Announcing My First Book! Now in progress

Finding Success in Missouri

Hello all! Just wanted to announce that I am in the midst of writing my FIRST BOOK (in a planned series of 12) – Titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” the book is all about a number of unique named places I have been to on my numerous travels along the back roads of America. The cover art is currently being designed by my good friend Antsy McClain, who is not only an amazing singer/songwriter/storyteller, but also a very accomplished graphic artist. I also want to thank my friend and fellow travel writer Tui Snider for her divine advice on self-publishing.

Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY

I hope to have the book available by mid-October and will be doing a pre-order promotion later this month. If YOU would like to be included on all promotions and announcements please email me at the NEW official email for the book: This will be my official email list.
So many of you have suggested I write these books — I hope you’ll support me!!  Thanks always to all of you!!


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



A to Z Challenge: The H 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

H The H Towns

Hell, Michigan

Hell, Michigan
Hell, Michigan
Hell Bench in Hell, MI
Hell Bench in Hell, MI
Hell Post Office
Hell Post Office
Direction to Hell from Pickney, MI
Direction to Hell from Pinckney, MI
Hell Weather Bureau
Hell Weather Bureau

I can’t in good conscience include a post about towns that begin with H without starting with Hell, Michigan. Located near Pinckney on a beautiful forest drive, Hell is a great tourist spot.  There are only a few buildings there including an unofficial Post Office (it is actually part of Pinckney, but they have this one there and will do a Hell post mark).  There is an ice cream/gift shop called I Scream, then there is the Dam Fine Food and Spirits place and you can even get official Dam U T-shirts (Damnation University).  No public restrooms, just Porta Potties.  You can see my complete post about Michigan and Hell that I wrote back in 2008 HERE.

Hamtramck, Michigan

The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in vistors to Detroit
The creation of Ukranian born Dmytro Szylak, Hamtramck Disneyland still brings in vistors to Detroit
A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard - Hamtramck Disneyland
A menagerie of oddball and offbeat things all over the roof, side of the house and the yard – Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 - Detroit
Hamtramck Disneyland in 2008 – Detroit
Polish Deli Hamtramck
Polish Deli Hamtramck
Old Ice Cream Shop in Hamtramck
Burks Igloo Ice Cream Shop in Hamtramck
A Shop converted to a Mosque in Hamtramck, MI
A Shop converted to a Mosque in Hamtramck, MI

Sticking in Michigan, swing over to the Hamtramck suburb of Detroit.  This is a very interesting place to say the least.  Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914. Poles used to make up a large proportion of the population. It is sometimes confused with Poletown, a traditional Polish neighborhood, which used to lie mostly in the city of Detroit and includes a small part of Hamtramck. But more recently (November 2015) the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendants for more than a century has now become what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect a
majority-Muslim council.  In fact, in 2013 the town earned the distinction of becoming what appears to be the first majority-Muslim city in the United States following the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia over a decade.

Despite all of this, tucked away on a side street is probably one of the most interesting accumulations of weird whirly gigs, mannequins, and a plethora of oddball knick knacks.  Known as Hamtramck Disneyland, it is a yard art folk art located owned by a man named Dmytro Szylak. Hamtramck Disneyland was started in 1992 and came to be finished in 1999. Szylak died at age 92 in May 2015 and now the future of the place, located at 12087 Klinger St in Hamtramck, is in question. But the menagerie of fun will always be etched in my mind.

Hamilton, Ontario

Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario
Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario
Jet on display at Warplane Museum
Jet on display at Warplane Museum
Hutch's Burgers and French Fries in Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s Burgers and French Fries in Hamilton, Ontario
Tews Falls in Ontario
Tews Falls in Ontario
Tews Falls, Hamilton, Ontario
Tews Falls, Hamilton, Ontario
Webster Falls, Hamilton, Ontario
Webster Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

While living in Ontario in 2008, I visited a number of places and always seemed to pass through Hamilton, a wonderful place to visit.  In the town itself is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which contains over 40 different aircraft. Then there are the waterfalls!!  The township has over 100 waterfalls within a short drive from downtown, and many of them are spectacular.  The area is part of the Niagara Escarpment which provides perfect geological conditions for waterfalls to occur, from Tobermory to Niagara Falls. The most scenic waterfall in Hamilton is Webster’s Falls. With its 98 ft crest, it is the largest waterfall within the city. Tew’s Falls is a 135 ft ribbon waterfall, and is the tallest waterfall found in Hamilton. Both are in photos above. There is a website dedicated to the waterfalls of Hamilton HERE.  And then, after all of the waterfalls, head over to Lake Ontario and to the shoreside burger joint known as Hutch’s on the Beach for a great burger in a 1960s style diner.

Hatch, New Mexico

A & W Family in Hatch, NM
A & W Family in Hatch, NM
Muffler Man in Hatch, NM
Muffler Man in Hatch, NM
Mural in Hatch, NM
Mural in Hatch, NM
Hatch Chiles
Hatch Chiles

We’ll move from Hutch’s on the Beach clear south to Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the World. Located off Interstate 25, between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences, the Village of Hatch has a population registered at little over 1,600 people.  Chiles can be seen everywhere, both dried and fresh.  The Hatch Green Chiles are my most favorite in the world!! Stop into one of the shops and get some and you too will be hooked.  Every year in September they have their Hatch Valley Chile Festival which looks amazing.  While in Hatch, check out Sparky’s burger joint which has a vintage A&W Family on the roof and nearby is giant Muffler Man.  Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders and other fun stuff decorates the place known for BBQ and their World Famous Green Chile Cheeseburger.  I went through there a few years ago, but never got around to writing a blog post.  But many of my photos can be seen HERE.

Hico, Texas

Portion of a mural in Hico, TX by artist Stylle Read
Portion of a mural in Hico, TX by artist Stylle Read
Giant Spurs at a business in Hico, Texas
Giant Spurs at a business in Hico, Texas
Billy the Kid Museum in Hico, Texas
Billy the Kid Museum in Hico, Texas
Old Dr Pepper Wall Mural in Hico, Texas
Old Dr Pepper Wall Mural in Hico, Texas

Hico is Texas all the way.  Only about 1400 people live there, but everything is BIG there.  From the giant 12 foot tall spurs in front of a business to the many murals splashed on walls throughout the town, it is a fun place.  And of course, you can’t miss the Billy the Kid Museum in downtown.  The town where “Everybody is Somebody” is covered in my 2012 Blog Post HERE.

Hopland, California

Hopland, CA
Hopland, CA
Welcome to Real Goods
Welcome to Real Goods
Needing to Pee? sign in Hopland, CA
Needing to Pee?  sign in Hopland, CA
"Horn Dragon" by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA

In May 2015 I was in the San Francisco area to participate in Antsy McClain’s Woodflock gathering in Red Bluff, CA.  Along the way we passed a sign that said “Needing to Pee?”  What a kick! It was one of many signs in Hopland advertising the naturalist’s department store known as Real Goods. Hopland It is located on the west bank of the Russian River 13 miles south-southeast of Ukiah, at an elevation of 502 feet and has a population of about 750 environmentally conscious folks.  I got to meet one of America’s Solar Pioneers while there and saw a plethora of interesting items inn the shop, which is an extension of their massive website catalog.  The place has a see through working beehive, the strangest restrooms in the world and some interesting, unique and even quirky items for sale.  See my full post about Real Goods HERE.

Hoboken, New Jersey

Welcome to Hoboken , NJ
Welcome to Hoboken , NJ
The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinata Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
At Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ in 2015
At Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ in 2015
Famed Cannoli at Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken
Famed Cannoli at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken

On another family trip in 2015, my wife, daughter and grandchildren all headed east to Connecticut for a baby blessing.  On the way we made a stop in Hoboken, NJ, which offers amazing views of New York City and is also the home of world famous Carlos Bake Shop, from the TV show Cake Boss.  The town is packed, the roads are narrow, but the atmosphere, even at 11 PM, is amazing.  See my complete roadtrip report, including Hoboken photos (and Hershey, PA photos) HERE.

Hugo, Oklahoma

Welcome to Historic Hugo, OK
Welcome to Historic Hugo, OK
Elephant Statue in front of the Hugo Chamber of Commerce
Elephant Statue in front of the Hugo Chamber of Commerce
Old wall mural in Hugo depicts some of the history of the town.
Old wall mural in Hugo depicts some of the history of the town.
Showmen's Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
Showmen’s Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma
Dedicated to Circus Performers
Dedicated to Circus Performers
Circus Lives Celebrated
Circus Lives Celebrated

On a return trip from Texas in 2014, I made my way into southeast Oklahoma for a visit to Hugo, which has the nickname of Circus City USA as it is perhaps best known as a resting place for Circus Performers and, has become the eternal resting place for many of these performers. Hugo has been a circus wintering ground since 1942 and is still such for three circuses and their staff and performers, The Carson and Barnes Circus, The Kelly-Miller Circus, and the Culpepper-Merriweather Circus.  It is a common site to drive past their grounds in the winter and see them taking care of an elephant or working on their equipment. The town cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, has a special area called Showmen’s Rest which features unique headstones and grave sites for circus performers and owners. there is also a section called Bull Rider’s Reprieve set aside as a resting place for rodeo riders that have passed on.  I thoroughly enjoyed the brief visit to this hallowed ground to remember circus performers.  Here are a few photos from this fascinating corner of a cemetery.  Read more about it in my 2015 post HERE.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hershey's Chocolate World
Hershey’s Chocolate World
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hershey Chocolate World in 1990s
Some of my children  at Hershey Chocolate World in 1990s
Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss
Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss

In the southwest region of Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, the chocolate scented town of Hershey rests. Home of the Hershey Chocolate company, the town is decorated everywhere with chocolaty things, right down to the town’s Hershey’s Kiss shaped streetlights. I visited there in 1998 and then again in 2015. Hershey’s Chocolate World has some great stuff, lots of chocolate for sale and even a factory tour.  We visited Hershey on the same trip as Hoboken, so check out my blog link above.

Home on the Range, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Home on the Range sign in North Dakota
Home on the Range sign in North Dakota

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam…well, Home on the Range is somewhere in Western North Dakota off of Interstate 94. It turns out that Home on the Range is a working Catholic-run ranch for boys and girls ages 12-19, especially those that were abused or come from broken families. It helps them readjust and cope.  Appears to be a great program.

Hamburg, Iowa (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to Hamburg, IA
Welcome to Hamburg, IA
Stoner Drug - Hamburg, Iowa - what a name for a drug store
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa – what a name for a drug store

Finally, I wanted to mention the small town of Hamburg, Iowa only because of the unique shop there known as Stoner Drug Store.  They even sell T-Shirts!! The Drug store still has a working Malt/Soda Bar like they had in the 1960s. You can see more HERE.

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]