O is for Offbeat Oddities – #atozchallenge

For me there is a difference between “Offbeat” and “Quirky.”  I like to look at things that are offbeat as being similar to something conventional or recognizable, but just somewhat off.  On the other hand, quirky is closer to non-conventional and sometimes even absurd (my Q post will focus on Quirky).

Oddville, Kentucky

When I am traveling I love looking at the beauty and nature around me, but I also seek out the offbeat and quirky.  One source I always use to help me find these locations is the Roadside America app. This app covers all 50 states and most of Canada and includes almost anything offbeat, odd, quirky and even downright outlandish and ridiculous. There are literally 1000s of sites and things to find and this makes for something fun on a roadtrip.

Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Mushroom House front side

So, what do I mean by offbeat?  Let’s take houses for instance.  The normal home is brick and mortar, or a trailer home.  But how about a flying saucer or a house that looks like mushrooms?  A trip to the Cincinnati area offers up both of these.

First, there is a house in Cincinnati literally referred to as the “Mushroom House.”  It is built almost completely out of either natural materials or recycled materials.

It is like a house…it is a house.  But it certainly looks different than the “normal” human abode.

A view of Cincinnati’s Mushroom House
Beam Me Up Scotty at the Front Door of Futuro House

Then there are the homes that look like flying saucers.  Called “Futuro” homes, there were many built in the 1960s by a company in Finland.

Across the river from Cincinnati, on a hill in Covington, KY overlooking the Ohio River and US Interstate 75, sits a Futuro House.  It is in a regular neighborhood and stands out like a sore thumb.  If you look carefully off to your right from the Interstate driving south out of Cincinnati right after crossing the Ohio River, you will see it.

The Futuro House in Covington, KY
Beer Can House, Houston, TX

Finally, take a tripdown to Houston for another Offbeat house…the house built totally out of Beer Cans!

Basically done as an art project, this house is also lived in and is built out of 1000s of aluminum beer cans.

I think the owner’s name must be Bud Weiser??

Beer Can House Front
Beer Can House
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon

But houses aren’t the only offbeat places.  If one looks hard the discovery of offbeat eateries can also come to the fore.  Like the houses, these are normal in most respects, but there is just something a tad different.

For instance, there is a great place in Portland, Oregon called Voodoo Doughnut.  The main shop (yes, there are now a few of them) is located downtown and there are lines there 24/7.  They make a great variety of doughnuts and even a few offbeat ones, such as the actual Voodoo Doughnut, which is a person shaped doughnut, covered with chocolate and filled with raspberry filling.  It is stabbed with a pretzel stick…yes, like a Voodoo Doll!

The Voodoo Doll – Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stick!
It is no wonder there are always lines at Voodoo Doughnut – 24/7

Then there is the other offbeat thing…the original shop also has a chapel and some of the bakers are ALSO ordained ministers.  You can be married at Voodoo Doughnut legally and be surrounded by chapel-esque stained glass and everything!

Voodoo Doughnut Stained Glass
Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

Head on over to Missouri for another unique treat.  There is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri (and another near Branson) called Lambert’s Cafe.  These huge facilities cater to tourists and buses.  They offer a variety of yummy meals and have a few things served “home style” – wheeled in on carts and served out of pots at the table (including black-eyed peas, potatoes, tomato stew and more).

But what really makes them famous are their “Throwed Rolls.” And this is where they fit into the Offbeat category.  Literally, they come to the middle of an area in the restaurant, ask who wants rolls and then throw them across the room to you.  You miss them, too bad…

Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
The Throwed Rolls with Sorghum – yummy!

Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…

Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Sumoflam and MSR Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

Convention gets thrown out the door when visiting a facility just outside of Nekoma, ND.  There is a huge cement pyramid in the middle of nowhere.  Seemingly deserted (but fenced off), this used to be an old military facility.

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.  The pyramid included radar and other defense systems.  Now unused, it sits in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota and is an imposing offbeat site.

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND

And a bank is a bank is a bank…right?  What about one for tightwads?

Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
National Mustard Museum Sign, Middleton, WI

Next are museums.  There are hundreds of museums in the United States, but some are more offbeat and unique than others.  Take the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.  Chock full of mustards from around the world, one can buy a lifetime supply of mustards and never have the same flavor twice.

The original Mustard Museum was located in Mt. Horeb, WI, but later moved to Middleton, to be in a much larger facility. A condiment lover’s  dream.

Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin
MBA Degree (Master of Bad Attitude) from the Mustard Museum’s Poupon University (Poupon U)

There are also other fun museums out there.  How about these?

Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum
Sumoflam at Spam Museum in Austin, MN
Spam Museum Billboard – Austin, MN
Spam Museum – Austin, MN
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013 – Blackfoot, ID
World’s Largest Potato Chip – 23″ x 14.5″ at the Idaho Potato Museum

And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”

Visiting Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront in Seattle
This guy greets you at the door at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA

Finally, what’s in a town?  There are some offbeat towns out there.  Many towns have unique names, but some of these are really offbeat and odd.

Odd, West Virginia Post Office
Oddville United Methodist Church, Oddville, KY
Peculiar, Missouri
A Peculiar Church

Some are totally Uncertain….

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!

And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.

DISH Town Hall, DISH, Texas
DISH, Texas

Indeed, there is much offbeat in America and this is just a small sampling of the savory and unsavory offbeat oddities of our wonderful country.  Is there anything Normal?

Normal, IL

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J is for Joy – #atozchallenge

Traveling this great country brings me joy!  You can see this thru the myriad selfies I take while on the road.

I make it a point to take selfies for posterity sake.   First of all, it proves I was there.  Secondly, it provides a record for my family to see where I’ve been. Lastly…it shows my joy of being on the road!

Jolly Sumoflam! In Jolly, TX

It makes me Jolly.

We all know who is really Nice! Nice, CA

It makes me Nice.

I found Novelty in Ohio

Travel is always a Novelty

Wherever I go I try to Endeavor,

Made it to Hope, AR,

To have Hope

Finding Success in Missouri

And find Success

Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office in Arkansas

Being on the road has helped find Friendship

Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office

And to be Friendly

Chunky, MS

And perhaps even Chunky

Welcome to Earth, Texas

It has brought me down to Earth

Township of Moon, PA

Zipped me to a Township named Moon

At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007

Or by a Starship in Vulcan

And found Prosperity in PA

And to even find Prosperity

Santa Claus, IN

Heck…I even found Santa Claus!

Though I try to be Real Quiet about it,

Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN

I find that I have some Big Fish stories

Sumoflam at “Fisherman’s Dream” on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

Maybe even Bigger Fish Stories

Willie the Walleye in Baudette, MN

Indeed, Giant Fish Stories

The Beef House in Covington, Indiana

I have found The Beef

Say “Cheese!” – You’re in Wisconsin!

But also found the cheese

Giant Macaroni in Champaigne, IL

And even a Macaroni to go with it!

Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses

Those big cows are moooving

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow (Yes, that’s Sumoflam under the Udders)

But they can be Udderly huge

Big Bull in Minnesota

And that is certainly no Bull

Giant Pheasant in Gregory SD

I have gotten joy at the feet of a big bird

Giant Sandhill Crane in Steele, SD

And maybe even a bigger bird

Sumoflam at Pheasants on the Prairie on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

Ok, perhaps even giant birds!

One of my favorite shots…Alligator, MS

I have become a big Alligator

Baby Gator at Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

But have held a small one

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990

Travel gives me Liberty

Sumoflam with Big Sam Houston towering behind him in Huntsville, TX

And helps me to stand at the foot of giants

The iconic Route 66 roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX

I have had many out of car experiences

Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

And I have been surrounded by cars

At Magnolia Market in Waco, TX – Home of the TV Program Fixer Upper

I have learned to be a Fixer Upper

Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa (home of American Pickers)

And an Antique Archaeologist

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie

I’ve enjoyed some Voodoo doughnuts

Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ

And other baked goods from coast to coast

Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY

And have found the road to Wonderland

The Yellow Brick Road near Dayton, OH

I even found the Yellow Brick Rd.

A street with No Name in Millersburg, OH

A road with No Name

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX

May lead me to be Uncertain

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

But whether I go This Way or That Way

Okay, Oklahoma in 2012

I’ll always be Okay

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD

Which makes me a Winner when I travel

Sumoflam at Top of the World on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming

And that puts me On Top of the World!

Story General Store, Story, IN

This is my Story…

Happy in Happy, KY

…and it makes me a Happy traveler

Stay Awesome folks! #awesomebutgettingbetter

And that is the joy of travel

Enjoy the Ride folks!

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C is for Car Art – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Car art. What is it? And what is it about cars that makes someone want to create art with it. Many a travel blogger has visited sites that include car art of some sort. This particular writer is included in that group, and, in fact, is an avid seeker of car art of all forms.

 

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

Over the years I have discovered numerous “car art installations.” These are places where something was created from cars.

Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas in August 2013

Perhaps the most famous of these set just east of Amarillo, Texas. Known as “Cadillac Ranch,” it features a set of Cadillacs buried at a 45° angle in the ground going across the ground for about a quarter-mile. Fans of quirky roadside attractions have stopped by this place for many years. Nowadays you can see a different installation nearly every day as people bring spray paint cans with them and add their art to the cars. Though perhaps the most famous of all car art, it is not the only installation of its kind in this country.

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL

There are others that have tried to imitate in some way shape or form the Cadillac ranch concept. Take for instance Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois. Like Cadillac Ranch, Rabbit Ranch sits on US Highway 66. There is a great deal of Route 66 paraphernalia and souvenirs available. But, they also have five or six Volkswagen rabbits buried halfway into the ground. Unlike Cadillac Ranch, they do not allow spray paint all over the cars.

VW Hare at Ra66it Ranch
Slugbug Ranch in Conway, TX (photo courtesy of Roadside America)

There is also a Volkswagen Bug Ranch in Conway, Texas that has a few Volkswagen bugs and some old cars buried. We visited there many many years ago and unfortunately my photographs of the place have disappeared.

But, burying cars is not the only form of car art. There is yet another practically world famous attraction made with cars in Alliance, Nebraska. Known as “Carhenge” it is probably the only Stonehenge-type of Car Art installation. Indeed, they have tried to match Stonehenge’s look and feel but with cars that have all been painted a silvery gray.

Carhenge – May 2014
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE (check out the hat!)
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

 

Others try to make cars into art in a number of fashions. On the back road trip in Oregon a few years ago I came across someone’s farm that had two big giant spiders made from a Volkswagen beetle and another car. And there are other similar “car spiders” to be found dotting places in the United States.

Spider Car – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri

There are also a few “car artists” that have placed their old rusted out vehicles in strategic locations so they can be seen. Take the three really old cars sitting in the midst of trees and grass. They are a little on the rusty side but still interesting.  These were seen near a place called Albatross, MO.

 

Old Cars in Hargett, KY
A couple of old cars near Hurley, WI as seen from Route 2
Old Car – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

Or, how about the Rio Brazos Music Hall near Granbury, TX that has some pick up trucks placed in a 45° angle at the entrance? Is this not car art?

And cars are not the only ones didn’t get to experience being turned into artwork. Also in Texas, just north of Houston in Cypress, there is a huge hamburger joint that has two big school buses that have been turned into a Canvas.

The Shack Bus – one of two at the Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas (currently in storage)

In another twist, there are the car artists that literally take parts of cars and create new art from them. One was a giant saxophone made out of a Volkswagen in Houston. Unfortunately, it is currently no longer available to be seen, but I was able to grab a photo of it a few years ago.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota

 

In Kadoka, South Dakota, someone is taking a number of car parts and created a giant deer. And in Montana, surrounding the Blackfoot Indian reservation there are a number of Indian chiefs that have been built from car parts.

 

 

 

South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana

Finally, there is the one last piece of car art that is no longer around but really needs to be noted in this. Back a few years ago there was an iconic piece of car art that appeared in the movie Wayne’s World. Titled “Spindle,” the piece of art had eight or nine cars stuck on a spike and it was on display in a shopping center in Berwyn, Illinois. In 2015, the display was taken down to make room for a new Walgreens. Unfortunate.

“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
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

When you get out on the road, make sure to watch for Card. You’ll be glad you did!

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques in Wisconsin

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