W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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S is for Super Statues – #atozchallenge

There are some super huge statues in this country. Giant behemoths that can be seen from far away.

Perhaps there is no place better for BIG than in Texas, where everything is supposedly bigger.  Texas actually has three of the tallest statues in the United States, including two that honor the great Texas heroes Sam Houston and Stephen Austin.  All three giant free standing statues exceed 70 feet in height (including the pedestal/base). This puts these giants in the top seven tallest monuments in the United States.

77 Foot Tall Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, Texas

“Tribute to Courage” – Sam Houston Statue – The First Texas Giant
“World’s Tallest Statue of an American Hero”

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

The tallest of the three is the “Tribute to Courage” statue of Sam Houston, located in Huntsville, Texas home of Sam Houston State University.  This one stands 67 feet but also has a 10 foot pedestal, giving it a ground to top height of 77 feet. It was built in 1994.

This giant Sam Houston statue can be seen from far off when driving on Interstate 45, especially coming from the south.  It stands on the right looking over the interstate proudly.

This statue, along with the one of Stephen Austin were both done by Houston Artist David Adickes from his Sculpturworx Studio.

Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from Highway 288 near Angleton, TX
Stephen F. Austin – the Father of Texas

Soon after artist David Adickes unveiled his Sam Houston statue, a group of Brazoria County businessmen decided that it was time to honor Texas founder Stephen F. Austin, too.   Adickes agreed to do the statue, which was named “The Father of Texas,” at the same time he was working on his series of gigantic presidential busts for his Presidents Park in Lead, SD.  By 2003, Adickes was ready to start assembling the concrete and steel statue. He assembled the 15 sections  of the statue on a 12-foot, five-sided granite base, that took almost a year to piece together.

Much like the Sam Houston Statue, this one is 60 feet tall and sits atop a 12 foot tall pedestal, giving a total height of 72 feet.  It can clearly be seen from Highway 288.

The 72 foot tall Quan The Am Bo Tat statue in Sugar Land, Texas
The 72 foot tall Quan The Am Bo Tat statue in Sugar Land, Texas

The third giant doesn’t quite fit the nature of these two Texas heroes. Instead, the Quan The Am Bo Tat (Also known as Quan Am – Mother of Buddha) statue in Sugar Land stands 72 feet tall as it towers over the Vietnamese Buddhist Center.

A view of the Quan The Am Bo Tat as she overlooks the gardens
A view of the Quan The Am Bo Tat as she overlooks the gardens

Quan Am – The Mother of Buddha

The idea for this statue was conceived in 1994 as the Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, sought for an artist to do one. By the end of June 2001, this 72 foot tall statue was dedicated.

Closeup shot of Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX
Closeup shot of Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX

The statue was designed an build by New Orleans artist Mai Chi. She escaped from Vietnam in 1989 and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia. She has a literature degree from the University of Saigo and took up sculpting clay religious figures for Buddhist, Catholic and Muslim refugees while there. She also took up wood carving. After being asked to build this, Chi took a year to design the statue. According to Chi, the face came from dreams she had during the design period.

The statue is garbed in a long stately robe. Her right hand forms the circular Buddhist finger symbol meaning happiness and compassion. In her left hand, she holds a container of dew that brings peace and harmony. She stands atop a lotus flower, a universal symbol of Buddhism.

Without a doubt, perhaps the most interesting part of this work was that Mai Chi turned to her artistic mentor, David Adickes, the sculptor of the other two giants, for advice on the designing the interior. She completed the statue in seven sections and erected it in January 2001.

Other Giants of the U.S. that I have been to

Keeper Of The Plains WichitaKS2
Keeper of the Plains in WIchita, KS

Over the years, I have traveled and seen many other giants. Following are some of the others I have visited over the years.

Copy of DavidStatueofLibDec1990
Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty in New York is the tallest of all statues in the United States. It is 151 feet tall and stands upon a 154 foot pedestal giving it a total height of 305 feet. This was completed in 1886 and was designed and sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi. I have visited the Statue on four occasions. The photo above was taken in December 1991.

Our Lady of the Rockies, Butte, MT
Our Lady of the Rockies, Butte, MT

The second tallest statue in the United States (according to the Wikipedia list) was completed in 1985 high on a mountain in Butte, Montana. Designed by Laurien Eugene Riehl, this statue stands 88.6 feet tall and can be seen from Interstate 15 in Butte. I took the photo above in March 2013 from way below using a zoom lens to capture it.

Jesus of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR
Jesus of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR

Standing 65.5 feet tall, the Jesus of the Ozarks statue was completed in 1966 and overlooks a nice park in the touristy town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  I got to visit this statue in 2012.

KeeperOfThePlainsWichitaKS1
Keeper of the Plains, Wichita, KS

The “Keeper of the Plains” statue in Wichita, Kansas only stands 44 feet tall, but it also sits atop a 30 foot pedestal making the total height of 74 feet. This was designed and created by Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin in 1974. It stands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. I visited this in 2012.

HiawathaIronwoodMI4
Hiawatha, Ironwood, MI

The “World’s Tallest and Largest Indian” Statue of Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI is another wonderful giant. Hiawatha stands at 52 feet and weighs 16,000 pounds, including anchoring internal steelwork, and is engineered to withstand 140 mph winds. Hiawatha was built in Minneapolis in 1964, transported to Ironwood and erected in the “caves area,” on the site of the Old Norrie Iron Mine.

Jolly Green Giant in Black Earth, MN
Jolly Green Giant in Black Earth, MN

An icon of television advertising, the 55.5 foot tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN is another giant. This was built in 1979 by a radio station owner and commissioned by a Wisconsin company to build it. I have visited twice and both times was not able to do much due to torrential rains. The picture above is of my son Seth from a trip he took in 2005.

MarkTwainNewLondonMO1
Mark Twain statue in New London, MO

One of the last “giants” that I have visited is along the highway near New London, MO. This nearly 45 foot tall statue of Mark Twain is kind of funky with a giant head and small hands, but, it definitely fits the category of “giant”

 

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Top Ten Travel Photos for 2014

SUMOFLAM PHOTOGRAPHYThroughout my travels I drove over 10,000 miles and took over 3000 photos in 2014. I have numerous shots from the road of quirky places, offbeat sites and some nice looking places.  If you missed my “nature photos”, some of which are from my travels, please check them out on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide Site.  Following are my ten favorite travel shots from 2014 and the stories behind them (and a number of honorable mentions).

NUMBER 1 – OLD PRAIRIE SCHOOL HOUSE

Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white...
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre, Montana. I wanted this one in black and white…more authentic feel

I once saw a photo of this old school house and knew that I had to get to this relic of the past.  So, on my way to Shelby, MT from Havre, I sought to track it down.  Instructions from most are difficult to find, so I figured if I could find the place I could also document its location.  I took color shots, but edited this one to be in black and white. Gives that old-timey feel.

NUMBER 2 – PAUL BUNYAN AND BABE

Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN
Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN

It had always been a dream of mine to get to this famed roadside attraction from 1937 located in Bemidji, MN.  I first saw this in a LIFE Magazine Travel book in the 1960s. From that time my wanderlust kicked in and finally, in 2014, I was able to get there.

Pictures shown in LIFE Magazine in February 1945
Pictures shown in LIFE Magazine in February 1945
SumoPaul Bunyan with Sumoflam....done as a complement from Roadside America
SumoPaul Bunyan with Sumoflam….done as a complement from Roadside America (roadsideamerica.com)

NUMBER 3 – CARHENGE

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

Car art at its best, my 2014 visit to this famed roadside attraction fulfilled my goal to hit the trifecta of car art sites (the other two being Cadillac Ranch, which I visited in 2013 and “Spindle”, the Cars on a Spike,  which I visited in 2007)

NUMBER 4 – GIANT HIAWATHA

Another angle of Hiawatha statue, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US
The giant Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI, which is supposedly the tallest Native American statue in the US

I went to Ironwood, MI to begin my journey west on US Highway 2, which I drove for over 1200 miles, eventually to Browning, Montana. This giant can be seen down the road as one enters the town of Ironwood from the south.  It was one of many “giants” I would see in 2014.

NUMBER 5 – “I AM MO” MURAL

The enormous "I Am MO" mural in the Lexington Distillery District
The enormous “I Am MO” mural in the Lexington Distillery District, Lexington, KY

Sometimes the best sites are in your own backyard.  This amazing mural was done in the summer of 2014 as part of the PRHBTN Arts program.  A number of murals were added to Lexington.  But this one is humongous!!

NUMBER 6 – GREETINGS FROM AUSTIN

Welcome to Austin Mural - Austin, TX
Greetings from Austin Mural – Austin, TX

One can’t visit Austin without visiting this famed mural.  They continue to update it over the years, but it is well known.

NUMBER 7 – TEE PEE MOTEL

Tee Pee Motel - Wharton, Texas
Tee Pee Motel – Wharton, Texas

A throwback to the 50s and 60s, this motel was rebuilt in the 1980s but left with the vintage style buildings and furnishings.  A few other similar ones can be found dotting the country.

NUMBER 8 – THE GREAT TEXAS SUPPER

The Great Texas Supper at LSA Burger in Denton, Texas

The Great Texas Supper at LSA Burger in Denton, Texas

This mural is play on the Last Supper but features famed Texas musicians enjoying a meal with Jesus.  It was painted by Icon Studios in Dallas.  I got the opportunity to visit LSA Burgers for a special visit before they opened for the day (back in June 2014). They were kind enough to give me a nice tour thanks to Denton’s famed ghost tour lady Shelly Cumbie Tucker. L-R in the painting: George Jones, Selena, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Scott Joplin, Janis Joplin, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and T-Bone Walker.

NUMBER 9 – MAMMY’S CUPBOARD

Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS

Mammy’s Cupboard is a great place to eat and an awfully unique roadside attraction.  I found out about it as I researched my trip to Galveston.  I had to not only grab a photo, but had to stop for a bit to eat just so I could say I have eaten in this historical roadside attraction.

NUMBER 10 – THE BIG FISH

I love this angle - Big Fish Eats House!!  In Bena, MN
I love this angle – Big Fish Eats House!! In Bena, MN

This Big Fish is, in my opinion, one of the “Big Three” roadside attractions in Minnesota (though there are dozens of other good ones – the other two are Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, above, and the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth). I got a number of angles, but I loved this one where it looks as if the giant fish is about to devour the little house.

SOME HONORABLE MENTION SHOTS

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Showmen's Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
Showmen’s Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
The Disaster Memorial by David. W. Moore in Galveston, TX
The Disaster Memorial by David. W. Moore in Galveston, TX
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility in Nekoma, ND
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from Highway 288 in Angleton, TX
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from Highway 288 in Angleton, TX
Jackalope Country - Douglas, WY
Jackalope Country – Douglas, WY
Detail of the "Whispering Giant" of Red Lodge, Montana...one of many across the country
Detail of the “Whispering Giant” of Red Lodge, Montana…one of many across the country
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Boudreau's Antiques Boudreau's Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
Boudreau’s Antiques and Collectibles on US Hwy 2 east of Ashland, WI
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL.  Vintage neon and a classic old building.
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL. Vintage neon and a classic old building.
Cincinnati's "The Singing Mural" (detail) by C.F. Payne
Cincinnati’s “The Singing Mural” (detail) by C.F. Payne
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank< Montana looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
The Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI at exit 126 on I-94
The Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI at exit 126 on I-94
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
a portion of the Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
A portion of Billy Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)

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