U is for Unique Monsters: Dinos, Dragons & Other Monsters – #atozchallenge

People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons.  Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive.  All we have are fossil evidences and legends.

A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon.  I have seen hundreds in my travels.

Dragon Biting my head off – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.

Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI

Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first.  First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI.  According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”

A giant monster sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller

Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country.  In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center.  Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.

20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI.  Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.

Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit.  Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!

Big Dragon – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Welcome to Jurustic Park

And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.

Hungry Dinosaur – Wally Keller collection near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Scrap Metal Dinosaur – work done by Wally Keller – near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.

Sumoflam and Larry Vennard at his Iron Sculpture Park in Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway “T” Rex near Centralia, MO
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL

This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

 

A closeup of the fire!
Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

There are, of course, many other dragons out there.

“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Dragon with Cowboy Boots at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX
Metal Dragon on a Building – Clayton, New Mexico
Guitar Playing Scrap Metal Dragon – Harrietsville, Ontario
Dragon head – Salida, Colorado
Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

But, its the dinosaurs that impress.  Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters.  In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Connecticut
A T-Rex at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, MD
A 15 foot dinosaur overlooks Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs – located in Choteau, Montana on the “Dinosaur Trail”
Big dino in Bynum, Montana
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY

Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Life size and REALLY REAL looking.

Dinos break out of Indianapolis Children’s Museum
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum

And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country

A Dinosaur Sighting outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural history
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Colorful Dinosaur near Carnegie Museum, originally part of DinoMite Days in 2003
Scrap Metal Dinosaur chasing a ram – Glasgow, Montana
Rudyard Dinosaur, Rudyard, MT
Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Grazing Dinosaur – Harrietsville, Ontario
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino, in Wall, SD

and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America, WY

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A to Z Challenge: The C Towns #atozchallenge

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 towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

C The C Towns

Cactus Flat, South Dakota

Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flat, SD
Prairie Dog -- standing watch in Cactus Flats
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flat
Badlands at Sunset
Badlands at Sunset

Visiting National Parks is always a fun adventure and especially this year as the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  One of the great parks in this country is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  Near the northeast entrance and right off of Interstate 90 at Exit 131 is a place called Cactus Flat. As with most National Park entrance areas, this is a touristy area with a couple of “tourist traps” such as the Badlands Ranch Store.  And just near the trading post is the ‘World’s Largest Prairie Dog,” a six ton pink giant that overshadows a REAL Prairie Dog community where you can feed them and take photos.  Read all about my 2013 visit to the Badlands HERE.

Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
"Javelin Man" by Larry Vennard
“Javelin Man” one of many scrap metal sculptures created by Larry Vennard of Centralia, Missouri

I have had a passion for “collecting” scrap metal sculptures from the around the country.  My collections come in photographs of said objects as most are way too heavy and too large for a car.  Most of these artists make them as a hobby and then display them on their properties (see my special post about these HERE).  Back in October 2013, on a return trip from Omaha, we made a visit to the community of Centralia, Missouri to track down one of these artists.  Larry Vennard is a nice guy and a fun artist.  He has a number of scrap metal dinosaurs sitting in his front yard on Highway T.  Check out my full post about Larry HERE.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Portland Light
Portland Head Light

In the summer of 2015 my wife, one of my daughters and some of the grandchildren took a drive to Connecticut to visit our son.  While up in New England, we also made our way up to Maine to visit Old Orchard Beach, but also visited the famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Read about the entire visit HERE.

Climax, North Carolina and Climax, Kentucky

Climax and High Point, NC
Climax and High Point, NC
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY

Most road trips have their highs and lows.  But occasionally the trip can reach a Climax.  In my case I made a trip to Climax, North Carolina and then on to High Point, North Carolina in March 2012.  I stopped halfway there to call my wife and tell her I was somewhere between Climax and High Point. HA!

On another March trip, in 2009, with my wife in tow, we took a back roads “staycation” in Kentucky along KY Hwy 1912 (Climax Brushcreek Road) and I nabbed the photo of the Climax Christian Church. I even joked at that time the for members of the church there, it was always the climax of their week!

Choteau, Montana

A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana

From Canada to Mexico, US Highway 89 is probably one of the most scenic routes in the country. Up in Montana it runs along Glacier National Park.  One of the communities along that route is the town of Choteau. This town is one of the gateways to Glacier and offers a wonderful museum in the Old Trail Museum which offers large dinosaurs, a grizzly bear exhibit and a number of other fun things…even a great place to get an ice cream cone!  Check out my trip down US 89 in Montana from 2014 — RIGHT HERE!

Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue at Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY

Not too far from my home in Lexington, KY is yet another National Park…Mammoth Cave National Park.  Like the other two listed above, this one is surrounded by tourist traps and a Gateway town known as Cave City.  Cave City is one of those touristy towns that has been around since the 1950s.  Along with the Route 66 type of feel with neon and old motels, it is also home to one of only 3 remaining Wigwam Motel Villages, a vestige of the early travel days of the late 1950s and 1960s.  The town is also home to Dinosaur World, which features a number of giant dinosaur statues. Cave City is accessed from Exit 53 on Interstate 65 south of Louisville.  You can learn more about the Wigwam Village HERE.

Charm, Ohio

Charm, Ohio
Charm, Ohio
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH

I am fascinated by other cultures, especially those that live in the US and Canada.  From the Hopi and Navajo Indians to the Amish and Mennonites, some people choose alternative lifestyles without electricity, running water or otherwise.  In my years of travel I have visited a number of Amish communities and one of my favorites is Charm, Ohio.  As its name implies, it has a simple charm to it.  To get there you take Ohio 557 south from Berlin, Ohio.  But be careful, this is the heart of Ohio Amish country and there could be a slow moving buggy on the road.

Chelsea, Michigan

Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company

On one of my trips to Michigan, I made way into the town of Chelsea.  My daughter is named Chelsea, so I thought it would be fun to stop at the Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory and get her a namesake teddy bear.  Chelsea is located on MI Hwy 52 south of Pinckney and Hell and is basically off of Interstate 94 west of Ann Arbor.  It is quaint little town with beautiful architecture, the Teddy Bear Factory and is the home of the Jiffy Company, makers of that famous corn muffin mix.  You can read about my trip there in 2008 by going HERE.

Champaign, Illinois

Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road

Deep in the heart of Illinois and a little south of Normal (in both the literal and figurative senses!) is the cool little town of Champaign, Illinois. This town is off of Interstate 74 west of Indianapolis and has some fun, kid friendly places to visit.  The best place for a visit is Curtis Orchards.  An orchard and pumpkin patch, they offer a real yellow brick road and have a number of Wizard of Oz themed attractions, murals and even the cafe, which is called the Flying Monkey Cafe.  In the back part of the orchard there is a huge metal Indian statue shooting an arrow.  Check out more about the fun visit I made in 2012 HERE.

Cut Bank, Montana

Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank, Montana
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation

For a number of years my daughter and her family lived in Shelby, Montana.  During my visits there I made a few treks down US Highway 2 into Cut Bank, Montana in order to get to Glacier National Park.  Cut Bank is one of the gateways to Glacier and has a number of interesting and even quirky sites.  There are a number of excellent wall murals dotting the town, a huge railroad trestle for railroad enthusiasts and then the “World’s Largest Penguin” statue that touts the town as the coldest spot in the nation.  Check out a write up about my road trip across the Hi Line of Montana back in July 2014 – you can see it HERE.

Caledonia, Ontario, Canada

Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway
Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway

While working in Ontario, Canada in 2008, I had the opportunity to drive all over the province.  One of the interesting stops I found was Caledonia. Caledonia is a small riverside community located on the Grand River in Haldimand County, Ontario and has a population of just under 10,000.  In the late 1880s it became a stop along the Grand Trunk Railway which ran through Canada and into Michigan.  In fact, the 1970s Rock Band, Grand Funk Railroad took their name as a play on this railway.  You can read more about my visit to Caledonia and the surrounding towns of Norwich and Otterville in 2008 by clicking HERE.

Cut and Shoot, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot Police
Cut and Shoot Police – how many Police Departments have Shoot in their name?

I am always in search of uniquely named towns.  There are very few in the country with multiple words in the name, and Cut and Shoot, Texas is one of them.  On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I made my through this town north of Houston just to get a picture with the town hall building….a rustic old piece of art.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see their police cars.  How many police departments actually have Shoot in their name?   Check out more about my drive through…  HERE

China Grove, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to China Grove, TX
Welcome to China Grove, TX

I drove through China Grove, TX back in 2013 on my way to San Antonio.  Indeed, I went out of my so I could see this sleepy little town near San Anton…  (yes, made famous by the Doobie Brothers)

Cool, Texas and Coolville, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Cool Cafe: If We Ain't Shut We're Open - Cool, Texas
Cool Cafe: If We Ain’t Shut We’re Open (and they were actually closed that day!) – Cool, Texas
Old Coolville Wall Mural "Building Community One Block at a Time", Coolville, OH
Old Coolville Wall Mural “Building Community One Block at a Time”, Coolville, OH

Then there are the Cool places to visit.  Cool, TX, which is located on US Highway 180 between Weatherford and Mineral Wells.  Known for their unique cafe, the Cool Cafe, which has been closed both times I went through there. You can see a bit more in my post HERE.   Then, up in Ohio, there is the small community of Coolville, located on US Highway 50 just north of the Ohio River and near the West Virginia border.  You can see my writeup of Coolville HERE.

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Top Ten Travel Photos for 2014

SUMOFLAM PHOTOGRAPHYThroughout my travels I drove over 10,000 miles and took over 3000 photos in 2014. I have numerous shots from the road of quirky places, offbeat sites and some nice looking places.  If you missed my “nature photos”, some of which are from my travels, please check them out on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide Site.  Following are my ten favorite travel shots from 2014 and the stories behind them (and a number of honorable mentions).

NUMBER 1 – OLD PRAIRIE SCHOOL HOUSE

Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white...
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre, Montana. I wanted this one in black and white…more authentic feel

I once saw a photo of this old school house and knew that I had to get to this relic of the past.  So, on my way to Shelby, MT from Havre, I sought to track it down.  Instructions from most are difficult to find, so I figured if I could find the place I could also document its location.  I took color shots, but edited this one to be in black and white. Gives that old-timey feel.

NUMBER 2 – PAUL BUNYAN AND BABE

Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN

It had always been a dream of mine to get to this famed roadside attraction from 1937 located in Bemidji, MN.  I first saw this in a LIFE Magazine Travel book in the 1960s. From that time my wanderlust kicked in and finally, in 2014, I was able to get there.

Pictures shown in LIFE Magazine in February 1945
Pictures shown in LIFE Magazine in February 1945
SumoPaul Bunyan with Sumoflam....done as a complement from Roadside America
SumoPaul Bunyan with Sumoflam….done as a complement from Roadside America (roadsideamerica.com)

NUMBER 3 – CARHENGE

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

Car art at its best, my 2014 visit to this famed roadside attraction fulfilled my goal to hit the trifecta of car art sites (the other two being Cadillac Ranch, which I visited in 2013 and “Spindle”, the Cars on a Spike,  which I visited in 2007)

NUMBER 4 – GIANT HIAWATHA

Another angle of Hiawatha statue, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US
The giant Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US

I went to Ironwood, MI to begin my journey west on US Highway 2, which I drove for over 1200 miles, eventually to Browning, Montana. This giant can be seen down the road as one enters the town of Ironwood from the south.  It was one of many “giants” I would see in 2014.

NUMBER 5 – “I AM MO” MURAL

The enormous "I Am MO" mural in the Lexington Distillery District
The enormous “I Am MO” mural in the Lexington Distillery District, Lexington, KY

Sometimes the best sites are in your own backyard.  This amazing mural was done in the summer of 2014 as part of the PRHBTN Arts program.  A number of murals were added to Lexington.  But this one is humongous!!

NUMBER 6 – GREETINGS FROM AUSTIN

Welcome to Austin Mural - Austin, TX
Greetings from Austin Mural – Austin, TX

One can’t visit Austin without visiting this famed mural.  They continue to update it over the years, but it is well known.

NUMBER 7 – TEE PEE MOTEL

Tee Pee Motel - Wharton, Texas
Tee Pee Motel – Wharton, Texas

A throwback to the 50s and 60s, this motel was rebuilt in the 1980s but left with the vintage style buildings and furnishings.  A few other similar ones can be found dotting the country.

NUMBER 8 – THE GREAT TEXAS SUPPER

The Great Texas Supper at LSA Burger in Denton, Texas

The Great Texas Supper at LSA Burger in Denton, Texas

This mural is play on the Last Supper but features famed Texas musicians enjoying a meal with Jesus.  It was painted by Icon Studios in Dallas.  I got the opportunity to visit LSA Burgers for a special visit before they opened for the day (back in June 2014). They were kind enough to give me a nice tour thanks to Denton’s famed ghost tour lady Shelly Cumbie Tucker. L-R in the painting: George Jones, Selena, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Scott Joplin, Janis Joplin, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and T-Bone Walker.

NUMBER 9 – MAMMY’S CUPBOARD

Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS

Mammy’s Cupboard is a great place to eat and an awfully unique roadside attraction.  I found out about it as I researched my trip to Galveston.  I had to not only grab a photo, but had to stop for a bit to eat just so I could say I have eaten in this historical roadside attraction.

NUMBER 10 – THE BIG FISH

I love this angle - Big Fish Eats House!!  In Bena, MN
I love this angle – Big Fish Eats House!! In Bena, MN

This Big Fish is, in my opinion, one of the “Big Three” roadside attractions in Minnesota (though there are dozens of other good ones – the other two are Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, above, and the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth). I got a number of angles, but I loved this one where it looks as if the giant fish is about to devour the little house.

SOME HONORABLE MENTION SHOTS

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Showmen's Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
Showmen’s Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
The Disaster Memorial by David. W. Moore in Galveston, TX
The Disaster Memorial by David. W. Moore in Galveston, TX
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility in Nekoma, ND
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from Highway 288 in Angleton, TX
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from Highway 288 in Angleton, TX
Jackalope Country - Douglas, WY
Jackalope Country – Douglas, WY
Detail of the "Whispering Giant" of Red Lodge, Montana...one of many across the country
Detail of the “Whispering Giant” of Red Lodge, Montana…one of many across the country
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Boudreau's Antiques Boudreau's Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL.  Vintage neon and a classic old building.
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL. Vintage neon and a classic old building.
Cincinnati's "The Singing Mural" (detail) by C.F. Payne
Cincinnati’s “The Singing Mural” (detail) by C.F. Payne
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
The Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI at exit 126 on I-94
The Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI at exit 126 on I-94
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
a portion of the Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
A portion of Billy Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)

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