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.
Yellowstone National Park – West Yellowstone, Montana ; Gardiner, Montana
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.
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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The I Towns
Indian Head, Saskatchewan
It is interesting that three of my I Towns in this post have something to do with Indians (American Indians) and so I am starting off in Canada at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Indian Head is anchored against the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway just 65 km east of Regina. The town was both a railroad hub and is in the center one of the wheat producing areas of Canada. The Indian Head statue (shown above) was officially unveiled on August 4, 1985. The statue is 18 feet high (the head itself is 10 feet tall). It weighs approximately 3,500 pounds and is made from metal pipe, metal mesh and cement. The statue was designed by sculptor Don Foulds of Saskatoon. It is very easy to get to, just off of Highway 1 in Indian Head.
Contrary to those with dirty minds, Intercourse was formerly known as “Cross Keys”, which was founded in 1754. The name was changed to Intercourse in 1814. There are several explanations concerning the origin of the name of Intercourse, but none can really be substantiated. The first centers around an old race track which existed just east of town along the Old Philadelphia Pike. The entrance to the race course was known as “Entercourse”. Some suggest that “Entercourse” gradually evolved into “Intercourse”. There are others, but perhaps the most quantifiable to me comes from the “old english” language which was is use in the early 1800’s. It refers to the “fellowship” or social interaction and friendship which was so much a part of an agricultural village and culture at that time. The Amish are really quite a social people and are well known for working as groups to raise barns, etc. The town’s sign is considered the most frequently stolen town sign in the US and is now on a pole that is difficult to get to. You can read more about my visit to Intercourse and Amish Country in central Pennsylvania back in 2008 HERE.
Ironwood, Michigan was the starting point of my massive US Highway 2 Roadtrip across half of the US Continent back in 2014. I started in Ironwood, which is on the western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and it sits on the border with Wisconsin. Ironwood has a number of unique things to see including a giant Hiawatha statue which is touted to be the biggest Native American Indian statue in the United States (it stands 52 feet tall in the midst of a park in town). They also have some nice murals and a few other unique things to see. Its actually a great place to visit. As the name implies, Ironwood is a town that was settled due to iron mining. It’s history goes back to the 1800s. There are a couple of monuments to the iron workers in this town including a beautiful mural with paintings of the faces of almost 100 of the former iron workers. There is also a nice chainsaw carved sculpture in front of the old train station. See more about my visit to Ironwood and my drive on US Highway 2 HERE.
Independence is one of the great historical towns in Missouri. Decorated with murals all over town, filled with history and nearby in Liberty is the home of a major LDS (Mormon) Church Museum. It is the birthplace of American President Harry Truman. Lewis and Clark ventured here in the 1800s and many pioneers came here on the Mormon, California and Oregon trails. It is also home to one of America’s really quirky museums in Leila’s Hair Museum.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
I try not to include too many “big” cities in these posts, but I wanted to include Idaho Falls. Its a nice place to visit and has plenty to see. There are vintage restaurants and burger places, such as Scotty’s above, a beautiful Mormon temple, one of the 55 Peter Toth wooden carved “Whispering Giants” Indian Statues and more. The Snake River runs through the middle of town with some wonderful waterfalls (thus Idaho Falls). You can see more about my 2013 visit there by clicking HERE.
Iona, Idaho (Honorable Mention)
On a hill just northeast of Idaho Falls is another small town called Iona, a town settled by Mormon pioneers in 1884. It is now home to the Wolverine Creek Wind Farm. There are 43 turbines, which can be seen from Rexburg on a clear day. This site produces about 64.5 Mw of power.
Inverness, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Driving along US Highway 2 in northern Montana near Rudyard, is the small community of Inverness. It was named by “Scotty” Watson, pioneer stockman, in memory of his native town in Scotland. The Scottish town is located on the inlet to Loch Ness, famous for the Loch Ness monster. There is a population of about 55 living there, including sculptor Byron Wolery who made an interesting scrap metal dinosaur that greets passersby near Rudyard. They have their own “monster” now! See more about the Hi Line drive of Montana HERE.
Iron River, Wisconsin (Honorable Mention)
West of Ironwood, MI on US Highway 2 is the small town of Iron River, Wisconsin. This small town has a huge mural done by the same artists that did a number of lovely murals in Ashland, Wisconsin. They began this project in 2006 sponsored by the Iron River Lion’s Club. The town is proud to claim 96 Lakes, 12 Trout Streams, 4 Rivers, 500 miles of groomed ATV trails, Chequamegon National Forest, North Country Hiking Trail and many more great hiking trails, Camba Mountain Biking Trail System, Skiing, Snowshoeing, Dog Sledding, Waterfalls, Fishing, Birding, Berry Picking, Wildlife and Summer Sunsets. I hope to visit the area again in the future on a more extended visit. See more HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
While in Rexburg for the last week of March and the first week of April, I had the opportunity to take a couple of trips south to Blackfoot and Idaho Falls, where I was able to catch a few of the interesting sites in the area. I even caught an amazing quarrel between a Canadian goose and a couple of seagulls.
Idaho Falls is a nice little town at the base of the foothills with the Snake River running through the middle of town. It is currently the largest city in Southeastern Idaho with a population of nearly 57,000 and a metro population of a little over 136,000. Like Rexburg, it has a large LDS (Mormon) population and a large temple.
One of my trip highlights was being able to see the large Indian wood carving by Hungarian-born and American immigrant sculptor Peter Toth. Over the years Toth has created at least one of these huge statues (all different) for each state in the United States. All of them collectively (at least 74 are documented) are known as the “Whispering Giants”. I hope to be able to begin my quest to visit many more over the years. Many of the Whispering Giants can been here.
The Indian depicted above is a combination of tribes native to Idaho. This sculpture was the 37th state in the series. As with all of his works, Toth did the work free of charge with supplies and materials donated by local businesses. The local Chamber of Commerce hosted the dedication program. Governor John V. Evans accepted and dedicated the sculpture.
Ironically, just north of the Whispering Giant is a unique shop called Wild West Designs Antler Art. They have many interesting home furnishings inside, but it was the unique wooden carvings outside that caught my eye!!
The giant bear above adorns a place in the front of the shop. This wooden grizzly is about 16 feet tall.
Further into town I came across a piece of nostalgia in Scotty’s Hamburgers. This iconic drive-in has been around Idaho Falls since the 1960s.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to eat there since they were closed on Sunday and that was my day to drive thru town.
Like Rexburg, the crown jewel for Idaho Falls is the large LDS Temple. Dedicated in September 1945 it was the first LDS temple in Idaho and is one of the older LDS temples, currently the 8th oldest in operation (see entire chronology here). It was the only temple dedicated between 1927 and 1955. Originally, it did not have an angel Moroni on top. This was added by helicopter in September 1983.
The area around the temple is a beautiful riverine green space — a haven for relaxation and ducks, geese and seagulls.
As I drive around looking at the wonderful river sights, I came across some folks feeding the birds…it was a virtual crowd of ducks and geese and seagulls. I was quite amazed to see them all congregated together fighting over the morsels of bread coming their way.
But, the real excitement came when a goose got a big piece of a baguette and was then attacked by a couple of hungry seagulls. I had never seen anything like this so I had the camera on fast snap to get the following sequence of shots.
It was really something watching this 2 minute battle for the bread!!
Idaho Falls still has a number of nostalgic locations. The Bonneville, an old Chinese restaurant, appears to be closed now, but the sign remains. I love old neon signs like these. This one is especially classy with the dot on the I being a star.
And who can resist the Yummy House? I had to, they were closed.
As I typically do, if I see a Wind Farm, I tend to go there. I am so excited to see natural energy in action and the wind farms are always like a giant flower garden blooming out of the ground. The Wolverine Creek Wind Farm is housed in the foothills west of Idaho Falls, in the town of Iona. There are 43 turbines, which can be seen from Rexburg on a clear day. This site produces about 64.5 Mw of power.
I was excited for the chance to get to Blackfoot, Idaho so that I could visit the famous Idaho Potato Museum. So, on a trip to Pocatello, accompanied by a business partner from Rexburg, we stopped in Blackfoot on the way home for a quick look see.
When we arrived it appeared to be snowing, but I actually think it was potato flakes falling from the sky to welcome me!!
Like other similar museums have visited in the past (like the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, the JELLO museum in New York, the SPAM Museum in Wisconsin…to name a few), the focus of this museum was a certain food, in this case, the potato. During the visit I learned a great deal about potato farming in Idaho, I learned that Sweet Potatoes are not related to a potato and I saw the Guinness Certified “World’s Largest Potato Chip”, which is housed in the museum and was created by Pringle’s in June 1991.
For fun, we took a drive around the small town to see another giant, a few murals and finally get a lunch at one of the oldest drive-ins (and eat ins) in town.
This former Uniroyal Gal (there are still of a few of these around the country) turned waitress adorns the front entrance to Martha’s Cafe. She has gone through a couple of changes. She was formerly blonde (in 2011) and actually held a plate (see photos on this blog).
As with many of my town visits around the country, I also take a liking to wall art and murals. I found a whole set of murals on the side of the wall near the fairgrounds.
We also spotted a couple of other older wall murals in town
Finally, we stopped at a great place for lunch. I had a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and almost ordered a Rice Krispy Treat Milk Shake!!
Rupe’s Burgers is like so many other lat 60s/early 70s drive-in diners. Great greasy not good for you food…and lots of it. This one opened in 1962 as an A & W Root Beer. It was open thru 1978 when the Rupe family sold it. The place became R & B’s thru 1986 and then went out of business. In 1987 the Rupe family bought it back. The place seats about 100 inside and has room for 20 cars outside.
I finished off a couple of different visits and after a two and a half week stay in Idaho, it was time to get back on the road home to Kentucky!!