In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Possum Trot Supper Club – Oakwood, Illinois
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Pound Gap, Virginia
Prairie Dogs – Browning, Montana; Cactus Flat, South Dakota
And then there is the Pink Elephant Car Wash – Seattle, Washington
Poutine – A Canadian Favorite – Paris, Ontario
Portsmouth Murals – Portsmouth, Ohio
Portland Head Light – Portland, Maine
Just down the road from Hell – Pinckney, Michigan
Planet Damon Water Tower – Damon, Texas
Presti’s Bakery – Little Italy – Cleveland, Ohio
Pain Reliever Bar – Nekoma, North Dakota
PRHBTN Murals (there are more than 20 – here are a couple) – Lexington, Kentucky
Papa Joe’s – Crescent Junction, Utah
P’Maws Bait Shack – Pierre Part, Louisiana
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Puget Sound – Seattle, Washington
Perry Como Statues – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Fun Stuff in Portland, Oregon
Pheasant Bar – Winner, South Dakota
Petrified Forest National Park – Holbrook, Arizona
Pinto McBean – Bow Island, Alberta, Canada
A few Paul Bunyan guys here and there – Bemidji, Minnesota; Nitro, West Virginia; Minocqua, Wisconsin; Wentzville, Missouri
Price Less Foods – Irvine, Kentucky
Popeye Statue – Alma, Arkansas
Port Gibson First Presbyterian Church – Port Gibson, Mississippi
Powder River, Wyoming
Paradise Point – Scottsville, Kentucky
Scenes from Paris – or four or five of them – Paris, Ontario; Paris, Kentucky; Paris, Texas; Paris, Tennessee
Point Defiance Zoo – Tacoma, Washington
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Peaks to Craters Scenic Highway – Idaho
Pelicans – Lake Andes, South Dakota; Galveston, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky
Plaza Theatres – Glasgow, Kentucky & Wharton, Texas
Playhouse Square – Cleveland, Ohio
Pea Meal Breakfast Anyone? – Woodstock, Ontario
PPG Glass Castle – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Professor Market – Tremont District – Cleveland, Ohio
Pike Place Market – Seattle, Washington
Penn’s Store – Gravel Switch, Kentucky
Penguins – Omaha, Nebraska; Tacoma, Washington
Pheasants on the Prairie – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Pete the Curler – Bemidji, Minnesota
Pork Chop Sandwiches (as seen on Andy Griffith) – Mt. Airy, North Carolina
Old Prairie School House – Frisno, Montana
Giant Prairie Dog Statue – Cactus Flat, South Dakota
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The D Towns
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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 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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
After a great three days in Galveston, it was time to get back on the road. I would head north to Houston, then on to Austin and eventually into Fort Worth.
Texas is a BIG state and there is lots of ground to cover. My first day would cover some backroads from Galveston and meander my way into Houston where I would stay overnight with my uncle.
There were things I had planned to see along the way and found a few things along the way as well. I figured that I may not get this way again (south of Houston) for a while, so I took advantage of a full day of driving to see some parts of Texas that many may not really get to.
My plans were to drive to Alvin, but along the way I came across an interesting house in Santa Fe, Texas. I had to stop and get a few shots. I discovered an unusual huge estate right on TX Hwy 6. It is called the Pignataro Estate, though many call it a castle.
According to an article I found from the Galveston Daily News, September 20, 1981, the home was originally built in the 1930s by a widow of a well-to-do Danish immigrant. It has since passed hands a number of times and has been owned by the Pignataro family since the 1970s. This larges estate apparently has 26 rooms and a number of other amenities. Following are a few more shots of some of the many white cement statues in the yard.
It is places like the Pignataro Estate that make it so worthwhile to take back roads and see the sites. After my brief photo shoot there, I continued north to Alvin, Texas, the birthplace of famed pitcher Nolan Ryan.
Alvin is about 25 miles southeast of Houston, and like Santa Fe, it is a town originally built around the railroad. Currently, there are just under 25,000 residents in this town known for its connection to Nolan Ryan.
Nolan Ryan spent a good part of his youth living in Alvin and playing Little League Baseball there and even became a famed high school pitcher at Alvin High School, where some players refused to go up to bat against him because of his amazing fastball. A Hall of Famer now, he serves as an adviser to the Houston Astros organization.
After the brief visit in Alvin and headed south to Angleton to visit the first of the Big Three statues in southern Texas. Angleton is home to the Stephen F. Austin statue, which stands 76 feet tall from the base.
Since I wrote extensively about the Stephen Austin statue in an earlier post, I am just including a couple of photos here.
While at the Stephen F. Austin Statue park, I came across a couple of what I have learned are Cattle Egrets. Smaller than a Great Egret, I saw them foraging in the grasses. I saw some of these birds in a horse field in Louisiana as well. Unique looking, beautiful birds. Cattle egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals.
From Angleton I headed to the small town of Lake Jackson, TX, to find my way…literally! The “main drag” of Lake Jackson is called This Way and they also have a That Way. Here are a few fun shots of these unique road names and the story behind them. (And, by the way, Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul spent most of his childhood in Lake Jackson…and he found his way to Kentucky and the US Senate!)
All streets radiating from downtown Lake Jackson end in the word “Way.” Among the streets are Center Way, Winding Way, Circle Way, and Parking Way. There is an intersection of two streets named This Way and That Way. In the same spirit, a local church near Bess Brannen Elementary placed a small sign in their driveway named His Way. There is also an Any Way.
And then there is the old British Phone Box on This Way
Speaking of out of place, as I headed out of town on my way to West Columbia, TX, lo and behold, what do I see driving in front of me?
The next stop in my roundabout tour of SE Texas was in West Columbia, which was known as the First Capitol of Texas. The first Congress of the Republic of Texas was convened in West Columbia on October 3, 1836, when the town was still just named Columbia.
I always have a penchant for old theaters and the Capitol Theater in West Columbia is a classic.
This old theater was first open in 1937 and by 1941 it had its name changed to the Capitol.
From West Columbia I made my way to Damon, TX up Texas Highway 36. I have a friend in Lexington named Damon so I had to stop and send him a shot or two for fun!
Damon was actually a unique little place. Even the old road signs were still in use and had character, but weren’t too legible.
From Damon I returned east on Texas Highway 1462 towards Rosharon, TX with a quick turn off on TX 762 to visit the Brazos Bend State Park, known for ts alligator sightings. I had visited places in Louisiana and Mississippi earlier on this trip in hopes of seeing alligators, but never got to see any. Maybe this would be the charm!
Maybe I’ll find that elusive gator yet!
And walking around the swamp area I got another gator view.
The State Park had a couple of miles of rads and a few swampy areas.
With my Gator Sighting checked off my bucket list and totally hot and sweaty after my hike around the pond, it was back in the car and on to Rosharon, TX. Didn’t plan a stop in Rosahron, but I couldn’t resist a couple of shots of the Cherokee Rose Trading Post.
After my quick drive by, I back tracked and headed up Hwy 36 towards Needville, TX on my way to Wharton. Along the way I saw a good old vintage neon sign for a roadside cafe called “The Jay”, in Needville.
From Needville, I headed west towards Boling and Iago.
Nothing in those two towns but the signs were interesting!! Then it was on to Wharton. Lots of fun things to see in little 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. This was an era of grand roadtrips, family adventure, and American innocence. 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). Following are a couple more…
Wharton has a great old courthouse and theater in town as well.
After my visit to Wharton I then headed northeast on US 59 and eventually made my way to the outskirts of Houston into the Sugar Land area where I visited the second of the three Texas Giant statues, this one, the giant Quan Te Am Bo Tat statue at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center. The statue was designed an build by New Orleans artist Mai Chi. She escaped from Vietnam in 1989 and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia.
From the Vietnamese Center I headed to my uncle’s for an overnight in Houston.
Next post will cover Houston to Austin via the heart of Texas.