(Editor’s Note: For my 2019 posts, I will be posting photos from my travels in 2018. I visited 26 states and drive over 13,000 miles in 2018. These posts will feature of few of the road signs and business signs I came across, as well as some stories behind them. )
There are many road signs and store front signs to be seen across this magnificent country. The endlessly marvelous variety of signs and places always has me camera ready. Here are some of the Many signs I found along the way, including some that say Many! Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.
Nashboro Motel, Goodlettsville, Tennessee
It probably ain’t fancy and maybe even a place you won’t want to stay. But the name is great! For years I have referred to Nashville as “Nashvegas,” but got a kick out of this sign when heading into Nashville on US Highway 41. I turned around to go get this shot of a uniquely named motel. I don’t offer any recommendations…unless you want a fun photo.
Nevada Sign, Denio, Nevada
Prior to this stop in Denio, Nevada in April 2018, I hadn’t been in Nevada since my days as a driver for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff in 1983. Yep…it had been 35 years since visiting the great state of Nevada. I crossed this state from Denio on NV 140, through into Winnemucca on US Route 95 and then traveled on Interstate 80 through Elko and Wendover on my way to my old hometown of Murray, Utah. As for Denio, Nevada, it sits in the high desert on the border with Oregon. There are a couple of places there and a store, a couple of miles away at Denio Junction.
Napoleon Scenic Byway to Space, Napoleon, Mississippi
On my way west on US 90 in southern Mississippi, I came across this sign. It was so interesting … a scenic byway to space. Just north of US 90 and a few miles east of the Louisiana Border is the John C. Stennis Space Center, a NASA Rocket Testing Facility. In association with the surrounding areas of the Stennis Space Center, Hancock County, Mississippi created a number of scenic routes through the wildlife rich wetlands (in the Spirit of the Old Spanish Trail, which was the shortest route from St. Augustine, Florida to San Diego, California). US 90 is designated as the Old Spanish Trail. The county has designated eight scenic byways in the area around the space center, including six of which have the “Scenic Byway to Space” name. Napoleon is now unpopulated and never really had a population of more than 100 since its founding in the early 1800s. As for the highway, I never made it to space…still earthbound.
I grew up watching Richard Nixon on TV as youth. I remember him as a President. Nixon, Texas has nothing to do with him… Nixon was founded in 1906 as Nixonville, when the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway built its lines through the John T. Nixon Ranch. The town sits in the counties of Wilson and Gonzales, and can be found at the intersection of US Highway 87, TX Highway 80 and Farm Road 1117.
Like what you see here? 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!!
In April 2018 I took a nice long road trip from my home in Lexington, Kentucky to my daughter’s home in Port Orchard, Washington and back. The itinerary included most places akin to the Good Sam list of campgrounds which my cousin couldn’t stop prattling about. Though I was gone for 15 days, I spent nine of them traveling more than 6000 miles through 14 states. Many of my stops were in anticipation of my new book as I wanted some fresh content to add to it.
In the past, I typically wrote one or two huge blog posts about long roadtrips, but, I have decided that a focus on some of the sites would be more apropos, so I am providing a general overview of my trip herein with maps and a few photos. Following there will be a number of posts about many of the places I visited along the way.
DAY 1/2 – Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa
My first two days were quite eventful as I drove nearly 900 miles with an overnight stay in Bloomington, IL and then proceeded northwest to Storm Lake, Iowa for night two. The weather was rainy and yucky most of the way and by the afternoon of Day 2, had turned into snow and, in some cases, blizzard-like conditions. Not fun!
I had very few stops along the way, with the only planned stops being at four locations to see four of Peter Toth’s amazing Whispering Giants. My next post will be all about the Whispering Giants I visited on this trip and also in past trips.
Day 3 – Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Day 3 was really one of my typical road trip days with plenty of stops along the way, but it was slowed down considerably due to the snow and icy conditions. Despite that, I visited places such as the Corn Palace (a required stop on a route like this as it changes each year), Wall Drug and a few in between. The highlight of this day was seeing the amazing (and fairly new) fifty foot tall Dignity statue at a rest area overlooking Chamberlain and Oacoma, South Dakota. The work was meticulous and lovely.
I decided to stay at a non-chain older Motel on this night and ended up at the cozy little Sunset Motel. In fact, I got there about sunset and was even able to grab a photo of the sunset with the Sunset Motel sign. This is the kind of motel that still has a real key on an old plastic diamond key holder.
Day 4 – Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Wallace, Idaho
I woke up to a cold, snowy morning in Belle Fourche on April 5. It was a concern as I knew I would need to be driving through a mountain range across southern Montana on US 212. Fortunately, the roads weren’t bad until I got up on the pass and then they cleared up with occasional snow showers through Billings, Bozeman and Butte. I was slowed down somewhat, so I ended up stopping in the small mountain town of Wallace, Idaho for the night.
Once again, I stayed at a cool little motel called the Stardust Motel, ironically in the same room number I had the night before. In both cases, I did not request the room numbers.
Wallace is a really unique, touristy town nestled in the Idaho mountains. I’ll have a blog post about this town over the next couple of weeks.
I did get to see some beautiful scenery on the trip and even visited my old high school in Bozeman, Montana as I made my way north towards Idaho.
Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting an old friend and former boss from my days as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ in the 1980s. Roger Vollmer, who later purchased and then sold the company, now resides in upper Idaho and I was able to drop by Cracker Barrel in Coeur d’Alene and have a nice breakfast and a couple of hours of reminiscing. Honestly, Roger really helped me lay the foundation in my work ethic and I had a blast working with him. It was good to see him.
Another great part of this portion of my road trip was hitting US Route 2 from Coeur d’Alene and traveling it all the way to the end in Everett, Washington. I have now traveled that highway from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Washington. I still have a small portion from Eastern Michigan to Ironwood and about 450 miles from Maine to New York to be able to say have driven the entire length. I have driven all of US 66 and all of US 89 at one time or another.
US 2 from Spokane west goes through Washington’s high desert and then eventually into the Cascades and up over Steven’s Pass, which still had snow on both sides of the highway, almost six feet deep in places. It was spectacular!
Upon arrival in Port Orchard, I spent a week with my daughter and her family. We took the ferry into Seattle, I traveled with grandchildren to see the rocky beaches and watch seagulls. Following are just a couple of pics from the visit.
Finally, early on Saturday, April 14, I was back on the road, heading south towards Portland and eventually east, to spend the night in Bend, Oregon.
Travel Day 6 – Port Orchard, Washington to Bend, Oregon
As with some of my other travel days, I had to deal with rain and fog for the first part of the trip. I had hoped for a fun drive down part of US 101 and, despite the weather, I really had a great drive, even if I only drive about 450 miles. Unlike some of the other drives, I enjoyed forests, mountains, snow, ocean scenes and eventually high desert scenes. I also made a stop in Olympia, Washington’s state capital, and visited some friends for breakfast. I’ll have separate posts about Olympia and its awesome wall art/murals. I’ll also have a nice post about the town of Raymond, Washington.
Travel Day 7 – Bend, Oregon to Murray, Utah
Day 7 of my driving days was a long day through nearly 750 miles of high desert through Oregon and Nevada. My destination was my old hometown of Murray, Utah. The drive from Bend, OR to Denio, NV is pretty much through high desert. I took the Frenchglen Highway, which was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day. really not many places to stop along the way. I’ll have a separate post about the Frenchglen Highway (including Brothers, Frenchglen and Fields). It had also been over 40 years since I had set foot in Nevada, so it was fun to get travel blog photos. I spent the night at the home of one of my best friends and had dinner with some of my high school friends and their wives. Great times!
Travel Day 8 – Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado
Day 8 of travel was another long day as I drove nearly 600 miles from Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado. This day once again took me through deserts, high deserts, mountain passes and into some beautiful country. I hit the town of Helper, UT which is nestled in a canyon and was a railroad and mining town. Also passed through Price. When working for a record and tape rack jobber back in 1974-75, I made weekly trips to Helper and Price. Things have changed considerably. Crescent Junction had a unique place, Papa Joe’s, which I’ll write about separately.
The drive from Grand Junction through Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Buena Vista was absolutely beautiful (US Hwy 50), especially going over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet in altitude. On the way down the hill towards Poncha Springs I even go to see a couple of mountain goats crossing the roads.
Once again, I stayed in a local motel. Always interesting.
Travel Day 9 – Manitou Springs, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri
Talk about a long, straight drive. Made the trip from Manitou Springs, after a visit to Garden of the Gods, (which I’ll write about in a separate post), and went through the deserts of eastern Colorado and Western Kansas on a super windy and dusty day. Did catch a pretty amazing sunset as a result of the dust storms. I decided to really go back roads on this leg of the trip by taking the straight as an arrow drive on Colorado Hwy 94 through Yoder, Rush and Punkin Center. The highway eventually met US Hwy 287 near Wild Horse, CO. Basically, the highway was 85.5 miles long running almost perfectly west to east the entire length.
I finally got to stop at a place to eat in Kit Carson, Colorado and then continued east on US 40 in Kansas through Cheyenne Wells, Sharon Springs and Oakley, where I got on to Interstate 70 to finish up the ride into Kansas City. I was fortunate to stay with my good friend Brad Sweeten in KC.
Travel Day 10 – Kansas City, Missouri to home in Lexington, Kentucky
On the last day it was pretty much straight through driving. I enjoyed another beautiful sunrise east of Kansas City and then just made my way home with a couple of restroom and gas stops along the way. What a long, wonderful trip it was!
Over 6000 miles, 14 states, 5 motels, lots of friends and time with family. I traveled through blizzards, rainstorms, snow covered mountain passes, high desert, long lonely highways. Enjoyed sunsets, sunrises, good meals at local places. Saw eagles, mountain goats, mule deer, hawks and assortment of water fowl. And, of course, a variety of roadside attractions along the way.
ENJOY THE RIDE! CHOOSE HAPPY!
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, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late May or early June 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 S Towns
On the banks of the Ohio River bordering the upper panhandle of West Virginia lies the old steel mining town of Steubenville, Ohio. This is the hometown of the famous actor/singer Dean Martin and is known as the City of Murals, with over 25 larger than life murals painted on the sides of buildings around town. The town of over 20,000 seems to be one of those dying steel towns. As I drove around town I got a sense of sadness. Many old crippled folks hobbling along the streets and many of the downtown businesses were welfare-related businesses. Up on the hill above the city there seemed to be a little more life. But, I also saw obvious signs that the town is trying to redefine itself as a historical tourism location with the murals, a new museum dedicated to the Old Fort Steuben and then the Ohio River scenery of course. Check out my 2008 blog post about this and other Ohio River towns HERE.
I visited Idaho a couple of times in 2013 for some work and took the weekends to travel an see some of the sights. One place I had dreamed of visiting was the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Nestled at the base of the mountain range is the pristine little community of Stanley, which boasts a whopping 60-70 residents year round. I could SOOO live in this place. Pristine views, clean air and a few log cabins….even a Teepee…dot the town. There is only one gas station and a couple of places to eat. But what got me was the stunning views. Check out more about my visit to Stanley in 2013 by clicking HERE.
In the early 1980s I attended college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. During my four years there, I spent much of it working for Nava-Hopi Tours as a tour guide. One of my twice weekly trips was to Sedona via the amazing switchbacks of the Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive. Personally, I am a fan of the Rocky Mountains, but Sedona most certainly is one of the most scenic places in the United States. The massive red rocks, the colorful character of the residents, the Pink Jeep Tours, the impressive Chapel of the Holy Cross and more…this is a must see location. I look forward to my next visit to Arizona as I have not been to Sedona since the 1990s.
Santa Rosa, California
In 2015 I visited California to attend the Woodflock event with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. Prior to getting up to Red Bluff, CA where the event was held, I spent a couple of days with some of my acquaintances in the Santa Rosa area and actually got to tour around this funky town. I visited The Hand statue shown above, which is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland. Then there is the ultimate in quirky attractions, a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts. Called “Cyclisk,” this was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture. There are a number of other fun attractions in this artsy little town. You can see many more photos and more details in my 2015 blog post HERE.
If you have been following my A to Z Blog Post, you would have noticed on the A Towns post that I covered both Amarillo in Texas and Alliance in Nebraska. These two locations are home to two of the most well know “Car Art” sites in the United States, namely Cadillac Ranch and Carhenge. Cadillac Ranch is right off of US Highway 66 in Amaraillo. But if you continue east on US Route 66 into Illinois, you will come across a lesser known “Car Art” and Route 66 memorabilia spot near Staunton, Illinois. Known as “Henry’s Rabbit Ranch (also sometimes written as ‘Ra66it Ranch’),” this place celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station. Owner Rich Henry and his wife Linda have built up a shop chock full of Route 66 memorabilia, a collection of old half buried VW Rabbits in their unique replicating of “Cadillac Ranch” (thus Rabbit Ranch….) and even have a pen full of live rabbits. See more about my 2013 visit HERE.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Oregon three times between 2011 and 2012 while working for iHigh.com. On one of the trips I attended the Oregon High School Athletic Directors Conference at a resort near Bend and, along the way, drove some back roads, one of which took me into the town of Sisters, Oregon. The town gets its name from a set of three mountains in the Southern Cascades known as “The Three Sisters.” From town you can also get a spectacular view of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon’s second highest peak. Though not as high in altitude as Stanley, Idaho, this westernesque town (their biggest employer is a huge ranch), Sisters is another place that I could most certainly love and enjoy. Definitely worth a visit!
Do you like hamburgers? How about hamburger history? Back in 2012 on a visit to Wisconsin, we made our way into Seymour, which claims to be the home of the hamburger. According to its history, Charles Nagreen (1870-1951), put ground beef patties in a bun and began calling them Hamburgers back in 1885. They have an annual hamburger festival and there are a couple of giant hamburgers in town. You can see more about Seymour by clicking HERE.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Perhaps you prefer Christmas year round. You can get that in the village of Santa Claus, Indiana. There are a number of Santa Claus statues around town, Christmas-themed shops, a Post Office that has a Santa Claus in the front and even a Santa Claus Police Department!! As a family, we made a visit there during the Christmas season of 2015 and had a good time. You can see more about our visit to Santa Claus and a ton of photos HERE.
Sandwich, New Hampshire
On a trip to Connecticut in the summer of 2015, we made our way into New Hampshire and Vermont so i could knock off the remaining states in my quest to hit all 50. One of my “wish list” stops was to go to Sandwich, NH in order to get a sat a sandwich there. We even planned the trip such that we would get there around lunch time. But, alas, there are no Sandwich places in Sandwich, New Hampshire (that we could locate anyway.)
Sweet Grass, Montana
Way up north in Montana, practically at the Canadian border is the town of Sweet Grass, Montana. Though predominantly a border crossing, the town has a couple of interesting things. First off, there is a church with a blue roof…a rarity on the back roads of America. And then there are the interesting geologic hoodoo formation of the Jerusalem Rocks. These outcroppings can be visited via a rough dirt road. I have written about these and some other similar formations in a post HERE.
Shakespeare and Stratford, Ontario
As I have noted before, in 2008 I was working in Canada. On one a couple of occasions I got to visit the small town of Shakespeare and the neighboring town of Stratford in Perth County. Full of little antique shops and some beautiful scenery, these are certainly two unique places to visit. You can read about some of my exploits in this part of Ontario in 2008 in my post HERE.
Sikeston, Missouri (Honorable Mention)
I wanted to mention Sikeston, Missouri namely because it is home to one of America’s more unique eateries…Lambert’s Cafe – the Home of the Throwed Rolls. Offering great home style cooking, big portions, and yes, Throwed Rolls – literally throwing them to you across the room – it is a fun and delicious place to eat. Close to the entertainment town of Branson, Sikeston is a great stop along the way. Read more HERE.
Success, Missouri (Honorable Mention)
I was heading north on US 63 in Missouri one day. As I got to Houston, MO (in Texas County — NO JOKE!!), I passed the sign above. I took the 16 mile trek to look for Success. The road to Success from Houston is lined with old doublewides and rusted out cars. No joke!! And once you find Success, you will see that there is not much there. At least you can say you found it.
Soda Springs, Idaho (Honorable Mention)
And my final S Town is Soda Springs, Idaho. It sits on top of many hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here. In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here. Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world. It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool. On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser. The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber. The water is around 72 F. It is now controlled by a timer. It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round. You can read more about my visit to Soda Springs and other areas in Idaho and Wyoming HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.