During the month of April I participated with nearly 2000 other bloggers worldwide in the “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” which is now in its 7th year. This was my second year to participate and this year’s theme for my series was “Wanderlust.” As a “Travelographer,” my posts tend to be photo heavy. I travel and take loads of photos. This is my way of sharing the wonders of the back roads of America.
Following are links to the complete A to Z set. Just click on the banner for each and letter and enjoy the posts and the photos. I hope all readers will Enjoy the Ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it!
Just a week after a nice three-day visit to northern Ohio (see post HERE), Julianne and I made our way to Canonsburg, PA, which is south of Pittsburgh. Julianne’s sister Laura recently moved there from Idaho with her husband and daughter and wanted us to visit.
From Lexington, Canonsburg is about a 5 Hour drive. We loaded Julianne’s bicycle onto the bike rack and were off shortly after she got off of work. We also took our first trip with one of our grandchildren, our oldest named Autumn. She has traveled with her mother and me on a long trip to Wisconsin, but this is her first trip alone with Grampz and Grandma.
Most of the trip was fairly uneventful as we headed east on Interstate 64 into West Virginia and then north on Interstate 79 just outside of Charleston, West Virginia.
Along the way, we decided to stop for a couple of snacks and found a unique Amish market located in Flatwoods, WV. The shop is
located in the Flatwoods Factory Outlet. As is often the case when making an unknown stop, there’s always a surprise in store. We were looking for some interesting food items and/or snack items to enjoy, but while there, we found that they have a giant Amish-made chair to sit in. Always have to include the quirky things!
We also picked up some goodies to leave with her sister and we got some hot mustard that was absolutely amazing! The view from behind the store into the hilly farmlands of Pennsylvania was very nice and I’ve included a photo of that above. After our break and an ice cream cone for Autumn, we were back on the road heading towards Canonsburg.
After arriving in Canonsburg, and having a nice evening together, we spent the next day touring around Pittsburgh (that post will follow this one).
The next morning, Julianne and her sister decided to take a bike ride down the Montour Trail Bike Trail, a 46 mile trail from Moon Township (northwest of Pittsburgh) to Clairton. This is one of a number of Rail Trails that Julianne will take over the next few weeks (I’ll write about each of those in upcoming special “Bike Trail posts – watch for them!). This trail is actually part of a larger set of trails that stretch nearly 330 miles to Washington, D.C. (Known as the Great Allegheny Passage) Julianne and Laura hope to ride that complete trail in 2017 (And maybe I’ll be ready by then too!!)
While they were doing that, I arose early took a ride into the countryside nearby and captured a beautiful sunrise early in the morning. It was a beautiful drive up US Hwy 19 into Upper St. Clair, PA. There was a hint of fog in the air and the sun came up over the rolling hills and verdant farmland.
After breakfast, I took another ride to visit the small town of Prosperity, PA. The small unincorporated village is south of Washington, PA on PA Hwy 18. Obviously, I wanted to add this as another of those uniquely named towns that I like to visit. Prosperity really doesn’t look like it’s that prosperous of a town, but did have some unique old buildings and of course the Prosperity Post Office! (I have also found Success, Romance and Uncertain, among many others in my travels.)
On my way back from Prosperity, I made my way through the city of Washington, PA. The city is the County Seat of Washington County, which was the first county in the U.S. to be named Washington – done so in 1781. As the home of the old Washington and Jefferson College (the oldest college west of the Alleghenies), it is definitely a college style town but has some very old charm and many old historical buildings and some unique history.
Most impressive about Washington was the amazing looking historic courthouse with a large golden statue of George Washington on top. This is apparently the fifth version of the county courthouse, with this one being built in 1900.
Washington also gained notoriety in 1794 as a result of the Whiskey Rebellion, which was led by David Bradford. The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The so-called “whiskey tax” was the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. It became law in 1791, and was intended to generate revenue to help reduce the national debt.
Washington, is also the home of the PONY League, one of the well-known youth baseball and softball organizations that can be found throughout the world. They have a World Series event every August in Washington.
But, I would have to say that the small Borough of Canonsburg actually holds some merit as one of the more interesting places to see in the area. First off, it was the home to two famed singers from the 1960s – Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. And the local McDonald’s restaurant offers a rare glimpse of them and their lives with an in-restaurant little museum (the second such “Fast Food Museum” I had seen in as many weeks – the other being the Wendy’s/Dave Thomas Museum in Dublin, Ohio – see that one HERE). The museum display includes photos, albums, yearbooks, clothing and instruments, as well as the statues.
And then down the road from the McDonald’s is another statue honoring Perry Como. It is located in front of the bourough offices.
The statue of Como was unveiled in May 1999 and the city pipes his music 12 hours a day. (I must have missed it the day we were there).
A couple of historic pieces are also in the Canonsburg downtown area.
Canonsburg is also home to one of the quirky and iconic Turtle Twist Ice Cream Shop, shaped like an ice cream cone. The Ice Cream Shaped building was originally created by Twistee Treat Ice Cream out of Florida. The buildings are 28 feet tall and 20 feet wide and made of fiberglass. The original Twistee Treat company went out of business in 1990, but a new company was formed in 1996. Turtle Twist is a former Twistee Treat building. Their building was previously installed in 1992 at an amusement park in Lakewood, NY in 1992. It was then purchased and reassembled in Canonsburg in 2004. I have only seen one other of these in my travels (see M&M Twistee Treat in E. Peoria, IL)
Speaking of Ice Cream, there is another well known place in Canonsburg known for its ice cream and as well as its chocolate and chocolate art work. The Sarris Candies Factory and Ice Cream Parlour covers an area the size of a full city block, and carries over 100 yards of chocolate, penny candy, ice cream and life-like plush toys. Not sure what it is about Pennsylvania and chocolate. In other visits I have seen the huge Hershey’s facility in Hershey, PA and also Daffin’s Chocolate in Sharon, PA, known for its huge chocolate sculptures (see my post about Hershey HERE and my Daffin’s post HERE) . Both Daffin’s and Sarris claim to have the world’s largest candy stores. Sarris does also lay claim to an amazing 2600 pound Chocolate Castle (Daffin’s has a 400 pound chocolate turtle in their Chocolate Kingdom).
Some of the facts that Sarris notes about their castle:
Weighs 2600 pounds
It is 12 feet tall from floor to ceiling
It is 8 feet long and 3 feet long
It took 8 people three months and 2000 man hours to create
The whole confection room is also surrounded by 65 feet of beautiful hand-painted wall murals depicting a circus train ride through Candyland.
The shop has tons of candy products, massive plush toys including some life size ones and then there is the amazing Ice Cream shop.
Finally, some mention of a couple more places nearby that I visited. Not too many towns are named with a number, but Eighty Four, PA is one of the few numbered towns. There are a number of stories surrounding the name, but the town was actually founded in 1884 and the Post Office sought the name of Smithville, but it was already taken. So, apparently, the Postmaster H.F. Weir asked the post office be named after the year founded.
In 1957 a lumber company was created in town and was named 84 Lumber. It has grown dramatically with more than 250 stores, component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, custom millwork shops, and engineered wood products (EWP) centers in 30 states, representing the top 130 markets in the US.
Not too far from Washington is a place called Laboratory, PA, yet another strange name. But I also noticed an historic plaque with the name of Pancake. But there was already another Pancake in Pennsylvania. Some internet research warranted the following explanation (found on Jim’s Journey Website HERE):
Earle Forrest wrote about this area in his 1926 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania in the chapter on South Strabane Township. He discusses first George Pancake, then Jonathan Martin and adds this paragraph:
“About thirty years ago the late Dr. Byron Clark, who resided near the end of East Maiden Street, Washington, established a chemical laboratory for the manufacture of patent medicine, which he sold throughout the country. He had a post office established and named the place Laboratory, by which it is still known, although the original name of Pancake still sticks.
And finally, there was the Library Volunteer Fire Company in South Park, PA, near Washington. How did it get that name?? The Library Volunteer Fire Company was organized in October 1939 and was comprised of 21 firefighters and one truck housed at the corner of Brownsville and Library Road. Presently, the company is located at 6581 Library Road in South Park Township.
My next post will cover some of our visit to Pittsburgh
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!!