Obviously, one of my favorite things to do on road trips short or long is locate the fun, unique and offbeat roadside attractions. And, fortunately, 2018 provided me a plethora of these. I have already written about a few of them individually in past months, but this post will be a nice little “photo tour” of some of my favorites.
Having been through 26 different states in 2018, I had plenty of sites and loads of fun. I got to share many of these with grandchildren, which made it even better.
Perhaps my favorite from 2018 was the amazing giant Dignity: Of Earth and Sky statue in Chamberlain, South Dakota. This giant 50 foot tall steel statue honors the women of the Lakota and Dakota tribes. It was created by artist South Dakota Dale Lamphere. It sits in a rest area overlooking the Missouri River and can be seen from quite a distance.
The statue also features a Star Quilt that has more than 100 blue diamond shapes that move in the wind. Really a wonderful site and it is also one of America’s tallest statues (the 20th tallest according to Wikipedia listing).
Another giant is just down the road from Dignity. Wall Drug’s giant brontosaurus stretches 80 feet and sits 37 feet tall as it overlooks Interstate 90 at the Wall Exit. Even there is no time for a visit to Wall Drug, there is always time to stop for a photo-op with a giant friendly dino!
Dinosaurs seem to be all over the country and on my four big trips in 2018 I came across a few more of them. Always fun!
Dinosaurs are not the only giants that I came across on the road in 2018. One of my favorite “giants” was “Ms. Pearl” the giant squirrel in Cedar Creek, Texas at the Berdoll Pecan Candy factory. Created in 2011, it stands 14 feet tall and currently lays claim to be the tallest squirrel statue in the world. Like many “roadside” attractions, this one is very visible off of TX Hwy 71.
Nice thing about Berdoll’s is that you can get your picture with Ms. Pearl and even get some Pecan goodies from their 24/7 Pecan Vending Machine.
Other big things I came across in 2018
Then there are the big Muffler Men and Big John statues. There are dozens and dozens of these dotting the landscape. I came across a couple of fun ones in 2018. In Helper, Utah there is one that is painted totally black…to represent the Coal Miners.
These guys are about 15 feet tall and basically all look alike except for the additional things added to them by the local sites. Over the years I personally have photographed nearly 40 different versions of Big John, Muffler Men or Uniroyal Gals.
You can find them looking like Paul Bunyan, cowboys, Indians and other fun things.
I always like coming across these unique pieces of funky Americana.
I am working on Part 2 of this travel report with more big and unique things to see. Watch for it soon.
Over the years I have been able to travel the majority of US Route 2 from Michigan all the way to the other side of Glacier National Park. But I have never had the opportunity travel Route 2 in Washington, which would effectively let me finish the western segment of the highway, which, ultimately stretches 2,112 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA. Within Washington, the highway traverses a 326.36-mile-long route that connects the western and eastern regions of the state as a part of the state highway system and the National Highway System. US 2 also forms parts of two National Scenic Byways, the Stevens Pass Greenway, which goes over a portion of the Cascades, and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway near Coulee City, which offers some wonderful views of the Grand Coulee Dam. The drive also goes through one of Washington’s fruit tree country and provides views of the massive orchards that cover the landscape.
I started my early April morning traveling from Wallace, ID and enjoying a nice breakfast in Coeur D’Alene with a an old friend. I was then off on my last leg of a year’s long quest to complete a drive across US Route 2. The drive from Spokane enters the northern reaches of the Columbia Plateau, which is a high desert shrub-steppe environment and is pretty much this way all the way past Coulee City to the small community of Waterville.
My first stop along the way was in Davenport, WA. As I drove through I noticed a quirky old place called the Black Bear Motel so I just had to stop. I also decided it was a good place for a restroom break, so I headed over to a gas station/convenience store. I was overly amused by the signage, so, in the nature of Sumoflam fun, I took full advantage of it!!
And then there is that Restroom at the Gas Station!!
After that fun adventure, I was back on US Route 2 heading west towards Wilbur.
The next leg of the trip continued through the high desert steppes until near Coulee City. Coulee City sits at the southern end of the 27 mile long Banks Lake, which was been created as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, which sits at the northern end of the lake.
From Coulee City, US Route 2 meanders into a massive basin near Sulphur Canyon as it runs along one of the walls of the canyon. It was actually quite a site.
Route 2 eventually gets into the small community of Waterville, which is about the halfway point on Route 2 between Spokane and Everett. I took a quick drive through town and found a couple of goodies in this historic little community. Perhaps the most interesting thing was the whimsical “Lumpy Dowser” Statue that sits outside the Douglas County Museum , and was sculpted by local artist, the late Rich Beyer (1925-2012). (Note: I also got a shot of his work “The Kiss” while in Olympia, WA on this same trip. It will be in my Olympia Post). Dowsing is using a stick to find water…a unique piece of art for a town named after water. During the sculpture’s dedication in July 1996, local resident Joanne Whitehall compiled a history of water dowsing. The last paragraph of her composition follows:
“Not everyone has the ability to dowse. Many of those who have, attribute it to a gift, as it has not been a learned art. Judged by scientific standards, the practice has little basis in fact. However, the countless good sources of water found by this method is hard to dispute.”
Living in the eastern US, I am used to seeing advertising on the sides of barns, typically Mail Pouch chewing tobacco. While stopped for gas in Waterville, I noticed a barn with an ad for Dr. Pierce’s General Tonic on it. I had to look it up and see what it was (or is). Turns out it supposedly resolved a number of health issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, sore throats, constipation, indigestion and other problems. Its main ingredients included water, borate of soda, golden seal root, queen’s root, stone root, black cherry bark, mandrake and glycerine. It was available from around 1890 to 1900. As for the barn ad shown below, some research indicates that these ads were on the sides of barns in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Fun discovery!
From Waterville, US Route 2 continues west to Orondo and then heads dues south along the beautiful Columbia River into the fruit orchards of the Wenatchee Valley. Wenatchee sits at the edge of the Cascades on one side and borders the high desert on the other. Honestly, Wenatchee deserves an extended visit. They also claim to be the Apple Capital of the World.
US Route 2 crosses over the Frances Farmer Memorial Bridge just north of the confluence of where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River. Absolutely lovely scenery here! And then there are the apple orchards. I really am kicking myself that I didn’t go into town to get pictures, but I was running behind on schedule. Next trip to Washington, Wenatchee is a destination!
Once across the Columbia, Route 2 continues west and follows the Wenatchee River as it the road begins its ascent into the Cascades with fruit orchards on both sides of the highway continuing into the small community of. Dryden. I then made my way into Leavenworth, WA, the next sweet surprise for me on this route.
Located in the midst of the Cascades, members of the community decided to give the town a unique Bavarian flair since it sits in the lovely alpine environment. Everything about the town screams tourism, but it is also a lovely place. I had to take a few minutes to drive around and grab some pictures. As with the Wenatchee Valley, I plan on an extended visit to Leavenworth on my next trip to Washington.
From Leavenworth, US Route 2 heads due north into the Cascades and proceeds to the highest point on the road at 4,061 feet, where it crosses over Stevens Pass. Even though it was April when I took this trip, as I got up higher, both sides of the highway had “snow walls,” some taller than six feet. It was truly a winter wonderland.
It is hard to image so much snow at an altitude of only 4,000 feet. I saw similar snow walls along the route up over Beartooth Pass in Montana on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, but it was up at the 11,000 foot range.
With the descent, US Route winds westward into the mountain towns of Skykomish, Gold Bar, Startup and others. The scenes from the road were marvelous and, at times, even breathtaking.
The Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish is a vestige from the early days of the former Great Northern Railway. Originally built in 1894, the depot is a one-story rectangular wood-frame building that consisted of a passenger waiting room, the station agent’s office and a freight room. Passenger service on the railway ended in the 1950s and this depot has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last Great Northern depots still remaining in the State of Washington.
For miles US Route 2 wandered its way along the Skykomish River and through some awe-inspiring mountain scenery. I felt like I was in heaven as I passed through towns with names like Gold Rush, Startup and Sultan.
Finally, US Route 2 had made its descent into the Everett area. Unfortunately, due to having to catch the Edmonds Ferry and meet up with my family at the ferry, I had to cutoff at Interstate 5 and go south to Edmonds. I had hoped to get to the end of Route 2 in Everett, which was about a mile away in downtown. But, effectively, I can really say that I pretty much have now driven across the 2,112 mile stretch of US Route 2!
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 June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
In April 2018 I took a nice long road trip from my home in Lexington, Kentucky to my daughter’s home in Port Orchard, Washington and back. Though I was gone for 15 days, I spent nine of them traveling more than 6000 miles through 14 states. Many of my stops were in anticipation of my new book as I wanted some fresh content to add to it.
In the past, I typically wrote one or two huge blog posts about long roadtrips, but, I have decided that a focus on some of the sites would be more apropos, so I am providing a general overview of my trip herein with maps and a few photos. Following there will be a number of posts about many of the places I visited along the way.
DAY 1/2 – Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa
My first two days were quite eventful as I drove nearly 900 miles with an overnight stay in Bloomington, IL and then proceeded northwest to Storm Lake, Iowa for night two. The weather was rainy and yucky most of the way and by the afternoon of Day 2, had turned into snow and, in some cases, blizzard-like conditions. Not fun!
I had very few stops along the way, with the only planned stops being at four locations to see four of Peter Toth’s amazing Whispering Giants. My next post will be all about the Whispering Giants I visited on this trip and also in past trips.
Day 3 – Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Day 3 was really one of my typical road trip days with plenty of stops along the way, but it was slowed down considerably due to the snow and icy conditions. Despite that, I visited places such as the Corn Palace (a required stop on a route like this as it changes each year), Wall Drug and a few in between. The highlight of this day was seeing the amazing (and fairly new) fifty foot tall Dignity statue at a rest area overlooking Chamberlain and Oacoma, South Dakota. The work was meticulous and lovely.
I decided to stay at a non-chain older Motel on this night and ended up at the cozy little Sunset Motel. In fact, I got there about sunset and was even able to grab a photo of the sunset with the Sunset Motel sign. This is the kind of motel that still has a real key on an old plastic diamond key holder.
Day 4 – Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Wallace, Idaho
I woke up to a cold, snowy morning in Belle Fourche on April 5. It was a concern as I knew I would need to be driving through a mountain range across southern Montana on US 212. Fortunately, the roads weren’t bad until I got up on the pass and then they cleared up with occasional snow showers through Billings, Bozeman and Butte. I was slowed down somewhat, so I ended up stopping in the small mountain town of Wallace, Idaho for the night.
Once again, I stayed at a cool little motel called the Stardust Motel, ironically in the same room number I had the night before. In both cases, I did not request the room numbers.
Wallace is a really unique, touristy town nestled in the Idaho mountains. I’ll have a blog post about this town over the next couple of weeks.
I did get to see some beautiful scenery on the trip and even visited my old high school in Bozeman, Montana as I made my way north towards Idaho.
Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting an old friend and former boss from my days as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ in the 1980s. Roger Vollmer, who later purchased and then sold the company, now resides in upper Idaho and I was able to drop by Cracker Barrel in Coeur d’Alene and have a nice breakfast and a couple of hours of reminiscing. Honestly, Roger really helped me lay the foundation in my work ethic and I had a blast working with him. It was good to see him.
Another great part of this portion of my road trip was hitting US Route 2 from Coeur d’Alene and traveling it all the way to the end in Everett, Washington. I have now traveled that highway from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Washington. I still have a small portion from Eastern Michigan to Ironwood and about 450 miles from Maine to New York to be able to say have driven the entire length. I have driven all of US 66 and all of US 89 at one time or another.
US 2 from Spokane west goes through Washington’s high desert and then eventually into the Cascades and up over Steven’s Pass, which still had snow on both sides of the highway, almost six feet deep in places. It was spectacular!
Upon arrival in Port Orchard, I spent a week with my daughter and her family. We took the ferry into Seattle, I traveled with grandchildren to see the rocky beaches and watch seagulls. Following are just a couple of pics from the visit.
Finally, early on Saturday, April 14, I was back on the road, heading south towards Portland and eventually east, to spend the night in Bend, Oregon.
Travel Day 6 – Port Orchard, Washington to Bend, Oregon
As with some of my other travel days, I had to deal with rain and fog for the first part of the trip. I had hoped for a fun drive down part of US 101 and, despite the weather, I really had a great drive, even if I only drive about 450 miles. Unlike some of the other drives, I enjoyed forests, mountains, snow, ocean scenes and eventually high desert scenes. I also made a stop in Olympia, Washington’s state capital, and visited some friends for breakfast. I’ll have separate posts about Olympia and its awesome wall art/murals. I’ll also have a nice post about the town of Raymond, Washington.
Travel Day 7 – Bend, Oregon to Murray, Utah
Day 7 of my driving days was a long day through nearly 750 miles of high desert through Oregon and Nevada. My destination was my old hometown of Murray, Utah. The drive from Bend, OR to Denio, NV is pretty much through high desert. I took the Frenchglen Highway, which was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day. really not many places to stop along the way. I’ll have a separate post about the Frenchglen Highway (including Brothers, Frenchglen and Fields). It had also been over 40 years since I had set foot in Nevada, so it was fun to get travel blog photos. I spent the night at the home of one of my best friends and had dinner with some of my high school friends and their wives. Great times!
Travel Day 8 – Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado
Day 8 of travel was another long day as I drove nearly 600 miles from Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado. This day once again took me through deserts, high deserts, mountain passes and into some beautiful country. I hit the town of Helper, UT which is nestled in a canyon and was a railroad and mining town. Also passed through Price. When working for a record and tape rack jobber back in 1974-75, I made weekly trips to Helper and Price. Things have changed considerably. Crescent Junction had a unique place, Papa Joe’s, which I’ll write about separately.
The drive from Grand Junction through Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Buena Vista was absolutely beautiful (US Hwy 50), especially going over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet in altitude. On the way down the hill towards Poncha Springs I even go to see a couple of mountain goats crossing the roads.
Once again, I stayed in a local motel. Always interesting.
Travel Day 9 – Manitou Springs, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri
Talk about a long, straight drive. Made the trip from Manitou Springs, after a visit to Garden of the Gods, (which I’ll write about in a separate post), and went through the deserts of eastern Colorado and Western Kansas on a super windy and dusty day. Did catch a pretty amazing sunset as a result of the dust storms. I decided to really go back roads on this leg of the trip by taking the straight as an arrow drive on Colorado Hwy 94 through Yoder, Rush and Punkin Center. The highway eventually met US Hwy 287 near Wild Horse, CO. Basically, the highway was 85.5 miles long running almost perfectly west to east the entire length.
I finally got to stop at a place to eat in Kit Carson, Colorado and then continued east on US 40 in Kansas through Cheyenne Wells, Sharon Springs and Oakley, where I got on to Interstate 70 to finish up the ride into Kansas City. I was fortunate to stay with my good friend Brad Sweeten in KC.
Travel Day 10 – Kansas City, Missouri to home in Lexington, Kentucky
On the last day it was pretty much straight through driving. I enjoyed another beautiful sunrise east of Kansas City and then just made my way home with a couple of restroom and gas stops along the way. What a long, wonderful trip it was!
Over 6000 miles, 14 states, 5 motels, lots of friends and time with family. I traveled through blizzards, rainstorms, snow covered mountain passes, high desert, long lonely highways. Enjoyed sunsets, sunrises, good meals at local places. Saw eagles, mountain goats, mule deer, hawks and assortment of water fowl. And, of course, a variety of roadside attractions along the way.
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.