at the time impressed the importance of this project upon his company: Denton was in need of a movie theatre that would cater to the “kids on the campus” (University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University). As a result, the Campus Theatre Movie-House was built. At the time of its construction the Campus Theatre was one of several state-of-the-art movie houses in the southwest. The Campus Theatre remained open and operational as a movie house until 1985 when it closed and was left vacant. It has since been restored and provides the first permanent home for all performing arts organizations in Denton.

Logan's Shoe Shop Neon, Denton, TX
Logan’s Shoe Shop Neon, Denton, TX
Atomic Candy Neon Sign in Denton, TX
Atomic Candy Neon Sign in Denton, TX

Atomic Candy is one of those quirky and off-beat candy shops with a menagerie of old knick-knacks and retro signs and things. Unfortunately, I was there too early but could at least look in to see their bulk candies, soda fountain and novelty items.

Old retro statue of a boy in the window at Atomic Candy in Denton, TX
Old retro statue of a boy in the window at Atomic Candy in Denton, TX
Old Fine Arts Theatre in Denton, TX
Old Fine Arts Theatre in Denton, TX

The Fine Arts Theater was built as the Graham Opera House in 1877
by George & Henry Fastorff.  In 1935 the Interstate Theater Circuit remodeled the building, and put the Texas Theater into operation.
In 1954, the Texas was purchased by Trans Texas Theaters, and in
1957, it received yet another new name … Fine Arts.  It is currently in the midst of a restoration project.

The Old Opera House in Denton is now a shopping center
The Old Opera House in Denton is now book store called “Recycled”

The Wright Opera House was built in 1899 for $25,000, it was the elite showcase of Denton. Built from the bricks from the condemned 1870s Courthouse, the Wright Opera House operated until 1913, due to the advent of cinema.  It now houses the book store and eight luxury apartments.

LSA Burger Company Neon, Denton, TX
LSA Burger Company Neon, Denton, TX

Perhaps the best part of visiting with Shelly was her connections.  The LSA Burger Company has to have been one of my favorite places to visit on my entire trip to Texas in June.  I got to meet one of the managers and got a personal tour of the place before it opened for the day.

With one of the managers of LSA Burger Co in Denton, TX
With one of the managers of LSA Burger Co in Denton, TX

LSA Burger Company is a live music venue and is all about historic Texas musicians (it was even started by a Texas Musician!)  The MUST SEE item in this place is the famed “Great Texas Supper” mural housed inside the eatery.

The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX

The painting was actually the idea of LSA Burger Co. owners Jon Christopher Davis and John “Sparky” Pearson.  Eyecon Murals in Dallas did the artwork. The painting depicts a scene similar to “The Last Supper,” and includes (from left): George Jones, Selena, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Scott Joplin, Janis Joplin, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and T-Bone Walker.

A portion of the Great Texas Supper mural
A portion of the Great Texas Supper mural with Steve Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and T-Bone Walker
Sumoflam and the Last Texas Supper
Sumoflam and the Last Texas Supper

Another great piece of art is in LSA.  It is titled “Texas Instruments,” a play on the famed microchip company.  The sculpture is a wire mesh piece that has been fashioned in the shape of Texas. It is filled with a collage of instruments including guitars, violins, horns, and amplifiers. A strategically placed guitar painted with a lone white star pays subtle tribute to Denton’s place on the map.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Texas Instruments Sculpture at LSA Burger Co., in Denton, TX
Texas Instruments Sculpture at LSA Burger Co., in Denton, TX.  The guitar with the star denotes Denton’s location on the map.

But these are not all.  LSA Burger Co. also has a shrine to Willie Nelson. Yes, that’s right!!

Willie Nelson Portrait above his shrine
Willie Nelson Portrait above his shrine
Willie Nelson Shrine at LSA Burger Co. in Denton, TX
Willie Nelson Shrine at LSA Burger Co. in Denton, TX

They also have a laminate counter with dozens of album covers

Album Counter at LSA Burger Co.
Album Counter at LSA Burger Co.

And finally, the beer bottle chandelier…quite a work of art.

Beer bottle chandelier at LSA Burger Co.
Beer bottle chandelier at LSA Burger Co. in Denton

Shelly also walked me around the courthouse, told me a few ghost stories and invited me back. Next trip to Texas will most certainly include a prolonged visit to Denton!

Prosper Water Tower, Prosper, TX
Prosper Water Tower, Prosper, TX

From Denton I was off to have a late breakfast with a friend in Prosper, Texas at the Cotton Gin Cafe and then onward to Paris, TX and Hugo, OK.

Breakfast at the Cotton Gin Cafe in Prosper, Texas
Breakfast at the Cotton Gin Cafe in Prosper, Texas

The Cotton Gin Cafe is a nice little place in an old brick building on Broadway in Prosper.  All of their menu items are home made and tasty.  The atmosphere is fun as well with many old posters and signs for eye candy.

Old Prosper Post Office
Old Prosper ISD Tax Office

The establishment of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad in March of 1902 created the change that forced the communities of Rock Hill and Richland to merge forming the Town of Prosper. For years, Prosper was the central stop for the railroad between Dallas and Sherman. When community officials applied for a Post Office with the name “Richland”, they were informed that city name was already taken. Postmaster B.J. Naugle asked for an alternative name and J.C. Slaughter suggested the name Prosper, because crops that year had been very prosperous.

Texas Hwy 289 north out of Prosper
Texas Hwy 289 north out of Prosper

From Prosper I headed north on Texas Hwy 289 towards Sherman and then proceeded on US 82 to Honey Grove, Texas. My last visit to Honey Grove was late one evening in February 2010.  I was on my way to  find Bugtussle, TX after having driven all day from Bugtussle, KY (see my original trip journal HERE).  Even in the dark the town looked old and rundown.

Honey Grove, Texas
Welcome to Honey Grove, Texas

Actually, in daylight there were some bright spots in this quiet little Texas town.  But, there are entire sections that are rundown…a sad look at brighter days gone by.

A view of Honey Grove, Texas
A view of Honey Grove, Texas
Old Bank Facade in Honey Grove, TX
Old Bank Facade in Honey Grove, TX
Downtown Honey Grove, Texas
Downtown Honey Grove, Texas – old brick roads are delightful
Old Pool Hall, Honey Grove, Texas
Old Pool Hall, Honey Grove, Texas
Entire street of buildings is rundown in Honey Grove, TX
Entire street of buildings is rundown in Honey Grove, TX

After driving through Honey Grove, I proceeded east on US 82 towards Paris, TX.  Just west of Paris is the small town of Toco.  Off to the north of the highway I saw an old plane parked in the field next to a barn.  What an unusual site as there was not an airport.

Old Airplane in Toco, TX..totally out of place
Old Airplane in Toco, TX..totally out of place

I tried to figure out what is what all about and found a piece on TexasEscapes.com about it.  According to his page, “the plane is a Martin 404 and there wouldn’t be too much more to say about it if photographer Stephen Michaels hadn’t stayed up late to research the ship.  An aircraft electrician in a previous life, Michaels researched the FAA number to find that the plane had been part of the Southern Airways fleet. ” Apparently, the research also led Stephen to the Southern Airways website – which revealed the story of a chance meeting between the plane and its former pilot and a very interesting interview with the planes current owner. See that article here.

Google Satellite view of the Toco Airplane
Google Satellite view of the Toco Airplane

According to the above noted article, the “owner was Isaac Newton (Ike / Junior**) Burchinal, a well-known movie pilot. Some of his credits include; “Flight of the Phoenix,” “Twelve O’clock High,” “Catch 22,” “The Great Waldo Pepper,” and “McArthur.” He also was the pilot for Robert Conrad in the TV series, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”

I drove a little closer to get another shot and saw cockpits from a few other planes in a “Cadillac Ranch” formation.  Turns out that this used to be the Flying Tiger Airport and Air Museum.

Another shot of the Toco Plane
Another shot of the Toco Plane – a Martin 404 – it finished its life as a Pro-Air Airplane
Buried parts of airplanes at the Flying Tiger Museum in Toco, TX
Buried parts of airplanes at the Flying Tiger Museum in Toco, TX
Old Prop plane at Flying Tigers Air Museum
Old Prop plane at Flying Tigers Air Museum

It is for reasons like this small air museum that I love taking back road trips.  You just NEVER know what you will see along the way.  And the joy of it all is reliving the trip as I write so I can do some research an learn a bit.

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas

My next stop on the way was in Paris, Texas.  I was headed to see the Cowboy Hat topped Eiffel Tower replica.  I actually had hit Paris, Tennessee on my way down to Texas a week earlier and have a fun post about the “Two Towers”.  Check it out HERE if you have not seen it.  Most of the details about this tower are in that post.

The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica. About 70 feet tall with Cowboy Hat on top

Though the tower is the most famous icon of the town, there is also another more obscure item. In keeping with the theme of this post (paranormal, ghosts, haunted places, spooky, graveyards), I visited the Evergreen Cemetery in Paris to see the “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” gravestone.

From the front it seems common as most other gravestones.
From the front it seems common as most other gravestones.

A closer look from the back reveals that this particular Jesus was interesting….as he is apparently wearing Cowboy Boots under his robes.

Cowboy Boots on Jesus
Cowboy Boots on Jesus
A closer look at the boots
A closer look at the boots

Thanks to the guys at WeirdUS.com, a bit more detail about the story can be found. Of course, I too can’t really tell whether it is Jesus or an angel.  But, there are certainly Cowboy Boots and I am sure that Willet Babcock (a furniture magnate and Opera House owner in Paris in the late 1800s), the man buried under this monument, had a sense of humor and certainly made a legacy such that many come to visit him who have never known a thing about him…including me!  By the way, this sculpture is apparently attributed to a German immigrant stone mason named Gustave Klein (see this interesting article), who was responsible for many of the monuments in Evergreen Cemetery and is also buried in the cemetery.

Old Ghost Sign on a building in Paris
Old Ghost Sign on a building in Paris

Like many Texas towns, there are remnants of days past.  Old Ghost Signs still linger on as decor on old buildings. such as the one above and the one below, both in Paris.

Paris Cotton old ghost sign
Paris Cotton old ghost sign

And one last fun view from Paris before heading north to Oklahoma:

Paris Lanes, old bowling alley neon sign
Paris Lanes, old bowling alley neon sign
I bid farewell to Paris...that's me in the reflection...
I bid farewell to Paris…that’s me in the reflection…

From Paris I headed north on US 271 for my first venture into the southeastern Oklahoma town of Hugo.

Welcome to Oklahoma
Welcome to Oklahoma

In the late 1800s and early 1900s this town was apparently a hotbed of activity … the wild west town.  It was a railroad hub and so it had an assortment of dance hall girls, hustlers and gunfighters, and perhaps a dozen circuses wintering nearby taking advantage of the moderate climate and easy rail access. The town was founded in 1901 and was named for the French novelist, Victor Hugo.

Welcome to Historic Hugo, OK
Welcome to Historic Hugo, OK

Nowadays the town is best known for its one-of-a-kind cemetery, a few murals and as the birthplace of 70s singer-songwriter B.J. Thomas (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head).

Old wall mural in Hugo depicts some of the history of the town.
Old wall mural in Hugo depicts some of the history of the town.
A building made of petrified wood in Hugo
A building made of unique stones (or petrified wood??) in Hugo
Downtown Hugo, OK
Downtown Hugo, OK

The town is perhaps best known as a resting place for Circus Performers and, has become the eternal resting place for many of these performers.  In fact, the town even has acquired a nickname as “Circus City USA.”

Elephant Statue in front of the Hugo Chamber of Commerce
Elephant Statue in front of the Hugo Chamber of Commerce

Hugo has been a circus wintering ground since 1942 and is still such for three circuses and their staff and performers, The Carson and Barnes Circus, The Kelly-Miller Circus, and the Culpepper-Merriweather Circus.  It is a common site to drive past their grounds in the winter and see them taking care of an elephant or working on their equipment.

Showmen's Rest in Hugo's Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Showmen’s Rest in Hugo’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Circus sign in Mt. Olivet
Circus sign in Mt. Olivet

The town cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, has a special area called Showmen’s Rest which features unique headstones and grave sites for circus performers and owners. there is also a section called Bull Rider’s Reprieve set aside as a resting place for rodeo riders that have passed on.  I thoroughly enjoyed the brief visit to this hallowed ground to remember circus performers.  Here are a few photos from this fascinating corner of a cemetery.

Dedicated to Circus Performers
Dedicated to Circus Performers
Whalen...with little clowns
Whalen…with little clowns
James O'Donnell -- Acrobat and Clown
James O’Donnell — Acrobat and Clown
Elephant Posts at Showmen's Rest
Elephant Posts at Showmen’s Rest
Sumoflam with an Elephant Headstone at Showmen's Rest
Sumoflam with an Elephant Headstone at Showmen’s Rest
The Grass Showman
The Grass Showman
A performer's marker
A performer’s marker
Mr. Miller will always be under the big top
Mr. Miller will always be under the big top
Kennedy Swain
Kennedy Swain – Comedian for numerous circuses
Circus Lives Celebrated
Circus Lives Celebrated

Honestly, I was touched at the love I could feel in this place.  Many times my visits to cemeteries are peaceful and tranquil, but they exude some sense of sadness.  In this case, I was filled with joy.  those these performers had passed on, they still brought the joy out in an old guy who has not been to a circus since the 1970s.

A final view of Showmen's Rest
A final view of Showmen’s Rest

After my wonderful visit to Mt. Olivet, I was back on the road heading east on US 70 toward my next unique named town…Valliant, OK.

East on US 70 towards Valliant, OK
East on US 70 towards Valliant, OK
Welcome to Valliant, OK
Welcome to Valliant, OK

Valliant was founded June 2, 1902, and named for Frank W. Valliant, a chief divisional engineer for the Arkansas & Choctaw Railroad being constructed in the area at that time. Valliant is famous for its annual Watermelon Festival at the City Park.  Unfortunately, I was not there for the festivities, so I just passed on through valiantly….

Rolling Hills of SE Oklahoma
Rolling Hills of SE Oklahoma

Lest any of you think that Oklahoma is just a big state with lots of flat land for cattle, think again.  There are some beautiful wooded areas and plenty of rolling hills in the southeast corner of the state.  Driving along OK Hwy 98 to OK Hwy 3 is a wonderfully beautiful drive.

Rolling Hills of Oklahoma on OK 98 north of Wright City, OK
Rolling Hills of Oklahoma on OK 98 north of Wright City, OK
End of OK Hwy 98 at OK Hwy 3
End of OK Hwy 98 at OK Hwy 3

At highway 3 one can either go northwest to Antlers, OK or east to Broken Bow through the Choctaw Nation, which was the direction I went (actually visited Antlers a few years ago).

Antlers or Broken Bow?
Antlers or Broken Bow?
Welcome to Broken Bow...old sign
Welcome to Broken Bow…old sign

Broken Bow has one of those classic old motels with a classic neon sign.  The End of Trail Motel is one of those motels like I visited in the 1960s.  Would love to have stayed there for the night.

End of Trail Motel Neon sign in Broken Bow, OK
End of Trail Motel Neon sign in Broken Bow, OK

I also was scared a bit by the big dragon mural along he side of a building…

Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

From Broken Bow I drove north on US 259 along beautiful Broken Bow Lake and then veered east on OK Hwy 4 onto Arkansas Hwy 4.

Oklahoma Hwy 4 just west of the Arkansas border.
Oklahoma Hwy 4 just west of the Arkansas border.
Welcome to Arkansas about 3 miles west of Cove, Arkansas
Welcome to Arkansas about 3 miles west of Cove, Arkansas

Following Arkansas Hwy 4, a beautiful drive through the woods, I made my way north on US 71/US 59 out of Cove, AR.

Arkansas HWY 4
Arkansas HWY 4
US Hwy 71/59 north of Cove, AR
US Hwy 71/59 north of Cove, AR

I soon made my way into the quaint town of Mena, Arkansas, the gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway (which will have to be on a later trip for me unfortunately) and also home to an old railroad depot, a few old signs and a nice atmosphere.  Mena was founded in 1896 as a railroad town at the eastern foot of Arkansas’s second highest peak, Rich Mountain (elev. 2,681).

Welcome to Mena, AR
Welcome to Mena, AR
Old Mena Depot, now the Visitor's Bureau
Old Mena Depot, now the Visitor’s Bureau
Which way do I go?  A large signpost in Mena, AR
Which way do I go? A large signpost in Mena, AR
Old Ghost Sign in Mena, AR
Old Ghost Sign in Mena, AR
Ghost Sign in Mena, AR
Ghost Sign in Mena, AR

Mena had this cool retro Studebaker place and it still had the old Studebaker cars.  It was built in 1948 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (see more here)

Restored Studebaker Dealer building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Restored Studebaker Dealer building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

A nice old mural welcomes you to Mena.

Welcome to Mena mural
Welcome to Mena mural

After Mena I took a beautiful drive down Arkansas Hwy 8 towards Arkadelphia, the last stop on this leg of the trip.

Arkansas Hwy 8
Arkansas Hwy 8
A view of Arkansas Hwy 8 southeast of Mena, AR
A view of Arkansas Hwy 8 southeast of Mena, AR

Highway 8 is a beautiful drive through the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. The first major town is Glenwood, which is nestled in the foothills of the Ouchitas along the Caddo River.

Ghost sign in Glenwood, AR
Ghost sign in Glenwood, AR
A fun sign in the town of Glenwood, AR
A fun sign in the town of Glenwood, AR

Glenwood is a cute town with some old antique shops and a guitar store.

Billy's House of Guitars, Glenwood, AR
Billy’s House of Guitars, Glenwood, AR

Billy’s House of Guitars looks like it is not only a guitar shop, but also a live music venue (for a show called Front Porch Pickin’) in the hills of Arkansas.

Billy's sign at Billy's House of Guitars, Glenwood, AR
Billy’s sign at Billy’s House of Guitars, Glenwood, AR

OK, so I have been to a Taxidermy and Cheese shop in Canada. How about a Barber Shop and Auction House?

The OK Barber Shop in Glenwood, AR
The OK Barber Shop and Auction House in Glenwood, AR

Another interesting place in Glenwood is the Cattlemens Livestock Market, which has some awesome murals!  I just happened upon it and had to stop.

Cattlemen's Livestock Market
Cattlemen’s Livestock Market, Glenwood, AR
Front porch artwork at Cattlemen's Livestock Market in Glenwood, AR
Front porch artwork at Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Glenwood, AR
Large Wall Mural at Cattlemen's Livestock Market in Glenwood, AR
Large Wall Mural at Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Glenwood, AR

My brief stop in Glenwood was refreshing but I wanted to press on to my overnight stop in Arkadelphia, so soon I was back on the lovely drive down Arkansas 8.

Arkansas Hwy 8 near Amity, AR
Arkansas Hwy 8 near Amity, AR

AS I drove through the hills a rainy mist ensued and every so often a rainbow would pop out in front of me.  It was really nice.

Rainbow near Alpine, Arkansas as seen from Hwy 8
Rainbow near Alpine, Arkansas as seen from Hwy 8

I then came upon a church, which I later found out was the Trinity Temple Assembly of God between Alpine and Arkadelphia.  As I approached the rainbow had moved and looked like it was coming from the church…a pretty unique shot.

Trinity Temple Assembly of God in Arkadelphia, AR with a rainbow
Trinity Temple Assembly of God in Arkadelphia, AR with a rainbow

The rainbow continued on into Arkadelphia and floated over a Shell Station as a double rainbow.  It was so cool!

Rainbow in Arkadelphia, AR
Double Rainbow in Arkadelphia, AR

I finally made way into Arkadelphia.  A great name and a lovely town.

Arkadelphia Water Tower
Arkadelphia Water Tower

The day ended in a spectacular sunset, which I tried to capture.

Glowing sunset in Arkadelphia, AR
Glowing sunset in Arkadelphia, AR
Sunset in Arkadelphia
Sunset in Arkadelphia

Was a great two days of travel.

(1494)

Montana Road Trip: US Route 2 across Minnesota – Offbeat Paradise

Northern Pike
Northern Pike Statue in Deer River, MN

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.

US Route 2 in eastern Minnesota
US Route 2 southwest of Duluth, Minnesota. The birch trees are just getting started in late May.
US Route 2 east of Floodwood, MN
US Route 2 east of Floodwood, MN

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.

Sumoflam in Floodwood, Minnesota
Sumoflam in Floodwood, Minnesota

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, MN
Floodwood, MN on US Route 2
Floodwood Water Tower claims it is the Catfish Capital
Floodwood Water Tower claims it is the Catfish Capital

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….

Catfish Statue of Floodwood, MN
Catfish Statue of Floodwood, MN

This wooden statue has a sign claiming it to be the Catfish Capital of the World.  It also has another “In Memory of Joseph T. Karpik” who was apparently a local-grown inventor with a couple of patents. He was the President of Floodwood company Mat, Inc. which makes erosion control products.

Sumoflam hangs with the Floodwood Catfish
Sumoflam hangs with the Floodwood Catfish

From Floodwood the highway enters pine and birch forests as one gets closer to Grand Rapids.

Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
US Route 2 in northern Minnesota between Floodwood and Grand Rapids
US Route 2 in northern Minnesota between Floodwood and 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!

Welcome to Grand Rapids, Birthplace of Judy Garland
Welcome to Grand Rapids, Birthplace of Judy Garland

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.

Paul Bunyan Big Chair in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Paul Bunyan Big Chair in Grand Rapids, Minnesota

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.

Follow the brown wood sign...and look at the Yellow Brick Road mural
Follow the brown wood sign…and look at the Yellow Brick Road mural
Welcome to the Land of Oz in Minnesota...we're not in Kansas anymore...
Welcome to the Land of Oz in Minnesota…we’re not in Kansas anymore…
Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Birthplace placard in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Birthplace placard in Grand Rapids, MN

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.

Great Northern Pike statue in Deer Park, MN
Great Northern Pike statue in Deer River, MN
Sumoflam and his fish friend "Pike" in Deer Park, MN
Sumoflam and his fish friend “Pike” in Deer River, MN

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.

Bahr's Motel sign one on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
Bahr’s Motel sign one on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
Bahr's Motel sign on the location where the motel used to be in Deer River, MN
Bahr’s Motel sign on the location where the motel used to be in Deer River, MN

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.

US Route 2 West near Ball Club, MN
US Route 2 West near Ball Club, MN
Ball Club, MN
Ball Club, MN

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.

US Route 2 east of Bena, MN near "Big Winnie"
US Route 2 east of Bena, MN near “Big Winnie”

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.”

Big Winnie General Store, Bena, MN
Big Winnie General Store, Bena, MN
Old Cabins at Big Winnie
Old Cabins at Big Winnie

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….

Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, MN
Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, MN
Long view of the Big Fish in Bena, MN
Long view of the Big Fish in Bena, MN
I love this angle - Big Fish Eats House!!  In Bena, MN
I love this angle – Big Fish Eats House!! In Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Fish Food
Fish Food
Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN
Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN

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!

Welcome to Bemidji, Minnesota
Welcome to Bemidji, Minnesota

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:

Life Magazine article on Bemidji and Paul Bunyan statue in February 1945
Life Magazine article on Bemidji and Paul Bunyan statue in February 1945

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.

Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota - Dreams can come true!
Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota – Dreams can come true!

I have written more about all of this in my special feature blog post on Bemidji (CLICK HERE).

Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN

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.

Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Detail of Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Detail of Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN

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:

Nanobojo, Muffler Man Indian in Bemidji, MN
Nanobozho, Muffler Man Indian in Bemidji, MN

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.

Niimii the Pow Wow Dancer in Bemidji, MN
Niimii the Pow Wow Dancer in Bemidji, MN

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.

Pete the Curler by Dale Lewis - one of 25 pieces in the 2014 Sculpture Walk
Pete the Curler by Dale Lewis – one of 25 pieces in the 2014 Sculpture Walk

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.

Hinkypunk by Chris Gustafson, part of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk
Hinkypunk by Chris Gustafson, part of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk

It was getting later in the day so I had to move westward and continued my trek across Minnesota on US Route 2.

US Route 2 east of McIntosh, MN
US Route 2 east of McIntosh, MN

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.

Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
McIntosh Water Tower
McIntosh Water Tower
Wall Mural in McIntosh, MN
Wall Mural in McIntosh, MN

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.

Crookston Ox Cart, Crookston, MN
Crookston Ox Cart, Crookston, MN – celebrates the history of the Pembina Trail
Welcome to Crookston mural in Crookston, MN
Welcome to Crookston mural in Crookston, MN

Next post will cover US Route 2 across North Dakota.

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