I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.
There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.
One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as
part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.
One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.
I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.
But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture. And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!
I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.
The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river. An amazing feat of engineering.
I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.
Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.
Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.
Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars. They look futuristic and are cool to drive over. I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.
Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.
Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular. But they are not the only religious buildings.
The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.
I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.
And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.
Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.
One of the important facets of traveling the less beaten paths of America (and Canada) is the food. As I travel the country, I look for good food at local places. This post covers some of the restaurants, steak houses, cafes and fine (or semi-fine) dining places. Subsequent FOOD posts will include Diners/Drive-Ins, Barbecue Joints, Burger Places and Bakeries/Donut Shops.
Ric’s Grill is one of those REALLY unique places to eat. I visited Lethbridge on a cross-country trip from Kentucky to Washington in 2005. I have friends in Lethbridge who took us here for dinner.
Though it looks strange from the outside, actually, the atmosphere and food is very high class. This is a top notch steak house with fancy china, excellent waiters and delectable food. There are 11 Ric’s Grills in western Canada, though this is by far the most unique one.
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge – Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse is a unique steak house in the small town of Paxton, Nebraska. Opened on August 9, 1933 (the day after prohibition ended) as a bar by Rosser O. Herstedt (locally known as “Ole”). Originally stared as a tavern, Ole and his friends would talk about their hunting trips. Then, in 1938 Ole bagged a nice buck and was so proud of it he had it displayed in the tavern. This was the first of many animals to make their way into the tavern that later became Ole’s Steakhouse and Lounge. Ole’s also serves breakfast.
So, now one can sit and enjoy a wonderful steak with a moose or an elephant or a buffalo peeking over your shoulder.
All totaled there are over 200 mounts now showcased at Ole’s with animals from all over the world.
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – Ozark, Missouri
Another fun place to eat and enjoy a great meal is Lambert’s Cafe, the home of “Throwed Rolls”. I have been to the two restaurants in Sikeston and Ozark, Missouri (which is near Branson). They have one more in Alabama.
So, why “Throwed Rolls”? I am not sure, but Lambert’s serves the side dishes family style, all you can eat. The seating arrangement is in a big square with an open center for the staff to bring in the food and throw the rolls.
If you miss the flying rolls, too bad…. But, there will be more. According to their website’s Fun Facts, their ovens turn out rolls from 9:15 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. usually without stopping. and they average baking 520 dozen rolls per day, for a grand total of 2,246,400 individual rolls. in one year. Pass the butter please!!
Besides the rolls, Lambert’s also has what they call “Pass Arounds”, sides that come with the meal and include Black-Eyed Peas, Fried Okra, Macaroni & Tomatoes, Fried Potatoes & Onions and unlimited Sorghum to go on the rolls.
Astoria Shish Kebob House – Toronto, Ontario
If you are in the mood for some awesome Greek food in a totally Greek atmosphere, then try the Astoria Shish Kebob House in Toronto’s Greek Town. We went to Greek town on a whim and fell in love with this place. We enjoyed Saganaki (pan-fried and flaming kefalotyri cheese) and then shish kebob with some of the most savory tadziki sauce my tongue has experienced.
Saganaki is a small Greek frying pan that is best used for frying a variety of sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. Astoria uses kafalotyri, which is a hard and salty cheese. When fried it actually flames and that is how they bring it to the table.
Astoria serves a variety of shish kebob and we tried some. It too was YUMMIFEROUS!!
While at Astoria, I got to meet the owner, who loves having his photo taken with patrons, including numerous celebrities. I am now included in the menagerie!!
Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon
Mo’s Seafood is not a fancy place in terms of the dining area. It is nice inside, but the tables are picnic tables. But don’t let that fool you. Their seafood is amazing.
Mo’s gets its name from Newport native Mohava Marie Niemi, who started the restaurant in 1946 with her partner Freddy Kent.
Mo’s is especially famed for the luscious and buttery clam chowder. Indeed, they claim it to be World Famous, and I can see why. So, I ordered the Halibut (so I could say I came to Mo’s just for the halibut”, but also enjoyed the creamy buttery clam chowder, which was almost so thick my spoon could stand up in it!!
It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful experience to see the Pacific Ocean out the window while enjoying the bounty of the ocean inside.
Armadillo Palace – Houston, Texas
Deep in the heart of Houston, Texas is a cafe and bar and home to some good live music – The Armadillo Palace. Protected by a 20 foot tall silver armadillo, this place is a real kick and gives you a real down home cowboy feel.
This restaurant, owned by the Goode Company, a purveyor of a number of good restaurants in Houston covering the gamut from BBQ, seafood and Mexican, the Armadillo Palace is decorated with mounted longhorns and buffalo, has a bar with saddle seating and the western decor and photos take you back to the days of the Old West.
The old decor and the smell of leather just add to the flavorful and generous portions dished out at Armadillo Palace. One of their signature dishes is Chicken Fried Steak and this slab of yummiferousness is almost as big as the plate. Their spicy green beans and special mashed potatoes help make a rib sticking dinner!
Frontier Bar and Supper Club – Dunkirk, Montana
A few miles east of Shelby, Montana, on US Highway 2 (The Hi-Line), is a non-descript old whitewashed building with an old yellow sign (above). The Frontier Bar and Supper Club certainly does not look like much, but once you are inside, the atmosphere is rustic and the steaks are to die for!
Upon arrival you are greeted by the whimsical mailbox dude. I don’t know what to call him, but he is a work of folk art.
The atmosphere inside is like many Montana bars. Lots of longhorns, neon signs, a country music jukebox. The dining room is decorated with wood paneling adorned by the many cattle ranch brands of the area. But the best part of this place is the blackened steaks. On this visit I had the Chipotle Blackened New York Steak…. spicy and pricy but tasty good!!
El Toro Bravo Restaurant and Bakery – Roswell, NM
Ok…so, you mix Mexican food and aliens and you get this weird mix…only in Roswell…
Of course, we were hungry so we had the real food….
The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant and Tavern – Heidelberg, Ontario
Olde Heidelberg Restaurant in the small town of Heidelberg is family restaurant and also has a mini brewery. Located in the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite and Amish country, this place is famous not only for its Weiner Schnitzel, but also for its pig tails, something I had never had in the past.
But, I don’t drink the beer, just eat the good food…and here is what I had
Past Time Cafe – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Yes, there are less beaten paths in Kentucky and many of them lead to Amish Country. Crab Orchard is in the heart of Kentucky Amish country and the Past Time Cafe is right there in Crab Orchard.
This cafe has generous portions of country cooking and is well known for their fried catfish, their soup beans and corn bread. The walls in the place are covered with the history of Crab Orchard and surrounding communities, including many old newspapers and photos. Plenty to browse while waiting for a good meal.
Chriswell’s Trails Inn – Ashton, Idaho
Ashton, Idaho is one of the southern gateways to Yellowstone National Park and is also a western gateway to the Grand Tetons. The small Idaho town is a touristy place and on the edge of town is Chriswell’s Trails Inn restaurant. This rustic place is a steak house and also has some other great meals. Like Ole’s and Armadillo Palace, this place is full of mounted animals, included a rare White Buffalo Head.
Of course, the food is why we were here. We were starved and this placed fit the bill.
This chicken fried steak was HUGE!! Covered the whole plate. Of course, the potatoes were huge too and stuffed goodness!!
Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
I have written about Tightwad in earlier blogs, especially concerning the famous Tightwad Bank. But, there is also a great little cafe in Tightwad called Carrie’s Tightwad Cafe. Originally just called the Tightwad Cafe, owner Carrie Fields purchased the once Cafe and Bar from her aunt and then closed the bar. Carrie is unabashed and very friendly, but she doesn’t take credit cards…doesn’t want to pay the fees (HA!). But, she also insists that she is not a tightwad!
Carrie was correct about the not being a tightwad part. The meals at the cafe are not expensive and they are very large portions. No skimping on the food!! I had “Delmer’s Big ‘In” for breakfast this day which included 3 eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns and biscuits and gravy, all for about $8.00 (try to beat that McD’s!)
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a wonderful little town in the Ozarks. In the midst of town is a shopping section known as the underground and housed within is the Mud Street Cafe. This is a one and all – Coffee shop, Bar and Cafe, all in one. My wife and I visited for breakfast one nice morning in November 2012. What a great little cafe!!
Once downstairs we were enthralled by the kitschy decor. Painted chairs, painted glass, sculptures, tapestries…decor that was nice and cozy.
But, the coziness was nothing compared to the food. Freshly made HUGE muffins, fruit salads and tasty breakfast food.
Just a few more places to note….
Coming soon – FOOD FOOD FOOD – Part 2: Barbecue Places and Diners