A to Z Challenge: The B 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

B The B Towns

Bemidji, Minnesota

Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Big Indian in Bemidji, MN in front of a souvenir shop
Big Indian in Bemidji, MN in front of a souvenir shop

Visiting Bemidji, MN was a lifelong dream of mine believe it or not.  As a young kid in the 1960s I had seen black and white photos of the giant Paul Bunyan Statue with his giant ox in LIFE magazine. I finally got to visit this iconic statue as well as a myriad of other sites in Bemidji, which is on US Highway 2 in western Minnesota. See my full post about Bemidji and my US Highway 2 cross country road trip  HERE.

Boring, Oregon

Entering Boring, OR
Entering Boring, OR
Sunset on the peak of Mt. Hood as seen from Boring, OR in 2012
Sunset on the peak of Mt. Hood as seen from Boring, OR in 2012

In 2012 I visited Oregon on a couple of occasions for business.  While in Portland, I was fascinated with a town called Boring and wanted to have the opportunity to visit there and see if it lived up to its name.   The town actually has about 8000 people and is a distant suburb of Portland and is reached on Oregon Highway 212. It offers some fabulous views of the massive Mt. Hood and provides a few chuckles with places like the Boring City Hall, the Boring Fire Department and a few other Boring places.  The community was named after William H. Boring, an early resident of the area who began farming there in the 1870s.  See more about my Boring visit HERE.

Blackfoot, Idaho

Idaho Potato Museum - Blackfoot
Idaho Potato Museum – Blackfoot, Idaho
Uniroyal Gal dressed as a Waitress in Blackfoot, ID
Uniroyal Gal dressed as a Waitress in Blackfoot, ID

In 2013 I took a two week business trip to Rexburg, Idaho.  While there I made a visit to Blackfoot so I could see the famed Idaho Potato Museum and the worlds largest baked and buttered potato.  The town is at the end of US Highway 26 and is crossed through by Interstate 15 and  US 91 and is almost exactly between Idaho Falls and Pocatello.  The town has a number of nice murals, a great Uniroyal Gal statue and a couple of awesome drive-in eateries including Rupe’s Burgers and Martha’s Cafe. For more on my visit to Blackfoot and the surrounding area in 2013, click HERE.

Burk’s Falls, Ontario, Canada

Screaming Heads. Canadian secondary school teacher Peter Camani created these spooky yet fascinating landscape artwork. Since the mid-1970s besides being a teacher, he has built these massive structures and amazing castle.
Screaming Heads on a farm near Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads - Burk's Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

I worked in southern Ontario during a good part of 2008 and one of the most quirky and unique places I ever visited was on a farm just outside of Burk’s Falls, Ontario. Canadian secondary school teacher Peter Camani created these spooky yet fascinating landscape pieces of art, which cover quite a bit of acreage. Since the mid-1970s besides being a teacher, he has built these massive structures and amazing castle.  Burk’s Falls is way up north in Ontario, on Canadian Highway 11 west of Algonquin Provincial Park. Once there, you need to find Midlothian Road and head west.  You can’t miss this freaky place.  Read more about my visit and see more photos HERE.

Booger Holler, Arkansas

Booger Holler, AR 2007
Booger Holler, AR 2007
Booger Hollow Trading Post, Arkansas in 2007
Booger Hollow Trading Post, Arkansas in 2007

When a town has a name like Booger Holler, how can you NOT go see it.  On a trip through Arkansas on my way to Fort Worth, Texas in 2007, I went 30 miles out of my way to visit Booger Holler.  Obscurely located on the winding AR Hwy 7, the place is barely a dot on the map.  At one time it Booger Hollow was once a popular tourist attraction along the Scenic 7 Byway. Though it is a “ghost attraction” today — closed and abandoned, it’s still worth a stop for its interesting photo opportunities, especially the main attraction — a two-story outhouse.  You can read more about this unique offbeat and quirky attraction on a distant back road in Arkansas by clicking HERE.

Brownsville, Tennessee

Sumoflam at Tripp's Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp's Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN

On a road trip to Galveston in 2014, I made it a point to take back roads all the way from Lexington to Galveston.  Along the way, I hit a number of unique attractions before making my way to US 61 and the Blues Highway in Mississippi.  One of my stops was in Brownsville, Tennessee, home of the uber quirky Billy Tripp’s Mindfield, which was built to honor Mr. Tripp’s parents.  A towering and dizzying metal sculpture, it was most certainly not something one would expect in a quiet little Tennessee town like Brownsville, which can be reached on US 79 northeast of Memphis.  Read more about this strange attraction and quaint town HERE.

Babb, Montana

Babb Bar and Supper Club
Babb Bar and Supper Club
Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT

On a number of occasions I visited family in Shelby, Montana.  On one trip we took a ride to the edge of Glacier National Park and visited the little community of Babb, Montana.  We ate breakfast at the Leaning Tree Cafe and enjoyed a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains.  Babb is located on US Highway 89, one of America’s most scenic highways and it is the first US town south of the Canadian border on that highway.  See more about this lovely place HERE.

Blackwater, Missouri

City of Blackwater, MO
City of Blackwater, MO
Bucksnort Trading Company, Blackwater, MO
Bucksnort Trading Company, Blackwater, MO
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Old Holsum Wall Advertisement, one of many wall murals to be seen in Blackwater, MO

I like visiting towns that are named in songs.  In the past I have visited China Grove, TX and LaGrange, TX and on one trip I drive into Blackwater, MO for a quick look see.   Blackwater is the home of the Bucksnort Trading Company (not to be confused with Bucksnort, TN) and can be reached by taking Missouri Highway K north of Interstate 70.  Fun little place with Antiques, some great old Wall Art and more.

Bena, Minnesota

Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN
Complete view of the Big Fish Supper Club and the Big Fish in Bena, MN
The Historic Big Winnie store and RV Park in Bena, MN
The Historic Big Winnie store and RV Park in Bena, MN

Last stop on the B Town visit is the town of Bena, Minnesota, another of the many fascinating places to be seen on US Highway 2 in Minnesota.  It is home of the Big Fish Supper Club including the giant walk in fish.  Bena is also home to the historic Big Winnie Store and RV Park.  Built in 1932, this place has been a haven for travelers for over 80 years. Bena is actually not too far from Bemidji (see above).  The long US 2 trip report from 2013 can be seen HERE.

Bucksnort, Tennessee (Honorable Mention)

DSC_1157
Welcome to Bucksnort, TN Just a small place off of Interstate 40

Honestly, since I mentioned the Bucksnort Trading Company in Missouri, how can I forget adding the unusual community of Bucksnort, TN. It is located near Exit 152 on Interstate 40, a few miles east of the Tennessee River. Strange name with just a small truck stop and convenience store.  I visited here in 2010 on a trip from Bugtussle, KY to Bugtussle, TX (all in one day — see below)

Bugtussle, Kentucky and Bugtussle, Texas (Honorable Mention)

What remains of the Bugtussle General Store in Bugtussle, KY
What remains of the Bugtussle General Store in Bugtussle, KY
Road sign in Bugtussle, TX...the only indication you are at the intersection of FM1550 and TX34
Road sign in Bugtussle, TX…the only indication you are at the intersection of FM1550 and TX34

And finally, how about a couple of places named Bugtussle?  In February 2010 I had a crazy notion – how about driving from my home in Lexington, KY to Bugtussle, KY and then drive all the way to Bugtussle, TX on the same day, taking back roads through Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. I had known the name Bugtussle from the Beverly Hillbillies and so, in my own quirky way, I thought it would be fun!  Bugtussle, KY is a small community on the border of Tennessee on Kentucky Hwy 87 south of Glasgow, KY.  Bugtussle, TX is just a corner at the intersection of Texas Farm Road 1550 and Texas Hwy 34, southwest of Paris, TX.  On the same trip I visited Bucksnort, TN (see above) and on the way home visited Uncertain, TX (which will be featured on my U Towns post later this month).  See the original Bugtussle trip post HERE.

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A few sites in Southeast Idaho – Idaho Falls and Blackfoot

Potato Museum - Blackfoot
Potato Museum – Blackfoot

While in Rexburg for the last week of March and the first week of April, I had the opportunity to take a couple of trips south to Blackfoot and Idaho Falls, where I was able to catch a few of the interesting sites in the area.  I even caught an amazing quarrel between a Canadian goose and a couple of seagulls.

Idaho Falls

The waterfalls on the Snake River called Idaho Falls
The waterfalls on the Snake River.  Idaho Falls, as they are called, were once rapids on the Snake

Idaho Falls is a nice little town at the base of the foothills with the Snake River running through the middle of town.  It is currently the largest city in Southeastern Idaho with a population of nearly 57,000 and a metro population of a little over 136,000.  Like Rexburg, it has a large LDS (Mormon) population and a large temple.

Carved Wooden Indian - by Peter Toth
Carved Wooden Indian              (Nov. 1980) – by Peter Toth

One of my trip highlights was being able to see the large Indian wood carving by Hungarian-born and American immigrant sculptor Peter Toth.  Over the years Toth has created at least one of these huge statues (all different) for each state in the United States.  All of them collectively (at least 74 are documented) are known as the “Whispering Giants”.  I hope to be able to begin my quest to visit many more over the years.  Many of the Whispering Giants can been here.

Located in North Tourist Park, one of over 70 from around the US
Located in North Tourist Park, one of over 70 from around the US.  This one is just over 27 feet tall

The Indian depicted above is a combination of tribes native to Idaho. This sculpture was  the 37th state in the series. As with all of his works, Toth did the work free of charge with supplies and materials donated by local businesses. The local Chamber of Commerce hosted the dedication program. Governor John V. Evans accepted and dedicated the sculpture.

Wild West Designs
Wild West Designs

Ironically, just north of the Whispering Giant is a unique shop called Wild West Designs Antler Art.  They have many interesting home furnishings inside, but it was the unique wooden carvings outside that caught my eye!!

Giant Bear with Fish
Giant Bear with Fish

The giant bear above adorns a place in the front of the shop.  This wooden grizzly is about 16 feet tall.

Cute "Welcome" Bear
Cute “Welcome” Bear
Bear chasing a Trapper
Bear chasing a Trapper

Further into town I came across a piece of nostalgia in Scotty’s Hamburgers.  This iconic drive-in has been around Idaho Falls since the 1960s.

Scotty's Hamburgers - Old Americana
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Nostalgic 1960s Drive-In

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to eat there since they were closed on Sunday and that was my day to drive thru town.

Idaho Falls Temple of the LDS Church
Idaho Falls Temple of the LDS Church

Like Rexburg, the crown jewel for Idaho Falls is the large LDS Temple.  Dedicated in September 1945 it was the first LDS temple in Idaho and is one of the older LDS temples, currently the 8th oldest in operation (see entire chronology here).  It was the only temple dedicated between 1927 and 1955.  Originally, it did not have an angel Moroni on top.  This was added by helicopter in September 1983.

Snake River in Idaho Falls
Snake River in Idaho Falls

The area around the temple is a beautiful riverine green space — a haven for relaxation and ducks, geese and seagulls.

Snake River in Idaho Falls
Snake River in Idaho Falls

As I drive around looking at the wonderful river sights, I came across some folks feeding the birds…it was a virtual crowd of ducks and geese and seagulls.  I was quite amazed to see them all congregated together fighting over the morsels of bread coming their way.

Gathering of the Birds
Gathering of the Birds
Solitary Seagull waiting for a quick grab at some bread
Solitary Seagull waiting for a quick grab at some bread
A proud goose
A proud goose

But, the real excitement came when a goose got a big piece of a baguette and was then attacked by a couple of hungry seagulls.  I had never seen anything like this so I had the camera on fast snap to get the following sequence of shots.

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Fighting over bread – the beginning

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Fighting over bread - the goose wins
Fighting over bread – the goose wins

It was really something watching this 2 minute battle for the bread!!

Old Bonneville Restaurant
Old Bonneville Restaurant

Idaho Falls still has a number of nostalgic locations.   The Bonneville, an old Chinese restaurant, appears to be closed now, but the sign remains.  I love old neon signs like these.  This one is especially classy with the dot on the I being a star.

Yummy House Chinese Foood
Yummy House Chinese Food

And who can resist the Yummy House?  I had to, they were closed.

Approaching Wolverine Creek Wind Farm, near Iona, ID
Approaching Wolverine Creek Wind Farm, near Iona, ID

As I typically do, if I see a Wind Farm, I tend to go there.  I am so excited to see natural energy in action and the wind farms are always like a giant flower garden blooming out of the ground.  The Wolverine Creek Wind Farm is housed in the foothills west of Idaho Falls, in the town of Iona.  There are 43 turbines, which can be seen from Rexburg on a clear day.  This site produces about 64.5 Mw of power.

Turbines from the Wolverine Creek Wind Farm
Turbines from the Wolverine Creek Wind Farm
Another view of the turbines
Another view of the turbines

Blackfoot, Idaho

Blackfoot, Idaho
Blackfoot, Idaho

I was excited for the chance to get to Blackfoot, Idaho so that I could visit the famous Idaho Potato Museum. So, on a trip to Pocatello, accompanied by a business partner from Rexburg, we stopped in Blackfoot on the way home for a quick look see.

Idaho Potato Museum
Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, Idaho

When we arrived it appeared to be snowing, but I actually think it was potato flakes falling from the sky to welcome me!!

Sumoflam at the Potato Museum
Sumoflam at the Potato Museum
Sumoflam and Giant Potato
Sumoflam and Giant Potato – must be potato flakes and not snow!!

Like other similar museums have visited in the past (like the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, the JELLO museum in New York, the SPAM Museum in Wisconsin…to name a few), the focus of this museum was a certain food, in this case, the potato.  During the visit I learned a great deal about potato farming in Idaho, I learned that Sweet Potatoes are not related to a potato and I saw the Guinness Certified “World’s Largest Potato Chip”, which is housed in the museum and was created by Pringle’s in June 1991.

History of the Potato
History of the Idaho Potato
Sumoflam with a Potato Picking Bag
Sumoflam with a Potato Picking Bag
a Sample Potato T-Shirt
a Sample Potato T-Shirt
World's Largest Potato Chip - 23" x 14.5"
World’s Largest Potato Chip – 23″ x 14.5″ – equivalent of 80 regular Pringle’s Chips

For fun, we took a drive around the small town to see another giant, a few murals and finally get a lunch at one of the oldest drive-ins (and eat ins) in town.

Giant Waitress
Giant Waitress at Martha’s Cafe in Blackfoot, Idaho

This former Uniroyal Gal (there are still of a few of these around the country) turned waitress adorns the front entrance to Martha’s Cafe. She has gone through a couple of changes.  She was formerly blonde (in 2011) and actually held a plate (see photos on this blog).

Mural at Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds
Mural at Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds

As with many of my town visits around the country, I also take a liking to wall art and murals.  I found a whole set of murals on the side of the wall near the fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds Wall Mural
Fairgrounds Wall Mural – Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural - Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural – Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural - Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural – Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural - Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural – Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural - Blackfoot, Idaho
Fairgrounds Wall Mural – Blackfoot, Idaho

We also spotted a couple of other older wall murals in town

Salt Lake Mural near Tent and Awning Shop - Blackfoot, Idaho
Salt Lake Mural near Tent and Awning Shop – Blackfoot, Idaho
Are We There Yet? Mural near Tent and Awning Shop - Blackfoot, Idaho
Are We There Yet? Mural near Tent and Awning Shop – Blackfoot, Idaho

Finally, we stopped at a great place for lunch.  I had a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and almost ordered a Rice Krispy Treat Milk Shake!!

Rupe's Burgers
Rupe’s Burgers – Blackfoot, Idaho

Rupe’s Burgers is like so many other lat 60s/early 70s drive-in diners.  Great greasy not good for you food…and lots of it.  This one opened in 1962 as an A & W Root Beer.  It was open thru 1978 when the Rupe family sold it.  The place became R & B’s thru 1986 and then went out of business.  In 1987 the Rupe family bought it back.  The place seats about 100 inside and has room for 20 cars outside.

Marilyn Monroe in a Potato Sack
Marilyn Monroe in a Potato Sack

I finished off a couple of different visits and after a two and a half week stay in Idaho, it was time to get back on the road home to Kentucky!!

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