Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

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.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

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.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

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!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

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!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

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.

More Screaming Heads

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.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

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.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

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.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

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?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

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.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

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

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

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.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

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.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

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.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

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.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

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!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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Ten Giant Reasons to Visit North Dakota

MapLoco States I Have Visited
MapLoco States I Have Visited

In the last few days there has been a viral survey on Facebook (seems like there is one every week!!).  Simply put, “How Many States Have You Visited” is fun for all because it is simple and adds color and is really a “go viral” piece.  MapLoco.com has apparently used it to draw attention to their site.  I did it and my results are above – yes, I only have three states to go.  Many of my friends have done it as well and one common theme I found among many of them….they had not yet been to North Dakota.  In fact, a couple of my friends even indicated that they may never find a reason to go to North Dakota.

North Dakota Map from 1958
North Dakota Map from 1958

North Dakota gets a bad rap from people because in the winter there are unbearable blizzards and snow.  The state is relatively flat and “may not” have interesting places to visit (or so people think).  But, despite the cold winter, there is plenty to see and do in North Dakota for fun, especially if you go in late Spring or during the Summer.  Here are my TOP TEN places to visit in North Dakota.

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yes indeed, there IS a National Park in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named after the President that pushed forth conservation by establishing the National Forest Service, and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

2. The Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32 mile stretch of two-lane highway from east of Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND.  In my opinion, this is one of America’s TOP Roadside Attractions. (See my complete blog post about it here).

Fisherman's Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Fisherman’s Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway

3.  Interstate 94 – The Highway of Giants

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

Interstate 94 from Fargo to Dickinson boasts FOUR of the World’s Largest things (see my post about this part of North Dakota)…the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; the World’s Largest Sand Crane in Steele, ND; Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND (see #6 below); and “Geese in Flight”, the first piece of the Enchanted Highway and the Guinness World Record Holder for the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.

World's Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
World’s Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
Sumoflam at the "Geese in Flight" Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world's largest
Sumoflam at the “Geese in Flight” Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world’s largest

4. Rugby, ND – The Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, ND - The Geographic Center of North America
Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America

I got to visit Rugby in 2014.  The novelty of visiting the Geographical Center of North America was too much to resist (see my post here).

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America

5. Space Aliens Bar and Grill in Fargo, ND

Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND

I have visited three of these locations over the years.  For an out of this world tasty experience (they have BBQ Ribs!!) you must stop by Space Aliens.  They actually have TWO locations in North Dakota (Bismarck as well).  As you can see below, back in 2005 we finished off a massive all-you-can-eat dinner. And the quirky theme restaurant has all of the outer-space kitsch you want too!

Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005
Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005

6. Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, New Salem, ND

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

For an udderly moooving experience, Salem Sue is a must see attraction.  At 38 feet tall, 50 feet long and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this cow is amazing fun.  On a hill near New Salem, ND (I-94, exit 127), this bodacious bovine can be seen from as far as seven miles away on a clear day.

Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing
Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing

7. A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere – Nekoma, ND

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This pyramid is actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  Built in the 1970s. this complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. This lonely 80 foot tall pyramid can be seen for miles. (See my complete post about this part of North Dakota)

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

8. Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

This large four headed thunderbird statue at the Keelboat Park is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms. (See more here)

Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND
Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND

9. Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

A tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian roots, the Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique destination and most certainly worth a visit!! I loved it here.  (See my complete post).

Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with 30 foot tall Dala Horse at Scandinavian Heritage Park

10. Ducks and Ponds and Grasslands

A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1
Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1

Personally, I am not sure why North Dakota deserves the negative attention.  It is really a great place to visit (most times of the year).  Make sure to plan on adding North Dakota to your map of states visited!!  You will certainly have a Smile! (Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND)

Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

 

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Road Trip Home from Idaho – Day 3: Glendive, MT thru Enchanted Highway, Mt. Rushmore to Oacoma, SD

South Dakota Badlands
South Dakota Badlands in northern South Dakota as seen from SD Hwy 79

April 1, 2013:  We started the month of April off with a non-foolish bang as we got up fairly early to hit the road towards home, with a detour through North and South Dakota.

This is the route we took on this leg of the trip:


View Larger Map – Glendive, MT to Oacoma, SD

We first took a brief zip around Glendive to catch some of the sights…

Giant Dinosaur Sign in Glendive, Montana
Giant Dinosaur Sign in Glendive, Montana next to the museum
Mural at the Glendive Museum
Mural at the Glendive Museum
There were signs like these in various parts of Glendive
There were signs like these in various parts of Glendive

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.”

A peak in Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana
A peak in Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana
Badlands in Makoshika State Park
Badlands in Makoshika State Park
More badlands
More badlands in Makoshika State Park

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.

Home on the Range sign in North Dakota
Home on the Range sign in North Dakota

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 Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota
The Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota

The main attractions are shown below.

"Geese in Flight" - Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
“Geese in Flight” – Stop #1 on Enchanted Highway. Off of I-94, Exit 72
Enchanted Highway Stop #2 - 'Deer Crossing"
Enchanted Highway Stop #2 – ‘Deer Crossing”
Giant Grasshopper at Stop #3, "Grasshoppers in the Field"
Enchanted Highway Stop #3, “Grasshoppers in the Field”
Fisherman's Dream
Enchanted Highway Stop #4 – “Fisherman’s Dream”
Enchanted Highway Stop #5 - Pheasants on the Prairie
Enchanted Highway Stop #5 – Pheasants on the Prairie
Enchanted Highway Stop #6 - Teddy Rides Again
Enchanted Highway Stop #6 – Teddy Rides Again
Enchanted Highway Stop #7 - Tin Family
Enchanted Highway Stop #7 – Tin Family

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…

End of the Road - Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent, ND
End of the Road – Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent, ND…includes a drawbridge!

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.

Welcome to South Dakota
Welcome to South Dakota
Scene from ND Hwy 22
Scene from ND Hwy 22 heading south
Badlands in Northern South Dakota off of HWY 79
Badlands in Northern South Dakota off of HWY 79 – also see the photo at the top of this post
Typical Landscape in North and South Dakota
Typical Landscape in North and 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.

Livestock Sign - Newell, SD
Livestock Sign – Newell, SD
J J's Cafe in Newell, SD
T J’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Bar Stools (or should I say saddles) at TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD
Bar Stools (or should I say saddles) at TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Wall Decoration at TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD
Wall Decoration at TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD
Sign at the door of TJ's Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.
Sign at the door of TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.
TJ's Cafe Lunch - a Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries
TJ’s Cafe Lunch – a Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries

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.

Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Giant scrap metal chopper and rider at Full Throttle Saloon.
Giant scrap metal chopper and rider at Full Throttle Saloon

Lighting was not good for this shot, so see this photo for a better one (not my photography).

Giant Muffler Man turned cowboy at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Giant Muffler Man turned cowboy at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
Sturgis T-Shirt Shop
Sturgis T-Shirt Shop

From Sturgis we booked it down to Keystone and to Mt. Rushmore.

Welcome to Keystone, SD
Welcome to Keystone, SD

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.

Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore – April 1, 2013
Profile shot of George Washington
Profile shot of George Washington
Julianne and David at Mt. Rushmore, April 1, 2013 - no joke!
Julianne and David at Mt. Rushmore, April 1, 2013 – no joke!

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.

Walking the Pet Dino near Exit 170 (Pioneer Village) on I-90. It is on the north of the freeway. I took this in 2005.

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!!


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