Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista. And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.
Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring. Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations. Enjoy the ride and the views.
The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.
The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.
I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.
When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.
Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.
Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night. The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon. In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument. It is just one more canyon in Arizona.
Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.
Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.
But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.
I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.
Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.
Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.
The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.
But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.
I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.
With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.
I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.
So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.
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. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The W Towns
Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton. My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years. Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich. He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town). You can see my full post about this trip HERE.
When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls. But not too far west of there is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above. The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town. Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.
There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them. One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20. This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti. It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family. He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992. The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances. Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.
Wall, South Dakota
There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction. However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota. I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere. Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.
Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)
As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there. On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts. A few examples are shown above. You can see more and the whole story HERE.
Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world. It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate. Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two. I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.
Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)
In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad. Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010. A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.
Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)
I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above. The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there. There is also a museum. Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.
West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)
I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section. And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area. But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above. This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada. You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.
Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)
I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names. I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013. I definitely wanted a photo with the sign. What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner. So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same. You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.