A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The V Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Vulcan, Alberta

Vulcan, Alberta
Vulcan Visitor Center
Star Trek Wall Mural in Vulcan, Alberta
Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007

Valliant, Oklahoma

Welcome to Valliant, OK

Vietnamese Buddhist Center – Sugar Land, Texas

Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX
Pagoda at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Sumoflam at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center

Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana

Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana

Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland
The Voodoo Doll – Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake!
It is no wonder there are always lines at Voodoo Doughnut – 24/7

Vandalia, Illinois

Vandalia Water Tower with Lincoln on it
Madonna of the Trail Statue in Vandalia, IL
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

Victor Emporium – Victor, Idaho

Victor Emporium is famous for their Shakes at their Old Fashioned Soda Fountain

Van Tassell, Wyoming

Van Tassell, WY
A scene from Van Tassell, WY

Vivian, Louisiana

Flag mural in Vivian, Louisiana
History mural in Vivian, Louisiana

Volcanoes and Volcanic Craters – Capulin, New Mexico; Craters of the Moon, Idaho; Sunset Crater, Arizona

Capulin Volcano – part of the Capulin National Monument in New Mexico
Craters of the Moon drive amidst the lava fields
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

Virginia Creeper Trail – Damascus, Virginia; Abingdon, Virginia

A section of the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Virginia Creeper Welcome Center – Abingdon, VA
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia

Voyageurs National Park – International Falls, Minnesota

Kabetogama Lake – Voyageurs National Park
Kabetogama Walleye

Viborg, South Dakota

Welcome to Viborg
Velkommen to Viborg
Kountry Kookin’ Cafe – Viborg, SD

Valier, Montana

Welcome to Valier, Montana
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Vermeer Dutch Windmill – Pella, Iowa

Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Sumoflam and the Vermeer Windmill

Versailles, Kentucky

A mural on a water tower in Versailles, Kentucky
The CastlePost Castle near Versailles, KY
Horses graze in the fall on a Woodford County farm near Versailles.

Vincennes, Indiana

The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001

Virden, Manitoba

Virden, Manitoba
At an oil well display in Virden, Manitoba

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Old Hotel Sign on side of The Vicksburg
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Vicksburg Wall Mural
The Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum in Vicksburg

Villa Theater – Malta, Montana

Villa Theater in Malta, Montana. One of many old theater fronts to be seen along the Hi-Line of Montana

Vernal, Utah

Welcome to Vernal, UT
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT

Virginia Heritage Music Trail – Wise, Virginia

The Crooked Road – Virginia Heritage Music Trail

Vander Ploeg Bakery – Pella, Iowa

Vander Ploeg Bakery in Pella, IA
Dutch Letters pastries at Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

(11)

A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The A Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Aliens on a Coke Machine – Roswell, New Mexico

Have a Coke and a Smile?? Coke machine in Roswell…

Airstream Factory – Jackson Center, Ohio

Sumoflam hanging at the Airstream Visitor’s Center in Jackson Center, OH

Alder Lake Tree Stumps – Elbe, Washington

Alder Lake stumps near Elbe, WA

Adair Smiley Water Tower – Adair, Iowa

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa

Antique Archaeology – LeClair, Iowa

You know the place from TV – Home of American Pickers!

Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology

Antelope Sightings on the Road – Colorado and Wyoming

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming

Alligator, Mississippi

A unique town name. A fun place on the Mississippi River and the Blues Highway (Route 61)

Alligator, MS Town Hall
Alligator Blues Marker in Alligator, MS – One of many markers along the Blues Highway in Mississippi
One of my favorite shots…Alligator, MS

An outdoor hot spring spa – Amagase, Japan

Yep, shed the clothes and hop into the roadside spa.  I did this for a Japanese TV show in 1988.

Enjoying an outdoor bath in Amagase, Japan. This was actually part of TV series I was hosting in 1988

Appalachian Trail Mural – Damascus, Virginia

At the Cross Roads of the Virginia Creeper and Appalachian Trails

Agate Fossil Bed National Monument – Harrison, Nebraska

Agate Fossil Bed National Monument in Nebraska

Wild Horses in Assategue National Seashore – Berlin, Maryland

One of the wild horses on the sand dunes at Assategue National Seashore in Maryland

Armadillo Palace – Houston, Texas

Giant Armadillo at Armadillo Palace

Atomic City, Idaho

Atomic City, ID

American Gothic House – Eldon, Iowa

Sumoflam Gothic at the Grant Wood American Gothic House in Eldon, IA

Ada Covered Bridge – Ada, Michigan

Ada Covered Bridge, Ada, MI

Amish Country – Intercourse, Pennsylvania; Charm, Ohio; Arthur, IL

Amish Buggy Sales lot just outside of Intercourse
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH
Amish Clothes hanging in Arthur, IL

Fun Tourist Trap – Akela Flats – Deming, New Mexico

Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999

Antler Arch – Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Antler Arch of Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Arthur Bryant’s BBQ – Kansas City, Missouri

Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri
One of the BBQ Masters at Arthur Bryant’s shows off the goods!

American Falls – Niagara Falls, New York

American Falls on the Niagara River in New York

Abingdon, Virginia

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Virginia Creeper Welcome Center – Abingdon, VA

Austin, Texas

Greetings from Sumoflam in Austin

Arrowleaf Balsamroot – Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Arrowleaf Balsamroot flower from Craters of the Moon NM, Idaho

Antlers, Oklahoma

Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma

Arco, Idaho

Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(52)

The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long  cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!

Here is a map that includes many of the places:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below.  I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.

In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna,  where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story”  was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family.  I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode  their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY.  Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.

Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

 

(134)