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.
Gronk’s Grill and Bar – Superior, Wisconsin
Gettysburg National Battlefield – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Great Falls of the Missouri – Great Falls, Montana
Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee
Geese in Flight – Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, North Dakota
Winking Smiley Water Tower – Grand Forks, North Dakota
Gates of the Mountains – near Helena, Montana
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.
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 G Towns
Across this great country there are dozens of giant Muffler Men, Big Johns and Uniroyal Gals. In the 1960s these advertised Mufflers, Tires, etc. Nowadays they can be seen at state borders, at tourist spots or advertising cafes (see Blackfoot, ID in my A to Z Challenge posts as an example). I have written a post all about these giants HERE. Then there are folks like Glenn Goode (who passed away in March 2015). Known as the Fiberglass Man because of his collection of these giants, he was in the fiberglass and sandblasting business for over 44 years. On his property on Walnut Bend Road, Gainesville, he had five big fiberglass people . See my full post about his unique site in the middle of nowhere HERE.
Back in 2007 I ventured west to Washington with my son for some shows with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. Along the way we visited a number of states and places. One of the more unique stops along the way was in the town of Gothenburg, Nebraska. This town is apparently one of only two Gothenburgs in the entire world, the other being the famed city in Sweden. Gothenburg is probably most well known as the home of the Pony Express in Nebraska. The town has become somewhat of a tourist attraction with the Pony Express building and also the Sod House Museum, which is just off of Interstate 80 at exit 211 to the left as you go into Gothenburg. The Sod House Museum was dedicated to the settlers of this area who initially built their homes out of sod. Also at the Sod House museum are two barbed wire sculptures including an Indian and a Buffalo. Both have well over 4 miles of barbed wire in the work. See my write up about this 2007 visit HERE.
Guthrie, Kentucky is located at the junction of US Highway 79 and US Highway 41 near the Tennessee Border. I ventured through here on my way to Memphis and the Blues Highway in the fall of 2014 (see a couple of other A to Z Challenge towns in earlier posts including Alligator, MS and Brownsville, TN from this same trip. Paris, TN and Paris, TX will also be included in my P Towns post.). Guthrie has its own version of a Pink Elephant (different from the one I posted about in DeForest, WI in my D Towns post). They also have a pink sunglass wearing giant cow. You can see full details of this visit and more photos HERE.
Gregory, South Dakota
Gregory, South Dakota is another town along the Oyate Trail. South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….). Apparently Gregory is “The Ground-zero of Pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992. You can read more about my visit to Gregory and see some photos of old movie theaters, interesting bars, etc., in my 2013 Oyate Trail post, which can be seen HERE.
Galata, Montana is one of two Montana and US Highway 2 Hi-Line towns I am including in this G Town post. Located about 23 miles east of Shelby, Montana, Galata is practically a ghost town. But the 1960s era neon sign advertising the Motel Galata is a classic. Definitely something worth looking for on a roadtrip across northern Montana.
On the eastern end of Montana on US Highway 2 is the town of Glasgow, Montana. A town of about 3000, it is a colorful place with all sorts of dinosaur lore. As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar Bar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale. Read more about US Highway 2, the Hi-Line Drive across northern Montana HERE.
There are apparently 21 places in America named Glasgow that range from a tiny town in Fallen Timber County, Pennsylvania, which has 63 inhabitants, to Glasgow, Kentucky the largest of them all with a population of just over 14,000. As a Kentucky resident, I have visited many of the towns and Glasgow is unique because of its cultural depth with an amazing old Theatre and its many wall murals. Founded in 1799 by a group of Revolutionary War veterans, Glasgow boasts historic homes and buildings, the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, downtown walking/driving tours, Barren River Lake State Resort Park and Brigadoon State Nature Preserve. The town sits at the intersection of US Highway 68 and US Highway 31.
Montana is a huge state and so it is not a surprise that this post has three G Towns. I would be remiss if I didn’t include Gardiner, Montana, which is situated in Southwest Montana, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The town is nestled in breath taking Paradise Valley, with the Yellowstone River running right through town. The Roosevelt Arch is the most famous structure in Gardiner. This Yellowstone Entrance, Gateway or Arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 April 1903. The arch is visible two miles north of Gardiner on US Highway 89. See more about my 2014 trip down Montana’s US 89 and Yellowstone HERE.
In June 2013 I made my way to Rexburg, ID and passed through Wyoming on my way to Yellowstone National Park. (I noted the Montana entrance above). On this particular trip I found my through Gillette, WY on my way to Cody and Yellowstone. Gillette is home of a few nice murals, an artist walk with a number of unique sculptures that change each year and then there is the Rockpile Museum. This Campbell County Museum focuses on general, regional, and local history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Campbell County. It was opened in 1974 at the site of the historic natural rockpile, which has been a piece of Gillette history since the 1890s. See my full report about Gillette and the drive to Cody and on to Yellowstone HERE.
The town of Granbury, Texas, south of Fort Worth, is a fun place to visit, filled with history, an old fashioned courthouse square surrounded by unique shops and some good places to eat (especially Babe’s Chicken!!). It is home to the Nutt House Hotel (crazy name eh?). Not too far down the road is the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an amazing drive thru Wildlife Park in Glen Rose, TX (another G Town!) The current facility has grown to 1700 acres and has over 1000 animals, with 50 species of native and non-native animals, including Cheetah, Rhinoceros, Giraffe, various African antelope varieties, Zebras, Ostriches and Rheas, among many others. You can see dozens of photos of the park and also more on Granbury in my 2012 post HERE.
Grand Forks, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
Grand Forks is another US Highway 2 town also cut through by Interstate 29. I mention it here because of its famed Smiley Water Tower, one of three or four in the US (note the Adair, IA Smiley in my A Towns post). This tower has the Smiley above and on the other side of the water tower is a Winking Smiley. You can see more photos of it and also see more about my 2014 US Highway 2 drive through North Dakota HERE.
Gravel Switch, Kentucky (Honorable mention)
With a unique name for a place, the small village of Gravel Switch, KY. grew up around a gravel quarry on a spur line of the L&N railroad around 1870. There is not much there now but a small Amish school, a Post Office, a bank and a few houses. Not far from Gravel Switch is perhaps the most famous place in the area…Penn’s Store. According to its website, “Penn’s Store is the oldest country store in America being run continuously by the same family. It has been in the Penn family since 1850.” There is a nice writeup about it here. I drove through there on a trip to Elizabethtown, KY in February 2013. See the entire post HERE.
Gilboa, Ohio (Honorable mention)
On one of my trips back to Kentucky from Canada in 2008, I drove through the community of Gilboa, OH. Thy had a humongous steer statue and also a unique restaurant/bar called Stinky’s Country Well. Had to include Gilboa for these reasons. The town is on US Highway 224 west of Findlay, OH.
Georgetown, Texas (Honorable mention)
Finally, on Interstate 35 north of Austin lies the historic town of Georgetown, Texas. I have had a couple of opportunities to visit there in the past few years and it is a unique place. The town features some of the best Victorian architecture in the state of Texas. And then, there is the story of “Three-Legged Willie” (Robert M. Williamson), the beloved Texas patriot, Ranger, lawyer, judge, newspaper editor, and Williamson County’s namesake. Known affectionately as Three-legged Willie due to the wooden leg he used following an illness when he was 15. His right leg drew up at the knee and could not support him. Thereafter, he wore a wooden leg, leaving his useless foot extended behind him. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto. An enthusiastic supporter of Texas statehood, he named one of his sons Annexus.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
My trip along Route 2 continued from Glasgow, Montana westward along what is known as the Montana Hi-Line (See my May 2013 post about a previous drive on a portion of the Hi-Line). Back in May last year I drove through to Glasgow and then south. On this trip I tried to spend a little more time in some of the smaller towns on the road and capture the essence of what I feel is a dieing breed hanging on. In fact, to proclaim their existence, many of the towns have a big sign on the highway to proclaim “Hey, we’re here!”
Ultimately, I would drive Route 2 to where it intersects with US Route 89 on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. That would be the end of my 1165 mile jaunt on US Route 2. (According to Google Maps, it is 1165 miles from downtown Ironwood, MI to the US 2/US 89 Intersection near Browning, MT.)
After spending the night in an old 1970s style motel in Glasgow, Montana, it was back on the road. My last trip through Glasgow was fleeting so I couldn’t capture some of the essence of this nice little town on the eastern edge of Northern Montana. The population of just over 3200 is friendly and accommodating.
Downtown Glasgow offers some old motel signs, ghost signs and some other unique sites.
A drive back to the east part of town leads to the bar with an airplane in the building.
This bar is unique….a real small plane stuck in the building and a dinosaur out front guarding the place.
As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale.
US Highway 2 has a number of historical signs along the way. The first one west of Glasgow is all about Buffalo Country.
The first town west of Glasgow is the Hinsdale, Montana. Not much here, but they have a unique church building where the steeple is planted in the ground in FRONT of the church and not on top it.
The next little town on the way is Saco, Montana. This town would have faded away long ago if not for its unique place in history as one of the homes of news anchor Chet Huntley, whose father worked for the railroad. There is one room schoolhouse in Saco that he attended. As well, Saco had two years of bragging rights as the Guinness World Record holder for making the world’s largest hamburger, building the 6,040-pound burger from the beef of 17 cattle in 1999.
Just west of town is the “Sleeping Buffalo Rock” which is actually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
From Saco US Hwy 2 heads southwest as it circles around Lake Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. From there the road passes through Malta, Montana along nice grazing lands for cattle and horses.
Malta, Montana is a nice small town on the Milk River. It has its share of old signs and old dinosaur bones.
Malta is also home to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station, which is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. The Dinosaur Trail includes 14 different museums around Montana that feature remains and history pertaining to dinosaurs. There are eight locations on the Hi-Line from Glasgow to Rudyard. There are a couple more on US 89 south of Glacier National Park.
The next stop on the road is the small town of Dodson, Montana. They have a new post office, but the old post office sign still remains as a reminder of the past.
From Fort Belknap, US Route 2 heads northwest into the small town of Harlem, Montana. This town is about 50% white and 43% Native American. Like the other towns, it has a metal welcome sign.
Not too far west of Harlem is the small dot of a town called Zurich (pronounced Zoo-rich by the locals). Like many small stations on the railroad, Zurich receives its name from an older, far more impressive city. Legend has it that to name many of their stations, railroad executives would open an atlas at random and point to a city. Although it may seem incongruous that a town on the plains be named after a noted European mountain city, from Zurich, westward bound visitors could catch their first glimpse of the Bear Paw Mountains. It is now basically a place for picnics along the Milk River.
The next stop on the Hi-Line heading west is Chinook, Montana. This small town of about 1500 has some character. It used to be the home of a large sugarbeet factory. They do have one of the more unique high school sports mascots in the country — the Sugarbeeters.
There are still many evidences of the past in Chinook. For instance, the Bear Paw Credit Union uses a remodeled old fashioned gas station that still has the old pumps out front.
I had a lot of other photos of Chinook from a previous trip I took along the Hi-Line in March 2013. You can see that post HERE.
Chinook lies along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail which goes from Wallowa Lake in northeast Oregon (near Joseph, OR — I visited there in 2007), then crosses Idaho and goes south along the border of Idaho and Montana, through Yellowstone then heads north though Billings, MT and finally ends at the Bear Paw Battlefield, which is about 15 miles south of town. The Battlefield Park commemorates the final battle of the Nez Perce War of 1877 where the Nez Perce ceased fighting on October 5th, 1877.
It was at Bear Paw that Chief Joseph gave his famous speech in which he said, “Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” The Nez Perce Trail, like the Oyate Trail of South Dakota and the Trail of Tears in the Southeast US, among others, are integral parts of American history that help us to better understand the plight of the Native Americans. I am grateful to continue to learn about these great people who lived on this land long before the Europeans found their way here.
From Chinook I zipped through Havre, having visited it extensively in 2013. But, I did stop briefly for a good shot with the large bison that had been made by Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison.
Just west of Havre there is a road called Smith Frisno Road which crosses over the railroad tracks heading north. It eventually leads to a large ranch, but along the way many a visitor has stopped for a photo of an old abandoned schoolhouse that sits out in the prairie. I visited there last year, but wanted to grab a couple more shots as this is one of those iconic places that begs to be photographed.
The next town west of Havre is Kremlin, Montana. Yes, an unusual name for a town. But, as the story goes, the town had some Russian immigrants that were working on the Great Northern Railway who looked off in the distance at the mountains and were reminded of the Kremlin back home. The name apparently stuck.
After Kremlin there are a couple of other small towns before reaching the small historic town of Rudyard, Montana, which actually has three small museums – the Depot Museum, the Dinosaur Museum (part of the Dinosaur Trail) and a Vintage Auto Museum. Using the old railroad depot, the historical society renovated it for a museum in which to house both the written and physical history of the Hi-Line towns of Joplin, Inverness, Rudyard, Hingham, Gildford, and Kremlin.
Then there is my penchant for “collecting” scrap metal art. I came across a place in Rudyard that had three pieces of scrap metal animals in the yard, including a bison, a deer and an elk. I spoke to a guy there and he said “someone in town made them, but I am not sure who.” Surprising to me that in a town of just under 600 people that they don’t all know who does this kind of thing….
Then there is the semi-famous dinosaur skeleton sculpture just west of town on US Highway 2, probably advertising the Dinosaur Museum in Rudyard. I was able to contact the Rudyard Museum and found out that this old guy was made by a farmer named Bryon Wolery, owner of Wolery Farms. He apparently made two of them and one is on his farm.
The road west passes through the small town of Inverness, MT and then past Joplin.
From Joplin it is another 20 miles to the next town, which is Chester. It is much bigger than most of the towns between Havre and Shelby and functions as the county seat for Liberty County. Chester began as a watering and coal loading station for the Great Northern Railroad steam engines around 1891. The name “Chester” was apparently chosen by the first telegraph operator in the town and named in honor of his hometown in Pennsylvania.
North of Chester the Sweet Grass Hills can be seen in the distance. They are actually in the northern part of Liberty County and are actually mountains. They are unique in that they are the highest isolated peaks in the United States. Rising to nearly 7,000 feet, these mountains are volcanic in origin and believed to be millions of years old.
Between Chester and Shelby there is not much, but there is an old neon sign advertising the Galata Campground. So 1960s…. The town itself is practically a ghost town.
Shelby, Montana is another 25 miles down US Route 2 and is by far the largest town along the Hi-Line after Havre. I have written extensively about Shelby on a couple of occasions, so here is the token photo of this large railroad town.
After driving through Shelby, US Route 2 gains altitude and the huge Glacier Wind Farm can be seen. This is actually quite unique for at night all of the turbines blink bright red all along the hills west of Shelby.
From the top of these hills the snow covered peaks of Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains can be seen in the distance. But one must pass through Cut Bank, Montana along the way. Named after the creek that cuts its banks along the white clay, the town got its start in the 1890s. The Cut Bank Creek Trestle that crosses the 150 foot deep gorge was built in 1900 but is still in use by the Burlington Santa Fe as well as Amtrak. Today, the town is still vibrant with the railroad and Glacier National Park tourism. It is also the eastern border of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Cut Bank is also home to the “world’s largest penguin” with claims to be the “coldest spot in the nation,” though most sites with “Coldest Spots” lists don’t include it. (See Site 1 and Site 2)
After entering the reservation and not too far west of Cut Bank, there is an historic sign commemorating Camp Disappointment (see my 2013 post on this monument and more). This was the northernmost campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
As I closed in on Browning, Montana, US Highway 2 intersects with US Highway 89, one of the more spectacular N/S Highways in the United States. This is the end of the approximately 1,169 mile long trek along US Highway 2 from Ironwood, MI.
My next post will cover the trip south on US 89 from Browning all the way to Yellowstone National Park.