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

 

Let’s start this off with a Whispering Bang!!

Whispering Giants – art by Hungarian artist Peter Toth – Idaho Falls, Idaho; Bethany Beach, Delaware; Murray, Utah; Red Lodge, Montana; Ottawa, Illinois; Hopewell, Illinois; Paducah, Kentucky; Astoria, Oregon; Ocean City, Maryland; Iowa Falls, Iowa; Utica, Illinois

Over 62 of these around the U.S.  Here are the ones I have seen:

Gigantic Peter Toth carved Indian Head in North Tourist Park in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Placed in 1980
Chief Little Owl in Bethany Beach, Delaware placed in 2002
Chief Wasatch in Murray, UT placed in 1985
Detail of the “Whispering Giant” of Red Lodge, Montana, placed in 1979
Ho-Ma-Sjah-Nah-Zhee-Ga in Ottawa, IL, placed in 1990
Hopewell Giant in Hopewell, IL placed in 1975
Chief Wacinton in Paducah, KY placed in 1985
Ikala Nawan in Astoria, Oregon placed in 1987
The Inlet Indian, Nanticoke, dedicated to the Assateague tribe, is in Ocean City, MD and placed in 1976
Whispering Giant of Iowa Falls, IA in Veterans Park, placed in 1999
Chief Walks With The Wind in Starved Rock State Park, Utica, IL

Wigwam Village – Sleep in Wigwam – Cave City, KY

Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village Key
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Hanging with ALL 10 Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY

Wahkeena Falls – Corbett, Oregon

Wahkeena Falls in Corbett, Oregon

Wupatki National Monument – near Cameron, Arizona

Son Seth at Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff in 1992

Water Buffalo – Cebu, Philippines

Carabao Water Buffalo taken on Cebu Island in the Philippines

Winnett, Montana

Winnett, MT Welcome Sign
Old Store Front – Winnett, MT
Old Hotel Sign – Winnett, MT

Wallace, Idaho

Wallace, Idaho
Wallace Corner Hotel, Wallace, ID
Downtown Wallace, Idaho

Weatherford, Texas

Courthouse in Weatherford, Texas
Skinnys Hamburger sign in Weatherford, TX
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas

Murals of Welland, Ontario

Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles

Washington, Pennsylvania

Washington, PA Historic Marker
Washington County Courthouse in Washington, PA
Welcome to Washington, PA

Williams, California

Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA

Winner, South Dakota

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

Waldo, Arkansas

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

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Winterset building fronts
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa

Wyoming Dinosaur Center – Thermopolis, Wyoming

Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming

World Trade Center (before 9/11) – New York City

In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
World Trade Center 1990

One World Trade Center (after 9/11) – New York City

One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
One World Trade Center under construction – March 2, 2013

Wall Drug – Wall, South Dakota

Where the Heck is Wall Drug?
Welcome to Wall, SD
One of many Wall Drug Billboards – notice the uniqueness?
The 80 foot tall Wall Drug Brontosaurus

West Virginia Capital Building with the gold dome – Charleston, West Virginia

Wonde West Virginia’s Capital Building in Charleston, WV
WV Capital Building

Wharton, Texas

Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX

Wonderland Road – Upton, Kentucky

Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY

Winter Wheat – Sparta, Ontario

Welcome to Winter Wheat in Sparta, ON
Winter Wheat Main Building
Broom People at Winter Wheat in Sparta, ON
The performance room at Winter Wheat

Walpi, Arizona

While working in Arizona I made over 100 trips to Walpi on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona

White Sands National Monument – east of Alamagordo, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Granddaughter Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR
Welcome to Walnut Ridge
Scene from Abbey Road, Walnut Ridge, AR

Wendy’s Museum – Dublin, Ohio

Dave Thomas statue at Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH

Wigwam Drive-In – Ravenna, Kentucky

Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY
Interior of the Wigwam Drive-in Ravenna, KY
The Famous Country Boy Burger

Washington Court House, Ohio

The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Washington Courthouse Statue

Whitetop, Virginia

Welcome to Whitetop, VA
Whitetop Station
All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA

West Side Theater – Newman, California

West Side Theatre – a common stop for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours

Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas

Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….

Walcott Castle – Walcott, Iowa

Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
One of the Towers on Castle Hall in Walcott

Wind Farms – Shelby, Montana; Nekoma, North Dakota; Adair, Iowa; Bloomington, Illinois; Iona, Idaho; Rugby, North Dakota; Port Burwell, Ontario

An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana

A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
Approaching Wolverine Creek Wind Farm, near Iona, ID
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm info center in Port Burwell, Ontario
Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana

Watkins Glen State Park – Watkins Glen, New York

One of over 50 waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Wilbur, Washington

Wilbur, Washington
Billy Burger, Wilbur, WA
Big Pig and Spider at Welcome center in Wilbur, WA

Winnemucca, Nevada

Sumoflam in Winnemucca, Nevada
Big casino in Winnemucca, Nevada
Driving through Winnemucca

Mount Washington – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mount Washington
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington

West Yellowstone, Montana

Welcome to West Yellowstone, Montana
Westward Motel – West Yellowstone
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana

Whiskey Rebellion – Washington, Pennsylvania

Whiskey Rebellion Statue in Washington, PA

Webster Falls – Hamilton, Ontario

Webster Falls near Hamilton, ON
Sumoflam at the top of Webster Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

White Castle, Louisiana

Welcome to White Castle, LA
There is a White Castle Fire Dept, but no White Castle restaurants to be seen

Worland, Wyoming

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

Working Women mural – Welland, Ontario

“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial
work force in the factories of Welland

Wolf Creek Pass – Colorado

Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado July 1993

Wind River Canyon – Wyoming

History of the Wind River Canyon
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon
Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis, WY

Walking to the Sky Sculpture – Pittsburgh, Penssylvania

“Walking to the Sky” by Jonathan Borofsky

Washington Monument – Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC in 2016

Willie the Walleye – Baudette, Minnesota

Son Solomon (at 6’3″) at Willie the Walleye in Baudette, MN

Wichita, Kansas

Welcome to Wichita mural
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas
Keeper of the Plains – 50 foot tall statue in Wichita
Wicked Street Art in Wichita, KS

What Cheer, Iowa

What Cheer, Iowa
What Cheer, Iowa
Downtown What Cheer – many abandoned buildings

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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West Virginia’s Midland Trail – US Route 60 from Virginia to Charleston

During the month of May I made several trips to West Virginia to assist a friend in need.  Also, during Easter Weekend (2017) I had occasion to take my wife to northern Virginia near Shenandoah National Park and on my return started my treks along US Route 60 in West Virginia, what they refer to as the Midland Trail.   On subsequent visits, I tried to hit US 60 in the western part of the state as well.

 

A scene from along US 60 in WV
The WV State Capitol Building in Charleston

The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain of the Mountain State and extends for approximately 100 miles from White Sulphur Springs in the east to Charleston in the west. The trail is believed to have been originally carved into the mountains by buffalo and native peoples. In 1790, George Washington ordered the trail cleared. The trail came to be traveled by stage coaches and soldiers in the Civil War.

A scene from the drive on US 60 near Lewisburg, WV
A bridge near Lewisburg, WV

Along the route there are a number of scenic stops, some of which I had time to stop for, and others which I didn’t.  But the rugged hills of West Virginia along this route made for a scenic drive, even if I didn’t stop.

My first venture on the Midland Trail came on Easter morning as I headed home from Shenandoah National Park.   It was then that I actually decided to hop off of Interstate 64 and onto US 60.  There wasn’t much in White Sulphur Springs, so I continued on to Lewisburg.  Like White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg is known for its sulfur springs and their curative powers.  It is also home to the immaculate and world famous Greenbrier Resort.

Lewisburg – America’s Coolest Small Town
Huge snowman in Lewisburg

To prove they are the “coolest” town, they even have a huge fiberglass snowman at one of the businesses.

I found this guy at Brabble & Shores Insulation.  It is a classic Roadside America type of thing…perfect for the silly selfie!  That alone makes this town a pretty cool place in my opinion.

Old Stone Presbyterian Church was built in 1830 in Lewisburg

Always on a quest to document old covered bridges, I came across the Herns Mill Covered Bridge, which was begun in 1879 and completed in 1884. The bridge is approximately 54 feet long and 10.6 feet wide and is open to travel.  Many renovations were made in 2000 — concrete abutments and steel I-beams, guard walls, portal timbers, a new metal roof and siding — to ensure the cover bridge’s longevity.

Sam Black Church historical Marker

From Lewisburg heading west there are a number of small towns to pass through.  My next stop on the trail was at Sam Black Church. It is one of the few towns I have encountered that actually is named after a church building.

The building was built in a classic Gothic style in 1902 and was named named in honor of Rev. Samuel Black, a circuit-riding Southern Methodist preacher. It is a small one story building with a gable roof. It features a square, open bell tower with a hipped roof.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV
Front doors to Sam Black Church

Continuing west I came to the uniquely named town of Charmco, WV.  At 2,408′ in elevation, it is a mountain town.  It remains today as a coal mining town.  I liked the “charm” part of the name (reminded me of the Amish town of Charm, OH).  However, it turns out there is really no charm intended. The community was named for the Charleston Milling Company in 1933.

Charmco, WV Post Office

I traveled through Rainelle (and, ironically was deluged by a rainstorm so kept going).  I eventually made my way to Lookout, WV, which was supposedly named because the Native American tribes used the elevated location as a lookout point.

Lookout, WV Post Office
Fun flag in Lookout, WV

I added another unique flag to my collection of “non-flag” flags that I come across when traveling.  This one was made of stones and sat next to the Post Office parking lot.

I am always on the lookout for flags represented in other media and have found a couple of dozen in the past few years.

Then of course, there are the old retro Mom and Pop motels that can be found along an old US Highways. The Midland Trail Motel is one of these. (Route 60 is actually longer than Route 66 and has many similar features.)  A little trivia from Wikipedia: traveling 2,670 mi from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with the major US 66. In fact, US 66 was almost given the US 60 number.

Midland Trail Motel on Route 60 in Ansted, WV

One of the most “touristy” places along the Midland Trail is found near Fayetteville, WV.  This is home to the New River Gorge and the massive New River Gorge Bridge.  This is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge.  I visited the bridge a couple of times in the past and so didn’t want to stop on this trip due to time constraints.

Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge and New River Gorge National River in Fayetteville, WV in August 1995
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia taken in  August 1995
The Mystery Hole in Fayetteville, WV

Of course, where there are National Parks or National Bridges, etc., there are always the Tourist Traps.  The “Unbelievable Mystery Hole” is one of these.  We stopped there in 1995 on our drive through (but it was closed).  When I drove by this time it was also closed.  But it has all of the quirkiness.

Bottom line, the place claims to be a gravity defying hole and draws tourists who want to have a “can’t believe your eyes” experience.  It is just funny to me that it so happens to be close to a National Park site (as many of these great experience places are.”

A quick shot of the Mystery Hole from the car on this trip
My daughter Marissa taking a photo in 1995
Welcome to Gauley Bridge, WV

After passing by the Hawk’s Nest State Park, which offers some spectacular views (we actually stayed there in 1995), I continued on my trek into Gauley Bridge, where the Kanawha River is formed at the confluence of the New River (which formed the gorge) and the Gauley River.

This is actually another scenic location with a beautiful view of the beginnings of the Kanahwa River and a very nice waterfall – Cathedral Falls. At a drop of 60 feet, the falls are considered to be one of the highest and most scenic waterfalls in West Virginia. What’s better, they are literally located right alongside US 60. Definitely worth a visit.

Visiting Cathedral Falls near Gauley Bridge, WV
Another shot of Cathedral Falls
A panorama of the confluence forming the Kanahwa River at Gauley Bridge, WV

I didn’t see many murals on this trip, but there was a nice one on the side of a building in Gauley Bridge.  The only actual mural I saw on the Midland Trail until I was in Charleston.

Train Mural in Gauley Bridge painted by Nancy Lane to commemorate the rich rail heritage of the town.
The C&O Railroad Bridge across the Gauley River.

From Gauley Bridge, US 60 follows the route of the Kanawha River.  Another nice set of waterfalls can be seen at Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV.  The drop of these falls is only about 15 feet, but it is a wide and loud waterfall.

Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV
Another shot of Kanawha Falls

After my brief stop at Kanawha Falls, I continued into Charleston on the winding highway.  It really was a beautiful drive.  And it is always a treat to see the golden dome of the state capitol building.

West Virginia State Capitol Bulding

Part 2 will be posted soon and is all about the Charleston area. Part 3 will then be posted about the portion of Route 60 from Charleston to the Kentucky border.

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