Everywhere a Sign – Some S Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Since man could walk, travel has been a part of life.  The sensational opportunity to see the world has kept most of us from being sedentary. The singular driving force is the strong desire of discovery.

For nearly 50 years I have sought the sensation, the scintillating, the stylish and the silly in my travels.  In 2018, that striving for something special continued.  I hope you will enjoy some of the S Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels. Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Smiley, Texas

Smiling in Smiley, Texas
Smiley, Texas – didn’t find many smiles here
The Smiley Water Tower. Not even a Smiley Face on it!

I was down in Houston in February 2018 and took the grandsons on an expedition.  One of my “goal places” was Smiley, Texas.   I always love places with unique names.  The small community’s name has nothing to do with smiles.  Rather, it was named after trader and sheepherder John Smiley in the 1870s.   The town of about 450 is located at the intersection of US Highway 87 and Farm Roads 3234 and 108.  Honestly, the town looked very depressed and run down.  Probably not much to smile about.

Sunset Motel, Belle Fourche, South Dakota 

Great little place in the geographic center of the continental US!
The Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche, SD
Sunset Motel Sign on a building in downtown Belle Fourche.

When I take a long road trip, I don’t typically plan on a place to stay until late in the day.  I never know how far along I’ll get before it gets dark.  Such was the case with my visit to Belle Fourche.  After traveling west on Interstate 90 thru to Wall, SD, I decided to head northwest on US Highway 85 towards Montana and made it into Belle Fourche.  I always try to stay at a local, vintage motel on these trips nowadays, just for the experience (good or bad).  I got to Belle Fourche at sunset, just in time to get a nice shot of the sunset with the Sunset Motel 5 sign.  It was a nice stay.

Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby, IL
A Starved Rock Carving

I made my way to Starved Rock State Park which is a huge natural park situated on the Illinois River just south of North Utica, Illinois and east of Oglesby, Illinois.  My sole purpose was to track down one of the Whispering Giant carvings by artist Peter Toth.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and hope to visit there for a more extended trip sometime in the near future.  The park has 18 small canyons and numerous waterfalls that can be seen from a number of hiking trails.

Skykomish, Washington

Welcome to Skykomish, WA

Skykomish – interesting name and splendid vistas!  I pulled into Skykomish on a beautiful April day after coming down from the snow-packed Stevens Pass on US Highway 2.  Though the altitude is only 928 feet, it feels completely like a mountain town as it is surrounded by the tall scenic mountains of the Cascade Range.  The name “Skykomish” derives from the Skykomish or Skai-whamish tribe who inhabited the area before any Europeans arrived. The town of Skykomish was officially incorporated on June 5, 1909.  The main purpose of the town was to be a fueling station for the railroad.

Sabine Theatre, Many, Louisiana

Sabine Theatre, Many, Louisiana

The old classic move marquee is slowly disappearing, so, whenever I hit a small town with a huge classic marquee, I want to grab a shot. Such was the case of the Sabine in Many, Louisiana. Built in 1947, the Sabine Theatre was acquired by the town of Many in the mid-1990’s. Like many theatres across the country, the Sabine is now typically used for live theatre, musical performances, occasional movies, and other community events.

Shiner, Texas

Welcome to Shiner, Texas
Shiner Barbeque Company

When I hear the word shiner, I usually think of a black eye.  So, on my trip to see Smiley (see above), I also went through the town of Shiner, Texas.  Located on US Highway 90, the town is now locally famous in Texas as the home of the Spoetzl Brewery,  best known for producing Shiner Bock, a dark German/Czech-style beer that is now distributed in 49 states.  I didn’t visit the brewery, but learned that the town was named for Henry B. Shiner, who donated 250 acres of land in 1887 and then incorporated in 1890.

Sublime Baptist Church, Sublime, Texas

Sublime Baptist Church in Sublime, Texas

Continue East on US Highway 90 from Shiner and you’ll pass through the small community if Sublime.  Isn’t that just sublime?  There isn’t much here.  The population is about 75, and has been since the 1950s. The name was set in 1875 when a post office was established there.

Stardust Motel, Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho
Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Like the Sunset Motel in South Dakota, I ended up in the mountain town of Wallace, Idaho on my way west to Washington in April 2018.  I just stopped in and got a room at the Stardust.  Classic vintage motel sign drew me in.  Nice rooms, good rates and a lovely little town.

Spar Cafe, Olympia, Washington

Spar Cafe, Olympia, Washington

I stopped in to Olympia to have breakfast with some old friends.  We ate the Spar Cafe in downtown Olympia.  First established in the 1930s, the eatery is filled with interesting art.   Originally touted as a “fine eating and recreation parlor,”  can you still see the original bar, artwork, chandeliers, and other furnishings.  I heard that even the drinking water is served up old school—straight from its own artesian well.

Like what you see? 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!!

April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Miscellaneous Leftovers

Steven’s Pass – Washington

On a long road trip like the one I did in April, there are so many places visited, but some didn’t fit into a post for one reason or another.  Here are some odds and ends leftovers from my 6000 mile cross country trek through 14 states.  There is really no rhyme or reason, but the opportunity to address these places in a little more depth.

Papa Joe’s Stop & Go – Crescent Junction, Utah

Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction – fun “tourist trap”

Out in the middle of nowhere in Utah is the small place called Crescent Junction at the junction of I-70 and US 191.  There is really not much there and it is basically a tourist-trappy stopover point for folks heading to and from the lovely canyons of Moab.  At the center of it all is Papa Joe’s Stop & Go.  Called a C-Store (short for Convenience Store), Papa Joe has a number of unique “attractions” in store.

Welcome to Papa Joe’s
Mystery Machine replica (from Scooby-Doo) — flat tire and all
Another funky van at Papa Joe’s
The usual Tourist Trap fare — I have seen this around the country
Gotta get a cup… maybe?
Skullduggery – lots of skeletonesque souvenirs
A Gnasty Gnome…
Crop Circle Popcorn – Strawberry Lemonade
Caramel Crop Circle Popcorn
Sumoflam and alien in Bad Ass Joe’s

The main store has all of the amenities… a restroom (if you are a paying customer of course — but face it, water is in short supply out here), drinks and food and quirky and kitschy knick-knacks and then there is the “gourmet” crop-circle popcorn.  Recently he has opened a second building next door that he is calling “Bad Ass Joe’s Jerky” and it has a UFO-esque theme complete with life size cutouts of Star Wars characters and aliens.

Inside the Jerky Store
Souvenirs
Papa Joe’s “Lightning McQueen”

If you get online, you will see many nasty reviews of the place.  And, honestly, Joe and his gal are really not the friendliest sorts.  But, I am always the optimist and try to find the good out there.  The place offers some fun photo ops, the “gourmet” popcorn is OK.  Prices are quite high, but then, I have been to dozens of places like this across the country.

He has a replica Mystery Mobile from Scooby-Doo, a South Park themed car, a Lightning McQueen “replica (actually an old Toyota Camry) and some other odds and ends.  They are all in poor repair.  Mystery Mobile has a flat tire (or two).  But heck…its quirky.  Just make sure you are filled up with gas BEFORE you get there.

Belle Inn – Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Belle Inn – Belle Fourche, SD

You know you have found THE PLACE to eat when the sign in the door tells Cowboys to “scrape shit from boots before entering.” When I stayed the night in Belle Fourche I sought after a locally owned place that would perhaps have some comfort food.  I found that place in Belle’s Inn.  Not just burgers, but other things like chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, etc.

Sign at Belle Inn front door
A scene from inside the Belle Inn – Be Nice or You’ll Get the Boot
Belle Inn – Comfort Food

There were only four staff members when I got there.  The chef looked like a renegade biker (and turns out that indeed he was!!  From Lead, SD — but he didn’t like his Harley. Preferred his Kawasaki!).  The food was good…freshly made chicken fried steak, onion rings, mashed potatoes.  And it was indeed a comfortable price.

Kreative Korners Krazy Kreatures – Kingston, Washington

Kreative Korners Krazy Kreatures

I am a sucker for wood carving.  And this little collection is a trip!

After we had gotten off of the Ferry in Kingston and were driving to Port Orchard, WA, this place just suddenly showed up on a corner.  I had to turn around and do my thing.

Some fun stuff here.  Most of the carvings are pretty well life size — five or six feet tall.

Some of the Kreatures
Found her! – She’s a mermaid
A bearded guy and a burger bearing bear
Gotta have an eagle!!
A Fish in Jeans…. whaddya call this guy?
Mmmm….. Ice Cream (well, not really)

Murals and Metal Art – Ottawa, Illinois

Detail of “Day of the Great Debate” by Don Gray in Ottawa, Illinois

Yet another town with lots of murals, this is Abraham Lincoln country and Ottawa was where the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas took place.  Murals and park statues depict the scene and the history.

Ottawa calls their mural art projects “A Brush With History,” a program which began in 2002.  There are now eight or nine murals in town including the massive “Day of the Great Debate” mural by artist Don Gray.

Day of the Great Debate mural by Don Gray in Ottawa, Illinois

Some of the other murals I found in my quick drive through town include the following:

Peltier Glass Factory mural by E. Colin Williams and Murals by Jericho.
A Section Ottawa as a Canal Town mural by Gregory Ackers
More detail of Ottawa as a Canal Town
A section of the mural Ottawa’s Earliest Residents by Roger Cooke Fine Arts
The head detail from “Bending”

But murals aren’t all that is in the town.  Over in Allen Park, along the Illinois River, I found one of the Whispering Giants.  While there, I also discovered two big metal sculptures, which I didn’t know anything about. Created by native artist, Mary Meinz-Fanning, these historical art structures were fashioned from parts of Ottawa’s old Hilliard Bridge, originally built in 1933. Ms. Meinz-Fanning built these two to commemorate the bridge: the yellow sculpture is named “Reclining” and the red one is known as “Bending”.

Reclining Sculpture by Mary Mary-Meinz Fanning – Allen Park in Ottawa, Illinois
Bending by Mary Meinz-Fanning in Ottawa, Illinois

Cheyenne Murals in a Sinclair Convenience Store – Ashland, Montana

Men’s Room Door at the gas station

I had to stop for drinks and gas while on US Highway 212.  I was driving over the pass and stopped in Ashland, Montana, which sits in the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  Went into this little Sinclair gas station in the small town and was stunned by the fabulous art.  Turns out the guys working the registers and managing the store were also the artists.

Happy Chief art in the Gas Station in Ashland, MT
An eagle on the all and the women’s restroom
A Sumoflam Staredown!!

Bear in a Box Wood Carvers – Allyn, Washington

Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI.  (2014)

A few years ago I was driving on US Route 2 through Maple, Wisconsin when I ran into a place called Grizz Works.  It was filled amazing chainsaw wood carvings of bears and other unique characters.  I had to feature it on its own post.

On my trip in April, driving down Washington Highway 3 into Allyn, Washington I ran into Bear in a Box, another “must stop and get photos” wood carving place.  Their work was a tad more whimsical than was Grizz Works, but amazing nonetheless.  I loved it.

Bear in a Box – Allyn, WA
Sumoflam at Bear in a Box, Allyn, WA
One of the whimsical Sasquatch carvings at Bear in a Box
Bear in a Box Bear, Allyn, WA
Unique horse carving at Bear in a Box
Another Bear in the Box Horse (and an eagle in the background)
Bear in the Box Owl
Staring down the Sasquatch
Totem Poles at Bear in a Box
Old Smiley the Sasquatch….I love this one.
Bear in a Log at Bear in a Box

Orval’s Used Cars – Delta, Colorado

Orval’s Used Cars – Delta, CO

On my drive down US Route 50 in central Colorado, I came across a most unexpected scene in Delta, Colorado.  I found a “Used Car” lot that carried a couple dozen or more REALLY used cars.  I am talking about antique classics.

In my travels I have come across these kinds of old cars dotting the scenery here and there, and usually only one or two, and sometimes three.  But, in this unique lot in Delta, an out of the way little town in out of the way Colorado, I would have never imagined I would see the collection like this guy had.  In fact, I was so amazed by the collection that I forgot to get a photo of the place’s sign.  But, the place does have a name — Orval’s Used Cars.  And it is like a walk back in time.

Some of the cars in Orval’s
Old Trucks in Orval’s
Some really old fixer uppers in Orval’s
More cars from Orval’s

Murals and Wall Art – Delta, Colorado

Old Egyptian Theater in Delta, Colorado.  Originally built in 1928

While on the subject of Delta, Colorado, a nice little town that came about originally to be a trading post for the Ute Nation and later was the home of Fort Uncompahgre, I should add some of the great murals that can be found here.  I was not able to get all of them, but here are a few.

I am also adding a photo of the lovely Egyptian Theater of Delta, which was built in 1928 and remodeled in the 1990s.  Unusual to find something like this in a small town in the middle of Colorado.

Delta City of Murals mural – “Train’s Arrival” by Seth Weber and Phil Wassell (16′ x 32′)

Delta, like other cities with a number of murals, calls itself the City of Murals as the town boasts at least 15 murals that dot the small city of about 8000.

One of Delta’s many murals – West Elk Wilderness by Ginny Allen
Anna-Dora Opera House Mural by W. Richard Doherty
Mural in Delta, Colorado – Greetings from Delta by Lee Bowerman
Old Advertisement mural in Delta, Colorado

Starved Rock State Park – Oglesby, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby, IL

On my first day of my 6000 mile long road trip across America, I had hoped to hit the three Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” carvings in Central Illinois since they were relatively close to each other.   One of these was located in Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby and Utica, Illinois and not too far from Ottawa (see above).

A Starved Rock Carving
Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois

I had never heard of the park, but some tout it as the #1 Attraction in the State of Illinois (at least, that is what the park says on its website).  I drove around on the main road to find the Peter Toth giant and discovered a number of other wood carvings along the road, a nice lodge and more.  Sadly, this is one of those parks that deserves an all day visit and I couldn’t do that.  The park is apparently full of trails to waterfalls and gorges and more.  All I got to see was a few of the wood carvings and the main lodge.  This is certainly a “visit again” place in the future.

A Boy Scout Carving at Starved Rock
Foxridge Carving at Starved Rock
One of the unique signs at the park. Make sure you know to stay away from the river
A Raccoon Home Sculpture at Starved Rock

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  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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

 

Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana

I love old neon signs!!

Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana

End of Trail Motel – Broken Bow, OK

More good old neon

End of Trail Motel Neon sign in Broken Bow, OK

End of The Trail – Dawkins Rail Trail – Hager Hill, KY

End of Dawkins Line Rail Trail near Hager Hill, KY

Elvis Statue – Memphis, Tennessee

A shot with Elvis in Memphis

Earth, Texas

Welcome to Earth, Texas 
Yes, there is Earth Police

Eagles – The Living Kind – Lexington, Kentucky; Cave Run Lake, Kentucky; Lewistown, Montana

Eagle at Jacobson Park, Lexington, Kentucky
Eagle I saw when driving by Lewistown, Montana
Eagle taken at Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery near Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

Eclipesville USA – Hopkinsville, Kentucky & Cadiz, Kentucky

Three of my grandchildren at the Eclipseville Photo Board (courtesy of Marissa Noe)
Catching the Solar Eclipse in Cadiz, KY
The “diamond ring” effect begins as seen from Cadiz, KY

Ehlenbach Cheese Chalet – DeForest, Wisconsin

One of the two murals that decorate the outside of Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Echo Lake – Mount Evans, Colorado

Sitting on top of the world at Echo Lake near the base of the summit of Mt. Evans near Denver, Colorado

Elephant Buttes – Tuba City, Arizona

Elephant Buttes east of Tuba City on US 180

Eskimo Pie – Onawa, Iowa

Onawa, Iowa, Home of the Eskimo Pie

Elbe, Washington

Small Elbe Church in Elbe, WA

El Kapp Motel – Raton, New Mexico

More great neon

El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM

Eiheiji Temple – Fukui, Japan

Main gate to Eiheiji. Note the monk walking across. He was barefoot. (ca 1976).

Easy Street – Port Orchard, Washington

Easy Street, Port Orchard

Eiffel Towers of Paris, Texas and Paris, Tennessee

These two compete for the tallest – Paris, Texas added a cowboy hat to make theirs tallest.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
The Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat on top

Erie Canal – Medina, New York

Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal

Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Welcome to Egg Harbor, WI

Lake Eufala, Oklahoma

Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma

Egrets – Lexington, Kentucky; Cave Run Lake, Kentucky; Uncertain, Texas

Egret flies off at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
Egret taking a walk along a pond at the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery near Cave Run Lake, KY

Empire State Building – New York City

Empire State Building – as seen from Hoboken, New Jersey

Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Sumoflam on the Enchanted Highway near Regent, ND

Everglades National Park – Florida

Sumoflam at the Everglades in Florida in July 1990

Enjoy the Ride

My Travel Theme!

Sumoflam – Enjoy the Ride

Eagle Art from All Over: Kingston, Washington; Cut Bank, Montana; Joseph, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Oglesby, Illinois; 

Found this eagle in Kingston, Washington
Big mural in Cut Bank, Montana
Eagle statue in Joseph, Oregon
Large eagle sculpture in Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wooden carved eagle at Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois
Eagle in Utica, Illinois
More eagles at Starved Rock State Park

Embro, Ontario

Embro, Ontario, home of the Highland Games

Eighty Four, Pennsylvania

Eighty Four, PA Post Office
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA

Elk Photos – Elkton, Oregon; Yellowstone National Park; Sugar City, Idaho

An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone
Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho

Euclid, Ohio

Welcome to Euclid

Elliston Place Diner – Nashville, Tennessee

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video

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