One of the more interesting things I look for on roadtrips as I pass through small communities on back roads is yard art. Funky art and decorations in people’s yards, on their fences, on their houses. People have ingenuity. Some people have junk. But, as the saying goes, “One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure.”
For me, Yard Art is anything unique and unusual. It could be chain saw art – wood carvings made with chain saws. It could be art made from scrap metal. It could be, like the photo above, a hodge podge of signs, junk or other things. Following are some selections of yard art I have taken over the years. Don’t judge…some of these people love their “collections.” I just love my collection of photos of theirs… Enjoy the virtual ride.
There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind. Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird. On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.
Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat. I think we all make those determinations ourselves. In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.
I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts. Why quirky? Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?
The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.
In fact, there are many “quirky” scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country. Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.
One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA. Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist. I visited his shop back in 2007.
I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA. After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!
Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places. You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!
I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.
Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani. He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.
There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.” See my original post HERE.
Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.
Quirky is not only centered on art. There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.” That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.
And they don’t have to be antique shops either. How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US… Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?
And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit
Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.
Then there are places that defy description. One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.
One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.
This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal. I was fascinated.
And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.
Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322
I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there. Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.
The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough. But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.
And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.
Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get. Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world…. and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.
I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece. That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.
This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations. Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did. I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested. See it here.
By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons. The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall. The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet. On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!
So much quirk and so little time and space. Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.
We first took a brief zip around Glendive to catch some of the sights…
Glendive, Montana is surrounded by badlands and there have been many finds of dinosaur bones and tracks in the area, thus the signs, museum, etc. We went to Makoshika State Park, which is a nice badlands area. In fact, Makoshika is a Lakota word for “land of bad spirits.”
From Glendive we headed east on I-94 towards North Dakota with a brief stop to get the sign for “Home on the Range”, an unusual sign in the middle of the prairie in North Dakota, east of Beach, ND. It turns out that Home on the Range is a working Catholic-run ranch for boys and girls ages 12-19, especially those that were abused or come from broken families. It helps them readjust and cope. Appears to be a great program.
We continued east until we got to Exit 72, which leads to the Enchanted Highway, one of those AWESOME adventure highways with some unique roadside attractions. I recently did a full blog post just on this highway. Therefore, I will only post a couple of photos here. Please see the blog post for the details on that portion of this trip.
The main attractions are shown below.
After the trip down the Enchanted Highway, we arrived in the small town of Regent, home of the Enchanted Highway museum and gift shop, the Enchanted Castle Hotel and a couple of gas stations. We had hoped to eat lunch there, but nothing was open. And it was a Monday….oh well…
Still hungry, we decided to move on and head south towards Mt. Rushmore. We went west on ND Hwy 21 until we got to Hwy 22 and then went south towards South Dakota. We stayed on Hwy 22 until we got to South Dakota.
We then followed SD Hwy 79 all the way into Newell, South Dakota, which is known as the Sheep Capital of the United States. We meandered into T.J.’s Cafe and Waterin’ Hole in Newell for lunch. It was almost 3 PM so we were quite hungry. This unique diner was what we needed. I loved some of the furnishings, as you can see below.
After a nice lunch and some homemade pie for dessert, we were back on the road heading towards Mount Rushmore. On the way we passed through Sturgis, SD, famed for its annual motorcycle event in August. I had never been here. We passed right by the Full Throttle Saloon, claimed to be the World’s Largest Biker Bar and also famed for its TV Show on TRU-TV, which, but the way, I have never watched.
From Sturgis we booked it down to Keystone and to Mt. Rushmore.
We pulled through Keystone, SD at about 5:10 PM on our way to Mt. Rushmore. As this was the off season, almost everything was closed. We made it to the National Monument after closing time but still with daylight. We were able to get up into the parking lot for free and got some good photos before the sunset.
We were thrilled to be able to see Mt. Rushmore. BY the time we were done it was getting dark. We headed east from there, passed by the Badlands National Park, by Underwood, South Dakota, home of the World’s SMALLEST Biker Bar, and by Wall Drug (which I have visited in the past – see my post from 2005). We also passed by the big dinosaur skeleton being led by a human skeleton near Pioneer Village and could barely make it out as it had gotten dark.
We finally got into Oacoma, SD, our stop for the night. It was another long day, but was lots of fun!! Nothing like a full day of road tripping and seeing the sights and creating the memories!!