2015 In Review: The Year In Travel

San Francisco, May 2015
San Francisco, May 2015
Seattle, WA August 2015
Seattle, WA, August 2015
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ, September 2015
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

The year 2015 started off with plans to travel to a couple of locations,
but not the extent of the travel that I enjoyed in 2014. As it
turned out, I had

some great experiences and more travel than had been originally planned. It was truly a good year for my travel as I have noted in my blog posts and Facebook posts throughout the year.

Coast2Coast

Flying in 2015
Flying in 2015

Unlike most of my travel, which I like to do by car on back roads, the year’s travel adventures saw me traveling by airplane on a number of occasions. I don’t mind flying, honestly, but I prefer driving because I can see more of the landscape. However, schedules and other things necessitated my flying to many of the destinations I went to this year.

In a nutshell, in 2015 I was blessed with the opportunity to travel
to the West Coast twice. Once to the Seattle area and once to the
San Francisco area. I also made my way into my old home stomping grounds in Salt Lake City and was able to visit old friends and the beautiful mountains near Sundance Resort on a business trip.

Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

And, one of my travel highlights of the year was being able to go to New England with my wife, my daughter Marissa and her children and visit the last three remaining states of my 50 states adventure. So, I finally
could say that I have set foot in all 50 states before I turned 60 (see my 50 State Review Here). We also had a couple of smaller road trips including one to Cincinnati and one to Louisville and were able to see if things on those trips as well.

Some of the major highlights of this year’s travel include:

One of the famed lighthouses on the Maine coast
One of the famed lighthouses on the Maine coast

-Visiting Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, just knocking out the
last of my 50 state visits in the United States (see the first of my blog posts about this trip)

Grampz with grandson Charles on the beach in Neah Bay, WA
Grampz with grandson Charles on the beach in Neah Bay, WA
Watching grandkidz play on Atlantic coast at Old Orchard Beach in Maine
Watching grandkidz play on Atlantic coast at Old Orchard Beach in Maine

-Setting foot on a Pacific Ocean beach (See Neah Bay Post here) and also setting foot on a beach in the Atlantic Ocean (Old Orchard Beach, ME post coming soon)

With my wife in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
With my wife in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

-An extended visit and travel around Washington state

Flying over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, including Mt. Evans
Flying over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, including Mt. Evans

-Flying over the Colorado Rocky Mountains and viewing the snow-capped peaks from an airplane

Happy Me at Woodflock
Happy Me at Woodflock

-Attending the famed “Woodflock” gathering in Red Bluff, CA
over memorial day holiday (see my Woodflock Post here)

Welcome to Santa Claus
Welcome to Santa Claus

-A year end trip with grandkidz to Santa Claus, IN at Christmastime (see my detailed blog post)

Heading east with the grandkidz!
Heading east with the grandkidz!

Along with all of this travel, I was able to see a number of unique and quirky sites. I ate at a couple of unique restaurants. Got to
spend time at one time or another with all of my 10 grandchildren.

Along the way I saw mountains, zoos, wildlife, coastal sunrises and sunsets, famed bridges, big cities, small villages.  Some of the more “unique” places can be seen below in pictures.  It was a great year!!

Sandwich, NH - Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
Sandwich, NH – Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH

Following are a few shots of some of the more interesting places

Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
Fat Smitty's in Port Townsend, WA
Fat Smitty’s in Port Townsend, WA
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA
Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA (featuring Bigfoot!)
Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA (featuring Bigfoot!)
Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ (famous from Cake Boss)
Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ (famous from Cake Boss)
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus, IN  exit and Sumoflam
Chilling on the porch at Sundance Resort in Utah
Chilling on the porch at Sundance Resort in Utah
Famed Pink Elephant Car Wash in Seattle
Famed Pink Elephant Car Wash in Seattle
"Cyclisk" - Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Giant whale mural in Seattle
Giant whale mural in Seattle
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place - I guess Santa also has a car!
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place – I guess Santa also has a car!
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne, at Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey, PA
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne, at Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey, PA
Sumoflam at MrDHEO's wall painting in Lexington, one of a few new PRHBTN murals
Sumoflam at MrDHEO’s wall painting in Lexington, one of a few new PRHBTN murals
Welcome to Paradise - Washington
Welcome to Paradise – Washington
We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

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Christmas Time in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Post Office

Over the years, I have traveled to a number of what I call “Theme Towns.” These would include places such as Vulcan, Alberta with its Star Trek theme (see post of my visit in 2007); Metropolis, IL and its Superman theme (see post of my visit); Hershey, PA and its chocolate theme (see post about recent visit in 2015); Roswell, NM with an alien theme; Douglas, WY and its Jackalope theme (see post here); and Hell, MI with its Devils and hell-fire (see post here). Another one I visited back in 2012 was Santa Claus, IN with its Santa and Christmas inspired themes. That visit was a short pass-thru visit on my way west to Kansas City.

Family off to visit Santa Claus (Indiana, that is)
Family off to visit Santa Claus (Indiana, that is)
SumoSanta and Mrs. SumoSanta having fun
SumoSanta and Mrs. SumoSanta having fun
Grandson Landen Noe on his 7th birthday
Grandson Landen Noe on his 7th birthday

On my grandson Landen’s 7th birthday, Dec. 17, we gathered up Landen, his sisters and his cousin Rockwell, along with my daughter Marissa and my wife and took a day trip to visit Santa Claus during the holiday season. It was a lovely, though quite cold, day to take the two and a half hour trek from our own horse and bourbon themed Lexington up to Santa Claus.

Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam

Our trip up was uneventful. It was cloudy in the morning so we didn’t
see a sunrise. However, by the time we got to the Santa Claus exit off
of I-64 west, the skies was bright with sunshine and a few spotty
clouds.

We got into town about 11:30 EST, but it was Central Time there. Our
intent was to head to lunch first and then visit the town.

Welcome to Santa Claus
Welcome to Santa Claus

 

Kringle Place shopping center in Santa Claus, IN
Kringle Place shopping center in Santa Claus, IN

One might think that Santa Claus would have a quaint little rustic
downtown area with Christmas-like cottages and a Gatlinburg-esque
atmosphere. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. Though there
are Santa statues throughout the small town, the actual town consists of a strip mall (Kringle Place) with a few Christmas-themed shops, then, a couple miles down the road there is a museum, the original post office, an old church and the “Candy Castle.” The town has a hotel called Santa’s Lodge, with a restaurant called St. Nick’s. There is a campground at Lake Rudolph. Besides the Santa-themed attractions, the biggest drawing card to the town is the Holiday World Amusement Park with its huge roller coasters and water slide amusements. Obviously, at this time of the year it is closed for the season.

Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place - I guess Santa also has a car!
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place – I guess Santa also has a car!

 

Santa Coke Machines dot the town of Santa Claus, IN
Santa Coke Machines dot the town of Santa Claus, IN

Thus, this visit to Santa Claus was really in the “off season” though,
for three weekends in December the town is bustling with Christmas
visitors and its variety of Christmas activities, some of which were
still available on this particular Thursday visit. (Mind you, the
County Tourism office recommended I visit on Saturday, but that wasn’t going to work for us).

We got to St. Nick’s restaurant at 10:45 and it didn’t open until 11,
so we kind of hung around the lobby of the Santa’s Lodge hotel, which
was nicely decked out for Christmas. The town really has sparse

St. Nick's Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN
St. Nick’s Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN

dining options. Besides the obviously Santa-themed St. Nick’s, the only other options appeared to be a Subway (with a Santa out front) and a Pizza/Sandwich place in the Kringle Plaza strip mall. If you want to eat vegan, good luck!

St. Nick's Menu
St. Nick’s Menu
Seating at St. Nick's Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN
Seating at St. Nick’s Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN

 

St. Nick's Kid's Menu
St. Nick’s Kid’s Menu

St. Nick’s has a few Christmas designs and the menu is certainly Christmasy. The menu items were typical American faire. We were there on a slow day and found little that we could eat (as far as vegetarian options were concerned.) We ordered the tri-color tortellini with artichoke pesto, kind of excited about the Christmas colored noodles. But, much to our dismay, our server came back a few minutes later to tell us it had been discontinued and that the “new owners” we’re getting “new menus” soon. So, we opted for the salad bar, which sufficed (somewhat). All the kids got kids meal chicken fingers and fries, which were hefty. I asked about the “Reindeer Paws,” which were advertised on the Santa Claus, IN website (see here), and our server had never heard of them.  Apparently they used Reindeer Paws as the name of their Buffalo Wings but no longer.

Grandkidz waiting for their chicken strips and fries at St. Nick's
Grandkidz waiting for their chicken strips and fries at St. Nick’s

By this time, my wife was already noting another “Sandwich Fail,”
referring to our September 2015 trip to New England and our out of the way drive to Sandwich, NH to get a sandwich (and our ultimate discovery that there are no places in Sandwich to get a sandwich).

St. Nick's Restaurant
St. Nick’s Restaurant

Though the waitress was pleasant, the food was lackluster. But, in a town with few choices, it was probably better than the other two places.  Thankfully, they gave us a 10% discount due to all of the troubles. That was helpful considering the cost of meals for seven people.

Some of Santa's Lodge Christmasy decor
Some of Santa’s Lodge Christmasy decor
Santa's Lodge Christmas Tree with the grandkidz
Santa’s Lodge Christmas Tree with the grandkidz

Now that tummies were full, we were ready to venture into town and see all of the offerings of this small Indiana village.  Our first stop was some photo shoots inside and outside of Santa’s Lodge.  The interior is nicely decorated for Christmas (perhaps year around).  And, outside, they have the 10 foot tall “Angry Santa” statue — that’s what I call it anyway.  He doesn’t look too friendly, though he did pat me on my head!

Good boy Sumoflam
Good boy Sumoflam
Angry Santa
Angry Santa
Julianne and Grandkidz cuddling with the "Angry Santa"
Julianne and Grandkidz cuddling with the “Angry Santa”

DSC_7681From Santa’s Lodge we decided to head over to the Santa Claus Museum and Village, which was east on IN 245 a bit past IN 162. The old historic Post Office and old Santa Claus Church are located there, along with a 20 foot tall Santa Statue.  The Santa Claus Museum features historical documents, photos and artifacts illustrating the progression from the tiny settlement of Santa Fe (pop. 65) to the present day town of Santa Claus. Exhibits feature the story behind the town’s famous name, the history of tourism, and artifacts highlighting the town’s unique history. The town was established in 1854 and known as Santa Fe (pronounced “fee”). In 1856, when the town was working to establish a post office, the United States Postal Service refused their first application as there was already a Santa Fe established with the USPS. Several town meetings were held, during which the name Santa Claus was selected.

Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum (as seen in Dec. 2015)
Santa Claus Statue as seen in January 2010 when I passed through
Original Santa Claus, IN Post Office
Original Santa Claus, IN Post Office

The town now has the world’s only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus. Because of this popular name, the post office receives thousands of letters to Santa from all over the world each year. A group of volunteers known as Santa’s Elves ensures each child receives a reply from Santa Claus; this tradition has been in existence since at least 1914.

One of "Santa's Elves" helping out at the old Post Office where the grandkidz could write letters to Santa
One of “Santa’s Elves” helping out at the old Post Office where the grandkidz could write letters to Santa
Landen writes to Santa Claus at the Santa Claus Post Office
Landen writes to Santa Claus at the Santa Claus Post Office
An elf guards the Santa Letter mailbox
An elf guards the Santa Letter mailbox

DSC_7656DSC_7664

Writing letters at Santa Claus Post Office
Writing letters at Santa Claus Post Office (photo by Marissa Noe)

The kids sat the old style desks to write their letters to Santa.  It was a nice little unique atmosphere.

After each child completes their letter, the parents (or children) include their mailing address on the letter and Santa will send them a letter to respond to them. There is no charge for this.  It is a fun concept for the kids (and donations are accepted for those wishing to help out Santa’s volunteers)

Plaque on old Santa Claus Church
Plaque on old Santa Claus Church

Just behind the old Post Office is the old church.  It is a small, cozy building.   It was built in 1880 and still is heated by a wood burning stove.

The inside is sparse, but warm.  There is a nice nativity scene at the front.  The grandkidz went in and sat down in one of the pews and all sang Silent Night together.  It was really sweet!

Grandkidz sing Silent Night in the old Santa Claus Church
Grandkidz sing Silent Night in the old Santa Claus Church (photo by Marissa Noe)
Singing Silent Night
Singing Silent Night
Old Plaque on Church
Old Plaque on Church (St. Paul’s Kirche – 1880)
The Old St. Paul's Church in Santa Claus, IN, built in 1880
The Old St. Paul’s Church in Santa Claus, IN, built in 1880
An ornament adorns a branch on a tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
An ornament adorns a branch on a tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Ornaments on a decorated tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Ornaments on a decorated tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Couldn't resist a selfie n the old church
Couldn’t resist a selfie n the old church

12398520_10153790433132090_1021391118_oA little on further down the road is “Santa’s Candy Castle,” the perfect place to pick up some goodies for the kids.  And during the Christmas season, they also provide an opportunity for the kids to chat with Santa’s Elves in the North Pole online and find out if they have been Naughty or Nice. Its a nice interactive thing for the kids to do and they get a certificate afterwards that is encased in plastic!  (There is a cost involved, but I was able to get coupons online and save a few dollars at santaclausind.org)

Naughty and Nice
Naughty and Nice

We had already determined who was Naughty and Nice between Mom and Daughter….but the grandkidz needed to wok with the north Pole elves to get that determination.

The interactive program on the computers requires a special code and each child is assigned to a specific elf for their interview.  The Elves ask a few questions and then make some advice before they finalize the certificates.  The kids have fun with this and so the adults!

Naughty Grandma helping the birthday boy take his survey
Naughty Grandma helping the birthday boy take his survey
Rockwell taking his North Pole Elf survey. He ended up on the Nice list!
Rockwell taking his North Pole Elf survey. He ended up on the Nice list!
The Grandkidz all made the Good List (photo by Marissa Noe)
The Grandkidz all made the Good List (photo by Marissa Noe)
The PEZ Wall at Santa's Candy Castle
The PEZ Wall at Santa’s Candy Castle

Then came the BEST part of the visit to the Candy Castle….yep, the Candy!!  The store has a Jelly Belly Room, a giant PEZ wall and a huge assortment of favorite goodies, even some that are not typically seen in the eastern US (such as the Rocky Road Bars).  Each of the grandkidz got to choose ONE thing for being on the good list (per Grampz).

Hello Kitty Collector PEZ
Hello Kitty Collector PEZ
One of the Jelly Belly Walls
One of the Jelly Belly Walls
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting!
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting! (See more)

Then there are the Bean Boozled Flavors – including such yummy goodies as Skunk Spray, Toothpaste, Booger, Vomit, Baby Wipes, Moldy Cheese, Stinky Sock, and Grass Clippings.  YUM!  And yes, we got some of these too.  Take the Bean Boozled Challenge if you dare…I have and lived to tell about my vomit and skunk spray experiences.

Bean Boozled Poster
Bean Boozled Poster

The Candy Store also offers a variety of fudge, popcorn and taffy flavors all served up by Santa’s Nice Little Helpers who were there for us on this day.  If you dare (which we didn’t) you could try out the famed Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Santa's Helpers at the Candy Castle.
Santa’s Helpers at the Candy Castle.

The Candy Castle also has a few ornaments and books as well as a Santa Claus Hall of Fame wall.  Here are a few more photos from this fun place.

Santa Claus Wall of Fame
Santa Claus Hall of Fame
Welcome Sign
Welcome Sign
Hats - including a Humbug Hat
Hats – including a Humbug Hat
Sumoflam at the North Pole
Sumoflam at the North Pole
At Santa's Candy Castle
At Santa’s Candy Castle

My daughter in law Holly wanted us to pick up a nice ornament from Santa Claus.  She SPECIFICALLY asked my daughter to get it and didn’t want to ask me.  When I called her and asked her why she wouldn’t want me to do it she said “I don’t want you bringing home a pickle ornament or some other weird ornament.”  Ironically, I had never heard of a pickle ornament.  But, t my amazement, there were indeed pickle ornaments for sale at Santa’s Candy Castle.  They even came along with a story.

Pickle Ornaments
Unique Pickle Ornaments

According to whychristmas.com the story of the Pickle Ornament is as follows:

The tradition of the Christmas Pickle has got to be one of the strangest modern Christmas customs in that no one is quite sure why it exists at all! It was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. Some families now have the tradition of hanging the pickle on the tree, with the first person/child to find it getting a present. But it probably didn’t start in Germany!

Christmas Pickle
Christmas Pickle

Needless to say, we got Holly her nice ornament, but ALSO got her a Christmas Pickle ornament.  I couldn’t resist.  We read the little info sheet to all at the family gathering.  “An age-old German good luck emblem, this realistic, hand-painted glass ornament adds a touch of legend and humor to holiday decorating. According to tradition, the first child to find the pickle ornament, which parents hide deep within the trees boughs, gets an extra gift from St. Nick.” Oh what fun it was!

Even the Grinch frequents the Candy Castle!
Even the Grinch frequents the Candy Castle!

DSC_7708Now that we determined that the kids were all good and that they were all candied up, we got back in the van and headed over to Kringle Place to visit some of the shops there and maybe, just maybe, get a chance to see the REAL Santa. The Santa Claus Christmas Store has a HUGE selection of Christmas collectibles including ornaments, nativities, Christmas decor items and a special room to visit Santa Claus…a really special one.

Hundreds of ornaments at the Christmas Store
Hundreds of ornaments at the Christmas Store
More ornaments
More ornaments
Classy Santa Ornaments
Classy Santa Ornaments
Santa Decor
Santa Decor
Santa with Santa
Santa with Santa
Kids fascinated by Silent Night musical diorama
Kids fascinated by Silent Night musical diorama
More Santa Decor
More Santa Decor

Then of course, there was the chance visit with the REAL Santa Claus. Marissa said it best…  “This Santa was pretty awesome. Lyla wasn’t even scared at all- which has not been the case for the fast few we have seen. And I just loved the chair. After asking the children what they wanted for Christmas he asked them if they knew why we really celebrated Christmas. And then they had a conversation about Jesus. (And look at his chair!)

Santa with the Grandkidz
Santa with the Grandkidz (photo by Marissa Noe)
The upper part of Santa's unique chair at the Christmas Store
The upper part of Santa’s unique chair at the Christmas Store

By this time we were pretty zonked.  Marissa and Julianne still wanted to do some shopping, so I took the kids and we took a drive around the rest of the town.  We found a few unique surprises along the way as we did.

Santa Claus Police
Santa Claus Police

To my surprise and delight,  we discovered a Santa Claus Police Car!  I asked the kids why they would need a Police Car in Santa Claus and Landen piped up with “Santa needs someone to decide who is Naughty and who is Nice.”  HA!  And now, I have another unique Police Car to add to my collection as well.  here are a few other Santa Claus fun places.

Saint Nicholas Catholic Church
Saint Nicholas Catholic Church
Wondering if this is where the old Santas go??
Wondering if this is where the old Santas go??
Holly Tree
Holly Tree
A statue of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in front of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. Most Catholic churches just have a Mary...so this was unique
A statue of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in front of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. Most Catholic churches just have a Mary…so this was unique
Volunteer Fire Department
Volunteer Fire Department
Up on the Rooftop
Up on the Rooftop
Candy Castle Road
Candy Castle Road
Santa Reading at the bank
Santa Reading at the bank drive-thru

And then there are the many Santa Claus” statues in town.  The town even has a hashtag “#SantaSelfie”.  I saw at least a dozen Santa statues around town at the banks, the post office, the library, the Subway sandwich shop, and other places.

These are all themed to give that wonderful feeling as one travels around town.  Even the City Hall is decked out with a Santa Claus and holiday decorations.

Some of the Santas around town are whimsical. Others are much more traditional.  Some are life size and others are larger than life.  Here are a few more of the Santas around town.

Santa Claus City Hall Santa Statue
Santa Claus City Hall Santa Statue
This Santa sits in a loft on top of the Holly Tree shop
This Santa sits in a loft on top of the Holly Tree shop
A Chain Saw Art Santa at Santa's Candy Castle
A Chain Saw Art Santa at Santa’s Candy Castle
A Santa Selfie with the Santa in front of the Tourism Office
A Santa Selfie with the Santa in front of the Tourism Office
A Waving Santa at Santa's Lodge
A Waving Santa at Santa’s Lodge
Another Santa Claus reading a book
Another Santa Claus reading a book
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Chillin
Santa Claus Chillin
A Santa Selfie
A Santa Selfie

And finally, even Sumoflam gets to meet Santa Claus in person!!  He told me I was a good boy this year!!

Sumoflam Santa with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN
Sumoflam Santa with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

 

 

 

 

 

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A Trip To New England – September 2015

Baby Samuel September 2015
Baby Samuel September 2015

At the end of August we had a new grandson born into the family — Samuel Kravetz is now grandchild #10.  He was born to my son Seth and his wife Holly, who, at the time, were living near Hartford, Connecticut.  Naturally, this was a cause for celebration and for a trip to Connecticut to see this new bundle of joy.

Our Route to Connecticut from Lexington (via Hershey World and Carlos Bake Shop)
Our Route to Connecticut from Lexington (via Hershey World and Carlos Bake Shop)
Heading east with the grandkidz!
Heading east with the grandkidz!

So, we planned the trip and our daughter Marissa and her three children would join Julianne and I for a visit to New England.  On September 5th we headed east on I-64 for this “see grandson/see nephew/see cousin/see New England” trip.  I was excited not only for the grandchild, but also because this trip would afford me the opportunity to knock off the last 3 states on my list…I would finally get to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, to make it to all 50.

Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia

We were on the road before sunrise and arrived at the West Virginia/Kentucky border just shortly after sunrise.  there is wonderful Rest Area a few miles east of Huntington, WV and so we stopped to give the now awake kids a chance to run a bit.

As for me, I walked around and enjoyed the flowers, the fresh morning air and a chance to stretch my legs as the day would be a long one…we planned to drive all the way to Connecticut and I would be the only driver (as always — because I am a road warrior of course!!)

Welcome to West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia – West Virginia Welcome Center
I got lucky and got a nice shot of a small butterfly at the rest area
I got lucky and got a nice shot of a small butterfly at the rest area

After the break we were back on the road again heading east on I-64 to Charleston and then northeast on I-79 until we got to Cheat Lake, where the interstate switched to I-68 east towards Cumberland, MD and then eventually onto I-70/I-68.  We finally stopped at the South Mountain Rest Area south of Greenbrier and South Mountain State Parks.  This was a perfect place for the kids to get out and run around, stretch and play.

Lyla and Joselyn climbing around on a hill at the South Mountain Rest Area in maryland
Lyla and Joselyn climbing around on a hill at the South Mountain Rest Area in Maryland
Landen relaxes at the rest area
Landen relaxes at the rest area

While they rested, I was out capturing sots of flowers and plants, of which there was an abundance.

A Unique pod
A Unique pod
A thorny briar or thistle or something
A thorny briar or thistle or something
A nice pink flower
A nice pink flower
Dandylions?
Dandylions?
Selfie - Explore the Chesapeake at the Rest Area
Selfie – Explore the Chesapeake at the Rest Area
Have a Sweet Day!
Have a Sweet Day!

After a nice rest and stretch, we were back on the road and heading towards Hershey, PA for a sweet visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World.  The last time I was here was with the kids a number of years ago, when there was an entirely different facility.  Now there is an amusement park, a HUGE building, and plenty of crowds.  We had hoped for the factory tour, but the place was away too busy for us since we had to get back on the road…we were driving all the way to Vernon, CT.  But, we had time for a little fun….

Hershey's Chocolate World
Hershey’s Chocolate World
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne

And Joselyn wanted to give Grampz a Hershey Kiss as well…

Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss
Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss

And then there is the Chocolate…

A candy bar the size of Landen!
A candy bar the size of Landen!
Giant Kisses...wanna bite?
Giant Kisses…wanna bite?
The kids get a big kiss from Hershey
The kids get a big kiss from Hershey (photo by Marissa Noe)

After sweetening ourselves up a bit on Hershey’s chocolate, we were soon back on the road eastward, with the next stop planned being Hoboken, NJ for a view of NYC at night and hopefully a visit to the famed Carlos Bake Shop from TLC’s “Cake Boss.”

Midway Diner sign on a barn
Midway Diner sign on a barn

Along the way we stopped for gas in Bethel, PA.  While there, I grabbed a couple of shots of the iconic Midway Diner signs.  It used to be in one of those silver diner styles, but has since been changed.  But, I always love the old Neon Signs like the one below.

Old Midway Diner sign in bethel, PA
Old Midway Diner sign in Bethel, PA
Hoboken, NJ
Hoboken, NJ

After fueling and restroom breaks for the kids (and adults), we were back on the road again.  We pulled into Hoboken around 8:30 PM and drive straight to Frank Sinatra Park to get a nighttime view of the Manhattan portion of New York City.  The kids had never seen it at night and this is probably one of he best places to get a great view of the entire skyline Manhattan.

Built in 1998, it honors Frank Sinatra, who was born in Hoboken. Sinatra Park is shaped in a Roman amphitheater style with an area that faces the former site of the World Trade Center.

The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinata Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinata Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
Blue Eyes Pizza and Gelato in Frank Sinatra Park
Blue Eyes Pizza and Gelato in Frank Sinatra Park (see website)
One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park
One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park
Manhattan Skyline with the Empire State building
Manhattan Skyline with the Empire State building

CarlosBakeShop7After the great view, we made our way to Hudson St. and then down to Newark, turned right and then right on Washington to Carlo’s Bake Shop (Actually, they all walked over there and I dealt with the traffic mess!).

A busy bakery! Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken at 9:15 PM
A busy bakery! Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken at 9:15 PM

The place was hopping even at 9:00 PM.  I had to double park on the street and Julianne came out to sit in the car so I could get out and get a few photos (and some cannoli!!).  Carlo’s is a family owned bakery featured on the TLC hit show Cake Boss. Carlo’s, was originally opened by Carlo Guastaffero in 1910 and was acquired by Bartolo Valastro Sr. in 1964. After the  passing of Bartolo Sr. in 1994, matriarch Mary Valastro and her children Grace, Maddalena, Mary, Lisa and master baker Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro have expanded the business with the help of their spouses.  They actually have bakeries in 5 states!!

Sumoflam at Carlo's Bake Shop
Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop
Cannoli at Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken
Cannoli at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken
The Famiglia
The Famiglia

We picked up some goodies…and I wanted to try the Cannoli, since they are supposedly famous for them.  I had mine, it was good, but not as good as the ones I had at Presti’s Bakery near my birthplace in Little Italy in Cleveland.

Nevertheless, the goodies were good and this made for a fun stopover before we finished the last leg of the trip to Connecticut and a much needed good night’s rest.

The kids hitched a ride on the luggage rack....
The kids hitched a ride on the luggage rack….

We pulled into the Holiday Inn in Vernon sometime after midnight…it was a long day.

I must say that the Noe kids have become seasoned travelers, even at their young age.  Joselyn has been on long trips with me from Arizona to Kentucky and then all three have traveled to Omaha, St. Louis, South Carolina, Georgia and now the northeast coast.  They are a fun lot to travel with!  Grampz is always happy to be with them!

What a day it was….with kisses and cannoli!

 

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