During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.
This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year. It was not easy!! I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it. And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary. I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible.
It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge. Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling.
What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing. I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.
I most certainly look forward to participating again next year. Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year. May actually take a long time!!!
A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!
My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns. See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.
The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM
The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX
The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH
The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX
The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI
The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL
The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX
The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA
The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI
The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY
The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO
The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND
The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA
The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND
The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY
The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX
The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY
The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT
The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID
The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH
The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY
The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN
The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON
The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY
The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT – Yellville, AR – York, NE
The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The A Towns
Amarillo is one of the Route 66 towns with a load of places to see and things to do. One of the most famous attractions is Cadillac Ranch. It is also famous for the Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the 72 OZ Steak Challenge. See my full post about Cadillac Ranch, the Steak Ranch and more HERE
Adair, Iowa is a small town located off of Interstate 80 (which also serve as US Hwy 6) and is located west of Des Moines. The appeal here is the famed Smiley Water Tower. The town is also located in the midst of the one the Mid-American Wind Farms and then just acres upon acres of corn fields. You can read more about my visit to Adair and other places in Iowa and Nebraska HERE.
Alzada, Montana is a dot on the map in Carter County in the southeastern corner of Montana. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 29. Perhaps the small little place in the middle of nowhere is best known for the Stoneville Saloon, which beckons passer’s by with their famed “Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food” slogan. I visited there with my family and ate their delicious burgers back in 2005. Read about it and our southeastern Montana adventures HERE.
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo is located about 12-15 miles east of White Sands National Monument at the junctions of US Highways 70, 54 and 82. It is one of the premier pistachio growing capitals of the US and is home to the world’s largest pistachio nut, which resides at McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch.
I visited the small town of Alligator, Mississippi while on a drive down the historic Blues Highway, US Highway 61 in Mississippi, in the summer of 2014. The town has a little over 200 citizens, but is colorful and fun. There are four or five colorful murals, a Blues Bar and, as of 2009, the town celebrated its first black Mayor. It is known as the home of the Alligator Blues. See my original post about the Blues Highway HERE.
Car art dots the United States (see my post about Car Art places HERE). The Cadillac Ranch, mentioned above and Carhenge in Alliance, NE are probably the two most famous. Alliance is located in the northwestern corner of Nebraska, just east of Scottsbluff. The town has about 8500 people and Carhenge is most certainly its biggest draw. I visited there in May 2014 and have an extensive writeup about the unique attraction HERE.
I have a fascination with many things and one of them is covered bridges. I have visited dozens of them in the US and Canada. One of these is located just outside of Ada, MI, which is a suburb of Grand Rapids. I visited there in 2008 and made my way to a number of places in southern Michigan as well. You can read the full story HERE.
Akela Flats, New Mexico
Finally, the last of my A towns is Akela Flats, NM. Located outside of Deming, NM clear in south on Interstate 10, it is the home of one of the unique Bowlin Travel Centers. Bowlin owns “The Thing” travel center in Dragoon, AZ and a couple of others. Akela Flats has an old set of western style store fronts, with fun names…perfect for the family travel photos. The stores always have the unique tourist trap types of gifts and foods, a throwback to the old days of travel on Route 66 and other US Highways.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
(Note: This is a Throwback Thursday post of a trip I made to Michigan from Woodstock, Ontario in May 2008. Main reason for the trip was to see an Arena Football game, but I made a grad tour road trip of it, including a visit to Hell (MI)!)
May 31, 2008: This weekend was yet another opportunity for me to go see my friend Aaron Boone play football. The Utah Blaze will play in Grand Rapids, MI tomorrow and I decided I would drive there to see the game. It is actually the closest of the three games that
I will be able to attend this season. (The others were Cleveland and Philadelphia). In looking at the map and trying to determine the places I would be able to see along the way, I found that Hell, MI was kind of on the way. As I noted in my trip to Cleveland to see the game there, I lost my vehicle in a bad accident and practically went through hell to get to Cleveland. This time, I LITERALLY went through Hell to get to Grand Rapids. For my route I also went through the oil country of Ontario on the way over and, as always, I spiced up the trip with an assortment of places to stop. The map below tells the geographical story of this two day adventure.
The game would be held on Sunday afternoon in Grand Rapids, so I left early Saturday morning. A drive straight through to Grand Rapids is about 4 hours or so. But, I took the long way (don’t I always??) so as to see more countryside and places of interest
(at least to some folks).
By 7:30 AM I was on the Canada 401 Hwy heading west to London, Ontario where I would hop on the Canada 402. I took exit 82 and then headed via back roads through farmland towards Oil Springs, ON.
I eventually made my way down Gypsie Flats Road and as I neared the intersection of Gum Bed Line I could smell the petroleum in the air. The first things I see are an odd variety of old and new oil wells and a number of metal sculptures depicting the early oil industry. These fit nicely into my “scrap metal folk art” collection so I got a number of photos of these. All of these were on the Fairbank Oil Properties, named after John Henry Fairbank, who started these fields in 1861. Apparently all of these metal sculptures were made by local metal-worker Murray Watson, who owns Watson’s Machine Shop in Oil Springs and each of the sculptures is supposedly based on a real person connected to the oil business in the area.
I was also interested in the variety of oil wells in operation. The “black gold, Texas Tea…” was flowing freely from these contraptions. They are noisy and indeed were pumping away:
These are called “jerker lines”, a method used to pump oil to the surface from multiple wells using a shared steam engine (see the lines attached) This method was invented by John Henry Fairbank
I finally got into the small town of Oil Springs, which touts itself as site of the first commercial oil well in North America (they were celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2008, which celebrated the discovery of oil in 1858). Ironically, just a week earlier I drove through Oil City, PA and nearby Titusville, PA which has the same claim (they claim theirs was the birthplace of the Oil Industry in 1859). In any case, the oil wars continue today as I am (actually aren’t we all?) battling with $4.00/gallon prices in the U.S. and $1.30/liter (abt. $4.92/gal) prices in Canada.
Oil Springs is home to the Oil Museum of Canada. Unfortunately, it was still early so they were not open. But I got out and walked around the grounds, got a few photos and visited the site of the first oil well. The story, in a nut shell: Charles Nelson Tripp, his brother and businessmen from Hamilton and New York City came together to form the International Mining and Manufacturing Company for the purpose of producing asphalt from the Ontario gum beds situated in Enniskillen Township. This was the first oil company formed in North America. Its charter empowered the company to explore for asphalt beds and oil and salt springs, and to manufacture oils, naphtha paints, burning fluids, varnishes and related products. Then a manufacturer of railway carriages at Hamilton bought Tripp’s land and oil rights. Tripp stayed on the payroll as landman. Williams formed the J.M.Williams Company. After unsuccessful attempts at commercial production from the gum beds Williams hand-dug and cribbed a well 49 feet deep. It did not reach bedrock but produced as much as 150 gallons per hour by hand pump. The oil was refined for illuminating oil and lubricants. Then, in 1858, with stagnant algae-ridden water almost everywhere and, looking for better drinking water, Williams dug a well a few yards down an incline from his asphalt plant. At a depth of 20 meters, the well struck free oil instead of water. In 1858 it became the first oil well in North America, remembered as Williams No. 1 at Oil Springs, Ontario. (This was a year before Edwin Drake drilled his famous wildcat
in Pennsylvania in 1859.) — This info comes from Petrolia’s Website.
After visiting Oil Springs I drove north on Oil Heritage Road into Petrolia and then on to Wyoming. I had planned to stop in Petrolia, but I still had a lot to see so I skipped Petrolia and it was early anyway so the museum and other sites would not be open anyway. I got through Wyoming and was back on the 402 heading west towards Sarnia, into Point Edward and over the Blue Water Bridge. I have crossed this bridge a number of times, but have yet to actually stop and decided not to this time as well. There are some beautiful scenes of Lighthouse Park (in Port Huron, MI) and I think the park in Point Edward, ON would offer some nice shots of the lighthouse over the St. Clair River, which serves as the border between Canada and the U.S. Maybe on my next trip…..
I made it through Flint, MI on I-69 and then headed south from there on US-23. The scenery was grand as I drove by glimmering lakes and ponds and through nice wooded areas. As I got closer to my next destination I could see that there were a number of recreation areas. I turned west on 9 Mile Road heading towards Hamburg and then on M36 into Pinckney. I got there just in time for some big festival in town. It was already crowded by 10:30 AM. I knew that I had to turn from Pinckney to had south to Hell. I finally saw my sign:
The drive to Hell, Michigan is actually quite scenic. You take D19 south to Patterson Lake Road and then turn right. This is about a five mile drive. Hell is actually located inside Pinckney Recreation Area near four or five lakes. It is also considered a part of the town of Pinckney. According to the official Hell Website, the town got its name as follows: Hell was first settled in 1838 by George Reeves and his family. George had a wife and 7 daughters – no reason to call it Hell yet… George built a mill and a general store on the banks of a river that is now known as Hell Creek. The mill would grind the local farmers’ grain into flour; George also ran a whiskey still, so a lot of times the first 7-10 bushels of grain became moonshine. In turn, horses would come home without riders, wagons without drivers….someone would say to the wife, where is your husband? She’d shrug her shoulders, throw up her arms and exclaim, Ahh, he’s gone to Hell!” In 1841 when officials from the State of Michigan came by, and asked George what he wanted to name his town, he replied, “Call it Hell for all I care, everyone else does.” So the official date of becoming Hell was October 13, 1841… (you can click here for the LONG history of Hell).
Well, arriving in Hell was not as exciting as I thought it would be. There are only three businesses operating there (that I could see). The population is around 74 they say. As well, according to the Screams Ice Cream shop the locals are referred to as hellions, hellbillies or wannabes.
Enough about Hell. A fun place to say you have been through…so, now I have been to Hell and Back. Now, on to more places…. In my research of where to go I noticed that just south of Hell is another interesting town called Chelsea. I just had to go there since my daughter is Chelsea and since it was so close. I took a number of winding roads and finally made my way to M52 and went south into
I actually found two places to visit in Chelsea. The first actually has an official Guinness World Record. It is the Chelsea Teddy Bear
Company. Their record is for the world’s largest “Teddy Bear Mosaic”. They also have “Goliath”, the World’s Largest Stuffed Teddy Bear (over 10 feet tall!!) and then there is the 7′ tall “Happy” Grizzly Bear. Naturally, I got Chelsea a T-Shirt that she can wear proudly!
Chelsea is also home to one of my wife Julianne’s favorite products for use around Thanksgiving and when she makes chili. It is the home of the Chelsea Milling Company, known for their Jiffy Muffin Mix.
Chelsea also has some interesting folk art in the town square area
I was now back on the road going from Corn Meal Mix to Cream of Wheat as I headed south to I-94 out of Chelsea towards my next destination. Once on I-94 I was heading west to Exit 138 to US 127 north to the small town of Leslie, MI. Here I would find one of those real obscurities. As I mentioned Cream of Wheat, the story will be told first:
The boxes were hand-made and lettered, and emblazoned with the image of a black chef produced by Emery Mapes. The character was named Rastus, and the image was included on all boxes and advertisements and continues to be used today with only very slight changes. A stereotypical black icon was fairly common for U.S. commercial brands at the time of the cereal’s creation; for other examples, see Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. It has long been thought that a black chef named Frank L. White was the model for the chef shown on the Cream of Wheat box. White, who died in 1938 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Leslie, Michigan claimed to be the
model for the Cream of Wheat box. In June 2007, a headstone was erected for Mr. White. The headstone contains his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.
I made my way into town and then to Woodlawn Cemetery. There are two roads in, one paved and one dirt. Take the dirt road under the Woodlawn Cemetery sign and take the fork to the right. His is the first marker on ground on the right just off the road.
Frank L. White: African American chef best known as the model featured on Cream of Wheat breakfast cereal boxes. White was born in Barbados in 1867 before immigrating to the U.S. in 1875 and
becoming a citizen in 1890. White lived much of his life in Leslie, Michigan, and was working as a master chef at a Chicago restaurant the time he was photographed for the cereal box in 1900. White died on February 15, 1938, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. In June 2007, his grave, which was previously unmarked, received a headstone.
Now when you eat Cream of Wheat you can have this interesting story to tell. (Please make mine lumpy!) He apparently never made a penny off of his image.
After paying homage to Mr. White, I continued north on US 27 to
just south of Lansing and then onto I-96 to head further west through Portland, Berlin and Boston, to Exit 43 where I would head north to Ada, MI. Ada is home to one of 11 covered bridges in Western Michigan. The Ada Covered Bridge spans the Thornapple River that runs through Ada. It is 125 feet long and was originally built around 1867 using “Brown” trusses that were patented by Josiah Brown of Buffalo, NY in 1857. This particular bridge has had its troubles through the years and was eventually destroyed by fire. The community, with help from nearby Amway Corporation, rebuilt the bridge in 1979. This bridge is only for pedestrian use now.
By the time I was done with the Ada Bridge, it was getting late. I was just outside of Grand Rapids, so I checked into my hotel room at the Super 8 near the Gerald R. Ford Airport and then headed across town to meet Aaron Boone. We met for dinner and then took a drive around Grand Rapids looking at some of the old churches as
well as a ride west towards Lake Michigan. We made it to about 100 yards of the lake and didn’t know it and it was dark anyway. It was a pleasant time talking about family, life, football, etc.
June 1, 2008: Today was game day, but it was beautiful outside and so I decided to take a drive to see another of the covered bridges. I had hoped to find it yesterday, but I got lost and it wasn’t signed very well. This time I had specific directions and drove east on I-96 to the Lowell exit 52 and headed north through Lowell up Lincoln Lake Ave. to Fallasburg Park Dr., about 5 miles north of Lowell. This is the site of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge. This bridge is a single span bridge also using Brown trusses. It is 100 feet long and 14 feet tall and allows single lane traffic by car as it crosses the Flat River. But, if you go faster than someone walking you will be “fined $5” according to the sign on the bridge. When I got there I was awestruck by the beautiful setting. On top of that, there was a man there fishing and the shot was too tempting. Barry O. gave me permission to photograph him and use it on the web.
Crossing over the river on the bridge and then up the hill takes you into the historic village of Fallasburg. There are some historical buildings.
After a nice morning visit, it was time to head back to Grand Rapids to get the tickets and get excited about the ball game. The Utah Blaze really needed a win here to stay in contention for the playoffs.
First of all, I sat on the “Blaze Bench” in Hell for good luck (see photo at top of page). I had yet to attend a game played by Aaron Boone as an Arena player that they had won. I was 0 for 5. So, I hoped my streak would be broken. I had to go through Hell to get here!!
The game went well. The Blaze won 63-56 over the Grand Rapids Rampage though Boone’s Touchdown streak was held to 13 games in a row as he didn’t get one this game. But, my streak was broken and better yet, the Blaze stayed in contention for the playoffs! Following are a few photos I took at the game. I had great seats right behind the Blaze bench.
Coach Danny White attended Westwood H.S. in Mesa, the same as my wife. My mother-in-law was one of his high school teachers. Germaine is also from Mesa and led Ohio State to a Rose Bowl win.
After the game I saw Aaron off and headed home. It was Sunday and I had to be back at work in the morning. However, on the way home I had one more place to visit. I needed dinner, so I would stop at a planned place. I discovered this one on roadsideamerica.com and thought it would fit my eclectic style.
Yes, the name conjures up all kinds of imaginations. But, as with other strange and wonderful places I have visited in the past, I needed to add this to my collection. (Note: As of this writing in 2015, the restaurant is closed, but is trying to reestablish in Lansing, MI) The TCIR and Tuba Museum not only has an interesting interior, but the menu is also a variety of Asian, ethnic, Greek, and whatever else they could conjure up. I actually had a Greek salad and a Buffalo burger…yes, Buffalo…not in Montana, South Dakota or Colorado…but in some little small town in Michigan!
The real charm of this place is the decor…with all kinds of tubas everywhere
It was spring and the flowers were in bloom and the fountains were running.
It was a pleasant ending to a rather long weekend. Eye candy, good food and wonderful fragrance. The drive back to Woodstock was uneventful and went quickly. It was a great time.