One of the more interesting things I look for on roadtrips as I pass through small communities on back roads is yard art. Funky art and decorations in people’s yards, on their fences, on their houses. People have ingenuity. Some people have junk. But, as the saying goes, “One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure.”
For me, Yard Art is anything unique and unusual. It could be chain saw art – wood carvings made with chain saws. It could be art made from scrap metal. It could be, like the photo above, a hodge podge of signs, junk or other things. Following are some selections of yard art I have taken over the years. Don’t judge…some of these people love their “collections.” I just love my collection of photos of theirs… Enjoy the virtual ride.
For me there is a difference between “Offbeat” and “Quirky.” I like to look at things that are offbeat as being similar to something conventional or recognizable, but just somewhat off. On the other hand, quirky is closer to non-conventional and sometimes even absurd (my Q post will focus on Quirky).
When I am traveling I love looking at the beauty and nature around me, but I also seek out the offbeat and quirky. One source I always use to help me find these locations is the Roadside America app. This app covers all 50 states and most of Canada and includes almost anything offbeat, odd, quirky and even downright outlandish and ridiculous. There are literally 1000s of sites and things to find and this makes for something fun on a roadtrip.
So, what do I mean by offbeat? Let’s take houses for instance. The normal home is brick and mortar, or a trailer home. But how about a flying saucer or a house that looks like mushrooms? A trip to the Cincinnati area offers up both of these.
First, there is a house in Cincinnati literally referred to as the “Mushroom House.” It is built almost completely out of either natural materials or recycled materials.
It is like a house…it is a house. But it certainly looks different than the “normal” human abode.
Then there are the homes that look like flying saucers. Called “Futuro” homes, there were many built in the 1960s by a company in Finland.
Across the river from Cincinnati, on a hill in Covington, KY overlooking the Ohio River and US Interstate 75, sits a Futuro House. It is in a regular neighborhood and stands out like a sore thumb. If you look carefully off to your right from the Interstate driving south out of Cincinnati right after crossing the Ohio River, you will see it.
Finally, take a tripdown to Houston for another Offbeat house…the house built totally out of Beer Cans!
Basically done as an art project, this house is also lived in and is built out of 1000s of aluminum beer cans.
I think the owner’s name must be Bud Weiser??
But houses aren’t the only offbeat places. If one looks hard the discovery of offbeat eateries can also come to the fore. Like the houses, these are normal in most respects, but there is just something a tad different.
For instance, there is a great place in Portland, Oregon called Voodoo Doughnut. The main shop (yes, there are now a few of them) is located downtown and there are lines there 24/7. They make a great variety of doughnuts and even a few offbeat ones, such as the actual Voodoo Doughnut, which is a person shaped doughnut, covered with chocolate and filled with raspberry filling. It is stabbed with a pretzel stick…yes, like a Voodoo Doll!
Then there is the other offbeat thing…the original shop also has a chapel and some of the bakers are ALSO ordained ministers. You can be married at Voodoo Doughnut legally and be surrounded by chapel-esque stained glass and everything!
Head on over to Missouri for another unique treat. There is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri (and another near Branson) called Lambert’s Cafe. These huge facilities cater to tourists and buses. They offer a variety of yummy meals and have a few things served “home style” – wheeled in on carts and served out of pots at the table (including black-eyed peas, potatoes, tomato stew and more).
But what really makes them famous are their “Throwed Rolls.” And this is where they fit into the Offbeat category. Literally, they come to the middle of an area in the restaurant, ask who wants rolls and then throw them across the room to you. You miss them, too bad…
Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…
Convention gets thrown out the door when visiting a facility just outside of Nekoma, ND. There is a huge cement pyramid in the middle of nowhere. Seemingly deserted (but fenced off), this used to be an old military facility.
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The pyramid included radar and other defense systems. Now unused, it sits in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota and is an imposing offbeat site.
And a bank is a bank is a bank…right? What about one for tightwads?
Next are museums. There are hundreds of museums in the United States, but some are more offbeat and unique than others. Take the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI. Chock full of mustards from around the world, one can buy a lifetime supply of mustards and never have the same flavor twice.
The original Mustard Museum was located in Mt. Horeb, WI, but later moved to Middleton, to be in a much larger facility. A condiment lover’s dream.
There are also other fun museums out there. How about these?
And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”
Finally, what’s in a town? There are some offbeat towns out there. Many towns have unique names, but some of these are really offbeat and odd.
Some are totally Uncertain….
And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.
Indeed, there is much offbeat in America and this is just a small sampling of the savory and unsavory offbeat oddities of our wonderful country. Is there anything Normal?
Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.
Car art. What is it? And what is it about cars that makes someone want to create art with it. Many a travel blogger has visited sites that include car art of some sort. This particular writer is included in that group, and, in fact, is an avid seeker of car art of all forms.
Over the years I have discovered numerous “car art installations.” These are places where something was created from cars.
Perhaps the most famous of these set just east of Amarillo, Texas. Known as “Cadillac Ranch,” it features a set of Cadillacs buried at a 45° angle in the ground going across the ground for about a quarter-mile. Fans of quirky roadside attractions have stopped by this place for many years. Nowadays you can see a different installation nearly every day as people bring spray paint cans with them and add their art to the cars. Though perhaps the most famous of all car art, it is not the only installation of its kind in this country.
There are others that have tried to imitate in some way shape or form the Cadillac ranch concept. Take for instance Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois. Like Cadillac Ranch, Rabbit Ranch sits on US Highway 66. There is a great deal of Route 66 paraphernalia and souvenirs available. But, they also have five or six Volkswagen rabbits buried halfway into the ground. Unlike Cadillac Ranch, they do not allow spray paint all over the cars.
There is also a Volkswagen Bug Ranch in Conway, Texas that has a few Volkswagen bugs and some old cars buried. We visited there many many years ago and unfortunately my photographs of the place have disappeared.
But, burying cars is not the only form of car art. There is yet another practically world famous attraction made with cars in Alliance, Nebraska. Known as “Carhenge” it is probably the only Stonehenge-type of Car Art installation. Indeed, they have tried to match Stonehenge’s look and feel but with cars that have all been painted a silvery gray.
Others try to make cars into art in a number of fashions. On the back road trip in Oregon a few years ago I came across someone’s farm that had two big giant spiders made from a Volkswagen beetle and another car. And there are other similar “car spiders” to be found dotting places in the United States.
There are also a few “car artists” that have placed their old rusted out vehicles in strategic locations so they can be seen. Take the three really old cars sitting in the midst of trees and grass. They are a little on the rusty side but still interesting. These were seen near a place called Albatross, MO.
Or, how about the Rio Brazos Music Hall near Granbury, TX that has some pick up trucks placed in a 45° angle at the entrance? Is this not car art?
And cars are not the only ones didn’t get to experience being turned into artwork. Also in Texas, just north of Houston in Cypress, there is a huge hamburger joint that has two big school buses that have been turned into a Canvas.
In another twist, there are the car artists that literally take parts of cars and create new art from them. One was a giant saxophone made out of a Volkswagen in Houston. Unfortunately, it is currently no longer available to be seen, but I was able to grab a photo of it a few years ago.
In Kadoka, South Dakota, someone is taking a number of car parts and created a giant deer. And in Montana, surrounding the Blackfoot Indian reservation there are a number of Indian chiefs that have been built from car parts.
Finally, there is the one last piece of car art that is no longer around but really needs to be noted in this. Back a few years ago there was an iconic piece of car art that appeared in the movie Wayne’s World. Titled “Spindle,” the piece of art had eight or nine cars stuck on a spike and it was on display in a shopping center in Berwyn, Illinois. In 2015, the display was taken down to make room for a new Walgreens. Unfortunate.
When you get out on the road, make sure to watch for Card. You’ll be glad you did!