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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T is Travel Abroad – #atozchallenge

For most of my 250+ blog posts on my Less Beaten Paths Blog, I have discussed the back roads of America and Canada.
But for today’s post in the A-to-Z challenge, I want to note some of my other travels outside of the country. I would like to say I’m a world traveler, but I have yet to visit Europe or Australia or New Zealand or South America. But, I have been very fortunate to have lived in Japan for a number of years. From 1987 to 1991, my family also lives there with me. I have also spent a number of weeks working in the Philippines and spend some time working in China near Shanghai and Suzhou. Finally, I should note that I have also visited the mainland of Mexico during a cruise and was able to see the ruins at Tulum.
Perhaps the best “old shrine” in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries. This is north of Tokyo. I visited Nikko in 1990.
Hanging with the fish monger and holding dried squid in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)

My first venture overseas was to Japan in 1976 as a missionary for the LDS church. I served in what was then called the Nagoya mission and worked in cities throughout Central Japan including, in order, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Fukui, Takaoka, Ogaki and finally, Fuji City. It was an amazing 22 month experience for me as a young 19 to 21-year-old.

Though most of my time was spent doing missionary work, I did have occasion to travel and visit parts of Japan back then. I also was very lucky to live at the base of the beautiful Mount Fuji, one of the most well known symbols of Japan. Many of the following photos were scanned from old Fujichrome slides taken between 1976 and 1978.
Sumoflam in Fuji, Japan 1978, with Mt. Fuji in the background
Shinto Toori Gates in Fukui, Japan (ca. 1976)
Mt. Fuji framed by Japanese flag, ca. 1978
Gifu Castle in Gifu Japan (ca. spring 1977)
A busy missionary….no cell phones back then. Just Japanese pay phones. (ca. 1978)
Visiting the Imperial Castle in Tokyo just before I left to return home. I was with one of the sisters who I taught in Ogaki in 1977, who came to see me off. (ca. Apr 1978)
Japan Sea sunset taken near Fukui, Japan (ca 1977)
Seijin-shiki (Coming of Age Ceremony) 1976 in Fukui, Japan (ca. Nov. 1976) – A celebration for all that have turned 20 (which I did in 1976)
Big Buddha in Takaoka Japan 1976
Sumoflam at Buddhist Temple in Kanazawa, Japan 1977
Typical Japan Town (forget where this was) (ca. 1977)
Ken-roku Park in Kanazawa. One of Japan’s most famous garden parks (ca. 1976)
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa (Yes, I liked the quirky even back in 1976!)
A wave splashes at sunset on the coast of the Japan Sea near Fukui (ca. 1977)
Mt. Fuji and Fuji City ca. 1978
Mt. Fuji at night (ca. 1978)
Snow piled high (yes, it was THAT DEEP!!) in front of the LDS Church in Fukui, Japan (ca. winter 1976/77)

After my return to the states, I went to school, got married, had children and eventually graduated from Arizona State University with a Masters Degree in International Political Science. At that time, in 1987, Japan’s Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Education had started a brand-new program called The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program). After consulting with my sweet wife, I decided to apply for that in hopes that maybe we could go to Japan as a family and experience that country together.

Since we were in the Los Angeles district for registration, I really worried that I would not qualify despite my language skills. But I did and was one of the first 38 individuals selected to participate in the program as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). There were about 400 others selected as assistant English teachers.
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987 during a JET Program conference for CIRs.  Notice the slippers in the snow…LOL
David with Gov. Hiramatsu and then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe
The children got a special visit with the then-Governor of Oita, Morhiko Hiramatsu.

My assignment would be to work in the office of the governor of Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Oita’s governor Hiramatsu was a nationally known progressive governor. He had programs that he had instituted to produce locally and think globally. During my two-year stint as a CIR, I got to travel extensively throughout the prefecture and got to meet many wonderful people and experience many wonderful things, as did my family.  Also, as a CIR, I participated in a number of TV programs and my children were in numerous television and print commercials.  It was an amazing experience for us all.

Daughter Chelsea with Governor Hiramatsu at a festival
Some of Japan’s oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue. It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s.
Making a New Year’s TV Show in Oita while working as a CIR
Seth and Chelsea at a waterfall in Japan where they were shooting a TV commercial.
Amaree in Usa, Japan 1987
Family at Usa Shrine in Oita Prefecture ca. 1990
Amaree in a promotional ad for a department store in Fukuoka, Japan
Family at Kumamoto Castle in 1988
Marissa got to be all dressed up for an ad in Japan too
Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Enjoying a visit to the famed Suizenji Park in Kumamoto
A hot spring shower in Beppu…and yes, the towel was necessary. 1990
Wielding an authentic Japanese katana at a history center in Takata for a TV show.
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990 while on a business trip for Asahi Solar.

On the day that my assignment ended, July 31, 1989, I got onto an airplane to fly to Fukui where I had once served my mission. August 1 would be my first day as the Director of International Planning for a nationally known company called Asahi Solar Corporation, which was also headquartered in Oita. I was the first foreigner to work for that company and I traveled throughout the country with the president of the company. We also made trips to China, Hawaii and other places within the United States in search of improving the solar industry. We even brought a solar water heater to donate to the solar foundation at the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona.

One of Japan’s smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top. I visited here in 1990
David in Amagase for another TV Show — yes, Japanese style for those who are curious
Solar water heaters from Asahi Solar
Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
David with Colorado State solar car at GM Sunrayce in Florida. Asahi Solar was a sponsor and I managed the project
Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.

During my four years in Japan from 1987 to 1991, I’ve visited every prefecture in the country except for Okinawa and Hokkaido.

We got to visit many wonderful places and famous places.  We attended the national Sumo Wrestling Tournament in Fukuoka.  We visited some of Kyoto’s famed sites and more.
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991. He made me look small!!
At the Gold Pavilion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto, Japan in 1990 with my wife and Dad
Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Japans second most famous China Town (Tokyo’s is first). This one is located in Nagasaki
Visiting the famed Himeji Castle in 1987
Sumoflam at Nikko Pagoda in Japan
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006

Indeed, Japan was a wonderful experience.  Our family returned to the US in late 1991 and eventually made our way to Kentucky.  While in Kentucky I worked for a number of Japanese companies as an interpreter.  I eventually made my way to Lexmark International, where I worked with the software development team to get the Japanese, Chinese, Korean (and other language) versions of their software localized.  While an employee of Lexmark, I made two training trips to Cebu, Philippines, yet another great experience.  You can read a detailed post of my adventures at my Cebu Journal

Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Getting a ride in Bike Cart (poor guy…I SHOULD have been pedaling)
The Bride – Cebu
Motorbike Quartet
Blind Guitarist – Colon, Cebu
Pondering Girl – Colon, Cebu
Basket Vendor – Cebu
Buffalo Man – Cebu
Smiling Girl – Cebu
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
The Chocolate Hills in Bohol
A Tersier on Bohol
Bohol Truck – Bohol Island
An outrigger on the small island of Caohagen, Philippines
A young girl on Caohagen Island
Riding an outrigger….yes, I barely fit
A squatter village in Cebu
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

My only other real big overseas trip was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico.  During this cruise we also got to take a small boat to mainland Mexico and visit the old Mayan ruins of Tulum.

As a lover of history, this was a fascinating visit and one I will not soon forget.

I am glad that my sweet wife was able to accompany me.  You can see the entire story on the Polyesterfest Cruise Post of mine.

Twin cruise ships docked in Cozumel, Mexico
Apparently the world’s smallest Hard Rock Cafe in Cozumel, Mexico
Tulum Ruins, Mexico

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#TBT – Oh the Places I’ve Been: Some Odds and Ends

“You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

Sumoflam at the White House - July 1990
Sumoflam at the White House – July 1990

As a Throwback Thursday menagerie, I thought I would throw in some of my odds and ends from the past…some going way back and some not so long ago.  I have been blessed to travel so many places and many of my travels happened long before I began writing about them.  So, here they are, a potpourri of places diverse.  ENJOY THE RIDE!

Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.
Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.  Indeed, I soared to high heights!!

“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” – Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979.  I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.
Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979. I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.

Most of my early life was spent in the western U.S. and, as such, I got to see deserts, mountains, Indian ruins and more.

Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument in Cottonwood, AZ in 1983.  I was a tour guide at the time
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument in Cottonwood, AZ in 1983. I was a tour guide at the time
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983
The red rocks near Tuba City, AZ look like someone stacked them.  This was taken in 1983
The red rocks near Tuba City, AZ look like someone stacked them. This was taken in 1983 (and no, I was not really pushing)

Growing a love for antiquities and old things, I had many opportunities to visit old places during my many visits to Japan.  I am especially fond of the awesome castles and amazing old shrines, many of which I have had the opportunity to visit.  Here are a couple.

Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan...visited in 1987
Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan…visited in 1987
One of Japan's smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top.  I visited here in 1990
One of Japan’s smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top. I visited here in 1990
Perhaps the best "old shrine" in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries.  This is north of Tokyo.  I visited Nikko in 1990.
Perhaps the best “old shrine” in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries. This is north of Tokyo. I visited Nikko in 1990.
The colorful pagoda in Nikko
The colorful pagoda in Nikko

While living in Japan, I also visited Kyoto on a couple of occasions.  Kyoto has wonderful old historic shrines and temples, and colorful Geisha…

Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Visiting the Gold Pavilion "Kinkaku Ji" in Kyoto in 1987
Visiting the Gold Pavilion “Kinkaku Ji” in Kyoto in 1987

Back in the U.S., I have been to both coasts and to the north and south and most points in between.  Here are some of the places I have visited…

In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
I was in the US in 1990 for the first cross-country solar car race, called the GM Sunrayce.  During that visit I also made a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian
I was in the US in 1990 for the first cross-country solar car race, called the GM Sunrayce. During that visit I also made a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian
While working on my Masters Degree at Arizona State University, I was afforded the opportunity to represent ASU at West Point and do a paper presentation.  It was a neat experience to visit this amazing institution in 1986
While working on my Masters Degree at Arizona State University, I was afforded the opportunity to represent ASU at West Point and do a paper presentation. It was a neat experience to visit this amazing institution in 1986
Then, there was the visit to Graceland, home of Elvis back a few years ago
Then, there was the visit to Graceland, home of Elvis back a few years ago
And let's not forget Nashville.  I have been there a dozen times since.
And let’s not forget Nashville. I have been there a dozen times since.
I got to visit the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco as part of Antsy McClain's tour team.  Great music hall
I got to visit the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco as part of Antsy McClain’s tour team. Great music hall

I have discovered that the world abounds with natural beauty.  I have been blessed to see this beauty in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, the Philippines and other places.

Coal Mine Canyon in Northern Arizona, 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Northern Arizona, 1990
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990
On a cruise ship enjoying the splendor of Alaska's beautiful mountains
On a cruise ship enjoying the splendor of Alaska’s beautiful mountains
Sitting on top of the world at Echo Lake near the base of the summit of Mt. Evans near Denver, Colorado
Sitting on top of the world at Echo Lake near the base of the summit of Mt. Evans near Denver, Colorado
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Down in Japan's version of Mammoth Cave in 1988
Down in Japan’s version of Mammoth Cave in 1988
Enjoying Fall Colors in Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada in 2008
Enjoying Fall Colors in Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada in 2008
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
Visiting the Everglades in Florida in July 1990
Visiting the Everglades in Florida in July 1990

Of course, when taking trips there are always fun things to try.  When in Japan I tried quite a few new adventures.  Perhaps my favorites were taking hot springs baths and going to the Sumo Wrestling events.

Enjoying an outdoor bath in Amagase, Japan.  This was actually part of TV series I was hosting in 1988
Enjoying an outdoor bath in Amagase, Japan. This was actually part of TV series I was hosting in 1988

Beppu is probably the most famous of the hot springs resort towns in Japan.  Located in Oita Prefecture, I had the opportunity to visit often and for different kinds of “baths”

A hot spring shower in Beppu...and yes, the towel was necessary.  1990
A hot spring shower in Beppu…and yes, the towel was necessary. 1990
Relaxing on one of the cozy hot pools in Beppu in 1987.  You are required to be totally disrobed...this is the least revealing photo.
Relaxing on one of the cozy hot pools in Beppu in 1987. You are required to be totally disrobed…this is the least revealing photo.
Then there are the Sand Baths, the Sawdust Baths and more.  I was buried in hot sand and it felt great.  Beppu in 1989
Then there are the Sand Baths, the Sawdust Baths and more. I was buried in hot sand and it felt great. Beppu in 1989

Then there are the Sumos…I got to go to two of their tournaments and see the giant Konishiki wrestle.  I will always be a fan of Sumo wrestling.

Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.
Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991.  He made me look small!!
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991. He made me look small!!

Of course, as a history major, I have always had an interest in things historical.  One of my classes at Northern Arizona University was on Japanese literature and we studied Kunikida Doppo, who was considered one of Meiji Japan’s most well traveled writers.   While living in Oita, I was able to visit his studio in Saiki.  Ironically, my professor at NAU, Dr. Atkins, was a Kunikida Doppo expert, so it was a special trip for me.

Visiting the Kunikida Doppo monument in Saiki, Japan
Visiting the Kunikida Doppo monument in Saiki, Japan in 1988
Some of Japan's oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
Some of Japan’s oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue.  It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s.
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue. It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s. (That is my oldest daughter Amaree popping behind me in the photo)

One cannot study Japanese history without learning about the atrocities of World War II.  The Americans dropped two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  I have been able to visit both places.  Ironically, in 1979 I also visited the Los Alamos museum where the bombs were initially built.  So, I have seen both sides of the story.

Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Remains from A-Bomb in Nagasaki in 1988
Remains from A-Bomb in Nagasaki in 1988

And now, for a few other odds and ends, just for fun…

Old Christian Church in Nagasaki 1988
Old Christian Church in Nagasaki 1988
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007
Visiting JFK The Twine Ball man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Beale Street in Memphis, TN late 1990s
Beale Street in Memphis, TN late 1990s with my high school pal Russ Graves
Photo bear in Gatlinburg, TN
Photo bear in Gatlinburg, TN
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico
At Lake Erie on the Ontario, Canada side with sign pointing to Cleveland, OH, my birthplace
At Lake Erie on the Ontario, Canada side with sign pointing to Cleveland, OH, my birthplace
The famed "Spindle" sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne's World.  Apparently, it wasn't worthy.  This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down...meh
The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh
Fort San Pedro on Cebu Island in the Philippines
Fort San Pedro on Cebu Island in the Philippines
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007 – with my Canadian pal Crafty Jack
Enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula
Enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula

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