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.
Like so many other people, I have a bucket list of places I want to visit in my lifetime. On my trip in May 2014 I was able to scratch off TWO of them! The first was a trip across US Route 2 from Michigan to Montana, with a stop in Bemidji, MN to see the giant Paul Bunyan and Ox statues (so it was kind of a three for the price of two really). You can read about that portion of the trip HERE.
The second, and perhaps more thrilling and fulfilling to me, was being able to travel US Highway 212 across Yellowstone and then over the Beartooth Highway, one of America’s greatest Scenic Byways. This 68 mile trip makes its way through Yellowstone and then from the Northeast Entrance across northwest Wyoming and winds its way into southwest Montana ending at Red Lodge. I have dreamed of taking this highway for almost a long time.
While entering the Hot Springs area, I came across a beautiful elk.
Just south of Mammoth Hot Springs I finally left US Highway 89 and got on to the Grand Loop Road, which goes across the northern section of Yellowstone to the beginning of US Highway 212. at the Northeast section of the park. The Grand Loop is a very scenic drive and features mountain vistas, lakes and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities.
In May 2013 I visited Yellowstone and saw a few bison, but on this northern part of the loop, there were hundreds of them.
A good part of the Grand Loop Road runs alongside Lava Creek, which was full to overflowing due to snow runoff. There were plenty of scenic views with mountains, meadows, lakes and the creek.
Once I arrived at the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, I began my journey on US Highway 212. I felt very fortunate that the Beartooth Highway was open for travel. They had opened it only five days prior to my visit so my timing was perfect!
The first stop along the way, after leaving Wyoming, was Silver Gate, Montana. Silver Gate is located just one mile from the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park and is only three miles from Cooke City. The small town is located on land homesteaded by Horace S. Double, for which he was granted a patent on May 2, 1897.
And just past there was Cooke City, Montana. The town of about 100 people was at one time a mining camp for gold and had The population consisted of 227 voters who that supported two smelters, two sawmills, three general stores, two hotels, two livery stables and the local meat market.
And Cooke City is also the real gateway to the Beartooth Highway. Just three minutes form downtown I was already high up in snow country and heading higher in altitude.
The road then veers southward again and back into Wyoming for the fun stuff!
As the highway climbed the grand views were amazing
The road continued to climb and the snow grew ever deeper. The snow on the side of the road, as seen below, was the actual depth…it was not scooped there….
The road from Cooke City dropped for a while so I was in some prairie with mountains. I took this panorama photo with my iPhone.
After about 25 miles of driving and continuing the climb, I got to the Top of the World Store which sits at 9,400 feet altitude. I had to stop for some photos and a snack and a restroom break before the great ascent to Beartooth Pass.
From Top of the World the winter wonderland became more amazing as walls of snow grew higher. I was loving it!
From this point the road was switchbacks all the way up to the pass. I actually took a video of some of the drive through this winding wall of snow.
As I got to the top of the pass, at nearly 11,000 feet, I truly felt like I was on top of the world. Following are more photos of the spectacular scenes from the highway.
From the pass, the road still wound its way slowly down hill as I went north back into Montana. The views and scenery just kept coming.
I finally made my way through the switchbacks and then down the hills for the 30 mile drive to Red Lodge, Montana, which is the northern gateway to the Beartooths.
Basically, from the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone to Red Lodge, Montana, via US 212, took me about two hours and 15 minutes, including stops along the way. One of the most amazing and beautiful 2 hours of my life (not counting marriage and children being born of course!!).
Red Lodge, Montana is a nice little town booming with personality. There are old neon signs, unique eateries, a Peter Toth “Whispering Giant” (see my writeup from Idaho Falls’ “Whispering Giant”), and I even came across a unique art shop that makes animals out of juniper.
Hungarian-born and American immigrant sculptor Peter Toth has made a name for himself fomr his awe-inspiring giant wood-carved “Whispering Giants.” Over the years Toth has created at least one of these huge statues (all different) for each state in the United States. All of them collectively (at least 74 are documented) are known as the “Whispering Giants”. This was the third one I have seen on my trips in the past three years. Many of the Whispering Giants can been here.
Then there are those juniper animals. I love the creativity of artists around this country. Rocky Fork Juniper is owned by Lee Kern and Pete Imbs and they have other artists as well. Here are a couple of their unique works (they were closed when I got there).
As the day wound down I made my way east from Red Lodge on Montana 308 to Belfry, then south on Montana 72 towards Wyoming, which turns into Wyoming 120, to end up overnight in Cody, after a wonderful day of driving through some of the most beautiful country in America.
The next post will cover my return trip leg from Cody through Douglas, WY (the Jackalope capital of the World) and then on to Alliance, NE, the home of the famed Carhenge.
While in Rexburg for the last week of March and the first week of April, I had the opportunity to take a couple of trips south to Blackfoot and Idaho Falls, where I was able to catch a few of the interesting sites in the area. I even caught an amazing quarrel between a Canadian goose and a couple of seagulls.
Idaho Falls is a nice little town at the base of the foothills with the Snake River running through the middle of town. It is currently the largest city in Southeastern Idaho with a population of nearly 57,000 and a metro population of a little over 136,000. Like Rexburg, it has a large LDS (Mormon) population and a large temple.
One of my trip highlights was being able to see the large Indian wood carving by Hungarian-born and American immigrant sculptor Peter Toth. Over the years Toth has created at least one of these huge statues (all different) for each state in the United States. All of them collectively (at least 74 are documented) are known as the “Whispering Giants”. I hope to be able to begin my quest to visit many more over the years. Many of the Whispering Giants can been here.
The Indian depicted above is a combination of tribes native to Idaho. This sculpture was the 37th state in the series. As with all of his works, Toth did the work free of charge with supplies and materials donated by local businesses. The local Chamber of Commerce hosted the dedication program. Governor John V. Evans accepted and dedicated the sculpture.
Ironically, just north of the Whispering Giant is a unique shop called Wild West Designs Antler Art. They have many interesting home furnishings inside, but it was the unique wooden carvings outside that caught my eye!!
The giant bear above adorns a place in the front of the shop. This wooden grizzly is about 16 feet tall.
Further into town I came across a piece of nostalgia in Scotty’s Hamburgers. This iconic drive-in has been around Idaho Falls since the 1960s.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to eat there since they were closed on Sunday and that was my day to drive thru town.
Like Rexburg, the crown jewel for Idaho Falls is the large LDS Temple. Dedicated in September 1945 it was the first LDS temple in Idaho and is one of the older LDS temples, currently the 8th oldest in operation (see entire chronology here). It was the only temple dedicated between 1927 and 1955. Originally, it did not have an angel Moroni on top. This was added by helicopter in September 1983.
The area around the temple is a beautiful riverine green space — a haven for relaxation and ducks, geese and seagulls.
As I drive around looking at the wonderful river sights, I came across some folks feeding the birds…it was a virtual crowd of ducks and geese and seagulls. I was quite amazed to see them all congregated together fighting over the morsels of bread coming their way.
But, the real excitement came when a goose got a big piece of a baguette and was then attacked by a couple of hungry seagulls. I had never seen anything like this so I had the camera on fast snap to get the following sequence of shots.
It was really something watching this 2 minute battle for the bread!!
Idaho Falls still has a number of nostalgic locations. The Bonneville, an old Chinese restaurant, appears to be closed now, but the sign remains. I love old neon signs like these. This one is especially classy with the dot on the I being a star.
And who can resist the Yummy House? I had to, they were closed.
As I typically do, if I see a Wind Farm, I tend to go there. I am so excited to see natural energy in action and the wind farms are always like a giant flower garden blooming out of the ground. The Wolverine Creek Wind Farm is housed in the foothills west of Idaho Falls, in the town of Iona. There are 43 turbines, which can be seen from Rexburg on a clear day. This site produces about 64.5 Mw of power.
I was excited for the chance to get to Blackfoot, Idaho so that I could visit the famous Idaho Potato Museum. So, on a trip to Pocatello, accompanied by a business partner from Rexburg, we stopped in Blackfoot on the way home for a quick look see.
When we arrived it appeared to be snowing, but I actually think it was potato flakes falling from the sky to welcome me!!
Like other similar museums have visited in the past (like the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, the JELLO museum in New York, the SPAM Museum in Wisconsin…to name a few), the focus of this museum was a certain food, in this case, the potato. During the visit I learned a great deal about potato farming in Idaho, I learned that Sweet Potatoes are not related to a potato and I saw the Guinness Certified “World’s Largest Potato Chip”, which is housed in the museum and was created by Pringle’s in June 1991.
For fun, we took a drive around the small town to see another giant, a few murals and finally get a lunch at one of the oldest drive-ins (and eat ins) in town.
This former Uniroyal Gal (there are still of a few of these around the country) turned waitress adorns the front entrance to Martha’s Cafe. She has gone through a couple of changes. She was formerly blonde (in 2011) and actually held a plate (see photos on this blog).
As with many of my town visits around the country, I also take a liking to wall art and murals. I found a whole set of murals on the side of the wall near the fairgrounds.
We also spotted a couple of other older wall murals in town
Finally, we stopped at a great place for lunch. I had a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and almost ordered a Rice Krispy Treat Milk Shake!!
Rupe’s Burgers is like so many other lat 60s/early 70s drive-in diners. Great greasy not good for you food…and lots of it. This one opened in 1962 as an A & W Root Beer. It was open thru 1978 when the Rupe family sold it. The place became R & B’s thru 1986 and then went out of business. In 1987 the Rupe family bought it back. The place seats about 100 inside and has room for 20 cars outside.
I finished off a couple of different visits and after a two and a half week stay in Idaho, it was time to get back on the road home to Kentucky!!