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.
Brazos Bend State Park – Needville, TX
Bruce Windmill Farm – Woodstock, ON
Bison/Buffalo – Yellowstone National Park
Boring Post Office – Boring, Oregon
Bridges of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Remember Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies??
Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa
Beloit Smiley Water Tower – Beloit, WI
Two-State Sign – Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA
Beatles Tribute – Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Big Fish Supper Club – Bena, Minnesota
Blue Heron Photos – Lexington, Kentucky & Uncertain, Texas
Booger Hollow, Arkansas
Barbed Wire Sculpture at Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska
Bob Evans Headquarters – New Albany, Ohio
Blue Banana Espresso – Lostine, Oregon
Bessie the Cow – Janesville, Wisconsin
Blues Highway – US 61 in Mississippi
Beatles Statues – Houston, Texas
Hot Spring Shower in Hot Spring Capital of Japan – Beppu, Japan
Brown Pelicans in Formation – Galveston, Texas
Beartooth Pass – near Red Lodge, Montana
Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles – Ashland, Wisconsin
Big Jud’s Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho
Tersier Monkey in Bohol, Philippines
Badlands National Park
Big Apple – Medina, NY (Yes, the OTHER big apple in New York)
World’s Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, North Dakota
Big Bone Lick State Park – Union, Kentucky
Big Indian – Bemidji, Minnesota
Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum – Vicksburg, Mississippi
Big John – Great Falls, Montana
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 M Towns
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
There is no better place to catch some trolls than in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a “Trollway” along Wisconsin Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road. Many of these were created by local artist Michael Feeney. We found a few on our visit…. Click here for a nice map of the town, with all of the trolls and other attractions. Click HERE to read more about my 2012 visit and see more trolls.
Traveling Interstate 79 North towards Pittsburgh, you can hop off of Exit 147 onto US Highway 19 and head towards Meadville. Not too far off from there you will run into something interesting. Along the road there is a giant menagerie of roadside art…all made from repurposed roadsigns that PennDOT had donated. 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. See more photos and more of the story HERE.
Many of us have grown up hearing the name “Metropolis” and associating with the big city that Superman. Well, there is actually a town in Illinois called Metropolis and they celebrate their Superman status with an entire town square dedicated to Superman and a newspaper called the Planet. See more in my post about Metropolis from 2012 HERE.
Marshfield, Wisconsin is located just north of US Highway 10 smack in the middle of Wisconsin. And, about four miles north of Marshfield, you can turn off onto Wisconsin Highway 97 and then onto Highway E on the north edge of Marshfield at the Wal-Mart stoplight. Go north past Menards 3 1/2 miles to Sugarbush Lane for 1/2 mile and you will see strange metal sculptures — you are then at Jurustic Park, the brainchild of former attorney Clyde Wynia. Once you get there and park, you will likely be met by Clyde and he will give you the ultimate tour, tell you the stories (both real and made up all intermingled) and will demonstrate and explain some of his nearly 1000 pieces. I asked him how many he has made and he said he has never counted them!! Jurustic Park is a MUST SEE destination if you are anywhere near. See my detailed post from 2012 about Clyde and Jurustic Park HERE.
In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona. Many of my tours took visitors to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona. One of first stops on these specific trips was at a little place known as Moenave, which is just off of US Highway 160 a few miles east of US Highway 89 north of Flagstaff. Not too far up Hwy 160 on the left there is a turn off to the Dinosaur Tracks. This spot on the Navajo Nation may be one of the most well preserved dinosaur track fossils around and, with probably close to 200 tracks, it may also be one of the biggest sites. The site has become so popular, that the Navajo Nation may soon be creating a small visitor center and a fence to protect the site from vandals. Currently you can still visit these for free, but it is advisable to leave a tip to the kind Navajo folk that “guide” you among the tracks. Bear in mind that you’ll need to take what they claim about the tracks with a grain of salt. Though paleontologists have verified these as authentic, there are no T-Rex tracks and no dinosaur poop on the site. Just a number of three toed tracks.
Connecticut offer many unique treasures, and one of them is most certainly Mystic, which sits on US Highway 1, just south of I-95. The town is on the Block Island Sound and is not too far from the northeastern stretches of Long Island in New York. We visited Mystic in 2015 as part of our New England visit/adventure. I was more interested in seeing the site of the 1980s movie Mystic Pizza, but also found that the small town has an awesome seaport with some tall sail ships, a fairly well known (though expensive) aquarium, a submarine museum, and even a nearby dinosaur park in Montville. It certainly deserves more than the couple of hours we devoted to the town. By the way, we have heard that you don’t want to try the pizza. But, I would advise you try the Thai at the 4 Roosevelt Bistro, which we discovered on our drive into Mystic and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there. It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy. See more details of our visit to Mystic an other areas in New England HERE.
Montrose, South Dakota
Back in 2013 I was on a return trip home from Idaho with my wife. We had left Mitchell, South Dakota (see below) were driving east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls. Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site. I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me. For some reason I had overlooked this one!! You can see more about my trip HERE.
Minot, North Dakota
Once again, in the Dakotas, there is so much to see. On a 2014 trip west to Montana, I made a stop in Minot, ND, which is on US Highway 2 in western North Dakota. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway. You can see more about this trip across North Dakota on US Highway 2 HERE.
Mitchell, South Dakota
Back in South Dakota again, you can’t miss out on the Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD. It is one of those iconic must see roadside attractions. Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921. Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here. Definitely worth a visit if you are on Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota.
Mapleton, Ontario (Honorable Mention)
The small community of Mapleton, Ontario is one of those “blink you miss it places. However, it is also one of those unique and offbeat places, featuring the Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop. See my 2012 post for more details HERE.
Medina, New York (Honorable Mention)
Clear up in northern New York, not too far from Niagara Falls, is a small town called Medina which is home to TWO unique oddities. The most well known is the Culvert Road Tunnel, which is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not (one of my site sponsors) featured site. This is the only place one can “cross” the Erie Canal by going UNDER it!! Also, if you thought the Big Apple was in New York City, think again, the real Big Apple sits beside a bridge. The apple was sculpted by artist Richard D. Banninster in 1999. See my whole 2008 story about both attractions HERE.
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Honorable Mention)
Back up in Canada, the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home of the world’s largest moose statue, named Mac the Moose. I first visited there as a high school junior for a band tour in the 1970s BEFORE the moose. I once again made my way to Moose Jaw in 2007. Touted as the World’s Largest Moose, Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons. He was made by Saskatoon artist Don Foulds in 1984. Mac is considered to be one of the most photographed roadside attractions in all of Canada. See more about my 2007 visit HERE.
Mars, Pennsylvania (Honorable Mention)
Finally, for you outer space and alien lovers, you can visit Mars, Pennsylvania and see their out of this world spaceship in the city park downtown. Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, which is actually the “Fightin’ Planets.” See my post about Mars HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
(Author’s note: This post is another in my Throwback Thursday series. Taken from August 2008 on a visit to Bethlehem for the Music Festival to join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I also visited a number of other sites. At the time I was still working in Woodstock, Ontario)
August 1, 2008: Instead of heading back to Kentucky for the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, PA and join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours for their two performances at the 2008 Bethlehem MusikFest. I decided to make a weekend of it and visit more places along the way that I had yet to get to. It would be a fun weekend indeed!!
I headed out early and headed southeast towards Buffalo. My adventures for the first day would take me to the Erie Canal and the Jell-O Museum, among other places. The map of the entire trip is below.
My first “tourist stop” along the way was Lockport, New York. Lockport derived its name from the locks that were built on the Erie Canal through here. It is only about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls. Like many towns in NW New York and SW Ontario, the town was initially settled by Quakers. In the 1820s construction on the Erie Canal was well underway and part of the route would go through Lockport. The locks were the idea of Nathan Roberts. A sixty foot drop existed at Lockport and a way had to be devised to raise and lower the packet boats to complete the journey to Buffalo. Roberts’s idea was a twin flight of locks with five locks each. In 1823, work began on the lock construction. These locks were crucial to
the completion of the canal.
Today the town of Lockport welcomes many visitors who come to see the historic locks, which have since been improved upon considerably as technology has allowed. When I got to Lockport I visited the Erie Locks & Canal Museum, where there was a small video about the building of the canal and locks in the area. I then walked over to the locks.
There are tours down and through the canal from here as well as a boat tour down in the Lockport Cave. Due to time and money constraints I chose not to take them. But I would love to have the time to take a whole day here to see the sights and history. Maybe someday…..
The complex was built as two sets of five flights of locks (one east-bound, one west-bound) and was considered to be an engineering triumph. These would help traverse the Niagara escarpment which dropped 60 feet in the Lockport area. Lots of early photos can be seen here. Following are Some views of the locks in Lockport
From Lockport, I headed east along the Erie Canal and made my way into Middleport, a quaint little town with an interesting restaurant and bridge. The Original Basket Factory was begun around 1893 to make baskets for fruit farmers along the canal. It later became a nice little restaurant.
From Middleport I continued east to Medina, NY (pronounced Ma-DIE-nah as I later found out) on NY Highway 31. Another nice little town along the Erie Canal, Medina is the home to the Medina Railroad Museum (which I did not visit) and is also home to a very large sculpted apple along the Erie Canal.
I went further east of Medina on NY 31 to find the only place along the canal with a tunnel going under it. Just down the road on the left was Culvert Rd. Take a left and it takes you directly to the tunnel. Known as the Culvert Road tunnel (or something like that), it was the only one ever on the Erie Canal and has existed here since Clinton’s Ditch, another name for the Erie Canal. The original road culvert, on a slightly different alignment, was removed about 1854-1855 as part of the Erie’s enlargement. The contract for the Enlarged Erie road culvert is dated October 24, 1854 and lists Conway and Slater as the contractors. The 1854/1855 Enlarged Erie culvert was substantially rebuilt or replaced as part of the Nine Million Dollar Improvement of 1895. The contract for the new structure was given to Charles A. Gorman and is dated December 7, 1896. The current road culvert represents an attempt during the Barge Canal’s construction to preserve, if unknowingly, the historic significance of the structure. The facade of the south end was dismantled and the stones numbered. It was then reinstalled at a new location to allow for the wider Barge Canal channel.
After my drive along NY 31, I headed south on NY 98 towards Batavia and then east on NY 5 into the historical town of Le Roy, NY. My main objective in visiting Le Roy was the JELL-O Museum. This delectable bouncy treat was first developed in Le Roy in 1897 by Pearle Wait. He was working with some cough syrup and laxative tea and then added some gelatin. His wife called it Jell-O. The recipe was bought by a man named Orator F. Woodward in Sept. 1899. There is a lot of history about Jell-O, but perhaps the one thing that many people my age think of is Bill Cosby.
After Le Roy I headed east on I-90 to highway 14 South. I then went south through Finger Lake country along Seneca Lake to Geneva, then on 14A to the small town of Penn Yan, which sits on the north end of Keuka Lake. This is beautiful country. Penn Yan is also home of Birkett Mills, known for its famous Buckwheat flour, but also known to have the largest griddle in the world.
I continued south to Corning, NY and then to Elmira and then eventually wended my way to Clarks Summit, PA (near Scranton), where I spent the night. Scranton is the home of then Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate (with Barrack Obama). I spent the night in the Ramada Inn, which is right next to an extremely high bridge called the Freedom Bridge. It towers 163 feet high above the town
and is 1627 feet long. At one time was known as the “Suicide Bridge” due to the more than 20 suicides that took place from the 1980s to the present.
August 2, 2008: I was off to Bethlehem this morning. No plans to stop along the way, so I headed south on I-380 and then down US 209. I got into Bethlehem around 10 AM and had a great time driving around the town while waiting for Antsy McClain and the band to arrive in town later in the afternoon.
Bethlehem is in Eastern Pennsylvania and is a city of about 72,000. It was the home of Bethlehem Steel, which began in Bethlehem in 1857 but succumbed to bankruptcy in 2003. At one time it was the second largest steel producer in the United States. The buildings look rusty and the factory is like an old sore. But, there is now construction of a new casino on the site.
As I drove around the city I was taken by the cultural diversity. There is a large Puerto Rican community, the beautiful old Lehigh University and the old steel mill.
I drove up and down the streets near the steel plant and imagined how this area must have thrived in the heyday of steel production. Homes were tightly built in rows, with little or no yards. Nowadays most of the neighborhoods I drove through appeared to be Puerto Rican.
Lehigh University is a beautiful old campus and has some wonderful old buildings too.
I also drove around the outskirts of town and there was nice farmland and even some geese….
Of course, the highlight of the visit to Bethlehem was the MusikFest and most especially, the performance of the fabulous music group known as Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours!! The Troubs were scheduled for two nights here. They were just a small part of dozens of performances on a number of stages. The first night we played at 9 PM on the Liederplatz Stage.
The show was a blast and all had fun. After the show we all crashed at the hotel.
August 3, 2008: This morning was a great time to sleep in, which I did. The hotel was comfy, had a huge TV in the room and I just lounged until late in the morning. Antsy and I then took a small ride around town and then back to the hotel to get ready for the second night’s show. We played the larger Americaplatz stage at 7:30 PM and had a crowd of nearly 500 watching the show.
The band had a blast…
And of course, Sumoflam was on hand to handle the Merch and answer questions. He Married Up!!
But more than the band, the crowds had a blast (including a number of die-hard Flamingoheads from PA and NJ!!!):
August 4, 2008: Well, as with everything else, the good things eventually go away and are done. The two days of fun with the Troubs were done and I had to be back on the road to Woodstock again. I chose my route home carefully so I could see one spectacular sight on the way. So, from Bethlehem I drove north on PA 33 then to I-80. I then drove wet to I-380 and headed north towards Scranton and eventually back to Clark’s Summit. I exited there and headed north on US 11 towards Factoryville, which took me north along the Lackawanna Trail into Nicholson, PA. As I drove into town I was awestruck by the amazing sight in front me. Towering high above the town was this humongous cement train bridge. This is the Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct which celebrates its 100th anniversary in Sept. 2015). 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.
Considering the immensity of this bridge, it is amazing that it was built nearly 100 years ago. A detailed history of the bridge is here.
Following are more pictures. I drove all around the town to get these photos and found that the best place to get photos of the length of the bridge was at the cemetery, which is up on a hill overlooking the town. This is by far one of the greatest places I have “discovered” on my trips thus far.
After the magnificence of the viaduct, I then had to head north. I went through a town called Hop Bottom and then on the way up to New Milford. Hop Bottom got its name from the hops that are grown in the area. New Milford had an interesting library…
I also made my way through the Finger Lakes of New York. Along the road north of Ithaca I saw a sign about Taughannock Falls. I knew nothing about this waterfall, but the viewpoint was just off the road, so I took a little jaunt to catch a peek. The Falls have a drop of about 215 feet and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S. It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately the light was not at the best angle for a good photo.
Beautiful scenery, but no time to stop along the way…