In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Fiberglass Snowman – Lewisburg, West Virginia
Fireplace of States – Bemidji, Minnesota
Fat Smitty’s – Port Townsend, Washington
Futuro Flying Saucer House – Covington, Kentucky
Four Corners – Teec Nos Pos, Arizona
Frank L. White Grave Marker (The Cream of Wheat Guy) – Leslie, Michigan
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Fair Play, South Carolina
Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Fisherman’s Dream – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
First Church of Peculiar – Peculiar, Missouri
Fox in the Snow – Grand Teton National Park
Fallasburg Covered Bridge – Fallasburg, MI
Forest Fire Department – Forest, Mississippi
Flatrock Coffee – Nashville, Tennessee
Flying Saucer Monument – Mars, Pennsylvania
Frank Sinatra Park – Hoboken, New Jersey
Flower Man House – Houston, Texas
Future City, Illinois
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Frog Pond Bar-B-Que – Frog Pond, Tennessee
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center – Glen Rose, Texas
Flood Wall Murals – Paducah, Kentucky; Jeffersonville, Indiana; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; Portsmouth, Ohio
Fort Worth Stockyards – Fort Worth, Texas
Floodwood Catfish – Floodwood, Minnesota
Friendly, West Virginia
Fort Steuben – Steubenville, Ohio
Findlay Market – Cincinnati, Ohio
Frontier Bar & Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
Mount Fuji – Fuji City, Japan
Flower Bed Art – What Cheer, Iowa
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
Everywhere I go I see old neon. These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled. Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place. But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots. Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs. There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs. And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names. Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.
Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories. My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968. At the time I was only 12. It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch. We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).
And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….
CAFES AND RESTAURANTS
After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint. Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)
How about some burgers for lunch?
Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed. This one deserves two photos
Don’t want a burger or a corn dog? How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?
Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?
And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….
Okay. So this next one is not neon. But it is certainly Vintage. And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?
There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant. And many have unique signs. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.
And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….
Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….
Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak? How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)
Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls
Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV. A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.
Too cold outside? Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.
Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES
Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section. That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items. There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”
I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I want to include in this section.
Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?
I spent two weeks in Rexburg from March 11 thru March 25, 2013 working on a job possibility. During my free time I spent a good deal of time in town and also looking around town and some of the surrounding areas.
Perhaps Rexburg is best known for its LDS (Mormon) population, BYU-Idaho and the Rexburg Temple of the church (shown above). But Rexburg is also famous as the town that was practically destroyed by the Teton Dam Flood in June of 1976 (see story here). The town has been totally rebuilt since that time.
Rexburg is kind of in a bowl, with mountain ranges all around it. To the east are the Grand Tetons, to the northwest is the Lemhi Range, which includes the 12,197 foot tall Diamond Peak. To the southeast are the mountains of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The Craters of the Moon National Monument is southwest of Rexburg. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to get there on this trip.
There are a number of old things in and around town that have remained from the flood.
The Teton Vu Drive-in has had a few resurrections over the years. It was reopened in 1999, closed again in 2006 and has since reopened again in 2009 under new ownership. They offer shows and goodies. I liked the drive in sign – totally vintage.
In and around Rexburg there are a few great places to find goodies to eat. I had dinner a couple of times at the Frontier Pies Restaurant, which not only has pies but some good home cooking. The pies were awesome…
There is another famous place on the outskirts of Rexburg where giant burgers are the norm…
Big Jud’s Country Diner is located in the small community of Archer, Idaho, a few miles south of Rexburg. This place has the hugest hamburgers I have ever seen and has even been featured on the TV Show Man vs. Food. Here are a few shots from Big Jud’s:
Home of the 1 LB Burger
Another notable place to get goodies in Rexburg is Florence’s Exquisite Candies Chocolate shop, which can be found downtown. They hand make all of their chocolate offerings and the shop also has a unique interior.
Another interesting item in and around Rexburg are the gas stations with “Coke Can” gas tanks. Here are a couple of examples.
There are other nearby communities that have some unique things to see as well.
Sugar City is a bedroom community to Rexburg. Like Rexburg, it went through some devastation during the Teton Flood. The town was founded in 1903 to house sugar beet factory workers of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. The factory closed in the 1940s and then, after the devastation of the flood in 1976, most of the businesses did not reopen.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch is located in Sugar City and I got to take a drive by there and see all of the elk. I only saw a couple of bulls with their antlers. They breed the elk locally and then release them to some of the mountain areas for hunting trips, etc.
One afternoon, while my wife was out in Rexburg, we took a drive north towards St. Anthony, Idaho, another nearby community. We had as a goal to get to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes then, if possible, take a drive up the Mesa Falls Scenic Loop north of there, near Ashton, Idaho. Following is a map of the exact route we ended up taking and some of the photos we took during the trip.
St. Anthony is a small town of about 3500 just north of Rexburg and is the gateway to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, a unique area west of town and one of those unexpected discoveries. I would have never thought about sand dunes in them as much as 400 feet tall. To get there we had to go through Parker and then to the Egin Lakes area campground.
Along the way we saw a house in Parker that has lined their fences with old highway signage. Amazing how people do these things!!
From the dunes we returned to St. Anthony and then headed north to Ashton, Idaho, which sits at the base of the mountains north of Rexburg and is the gateway to the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, which we had hoped to take.
Upon arrival in the small town, the first thing I noticed was the Frostop Drive In – a page out of nostalgic America. Frostop Root Beer is one of those old well known brands, having its start in Springfield, Ohio in 1926. The diner in Ashton has been there since 1965 and has gone through a few owners.
The big root beer mug rotates and draws you in to the old style drive in. We didn’t really want drive in fare, so we meandered across the street to a restaurant that looked like a huge log cabin.
Chriswell’s Trails Inn Restaurant is rustic, homey and full of animal trophies. Last time I was in a place like this was at Ole’s Big Game Steak house in Nebraska (see the blog post here). I ordered a chicken fried steak, their speciality, and the thing was bigger than my plate. Further, unlike the chicken fried steaks I have had in the past, this one was made with real steak, not ground steak!!
Like other small towns in the west, there are still plenty of nostalgic signs. Here are a couple from Ashton.
From Ashton we headed up north on Idaho Highway 47, which is the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. There were signs warning us that the road was closed ahead, so we followed it as far as we could go. It took us up into Targhee National Forest, and as we climbed in altitude, the snow got ever deeper. Bear in mind that this was the end of March.
We finally hit the dead end where only snowmobiles were allowed, and had to turn around and head back to Ashton.
Once back in Ashton we made our to Idaho Highway 32 which would take us through the small towns of Drummond and Felt, and hopefully would offer us a few glimpses of the Tetons from the west. This was an extremely beautiful drive, particularly since we went through pristine snow covered hills…snow was very deep and practically untouched most of the way.
All in all, that Sunday drive from Rexburg to Ashton and Drummond and back was marvelous.
On another trip south of Rexburg, near Rigby, on US 20, you can see an old sugar mill off to the side of the road. Someone has meticulously painted the facade and it was, apparently at one time, the Old Sugar Mill Market. It appears to be out of business now, but it is eye catching from the highway.
Also, Rigby, Idaho is noted as the birthplace of the television. Philo T. Farnsworth invented the television tube here and there is a museum dedicated to him (along with other items from the Rigby area.)
There are a few other places I visited in the area…here are some of the sights