Everywhere a Sign – Some U Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Its a unanimous understatement to say that I love traveling the back roads of America looking for the interesting and unique. It is ultimately my utmost passion (well, besides my family and my grandchildren).

I will also do something in this post. I will be posting some of the US Highway signs I have picked up, most specifically in 2018. I’ll explain down below.  I hope you enjoy some of the U Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Uranus, Missouri

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Uranus, Missouri water tower
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Sounds yummy
Help Keep Uranus Clean
The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Uranus Parks T-shirt

Might as well start this post on a humorously low point.  Yes indeed, there is a place in Missouri called Uranus. And yes, it is pronounced “Your Anus” (and by the way, I heard a question on Jeopardy recently and Alex Trebek pronounces it that way).  And yes, the main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory where all of the employees (affectionately referred to as Fudge Packers) all yell out “Welcome to Uranus” when you walk into the shop.  Indeed, the owners and creators made sure it was quite the attraction.  Rather than go into detail on this post (I think the pictures above give you enough hints), please go visit my detailed post about Uranus from last year.  You can see more about Uranus here.

US Highway Shields / Route Markers

US Route 61 in Mississippi, also known as The Blues Highway (taken in 2017)

OK.  You are probably thinking “How can looking at numbers on signs be interesting?”  And, I would give that to you.  To many they probably aren’t.  But look at the signs…they look like shields or badges.  And, to me, as a collector of road trip memories (via photos and memories), these are like Boy Scout merit badges.  I am always after yet another number for my collection.

For consistency, in my blog I refer to them as US Highways, though they are called Route XX in other places…ala Route 66.  But, they are definitely interchangeable.

US Highway 1 signs in Baltimore, Maryland. US Highway 1 actually goes along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine… a total of 2,369 miles.

US Highway 1 is the easternmost route in the US and runs north-south (as do ALL odd numbered highways) along the Atlantic Coast.

The first highways were numbered with this universal system in 1925.  Nowadays,  the U.S. Numbered Highways (or Routes) are the original interstate highways, dating back to 1926. U.S. Highways are numbered in a grid: even numbered for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along Canada) and odd numbered for north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the Atlantic Ocean). Three-digit highways, also known as “child routes,” are branches off their main one- or two-digit “parents” (for example, U.S. Route 202 is a branch of U.S. Route 2). However, US 101, rather than a “child” of US 1, is considered a “mainline” U.S. Route.

US Highway 2 in Hurley, Wisconsin (taken in 2016)
US Highway 2 at Stevens Pass in Washington

US Highway 2 is the northernmost long highway in the United States.  Completely, it covers 2,571 miles from east to west, starting in Houlton, Maine and ending in Everett, Washington.   In 1926 it was intentionally split.  The eastern section ends in Rouses Point, New York, where it meets US Highway 11.  Then, the highway kicks in again in St. Ignace, Michigan and traverses across the northern US, ending in Everett, Washington.  I have actually driven (at different times) the entire length of US Highway 2 from Ironwood, Michigan to Everett, Washington.

US Highway 101 in Southern Washington

US Highway 101 was the only original highway to have a three digit number.  This is the westernmost north-south highway and runs from Port Angeles, Washington to Los Angeles, California for about 1,550 miles.  In some places it is nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway and in California it is also called the El Camino Real (the Royal Road).  I have been on portions of this highway in Washington, Oregon and California.

US Highway 90 near Garwood, Texas

Like US Highway 2, US Highway 90 is the original southern route going east-west.   It basically begins in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and ends in Van Horn, Texas.   It has a length of about 1,633 miles and, in some places is called the Old Spanish Trail.  I have driven portions of this highway in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, most of it in 2018 when I drive to Houston via Mobile, Alabama, through Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi, Lafayette, Louisiana and as far west as San Antonio.

Route 66 – Getting my kicks
Route 66 in Missouri … near Rolla, Missouri
Visiting Route 66 in White Oak, Oklahoma
Historic Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois

Though I have not even come close to gaining all of the “badges,” I have many.  Following are a few of the other US Highways I have been on.  Just for your interest…my favorites are (in order)…  US 2 (from Wisconsin to Washington), US 89 (from northern Montana to Southern Arizona), US 66 (naturally), US 61 (along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Mississippi), US 50 (another cross-country east-west highway that cuts through the heart of America for over 300 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California), US 101, US 60, which cuts across the heartland of the United States and sometimes joins with Route 66, and finally, US 31 (which runs from Northern Michigan to Mobile, Alabama including a long stretch through Kentucky).  But, I love many more of them!

Following are a few random photos I took in 2018 to add to my “badge collection” of US Highway Signs.

US Highway 68 taken in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. This highway runs for 560 miles from Toledo, Ohio to Reidland, Kentucky
US Highway 177 taken near Byars, Oklahoma. This is a spur of US Hwy 77 and goes for 233 miles from South Haven, Kansas to Madill, Oklahoma
US Highway 81 in Ringgold, Oklahoma

US Highway 81  is a major north-south highway that extends for 1220 miles in the central United States and is one of the earliest United States Numbered Highways established in 1926 by the US Department of Agriculture Bureau of Public Roads.  It begins in the north near Pembina, North Dakota at the U.S./Canada border and ends in Fort Worth, Texas at Interstate 35W.

US Highway 287, also pictured above, is a north–south (physically northwest–southeast) United States highway that stretches for 1,791 miles.  It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.  I have actually been on many portions of this road.

US Highway 271 near Arthur City, Texas. It is about 297 miles in length from Tyler, Texas through Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Arkansas
US Highway 183 near Florence, Texas. It was the last route to be completely paved (in 1967). It runs north-south for 1250 miles from Refugio, Texas to Presho, South Dakota. I have been on many sections of this highway over the years.
US Highway 51 near Dyersburg, Missouri.

US Highway 51 is another major south-north United States highway that extends 1,277 miles from Laplace, Louisiana, to Hurley, Wisconsin on the  Wisconsin–Michigan state line where it ends in a T interchange with US Highway 2 near Ironwood, Michigan.  I actually stood at that very corner for my US Highway 2 photo (see above).

US Highways 79 and 190 in Milano, Texas

US Highway 79 is officially considered and labeled as a north-south highway, but it is actually more of a diagonal northeast-southwest highway. The highway’s northern/eastern terminus is in Russellville, Kentucky, at an intersection with U.S. Highway 68 and KY 80.  I have driven US 79 from Russellville all the way through Clarksville and Paris, Tennessee and then on to Memphis (where I took US Highway 61 south into Mississippi).  On other trips, I have taken US 79 in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  US Highway 79 covers about 855 miles.

US 190 has been around since 1926.  It covers about 875 miles as an auxiliary route to US Highway 90.  It starts in Slidell, Louisiana and ends in Iraan, Texas.  It passes through Baton Rouge as well as Huntsville and Temple, Texas.  I have driven a good portion of US Highway 190.

US Highway 58 near Damascus, Virginia

This is a beautiful stretch of highway starting at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and heading about 508 miles across southern Virginia eventually to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia.  At one time or another I have driven the entire length of this highway.

US Highway 89 and US Highway  2 meet up in northern Browning, Montana

US Highway begins in the northernmost region of Montana north of Babb on the Canada/Montana border. It goes south ending in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Over the course of my life I have traveled every inch of this 1,252 mile highway which was first established in 1926.  I would argue that this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.  It passes seven National Parks (thus the nickname the National Park Highway.  These include, among others, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Grand Canyon.  Along the route it also passes a number of scenic National Monuments as well.  In fact, National Geographic magazine has called this the “No. 1 Driver’s Drive in the World.”  I would concur.  You can experience mountains, high plains, deserts and canyons on this route.

US Highway 60 on Midland Trail in West Virginia

Last sign for this post is a biggie.  US Highway 60 is an east–west United States highway, traveling 2,670 miles from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with Route 66.

US Highway 60 cuts through West Virginia as the Midland Trail and also passes through Central Kentucky and westward.  I have driven the entire length from Norfolk, Virginia through Lexington, Virginia and on through West Virginia, Kentucky into Cairo, Illinois.  This has been a major route for me for many years, especially since it extends out of Lexington both east and west.

Like what you see? Well, there is lots more!  I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

(31)

West Virginia’s Midland Trail – US Route 60 – Charleston, WV

Charleston Capitol Building

This is part two of my Midland Trail series and this post will focus on West Virginia’s Capital Charleston.  During most of May I spent a great deal of time in this lovely river town while visiting a friend of mine who was ill and eventually passed away.  That is another story.

During my time in Charleston, I took the opportunity to drive around the town and get photos of the unique Capitol Building, a few other buildings, murals and other things.  The town certainly does have its own unique personality.

Welcome to Charleston

Charleston is the capital and largest city  West Virginia. It is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County.  The city apparently got its start in the late 1700s and historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. George Clendenin’s father, Charles. Col. Clendenin acquired the deed to the area in 1786. Charles Town was later shortened to Charleston to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in eastern West Virginia, which was named after George Washington’s brother Charles.  Daniel Boone was a resident for a time and served on the Virginia House of Delegates.

Portion of a mural in Charleston

A short drive around the area near the Capitol Building provides the opportunity to see a few murals, one of my favorite things to look for.  Here are a few murals in the area…but I don’t think I found them all yet!!

Charleston West Side Mural titled “West Side Wonder” by Charly Jupiter Hamilton.
Detail of Charly Jupiter Hamilton mural in Charleston’s West Side
Another detail of Charly Jupiter Hamilton’s mural

Another mural I came across was on the back side of a convenience store in an alley.

All Together Now by Jeff Pierson – Mural in an Alley on the East End
Detail All Together Now

Murals aren’t the only public art in Charleston.  As noted in their website Public Art in Charleston, the town has promoted art works including murals and sculptures for over 13 years.  While driving around town I came across one sculpture that looked oddly familiar.  Titled “Hallelujah,”, the piece below is by artist Albert Paley, who made four massive sculptures entitled “Odyssey” in Council Bluffs, IA (see my post here).

Hallelujah by Albert Paley, located in downtown Charleston
Another shot of Albert Paley’s Hallelujah

Another interesting sculpture, very close by is the “Festival Delle Arti” by artist Harry Marinsky. This whimsical work of art is likely appealing to children (and adults with the hearts of children!).

Festival delle Arti by Harry Marinsky
A detail shot of the work by Marinsky

More scenes from downtown Charleston include some buildings and signs.  Really a fun place to visit.

Charleston’s First Presbyterian Church
The BB&T Building in downtown Charleston
Cabriole by Jimilu Mason on Summers Street in Charleston
Frutcake Sign in West End Charleston
Old Neon sign for New China restaurant in Charleston
Detail of “Out and About” by Rob Cleland in Charleston’s East End
Another Detail of the Rob Cleland Mural
The BB&T Building (Laidley Tower) with the St. George Orthodox Cathedral in the foreground

I found Charleston to be a wonderful town…lovely bridges, a nice river, beautiful buildings and artwork.

 

 

(140)

West Virginia’s Midland Trail – US Route 60 from Virginia to Charleston

During the month of May I made several trips to West Virginia to assist a friend in need.  Also, during Easter Weekend (2017) I had occasion to take my wife to northern Virginia near Shenandoah National Park and on my return started my treks along US Route 60 in West Virginia, what they refer to as the Midland Trail.   On subsequent visits, I tried to hit US 60 in the western part of the state as well.

 

A scene from along US 60 in WV
The WV State Capitol Building in Charleston

The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain of the Mountain State and extends for approximately 100 miles from White Sulphur Springs in the east to Charleston in the west. The trail is believed to have been originally carved into the mountains by buffalo and native peoples. In 1790, George Washington ordered the trail cleared. The trail came to be traveled by stage coaches and soldiers in the Civil War.

A scene from the drive on US 60 near Lewisburg, WV
A bridge near Lewisburg, WV

Along the route there are a number of scenic stops, some of which I had time to stop for, and others which I didn’t.  But the rugged hills of West Virginia along this route made for a scenic drive, even if I didn’t stop.

My first venture on the Midland Trail came on Easter morning as I headed home from Shenandoah National Park.   It was then that I actually decided to hop off of Interstate 64 and onto US 60.  There wasn’t much in White Sulphur Springs, so I continued on to Lewisburg.  Like White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg is known for its sulfur springs and their curative powers.  It is also home to the immaculate and world famous Greenbrier Resort.

Lewisburg – America’s Coolest Small Town
Huge snowman in Lewisburg

To prove they are the “coolest” town, they even have a huge fiberglass snowman at one of the businesses.

I found this guy at Brabble & Shores Insulation.  It is a classic Roadside America type of thing…perfect for the silly selfie!  That alone makes this town a pretty cool place in my opinion.

Old Stone Presbyterian Church was built in 1830 in Lewisburg

Always on a quest to document old covered bridges, I came across the Herns Mill Covered Bridge, which was begun in 1879 and completed in 1884. The bridge is approximately 54 feet long and 10.6 feet wide and is open to travel.  Many renovations were made in 2000 — concrete abutments and steel I-beams, guard walls, portal timbers, a new metal roof and siding — to ensure the cover bridge’s longevity.

Sam Black Church historical Marker

From Lewisburg heading west there are a number of small towns to pass through.  My next stop on the trail was at Sam Black Church. It is one of the few towns I have encountered that actually is named after a church building.

The building was built in a classic Gothic style in 1902 and was named named in honor of Rev. Samuel Black, a circuit-riding Southern Methodist preacher. It is a small one story building with a gable roof. It features a square, open bell tower with a hipped roof.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV
Front doors to Sam Black Church

Continuing west I came to the uniquely named town of Charmco, WV.  At 2,408′ in elevation, it is a mountain town.  It remains today as a coal mining town.  I liked the “charm” part of the name (reminded me of the Amish town of Charm, OH).  However, it turns out there is really no charm intended. The community was named for the Charleston Milling Company in 1933.

Charmco, WV Post Office

I traveled through Rainelle (and, ironically was deluged by a rainstorm so kept going).  I eventually made my way to Lookout, WV, which was supposedly named because the Native American tribes used the elevated location as a lookout point.

Lookout, WV Post Office
Fun flag in Lookout, WV

I added another unique flag to my collection of “non-flag” flags that I come across when traveling.  This one was made of stones and sat next to the Post Office parking lot.

I am always on the lookout for flags represented in other media and have found a couple of dozen in the past few years.

Then of course, there are the old retro Mom and Pop motels that can be found along an old US Highways. The Midland Trail Motel is one of these. (Route 60 is actually longer than Route 66 and has many similar features.)  A little trivia from Wikipedia: traveling 2,670 mi from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with the major US 66. In fact, US 66 was almost given the US 60 number.

Midland Trail Motel on Route 60 in Ansted, WV

One of the most “touristy” places along the Midland Trail is found near Fayetteville, WV.  This is home to the New River Gorge and the massive New River Gorge Bridge.  This is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge.  I visited the bridge a couple of times in the past and so didn’t want to stop on this trip due to time constraints.

Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge and New River Gorge National River in Fayetteville, WV in August 1995
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia taken in  August 1995
The Mystery Hole in Fayetteville, WV

Of course, where there are National Parks or National Bridges, etc., there are always the Tourist Traps.  The “Unbelievable Mystery Hole” is one of these.  We stopped there in 1995 on our drive through (but it was closed).  When I drove by this time it was also closed.  But it has all of the quirkiness.

Bottom line, the place claims to be a gravity defying hole and draws tourists who want to have a “can’t believe your eyes” experience.  It is just funny to me that it so happens to be close to a National Park site (as many of these great experience places are.”

A quick shot of the Mystery Hole from the car on this trip
My daughter Marissa taking a photo in 1995
Welcome to Gauley Bridge, WV

After passing by the Hawk’s Nest State Park, which offers some spectacular views (we actually stayed there in 1995), I continued on my trek into Gauley Bridge, where the Kanawha River is formed at the confluence of the New River (which formed the gorge) and the Gauley River.

This is actually another scenic location with a beautiful view of the beginnings of the Kanahwa River and a very nice waterfall – Cathedral Falls. At a drop of 60 feet, the falls are considered to be one of the highest and most scenic waterfalls in West Virginia. What’s better, they are literally located right alongside US 60. Definitely worth a visit.

Visiting Cathedral Falls near Gauley Bridge, WV
Another shot of Cathedral Falls
A panorama of the confluence forming the Kanahwa River at Gauley Bridge, WV

I didn’t see many murals on this trip, but there was a nice one on the side of a building in Gauley Bridge.  The only actual mural I saw on the Midland Trail until I was in Charleston.

Train Mural in Gauley Bridge painted by Nancy Lane to commemorate the rich rail heritage of the town.
The C&O Railroad Bridge across the Gauley River.

From Gauley Bridge, US 60 follows the route of the Kanawha River.  Another nice set of waterfalls can be seen at Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV.  The drop of these falls is only about 15 feet, but it is a wide and loud waterfall.

Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV
Another shot of Kanawha Falls

After my brief stop at Kanawha Falls, I continued into Charleston on the winding highway.  It really was a beautiful drive.  And it is always a treat to see the golden dome of the state capitol building.

West Virginia State Capitol Bulding

Part 2 will be posted soon and is all about the Charleston area. Part 3 will then be posted about the portion of Route 60 from Charleston to the Kentucky border.

(1045)