My Travels in 2018

Life gets so busy. The first two months of 2019 have been exceptionally busy and so I am just now getting to my annual review posts for 2018.

Visiting Route 66 in Oklahoma

At the beginning of 2018 I didn’t have very high hopes for many travel opportunities. I had begun a new job in early October of the previous year and I didn’t have any definitive travel plans. But, I had also learned to roll with things and, as good fortune would have it, 2018 actually became a really good travel year.

Over the course of the year I was able to travel through 26 different states and drove nearly 12,000 miles. I was able to add a plethora of photos (I took over 15,000 travel photos in 2018) and content for use in future blogs and books. Though many of my travels were alone (which I love), I also was able to travel with family on some of the trips (which I also love!).

Morning sky taken between Bend, OR and Brothers, OR (near Millican, OR) on US Hwy 20 heading east.
A sunset scene taken from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry in Washington
Lovely sunset after a windy day. Taken on a side road of Interstate 70 just east of Abilene, Kansas
Mt. Aetna as seen from US 50 near Monarch Pass, Colorado.
Desert and snow-covered peaks in Nevada

My major trips included:

  1. A trip to Nashville in January to visit with my new employer ComicBook.com. On this trip I also visited the cool and “off-beat” Paradise PointMarketplace
    Welcome to Paradise Point
  2. In late January I made a trip down to Barren River Lake State Park in southern Kentucky to view the sandhill cranes which had migrated down there.
    Sandhill Cranes take flight
  3. In February I was asked by son Seth to come down to Cypress, Texas to watch his two sons for a couple of weeks while he and his wife were off on a cruise. The trip south took me through Calvert City, KY where I visited the Apple Valley Toy Land and Hillbilly Gardens. I also found my way to Kenton, Arkansas, home of the white squirrels, then to historic Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to see some fun Beatle’s things. I then meandered my way into Louisiana and visited a few fun places. While in Cypress with the boys I also visited Austin and then took the boys venturing out on some of the back roads around the Houston area where we discovered some fun places. My return trip took me up to Keller, Texas to visit my sister and while there I found a few more fascinating places. I then made my way home through Oklahoma and Arkansas, traveling back roads all the way and discovering some fun places. I finally returned to Lexington at the end of February.                                                                                               
    Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden – Calvert City, Kentucky
    Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR
    The Beatles in Houston, statues by Houston artist David Adickes
  4. March saw me again on the road for a quick trip up to Cleveland, Ohio. On this trip, with my wife, we visited sites in Cleveland and then on the way home stopped in Columbus to see the famed Topiary Garden Park. It was a quick, yet fun and interesting trip. 
    Topiary Garden Park of Columbus
  5. On April 2 I set off on one of the biggest road trips I have had in a couple of years. We had a family event taking place in Port Orchard, Washington. I drove while my wife flew (she had a tighter schedule and needed to take some PTO time). I set out heading west through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. I had hoped to go up through Minnesota, but a major snowstorm diverted much of my initial plan. Nonetheless, I always find something. This trip allowed me to visit seven different Peter Toth “Whispering Giants” , which also took me to other unique places along the way. I ultimately made my way through Iowa Falls, Cedar Rapids, northern South Dakota and overnight in Belle Fourche. I then headed northwest into snowy southeastern Montana and crossed the state from there through Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and overnight in scenic and touristy Wallace, Idaho. From Wallace I made my way to Spokane and then east on US 2, to complete my travels on the western portion of that highway (other parts I had driven on in previous road trips. This took me through Washington’s high desert and then into the Cascades and back down into apple orchard country. I ultimately made my way into the Seattle area. The return trip went down through Olympia and then into Oregon on US 101 and then across Oregon’s high desert, through Winnemucca, Nevada and then into my old stomping grounds in Murray, Utah, near Salt Lake City. I then ventured to Colorado Springs to see my son Solomon and then across Colorado’s high deserts into western Kansas, and finally back home through St. Louis and Louisville. It was an amazing two week adventure! 
    Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starving Rock State Park in Illinois
    One of over 200 sculptures from around Raymond, Washington
    A stretch of Oregon Highway 205 south of Burns, Oregon
    Leavenworth, Washington
    Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass in Washington
    Helper, Utah
    Dignity: Of Earth and Sky – 50 foot tall statue by Dale Lamphere near Chamberlain, South Dakota
    Men’s Room Door at a gas station in Ashland, Montana
    US Hwy 101 in southern Washington
    Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, Colorado
    On the road somewhere in NW Nevada
  6. I didn’t really venture out on a road trip again until mid-June when my wife and I took a day long trip up to Cincinnati to see some things we hadn’t done before. It was a nice sightseeing adventure.
    A day trip to Cincinnati with my wife
    The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as seen from Carew Tower in Cincinnati. When opened on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet main span.
  7. In late July I was joined by my oldest grandchild Autumn for a fun adventure to Cypress, Texas. I was again asked to babysit my two granddsons for about ten days. Autumn and I meandered our way down there through Tennessee and Alabama down to the gulf coast and into Biloxi, Mississippi. We traveled along the Gulf Coast into Louisiana and eventually into Texas. While in Texas, the four of us made a few trips as well, including a day-long adventure to the weird city of Austin. Autumn and I then returned home through central Texas and up to Keller to stay with my sister and allow Autumn to hang with her cousin, who is the same age. After a couple of days in Keller, Autumn and I returned home through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Missouri, where we visited the unique touristy place called Uranus and then finally home. It was an amazing fun trip.
    Sharkhead in Biloxi, Mississippi
    Decatur, Texas
    Welcome to Uranus Missouri
    Getting stabbed in Bowie, Texas
    One of hundreds of frog statues in Rayne, Louisiana
    Peach Water Tower in Clanton, Alabama
    One of a number of murals in a section of Houston
    Vulcan Statue, one of America’s tallest, in Birmingham, Alabama
    Woody Guthrie Water Towers in Okemah, Oklahoma

    Over the next few posts, I will try to catch up with content about different themes…road scenes, wood art, murals, roadside attractions and more.

    I hope you will enjoy the ride with me as I revisit these adventures.

Have you seen my most recent book yet? “Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions” is available on Amazon!

The book is 130 pages of FULL COLOR whimsy and kitsch as I tell stories of my visits to these places all over the U.S. and Canada. Definitely was fun taking these back roads trips to quirkville and I am excited to share them with you in words and photos.   I hope you will be able to check out the book or even get it on Kindle.

You can order the book here:   See Offbeat and Quirky Roadside Attractions

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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Landscape in Photos

Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, CO

This is the final post from my April 2018 cross-country road trip from Lexington to Port Orchard, Washington and back. As a reminder, I covered 6000 miles and ventured through 16 states. Along the way I not only stopped to visit attractions and see the sites in towns small and large, but I also tried to capture the grandeur of the landscapes and scenery I passed by along the way.  Following are a number of scenic photos from that trip.  Enjoy the ride!  I have randomized these, so they are not in any particular order.  Captions tell the story.

Sunset in Colorado, taken on US 24 near Hartsel, Colorado

Lovely sunset after a windy day. Taken on a side road of Interstate 70 just east of Abilene, Kansas

Morning sky taken between Bend, OR and Brothers, OR (near Millican, OR) on US Hwy 20 heading east.

This is a sunset scene taken from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry in Washington. The mountains in the distance are Olympic National Park. Water is Puget Sound.

This is US Route 2 heading west towards Waterville, WA

A huge dust storm as seen from Nevada Hwy 140 west of Winnemucca, NV

Lovely mountain scene from US Route 2 near Skykomish, WA

Mt. Rainier as seen from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry crossing the Puget Sound.

US 101 near South Bend, WA. I was heading south and it was raining. Still beautiful

Another shot of Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, CO

This is Hole in the Mountain Peak, taken from I-80 near Deeth, NV. I was heading east and this was south of me.

Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area east of Gunnison, CO. This was taken from US Hwy 50.

Mt. Aetna as seen from US 50 near Monarch Pass, Colorado. heading east.

Sunbeams over Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, CO

One of the peaks of the Cascades near Goldbar, WA

A snowy Interstate 90 heading west towards Livingston, Montana

Seattle, Washington as seen from a ferry in Puget Sound

A scene of the high Utah desert near Crescent Junction, UT

Heading towards Pine Canyon near Waterville, WA

Sunset over Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard, WA

Missouri River Valley near Chamberlain, South Dakota

US Route 2 just past Steven’s Pass, WA – notice how high the show walls are on the side

Wenatchee Valley, near Wenatchee, WA

US Route 2 in Eastern Washington

A view from Oregon 202

Colorado Highway 94 near Rush, Colorado

US 50 East of Gunnison near Monarch, CO

Frenchglen Highway in Central Oregon

Skykomish River near Skykomish, WA as seen from US Hwy 2

A beach scene in Manchester, WA

The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

The high deserts of central Oregon are lovely.

The view of the Cascades as seen from the Skykomish / Gold Bar area of Washington, east of Everett.

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: US Route 2 in Washington

US Route 2 in Washington

Over the years I have been able to travel the majority of US Route 2 from Michigan all the way to the other side of Glacier National Park.  But I have never had the opportunity travel Route 2 in Washington, which would effectively let me finish the western segment of the highway, which, ultimately stretches 2,112 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA.  Within Washington, the highway traverses a 326.36-mile-long route that connects the western and eastern regions of the state as a part of the state highway system and the National Highway System. US 2 also forms parts of two National Scenic Byways, the Stevens Pass Greenway, which goes over a portion of the Cascades, and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway near Coulee City, which offers some wonderful views of the Grand Coulee Dam. The drive also goes through one of Washington’s fruit tree country and provides views of the massive orchards that cover the landscape.

Map of Route 2 from Spokane to Everett

Power lines seem to go on forever over the steppe landscape in Eastern Washington

I started my early April morning traveling from Wallace, ID and enjoying a nice breakfast in Coeur D’Alene with a an old friend. I was then off on my last leg of a year’s long quest to complete a drive across US Route 2.  The drive from Spokane enters the northern reaches of the Columbia Plateau, which is a high desert shrub-steppe environment and is pretty much this way all the way past Coulee City to the small community of Waterville.

US Route 2 between Davenport and Wilbur, WA

US Route 2 just west of Spokane, WA

Welcome to Davenport

My first stop along the way was in Davenport, WA.  As I drove through I noticed a quirky old place called the Black Bear Motel so I just had to stop.  I also decided it was a good place for a restroom break, so I headed over to a gas station/convenience store.  I was overly amused by the signage, so, in the nature of Sumoflam fun, I took full advantage of it!!

Black Bear Motel/Campground in Davenport, WA

Old Cigar Store Indian at entrance to Black Bear Motel in Davenport

Bucking Broncos in parking lot of Black Bear Motel

An Indian on a horse appears to be guarding the Black Bear Motel

Old signage at the Black Bear Motel

Just Five Cents sign at Black Bear Motel

And then there is that Restroom at the Gas Station!!

This is the sign on the Restroom Door at the Cenex Station in Davenport

Had to make a purchase to become a customer so I could get the valuable key to the throne.

WooHoo! I became a customer and got the key!!

This was the sign above the urinal in the restroom. I laughed pretty hard… and no, I did not throw in any coins…

After that fun adventure, I was back on US Route 2 heading west towards Wilbur.

US Route 2 east of Wilbur, WA

Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the spider??

Wilbur, WA Visitor’s Center. Notice the pig? The pig is Wilbur, the spider is Charlotte. HA!

Hanging with Wilbur in Wilbur, WA

Billy Burgers classic neon in Wilbur, WA

Old theater turned Beauty Salon in Wilbur

Welcome to Coulee CIty, WA

The next leg of the trip continued through the high desert steppes until near Coulee City.  Coulee City sits at the southern end of the 27 mile long Banks Lake, which was been created as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, which sits at the northern end of the lake.

History of Coulee City, WA

View of Banks Lake as seen from US Route 2 west of Coulee City

From Coulee City, US Route 2 meanders into a massive basin near Sulphur Canyon as it runs along one of the walls of the canyon.  It was actually quite a site.

US Route 2 heading west from Coulee City towards Sulphur Canyon

Route 2 west heading into Sulphur Canyon basin

One of the walls of Sulphur Canyon as seen from Jameson Lake Rd. and US Route 2

Welcome to Waterville, WA

Route 2 eventually gets into the small community of Waterville, which is about the halfway point on Route 2 between Spokane and Everett. I took a quick drive through town and found a couple of goodies in this historic little community.  Perhaps the most interesting thing was the whimsical “Lumpy Dowser” Statue that sits outside the Douglas County Museum , and was sculpted by local artist, the late Rich Beyer (1925-2012).  (Note:  I also got a shot of his work “The Kiss” while in Olympia, WA on this same trip.  It will be in my Olympia Post). Dowsing is using a stick to find water…a unique piece of art for a town named after water.  During the sculpture’s dedication in July 1996, local resident Joanne Whitehall compiled a history of water dowsing. The last paragraph of her composition follows:

“Not everyone has the ability to dowse. Many of those who have, attribute it to a gift, as it has not been a learned art. Judged by scientific standards, the practice has little basis in fact. However, the countless good sources of water found by this method is hard to dispute.”

The “Water Dowser” by Richard Beyer

Close up of the Water Douser’s whimsical head

Dr. Pierces Tonic (photo from Smithsonian Institute website)

Living in the eastern US, I am used to seeing advertising on the sides of barns, typically Mail Pouch chewing tobacco.  While stopped for gas in Waterville, I noticed a barn with an ad for Dr. Pierce’s General Tonic on it.  I had to look it up and see what it was (or is).  Turns out it supposedly resolved a number of health issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, sore throats, constipation, indigestion and other problems.  Its main ingredients included water, borate of soda, golden seal root, queen’s root, stone root, black cherry bark, mandrake and glycerine.  It was available from around 1890 to 1900. As for the barn ad shown below, some research indicates that these ads were on the sides of barns in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Fun discovery!

Dr. Pierce’s ad on a barn in Waterville as seen from Route 2

Mailboxes under a Douglas sign. Douglas is the county name and Waterville is the county seat.

From Waterville, US Route 2 continues west to Orondo and then heads dues south along the beautiful Columbia River into the fruit orchards of the Wenatchee Valley.  Wenatchee sits at the edge of the Cascades on one side and borders the high desert on the other.  Honestly, Wenatchee deserves an extended visit.  They also claim to be the Apple Capital of the World.

One of the lovely scenes of the Wenatchee Valley and the Columbia River

A verdant view of East Wenatchee near Wenatchee Confluence State Park

US Route 2 crosses over the Frances Farmer Memorial Bridge just north of the confluence of where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River. Absolutely lovely scenery here! And then there are the apple orchards.  I really am kicking myself that I didn’t go into town to get pictures, but I was running behind on schedule.  Next trip to Washington, Wenatchee is a destination!

Apple Orchards as seen from Route 2 heading west

Seems like fruit trees go on for miles

Once across the Columbia, Route 2 continues west and follows the Wenatchee River as it the road begins its ascent into the Cascades with fruit orchards on both sides of the highway continuing into the small community of. Dryden.  I then made my way into Leavenworth, WA, the next sweet surprise for me on this route.

US Route 2 is a four lane heading into Leavenworth, WA

Downtown Leavenworth, WA

Located in the midst of the Cascades, members of the community decided to give the town a unique Bavarian flair since it sits in the lovely alpine environment.  Everything about the town screams tourism, but it is also a lovely place.  I had to take a few minutes to drive around and grab some pictures.  As with the Wenatchee Valley, I plan on an extended visit to Leavenworth on my next trip to Washington.

Welcome to Leavenworth

All of the buildings are colorfully painted and use Bavarian script

Another of the colorful buildings in Leavenworth

A scene from downtown Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth sits in the central Cascades

Leavenworth road sign — everything is Strasse and not Street

Carriage Rides through the town are offered

And the town has its huge Maypole, used in their annual Maifest

Snow walls taller than me on both sides of the road at Stevens Pass

From Leavenworth, US Route 2 heads due north into the Cascades and proceeds to the highest point on the road at 4,061 feet, where it crosses over Stevens Pass.  Even though it was April when I took this trip, as I got up higher, both sides of the highway had “snow walls,” some taller than six feet.  It was truly a winter wonderland.

It is hard to image so much snow at an altitude of only 4,000 feet.  I saw similar snow walls along the route up over Beartooth Pass in Montana on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, but it was up at the 11,000 foot range.

Deep snow at Stevens Pass on US Route 2

A Winter Wonderland at Stevens Pass, WA

US Route 2 heading west towards Stevens Pass

The snow was so deep that it nearly covered the Stop Sign

More deep snow at Stevens Pass

US Route 2 just past Steven’s Pass

A Mountain scene on US Hwy 2 – with blue sky peaking through the clouds

The mountains through here were beautiful

With the descent, US Route winds westward into the mountain towns of Skykomish, Gold Bar, Startup and others.  The scenes from the road were marvelous and, at times, even breathtaking.

Many cascading waterfalls could be seen along the highway

Welcome to Skykomish, WA

Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish

The Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish is a vestige from the early days of the former Great Northern Railway. Originally built in 1894, the depot is a one-story rectangular wood-frame building that consisted of a passenger waiting room, the station agent’s office and a freight room.  Passenger service on the railway ended in the 1950s and  this depot has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last Great Northern depots still remaining in the State of Washington.

Skykomish setting in the midst of the mountains

The south fork of the Skykomish River flows through the town of Skykomish

US Route 2 through the pines west of Skykomish

Tall pines frame the mountains west of Skykomish

Driving in to the lovely and rugged cascades west of Skykomish

For miles US Route 2 wandered its way along the Skykomish River and through some awe-inspiring mountain scenery.  I felt like I was in heaven as I passed through towns with names like Gold Rush, Startup and Sultan.

US Highway 2 near Goldbar, WA

Welcome to Gold Bar, WA

Gold Bar, WA – Gateway to the Cascades

Entering Startup, WA

The Post Office at Sultan, WA

Train Mural on a wall in Sultan, WA

Finally, US Route 2 had made its descent into the Everett area.  Unfortunately, due to having to catch the Edmonds Ferry and meet up with my family at the ferry, I had to cutoff at Interstate 5 and go south to Edmonds.  I had hoped to get to the end of Route 2 in Everett, which was about a mile away in downtown.  But, effectively, I can really say that I pretty much have now driven across the 2,112 mile stretch of US Route 2!

US Route 2 sign at Stevens Point, WA

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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