Watch for my 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge Reveal on March 20 #atozchallenge

Last April (in 2016), I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  I was a “Survivor” since I did a post for each letter through the month of April.

Last year I posted about Unique Towns Across America.  You can see my Reveal Post from last year HERE.

I had a load of fun and met many new bloggers online as a result…I even learned a few things.

You can see my entire list with links on my Reflections Post from May 2016.  Check it out at http://lessbeatenpaths.com/a-to-z-challenge-complete-list/

Chances are that this year there will still be a travel related A to Z posting from me, but it may have a few fun twists.

So, please make sure to check out my blog to see my BIG REVEAL and then watch daily in April for some fun posts about traveling America’s backroads.

I promise you will be glad you did!!

 

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The Story Behind the Story Inn – Story, Indiana

A couple of weeks ago (Feb. 25, 2017) we took a trip to Indianapolis for a meeting for my wife and daughter.

As is typically the case, I wanted to go along and drive some back roads.

Save $33 with combo ticket to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attractions in Gatlinburg, TN. Get one ticket to the aquarium plus four tickets to parkway attractions.

Welcome to Story, IN

I am always on the lookout for unique and interesting places to visit and we did find one on this particular trip. We visited a little community in Indiana called Story.

Map of Story, IN

Story probably only has about 100 people or less in the village.  It was founded in 1851 by Dr. George Story who received a land grant from then President Millard Fillmore. By the 1880s the town had become one of the largest settlements in the area.  At one time it had two general stores, a church, a schoolhouse, a sawmill, a grain mill and even a post office.  However, the Great Depression took its toll on this town as families abandoned this hilly farm area in search of employment.

Old Story Inn Sign

The village looks much like it did in the 1930s with a few rustic buildings.

Story Inn, Story, Indiana

In the center of it all is a unique little country inn called the “Story Inn.” This rustic building includes a little general store, a nice cozy eatery, and some historically rustic overnight accommodations all in a natural setting. They even offer a bed and breakfast.

The rustic Story Inn in Story, IN. “One Inconvenient Location Since 1851.”
The Entry Way to the Story Inn
Story Inn front porch
The Story Inn’s unique 1851 Burger with bacon jam

They don’t have an extensive menu but they do have a few things that are interesting and so we ordered some of the food and had lunch there. My daughter Marissa had a salad with their homemade cilantro vinaigrette dressing. Julianne had a black bean burger and I had their “1851 Burger” that included “bacon jam.” I also had them bring a side of the bacon jam because I wanted to just try that by itself and see how it tasted. It’s essentially a jam type of condiment that has been rendered with bacon and some sugar cane and some other things. It was sweet and bacony.

Story Inn Menu
Water is served in Mason Jars and old glass milk bottles
Inside the dining area of the Story Inn

The most unique things about the Story Inn is their motto which is “One Inconvenient location since 1851“.

The Story Inn even gives you a complimentary bumper sticker.
Side view of the Story Inn
The nice old wooden floors of the Story Inn dining area

The dining area is very rustic with wooden floors, old wooden tables and a few rickety old chairs. I actually had to use a chair from their outside deck because I was afraid to sit in one of their rickety chairs due to my size.

The entry area has some nice stained glass.  The shelves are decorated with period era bottles and medicines, etc.  The entry also includes a desk where lodgers can get registered and stay the evening if they wish…either in the upstairs hotel or in one of the out building cottages.  The place also serves as a Bed and Breakfast.

The Story Inn Dining Area
An alternate view of the Story Inn dining area
One of the old rustic chairs and a big wood burning stove to keep the place warm in winter
The place even has an old pay phone…not sure if it still works!
Story General Store
Old Compounds
Old Medications – Need some of that Pleasant Worm Syrup for sure! (photo by Marissa Noe)
Story Inn Check In sign

I did not go upstairs to see the rooms but Marissa and Julianne did and they said the rooms are nice but could be spooky.  We also heard some talk about spirits hanging around in the rooms. But, the only spirits I saw were down in the dining area where they have numerous fine wines and other spirits.

Overnight Guests
Entry to Hotel…includes a nice old mural
Up the Stairs to the Hotel Rooms (photo by Marissa Noe)
One of the Story Inn Hotel Rooms (photo by Marissa Noe)
An alternate view of the same room at the Story Inn (photo by Marissa Noe)
One of the Sitting Areas in the guest room at the Story Inn (photo by Marissa Noe)
Old fashioned couch in the guest room at the Story Inn (photo by Marissa Noe)
Sumoflam at the Story Inn in Story, IN

I did walk around the premises a bit and found a few unique things there as well. They have a sculpture made out of old car parts and gasoline stand parts including the gasoline pumps. There are restrooms on the outside that have some unique characteristics as well, including the signs that are shown below.

Gasoline Pump Art Sculpture in Story, IN
Sign outside restrooms at Story Inn
One of the signs in the Men’s Room at Story Inn (sorry…couldn’t resist!!)
Another sign outside the restrooms at the Story Inn
Old Gas Pump Price – I wish
Antique Checkerboard on the Story Inn front porch. Checkers are actually old pop bottle caps (photo by Marissa Noe)
They even have town maps!! Story, IN

 

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Uncertain Revisited: A Tour of Caddo Lake

It was a few years ago when I first visited Uncertain, TX (You can see my March 2012 Post here.).  As a matter fact, it was on a cold day in February 2012 when I stopped by to see it for my first time. The real draw for me initially, was the name of the town, but the bigger draw ended up being the beautiful swamp-like setting of Caddo Lake.

This past weekend (Feb. 10, 2017) I had an opportunity again to visit this beautiful setting, this time with my daughter and her three children. Unlike my visit to Uncertain before, we had bigger sights set on seeing Caddo Lake and some of the swamp.

Our guide, Aaron Applebaum with Mystique Tours
Hanging with Aaron on our Swamp Tour

Upon arrival, we noticed that there was a group of people in a boat taking a tour of the lake and that looked very appealing. We continued driving around until we got to the main dock area and the tour had just arrived back and we were able to talk to the guy that ran the tour on the boat, Aaron Applebaum (see more at on their Facebook Page.).

A scene from Bald Cypress Swamp in Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake

Now, I am not one that usually will spend $25 per adult for any kind of thing as I consider that to be fairly expensive. But the opportunity to take a ride into the swamp on a boat and see the beauty of the swamp, birds in their natural habitat and to hear some of the history, coupled with my daughter wishing they could do it was a little bit too much and so we decided to pitch in and we took a boat ride into Caddo Lake with Aaron…just my daughter, my three grandkids and me. This is one of those instances where it was well worth it!

One of Many Bayous in the lake
Bald Cypress Swamp
Check it out…8 year old Landen driving in the swamp while Aaron looks on.

Our guide and boat driver Aaron grew up in this area and currently resides in Uncertain. His father was also a boat guide on the lake for many many years and so he knows the lake very well. Not only was he informative, he was also courteous, and fun. There was one spot where he even let the three young children drive the boat in the lake. And that without him touching the steering wheel!!

I truly enjoyed the one hour tour

Eerie Sunshine through the trees

We enjoyed a lovely February Sky

Honestly, the views from the shore are pretty impressive, but once you are in the midst of the lake and floating through the various bayous and channels amidst the bald cypress trees, there is nothing that can express the awe and intrigue.

Caddo Lake, largest Natural Lake in Texas
Daughter Marissa enjoys the tour of Caddo Lake

This lake, Caddo Lake, is the largest naturally formed lake in the state of Texas. Scientists believe the lake formed when floodwater, blocked by massive log jams on the Red River, backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed. Caddo Lake was artificially dammed in the early 1900s, when oil was found, and for flood control in 1914.  A new dam replaced the old one in 1971.

Another scene from Caddo Lake
Boaters heading out to fish on Caddo Lake

The lake covers about 26,810 acres of cypress swamp, depending on rainfall.  According to the Caddo Lake State Park Website,  the lake’s average depth is 8 to 10 feet, while the deep water in the bayou averages about 20 feet. Aaron tells us that much of the lake only has a depth of around 4 to 5 feet.

Enjoying time with my granddaughter Joselyn
Old Lakehouse….used to serve as a place to drink on the “Wet County” side of the lake

The lake has its own “roadway” with marked signs that guide and direct those taking their boats and pontoons through the lake. These are areas where a dredge has cleared all of the stumps so there is room for the boats to pass and not scrape bottom. Having been on the lake for many years, Aaron knows the route very well and was able to traverses without any problems whatsoever.

A blue heron flies by on Caddo Lake
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp

In terms of seeing wildlife, February is probably not the best time to go see the lake. We were fortunate enough to see two or three blue herons, a couple of egrets, some turkey vultures and even caught a glimpse of a cormorant, which they call water turkey in the region.

A Blue Heron caught in the act of swallowing its dinner. Had to be a big fish as it struggled for a while
Another Egret sits in the shallows as the wind blows its plumage
A Turkey Vulture, also called a buzzard, flew way overhead
A blue heron flies into the trees

Apparently, in the summertime, there are opportunities to catch glimpses of alligators and other wildlife on these boat tours. But the benefit of our trip in February, was low humidity, cooler temperatures and no mosquitoes! Doing without those skeeters was probably the best part of the tour (besides the expert guiding by Aaron.)

A serene capture of an egret in the swamp (photo by Marissa Noe)
Sun shining through the trees
Caddo Lake Institute was founded by singer Don Henley

We learned during the tour that the famous singer Don Henley, of the Eagles, owns a house on the lake and we got to see that. Apparently it’s been used for a couple of music videos. Henley is originally from the area and actually caught his first fish in Caddo Lake while a youth.  He loves the lake and the natural habitat in the area and has provided funding to help conserve the lake.  The Caddo Lake Institute  (CLI) is a non-profit scientific and educational organization founded in 1992 by Henley with the mission of protecting the ecological, cultural and economic integrity of Caddo Lake, its associated wetlands and watershed.

Uncertain Inn
A typical rental cabin in Uncertain

The village of Uncertain also has a number of little resort cabins that can be rented and one can drive around and see all of them. Many of them have themes. One section had four cabins all with Moon in the name. Others had frogs in the name. But they are all very unique and would be a fun place to stay for a week sometime.

Swamp Plank Trail near one of the many rental cabins. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
Watch out for Bigfoot in Uncertain (photo by Marissa Noe)

Overall, this was a wonderful adventure for all of us.  Thanks to Aaron for the tour and thanks to all of the residents of Uncertain that make this place a worthy destination.  you can be certain of a good time in Uncertain!!

Cabin Signs…Spatterdock is one rental group
Blue Heron
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!
Bigfoot sighting in Uncertain!!
Panoramic view of Caddo Lake

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