Montana Road Trip: Zipping across North Dakota on US Highway 2




US Route 2 in North Dakota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I continue my series on my Montana road trip and my drive along US Route two across the northern border from Michigan to Montana.

Welcome to North Dakota
Welcome to North Dakota

As one progresses further west after leaving Minnesota, you soon discover that the land is flatter, full of prairies and grasslands and not as many lakes and streams as one would see in Minnesota.

US Route 2 in North Daota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I spent the night in Grand Forks, North Dakota and then proceeded to head west early in the morning. The first thing I did was look for the famed Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks. Unlike others with a similar smiley on them, this one has a smiley face on the one side and a winking smiley face on the other. It is always wonderful to start the day off with a smile!

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks

After driving around Grand Forks for just a little bit, I proceeded forward on my drive and, for the first time since starting on US Highway 2, I deviated from the route to head north to an unusual destination. If you need advice on speed limits in this area, you may get it from here.

US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND
US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND

Before heading north I passed through Niagara, ND and a stop at the historic monument for the Old Fort Totten Trail which was used by the Sioux to assist in delivering mail.  From here I proceeded to Petersburg, ND, another old small town.  I came across their old Curling Club building.  Who said that Curling was only a Canadian sport?

Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND
Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND

A few more miles down Highway 2 I went through the town of Michigan, ND (population 425)…returned to Michigan after a couple of days (hehehe).

Michigan, ND
Michigan, ND

Michigan, ND has a Barn Quilt Trail, which is common in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, but I have not really seen these in other states in my travels.

Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND

Finally, before heading north off of US Highway 2, I passed through the town of Lakota, ND.  This town is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.  From here I would head north on ND Hwy 1.

Welcome to Lakota, ND
Welcome to Lakota, ND
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND...looking west
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND…looking west

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1

One of my “goal destinations” in North Dakota was to see the unique pyramid near Nekoma.  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 SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND
The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND

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. Depending on the threat, the system could also provide a limited defense of a wider geographical area, including other offensive Minuteman missile fields as well as civilian population centers. It was operational for approximately eight months.

SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
Sumoflam and Pyramid
Sumoflam and Pyramid

This unique facility is fascinating to look at.  The pyramid was actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation.  It used the target trajectory and classification data from the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) along with additional data supplied by its multiface phased array radar. This site provided additional surveillance and target tracking and also performed the function of track and guidance for the Sprint and Spartan missiles.  Following is a video that explains some of what happened in the 1970s.

The pyramid shaped MSR is by far the most unique building on the site. 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. The MSCB underground areas held additional radar equipment and the data processing and command/control systems. The adjacent underground power plant provided the generating capacity to operate the MSR’s battle management systems.

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
MSR and power buildings
MSR and power buildings

The pyramid was not the only thing of interest in the area.  Nekoma, ND was the support town for the facility, though most of the staff came from the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND (notice they used a New Mexico flag and not the Mexican flag….)

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.

Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine

I continued north on Hwy 1 into Langdon, ND to see if there was anything interesting there.  Langdon is about 15 miles south of the Canadian border and has about 1800 people residing in the town.

Downtown Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND

As I drove around I found the town park which actually had one of the Spartan missiles used at the complex in Nekoma.  I thought that was unique.

Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND

From Langdon I proceeded to head west on ND Hwy 5 and then south on ND Hwy 20 to pass though Munich, ND.

Welcome to Munich, ND
Welcome to Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND

From Munich I continued south into Cando, ND to get some Can Do Spirit!!

South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
Cando, ND
Cando, ND

Cando, ND is one of my token unique named towns.  It got its name as follows:

“…and in virtue of our authority we select this location and name the town ‘Cando’ to show you that we can do it.”

Capt. Prosper Parker
February 14, 1884

Cando Police, Cando, ND
Cando Police, Cando, ND

Cando is also the “Duck Capital of North Dakota.”

Sumoflam Cando!
Sumoflam Cando!
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND

And there were a couple of interesting things in town….

Randy's Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Randy’s Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Cando Water Tower
Cando Water Tower

From Cando I headed west on ND Hwy 16 and then south on ND Hwy 3 into Rugby, ND which lays claim to being the geographical center of North America.

ND Hwy 17
ND Hwy 17
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND

According to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey, the geographic center of the North American continent is located approximately 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota. The approximate coordinates are given as latitude 48* 10′ North, 100* 10′ West. The field stone pillar was erected in 1932 on US Hwy 2 and ND Hwy 3.

Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND (Notice the HUB Motel sign in the background)
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND

A few more scenes from Rugby…

Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND

I had finally returned to US Hwy 2 and proceeded westward toward my next planned stop which would be Minot, ND. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church Museum, in Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-size replica of the original church built in about 1250, now in Bygdoy Park in Oslo.  It is all wooden inside and I would call it “immaculately simple” in its architecture.

Dragons atop the Stave Church
Dragons atop the Stave Church
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
Top of the Stave Church
Detail of the top of the Stave Church
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors
Detail of the Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors

The wood carving is intricate and beautiful in this church. This work was apparently done by professional wood carvers Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Norsk Wood Works in Barronet, WI.

The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

A stone’s throw from the Stave Church is the 30 foot Dala Horse which is apparently the most recognized Swedish symbol in the world. In central Sweden, wood scraps from the local furniture-making trade, paint-pigment from nearby copper mines, and long winter evenings bred the development of the Dala Horse. Traditions vary in giving credit to woodsmen and to soldiers for originating the craft. Dala Horses from the Nusnäs-Mora area first appeared with their familiar bright decoration in the 1800’s when the kurbit, or flower patterned saddle, was regularly added to them. There is actually a website dedicated to the Dala Horse.

Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with Dala Horse

From Minot I continued on to Williston, ND.  This is the heart of the North Dakota oil industry and “fracking.”  There are about 200 drilling rigs in the area. (Read an interesting article about this from National Geographic).

Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
An old house as seen on the road to Williston
An old house as seen on the road to Williston

Along the way I got a photo of this old homesteader’s house in the prairies.  In the background you can see an oil well pump.

Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA
Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA

Williston is a modern Boomtown as “roughnecks” make their way to the town for oil jobs. North Dakota has the second highest level of GDP per capita, generating about $69,000 in economic activity per resident. Only Alaska ranks higher as a result of this oil boom of the 21st century.

Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers

As I drove into town and through town, I was amazed at the number of “extended stay” hotels, prefab apartments, huge trailer complexes and more that had gone up to house all of the oil workers.

Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town

The other thing I noticed was the terrible traffic and all of the road construction and infrastructure building in a town whose population is now bursting at the seams. The photo above represents the nearly 45 minutes that it took me to drive through the town in almost constant stop/go traffic on the congested roads.

Typical scene in Williston - trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
Typical scene in Williston – trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
An oil rig in Williston, ND
An oil rig (or derrick) in Williston, ND

For Fracture Drilling, the oil rig (or derrick) is used to drill both vertical and horizontal portions of the well.  These are actually temporary in nature, and, depending on the well depth and number of wells developed, these will remain on site for a week to as long as eight weeks. There is a great definition of how the complete process works on Halliburton’s website. I saw a number of Halliburton facilities in Williston.  I know this is a controversial process, and I am not condoning or complaining about it here.  I believe that many of us have no idea how it is done.

Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston
Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston

From Williston I headed west into Montana for an overnight stay in Glasgow, Montana.

Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
Sun and sky in eastern Montana
Sun and sky in eastern Montana

I finally arrived in Glasgow, Montana late after driving all the way from Grand Forks, ND, about 490 miles. They only had one motel left in town with any availability due to a state softball tournament.  For the first time in ages I stayed in a 60s style motel with neon and a real key for the door on one of those plastic diamonds with the room number.

Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana
Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana

(12708)

4600 Miles of Back Roads Bliss

Following My Bliss
Following My Bliss!
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT

As I returned home from my long nine-day trip across America I wanted to take a quick look back at all the events.

The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND

Over the course of this trip I have covered 12 states, over 4600 miles, taken almost 2000 photos (including over 100 “selfies” and have seen all kinds of things.

The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN
The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN

The big highlights of this trip were visiting the Paul Bunyan and Big Blue in Bemidji, Minnesota, driving up the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming/Montana, and hitting Carhenge in Nebraska.

The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.  One of the highlights of the trip
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. One of the highlights of the trip

Along with these, I saw many other interesting places. I had numerous oddball sites along the way including a pink elephant, big bears, Jackalopes and many other roadside attractions.

Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming
Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming

This trip took me along many US highways as I generally avoided the interstate whenever possible. I was fortunate enough to drive a big chunk US Route 2: all the way from Ironwood, Michigan to the eastern edge of Glacier National Park where US 2 intersects with US 89. That route has some amazing scenery, lots of variety and other wonderful things.

US Route 2 in Wisconsin
US Route 2 in Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana

As I noted above, I took Route 2 all the way to where it met US Highway 89. I later drove US 89 from the US 2/US 89 intersection near Glacier National Park along the eastern rim down to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Throughout my years of travel I have covered a good portion US 89 all the way down to Mexico and all the way up to Canada but never in one fell swoop. In my opinion, US 89 is probably the most scenic of all the US highways. US Route 66 may be the most famous, but US 89 passes by a number national parks and monuments, as well as numerous other scenic places. From the north you would drive by Glacier, then Yellowstone, continue south through the Rocky Mountains, down through southern Utah near Bryce and Zion national parks, crossover Lake Powell at Glen Canyon dam, head towards Flagstaff and pass Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, then pass the Grand Canyon, and continue south all the way to Mexico. An amazing drive down nature’s “Grand Staircase.”

Scenes from US 89
Scenes from US 89
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

As with most of my trips, I also captured the abundance of wildlife, some of which I was able to photograph. I had close-ups of deer, antelope, bison and a few waterbirds. I drove through the wetlands of Minnesota, the marshlands of North Dakota, and the sandhills of Nebraska, all of which had an abundance of waterfowl.

Antelope in Wyoming
Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some amazing people along this road trip. I met some expert woodcarvers in Wisconsin and I met with rice growers in Wisconsin. I had a long talk with the people in Bemidji, Minnesota. While in Douglas, Wyoming I got to meet with the people there about the Jackalope got my “official” Jackalope hunting license and other goodies from them. At Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming I met a photographer from Wisconsin who also writes blogs and has many similar interests in travel. I hope to exchange stories and photos with him. Then at Carhenge I met a time lapse photographer and some other interesting people and even donated my MARDUP (Married Up) license plate to the Carhenge gift shop. I don’t want to forget the small Old Trail Museum in the small town of Choteau, Montana with dinosaurs and other unique things.

Hell's Half Acre in Wyoming
Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Donating "MARDUP" license plate at Carhenge
Donating “MARDUP” license plate at Carhenge
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs

As with most of my trips, I didn’t visit all of my planned locations. But along the way there were many in expected surprises that I ran across. These are what really make these trips worthwhile! Perhaps two of my most exciting surprises were visiting Rock City in northern Montana ( with my Grandkidz) and Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming. Both of these are basically uncharted geographic and geologic formations that are really amazing.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana

As always, I was delighted to be around the mountains! I was fortunate to be able drive along the eastern rim of Glacier National Park at sunrise and see the beauty of the snow-covered mountains there. Driving down US 89 from Shelby towards Yellowstone, I saw an abundance of wonderful mountain vistas. Then one of my bucket list trips was accomplished on this as I drove the Beartooth mountain range which sits atop the border of Montana and Wyoming. That was an amazing adventure as I drove all the way up 11,000 feet to the “Top of the World” as they call it there. Deep snow surrounded the roads and the vistas looking down on the mountains were absolutely breathtaking.

A scene from the 'Top of the World" looking down on the Beartooth Range
A scene from the ‘Top of the World” looking down on the Beartooth Range
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park

This trip will actually provide me enough content to warrant a number of blog posts for me as I visited so many locations and saw so many different things. In the past, I have tried to throw it all into one giant blog. But this time around I met with people and I dug a little deeper and took more pictures of various locations so that I can focus on the smaller picture items. For sure I will have blog posts about US Route 2, US Route 89, the Beartooth, Bemidji, Douglas, and probably a few others.

Mountain Scene in Montana
Mountain Scene in Montana
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND

With the new technology of wireless devices, I was able to take a lot of “selfies” along the route. My goal was to get 100 selfies, but I actually got 96 on this trip. Using Instagram, I hash tagged them with #100selfies and shared them on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. Ultimately, I plan on a “100 Selfies” blog post including all of the photographs and the stories behind them.

Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI

Of course, I cannot neglect noting the real reason I took the trip which was my grandson Kade’s baptism. It was amazing to be able to spend time with my four grandchildren and my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron for four days in Shelby, Montana.

With grandson Kade for his baptism
With grandson Kade for his baptism
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana

During the course of this trip, I probably took over 2000 photographs. Much of them were scenery and unique sites. But I also captured the sense of the fading America – the old neon signs, the old abandoned houses and barns, schools and churches, the small-town theaters and their marquees. I captured small-town murals and Wall art.

Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Neon sign for Bahr's Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Old Neon sign for Bahr’s Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
Part of the front display of a "collectibles" shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2

I also captured an abundance of nature including beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing cloud formations, wildlife, wonderful vistas of the prairies and mountains and many many shots of scenes from the road

Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go

For me, these trips are not about the destinations. These trips are about the experience. It is all in the trip! This nine-day adventure, as with other long trips I have taken the past couple of years, will leave me cherished memories to the day that I die.  Watch soon for detailed posts about the trip.

DSC_7401
Bison poses for me in Yellowstone National Park
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Sandhills Drive - Nebraska Route 2
Sandhills Drive – Nebraska Route 2

(1628)

Car Art: Cars in art around the US




DSC_9365One of the more unique American traditions along the Less Beaten Paths is the recycling of auto parts for art. Indeed, a couple of the most famous roadside attractions in the US are made from cars. This post will look at a few pieces of “car art” that I have seen over the years and, then, at the end, I will note a few others that are out there and worth a visit from all of us — some that I hope to get to over the next couple of years.

"Spindle" by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008

Probably one of the two most famous Car Art pieces that I am aware of, this car shish-kabob called “Spindle” and created by artist Dustin Shuler (1948-2010), became ultra famous after being featured in Wayne’s World. It has also been featured in on the cover of a book (called Oddball Illinois: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places), on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps. It was originally commissioned by the shopping center owner, David Bermant, who donated his BMW car to be placed second from the top of the sculpture.Shuler himself owned the red 1967 VW Beetle that crowned the sculpture.The foundation of the sculpture reached nearly 30 feet into the ground; the cost of erecting it was over $75,000.

Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007
Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007

The cars on a spike never did res well with some of the citizens of Berwyn, Illinois, and thus in 1990 they voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued that it drew tourism to town and had become an icon. The owner of Cermak’s Shopping Center argued the same. But, alas, in July 2007, it was announced that the shopping center was to be redeveloped and that the site of the sculpture was earmarked for a new Walgreens store. New controversy ensued and finally, in May of 2008 the structure was taken down.

The impaled cars on the spindle, from top to bottom, were:

  1. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
  2. 1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
  3. 1981 Ford Escort, blue
  4. 1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
  5. 1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
  6. 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
  7. 1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
  8. 1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.

When I was at Cermak’s in 2007 I actually made a video of Spindle along with some of the other art at Cermak’s. Here it is….

Perhaps just as famous is the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas. Like the “Spindle“, this site has had controversy and has been featured in movies, advertisements, comics, etc. It is most certainly one of the most well known Roadside Attractions in the U.S.

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, supposedly at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

The cars have gone through numerous iterations…completely black, completely white, stc., when used for ads and commercials. But, soon thereafter, the tourists with the spray paint cans make their way to make their marks on the cars. So, this ends up being a “stationary attraction” always in a state of change.

Bottom of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
Underside of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo

Due to the popularity of Cadillac Ranch, there have been a few imitators, none of which I have been to yet, but hope to get to sometime in the near future. These include:

VW Slug Bug Ranch – Conway, Texas

Slug Bug Ranch - this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com
Slug Bug Ranch – this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com

The Slug Bug Ranch consists of five VW Beetles buried nose first in the ground. There is also an older 1930s car on the site. As with Cadillac Ranch, people have left their mark in spray paint.

 

 

 

Combine City – Canyon, Texas

Combine Ranch
Combine Ranch – photo borrowed from Lovin Our Life Blog

This place even has their own website (see combinecity.com). According to their site, “Combine City began with one Combine Harvester planted in the ground. Over time, that solitary Combine has welcomed 13 more. In total, 14 Combines are planted, standing as a tribute to the great nature of the West Texas farmer.” Unlike Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, Combine City does not allow folks to come in and spray paint.

 

Airstream Ranch – Dover, Florida

Airstream Ranch - located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida
Airstream Ranch – located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida

Indeed, this is not cars…it is Airstreams, but these are a great addition to this collection. These are located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida and have been the subject for many photos in the past. My good friend, the musician Antsy McClain has actually done a photo shoot here for some Trailer Park Troubadours stuff (see below).

 

Antsy McClain - Airstream Ranch
Antsy McClain – Airstream Ranch

Like Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, the Airstream Ranch has not been without controversy. Neighbors have argued that it was unsightly, but, ultimately, the Tourist Attraction and Art Factors won out.

Like the other sites, this attracts tourists from all over and has been used in advertisements, etc.

The historic value of Airstreams in travel always leads to an interest in these aluminum domiciles on wheels. There are rallies all over the country and one can always see them on the road. Indeed, many are happy to be “Living in Aluminum” and following the Aluminum Rule – “Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”

 

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Rabbit Ranch - Staunton, Illinois
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those iconic Route 66 stops on the back roads of America. Located just west of Interstate 55 in southern Illinois (and a short drive north of St. Louis), it lies along the old Route 66. Along with tons of Route 66 memorabilia, they have a set of buried cars.

 

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge – May 2014

As with the others above, there are buried cars, but, in this case the creators of Carhenge tried to emulate the famed Stonehenge of England. They too have their own website, including a history of the Jim Reinders creation. This 1987 piece of Car Art has 38 automobiles and there are other pieces of Car Art on “Car Art Reserve”. Like the locations above, Carhenge has been the subject of numerous commercials and film productions.

All of the locations above are big tourist attractions for the back roads adventurer seeking the offbeat and quirky. But, there are many other smaller pieces of car art and/or “car displays” around the country, many of which I have had the opportunity to see. Here are a few.

Flattened Car - Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois
Pinto Pelt – Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois

The flattened car (called “Pinto Pelt“) is another creation by Spindle artist Dustin Shuler and is also located in Cermak’s Plaza. This too went the way of the world apparently in the reconstruction project in Berwyn’s once famous shopping center.

Art Car Museum - Houston, Texas
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas is dedicated to true Art Cars, those cars that have had art added to them. According to the “Art Car Manifesto“, “an art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and style that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.”

Art Car Museum
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum website has a great Photo Gallery of some of the more unique cars featured at the museum. When I visited in 2010 the museum was not open so I didn’t get a chance to get any good car shots. But, along the way I have found a couple on my own…

Art Car at Third Street Stuff - Lexington, Kentucky
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:

The Smoke Sax - Houston, Texas
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas

The Smoke Sax” was built in 1993 by artist Bob Wade of Austin, TX. It is 70 feet tall and is made of an oil field pipe, an upside down Volkswagen Beetle, beer kegs, canoe, hub caps, a surf board and chrome. Until March 2013 this was located at the Horn Bar and Grille on Richmond Avenue in Houston, TX. However, in March 2013 it was disassembled and will be eventually added to the unique folk art center called the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. They also are the sponsor of the Houston Art Car Parade.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax

Clear across the country in Wolf Creek, Oregon an artist has created two Spider Bugs out of old Volkswagens. Roadside America covered these and, it turns out that these are not the only ones around. There are actually dozens of them. The website Weburbanist has a fine page dedicated to a number of these from around the U.S. including Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Ontario, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and even in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Spider Volkswagen - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Car - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Karmann Ghia – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Heading back eastward one can venture into Kadoka, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park and see a unique piece of art made from car parts, including a smashed car as a base…

"Scrappy" the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang - Kadoka, South Dakota
“Scrappy” the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang – Kadoka, South Dakota

Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In - Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud Drive-In – Driggs, Idaho

More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall - Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Old Trucks - Rio Brazos Music Hall - Granbury, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising

Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma
Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma

Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:

Big Daddy's Restaurant - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s Restaurant – Lake Norman, North Carolina

Big Daddy’s is located in the heart of NASCAR Country in North Carolina. And to prove it they have a number of cars on their roof and on their lot.

Big Daddy's - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s – Lake Norman, North Carolina

The Route 26 Mart in Scottsbluff, Nebraska touts itself as an Americana Convenience Mart and has on old finned Chevy on its roof to pull you in….

Route 26 Mart - Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Route 26 Mart – Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…

Pioneer Auto Show - Murdo, South Dakota
Pioneer Auto Show – Murdo, South Dakota

Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.

Angel's Diner - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner – McAlester, Oklahoma

Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??

Longhorn Limo - at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limo – at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, home of the 72 Oz steak, offers rides in their Longhorn Limos.

Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas

I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:

Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon
Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the iconic and well known Nash AirFlyte that sits outside of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Iowa, better known as the home of the History Channel’s American Pickers.

Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa

The only Corvette Factory in the world is in my home state of Kentucky, in Bowling Green. They are also the home of the Corvette Museum and they have a nice one on a pedestal…

Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Finally, there are all of those old trucks and cars that scatter the landscape in yards and fields around the U.S. These can be seen on back roads and some are obviously used as yard decor…

Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old Car with mannikin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car with mannequin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota

I have a dozen more of these, but I think you get the “pictures.” So, get out and Enjoy the Ride and be on the watch out for those old vehicles that helped someone else Enjoy the Ride in the past!!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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