Thursday, October 13, 2016

12 Interesting Finds on American Roads, Going West from Kansas to Washington

A Wagon in the US Midwest
In my last post, I wrote about six of nature’s best spots that we were lucky to see on our road trip west to Washington from Kansas. In this sequel, I focus on the twelve interesting finds on the same 7-state, 10-day trip. They are works of art, unusual creations, and one-of-a-kind historical sites.

Blue Sky Sculpture
Blue Sky
About two hours from Kansas City, this Sculpture at the Centennial Park in Newton, Kansas is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. Designed through the joint efforts of artists Phil Epp, painter, and Terry Corbett and Conrad Snider, ceramists, it is made of cobalt-glazed tiles. The artwork seems to have eye-catching, unobstructed movement towards the natural sky which is the artists’ goal.
Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum

Mennonite Museum and Agricultural Museum
Less than thirty minutes north of Blue Sky is a Museum that tells the story of Mennonites who emigrated from Russia in 1874 and settled near present-day Goessel in Kansas. The Agricultural part showcases the progression of farming mechanization from the 1800s to the mid-1960s in the Turkey Red Wheat Palace. These immigrants brought Turkey Red, a winter wheat variety, to Kansas and the US.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine

World's Largest Ball of Twine
Two hours further north, in Cawker City, Kansas, a ball with total twine length that has surpassed 7 million feet is kept growing by the city. In 1953, Frank Stoeber started it and then donated it to the town in 1961 when it had grown to 1.6 million feet of twine. Every August, there is a "Twine-a-thon" to add more. When we were there, a car pulled up and two ladies also gave us some to add!  

Giant Van Gogh’s Painting  

Van Gogh's Giant Painting
Three hours to the east, there is a visually unique attraction. It’s a 24’ by 32’ reproduction of Van Gogh's "3 Sunflowers in A Vase." It rests on an 80-foot steel easel. There are three such Big Easels erected by Cameron Cross: the first in Manitoba, Canada, in 1996, the second in Emerald, Australia in 1999 and this one in Goodland, Kansas in 2001. We returned to see it glisten at night, braving light showers and high winds!

Cheyenne Big Boots  

Big Boots in Cheyenne
It took us one whole afternoon to hunt down all 20 giant boots around Cheyenne, Wyoming. Each one is 8 feet tall from heel to the top of the pull tabs and 8 feet long from the pointy toe to the back of the heel. Painted by various artists in 2005 to showcase Wyoming's and Cheyenne's history, they were later purchased by civic-minded businesses to display at their locations. An excellent way to spend an afternoon!

Old Town Fort Collins 

Old Town Square Fort Collins
Less than an hour south of Cheyenne is Fort Collins, Colorado. When you walk the streets of Old Town Square, the buildings, especially the Old Firehouse Bookstore, will make you think the place looks so familiar; déjà vu! Fort Collins’ Harper Goff helped Walt Disney sketch up plans for Disney’s Main Street USA. And that is why you will Old Town Square such a charming place to stroll around on a lazy day.

Jazz Alley  

Some of the Pianos
A lover of jazz, Bill noticed an artsy piano in Old Town Square Fort Collins. Later, we saw a few more.  “Pianos about Town” is a collaborative project between the city and some organizations. The pianos are painted from May-October right in the Square and at several indoor locations during winter months. The completed pianos are distributed throughout the city, inviting people to enjoy the art and play a tune.

Buffalo Bill’s Grave

at the Grave of Buffalo Bill
About one 1/2ours south of Fort Collins is Lookout Mountain Park, part of the Mountain Parks System of Denver, Colorado. You will find the one and only grave of William F. Cody there. It is one with a view as it overlooks the natural beauty of the Great Plains and the Rockies. Born 1846, his skill as a buffalo hunter gained him the nickname "Buffalo Bill." And all of you know I love the name, Bill!

JC Penney’s Mother Store

JC Penney Mother Store
We were driving from Fossil Butte National Monument to our hotel when we chanced upon the JC Penney Mother Store. On a corner of the main street of Kemmerer, Wyoming (population, 2,600), the first store of the department store giant (with almost 1,100 stores in 49 states) was built in 1902.  We later learned that JC Penney’s tiny home had become a museum and was just down the road.

Bruce and Brandon Lee’s Grave 

Bruce and Brandon Lee's Graves

In the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington is an unusual attraction that has become a national and global pilgrimage site. In Lake View Cemetery, halfway up a hill with unobstructed views of Lake Washington, one space is marked by evergreen shrubs.It is the final resting place of Bruce Lee, legendary Chinese American martial artist and film star. His son, Brandon's tomb, lies beside his father’s.

The Market Theater Gum Wall

Gum Wall
The Gum Wall, made of brick, is covered in used chewing gum in Post Alley under Pike Place Market in Seattle. Parts of the wall are covered several inches thick, 15 feet high for about 50 feet. The tradition began around 1993 when patrons of the Market Theater Box Office nearby stuck gum to the wall. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice but eventually gave up around 1999. Too bad we didn’t have gum to add!

The Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll
The Fremont Troll is a colossal statue under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge in Seattle, Washington. It is clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle as if it had just swiped it from the roadway above. 18-feet high and 13,000 lbs. in weight, it is made of steel rebar, wire, and concrete. His right eye is a hubcap. It is hard to find a place to park and to wait our turn to get pictures.

The area under the bridge was becoming a dumping ground and haven for drug dealers. In 1990, the Fremont Arts Council launched an art competition to rehabilitate it. The Troll was sculpted by four local artists: Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. They borrowed the idea of a troll living under a bridge from the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

Our road trips are always made more precious by the natural landmarks we get to see along the way. But interesting finds like these intriguing works of art, unusual creations, and one-of-a-kind historical sites add exotic spices to an already flavorful dish!