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.
Sunset Motel – Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Sandwich, New Hampshire
WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!
Story Inn – Story, Indiana
San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho
Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana
Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia
Scary Creek, West Virginia
Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado
Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa
Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan
Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington
Seth, West Virginia
Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas
Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa
Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois
As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around
Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas
And finally…one without a Smiley Face….
Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho
Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia
Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota
Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana
Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa
Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho
Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska
A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin
Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio
Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma
Santa Claus, Indiana
Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota
Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska
Seabrook, New Hampshire
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois
Sam Black Church, West Virginia
Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona
Silver Dollar Saloon – Leadville, Colorado
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.
As I have traveled the many back roads of the U.S. and Canada I have seen hundreds of places to eat, many of the are the normal fast food places (we all know THEY are). But, there are also many other unique Mom and Pop shops, small drive ins, BBQ joints and burger places. I have covered the main stops from my last 8 or 9 years of travel, but there are many more I have passed along the way and a few that I didn’t cover in the previous three posts. I will touch on them here, though most of them with a photo and a comment or two. Enjoy!
The Leftovers – More of the Places I have been
I ate here in early August 2012. It was across the street from my hotel near Atlanta and I love good Mexican food. This is one of those places frequented by the migrant Mexican laborers. No English spoken here. But, the food is AMAZING and the cost was excellent.
The Huevos Rancheros is made with a very spicy green sauce. In fact, the lady there kept apologizing to me and I kept telling her that “picante” is better. I grew up on hot stuff. But, the faint of heat may want to avoid this one and get the tacos on fresh corn tortillas instead.
My wife and I visited the Poke Sallet Festival in Harlan, Kentucky a couple of years ago and, of course, while there we had to try out some Poke Sallet (The term is an old Southern reference to the cooked young leaves of the poke weed. Sallet comes from Middle English and refers to a mess (another Old or Middle English term) of greens cooked until tender.)
Not every place you stop to eat at is a real building. There are those food wagons and trucks that serve a variety of goodies. There are plenty in Canada as well. I frequented one place in Paris, Ontario just for the one and only thing he made – poutine. Poutine is a common Canadian dish (originally from Quebec), made with french fries, topped with brown gravy and cheese curds.
Poutine must be the original heart attack on a plate (or styrofoam container). The rich mixture of thick brown gravy and melted cheese curds on top of a heaping pile of greasy fries is yummy and fattening as can be.
Speaking of interesting food, how about Pea Meal? Yes, that is another Canadian specialty. I got my best taste of a Pea Meal breakfast at the
Pea Meal is actually a type of bacon that can be found in Ontario. The name reflects the historic practice of rolling the cured and trimmed boneless pork loin in dried and ground yellow peas, originally for preservation reasons. Since World War II or so, it has been rolled in ground yellow cornmeal. It is low in fat, and slow cured and really really good!! I thought I could not find anything as good as sausage from our local producer. They take choice meat, order casing from dcwcasing.com/ and produce sausage that reminds me of a homemade dish.
Some Interesting Places I Should Have Visited
The above two places may be peculiar and even uncertain, but get a load of these three Chinese restaurants I have come across in my travels…
I think Hung Far Low is a real winner for a Chinese Restaurant name. By the way, it is only about 2 blocks away from Voodoo Doughnut in Portland.
Then there are the American places with odd names like Stinky’s (above) and those below.
We all know about Popeye’s Chicken, but, how about Wimpy’s Hamburgers? I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today 9though I’ll bet that deal doesn’t work at this Wimpy’s!!)
I hope they aren’t making BBQ Frog…. And how about a few more places….
Eat in a caboose at Choo Choo!!
Apparently there is another Choo Choo Bar in Omaha, Nebraska. No relation to the one above.
OK…you gotta go to Hell (MI) to eat here….and here is what they offer you….
And here are a couple more places
This is the home of the Holey Burger, but they also have hot dogs and ice cream cones. Yum…
Then, there are the BBQ places that I wish I could hit up. These have some great names…
Soulman’s mantra: ‘We’re Not Stingy With Our Meat!”
Big Bubba apparently also runs a Catfish place down the road…
And just a couple of more places I have passed over the years
And the famous neon cowboy on top of it….
And finally…how about the Chuckwagon? They have a “4 Meat Buffet”
March 31, 2013: After spending a few wonderful days in Shelby, Montana with family (see my previous post on Shelby), it was time to head back to Kentucky. This segment of the trip we would take US Route 2 along what is called the Montana Hi-Line. Basically, the highway parallels the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). The full Hi-Line in Montana stretches from North Dakota to Idaho border, for a distance of more than 650 miles. However, it seems that to many of the residents in the area, the Hi-Line is really the stretch of US Route 2 from about Cut Bank, MT all the way east to the North Dakota border. US Route 2 is the northernmost east-west route in the United States and is broken into two segments – the western segment is the longest stretching from Everett, WA all the way to St. Ignace, MI for a distance of 2112 miles. We drove the route all the way to Wolf Point, MT and then headed south to Glendive, for a total of about 420 miles for the day.
The Hi-Line drive is predominantly wind swept rolling prairies, wheat fields and small towns dotted with tall grain elevators, silos and old abandoned buildings. The hey day of the early railroads is long gone and many of the towns now cling to life with farming and support of the BNSF tracks that run though the dozen or so small towns.
Between Shelby and Chester there is not much. We passed by the Frontier Bar in Dunkirk and then, past there we saw a few old wooden cabins, barns and elevators.
As a throwback to the 60s, we did come across an old RV Park in Galata, MT. I loved the old vintage sign.
Train tracks and silos span the entire way along Route 2. Scenes like the one below are not at all uncommon.
Continuing east from Galata, our next stop was in Chester, MT, a town of about 850 people. You can tell by the welcome signs that it is most definitely a railroad town.
Apparently, the Sugar Shack Diner was a prefab “Valentine Diner” built by Valentine Manufacturing of Wichita, Kansas in the 1950s. It is a 10-stool diner built in 1953, with previous homes in Conrad and Chinook, before being moved here. There is an interesting site on these prefabs done by the Kansas Historical Society. Following is the advertising graphic for this type of diner from the 1950s:
Of course, I continue to collect Wall Art/Murals from my trips. Here are a couple I saw in Chester.
From Chester we headed east. To the north we could see the Sweet Grass Hills far beyond the prairies. These are legendary to the local Blackfeet.
These are prominent in the area in that the three main buttes and the surrounding hills jut up out of the prairies, with a couple of them having a towering vertical rise of over 3000′ above the land level. The main hills are West Butte (6983′), Gold Butte (6512′) and East Butte (6958′). The three buttes and the hills between them run for about 50 miles east to west and are about 10 miles in distance from north to south.
Our next stop was in Joplin, Montana, a small town of barely 150.
There wasn’t much in Joplin but a few buildings, so we pressed forward to Rudyard, Montana, which promised to have a bit more personality. Before we got to Rudyard, off to the right of the highway we came across a big metal triceratops skeleton. It was so random!
Apparently, this dinosaur is the work of a metal artist in Rudyard as I found another site that had some photos of some other pieces. I’ll check it out next time in Shelby to see the family.
Like many of the towns on the Hi-Line, Rudyard is a small town. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things.
The charm of small towns are the museums and historical centers. Unfortunately, we were driving through on a Sunday afternoon and things were not open. But, Rudyard boasts a couple of museums – see the Rudyard Historical Society site for more details. Following are a few photos from Rudyard.
Actually, there is apparently a story about “Old Sorehead” being a dinosaur. Check it out here. So, even though it is a small town, there is certainly a story here.
The other thing I learned about Rudyard is that it is the only populated spot in the United States that has an antipode that reaches a landmass. The antipode is the opposite point of any point on the surface of the Earth, so that if you connected the two points with a line through the center of the Earth, that line would be an exact diameter. Mathematically, the antipode of a point whose latitude and longitude are (A,B) equals (-A, B ± 180°). Almost everywhere in the U.S. hits a point in the Indian Ocean, except for two unpopulated sections of Colorado and then a section of Northern Montana (see this map). The town of Rudyard has an antipode in one of the small islands of the Kerguelen Islands (also known as the Desolation Islands) in the southern Indian Ocean. There is also a great little animation about antipodes here.
Enough about geography…back on the road eastward with the next stop being Kremlin, Montana.
The town of Kremlin apparently got its name from a Russian immigrant who was laying railroad track in the area around 1890. He saw the Bears Paws mountains in the distance and they reminded him of home. There is a nice story here.
Continuing east on US Hwy 2 towards Havre we took a sideroad to visit a small abandoned schoolhouse in what used to be Fresno, Montana. This schoolhouse has been photographed numerous times and is kind of indicative what things looked like on the prairies. From US Hwy 2 we took a left on Smith-Frisno Road, crossed over the tracks and went north about a mile. The old schoolhouse is on the left…you can’t miss it. It’s actually about 8.5 miles from downtown Kremlin.
Havre is probably the midway point on the Hi-Line and is by far the biggest town on the Hi-Line as well with more than 10,000 residents. The town was in incorporated in 1893 and was founded primarily to serve as a major a major service center for the Grand Northern Railroad which was built by James J. Hill, who was also known as “The Empire Builder.” The town was named for Le Havre in France due to the number of Frenchmen working with Hill.
The main industry for many years has been the railroad. BNSF was, for many years, the main employer in town, though the hospital and a university may now be the biggest employers. It is also about 6 miles north of Fort Assiniboine which served as one of Montana’s chief military posts from 1879 through the early 1900s.
Former Havre resident Lyndon Pomeroy is a well known Montana metal sculptor. He created the Hands Across the Border piece to represent U.S. and Canadian partnership in northern Montana. He has a few other works in Havre and also a number of them in Billings., where he now resides. He also has done a recent large piece for Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.
The above bison was created by Havre resident Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison. Cory is better known for his “Fence Post Art,” some of which can be seen here. He has work in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. The fence sculptures cover a wide range of subjects: people, animals, insects, abstract and impressionist pieces. Can’t wait for my next trip to Montana to look for these!!
From Havre it was east to Chinook. This town of a little over 1200 people. Like many of the towns in northern Montana, Chinook was born from the railroad. In the late 1880s the railroad was coming through here and by the early 1900s the town had hotels, businesses and a bustling economy. In 1924 the Utah-Idaho Sugarbeet company moved to Chinook to make molasses and sugar beet pulp. There are still many nostalgic signs hanging in town.
From Chinook the drive gets more scenic as it also runs along the Milk River. Unfortunately, the day was passing by as we passed small towns like Zurich, Harlem and Malta on our way into Glasgow. I wanted to get to Glasgow before dark so I could get shots of the dinosaur statues on a hill as you enter town. Another quirky way to end the daylight portion of the trip before pushing our to Wolf Point and then into Glendive.
It was really a long day, especially since we left Shelby at 2 PM to head east. We made it into Glendive around 11 PM, but had a great eventful day along the Hi-Line. The next day will be a fun one too with the Enchanted Highway and Mount Rushmore on the agenda!! Watch for that post soon.