AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The D Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet, and not the order of the trip  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the D Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Dinosaurs

Seems like whenever you get near a trading post a fun place, there always seems to be a dinosaur or two hanging around.  I have dozens and dozens from previous road trips. Here are a few I got on our 8154 Trip.

Clean up your Dog Poop (or should it be Dino Poop?) at Nipton Trading Post, Nipton, CA
Scary dinosaur as seen in Holbrook, AZ
A bunch of Dinosaurs at the Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, AZ
Big guy at Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, AZ
A Gnarly Dino hanging around Uranus, Missouri
Scrap Metal T-Rex in Sebastapol, California
Dinosaurs at Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company in Holbrook, Arizona

Dr. Pierce’s Barn Sign — Waterville, Washington

Barn signs are very common in the eastern United States (think Mail Pouch Tobacco or Rock City or Meramec Caverns).  In all of my travels in the western United States, I rarely see them.  However, on this trip I saw two barns with the Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery painted on them.  One is in bad shape and hard to get to for a photo, but this one in Waterville, Washington is a classic.

So, Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce (1840-1914) was one of the more successful 19th century Snake Oil Quacks.  He first started his pharmaceutical entrepreneurship in Buffalo N.Y. pushing his own “blood purifier” known as Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery.  He, and his son, Valentine Motts Pierce (1865 -1942)  successfully sold the elixir for 90+ years.  You can still find old bottles and boxes of this in some antique stores and museums.

Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery Barn Sign in Waterville, Washington

Devil’s Elbow, Missouri

Route 66 has many iconic stops along the route from Chicago to California.  In Missouri, one of the more famous ones is Devil’s Elbow, which is also famous as a quirky town name.  Situated on the Big Piney River, a few miles east of St. Robert, Missouri, on Route 66,  the small unincorporated community was named for the big “devil of an elbow” bend in the river.

The place has a post office, though it was destroyed during the flood of May 2017.  It has since been added to Shelden’s Market which also serves as a souvenir shop and local gathering spot.

Obviously, as close as I was, I couldn’t resist a stop, though the market and post office were closed on the Sunday morning we came by.

Devil’s Elbow, Missouri
Devil’s Elbow Post Office

Dutch Mill Diner – Tillamook, Oregon

We were in Tillamook late and had made a stop at the world famous Tillamook Creamery.  But, we also had to drive through town.  I was excited to see the Dutch Mill Diner and its classic neon sign. What a bummer that they were closed the evening we drove by.  This is one of those classic 1950s-style diners with the black and white checkerboard tiled floors, cushy booth seats and soda fountain stools.  Would have been a fun stop.

A fun name and a classic neon sign at the Dutch Mill Diner in Tillamook, Oregon

Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room – Caddo Lake, Texas

I have already mentioned in a couple of this years’ posts that we took a fun swamp cruise with my friend Aaron Applebaum of Mystique Tours in Uncertain, Texas.   During that ride in mid-February, one of the more unique places we saw on the swamp ride was Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room, an old run down shack on stilts in the middle of the swamp.  I think the only way to even get there is by boat.

The story of the place says that the building was originally built in the 1800s but became a popular place during the days of Prohibition (from about 1919-1933) . Back then, Marion County (where Uncertain is located) was a dry county, so this place was built across the water in Harrison County, where people could get a drink.

On closer inspection, you can also see their “House Rules” on a sign next to the place.  See the photos below.

Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room, Caddo Lake, Texas
Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room
Dick and Charlie’s House Rules

Direction / Mileage Sign Posts

I always get a kick out of the sign posts that point in the direction of a place and provide the mileage.  In some cases, they are just made for directional purposes.  Here are a few I ran across on this trip.

Direction Sign found in Nipton, California
Direction Sign Post in Raymond, Washington
Neighborhood signs in Seabeck, Washington
More Seabeck Signs

Desert Skies Motel – Classic Route 66 Neon Sign –  Gallup, New Mexico

Desert Skies Motel Classic Neon Sign, Gallup, NM

Davey, Nebraska

We were on the third day of our long trip when we came upon the small community of Davey, Nebraska.  What a place for a Selfie (since my name is David…duh).  And with a number 1 on it to boot!

The small community apparently has about 150 people, but they do have a classic old Post Office. The town was founded in 1886 and was named after one of the local pioneers, Michael Davey.

I was thrilled to come across Davey, Nebraska
Davey, Nebraska Post Office

Danger Sign – Santa Cruz, California

Danger Sign – Santa Cruz, California

Dallas Railway & Terminal Co. – San Francisco, California

Lots of rail cars in San Francisco.  This was on the side of one of them.

Dallas and Railway Terminal on side of rail car in San Francisco

Diner Sign – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Diner sign in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Dairy Queen Sign – Williams, Arizona

I was kind of excited to run across this classic old Dairy Queen sign in Williams, Arizona on the trip.

Dairy Queen Sign in Williams, Arizona

Dirt Roads

While in Western Texas I had wanted to visit the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge and the neighboring Grulla National Wildlife Refuge in eastern New Mexico (which is administered by the Muleshoe NWR).  There were supposedly large numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the area and I hoped to get some photos.

As we left our overnight stay in Clovis, New Mexico and made our way to Texico, New Mexico, we found that the road to Grulla was along a nearly twenty mile long, well-maintained dirt road aptly named Stateline Road as it went down the Texas – New Mexico border.  The road was nearly 20 miles from Texico / Farwell to Grulla.

Stateline Road between Farwell, Texas and Texico, New Mexico
Stateline Road
Stateline Road between Texas and New Mexico

Deer as seen near Muleshoe, Texas

We saw this buck while driving on the Stateline Road dirt road
A second buck was just down the road

Dimmitt, Texas

Welcome to Dimmitt, Texas.  I mention Dimmitt because it was near here that we crossed the MAJOR migration paths of both Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese.   As well, the town is located on the old Ozark Trail which ran from St. Louis, Missouri to El Paso, Texas.

Dimmitt, Texas
Migrating Sandhill Cranes as seen near Dimmitt, Texas on TX Hwy 86
Migrating Snow Geese as seen near Dimmitt, Texas on TX Hwy 86

Daffodil Sculpture – Nipton, California

For the small community of Nipton, California, which is literally in the middle of nowhere, there is really a lot to be seen.  I am always in favor of some fun metal sculptures, especially when they are colorful.

Daffodil Sculpture – Nipton, CA

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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AtoZ Challenge Theme Reveal: 8154 – An Epic Road Trip in 2020 #atozchallenge

Every year for the past 5 years I have participated in the AtoZ Bloggers Challenge and April 2020 is no different.  But, unlike other years, I will be taking a different twist than I have in the past.  From late January to mid-February 2020, I took an epic road trip with my daughter and three of my grandchildren.  We went through 20 different states as we drive up to Washington State, down the Pacific Coast to California and then east through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, then back to Kentucky.

This trip, which I now call “8154” because of the total mileage of the road trip, offered many unique adventures, since most of it was taken on the back roads of America.  I am currently writing my fourth book, which is all about this trip.  I hope to have it out sometime in April.  (My goal was end of March but the Coronavirus pandemic threw a few wrenches in my gears.)

Zzyzx Road in California
Alliance Theater in Alliance, Nebraska
One of many aliens to be found in Baker, California

Over the course of April I will feature fun stops from A to Z including places like Alliance, Nebraska (home of Carhenge) and Aliens (as seen in Baker, California) to the famed Zzyzx in California and the not so famous Zuzax in New Mexico.

It will be a fun ride for all!

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Red River Gorge – Slade, KY: A Different Look

Slade, Kentucky Welcome Sign

Ofttimes when we visit a place, we have a destination in mind.  The Red River Gorge area of Kentucky is one of those places.  Visitors typically are focused on visiting beautiful and expansive views of the gorge, hiking some of the well known trails, taking a hike up to the Natural Bridge or something else.

This past weekend (August 31, 2019) I took my wife to the area fora hiking meetup.  This left me with a three hour window to do other things.  I am not able to hike some of these trails right now because my knee has been causing problems.

Red River Gorge
Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

So, after dropping my wife off, I headed back to Slade to do my “offbeat travel”  thing and find some of the unique and quirky of the area.  I had no problems with that, because inevitably, where there are lots of tourists, there are also the quirky and offbeat to draw them in.

Many dangerous cliffs in Red River Gorge, but a climbing heaven for rock climbers.

As the Welcome Sign above indicates, Slade is the “Adventure Capital of Kentucky.”  And it is true.  A drive around the area in the summer months will prove it as one can see license plates from all over the United States and Canada.   According to one website (GEARHUNGRY), the Red River Gorge is the second best, just behind Yosemite for rock climbing.  They call it a “must-do list contender for the serious climber.”   The site notes that there are over 1600 potential climbs in the area.  And Slade caters to these visitors big time.

Slade Welcome Center just off of Exit 33 on the Bert T Combs Mountain Highway
Miguels Pizza in Slade

A drive down Kentucky 11 (also called Natural Bridge Rd.) from the Slade Visitor’s Center will take you past the REALLY World Famous Miguels Pizza and its neighboring Miguels Rock Climbing Shop, both of which cater to climbers big time.

Founded by Miguel Ventura, who was from Portugal, the place has become a go to for climbers and hikers since 1984 (the name was changed to Miguels in 1986).   As the Ventura family continued to befriend climbers, they expanded and opened a campground and soon the place got the nickname “The Camp Four of the East” by climbers. (The Original Camp 4 is a climber’s campground in Yosemite National Park).  For over thirty years the Ventura family has made a name for itself all over the world as a result.  Then, in 2016 in the field behind the Pizza Shop, the Rock Climbing Shop was opened and now is a full-service climbing shop as well as the check-in spot for the campground.

Climbers and hikers from all over the world set up tents in Miguels expansive campground
Miguels Pizza in Slade, Kentucky
The Sign on Highway 11 for Miguels Climb Shop
The artsy Miguels Pizza front door has been opened with hands of people from all over the world

Rock climbing is not the only drawing card of the area.  Another big hitter are the more than 30 big hiking trails in the area.  It includes the 282 mile long Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail which begins in northern Kentucky on KY377 and travels south nearly 290 miles to its terminus at Pickett State Park in Tennessee.  The trail meanders through the Daniel Boone National Forest and also gets its name from the Shawnee name given to Daniel Boone by Chief Blackfish.

Star Gap Arch on Auxier Ridge Trail (#204) in Red River Gorge (Photo by Julianne Kravetz)

But Sheltowee is not the only trail.  There are many other trails from easy to very difficult. Most of the trails are numbered (all are in the 200s) and there are plenty of maps in the area.  Many of the trails offer spectacular views, many arches and lots of scary cliffs!

Cliffs as seen along the Auxier Ridge Trail (Photo by Julianne Kravetz)
Fall Colors over the Red River Gorge in Kentucky
Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade, KY
Natural Bridge Skylift

Drive down KY11 a little further and you get to Natural Bridge State Resort Park, home of a large geologic formation called Natural Bridge, which is 65 feet high and 78 foot long.  It is one of the few large arches in the Eastern United States.   The hike is about 2.5 miles long, but those that prefer a more casual adventure can take the Natural Bridge Skylift up to the scenic arch.

I had fun driving through the park and catching some of the unique.  For instance, where can you go to find a unique speed limit, like 23 MPH?  Then there are the other things…

Speed Limit 23 in Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Low Gap Trail leads up to the Natural Bridge Arch
Watch out for Bears!
One Lane Tunnel

Take the opposite direction from Slade on Kentucky 15 northwest to Kentucky 77 which leads to the Nada Tunnel (pronounced nay-duh by the locals), a 900-foot long tunnel which is considered as the “Gateway to the Red River Gorge.”  This unique single-lane rough hewn tunnel was originally built in 1911 for the Dana Lumber Company.  It was named for the small town of Nada, which was a logging town at the time.  Its original use was for a railcars, but has since been paved and is used by thousands of visitors every year as they traverse into the geologic wonderland of the Red River Gorge.

Entrance to Nada Tunnel
A lit up view of the interior of the otherwise very dark Nada Tunnel
Exiting the Nada Tunnel
Wild Things of Kentucky

For me, much of the fun is discovering the “other stuff” that can be seen on the road.  Probably the most interesting “touristy stop” along the way was the Wild Things of Kentucky tourist stop where they advertise their Kentucky Snake Pit, the Kentucky Aquarium, an hilarious restroom and other things.  Sadly for them, they literally JUST missed out on being included in my most recent book about unique and quirky tourist destinations. (Have you seen my new book?  If not, check it out HERE!)

Wild Things of Kentucky -another unique tourist stop
Feed the Goats that reside on the roof

Places like this always try to find things that become a drawing card for tourists.  Indeed, they have some unique finds in the shop.  And, for a small fee you can visit the “Snakes and turtles and fish…Oh My,” as their pamphlet advertises.  Over on the other side of the building you can feed live goats that reside on the roof of the building.  You can get a selfie with their “Sitty Hall” outhouse or with their own version of “Bigfoot.”

Selfie with Sitty Hall
Feed a Goat
Too funny/weird – The Snake Pit
The “Aquarium” includes a couple of turtles
Can’t be a trading post without the Indian
Inside the store
Entrance Fee for Wildlife Exhibit
Better not use the porch! Go use Sitty Hall.
They have goats…why not Goats Milk Products too
Lots of fun shirts and stuff… much of it Red River Gorge themed
Yes, they do have a resident Bigfoot.. He wants you to choose happy

And back to the road…a few more fun scenes from the Slade area roads

Big Arrow
Need Wood?
Go through the tunnel to get to The Depot
A bearable bear
There are folks that set up on an empty corner with lots of interesting stuff
Take the forest roads to the trails and there are forest service restrooms. Some of the signs are funny
And then there was this…

ENJOYING WHAT YOU SEE?  TRY MY BOOKS.

Now have three books out. Check them out!

You can check my books out on Amazon for more fun reads about my quirky back roads travels.  Get them out on my Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0784XVGSW

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