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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Fiberglass Giants Part I – The Muffler Men and Such

DeForestWILet’s face it, Americans love those quirky roadside attractions!  We all know it and its time to admit it. As far back as the 1930s they have been around.  But it was the 1960s and 1970s that really got the roadside things going as people traveled Route 66 and other US Highways.  The quirky and offbeat were the drawing cards…the highways were our Disneylands!

SeymourWI3Remnants of those days still hang around even as some artsy companies keep pushing them out to roadside restaurants, garages and filling stations.

The Old Muffler Man - (photo courtesy Roadside America - used with permission)
The Old Muffler Man – (photo courtesy Roadside America – used with permission) This one known as the Joor Muffler Man in Escondido, CA

One of the most iconic of the roadside tchotchkes were the Muffler Men, those roadside giants holding Mufflers and axes and other things. I remember them well from my youthful 1960s living in Albuquerque.  There are now websites that are totally devoted to them (such as the American Giants website with great, professionally produced documentary-style videos made by Joel Baker and his team) and then my favorite site on the web Roadside America, which has a huge section about them including a detailed and fascinating (and well-researched!) history of these guys.

Roadside America's Interactive Muffler Man Map (used by permission - click map to go to the actual interactive map)
Roadside America’s Interactive Muffler Man Map (used by permission – click map to go to the actual interactive map)

Like many travelers, a few years ago I figured there were only one kind of muffler man.  But, as I have traveled across this country, I have run into a few of them and their derivatives as well as some that were mistaken as muffler men.  Once again, the genius team at Roadside America has even gone to the trouble to create a glossary to identify the myriad variety.

MufflerManID
Muffler Man Identifier – click to go to the actual Roadside America page. (used by permission)

So, as I drive the back roads of America, I am always on the look out for these friends of the freeways and heroes of the highways.  I am nowhere close to have come across the dozens and dozens of them, but I have certainly stumbled on a few and even have enjoyed the variety of them as shown in this post.

Cowboy Muffler Man - Big John in Great Falls, Montana
Cowboy Muffler Man – Big John in Great Falls, Montana (originally designed for Phillips 66)

The one above has a mustache and a cowboy hat. It is the parking lot attendant for a big casino in Great Falls.

Paul Bunyan in Wentzville, MO advertising that No Job is Too Big
Paul Bunyan in Wentzville, MO advertising that No Job is Too Big
Big Indian in Bemidji, MN in front of a souvenir shop
Big Indian in Bemidji, MN in front of a souvenir shop

So, what is the history.  I suggest you read the entire story HERE.  But, in a nutshell, it was Steve Dashell’s company, “International Fiberglass, that turned out thousands of commercial statues in the 1960s and 70s. International Fiberglass took a single statue mold created for a cafe and parlayed it into a roadside industry.”  It turns out that International Fiberglass also created the green Sinclair Dino’s (many are still around) and some ESSO Tigers (remember those?).  His first fiberglass giant was built in 1962 for a restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ.  It was a Paul Bunyan looking Lumberjack.  I am a graduate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and, if I am not mistaken, that same Paul Bunyan now sits on the NAU Campus as does one other. (see the story here)  Unfortunately, during my time at NAU I never took any photos of them….humph!!

NAU Lumberjack - copyright Roadside America
NAU Lumberjack – copyright Roadside America

Dashell’s company made some basic molds and then were able to use them to create a variety of styles.  Some were made for Texaco, some for Uniroyal (a Female statue).

Uni-royal Gal - this one is now in a pose out front of Norma's Cafe in Blackfoot, ID
Uniroyal Gal – this one is now in a pose out front of Martha’s Cafe in Blackfoot, ID

There are a few collectors out there and so they sometimes appear in out of the way places.  Perhaps the most well known collector is Glen Goode in Gainesville, TX. (see RA Article Here).  I visited Glen’s place in 2012.  He has the BIG THREE including a Uniroyal Gal, a Muffler Man and a couple of Big Johns.

Glen Goode's Big People
Glen Goode’s Big People in Gainesville, TX
Sumoflam at Glen Goode's Big People in
Sumoflam at Glen Goode’s Big People in Gainesville, TX (November 2012)
Smiling Big John at Glen Goode's
Smiling Big John at Glen Goode’s
Big Tex Muffler Man smiles too
Big Tex Muffler Man smiles too

The Big Johns were made by a company in or around Cape Girardeau, MO in the late 1960s and 1970s.  I have come across one of the originals in Metropolis, IL, with grocery sacks and all.  It stands nearly 30 feet tall.  Unfortunately, he is outshined by the 12 foot tall BRONZE Superman in Metropolis (added here for fun)

Big John with Grocery Bags in Metropolis, IL
Big John with Grocery Bags in Metropolis, IL
Sumoflam and the 12 foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis (not fiberglass, but a neighbor to Big John)
Sumoflam and the 12 foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis (not fiberglass, but a neighbor to Big John)

I also saw one as I drive into Mississippi from Tennessee, without the bags:

This Big John welcomes you to Mississippi with open arms.  (June 2014)
This Big John welcomes you to Mississippi with open arms. (June 2014)

I also came across a “deconstructed Big John” at a place in St. Louis.  The legs were on display in the front and the upper torso sat in the backyard…with the original checkered shirt.

Big John Legs in St. Louis
Big John Legs in St. Louis
Big John Torso sits alone in the back yard in St. Louis
Big John Torso sits alone in the back yard in St. Louis

Of course, I have run into a few more in my travels.  There is a beer toting one in Sturgis, SD standing guard outside of the Full Throttle Saloon (yes, the one from the TV Show in 2013)

Muffler Man with mug of beer in Sturgis, SD.
Muffler Man with mug of beer in Sturgis, SD.

There is another one I came across in Hatch, New Mexico

Muffler Man in Hatch, NM
Muffler Man in Hatch, NM

While in Hatch I also came across another iconic fiberglass family…also created by International Fiberglass in 1963 when A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Baby Burger, and Teen Burger.  There aren’t many of these around.  I looked for the one in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2012 and couldn’t find it.  I was thrilled to see this one in Hatch, NM.

A&W Family in Hatch, NM
A&W Family in Hatch, NM

But the Muffler Men, Big John and Uniroyal Gal are not the only big fiberglass folk out there.  Ironwood, MI is home to the “World’s Tallest Indian Statue”, a 50 foot Hiawatha that was built in Minneapolis in 1964, transported to Ironwood.  It is huge and can be seen towering above town at the end of main street.

Hiawatha stands proud at the end of the road in Ironwood, MI
Hiawatha stands proud at the end of the road in Ironwood, MI
Hiawatha side view
Hiawatha side view
Hiawatha Stands 50 feet tall in Ironwood, MI
Hiawatha Stands 50 feet tall in Ironwood, MI

Another big fiberglass creation is the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN.  Added by Creative Displays (which later became F.A.S.T) in 1978.  At 55.5 feet tall, he is a tad larger than Hiawatha.

Jolly Green Giant in Black Earth, MN
Jolly Green Giant in Black Earth, MN

Not nearly as large, but yet another roadside icon that continues on throughout the U.S. is the Big Boy statue.  Actually, there are a couple of them.

Big Boy statue in the West can be seen at Bob's and JB's
Big Boy statue in the West can be seen at Bob’s and JB’s

As a young boy in Albuquerque, the Bob’s Big Boy was always a treat. We saw him in many places.  These Big Boy statues were another creation of International Fiberglass.  Many of them are gone now (there is even a site dedicated to Big Boy Graveyards).  Nowadays in Kentucky there is Frisch’s Big Boy, which is headquartered in Cincinnati (the original Bob’s started near Detroit in Warren, MI).  They have a different looking brother to the original.

Sumoflam with Big Boy at Frisch's in Richond, KY
Sumoflam with Big Boy at Frisch’s in Richmond, KY

Speaking of fiberglass burger guys, Seymour , WI proudly claims to be the home of the original hamburger and has erected a 12 foot fiberglass statue of “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen, the supposed inventor. (there are claims by other towns)

Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie's dignified face
Hamburger Charlie’s dignified face

The town of Santa Claus, IN has a number of fiberglass statues of Santa, but the biggest and oldest (built in 1935) was made of cement.

Santa Claus stands 12 feet tall on a hill in Santa Claus, IN.
Santa Claus stands 12 feet tall on a hill in Santa Claus, IN.

There are a number of others around town.  Here are a couple of the Santas that hang around Santa Claus, Indiana

A Cranky Santa, stands about 9 feet tall
A Cranky Santa, stands about 9 feet tall, Santa Claus, IN
A resting Santa, about 6 feet tall, Santa Claus, IN
A resting Santa, about 6 feet tall, Santa Claus, IN

Finally, a few other guys I have run into on the road….

A fiberglass Uncle Sam in Hatch, NM
A fiberglass Uncle Sam in Hatch, NM
A 10 foot tall fiberglass pizza guy in Tennessee
A 10 foot tall fiberglass pizza guy in Tennessee
a Big Paul Bunyan in northern Wisconsin
A Big Paul Bunyan in northern Wisconsin

And this ends Part I of my Fiberglass Giants.  Part II will feature a few animals and birds.  Part II will cover some giant fish and other oddities.

 

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A Super Place called Metropolis

Metropolis Welcome Sign

This blog entry not only includes a unique name of a town, but is now introducing the second theme of this blog…the big statues and unusual sites along the road.

Metropolis Signs

Metropolis is the home of the Giant Superman Statue – a 200 foot tall statue of the Man of Steel.

Funny thing is, as I drove into this town, the first big statue I saw was in front of a grocery store and was NOT the Giant Superman Statue!!

The town is really all about Superman.

 

 

 

 

The Giant non-Superman Statue – Big John the Grocery Clerk
Giant Superman with not so giant Sumoflam
Flying Superman Statue in Metropolis
Giant Superman Mural with all of the Supermen


View Larger Map

Metropolis, IL

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