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 L Towns
First stop on the L Town Road Trip is LeClaire, Iowa. This town literally sits on the shore of the Mississippi River and is definitely a river town. Today the town is perhaps most well known for the shop known as Antique Archaeology, home of the famed History Channel TV Show American Pickers. The show has enjoyed 14 seasons and has nearly 200 episodes as Mike and Franks travel the back roads of the U.S. looking for the rare and valuable items in old barns and other odd places. Their Office Manager Danielle frequents the show as well. I got to meet her in 2012 (see photo above). But what many don’t know is that the western icon Buffalo Bill Cody was born here. Born near LeClaire in Scott County, Iowa, in 1846, Buffalo Bill rode on the Pony Express at the age of 14, fought in the American Civil War, served as a scout for the Army, and was already an Old West legend before mounting his famous Wild West show, which traveled the United States and Europe. There is a museum in his honor in LeClaire. Cody, Wyoming is named for him. The town has a number of unique antique shops and eateries. Definitely worth a visit. I like the place so much I have been there FOUR times!! See more detailed posts about my visits HERE and HERE.
Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
On a trip I took with my son back in 2007 to the western US, we made our way into a backwoods town in northern Wisconsin in search of the famed Largest Twine Ball in the World. We finally found the 19,000 pound monstrosity on the shores of Lake Nebagamon just east of US Highway 53 and south of US Highway 2 near Superior, WI. As unique as the ball was, were fascinated by the creator of this iconic attraction, James Frank Kotera, who calls himself “JFK the Twine Ball Man” and claims to be the most famous JFK. I even made a video of this guy….enjoy a laugh. You can see a flashback post of my 2007 visit HERE and then check out my 2007 Mockumentary Video with JFK below.
Lesage, West Virginia
Drive along the Ohio River out of Huntington, West Virginia and a few miles up WV Highway 2 you’ll come across what appears to be a junk collectors’ paradise. What it really is may surprise you…it is a world famous hot dog joint known as Hillbilly Hot Dogs. The place has been features on Diners, Dives and Drive Ins as well as a number of other shows. And yes, they do make a killer hot dog!! Check out my really fun 2008 Slide Show HERE.
LeRoy, New York
So, you have had the Hot Dogs and you want dessert? How about taking a trip to the community of LeRoy, New York on New York Highway 5 and visit the funky little JELL-O Museum. A ceiling full of spoons, a couple of “Did You Know JELL-O quizzes,” Bill Cosby memorabilia and lots of JELL-O souvenirs. See my 2008 trip report that includes more about the JELL-O museum HERE.
Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Travel along NC Highway 97 and you will eventually hit a crossroads at Lizard Lick Road and come across the small community of Lizard Lick, NC. The town supposedly got its name from a “passing observer who saw many lizards sunning and licking themselves on a rail fence.” In any case, it really became famous in 1998 when Nintendo did a big splashy introduction of their game called “Yoshi’s Story.” Then, in September 2009 Lizard Lick once again received publicity, this time on a national level when TruTV became aware of a local towing and recovery company owned and operated by evangelist and Lizard Lick honorary “Mayor” Ronnie Shirley and his wife Amy Shirley, called Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery. The program, called Lizard Lick Towing, ran for four seasons from 2011-2014
Lake Jackson, Texas (Honorable Mention)
On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I was apprised of a town called Lake Jackson, Texas. Located on Texas Highway 288, it doesn’t necessarily offer too much, but it has a REALLY curious street name — in fact, a couple of them. The main street through town is called This Way and downtown it intersects with another street called That Way. You can read the story on the photo of the plaque above. Definitely a fun quirky place. Read more about my visit HERE.
Lost Springs, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)
Back in 2007 I made a trip through central Wyoming on US Highway 20 with my son Solomon and we came to a place named Lost Springs, which had a sign proclaiming Population 1. At that time it was one of only three or four towns with that population. On a return visit in 2014, the town had grown by three. There is a Post Office, Bar and Antique shop…all were closed on both visits. The entire town must have been on vacation…all four of them. See my original 2007 Post HERE. My 2014 Return Trip is documented HERE.
Langdon, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
Finally, there is that small town north of US Highway 2 in North Dakota called Langdon. Located at the crossroads of ND Highway 1 and ND Highway 5 very close to Canada, my interest in the town was its Spartan missile in the park. You can see more photos and read more about it HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
I continue my series on my Montana road trip and my drive along US Route two across the northern border from Michigan to Montana.
As one progresses further west after leaving Minnesota, you soon discover that the land is flatter, full of prairies and grasslands and not as many lakes and streams as one would see in Minnesota.
I spent the night in Grand Forks, North Dakota and then proceeded to head west early in the morning. The first thing I did was look for the famed Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks. Unlike others with a similar smiley on them, this one has a smiley face on the one side and a winking smiley face on the other. It is always wonderful to start the day off with a smile!
After driving around Grand Forks for just a little bit, I proceeded forward on my drive and, for the first time since starting on US Highway 2, I deviated from the route to head north to an unusual destination. If you need advice on speed limits in this area, you may get it from here.
Before heading north I passed through Niagara, ND and a stop at the historic monument for the Old Fort Totten Trail which was used by the Sioux to assist in delivering mail. From here I proceeded to Petersburg, ND, another old small town. I came across their old Curling Club building. Who said that Curling was only a Canadian sport?
A few more miles down Highway 2 I went through the town of Michigan, ND (population 425)…returned to Michigan after a couple of days (hehehe).
Michigan, ND has a Barn Quilt Trail, which is common in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, but I have not really seen these in other states in my travels.
Finally, before heading north off of US Highway 2, I passed through the town of Lakota, ND. This town is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks. From here I would head north on ND Hwy 1.
Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1. All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.
One of my “goal destinations” in North Dakota was to see the unique pyramid near Nekoma. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.
The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. Depending on the threat, the system could also provide a limited defense of a wider geographical area, including other offensive Minuteman missile fields as well as civilian population centers. It was operational for approximately eight months.
This unique facility is fascinating to look at. The pyramid was actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It used the target trajectory and classification data from the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) along with additional data supplied by its multiface phased array radar. This site provided additional surveillance and target tracking and also performed the function of track and guidance for the Sprint and Spartan missiles. Following is a video that explains some of what happened in the 1970s.
The pyramid shaped MSR is by far the most unique building on the site. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. The MSCB underground areas held additional radar equipment and the data processing and command/control systems. The adjacent underground power plant provided the generating capacity to operate the MSR’s battle management systems.
The pyramid was not the only thing of interest in the area. Nekoma, ND was the support town for the facility, though most of the staff came from the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.
I continued north on Hwy 1 into Langdon, ND to see if there was anything interesting there. Langdon is about 15 miles south of the Canadian border and has about 1800 people residing in the town.
As I drove around I found the town park which actually had one of the Spartan missiles used at the complex in Nekoma. I thought that was unique.
From Langdon I proceeded to head west on ND Hwy 5 and then south on ND Hwy 20 to pass though Munich, ND.
From Munich I continued south into Cando, ND to get some Can Do Spirit!!
Cando, ND is one of my token unique named towns. It got its name as follows:
“…and in virtue of our authority we select this location and name the town ‘Cando’ to show you that we can do it.”
Capt. Prosper Parker
February 14, 1884
Cando is also the “Duck Capital of North Dakota.”
And there were a couple of interesting things in town….
From Cando I headed west on ND Hwy 16 and then south on ND Hwy 3 into Rugby, ND which lays claim to being the geographical center of North America.
According to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey, the geographic center of the North American continent is located approximately 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota. The approximate coordinates are given as latitude 48* 10′ North, 100* 10′ West. The field stone pillar was erected in 1932 on US Hwy 2 and ND Hwy 3.
A few more scenes from Rugby…
I had finally returned to US Hwy 2 and proceeded westward toward my next planned stop which would be Minot, ND. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.
The Gol Stave Church Museum, in Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-size replica of the original church built in about 1250, now in Bygdoy Park in Oslo. It is all wooden inside and I would call it “immaculately simple” in its architecture.
The wood carving is intricate and beautiful in this church. This work was apparently done by professional wood carvers Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Norsk Wood Works in Barronet, WI.
A stone’s throw from the Stave Church is the 30 foot Dala Horse which is apparently the most recognized Swedish symbol in the world. In central Sweden, wood scraps from the local furniture-making trade, paint-pigment from nearby copper mines, and long winter evenings bred the development of the Dala Horse. Traditions vary in giving credit to woodsmen and to soldiers for originating the craft. Dala Horses from the Nusnäs-Mora area first appeared with their familiar bright decoration in the 1800’s when the kurbit, or flower patterned saddle, was regularly added to them. There is actually a website dedicated to the Dala Horse.
Along the way I got a photo of this old homesteader’s house in the prairies. In the background you can see an oil well pump.
Williston is a modern Boomtown as “roughnecks” make their way to the town for oil jobs. North Dakota has the second highest level of GDP per capita, generating about $69,000 in economic activity per resident. Only Alaska ranks higher as a result of this oil boom of the 21st century.
As I drove into town and through town, I was amazed at the number of “extended stay” hotels, prefab apartments, huge trailer complexes and more that had gone up to house all of the oil workers.
The other thing I noticed was the terrible traffic and all of the road construction and infrastructure building in a town whose population is now bursting at the seams. The photo above represents the nearly 45 minutes that it took me to drive through the town in almost constant stop/go traffic on the congested roads.
For Fracture Drilling, the oil rig (or derrick) is used to drill both vertical and horizontal portions of the well. These are actually temporary in nature, and, depending on the well depth and number of wells developed, these will remain on site for a week to as long as eight weeks. There is a great definition of how the complete process works on Halliburton’s website. I saw a number of Halliburton facilities in Williston. I know this is a controversial process, and I am not condoning or complaining about it here. I believe that many of us have no idea how it is done.
From Williston I headed west into Montana for an overnight stay in Glasgow, Montana.
I finally arrived in Glasgow, Montana late after driving all the way from Grand Forks, ND, about 490 miles. They only had one motel left in town with any availability due to a state softball tournament. For the first time in ages I stayed in a 60s style motel with neon and a real key for the door on one of those plastic diamonds with the room number.