A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The R 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.

 

Ric’s Grill – Steak in Water Tower – Lethbridge, Alberta

Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta
Ric’s Grill – Lethbridge, Alberta

Route 66 Soda / Route Beer – Mokena, Illinois

Route 66 “Route Beer”

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky

Welcome to Rabbit Hash, KY
Sign at Rabbit Hash Road
The Old Rabbit Hash General Store. It burned down in 2016 and had to be rebuilt.

Restroom Hiker Mural – Damascus, Virginia

Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

Other Restroom Fun – Story, Indiana; Hopland, California; San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Cypress, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Nebraska City, Nebraska; Ashland, Montana; Frenchglen, Oregon

A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms” at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
There were also a number of tile mosaics. This one was at the entrance to the restrooms in Golden Gate Park visitor’s center
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
Men’s Stall Door in restroom at Burger Shack in Cypress, Texas
Jungle Jim’s Restroom in Cincinnati have entrances that are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
Men’s Restroom at Mo’s in Reedsport, Oregon
Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the “Cleanest Restrooms on I-29”
Restroom Door in a Convenience Store in Ashland, Montana
Sometimes even a place like this looks heavenly – the ceramic toilet is a planter. The real place is in the outhouse. Frenchglen, Oregon

Rock City – near Valier, Montana

Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City, Montana

Geographical Center of North America – Rugby, North Dakota

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

Real Goods Store – Hopland, California

Welcome to Real Goods
A view of the Real Goods Store
Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer

Riscky’s Steakhouse and BBQ – Fort Worth, Texas

Riscky’s Steakhouse – Ft. Worth, Texas
Riscky’s BBQ – Ft. Worth

Rudyard, Montana

Rudyard Welcome Sign
Sumoflam and Dino – near Rudyard, Montana

Ragged Falls – Algonquin National Park, Ontario

Ragged Falls in Algonquin National Park in Ontario

Rosie the Fish – Sekiu, Washington

Sekiu’s somewhat famous “Rosie” welcomes you to the town

Red Squirrel – Nebraska City, Nebraska

A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE

Rising Eagle Sculpture – Bismarck, North Dakota

Rising Eagle Sculpture in Pioneer Park, Bismarck, ND

Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois

Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois

Royal Motel – Ironwood, Michigan

A Route 66 type of vintage neon sign at the Royal Motel in Ironwood, MI

Riverside, Iowa

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA
Live Long and Prosper – Sumoflam and the Starship Riverside

Random Road – Cleveland, Ohio

Mayfield Road and Random Road, by the little park in Little Italy

Romance, Missouri

Road to Romance
Romance Baptist

Roseman Covered Bridge – Winterset, Iowa

Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa

Raton, New Mexico

Raton Theatre in Raton, NM
Main Street in Raton, New Mexico
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM

Rio Brazos Dance Hall – Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)

Roxy Theatres – Choteau, Montana; Langdon, North Dakota; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Shelby, Montana

Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
New Roxy in Clarksdale, MS
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana

Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

Roosters Roosters – Needville, Texas; E. Peoria, Illinois; Seymour, Missouri; Eldon, Iowa; St. Louis, Missouri; Granbury, Texas

A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas..doesn’t look like a jay to me.
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria
Uncle Rooster’s Big Rooster on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri
Metal Rooster in McIntosh, MN
Red Rooster (looks white to me) – Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA
Giant Rooster greets you at Joe’s Cafe entrance in Greg Freeman Park, St. Louis
Big Rooster in Granbury, Texas

Roadhouse Relics – Austin, Texas

Roadhouse Relics Wall Sign in Austin

Russell Flat Holiness Church – Sand Springs, Kentucky

Russell Flat Holiness Church – Sand Springs, Kentucky

Regent, North Dakota – Home of the Enchanted Highway

Welcome to Regent and Enchanted Highway Road Map
Enchanted Highway Gift Shop in Regent, ND – closed the day were there

Ronks, Pennsylvania

Dutch Haven Restaurant, Home of the famed Amish Shoo Fly Pie, located in Ronks, PA just down the road from Intercourse
The Outhouse Gift Shop – Ronks, PA

Russell’s Point, Ohio

Stewart’s Drive In in Russell’s Point, Ohio
Bringing out the ice cream at Stewart’s

Roswell, New Mexico

UFOs in Roswell
More Art in Roswell, NM
Need some alien stuff? Plenty in Roswell

Rexburg, Idaho

Rexburg, ID
Rexburg LDS Temple

Rocket Rest Stop – Elkmont, Alabama

At the Rocket Rest Stop in Elkmont, AL – home of a Saturn 1B. Taken in 2005
Large Saturn Rocket at Welcome Center in Elkmont, Alabama

Ride the Ducks – Seattle, Washington

Ride the Ducks in Seattle

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Rock and Roll Blvd. in Cleveland

Real Quiet Lane – Lexington, Kentucky

Shhh…this is a Real Quiet Lane in Lexington, KY

Red River Gorge – Slade, Kentucky

Red River Gorge near Slade, KY
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November 2016

Rachel the Golden Pig – Pikes Place Market – Seattle, Washington

Rachel the Golden Pig (on the right!!!) and Sumoflam at Pike Place Market in Seattle

Redcliff, Colorado

Green Bridge near Redcliff, Colorado
Nice carved eagle in Redcliff, Colorado

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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Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind.  Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird.  On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.

Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat.  I think we all make those determinations ourselves.  In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Why quirky?  Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?

The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

In fact, there are many “quirky”  scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country.  Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA.  Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist.  I visited his shop back in 2007.

I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA.  After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places.  You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani.  He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.

More Screaming Heads

There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.”  See my original post HERE.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Quirky is not only centered on art.  There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.”  That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

And they don’t have to be antique shops either.  How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US…  Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.

This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal.  I was fascinated.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there.  Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough.  But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get.  Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world….  and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece.  That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.

This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations.  Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did.  I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested.  See it here.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons.  The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall.  The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet.  On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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Going to California: Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA

Welcome to Real Goods
Welcome to Real Goods
As I mentioned in my previous post, along the way to Red Bluff and Woodflock, we made a stop at Real Goods in Hopland, CA.  The place was so unique and fun that it deserved its own special blog post.

The Real Goods Store got its start in 1978 with a focus on solar equipment. According to their website, the store was originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads. The store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
This is of particular interest to me as I worked in the Solar Water Heater industry in Japan from 1989 to 1991 for Asahi Solar Corporation.  During that 2 1/2 year stint I represented the company on visits to China and the United States, in conferences and exhibits and more.

Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
We also sponsored two college solar cars in the original GM Sunrayce in 1990 (Colorado State’s Stelar V and Arizona State’s Sun Devil Cruiser) and  brought the cars and their teams to Japan to compete in the Asahi (TV/News) Solar Car Race in Kobe, Japan.  Further, during my work I assisted in the installation of the first solar water heater on the Hopi Indian Reservation.  Working with the company, I was also instrumental in the company adding solar electric panels to their new headquarters building in Oita, Japan in 1991.

real-goods-solar-living-sourcebook-1With my involvement in solar, I also purchased a copy of the Solar Living Source Book back in 1990, while attending the Solar Energy Conference in Denver, CO.   Real Goods founder John Schaeffer published his first edition of The Solar Living Source Book in 1982. It was written as a one-stop information source for renewable energy and sustainable living. The Source Book is a comprehensive reference for the layperson on renewable energy technologies and sustainable living. It is now in its 14th Edition and has sold over 700,000 copies.

Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Little did I know that when I visited Real Goods on this trip that I would also have the opportunity to meet and speak with John Schaeffer, the founder of Real Goods and also the author of this Solar Living Source Book.  In fact, I now have the latest edition which was kindly signed by Mr. Schaeffer and he was also kind enough to get a picture with me.

Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Initially, I was not aware that we would be making a stop at Real Goods (nor did I even know of its existence!).  But Carla surprised me.  Knowing my penchant for quirky and unique places, she thought this would be a good place.  As we pulled into Hopland, immediately I could tell that a unique place was coming up.  First thing I saw on the side of the road was a “Needing to Pee?” sign. HA!  I had never seen one of those before.  Other signs included:

“Real Goods Solar Living Center”

“Everything Under the Sun”

“Weird Restrooms”

“Soothing ponds and Oasis”

“Greenest Store on Earth”

Soon we were turning into the Real Goods entrance, which is also home to the Solar Living Institute. I got pretty excited about the “solar” part though didn’t have much time to look at that AND the store.

MetalSculpture
Sumoflam with “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris
First thing that caught my eye as we pulled into the parking lot was a giant metal sculpture which looked like a dragon with a square Victrola speaker head.  Turns out that this sculpture is called “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris.  I am always enthralled by scrap metal sculptures such as this (and sometimes these are plain metal sculptures…not made from scrap metal).  this one was a doozy!

The sign talking about "Weird Restrooms"
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
From there I went to the store.  They were supposed to have “Weird Restrooms,” which would be a “must see” quirky adventure for me.

I needed to use the restroom anyway…the red sign provoked me, I promise!

DSC_2463
Explanation of Weird Restrooms

The "weird part" is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall.  Other recycled items can be found within as well.
The “weird part” is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well.
I also caught an interesting sign in the restroom, though there were no examples of this to be seen in the restroom.

The Toilet Sink sign...there were none here...
The Toilet Sink sign…there were none here…

Caroma2
…but we have one!! Our Caroma Profile Smart toilet
I got a kick out of “The Toilet Sink” sign.  Many probably don’t get it, but I can assure that Julianne and I do get it.  We actually HAVE ONE!!  When we remodeled our home a couple of years ago, we were going to have a small half bath. We thought back to our days in Japan and VOILA! We found one here in the use made by Caroma called a Profile Smart toilet. A bit pricey but perfect for our needs.
caroma1
The Caroma Profile Smart has a dual flush system too in order to conserve water. We may have the only one like it in Lexington, KY
Just around the corner from the “Weird Restroom” is an even stranger contraption, a funky drinking fountain…

The funky drinking at real Goods
The funky drinking at Real Goods

Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
And, from what I understand, there are many other quirky things I missed on the grounds (due mainly to our lack of time there) including trees growing out of cars (The Memorial Car Grove).  This is where the rusting hulks of 50s and 60s “gas hog” cars have been turned into planter boxes for trees and flowers! These ‘grow-thru cars‘ are a fitting counterpoint to the ‘drive thru‘ redwood tree a hundred miles north. I am sorely disappointed to have missed this one since I have been to a number of other car art places such as Carhenge, Cadillac Ranch, Rabbit Ranch and “Spindle” (which no longer exists).

A view of the Real Goods Store
A view of the Real Goods Store

Another view of the Real Goods Store
Another view of the Real Goods Store
The inside of the store is a menagerie of uniqueness with all sorts of items that homesteaders can use.  They have bee keeping equipment, composting toilets, self help books, solar chargers, etc.  Truly a fascinating, one-of-a-kind store (and website).

Bees working in the "see thru" working beehive at Real Goods Store
Bees working in the “see thru” working beehive at Real Goods Store
I was fascinated with the ‘see thru” working beehive.  I have never seen anything like it and to watch the bees hard at was amazing!!

They also sell all of the equipment needed to do your own beehives.

A larger view of the hive....truly an amazing site
A larger view of the hive….truly an amazing site
Real goods is probably the most comprehensive TRUE “do-it-yourself” store I have ever seen.

Beekeeping for Dummies...yes, there is a book for that
Beekeeping for Dummies…yes, there is a book for that

Another view of products in the Real Goods Store
Another view of products in the Real Goods Store

Need hats?  They have plenty of them at Real Goods
Need hats? They have plenty of them at Real Goods

Real Goods Store
Real Goods Store
I am really glad to have been able to stop here and recommend that anyone driving along the Redwood Highway (US Hwy 101) near Hopland, CA stop by this unique store and Solar Education Center.  Unlike me, plan a couple of hours rather than a quick 30 minute stop!!

 

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