O is for Offbeat Oddities – #atozchallenge

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).

Oddville, Kentucky

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.

Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Mushroom House front side

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.

A view of Cincinnati’s Mushroom House
Beam Me Up Scotty at the Front Door of Futuro House

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.

The Futuro House in Covington, KY
Beer Can House, Houston, TX

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??

Beer Can House Front
Beer Can House
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon

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!

The Voodoo Doll – Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stick!
It is no wonder there are always lines at Voodoo Doughnut – 24/7

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!

Voodoo Doughnut Stained Glass
Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

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…

Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
The Throwed Rolls with Sorghum – yummy!

Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…

Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Sumoflam and MSR Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

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.

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND

And a bank is a bank is a bank…right?  What about one for tightwads?

Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
National Mustard Museum Sign, Middleton, WI

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.

Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin
MBA Degree (Master of Bad Attitude) from the Mustard Museum’s Poupon University (Poupon U)

There are also other fun museums out there.  How about these?

Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum
Sumoflam at Spam Museum in Austin, MN
Spam Museum Billboard – Austin, MN
Spam Museum – Austin, MN
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013 – Blackfoot, ID
World’s Largest Potato Chip – 23″ x 14.5″ at the Idaho Potato Museum

And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”

Visiting Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront in Seattle
This guy greets you at the door at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA

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.

Odd, West Virginia Post Office
Oddville United Methodist Church, Oddville, KY
Peculiar, Missouri
A Peculiar Church

Some are totally Uncertain….

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!

And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.

DISH Town Hall, DISH, Texas
DISH, 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?

Normal, IL

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C is for Car Art – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

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.

 

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

Over the years I have discovered numerous “car art installations.” These are places where something was created from cars.

Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas in August 2013

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.

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL

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.

VW Hare at Ra66it Ranch
Slugbug Ranch in Conway, TX (photo courtesy of Roadside America)

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.

Carhenge – May 2014
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE (check out the hat!)
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

 

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.

Spider Car – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri

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.

 

Old Cars in Hargett, KY
A couple of old cars near Hurley, WI as seen from Route 2
Old Car – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

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.

The Shack Bus – one of two at the Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas (currently in storage)

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.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota

 

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.

 

 

 

South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana

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.

“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh

When you get out on the road, make sure to watch for Card. You’ll be glad you did!

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques in Wisconsin

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The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long  cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!

Here is a map that includes many of the places:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below.  I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.

In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna,  where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story”  was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family.  I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode  their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY.  Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.

Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

 

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