A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The R Things #AtoZChallenge

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.

 

Ric’s Grill – Steak in Water Tower – Lethbridge, Alberta

Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta
Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta

Route 66 Soda / Route Beer – Mokena, Illinois

Route 66 “Route Beer”

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky

Welcome to Rabbit Hash, KY
Sign at Rabbit Hash Road
The Old Rabbit Hash General Store. It burned down in 2016 and had to be rebuilt.

Restroom Hiker Mural – Damascus, Virginia

Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

Other Restroom Fun – Story, Indiana; Hopland, California; San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Cypress, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Nebraska City, Nebraska; Ashland, Montana; Frenchglen, Oregon

A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms” at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
There were also a number of tile mosaics. This one was at the entrance to the restrooms in Golden Gate Park visitor’s center
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
Men’s Stall Door in restroom at Burger Shack in Cypress, Texas
Jungle Jim’s Restroom in Cincinnati have entrances that are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
Men’s Restroom at Mo’s in Reedsport, Oregon
Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the “Cleanest Restrooms on I-29”
Restroom Door in a Convenience Store in Ashland, Montana
Sometimes even a place like this looks heavenly – the ceramic toilet is a planter. The real place is in the outhouse. Frenchglen, Oregon

Rock City – near Valier, Montana

Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City, Montana

Geographical Center of North America – Rugby, North Dakota

Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND

Real Goods Store – Hopland, California

Welcome to Real Goods
A view of the Real Goods Store
Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer

Riscky’s Steakhouse and BBQ – Fort Worth, Texas

Riscky’s Steakhouse – Ft. Worth, Texas
Riscky’s BBQ – Ft. Worth

Rudyard, Montana

Rudyard Welcome Sign
Sumoflam and Dino – near Rudyard, Montana

Ragged Falls – Algonquin National Park, Ontario

Ragged Falls in Algonquin National Park in Ontario

Rosie the Fish – Sekiu, Washington

Sekiu’s somewhat famous “Rosie” welcomes you to the town

Red Squirrel – Nebraska City, Nebraska

A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE

Rising Eagle Sculpture – Bismarck, North Dakota

Rising Eagle Sculpture in Pioneer Park, Bismarck, ND

Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois

Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois

Royal Motel – Ironwood, Michigan

A Route 66 type of vintage neon sign at the Royal Motel in Ironwood, MI

Riverside, Iowa

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA
Live Long and Prosper – Sumoflam and the Starship Riverside

Random Road – Cleveland, Ohio

Mayfield Road and Random Road, by the little park in Little Italy

Romance, Missouri

Road to Romance
Romance Baptist

Roseman Covered Bridge – Winterset, Iowa

Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa

Raton, New Mexico

Raton Theatre in Raton, NM
Main Street in Raton, New Mexico
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM

Rio Brazos Dance Hall – Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)

Roxy Theatres – Choteau, Montana; Langdon, North Dakota; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Shelby, Montana

Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
New Roxy in Clarksdale, MS
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana

Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

Roosters Roosters – Needville, Texas; E. Peoria, Illinois; Seymour, Missouri; Eldon, Iowa; St. Louis, Missouri; Granbury, Texas

A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas..doesn’t look like a jay to me.
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria
Uncle Rooster’s Big Rooster on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri
Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
Red Rooster (looks white to me) – Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA
Giant Rooster greets you at Joe’s Cafe entrance in Greg Freeman Park, St. Louis
Big Rooster in Granbury, Texas

Roadhouse Relics – Austin, Texas

Roadhouse Relics Wall Sign in Austin

Russell Flat Holiness Church – Sand Springs, Kentucky

Russell Flat Holiness Church – Sand Springs, Kentucky

Regent, North Dakota – Home of the Enchanted Highway

Welcome to Regent and Enchanted Highway Road Map
Enchanted Highway Gift Shop in Regent, ND – closed the day were there

Ronks, Pennsylvania

Dutch Haven Restaurant, Home of the famed Amish Shoo Fly Pie, located in Ronks, PA just down the road from Intercourse
The Outhouse Gift Shop – Ronks, PA

Russell’s Point, Ohio

Stewart’s Drive In in Russell’s Point, Ohio
Bringing out the ice cream at Stewart’s

Roswell, New Mexico

UFOs in Roswell
More Art in Roswell, NM
Need some alien stuff? Plenty in Roswell

Rexburg, Idaho

Rexburg, ID
Rexburg LDS Temple

Rocket Rest Stop – Elkmont, Alabama

At the Rocket Rest Stop in Elkmont, AL – home of a Saturn 1B. Taken in 2005
Large Saturn Rocket at Welcome Center in Elkmont, Alabama

Ride the Ducks – Seattle, Washington

Ride the Ducks in Seattle

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Rock and Roll Blvd. in Cleveland

Real Quiet Lane – Lexington, Kentucky

Shhh…this is a Real Quiet Lane in Lexington, KY

Red River Gorge – Slade, Kentucky

Red River Gorge near Slade, KY
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November 2016

Rachel the Golden Pig – Pikes Place Market – Seattle, Washington

Rachel the Golden Pig (on the right!!!) and Sumoflam at Pike Place Market in Seattle

Redcliff, Colorado

Green Bridge near Redcliff, Colorado
Nice carved eagle in Redcliff, Colorado

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.

Books 1 & 2

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Montana Road Trip: US Route 2 across Minnesota – Offbeat Paradise

Northern Pike
Northern Pike Statue in Deer River, MN

Traveling US Route 2 across Wisconsin was beautiful and had its share of offbeat and quirky places, but Minnesota’s section of US Route 2 is one to be reckoned with when it comes to quirky and fun destinations on the same road. Entering from Superior, Wisconsin, Route 2 starts south of Duluth and proceeds through Proctor, MN.  From there the road heads northwest into the beautiful lake and birch country that gives Minnesota its name “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Before I go any further, I do need to give a SHOUT OUT to fellow travel blogger Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog (also see @HHighlights on Twitter and highway_highlights on Instagram).  He provided me loads of information on spots to visit along US Route 2 in Minnesota (though I didn’t have time for them all!).  Give him some love and visit (and LIKE) his sites.

US Route 2 in eastern Minnesota
US Route 2 southwest of Duluth, Minnesota. The birch trees are just getting started in late May.
US Route 2 east of Floodwood, MN
US Route 2 east of Floodwood, MN

My first stop in Minnesota was in Floodwood, about 45 miles west of Duluth.  There are just over 500 folk in this small town, which is known for its Catfish Festival in July.

Sumoflam in Floodwood, Minnesota
Sumoflam in Floodwood, Minnesota

Floodwood claims to be the “Catfish Capital of the World” because of its festival. (There is apparently another place in Mississippi that claims the same…Belzoni, MS).

Floodwood, MN
Floodwood, MN on US Route 2
Floodwood Water Tower claims it is the Catfish Capital
Floodwood Water Tower claims it is the Catfish Capital

Floodwood is the home of the first of three big fish that get bigger and bigger the further west you go.  They have a moderately sized catfish statue in the city park as one enters town. Always a great photo op….

Catfish Statue of Floodwood, MN
Catfish Statue of Floodwood, MN

This wooden statue has a sign claiming it to be the Catfish Capital of the World.  It also has another “In Memory of Joseph T. Karpik” who was apparently a local-grown inventor with a couple of patents. He was the President of Floodwood company Mat, Inc. which makes erosion control products.

Sumoflam hangs with the Floodwood Catfish
Sumoflam hangs with the Floodwood Catfish

From Floodwood the highway enters pine and birch forests as one gets closer to Grand Rapids.

Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
US Route 2 in northern Minnesota between Floodwood and Grand Rapids
US Route 2 in northern Minnesota between Floodwood and Grand Rapids

Next stop along Route 2 is Grand Rapids, MN.  The town is a well known tourist spot for outdoorsmen, but is probably better known as the Birthplace of Judy Garland, though I found no Yellow Brick Roads!

Welcome to Grand Rapids, Birthplace of Judy Garland
Welcome to Grand Rapids, Birthplace of Judy Garland

First thing I saw as I entered town was a giant Adirondack chair which is apparently called “Paul Bunyan’s Big Chair.”  It was dedicated in October 2013, so its a fairly new attraction, though there had been a smaller one there built in 2008 that eventually became dilapidated.  The chair is at the main intersection of US Route 2 and Pokegama Ave.

Paul Bunyan Big Chair in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Paul Bunyan Big Chair in Grand Rapids, Minnesota

To get to Judy Garland’s birthplace I turned left on Pokegama Avenue and made my way to the “Land of Oz” which is the home of the Judy Garland Museum.

Follow the brown wood sign...and look at the Yellow Brick Road mural
Follow the brown wood sign…and look at the Yellow Brick Road mural
Welcome to the Land of Oz in Minnesota...we're not in Kansas anymore...
Welcome to the Land of Oz in Minnesota…we’re not in Kansas anymore…
Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Birthplace placard in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Birthplace placard in Grand Rapids, MN

After the brief photo ops and a quick stop for lunch in Grand Rapids, it was Westward Ho on Route 2 again.  I was headed for Deer River, home of the next big fish statue – a larger than life Northern Pike with a toothless grin.

Great Northern Pike statue in Deer Park, MN
Great Northern Pike statue in Deer River, MN
Sumoflam and his fish friend "Pike" in Deer Park, MN
Sumoflam and his fish friend “Pike” in Deer River, MN

While in Deer River I came across two classic neon signs for the Bahr’s Motel, which apparently sat on the grounds behind my fish friend. All that remains are the two signs. I did find a photo of the old 60s style motel here.

Bahr's Motel sign one on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
Bahr’s Motel sign one on US Route 2 in Deer River, MN
Bahr's Motel sign on the location where the motel used to be in Deer River, MN
Bahr’s Motel sign on the location where the motel used to be in Deer River, MN

Continuing west along the lakes and the woods I collected 1000s of bugs on the front bumper as I passed by Ball Club, MN, my sole “unique town name” for the day.

US Route 2 West near Ball Club, MN
US Route 2 West near Ball Club, MN
Ball Club, MN
Ball Club, MN

The majority of the community is populated by Native Americans of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, but I am not sure how the town got its name. The Mississippi River surrounds Ball Club on both the East and West side of the community. Indeed, the Mississippi up here is not “mighty” at all as it meanders its way from its headwaters nearby.

US Route 2 east of Bena, MN near "Big Winnie"
US Route 2 east of Bena, MN near “Big Winnie”

Traveling through the Chippewa National Forest I enjoyed the cool breeze and fresh smells of the trees and lakes.  Then, out of nowhere came this interesting site called the “Big Winnie General Store” which is a national historic landmark. According to some histories, the store was built in 1932 by Ernest Flemming, but he apparently got some design sketches from none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the link noted above “The unique architecture of the store was influenced by a world-renowned architect. Back in the early 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright was staying on Lake Winnibigoshish when Flemming and Wright met and got to know each other. Flemming explained that he was looking to build a store outside the Bena city limits and wanted an Asian and Bavarian look to the building.”

Big Winnie General Store, Bena, MN
Big Winnie General Store, Bena, MN
Old Cabins at Big Winnie
Old Cabins at Big Winnie

Just down the road is another “Big”…in fact, it is the “Big Fish Supper Club.” I am not sure how the food is there, but there is certainly a BIG FISH there!!  This toothy muskie appeared in the opening credits of National Lampoon’s “Vacation” with Chevy Chase. (Ironically, this movie was also filmed in Flagstaff, AZ and Monument Valley while I worked as a tour guide and I watched them film the scene with Chevy Chase and family driving through the rain near the Grand Canyon.) And here are 25 things you may not have known about “Vacation — just for fun. But I digress, back to the fish….

Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, MN
Big Fish Supper Club, Bena, MN
Long view of the Big Fish in Bena, MN
Long view of the Big Fish in Bena, MN
I love this angle - Big Fish Eats House!!  In Bena, MN
I love this angle – Big Fish Eats House!! In Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Fish Food
Fish Food
Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN
Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN

Indeed, this is the kind of site a quirky roadtrip should have.  But US Route 2 in Minnesota certainly was not finished providing amazingly fun road trip stops.  Next stop….Bemidji, MN!

Welcome to Bemidji, Minnesota
Welcome to Bemidji, Minnesota

Bemidji, Minnesota is one of the ultimate “quirky places” to visit in Minnesota, but perhaps in the U.S.!  In fact, I will have a feature post of Bemidji with many more photos and details about the place.  But for now, here is the real story for me:

Life Magazine article on Bemidji and Paul Bunyan statue in February 1945
Life Magazine article on Bemidji and Paul Bunyan statue in February 1945

My whole fascination with travel and the birth of my wanderlust can be traced back to 1963 when I was flipping through a book about the U.S. that was published by LIFE Magazine.  Almost all of the photos were black and white in the book, but I was determined that one day I would see the sites.  One of the ones that struck me as “exotic” as a 7 year old was the Paul Bunyan picture (as shown above).  The photo above was taken from the 1945 issue which they have in the Visitor’s Center and which I held in my hands.  My 50 year old dream had come true as I made my way to one of the oldest “roadside attractions” in the country (this one was made in 1932!!). History of this unique attraction can be seen HERE.

Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota - Dreams can come true!
Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota – Dreams can come true!

I have written more about all of this in my special feature blog post on Bemidji (CLICK HERE).

Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN

These sculptures are at the Visitor’s Center in Bemidji, which also has the “Fireplace of States”. The Fireplace of States was constructed in 1934-35 under the U.S. Federal Works Program. In 1995, this fireplace was moved to its present location in the new Tourist Information Center on the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Detail of Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN
Detail of Fireplace of States in Bemidji, MN

Besides the Paul Bunyan, Bemidji does have a number of other things to see and do, much of which I didn’t have time for.  Though covered much more in my Bemidji feature post, here are a couple of more unique sites from Bemidji:

Nanobojo, Muffler Man Indian in Bemidji, MN
Nanobozho, Muffler Man Indian in Bemidji, MN

A big Muffler Man statue was converted to an Indian Muffler Man just across the street from Paul Bunyan’s statue.  It is apparently supposed to be of Nanabozho, a Paul Bunyan nemesis.

Nanabozho was considered a spirit father among the Ojibwe tribe. He most often appears in the shape of a rabbit and is characterized as a trickster. He was sent to Earth by Gitchi Manitou to teach the Ojibwe. One of his first tasks was to name all the plants and animals. He is also thought to be the inventor of fishing and hieroglyphs. This deity is a shape-shifter and a co-creator of the world. There are myths among the Ojibwe that tell how Nanabozho saves the forests from Paul Bunyan. The story goes that they fought for forty days and nights, and that Nanabozho killed Bunyan with a Red Lake walleye.

Niimii the Pow Wow Dancer in Bemidji, MN
Niimii the Pow Wow Dancer in Bemidji, MN

Nanabozhou is not the only Native American representation in Bemidji.  As part of the Bemidji “Sculpture Walk” series, this piece was created by Wanda Odegard.  Niimii is a 12 foot tall northern traditional Powwow Dancer made of steel. The traditional head piece is the essence of a large porcupine hair roach. Niimii wears a breast plate made of metal pipes which in real life they would be made of bone.

Pete the Curler by Dale Lewis - one of 25 pieces in the 2014 Sculpture Walk
Pete the Curler by Dale Lewis – one of 25 pieces in the 2014 Sculpture Walk

Bemidji has been doing their Sculpture Walk since 1999 and there are a number of unique pieces around town.  I took shots of many of them and will include them in my more detailed Bemidji post. Here is one last one for this post — there is also a nice map of the Sculpture Walk HERE.

Hinkypunk by Chris Gustafson, part of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk
Hinkypunk by Chris Gustafson, part of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk

It was getting later in the day so I had to move westward and continued my trek across Minnesota on US Route 2.

US Route 2 east of McIntosh, MN
US Route 2 east of McIntosh, MN

I made way into McIntosh after passing a few other small towns.  I had to stop for the metal rooster (one of four or five I have now captured in road trips). I also liked the huge historic wall mural in the town.

Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
McIntosh Water Tower
McIntosh Water Tower
Wall Mural in McIntosh, MN
Wall Mural in McIntosh, MN

From McIntosh it was on to Crookston, MN, the last town before North Dakota.  The town has a huge Ox Cart as you roll in from the east.  They celebrate an annual Ox Cart Days in Crookston. There is also a nice Welcome Mural in town.

Crookston Ox Cart, Crookston, MN
Crookston Ox Cart, Crookston, MN – celebrates the history of the Pembina Trail
Welcome to Crookston mural in Crookston, MN
Welcome to Crookston mural in Crookston, MN

Next post will cover US Route 2 across North Dakota.

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