The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long  cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!

Here is a map that includes many of the places:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below.  I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.

In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna,  where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story”  was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family.  I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode  their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY.  Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.

Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus



Roadside America Celebrates 20 Years on the Web today

My friends at Roadside America ( are celebrating 20 years on the World Wide Web today (September 1, 2016.)

Home page from 1996 kickoff of Roadside America website
Home page from 1996 kickoff of Roadside America website

I have actually been using their site since the beginning and over the years have submitted stories, updates and photographs from my travels to the 50 United States and parts of Canada.

Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN, one of the 1000s of sites covered
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN, one of the 1000s of sites covered

There are many travel sites on the web, but this, in my opinion, tops them all!! If there is a quirky, offbeat, unique roadside attraction on the back roads of America, chances are you can read about it and see photos on its site.


I am honored to know one of the founders and to work with these guys!

check out the whole story at



Ohio Travel Stops: Dublin and Wilmington – Museums and Murals

Dave's Way
Dave’s Way

In May, I had occasion to take my wife to Kirtland, Ohio for a conference and spent time myself in my birthplace of Little Italy and Cleveland. I’ve covered most of this in some previous blogs (Little Italy post   Cleveland post   Kirtland/Novelty post), but wanted to touch on a couple of other places that we passed on our way to Kirtland and on our way back home to Kentucky.

Visiting Dublin, Ohio

Welcome to Dublin, OH, Home of Wendy's
Welcome to Dublin, OH, Home of Wendy’s

On the way up, we had a friend to visit in Dublin, Ohio and so made our way there. While my wife was tied up at her friend’s house for an hour or so, I made a drive over to Wendy’s headquarters. Dave Thomas got his start here in Dublin with the first Wendy’s in the company which has become an international Burger Company second or third only to McDonald’s and possibly Burger King. I actually have a daughter that is worked for Wendy’s for nearly 16 years, more than half of her life, so it has had an impact on my family in a sense.

Dave Thomas Blvd. in Dublin, OH
Dave Thomas Blvd. in Dublin, OH
Wendy's International Headquarters
Wendy’s International Headquarters
Wendy's 1st Restaurant in 1969
Wendy’s 1st Restaurant in 1969

DSC_3548Although the original Wendy’s restaurant is no longer around, just down the road from their headquarters building they have built a Flagship restaurant that includes a Wendy’s museum, a nice statue of David Thomas holding a bag of burgers and a frosty, and a number of other unique little trinkets including a $105,000 Crystal Wendy’s Classic Single.

The Wendy's Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal
The Wendy’s Original $105,000 Crystal Classic Single Burger created by Waterford Crystal
"Where's the Beef?" memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign

There is a “where’s the beef?” Section where you can see some of the memorabilia from that particular campaign for Wendy’s a few years back.

The little museum is also filled with a variety of Wendy’s and Dave Thomas memorabilia.  Many of them are fun to take some time and look at .

One of many Dave Thomas cartoons that were created after he passed away
One of many Dave Thomas cartoons that were created after he passed away
Large Dave Thomas Wall
Large Dave Thomas Wall
Olympic Torch from the
Olympic Torch from the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay
A photo of Dave Thomas with famed boxer Muhammad Ali
A photo of Dave Thomas with famed boxer Muhammad Ali
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH

Finally, you can’t miss the great statue of Dave Thomas that welcomes visitors from the parking lot into the store.  He holds the recognizable Wendy’s bag and a Frosty in the other hand.

Honestly, the little Dave Thomas/Wendy’s museum at this Dublin Wendy’s is well worth a visit.  It is free (though you can also walk through with a Frosty and peruse all of the displays.  Lots to see!

Dave Thomas waits to greet visitors at a Wendy's in Dublin, OH
Dave Thomas waits to greet visitors at a Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
Dave Thomas statue at Wendy's in Dublin, OH
Dave Thomas statue at Wendy’s in Dublin, OH
Welcome to Dublin, OH
Welcome to Dublin, OH

While in Dublin, I drove through the little downtown area of the town. I have been to Dublin before, but never to the downtown area which has some good old rustic buildings and historic places. They also have a corner with honorary street names for Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller.

It is the home of the Ohio native Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village Golf Club which was dedicated in 1974.  This is home to the prestigious Memorial Tournament, which recently named golf hall of famer Johnny Miller as its 2016 Honoree. The Tournament, founded and hosted by Jack Nicklaus, is conducted each year with three goals in mind: to honor the memory of individuals living and deceased who have distinguished themselves in the game of golf; to showcase the world’s best golfers competing on one of the most challenging venues in the world for the enjoyment of spectators; and to benefit many Greater Columbus Charities in alliance with the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and numerous other local organizations.

The honorary corner of Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller (on East Bridge St. in Dublin, OH)
The honorary corner of Jack Nicklaus Dr. and Johnny Miller Way (on East Bridge St. in Dublin, OH)
At the "Filed of Corn" - Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
At the “Filed of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH

Another point of interest in Dublin which I did not visit on this trip but which I have been to on a couple of occasions is the unique and fun Cement Corn Cob park. I’ve written about this park in the past in the past but, I figured I would just include a shot about it here as well.

The “Field of Corn” is a publicly funded art installation in Dublin. The installation consists of 109 concrete ears of corn positioned in rows and standing upright in a grassy field.  Sculpted by Malcolm Cochran, a professor of sculpting at Ohio State University, the park was named the Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, and was originally farmed by Sam Frantz, an inventor of several hybrid corn species.  This is not the only unique public art work in Dublin.  This is one of a few towns that has worked to bring in a plethora of unique, cool and sometimes quirky works of outdoor art. Check out the Dublin Arts Council’s website.

Granddaughter running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
Granddaughter running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn

Visiting Wilmington, Ohio

Large Mural in Wilmington, OH
Large Mural in Wilmington, OH

On our return home, after a nice visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, my wife and I stopped along the way for some dinner. Not certain as to where we should go, we decided on taking a little side trip into the small town of Wilmington, Ohio, which is about 5 miles east of Interstate 71 on US Highway 22 and also US Highway 68, almost exactly halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati. I did not know what to expect when I got there, but I was pleasantly surprised that this small college town had a couple of wonderful murals on the sides of the buildings. Something fun to add to my collection!!

Farmers Market Mural in Wilmington, OH (painted by
Farmers Market Mural in Wilmington, OH (painted by Jason Morgan)

One of the murals depicts a farmers market and covers a few of the little archways in one building. This was done by artist Jason Morgan from Yellow Springs, Ohio, just north of Xenia.

Community Garden Mural in Wilmington, OH
Community Garden Mural in Wilmington, OH (painted by Jason Morgan)

Another of the nice murals is the Community Garden Mural on E. Locust St. This too was painted by Jason Morgan, one of four that he has done in the city.

The huge Heritage Harvesters mural in downtown Wilmington, OH
The huge Heritage Harvesters mural in downtown Wilmington, OH (painted by Jason  Morgan)

The last mural that we came across was the Heritage Harvesters Mural which is located on N. South St. This mural is huge and covers the entire side of  a three-story building. It represents some of the history of the farmers in this put on the farmland-centric community.

The historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmingotn, OH
The historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmingotn, OH
Old Ghost Ads on a wall in downtown Wilmingotn, OH
Old Ghost Ads on a wall in downtown Wilmingotn, OH

I also enjoyed the downtown area.  They have a wonderful old theater sign, which is shown below.  The Murphy Theatre is historic and is apparently as nice inside as it appears on the outside. It was originally built in 1918 by Charles Murphy. It was a movie theater from 1929 to the mid-1980s, but is now used as a venue for concerts and community events.

The shell of an old diner still sits in downtown Wilmington
The shell of an old diner still sits in downtown Wilmington

The Mexican restaurant (the El Dorado Restaurant) that we ate at was so-so, but it did fill us up enough for the remainder of our trip home. And thus we were back on the road returning back to Lexington after a good time in northern Ohio. If you did not see my other posts, please give them a visit (the links are at the top of this post).