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.
Gronk’s Grill and Bar – Superior, Wisconsin
Gettysburg National Battlefield – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Great Falls of the Missouri – Great Falls, Montana
Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee
Geese in Flight – Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, North Dakota
Winking Smiley Water Tower – Grand Forks, North Dakota
Gates of the Mountains – near Helena, Montana
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.
This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them. You can see Part 1 here.
During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.
The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more. This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world. She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)
The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other. It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.
Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998. This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe. Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed. At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France. Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris. Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)
We took three trips to the east during 1998. The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility. While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail. Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us. In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.
From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit). It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.
So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.). This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off. But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents. It was pretty “in-tents”!!
We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one. However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.
We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……
Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip. But, it was not the last trip east. A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa. Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background. Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.
Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!
In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University. While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia. We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…
A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff. In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky. I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.
During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio. Giant picnic basket!
The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us. Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips. We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.
On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum. We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!
Travel continued that year with a couple more trips. Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites. Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.
In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana. This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory. The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.
From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument. This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.
Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites. Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.
From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy. Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln). We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.
There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.
On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).
On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds. When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…
The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan. Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved. Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.
In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents. It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.
With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things. Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.
Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).
We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005. I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters. By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings. In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.
After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana. This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way. Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!! We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)
Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously. It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.
Roadside guidance provided by……
Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days. We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province. We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well. We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well. But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun. Here are a few of the better shots. So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!! Many memories were made…
Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN. The second day was another doozy….
We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest. The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…
The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004). We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….
After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.
After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways. We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area. After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest. We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip… then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.
And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz. The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!
My first stop along the way was for gas. I stopped in Avon, MN…..which, I discovered, is also the home of the Lake Wobegon Trail. The trail is 46 miles long and 10 feet wide. It opened in 1998. Avon is the home of the Lake Wobegon Trails Association. Garrison Keillor, the creator of Lake Wobegon and the Prairie Home Companion show, lived in Avon at one time.
From Avon I proceeded north to Ashby, MN. This is home to a large metal Coot statue, which is what I was looking for. But, as I often discover, the town is also a quaint little place.
The coot statue stand outsides of town on Highway 78 and represents the largest Ashby area sportsmen club, Coots Unlimited (a parody of Ducks Unlimited). There is more about it here.
From Ashby I proceeded north to Fergus Falls, MN. The roads were a little better and my GPS had me taking a back road. I was headed first to the Continental Divide Marker and site, which was built in 2000.
From Fergus Falls I continued heading northwest on I-94. The roads were still icy, but had cleared up somewhat. I then took a quick swing off at Exit 38 (Rothsay) to get a photo of the 14 foot tall, 9200 pound cement prairie chicken statue. I have been here before (as well as a good part of the drive thru North Dakota – see my posts from 2005) . This time I was able to get a more unique view of the giant bird.
I then got back on the freeway and fought more fog. But the fog and snow make for interesting views that one would not see on a clear day. Many trees took on shadowy shapes.
Along the road I found a road sign that provided the perfect description of this day’s trip had been to this point – Downer, MN (exit 15 heading north)
Ironically, shortly after Downer, things cleared up again, just in time for my entrance into the border town of Moorhead, MN. Moorhead has a Norwegian population and is home to the Hjemkomst Center, which houses a replica Viking ship and the beautiful is the Stave Church, a symbol of the Norwegian heritage in the Red River Valley. Built by Guy Paulson, the church is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church in Vik, Norway. Norwegian Stave churches were built just after the close of the Viking Age in Scandinavia in the 1100 and 1200’s. The technique of using vertical posts-or staves- had been modified over time to become wooden architectural works of art.
From Moorhead I entered Fargo, ND and continued heading west on I-94. I passed thru Fargo so I could get to other sights along the road (and to also get out of the miserable snow!!) My first stop in North Dakota was Jamestown. Jamestown is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue the National Buffalo Museum.
The “World’s Largest Buffalo” is a in Frontier Village. It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh.
Further west on I-94 is the small town of Steele, ND. There are about 800 people and one silver Big Bird! “Sandy”, as she is known, is a 40 foot tall 4.5 ton bird. It was constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame, which was built in three different sections. It was created in 1999 by James Miller, a resident of Arena, ND. The crane was built to bring attention to the fact that the Steele area is one of the best birding destinations in North America. Sandhill Cranes are some of the migratory species that nest here.
I loved the shot above. Tons of fun…
I finally made it to Bismarck, ND where I had a couple more interesting stops. Bismarck borders the Missouri River and there are a number of parks along river road. One is Keelboat Park. There is a large four headed thunderbird statue at the park and it is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms.
In Pioneer Park along the Missouri River, there is a fairly new sculpture called “Rising Eagle”, which was made by art students from the United Tribes Technical College. Dedicated in 2007, it was vandalized in 2010 and had to be rebuilt.
As I continued west of Bismarck on I-94, the weather was finally cleared up and there were sunny skies. The views looked great.
A couple of miles before Exit 72 (about 20 miles east of Dickinson, ND) I could begin seeing the following HUGE sculpture by local artist Gary Greff (from Regent, ND). Greff began his projects in 1989 and continues work today through donations from local people and many others. Named “Geese in Flight,” it is the gateway to the famous “Enchanted Highway” and is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture.”
Built in 2001, “Geese in Flight” is 154 feet long and 110 feet tall and weighs over 78.8 tons. The largest flying goose has a wingspan of 30 feet. Gary Greff used oil tanks and oil well pipe to make it. I kind of envision the big “eye” in the middle as looking over the Enchanted Highway.
The Enchanted is a 32 mile stretch of road beginning at Exit 72 on I-94 and then going south through Gladstone and then all the way to Regent, ND. Along the way there are a number of sculptures. Greff even made dozens of small geese that line the nice dirt road up to the Flying Geese sculpture.
From the Flying Geese, I did go south through Gladstone and then on for another 10 miles.
Then about three miles down the road, is “Deer Crossing,” the second of the huge sculptures down the road. The buck is 60 feet long and 75 feet tall. The doe is 50 feet tall and 50 feet long. These were erected in 2002.
I continued south in hopes of seeing more and made it ten miles to the “almost” ghost town of Lefor. The prairie scenery was great.
I made it to Lefor and gave up as I had more traveling to do to get to Miles City, Montana for the night.
There are a number of other giant sculptures along the road south of Lefor, including a 60 foot grasshopper, pheasants on the prairie (including a 60 foot long pheasant), a 51 foot tall Teddy Roosevelt and a “Fisherman’s Dream”, which was completed in 2007 and includes a metal fish leaping up 70 feet through a metal pond surface. Someday I hope to get back there to see all of these. At the end of the road Greff has built an Enchanted Castle Hotel for the final enchanting stop.
I returned back through Gladstone and took a quick spin through the town and caught one final small statue:
I made way to Dickinson and then on to the border of North Dakota and Montana.