AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The Z Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the Z Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Getting a Bucket list item Knocked Out

Though there are few places in the U.S. that start with a Z, one of the most well-known has generally been only a pipe dream for me.  Well, on the 8154 road trip, I finally got to this place.  And, not only that, I got an additional one that wasn’t even on the radar.  I don’t think many people have ever hit these two places in one road trip! See below for more details.

Zzyzx, California

As a purveyor of strange and unique place names in the U.S., this place has been on my radar for years.  In February 2020, I finally got there…at least to the highway sign, which is really the famous part. (Have you seen my first book yet?)

Zzyzx Road Sign at Exit 239 on Interstate 15 east of Baker, California

So, there is indeed a story behind the name of Zzyzx.  The place was formerly known as Soda Springs and had a natural mineral springs.  It has been an area with human activity for centuries.  But, the place changed in 1944 when a guy named Curtis Howe Springer established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa after filing mining claims for 12,000 acres.  He used the springs to bottle his water and provide drinks for travelers through the desert.  But why Zzyzx?  Springer wanted the name to be remembered as the last word in the English language.  The settlement and the Zzyzx Spring as a water feature, were approved as a place name by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on June 14, 1984. It is, alphabetically, the last place name in their lexicon.

Selfie by the Zzyzx Road Exit in California – PROOF I was there!

We did not take the 4.5-mile-long road through the Mojave Desert to the old settlement and spa due to time schedule.  But, it was the sign I wanted anyway.

Zuzax, New Mexico

Honestly, I had never heard of Zuzax, New Mexico.  It was never on my radar.  In fact, as we passed the exit on Interstate 40 just east of Albuquerque, I had to pull over quickly so I could get the sign.  Indeed, I thought to myself at the time that there may not be anybody else that has documented a  visit to the Zzyzx exit and the Zuzax exit in the same trip!  So, this may be a back roads piece of history.

Zuzax exit on Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque

Around 1956 a guy named Herman Ardans opened a curio shop on Route 66 and made up the name Zuzax so it would capture people’s attention and also be the last entry in the phone book. When Ardans was asked by customers about the origin of the name, he often told them that it referred to the Zuzax Indians.  Though his curio shop is long gone, the Zuzax exit remains.

Zion, Kentucky

We did pass one more exit on our road trip that began with a Z.  It is a much more common name.  Located on the western outskirts of Kentucky in Henderson County, it is an ironic place to finish up my 2020 A to Z Challenge… right back in Kentucky where the 8154 Mile Epic Road Trip began.

Zion got its start with some settlers and by 1906 had a population of 300. There were three churches established in the community.  It is now a small dot on the map.

Zion, Kentucky

And so ends my A to Z Challenge.  I hope that you have enjoyed the ride, all the stories and all of the photos.  If you did, it is my hope that you will register on my site and look forward to my forthcoming book titled “8154.”

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The W Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the W Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Wyoming

Another of the 20 states we visited on our 8154 Trip.  Sadly, we passed this sign in the evening, so it was dark.  Welcome to Wyoming.

Welcome to Wyoming

Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, Arizona

One of the more iconic throwbacks to Route 66 travel (and other travel for that matter) is the Wigwam Motel (also called the Wigwam Village). Built in the 1930s and 1940s, the rooms are designed liked teepees.  (See some history here) Originally there were seven of these built across the country with two in Kentucky, and then one each in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and California.  As of this writing, only three remain: One in Cave City, Kentucky (near Mammoth Cave National Park), one in Holbrook, Arizona on Route 66 (near Petrified Forest National Park) and the other on the city boundary between Rialto and San Bernardino, California, also on Route 66.  I have written about the one in Cave City, officially known as Wigwam Village #2, in a previous post in 2008.  My family actually rented five units in July 2017 as part of a family reunion.

Hanging with Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY in 2017

These villages were originally developed by a guy named Frank A. Redford in the 1930s.  He even had the design patented in 1936.   The first of them was built in Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1933, but it closed in 1935 after Redford built a larger one in Cave City in 1937.  This one consisted of 15 Teepees.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 1988. (Facebook Page)

Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY

Wigwam Village #3 was built in New Orleans in 1940, but went out of business in 1954. Wigwam Village #4 was built in Orlando, Florida in 1948 and had 27 guest rooms. It was razed in 1974. Wigwam Village #5 was built in Bessemer, Alabama in 1940 and had 15 Wigwams.  It went out of business in 1964. Wigwam Village #7 was built by Redford in 1947 in Rialto, California on Route 66.  It has gone through times of disrepair, but was renovated in 2005. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

You can sleep in a Wigwam in Holbrook, Arizona

The one in Holbrook, which is the subject of this story, is officially listed as Wigwam Village #6.  This particular one was built in 1950 by Chester E. Lewis and is probably the most famous of all of them due to its location on Route 66 and close to the Petrified Forest National Park.  Lewis had purchased the rights to Redford’s design as well as the rights to use the name.  Lewis came up with a novel idea for paying Redford.  He installed coin-operated radios in each room and every dime inserted for the 30 minutes of play time would be sent to Redford as payment.

This location has 15 Wigwams and can still be rented.  In keeping with the authenticity of the originals, there are no telephones, internet or other modern amenities, though they do offer air conditioning and cable TV.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May  2002.

Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, AZ
Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, Arizona
Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, AZ

Wig Wam Pub & Texas BBQ – Bremerton, Washington

Speaking of WigWams, on our 8154 trip, I got to visit with one of my close friends from high school while out in Washington.  Since I was in Port Orchard and he lived close by, we decided to meet at the Wig Wam Pub in Gorst (actually in Bremerton).

WigWam Pub & Texas BBQ, Bremerton, Washington
Collection of Beer Tap Handles hangs on the ceiling
Lots of stickers
Having dinner with my high school pal Alex Milne. We had not seen each other for 47 years.
Inside of Wig Wam
Dinner at the Wig Wam – BBQ Chicken, baked beans and creamy good potato salad.
Definitely a Happy Place

Wahoo, Nebraska

Wahoo is one of the places that was not in the plan.  We just happened to drive by and I had to stop.  I always love a unique town name and Wahoo certainly fits the bill.  The town was founded in 1870 and the name apparently comes from the eastern wahoo, a shrub found on the banks of Wahoo Creek. Apparently, the term “wahoo” was what the indigenous people called the deciduous shrub.

Wahoo, Nebraska
Welcome to Wahoo, Nebraska
Patriotic Wahoo Water tower

Windmill Country – Hyannis, Nebraska

Driving through the Nebraska Sandhills, we went through the small community of Hyannis (which I wrote about in my H Stories).  There were signs welcoming people to Windmill Country.  The town is home to the Hyannis Windmill Days, a weekend celebration that started in 1989.  Not sure why they call it Windmill Country however.  I think that Nebraska City may be a better choice since they are the home of the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum (which I wrote about a few years ago)

Welcome to Windmill Country – Hyannis, Nebraska

Wallace, Idaho

Wallace, Idaho is one of my favorite stopover places.  A unique town nestled in the mountains of the Silver Valley in the Idaho Panhandle.  In 2004 then Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be the Center of the Universe.  He had a manhole cover specifically made to mark the exact spot. Every September the town celebrates the Center of the Universe.

While in Wallace, we also stopped for some hand thrown pizza.  It was great!

Welcome to Wallace, Idaho
Center of the Universe, Wallace, Idaho
Center of the Universe Manhole Cover
Having pizza in Wallace, Idaho
Downtown Wallace, Idaho

Washoe Theatre – Anaconda, Montana

Driving through Anaconda, Montana, I came across another great theatre marquis.  This time it was for the Washoe Theatre, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was designed in 1930 in the Nuevo Deco style and apparently has a lavish interior.  It was also designed to have near perfect acoustics.

Washoe Theatre – Anaconda, Montana

Window Rock, Arizona

On this trip, we didn’t actually drive into Window Rock, which is the government capital of the Navajo Nation.  But, I wanted to grab this sign, both for the landscape behind it and the Indian Highway 12 arrowhead logo.

Window Rock, Arizona

Waterville, Washington

Waterville, Washington is in the heart of Washington’s wheat country and is located on US Highway 2.  The small museum in town has an interesting Dowser statue that was created by Pateros, WA Sculptor Richard Beyer.

Waterville, Washington
The Water Dowser by sculptor Richard Beyer, completed in 1966.
Dr. Pierces Golden Discovery Barn Sign in Waterville, WA
Picturesque historic Douglas Church in Waterville, WA
US Route 2 near Waterville, Washington

World Museum of Mining – Butte, Montana

Butte is an old mining town and so, should be home for a mining museum.  Unfortunately, on the day we drive through, it was not open.  But, the entrance gate for the World Museum of Mining is classic.  The museum was founded in 1963 and is one of the few museums in the world located on an actual mine yard.

World Museum of Mining – Butte, Montana
Welcome to the World Museum of Mining

Worms, Nebraska

Welcome to Worms! Yes, there is a town named Worms!  This place was on my radar for our 8154 Road Trip and, to me, was a must see.  Though only about 40 people live here and there is no green town sign for it, it was well worth it.  It is home to a biker bar called Nitecrawlers (see my N Stories) and has a couple of unique murals.  The town was supposedly named after Worms, Germany.  It was actually settled by Germans as early as 1874.

Worms, Nebraska

World’s Tallest Thermometer – Baker, California

Baker, California is fun place with the Mad Greek Cafe, Alien Beef Jerky with its Alien Statues and UFOs and other fun.  But, it is really known for its giant thermometer.  This amazing landmark stands 134 feet tall and can measure up to 134°F (57°C).  It commemorates the record 134°F temperature recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 11, 1913.

The tall thermometer was build in 1991

World’s Tallest Thermometer – Baker, California
World’s Tallest Thermometer sign in Baker, California
Sumoflam at the World’s Tallest Thermometer

Wind Cave National Park – Hot Springs, South Dakota

Visitor Center – Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Wilbur, Washington

Wilbur, Washington on US Route 2, including an homage to Charlotte’s Web

Welcome to Wilbur, Washington
Old Wilbur, Washington marker
Wilbur, Washington welcome center. Charlotte’s web reminder

Williams, Arizona

Old Route 66 town in Arizona…  Williams, Arizona.

Welcome to Williams, Arizona
Route 66 in Williams, Arizona

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The V Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the V Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Various Volunteer Fire Departments

Volunteer Fire Department – Happy, Texas
Volunteer Fire Department – Opportunity, Montana
Volunteer Fire Department, Tightwad, Missouri
Volunteer Fire Department – Equality, Illinois

Visalia, California

Visalia, California
California Hwy 198, heading east in Visalia, California

Virgie’s Restaurant Vintage Neon – Gallup, New Mexico

Virgie’s Restaurant – Vintage Neon in Gallup, New Mexico

Visitor’s Centers Everywhere

Visitor Center – Wilbur, Washington
Visitor Center – Gold Beach, Oregon
Foothills Visitor Center – Sequoia National Park
Visitor Center – Painted Desert, Arizona
Visitor Center – Rainbow Forest, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Visitor Center – Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota
Visitor Center – Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, South Dakota

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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