Travel in 2018: Fun Place Names and Street Signs

Smiling in Smiley, Texas

I am always on the lookout for fun places to visit when on the backroads of America.  My travels in 2018 took me to 26 different states and along the way I found more unique town names and fun street signs to add to my collection.  In 2017 I published my first book titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names.”  (Check out the book here) At the time I wrote it, I didn’t think I would get enough new places to fill up a second book, but , indeed, I have.  And 2018 really helped with that.

Happyville Road in Greensburg, Kentucky (I always #CHOOSEHAPPY)
Autumn and me in Marvel, Alabama with our Marvel T-Shirts

Obviously, in my road trip plans I did set my sights on a few of these places intentionally.  Once such place was Marvel, Alabama.  I even bought a Marvel T-shirt to wear in front of the sign.  But, having never been there, I had no assurance that there would even be a sign in such a small place.  Luckily, my granddaughter Autumn (who also had a Marvel T-shirt for the occasion) and I did find a sign for the Marvel Baptist Church!!  LUCKY!

Lostant, Illinois. If the ant is Lost, how do they know it is that way?

But, I had many more instances where the places just happened to be there.

This post will quickly hit up on some of these fun discoveries, along with photos of signs, etc.  ENJOY THE RIDE!

“Y” City, Arkansas. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

Y City is an unincorporated community in Scott County, Arkansas. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 71 and 270 in the southern part of the county on Mill Creek and the junction is shaped like a Y.

I.X.L., Oklahoma is really unique. Haven’t seen many towns that have abbreviations.

This small community was apparently a “freedmen’s” town.  It is located in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma on Oklahoma State Highway 48. It has about 59 or 60 residents.

Woody Guthrie Street in Okemah, Oklahoma

While in Okfuskee County, we also visited Okemah, the home of famed folk singer Woody Guthrie — you know, the guy that wrote “This Land is Your Land,” and “Bound for Glory,” among numerous others.

Then there is Gold Bar, Washington in the Cascades

Gold Bar, Washington is located on US 20 in Snohomish County, Washington. The town has a little over 200 residents and is located in the heart of the Cascades.  Beautiful mountains frame this small town.  Gold Bar started as a prospectors camp in 1889, named by a miner who found traces of gold on a river gravel bar.

Fairy Baptist Church, Fairy, Texas. Didn’t know Fairies went to church not that they were Baptist!
The Gate to the Fairy Cemetery in Fairy, Texas

I never knew that fairies were Baptists nor that they die and get buried.  But, there is a Fairy Baptist and a Fairy Cemetery in Fairy, Texas, a very small unincorporated community in the northern part of Hamilton County (north of Hico). It is at the junction of Texas FM 219 and 1602.

Lame Deer, Montana. No, I didn’t even see a regular deer.

Lame Deer is on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Rosebud County, Montana.  The community is named after Miniconjou Lakota chief Lame Deer, who was killed by the U.S. Army in 1877 under a flag of truce south of the town.

Sublime Baptist Church in Sublime, Texas

Sublime, Texas is a small community off of US Route 90 about 60 miles west of Houston.  It has a small church and a Post Office.

Goobertown, Arkansas continues the tradition of strange town names in Arkansas

Goobertown is an unincorporated community in Craighead County, Arkansas, near Jonesboro.  You can pick up a Goobertown T-shirt if you want one at the Goobertown Grocery on US 49. The T-shirts feature a personified peanut after which the tiny community is supposedly named.

Punkin Center, Colorado. No punkins to be seen anywhere.

From peanuts in Goobertown to Punkins in Punkin Center.  Punkin Center is a small, rural Unincorporated community in Lincoln Countyat the intersection of State Highway 94 and State Highway 71.  Yes, that is literally the middle of nowhere!  Originally had a small store that was painted orange (this the pumpkin reference), but it burned down in the 1950s.  There are currently “about” 4 residents in this dot on the highway.

Zigzag Inn – Zigzag, Oregon – A NEW Z Name for me!!
The Zigzag Ranger Station was built in 1935 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Zigzag is another unincorporated community.  It is located in Clackamas County, Oregon on US Route 26, near Rhodendron.  It is supposedly named after the Zigzag River.  It is home to the Zigzag Ranger Station, which was built in 1935.

Smiley, Texas – didn’t find many smiles here
The Smiley Water Tower. Not even a Smiley Face on it!

I am always looking for a smile and I thought Smiley, Texas would be just the place!  I have been all over the country and seen many water towers with those fun smiley faces on them.  Ala, no such luck in this town.  Smiley is located in Gonzales County, Texas on US Route 87 and has a population of about 500 not too smiley people.  It is about 60 miles east of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States.

I have seen the Light!! It’s in Arkansas!

Light, Arkansas was named after Daniel Light, the first settler.  The small unincorporated community of 50 or so is located in Greene County at the junction of US Route 412 and AR Hwy 228.

I had hoped for a sunny day in Cloudy, Oklahoma, but alas, as you can see, the place lived up to its name.
There is a Cloudy Baptist Church!! I wonder if there is sunshine in their souls?
And a Cloudy Cemetery?

I saw the town of Cloudy, Oklahoma on a map as I planned a return trip home from Texas and figured I needed to try to get there.   It was actually more of an adventure than I had planned as Cloudy Road, which heads north out of Rattan, Oklahoma, snakes its way for about 12 miles into some hilly country.  Some of the roads were in bad repair.  But I made it!! Due to flooding, I had to return back to Rattan to continue the trek home.

Yes indeed, there is a nice little community called Dime Box in Texas. It even has a big giant dime in a glass box on display in the town (which will be in another post)
Can’t have much prosperity with only a Dime Box…can you?
A dime for Dime Box. But the forever stamps will cost you 55 cents.

Dime Box, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 141 and TX Hwy 424 in Lee County.  The community has maybe 200 people in town.  There is actually a Dime Box Independent School District and a high school.  I’ll feature more about Dime Box in future posts.

Brothers, Oregon
Brothers Stage Stop – Brothers, Oregon

Brothers, Oregon is a dot on the map on US Route 20 about 40 miles east of Bend.  There is a small stage stop, rest area and post office located in the unincorporated community.  The place is in the Oregon high desert and is in the midst of a vast sagebrush field. If you travel about 60 miles northwest on US 20, you will arrive in Sisters, Oregon.  I have been there a couple of times and have noted the town in my blog in the past (see post).

Ding Dong, Texas is comprised of one store/cafe.

Ding Dong, Texas is an unincorporated place on the Lampasas River between Gerogetown and Kileen on TX Hwy 195.  I had stopped there in hopes of buying Hostess Ding-Dongs…  But, among all of the Hostess Cupcake products in the store, they did not carry Ding Dongs.  A Ding Dong fail!!  Ding Dong was named when two early settlers in the town, Zulis Bell and Bert Bell, opened a store and hired the artist Cohn Cohen Hoover to make a sign for it. Hoover painted a sign with two bells on it. Inside the bells, Hoover painted the initials of the Bell brothers. Underneath one bell he painted the word “Ding” and the word “Dong” under the other bell. Over the years, because of this sign, this community became known as Ding Dong.

Helper, Utah

Helper is small quaint community of about 2,200 located off of US 191 just north of Price, Utah in Carbon County.  The town is a coal mining and railroad town.  It gets its name from the “helper” engines that would help push trains up the long hill to Soldier Summit as trains made their way to Salt Lake City.

There are so many unique places in Texas. I just accidentally came across this one….
I was so thrilled for this place. It had a laundromat and a restroom!!
I wonder if you can call the Telephone VFD with a cell phone now???

Telephone, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 273 and TX Hwy 2029 in Fannin County north of Honey Grove, Texas and just south of the Oklahoma border.   There are about 200 folks in this community, which got its name after numerous rejected name submissions to the US Postal Service in 1886.

Startup, Washington

Startup, Washington is a small community located just west of Stevens Pass on US Route 20. The name was to honor George G. Startup, manager of the Wallace Lumber Company. The Startup post office was established in 1900.  There are about 700 people in this very scenic town at the base of the Cascade Mountains.

Welcome to Many. Not just a few here!

Many, Louisiana is just east of the Texas border on Louisiana Hwy 6 and the junction of US Route 171 in Sabine Parish. The community takes its name from Colonel Many, who was an officer stationed at nearby Fort Jesup.

Flat, Texas is truly in a flat part of the state

Back to Texas (again) to the community of Flat.   The town is on TX Hwy 36 northeast of Temple in Coryell County.  There are about 850 people currently living here.

Big Foot Road in Wall, South Dakota

Are you looking for Big Foot?  Maybe you can take Big Foot Rd. near Wall, South Dakota and find him.  I wouldn’t know…  I just stopped for a photo of the exit sign on Interstate 90.

 

Big Fun in Uranus, Missouri
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Help Keep Uranus Clean

Finally, there is the “faux” town of Uranus, Missouri on Route 66 west of Cuba.  It is actually a huge tourist attraction filled with fun.  The main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory and all of its employees, called Fudge Packers.

And I’ll end this post in Uranus…  hope you enjoyed the ride

Looking for a unique and fun gift for yourself or  your traveler friends? How about a book about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips? You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Enjoy the Read and Enjoy the Ride!

 

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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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