Travel in 2018: Fun Place Names and Street Signs

Smiling in Smiley, Texas

I am always on the lookout for fun places to visit when on the backroads of America.  My travels in 2018 took me to 26 different states and along the way I found more unique town names and fun street signs to add to my collection.  In 2017 I published my first book titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names.”  (Check out the book here) At the time I wrote it, I didn’t think I would get enough new places to fill up a second book, but , indeed, I have.  And 2018 really helped with that.

Happyville Road in Greensburg, Kentucky (I always #CHOOSEHAPPY)
Autumn and me in Marvel, Alabama with our Marvel T-Shirts

Obviously, in my road trip plans I did set my sights on a few of these places intentionally.  Once such place was Marvel, Alabama.  I even bought a Marvel T-shirt to wear in front of the sign.  But, having never been there, I had no assurance that there would even be a sign in such a small place.  Luckily, my granddaughter Autumn (who also had a Marvel T-shirt for the occasion) and I did find a sign for the Marvel Baptist Church!!  LUCKY!

Lostant, Illinois. If the ant is Lost, how do they know it is that way?

But, I had many more instances where the places just happened to be there.

This post will quickly hit up on some of these fun discoveries, along with photos of signs, etc.  ENJOY THE RIDE!

“Y” City, Arkansas. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

Y City is an unincorporated community in Scott County, Arkansas. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 71 and 270 in the southern part of the county on Mill Creek and the junction is shaped like a Y.

I.X.L., Oklahoma is really unique. Haven’t seen many towns that have abbreviations.

This small community was apparently a “freedmen’s” town.  It is located in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma on Oklahoma State Highway 48. It has about 59 or 60 residents.

Woody Guthrie Street in Okemah, Oklahoma

While in Okfuskee County, we also visited Okemah, the home of famed folk singer Woody Guthrie — you know, the guy that wrote “This Land is Your Land,” and “Bound for Glory,” among numerous others.

Then there is Gold Bar, Washington in the Cascades

Gold Bar, Washington is located on US 20 in Snohomish County, Washington. The town has a little over 200 residents and is located in the heart of the Cascades.  Beautiful mountains frame this small town.  Gold Bar started as a prospectors camp in 1889, named by a miner who found traces of gold on a river gravel bar.

Fairy Baptist Church, Fairy, Texas. Didn’t know Fairies went to church not that they were Baptist!
The Gate to the Fairy Cemetery in Fairy, Texas

I never knew that fairies were Baptists nor that they die and get buried.  But, there is a Fairy Baptist and a Fairy Cemetery in Fairy, Texas, a very small unincorporated community in the northern part of Hamilton County (north of Hico). It is at the junction of Texas FM 219 and 1602.

Lame Deer, Montana. No, I didn’t even see a regular deer.

Lame Deer is on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Rosebud County, Montana.  The community is named after Miniconjou Lakota chief Lame Deer, who was killed by the U.S. Army in 1877 under a flag of truce south of the town.

Sublime Baptist Church in Sublime, Texas

Sublime, Texas is a small community off of US Route 90 about 60 miles west of Houston.  It has a small church and a Post Office.

Goobertown, Arkansas continues the tradition of strange town names in Arkansas

Goobertown is an unincorporated community in Craighead County, Arkansas, near Jonesboro.  You can pick up a Goobertown T-shirt if you want one at the Goobertown Grocery on US 49. The T-shirts feature a personified peanut after which the tiny community is supposedly named.

Punkin Center, Colorado. No punkins to be seen anywhere.

From peanuts in Goobertown to Punkins in Punkin Center.  Punkin Center is a small, rural Unincorporated community in Lincoln Countyat the intersection of State Highway 94 and State Highway 71.  Yes, that is literally the middle of nowhere!  Originally had a small store that was painted orange (this the pumpkin reference), but it burned down in the 1950s.  There are currently “about” 4 residents in this dot on the highway.

Zigzag Inn – Zigzag, Oregon – A NEW Z Name for me!!
The Zigzag Ranger Station was built in 1935 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Zigzag is another unincorporated community.  It is located in Clackamas County, Oregon on US Route 26, near Rhodendron.  It is supposedly named after the Zigzag River.  It is home to the Zigzag Ranger Station, which was built in 1935.

Smiley, Texas – didn’t find many smiles here
The Smiley Water Tower. Not even a Smiley Face on it!

I am always looking for a smile and I thought Smiley, Texas would be just the place!  I have been all over the country and seen many water towers with those fun smiley faces on them.  Ala, no such luck in this town.  Smiley is located in Gonzales County, Texas on US Route 87 and has a population of about 500 not too smiley people.  It is about 60 miles east of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States.

I have seen the Light!! It’s in Arkansas!

Light, Arkansas was named after Daniel Light, the first settler.  The small unincorporated community of 50 or so is located in Greene County at the junction of US Route 412 and AR Hwy 228.

I had hoped for a sunny day in Cloudy, Oklahoma, but alas, as you can see, the place lived up to its name.
There is a Cloudy Baptist Church!! I wonder if there is sunshine in their souls?
And a Cloudy Cemetery?

I saw the town of Cloudy, Oklahoma on a map as I planned a return trip home from Texas and figured I needed to try to get there.   It was actually more of an adventure than I had planned as Cloudy Road, which heads north out of Rattan, Oklahoma, snakes its way for about 12 miles into some hilly country.  Some of the roads were in bad repair.  But I made it!! Due to flooding, I had to return back to Rattan to continue the trek home.

Yes indeed, there is a nice little community called Dime Box in Texas. It even has a big giant dime in a glass box on display in the town (which will be in another post)
Can’t have much prosperity with only a Dime Box…can you?
A dime for Dime Box. But the forever stamps will cost you 55 cents.

Dime Box, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 141 and TX Hwy 424 in Lee County.  The community has maybe 200 people in town.  There is actually a Dime Box Independent School District and a high school.  I’ll feature more about Dime Box in future posts.

Brothers, Oregon
Brothers Stage Stop – Brothers, Oregon

Brothers, Oregon is a dot on the map on US Route 20 about 40 miles east of Bend.  There is a small stage stop, rest area and post office located in the unincorporated community.  The place is in the Oregon high desert and is in the midst of a vast sagebrush field. If you travel about 60 miles northwest on US 20, you will arrive in Sisters, Oregon.  I have been there a couple of times and have noted the town in my blog in the past (see post).

Ding Dong, Texas is comprised of one store/cafe.

Ding Dong, Texas is an unincorporated place on the Lampasas River between Gerogetown and Kileen on TX Hwy 195.  I had stopped there in hopes of buying Hostess Ding-Dongs…  But, among all of the Hostess Cupcake products in the store, they did not carry Ding Dongs.  A Ding Dong fail!!  Ding Dong was named when two early settlers in the town, Zulis Bell and Bert Bell, opened a store and hired the artist Cohn Cohen Hoover to make a sign for it. Hoover painted a sign with two bells on it. Inside the bells, Hoover painted the initials of the Bell brothers. Underneath one bell he painted the word “Ding” and the word “Dong” under the other bell. Over the years, because of this sign, this community became known as Ding Dong.

Helper, Utah

Helper is small quaint community of about 2,200 located off of US 191 just north of Price, Utah in Carbon County.  The town is a coal mining and railroad town.  It gets its name from the “helper” engines that would help push trains up the long hill to Soldier Summit as trains made their way to Salt Lake City.

There are so many unique places in Texas. I just accidentally came across this one….
I was so thrilled for this place. It had a laundromat and a restroom!!
I wonder if you can call the Telephone VFD with a cell phone now???

Telephone, Texas is located at the junction of TX Hwy 273 and TX Hwy 2029 in Fannin County north of Honey Grove, Texas and just south of the Oklahoma border.   There are about 200 folks in this community, which got its name after numerous rejected name submissions to the US Postal Service in 1886.

Startup, Washington

Startup, Washington is a small community located just west of Stevens Pass on US Route 20. The name was to honor George G. Startup, manager of the Wallace Lumber Company. The Startup post office was established in 1900.  There are about 700 people in this very scenic town at the base of the Cascade Mountains.

Welcome to Many. Not just a few here!

Many, Louisiana is just east of the Texas border on Louisiana Hwy 6 and the junction of US Route 171 in Sabine Parish. The community takes its name from Colonel Many, who was an officer stationed at nearby Fort Jesup.

Flat, Texas is truly in a flat part of the state

Back to Texas (again) to the community of Flat.   The town is on TX Hwy 36 northeast of Temple in Coryell County.  There are about 850 people currently living here.

Big Foot Road in Wall, South Dakota

Are you looking for Big Foot?  Maybe you can take Big Foot Rd. near Wall, South Dakota and find him.  I wouldn’t know…  I just stopped for a photo of the exit sign on Interstate 90.

 

Big Fun in Uranus, Missouri
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Help Keep Uranus Clean

Finally, there is the “faux” town of Uranus, Missouri on Route 66 west of Cuba.  It is actually a huge tourist attraction filled with fun.  The main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory and all of its employees, called Fudge Packers.

And I’ll end this post in Uranus…  hope you enjoyed the ride

Looking for a unique and fun gift for yourself or  your traveler friends? How about a book about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips? You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Enjoy the Read and Enjoy the Ride!

 

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Welcome to Uranus (Missouri) – Really?

One of the Uranus Billboards along Interstate 44

In late July and early August 2018 I had been on the road traveling with my granddaughter for nearly two weeks and we finally made our way to US Route 66 in Oklahoma and Missouri. On our last night on the road, we spent the night in Springfield, Missouri. As we departed down Interstate 44, one of the first things I saw was a sign telling us to visit Uranus at exit 163! REALLY? In all my years of traveling, I had never heard of this place. As we headed east we continued to see signs…you know, the “Tourist Trap” type of signs that try to draw you in.

Thanks for Picking Uranus
Help Keep Uranus Clean

The term “Tourist Trap“ tends to be used in a derogatory fashion for a place that tries to draw tourists in with unique offerings and then once the tourist is drawn in, they are “trapped“ such that they will likely purchase items that they don’t probably need. As a seasoned traveler on the back roads of America, I have run across many of these so-called “tourist traps.“ I find them rather fun! Many of them offer similar things like cups or small shot glasses emblazoned with their particular business name and logo. Perhaps, it might be better if you call a “Tourist Trap“ a “Tourist Haven.“ Why? Well, these places are usually a perfect place for a break from the driving, a restroom break, cold drinks and snacks and a chance to have a little fun while on the road. Entertainment for smaller kids and entertainment for adults…all in one convenient location.

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Big signs and a big rocket in Uranus
Uranus Shot Glasses

Of course, you will be able to find the T-shirts, the magnets and the many other kitschy souvenirs and memorabilia that you can take home to remember your visit to the “little tourist trap.

In 2002 the current location was purchased by two guys named Louie Keen and Vernon Brejcha. Keen had run some other businesses on the property before he came up with the idea of opening up a Fudge Factory in 2015 and naming the place Uranus. He is now the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Uranus.” From there he began an aggressive marketing campaign with signs that said things such as “81 Miles to Big Fun in Uranus”, “the Best Fudge Comes From Uranus”, etc. Of course, the name… most of us know the joke. No need to elucidate upon that, especially since the photos of the T-shirts and shot glasses that I provide in this post will give plenty of that kind of fodder for either laughter, eye rolls, guffaws or just the general “ewww.”

Uranus Parks T-shirt
Uranus Meat and Sausage sign
Fudge Packers Union t-shirt from Uranus
Wall Drug sign in southwest Minnesota

As with all Tourist Havens, the signs can be seen for miles before you get there. I think of the best example of this can be seen across the northern highways in the US, pushing the destination known as Wall Drug, which is located in Wall, South Dakota. I have seen signs advertising Wall Drug as far away as eastern Minnesota, and I’ve heard that there may be some even further east in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California

They actually even include the mileage to the location. Then there are the series of “Tourist Havens“ along the highways in southern New Mexico and Arizona, predominately on Interstate 10 owned by Bowlin Travel Centers of Albuquerque. Their travel centers typically incorporate a Southwestern “Trading Post” theme (not uncommon along Route 66, even in Missouri and Illinois), in the manner of small stores commonly found along Old Route 66 prior to the construction of the Interstate. Many were former independent businesses. They have names like “Flying C Ranch”, “Old West”, “Bowlin’s Running Indian”, and “Continental Divide”. The most iconic of the Bowlin businesses is one known as “The Thing,“ which adds the drawing card of a sideshow within the confines of this business that one must pay for in order to go see. But on the way in you can buy your “The Thing“ shot glasses, mugs, “Kick Ass Peanuts,” and other fine touristy memorabilia.

A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Mugs from Hell – “I’ve been to Hell and Back.”
Rabbit Hash Mugs – Rabbit Hash, KY
Seems like most tourist traps have their “resident aliens”

All of these places are worth a visit, if for anything else, just to catch the theme, see what’s going on, take some fun pictures and have a laugh. They do sell legitimate products, they sell soft drinks, they sell candy and often times things such as homemade popcorn in various flavors, or fudge. Off the top of my head, I can list off more than a dozen of these quirky tourist locations throughout the country. And there are a number of smaller ones that I’ve been to as well. But, there is something special about Uranus and the strip mall of quirky and offbeat shops located therein.

Uranus, Missouri water tower
Uranus is Expanding
My granddaughter and I with the Uranus Fudge Factory sign

When we pulled off the interstate and then drove along the old Route 66, we could see that this particular tourist attraction covered a couple or 3 acres and had a number of smaller businesses within it, all owned and run by Keen apparently. In the middle of the parking lot is a big water tower that mimics other town water towers – “Uranus, Missouri – Home of the Pirates.” I don’t think I get the joke, but I am sure there is one. Of course, along the way, the signs would say – Uranus, Missouri – not a town, but a destination – or something like that.

The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Making Uranus Fudge
Uranus Fudge – 18 different flavors daily
Uranus Fudge T-shirt

As noted above, the main drawing card is the Uranus Fudge Factory. Herein they advertise that the “Best Fudge Comes from Uranus.” You walk in the door and are immediately greeted by smiling staff members (known as Uranus Fudge Packers) who, without any hesitation or embarrassment, yell out “Welcome to Uranus!“ And that is after you have already taken photographs outside with the sign that says “Uranus on Route 66”, and the bland white sign that says “Thank you for Picking Uranus.” Keen actually got an online Chocolatier Certificate so he could begin doing his fudge.

A scene from Uranus
Another scene from Uranus
Uranus Gas ‘N Lube

Once inside this rather large shop, your eyes are filled with the eye candy temptations of a tourist trap. There is no doubt about that! All of the “trappings” are there… Numerous T-shirts with sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, and even a sign above the fudge counter that says “The Best Fudge comes from Uranus.”

After receiving your gracious welcome, your eyes are loaded with the eye candy of the “trappings“ of this shop. The colorful T-shirts with all of their unique sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, the snacks, souvenirs. They even sell things like Route 66 Root Beer.

Route 66 Sodas
Men’s Restroom Sign
Sign in Restroom

As with any “destination” of this sort, there are the cheap little toys for the kids that are bored on their long road trips. There is the candy in abundance and the cold drinks. There is a restroom, and, to my surprise, there was not much written on the door of the restroom or within the restroom, which for a place called Uranus, is a big surprise to me.

Big Fun in Uranus

The one thing I did notice, is that every tourist that walked through that door was smiling and/or laughing about things within the shop and that is exactly what the owners want you to do because a smile or laugh will likely equivocate into a purchase. And that is why places like this are called a “tourist traps.“

Uranus Police
Uranus Police Car
Uranus Bus

After spending a good deal of time and even a little money for a T-shirt for my granddaughter (yes I used a 20 dollar bill in Uranus), and after numerous photographs were taken, we meandered our way out into the rather large parking lot and drove around to grab shots of some of the other things to be seen. The absolutely funniest attraction was the plywood cut outs. Every tourist trap has some kind of these. You know, the kind where there’s a hole in there for you to stick your head in and get a picture taken! This Uranus version has one of an elephant, as zebra, a giraffe, an antelope and a couple of other animals. Beautifully painted and very realistic looking. The only difference is that these are on the butt end of the animal so when you are sticking your head through the hole, it appears that your head is coming out of the … well, I think you can guess. Just check out the pictures.

Granddaughter with a Zebra….
Pet Control in Uranus
Chicken Bones Billiards in Uranus
Gas in Uranus
Please Pick Up in Uranus

According to a couple of recent articles I read about Uranus, Keen expects that there are about 250,000 visitors a year to the place. No wonder Uranus is expanding!!

What is a Tourist Trap with a Dinosaur or two roaming around?
Uranus City Jail
Big Mugs
Having a Gas in Uranus
Uranus T-Shirt
Thanks For Picking Uranus

So, if you are driving to central Missouri on interstate 44 are trying to travel some of the remnants of old route 66, then the trip to Uranus should be included in your planning. Just make sure that you bring enough money because, you would not want to have the paper content of your wallet wiped out in Uranus.

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