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.
Kutter’s Cheese Factory – Corfu, New York
Kaskaskia Dragon – Vandalia, Illinois
King Kong Burgers – Omaha, Nebraska
Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry – Port Orchard, Washington
Kensington District – Toronto, Ontario
Kumano Magaibutsu – Kunisaki Peninsula – Oita, Japan
King’s Island – Cincinnati, Ohio
Kool Breeze Motel – Irving, Texas
Kregel Windmill Factory Museum – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Kabetogama Lake – International Falls, Minnesota
Key Tower – Cleveland, Ohio
Keelboat Park – Bismarck, North Dakota
Horse Racing at Keeneland – Lexington, KY
Kanahwa Falls – Glen Ferris, West Virginia
Kumamoto Castle – Kumamoto, Japan
Kountry Korners Krazy Kreatures – Kingston, Washington
Kadoka, South Dakota
Kentucky Stonehenge – Munfordsville, Kentucky
Keeper of the Plains – Wichita, Kansas
Kings Hill Pass – Meagher County, Montana
Keystone, South Dakota
Kansas City, Missouri
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 P Towns
There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit. It is also home to the Pella Window Factory! See a more complete post about Pella HERE.
In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts, I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia. Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri. Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way. The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868. See my original 2012 post HERE.
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize. But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”. You can read the whole story HERE.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit. Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2. The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman. The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph. See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.
A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris
I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up. Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River . I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times. There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link). The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.
During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time. Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty. There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place. Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.
I have been to Paris, Texas three times. There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993. For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S. See my post about this battle HERE. It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery. (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.) called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.
On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S. Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers. Read more HERE.
Port Orchard, Washington
In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days. We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle. There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.
Powder River, Wyoming
On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre. It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace. See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.
Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town. Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin. There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river. Their chief was named Paduke. This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on. He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did. Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi. Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856. It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub. Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.
Port Gibson, Mississippi
As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns). One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well. Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above. Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures. And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple! See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.
Palmyra, New York
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon. Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon. Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing. My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013. You can see my full writeup HERE.
Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment. The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.
Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)
On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska. The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants. Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.
Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)
On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY. I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me. And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.
Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)
On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York. One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc. They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.
Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)
And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Think about it ok?
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
My wife and I took a quick whirlwind trip to Palmyra, New York this past weekend (July 19-21, 2013) to attend the spectacular Hill Cumorah Pageant, which is presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Naturally, along the way we made a few stops. The three day trip was a lot of driving and a lot of fun. Following is a map of the trip.
The first part of the drive was straight up through Cincinnati and Columbus with just a small gas stop in Grove City, Ohio. I have traveled these roads so often, I think I have run out of places to see. (Actually, I am sure there are a number of smaller roads I could still do!!). We stopped overnight in the Akron, with a quick stop in Green, Ohio to have dinner at Menches Brothers, the Inventors of the Hamburger and the Ice Cream Cone.
According to Menches Brothers history, “History recorded that Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork for their sausage patty sandwiches at the 1885 Erie County Fair. Their supplier, reluctant to butcher more hogs in the summer heat, suggested they use beef instead. The brothers fried some up, but found it bland. They added coffee, brown sugar, and other ingredients to create a taste that stands distinct without condiments. They christened this sandwich the “hamburger” after Hamburg, New York, where the fair was being held. At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Frank and Charles baked waffles in Parisian waffle irons and topped them with ice cream. They then had an idea to wrap the warm waffle around a fid, a cone-shaped splicing tool for tent ropes. The waffle cooled and held its shape to provide an edible handle for eating ice cream. Returning home to Akron, the Menches began production of “premium” cones at their Premium Popcorn Works factory.” Menches currently has 50 different varieties of burgers on their menu.
Interestingly, neither my wife or me tried their hamburgers, which still use the original recipe. I tried their Perogie Pizza, which is also fairly famous. It is a pizza made with garlic mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and bacon. And really yummy!
As for the actual inventor of the hamburger — I have been to Seymour, Wisconsin where Charlie Nagreen claims to have invented the hamburger (see my original post about this). Further, Wikipedia has a great entry about the various claims (see Wikipedia article). Ironically, both the Menches and Nagreen make their claims ca. 1885. One thing is for sure, there was nobody with the name of McDonald that has a claim on the first hamburger!!
After a good night’s rest we were on the road eastward. Our firs stop was in Sharon, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour east of the Akron area and just over the border from Ohio. Sharon is the home of Daffin’s Candies, which claims to be the “World’s Largest Candy Store.” It is also home to the “Chocolate Kingdom.”
The 20,000 square foot store is chock full of every candy imaginable, including a huge variety of chocolates. I saw some candies I hadn’t seen in years.
The original candy store was started in 1903 by George Daffin in Woodsfield, Ohio. After a couple more moves over the years, the store made its way into downtown Sharon, Ohio in 1947. It was also the factory for making the chocolates at that time. They eventually got so busy they had to move. Besides the store, they now also have a 30,000 square foot factory.
For me, the drawing card to Daffin’s was not necessarily the size of the store, but rather the unique “Chocolate Kingdom” housed in the back of the store as it fits the whimsy and quirky characteristics of places of I like to visit. The Chocolate Kingdom includes large chocolate animals and two large castles, and an entire miniature village with chocolate houses and railroads. The big drawing cards are a 400-pound chocolate turtle, a 125-pound chocolate reindeer and 75-pound chocolate frog, not to mention a few other animals. There are also chocolate castles, a train, a village, and a Ferris Wheel.
After picking up a few pieces of chocolate, we were on the road again. While in Sharon I saw a unique building with some cool lamps. Also saw a nice wooden sculpture across the street from Daffin’s.
The Buhl Mansion is considered one of America’s Top 10 Most Romantic Inns and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by noted Youngstown architect Charles Owsley (1846–1935) and built in 1891. It is a 2 1/2-story, ashlar sandstone residence with Richardsonian Romanesque style features. It features round arches, steep gable wall dormers, an inset porch with heavy arches, stone finials, and several turrets with copper capped spires.
From Sharon we headed east on US 62 through Hermitage and Mercer to I-79 and then headed north. This is a very scenic stretch of interstate as it goes through the beautiful hills of the Allegheny Plateau with the offering of plenty of rural scenery. We proceeded north until we got to the Meadville exit (147A) so we could stop and see an assemblage of artwork on the roadside….all made from road signs.
Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). 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 (photos below).
Under the direction of Professor Geffen, art apprentices worked in collaboration with PennDOT welders, road crew and heavy equipment operators to create a sculptural garden that speaks of our human impact on the planet. Twelve enormous (10′-12′ high) road sign flowers and rolling mounds echo natural forms.
Just a couple of blocks away is the Read Between the Signs work. This work is a 1,200’ x 9’ sculptural relief constructed from reclaimed road signs that is located at the gateway into Meadville. This is really quite amazing work considering the media used to make it. (Some of the photos below were taken during a trip through here in 2011 – thus the snow…)
After the little “Sign Break” in Meadville, we were back on the road to New York. We made it to I-90 and zipped on past Erie and Buffalo with an occasional nice view of Lake Erie to the north of us. By 3 PM we were a bit hungry so we took the Pembroke Exit off of the Toll Road to find somewhere to eat.
From Kutter’s we drove down the road to the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant, also in Corfu. This rustic little restaurant/bar is built along the Indian Falls of Tonawanda Creek, which flow over the Onondaga Escarpment. Though not huge, the falls are certainly scenic. The falls are a curtain falls with a height of about 20 feet and a crest width of roughly 100 feet.
The restaurant has a nice room with open windows that overlooks the falls. We enjoyed our lunch with the sounds of rushing water and a great view. In fact, the best view of the falls is from this little restaurant.
We did have a nice lunch by the way… Their Sweet Potato Fries are sweetened and then come with a nice cinnamon sugar butter dipping sauce.
After lunch we continued east to Palmyra, New York and the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. We arrived around 6:30 PM. The Pageant would not start until around 9:15 PM, so we hung around, relaxed, and I took pictures of what was going on.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant began in the early 1920’s when a small group of missionaries from New York City gathered for the Cumorah Conference at the Joseph Smith Farm in Palmyra to celebrate Pioneer Day, the day when Brigham Young first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. In July of 1934, the conference was moved from the Farm to the Hill Cumorah, the large hill behind the visitor’s center. Today the Pageant, with its incredible staging, lighting, special effects and colorful costuming is still carefully designed to keep its message about Jesus Christ both simple and pure. I actually plan on writing a more complete post about the Pageant with many photos soon. (Link will be here when completed)
The performance was a grand spectacle and very moving. I have been to other LDS Church Pageants (in Mesa, AZ; Manti, UT and Nauvoo, IL), but this one was perhaps the most amazing of all of them with fires, mists, volcanoes and storms all on the stage.
After the pageant we headed back towards Buffalo, New York for an overnight stay in Williamsville, NY. Though over an hour away, it was the closest place to find a reasonably priced motel. The pageant draws visitors from all over the U.S. and hotels are filled a year in advance or more.
The small village of Williamsville is replete with numerous bronze works of art thanks in great part to the hotel and restaurant entrepreneur Russell J. Salvatore, the owner of a number of places in the area (along with his family).
Perhaps the most unique of all of the pieces in the area is the Lunchtime on aSkyscrapersculpture by Sergio Furnari, which is based on a popular photograph taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932. An Italian sculptor, Furnari owned a mobile tourist attraction which he took around New York and which he created himself. Sergio made his living driving it around New York and selling souvenir versions of the statue to people. Russ Salvatore offered to buy it from him and eventually purchased it for $50,000 and then paid to have it moved to the front of his Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville.
Once the ten-ton crane positioned the sculpture, Russ then hired local mural artist Tim Martin to create a mural of New York City below the men. The hand-painted billboard makes the statue look authentic, as if they are truly eating lunch 38 stories up in the sky.
There are a couple of other unique sculptures
After breakfast we were on our way home again. I always like to take a different route whenever possible, but we also had our schedule to consider. Nonetheless, we dropped south towards Jamestown, NY. We went west on I-90 until the Fredonia exit and then south on NY Hwy 60 towards Jamestown.
Along the way we drove through the small town of Gerry, NY. I had to stop for a photo as one of my good friends in Lexington is named Gerry. Took this in his honor!! (Hope you are reading Gerry!)
Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball. There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town. We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities (The Lucy Desi Museum and the Desilu Studios) from the outside.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to see her grave marker in the cemetery. I did get a shot of a huge mural however… The mural was done by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr. and completed in October 2012.
From Jamestown we headed west on Interstate 86, also known as the “Southern Tier Expressway.” This used to be US Rte 17, but, as of 2013, much of this has been converted to interstate. The section we were on goes all the way to Lake Erie and is a very scenic drive. We eventually hit I-90 in Erie, PA and then headed south to I-79, which we followed towards Pittsburgh. Along the way we were stuck in a huge traffic jam due to road construction near Moraine State Park (Exit 99) in Pennsylvania. It did allow me time to get some wildflower photos from the car….
The rural scenery is also wonderful on I-79 as it rolls through the Allegheny Plateau.
We eventually got off at Exit 88. I wanted to visit the town of Zelienople, chiefly because I had not been to a town that started with the letter Z (as far as I could recall – turns out I had been to Zanesville, Ohio in the past and we passed through Zanesville all on our way back on this trip too!! – 2 Z Towns in one day). Taking the road to Zelienople, we passed a turn to Harmony, Pennsylvania. Seemed to me that our church founder Joseph Smith had spent time in Harmony, so we decided to drop in. As we looked at the historic buildings we saw nothing there about our church. So, we Googled it and found out that the “old” Harmony, PA is now called Oakland (in NE Pennsylvania). Nonetheless, THIS Harmony was a quaint little town and was worth the visit anyway. Zelienople and Harmony actually share a Chamber of Commerce and are practically one in the same place. The towns are located in the Connoquenessing Valley.
Harmony is on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was settled by a German religious group known as Pietists, who broke off from the Lutherans and came to America in 1804. The first group of settlers arrived in Harmony in November 1804 and erected nine log cabins. They also laid out the town with three streets running north and south with three streets running east and west with a large diamond in the center. (More History here)
From Harmony we returned to I-79 and continued south and then west on US 22 towards Steubenville, OH, crossing a narrow strip of West Virginia. There is about a 5 mile section of West Virginia’s panhandle that is squeezed between Pennsylvania and Ohio. We stopped in Weirton, WV for lunch) through However, it is actually not the narrowest neck of land in the U.S. My research shows that the panhandle of Maryland’s mountainous western area is a geographic anomaly, a 1-mile-wide strip between Pennsylvania and West Virginia (near Cumberland). As for Weirton, WV, it too has some geographic significance. The town extends from the Ohio border on the west to the Pennsylvania border on the east. This makes it the only city in the United States that borders two other states on two sides, and its own state on the other two sides.
My main reason for the stop in Steubenville was to get a photo of the huge Dean Martin mural. I had been to Steubenville (also known as the “City of Murals“) once before (in 2008) and had many of the murals (see the full post here). But the Dean Martin mural eluded me (I had added a photo to my post that I found elsewhere). This time I did find it…
Dean Martin was originally born Dean Crocetti and is Steubenville’s most celebrated citizen. They have a Dino Festival in town every June. The Mural below was painted in 1998 by Robert Dever.
From Steubenville we followed the scenic drive along the Ohio River, passing through Brilliant, Ohio… (love the name).
From Brilliant we continued south through Columbus and on to Lexington. What a whirlwind trip!!