With any road trip I take, I look for a lot of different things. I can find the offbeat and quirky, the beautiful, the unique, the magical, the historical, the fun and more…all in one trip. I am focused…on the big picture.
My June 2019 road trip took me over the road for nearly 6000 miles and through nine states. I tried to stick to back roads wherever possible because that is where the greatest discoveries can be found.
In this post, I present to you some of the more unique, fun and, in some cases quirky things that I discovered along the way. There is always something out there.
Here are few fun things…
I am always looking for fun names. How about Delight, Turkey, Jolly, Greasy Corner?
Well lookee here, there are some fun business signs to found on the road, including one of my (now) all-time favorites below.
Other Unique Signs and Things
I often come across signs around towns, in shops, restaurants and such that make me want to snap a shot.
Then there is the unique…
Then there are the unique things out there. The Glass-wearing elephant has a bovine friend just north of it in Kentucky
And what a fine sight I was when I jumped in and photo-bombed a motocycle club standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
And the Chart Topper (or should I say the Tram Topper?) is….
Life gets so busy. The first two months of 2019 have been exceptionally busy and so I am just now getting to my annual review posts for 2018.
At the beginning of 2018 I didn’t have very high hopes for many travel opportunities. I had begun a new job in early October of the previous year and I didn’t have any definitive travel plans. But, I had also learned to roll with things and, as good fortune would have it, 2018 actually became a really good travel year.
Over the course of the year I was able to travel through 26 different states and drove nearly 12,000 miles. I was able to add a plethora of photos (I took over 15,000 travel photos in 2018) and content for use in future blogs and books. Though many of my travels were alone (which I love), I also was able to travel with family on some of the trips (which I also love!).
My major trips included:
A trip to Nashville in January to visit with my new employer ComicBook.com. On this trip I also visited the cool and “off-beat” Paradise PointMarketplace
In late January I made a trip down to Barren River Lake State Park in southern Kentucky to view the sandhill cranes which had migrated down there.
In February I was asked by son Seth to come down to Cypress, Texas to watch his two sons for a couple of weeks while he and his wife were off on a cruise. The trip south took me through Calvert City, KY where I visited the Apple Valley Toy Land and Hillbilly Gardens. I also found my way to Kenton, Arkansas, home of the white squirrels, then to historic Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to see some fun Beatle’s things. I then meandered my way into Louisiana and visited a few fun places. While in Cypress with the boys I also visited Austin and then took the boys venturing out on some of the back roads around the Houston area where we discovered some fun places. My return trip took me up to Keller, Texas to visit my sister and while there I found a few more fascinating places. I then made my way home through Oklahoma and Arkansas, traveling back roads all the way and discovering some fun places. I finally returned to Lexington at the end of February.
March saw me again on the road for a quick trip up to Cleveland, Ohio. On this trip, with my wife, we visited sites in Cleveland and then on the way home stopped in Columbus to see the famed Topiary Garden Park. It was a quick, yet fun and interesting trip.
On April 2 I set off on one of the biggest road trips I have had in a couple of years. We had a family event taking place in Port Orchard, Washington. I drove while my wife flew (she had a tighter schedule and needed to take some PTO time). I set out heading west through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. I had hoped to go up through Minnesota, but a major snowstorm diverted much of my initial plan. Nonetheless, I always find something. This trip allowed me to visit seven different Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” , which also took me to other unique places along the way. I ultimately made my way through Iowa Falls, Cedar Rapids, northern South Dakota and overnight in Belle Fourche. I then headed northwest into snowy southeastern Montana and crossed the state from there through Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and overnight in scenic and touristy Wallace, Idaho. From Wallace I made my way to Spokane and then east on US 2, to complete my travels on the western portion of that highway (other parts I had driven on in previous road trips. This took me through Washington’s high desert and then into the Cascades and back down into apple orchard country. I ultimately made my way into the Seattle area. The return trip went down through Olympia and then into Oregon on US 101 and then across Oregon’s high desert, through Winnemucca, Nevada and then into my old stomping grounds in Murray, Utah, near Salt Lake City. I then ventured to Colorado Springs to see my son Solomon and then across Colorado’s high deserts into western Kansas, and finally back home through St. Louis and Louisville. It was an amazing two week adventure!
I didn’t really venture out on a road trip again until mid-June when my wife and I took a day long trip up to Cincinnati to see some things we hadn’t done before. It was a nice sightseeing adventure.
In late July I was joined by my oldest grandchild Autumn for a fun adventure to Cypress, Texas. I was again asked to babysit my two granddsons for about ten days. Autumn and I meandered our way down there through Tennessee and Alabama down to the gulf coast and into Biloxi, Mississippi. We traveled along the Gulf Coast into Louisiana and eventually into Texas. While in Texas, the four of us made a few trips as well, including a day-long adventure to the weird city of Austin. Autumn and I then returned home through central Texas and up to Keller to stay with my sister and allow Autumn to hang with her cousin, who is the same age. After a couple of days in Keller, Autumn and I returned home through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Missouri, where we visited the unique touristy place called Uranus and then finally home. It was an amazing fun trip.
Over the next few posts, I will try to catch up with content about different themes…road scenes, wood art, murals, roadside attractions and more.
I hope you will enjoy the ride with me as I revisit these adventures.
Have you seen my most recent book yet? “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” is available on Amazon!
The book is 130 pages of FULL COLOR whimsy and kitsch as I tell stories of my visits to these places all over the U.S. and Canada. Definitely was fun taking these back roads trips to quirkville and I am excited to share them with you in words and photos. I hope you will be able to check out the book or even get it on Kindle.
I have posted about the Trail of the Whispering Giants in earlier posts, but my April 2018 trip afforded me the opportunity to double my visits from the past as I was able to create a route that let me hit six more of them as I traveled west to Washington and then back. In this post I will feature the new ones I visited, but will also include a brief view of the others I have visited in past years.
Peter “Wolf” Toth, a Hungarian-born sculptor now living in the United States, began creating a series of wooden sculptures to honor Native Americans and placed them in almost all 50 of the US States and some in Canada as well. He called these collectively the “Trail of the Whispering Giants.” His first one was built in La Jolla, California in 1972. The second of them was created and placed in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. By 1988 he had created 58 Whispering Giants with at least one in every U.S. state, though some have disappeared since. Each of the creations are numbered in the order Peter Toth created and placed them.
My goal in my travels has been to try to route my trips such that I can visit as many of these as possible. Doing a cross country road trip on back roads facilitates this opportunity fairly well, as long as I don’t have to go too far out of my way or weather doesn’t stop me. I planned on eight visits on this trip and made six. Two of the statues are no longer in existence, both apparently victims of bad weather.
There are instances where Mr. Toth has gone back and replaced them and/or repaired damaged ones. But some don’t get replaced or, at least have not yet been to this point.
#61 – Ho-Ma-Sjah-Nah-Zhee-Ga – Allen Park, Ottawa, Illinois
My first stop on the trip was in a park along the Illinois River near Ottawa, IL. This was created in May 1989 and stands 13 feet tall.
#62 – Chief Walks with the Wind – Starved Rock State Park near Utica, IL
Just a short drive from Ottawa is the lovely Starved Rock State Park, near Utica, Illinois. Apparently, Mr. Toth likes this area as he put up three of his Whispering Giants in close proximity to each other. The “Chief Walks With the Wind” stands 20 feet tall and sits in front of the State Park visitor center. A drive around the state park shows off a number of other impressive wood carvings by other artists.
#16 – Hopewell Giant – Village of Hopewell, Illinois
The Hopewell Giant is the 16th sculpture that Mr. Toth created. It was put up in October 1975. It sits up on a bluff at the entrance of the Village of Hopewell. This statue is about 30 feet tall and overlooks the Illinois River valley below. Apparently the Hopewell Indian Nation lived along the Illinois River nearly 3000 years ago.
#68 – Veteran’s Memorial – Iowa Falls, Iowa
The Whispering Giant of Iowa Falls, Iowa doesn’t seem to have a name. As well, the current statue, which is #68 on the list was put up in 1999 to replace #28. This one is 30 feet tall. Unfortunately, it was snowing in Iowa Falls when I arrived and there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground. Needless to say, I didn’t trudge through the snow to get a selfie with this one.
#57 – Ikala Nawan – Astoria, Oregon
On my return trip home, I had planned on visiting the Whispering Giants in Victoria, WA, Astoria, OR and Hillsboro, OR. Unfortunately, the only one of the three remaining is the Astoria Giant, named Ikala Nawan. This 18 foot tall cedar giant sits in a narrow strip of park off of US Highway 101 in the lovely town of Astoria.
#52 – Chief Wasatch – Murray Park, Murray, UT
By mid-April I was in my old stomping grounds of Murray, UT. I gradated high school in Murray and spent many a day in Murray Park playing church softball. At that time, Chief Wasatch was not set up. Peter Toth created this guy in November 1985 right at the entrance to Murray Park, overlooking State Street, the main drag through town. It was nice visiting the park after a more than 40 year hiatus. Chief Wasatch is 23 feet tall and made of cottonwood, one of the most common trees in the area.
And thus completes my report of the six Whispering Giants I visited during my trip in April. Following are photos I have taken of others in my past travels. Their number and location is in the photo caption.
#32 – Red Lodge, Montana
#37 – Idaho Falls, Idaho
#21 – Ocean City, Maryland
#69 – Bethany Beach, Delaware (replaced #22)
#50 – Paducah, Kentucky
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 May or early June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.