Blogging A to Z Challenge – The Complete List for 2017 – #atozchallenge

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.

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

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!

With over 6,300 locations worldwide, Choice Hotels has you covered! Book on our official site ChoiceHotels.com and save!

With over 6,300 locations worldwide, Choice Hotels has you covered! Book on our official site ChoiceHotels.com and save!

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W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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A Trip to New England: Part III – September 2015

Catching the sunrise with Jos and Rockwell at Old Orchard Beach
Catching the sunrise with Jos and Rockwell at Old Orchard Beach

After a pleasant night stay in Old Orchard, ME, I got up early in the morning with my grandchildren Joselyn and Rockwell to hopefully catch a sunrise and boy did we get a royal treat!!

The skies were colorful with shades of pink, purple, blue and orange and then the ball of the sun rose up over the Atlantic Ocean.  One of the most amazing I have ever seen!!

Presunrise sky was filled with color
Presunrise sky was filled with color
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Someone on the beach also trying to catch the sunrise
Someone on the beach also trying to catch the sunrise
Jos and Rockwell enjoy the amazing sunrise
Jos and Rockwell enjoy the amazing sunrise
A seagull flies by at sunrise
A seagull flies by at sunrise
Sumoflam at sunrise in Old Orchard, ME
Sumoflam at sunrise in Old Orchard, ME

This was going to be a long day for us as we would drive up to Portland to see a famous lighthouse and then into New Hampshire, onto Vermont and then back to Connecticut to drop Rockwell off.  From there we would return back to Lexington…a good 20 hour day from start to finish. Following is the route map for the day.

Day 3 in Connecticut and return trip to Lexington.
Day 3 in Connecticut and return trip to Lexington.
Left my print on the beach in Old Orchard, ME
Left my print on the beach in Old Orchard, ME

The rest of the family was up soon and we were ready to get packed and head north to Portland to see the famed Portland Head Light. Of course, we needed breakfast, so we stopped at The Cookie Jar in Cape Elizabeth, ME.  They offered a wonderful selection of fresh baked goods so we grabbed a few donuts and a fresh loaf of whole grain bread.  We would eat the donuts at the lighthouse.  The RED VELVET donuts were to die for!!

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Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, ME

The Portland Head Light was only a few minutes from the bakery in Port Elizabeth.  Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park, at 1000 Shore Road, the popular landmark is owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, ME.  Construction on the original lighthouse was begun in 1787. The original tower measured 72′ from base to lantern deck and was lit with 16 whale oil lamps. It was first lit on January 10, 1791.

Stopping at the Cookie Jar in Port Elizabeth, ME
Stopping at the Cookie Jar in Port Elizabeth, ME
Amazing Red Velvet Cake donuts from The Cookie Jar
Amazing Red Velvet Cake donuts from The Cookie Jar

When we got to the park we enjoyed donuts, orange juice and an amazing few of the rugged and rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth with a backdrop of the historic lighthouse.  Julianne , Marissa and the kids took a nice hike along the shores while I protected the table and the food.

The rocky shores of Port Elizabeth, ME (photo by Marissa Noe)
The rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth, ME (photo by Marissa Noe)
Grandkidz look out at the Portland Light House
Grandkidz look out at the Portland Head Light (photo by Marissa Noe)
Grandson Landen makes a rock pile on the rocky shores of the Atlantic
Grandson Landen makes a rock pile on the rocky shores of the Atlantic (photo by Marissa Noe)
Another view of the Portland Head Light
Another view of the Portland Head Light
The beach left a heart for all of us as we left Maine. (photo by Marissa Noe)
The beach left a heart for all of us as we left Maine. (photo by Marissa Noe)

This little visit was one of the highlights of the trip for us.  This old lighthouse and the scenic surroundings were absolutely splendid. But we had to move on.

The next leg of the trip was my “selfish pleasure” I must admit.  Over the years of my life I had, to this very day, visited 49 of the US states (having visited New Hampshire and Maine in the past two days).  That left ONE state remaining on the list – Vermont.  And the other thing I wanted to do on this visit, since I discovered the place in my research, was to visit Sandwich, NH and get a sandwich in Sandwich.

Welcome-to-Freedom-SignSo, westward ho to New Hampshire we went, driving along Maine Highway 25 through Cornish and Porter and into Freedom, NH. When we arrived in Freedom I searched diligently for the Post Office.  You see, my friend Antsy McClain has a song titled “Living in Aluminum” and there is a lyric in the song that says “I’ll send you a Post Card from Freedom sometime.”   I wanted to actually send Antsy and a few my other Flamingohead friends a postcard.  But alas, we didn’t find one so we moved on, continuing west on Hwy 25 into Sandwich, NH, with our timing fairly close to noon.

Signposts in Sandwich, NH. No restaurants!
Signposts in Sandwich, NH. No restaurants!

SandwichHistoricalSocietySandwich, NH is the perfect example of what I imagined an old New England town would be like.  We drove around looking for a cafe or a restaurant….JUST so I could say that I ate a sandwich in Sandwich.  I even stopped in the town hall and asked and was told there was no place!!  So, as you can see, this was an absolute Sandwich Fail and I will likely never hear the end of it from my wife!  Turns out that the closest place for a sandwich near Sandwich is about 22 minutes away on Hwy 113 in Holderness, NH at the Squam Lake Market Place.  So, off we we went.

Visiting Squam Lake MarketPlace, Holderness, NH
Visiting Squam Lake Market Place, Holderness, NH
Inside of Squam Lake MarketPlace (photo by Marissa Noe)
Inside of Squam Lake MarketPlace (photo by Marissa Noe)

The Squam Lake Market Place is like an upscale convenience store located on the western shore of Squam Lake at the intersection of US Hwy 3 and NH 113. It has a meat market, some locally made goods and a place to get sandwiches.  But note, there is NOT a restroom on the site.  You have to drive down the road to the library and use the Porta-Potty.

Outside of Squam Lake MarketPlace (photo by Marissa Noe)
Outside of Squam Lake MarketPlace (photo by Marissa Noe)

We were all starved and so I ordered sandwiches for everyone…four grandkids and three adults.  I was in major shock when I was told that the total was nearly $80!!!  A jelly sandwich for Lyla was $7.00!!  All of a sudden I was in “Squirm Lake.”  Already in trouble for the Sandwich Fail in Sandwich, going out of our way, etc., I was then in the doghouse for a “fancy meal” priced sandwich lunch.

The sandwiches were good, but $12 for a simple sandwich was a bit overwhelming. But at least the sandwiches were good.

State Number 50 - At NH/VT border in Brattleboro, VT
State Number 50 – At NH/VT border in Brattleboro, VT

From Squam Lake we headed further southwest towards Brattleboro, VT….still a bit out of the way, but got me into Vermont, even for a few moments!! My 50th State was finally checked off the list.

We had taken Hwy 9, crossed the Connecticut River and there was the sign.  From there we were in Vermont for a total of about 5 minutes as we drive south into Massachusetts to return to Vernon, CT to drop off Rockwell, give the family a hug goodbye and make the long drive home back to Kentucky.

Hanging with granddaughter Lyla on a break on the return trip home to Kentucky
Hanging with granddaughter Lyla on a break on the return trip home to Kentucky

A couple of stops for fuel and food along the way and by about 2 AM we were back home in Kentucky.  A long trip home but a wonderful 5 day trip to the Atlantic coast.

Life is always good when on the road end enjoying the ride…especially with family!

 

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