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
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Sandwich, New Hampshire
WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!
Story Inn – Story, Indiana
San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho
Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana
Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia
Scary Creek, West Virginia
Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado
Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa
Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan
Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington
Seth, West Virginia
Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas
Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa
Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois
As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around
Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas
And finally…one without a Smiley Face….
Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho
Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia
Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota
Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana
Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa
Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho
Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska
A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin
Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio
Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma
Santa Claus, Indiana
Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota
Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska
Seabrook, New Hampshire
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois
Sam Black Church, West Virginia
Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona
Silver Dollar Saloon – 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.
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 M Towns
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
There is no better place to catch some trolls than in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a “Trollway” along Wisconsin Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road. Many of these were created by local artist Michael Feeney. We found a few on our visit…. Click here for a nice map of the town, with all of the trolls and other attractions. Click HERE to read more about my 2012 visit and see more trolls.
Traveling Interstate 79 North towards Pittsburgh, you can hop off of Exit 147 onto US Highway 19 and head towards Meadville. Not too far off from there you will run into something interesting. Along the road there is a giant menagerie of roadside art…all made from repurposed roadsigns that PennDOT had donated. Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). 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. See more photos and more of the story HERE.
Many of us have grown up hearing the name “Metropolis” and associating with the big city that Superman. Well, there is actually a town in Illinois called Metropolis and they celebrate their Superman status with an entire town square dedicated to Superman and a newspaper called the Planet. See more in my post about Metropolis from 2012 HERE.
Marshfield, Wisconsin is located just north of US Highway 10 smack in the middle of Wisconsin. And, about four miles north of Marshfield, you can turn off onto Wisconsin Highway 97 and then onto Highway E on the north edge of Marshfield at the Wal-Mart stoplight. Go north past Menards 3 1/2 miles to Sugarbush Lane for 1/2 mile and you will see strange metal sculptures — you are then at Jurustic Park, the brainchild of former attorney Clyde Wynia. Once you get there and park, you will likely be met by Clyde and he will give you the ultimate tour, tell you the stories (both real and made up all intermingled) and will demonstrate and explain some of his nearly 1000 pieces. I asked him how many he has made and he said he has never counted them!! Jurustic Park is a MUST SEE destination if you are anywhere near. See my detailed post from 2012 about Clyde and Jurustic Park HERE.
In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona. Many of my tours took visitors to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona. One of first stops on these specific trips was at a little place known as Moenave, which is just off of US Highway 160 a few miles east of US Highway 89 north of Flagstaff. Not too far up Hwy 160 on the left there is a turn off to the Dinosaur Tracks. This spot on the Navajo Nation may be one of the most well preserved dinosaur track fossils around and, with probably close to 200 tracks, it may also be one of the biggest sites. The site has become so popular, that the Navajo Nation may soon be creating a small visitor center and a fence to protect the site from vandals. Currently you can still visit these for free, but it is advisable to leave a tip to the kind Navajo folk that “guide” you among the tracks. Bear in mind that you’ll need to take what they claim about the tracks with a grain of salt. Though paleontologists have verified these as authentic, there are no T-Rex tracks and no dinosaur poop on the site. Just a number of three toed tracks.
Connecticut offer many unique treasures, and one of them is most certainly Mystic, which sits on US Highway 1, just south of I-95. The town is on the Block Island Sound and is not too far from the northeastern stretches of Long Island in New York. We visited Mystic in 2015 as part of our New England visit/adventure. I was more interested in seeing the site of the 1980s movie Mystic Pizza, but also found that the small town has an awesome seaport with some tall sail ships, a fairly well known (though expensive) aquarium, a submarine museum, and even a nearby dinosaur park in Montville. It certainly deserves more than the couple of hours we devoted to the town. By the way, we have heard that you don’t want to try the pizza. But, I would advise you try the Thai at the 4 Roosevelt Bistro, which we discovered on our drive into Mystic and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there. It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy. See more details of our visit to Mystic an other areas in New England HERE.
Montrose, South Dakota
Back in 2013 I was on a return trip home from Idaho with my wife. We had left Mitchell, South Dakota (see below) were driving east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls. Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site. I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me. For some reason I had overlooked this one!! You can see more about my trip HERE.
Minot, North Dakota
Once again, in the Dakotas, there is so much to see. On a 2014 trip west to Montana, I made a stop in Minot, ND, which is on US Highway 2 in western North Dakota. 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. You can see more about this trip across North Dakota on US Highway 2 HERE.
Mitchell, South Dakota
Back in South Dakota again, you can’t miss out on the Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD. It is one of those iconic must see roadside attractions. Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921. Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here. Definitely worth a visit if you are on Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota.
Mapleton, Ontario (Honorable Mention)
The small community of Mapleton, Ontario is one of those “blink you miss it places. However, it is also one of those unique and offbeat places, featuring the Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop. See my 2012 post for more details HERE.
Medina, New York (Honorable Mention)
Clear up in northern New York, not too far from Niagara Falls, is a small town called Medina which is home to TWO unique oddities. The most well known is the Culvert Road Tunnel, which is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not (one of my site sponsors) featured site. This is the only place one can “cross” the Erie Canal by going UNDER it!! Also, if you thought the Big Apple was in New York City, think again, the real Big Apple sits beside a bridge. The apple was sculpted by artist Richard D. Banninster in 1999. See my whole 2008 story about both attractions HERE.
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Honorable Mention)
Back up in Canada, the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home of the world’s largest moose statue, named Mac the Moose. I first visited there as a high school junior for a band tour in the 1970s BEFORE the moose. I once again made my way to Moose Jaw in 2007. Touted as the World’s Largest Moose, Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons. He was made by Saskatoon artist Don Foulds in 1984. Mac is considered to be one of the most photographed roadside attractions in all of Canada. See more about my 2007 visit HERE.
Mars, Pennsylvania (Honorable Mention)
Finally, for you outer space and alien lovers, you can visit Mars, Pennsylvania and see their out of this world spaceship in the city park downtown. Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, which is actually the “Fightin’ Planets.” See my post about Mars HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Over the years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles of back roads across the United States (only missing Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont…they will be hit soon!). Through all of these travels I have seen the many “famous” unique and quirky tourist spots like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX (the one with all the Cadillacs in the ground), the giant Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN, the Enchanted Highway in ND or the competing Eiffel Towers in Paris, TX and Paris, TN.
Among the 100s of places I have been, there are a few that really stand out to me and I would consider as future MUST SEE spots for the adventurous travelers. In no specific order, here are ten of my “Obscure Quirky Places” you should visit while you are out and about on your July road trips…. You can click on the links to see more details of these visits from my earlier blog posts.
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
In central Alberta is a small town called Vulcan. Named by a surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1915, the town has become a center for Star Trek history with a museum and all sorts of fun stuff. There is even a huge Starship Enterprise on the grounds. Truly a unique place to visit and think about going where no man has gone before. (You may also be interested in “The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk” in Riverside, Iowa)
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.
Who would have known that the US Military built a huge Pyramid shaped building in the middle of northern North Dakota? Well, its there in the tiny town of 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.
We all know that Superman lived in Metropolis. But, this Metropolis in Illinois looks nothing like the NYC style Metropolis of the movies. Despite this, like Vulcan above, the town has taken on the persona and has Superman everywhere. Even has the Daily Planet as the newspaper!
8. Hamtramck Disneyland – Detroit, MI
A little bit of magic is hidden in the backyard of a small two-story residence on Klinger Street in the Detroit area of Hamtramck. Known as “Hamtramck Disneyland”, the offbeat artistic vision of former homeowner Dmytro Szylak, who passed away on May 1, 2015. Szylak began to convert his backyard into an art yard after retiring from General Motors in 1992.
The quirky nature of Szylak’s creations still causes some controversy, but many consider it a local tourist attraction. I concur. I visited his place in 2008 and found his collection fascinating.
In my opinion, one of the quirkiest places in Cincinnati, the Mushroom House is located in the Hyde Park District at the corner of Erie Ave. and Tarpis Ave. It was created by architect/artist Terry Brown (who died in a car accident in Texas in 2008). As a professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, Brown created the building with the help of university students from 1992 to 2006.
The house was built using a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, shell, ceramics, and various metals. Care was taken to craft these materials into irregular shapes like those found in nature.
Douglas, Wyoming is the “Jackalope Capital of the World.” Everywhere you look in town there is a jackalope lurling somewhere. There is even one up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.
The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Ironically, the word “jackalope” is a mix of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a technically a rabbit, and the American antelope is not technically an antelope.
There are dozens of other obscure but fun quirky sites in the America’s. Visit my blog or my favorite home of the roadside quirkies – Roadside America – to find more of these. You’ll enhance your travel experience!!