A to Z Challenge: The D 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

D The D Towns

Douglas, Wyoming

Large Jackalope - Douglas, WY
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY

As I travel across the US and Canada, I am always on the lookout for quirky things and big statues.  Well, Douglas, Wyoming provides plenty in that area.  Touted as the Jackalope Capital of the World, Douglas has jackalopes dotting the town, including a couple of big ones.  And “What is a jackalope?” you ask…  Check out my full posts on Douglas HERE and ALSO HERE.

DeForest, Wisconsin

Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Pinkie the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little "Chick-Fil-A" on Burger King!!
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little “Chick-Fil-A” on Burger King!!

Perhaps Wisconsin is the home of the most Big Things.  Throughout the state there are big cows (it is a cheesy state mind you) and big mice.  There is a big bulldog in Beloit (see here).  However, not much tops the big pink elephant at the Shell One Stop in DeForest, WI and the big cow named Sissy is also one of America’s biggest.  Read the bigger story and see more photos HERE.

Discovery Bay, Washington

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, WA
Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty's
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

The theme of quirky runs throughout the veins of this post.  I now move on to Discovery Bay, WA on US Highway 101 northwest of Seattle, (near Port Townsend, WA) home of the uniquely quirky Fat Smitty’s burger place.  Surrounded by a menagerie of interesting and colorful wood carvings on the outside and walls and ceilings plastered with dollar bills (and other denominations), this is a place to behold.  Oh, and yes, the burgers aren’t too bad either.  See my full post about my August 2015 visit to Fat Smitty’s HERE.

Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas

At the "Filed of Corn" - Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
At the “Field of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas, former home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007

I have never been to Dublin, Ireland, but I have been to Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas.  The two American towns named Dublin are distinctly different, but both offer some surprises.

In Dublin, OH you can play amongst ears of corn at the “Field of Corn” is a publicly funded art installation in the city of Dublin, Ohio. The installation consists of 109 concrete ears of corn positioned in rows and standing upright in a grassy field.  Sculpted by Malcolm Cochran, a professor of sculpting at Ohio State University, the park was named the Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, and was originally farmed by Sam Frantz, an inventor of several hybrid corn species.  This is not the only unique public art work in Dublin.  This is one of a few towns that has worked to bring in a plethora of unique, cool and sometimes quirky works of outdoor art. Check out the Dublin Arts Council’s website.

In 2007 I took a trip with my son to Texas and Arkansas (I noted our visit to Booger Holler in my B Towns post of the #AtoZChallenge).  On that same trip we visited the town of Dublin, TX, near Waco, to visit what was, at that time, the only remaining Dr Pepper plant in the world that made Dr Pepper with pure cane sugar.  The plant has eventually converted and the museum was moved to Waco.  But I note it here because, back then, they changed the name of the town to Dr Pepper, Texas once a year (and set the population at 1024 — if you are a Dr Pepper fan, you’ll know what the 1024 means).

Dragoon, Arizona

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
The Thing's Outhouse -- Great Seats Available
The Thing’s Outhouse — Great Seats Available
AssKickin
Ass Kickin’ nuts…super spicy hot. Made in Goodyear, AZ and found at many tourist shops. Great for munching on long road trips (as long as you have some icy cold liquid to wash them down)

I mentioned Bowlin’s resorts in my post on Akela Flats in the A to Z Challenge last week.  Bowlin has another fun touristy place in Arizona called “The Thing.”  This is one of those places that has billboards hundreds of miles away promoting the unusual site (other’s that I recall seeing in diverse places include “Where the hell is Wall Drug?” (South Dakota), “Visit Little America” (Wyoming), “Rock City” (Tennessee).  I’ll actually hit these places in future posts. ).  As for an explanation of “The Thing”, you’ll have to make your way south of Tucson on Interstate 10, pay the fee and go see it for yourself.  Make sure you visit the famed Outhouse and get some of those amazing Ass Kickin’ Peanuts!  They are available at many fine tourist trap shops around the southwest.

Denton, Texas

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX

A well kept secret of a place is Denton, Texas.  Just north of the excitement of the Dallas metroplex, Denton sits quietly with its grand architecture, ghost walks and a unique burger joint that features a wonderful, yet controversial mural call the The Great Texas Supper, a play on the Last Supper painting but instead has a number of dead Texas musicians.  The LSA Burger Company also features a tribute to Willie Nelson, a Texas shaped “Texas Instruments” sculpture and bars covered with old record albums.  See my full post HERE.

Durant, Oklahoma

Sumoflam with Durant's Giant Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant’s Giant Peanut
Scrap Metal Horses - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Painted Horses in Durant, OK
Painted Horses in Durant, OK

Durant, Oklahoma is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.  Home of the “World’s Largest Peanut” statue, it is also decorated with dozens of painted horses. Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.   Though Durant lays claim to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, its a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.  See more about my trip to Durant and other locales from back in 2013 HERE.

Danville, Illinois

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

I visited Danville, Illinois on a trip to Omaha in 2013.  This is one of those towns you can spend a good day in.  With dozens of wall murals depicting town history and town heroes, the art is great. But there are other unique pieces of art such as the Danville USA Brick Sculpture shown above.  But most interesting to me was the Lindley Sign Post Forest. The story is unique….Carl Lindley, one of the mural artists in Danville, has the same name as Carl Lindley (also originally from Danville, IL), the founder of the original sign post forest in Alaska (see here). This tradition started in 1942 by Carl K. Lindley, a U. S. Army Engineer, 341 company “D”. When building many signs in the area, he added a sign to a sign post which stated, “Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles”.  The Alaska version has over 47,000 signs.  I think the more mini version in Danville has about 200.  Read the bigger story and see photos in my 2013 post HERE.

Dallas, South Dakota (Honorable mention)

Welcome to Dallas, SD
Welcome to Dallas, SD
Water tower in Dallas -- in the middle of the road
Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road

In 2013 I trekked across the country to Idaho and, along the way, took a drive along the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, which covers US Highways 18 and 50. (See the full post HERE).  One of the unique little places I visited was Dallas, SD.  Unlike the huge metropolis of Dallas, Texas, this small community has no stop light but it DOES have a water tower right in the middle of the road!

Denver, North Carolina (Honorable mention)

Big Spider, Denver, North Carolina
Big Black Widow sculpture, Denver, North Carolina
Stacy's Restaurant, Denver, NC
Stacy’s Restaurant, Denver, NC

If I am going to include a Dallas, I might as well also include a Denver, this one in North Carolina.  Denver is a town of a little over 13,000 fine folk who enjoy the luxurious life on the west shore of Lake Norman, just off of NC Hwy 7.  I visited some friends there in March 2012.  We went downtown to dinner and lo and behold I saw a giant black widow!!  Creepy.  Sculpted by artist Dave Simpson, it apparently advertises a pest management company. The gleaming arachnid, with its eight-foot-long legs, perches on a boulder.  After that appetizing moment we had a wonderful dinner at Stacy’s Restaurant. It was a great local home cooked meal type of place.

Damon, Texas (Honorable mention)

I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon...
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon…

Another town with a unique water tower and a fun post office is Damon, Texas.  A small place in southern Texas, it has one of the smallest water towers I ave seen and it boasts the name “Planet Damon.”  Fun fun.  See my full trip 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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#TBT Montana Road Trip: Day 1 – June 15, 2005

Montana Road Trip Journal

June 15, 2005: Today we departed on our trip to Great Falls, Montana for Amaree’s wedding, the second in a string of 3 weddings in 8 weeks. Accompanying me on the trip is Seth, Solomon and Marissa, who will be married on the 25th of June in Louisville, which is in 10 days. Our Road Trip will comprise about 4500 miles as we drive north thru Indiana and Illinois and then across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and into Montana. Our return will be a
similar trip, except thru a corner of Wyoming and then across South Dakota and then Minnesota and Wisconsin. A general map of the trip can be seen below:

My goal was to leave at 5:30 AM since we have such a long trip ahead of us. However, we got out at 6:00 AM. Then, we had to stop at Wal-Mart to get some new tennis shoes for me since I blew my others ones out yesterday.  After Wal-Mart, we made a quick stop at McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed on the road.

Before I go into detail about the trip, I need to make a special note of gratitude to Randy O’Neal and his wife.  Randy works with me at Lexmark.  We have worked in the same are for nearly five years.  Anyway, last Sunday Randy called me out of the blue.  I was curious why he would call me on a Sunday and wondered if there was a work
emergency that came up.  In the long run Randy told me that he and his wife would like to offer us the use of their conversion van for the long trip. They felt that this was probably the best gift they could give for these weddings and that it would fill a big need since he knew we were planning on renting a car for the trip.  I told him how far we were going and that I would feel bad if anything happened.  But, he continued to press and so I graciously accepted.  This was such an extremely kind and thoughtful act on the part of Randy and his wife.  I know that this will make the trip more comfortable for all of us.  Below is a picture of the van:

Randy’s van – our wheels for this trip

We finally got on the road at about 6:45 after taking care of all the errands.  We headed west through Versailles and then onto I-64 towards Louisville.  We then headed north on I-65 through Indianapolis and on up to Gary, Indiana.  By the time we got to Gary it was already 11:45 AM.  My goal was to be in Chicago at our first stop by 10:00.  But, due to traffic and a late start, we were already way behind.  Nonetheless, I was thrilled to be on the road.  I had not taken a road trip like this for a couple of years and love to get out and see the countryside and the personality of these United States and all that is offered.  I kind of themed our trip to see the ‘Wacky and Wonderful’.  We would be going across the Northern states to Montana and they are fairly well known for a number of cheesy and interesting sites (and in the case of Wisconsin–REAL Cheesy).  I spent alot of time scheduling out all of the sites, most of which would be free.  But, we also had a tight schedule to keep since we had to make it to Great Falls by late Thursday night.  So, we really had to push it.

Our first planned stop was in Chicago, at Millennium Park.  We finally pulled into the underground parking lot in downtown Chicago at 12:54 PM, basically three hours later than planned.  The traffic was TERRIBLE into Chicago.  There were instances that we didn’t even move along Lake Shore Drive.  But, I wanted to at least get to Millennium Park.  I had read about it in the AAA Magazine and
thought it would match our theme.  I also felt that this would be a great point for all of us to get out and stretch and walk a bit.

Chicago traffic was terrible.
Thus parking garage was just one of many novelty sites on this trip.

Millennium Park is right in the center of downtown Chicago, on the location of Grant Park.  It is a 24.5 acre park that features some fabulous art and architecture.  I will not go into the history of the park here, but instead will provide a link to the park’s website:

Millenium Park

My hopes in visiting the park were to see the three main works: The Crown Fountain, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Kapoor sculpture, entitled “Cloud Gate”.

Our first stop was the Crown Fountain.  The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens (apparently over 1000 subjects were videoed), a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where
faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.  I was excited to see the fountains and see how the faces were projected on to them. More details about the fountains can be found here: The Crown Fountain

Here we are visiting Crown Fountain:

Seth and Solomon get a toothy grin at the Crown Fountain.
Missy and I are ooking at the “gargoyle”

The fountains are actually kind of freaky.  The subjects were video-taped, so they blink, move their mouths, etc.  It is as if the structures were alive.

Our next stop on the park was a stroll over to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.  To me this looks very similar to the Sydney Opera House in architectural design.  Details about the pavilion can be seen here: Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The Pavilion is a concert venue that stands about 120 feet high.  The stage is surrounded by a number of brushed steel ribbons.  I guess they call this the “headdress”.  There is a large lawn in front of it that makes this much like an amphitheater.  While we were here, there was an orchestra and choir rehearsing for an upcoming concert.  It was pretty unique.

Solomon, Seth and me at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Brothers carrying sister Marissa under the “headdress” of the pavilion

Our next visit in the park was to the “Cloud Gate”.  This is a large silver sculpture that looks like a drop of mercury.  Unfortunately, we could not see it in its entirety as much of it was covered for repair work.  Here is a link to more details about the sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor:  Cloud Gate on SBC Plaza

Despite the construction, we were able to get some pictures as one side of it was open.  It was pretty neat to take the pictures with a backdrop of the city behind us.  Here we are at Cloud Gate:

If you look carefully, you can see me in the middle taking the picture…to the left of Seth’s head.
One of the massive pieces of art at Millennium Park
A view of the fountain

We spent about an hour at the park. It was a refreshing experience and a nice break.  But, we needed to get back on the road as we had a lot of ground to cover.  I was quite disappointed that we were so far behind schedule.  One of the other sites that I really, really, really wanted to see was the Cermak Plaza, famous for the Cars on a Spike (NOTE: I did eventually make it to Cermak to see Spindle and, thank goodness I did as it has since been taken down).  Since we didn’t get there, I don’t have photos.  But here is a link: Spindle

Another place I had hoped to see was the Leaning Tower
of Niles…Niles, Illinois that is.  But, time did not allow for that
either.  But, here is a link from my favorite site Roadside America: Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois

Hopefully, on my next Road Trip to Montana to see Amaree and Aaron we can hit those sites.

We finally got back on the road at about 2 PM and continued to head north towards Wisconsin.  Along I-90 we must have hit 5 or 6 toll stations.  What a pain.  All totaled, we spent $11.00 on tolls between Gary, IN and the Wisconsin border.

We drove up I-90 through Madison, WI and then took exit 126 to DeForest, WI, which was our next scheduled stop. The first stop was the Ehlenbach Cheese Chalet, famous for its cheese and also famous for its large Holstein Cow statue in the front of the shop.  Here we
are in Wisconsin:

Welcome to Wisconsin!
Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet in DeForest, WI

Of course, besides a nice bag of cheese curds, the real goal here was to see Sissy the Cow:

Sissy the Cow..udderly mooving. Sissy the Cow is NOT wearing the tie dye shirt!!!
I did say there were some cheesy things in Wisconsin!!

Sissy is 19 feet tall, 20 feet long, and two tons — a Holstein cow made of structural steel and fiber mixed with epoxy.  She used to be known as the World’s Largest Cow, along with her sister Chatty Belle in nearby Janesville, WI.  However, as you will soon see (in a later post), she is now nowhere near the world’s largest (which is Salem Sue, in New Salem, ND).

Another site we planned on just down the road from Sissy, in fact, at the same exit, is Pinky the Elephant.  This was Marissa’s hope and dream to see Pinky.  Pinky is one of three or four of these bespectacled Pink Elephants dotting the United States.  I think there is one in Tennessee, one in Illinois and one in Georgia.  However, due to its proximity with Sissy, this one is probably the most famous.  Here are some shots of Pinky and Missy:

Pinky the Elephant in DeForest, WI
Marissa kissing Pinky on the snout
Missy gave Pinky a love pat on the rear.
And yes…you can EVEN buy souvenir stickers of Pinky for a quarter!! (As of 2014 they were 50 cents)

After our little venture into DeForest, it was time for us to head west towards Minnesota.  There were many other places along the way that we wanted to see, but time was a factor for us as we needed to get to St. Cloud, Minnesota in time for dinner at a special place.

We cruised across the state and got to the Mississippi River at about 7:15 PM, still about 3 hours behind schedule. This was really disappointing to me here as well.  I had hoped to get to Darwin, MN to see the Largest Ball of Twine made by one person.  But, since
we couldn’t make it this time, I will at least put a link to it:
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
.  There are other Balls of Twine out
there as evidenced by this site: World’s Largest Twine Balls.  I hope to get to all of them some time.

Solomon doesn’t look to excited to be welcomed to Minnesota.
The kids with the Mississippi River behind them.

But, despite missing the twine ball, I was very determined to get to Space Aliens Grill and Bar in Waite Park, MN, just outside of St. Cloud.  We were all hungry and we had to push it to get there, which we finally did at 10:00 PM.  Thank goodness they close at 11:00 PM (I did my research in advance so I knew this!!).  It was great to get there when we did too.  It was a Wednesday and that meant All-You-Can-Eat Ribs.  The boys were thrilled.

I wanted to go to Space Aliens either here or in Fargo, but didn’t think we could make it all the way to Fargo. This is one of those novelty theme restaurants as can be seen below.  Here is a link to their web site: Space Aliens Grill & Bar

The Waite Park restaurant was not difficult to locate.  We got there and all Seth and Solomon could say was “Let’s Eat!!”  I don’t think I need to say anything about the restaurant except that the ribs were fantastic.  The boys ate a ton of ribs, in fact, the waitress said she could not recall any group having as many as we did. The photos below should tell it all:

Notice that Earthlings are Welcome at this place.
Sumoflam outside the restaurant at 10 PM CST
Seth at the ‘UFO Crossing’.
Some of the typical artwork
The ceiling artwork
Now this is what we came for!! All-You-Can-Eat Ribs.
The boys set a record at this place and also wiped out the ribs.

Empty bones and plates
And full tummies and smiling faces after a well-eaten meal!!

After a great dinner, and our first real meal of the day, we were ready to crash.  We found a nearby motel and did just that.  A long, long day 1 of the trip to Montana was finally over.

The entire roadtrip set of journals can be seen in its original form HERE

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