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.
Judy Garland Birthplace – Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Jakeman’s Maple Syrup – Beachville, Ontario
Jackalopes Everywhere – Superior, Wisconsin; Wall, South Dakota; Douglas, Wyoming; Fort Worth, Texas
Jungle Jim’s Restroom – Cincinnati, Ohio
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Waldo, Arkansas
Juke Boxes – Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California
Jerry Siegel / Joe Schuster – Creators of Superman – Cleveland, Ohio
James Frank Kotera – JFK The Twine Ball Man – Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
Jumbo the Elephant Statue – St. Thomas, Ontario
JELL-O Museum – Le Roy, New York
Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk – Riverside, Iowa
Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Another of the premiere roadside attractions in America!!
J.C. Penney Mother Store – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Where it all started
Jesus in Cowboy Boots – Evergreen Cemetery – Paris, Texas
Three Jamestowns – Jamestown, New York; Jamestown, North Dakota; Jamestown, Virginia
James Garfield Monument – Lake View Cemetery – Cleveland, Ohio
Jackalope Capital of the World – Douglas, Wyoming
Get your Jackalope Hunting License Here
Joseph Smith Cabin – Palmyra, New York
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Joe Mama’s Fine Italian – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jacobson Park – Lexington, Kentucky
My Happy Place
Jamaica Beach – Galveston, Texas
Jesus of the Ozarks – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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 towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The D Towns
As I travel across the US and Canada, I am always on the lookout for quirky things and big statues. Well, Douglas, Wyoming provides plenty in that area. Touted as the Jackalope Capital of the World, Douglas has jackalopes dotting the town, including a couple of big ones. And “What is a jackalope?” you ask… Check out my full posts on Douglas HERE and ALSO HERE.
Perhaps Wisconsin is the home of the most Big Things. Throughout the state there are big cows (it is a cheesy state mind you) and big mice. There is a big bulldog in Beloit (see here). However, not much tops the big pink elephant at the Shell One Stop in DeForest, WI and the big cow named Sissy is also one of America’s biggest. Read the bigger story and see more photos HERE.
Discovery Bay, Washington
The theme of quirky runs throughout the veins of this post. I now move on to Discovery Bay, WA on US Highway 101 northwest of Seattle, (near Port Townsend, WA) home of the uniquely quirky Fat Smitty’s burger place. Surrounded by a menagerie of interesting and colorful wood carvings on the outside and walls and ceilings plastered with dollar bills (and other denominations), this is a place to behold. Oh, and yes, the burgers aren’t too bad either. See my full post about my August 2015 visit to Fat Smitty’s HERE.
Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas
I have never been to Dublin, Ireland, but I have been to Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas. The two American towns named Dublin are distinctly different, but both offer some surprises.
In Dublin, OH you can play amongst ears of corn at the “Field of Corn” is a publicly funded art installation in the city of Dublin, Ohio. The installation consists of 109 concrete ears of corn positioned in rows and standing upright in a grassy field. Sculpted by Malcolm Cochran, a professor of sculpting at Ohio State University, the park was named the Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, and was originally farmed by Sam Frantz, an inventor of several hybrid corn species. This is not the only unique public art work in Dublin. This is one of a few towns that has worked to bring in a plethora of unique, cool and sometimes quirky works of outdoor art. Check out the Dublin Arts Council’s website.
In 2007 I took a trip with my son to Texas and Arkansas (I noted our visit to Booger Holler in my B Towns post of the #AtoZChallenge). On that same trip we visited the town of Dublin, TX, near Waco, to visit what was, at that time, the only remaining Dr Pepper plant in the world that made Dr Pepper with pure cane sugar. The plant has eventually converted and the museum was moved to Waco. But I note it here because, back then, they changed the name of the town to Dr Pepper, Texas once a year (and set the population at 1024 — if you are a Dr Pepper fan, you’ll know what the 1024 means).
I mentioned Bowlin’s resorts in my post on Akela Flats in the A to Z Challenge last week. Bowlin has another fun touristy place in Arizona called “The Thing.” This is one of those places that has billboards hundreds of miles away promoting the unusual site (other’s that I recall seeing in diverse places include “Where the hell is Wall Drug?” (South Dakota), “Visit Little America” (Wyoming), “Rock City” (Tennessee). I’ll actually hit these places in future posts. ). As for an explanation of “The Thing”, you’ll have to make your way south of Tucson on Interstate 10, pay the fee and go see it for yourself. Make sure you visit the famed Outhouse and get some of those amazing Ass Kickin’ Peanuts! They are available at many fine tourist trap shops around the southwest.
A well kept secret of a place is Denton, Texas. Just north of the excitement of the Dallas metroplex, Denton sits quietly with its grand architecture, ghost walks and a unique burger joint that features a wonderful, yet controversial mural call the The Great Texas Supper, a play on the Last Supper painting but instead has a number of dead Texas musicians. The LSA Burger Company also features a tribute to Willie Nelson, a Texas shaped “Texas Instruments” sculpture and bars covered with old record albums. See my full post HERE.
Durant, Oklahoma is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel. Home of the “World’s Largest Peanut” statue, it is also decorated with dozens of painted horses. Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Though Durant lays claim to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, its a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall. See more about my trip to Durant and other locales from back in 2013 HERE.
I visited Danville, Illinois on a trip to Omaha in 2013. This is one of those towns you can spend a good day in. With dozens of wall murals depicting town history and town heroes, the art is great. But there are other unique pieces of art such as the Danville USA Brick Sculpture shown above. But most interesting to me was the Lindley Sign Post Forest. The story is unique….Carl Lindley, one of the mural artists in Danville, has the same name as Carl Lindley (also originally from Danville, IL), the founder of the original sign post forest in Alaska (see here). This tradition started in 1942 by Carl K. Lindley, a U. S. Army Engineer, 341 company “D”. When building many signs in the area, he added a sign to a sign post which stated, “Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles”. The Alaska version has over 47,000 signs. I think the more mini version in Danville has about 200. Read the bigger story and see photos in my 2013 post HERE.
Dallas, South Dakota (Honorable mention)
In 2013 I trekked across the country to Idaho and, along the way, took a drive along the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, which covers US Highways 18 and 50. (See the full post HERE). One of the unique little places I visited was Dallas, SD. Unlike the huge metropolis of Dallas, Texas, this small community has no stop light but it DOES have a water tower right in the middle of the road!
Denver, North Carolina (Honorable mention)
If I am going to include a Dallas, I might as well also include a Denver, this one in North Carolina. Denver is a town of a little over 13,000 fine folk who enjoy the luxurious life on the west shore of Lake Norman, just off of NC Hwy 7. I visited some friends there in March 2012. We went downtown to dinner and lo and behold I saw a giant black widow!! Creepy. Sculpted by artist Dave Simpson, it apparently advertises a pest management company. The gleaming arachnid, with its eight-foot-long legs, perches on a boulder. After that appetizing moment we had a wonderful dinner at Stacy’s Restaurant. It was a great local home cooked meal type of place.
Damon, Texas (Honorable mention)
Another town with a unique water tower and a fun post office is Damon, Texas. A small place in southern Texas, it has one of the smallest water towers I ave seen and it boasts the name “Planet Damon.” Fun fun. See my full trip HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Over the years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles of back roads across the United States (only missing Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont…they will be hit soon!). Through all of these travels I have seen the many “famous” unique and quirky tourist spots like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX (the one with all the Cadillacs in the ground), the giant Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN, the Enchanted Highway in ND or the competing Eiffel Towers in Paris, TX and Paris, TN.
Among the 100s of places I have been, there are a few that really stand out to me and I would consider as future MUST SEE spots for the adventurous travelers. In no specific order, here are ten of my “Obscure Quirky Places” you should visit while you are out and about on your July road trips…. You can click on the links to see more details of these visits from my earlier blog posts.
Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322
In central Alberta is a small town called Vulcan. Named by a surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1915, the town has become a center for Star Trek history with a museum and all sorts of fun stuff. There is even a huge Starship Enterprise on the grounds. Truly a unique place to visit and think about going where no man has gone before. (You may also be interested in “The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk” in Riverside, Iowa)
One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.
Who would have known that the US Military built a huge Pyramid shaped building in the middle of northern North Dakota? Well, its there in the tiny town of Nekoma. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.
We all know that Superman lived in Metropolis. But, this Metropolis in Illinois looks nothing like the NYC style Metropolis of the movies. Despite this, like Vulcan above, the town has taken on the persona and has Superman everywhere. Even has the Daily Planet as the newspaper!
8. Hamtramck Disneyland – Detroit, MI
A little bit of magic is hidden in the backyard of a small two-story residence on Klinger Street in the Detroit area of Hamtramck. Known as “Hamtramck Disneyland”, the offbeat artistic vision of former homeowner Dmytro Szylak, who passed away on May 1, 2015. Szylak began to convert his backyard into an art yard after retiring from General Motors in 1992.
The quirky nature of Szylak’s creations still causes some controversy, but many consider it a local tourist attraction. I concur. I visited his place in 2008 and found his collection fascinating.
In my opinion, one of the quirkiest places in Cincinnati, the Mushroom House is located in the Hyde Park District at the corner of Erie Ave. and Tarpis Ave. It was created by architect/artist Terry Brown (who died in a car accident in Texas in 2008). As a professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, Brown created the building with the help of university students from 1992 to 2006.
The house was built using a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, shell, ceramics, and various metals. Care was taken to craft these materials into irregular shapes like those found in nature.
Douglas, Wyoming is the “Jackalope Capital of the World.” Everywhere you look in town there is a jackalope lurling somewhere. There is even one up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.
The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Ironically, the word “jackalope” is a mix of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a technically a rabbit, and the American antelope is not technically an antelope.
There are dozens of other obscure but fun quirky sites in the America’s. Visit my blog or my favorite home of the roadside quirkies – Roadside America – to find more of these. You’ll enhance your travel experience!!