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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The P Towns
There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit. It is also home to the Pella Window Factory! See a more complete post about Pella HERE.
In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts, I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia. Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri. Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way. The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868. See my original 2012 post HERE.
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize. But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”. You can read the whole story HERE.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit. Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2. The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman. The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph. See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.
A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris
I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up. Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River . I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times. There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link). The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.
During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time. Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty. There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place. Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.
I have been to Paris, Texas three times. There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993. For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S. See my post about this battle HERE. It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery. (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.) called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.
On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S. Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers. Read more HERE.
Port Orchard, Washington
In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days. We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle. There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.
Powder River, Wyoming
On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre. It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace. See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.
Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town. Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin. There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river. Their chief was named Paduke. This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on. He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did. Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi. Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856. It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub. Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.
Port Gibson, Mississippi
As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns). One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well. Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above. Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures. And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple! See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.
Palmyra, New York
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon. Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon. Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing. My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013. You can see my full writeup HERE.
Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment. The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.
Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)
On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska. The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants. Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.
Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)
On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY. I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me. And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.
Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)
On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York. One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc. They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.
Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)
And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Think about it ok?
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Highway 61 in Mississippi may be called the Blues Highway, but there is much more to it than the Blues. After my first long drive from Kentucky to Vicksburg, I woke up early the next day to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park before heading south on Highway 61.
The park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863 and also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. The expansive park includes 1,340 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, 144 emplaced cannons, a restored gunboat (the USS Cairo which sunk on December 12, 1862, on the Yazoo River, recovered successfully in 1964), and more. The Illinois State Memorial has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged.
Nearly 95% of the 1,340 monuments, markers, tablets and plaques, were erected prior to 1917.
I drove a good part of the main road through the park and didn’t have lots of time to stop and look at all of the monuments, plaques and other items. I kind of just shot those that struck me as unique or interesting. Following are a few more
One of the most visited locations on the property appears to be the Illinois Memorial. It was dedicated on October 26, 1906. There are forty-seven steps in the long stairway, one for each day of the Siege of Vicksburg. Modeled after the Roman Pantheon, the monument has sixty unique bronze tablets lining its interior walls, naming all 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the Vicksburg Campaign.
There are apparently 144 cannon emplaced throughout the grounds. These were placed strategically such that one can envision what it may have been like during the war.
A few other scenes from Vicksburg’s Military Park
Indeed, an entire day could be spent visiting the numerous monuments, historical sites and cemeteries at Vicksburg. Further, a complete blog post could be dedicated to this powerful Civil War park. But, there is more in Vicksburg than just this park.
One usually thinks Atlanta when thinking about Coca Cola. But, not too far removed from the National Military Park is the Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum. The museum houses a wide variety of exhibits interpreting the beginnings of Coca-Cola, the history of the Biedenharn family, the process used to first bottle Coca-Cola, a reproduction of the equipment first used to bottle Coke, the history of Coca-Cola advertising, and Coca-Cola memorabilia from past to present.
As with my many other trips, I am always on the lookout for wall murals. There are a number along a wall that parallels the train tracks. Hard to get to from my location that day, I snapped a few shots through the fence. Not my favorite way to do things….
And finally…something to smile about….beautiful tree flowers on a tree in Vicksburg
After the lovely morning spent in Vicksburg it was time to continue south on US Hwy 61. The drive from Vicksburg south had many more trees and was more scenic than the northern Mississippi section of US Hwy 61.
The next stop along the way was the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well.
Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above. Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures. Unfortunately, they were quite a drive out of town and my scheduled didn’t allow for me to take that detour.
Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple!
The “Hand Pointing to Heaven” is the unique feature of this Romanesque Revival style edifice. The first hand was carved from wood by Daniel Foley, a young local craftsman. The ravages of time, however, destroyed it; and around 1901, the present hand was commissioned and installed. It was taken down in 1989 to be repaired and replated. It was raised again in 1990 and placed atop a newly re-enforced steeple.
Of course, like many of the Hwy 61 towns, Port Gibson is steeped in Blues Music tradition. The Rabbit’s Foot Company (also known as the Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels) was established in 1900 by Pat Chappelle, an African-American theatre owner in Tampa, Florida, who owned the leading travelling vaudeville show, with an all-black cast of singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers in the southern states. After his death in 1911, the company was taken over by Fred Swift Wolcott (1882-1967), a white farmer, who based the touring company in Port Gibson after 1918 and continued to run it until 1950. The Rabbit’s Foot Company remained popular, but was no longer considered “authentic.” A historic marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail has been placed by the Mississippi Blues Commission in Port Gibson, commemorating the contribution that The Rabbit’s Foot Company made to the development of the blues in Mississippi.
There are other remnants of the past that can be seen in this little town on the Mississippi.
Used as a movie theater in the past, it was closed but in the 1980s the ‘WestSide TheAter” served as a night club and entertainment spot, even as late as 2011 (according to Facebook).
This old relic of a neon sign above is actually more than it shows. In fact, it is also a relic of the early 1900s Jewish heritage that once thrived in Port Gibson, MS. According to a 1991 article in the New York Times, “The first Jews came to Port Gibson in the 1840’s from German states and Alsace-Lorraine. They were itinerant peddlers, carrying their wares in 75-pound packs on their backs. Then, as Port Gibson began competing with Vicksburg and Natchez in both commerce and the glory of its antebellum homes, the Jewish community became a bulwark of the town’s economy, and newspaper advertisements were filled with names like Bernheimer, Marx, Meyer, Cahn, Traxler and Ullman.” The old neon sign reading H. Frishman-Red Goose Shoes is all that remains on a building now occupied by Mississippi: Cultural Crossroads, a community center mostly serving the town’s predominantly black youth. The only other remnant of the once thriving Jewish heritage is the old synagogue with a Moorish Dome, which was restored in 1991.
Today, Port Gibson appears to be predominantly black in population. Most, if not all, of the Jews moved away years ago. Scenes like the man on the porch below were quite common on my trip. It was obvious that poverty thrives in these small Mississippi towns.
After my long visit to Port Gibson, I was back on US 61 heading south towards Natchez, MS. On the way I stopped by the “Old Country Store” in Lorman…more for a look see than to stop and eat (mainly because I had plans to stop at another cool place to eat just down the road — see below!). They claim to have the “World’s Best Fried Chicken.”
Though I honestly missed out due to schedule, I did learn that people travel for hours to partake of Mr “D”s ‘Heavenly Fried Chicken’. On their menu: An all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. The buffet includes fried chicken and other meats (sometimes catfish and ribs), tossed salad, cucumber/tomato salad, potato salad, coleslaw, mac & cheese, corn on the cob, green beans, turnip greens, dirty rice, field peas, sweet potatoes, dressing and cornbread. All for about $10. And owner Arthur Davis (Mr. “D”) entertains diners by singing a song about his Grand Mama’s cornbread. Sounds fun and too bad I didn’t have the time!
A visit into Natchez was really not meant to be, so I continued south of of town to the Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe….the epitome of vintage novelty architecture.
Built in the 1940s, this unique place is a MUST SEE and MUST STOP destination if anywhere close.
The woman’s skirt holds a dining room and a gift shop. The skirt is made out of bricks, and the earrings are horseshoes. She is holding a serving tray while smiling. Mammy’s Cupboard has been through several renovations, the exterior has been repaired and the interior refurbished.
All of the food is home made. I had a nice sandwich with their wonderful homemade bread. But their homemade cake was to die for!! I couldn’t resist….
From Natchez I finished the last leg of the Mississippi portion of US 61 through Woodville and into Louisiana.
And into Louisiana….
From the Louisiana/Mississippi border I continued south towards Baton Rouge. From the highway the tallest State Capitol Building in the US can be plainly seen.
I continued past Baton Rouge into Plaquemine, LA, where I would finally leave Hwy 61 and get on Louisiana Hwy 1. Another town worth a visit, no time on this trip to explore.
As I noted above, I didn’t have time to visit Plaquemine because I had another objective on this portion of the trip. First off, I exited onto Louisiana Hwy 1, the longest numbered highway of any class in Louisiana. This is a scenic byway along the Mississippi River, which I took into White Castle, Louisiana before heading south into bayou country on the back roads.
White Castle, the town, was carved out of the George Wailes Plantation “White Castle”. The 1883 Charles H. Dickinson Survey of several parishes of Louisiana shows the “White Castle” Plantation property. Nearby is the plantation property of John H. Randolph called “Nottaway”.
In White Castle I turned south on Louisiana 69 which enters the Atchafalaya Swamp, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Ultimately, my goal was to go hunting for “Swamp People.” It is an interesting story and I actually created a full post on it HERE. Once Hwy 69 hits Hwy 70 I took that south into the small bayou town of Pierre Part, LA. The town was founded by Acadian French (Cajun) settlers around 1755, during which much of the French population of Acadia was expelled by its British conquerors. The town remained isolated from most of the world, since it is surrounded by water and was inaccessible by land until the mid-twentieth century. Before the Great Depression, the inhabitants of Pierre Part were fishermen. Very few people continue the traditional ways of fishing and living off the land with each generation, but one that does is the Landry family (including Troy, who is noted in my previous post.)
As noted, my hope was to track down and meet Troy Landry…the whole purpose for going through Pierre Part. I found him at the family bait shop/gas station (Duffy’s Shell on LA 70). The whole story is on my “Swamp People” post. But here is a photo of me with Troy…a bucket list item now checked off.
After my short visit there, I made my way down a back road just a tad south of Duffy’s. Once I got to Shell Beach Road, I detoured to head towards P’Maws Bait Shack, a really offbeat and fun place. This place is the site of the Animal Channel’s SWAMP’D Reality TV Show (which I have never seen). I had hoped to meet P’maw as well, but he wasn’t there. This place is open 24 hours. There is a fun video of P’Maw giving a fishing report:
Of course, I have photos of the place too!
One thing I had hoped to see in Pierre Part was a live gator. No luck…and I drove along a good part of the swamp. Oh well, off to Galveston. I continued south on LA 70 to Morgan City and US 90. I then headed west on US 90, passing by New Iberia (I had hoped to visit the Tabasco plant but it was too late). I continued northwest towards Lafayette, LA and just kept rolling in order to get to Galveston at a decent hour.
By this time it was nearing 7 PM and I still had a ways to go, so I jumped on I-10 west towards Lake Charles, LA and Beaumont, TX, since it would be the fastest. Once in Beaumont, I continued southwest towards Winnie, TX. I then headed south on TX 124 with the intention of driving along the Gulf Coast on the Bolivar Peninsula.
I finally hit the Gulf around 9 PM and the sunset was amazing. Pelicans flew overhead and I could smell the salt in the air as I drove along with my window open to hear the waves crashing a few yards to my left.
The road ends at Port Bolivar where you need to drive on to a Ferry to cross the inlet to Galveston Bay.
I got there and was third in line, but many more cars followed. I waited about 20 minutes for the ferry. But, when they loaded the cars I was put first in line. Really cool!!
I got into Galveston late, but much of the family was still out and about. My next post will be about my visit to the wonderful island of Galveston, TX.