A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The W 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.


Let’s start this off with a Whispering Bang!!

Whispering Giants – art by Hungarian artist Peter Toth – Idaho Falls, Idaho; Bethany Beach, Delaware; Murray, Utah; Red Lodge, Montana; Ottawa, Illinois; Hopewell, Illinois; Paducah, Kentucky; Astoria, Oregon; Ocean City, Maryland; Iowa Falls, Iowa; Utica, Illinois

Over 62 of these around the U.S.  Here are the ones I have seen:

Gigantic Peter Toth carved Indian Head in North Tourist Park in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Placed in 1980
Chief Little Owl in Bethany Beach, Delaware placed in 2002
Chief Wasatch in Murray, UT placed in 1985
Detail of the “Whispering Giant” of Red Lodge, Montana, placed in 1979
Ho-Ma-Sjah-Nah-Zhee-Ga in Ottawa, IL, placed in 1990
Hopewell Giant in Hopewell, IL placed in 1975
Chief Wacinton in Paducah, KY placed in 1985
Ikala Nawan in Astoria, Oregon placed in 1987
The Inlet Indian, Nanticoke, dedicated to the Assateague tribe, is in Ocean City, MD and placed in 1976
Whispering Giant of Iowa Falls, IA in Veterans Park, placed in 1999
Chief Walks With The Wind in Starved Rock State Park, Utica, IL

Wigwam Village – Sleep in Wigwam – Cave City, KY

Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village Key
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Hanging with ALL 10 Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY

Wahkeena Falls – Corbett, Oregon

Wahkeena Falls in Corbett, Oregon

Wupatki National Monument – near Cameron, Arizona

Son Seth at Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff in 1992

Water Buffalo – Cebu, Philippines

Carabao Water Buffalo taken on Cebu Island in the Philippines

Winnett, Montana

Winnett, MT Welcome Sign
Old Store Front – Winnett, MT
Old Hotel Sign – Winnett, MT

Wallace, Idaho

Wallace, Idaho
Wallace Corner Hotel, Wallace, ID
Downtown Wallace, Idaho

Weatherford, Texas

Courthouse in Weatherford, Texas
Skinnys Hamburger sign in Weatherford, TX
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas

Murals of Welland, Ontario

Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles

Washington, Pennsylvania

Washington, PA Historic Marker
Washington County Courthouse in Washington, PA
Welcome to Washington, PA

Williams, California

Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA

Winner, South Dakota

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner, South Dakota
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

Waldo, Arkansas

Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Winterset building fronts
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa

Wyoming Dinosaur Center – Thermopolis, Wyoming

Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming

World Trade Center (before 9/11) – New York City

In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
World Trade Center 1990

One World Trade Center (after 9/11) – New York City

One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
One World Trade Center under construction – March 2, 2013

Wall Drug – Wall, South Dakota

Where the Heck is Wall Drug?
Welcome to Wall, SD
One of many Wall Drug Billboards – notice the uniqueness?
The 80 foot tall Wall Drug Brontosaurus

West Virginia Capital Building with the gold dome – Charleston, West Virginia

Wonde West Virginia’s Capital Building in Charleston, WV
WV Capital Building

Wharton, Texas

Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX

Wonderland Road – Upton, Kentucky

Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY

Winter Wheat – Sparta, Ontario

Welcome to Winter Wheat in Sparta, ON
Winter Wheat Main Building
Broom People at Winter Wheat in Sparta, ON
The performance room at Winter Wheat

Walpi, Arizona

While working in Arizona I made over 100 trips to Walpi on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona

White Sands National Monument – east of Alamagordo, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Granddaughter Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR
Welcome to Walnut Ridge
Scene from Abbey Road, Walnut Ridge, AR

Wendy’s Museum – Dublin, Ohio

Dave Thomas statue at Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH

Wigwam Drive-In – Ravenna, Kentucky

Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY
Interior of the Wigwam Drive-in Ravenna, KY
The Famous Country Boy Burger

Washington Court House, Ohio

The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Washington Courthouse Statue

Whitetop, Virginia

Welcome to Whitetop, VA
Whitetop Station
All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA

West Side Theater – Newman, California

West Side Theatre – a common stop for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours

Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas

Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….

Walcott Castle – Walcott, Iowa

Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
One of the Towers on Castle Hall in Walcott

Wind Farms – Shelby, Montana; Nekoma, North Dakota; Adair, Iowa; Bloomington, Illinois; Iona, Idaho; Rugby, North Dakota; Port Burwell, Ontario

An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana

A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
Approaching Wolverine Creek Wind Farm, near Iona, ID
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm info center in Port Burwell, Ontario
Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana

Watkins Glen State Park – Watkins Glen, New York

One of over 50 waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Wilbur, Washington

Wilbur, Washington
Billy Burger, Wilbur, WA
Big Pig and Spider at Welcome center in Wilbur, WA

Winnemucca, Nevada

Sumoflam in Winnemucca, Nevada
Big casino in Winnemucca, Nevada
Driving through Winnemucca

Mount Washington – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mount Washington
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington

West Yellowstone, Montana

Welcome to West Yellowstone, Montana
Westward Motel – West Yellowstone
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana

Whiskey Rebellion – Washington, Pennsylvania

Whiskey Rebellion Statue in Washington, PA

Webster Falls – Hamilton, Ontario

Webster Falls near Hamilton, ON
Sumoflam at the top of Webster Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

White Castle, Louisiana

Welcome to White Castle, LA
There is a White Castle Fire Dept, but no White Castle restaurants to be seen

Worland, Wyoming

Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

Working Women mural – Welland, Ontario

“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial
work force in the factories of Welland

Wolf Creek Pass – Colorado

Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado July 1993

Wind River Canyon – Wyoming

History of the Wind River Canyon
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon
Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis, WY

Walking to the Sky Sculpture – Pittsburgh, Penssylvania

“Walking to the Sky” by Jonathan Borofsky

Washington Monument – Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC in 2016

Willie the Walleye – Baudette, Minnesota

Son Solomon (at 6’3″) at Willie the Walleye in Baudette, MN

Wichita, Kansas

Welcome to Wichita mural
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas
Keeper of the Plains – 50 foot tall statue in Wichita
Wicked Street Art in Wichita, KS

What Cheer, Iowa

What Cheer, Iowa
What Cheer, Iowa
Downtown What Cheer – many abandoned buildings

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


An Afternoon in Pittsburgh

Welcome to Pittsburgh
Welcome to Pittsburgh
Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh
Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh

As noted in my previous post about Prosperity/Canonsburg/Washington areas of Pennsylvania (see post HERE), we took an afternoon with my wife’s sister and her family to take a drive around Pittsburgh.  Obviously, an afternoon does no justice to a large beautiful city like this, but that was all the time we had. Fortunately, I have been to Pittsburgh before and have knocked out a few places worth visiting (see my post which includes some Pittsburgh sites HERE).

Bridges in Pittsburgh
Bridges in Pittsburgh
Crossing into Pittsburgh
Crossing into Pittsburgh


The PPG Glass Castle in downtown Pittsburgh
The PPG Glass Castle (One PPG Place) in downtown Pittsburgh

Our drive took us past the amazing glass structure built by PPG — their headquarters.  Some call it the “Glass Castle” and indeed, it looks like one.

Actually named PPG Place,  this amazing building is one of six structures designed by architects Philip Johnson and  John Burgee and completed in 1984.  The six buildings cover three city blocks and five and a half acres. All of the buildings are of matching glass design consisting of 19,750 pieces of glass. The complex centers on One PPG Place, a 40-story office building.

A view from below One PPG Place
A view from below One PPG Place
Artistic view of One PPG Place
Artistic view of One PPG Place
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh

We also crossed over the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge, named for the 60’s era Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. We passed by the Andy Warhol Museum (but didn’t stop to visit).

A study in 2006 noted that there were 446 bridges in Pittsburgh thus giving the town the nickname “The City of Bridges.” Of course, not all of them are the massive structures crossing the three major rivers.  There are nine or ten prominent bridges, including the Clemente, which is one of the “Three Siblings,” which are three parallel, nearly identical self-anchored suspension bridges that cross the Allegheny River at 6th, 7th, and 9th streets. They were named for prominent Pittsburgh residents: Roberto Clemente Bridge, Andy Warhol Bridge, and Rachel Carson Bridge.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Bridges across Pittsburgh
Crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh
Old Wall Sign in downtown Pittsburgh
Old Wall Sign in downtown Pittsburgh
Old Byham Theater in Pittsburgh - built in 1903
Old Byham Theater in Pittsburgh – built in 1903
Welcome to the Monongahela Incline
Welcome to the Monongahela Incline

After driving around a bit, we headed to the Monongahela Incline to take a ride up Mt. Washington, a hill that provides amazing panoramic views of Pittsburgh. This proved to be the highlight of this trip.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline

The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S. It opened on May 28, 1870, and has since then transported millions of passengers.  Built at a cost of $50,000, the incline opened up Mount Washington to development, enabling people to live 600 feet above the city and still have easy access to factories and businesses along the river.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline
Heading down on the Mongahela Incline
Heading down on the Mongahela Incline

At one time Pittsburgh had 15 inclines. Today the Monongahela and its younger sister the Duquesne (about a mile away) are the only ones that remain.  The cars are not self-powered, and do not even have operators on board. Instead, they are pulled up and down the inclined track by a cable driven by an engine in the upper station, where the operator works. The cars operate in pairs, permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable, with one going uphill and the other going downhill simultaneously. The cars therefore counterbalance each other, so the engine needs to provide only enough power to overcome friction and the difference in the weight of the passengers in the two cars.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline
View of the city form the car on the Monongahela Incline
View of the city form the car on the Monongahela Incline
Riding down
Riding down

The ride up the hill is about 635 feet and climbs a little over 365 feet in altitude at a grade of about 35 degrees. At its max speed of 6 miles per hour, the ride takes about three or four minutes. There is no air conditioning in the buildings or on the actual trains.  So, on a hot day like we experienced, it was a warm wait.


Enjoying the Ride!
Enjoying the Ride!

Each car holds about 23 people, with room for about 8 persons in each section of the car.  It is certainly something I would want to sit down on rather than stand in.  The view from the window can be kind of scary.


Monongahela Incline going up
Monongahela Incline going up
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Mount Washington
Mount Washington

Once atop Mt. Washington, the view is breathtaking with expansive views of the three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio) and the many bridges over these rivers.

While at the top, we took in the view, walked over to DiFiore’s for an ice cream treat and a rest.  From there I caught sight of an amazing wall mural.  Titled “Bloom,” this giant mural was painted by Gerard Tonti in October 2007. This is one of a number of large Art Murals funded by the Sprout Public Art project of Pittsburgh.  According to the website Pittsburgh Murals and Public Art, there were 32 original Sprout murals, but there are many more throughout the 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  Looks like my next trip may be a mural hunt!!! (Pittsburgh Murals has created a great spreadsheet for the mural/public art seeker HERE.)

Family shot from Mt. Washington
Family shot from Mt. Washington
Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Fort Bridge with stadium in background
Fort Pitt Bridge with stadium in background
Another Bridge
Smithfield Street Bridge as seen from the top of Mt. Washington
Ice Cream anyone?
Ice Cream anyone? DiFiore’s on Mt. Washington
Bloom by Gerard
“Bloom” by Gerard Tonti
Detail of old Pittsburgh on Tonti's "Bloom"
Detail of old Pittsburgh on Tonti’s “Bloom”
Point of View by
“Point of View” by James A. West

Also while driving along the top of Mt. Washington we came across a lovely statue sitting on the edge of the hill (at Greenbriar Avenue and Sweetbriar Street).  Titled “Point of View,” this 2006 bronze sculpture by James A. West depicts George Washington and the Seneca leader Guyasuta, with their weapons down, in a face-to-face meeting in October 1770, when the two men met while Washington was in the area examining land for future settlement along the Ohio River.

Overlooking Pittsburgh with wife Julianne
Overlooking Pittsburgh with wife Julianne

That pretty much ended the day trip to Pittsburgh for us.  It was fun, but certainly warrants another visit in the near future.