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.
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!
I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.
I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.
The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.
The diversity of people enriches us.
Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.
First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.
For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.
Many of the musicians I have met are genuine. They are such neat people…not pretentious at all. It is nice to talk to them about life. One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s. I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.
Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower. What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!
I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun. We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together. So blessed to know these great folks.
Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.
A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.
My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.
In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario. We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.
Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.
I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting. On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.
One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.
Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.
On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.
Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.
I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)
My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.
On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind. See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.
As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.
Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.
Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast. She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)
The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:
Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts. See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)
I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.
What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!
Today (Feb. 15, 2013) was one of those delightful days when I got to enjoy most of my passions…mainly travel, photography and music. Ultimately, the main reason for the trip was to go to Elizabethtown to see Tommy Emmanuel and Michael Kelsey. But, I took the long way to do it. Following is a map with the stops I made.
I drove from Lexington thru Danville and then into Perryville. I made a quick drive through the old Merchant’s Row area of Perryville.
After Perryville it was on to the small village of Gravel Switch, KY. grew up around a gravel quarry on a spur line of the L&N railroad around 1870. There is not much there now but a small Amish school, a Post Office, a bank and a few houses.
Not far from Gravel Switch is perhaps the most famous place in the area…Penn’s Store.
According to its website, “Penn’s Store is the oldest country store in America being run continuously by the same family. It has been in the Penn family since 1850.” There is a nice writeup about it here.
The drive from Gravel Switch to Penns Store Road is a bit complicated, but, once I figured it out, it was easy… After passing through Gravel Switch, follow Hwy 243 until you get to a fork in the road where 243 goes left and Hwy 337 goes strait to Bradfordsville. Follow Hwy 243 past the Forkland Community sign and continue until you go over a big bridge at the point where Forkland Rd. continues to the left and Hwy 243 goes right. Immediately after the bridge you will see the signs above. Penn’s Store is straight ahead.
When I arrived I was met by some very friendly white Labradors. They greeted me with total friendliness. Unfortunately, those were the only greeters as the store is currently closed for repairs from a big flood a couple of years ago. They hope to reopen in mid-April 2013.
Perhaps one of the more famous stories is the dedication of the Penn’s Privy outhouse. The outhouse was built in 1992 and is made of poplar and has a tin roof. It is a “one-holer.” The dedication was held with several musical friends lending their talents to the days festivities. The shows were headlined by Chet Atkins and Billy Edd Wheeler (who wrote the Grammy awarded Johnny Cash song “Jackson”). Billy Edd also wrote the song “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back”. The Chet Atkins connection is pretty unique since the evening show with Tommy Emmanuel will have some dedicatory pieces for Chet. Read the amazing story of Chet and Tommy here. In Nashville in 1999, Tommy was honored by his mentor, Chet Atkins with the title of “Certified Guitar Player” for his contribution to fingerstyle guitar, a rare distinction shared by only four other people in the world (Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, John Knowles and Paul Yandell). More about that later.
I soon left the little knob in the woods and headed back up to Hwy 337 to venture towards Bradfordsville, another quiet little town of a little over 300. Needing a pit stop, I stopped at Patches Mini Mart…an old style country gas station and Mom and Pop type of cafe. As I found out when I went in, “Patches” is the nickname for owner Patsy Morgeson, who is the chief cook and bottle washer too. She was a charmer and let me take some photos inside. I was hungry and though on a mainly vegan regimen, I broke down to have her speciality – fried bologna sandwich with egg and cheese. Yes, the total antithesis of vegan… But it was really really good.
I was reminded of Antsy McClain’s song “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More,” as I spoke to Patches. Located only 9 miles from Lebanon, KY, she is seeing many of her clientele go there to the fast food joints and big box store. She told me that she is not sure how much longer she will be able to stay in business. I hope Patches and the hundreds of others like here across this country can stay in business so that they can live the dream.
I soon found myself back in the car headed toward Lebanon as many of Patche’s customers now do. But, Lebanon, the geographic center of Kentucky, would have only have one stop on the road for me…the National Cemetery…in the dead center of Kentucky!!
Lebanon National Cemetery, is the final resting place for more than 800 Union Civil War veterans, many of whom are buried as unknown soldiers. Like its sister cemetery Camp Nelson in nearby Nicholasville, KY, the site is comprised of nicely laid out rows of white marble grave markers of both the unknown soldiers as well as many other veterans. In fact, as I was taking this photo, a procession was on its way into the grounds for another veteran burial.
From Lebanon I made my way to Raywick (per recommendation of Patche’s and her assistant at the Mini Mart). This small village was first settled in 1778 by Henry Prather and James and John Ray. In 1811, Lloyd Ray married a Nancy Wickliffe, thus the name Raywick. Raywick is also home to a large Catholic Church.
Heading west from Raywick I meandered towards Hwy 527, also known as Scott Ridge Rd. Saw this sign on the way out of town…notice it says “Your Leaving”… LOL
The drive up Scott Ridge is very scenic as it takes you high up on a hill overlooking the valley below. At the crest of the hill is a cement lookout, which lets you see over 100 square miles of the scenic Rolling Fork River valley below. Using my iPhone Panaorama feature, I captured the following photo of the view below:
Here are a couple more from my Nikon:
I proceeded south on 527 to Maple Road and turned right. I followed this windy path of a road to Social Band Road (what a name…)
I continued north to Atilla Rd and then West to KY 210 (Campbellsville Rd.). I went north on that road to Hwy 1192 (Bailey Rd) and followed it all the way to Mt. Sherman Ward Rd. This road winded southward eventually passing Buck Rub Lane and Fatboy Blvd. You gotta love the names of some of these roads.
Further down the road I came across this little white house with a sign “God’s House” on it. I am assuming it is a church, but I wondered if God’s house is really this small….
I continued west on Hwy 1906 towards Magnolia. Very rural scenery continued. I love old barns and reminders that I am in Amish country.
I followed KY 1079 west and then proceeded north up Munfordville Rd. to Hwy 1517 (Oak Hill Road). At that corner I came across an old log cabin, shown below. This is one of those delights you run across while traveling the less beaten paths.
I headed north up Oak Hill Rd until I got to Talley Oak Hill Rd, where I tool a left and then the next right was my second goal location of the trip (first was Penn’s Store). Here I came across Wonderland Rd. The name drew some interest for me…but there really isn’t much of a wonderland on this road.
The trailer above had smoke coming out of the smoke stack, no apparent electricity and only a bike parked in front. Makes me wonder who is really living in wonderland….
Wonderland Road ended up at Sonora Road, where I took a left and that brought me to US 31W. I headed south towards Bonnieville and then into Munfordville.
Before getting into downtown Munfordville I drove by a Barbecue place called Big Bubba Bucks Belly Bustin BBQ Bliss. I have always loved the names of local BBQ joints (and I have also enjoyed stopping at them to eat). Unfortunately, I was running out of time so I wasn’t able to stop. Catfish, fried pickles, sweet tater fries, collard greens and BBQ. Hmmm…
My third planned stop on this trip was Kentucky Stonehenge., a small replica of the fabled Stonehenge from England. Actually, it really isn’t quite a replica, but is fun and worth the stop. Located just off of Interstate 65 at exit 65, go just a bit south on US-31 towards Munfordville. Turn right on Maple St (where you should see the sign above) and then left on Lynn Ave. You will see it in the back yard of a house on the right. The owners have even created a parking area for visitors.
Over the years I have become close friends with many of these performers thru Eddie and Antsy McClain. I was thrilled to also see Edgar Cruz, an amazing Flamenco guitarist from Oklahoma City who came out to the show. I also visited with Bardstown, Kentucky fingerstyle guitarist Pat Kirtley. All of these guitarists are the best in the business, but also are amazing entertainers. All have performed at the John Hardin Performing Arts Center due to Eddie Mattingly’s great efforts. Their posters adorn the wall of the PAC Green Room:
Needless to say, the show was not only magical, it was breathtaking. Both Michael, who opened the show and then Tommy, played sets that astounded the crowd and kept us totally entertained and amazed at the same time. It is by far the best musical show I have ever been to. And I have been to some pretty amazing ones over the years!! The photography from the show was by my good friend and photographer Marc Manning. One of the best horse photographers in Kentucky, he is also a premiere concert and landscape photographer.
This day began with me Enjoying the Ride, but ended with me on an absolute high from the music, the friends and the road trip. It was an unforgettable day!!
Though I can’t add video from last night’s show, you may want to check out some of the videos on YouTube and on their sites.