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
Moon Township, PA
Muscovy Duck – Damascus, Virginia
Mammy’s Cupboard – Natchez, Mississippi
Mail Pouch Barns – Brinkhaven, Ohio; Friendly, West Virginia; Hargett, Kentucky
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield – Brownsville, Tennessee
Mr. Roger’s T-Rex Statue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mountain Bluebird – The Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Mac the Moose – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Monument Valley – Utah
Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, Ontario
Melt Eclectic Cafe – Cincinnati, Ohio
Metal Green Bay Packer – Pagac’s Bar – Ashland, Wisconsin
Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico
Midlothian Castle – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Home of Mayberry – Mount Airy, North Carolina
Mount Rainier National Park – Greenwater, Washington
Migrating Snow Geese – Arkansas
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Mickey Mantle Statue – Commerce, Oklahoma
Memorial Falls near Great Falls, Montana
Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Dinosaur Tracks – Moenave, Arizona
Mama Santa Pizzeria – Little Eatery – Cleveland, Ohio
Montour Trail – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Miner’s Memorial Mural – Ironwood, Michigan
Mt. Fuji – near Fujinomiya, Japan
Multnomah Falls – Multnomah County, Oregon
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Memphis Egg – Memphis, Tennessee
Mothman Museum – Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California
Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop – Mapleton, Ontario
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.
This is Part II of my posts about our visit to New England, most specifically Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (with a drive through Massachusetts). Day 2 was a nice day of travel south to Mystic, CT and then north all the way to Maine. Following is a map with our basic route
We took a fairly easy morning and went over to pickup our grandson Rockwell, who would join us on this two day adventure and off we went.
Our first stop was at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT. This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs. The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication. Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.)
Fairly easy to get to, you get off at Exit 79-A on I-395 , then immediately take Hwy 2A exit 1. Drive north on Hwy 32 for a half-mile. Wells Dinosaur Haven will be on the left, across the street from the casino. It’s back in the trees and easy to miss, but look for the red house, brown fence, and small dinosaur sign.
Though visiting is free, Mr. Wells requests that you ask to enter. So, we knocked on the door and I even called the number (860-848-0616) to get permission. Nobody was home, so we went in and I made sure that we left nothing but tracks, a Guest Book Entry and a Donation. It really was fun for the kids to walk through and see all of the dinosaurs. The adults were fascinated too!
Jeff Wells’ work is very good. I would count this place among my must see places that would include Jurrustic Park in Wisconsin, Enchanted Highway in North Dakota and others. I will likely do a special post just on this place in the near future.
After our visit in Uncasville, we were off to Mystic, CT for a visit and for lunch. Founded in 1654, the town now has a little over 4000 residents. Many know of the town due to the famous 1988 movie Mystic Pizza which helped kick Julia Roberts and Matt Damon off in their careers. We had actually considered going there to eat, but decided against it after hearing numerous reports that it really wasn’t too good.
But, since it was the site of a well known movie, it was a fun place for a photo op! So, Julianne and I hit the scene and at least got a photo. Wherever I am with my sweet wife is a slice of heaven!
Mystic is actually a very scenic New England coastal village. They have a well known Aquarium (which we didn’t visit due to cost and time limitations), a seaport, which includes a unique museum called The Museum of America and the Sea, and nearby in Groton is the Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum. Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule, so we opted out of these two museums as well. But, we DID have time for lunch and opted for a local eatery that served Thai and Asian cuisine since we are all fond of that kind of food.
We discovered the 4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro on our drive in 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.
The restaurant is not a large place, with only a few tables. The staff was very friendly and helpful (and willing to handle a crowd with three adults and four young children).
Each of the kids got some kids specialities and I think there was some curry ordered and a couple of vegetable dishes. I enjoyed the Pad Thai with tofu. The prices were reasonable and the food was excellent!
With tummies full, and palates pleasingly tantalized, we were ready to take off on the long drive north to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. We hopped on Interstate 95 and stayed on the road through Massachusetts, skirting around the traffic of Boston on I-495, a quick cut through New Hampshire and then into the bottom neck of Maine, my first visit there. With a stop in New Hampshire’s Welcome Center Rest Area (in Seabrook, NH) and then into Maine, I had officially hit my 48th and 49th states in the United States!
After the brief stop in Seabrook, we were back on the road headed for Maine. Unfortunately, I-95 offers few glimpses of the rocky coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. You need to be on US Highway 1 to get those great views. We were hsutling to get to Old Orchard Beacwhile the sun was still up so that the kids could play on the beach and Julianne and I could sit on the beach and watch the sunset.
We had made prior arrangements to stay at the Normandie Motor Inn, a 1960s style Motel that was literally right on the beach. We were a two minute walk from our room to the beach. They had a special rate and it was perfect for us for the one night stay.
I think was actually my first time ever to stay in this kind of beachside motel. I was close back in the 1980s when I stayed in a motor inn near Rehoboth Beach, DE, but it was a five minute drive from the beach. So, it was a thrill for this young-hearted grandpa!
We watched the sun go down and then we watched as some folks came in to do some night fishing for sea bass. Their poles were lit up with blue lights that would shake and shimmy when there was a fish on the line. And, when the fun was over, we made our way into town to find some dinner and enjoyed some fresh seafood at a place called the Bell Buoy Restaurant. It was very kid friendly though it also had a bar. The kids were all happy with their meals.
It was a long day…we were tired and finally made it to bed. The morning would bring us a wonderful sunrise and a new day of fun. I’ll cover that in Part III.