A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The J Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Judy Garland Birthplace – Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup – Beachville, Ontario

Jakeman’s Maple Products – Beachville, Ontario
Jakeman’s Sign

Jackalopes Everywhere – Superior, Wisconsin; Wall, South Dakota; Douglas, Wyoming; Fort Worth, Texas

Jackalope Crossing
A cuddly Jackalope at Wall Drug, SD
A Jackalope Bird or something at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin
Douglas, Wyoming Jackalope
Jackalope on top of a car dealership in Ft. Worth, TX

Jungle Jim’s Restroom – Cincinnati, Ohio

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.

Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Waldo, Arkansas

Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Waldo, Arkansas

Jolly, Texas

Jolly, Texas
I am being Jolly – I think

Juke Boxes – Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California

Rockola Juke Boxes line the store and fill it with 50s and 60s music

Jerry Siegel / Joe Schuster – Creators of Superman – Cleveland, Ohio

Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home
Superman Street signs at the corner of Kimberley and Parkwood in Cleveland – Jerry Siegel Lane and Lois Lane
A plaque in front of the Jerry Siegel house gives the history of his work.
Action Comics blowups at Joe Schuster Home
Amor St. has become Joe Shuster Lane. It too is on Parkwood (known also as Lois Lane)

James Frank Kotera – JFK The Twine Ball Man – Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin

James Frank Kotera – JFK – The Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI

Jumbo the Elephant Statue – St. Thomas, Ontario

Sumoflam with Jumbo in 2008

JELL-O Museum – Le Roy, New York

JELL-O Museum in LeRoy, New York
Head shot of JELL-O Cow in Leroy, NY

Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk – Riverside, Iowa

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA

Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

Another of the premiere roadside attractions in America!!

Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Jurustic Park

J.C. Penney Mother Store – Kemmerer, Wyoming

Where it all started

J.C. Penney Mother Store

Jesus in Cowboy Boots – Evergreen Cemetery – Paris, Texas

The famed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX

Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota

Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN

Jerusalem Rocks – Sweetgrass, Montana

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012

Juneau, Alaska

Downtown Juneau Alaska
Cruise Ship in Juneau

Jelly Belly Room – Santa’s Candy Castle – Santa Claus, Indiana

One of the Jelly Belly Walls
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting!

John Wayne House – Winterset, Iowa

Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Welcome to Jeffersonville
The Howard House – one of 12 floodwall murals in Jeffersonville

Three Jamestowns – Jamestown, New York; Jamestown, North Dakota; Jamestown, Virginia

Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Lucy Desi Museum – Jamestown, NY
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
My sons Seth and Sol on deck of one of the ships in Jamestown, VA in August 1995
Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995

Joplin, Montana

Joplin, Montana…Biggest Little Town on Earth

James Garfield Monument – Lake View Cemetery – Cleveland, Ohio

James Garfield Statue inside Garfield Monument
The James Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland

Jackalope Capital of the World – Douglas, Wyoming

Get your Jackalope Hunting License Here

My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY
New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye

Joseph Smith Cabin – Palmyra, New York

LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s Cabin in Palmyra, NY

Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho

Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger

Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa

Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Yummy Dutch Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Welcome to Jackson, Wyoming!!
Jackson, Wyoming and Ski Slope
Antler Arch of Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Joe Mama’s Fine Italian – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Joe Mama’s Fine Italian Restaurant

Jacobson Park – Lexington, Kentucky

My Happy Place

Lovely parhelion (sun dog) over Jacobson Lake in December 2016
Winter sunrise at Jacobson Park
Fall at Jacobson Park

Jamaica Beach – Galveston, Texas

Jamaica Beach Water Tower

Jesus of the Ozarks – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Jesus of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR

Joseph, Oregon

Sacajawea Peak – Joseph, Oregon
Giant Eagle Statue – Joseph, Oregon

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

 

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U is for Unique Monsters: Dinos, Dragons & Other Monsters – #atozchallenge

People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons.  Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive.  All we have are fossil evidences and legends.

A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon.  I have seen hundreds in my travels.

Dragon Biting my head off – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.

Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI

Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first.  First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI.  According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”

A giant monster sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller

Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country.  In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center.  Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.

20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI.  Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.

Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit.  Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!

Big Dragon – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Welcome to Jurustic Park

And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.

Hungry Dinosaur – Wally Keller collection near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Scrap Metal Dinosaur – work done by Wally Keller – near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.

Sumoflam and Larry Vennard at his Iron Sculpture Park in Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway “T” Rex near Centralia, MO
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL

This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

 

A closeup of the fire!
Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

There are, of course, many other dragons out there.

“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Dragon with Cowboy Boots at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX
Metal Dragon on a Building – Clayton, New Mexico
Guitar Playing Scrap Metal Dragon – Harrietsville, Ontario
Dragon head – Salida, Colorado
Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

But, its the dinosaurs that impress.  Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters.  In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Connecticut
A T-Rex at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, MD
A 15 foot dinosaur overlooks Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs – located in Choteau, Montana on the “Dinosaur Trail”
Big dino in Bynum, Montana
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY

Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Life size and REALLY REAL looking.

Dinos break out of Indianapolis Children’s Museum
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum

And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country

A Dinosaur Sighting outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural history
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Colorful Dinosaur near Carnegie Museum, originally part of DinoMite Days in 2003
Scrap Metal Dinosaur chasing a ram – Glasgow, Montana
Rudyard Dinosaur, Rudyard, MT
Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Grazing Dinosaur – Harrietsville, Ontario
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino, in Wall, SD

and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America, WY

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A to Z Challenge: The W Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

WThe W Towns

Wharton, Texas

Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich

Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton.  My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.  Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  You can see my full post about this trip HERE.

Welland, Ontario

Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled "History of the Niagara Peninsula" by Heinz Gaugel
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
 "Working Women" by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
"Wagons" by Andrew Miles
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles
"Main Street" by Mike Svob
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario

When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls.  But not too far west of there  is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor
art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above.  The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town.   Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa

I have always wanted to go to Winterset, Iowa, famed for the “Covered Bridges of Madison County” (See a map here).  Robert James Waller made these famous with his book called The Bridges of Madison County. The county originally had 19 covered bridges, but now only six remain.  There are actually a couple of other places with quite a few covered bridges including the bridges in Greene County, Ohio (see map) near Xenia, Ohio which I will feature in my X Towns post later this week,  (see my write up of my visit to many of these), the 18 bridges in Fairfield County, Ohio (also see map) and the 17 bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio (also see map here), including the newest and longest, which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet long (see my photo of this bridge).  Kentucky and Michigan both still have quite a few as well. There are just over 125 covered bridges still in the United States and I have been fortunate to have visited many of them.  Therefore this was an exciting visit for me.  But Winterset is also famous as the birthplace of John Wayne.  You can see my complete and detailed post about Winterset HERE.

Wapiti, Wyoming

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion – Wapiti, WY
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti

There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them.  One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20.  This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti.  It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.

Wall, South Dakota

Wall Drug 714 Miles
Wall Drug 718 Miles – Austin, Minnesota
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall's Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
Wall’s Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug - these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug – these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino

There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction.  However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota.  I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere.  Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.

Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there.  On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts.  A few examples are shown above.  You can see more and the whole story HERE.

Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)

Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world.  It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate.  Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two.  I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.

Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)

Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR

In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad.  Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010.  A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.

Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Highway into Worland, WY
Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above.  The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there.  There is also a museum.  Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.

West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge

I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section.  And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area.  But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above.  This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada.  You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.

Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)

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

Winner Food Center

Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names.  I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013.  I definitely wanted a photo with the sign.  What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner.  So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same.  You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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