I is for Ingenuity – #atozchallenge

I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.

There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.

Tuckhannock Viaduct – Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson’s welcome sign features the Viaduct

One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as

The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below

part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.

Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA
Cleveland’s tallest buildings

One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.

I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.

New York City 1959 (from an old family picture – I was actually there when this was taken.  Only 3 years old)
New York City, 2013 – taken from Hoboken, NJ
Cincinnati Skyline with its old buildings and numerous bridges
The Ascent at Roebling’s in Covington, KY across the river from Cincinnati

But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture.  And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!


A view from below One PPG Place
Bridge over Mississippi River at Cairo, IL

I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.

The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river.  An amazing feat of engineering.

River Crossing near Cairo, IL
A view of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland
High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta was built in 1909. It is 5327 feet long and the largest of its type in the world
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900 in Cut Bank, Montana
Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington
Bridges of Pittsburgh
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia in August 1995
Green Bridge near Redcliff, Colorado

I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.

Golden Gate Bridge in 2016

Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.

Delaware Seashore Bridge
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH


Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.

Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars.  They look futuristic and are cool to drive over.  I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.


William H. Harsha Bridge from Maysville, KY into Ohio.
Rexburg, Idaho LDS Temple

Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.

Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular.  But they are not the only religious buildings.

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson

The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
St. Mary’s Basilica, Marietta, OH
Central Presbyterian in Cambridge, ON
Hoover Dam and Bridge (photo credit hdrinc.com)

I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.

On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982. You can see hairpin turns at right

And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.

Ingenuity from the 1880s — Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON opened in 1881

Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.


H is for History – #atozchallenge

One cannot travel any road in America or Canada without running into some sort of historical site, monument or building.  That is part of the fun of a back road adventure.  Our country of 2017 is defined in great part by the history of the country dating back to the 1600s (and earlier if you count the Native Americans).

Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park.  This is one of many Lewis and Clark Monuments across the United States.
Monument in Beachville, Ontario commemorating the first baseball game in Canada.

Dotting the roads of America are historical markers that tell about events that occurred in that exact location or nearby. There are literally 1000s of these. In the eastern US many of them are about Civil War incidents while in the west many are related to Indian Wars, Lewis and Clark or pioneers.  They are often interesting to stop and read.  As a History/Geography major in college, I have found these to be a sort of “roadside wikipedia.”

Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
The Overland Trail historic Sign
Pound Gap Historical Sign on the Virginia/Kentucky Border
Rugby, ND in 2014
Alligator Blues Marker in Alligator, MS – One of many markers along the Blues Highway in Mississippi
Plaque describing the naming of the roads This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
Meriwether Lewis meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio in Clarksville, IN

When traveling through the heart of the country, one can come across a myriad of monuments and historical sites dedicated to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark…better known as just Lewis Clark.  From May 1804 to September 1806, these two, accompanied by 29 or 30 others, in what was named by then President Thomas Jefferson as the “Corps of Discovery.” They left Camp Dubois (near St. Louis) and ventured westward to the Pacific Coast.  In my travels I have come across dozens of monuments, plaques, museums and other places all dedicated to or referencing this amazing expedition.  Their pioneer spirit has always amazed me.

One of a number of Lewis and Clark Murals in Independence, MO
A plaque commemorating a Lewis and Clark Campsite near Elk Point, South Dakota
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library

Of course, after them went the pioneers.  There were those who followed the Oregon Trail.  Others, chiefly the Mormons, forged their own trail, now called the Mormon trail.  In the south there was the famed Santa Fe Trail.  Then, along the way there were other smaller, lesser known trails, such as the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, and others.  Travel the roads that follow these trails and an abundance of unique history can be seen.  As a member of the LDS Church (Mormon) I have been able to visit many church historical sites.

A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper overlooks the Shields Valley in Montana
Pioneer brotherhood – Pioneer Memorial, Omaha, Nebraska
Pioneer Monument – Opal, WY
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, ID
LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s Cabin in Palmyra, NY
Martins Cove in Wyoming, part of the Mormon Handcart Trail
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park

Across a good portion of the southeast and all the way into Ohio and Pennsylvania, one will come across a plethora of Civil War related monuments, historical sites and otherwise.   Many sites have annual Civil War reenactments.

The big parks such as Vicksburg and Gettysburg are huge and have a ton of history.  But there are smaller ones, such as Perryville Battlefield in Kentucky that are unique in their historic perspective.

Sculpture at Vicksburg
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
One of four bronze statues that surround the large Civil War monument in Cleveland, OH. Called “At Short Range” it is a representation of the Artillery Group

In the far eastern parts of the United States one comes across places like the Jamestown Settlement and Williamsburg.  There are many others.

Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995
Kids take over the ship at Jamestown, VA – August 1995
Lucille Ball Birthplace

For fun, many cities have the “Birthplace of …” signs when you enter their small towns.  These could be famous actors, historical figures or athletes.  Typically there are monuments or statues.  I have come across many of these.  They are always a fun little side adventure.

I have come across many of these over the years.  Its always fun to “discover” the birthplaces.  (Ironically, Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY…not the same as Jamestown, VA which I posted above.)  Some of the “birthplaces” are a bit on the corny side.

Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Dean Martin mural in his birthplace of Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Singing Perry Como statue in downtown Canonsburg, PA
A couple of my children at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in the 1990s
Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, Leland, MS
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA
Washington County Courthouse in Washington, PA

Then, of course, there are the historical buildings.  Hundreds of unique courthouses and their fascinating architecture can be seen in diverse little towns and counties.  There are old churches large and small.  And many long forgotten dilapidated old buildings.  All of them tell some sort of story about the place.

I have visited dozens of courthouses around the country.  I love the old architecture.  I have some favorites.  Some are more interesting than others. I have added a few below.


Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Woodstock, Ontario City Hall
Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Courthouse in Buena Vista, CO
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Lit Pillars at Courthouse in Columbia, MO
Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam Gothic at the Grant Wood American Gothic House in Eldon, IA
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre, MT. I wanted this one in black and white…
Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin


Finally, there are the many “oddball” or “quirky” historical sites and objects.  One never knows what they will run into in a small town.  A quaint historical museum? An oddball monument? A unique cemetery?



I have had fun discovering historical sites, quirky museums and other fun stuff.  Here are a few below.

Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, WV
Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013
My son Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN July 2004
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Kregel Windmill Factory Museum in Nebraska City, NE
The Rockpile Museum in Gillette, WY

History is the fabric of our country!


Northern Ohio: Kirtland, Novelty, Chagrin Falls & Cuyahoga Valley NP

Sumoflam with his wife at the Kirtland Temple
Sumoflam with his wife at the Kirtland Temple

During a trip in May 2016 I visited my birthplace in the Little Italy neighborhood (See Little Italy Post) of Cleveland and then spent a day with family driving around Cleveland and catching a few sites (see post about Cleveland).  On my final day I picked up my wife in Kirtland, OH.  She had been there for a conference with her sister.  While there we visited a few places and I also had the opportunity to drive a few back roads while they were busy on the conference.  Actually, some of the locations I visited on one of the mornings prior to returning to Cleveland, but they are all compiled here.

Welcome to Kirtland, OH
Welcome to Kirtland, OH
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH

On the Sunday morning I was there we got the special opportunity to ring the Temple bells at 9 AM.  Photos inside the Kirtland Temple are not allowed, so we didn’t get any pictures, but it was fun to ring the bell.  I then left her and her sister there wile I did some driving around.

As many of my readers know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).  I am a convert to the Church, after

Kirtland Temple was the site of many miraculous occurrences according to LDS Church history.
Kirtland Temple was the site of many miraculous occurrences according to LDS Church history.

joining when I was 18 (back in 1975 — if interested you can read that part of my life story in my Sumoflam Singlewide Blog Here.) The Kirtland Temple figures prominently in the history of the LDS Church.  (Read details HERE on the LDS History site).  My wife comes from church pioneer heritage, but most of her relatives came from England and went to Nauvoo, which was the next stopping point west for the Mormons.  But key pieces of the church’s early history took place here.  Initially, the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the temple on March 27, 1836. According to church history, beginning in January and continuing past the dedication, many Church members reported witnessing heavenly manifestations during this season. Soon thereafter, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery noted the appearance of the resurrected Jesus Christ to them to accept the temple. Later, the resurrected personages of Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared to Joseph and Oliver to restore priesthood keys for the salvation of all mankind.

LDS Church Kirtland Visitor's Center
LDS Church Kirtland Visitor’s Center
Newell K Whitney Store
Newell K Whitney Store

Just a few blocks from the Temple is the Historic Kirtland Visitor’s Center which has a number of historic buildings. One of these was the Newell K. Whitney Store where many of the revelations now included in the Doctrine and Covenants were received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He also received the revelation now called the Word of Wisdom,  as well as the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and the command to build the temple. Joseph also completed much of his inspired translation of the Bible here.  Following are a few other photos I took while at the temple and the visitor’s center.

Historic Sign about the Mormons in Ohio
Historic Sign about the Mormons in Ohio
The Tannery
The Tannery
Historic Kirtland
Historic Kirtland
Kirtland Temple as seen from a distance
Kirtland Temple as seen from a distance
Novelty Post Office
Novelty Post Office

After my visit to Kirtland, I continued south on US Highway 6 towards Russell Township, which also used to be known as Novelty, OH.  There is still a Novelty Post Office.  Of course, one of my favorite road trip activities is visiting towns and places with unique names and this one was a true novelty!!

I am not certain how the Post Office got its name (closed on Sundays obviously), but it is fun.  Outside of the post office, attached to the building is a large wooden postage stamp for Novelty.  See below.

Novelty Post Office
Sign on Novelty Post Office
Welcome to Russell Township
Welcome to Russell Township
ASM International
ASM International

Not far from the Novelty Post Office, on Kinsman Road, is the headquarters for ASM International (formerly known as the American Society for Metals).

According to its website, “ASM International was founded in 1913 as the American Society for Metals. Today, ASM is the world’s largest association of metals-centric materials scientists and engineers with over 30,000 members worldwide. ASM is dedicated to informing, educating and connecting the materials community to solve problems and stimulate innovation around the world. ”  But the reason I went there was for something grand…indeed, the largest geodesic dome in the world and, unique to all others, a non-covered one.

Geodesic Dome National Register of Historic Places sign
Geodesic Dome National Register of Historic Places sign
World's Largest Geodesic Dome at ASM in Novelty, OH
World’s Largest Geodesic Dome at ASM in Novelty, OH
Sumoflam at Geodesic Dome
Sumoflam at Geodesic Dome

The dome was initially constructed in 1959 and was conceived by prominent Cleveland architect, John Terence Kelly; ASM’s managing director for 50 years, William Hunt Eisenman, and futurist and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller.

The geodesic dome is actually two domes, one inside the other that are 30 inches apart, rising to a height of 103 feet and is 274 feet in diameter.  The dome is built using approximately 65,000 parts, including 13 miles of extruded aluminum tubing and tension rods welded into hexagons. There are no internal supports and the entire 80-ton weight rests on five concrete-filled pylons driven up to 77 feet into the earth.

Another view of Geodesic Dome
Another view of Geodesic Dome

The entire complex sits on a 400-foot diameter piazza with a 100-foot diameter mineral garden in the center that contains 66 labeled specimens of mineral ores with a fountain in the center. The 50,000-square foot headquarter building is a three-story semi-circular shaped concrete structure that occupies two-fifths of the piazza perimeter. The building resides on the western perimeter and is independent of the dome structure and has three distinct sections.

Inside the Dome at ASM
Inside the Dome at ASM

The building has floor-to-ceiling aluminum frame windows inside poured concrete walls and floors. The exterior of the western-facing second level glass wall is protected by a 13-foot high, 390-foot long satin-finish stainless steel “sun shield,” which protects against the afternoon sun without obstructing the view by providing 4,000 one-foot by five-inch louvers. Stainless steel, bronze, copper, aluminum, titanium and tungsten elements are incorporated into the interior design.  This was an amazing sight!

Holden Arboretum
Holden Arboretum

Not too far away from Novelty/Russell Township is the Holden Arboretum which encompasses 3,600 acres in Lake and Geauga counties.

I had hoped to visit, but time constrained me.   The arboretum offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and an abundance of flora from what I could see driving by.  It is also home to a 120 foot tall “Emergent Tower” which can provide views of Lake Erie on a clear day.  The Murch Canopy walk is 500 feet long and is 65 feet above ground. I would love to visit these on a future visit. (See details here).

The Kalberer Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum (photo from holdenarb.org)
The Kalberer Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum (photo from holdenarb.org)
The Murch Canopy Wlk at the Holden Arboretum. (photo from kirtlandchronicle.com)
The Murch Canopy Wlk at the Holden Arboretum. (photo from kirtlandchronicle.com)
Chagrin Falls, OH
Chagrin Falls, OH

After driving past the arboretum I had to head back to meet my wife and her sister and we then headed south on OH 306 to Russell Center and then onto OH 87 to get to Chagrin Falls. This is a quaint touristy little town with two nice waterfalls smack in the middle of the village.

Chagrin Falls Historic Sign
Chagrin Falls Historic Sign
Stroll down Main Street Chagrin Falls, OH
Stroll down Main Street Chagrin Falls, OH
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop

Chagrin Falls has a few claims to fame — it is the birthplace of famous comedian Tim Conway and was the home of Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic characters Calvin and Hobbes from age 6 on. It is also home to the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, known for its massive variety of flavored popcorn.  The building now housing the Popcorn Shop was constructed in 1875 adjoining the hydro-powered flour mill to showcase “The Pride of the Falls” grocery items. It was complete with a water-wheel driven gristmill powered by the Chagrin River.  The shop opened as a Popcorn Shop in 1949 and takes pride in offering what they claim to be “the finest & freshest, locally made ice cream, Euclid Beach custard, locally roasted coffee and old fashioned candies.”  The foundation of their tradition is carefully crafted locally made popcorn, always made in small batches with only the finest ingredients.

Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop T Shirt
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop T Shirt
Ice Cream Offerings at Chagrin Falls
Ice Cream Offerings at Chagrin Falls
Too bad -- No Pets allowed...I had to stay outside!
Too bad — No Good Doggies allowed…I had to stay outside!
Chagrin Falls in the middle of town
Chagrin Falls in the middle of town

The highlight of the town is the two sets of falls in the middle of town.  Its a real drawing card indeed.  The setting is wonderful with restaurants and cafes overlooking the falls. There are also a number of old buildings in the town giving it an old-fashioned and cozy feel.

Old Bank in downtown Chagrin Falls
Old Bank in downtown Chagrin Falls
Old Wall Advertisement on the side of a building in Chagrin Falls
Old Wall Advertisement on the side of a building in Chagrin Falls
David and Julianne at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
David and Julianne at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Sumoflam at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio and Erie Towpath Bike Trailhead
Sumoflam at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Bike Trailhead

After a nice lunch in Chagrin Falls, we departed for our final destination – Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For me it was an opportunity to add another National Park to my collection, but for Julianne and her sister Laura it was an opportunity to ride the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath trail, the first of their long trail rides in a week (the second was the next weekend as they  took a portion of the Montour Trail near Canonsburg, PA).  Since that trip, Julianne has been on five major bike trails.  I will be writing about these in future blog posts including the the above two and also includes the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in SE Kentucky, the Little Miami Scenic Trail from Xenia, OH and then again with her sister on the North Bend Rail Trail east of Parkersburg, WV.  Great opportunities to see some unique places!!

Sumoflam with Julianne and Laura at the Boston Store Visitor's Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Sumoflam with Julianne and Laura at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Part of a boat in the Boston Store Visitor's Center
Part of a boat in the Boston Store Visitor’s Center

While the girls rode the trail, I enjoyed reading up on the history of the Boston Store and grabbed a few shots of the surrounding buildings.  Then I just chillaxed in a rocking chair (I am a grandpa mind you) while I waited for Julianne and Laura to get back from biking.

Boats of the Erie Canal
Boats of the Erie Canal
Boston Store and Peninsula, OH history
Boston Store and Peninsula, OH history
Trail Mix Boston - Unique eatery, gift shop and snack stop in Peninsula, OH
Trail Mix Boston – Unique eatery, gift shop and snack stop in Peninsula, OH
History Diorama Plaque of the Boston Store
History Diorama Plaque of the Boston Store
Chillaxin' on the porch of Boston Store in a nice rocking chair
Chillaxin’ on the porch of Boston Store in a nice rocking chair

This was a nice final stop to a great four day trip to Ohio.  I sat on the porch, enjoyed the view, watched the bikers and reminisced on all of the fun places, great food (Little Italy!!), history and quirky sites we visited.  Then it was back home to Kentucky with a stop in Wilmington, OH, which I will cover in a subsequent post.