A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The G Things #AtoZChallenge

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

Gronk’s Grill and Bar in Superior, WI
The fickle finger of fate at the entrance of Gronks in Superior, WI

Gettysburg National Battlefield – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Sons Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998

Glacier Bay National Park – Gustavus, Alaska

Purple Mountain Majesties – near Glacier Bay, Alaska
On Glacier Bay in Alaska in 2004

Galata Motel Neon – Galata, Montana

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana

Geno’s Steak & Cheese – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Grilling the steaks at Geno’s in Philadelphia

Greater “Booming” Prairie Chicken Statue – Rothsay, Minnesota

Greater Prairie Chicken Statue – Rothsay, MN

George Washington Statue – Great Falls, Montana

George Washington at mall in Great Falls

Giraffe at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center – Glen Rose, Texas

Giraffe Eye taken at Fossil Rim

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge in 2016
At Golden Gate Bridge in in San Francisco, CA May 2016

Glenn Goode’s Big People – Gainesville, Texas

Glenn Goode’s Big People
Sumoflam at Glenn Goode’s Big People in Gainesville, TX

Greedy Kitty Restaurant – Toronto, Ontario

Greedy Kitty Restaurant – Chinatown in Toronto

Glove Capital of the World – Chillicothe, Missouri

Part of Window in Time -Glove Capital of the World

Gold Pavilion (Kinkakji) – Kyoto, Japan

Visiting the Gold Pavilion “Kinkaku Ji” in Kyoto in 1987

Glacier National Park – Babbs, Montana

First sunrise on the mountains of Glacier National Park near Babbs, Montana

Grasshoppers in the Field – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota

Giant Grasshopper at Stop #3, “Grasshoppers in the Field”4

Giant FREE Rubber Stamp – Cleveland, Ohio

Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, Colorado

Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO

Guitar Walk at Cavanaugh Park – Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

The Guitar Walk recognizes some famous musicians who had performed along US 67

Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, California

I got to visit the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco as part of Antsy McClain’s tour team. Great music hall

Grant Woods “American Gothic” House – Eldon, Iowa

Sumoflam Gothic at the Grant Wood American Gothic House in Eldon, IA

Greenwater, Washington

10 foot tall Sasquatch carving at Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

Goody Goody – St. Louis, Missouri

Gregory, South Dakota

Giant Pheasant in Gregory SD

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River – Cameron, Arizona

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca. 1983

Gasoline Pump Art – Story, Indiana

Gasoline Pump Art Sculpture in Story, IN

German Driving School Car Models – DFW Elite Toy Museum – Haltom City, Texas

With one of the rare German-made Driving School Models built in the 1950s by Werner Degener

Gator Chateau – Jennings, Louisiana

The Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA
Baby Gator at Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

Gravel Switch, Kentucky

Amish Buggies in Gravel Switch

Gateway Arch National Monument – St. Louis, Missouri

Gateway Arch as seen from Malcolm W. Marin Memorial Park in E. St. Louis, IL

Guardians of Traffic – Cleveland, Ohio

Guardians on Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub – Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI

Geographic Center of North America Monument – Rugby, North Dakota

Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND

Gifu Castle – Gifu, Japan

Gifu Castle in Gifu Japan (ca. spring 1977)

Great Texas Supper Mural – LSA Burger Co. – Denton, Texas

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

Giant Baseball Bat – Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville

Grand Teton National Park – Driggs, Idaho

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho

Gnaw Bone, Indiana

A place called Gnaw Bone in Indiana

Grave Creek Mound – Moundsville, West Virginia

Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, WV

Grand Trunk Railway – Caledonia, Ontario

Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway

Grizz Works – Maple, Wisconsin

Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI. Giant Grizzly is amazing! He makes yard art

Gol Stave Church – Minot, North Dakota

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND

Grand Canyon – Grand Canyon, Arizona

Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1983

Great Falls of the Missouri – Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls of the Missouri in Great Falls, MT

Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee

Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001

Galveston, Texas

Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston

Geese in Flight – Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, North Dakota

“Geese in Flight” – Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72

Winking Smiley Water Tower – Grand Forks, North Dakota

Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

Gates of the Mountains – near Helena, Montana

Man and Dog with Gates of the Mountains

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.

Books 1 & 2

 

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Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind.  Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird.  On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.

Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat.  I think we all make those determinations ourselves.  In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Why quirky?  Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?

The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

In fact, there are many “quirky”  scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country.  Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA.  Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist.  I visited his shop back in 2007.

I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA.  After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places.  You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani.  He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.

More Screaming Heads

There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.”  See my original post HERE.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Quirky is not only centered on art.  There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.”  That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

And they don’t have to be antique shops either.  How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US…  Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.

This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal.  I was fascinated.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there.  Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough.  But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get.  Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world….  and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece.  That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.

This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations.  Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did.  I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested.  See it here.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. 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!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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Road Trip Home from Idaho – Day 3: Glendive, MT thru Enchanted Highway, Mt. Rushmore to Oacoma, SD

South Dakota Badlands
South Dakota Badlands in northern South Dakota as seen from SD Hwy 79

April 1, 2013:  We started the month of April off with a non-foolish bang as we got up fairly early to hit the road towards home, with a detour through North and South Dakota.

This is the route we took on this leg of the trip:


View Larger Map – Glendive, MT to Oacoma, SD

We first took a brief zip around Glendive to catch some of the sights…

Giant Dinosaur Sign in Glendive, Montana
Giant Dinosaur Sign in Glendive, Montana next to the museum
Mural at the Glendive Museum
Mural at the Glendive Museum
There were signs like these in various parts of Glendive
There were signs like these in various parts of Glendive

Glendive, Montana is surrounded by badlands and there have been many finds of dinosaur bones and tracks in the area, thus the signs, museum, etc.  We went to Makoshika State Park, which is a nice badlands area.  In fact, Makoshika is a Lakota word for “land of bad spirits.”

A peak in Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana
A peak in Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana
Badlands in Makoshika State Park
Badlands in Makoshika State Park
More badlands
More badlands in Makoshika State Park

From Glendive we headed east on I-94 towards North Dakota with a brief stop to get the sign for “Home on the Range”, an unusual sign in the middle of the prairie in North Dakota, east of Beach, ND.  It turns out that Home on the Range is a working Catholic-run ranch for boys and girls ages 12-19, especially those that were abused or come from broken families. It helps them readjust and cope.  Appears to be a great program.

Home on the Range sign in North Dakota
Home on the Range sign in North Dakota

We continued east until we got to Exit 72, which leads to the Enchanted Highway, one of those AWESOME adventure highways with some unique roadside attractions.  I recently did a full blog post just on this highway.  Therefore, I will only post a couple of photos here. Please see the blog post for the details on that portion of this trip.

The Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota
The Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota

The main attractions are shown below.

"Geese in Flight" - Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
“Geese in Flight” – Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
Enchanted Highway Stop #2 - 'Deer Crossing"
Enchanted Highway Stop #2 – ‘Deer Crossing”
Giant Grasshopper at Stop #3, "Grasshoppers in the Field"
Enchanted Highway Stop #3, “Grasshoppers in the Field”
Fisherman's Dream
Enchanted Highway Stop #4 – “Fisherman’s Dream”
Enchanted Highway Stop #5 - Pheasants on the Prairie
Enchanted Highway Stop #5 – Pheasants on the Prairie
Enchanted Highway Stop #6 - Teddy Rides Again
Enchanted Highway Stop #6 – Teddy Rides Again
Enchanted Highway Stop #7 - Tin Family
Enchanted Highway Stop #7 – Tin Family

After the trip down the Enchanted Highway, we arrived in the small town of Regent, home of the Enchanted Highway museum and gift shop, the Enchanted Castle Hotel and a couple of gas stations.  We had hoped to eat lunch there, but nothing was open.  And it was a Monday….oh well…

End of the Road - Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent, ND
End of the Road – Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent, ND…includes a drawbridge!

Still hungry, we decided to move on and head south towards Mt. Rushmore.  We went west on ND Hwy 21 until we got to Hwy 22 and then went south towards South Dakota.  We stayed on Hwy 22 until we got to South Dakota.

Welcome to South Dakota
Welcome to South Dakota
Scene from ND Hwy 22
Scene from ND Hwy 22 heading south
Badlands in Northern South Dakota off of HWY 79
Badlands in Northern South Dakota off of HWY 79 – also see the photo at the top of this post
Typical Landscape in North and South Dakota
Typical Landscape in North and South Dakota

We then followed SD Hwy 79 all the way into Newell, South Dakota, which is known as the Sheep Capital of the United States. We meandered into T.J.’s Cafe and Waterin’ Hole in Newell for lunch.  It was almost 3 PM so we were quite hungry.  This unique diner was what we needed. I loved some of the furnishings, as you can see below.

Livestock Sign - Newell, SD
Livestock Sign – Newell, SD
J J's Cafe in Newell, SD
T J’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Bar Stools (or should I say saddles) at TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD
Bar Stools (or should I say saddles) at TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Wall Decoration at TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD
Wall Decoration at TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Sign at the door of TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.
Sign at the door of TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.
TJ's Cafe Lunch - a Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries
TJ’s Cafe Lunch – a Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries

After a nice lunch and some homemade pie for dessert, we were back on the road heading towards Mount Rushmore.  On the way we passed through Sturgis, SD, famed for its annual motorcycle event in August.  I had never been here.  We passed right by the Full Throttle Saloon, claimed to be the World’s Largest Biker Bar and also famed for its TV Show on TRU-TV, which, but the way, I have never watched.

Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Giant scrap metal chopper and rider at Full Throttle Saloon.
Giant scrap metal chopper and rider at Full Throttle Saloon

Lighting was not good for this shot, so see this photo for a better one (not my photography).

Giant Muffler Man turned cowboy at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Giant Muffler Man turned cowboy at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Sturgis T-Shirt Shop
Sturgis T-Shirt Shop

From Sturgis we booked it down to Keystone and to Mt. Rushmore.

Welcome to Keystone, SD
Welcome to Keystone, SD

We pulled through Keystone, SD at about 5:10 PM on our way to Mt. Rushmore.  As this was the off season, almost everything was closed.  We made it to the National Monument after closing time but still with daylight.  We were able to get up into the parking lot for free and got some good photos before the sunset.

Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore – April 1, 2013
Profile shot of George Washington
Profile shot of George Washington
Julianne and David at Mt. Rushmore, April 1, 2013 - no joke!
Julianne and David at Mt. Rushmore, April 1, 2013 – no joke!

We were thrilled to be able to see Mt. Rushmore.  BY the time we were done it was getting dark.  We headed east from there, passed by the Badlands National Park, by Underwood, South Dakota, home of the World’s SMALLEST Biker Bar, and by Wall Drug (which I have visited in the past – see my post from 2005).  We also passed by the big dinosaur skeleton being led by a human skeleton near Pioneer Village and could barely make it out as it had gotten dark.

Walking the Pet Dino near Exit 170 (Pioneer Village) on I-90. It is on the north of the freeway. I took this in 2005.

We finally got into Oacoma, SD, our stop for the night.  It was another long day, but was lots of fun!! Nothing like a full day of road tripping and seeing the sights and creating the memories!!


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