Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind.  Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird.  On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.

Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat.  I think we all make those determinations ourselves.  In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Why quirky?  Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?

The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

In fact, there are many “quirky”  scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country.  Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA.  Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist.  I visited his shop back in 2007.

I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA.  After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places.  You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani.  He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.

More Screaming Heads

There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.”  See my original post HERE.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Quirky is not only centered on art.  There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.”  That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

And they don’t have to be antique shops either.  How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US…  Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

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.

This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal.  I was fascinated.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

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

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there.  Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough.  But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get.  Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world….  and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece.  That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.

This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations.  Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did.  I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested.  See it here.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons.  The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall.  The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet.  On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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A to Z Challenge: The S Towns #atozchallenge

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

SThe S Towns

Steubenville, Ohio

Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Dean Martin mural in Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Dean Martin mural in Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH
Ohio Valley Steelworker by Dmitri Akis
Ohio Valley Steelworker by Dmitri Akis

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.

Stanley, Idaho

Welcome to Stanley, Idaho
Welcome to Stanley, Idaho
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID
Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
The Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho

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.

Sedona, Arizona

Century Plant overlooking Sedona, AZ
Century Plant overlooking Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982

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

Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of "Cyclisk"
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”
"Guardian of the Creek" by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa's Prince Memorial Greenway
“Guardian of the Creek” by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa’s Prince Memorial Greenway

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.

Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rich Henry and Sumoflam with their rabbit at Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rich Henry and Sumoflam with their rabbit at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry's Ra66it Ranch
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry’s Ra66it Ranch

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.

Sisters, Oregon

Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Three Sisters - nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity
Mt. Jefferson - at 10,497 feet the second highest peak ion Oregon
Mt. Jefferson – at 10,497 feet the second highest peak ion Oregon

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!

Seymour, Wisconsin

Welcome to Seymour, WI
Welcome to Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie's dignified face
Hamburger Charlie’s dignified face

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

Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum

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

Sandwich, NH - Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
Sandwich, NH – Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
...but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!
…but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!

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

Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweet Grass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweet Grass, Montana
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweet Grass
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near 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

Welcome to Shalespeare
Welcome to Shakespeare
Shakespeare Pies - Shakespeare, Ontario
Shakespeare Pies – Shakespeare, Ontario
Antique Shops in Shakespeare
Antique Shops in Shakespeare
The Avon River and Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario
The Avon River and Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, Ontario
A lovely swan on the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario
A lovely swan on the Avon River in 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)

Sumoflam and wife at Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls
Throwing Rolls at Lambert's
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri - big place
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place

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)

Success, Missouri direction
Success, Missouri direction
Success, Missouri
Success, Missouri

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)

Soda Springs Historic Marker
Soda Springs Historic Marker
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre - Soda Springs, Idaho
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre – Soda Springs, Idaho
Murals in Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
The Soda Springs Geyser - erupts every hour on the hour
The Soda Springs Geyser – erupts every hour on the hour

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.

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Going to California: Santa Rosa – Ukiah – Red Bluff

Goofing around at Carla's house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters
Goofing around at Carla’s house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters

Day 2 of my Woodflock trip started off nice and slow.  No hurry so I was able to sleep in over at Carla’s doublewide in Santa Rosa.  Woke up to a beautiful morning in the trailer park.

Soon, Carla and I were on the road heading north.  She decided to go through Ukiah for a more scenic route (and likely to appeal to my wanderlust!)

In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland
In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland

Santa Rosa is home to a couple of quirky roadside attractions, so we stopped at these on our way out of town.  The first of them was a big hand in front of the mall.  Reminded me that I was in good hands with Carla!!

The Hand statue is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland, who is originally from California but currently has his studios in Washington, D.C.  It was commissioned in 1996 and is made from the same marble quarry that Michaelangelo used centuries ago.  Kirkland has done commissioned works all over the world.

Back side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria"
Back side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria”
Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
"Guardian of the Creek" - a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA
“Guardian of the Creek” – a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA

After the big hand, we visited another site, a big mosaic fish in a park. Entitled “Guardian of the Creek” this one and a half ton fish by Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe. It is 13 foot high and covered in mosaic. It is surrounded by a 30 foot diameter mosaic map of the Santa Rosa Watershed. The large rainbow trout has become an icon and reminder of the restoration efforts by the city to nurture the creek habitat to a more natural state. I really loved the colorful mosaic…certainly one of the nicer big fish statues I have seen.

"Guardian of the Creek" by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa's Prince Memorial Greenway
“Guardian of the Creek” by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa’s Prince Memorial Greenway
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Gateway
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Memorial Gateway
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of "Cyclisk"
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

Another Uber Quirky Attraction in Santa Rosa is the 65 foot tall obelisk completely made from junk bike parts.  The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk.” It was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the "Cyclisk" sculpture
A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the “Cyclisk” sculpture
"Cyclisk"
“Cyclisk” by Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector – 2010
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County

These three unique pieces of art really made the entire trip worthwhile in and of themselves! But, there was much more to be seen on the way to Red Bluff. We took the scenic route up US Hwy 101 through Geyserville and Hopland and then up to Ukiah.

Needing to Pee?

Roadtrips always have their surprises, and this one was no exception. As we approached the small town of Hopland, once a thriving agriculture area known for hops, the first thing I see is the big red sign shown to the left. No joke! I’ve never seen a sign like that before!

IMG_2911.JPGTurns out that the sign, and the others that followed it, were to get one to stop at Real Goods Solar, a store that sells off-grid living items including solar panels, bee keeping equipment, hemp products, composting toilets, etc. Founded in 1978, The Real Goods Store is the original purveyor of Solar Living goods. Originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads, the store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Scrap metal “Horn Serpent” at Real Goods

Indeed, the place was so unique that it deserves its own blog post (which will be the next one after this). Suffice it to say it was quirky fun! Read all about soon!

Of the many unique things available for viewing at Real Goods, I have to admit that the scrap metal sculpture entitled “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris was the best.  Many know that I “collect” scrap metal art from around the country.  In fact, my most visited post is my “Yard Art” post which features scrap metal art found all over the country.  This one is now part of that post as well.

"Horn Dragon" by Diego Harris.  Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Ukiah, CA
Ukiah, CA

From Hopland it was on to Ukiah. I have now been to three towns that also are names of Doobie Brothers songs. The other two are Blackwater, MO and China Grove, TX. Yes, I collect (and visit) town names from songs.  Still gotta make my way to Lodi, CA and LaGrange, TX, to name a couple of others.

Carla with some fresh California strawberries
Carla with some fresh California strawberries

Before we got to Ukiah actually, Carla decided that we would make a stop at a Strawberry Stand along the way.  I think we stopped at Saechao Strawberry farm, on the Redwood Highway, another name for this portion of US Hwy 101.  These strawberries were AMAZING!!

They were sweet and luscious.  Who needs candy or cakes when you can enjoy the wonderfully aromatic freshness of these strawberries!

Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
California Strawberries!
California Strawberries!

With strawberries in hands (and mouths), we passed by Ukiah on US Hwy 101 and made it to Calpella. From there we headed east on CA 20 through some beautiful hill country and then on to Clear Lake (actually, to the small town of Upper Lake, CA).

CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country
CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country

CA 20 is dotted with many small lakes and a number of scenic views.  It is MY KIND of back road highway, with a variety of things to see along the way.   Lots of beautiful scenery and vistas on this drive.  I was so glad we came this way.

Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA

We finally stopped in Upper Lake, which is a rustic little place nestled in the upper reaches of Clear Lake. The town of Upper Lake is the gateway to the Mendocino National Forest and is a fun little town.  In the middle of town sits an old hotel and also a quaint little outdoor saloon/eatery.

Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA

The Tallman Hotel was built in the 1890s and is now a 17 room luxury hotel/bed and breakfast place.  It fits in nicely with the rustic, old west style of the town.

Next door to the hotel is the Blue Wing Saloon and they have a number of nice outdoor dining tables.  The property also has some unique art…yep, more scrap metal art and an array of lovely flowers in the gardens.  It would be a fun place to just chillax for a couple of days.

Taking a selfie with the "springy lady" in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Taking a selfie with the “springy lady” in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs...reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs…reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
"Christmas" Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
“Christmas” Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Terry Church's "Moth to a Flame"
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Mendocino County artist Terry Church’s “Moth to a Flame”

And, I couldn’t forget this sign which gave me a chuckle….

DSC_2510Heading southeast on CA 20 we skirted the northern part of Clear Lake.  It was a lovely day and so we had some wonderful views of the lake.  Plenty of birds in the water.  I saw grebes for the first time…a really nervous bird.  Also saw a cormorant in flight.

A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America

According to some sources, Clear Lake is believed to be one of the oldest lakes in North America. The lake sits on a huge block of stone which slowly tilts in the northern direction at the same rate as the lake fills in with sediment, thus keeping the water at roughly the same depth. Apparently, core samples of the lake’s sediments, taken by U.S. Geological Survey geologists in 1973 and 1980, indicate that the lake is at least 480,000 years old.

We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

There are a few towns along the lake, but none as nice as Nice…well, at least not in name anyway.

Nice is actually pronounced “neece” like the town in France.  But, to me, the nice guy, it is Nice.  And it is a nice name to add to my collection of unique named towns like Tightwad, Normal, Romance, Success, Friendship, Uncertain, etc.

Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA
Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA

Just up the road is Lucerne, named after the town in Switzerland.  The Rest Area at Lucerne Harbor Park, a turnoff by the lake, had a beautiful painting on the back that you can see coming in from Nice.  One of the more intricate wall paintings I have seen.

Full view of the mural in Lucerne
Full view of the mural in Lucerne, CA

This artwork was completed in mid-2009 by muralist Gloria De La Cruz of Clear Lake, CA. The painting depicts the Old Lucerne Hotel and has intricate work of animals and plant life as well.  I really appreciated this one!

DSC_2544After a brief rest in Lucerne, Carla and I were off again, this time to Williams, CA. Williams is at the crossroads of CA 20 and Interstate 5. From what I could see there were two parts to this town…the off the freeway fast food places and the local places in town.

Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA
Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA

The Old Masonic Lodge has a wonderful mural immortalizing the old Williams Hotel, which apparently burned down in 1913. The mural covers the entire two story face of the building.  Painted by Petaluma mural artist John Ton in 2014.  Folowing are a couple more detailed photos:

Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA

Once the break was over, we were on our last leg of the day…north on I-5 to Red Bluff and to our home away from home at Woodflock. This small unique music festival and Flamingohead retreat is held annually at the Sycamore Grove Campground in the Red Bluff Recreation area along the Sacramento River.  A beautiful little location that gets bedecked with flamingos and Antsy McClain music over the course of three days.

Welcome to Woodflock!
Welcome to Woodflock!

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