A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


We're off for the next week to Yosemite, National Park.  I made reservations soon after returning from our Great Plains Tour.  One cannot dilly-dally too long with Yosemite or you will not get a campsite.  As luck would have it, a low pressure system will move down from the upper Pacific coast bringing a chance of rain and lower temperatures for the week I selected.  But I always try to see the bright side of an otherwise dismal situation.  Hopefully the skies will be filled with dramatic clouds which would only improve upon this scene I photographed earlier this year in May.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Leaves for Leontien

 My thoughts are with someone I do not know but that does not lessen them any in the least.

I felt she deserved a little flower with all the leaves sent her way.

You may click here to view all the leaves sent to Leontien so far.
Do you have any Leaves for Leontien?

Gallup, New Mexico

Another super sign from old Route 66
They just don't make them like this anymore

I am wondering if the two balls were an inspiration in the design due to the space race in the 1950's

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh Those Wacky Amish

A few days ago I showed a photo of a Amish horse and buggy on the road. 
You can see that post here.
At least here they had a shoulder to trot along on.

I suppose the speed limit isn't an issue for them.  I wonder if they have to give turn signals?

Here in Jamestown, Missouri a specific space is set aside for buggy parking.  Jamestown needs to provide horse poop bags as an incentive for the buggy drivers to clean up after their horse. 

Even within the Amish though, there seems to be the occasional scofflaw.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nowata, Oklahoma

Bowling Ball Yard Art

When it came time to see this one, I just didn't know what to expect.  It was way out in the nowhereland of eastern Oklahoma.  Driving down a long dirt road I eventually came to Chris Barbee's home, pulled into the driveway, parked off onto the grass and just sat there...looking.  Okay, by now you probably know I get easily overwhelmed at times.  I just sat there trying to make sense of what would cause a person to do this.  It looked like no one was home.  Finally with camera in hand I got out and began taking pictures. 

Remember, these are bowling balls so added features are of a much larger size than they would be normally.

At this point I have worked my way to the back of what appears to be his home where this small building stood inviting you to step inside.  Incidentally, there are 385 bowling balls making up that pyramid to the left and bowling pins make up the roof, all 140 of them cut in half.

Inside sort of pushed me over the edge or into the gutter you could say.

I left a note in his sign-in book and thought about making my exit before anyone else came by.  Just as I was about to get back in the Little House on the Highway here comes a dust covered ratty little car up the road and it is the artist himself, Chris.  Here is a photo of him from a newspaper article in his bowling ball house.

He was the nicest guy.  He worked in the oil industry then the last ten years at a printing business in town. The rural property belonged to his parents and when they died he decided to move there for his retirement years.  He and his wife bought a large mobile home and had it installed on the land.  His wife had 14 bowling balls that she fixed up and put among her roses for decoration.  When she died he figured there was no need to continue to make payments on such a large home for one person and had it removed then converted the storage shed on the property into his home.

He felt he should do something with the 14 bowling balls of his wife's and thought about making a fence with them. He figured if he collected some more balls it would take 2 or 3 years to build the fence he had in mind.  In May of 2006 he started collecting bowling balls from thrift shops and the like and it soon evolved into art objects.  He estimates he has well over 2000 balls most of which are from donations.  He knows pretty much where every ball came from and has a few collectibles in the bowling ball house. 

To the right of the house you can see the door for the storm cellar.  The cellar leaks and water collects inside which he'd have to pump out onto the grass.  He later realized the waste of water that was so now has collecting tanks in the cellar.  He pumps the water up to cans, pots, bathtubs, sinks and toilets that set on top of the storm cellar all containing his vegetable garden.

I could figure out what every art piece was except this one.  Can you?  He told me without my asking.

By this point I was nearly a month in our search for the weird, unusual and bizarre.  For those sites of a personal nature, something created by one individual, it seemed my first reaction upon seeing it was usually  "What is this person thinking?"  Yet I always came away with a deep appreciation for their passion with their art whether I liked it or not.  From the well executed Carhenge in Nebraska, to the goofy conglomeration of Hubble's Rubble, and the down right scary political statement pieces of M.T. Ligget (who I made a point of not meeting) in Mullinville, Kansas they were all to be respected.  Thank goodness we have people like this out there to make our world just a little bit more interesting.  Above as Chris put it is "the world's largest rosary".  Raise your hand if you knew.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trailer Trash Tuesday

Merriman, Nebraska

I know of double-wide trailers but never a double-long one.  For the lack of a better explanation as to what this is, that's what I am calling it.  Looking closely it doesn't appear to be a make-do-slap-it-together modification.  The rear half has the exact same accent trim only placed lower at the base of the unit.

Zooming in I can see that the rear end tapers back in like the front does.  It is possible two units were joined together butt to butt with four identical doors cut and installed.  Those standing poles indicate the additional roofing continued all the way along, but some has since been removed.  It looks like a mobile home motel in a strange sort of way.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

There Ought to be a Law

NO PARKING in front of murals!

Chillicothe, Missouri
Notice how every square inch of the brick surface was used for the mural.

I'll submit two this week just because of the cars in the way.
The detail in this one is incredible.

This is linked to Oakland Daily Photo Monday Mural

Fargo, North Dakota

My main purpose for passing through Fargo was to see the wood chipper from the movie Fargo.
You can click here to see the wood chipper post.
But outside the Fargo Visitor Center was this.

I cannot imagine what was on the artist's mind while painting this or rather,
what the artist was on while painting this.

This is linked to murrieta365
Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

Read vs. Brown

These two signs are from the downtown district in Coffeyville, Kansas.  They have such great style to them.  For the most part all the downtown business district were brick buildings and most appeared to be vacant.  The entire area was clean and it seemed in the beginning stages of a redevelopment program.  A few businesses were struggling to make a go of it, starting anew, another was moving in but I saw little traffic and hardly any people about.  Hopefully the economy gets better as downtown Coffeyville could be a happening place.  There was a Brown Mansion in town, and W.P. Brown was a turn of the century business tycoon so this building may have been tied to him.  H.W. Read may have been his competitor.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Through the Windshield from Behind the Wheel

Somewhere in South Dakota. 
This was one of the first of these I saw poking along down the highway.  They don't grow hay like this in California so it was a novelty to me.  Then came the unnerving challenge of passing it while driving a small house.  After a couple of weeks of these it became no big deal but I never got away from the thought if one of those big Shredded Wheat biscuits ever came loose.

Salt Flats, Utah
This is an 87 foot tall art piece created in the early 1980's by European artist Karl Momen.  It stands along Interstate 80 in the salt plains of northern Utah.  There is nothing else around for miles.  I mean lots of miles.  There is nowhere to pull off to take a photo.  The traveler must do so while zipping along at 70 plus miles per hour or risk being run over by a big semi-truck if you attempt to slow down.  There is a breakdown lane for "Emergency Parking Only".  Some people have "emergencies" and pull over for a quick photo or two but heaven help you if the Utah Highway Patrol just happens by at that moment.  I've been by it several times over the years but was surprised this time to see it surrounded by barbed-wire topped chain link fencing.  Must be a Homeland Security thing protecting it from a possible terrorist act.  That is the westbound portion of I-80 you see in front.  I was way over on the eastbound half and as you can see by my photo, it is no easy task snapping a picture while at speed. 

Near Jamestown Missouri,
 reputed to be the most westerly point of any Amish community.  Okay, I respect anyone's religious beliefs but I just have to say, these people are absolutely crazy to drive their buggies down the road with so many idiots out there texting while driving.  Granted, they have no other route to take to get from home to town and back again, but there is a limit as to how far one should go with their beliefs before personal safety becomes more important.  I poke along on back roads myself, sometimes being a nuisance for those travelling the speed limit but even still at my pace, I came up on these buggies really quick when coming over a rise.  Just how serious of an offense is it to own a car when you're Amish?  Notice the traffic caution sign.

Anthony, Kansas. 
Several times we came across really looong truck and trailer combinations hauling these tremendous blades, part of three blades for wind turbines.  You just do not realize how huge they are until they are at ground level.  This right turn took two attempts before the driver could complete the maneuver.  In another town police cars were stationed waiting to block traffic.  Several miles beyond I came upon the trucks heading towards town with their looong blades.  I observed trucks carrying gigantic oval containers that required the same type escort service.  I wondered what they were but never remembered to ask.  It just now dawned on me as I was putting this post together what they must have been - the generator body the props are attached to!  I was thinking storage tanks of some kind.  Whew, now I can sleep tonight!

Mobridge, South Dakota.
This is the only drive-in movie theatre screen I saw in 7039 miles of driving.  Amazingly it is still in operation.  Known as the Pheasant Drive-in it operates from May through September screening double features during week nights and sometimes triple features on weekends.  The audio is through your radio as well as the traditional hang on the window speakers.  Admission is $5.  The snack bar favorite, the chopped bar-b-que beef sandwich.  Kids, if you've never been to a drive-in movie, you owe it to yourself at least one time in your life.

I remember back in the mid-sixties when the motorcycle Hell's Angels type of movies were very popular.  I took my girl friend to the drive-in to see the movie.  She wanted to hug and kiss - all that lovey dovey stuff.  I wanted to watch the movie!  And then there was the time when young and married with our baby daughter in her car bed in the back seat.  The movie industry was young with the new rating system and whatever movie it was it had a 'no one under 18' rating.  Believe me, it was mild compared to the PG-13 movies of today.  Anyway, they wouldn't let us in for my wife was under 18.  Good grief!  We're married, we have a child, she's gone through the joy and pain to be a mother.  I think we tried again another night.  Maybe I stuck my wife in the trunk and had our daughter up front with me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Boise City, Oklahoma

What brought me to Boise City was the prominent role it played in the book about the dust bowl I had just finished, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  As it so happened in many of the towns we visited, there were other stories to be uncovered.  This is one of them.

Boise City was the only city in the U.S. to be bombed during World War II, and it was done so by our own Air Force.  During a July 5, 1943 nighttime bombing practice run in their B-17 Bomber the crew mistook the lights of Boise City to be their target.  Fortunately they weren't very good at what they do.  The only thing destroyed was a garage which was doubly embarrassing since they were aiming at the courthouse.  One bomb did land in the town square but it was deserted at the time so no one got hurt.  The town made the best of the occurrence on the 50th anniversary by cementing in a fake bomb in a replica crater along with a commemorative bronze plaque.  The crew of the bomber was invited to attend the festivities but none showed up. 
Probably still embarrassed, 50 years later. 

I found this particularly funny.

Incidentally, that is a railway caboose in the background that serves as the Chamber of Commerce for Boise City.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Caney, Kansas

At least that is what my information told me, that the Little House on the Prairie was just a few miles north of Caney, Kansas.  I drove and drove, stopped and asked, and drove some more.  It was more like 12 miles which so happens to be the same distance south of Independence, Kansas - 12 miles.  Could Caney be trying to work the cash cow that Laura Ingalls Wilder is?  I finally found it and was relieved to find something, judging by the setting, that I could actually believe in.  No one there and no signs of it being a tourist clip joint.

I admired the effort taken by the land owner at his attempt to faithfully recreate the log cabin as it was described by Laura in her writings.

I felt inside was staged very well without going over the top.

Now I admit it was my fault for not reading the signs that carefully.  I tend to get easily overwhelmed with all there is to take in when at something to see.  But I honestly thought the cabin was built, they lived in it for two years while Pa built a nicer home for his family, which still stood to this day, the house that is currently being used as the "visitor center".

Inside was a small gift shop, nothing whatsoever like the other two abominations I was in before.  I talked with the woman inside asking all kinds of questions about the house which surely would leave no doubt in any one's mind - This guy thinks Laura's family lived in this house.  I asked about the two rooms in front, the one we stood in to the right was like a parlor, the left half a smaller room.  Behind a curtain leading to a back room was at one time the kitchen but is currently being used as an office, and upstairs - closed off - were two bedrooms.  There were no furnishings in any room except a rack and cupboard to display gift items, and the office equipment.  She said someday they hoped to open up the bedrooms for tourists to see.  I even asked if the wood flooring was original and she said it was.  I was greatly impressed but she never made an attempt to straighten me out by saying Now the Ingalls didn't live in here, you know.

She said there were three previous owners of the property who had no idea of who originally homesteaded the property.  It was in 1969 that the current owner discovered that this was the Ingalls homestead and the birthplace of Currie Ingalls, only by the fact that a woman doing research on Currie determined this was the place.  She added that Laura and her husband Alonzo made a trip out to the area to try to find the farm but nothing looked familiar to Laura, which is understandable given her age at the time, 2-3 years old.  This too led me to believe she was searching for this farm house, not a long since gone log cabin.

So despite the fact I left there thinking I had been in the actual house on the prairie, I was pleased that I had finally found a Laura Ingalls homesite worth visiting.  And I knew that little Laura romped around in this backyard through the prairie grasses and that Pa had hand dug the well off to the right. 

Or at least that is what I was told.
I left 5 of the 6 dollars saved from Mansfield in their donation jar,
and I am done with Laura Ingalls Wilder.