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!

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

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K is for Kentucky – #atozchallenge

One word: Staycation

My family moved to Kentucky with in 1993. We moved from the western United States and had not lived in a humid, green environment since our time in Japan in the late 1980s.

Kentucky the Beautiful
Kentucky Backroads

Like many others, when we heard the word Kentucky, we thought about the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky bourbon. There was not much else to really understand or know about Kentucky.

Honestly, looking back I can say that our move to Kentucky was one of the best things we ever did. Kentucky is a beautiful and diverse state. Living in Lexington, which is the Horse Capital of the World, we are surrounded by beautiful horse farms. In fact, I can leave my driveway and be driving through horse farm country within five minutes. The black plank fences, the nicely mown fields, immaculately expensive barns and the horses out grazing in the field… always uplift our souls.

Kentucky Capitol Building in Frankfort
Black Plank Fences are all over Kentucky…this is Horse Country
Lebanon, KY

There are so many things to see and do in Kentucky. The worlds largest cave, Mammoth Cave is here. Beautiful waterfalls, streams, rivers and lakes. The hills of eastern Kentucky are lovely.

The drive across the state takes about six hours if you’re driving east to west from the furthest points. The diversity that you will see on a drive like that is amazing.

Mail Pouch Barn in Central Kentucky
Rabbit Hash General Store in Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
Lexington at Sunset
Wisdom, Kentucky
Mare and foal jaunt
Oddville, Kentucky
Sumoflam at Cumberland Falls
Flippin, Kentucky Post Office
Ice Storms leave lovely art

Kentucky is one of those states that has true four seasons. The wintertime typically has snow and sometimes we even get some pretty impressive ice storms.  Not fun in and of themselves, the ice storms leave beauty hanging around.

After winter comes springtime and the abundance of colorful flowers and flowering trees. One of Lexington’s favorite places for visiting and viewing flowering trees is the Lexington Cemetery. It is a lovely place when everything is in bloom.

Cherry Blossoms in Lexington Cemetery
Yes, it can snow in the spring and cover the flowers.
Kentucky is famous for its lovely Redbud Trees
Thoroughbred Park

April is the start of the horse racing season in Kentucky. Keeneland Race Track is one of the premier race tracks in the United States and then after the Kingman meet horses move onto Louisville and Churchill Downs and eventually the Kentucky Derby. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to attend those events and they are a lot of fun.

But there are many other horse activities in Kentucky such as show jumping and even Polocrosse — a mix between polo and lacrosse done on horses.

 

Polocrosse at the Kentucky Horse Park
Show Jumping at Kentucky Horse Park
Horses frolic
A horse relaxes against a tree in late winter
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

Throughout the year, I make my way to a local reservoir/lake on the outskirts of Lexington. It is called Jacobson Lake and is part of the huge Jacobson Park. It is a beautiful place to come early in the morning and watch a sunrise or come in the evening and catch a sunset. I also thoroughly enjoy spending time at the lake and listening to the birds and watching and photographing birds. There are a variety of them from the great blue heron in the beautiful bald eagle and Osprey, to many smaller birds such a seagulls, Killdeer, blackbirds and bluebirds and Cardinals.

Blue Heron taking flight at Jacobson Lake
We call this Bald Eagle “Jake”. The local eagle at Jacobson Lake
Sunset at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY
Blue Heron grabbing some breakfast
Fall at Jacobson Park

Summer in Kentucky is generally mild but can be warm and sometimes very hot and humid. Those are the times to stay indoors or to go to the lake and sit out on the lake. The family has made a few visits to Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky to enjoy the nice environment.

Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe
Wigwam Cafe in Ravenna, KY

Also, during the summer I often take back road drives around Kentucky. There are so many lovely little two lane back roads that one can take and see the landscape, lifestyle and many other unique things. On these trips I’ve discovered old churches, beautiful old farm houses and buildings. I’ve come across fields of sunflowers. I even came across “Kentucky Stonehenge.”

Sumoflam at Kentucky Stonehenge
An old bourbon plant in Woodford County
Turkey Vultures guard their meal near McKee, KY
Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville
Sandhill Cranes

Traveling south of Louisville I took a back road during the spring in hopes of catching the migration of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. And I was fortunate enough to be there when they were there in the small little town of Cecelia, Kentucky.

 

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky

On other trips we have visited Cave City, a kind of National Park resort town that supports Mammoth Cave. Cave City offers one of only three remaining historic Wigwam Motel complexes, the other two being in Arizona and California. Further south on the same interstate or taking a back road, is the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. This is the only factory in the world that builds the Corvette. Kentucky is also home to the largest Toyota plant in the United States, a huge Ford production facility in Louisville that makes F150 pick up trucks.

Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Wigwam Motel in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, part of the 2013 PRHBTN Festival in Lexington, Kentucky

 

Both Lexington and Louisville feature amazing murals and wall art.  Lexington even has an organization called PRHBTN that invites famed street artists from all over the world to come to Lexington and paint on buildings around the city.  There are some amazing pieces.

 

Louis Armstrong Mural by Sergio Odeith from Portugal, for PRHBTN 2015
Another large mural on the side of an old warehouse in Lexington’s Distillery District

I love Kentucky. I am so glad that we had the blessing to move here to this beautiful state. If you have not visited Kentucky, you need to add it as a “must see” to your list.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen
One of many horse barns
Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Paducah, Kentucky
Mural Tribute to Kentucky Bourbon by Esteban Camacho Steffensen
Jac’s Coffee Shop – Harlan, Kentucky
Past Time Cafe storefront – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

And, if you live in Kentucky…go take a “staycation” and see this great state.

 

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D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.

 

Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

 

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