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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Q is for Quirky – #atozchallenge

There is a difference between quirky and offbeat in my mind.  Quirky is typically off the chain and unexpected, or even downright weird.  On the other hand, as noted in my O is for Offbeat post, the offbeat and odd things are typically recognizable.

Obviously, there is a fine line between what is quirky and what is offbeat.  I think we all make those determinations ourselves.  In this post, I will offer up a few Quirky things…those that I think are beyond offbeat and into the realm of quirky.

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

I’ll start off with a biggie…a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Why quirky?  Because who would ever think of making a 65 foot tall statue totally out of bicycle parts?

The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk” was created in 2010 by Petaluma, California-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

In fact, there are many “quirky”  scrap metal art projects to be seen around this country.  Some are small and others, like Cyclisk, are huge.

Sumoflam at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA in 2007
Mike Hammond and his “metal band”

One such example at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, WA.  Owner Mike Hammond is a muffler repairman, a musician and a metal artist.  I visited his shop back in 2007.

I first met Mark at a Trailer Park Troubadours concert the night before in Dayton, WA.  After talking with him, we headed south to Walla Walla to check out his quirky art. What a load of fun that was!

A Pink Flamingo made from muffler and car parts
Heavy Metal Guitarist

Since then, over the past 10 years, I have run into other quirky metal art in diverse places.  You never know what you’ll see on the back roads of America!

Robotic scrap metal quarterback at Pagac’s Bar near Ashland, WI
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Metal Motorcycle Sculpture in Sturgis, SD
Small Metal Sculpture in Gladstone, ND
Metal Cowboy Ostrich with cowboy boots and cowboy hat in Salida, CO
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Farmer – Oil City, Ontario
Scrap metal buck made from car parts – Kadoka, South Dakota
Scrap Metal Mariachi Band – Hico, Texas
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana
A Scrap Metal Sculpture in Bemidji, MN
A hodge podge of scrap metal art at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD

I could likely post a hundred more pieces of scrap metal art found around the country, but there are other quirky places to cover.

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads Convention

Perhaps one of the most unusual and quirky places I have ever been to is the Screaming Heads of Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario, not too far from Algonquin National Park. This entire project was begun by school teacher and artist Peter Camani.  He is a Secondary School teacher, but has also spent over 25 years constructing Monolith-like sculptures in the shape of giant heads, which are scattered throughout the property. A two-headed dragon sits atop the chimney of his Midlothian Castle and he has a version of the See/Say/Hear No Evils greet visitors.

More Screaming Heads

There are more than 100 “screaming head” sculptures, each one at least 20 feet in height. According to Wikipedia, Camani says he “built his otherworldly creations as a warning about environmental degradation. With his paintings already hanging in such coveted places as the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, he decided to focus his energy on realizing a vision of significantly larger proportions.”  See my original post HERE.

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Trees
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Of course, there are also quirky sculptures to be found all over the place, just like the metal ones. Here are a couple more I have come across.

Texas Instruments, a unique sculpture at the LSA Burger Co., in Denton
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl in Danville, IL
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Mid-America Center Art in Council Bluffs, IA
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Quirky is not only centered on art.  There are many quirky places. I came across Boudreau’s Antiques on US Highway 2 near Odanah, WI that was covered with “stuff.”  That alone was a drawing card for me to drop by…but alas, it was closed.

Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of a car hood attached to the building at Boudreau’s Antiques
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI

And they don’t have to be antique shops either.  How about the quirkiest of all eateries in the US…  Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hub Cap Collection at Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Hillbilly Hot Dogs long view
Hillbilly Hot Dogs from the front

And another of the quirky treasures of this country is the Hamtramck Disneyland in Hamtramck, MI, near Detroit

A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in visitors to Detroit

Along these same lines of quirkiness is a family yard in Woodstock, Ontario.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woodstock, ON is One of Ontario’s premier “roadart” places
Cliff Bruce Warning Sign
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
More Stuff at Windmill Hill

Then there are places that defy description.  One such uber-quirky place is Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN.

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

One man’s life dedication to his parents draws people from all around to see this unique and absolutely quirky massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who, in 1989 began creating this monument to his parents.

This place must have taken 1000s of hours to build and it is an absolute maze of metal.  I was fascinated.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

And another place, in Meadville, PA has hundreds of pieces of art created from old repurposed roadsigns.

Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
One of many roadsign flowers

Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville. In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322

Roadsign Art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA

I am assuming by now that you, the reader, has determined that there are some really over the top quirky places out there.  Though Hillbilly Hot Dog takes the place for quirky eateries, a couple of burger joints in Washington and Texas take a close second and third.

Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA

The outside of Fat Smitty’s is quirky enough.  But go inside and there are many more surprises….1000s of them hanging all over the place.

Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

And in Cypress, TX there is the Shack Burger Resort, another over the top hall of quirky eating.

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack Playground
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room at The Shack

Head to Cincinnati for the quirkiest grocery store experience you may ever get.  Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store, it’s a destination! There is over 200,000 square feet of shopping and 10s of 1000s of product choices from all over the world….  and the most unique restroom entrance in any store.

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
This “weird restroom” has recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well. Located at Real Goods in Hopland, CA
Tavern of Little Italy Restroom is plastered with the history of Little Italy in Cleveland
A sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn in Story, Indiana
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

I guess I need to add the quirkiest 30 mile drive in the United States as the last piece.  That would be the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Some humongously quirky pieces of art along a 30 mile stretch of road north of Regent, ND.

This is one of my all time favorite tourist destinations.  Took me many years to finally get there, but I am glad I did.  I have a great detailed post about this on my blog if you are interested.  See it here.

Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Giant Scrap Metal Fish – by Gary Greff, on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Huge Pheasant Family – by Gary Greff on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Gate to Enchanted Highway – Geese in Flight – This is REAL HUGE

By the way, Geese in Flight has been listed as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records. This piece was erected in 2001 and weighs over 78 tons.  The main structure is 154 feet wide and 110 feet tall.  The largest goose has a wingspan of 30 feet.  On a clear day this structure can be seen from nearly 5 miles away!

Lovely quirky Airstream in Austin, TX

So much quirk and so little time and space.  Time to take a breather and enjoy the ride…through quirkville.

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P is for People – #atozchallenge

I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.

I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.

Having a huge elephant ear with friend Robert Phinney in Dayton, WA
Got to meet Nelson Campbell, Director of the well know documentary Plant Pure Nation, in Louisville, KY

The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.

The diversity of people enriches us.

Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.

Met the Seattle Smile Guy along the way. Didn’t want money… just wanted smiles
Motorbike Quartet in Cebu, Philippines
Street Person – Cebu

First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.

 

Siesta Time – Cebu
Belly Rubbing – Carbon Market – Cebu
Street Person – Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain

For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.

Many of the musicians I have met are genuine.  They are such neat people…not pretentious at all.  It is nice to talk to them about life.  One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s.  I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.

Hanging with guitarist Bobby Cochran in Bardstown, KY in 2011
Sumoflam and world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, c.g.b.
Sumoflam and GUITARIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Edgar Cruz from Oklahoma
One of my favorite people – multitalented musician Bruce Wandmayer, from Santa Cruz, CA
Hanging with my Aussie mate, multiinstrumentalist Pauly Zarb.
Have become good friends with the lovely former country rock singer Patti Hall, who now sells real estate in Phoenix
Sumoflam and guitarist Michael Kelsey from Indiana – he is one of my favorite guitarists and musicians. He is also a fabulous person.
“Crafty” Jack Burger from Lethbridge, Alberta

Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower.  What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!

I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun.  We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together.  So blessed to know these great folks.

Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)
One of many Flamingoheads

Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.

A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.

Enjoying the ride in California with “Christmas Carla” (she was born on Christmas day.
Ione (L) and Carla (R)…kissin cuzzins!!
BBQ Pitmaster Oliver Zuder showing off his trophy at the Oshawa Ribfest in 2008 in Ontario

My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.

In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario.   We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.

Davor Zuder and some smokin’ ribs at Oshawa Rib Fest in Ontario in 2008

Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.

Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe in Tightwad, MO
Tonya Floyd, current owner of the Wigwam Drive-in in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…

I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting.  On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.

David with Nadia Comanci – spent three days with her as her personal guide in Kyushu

One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.

 

Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)
Sumoflam with Troy Landry – 4 years after saying I would meet this guy

Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.

Hanging with Danielle Colby from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012

On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.

Under one of Clyde’s massive creations…his 12 foot tall dragon
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.

Clyde tells stories of his various pieces of art

I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)

Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.

Portrait and landscape photographer Derek Ace (photo by Jeff Dostalek)
Derek Ace self portrait

On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind.  See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.

Author, travel writer, lecturer and musician Tui Snider of Azle, TX
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.

Sumoflam with Shelly Cumbie in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse for a tour of the “Ghosts of Denton”
Writer, Radio Host, Sacred and Mysterious Site Traveler Teal Gray

Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.

Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast.  She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)

Teal Gray Worldwide

The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:

Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts.  See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)

Photographing Wildlife with some of the Jacobson Park Photographers

I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.

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

What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!

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