April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: US Route 2 in Washington

US Route 2 in Washington

Over the years I have been able to travel the majority of US Route 2 from Michigan all the way to the other side of Glacier National Park.  But I have never had the opportunity travel Route 2 in Washington, which would effectively let me finish the western segment of the highway, which, ultimately stretches 2,112 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA.  Within Washington, the highway traverses a 326.36-mile-long route that connects the western and eastern regions of the state as a part of the state highway system and the National Highway System. US 2 also forms parts of two National Scenic Byways, the Stevens Pass Greenway, which goes over a portion of the Cascades, and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway near Coulee City, which offers some wonderful views of the Grand Coulee Dam. The drive also goes through one of Washington’s fruit tree country and provides views of the massive orchards that cover the landscape.

Map of Route 2 from Spokane to Everett
Power lines seem to go on forever over the steppe landscape in Eastern Washington

I started my early April morning traveling from Wallace, ID and enjoying a nice breakfast in Coeur D’Alene with a an old friend. I was then off on my last leg of a year’s long quest to complete a drive across US Route 2.  The drive from Spokane enters the northern reaches of the Columbia Plateau, which is a high desert shrub-steppe environment and is pretty much this way all the way past Coulee City to the small community of Waterville.

US Route 2 between Davenport and Wilbur, WA
US Route 2 just west of Spokane, WA
Welcome to Davenport

My first stop along the way was in Davenport, WA.  As I drove through I noticed a quirky old place called the Black Bear Motel so I just had to stop.  I also decided it was a good place for a restroom break, so I headed over to a gas station/convenience store.  I was overly amused by the signage, so, in the nature of Sumoflam fun, I took full advantage of it!!

Black Bear Motel/Campground in Davenport, WA
Old Cigar Store Indian at entrance to Black Bear Motel in Davenport
Bucking Broncos in parking lot of Black Bear Motel
An Indian on a horse appears to be guarding the Black Bear Motel
Old signage at the Black Bear Motel
Just Five Cents sign at Black Bear Motel

And then there is that Restroom at the Gas Station!!

This is the sign on the Restroom Door at the Cenex Station in Davenport
Had to make a purchase to become a customer so I could get the valuable key to the throne.
WooHoo! I became a customer and got the key!!
This was the sign above the urinal in the restroom. I laughed pretty hard… and no, I did not throw in any coins…

After that fun adventure, I was back on US Route 2 heading west towards Wilbur.

US Route 2 east of Wilbur, WA
Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the spider??
Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the pig? The pig is Wilbur, the spider is Charlotte. HA!
Hanging with Wilbur in Wilbur, WA
Billy Burgers classic neon in Wilbur, WA
Old theater turned Beauty Salon in Wilbur
Welcome to Coulee CIty, WA

The next leg of the trip continued through the high desert steppes until near Coulee City.  Coulee City sits at the southern end of the 27 mile long Banks Lake, which was been created as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, which sits at the northern end of the lake.

History of Coulee City, WA
View of Banks Lake as seen from US Route 2 west of Coulee City

From Coulee City, US Route 2 meanders into a massive basin near Sulphur Canyon as it runs along one of the walls of the canyon.  It was actually quite a site.

US Route 2 heading west from Coulee City towards Sulphur Canyon
Route 2 west heading into Sulphur Canyon basin
One of the walls of Sulphur Canyon as seen from Jameson Lake Rd. and US Route 2
Welcome to Waterville, WA

Route 2 eventually gets into the small community of Waterville, which is about the halfway point on Route 2 between Spokane and Everett. I took a quick drive through town and found a couple of goodies in this historic little community.  Perhaps the most interesting thing was the whimsical “Lumpy Dowser” Statue that sits outside the Douglas County Museum , and was sculpted by local artist, the late Rich Beyer (1925-2012).  (Note:  I also got a shot of his work “The Kiss” while in Olympia, WA on this same trip.  It will be in my Olympia Post). Dowsing is using a stick to find water…a unique piece of art for a town named after water.  During the sculpture’s dedication in July 1996, local resident Joanne Whitehall compiled a history of water dowsing. The last paragraph of her composition follows:

“Not everyone has the ability to dowse. Many of those who have, attribute it to a gift, as it has not been a learned art. Judged by scientific standards, the practice has little basis in fact. However, the countless good sources of water found by this method is hard to dispute.”

The “Water Dowser” by Richard Beyer
Close up of the Water Douser’s whimsical head
Dr. Pierces Tonic (photo from Smithsonian Institute website)

Living in the eastern US, I am used to seeing advertising on the sides of barns, typically Mail Pouch chewing tobacco.  While stopped for gas in Waterville, I noticed a barn with an ad for Dr. Pierce’s General Tonic on it.  I had to look it up and see what it was (or is).  Turns out it supposedly resolved a number of health issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, sore throats, constipation, indigestion and other problems.  Its main ingredients included water, borate of soda, golden seal root, queen’s root, stone root, black cherry bark, mandrake and glycerine.  It was available from around 1890 to 1900. As for the barn ad shown below, some research indicates that these ads were on the sides of barns in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Fun discovery!

Dr. Pierce’s ad on a barn in Waterville as seen from Route 2
Mailboxes under a Douglas sign. Douglas is the county name and Waterville is the county seat.

From Waterville, US Route 2 continues west to Orondo and then heads dues south along the beautiful Columbia River into the fruit orchards of the Wenatchee Valley.  Wenatchee sits at the edge of the Cascades on one side and borders the high desert on the other.  Honestly, Wenatchee deserves an extended visit.  They also claim to be the Apple Capital of the World.

One of the lovely scenes of the Wenatchee Valley and the Columbia River
A verdant view of East Wenatchee near Wenatchee Confluence State Park

US Route 2 crosses over the Frances Farmer Memorial Bridge just north of the confluence of where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River. Absolutely lovely scenery here! And then there are the apple orchards.  I really am kicking myself that I didn’t go into town to get pictures, but I was running behind on schedule.  Next trip to Washington, Wenatchee is a destination!

Apple Orchards as seen from Route 2 heading west
Seems like fruit trees go on for miles

Once across the Columbia, Route 2 continues west and follows the Wenatchee River as it the road begins its ascent into the Cascades with fruit orchards on both sides of the highway continuing into the small community of. Dryden.  I then made my way into Leavenworth, WA, the next sweet surprise for me on this route.

US Route 2 is a four lane heading into Leavenworth, WA
Downtown Leavenworth, WA

Located in the midst of the Cascades, members of the community decided to give the town a unique Bavarian flair since it sits in the lovely alpine environment.  Everything about the town screams tourism, but it is also a lovely place.  I had to take a few minutes to drive around and grab some pictures.  As with the Wenatchee Valley, I plan on an extended visit to Leavenworth on my next trip to Washington.

Welcome to Leavenworth
All of the buildings are colorfully painted and use Bavarian script
Another of the colorful buildings in Leavenworth
A scene from downtown Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth sits in the central Cascades
Leavenworth road sign — everything is Strasse and not Street
Carriage Rides through the town are offered
And the town has its huge Maypole, used in their annual Maifest
Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass

From Leavenworth, US Route 2 heads due north into the Cascades and proceeds to the highest point on the road at 4,061 feet, where it crosses over Stevens Pass.  Even though it was April when I took this trip, as I got up higher, both sides of the highway had “snow walls,” some taller than six feet.  It was truly a winter wonderland.

It is hard to image so much snow at an altitude of only 4,000 feet.  I saw similar snow walls along the route up over Beartooth Pass in Montana on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, but it was up at the 11,000 foot range.

Deep snow at Stevens Pass on US Route 2
A Winter Wonderland at Stevens Pass, WA
US Route 2 heading west towards Stevens Pass
The snow was so deep that it nearly covered the Stop Sign
More deep snow at Stevens Pass
US Route 2 just past Steven’s Pass
A Mountain scene on US Hwy 2 – with blue sky peaking through the clouds
The mountains through here were beautiful

With the descent, US Route winds westward into the mountain towns of Skykomish, Gold Bar, Startup and others.  The scenes from the road were marvelous and, at times, even breathtaking.

Many cascading waterfalls could be seen along the highway
Welcome to Skykomish, WA
Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish

The Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish is a vestige from the early days of the former Great Northern Railway. Originally built in 1894, the depot is a one-story rectangular wood-frame building that consisted of a passenger waiting room, the station agent’s office and a freight room.  Passenger service on the railway ended in the 1950s and  this depot has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last Great Northern depots still remaining in the State of Washington.

Skykomish setting in the midst of the mountains
The south fork of the Skykomish River flows through the town of Skykomish
US Route 2 through the pines west of Skykomish
Tall pines frame the mountains west of Skykomish
Driving in to the lovely and rugged cascades west of Skykomish

For miles US Route 2 wandered its way along the Skykomish River and through some awe-inspiring mountain scenery.  I felt like I was in heaven as I passed through towns with names like Gold Rush, Startup and Sultan.

US Highway 2 near Goldbar, WA
Welcome to Gold Bar, WA
Gold Bar, WA – Gateway to the Cascades
Entering Startup, WA
The Post Office at Sultan, WA
Train Mural on a wall in Sultan, WA

Finally, US Route 2 had made its descent into the Everett area.  Unfortunately, due to having to catch the Edmonds Ferry and meet up with my family at the ferry, I had to cutoff at Interstate 5 and go south to Edmonds.  I had hoped to get to the end of Route 2 in Everett, which was about a mile away in downtown.  But, effectively, I can really say that I pretty much have now driven across the 2,112 mile stretch of US Route 2!

US Route 2 sign at Stevens Point, WA

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

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, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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Vintage Neon Everywhere

Old Mojo Gas Sign - Rock Springs, Wyoming
Old Mojo Gas Sign – Rock Springs, Wyoming

Everywhere I go I see old neon.  These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled.  Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place.  But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots.  Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs.  There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs.  And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names.  Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.

OLD MOTELS

Chinook Hotel - Chinook, Montana
Chinook Hotel – Chinook, Montana

Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories.  My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968.  At the time I was only 12.  It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch.  We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Log Cabin Motel - Ashton, Idaho
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone, Montana
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
D-K Motel - Arco, Idaho
D-K Motel – Arco, Idaho
Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, South Dakota
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, South Dakota
4 Winds Motel - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
4 Winds Motel – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana  The sign is all that remains
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana The sign is all that remains
Generic Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Generic Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri.  Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri. Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Motel in Havre, Montana
Motel in Havre, Montana
Palace Hotel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Antler Motel - Kemmerer, Wyoming
Antler Motel – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Texan Motel - Raton, New Mexico
Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….

Sleep in a Wigwam - Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Village Motel in Cave City, Kentucky

CAFES AND RESTAURANTS

Goody Goody - St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint.  Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)

Donut Whole - Wichita, Kansas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas They have a giant rooster on the roof there too!
Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon
Royal Donut - Danville, Illinois
Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois
Crystal Cafe - Raton, NM
Crystal Cafe – Raton, NM
Golden Burro Cafe - Leadville, CO
Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO
Presti's Bakery - Cleveland, OH
Presti’s Bakery – Cleveland, OH
Lil' Cafe - Commerce, Oklahoma
Lil’ Cafe – Commerce, Oklahoma
Irma Restaurant and Grill - Cody, Wyoming
Irma Restaurant and Grill – Cody, Wyoming
Pickle's Place - Arco, Idaho
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota

How about some burgers for lunch?

Wimpy's Hamburgers - Dallas, Texas - I'll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today....
Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….
Paul's Hamburgers - Kansas City, Kansas
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Waylan's Hamburgers - Home of the Ku-Ku - Commerce, Oklahoma
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Miami, Oklahoma
Scotty's Hamburgers - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Frostop Root Beer - Ashton, Idaho
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Schroeder's Drive-In - Danville, Illinois
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed.  This one deserves two photos

Cozy Drive-In - Home of the Cozy Dog - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In – Home of the Cozy Dog – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In - Springfield, Illinois  The sign says it all
Cozy Drive-In – Springfield, Illinois The sign says it all

Don’t want a burger or a corn dog?  How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?

Maid-Rite Sandwiches - Lexington, Missouri
Maid-Rite Sandwiches – Lexington, Missouri

Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?

Bryant's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….

Zesto - near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Zesto – near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Jimmy's Ice Cream - Waldo, Arkansas
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Stamps, Arkansas

Okay.  So this next one is not neon.  But it is certainly Vintage.  And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?

M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, Illinois
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, Illinois

There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant.   And many have unique signs.  Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.

Manhattan Bar - Leadville, Colorado
Manhattan Bar – Leadville, Colorado
Mint Bar and Lounge - Chinook, Montana
Mint Bar and Lounge – Chinook, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge - Butte, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge – Butte, Montana
Atomic City Bar - Atomic City, Idaho - no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Atomic City Bar – Atomic City, Idaho – no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Elk Bar and Good Food - Chinook, Montana
Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana
Steaks - what more needs to be said? - near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Steaks – what more needs to be said? – near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Fort Worth, Texas
Lariat Saloon - Buena Vista, Colorado
Lariat Saloon – Buena Vista, Colorado

And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….

Cowboy Bar - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Big Texan Steak House - home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) - Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) – Amarillo, Texas

Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….

Joe Mama's Italian - Time for Fine Eats - Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
Joe Mama’s Italian – Time for Fine Eats – Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
El Fenix Restaurant - Best Tex-Mex in Texas - downtown Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Restaurant – Best Tex-Mex in Texas – downtown Dallas, Texas
Hung Far Low - Famous Chop Suey and Famous name - Portland, Oregon
Hung Far Low – Famous Chop Suey and Famous name – Portland, Oregon

Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak?  How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)

Geno's Cheese Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Pat's King of Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, PA

Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls

Teton Drive-In - Rexburg, Idaho
Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV.  A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.

Too cold outside?  Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.

Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.

 

Plaza Theatre - Glasgow, Kentucky
Plaza Theatre – Glasgow, Kentucky
Lund Theatre - Viborg, South Dakota
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
Liberty Theatre - Vandalia, Illinois
Liberty Theatre – Vandalia, Illinois
Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
The Blue Room - Kansas City, Missouri
The Blue Room – Kansas City, Missouri
Pix Theatre - Winner, South Dakota
Pix Theatre – Winner, South Dakota
Westside Theatre - Newman, California
West Side Theatre – Newman, California
Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky
Kentucky Theatre – Lexington, Kentucky
Fox Theatre - Detroit, Michigan
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Skyline Theatre - Rudyard, Montana
Hi-Line Theatre – Rudyard, Montana
El Raton Theatre - Raton, NM
El Raton Theatre – Raton, NM
Fischer Theatre - Danville, Illinois
Fischer Theatre – Danville, Illinois
Orpheum Theatre - Wichita, Kansas
Orpheum Theatre – Wichita, Kansas
Leeds Theatre - Winchester, Kentucky
Leeds Theatre – Winchester, Kentucky
Bing Crosby Theatre - Spokane, Washington
Bing Crosby Theatre – Spokane, Washington

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES

Pelo's Sundries - LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)

Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section.  That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items.  There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”

I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I  want to include in this section.

The famous Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
The famous Pike Place Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas.  They also do shoe repairs
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas. They also do shoe repairs
Arco City Hall - Arco, Idaho - First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Boring Rexall Drugs - Warsaw, Missouri
Boring Rexall Drugs – Warsaw, Missouri
The Old Drugs Store - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
The Old Drugs Store – Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?

Yummy House - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Yummy House – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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