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.
Idaho Potato Museum – Blackfoot, Idaho
Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant – Corfu, New York
Indian River Inlet Bridge – Bethany Beach, Delaware
Indian Paintbrush – Cool, Texas
Indianapolis Children’s Museum – Indianapolis, Indiana
Idan-Ha Drive In – Soda Springs, Idaho
Indian Head – Indian Head, Saskatchewan
Imes Covered Bridge – St. Charles, Iowa
Irma Restaurant – Cody, Wyoming
Interstate by William King – Council Bluffs, Iowa
Independence Hall – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Island Hopping – Bohol and Cebu, Philippines
Illinois Route 66 – Staunton, Illinois
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.
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 S Towns
On the banks of the Ohio River bordering the upper panhandle of West Virginia lies the old steel mining town of Steubenville, Ohio. This is the hometown of the famous actor/singer Dean Martin and is known as the City of Murals, with over 25 larger than life murals painted on the sides of buildings around town. The town of over 20,000 seems to be one of those dying steel towns. As I drove around town I got a sense of sadness. Many old crippled folks hobbling along the streets and many of the downtown businesses were welfare-related businesses. Up on the hill above the city there seemed to be a little more life. But, I also saw obvious signs that the town is trying to redefine itself as a historical tourism location with the murals, a new museum dedicated to the Old Fort Steuben and then the Ohio River scenery of course. Check out my 2008 blog post about this and other Ohio River towns HERE.
I visited Idaho a couple of times in 2013 for some work and took the weekends to travel an see some of the sights. One place I had dreamed of visiting was the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Nestled at the base of the mountain range is the pristine little community of Stanley, which boasts a whopping 60-70 residents year round. I could SOOO live in this place. Pristine views, clean air and a few log cabins….even a Teepee…dot the town. There is only one gas station and a couple of places to eat. But what got me was the stunning views. Check out more about my visit to Stanley in 2013 by clicking HERE.
In the early 1980s I attended college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. During my four years there, I spent much of it working for Nava-Hopi Tours as a tour guide. One of my twice weekly trips was to Sedona via the amazing switchbacks of the Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive. Personally, I am a fan of the Rocky Mountains, but Sedona most certainly is one of the most scenic places in the United States. The massive red rocks, the colorful character of the residents, the Pink Jeep Tours, the impressive Chapel of the Holy Cross and more…this is a must see location. I look forward to my next visit to Arizona as I have not been to Sedona since the 1990s.
Santa Rosa, California
In 2015 I visited California to attend the Woodflock event with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. Prior to getting up to Red Bluff, CA where the event was held, I spent a couple of days with some of my acquaintances in the Santa Rosa area and actually got to tour around this funky town. I visited The Hand statue shown above, which is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland. Then there is the ultimate in quirky attractions, a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts. Called “Cyclisk,” this was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture. There are a number of other fun attractions in this artsy little town. You can see many more photos and more details in my 2015 blog post HERE.
If you have been following my A to Z Blog Post, you would have noticed on the A Towns post that I covered both Amarillo in Texas and Alliance in Nebraska. These two locations are home to two of the most well know “Car Art” sites in the United States, namely Cadillac Ranch and Carhenge. Cadillac Ranch is right off of US Highway 66 in Amaraillo. But if you continue east on US Route 66 into Illinois, you will come across a lesser known “Car Art” and Route 66 memorabilia spot near Staunton, Illinois. Known as “Henry’s Rabbit Ranch (also sometimes written as ‘Ra66it Ranch’),” this place celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station. Owner Rich Henry and his wife Linda have built up a shop chock full of Route 66 memorabilia, a collection of old half buried VW Rabbits in their unique replicating of “Cadillac Ranch” (thus Rabbit Ranch….) and even have a pen full of live rabbits. See more about my 2013 visit HERE.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Oregon three times between 2011 and 2012 while working for iHigh.com. On one of the trips I attended the Oregon High School Athletic Directors Conference at a resort near Bend and, along the way, drove some back roads, one of which took me into the town of Sisters, Oregon. The town gets its name from a set of three mountains in the Southern Cascades known as “The Three Sisters.” From town you can also get a spectacular view of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon’s second highest peak. Though not as high in altitude as Stanley, Idaho, this westernesque town (their biggest employer is a huge ranch), Sisters is another place that I could most certainly love and enjoy. Definitely worth a visit!
Do you like hamburgers? How about hamburger history? Back in 2012 on a visit to Wisconsin, we made our way into Seymour, which claims to be the home of the hamburger. According to its history, Charles Nagreen (1870-1951), put ground beef patties in a bun and began calling them Hamburgers back in 1885. They have an annual hamburger festival and there are a couple of giant hamburgers in town. You can see more about Seymour by clicking HERE.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Perhaps you prefer Christmas year round. You can get that in the village of Santa Claus, Indiana. There are a number of Santa Claus statues around town, Christmas-themed shops, a Post Office that has a Santa Claus in the front and even a Santa Claus Police Department!! As a family, we made a visit there during the Christmas season of 2015 and had a good time. You can see more about our visit to Santa Claus and a ton of photos HERE.
Sandwich, New Hampshire
On a trip to Connecticut in the summer of 2015, we made our way into New Hampshire and Vermont so i could knock off the remaining states in my quest to hit all 50. One of my “wish list” stops was to go to Sandwich, NH in order to get a sat a sandwich there. We even planned the trip such that we would get there around lunch time. But, alas, there are no Sandwich places in Sandwich, New Hampshire (that we could locate anyway.)
Sweet Grass, Montana
Way up north in Montana, practically at the Canadian border is the town of Sweet Grass, Montana. Though predominantly a border crossing, the town has a couple of interesting things. First off, there is a church with a blue roof…a rarity on the back roads of America. And then there are the interesting geologic hoodoo formation of the Jerusalem Rocks. These outcroppings can be visited via a rough dirt road. I have written about these and some other similar formations in a post HERE.
Shakespeare and Stratford, Ontario
As I have noted before, in 2008 I was working in Canada. On one a couple of occasions I got to visit the small town of Shakespeare and the neighboring town of Stratford in Perth County. Full of little antique shops and some beautiful scenery, these are certainly two unique places to visit. You can read about some of my exploits in this part of Ontario in 2008 in my post HERE.
Sikeston, Missouri (Honorable Mention)
I wanted to mention Sikeston, Missouri namely because it is home to one of America’s more unique eateries…Lambert’s Cafe – the Home of the Throwed Rolls. Offering great home style cooking, big portions, and yes, Throwed Rolls – literally throwing them to you across the room – it is a fun and delicious place to eat. Close to the entertainment town of Branson, Sikeston is a great stop along the way. Read more HERE.
Success, Missouri (Honorable Mention)
I was heading north on US 63 in Missouri one day. As I got to Houston, MO (in Texas County — NO JOKE!!), I passed the sign above. I took the 16 mile trek to look for Success. The road to Success from Houston is lined with old doublewides and rusted out cars. No joke!! And once you find Success, you will see that there is not much there. At least you can say you found it.
Soda Springs, Idaho (Honorable Mention)
And my final S Town is Soda Springs, Idaho. It sits on top of many hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here. In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here. Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world. It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool. On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser. The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber. The water is around 72 F. It is now controlled by a timer. It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round. You can read more about my visit to Soda Springs and other areas in Idaho and Wyoming HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
On June 12 I commenced on a trip to Dallas, Texas from Idaho Falls, Idaho. This would be a long two day trip, but I certainly wanted to hit some places I had never been before. So, on Day 1 I ventured south through Pocatello and then onto Eagle, Colorado, about 588 miles. Following is my route map for Day 1.
Just near the hotel I stayed at in Idaho Falls, there was an amazing Eagle Sculpture in a roundabout. This is a HUGE work and is quite stunning. Called “The Protector”, it is touted as the “World’s Largest Eagle Monument” and was unveiled in the fall of 2006. The work was done by Wyoming artist Vic Payne and portrays a mother eagle perched to feed her two young eaglets with a salmon that is held in her great talons. The father, “The Protector”, circles around his territory in majestic flight keeping a vigilant watch for anything that may bring danger to his family. Payne created the eagles 3 times life size with a 21 foot wingspan. Each of the eaglets are 4 1/2 feet in height.
Go figure…I will start the morning off with an “Eagle” and end the day in an “Eagle.”
I then proceeded south on I-15 to Pocatello. This drive goes through volcanic fields and other geology. An interesting drive. As I approached the crest of a hill though, there was a stunning change in scenery as the lava fields turned into a huge field of yellow.
From Pocatello I continued south until I hit US 30 and then proceeded east towards Lava Hot Springs. This road leads into the hill country and offered more great views of flowery meadows.
I rolled into the small resort town of Lava Hot Springs, which is nestled in a nice little valley. I didn’t have time to stop except for a photo or two. But the Welcome Sign pretty much says it all.
This area was frequented by pre-historic Indians long before the white men arrived in 1812. They used the hot water for bathing and processing hides. It was also a major campground during the winter. Now the town touts itself as a “Vacation Resort” with spas, water slides and more.
Not much further east is the town of Soda Springs. Like Lava Hot Springs, it sits atop of hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here. In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here. as noted, Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world. It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool. On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser. The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber. The water is around 72 F. It is now controlled by a timer. It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round.
I really would have liked to have spent a couple of hours here. It is a nice little town with some great history. But, I had to press on to Montpelier, which is “Pioneer Central”.
Montpelier, Idaho was founded in 1864 and received its name from Brigham Young in deference to his birthplace in the town of the same name in Vermont. Mormon heritage in the Bear Lake area of Idaho. Many Mormon families moved and settled in this area in the 1860s and 1870s. Indeed, my wife’s direct ancestors were some of the families that came to the area. In her case, her great great grandfather William Shepherd migrated from England and settled in nearby Paris, Idaho, which later became the county seat of Bear Lake County. He was a shoemaker and a farmer and was considered a “leading citizen” of the county (see this article for more on the Shepherds). My wife’s grandfather Rulon T. Shepherd was born in Paris as was her mother Arlene. Rulon and family eventually were some of the original settlers in Mesa, Arizona. So, the Pioneer Heritage of this area has a special place in the hearts of my family.
Montpelier is home to the National Oregon/California Trail Center, which is all about the pioneers. The Trail Center was built to preserve, perpetuate and promote the pioneer history and heritage of the Oregon/California Trail and the Bear Lake Valley.
I had to move on and into Wyoming. I got to the border via US 30 as it wound through areas trekked on by pioneers
From the border I headed into the small town of Cokeville, Wyoming.
Cokeville, Wyoming is a small town of about 535 people. The town got its name from coal deposits found in the area. The railroad arrived in 1882 and the town incorporated in 1910 and, in the early 1900s, was called the “Sheep Capital of the World” due to the number of sheep ranches. (Newell, SD is now called the “Sheep Capital of America”). Perhaps the only really interesting thing I saw in Cokeville was the non-descript sign for “Blondie’s Cafe”.
From Cokeville I continued s outh on US 30 until it turned east and then followed it on to Kemmerer.
Kemmerer, Wyoming and Diamondville, Wyoming are basically twin cities that reside in what is called “The Fossil Basin” due to the abundant fish fossils in the area. On the way into Kemmerer I passed Fossil Butte National Monument, but did not have time to stop there. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found here including fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They are apparently exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation. There are also “Dig-your-own” fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville. So, this is a haven for fossil enthusiasts.
The two towns boast a number of beautiful wooden signs that dot the area. A few samples are above.
Kemmerer, Wyoming has about 2,700 residents and is the county seat of Lincoln County. The town was established as a result of the discovery of coal deposits by explorer John Fremont. In 1881 the Union Pacific Coal Company opened an underground mine in conjunction with the newly added Oregon Short Line Railroad. The actual town was founded in 1897 and was named after Pennsylvania Coal Magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer, who provided major funding for the mine operations. As a result of the mines, the town grew rapidly.
In 1902 James Cash Penney came to Kemmerer to open a business. He set up the “Golden Rule Store” and opened its doors on April 14, 1902 in partnership with two other individuals. The partnership later dissolved, and, in 1909 Penney moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City to be closer to banks and railroads. By 1912 he had expanded to 34 stores in . In 1913 he made the decision to change their names to J.C. Penney Company. and the company eventually moved its headquarters to New York. An interesting side note of history: In 1940, Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962. The “Mother Store” still operates in Kemmerer.
The town has a beautiful (and large) wall mural in the downtown area depicting the history of the area. It was done by mural artist Harvey Jackson in 2006. I have wrote about another of his murals in Gillette, Wyoming in an earlier post.
I found this old wooden couple outside of Bob’s Rock Shop in Kemmerer. I didn’t stop in due to time constraints, but I had to get a shot of this fun couple!
Like Kemmerer, the small town of Diamondville, Wyoming got its start from Cole Mining when coal was discovered nearby in 1868 by a man named Harrison Church. A tent town soon formed and eventually the town was established in 1896. The town apparently got its name from the quality of the superior-grade coal that seemed to resemble black diamonds.
From Diamondville I proceeded east on US 30 towards the small town of Opal, WY.
Opal, Wyoming is practically a ghost town. There are only a few occupied buildings and a number of old run down houses. It was originally an old railroad town and is also a center for sheep and cattle ranching. According to one site, the town ships 10,000 head of cattle annually.
Continuing eastward, US 30 moved southeast towards Interstate 80 south of Granger, Wyoming. From there it was on to Little America, Wyoming.
Little America got its name from the Little America motel, which was purposefully located in this remote location as a haven, not unlike the base camp the polar explorer Richard E. Byrd set up in the Antarctic in 1928, thus the use of penguins as the icons. However, being situated on a coast-to-coast highway and offering travel services, it thrived, launching a chain of travel facilities by the same name. Its developer, Robert Earl Holding, who died on April 19, 2013, with a personal net worth of over $3 billion. Holding was the owner of Sinclair gas, the Little America hotel chain and the Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts, among other businesses.
In 1974 I began work with a company in Salt Lake City called Alta Distributing. It was a record and tape rack jobber and I was given a sales territory that included southern Utah, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming. Once a month I made way from Vernal, Utah to Rock Springs, Wyoming and then west to Evanston and back to Salt Lake. I always stopped in Little America…it was truly a haven and they had a great dining facility with amazing portions. It was one of my fonder memories. Later, while in college, I worked for a short time at the Little America in Flagstaff, AZ and then, as a tour guide, made frequent trips to this classy hotel to pick up guests.
Heading east on I-80, the landscape is fairly bleak. Lots of sage brush and high desert landscapes. To some it is likely a boring drive. But, there is plenty of life out there and, as one gets closer to Green River, the scenery starts getting more interesting.
From Green River it is a hop skip and a jump to Rock Springs. I always remembered Rock Springs as a town full of singlewide trailers, but the town of 23,000 is actually quite vibrant due to the energy-rich region that contains numerous oil and natural gas reserves.
I continued east on I-80 until I got to exit 187 which linked with Wyoming HWY 789, which headed south towards Colorado. This exit had a couple of old gas station signs, remnants of a vibrant time now long gone.
The drive to Baggs, Wyoming on WY 789 is a 50 mile drive through some pretty amazing desert scenery. including colorful buttes, badlands, arroyos, wild horses and antelope. I was quite thrilled to take this drive on a road I had never been on and on one that is obviously not heavily traveled. At one time this was part of the Overland Trail and there are apparently still some ruts visible from the late 1800s when the trail was used.
The drive down Hwy 789 is also historic. It is reputedly where the famous Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their “Wild Bunch” hung out. Baggs is one of many towns in scenic Carbon County, Wyoming, which includes the towns of Rawlins, Baggs and a number of others.
Baggs, Wyoming is a short drive from the Colorado border and is only about 40 miles or so from Craig, Colorado. To get there I continued south on 789 which turns into Colorado Hwy 13 heading into Craig.
The drive down Colorado 13 is scenic with rolling hills and lots of antelope. I saw quite a few including the two below and then the amazing scene of the mother and two calves.
Along this highway one can see the “Fortification Rocks” which is an old basalt pillar that is believed to be used by Indians as a fortification. The historical marker for Fortification Rocks thew in some humor noting that “this area is better known as home to a large number of rattlesnakes.” This structure juts out of the prairie like a sharp razor back and is fairly impressive.
Continuing southward towards Craig the scenery continues to get more impressive.
And, of course, my GPS knows me well as it sent me on a gravel road bypassing Craig and heading towards US Route 40 and Hayden, CO.
Hayden is a small town of abut 1600 people just a few miles east of Craig, CO and west of Steamboat Springs, CO on US Hwy 40. The area was first settled in 1875, with the town established in 1894 and incorporated in 1906. Hayden was named for F.V. Hayden, head of a survey party for the U.S. Geological & Geographic Survey in the late 1860s. Hayden explored western Colorado during the late nineteenth century. It has a small mainline passenger airport due to it’s proximity to some major Colorado ski resorts.
I continued east on US 40 a few more miles until I hit Colorado Hwy 131 which headed south towards Eagle through the Yampa River Valley and some wonderful late spring scenery of wildflower covered hills, as well as a drive by a huge Peabody Coal operation near Oak Creek, Colorado.
From the Peabody Coal facility, CO 131 winds its way down into the small town of Oak Creek. Funny how it reminded me of the drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Sedona, AZ thorough Oak Creek Canyon with the sharp curves.
From Oak Creek I proceeded south to Phippsburg and then into Yampa, CO, where I caught a pretty amazing sunset.
I finally arrived in Yampa, Colorado at around 8:30 PM in time to catch a glimpse of a wonderful sunset on the hills.
The remainder of the drive was in the shady light of sunset as I continued south and crossed over the Colorado River at State Bridge Landing south of Bond, CO. It was too dark to get any photographs but it was lit enough that I could imagine that it was a spectacular scene. I eventually made my way to my hotel in Eagle, CO. It was a long day after nearly 600 miles of driving…but left some lasting memories.