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.
Willie Nelson Shrine – LSA Burgers – Denton, Texas
Nanobozho Muffler Man – Bemidji, Minnesota
Number Hill – Arco, Idaho
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.
I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.
There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.
One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as
part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.
One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.
I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.
But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture. And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!
I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.
The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river. An amazing feat of engineering.
I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.
Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.
Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.
Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars. They look futuristic and are cool to drive over. I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.
Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.
Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular. But they are not the only religious buildings.
The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.
I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.
And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.
Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.
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 N Towns
Nicholson, Pennsylvania is a rather non-descript town in the eastern part of the state, close to New York. But, it does have one major attraction….The Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct) which is 2375 feet long , 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall !!!!! The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915. Amazing to think that this bridge is over 100 years old!! See more about the bridge HERE.
Nekoma, North Dakota
Go north on ND Highway 1 from US Highway 2 in central North Dakota and it will take you to Nekoma, North Dakota, not too far from the Canadian border. Like Nicholson above, the town is rather non-descript and practically a ghost town except for a few wind turbines and one other major item – America’s largest pyramid. In the middle of nowhere. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views. See more about northern North Dakota in my 2013 post HERE.
US Highway 61 in Mississippi is known as the Blues Highway. From the Tennessee border near Memphis all the way to Natchez are historical towns filled with blues history. In the midst of all of this is Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe….the epitome of vintage novelty architecture. Built in the 1940s, this unique place is a MUST SEE and MUST STOP destination if anywhere close. All of the food is home made. I had a nice sandwich with their wonderful homemade bread. But their homemade cake was to die for!! I couldn’t resist…. See more about southern Mississippi in my 2014 post HERE.
Neah Bay, Washington
In 2015 my wife and I flew to Seattle to visit our daughter and her family. While there, we all went northwest to the small town of Neah Bay, which is located on the Makah Indian Reservation. It is a small fishing town nestled in a corner by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the east. Much of the area near the Pacific is high cliffs over looking the ocean. Lots of Makah Culture surrounds the town. It is a beautiful place that is a long, fun drive! See more about our 2015 visit to Neah Bay HERE.
There are not many Mormon historical sites as important or famous as Nauvoo, Illinois. As members of the LDS Church, my family has visited there a few times both before and after the completion of the current temple there. The town is full of Mormon history, many small shops, and folks dressed in period clothing doing things as they did in the 1800s, such as making soap, printing presses, etc. Every year they also have a magnificent pageant that covers the history of the LDS Church including the storied history of Nauvoo. See more about Nauvoo on their website HERE.
Back to the West Coast, but in Oregon. Along the famed Pacific Coast Highway (US Highway 101), Newport sits on the Pacific southwest of Portland and is home of Mo’s Seafood, which supposedly has the best Clam Chowder in America (and I can attest to the fact that it was amazing!!). It is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which the mural above represents. See more about Mo’s and other unique eateries all over the US and Canada HERE.
Want to see a HUGE picnic basket? Visit Newark, OH, home of the Longaberger Basket Company. Their headquarters building is shaped just like a picnic basket. No Joke!
Normal, Illinois (Honorable Mention)
Not a lot to see in Normal, Illinois. But I do like the town name. I have written a bit about Normal HERE.
Nice, California (Honorable Mention)
Then there is a place in California I visited in 2015 called Nice. Just stopped for a picture with the sign! Be Nice or go away! See more about Nice and other central California oddities HERE.
New Salem, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
Finally…the humongous Holstein known as Salem Sue in New Salem, North Dakota. Talk about udderly moooving roadside attractions. Read about our 2005 visit to see Salem Sue and a number of other GIANTS along Interstate 94 in Minnesota and North Dakota HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.