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

 

Mystic Pizza – Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

Moon Township, PA

Township of Moon, PA

Muscovy Duck – Damascus, Virginia

A unique Muscovy duck in the river in Damascus

Mammy’s Cupboard – Natchez, Mississippi

Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside

Mail Pouch Barns – Brinkhaven, Ohio; Friendly, West Virginia; Hargett, Kentucky

Mail Pouch Barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV
A rare Mail Pouch barn sighting in Hargett, KY

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield – Brownsville, Tennessee

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
A portion of the Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

Mr. Roger’s T-Rex Statue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mr. Rogers T-Rex

Mountain Bluebird – The Badlands National Park, South Dakota

A Mountain Bluebird perched on a fencepost in the Badlands

Mac the Moose – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Monument Valley – Utah

Monument Valley, Utah
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983

Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Welcome to the Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline going up
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Maid of the Mist at the bottom of Niagara Falls filled with tourists

Melt Eclectic Cafe – Cincinnati, Ohio

Melt in Cincinnati
Melt Cafe

Metal Green Bay Packer – Pagac’s Bar – Ashland, Wisconsin

Robotic scrap metal quarterback. The guy in the bar said you can plug it in and it actually moves!

Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico

Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Midlothian Castle – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Midlothian Castle
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Home of Mayberry – Mount Airy, North Carolina

Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, NC
Mayberry on Main
Mayberry Cheese

Mount Rainier National Park – Greenwater, Washington

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Mt. Rainier in Washington – visited in 2015
A ferry passes by us in the sound with Mt. Rainier in the background

Migrating Snow Geese – Arkansas

Snow Geese everywhere
Ran into a HUGE flock of migrating snow geese in central Arkansas

Medicine Hat, Alberta

Giant Teepee in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Mickey Mantle Statue – Commerce, Oklahoma

Mickey Mantle Statue in Commerce, Oklahoma

Memorial Falls near Great Falls, Montana

Memorial Falls near Great Falls, MT

Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo. This one posed for me!
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo

Metropolis, Illinois

Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
Giant Grocer Statue in Metropolis, IL

Dinosaur Tracks – Moenave, Arizona

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
The kids at the Dinosaur tracks in Moenave, AZ near Tuba City (July 1993)

Mama Santa Pizzeria – Little Eatery – Cleveland, Ohio

Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa Restaurant in Cleveland, OH

Montour Trail – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Montour Trail – Canonsburg, PA

Miner’s Memorial Mural – Ironwood, Michigan

The men in Miner’s Memorial Mural represent the thousands of men who worked in the Gogebic Range Mines of Michigan and Wisconsin.
A section of the Miner’s Memorial Mural in Ironwood, which was completed in 2012

Mt. Fuji – near Fujinomiya, Japan

Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.

Multnomah Falls – Multnomah County, Oregon

At Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The unique and quaint Mud Street Cafe in Eureka Springs, AR
Cozy Mud Street Cafe

Memphis Egg – Memphis, Tennessee

With the famous Memphis Egg in 2007

Mothman Museum – Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Glowing Red Eyes of the Mothman
Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, WV

Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California

Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco

Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop – Mapleton, Ontario

Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese

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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E is for Enjoy the Ride – #atozchallenge

One of my themes in life is to “Enjoy the Ride.” This is how I live my life, but it is especially true when it comes to my wanderlust and desire to travel the back roads of America.

The thrill that I get as I get on the open road with the windows rolled down and the music playing while looking at the trees and fence posts and telephone poles flying by me is amazing. I enjoy the ride every single trip!

A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming

To “Enjoy the Ride” means to look at the trees and the clouds on the horizon, to see the sunsets and the sunrises and to witness animals prancing in the fields. It means to see the birds overhead and sitting on fenceposts along the way.

Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…
Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading east on I-74 in central Indiana

To “Enjoy the Ride” means to witness the grandeur and majesty of the lovely mountains in the west or the rush of the waves in the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico.

I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird in Montana
Mountains near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone
Sagebrush and Mountains in Idaho

Some people get bored driving through the desert and seeing all of the tumbleweeds. What they miss out on is the life that is out there in the desert and the scenery. The giant red rocks or the cactus or even the tumbleweeds. To see these is to Enjoy the Ride.

A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona, Arizona below. This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983
Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border

To me, the destination is not the reason for the trip. It is all in the trip itself. That is the true defining point of enjoying the ride.

Living the Dream – Enjoying the Ride

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Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – South 89

89 South in Montana
89 South in Montana

After spending a nice day with my children and grandchildren along US Highway 89 north of Great Falls, it was time to begin the long trip back to Kentucky  the next day. I would begin the return trip with a quick jaunt south on I-15  to Great Falls and then south on US 87/89 towards Kings Hill Pass on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway, which runs along US 89 from the US 87 junction to the US 12 junction just north of White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Welcome to Conrad, Montana
Welcome to Conrad, Montana

Before moving on, I should mention that on the previous day we made a quick stop in Conrad, Montana to see if there is anything interesting there.  Conrad is south of Shelby and just off of I-15, so it is easy off and easy on.  Conrad is just a bit smaller than Shelby.  Not too much, but they still have a nice looking old theater and an old 70s style motel. A nice stop for the nostalgic-minded.

Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana – Clean and Quiet

Since it was early morning, I didn’t stop in Conrad on the way to Great Falls. Rather, I was in town before sunrise and on to US 89 south, which joins with US 87.  I had to head east through town past Malmstrom Air Force Base just as the sun came up. It was a beautiful Montana morning.

Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls

US 87/89 passes by Belt, Montana, but I didn’t drive through there on this trip as I wanted to get down US 89 and into Yellowstone and US 212 over Beartooth Pass.  Just shortly after passing by Belt, US 87 continues east and US 89 breaks off southward toward Monarch, Montana and pretty much follows Belt Creek, which at the time I was driving the route, was a raging creek with all of the winter runoff in full force. This is the beginning of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway.

Kings Hill Scenic byway
Kings Hill Scenic Byway in Central Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek and the entrance to Belt Creek Canyon  from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Little Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)

I reached Monarch, Montana at about 7:30 AM. Monarch was originally established to service the silver mines in the area. It is near the Sluice Boxes State Park.

Monarch, Montana
Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana

The drive through the Lewis and Clark National Forest is very nice on a spring morning. Wildlife was in abundance and the raging Belt Creek could be heard, the smell of pine in the air.  It was very refreshing (with the car windows down of course!)  Soon enough, I was passing through the town of Neihart.

Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well...not all photos come out perfect!)
Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well…not all photos come out perfect!) The sign says ” Our small town is like Heaven to us, please don’t drive like Hell through it.”

Neihart had a few unique things so it was well worth a short stop for a look/see.

US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana

I always like the unique shops on road trips, and Neihart offered one of those up in GJ’s Junkers Delight….fun signs, unique metal art

GJ's Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
GJ’s Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
Love this sign on GJ's - This ain't no museum, this junk is for sale
Love this sign on GJ’s – This ain’t no museum, this junk is for sale
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ's Trailer
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ’s Trailer

From Neihart, US 89 begins to offer a spectacular drive through the Rocky Mountains and gets you up to Kings Hill Pass which hits an altitude of 7,385 feet. Kings Hill Pass is part of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway which passes through the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, United States.

I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.

As the altitude climbed I could see that there were ski resorts and then I came across the Showdown, Montana sign near the summit of Kings Hill Pass.  Created in 1936 and originally called King’s Hill Ski Area, Showdown is a small-scale ski area that caters mainly to weekend skiers.  It also has nice summer activities for bikers, hikers and campers.

Showdown Montana Ski resort
Showdown Montana Ski resort
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
The views south from Kings Hill Pass
The views south from Kings Hill Pass at 7,393 feet
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass

From Kings Hill Pass US 89 heads down hill towards White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT

The end of the Kings Hill Scenic byway is about 3 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, which sits at the base of three mountain ranges. A truly beautiful setting.

End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana at 8:30 AM
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs

From White Sulphur Springs US 89 continues south towards Livingston. This portion of the drive has some spectacular mountain views, especially of the Crazy Mountains (also known as the Crazies). I can envision the awe of pioneers as they realized they would have to get past them.

The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
Another view of the Crazies
Another view of the Crazies
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89

Wyoming lays claim to being the pronghorn capital of the world, but Montana has to be a close second.  Some of my best pronghorn photos have come in Montana.  I saw a small group by the road near Wilsall and stopped for a visit.

A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.

From the Wilsall area I continued south towards Livingston, Montana.  The mountains scenes were breathtaking on this section of US 89 near Wilsall. I knew that on the other side of the mountains sits the city of Bozeman, where I lived from 1971-1973. I loved Bozeman.

Mountain views are breathtaking
Mountain views are breathtaking near Wilsall, Montana

Wilsall, along with Clyde Park,  is in the Shields River Valley.  The Shields River was named by Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in honor of John Shields when they arrived here in July 1806.  This area was also visited by the famous trapper, trader and scout Jim Bridger in the 1860s.

A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper overlooks the Shields Valley
A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper “Thunder Jack” overlooks the Shields Valley – artist Gary Kerby
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack

The above sculpture by local artist Gary Kerby was dedicated in 2006. Titled “Welcome to the Shields” it is nicknamed “Thunder Jack.”

Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT.  Old neon and a question...is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT. Old neon and a question…is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign

And of course, I finally found a nice wall mural on this trip.  This one on the side of the Mercantile building takes you back to the early 1900s in Wilsall. This was painted by Gary Kerby, the same artist that made the pioneer sculpture pictured above. Gary is a resident of Wilsall. Kerby has painted murals in Montana (I saw another of his works in Cut Bank last year), Oregon and Washington.

Wilsall Mural in Wilsall, Montana
“Wilsall Unleashed”  Mural in Wilsall, Montana by Gary Kerby
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT

Continuing south on US 89, there are miles of open range ranchlands with the amazing mountains in the background.

US 89 heading south.  This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 heading south. This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT

Livingston, Montana is one of those wonderful communities nestled in the mountains (like Leadville, CO – see my post about Leadville).  There are old buildings, old neon signs, and majestic mountains framing the buildings.  I spent 30 or 40 minutes in Livingston to capture the feel of this town. The town is also touted as the “Original Gateway City to Yellowstone National Park.”

The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Dan Bailey's Fly Fishing Supply
Big Fish on the store front of Dan Bailey’s Fly Fishing Supply (see website)
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana

After a breather in Livingston it was on to Yellowstone National Park via US 89.  From Livingston, the highway basically follows the Yellowstone River, which was running very heavy due to runoff from the mountains. The mountain scenery at this point is amazing.

The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The Absaroka Range (Western Beartooths) and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston

Not too far south of Livingston I came across a small wayside chapel with a splendid view of the Yellowstone River and Emigrant Peak (10,915 feet) of the Absaroka Mountain Range. The chapel was built in 1968 and had once sat on a small hilltop overlooking Yellowstone River adjacent to the rest area on US Hwy 89. It’s been a landmark as well as a curiosity. The chapel is always open providing shelter and a resting place for weary travelers. The chapel is 12 foot tall including its steeple; the building is 10-by-14 foot with stained glass side windows. There are eight wooden seats facing a white cross on the pulpit.

US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park

I soon found myself in the touristy town of Gardiner, Montana. The town definitely caters to the tourists and adventurers. It is also home the entry point for the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the massive Roosevelt Arch. Constructed under the supervision of the U.S. Army at Fort Yellowstone, its cornerstone was laid down by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

Entering Gardiner, Montana
Entering Gardiner, Montana
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything

And thus ends my journey on Montana’s US as I enter through the Roosevelt Arch into Yellowstone National Park and eventually into Wyoming.

Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana

From this point I entered Wyoming on my way to Mammoth Hot Springs and US 212 which will take me across the northern section of Yellowstone National Park and into the Beartooth Mountain Range.  That will be the subject of my next post!

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