In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren. We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks. My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip. Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip. I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America. Please enjoy the H Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)
Hamburg, Iowa is a small town just off of Interstate 29 and a few miles north of the Missouri border and a miles southeast of the Nebraska border. The small town is quaint and has some great places to visit. Along with the scenes below, I should note that it is home to Stoner Drug and more.
Hogdaddy’s Saloon – Old Shawneetown, Illinois
Don’t know much about this place, but it had a great wall advertisement!
On this long 8000 mile trip, one place set into ice in my agenda was Happy, Texas. I am always looking for something happy. I love their mantra: The Town Without a Frown. Happy is not a big place. It only has about 680 people. Its name is derived from a local stream called Happy Draw, which was named by 19th Century cowboys who were happy to find water there. Hopefully, some of the photos below will make you happy!
Hyde and Lombard – San Francisco, California
Want to take Lombard Street, the Crookedest Street in the World? Well, you need to get to Hyde and Lombard up on the hill first.
Hartline, Washington Post Office
This is one of those unique Post Offices. The sign looks plenty old as does the building. Hartline is a small community on US Highway 2 a few miles northeast of Coulee City. Only has a population of 151.
Haufbrau House – Bozeman, Montana
I lived in Bozeman, Montana from 1971 to 1973. On this road trip I stopped there to enjoy a dinner with some high school friends. We enjoyed some amazing burgers at the Haufbrau House, a bar and grill that has been around since the 1960s. If you are in Bozeman, stop by this rustic place and order their Lanny Burger…it is awesome!
Halsey is another very small community located on Nebraska Highway 2 in the sandhills of the state. Less than 100 people live here, but they are proud of their hand planted forest.
Ha Ha Tonka Cut Thru in Camdenton, Missouri
We were driving through the Ozark tourist town of Camdenton when we saw the sign below. I had to turn around to get a shot. This drive was likely named for the Ha Ha Tonka State Park, home of the Ha Ha Tonka Castle, which we did not have time to visit.
Hotel Waterville – Waterville, Washington
The small community of Waterville is in central Washington on US Highway 2. While driving through I saw this old neon sign and had to snap a shot.
Hyannis is a small town of about 200 in western Nebraska near the panhandle. Like Halsey (see above) it is located in the sandhills of Nebraska on Nebraska Hwy 2. It is home to the Hyannis Hotel Bar and Grill, which was built in 1898 during the heydays of cattle shipping. It is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Hodge Podge Cottages – Uncertain, Texas
Uncertain, Texas is a tourist location on the shores of Caddo Lake. There are many unique places to stay, including the Hodge Podge Cottages, which, as the name reflects, offer a number of totally unique places to stay.
Hotel Turkey – Turkey, Texas
Now this is a place I would like to say that I stayed at. Turkey is a cool little town to with lots of history and more.
WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON
I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family. You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l
This post is the first in an occasional series of posts looking back on many of my trip journals as posted on my Sumoflam Journals site, which I used for my travel posts prior to the creation of my Less Beaten Paths blog. Since 2004 I have traveled tens of thousands of miles on the backroads of America and have posted 1000s of photos in dozens of trip journals. The Looking Back Series will feature some of the highlights of these trips.
This edition will look back at a return road trip I took from Dallas back to Lexington on February 27, 2010. The complete post can be seen here. The map of the trip is below:
Feb. 27, 2010: Time to return home to Lexington. It was a long busy week in Dallas, but the trip home would promise to be an interesting and fun day. I left Keller fairly early so I could hit the sunrise as I drove east. I almost made it to Tyler, TX by sunrise and pulled off the road in an effort to get some nice shots before traveling further.
After the sunrise, I was back on the road to Uncertain, TX. I was bound and determined to find Uncertain. Indeed, I was certain I would get to Uncertain. Heading east on I-20 I had to take Exit 604 and head north on Texas FM 450 towards Hallsville, TX. Once in Hallsville, I turned right on US 80 and continued east through Marshall, TX to US 59. From there, I went north for a mile or so to TX 43 and continued NE. I stayed on course until I got to Texas FM 2198. At the point, I turned right and a few miles up the road there it was…my first Uncertain sighting!! (See the Road Sign above…)
Uncertain is a village with an unusual name and it is located in an unusual place along the shores of Caddo Lake not too far from the Louisiana border. The town has taken advantage of the name and even has their own website. They call it “The City of Uncertain” (incorporated in 1961) but it is much more a small village, and many of the businesses appeared to me to be seasonal. There are apparently a number of purported reasons for the name but it appears that the most popular theory is the one that says — “once you get to Caddo you’re uncertain as to exactly where you are — and uncertain as to exactly when you’ll want to leave. One thing is for sure, you don’t go to Uncertain by Chance! It’s one way in and one way out” and I am certain of that since I drove the only roads myself. I arrived in February so it was still chilly, but, there was a lot of “fun” there. Following are a few of the signs I found around town:
And my favorite of all of the Uncertain signs!!
There is even an Uncertain Tourist Department (if you can call it that…)
Despite the draw of the name, the REAL draw to Uncertain is the scenery. Uncertain is on the shores of the eerie, yet picturesque Lake Caddo, which stretches across the Texas-Louisiana border. It is the only natural lake left in Texas. The lake is filled with bald cypress trees that are draped and decorated with Spanish Moss. When I first looked at it I wondered if I might see the “Swamp Thing” and sure enough, there is even a sign for that!!
Many claim that Caddo has been dubbed the “best photo spot in Texas.” Though some may question it, I certainly thought it to be one of the more interesting spots I have ever visited across these great United States. I took over 100 photos of the lake/swamp/bayou and even went beyond my normal routine and fiddled with some color settings in some of them to really make them interesting (and somewhat creepy….). Here are a few of the photos of Lake Caddo, which covers over 32,000 acres of channels, bayous and sloughs. I can imagine it would get pretty spooky late at night in mid-summer with the alligators swimming around and Swamp Things and Sasquatch waiting for you around each bend….
Even along the narrow roadways around Uncertain, there are interesting shots to be taken:
I made my way from Uncertain around Lake Caddo and into the Louisiana side of the lake. Here are a couple more swampy photos from the Louisiana side near Pelican Bay, LA.
In the area there were also a few “Uncertain” treasures — unique photo-ops:
All good things must end and for me, with still a long drive back to Kentucky, I left the realm of Uncertain-ty and headed east, driving around the northern part of Caddo Lake and then north up the backroads of the northwest corner of Louisiana. From Uncertain I headed north on Texas 43 and then east on Texas 49 into Louisiana and over the northern leg of the lake. This took me to LA 1 towards the small town of Vivian, home of the Louisiana Red Bud Festival. This town was originally settled as a railroad stop and currently has a population of a little over 4000. It is typical of many small towns where poverty has hit, but, it is a clean town and has some originality.
Continuing north I drove along Black Bayou Lake and then passed through the small town of Rodessa. And yes, I had a purpose. What is it that draws someone to a small little town in NW Louisiana? Two strange frog statues atop pillars with Alabama and Georgia on them and a name…Frog Level. Though the frogs are not really fancy artwork, apparently, the Smithsonian has these catalogued. As the sign below notes, in the 1800s a town meeting was called by store owner Noah Tyson to name the town. Apparently, a man from Alabama, noting the frogs hollering in a nearby pond, jumped up and said “Let’s name it Frog Level.” And so it was. Later the town’s name was changed to Rodessa. The frogs were made by a guy named Buster Dunn and the monument, dedicated in 1976, was fabricated by the Fix-It-Well Company. I do wonder what the Georgia pillar is for. There really is no mention…
After seeing (and actually hearing) the frogs at Frog Level, it was back on the road again. My next goal was to search for the whereabouts of Waldo. Many have spent hours doing “Where’s Waldo” puzzles, in search of the elusive beany topped thing guy with a red/white striped shirt. I even admit to have joined in the fascination many years ago. So, as I drove along the road home to Kentucky, I learned that Waldo might be in Arkansas. I went in search of AND finally found Waldo!!
From Waldo I really needed to push to get home at a decent very late hour, so from there it was back on freeways to Kentucky. But, despite the visit to Uncertain, it was most certainly an eventful 17 hours, which was the eventual amount of time to drive from Keller to Lexington.
And by the way, I finally did get a shot of pelican on the trip….
Watch soon for another post in the Looking Back Series. Next up will be the Erie Canal, Big Bridges and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (New York and Pennsylvania).
March 28, 2013: On our way back to Kentucky from Rexburg, Idaho we made a three day detour to Shelby, Montana to visit our daughter and her husband and their 4 children. Thanks to our new best trailer tires we were able to go on rough roads quite smoothly, and I have to say till date they have been my best investment on the RV. During our three days here, we were very busy with a trip to the base of Glacier National Park, a drive around town capturing the “Neon Essence” of Shelby, and a trip north to Sweetgrass, just south of the Canadian border, where we also visited a Hutterite colony and learned of their amazing communal ways. This post will cover these activities through photos and some details.
Shelby is a city of about 3400 people (including 6 of my children/grandchildren!!). It was started as a railroad town and continues as such today. Named after Peter O. Shelby of the Montana Central Railway, the town really got its start in 1891 when the Great Northern Railroad was making its way to the Marias Pass. The story goes that the builders threw a box car from the train and called it a station.
One of the endearing characters of Shelby is all of the old neon signs still hanging around the town. Obviously, as an Amtrak town, there are still lots of motels in Shelby. As well, it is a nice pit stop for many.
There are lots of bars and restaurants as well…
On a previous trip I took the kids to see a movie at the Roxy. Old style theater still in operation. It was fun.
Here are a few other scenes from around the town itself…
Vietnam War Veteran John Alstad of Sunburst created most of the pieces at the Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby. He estimates he spent nearly 700 hours working on the various pieces at the monument, the most prominent of which is the Iwo Jima piece.
As I noted, Shelby is a railroad town. As I drove around town getting the shots above, we were stuck at a track for nearly 20 minutes as a long train made its way to a grain elevator. The photo at the top shows the train at the elevator.
I have always enjoyed looking at the graffiti on trains. You see it all over the country. Here are a few examples I got as the train moved slowly past us. I couldn’t go anywhere, so, why not?
After the trains, I drive a bit east of town on US 2 to get a view of Shelby from the hill. We came across this unique Historical Marker.
One of the evenings Julianne and I went with my daughter and her husband to the “premier” steak place in the Shelby area. Trust me, you would never know how good this place was inside by driving by it!! It is in an old whitewashed building literally in the middle of nowhere in a place called Dunkirk, on the outskirts of Shelby. All that is indicated is the sign.
Once in the place, it is a whole different story. Linen napkins and nice china. The water glasses were the nice stem ware one sees in an upscale restaurant. The prices are also synonymous with ritzy… But so was the meal.
After a nice dinner, we walked out of the restaurant and OH WHAT A VIEW!!
The next day my son in law Aaron, his two boys and I all took off west towards Glacier National Park. Though it was officially closed, we were able to get close enough to the mountains to catch a beautiful sunrise. I will have a special photo album of shots of the mountains, but will include a couple of them here as well.
We left early, while still dark and headed towards Cut Bank and Browning. We then took Hwy 464 towards Duck Lake. As we headed north towards Babb, the sun began to rise.
After the sun was finally up, we backtracked to Babb and dropped in at the Leaning Tree Cafe, which is about a mile from the US 89 Junction. It opened at 8 AM and it was time for a great meal.
You can see a complete gallery of the Glacier N.P. Mountains –> Click Here
We headed back towards Browning, and along the way saw a couple of bison. Not too good of shots, but, I didn’t want to get out of the car
We made our way into Browning, Montana. The mountains were beautiful, but I was actually quite shocked at all of the garbage in the fields (mind you, I come from Lexington, KY which always looks like a park)
From Browning we headed east again towards Cut Bank, we took a small detour off of US Hwy 2 to visit the Camp Disappointment historic site and monument near milepost 233. There is a historical marker as well as a large obelisk monument dedicated to the site.
The biggest disappointment is all of the graffiti on the obelisk. I don’t know why people feel like they need to vandalize monuments like this.
From Camp Disappointment we continued east into Cut Bank. The skies were clear blue and it was a great opportunity to stop and get some close up shots of the Blackfoot Warriors, made out of scrap metal. These were created by native Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber and were commissioned by the Blackfeet Tribal Leaders. They were created in 2000. He actually created a set of these to welcome travelers into the Blackfeet reservation from all four directions — the northern site is at the US/Canadian border on US 89, the eastern site in East Glacier on US Hwy 2, the western site is near Cut Bank on US Hwy 2 (these are below), and the southern site is on US 89 near Birch Creek and Heart Butte.
From the warriors we went through town and made the requisite stop at the world’s largest penguin!
Being another train town, there is a large Train Bridge in Cutbank
Even though we had a busy morning and got into Shelby around noon, we were then again back on the road north towards Sweetgrass and off to visit a Hutterite colony, which was an amazing experience.
From Sweetgrass we headed west on a dirt road towards the Hillside Colony of the Hutterites. AS we visited we learned some amazing things: the Hutterites are almost totally communal. All of them share everything. Unlike the Amish, the Hutterites have adopted technology and are fabulously industrious. They make their own clothes, they grow most of their own food, they all live in a small community. Their homes are sparse. It should be noted that I took a number of photos, with their permission, but, by their request, very few and only select photos are being added below.
We saw the above rock formations on the way to Hillside. However, these were just an inkling of the bigger ones, which I have visited in the past.
As seen above, the Hutterites in Hillside Colony live in the prefab buildings as seen above. The apartments are small and have little or no belongings in them. Each of the steps represent a single domicile.
One thing noticed immediately, there are no stoves, ovens or refrigerators in the homes. They have a couple of chairs, perhaps a bench, a bed or two and some dressers. The bed frames, dressers, kitchen tables, the cup holder above and the chairs are all hand made in the community.
All meals are eaten together as a community — men on one side, women on the other. The women prepare the meals while the men work out on the farms, the chicken coops, the woodworking section, or otherwise.
Overall, we were so impressed about the kindness of the Hutterite folk. We picked up some potatoes, home made sausage and some of their wonderful bread. They are as industrious as bees and ants and all share completely. Each individual has their own assigned jobs, many for life. It was a great visit.
One last little visit was made while we were in Shelby. We got to visit Harry J. Benjamin, who makes all kinds of trains and pedal cars. Below is his “De-Railed” Steam Engine, which he shows off in parades in northern Montana. This engine pulls a set of cars that reaches 60 feet long.
Well past his 80’s, Mr. Benjamin, a former farmer and mechanic, is famed in the area for building things out of junk parts and pieces. He has built a number of trains, some other vehicles for the local high school and a number of children’s toys.
Here’s a video of one of his creations:
But, I must admit, the BEST part of the entire visit to Shelby was this….
Next stop…heading home via US 2. Watch soon for the next great adventures on Less Beaten Paths.