A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The S Things #AtoZChallenge

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

Great little place in the geographic center of the continental US!
Always like places with these old keys!

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Sandwich, New Hampshire

WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!

Sandwich, New Hampshire – Cool little village as long as you don’t want to find a sandwich
Signposts in Sandwich, NH. No restaurants!

Story Inn – Story, Indiana

Sumoflam at the Story Inn in Story, IN
The nice old wooden floors of the Story Inn dining area
Antique Checkerboard on the Story Inn front porch. Checkers are actually old pop bottle caps

San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Success, Missouri

Finding Success in Missouri

Shoshoni, Wyoming

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, MN
Sumoflam with an Alienized Smile at Space Aliens
Space Aliens Grill & Bar, Fargo, ND

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

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.
Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud sign – Teton Valley, ID

Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana

Sandhill Cranes take flight
1000s of sandhill cranes converge on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Dell, Montana
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain, GA in 2015

Scary Creek, West Virginia

Scary Creek Church of God sign
Scary Creek Paintball billboard

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, CO

Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City
Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs, IA

Solomon, Kansas

US Post Office, Solomon, Kansas
Solomon Water Tower

Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Ahoy matey…how about some lunch at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor, WI

Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan

Enjoying a visit to the famed Suizenji Park in Kumamoto

Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington

Spar Cafe – Olympia, WA
Inside the Spar Cafe in Olympia

Salida, Colorado

Salida, Colorado
Odd metal buffalo in Salida, Colorado

Seth, West Virginia

Seth, West Virginia

Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas

77 Foot Tall Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, Texas
Sumoflam with Big Sam Houston towering behind him in Huntsville, TX

Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa

Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Live Long and Prosper – Sumoflam and the Starship Riverside

Shiner, Texas

Shiner, Texas
Shiner Barbeque Company, Shiner, Texas

Sarris Candies – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Sarris Candy in Canonsburg. One of the world’s largest candy stores
Sarris Candy Castle weighs 1500 pounds

Sisters, Oregon

Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters Oregon

South Congress Cafe – Austin, Texas

South Congress Cafe in Austin
I had breakfast at the South Congress Cafe. It was truly an upscale cafe, if there is such a thing

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, May 2015
Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco
At Golden Gate Bridge in in San Francisco, CA May 2015

Skykomish, Washington

Welcome to Skykomish

Springfield, Illinois

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois

Seagulls – Port Orchard, Washington; Puget Sound, Washington; Galveston, Texas; Ashland, Wisconsin

Seagull with clam in Port Orchard
A flock of seagulls on the deck of the Hyak in Puget Sound, WA
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over a lake in Ashland, Wisconsin
Seagull in flight in Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington

Chief Standing Brave – Big Cabin, Oklahoma

Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK

Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois

As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around

The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh

Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Beloit, WI Smiley Water Tower
Smiley Water Tower – Cedar Creek, Texas

And finally…one without a Smiley Face….

A Smiley Water Tower without a Smiley Face…Smiley, Texas

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho
Stardust Motel Neon sign – Wallace, Idaho

Seattle, Washington

Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Welcome to the Seattle Waterfront
Seattle’s famed “Great Wheel”

Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia

Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter Sunday 2017
Easter Sunrise as seen from Shenandoah National Park
Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017

Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota

Closeup of the Biker Skeleton at Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
A skeleton pirate guards the entrance to a shop in Fisherman’s Wharf
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Closeup of Murdo Skeleton

Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

The Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, MT taken in June 2005
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food
Canned Delicacies at Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE

Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug

Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho

Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Sawtooth Range as seen from Galena Overlook

Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Barbed Wire Indian Chief and Horse – Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin

Superman Mural in Metropolis, IL
At the house that used to be the home of Jerry Siegel, the Creator of the Superman stories. This is in Cleveland, Ohio
Superman is hung forever on the side of Boudreau’s antiques…saving a little doll?
Sumoflam and the 12 foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis (not fiberglass, but a neighbor to Big John)

Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota

Livestock Sign – Newell, SD
Sign at the door of TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.

Shelby, Montana

Shelby, MT Amtrak Station
Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana

Shelby, Mississippi

Welcome to Shelby, MS
Colorful buildings of Shelby, MS
Daniel’s Snack Shack, Shelby, MS

Sedona, Arizona

Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ

Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Stinky’s Sign – Gilboa, Ohio
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma

Showmen’s Rest in Hugo’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Sumoflam with an Elephant Headstone at Showmen’s Rest
A final view of Showmen’s Rest

Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Welcome Sign
A Santa Selfie at Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Police

Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario

Sparta House Tearoom – Sparta, Ontario

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey
Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

Seabrook, New Hampshire

Sign Post in Seabrook, NH
Welcome to New Hampshire! US State #48 for me.

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Shakespeare, Ontario

Welcome to Shakespeare
Antique Shops in Shakespeare

Steubenville, Ohio

Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Sumoflam and Dino in Steubenville

Swedesburg, Iowa

Welcome to Swedesburg
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg.
Caution – Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA

Sam Black Church, West Virginia

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV
Sam Black Church historical Marker

Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona

Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

Silver Dollar Saloon – Leadville, Colorado

Silver Dollar Saloon storefront – 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.

Books 1 & 2

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#TBT – Oh the Places I’ve Been: Some Odds and Ends

“You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

Sumoflam at the White House - July 1990
Sumoflam at the White House – July 1990

As a Throwback Thursday menagerie, I thought I would throw in some of my odds and ends from the past…some going way back and some not so long ago.  I have been blessed to travel so many places and many of my travels happened long before I began writing about them.  So, here they are, a potpourri of places diverse.  ENJOY THE RIDE!

Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.
Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.  Indeed, I soared to high heights!!

“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” – Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979.  I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.
Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979. I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.

Most of my early life was spent in the western U.S. and, as such, I got to see deserts, mountains, Indian ruins and more.

Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument in Cottonwood, AZ in 1983.  I was a tour guide at the time
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument in Cottonwood, AZ in 1983. I was a tour guide at the time
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983
The red rocks near Tuba City, AZ look like someone stacked them.  This was taken in 1983
The red rocks near Tuba City, AZ look like someone stacked them. This was taken in 1983 (and no, I was not really pushing)

Growing a love for antiquities and old things, I had many opportunities to visit old places during my many visits to Japan.  I am especially fond of the awesome castles and amazing old shrines, many of which I have had the opportunity to visit.  Here are a couple.

Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan...visited in 1987
Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan…visited in 1987
One of Japan's smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top.  I visited here in 1990
One of Japan’s smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top. I visited here in 1990
Perhaps the best "old shrine" in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries.  This is north of Tokyo.  I visited Nikko in 1990.
Perhaps the best “old shrine” in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries. This is north of Tokyo. I visited Nikko in 1990.
The colorful pagoda in Nikko
The colorful pagoda in Nikko

While living in Japan, I also visited Kyoto on a couple of occasions.  Kyoto has wonderful old historic shrines and temples, and colorful Geisha…

Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Visiting the Gold Pavilion "Kinkaku Ji" in Kyoto in 1987
Visiting the Gold Pavilion “Kinkaku Ji” in Kyoto in 1987

Back in the U.S., I have been to both coasts and to the north and south and most points in between.  Here are some of the places I have visited…

In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
I was in the US in 1990 for the first cross-country solar car race, called the GM Sunrayce.  During that visit I also made a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian
I was in the US in 1990 for the first cross-country solar car race, called the GM Sunrayce. During that visit I also made a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian
While working on my Masters Degree at Arizona State University, I was afforded the opportunity to represent ASU at West Point and do a paper presentation.  It was a neat experience to visit this amazing institution in 1986
While working on my Masters Degree at Arizona State University, I was afforded the opportunity to represent ASU at West Point and do a paper presentation. It was a neat experience to visit this amazing institution in 1986
Then, there was the visit to Graceland, home of Elvis back a few years ago
Then, there was the visit to Graceland, home of Elvis back a few years ago
And let's not forget Nashville.  I have been there a dozen times since.
And let’s not forget Nashville. I have been there a dozen times since.
I got to visit the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco as part of Antsy McClain's tour team.  Great music hall
I got to visit the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco as part of Antsy McClain’s tour team. Great music hall

I have discovered that the world abounds with natural beauty.  I have been blessed to see this beauty in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, the Philippines and other places.

Coal Mine Canyon in Northern Arizona, 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Northern Arizona, 1990
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
On a cruise ship enjoying the splendor of Alaska's beautiful mountains
On a cruise ship enjoying the splendor of Alaska’s beautiful mountains
Sitting on top of the world at Echo Lake near the base of the summit of Mt. Evans near Denver, Colorado
Sitting on top of the world at Echo Lake near the base of the summit of Mt. Evans near Denver, Colorado
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Down in Japan's version of Mammoth Cave in 1988
Down in Japan’s version of Mammoth Cave in 1988
Enjoying Fall Colors in Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada in 2008
Enjoying Fall Colors in Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada in 2008
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
Visiting the Everglades in Florida in July 1990
Visiting the Everglades in Florida in July 1990

Of course, when taking trips there are always fun things to try.  When in Japan I tried quite a few new adventures.  Perhaps my favorites were taking hot springs baths and going to the Sumo Wrestling events.

Enjoying an outdoor bath in Amagase, Japan.  This was actually part of TV series I was hosting in 1988
Enjoying an outdoor bath in Amagase, Japan. This was actually part of TV series I was hosting in 1988

Beppu is probably the most famous of the hot springs resort towns in Japan.  Located in Oita Prefecture, I had the opportunity to visit often and for different kinds of “baths”

A hot spring shower in Beppu...and yes, the towel was necessary.  1990
A hot spring shower in Beppu…and yes, the towel was necessary. 1990
Relaxing on one of the cozy hot pools in Beppu in 1987.  You are required to be totally disrobed...this is the least revealing photo.
Relaxing on one of the cozy hot pools in Beppu in 1987. You are required to be totally disrobed…this is the least revealing photo.
Then there are the Sand Baths, the Sawdust Baths and more.  I was buried in hot sand and it felt great.  Beppu in 1989
Then there are the Sand Baths, the Sawdust Baths and more. I was buried in hot sand and it felt great. Beppu in 1989

Then there are the Sumos…I got to go to two of their tournaments and see the giant Konishiki wrestle.  I will always be a fan of Sumo wrestling.

Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.
Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991.  He made me look small!!
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991. He made me look small!!

Of course, as a history major, I have always had an interest in things historical.  One of my classes at Northern Arizona University was on Japanese literature and we studied Kunikida Doppo, who was considered one of Meiji Japan’s most well traveled writers.   While living in Oita, I was able to visit his studio in Saiki.  Ironically, my professor at NAU, Dr. Atkins, was a Kunikida Doppo expert, so it was a special trip for me.

Visiting the Kunikida Doppo monument in Saiki, Japan
Visiting the Kunikida Doppo monument in Saiki, Japan in 1988
Some of Japan's oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
Some of Japan’s oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue.  It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s.
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue. It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s. (That is my oldest daughter Amaree popping behind me in the photo)

One cannot study Japanese history without learning about the atrocities of World War II.  The Americans dropped two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  I have been able to visit both places.  Ironically, in 1979 I also visited the Los Alamos museum where the bombs were initially built.  So, I have seen both sides of the story.

Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Remains from A-Bomb in Nagasaki in 1988
Remains from A-Bomb in Nagasaki in 1988

And now, for a few other odds and ends, just for fun…

Old Christian Church in Nagasaki 1988
Old Christian Church in Nagasaki 1988
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Beale Street in Memphis, TN late 1990s
Beale Street in Memphis, TN late 1990s with my high school pal Russ Graves
Photo bear in Gatlinburg, TN
Photo bear in Gatlinburg, TN
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico
At Lake Erie on the Ontario, Canada side with sign pointing to Cleveland, OH, my birthplace
At Lake Erie on the Ontario, Canada side with sign pointing to Cleveland, OH, my birthplace
The famed "Spindle" sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne's World.  Apparently, it wasn't worthy.  This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down...meh
The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh
Fort San Pedro on Cebu Island in the Philippines
Fort San Pedro on Cebu Island in the Philippines
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007 – with my Canadian pal Crafty Jack
Enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula
Enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula

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#TBT Montana Road Trip: Day 1 – June 15, 2005

Montana Road Trip Journal

June 15, 2005: Today we departed on our trip to Great Falls, Montana for Amaree’s wedding, the second in a string of 3 weddings in 8 weeks. Accompanying me on the trip is Seth, Solomon and Marissa, who will be married on the 25th of June in Louisville, which is in 10 days. Our Road Trip will comprise about 4500 miles as we drive north thru Indiana and Illinois and then across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and into Montana. Our return will be a
similar trip, except thru a corner of Wyoming and then across South Dakota and then Minnesota and Wisconsin. A general map of the trip can be seen below:

My goal was to leave at 5:30 AM since we have such a long trip ahead of us. However, we got out at 6:00 AM. Then, we had to stop at Wal-Mart to get some new tennis shoes for me since I blew my others ones out yesterday.  After Wal-Mart, we made a quick stop at McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed on the road.

Before I go into detail about the trip, I need to make a special note of gratitude to Randy O’Neal and his wife.  Randy works with me at Lexmark.  We have worked in the same are for nearly five years.  Anyway, last Sunday Randy called me out of the blue.  I was curious why he would call me on a Sunday and wondered if there was a work
emergency that came up.  In the long run Randy told me that he and his wife would like to offer us the use of their conversion van for the long trip. They felt that this was probably the best gift they could give for these weddings and that it would fill a big need since he knew we were planning on renting a car for the trip.  I told him how far we were going and that I would feel bad if anything happened.  But, he continued to press and so I graciously accepted.  This was such an extremely kind and thoughtful act on the part of Randy and his wife.  I know that this will make the trip more comfortable for all of us.  Below is a picture of the van:

Randy’s van – our wheels for this trip

We finally got on the road at about 6:45 after taking care of all the errands.  We headed west through Versailles and then onto I-64 towards Louisville.  We then headed north on I-65 through Indianapolis and on up to Gary, Indiana.  By the time we got to Gary it was already 11:45 AM.  My goal was to be in Chicago at our first stop by 10:00.  But, due to traffic and a late start, we were already way behind.  Nonetheless, I was thrilled to be on the road.  I had not taken a road trip like this for a couple of years and love to get out and see the countryside and the personality of these United States and all that is offered.  I kind of themed our trip to see the ‘Wacky and Wonderful’.  We would be going across the Northern states to Montana and they are fairly well known for a number of cheesy and interesting sites (and in the case of Wisconsin–REAL Cheesy).  I spent alot of time scheduling out all of the sites, most of which would be free.  But, we also had a tight schedule to keep since we had to make it to Great Falls by late Thursday night.  So, we really had to push it.

Our first planned stop was in Chicago, at Millennium Park.  We finally pulled into the underground parking lot in downtown Chicago at 12:54 PM, basically three hours later than planned.  The traffic was TERRIBLE into Chicago.  There were instances that we didn’t even move along Lake Shore Drive.  But, I wanted to at least get to Millennium Park.  I had read about it in the AAA Magazine and
thought it would match our theme.  I also felt that this would be a great point for all of us to get out and stretch and walk a bit.

Chicago traffic was terrible.
Thus parking garage was just one of many novelty sites on this trip.

Millennium Park is right in the center of downtown Chicago, on the location of Grant Park.  It is a 24.5 acre park that features some fabulous art and architecture.  I will not go into the history of the park here, but instead will provide a link to the park’s website:

Millenium Park

My hopes in visiting the park were to see the three main works: The Crown Fountain, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Kapoor sculpture, entitled “Cloud Gate”.

Our first stop was the Crown Fountain.  The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens (apparently over 1000 subjects were videoed), a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where
faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.  I was excited to see the fountains and see how the faces were projected on to them. More details about the fountains can be found here: The Crown Fountain

Here we are visiting Crown Fountain:

Seth and Solomon get a toothy grin at the Crown Fountain.
Missy and I are ooking at the “gargoyle”

The fountains are actually kind of freaky.  The subjects were video-taped, so they blink, move their mouths, etc.  It is as if the structures were alive.

Our next stop on the park was a stroll over to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.  To me this looks very similar to the Sydney Opera House in architectural design.  Details about the pavilion can be seen here: Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The Pavilion is a concert venue that stands about 120 feet high.  The stage is surrounded by a number of brushed steel ribbons.  I guess they call this the “headdress”.  There is a large lawn in front of it that makes this much like an amphitheater.  While we were here, there was an orchestra and choir rehearsing for an upcoming concert.  It was pretty unique.

Solomon, Seth and me at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Brothers carrying sister Marissa under the “headdress” of the pavilion

Our next visit in the park was to the “Cloud Gate”.  This is a large silver sculpture that looks like a drop of mercury.  Unfortunately, we could not see it in its entirety as much of it was covered for repair work.  Here is a link to more details about the sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor:  Cloud Gate on SBC Plaza

Despite the construction, we were able to get some pictures as one side of it was open.  It was pretty neat to take the pictures with a backdrop of the city behind us.  Here we are at Cloud Gate:

If you look carefully, you can see me in the middle taking the picture…to the left of Seth’s head.
One of the massive pieces of art at Millennium Park
A view of the fountain

We spent about an hour at the park. It was a refreshing experience and a nice break.  But, we needed to get back on the road as we had a lot of ground to cover.  I was quite disappointed that we were so far behind schedule.  One of the other sites that I really, really, really wanted to see was the Cermak Plaza, famous for the Cars on a Spike (NOTE: I did eventually make it to Cermak to see Spindle and, thank goodness I did as it has since been taken down).  Since we didn’t get there, I don’t have photos.  But here is a link: Spindle

Another place I had hoped to see was the Leaning Tower
of Niles…Niles, Illinois that is.  But, time did not allow for that
either.  But, here is a link from my favorite site Roadside America: Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois

Hopefully, on my next Road Trip to Montana to see Amaree and Aaron we can hit those sites.

We finally got back on the road at about 2 PM and continued to head north towards Wisconsin.  Along I-90 we must have hit 5 or 6 toll stations.  What a pain.  All totaled, we spent $11.00 on tolls between Gary, IN and the Wisconsin border.

We drove up I-90 through Madison, WI and then took exit 126 to DeForest, WI, which was our next scheduled stop. The first stop was the Ehlenbach Cheese Chalet, famous for its cheese and also famous for its large Holstein Cow statue in the front of the shop.  Here we
are in Wisconsin:

Welcome to Wisconsin!
Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet in DeForest, WI

Of course, besides a nice bag of cheese curds, the real goal here was to see Sissy the Cow:

Sissy the Cow..udderly mooving. Sissy the Cow is NOT wearing the tie dye shirt!!!
I did say there were some cheesy things in Wisconsin!!

Sissy is 19 feet tall, 20 feet long, and two tons — a Holstein cow made of structural steel and fiber mixed with epoxy.  She used to be known as the World’s Largest Cow, along with her sister Chatty Belle in nearby Janesville, WI.  However, as you will soon see (in a later post), she is now nowhere near the world’s largest (which is Salem Sue, in New Salem, ND).

Another site we planned on just down the road from Sissy, in fact, at the same exit, is Pinky the Elephant.  This was Marissa’s hope and dream to see Pinky.  Pinky is one of three or four of these bespectacled Pink Elephants dotting the United States.  I think there is one in Tennessee, one in Illinois and one in Georgia.  However, due to its proximity with Sissy, this one is probably the most famous.  Here are some shots of Pinky and Missy:

Pinky the Elephant in DeForest, WI
Marissa kissing Pinky on the snout
Missy gave Pinky a love pat on the rear.
And yes…you can EVEN buy souvenir stickers of Pinky for a quarter!! (As of 2014 they were 50 cents)

After our little venture into DeForest, it was time for us to head west towards Minnesota.  There were many other places along the way that we wanted to see, but time was a factor for us as we needed to get to St. Cloud, Minnesota in time for dinner at a special place.

We cruised across the state and got to the Mississippi River at about 7:15 PM, still about 3 hours behind schedule. This was really disappointing to me here as well.  I had hoped to get to Darwin, MN to see the Largest Ball of Twine made by one person.  But, since
we couldn’t make it this time, I will at least put a link to it:
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
.  There are other Balls of Twine out
there as evidenced by this site: World’s Largest Twine Balls.  I hope to get to all of them some time.

Solomon doesn’t look to excited to be welcomed to Minnesota.
The kids with the Mississippi River behind them.

But, despite missing the twine ball, I was very determined to get to Space Aliens Grill and Bar in Waite Park, MN, just outside of St. Cloud.  We were all hungry and we had to push it to get there, which we finally did at 10:00 PM.  Thank goodness they close at 11:00 PM (I did my research in advance so I knew this!!).  It was great to get there when we did too.  It was a Wednesday and that meant All-You-Can-Eat Ribs.  The boys were thrilled.

I wanted to go to Space Aliens either here or in Fargo, but didn’t think we could make it all the way to Fargo. This is one of those novelty theme restaurants as can be seen below.  Here is a link to their web site: Space Aliens Grill & Bar

The Waite Park restaurant was not difficult to locate.  We got there and all Seth and Solomon could say was “Let’s Eat!!”  I don’t think I need to say anything about the restaurant except that the ribs were fantastic.  The boys ate a ton of ribs, in fact, the waitress said she could not recall any group having as many as we did. The photos below should tell it all:

Notice that Earthlings are Welcome at this place.
Sumoflam outside the restaurant at 10 PM CST
Seth at the ‘UFO Crossing’.
Some of the typical artwork
The ceiling artwork
Now this is what we came for!! All-You-Can-Eat Ribs.
The boys set a record at this place and also wiped out the ribs.

Empty bones and plates
And full tummies and smiling faces after a well-eaten meal!!

After a great dinner, and our first real meal of the day, we were ready to crash.  We found a nearby motel and did just that.  A long, long day 1 of the trip to Montana was finally over.

The entire roadtrip set of journals can be seen in its original form HERE

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