A to Z Challenge: The G Towns #atozchallenge

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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

G The G Towns

Gainesville, Texas

Sumoflam at Glen Goode's Big People in Gainesville, TX
Sumoflam at Glen Goode’s Big People in Gainesville, TX
Glen Goode's Big People
Glen Goode’s Big People
Glen Goode's Big People
Glen Goode’s Big People

Across this great country there are dozens of giant Muffler Men, Big Johns and Uniroyal Gals.  In the 1960s these advertised Mufflers, Tires, etc.  Nowadays they can be seen at state borders, at tourist spots or advertising cafes (see Blackfoot, ID in my A to Z Challenge posts as an example).  I have written a post all about these giants HERE. Then there are folks like Glenn Goode (who passed away in March 2015).  Known as the Fiberglass Man because of his collection of these giants, he was in the fiberglass and sandblasting business for over 44 years.  On his property on Walnut Bend Road, Gainesville, he had five big fiberglass people .  See my full post about his unique site in the middle of nowhere HERE.

Gothenburg, Nebraska

Gothenburg, Nebraska 2007
Gothenburg, Nebraska 2007
Original Pony Express Station, Gothenburg, NE
Original Pony Express Station, Gothenburg, NE
Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Barbed Wire Indian at Sod House Museum
Barbed Wire Indian at Sod House Museum
World's Largest Hand Plow at Sod House Museum
World’s Largest Hand Plow at Sod House Museum

Back in 2007 I ventured west to Washington with my son for some shows with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.  Along the way we visited a number of states and places.  One of the more unique stops along the way was in the town of Gothenburg, Nebraska.  This town is apparently one of only two Gothenburgs in the entire world, the other being the famed city in Sweden. Gothenburg is probably most well known as the home of the Pony Express in Nebraska. The town has become somewhat of a tourist attraction with the Pony Express building and also the Sod House Museum, which is just off of Interstate 80 at exit 211 to the left as you go into Gothenburg. The Sod House Museum was dedicated to the settlers of this area who initially built their homes out of sod.  Also at the Sod House museum are two barbed wire sculptures including an Indian and a Buffalo.  Both have well over 4 miles of barbed wire in the work.  See my write up about this 2007 visit HERE.

Guthrie, Kentucky

Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Pink Sunglasses in Russellville, KY (around the corner from a big pink elephant - see below)
Cow with Pink Sunglasses in Guthrie, KY (around the corner from a big pink elephant – see below)

Guthrie, Kentucky is located at the junction of US Highway 79 and US Highway 41 near the Tennessee Border.  I ventured through here on my way to Memphis and the Blues Highway in the fall of 2014 (see a couple of other A to Z Challenge towns in earlier posts including Alligator, MS and Brownsville, TN from this same trip.  Paris, TN and Paris, TX will also be included in my P Towns post.).  Guthrie has its own version of a Pink Elephant (different from the one I posted about in DeForest, WI in my D Towns post).  They also have a pink sunglass wearing giant cow. You can see full details of this visit and more photos HERE.

Gregory, South Dakota

Welcome to Gregory
Welcome to Gregory
Gregory Wall Art
Gregory Wall Art
Giant Pheasant statue in Gregory, SD
Giant Pheasant statue in Gregory, SD
Gregory - Home of the Gorillas
Gregory – Home of the Gorillas

Gregory, South Dakota is another town along the Oyate Trail. South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….). Apparently Gregory is “The Ground-zero of Pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992.  You can read more about my visit to Gregory and see some photos of old movie theaters, interesting bars, etc., in my 2013 Oyate Trail post, which can be seen HERE.

Galata, Montana

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
The Ghost Town of Galata, Montana
The Ghost Town of Galata, Montana

Galata, Montana is one of two Montana and US Highway 2 Hi-Line towns I am including in this G Town post.  Located about 23 miles east of Shelby, Montana, Galata is practically a ghost town.  But the 1960s era neon sign advertising the Motel Galata is a classic.  Definitely something worth looking for on a roadtrip across northern Montana.

Glasgow, Montana

US Highway 2 in eastern Montana outside of Glasgow, Montana
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana outside of Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Welcome to Glasgow - large metal artwork by Buck Samuelson
Welcome to Glasgow – large metal artwork by Buck Samuelson
Train mural in Glasgow Montana on the side of a building
Train mural in Glasgow Montana on the side of a building

On the eastern end of Montana on US Highway 2 is the town of Glasgow, Montana.  A town of about 3000, it is a colorful place with all sorts of dinosaur lore.  As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar Bar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale. Read more about US Highway 2, the Hi-Line Drive across northern Montana HERE.

Glasgow, Kentucky

The Plaza Theatre in Glasgow, Kentucky
The Plaza Theatre in Glasgow, Kentucky
Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
Painted Facade in Glasgow, KY
Painted Facade in Glasgow, KY
More Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
More Wall Art in Glasgow, KY

There are apparently 21 places in America named Glasgow that range from a tiny town in Fallen Timber County, Pennsylvania, which has 63 inhabitants, to Glasgow, Kentucky the largest of them all with a population of  just over 14,000. As a Kentucky resident, I have visited many of the towns and Glasgow is unique because of its cultural depth with an amazing old Theatre and its many wall murals. Founded in 1799 by a group of Revolutionary War veterans, Glasgow boasts historic homes and buildings, the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, downtown walking/driving tours, Barren River Lake State Resort Park and Brigadoon State Nature Preserve. The town sits at the intersection of US Highway 68 and US Highway 31.

Gardiner, Montana

Entering Gardiner, Montana
Entering Gardiner, Montana
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

Montana is a huge state and so it is not a surprise that this post has three G Towns.  I would be remiss if I didn’t include Gardiner, Montana, which is situated in Southwest Montana, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The town is nestled in breath taking Paradise Valley, with the Yellowstone River running right through town. The Roosevelt Arch is the most famous structure in Gardiner. This Yellowstone Entrance, Gateway or Arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 April 1903. The arch is visible two miles north of Gardiner on US Highway 89.  See more about my 2014 trip down Montana’s US 89 and Yellowstone HERE.

Gillette, Wyoming

Welcome to Gillette, WY
Welcome to Gillette, WY
Large Wall Mural in Gillette, WY
Large Wall Mural by Harvey Jackson in Gillette, WY
Rockpile Museum - Gillette, Wyoming
Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

In June 2013 I made my way to Rexburg, ID and passed through Wyoming on my way to Yellowstone National Park.  (I noted the Montana entrance above).  On this particular trip I found my through Gillette, WY on my way to Cody and Yellowstone.  Gillette is home of a few nice murals, an artist walk with a number of unique sculptures that change each year and then there is the Rockpile Museum. This Campbell County Museum focuses on general, regional, and local history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Campbell County.  It was opened in 1974 at the site of the historic natural rockpile, which has been a piece of Gillette history since the 1890s. See my full report about Gillette and the drive to Cody and on to Yellowstone HERE.

Granbury, Texas

Welcome to Granbury, Texas
Welcome to Granbury, Texas
The County Court House in Granbury, Texas
The County Court House in Granbury, Texas
Who would stay in the Nutt House Hotel?
Who would stay in the Nutt House Hotel?
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Granbury, Texas
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Granbury, Texas
Giraffe Eye taken at Fossil Rim
Giraffe Eye taken at Fossil Rim

The town of Granbury, Texas, south of Fort Worth, is a fun place to visit, filled with history, an old fashioned courthouse square surrounded by unique shops and some good places to eat (especially Babe’s Chicken!!).  It is home to the Nutt House Hotel (crazy name eh?).  Not too far down the road is the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an amazing drive thru Wildlife Park in Glen Rose, TX (another G Town!) The current facility has grown to 1700 acres and has over 1000 animals, with 50 species of native and non-native animals, including Cheetah, Rhinoceros, Giraffe, various African antelope varieties, Zebras, Ostriches and Rheas, among many others.  You can see dozens of photos of the park and also more on Granbury in my 2012 post HERE.

Grand Forks, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower

Grand Forks is another US Highway 2 town also cut through by Interstate 29.  I mention it here because of its famed Smiley Water Tower, one of three or four in the US (note the Adair, IA Smiley in my A Towns post).  This tower has the Smiley above and on the other side of the water tower is a Winking Smiley.  You can see more photos of it and also see more about my 2014 US Highway 2 drive through North Dakota HERE.

Gravel Switch, Kentucky (Honorable mention)

Gravel Switch Community Center
Gravel Switch Community Center
Gravel Switch, KY
Gravel Switch, KY
Amish Buggies in Gravel Switch
Amish Buggies in Gravel Switch
Penn's Store Sign
Penn’s Store Sign
Penn's Privy - a famous outhouse!
Penn’s Privy – a famous outhouse!

With a unique name for a place, the small village of Gravel Switch, KY.  grew up around a gravel quarry on a spur line of the L&N railroad around 1870.  There is not much there now but a small Amish school, a Post Office, a bank and a few houses. Not far from Gravel Switch is perhaps the most famous place in the area…Penn’s Store.  According to its website, “Penn’s Store is the oldest country store in America being run continuously by the same family. It has been in the Penn family since 1850.” There is a nice writeup about it here. I drove through there on a trip to Elizabethtown, KY in February 2013.  See the entire post HERE.

Gilboa, Ohio (Honorable mention)

Stinky's Country Well - Gilboa, Ohio
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio
Giant Steer in Gilboa, OH. I have seen many similar ones in other places
Giant Steer in Gilboa, OH. I have seen many similar ones in other places

On one of my trips back to Kentucky from Canada in 2008, I drove through the community of Gilboa, OH.  Thy had a humongous steer statue and also a unique restaurant/bar called Stinky’s Country Well.  Had to include Gilboa for these reasons.  The town is on US Highway 224 west of Findlay, OH.

Georgetown, Texas (Honorable mention)

A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings
A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings
Statue of Three-Legeged Willie in Georgetown, TX
Statue of Three-Legged Willie in Georgetown, TX
The distinctive Onion Dome on the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge Building in Georgetown, TX
The distinctive Onion Dome on the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge Building in Georgetown, TX

Finally, on Interstate 35 north of Austin lies the historic town of Georgetown, Texas.  I have had a couple of opportunities to visit there in the past few years and it is a unique place.  The town features some of the best Victorian architecture in the state of Texas.  And then, there is the story of “Three-Legged Willie” (Robert M. Williamson), the beloved Texas patriot, Ranger, lawyer, judge, newspaper editor, and Williamson County’s namesake. Known affectionately as Three-legged Willie due to the wooden leg he used following an illness when he was 15. His right leg drew up at the knee and could not support him. Thereafter, he wore a wooden leg, leaving his useless foot extended behind him. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto. An enthusiastic supporter of Texas statehood, he named one of his sons Annexus.

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A to Z Challenge: The C Towns #atozchallenge

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

C The C Towns

Cactus Flat, South Dakota

Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flat, SD
Prairie Dog -- standing watch in Cactus Flats
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flat
Badlands at Sunset
Badlands at Sunset

Visiting National Parks is always a fun adventure and especially this year as the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  One of the great parks in this country is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  Near the northeast entrance and right off of Interstate 90 at Exit 131 is a place called Cactus Flat. As with most National Park entrance areas, this is a touristy area with a couple of “tourist traps” such as the Badlands Ranch Store.  And just near the trading post is the ‘World’s Largest Prairie Dog,” a six ton pink giant that overshadows a REAL Prairie Dog community where you can feed them and take photos.  Read all about my 2013 visit to the Badlands HERE.

Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
"Javelin Man" by Larry Vennard
“Javelin Man” one of many scrap metal sculptures created by Larry Vennard of Centralia, Missouri

I have had a passion for “collecting” scrap metal sculptures from the around the country.  My collections come in photographs of said objects as most are way too heavy and too large for a car.  Most of these artists make them as a hobby and then display them on their properties (see my special post about these HERE).  Back in October 2013, on a return trip from Omaha, we made a visit to the community of Centralia, Missouri to track down one of these artists.  Larry Vennard is a nice guy and a fun artist.  He has a number of scrap metal dinosaurs sitting in his front yard on Highway T.  Check out my full post about Larry HERE.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Portland Light
Portland Head Light

In the summer of 2015 my wife, one of my daughters and some of the grandchildren took a drive to Connecticut to visit our son.  While up in New England, we also made our way up to Maine to visit Old Orchard Beach, but also visited the famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Read about the entire visit HERE.

Climax, North Carolina and Climax, Kentucky

Climax and High Point, NC
Climax and High Point, NC
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY

Most road trips have their highs and lows.  But occasionally the trip can reach a Climax.  In my case I made a trip to Climax, North Carolina and then on to High Point, North Carolina in March 2012.  I stopped halfway there to call my wife and tell her I was somewhere between Climax and High Point. HA!

On another March trip, in 2009, with my wife in tow, we took a back roads “staycation” in Kentucky along KY Hwy 1912 (Climax Brushcreek Road) and I nabbed the photo of the Climax Christian Church. I even joked at that time the for members of the church there, it was always the climax of their week!

Choteau, Montana

A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana

From Canada to Mexico, US Highway 89 is probably one of the most scenic routes in the country. Up in Montana it runs along Glacier National Park.  One of the communities along that route is the town of Choteau. This town is one of the gateways to Glacier and offers a wonderful museum in the Old Trail Museum which offers large dinosaurs, a grizzly bear exhibit and a number of other fun things…even a great place to get an ice cream cone!  Check out my trip down US 89 in Montana from 2014 — RIGHT HERE!

Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue at Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY

Not too far from my home in Lexington, KY is yet another National Park…Mammoth Cave National Park.  Like the other two listed above, this one is surrounded by tourist traps and a Gateway town known as Cave City.  Cave City is one of those touristy towns that has been around since the 1950s.  Along with the Route 66 type of feel with neon and old motels, it is also home to one of only 3 remaining Wigwam Motel Villages, a vestige of the early travel days of the late 1950s and 1960s.  The town is also home to Dinosaur World, which features a number of giant dinosaur statues. Cave City is accessed from Exit 53 on Interstate 65 south of Louisville.  You can learn more about the Wigwam Village HERE.

Charm, Ohio

Charm, Ohio
Charm, Ohio
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH

I am fascinated by other cultures, especially those that live in the US and Canada.  From the Hopi and Navajo Indians to the Amish and Mennonites, some people choose alternative lifestyles without electricity, running water or otherwise.  In my years of travel I have visited a number of Amish communities and one of my favorites is Charm, Ohio.  As its name implies, it has a simple charm to it.  To get there you take Ohio 557 south from Berlin, Ohio.  But be careful, this is the heart of Ohio Amish country and there could be a slow moving buggy on the road.

Chelsea, Michigan

Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company

On one of my trips to Michigan, I made way into the town of Chelsea.  My daughter is named Chelsea, so I thought it would be fun to stop at the Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory and get her a namesake teddy bear.  Chelsea is located on MI Hwy 52 south of Pinckney and Hell and is basically off of Interstate 94 west of Ann Arbor.  It is quaint little town with beautiful architecture, the Teddy Bear Factory and is the home of the Jiffy Company, makers of that famous corn muffin mix.  You can read about my trip there in 2008 by going HERE.

Champaign, Illinois

Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road

Deep in the heart of Illinois and a little south of Normal (in both the literal and figurative senses!) is the cool little town of Champaign, Illinois. This town is off of Interstate 74 west of Indianapolis and has some fun, kid friendly places to visit.  The best place for a visit is Curtis Orchards.  An orchard and pumpkin patch, they offer a real yellow brick road and have a number of Wizard of Oz themed attractions, murals and even the cafe, which is called the Flying Monkey Cafe.  In the back part of the orchard there is a huge metal Indian statue shooting an arrow.  Check out more about the fun visit I made in 2012 HERE.

Cut Bank, Montana

Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank, Montana
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation

For a number of years my daughter and her family lived in Shelby, Montana.  During my visits there I made a few treks down US Highway 2 into Cut Bank, Montana in order to get to Glacier National Park.  Cut Bank is one of the gateways to Glacier and has a number of interesting and even quirky sites.  There are a number of excellent wall murals dotting the town, a huge railroad trestle for railroad enthusiasts and then the “World’s Largest Penguin” statue that touts the town as the coldest spot in the nation.  Check out a write up about my road trip across the Hi Line of Montana back in July 2014 – you can see it HERE.

Caledonia, Ontario, Canada

Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway
Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway

While working in Ontario, Canada in 2008, I had the opportunity to drive all over the province.  One of the interesting stops I found was Caledonia. Caledonia is a small riverside community located on the Grand River in Haldimand County, Ontario and has a population of just under 10,000.  In the late 1880s it became a stop along the Grand Trunk Railway which ran through Canada and into Michigan.  In fact, the 1970s Rock Band, Grand Funk Railroad took their name as a play on this railway.  You can read more about my visit to Caledonia and the surrounding towns of Norwich and Otterville in 2008 by clicking HERE.

Cut and Shoot, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot Police
Cut and Shoot Police – how many Police Departments have Shoot in their name?

I am always in search of uniquely named towns.  There are very few in the country with multiple words in the name, and Cut and Shoot, Texas is one of them.  On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I made my through this town north of Houston just to get a picture with the town hall building….a rustic old piece of art.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see their police cars.  How many police departments actually have Shoot in their name?   Check out more about my drive through…  HERE

China Grove, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to China Grove, TX
Welcome to China Grove, TX

I drove through China Grove, TX back in 2013 on my way to San Antonio.  Indeed, I went out of my so I could see this sleepy little town near San Anton…  (yes, made famous by the Doobie Brothers)

Cool, Texas and Coolville, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Cool Cafe: If We Ain't Shut We're Open - Cool, Texas
Cool Cafe: If We Ain’t Shut We’re Open (and they were actually closed that day!) – Cool, Texas
Old Coolville Wall Mural "Building Community One Block at a Time", Coolville, OH
Old Coolville Wall Mural “Building Community One Block at a Time”, Coolville, OH

Then there are the Cool places to visit.  Cool, TX, which is located on US Highway 180 between Weatherford and Mineral Wells.  Known for their unique cafe, the Cool Cafe, which has been closed both times I went through there. You can see a bit more in my post HERE.   Then, up in Ohio, there is the small community of Coolville, located on US Highway 50 just north of the Ohio River and near the West Virginia border.  You can see my writeup of Coolville HERE.

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Sumoflam Flashback – Adventures in Southwestern Ontario: Oxford County

Tobacco Barns in SW Ontario Canada
Tobacco Barns in SW Ontario Canada

In 2008 I spent about nine months working as a Japanese interpreter in Woodstock, Ontario at the new Toyota Plant that was being built there at the time.  Over the course of that nine months I had many opportunities to visit dozens of places in rural Ontario and made my way to Toronto and some if the larger towns in the area around Toronto.  I have posted a number of “Travel Journals” with extensive details about all of these visits on my Sumoflam Trip Journals site.

Southwestern Ontario in the Red
Southwestern Ontario in the Red

Southwestern Ontario is centered on the city of London. It extends north to south from the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron to the Lake Erie shoreline, and east to south-west roughly from Guelph to Windsor. Other significant towns and cities in the region are Brantford, Cambridge, Chatham, Goderich, Ingersoll, Kitchener, Owen Sound, Sarnia, St. Thomas, Stratford, Tillsonburg, Waterloo, Windsor, and Woodstock.

Snow Countess - large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario
Snow Countess – large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario

In this first edition of my “Adventures in Southwestern Ontario” series, I will take a brief trip around Oxford County, one of the fifteen counties/municipalities comprising Southwestern Ontario.  Oxford County has been a municipality (rather than a county) since 1991. It covers a little over 787 square miles and has a total population of just over 100,000 people.  It is almost in the center of the Southwestern Ontario region and is one of the land-locked counties.

A typical road in Oxford County
A typical road in Oxford County

Oxford County is predominantly agricultural with dairy being one of its industries (Thus the big statue of the Snow Countess above). Also in the area is a famous “sugar bush” where maple syrup is made.  Corn and tobacco are also crops in the area. While in Woodstock I became good friends with the Director of Tourism at the time.  She was gracious enough to provide me with plenty of ideas on where to visit, when to visit, etc.  I was also honored by inclusion of three of my writeups on their website.

Woodstock, Ontario water tower
Woodstock, Ontario water tower

I was fortunate enough to experience three seasons in Oxford…I arrived in the middle of a cold and snowy winter.  But, I enjoyed the spring and the flowers.  I also enjoyed the wonderful summer and even sometime into the fall.

Giant pile of snow in Woodstock - February 2008
Giant pile of snow in Woodstock – February 2008
Winter scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Winter scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Summer scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Summer scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario

Oxford County is chock full of history with some unique museums — including two National Historic Sites.  The Woodstock Museum is one of the National Historic Sites.  Located in the old town hall, the museum, though small, houses the 1879 Council Chambers, a number of historical artifacts from early settlers and even a rifle display.

Woodstock Museum - The Old Town Hall - Woodstock, Ontario
Woodstock Museum – The Old Town Hall – Woodstock, Ontario
1879 Council Chambers in old Town Hall (Woodstock Museum) - Woodstock, Ontario
1879 Council Chambers in old Town Hall (Woodstock Museum) – Woodstock, Ontario
Relics in Oxford Rifle Museum - Militia Uniforms and drums from early 1800s - Woodstock Museum
Relics in Oxford Rifle Museum – Militia Uniforms and drums from early 1800s – Woodstock Museum
Old Wagon Wheel in the Building a City Gallery of Woodstock Museum
Old Wagon Wheel in the Building a City Gallery of Woodstock Museum

The other National Historic site is the Tillsonburg Museum – the Annandale House, which I did not get a chance to visit (there are so many great places to visit in SW Ontario!!!).  But, I did get a chance to visit the smaller Beachville District Museum in the small community of Beachville, Ontario.  This small town has the unique status of claiming to be the home of the first ever recorded game of baseball in North America. According to the museum, the group of men who gathered in a Beachville pasture on June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. It occurred one year prior to the famous Cooperstown game.  The museum has a number of artifacts from this game and even has an annual game on the land outside the park, using the original 5 base configuration.

Welcome to Beachville, Ontario
Welcome to Beachville, Ontario
Beachville Museum - Beachville, Ontario
Beachville Museum – Beachville, Ontario
Beachville District Museum sign
Beachville District Museum sign
100 year anniversary jersey of Beachville baseball game
100 year anniversary jersey of Beachville baseball game
Old Chest Protector in Beachville Museum
Old Chest Protector in Beachville Museum
Old baseball and mitt in Beachville Museum
Old baseball and mitt in Beachville Museum

The Beachville Museum is also home of a number of agricultural implements and old vehicles.

Old Sign in Beachville Museum - Beachville, Ontario
Old Sign in Beachville Museum – Beachville, Ontario
Old farm implement at Beachville Museum
Old farm implement at Beachville Museum
Old fire truck in Beachville Museum
Old fire truck in Beachville Museum

Baseball was not the only game that got some fame in Oxford County.  The game of Crokinole celebrates its annual World Championships in Tavistock, a town in northern Oxford County.

Crokinole World Championships
Crokinole World Championships

What is Crokinole?  Basically, Crokinole is an action board game similar in various ways to marbles with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs.

Crokinole Board from World Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
Crokinole Board from World Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
Flicking the disk with a finger
Flicking the disk with a finger

The earliest known crokinole board was made by craftsman Eckhardt Wettlaufer in 1876 in Perth County, Ontario. Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin, and dating from the 1870s, have been discovered since the 1990s. It seems to have been patented on April 20, 1880, in New York City by Joshua K. Ingalls. In 2006, a documentary film called Crokinole was released. The world premiere occurred at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo, Ontario, in early 2006. The movie follows some of the competitors of the 2004 World Crokinole Championship as they prepare for the event.  Ironically, a former work associate of mine in the 2000s in Lexington was a participant in the championships and has been noted in books and the movie.

Crokinole Trophies
Crokinole Trophies

Tavistock is home to a number of Mennonite Churches and groups.  Indeed, Oxford County has a number of Mennonites and Amish in the area. Here are a few shots I have from my visits with them (some may be from neighboring counties)…

Mennonite father and daughter selling Maple Syrup
Mennonite father and daughter selling Maple Syrup
Mennonite Maple Syrup stand
Mennonite Maple Syrup stand
Amish cart in front of house in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish cart in front of house in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish folk shopping in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish folk shopping in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish buggy in modern neighborhood in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish buggy in modern neighborhood in Oxford County, Ontario
A Mennonite Buggy
Amish buggy and horse parked in a lot in Oxford COunty
Amish buggy and horse parked in a lot in Oxford County

On one trip south of Woodstock, I was on a dirt road and came across an amazing tulip farm.  Here are some shots…

Tulip farm in southern Oxford County, Ontario
Tulip farm in southern Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips and daffodils
Tulips and daffodils

Woodstock is also home to one of the more unique “Yard Art” menageries – The Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill - Woodstock, Ontario
Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill – Woodstock, Ontario

The Bruces have amassed a quirky collection of windmills, whirl-a-gigs, railroad implements and more…all in their yard.  There are few places like this that I have run across over the years and miles (Hamtramck Disneyland in Detroit is another).

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill "warning" sign
Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill “warning” sign
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woddstock, Ontario
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woddstock, Ontario
Cliff Bruce main entrance
Cliff Bruce main entrance
Clydesdales and a superhero whirlygig
The Bruce’s version of the Michelin man?
Whirlygig Maximus
Cats and more at Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm in Woodstock, Ontario
Cats and more at Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm in Woodstock, Ontario
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill

In the form of entertainment, I had the opportunity on two occasions to visit the Walters Dinner Theatre in Bright, Ontario (Bright is also known for its Cheese Factory)

Walters Family Dinner Theatre – Bright, Ontario

The Walters Family offers a little taste of Branson in the back woods of Ontario. They have established a fun program…a country dinner buffet and then an hour and a half of live music, sometimes from some great guest musicians. From June to October they put on six shows a week through the end of October and then in December they put on a Christmas extravaganza. (You can see more of complete writeup here)

Bradley Walters – the Leader of the Band
The Walters Family putting on a show in 2008

It all started a number of years ago when father Garry had his three children Bradley, Kimberley and Darren form the Walters Trio. Soon Garry and his wife Shirley were learning drums and bass guitar and joined the kids in performances. As a family they have toured with the Osmonds and have performed with Lawrence Welk and other groups.

The best part is the wonderful buffet

The buffet line for Rolled Ribs (with sage stuffing), roast beef, cole slaw, potatoes and gravy, veggies and fresh baked bread. They even had creamed horseradish which I slathered on my rolled ribs…yum!

The Rolled Ribs

Perhaps one of the best things about the Woodstock area is internationally known Jakeman’s Maple Products, located in Beachville. I got to visit Jakeman’s on a number of occasions and love their fresh maple syrup.  Back in 2008 I even had a nice page about them (see here).

Jakeman's Maple Products - Beachville, Ontario
Jakeman’s Maple Products – Beachville, Ontario

Jakeman’s is owned by Bob and Mary Jakeman, who are fourth generation Maple Syrup farmers. As their history states in their brochure, Bob’s great grandfather George and his wife Betsy Anne Jakeman came from Oxfordshire, England to Oxford County in Ontario. They were taught the maple syrup making technique by local native Canadians. Back then they collected the sap and boiled it down in an iron kettle over an open wood fire until it was golden brown. The family business has grown throughout the years and now the Jakeman name is known all over Canada and throughout the world. They have over 1000 taps.

Mary and Bob Jakeman in 2008
Mary and Bob Jakeman in 2008

Their shop is housed in an old rustic building. Originally built in 1855, it used to be the Sweaburg General Store and post office in Sweaburg. In 1976 the Jakeman’s moved the entire building to its present location. Inside is a maple gift shop, a small museum and a pancake house (much different than a IHOP!!). My first thought as I entered was WOW, look at all of the different products made from maple syrup…cookies, candies, wine, snacks, etc. Of course, they had a great variety of 100% Maple Syrup, which is drawn from trees on site, boiled on site and bottled there as well. You can see a good variety of their products (and order them as well) at their website: www.themaplestore.com. Unbeknownst to me, their #1 Medium Maple syrup was named the best tasting in Canada among 8 national brands by the National Post newspaper in 2004.

Best Syrup in Canada
Best Syrup in Canada

Trees are “tapped” to get the syrup.  On one of my visits, Bob explained the process in detail.

Bob Jakeman explains the tapping process
Sugar Shanty where maple syrup is processed

Fact: It takes about 40 liters of Maple sap to make 1 liter of Maple Syrup.
Fact: They don’t start boiling it down until they get at least 500 liters of sap.
Fact: A tree is tapped once a year in a different place each year. The trees have scars from previous years.
Fact: The sugar bush is self-generating. They do not plant the trees. Rather, the trees seed the ground and grow.
Fact: The Jakeman’s Maple Bush has about 1000 trees that are tapped. They contract with many others in the area as well.

Pancake Breakfast at Jakeman’s

On Saturday and Sunday mornings in March every year Jakeman’s offers a pancake breakfast along with small tours of their facility. The pancake breakfast is a fundraiser for the local 4H Club and all of the members are there to make pancakes, take orders and serve. There is room in the Jakeman’s store for about 35 people.

Some of their products

On a final note, I would like to introduce the flower called a Trillium.  A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Ontario. It is also an official symbol of the Government of Ontario. One wonderful place to see an abundance of trillium in the spring is the Trillium Woods Provincial Park south of Woodstock.

A walking trail at Trillium Woods Provincial Park
A walking trail at Trillium Woods Provincial Park
Ontario's Provincial Flower - The Trillium
Ontario’s Provincial Flower – The Trillium

The Trillium only blooms for about two weeks in May and can be seen dotting some rural areas.  The Nature park is unique in its variety of trillium, not only the white ones, but some of the more colorful ones as well.

A Red Trillium - seemed very rare in the park
A Red Trillium – seemed very rare in the park
A Yellow Trillium
A Yellow Trillium
Beautiful White Trillium

So, head to Woodstock, learn some history, eat some maple syrup, listen to some great Branson entertainment, take a wlk through a flower garden and go learn the game of Crokinole!!  You’ll be glad you did!!

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