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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.
There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.
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!!
There are, of course, many other dragons out there.
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.
Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Life size and REALLY REAL looking.
And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country
and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?
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
The C Towns
Cactus Flat, South Dakota
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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)
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)
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)
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.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Throughout 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
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
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.
NUMBER 3 – CARHENGE
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.