April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Overview – Kentucky to Washington

Sumoflam on the Road Again

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.

Lots of great two-lanes on this trip

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.

Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa – about 900 miles on Day 1 and 2

DAY 1/2 – Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa

Stopped to see Peter Toth’s Whispering Giants

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.

Stopped at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois and was pleasantly surprised
If driving through northeast Iowa, a stop at the home of American Pickers is always fun.
Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota – about 680 miles

 

Day 3 – Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Dignity is a stainless steel, 50-foot-tall statue was specifically designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people.

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.

The Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche, SD

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.

Can’t skip the Corn Palace – a major roadside attraction. Changes every year.
Can’t skip the 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino!!
Day 4 – Belle Fourche, SD to Wallace, Idaho

Day 4 – Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Wallace, Idaho

Snowy morning in Belle Fourche

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.

Snow in Broadus, Montana
Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho

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.

Snow covered Teepees in Crow Agency, Montana
The interstate near Livingston, Montana
Men’s restroom door in Northern Cheyenne country – Ashland, Montana
Road Trip Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Sumoflam and Roger Vollmer, former boss from Nava-Hopi tours.

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.

The US 2 Sign at Stevens Pass in Washington

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!

A snowy stop sign at Steven’s Pass in Washington
The view of the Cascades as seen from the Skykomish / Gold Bar area of Washington, east of Everett.

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.

With some of the karvings at Kountry Krazy Kreatures in Kingston, WA
Seattle as seen from Manchester, WA
Granddaughter Livvy poses in the rocks
A seagull gathers clams in Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard
Also saw this bald eagle flyover me at Sinclair Inlet
Some of the buildings of downtown Seattle
A beach scene in Manchester, WA

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.

Port Orchard, WA to 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.

One of many murals in Olympia, WA
Raymond, WA has an entire community of lifesize metal people
Zigzag, Oregon
US 101 near Allyn, WA
Ran into Bigfoot in Allyn, WA. At least he was smiling
Drove over Mt. Hood highway heading southeast out of Portland
The high deserts of central Oregon are lovely.

Travel Day 7 – Bend, Oregon to Murray, Utah

Day 7: Driving from Bend to Murray, UT thru Nevada

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!

Standing in the middle of the road…no cars..on the Frenchglen Highway in central Oregon
Another scene from SE Oregon
Finally back in Nevada…at Denio, NV
Downtown Winnemucca, NV
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
Hanging with Friends

Travel Day 8 – Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado

Travel Day 8 – Murray, UT to Manitou Springs, CO
Hitting the Colorado border

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.

Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction – fun “tourist trap”
Soldier Summit, UT between Spanish Fork, UT and Price, UT on US Rt. 6. Elevation 7,477
Another Whispering Giant by Peter Toth, in Murray, UT

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.

 

Monarch Pass – the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet in Colorado
Just barely was able to whip out the camera to catch this mountain goat
Old Hotel Neon in Helper, Utah
A scene from US 50 in Colorado near Cimarron
Mule deer taken near Poncha Springs, CO
US 50 East of Gunnison near Monarch, CO
Stayed at the Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs

Travel Day 9 – Manitou Springs, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri

Day 9 drive from Manitou Springs, CO to Kansas City, MO
Entering Kansas on US 40 near Weskan, Kansas

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.

Garden of the Gods near Manitou Springs
Colorado Hwy 94 – 85 miles of straight highway in the middle of nowhere
Punkin Center, Colorado

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.

Lunch at Kit Carson Trading Post
Kansas Sunset near Abilene, Kansas

Travel Day 10 – Kansas City, Missouri to home in Lexington, Kentucky

Travel Day 10 – the last leg. Kansas City, Missouri to Lexington, Kentucky
Driving with the windows open and the wind blowing through my hair

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.

Back in Kentucky
The Shelbyville Horse at the Kentucky Welcome Center near Shelbyville

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.

Books 1 & 2

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4600 Miles of Back Roads Bliss

Following My Bliss
Following My Bliss!
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT

As I returned home from my long nine-day trip across America I wanted to take a quick look back at all the events.

The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND

Over the course of this trip I have covered 12 states, over 4600 miles, taken almost 2000 photos (including over 100 “selfies” and have seen all kinds of things.

The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN
The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN

The big highlights of this trip were visiting the Paul Bunyan and Big Blue in Bemidji, Minnesota, driving up the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming/Montana, and hitting Carhenge in Nebraska.

The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.  One of the highlights of the trip
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. One of the highlights of the trip

Along with these, I saw many other interesting places. I had numerous oddball sites along the way including a pink elephant, big bears, Jackalopes and many other roadside attractions.

Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming
Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming

This trip took me along many US highways as I generally avoided the interstate whenever possible. I was fortunate enough to drive a big chunk US Route 2: all the way from Ironwood, Michigan to the eastern edge of Glacier National Park where US 2 intersects with US 89. That route has some amazing scenery, lots of variety and other wonderful things.

US Route 2 in Wisconsin
US Route 2 in Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana

As I noted above, I took Route 2 all the way to where it met US Highway 89. I later drove US 89 from the US 2/US 89 intersection near Glacier National Park along the eastern rim down to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Throughout my years of travel I have covered a good portion US 89 all the way down to Mexico and all the way up to Canada but never in one fell swoop. In my opinion, US 89 is probably the most scenic of all the US highways. US Route 66 may be the most famous, but US 89 passes by a number national parks and monuments, as well as numerous other scenic places. From the north you would drive by Glacier, then Yellowstone, continue south through the Rocky Mountains, down through southern Utah near Bryce and Zion national parks, crossover Lake Powell at Glen Canyon dam, head towards Flagstaff and pass Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, then pass the Grand Canyon, and continue south all the way to Mexico. An amazing drive down nature’s “Grand Staircase.”

Scenes from US 89
Scenes from US 89
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

As with most of my trips, I also captured the abundance of wildlife, some of which I was able to photograph. I had close-ups of deer, antelope, bison and a few waterbirds. I drove through the wetlands of Minnesota, the marshlands of North Dakota, and the sandhills of Nebraska, all of which had an abundance of waterfowl.

Antelope in Wyoming
Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some amazing people along this road trip. I met some expert woodcarvers in Wisconsin and I met with rice growers in Wisconsin. I had a long talk with the people in Bemidji, Minnesota. While in Douglas, Wyoming I got to meet with the people there about the Jackalope got my “official” Jackalope hunting license and other goodies from them. At Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming I met a photographer from Wisconsin who also writes blogs and has many similar interests in travel. I hope to exchange stories and photos with him. Then at Carhenge I met a time lapse photographer and some other interesting people and even donated my MARDUP (Married Up) license plate to the Carhenge gift shop. I don’t want to forget the small Old Trail Museum in the small town of Choteau, Montana with dinosaurs and other unique things.

Hell's Half Acre in Wyoming
Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Donating "MARDUP" license plate at Carhenge
Donating “MARDUP” license plate at Carhenge
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs

As with most of my trips, I didn’t visit all of my planned locations. But along the way there were many in expected surprises that I ran across. These are what really make these trips worthwhile! Perhaps two of my most exciting surprises were visiting Rock City in northern Montana ( with my Grandkidz) and Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming. Both of these are basically uncharted geographic and geologic formations that are really amazing.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana

As always, I was delighted to be around the mountains! I was fortunate to be able drive along the eastern rim of Glacier National Park at sunrise and see the beauty of the snow-covered mountains there. Driving down US 89 from Shelby towards Yellowstone, I saw an abundance of wonderful mountain vistas. Then one of my bucket list trips was accomplished on this as I drove the Beartooth mountain range which sits atop the border of Montana and Wyoming. That was an amazing adventure as I drove all the way up 11,000 feet to the “Top of the World” as they call it there. Deep snow surrounded the roads and the vistas looking down on the mountains were absolutely breathtaking.

A scene from the 'Top of the World" looking down on the Beartooth Range
A scene from the ‘Top of the World” looking down on the Beartooth Range
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park

This trip will actually provide me enough content to warrant a number of blog posts for me as I visited so many locations and saw so many different things. In the past, I have tried to throw it all into one giant blog. But this time around I met with people and I dug a little deeper and took more pictures of various locations so that I can focus on the smaller picture items. For sure I will have blog posts about US Route 2, US Route 89, the Beartooth, Bemidji, Douglas, and probably a few others.

Mountain Scene in Montana
Mountain Scene in Montana
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND

With the new technology of wireless devices, I was able to take a lot of “selfies” along the route. My goal was to get 100 selfies, but I actually got 96 on this trip. Using Instagram, I hash tagged them with #100selfies and shared them on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. Ultimately, I plan on a “100 Selfies” blog post including all of the photographs and the stories behind them.

Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI

Of course, I cannot neglect noting the real reason I took the trip which was my grandson Kade’s baptism. It was amazing to be able to spend time with my four grandchildren and my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron for four days in Shelby, Montana.

With grandson Kade for his baptism
With grandson Kade for his baptism
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana

During the course of this trip, I probably took over 2000 photographs. Much of them were scenery and unique sites. But I also captured the sense of the fading America – the old neon signs, the old abandoned houses and barns, schools and churches, the small-town theaters and their marquees. I captured small-town murals and Wall art.

Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Neon sign for Bahr's Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Old Neon sign for Bahr’s Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
Part of the front display of a "collectibles" shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2

I also captured an abundance of nature including beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing cloud formations, wildlife, wonderful vistas of the prairies and mountains and many many shots of scenes from the road

Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go

For me, these trips are not about the destinations. These trips are about the experience. It is all in the trip! This nine-day adventure, as with other long trips I have taken the past couple of years, will leave me cherished memories to the day that I die.  Watch soon for detailed posts about the trip.

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Bison poses for me in Yellowstone National Park
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Sandhills Drive - Nebraska Route 2
Sandhills Drive – Nebraska Route 2

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