People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons. Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive. All we have are fossil evidences and legends.
A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon. I have seen hundreds in my travels.
In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.
Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first. First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI. According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”
Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country. In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center. Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.
Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.
Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit. Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!
And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.
There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.
One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL
This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!
There are, of course, many other dragons out there.
But, its the dinosaurs that impress. Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters. In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.
Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Life size and REALLY REAL looking.
And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country
and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?
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 H Towns
I can’t in good conscience include a post about towns that begin with H without starting with Hell, Michigan. Located near Pinckney on a beautiful forest drive, Hell is a great tourist spot. There are only a few buildings there including an unofficial Post Office (it is actually part of Pinckney, but they have this one there and will do a Hell post mark). There is an ice cream/gift shop called I Scream, then there is the Dam Fine Food and Spirits place and you can even get official Dam U T-shirts (Damnation University). No public restrooms, just Porta Potties. You can see my complete post about Michigan and Hell that I wrote back in 2008 HERE.
Sticking in Michigan, swing over to the Hamtramck suburb of Detroit. This is a very interesting place to say the least. Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914. Poles used to make up a large proportion of the population. It is sometimes confused with Poletown, a traditional Polish neighborhood, which used to lie mostly in the city of Detroit and includes a small part of Hamtramck. But more recently (November 2015) the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendants for more than a century has now become what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect a
majority-Muslim council. In fact, in 2013 the town earned the distinction of becoming what appears to be the first majority-Muslim city in the United States following the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia over a decade.
Despite all of this, tucked away on a side street is probably one of the most interesting accumulations of weird whirly gigs, mannequins, and a plethora of oddball knick knacks. Known as Hamtramck Disneyland, it is a yard art folk art located owned by a man named Dmytro Szylak. Hamtramck Disneyland was started in 1992 and came to be finished in 1999. Szylak died at age 92 in May 2015 and now the future of the place, located at 12087 Klinger St in Hamtramck, is in question. But the menagerie of fun will always be etched in my mind.
While living in Ontario in 2008, I visited a number of places and always seemed to pass through Hamilton, a wonderful place to visit. In the town itself is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which contains over 40 different aircraft. Then there are the waterfalls!! The township has over 100 waterfalls within a short drive from downtown, and many of them are spectacular. The area is part of the Niagara Escarpment which provides perfect geological conditions for waterfalls to occur, from Tobermory to Niagara Falls. The most scenic waterfall in Hamilton is Webster’s Falls. With its 98 ft crest, it is the largest waterfall within the city. Tew’s Falls is a 135 ft ribbon waterfall, and is the tallest waterfall found in Hamilton. Both are in photos above. There is a website dedicated to the waterfalls of Hamilton HERE. And then, after all of the waterfalls, head over to Lake Ontario and to the shoreside burger joint known as Hutch’s on the Beach for a great burger in a 1960s style diner.
Hatch, New Mexico
We’ll move from Hutch’s on the Beach clear south to Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the World. Located off Interstate 25, between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences, the Village of Hatch has a population registered at little over 1,600 people. Chiles can be seen everywhere, both dried and fresh. The Hatch Green Chiles are my most favorite in the world!! Stop into one of the shops and get some and you too will be hooked. Every year in September they have their Hatch Valley Chile Festival which looks amazing. While in Hatch, check out Sparky’s burger joint which has a vintage A&W Family on the roof and nearby is giant Muffler Man. Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders and other fun stuff decorates the place known for BBQ and their World Famous Green Chile Cheeseburger. I went through there a few years ago, but never got around to writing a blog post. But many of my photos can be seen HERE.
Hico is Texas all the way. Only about 1400 people live there, but everything is BIG there. From the giant 12 foot tall spurs in front of a business to the many murals splashed on walls throughout the town, it is a fun place. And of course, you can’t miss the Billy the Kid Museum in downtown. The town where “Everybody is Somebody” is covered in my 2012 Blog Post HERE.
In May 2015 I was in the San Francisco area to participate in Antsy McClain’s Woodflock gathering in Red Bluff, CA. Along the way we passed a sign that said “Needing to Pee?” What a kick! It was one of many signs in Hopland advertising the naturalist’s department store known as Real Goods. Hopland It is located on the west bank of the Russian River 13 miles south-southeast of Ukiah, at an elevation of 502 feet and has a population of about 750 environmentally conscious folks. I got to meet one of America’s Solar Pioneers while there and saw a plethora of interesting items inn the shop, which is an extension of their massive website catalog. The place has a see through working beehive, the strangest restrooms in the world and some interesting, unique and even quirky items for sale. See my full post about Real Goods HERE.
Hoboken, New Jersey
On another family trip in 2015, my wife, daughter and grandchildren all headed east to Connecticut for a baby blessing. On the way we made a stop in Hoboken, NJ, which offers amazing views of New York City and is also the home of world famous Carlos Bake Shop, from the TV show Cake Boss. The town is packed, the roads are narrow, but the atmosphere, even at 11 PM, is amazing. See my complete roadtrip report, including Hoboken photos (and Hershey, PA photos) HERE.
On a return trip from Texas in 2014, I made my way into southeast Oklahoma for a visit to Hugo, which has the nickname of Circus City USA as it is perhaps best known as a resting place for Circus Performers and, has become the eternal resting place for many of these performers. 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. 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. Read more about it in my 2015 post HERE.
In the southwest region of Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, the chocolate scented town of Hershey rests. Home of the Hershey Chocolate company, the town is decorated everywhere with chocolaty things, right down to the town’s Hershey’s Kiss shaped streetlights. I visited there in 1998 and then again in 2015. Hershey’s Chocolate World has some great stuff, lots of chocolate for sale and even a factory tour. We visited Hershey on the same trip as Hoboken, so check out my blog link above.
Home on the Range, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam…well, Home on the Range is somewhere in Western North Dakota off of Interstate 94. 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.
Hamburg, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
Finally, I wanted to mention the small town of Hamburg, Iowa only because of the unique shop there known as Stoner Drug Store. They even sell T-Shirts!! The Drug store still has a working Malt/Soda Bar like they had in the 1960s. You can see more HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
As I travel the backroads of America and Canada I always run across all sorts of what some call “Yard Art”. Others call it folk art, offbeat art, quirky things, etc. Well, there is the whimsical and fun, there is the unique and then the downright strange. Some of the sites, like Cadillac Ranch above, are world famous. Others are in the middle of nowhere and are happenstance and unexpected. Following is a menagerie of quirky and offbeat whimsy and creativity that I have seen. Enjoy the ride and see if you have been to any of these places…
SCRAP METAL DINOSAURS AND DRAGONS
Perhaps one of the most common types of yard art I see is scrap metal work. And it seems that dinosaurs and dragons are the most popular. Here are a few.
(UPDATE II – May 2015: On a recent trip to California, I discovered this great piece called “Horn Dragon” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris. It certainly fits into this post!)
(UPDATE – October 2013: I have found another great scrap metal artist besides those noted below. Visit my post on Larry Vennard from Centralia, Missouri)
SCRAP METAL CRITTERS
Of course, dinosaurs and dragons are not the only creatures (critters) that can be seen out on the road. Here are a few more scrap metal (found metal) critters from all over…
Of course, dinos and critters are not the only things made out of scrap metal. People are too. Perhaps the biggest and most impressive scrap metal people I have ever seen are the three that comprise the “Tin Family” at the end of the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota (if driving from I-94 or first one if driving from Regent, ND). The Dad is 45 feet tall, Mom is 44 feet tall and the Tin Kid is 23 feet tall. But, there are many more that are unique. Here are a few scrap metal folk found on the road…
Then there is the most magnificent of all scrap metal art pieces, the World’s Largest (according to the Guinness Book of World Recrod’s). This is at the entry of the amazing Enchanted Highway in North Dakota:
CHAIN SAW ART
Obviously, scrap metal is not the only medium used in the creation of yard art. There is a ton of work don with chain saws and wood. I have seen hundreds of pieces dot the country. Here are a few from all over…
The epitome of Chain Saw Art is the Chain Saw Totem Pole forest in Medford, Wisconsin. Chainsaw Gordy has gone to a whole new cut above…. 21 poles with nearly 400 chainsaws in them, all done by Gordy Lekies.
MAILBOXES AS PART OF THE ARTWORK
Though not nearly as prevalent as Chain Saw art and metal art, there are the occasional unique mailboxes to be seen on the back roads of America. I have passed dozens of plastic John Deere mailboxes, fish and cow mailboxes, etc., but then there are the really unique ones….
TOTALLY JUNKED OUT PLACES
Folk art abounds in this country, but there are some who have taken it to excess with knick-knacks, whirly-gigs, old toys, old stuff and more…and all in one place. Some in the name of art and some just to, well, have a place for their stuff. Though I have seen many across the country, here are some of the more outlandish examples (with two or three shots from each place)
Moving on to Woodstock, Ontario and Cliff Bruce’s Windmill Hill, another menagerie of the unusual….(see my writeup here)
Then there is the Flower Man House in Houston, Texas. Built by a man who had been a homeless alcoholic for years, he decided to turn his life around and began putting together his interestingly eccentric colorful house, which sits in an otherwise bland neighborhood.
And just around the corner from the Flower Man’s House is another quirky place – the Law Offices of Tim Hootman. His office is in a brightly colored boxcar and has some unique art sitting outside the place. Really funky…
If these are not quirky enough, how about this place in Lima, Montana…is it a shop, a restaurant, a hotel or just someone’s knick-knack collection? It was closed, so I couldn’t really find out….
If you liked the place in Lima, how about the Junk Store in Buena Vista, Colorado? This place seems to everything (you may not want or need)!!
I came across this fence in Parker, Idaho… completely made of roadsigns
In the small town of What Cheer, Iowa, a lady has gussied up her yard with old wheels, implements and even has a real “flower bed”!
Came across this little “health food store” in Gardner, Colorado, called H Food Store – Huajatollas Foods (see YouTube Video):
And finally, we discovered a couple of places on a back road in central Kentucky. We took Highway 77 (Nada Tunnel Road) and first came across a barn with a hubcap collection:
And we also came across this house near Orlando, Kentucky
Finally, this unique house in Talent, Oregon along with their Shoe Tree: