P is for People – #atozchallenge

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.

Having a huge elephant ear with friend Robert Phinney in Dayton, WA
Got to meet Nelson Campbell, Director of the well know documentary Plant Pure Nation, in Louisville, KY

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.

Met the Seattle Smile Guy along the way. Didn’t want money… just wanted smiles
Motorbike Quartet in Cebu, Philippines
Street Person – Cebu

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.

 

Siesta Time – Cebu
Belly Rubbing – Carbon Market – Cebu
Street Person – Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain

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.

Hanging with guitarist Bobby Cochran in Bardstown, KY in 2011
Sumoflam and world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, c.g.b.
Sumoflam and GUITARIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Edgar Cruz from Oklahoma
One of my favorite people – multitalented musician Bruce Wandmayer, from Santa Cruz, CA
Hanging with my Aussie mate, multiinstrumentalist Pauly Zarb.
Have become good friends with the lovely former country rock singer Patti Hall, who now sells real estate in Phoenix
Sumoflam and guitarist Michael Kelsey from Indiana – he is one of my favorite guitarists and musicians. He is also a fabulous person.
“Crafty” Jack Burger from Lethbridge, Alberta

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.

Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)
One of many Flamingoheads

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.

Enjoying the ride in California with “Christmas Carla” (she was born on Christmas day.
Ione (L) and Carla (R)…kissin cuzzins!!
BBQ Pitmaster Oliver Zuder showing off his trophy at the Oshawa Ribfest in 2008 in Ontario

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.

Davor Zuder and some smokin’ ribs at Oshawa Rib Fest in Ontario in 2008

Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.

Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe in Tightwad, MO
Tonya Floyd, current owner of the Wigwam Drive-in in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…

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.

David with Nadia Comanci – spent three days with her as her personal guide in Kyushu

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.

 

Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)
Sumoflam with Troy Landry – 4 years after saying I would meet this guy

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.

Hanging with Danielle Colby from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012

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.

Under one of Clyde’s massive creations…his 12 foot tall dragon
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

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.

Clyde tells stories of his various pieces of art

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.)

Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.

Portrait and landscape photographer Derek Ace (photo by Jeff Dostalek)
Derek Ace self portrait

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.

Author, travel writer, lecturer and musician Tui Snider of Azle, TX
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

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.

Sumoflam with Shelly Cumbie in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse for a tour of the “Ghosts of Denton”
Writer, Radio Host, Sacred and Mysterious Site Traveler Teal Gray

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)

Teal Gray Worldwide

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)

Photographing Wildlife with some of the Jacobson Park Photographers

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.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen

What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!

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J is for Joy – #atozchallenge

Traveling this great country brings me joy!  You can see this thru the myriad selfies I take while on the road.

I make it a point to take selfies for posterity sake.   First of all, it proves I was there.  Secondly, it provides a record for my family to see where I’ve been. Lastly…it shows my joy of being on the road!

Jolly Sumoflam! In Jolly, TX

It makes me Jolly.

We all know who is really Nice! Nice, CA

It makes me Nice.

I found Novelty in Ohio

Travel is always a Novelty

Wherever I go I try to Endeavor,

Made it to Hope, AR,

To have Hope

Finding Success in Missouri

And find Success

Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office in Arkansas

Being on the road has helped find Friendship

Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office

And to be Friendly

Chunky, MS

And perhaps even Chunky

Welcome to Earth, Texas

It has brought me down to Earth

Township of Moon, PA

Zipped me to a Township named Moon

At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007

Or by a Starship in Vulcan

And found Prosperity in PA

And to even find Prosperity

Santa Claus, IN

Heck…I even found Santa Claus!

Though I try to be Real Quiet about it,

Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN

I find that I have some Big Fish stories

Sumoflam at “Fisherman’s Dream” on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

Maybe even Bigger Fish Stories

Willie the Walleye in Baudette, MN

Indeed, Giant Fish Stories

The Beef House in Covington, Indiana

I have found The Beef

Say “Cheese!” – You’re in Wisconsin!

But also found the cheese

Giant Macaroni in Champaigne, IL

And even a Macaroni to go with it!

Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses

Those big cows are moooving

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow (Yes, that’s Sumoflam under the Udders)

But they can be Udderly huge

Big Bull in Minnesota

And that is certainly no Bull

Giant Pheasant in Gregory SD

I have gotten joy at the feet of a big bird

Giant Sandhill Crane in Steele, SD

And maybe even a bigger bird

Sumoflam at Pheasants on the Prairie on Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

Ok, perhaps even giant birds!

One of my favorite shots…Alligator, MS

I have become a big Alligator

Baby Gator at Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

But have held a small one

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990

Travel gives me Liberty

Sumoflam with Big Sam Houston towering behind him in Huntsville, TX

And helps me to stand at the foot of giants

The iconic Route 66 roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX

I have had many out of car experiences

Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

And I have been surrounded by cars

At Magnolia Market in Waco, TX – Home of the TV Program Fixer Upper

I have learned to be a Fixer Upper

Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa (home of American Pickers)

And an Antique Archaeologist

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie

I’ve enjoyed some Voodoo doughnuts

Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ

And other baked goods from coast to coast

Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY

And have found the road to Wonderland

The Yellow Brick Road near Dayton, OH

I even found the Yellow Brick Rd.

A street with No Name in Millersburg, OH

A road with No Name

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX

May lead me to be Uncertain

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

But whether I go This Way or That Way

Okay, Oklahoma in 2012

I’ll always be Okay

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD

Which makes me a Winner when I travel

Sumoflam at Top of the World on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming

And that puts me On Top of the World!

Story General Store, Story, IN

This is my Story…

Happy in Happy, KY

…and it makes me a Happy traveler

Stay Awesome folks! #awesomebutgettingbetter

And that is the joy of travel

Enjoy the Ride folks!

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B is for Back Roads – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

I live to travel the back roads of America. These are the core of my travels around the United States and Canada. They always offer the best of everything: scenery, traffic conditions and a myriad of surprises.

 

A gravel road south of Belvidere, SD
A road approaching a checkerboard wheat farm near Cut Bank, MT

To me, the definition of a back road is anything that is not an interstate highway. However, I prefer the kind that are two lane and in many cases don’t even have stripes down the middle. Those are the best! I am even happy to be on a gravel road at times!

In this day of GPS maps and tracking, taking a back road is all the more opportune! If I take a road and get lost, I can typically depend on my GPS to get me back on the road where I’m going.  But, more often than not, I don’t care where I’m going, I just want to see where I’ve been.

Killdeer Road near Athens, WI
Interstate 5 near Sunny Valley, Oregon
Heading into a wind farm near Rugby, ND
On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
A road in the middle of a cornfield near Bloomington, IL

Back roads are the threads and fibers of our country. Many might travel the big interstate to get from one place to another, but sometime along the way they will need to leave the highway and get on to a smaller road to get to their final destination.  For me…the back road is ALWAYS my destination!

Back roads lead to numerous discoveries. I have driven back roads through every state in the United States (except for Alaska — I took a bus in Juneau, so does that count?) and always have come across something unique or interesting.  I have driven through cornfields in Iowa and pineapple groves in Hawaii.  I have seen many a wheat field in Montana and Saskatchewan.  I love driving the roads through the mountains of Colorado, Montana and Idaho, but am just as happy on a desert road in New Mexico or Texas.

The Road through Juneau, Alaska
Following the Amish on a road near Aylmer, Ontario in Canada
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington

Sometimes my back road adventures are planned. I will have learned about something unique in a certain area and will try to go there via a back road. (You may want to check out my road trip from Bugtussle, KY to Bugtussle, TX — through Only, TN, for instance. See it HERE.) Other times, I just take a road and see where it leads.  And that is often the most fun!

Not every back road leads me to where I want to go. I specifically recall a time on a trip in Missouri. Driving down the highway I saw a sign pointing to Romance. And as I turned there was also a sign pointing to Romance Church. Since it was only 2 miles down the road, I decided I would take the road to romance. It was a windy, narrow little road that eventually turned into a gravel road and by the time I got to the end of the road there was a large building with some people sitting out on the porch. It looked as if it might’ve been a church at one time, but it was obviously a residence. I believe that this was once the community of “Romance.” But there was nothing there indicating such and so to this day I claim that I took a road to Romance and it was a dead end.

I took the road, but never did find Romance in Missouri in 2011
Success, Missouri direction

On a similar trip in Missouri I saw another sign to a town called Success. Obviously, my penchant for wanting to go to towns with unique names has always sent me down those roads. I turned left out of the town of Houston, MO and headed down the 16 mile road to Success. Much to my surprise, all the way along the road I could see abandoned old trailers and rusty old cars littering both sides. Granted, this is in a section of the Ozarks that is known for its poverty. I finally made it to Success and even got a photo in front of the Success Post Office. But I learned quickly, that, at least in Missouri, the road to Success is not very glamorous.

Success, Missouri

One time, on a road trip with the family through Louisiana, we came across a café in the middle of nowhere. We decided to stop and maybe try some Cajun food. They had blackened alligator! None of us had ever eaten alligator. But what was more fun was the Cajun music that was being played. There was a Zydeco band with lots of dancing and some of the dancers actually came after my children and asked them to dance. It was a wonderful and totally unplanned experience that we would’ve never seen had we not taken a back road.

Wind River Canyon, WY

Back roads always lead to somewhere, even if it is only a dead end. However, you’ll never know what’s there unless you take one! Following are a few more photos of some of the back roads I have been on.  I have hundreds of these, so this is just a sampling.  Enjoy the ride….  and preferably on a back road!

Rolling road near Gurney, WI
Downtown Ironwood, MI. Check out the giant Hiawatha Statue at the end of the road
On a quiet road near Baggs, WY
Three Turkey Vultures block the road near Gray Hawk, KY
Road leading to the Bridge of the Gods near Cascade Locks, Oregon
The Canadian highway near Fleming, Saskatchewan
NM 152 near Truth or Consequences, NM
The road to Alta, WY near Teton Valley, ID
Loop Road west of Sweet Grass, Montana right on the Canadian border
The highway leading to Carhenge in Alliance, NE
A local road near my home in Lexington, KY
The road through Bedias, TX
Driving along the coast in Galveston, TX
The cornfields near Adair, IA
I-80 near Green River, WY
A gravel road east of Craig, CO
Main Street in lovely Stanley, ID (yes it is a gravel road!)
SD 79 just south of the North Dakota border
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Drive through the pines trees along OR 38 near Reedsport, OR
Driving in the autumn colors of Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada
The road in Ketchikan, AK ends with a cruise ship
Share the road with the Amish in Arthur, IL
The lonely road into Lost Springs, WY – Population 4

 

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