T is Travel Abroad – #atozchallenge

For most of my 250+ blog posts on my Less Beaten Paths Blog, I have discussed the back roads of America and Canada.
But for today’s post in the A-to-Z challenge, I want to note some of my other travels outside of the country. I would like to say I’m a world traveler, but I have yet to visit Europe or Australia or New Zealand or South America. But, I have been very fortunate to have lived in Japan for a number of years. From 1987 to 1991, my family also lives there with me. I have also spent a number of weeks working in the Philippines and spend some time working in China near Shanghai and Suzhou. Finally, I should note that I have also visited the mainland of Mexico during a cruise and was able to see the ruins at Tulum.
Perhaps the best “old shrine” in Japan, Nikko has been around for centuries. This is north of Tokyo. I visited Nikko in 1990.
Hanging with the fish monger and holding dried squid in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)

My first venture overseas was to Japan in 1976 as a missionary for the LDS church. I served in what was then called the Nagoya mission and worked in cities throughout Central Japan including, in order, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Fukui, Takaoka, Ogaki and finally, Fuji City. It was an amazing 22 month experience for me as a young 19 to 21-year-old.

Though most of my time was spent doing missionary work, I did have occasion to travel and visit parts of Japan back then. I also was very lucky to live at the base of the beautiful Mount Fuji, one of the most well known symbols of Japan. Many of the following photos were scanned from old Fujichrome slides taken between 1976 and 1978.
Sumoflam in Fuji, Japan 1978, with Mt. Fuji in the background
Shinto Toori Gates in Fukui, Japan (ca. 1976)
Mt. Fuji framed by Japanese flag, ca. 1978
Gifu Castle in Gifu Japan (ca. spring 1977)
A busy missionary….no cell phones back then. Just Japanese pay phones. (ca. 1978)
Visiting the Imperial Castle in Tokyo just before I left to return home. I was with one of the sisters who I taught in Ogaki in 1977, who came to see me off. (ca. Apr 1978)
Japan Sea sunset taken near Fukui, Japan (ca 1977)
Seijin-shiki (Coming of Age Ceremony) 1976 in Fukui, Japan (ca. Nov. 1976) – A celebration for all that have turned 20 (which I did in 1976)
Big Buddha in Takaoka Japan 1976
Sumoflam at Buddhist Temple in Kanazawa, Japan 1977
Typical Japan Town (forget where this was) (ca. 1977)
Ken-roku Park in Kanazawa. One of Japan’s most famous garden parks (ca. 1976)
Giant fish attacking me in Japan in 1976, in Kanazawa (Yes, I liked the quirky even back in 1976!)
A wave splashes at sunset on the coast of the Japan Sea near Fukui (ca. 1977)
Mt. Fuji and Fuji City ca. 1978
Mt. Fuji at night (ca. 1978)
Snow piled high (yes, it was THAT DEEP!!) in front of the LDS Church in Fukui, Japan (ca. winter 1976/77)

After my return to the states, I went to school, got married, had children and eventually graduated from Arizona State University with a Masters Degree in International Political Science. At that time, in 1987, Japan’s Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Education had started a brand-new program called The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program). After consulting with my sweet wife, I decided to apply for that in hopes that maybe we could go to Japan as a family and experience that country together.

Since we were in the Los Angeles district for registration, I really worried that I would not qualify despite my language skills. But I did and was one of the first 38 individuals selected to participate in the program as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). There were about 400 others selected as assistant English teachers.
Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987 during a JET Program conference for CIRs.  Notice the slippers in the snow…LOL
David with Gov. Hiramatsu and then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe
The children got a special visit with the then-Governor of Oita, Morhiko Hiramatsu.

My assignment would be to work in the office of the governor of Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Oita’s governor Hiramatsu was a nationally known progressive governor. He had programs that he had instituted to produce locally and think globally. During my two-year stint as a CIR, I got to travel extensively throughout the prefecture and got to meet many wonderful people and experience many wonderful things, as did my family.  Also, as a CIR, I participated in a number of TV programs and my children were in numerous television and print commercials.  It was an amazing experience for us all.

Daughter Chelsea with Governor Hiramatsu at a festival
Some of Japan’s oldest stone carved Buddhas can be seen at Kumano Magaibutsu park in Oita
The village of Usuki, also in Oita, is home of a famous Buddha statue. It is also the original landing place of the Dutch when they first arrived in Japan in the 1600s.
Making a New Year’s TV Show in Oita while working as a CIR
Seth and Chelsea at a waterfall in Japan where they were shooting a TV commercial.
Amaree in Usa, Japan 1987
Family at Usa Shrine in Oita Prefecture ca. 1990
Amaree in a promotional ad for a department store in Fukuoka, Japan
Family at Kumamoto Castle in 1988
Marissa got to be all dressed up for an ad in Japan too
Hanging with a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan 1987
Enjoying a visit to the famed Suizenji Park in Kumamoto
A hot spring shower in Beppu…and yes, the towel was necessary. 1990
Wielding an authentic Japanese katana at a history center in Takata for a TV show.
Visiting the Matsushima Islands near Sendai, Japan in 1990 while on a business trip for Asahi Solar.

On the day that my assignment ended, July 31, 1989, I got onto an airplane to fly to Fukui where I had once served my mission. August 1 would be my first day as the Director of International Planning for a nationally known company called Asahi Solar Corporation, which was also headquartered in Oita. I was the first foreigner to work for that company and I traveled throughout the country with the president of the company. We also made trips to China, Hawaii and other places within the United States in search of improving the solar industry. We even brought a solar water heater to donate to the solar foundation at the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona.

One of Japan’s smallest castles, the Hikone Castle, supposedly has tiles of gold on top. I visited here in 1990
David in Amagase for another TV Show — yes, Japanese style for those who are curious
Solar water heaters from Asahi Solar
Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
David with Colorado State solar car at GM Sunrayce in Florida. Asahi Solar was a sponsor and I managed the project
Visiting the Fukuoka Sumo Basho in 1991 with my wife.

During my four years in Japan from 1987 to 1991, I’ve visited every prefecture in the country except for Okinawa and Hokkaido.

We got to visit many wonderful places and famous places.  We attended the national Sumo Wrestling Tournament in Fukuoka.  We visited some of Kyoto’s famed sites and more.
I took this shot of Konishiki from my seat in Fukuoka in 1991. He made me look small!!
At the Gold Pavilion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto, Japan in 1990 with my wife and Dad
Nagasaki Peace Park in Sept 1988
Japans second most famous China Town (Tokyo’s is first). This one is located in Nagasaki
Visiting the famed Himeji Castle in 1987
Sumoflam at Nikko Pagoda in Japan
Island Hopping in the Philippines in 2006

Indeed, Japan was a wonderful experience.  Our family returned to the US in late 1991 and eventually made our way to Kentucky.  While in Kentucky I worked for a number of Japanese companies as an interpreter.  I eventually made my way to Lexmark International, where I worked with the software development team to get the Japanese, Chinese, Korean (and other language) versions of their software localized.  While an employee of Lexmark, I made two training trips to Cebu, Philippines, yet another great experience.  You can read a detailed post of my adventures at my Cebu Journal

Visiting the shopping area in Carbon, Cebu, Philippines
Getting a ride in Bike Cart (poor guy…I SHOULD have been pedaling)
The Bride – Cebu
Motorbike Quartet
Blind Guitarist – Colon, Cebu
Pondering Girl – Colon, Cebu
Basket Vendor – Cebu
Buffalo Man – Cebu
Smiling Girl – Cebu
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007
The Chocolate Hills in Bohol
A Tersier on Bohol
Bohol Truck – Bohol Island
An outrigger on the small island of Caohagen, Philippines
A young girl on Caohagen Island
Riding an outrigger….yes, I barely fit
A squatter village in Cebu
Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

My only other real big overseas trip was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico.  During this cruise we also got to take a small boat to mainland Mexico and visit the old Mayan ruins of Tulum.

As a lover of history, this was a fascinating visit and one I will not soon forget.

I am glad that my sweet wife was able to accompany me.  You can see the entire story on the Polyesterfest Cruise Post of mine.

Twin cruise ships docked in Cozumel, Mexico
Apparently the world’s smallest Hard Rock Cafe in Cozumel, Mexico
Tulum Ruins, Mexico

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Finally Made It! All 50 US States – Sept. 2015

WARNING-This is a long post. It took me nearly 59 years to get to all 50 states!

Welcome to Vermont
Made it to State #50!

On September 8, 2015, I set foot on the side of the road just north of Brattleboro, VT after we crossed over the Connecticut River from New Hampshire on Hwy 9. I got out and took a selfie of myself under a Welcome to Vermont sign.  I had finally set foot in my 50th US state…a nearly 59 year journey.

Stay 3 or more nights & save up to 25% now! At participating hotels

Following is a state by state chronicle of my nearly 59 year journey in order of states visited.

Four Corners - July 15, 1993
Four Corners – July 15, 1993

My 50 State Adventure

ohio1- Ohio (1956): I was born in Cleveland in the Little Italy section of town to Joe Laurienzo and Orene Goldberg.  My next visit to Ohio wouldn’t be until 1993 when I made a trip to Cleveland to visit a Ford plant.  It was a fly in and fly out affair.  I had hoped to get to my birthplace, but it wouldn’t be until a couple of years later…too late to meet my natural father.  Since then I have made dozens of trips to or through Ohio.

The house I lived in after I was born. It is still on Murray Hill Road in Cleveland.
The house I lived in after I was born. It is still on Murray Hill Road in Cleveland.
The same house on Murray Hill Rd. in 2005
The same house on Murray Hill Rd. in 2005
David as a baby in Cleveland 1956
David as a baby in Cleveland 1956
Murray Hill Road in Little Italy, Cleveland.
Murray Hill Road in Little Italy, Cleveland.
With three of my Laurienzo sisters at Nicole's Mayfield Smoke Shop
With three of my Laurienzo sisters at Nicole’s Mayfield Smoke Shop

new-mexico2- New Mexico (1957): In August of 1957 my mother left her husband and took me to her home in Albuquerque, where I spent the next few years of my life.  I still have memories of our little duplex and then our house up in Snow Heights on the west side of Albuquerque.  My step mother actually spent the last yeas of her life in the place where she spent much of her youth and is buried behind a Catholic Church in Jemez Springs, where she lived out the last ten years of her life.

With my brothers Aaron and Danny in New Mexico around 1961
With my brothers Aaron and Danny in Jemez Springs, NM around 1961
Our house in Albuquerque. I took this photo on a visit back there in the 1970s
Our house in Albuquerque. I took this photo on a visit back there in the 1970s
Visiting the Indian Ruins in Bandelier National Monument, 1978
Visiting the Indian Ruins in Bandelier National Monument, 1978
In Jemez Springs, NM ca. 1978 with my younger brother Gary
In Jemez Springs, NM ca. 1978 with my younger brother Gary
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013

new-york3- New York (1959): I don’t recall any of this trip, only from photos. My step father Joe Kravetz was from New York and I believe we went back for a family visit and to visit Grandma Kravetz. Of course, in the past 56 years since, I have been to many places in New York, much of it in 2008/2009.  I did get to visit my grandmother Kravetz in Tarry town a couple of times, fortunately.

In New York City as a young boy ca. 1959
In New York City as a young boy ca. 1959
New York City 1959
New York City 1959
I visited NYC in 1990 and this is a photo with the original World Trade Center Twin Towers.
I visited NYC in 1990 and this is a photo with the original World Trade Center Twin Towers.
A visit to West Point in New York in 1986.
A visit to West Point in New York in 1986.

texas4- Texas (1967): My first real road trip! We moved to Richardson, TX, then practically a rural suburb of Dallas. Back then the Dallas Cowboys still played in the Cotton Bowl. We took Route 66 through Amarillo. I still have fond memories of that trip from nearly 50 years ago. and in some ways have retraced those steps, including  a trip back to Amarillo in 2014…on Route 66. My step father, who worked for Skaggs Drug back then, was transferred from Albuquerque. During this early time, my natural mother left me and my brother with our step-father Joe Kravetz. I did not see her again until 1975. I have actually driven across Texas north and south as well as east and west numerous times. There is a part of me that remains Texan in spirit I think.

Visiting Texas in 2014
Visiting Texas in 2014
The iconic Route 66 roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
The iconic Route 66 roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
Visiting in Austin in 2014
Visiting the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX in 2014
At Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, TX in 2012

oklahoma5- Oklahoma (1968): As we moved to Denver, we passed through the panhandle of Oklahoma. My first trip through any part of that state.  I have passed through a few times, but have also made some earnest visits to the lands first settled by my great grandfather Paschal Hanks, who participated in the Cherokee Run.  Much to my surprise, there are many places in Oklahoma, especially in the southeast corner, that are extremely scenic. Oklahoma is Okay…and so is Okay, Oklahoma, which I visited in 2012.

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014
Visiting Oklahoma in 2014
Okay, Oklahoma in 2012
Okay, Oklahoma in 2012

colorado6- Colorado (1968): My step father was transferred from Dallas to Denver in 1968. We moved to the suburb Lakewood where I had my first view of the real Rocky Mountains. As an 8th grader I climbed up Long’s Peak (halfway anyway…a storm stopped the remainder). We visited Mt. Evans, which, at that time had an immense log/rock visitor’s center/shop. I saw mountain goats, spectacular lakes, etc. Over the years I have had the opportunity to travel all over Colorado from the mountains to the deserts to the high plains.  Indeed, Colorado is one of my favorite places in the United States…I love the mountains.

Our home in Lakewood, Colorado ca. 1969
Our home on W. Bails Ave. in Lakewood, Colorado ca. 1969
Sitting near the summit of Mt. Evans in Colorado overlooking Echo Lake in 1990. I love Colorado
Sitting near the summit of Mt. Evans in Colorado overlooking Echo Lake in 1990. I love Colorado
At Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado with the family in 1993
At Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado with the family in 1993

wyoming7- Wyoming (1969): In 1969 I began delivering the Denver Post in my neighborhood. It was a bike route. I had big bags on both sides of the front wheel. We were in a growing neighborhood and I eventually won the Denver area subscription contest which landed me (and my brother Danny) a trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Frontier Days rodeo. It was my first bus ride as I joined two dozen other junior high and high school kids on this Denver Post sponsored trip of a lifetime. I have since had numerous trips across Wyoming, including a hitchhiking adventure as a junior in high school after literally running away from home.  I made it to Yellowstone and then across the Wind River Canyon and eventually into Denver. Like Colorado, there are some amazing places in Wyoming, my favorite being the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. In 2014 a dream of mine was fulfilled as I got to drive the Beartooth Scenic Highway at 11,000 feet on the border of Wyoming and Montana.  One of my most favorite and memorable one day road trips ever.

Visiting the Beartooth Scenic Highway in Wyoming in 2014
Visiting the Beartooth Scenic Highway in Wyoming in 2014
At Top of the World, WY on Memorial Day 2014...this was at 11,000 feet high in the Beartooths.
At Top of the World, WY on Memorial Day 2014…this was at 11,000 feet high in the Beartooths.
Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 2014
Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 2014
Visiting Yellowstone National Park in 2014
Visiting Yellowstone National Park in 2014
Visited Lost Springs, WY, Pop 1 in 2007. Went back in 2014 and it had grown 400% to Pop 4. And yes, I have a photo of that sign too!
Visited Lost Springs, WY, Pop 1 in 2007. Went back in 2014 and it had grown 400% to Pop 4. And yes, I have a photo of that sign too!

montana8- Montana (1970): In the summer of 1971 my step father was once again transferred. This time we moved to Great Falls, Montana. It was long drive, all the way through northern Colorado, completely through Wyoming and then all the way to Great Falls. It was there that I got into my first year of high school at Charles M. Russell, where I was in band and also on the cross country and track teams. While in the marching band, we made a trip to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, through Alberta…my first venture out of the United States. I ate spudnuts in Lethbridge and had a great time on the bus! I was given the name “Monty Montana” by my high school friends in Murray in 1973 because I talked so much about it. In many respects I am still a “Big Sky Guy.”  After my daughter Amaree married, they lived in Great Falls, so I have been back to my favorite US State well over a dozen times since 2005.  The mountains of Glacier National Park are always calling me.

Our house in Bozeman, MT in 1973. It was located in Bear Canyon, south of town.
Our house in Bozeman, MT in 1973. It was located in Bear Canyon, south of town.
Took this photo of our Montana license plate with a Murray High School (UT) hat in 1976
Took this photo of our Montana license plate with a Murray High School (UT) hat in 1976
Kremlin, MT on US Hwy 2 in northern Montana in 2014
Kremlin, MT on US Hwy 2 in northern Montana in 2014
My brothers at the Great Falls of the Missouri River in Great Falls, MT in 1972
My brothers and sister at the Great Falls of the Missouri River in Great Falls, MT in 1972
With my oldest daughter Amaree at the same Great Falls in 2006
With my oldest daughter Amaree at the same Great Falls in 2006
Visiting Glacier National Park in Montana in 2005
Visiting Glacier National Park in Montana in 2005
Hitting Montana on a road trip in 2014
Hitting Montana on a road trip in 2014
At the Jerusalem Rocks in Northern Montana in 2012

idaho9- Idaho (1971): As I noted above, I was on the track team and we took a road trip to Pocatello for a tri-state track meet. Soon thereafter we moved to Bozeman, MT. While in Bozeman the band also took a trip to Alberta, my second venture to a foreign country. I have since made numerous trips to Idaho and have been all over the state.  Perhaps my favorite time was in 2013 when I spent a number of weeks in Idaho for work and traveled all over the state, including to my favorite place there, the Sawtooth Mountain Range.

At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013
Grand Tetons in Idaho/Wyoming

utah10- Utah (1973): My dad was once again transferred in the summer of 1973 and we made our way to Murray, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. While in Utah I worked for a company that had me traveling all over the state and across southern Wyoming. Lots of driving…I loved it.  In 1975 I joined the LDS (Mormon) Church and in 1976 went to Japan as a missionary. Indeed, our move to Utah was in many respects a life changing move as I also met my dear wife Julianne there and consider most of best friends to be there.

At Monument Valley in Utah in 1982
At Monument Valley in Utah in 1982
Home in Murray, UT around 1974

nevada11- Nevada (1974): Traveled to Winnemucca, NV with a church group while living in Murray. We then traveled to Reno. My next trip to Nevada was as Tour Bus driver in Flagstaff, AZ 1982.  I got to drive a bus through downtown Las Vegas on a Saturday night. Other than a couple of visits to Hoover Dam, I have not been back to Nevada in many years.

california12- California (1975): By 1975 I had joined the LDS Church and was preparing for a mission. At age 18 I could finally make my own decisions and chose to fly to San Francisco to visit my natural mother, the first time I had seen her since 1963. She lived in Marin County. It was really cool to see the Pacific Ocean, Sausalito, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was there that I first learned the name of my natural father and actually had a chance to call him and speak with him for the first time in 18 years. He still resided in the house I was born in. In 1976 I left for Japan on a Mormon mission for two years and returned to Utah (via a visit to my stepmother and family in Jemez Springs, NM) in February 1978.   Over he years I have made a few trips to California again including trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Catalina Island and, most recently, in 2015 I visited San Francisco and some of northern California, all the up to Red Bluff, in association with Antsy McClain.

At the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with Antsy McClain in 2010
At the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with Antsy McClain in 2010
At Golden Gate Bridge in May 2015
At Golden Gate Bridge in May 2015
Visiting Mel’s Diner in San Francisco in 2015

arizona13- Arizona (1979): I met my sweet wife Julianne in Provo, UT while at BYU in 1978. She was from Mesa, AZ and by the time we were engaged I had the opportunity to head to Arizona to visit her family. It was my first time to see the “Grand Staircase” from Zion National Park down through the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, etc., and then eventually into the saguaro covered deserts of the Phoenix area. By 1980 we were living in Flagstaff and I was attending Northern Arizona University. I took a job as a Tour Guide/Bus Driver for a company called Nava-Hopi Tours…it was the perfect job for me and it afforded me the awesome opportunity to travel throughout Arizona, to Hoover Dam, to Las Vegas and even into New Mexico. By this time traveling and driving the roads of this great country was fully settled into my blood.  During this time I visited the wonderful Red Rocks of Sedona over 100 times, the awe inspiring Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation nearly 30 times and the Grand Canyon over 50 times.

Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1983
Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1991
Coal Mine Canyon in North Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in North Arizona in 1990
Working as a Tour Guide in Arizona for Nava-Hopi Tours in 1983
Working as a Tour Guide in Arizona for Nava-Hopi Tours in 1983
At the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona in 1982
At the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook on US 89 north of Sedona, AZ in 1983
While working in Arizona I made over 100 trips to Walpi on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona
While working in Arizona I made over 100 trips to Walpi on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona

new-jersey14- New Jersey (1984): By 1984 we had moved to Mesa, AZ and I was in a Master’s Program at Arizona State University. During this time I had an opportunity to do a presentation for an event at West Point in New York as a representative of ASU’s Political Science Department. It was a thrill to fly to New York, visit family in Tarrytown, see Ossining where my step father grew up and then to visit the amazing West Point campus. While out there I took the opportunity to drive into New Jersey and up to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I have since been there numerous times, most recently a few weeks ago on our way to Connecticut.  Even visited the famed Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken and saw the sparkle of New York City at night.

At Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ in 2015
At Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ in 2015

connecticut15- Connecticut (1984): My cousin lived in up in Connecticut and so, I made my first trip into the state while visiting New York. We again visited as a family in the early 2000s.  In 2014 my son Seth got a job there and so we made a visit there in the summer of 2015 and spent some time on both sides of the state, including an interesting visit to Mystic. And we did not eat the pizza at Mystic Pizza.  Had Thai food instead.

Mystic, CT Amtrak Station in Sept 2015
Mystic, CT Amtrak Station in Sept 2015

rhode-island16- Rhode Island (1984): Visited on my way to Massachusetts while on my trip to New York.  This is a small state and I really didn’t do much but pass through on my way to Massachusetts.  But, I can say I have been there!

 

massachusetts17- Massachusetts (1984):  I visited Salem and the House of the Seven Gables while on my trip to New York in 1984. I visited again in 1991 and was able to stay in the luxurious Boston Harbor Hotel as I was assisting a famous Japanese movie star’s family as they sought to get their daughter into Cambridge.  Most recently we drove through Massachusetts in September 2015 on our way to Maine.

maryland18- Maryland (1986): As I finished up my MA degree and began Doctoral studies, I was asked to interview with the National Security Agency. I was flown out to Columbia, MD for the interview. This would not be my last visit to Maryland, but it was my only visit to the NSA. In 1996 we drove up along the Delmarva Peninsula, into Silver Spring to visit my aunt and see the LDS Washington DC temple while our exchange student Barbara was with us. We most recently drove across the narrow panhandle of Maryland on our 2015 trip to Connecticut and New England.

In the Chesapeake area of Maryland in September 2015

illinois19- Illinois (1989): In 1987 I took a position in Japan with the Oita Prefectural Government as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. Our entire family moved there and we were in Oita for over 4 years. As my two years came near an end, I did some work with Norbest (the turkey processing company), Japan, out of Osaka. They took me with them to the giant Food and Beverage show in Chicago. We then visited one of their facilities in Minnesota and Fargo.  Over the years I have been to all parts of Illinois, along the Mississippi, to the heartland of the state and even back to Chicago.

A visit to Illinois in 2014
A visit to Illinois in 2014
Picked this bottle of Route Beer 66 at Rabbit Ranch in Illinois in 2013
Picked this bottle of Route Beer 66 at Rabbit Ranch in Illinois in 2013

DSC_5979

Visiting with Superman in Metropolis, IL in 2012
Well, we know who’s not Normal…visiting Normal, IL in 2007

iowa20- Iowa (1989): I first traveled through the corn fields of Iowa on my way west. I didn’t stop for much.  But, I have since stopped in many places in this state, including the home of the TV Show “American Pickers” – Antique Archaeology, Pella – home of a giant Dutch Windmill, the house that the famed painting American Gothic depicted, and more.

World's Largest truckstop is in Iowa. Been there three times
World’s Largest truckstop is in Iowa. Been there three times
With the famous Antique Archaeology car in LeClair, Iowa, home of the American Pickers – 2013
Hanging with Danielle Cushman from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012
Hanging with Danielle Cushman from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012
At the giant Vermeer windmill in Pella, IA in 2013
At the American Gothic house in Eldon, IA in 2014

north-dakota

21- North Dakota (1989): Flew into Fargo on our way to the Norbest facility in Minnesota. I have since made eight trips across North  Dakota and have traveled the majority of this lovely state.  My favorite trip, of course, was down the Enchanted Highway, a quirky traveler’s dream highway!

On the Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota in 2013
On the Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota in 2013
The 4 Headed Thunderbird in Bismarck, ND in 2013
Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in 2014
Udderly tickled by the giant cow statue on a hill in New Salem, ND in 2005… Named Salem Sue, it is the biggest cow statue in the world

minnesota22- Minnesota (1989): We drove to the Norbest turkey processing facility in Minnesota. That was an interesting trip watching them process turkeys.  In the 2000s I have made six trips through Minnesota, including a trip across northern Minnesota on US Hwy 2, which fulfilled a life long dream as I got to visit Bemidji and the huge Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox monuments that had been there since the 1950s.

Bemidji, MN in 2014 -- one of my bucket list places
Bemidji, MN in 2014 — one of my bucket list places
Floodwood, MN in 2014..on US Hwy 2
Floodwood, MN in 2014..on US Hwy 2
Watching out for the big fish in Bena, MN in 2014

WashDC22a- Washington, DC (1990): After my two year stint with Oita, I went to work for an Oita based company called Asahi Solar and this job provided a number of opportunities to travel back to the U.S. During this time we visited solar facilities in Colorado, Arizona, Texas and beyond. We also made a trip to Washington, DC and New York City for business during the Christmas season. I also visited Delaware, Virginia, Maryland (my aunt lived in Silver Spring).

At the White House in Washington DC in 1990
At the White House in Washington DC in 1990

virginia23- Virginia (1990): During my time in Washington, DC I rented a car for the weekend and drove south to Norfolk, visiting historical sites along the way. I then headed north to Delaware. This was my first venture on the famed Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  I have made six other trips to Virginia since. Much of the western part of the state is still wild and wonderful.

Some of the family and Barbara, our French exchange student in Jamestown, VA in 1995

delaware24- Delaware (1990): Once I crossed Chesapeake Bay I arrived in the Delmarva Peninsula and made my way to Rehoboth Beach…and had my first sighting of dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful experience. I also ventured back into Maryland and made my way to Annapolis.  My next and only other visit was in 1996 with my children.

florida25- Florida (1990): This was a banner travel year for me. On my earlier trip that year we coordinated the sponsorship of two Solar Cars…one for Colorado State and the other for my Alma Mater Arizona State. These cars would participate in the first ever cross country solar car race in the United States, called the GM Sunrayce. As the coordinator of the project I had the opportunity to join the team in Orlando, FL for the start of the race. This was a great trip to Disneyworld, where we stayed. While in Florida I visited the Everglades and made my way to Jacksonville, and then flew back up to Washington DC for more business.  I have only been to Florida one other time with some Japanese to visit a Rolls Royce dealership in Daytona Beach, of all places.  I think a good solid Florida road trip is in order in the future.

At the Everglade in Florida in 1990
At the Everglade in Florida in 1990

indiana26- Indiana (1990): I continued to follow the GM Sunrayce into Indianapolis over backroads lined with tall cornfields. I was hooked with backroads driving again. Honestly, I was awestruck by the green and the miles of corn fields as I drove north into Indiana and then on to Detroit.  Like Illinois, I have been all over Indiana.  The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis is by far one of the best in the country.  And, who can forget the iconic and quirky Santa Claus, IN?  Indiana turns out to be my “halfway state” but I didn’t realize that until writing this.

Santa Claus, Indiana Post Office
Santa Claus, Indiana Post Office
Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children’s Museum

michigan27- Michigan (1990): The GM Sunrayce completed the event in Detroit. Both of the cars finished, but not too far up the pack. The Sunrayce was amazing to participate in. I finally headed back to Japan. In  2008 I worked in Woodstock, Ontario for a few months and made my way through Detroit numerous times.  But, I have also spent time in southern Michigan to see the historic covered bridges, visited Hell and even spent the night on the western edge of the Upper Peninsula in 2014 as I began my US Hwy 2 trek westward to Montana.

Blaze Bench - Hell, MI
Blaze Bench – Hell, MI in 2008
HiawathaIronwoodMI4
Hiawatha Statue in Ironwood, MI 2014

hawaii28- Hawaii (1991): Each year Asahi Solar did an all-employee trip somewhere during the New Year’s holiday. In late 1991 it was in Hawaii, and I got to go. We spent three days on Waikiki Beach and I rented a car and drive across the island through pineapple fields and then to the Hawaii Temple and the Polynesian Cultural Center. By the end of 1991, my family was returning back to the united States as I departed Asahi Solar. It was a fun four and a half years in Oita.  I made one other trip to Hawaii on business for Asahi Solar, but have not been back since 1991.

tennessee29- Tennessee (1992): After arriving back in Arizona, I found it difficult to find work. I applied all over and eventually landed a job interview in the small town of Winchester, TN with a Japanese production plant that made rubber molding. That was an adventure as I landed in Nashville, dressed in my suit, rented a Lincoln Town Car and then made my way south into this small rural community. I walked into the local café to grab some breakfast and was stared at by all of the farmers…I felt like the proverbial city slicker. Welcome to the south David! The job didn’t pan out and I went back to Mesa, AZ with my family.  Of course, since Tennessee is so close to Kentucky and my great friend Antsy McClain lives there, I have been back there a number of times.

Sumoflam and Antsy McClain
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain
Visiting Tennessee in 2014 on my way to Galveston
Visiting Tennessee in 2014 on my way to Galveston
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
With the famous Memphis Egg in 2007
With the famous Memphis Egg in 2007

missouri30- Missouri (1992): I was soon on my way back to the “south” after landing a temporary contract position with a Japanese production facility in Shelbyville, KY. I drove out there from Mesa, AZ and made my way through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and then northeast into Missouri. I got my first view of the great Arch in St. Louis on this trip.  Missouri is one of those frequently passed through states on my way west, but I have not missed out on the wonders of this state as well as the quirkiness.  I have a close friend in Kansas City and love the BBQ there.  But, Tightwad, Peculiar, Success and Romance are places I seem to remember the most.

At the St. Louis Arch in Missouri
At the St. Louis Arch in Missouri
Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
I took the road, but never did find Romance in Missouri in 2011
I took the road, but never did find Romance in Missouri in 2011

kentucky31- Kentucky (1992): Eventually, I made my way into Louisville, where I would live and then drive the daily 30 miles east to Shelbyville. That gig lasted about 8 months. It was there, at Katayama American that I eventually met my now very close friend, Ron Bell, who goes by the stage name Antsy McClain. That is another story, but, through him I have also had opportunities to travel this great country and be part of an amazing musical adventure that had some of my dreams fulfilled. Ultimately, in 1993, the entire family moved to Kentucky as I was hired full-time by a company in Frankfort, KY – Ohi America, another Japanese parts manufacturer.  We have lived in Kentucky since 1993 and love it here.  I have literally traveled most of the back roads of the state, been to the highest point in southeastern Kentucky, been into the depths of Mammoth Cave, been to the Kentucky Derby and traveled the Bourbon Trail (without drinking any).

Singing with good friend Antsy McClain, who I met in Kentucky in the 1990s
Singing with good friend Antsy McClain, who I met in Kentucky in the 1990s
Sumoflam at Kentucky Stonehenge
Sumoflam at Kentucky Stonehenge in 2013
World's largest Louisville Slugger Bat in downtown Louisville
World’s largest Louisville Slugger Bat in downtown Louisville
With a nice Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY on the border with Tennessee in 2014
On the floor at mid-court in Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington in 2013
At home in Lexington, KY - home of the UK Wildcats
At home in Lexington, KY – home of the UK Wildcats

kansas32- Kansas (1993): As the family left Arizona in July 1993, we made our way north from Mesa, AZ into Flagstaff, to the Grand Canyon, on to Monument Valley in southern Utah, then to Four Corners. From there we continued east through Pueblo and into Kansas, eventually staying one night in Dodge City.  I have been across many parts of Kansas and learned some of the interesting history of this cattle filled state.

Little House on the Prairie in Eastern Kansas with the family in 1993
Little House on the Prairie in Eastern Kansas with the family in 1993

west-virginia33- West Virginia (1996): In 1996 we hosted a French exchange student named Barbara. During her visit we took a family trip to the East Coast, just me and the kids. On this trip we passed through West Virginia and went to the New River Gorge. We then went through Shenandoah NP in Virginia, visited Williamsburg and Jamestown and then made our way to Norfolk and revisited the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel with the kids. We then made it into Delaware and Maryland…including crab cakes at an old crab shack on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Taken on a drive through West Virginia in 2015. Been there many many times.
Taken on a drive through West Virginia in 2015. Been there many many times.
The kids at New River Gorge overlook in 1996
The kids at New River Gorge overlook in 1995

georgia34- Georgia (1997): As members of the LDS Church, we made occasional trips to the temple. In 1997 our closest temple was near Atlanta, so we made a couple of trips there to do baptisms for the dead with our older children.  I later made many trips to Georgia for iHigh.com while visiting high schools in the Atlanta area.  In early 2013 we made a trip down to Georgia to pick up a trailer and got to visit Savannah and also made our way to the humongous Stone Mountain.

Visiting Stone Mountain in Georgia in 2013

pennsylvania35- Pennsylvania (1998): My oldest daughter Amaree had graduated from high school and was invited to participate in a national choir that was tour Europe. That same summer our second daughter Marissa went to France to visit our former exchange student Barbara. Amaree needed to be dropped off in Pennsylvania so we made the trip there, let her go with the choir and visited the Gettysburg National Park and it happened during the 135th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge (July 4th/5th) and then were tents everywhere for a huge reenactment. Was pretty cool. I have since made over a dozen trips to Pennsylvania visiting Amish Country, the Great Lakes, Bethlehem/Allentown and Philadelphia, amongst other places.

Smile...you are in Pennsylvania...so I smiled!
Smile…you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled!
Visiting the famed Geno’s Philly Cheese Steak joint in Philadelphia 2008
At the Mr. Rogers dinosaur in Pittsburgh in 2011

north-carolina36- North Carolina (1998): After the girls returned from Europe, we took a small trip to North Carolina to do some genealogy research. I had recently discovered some of my step-mother Marge Tudor’s ancestry had come from Granville County in North Carolina, so we took a trip to Oxford to seek old graveyards, and see where our ancestors had come from. It was a unique opportunity.  I have made a few trips to North Carolina since (mainly for iHigh.com) and even visited Lizard Lick and the town Mayberry RFD was centered on (Mount Airy, NC).

North Carolina in 2013
North Carolina in 2013

alabama37- Alabama (1999): Our first trip to the deep south happened as we made our way to Houston for my cousin’s wedding and then proceeded westward to Arizona for a family visit. A long drive. We had some of the best barbecue ever while in Alabama (near Huntsville).  I have made a couple of trips to Alabama since, but have not really had the opportunity to see the sights as I would like.  Hopefully one day.  I hear there are some amazing beaches on the Gulf Coast!

At the Rocket Rest Stop in Elkton, AL - home of a Saturn 1B. Taken in 2005
At the Rocket Rest Stop in Elkton, AL – home of a Saturn 1B. Taken in 2005

mississippi38- Mississippi (1999): We continued through Jackson, Mississippi on the drive to Houston.  This was a pass through trip.  During my days at iHigh I made a couple of trips there as well, but my best trip to Mississippi took place in 2014 when I traversed the Blues Highway (US Highway 61) along the western side of the state near the Mississippi River.  THAT was an amazing and unforgettable trip!

On the Blues highway in Mississippi in 2014
On the Blues highway in Mississippi in 2014
One of my favorite shots...Alligator, MS
One of my favorite shots…Alligator, MS
Highway 61 South in Mississippi
At Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, MS in 2014

louisiana39- Louisiana (1999): On our family trip to Houston we made our way into Louisiana and took a few back roads, saw the bayous and even stopped at a Cajun place east of Alexandria where we enjoyed some blackened gator, listened to live Cajun music and then got to enjoy watching our boys get dragged out on the dance floor to learn some Cajun steps. I am sure this was a memorable time for them. From Houston we made our way to San Antonio, El Paso and on across southern New Mexico to Albuquerque where we ushered in the year 2000 with my aunt.  In 2010 I visited again with Julianne as we stayed in New Orleans prior to a cruise to Cozumel with Antsy McClain.  I again visited in 2014 and one of my long trip highlights on my way to Galveston, was to visit the small town of Pierre Part and meet Troy Landry, the famed alligator hunter from the History Channel’s “Swamp People.”

Bourbon Street in New Orleans in 2011
Bourbon Street in New Orleans in 2011
Entering Louisiana in 2014
Entering Louisiana in 2014
Visiting Mr. Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
Visiting Troy Landry from “Swamp People” in Pierre Part, LA in 2014…with my new “Choot ’em” Hat

arkansas40- Arkansas (2000): On our way home from Arizona we went through Oklahoma City and then into Arkansas, for our first trip there. Since that time many of us have traversed Arkansas, especially on our way to Texas.  Some favorites…how about Booger Holler? I have also visited the home of Popeye Spinach and a big Popeye statue in Lowell, AR.

Welcome to Arkansas
Welcome to Arkansas
At the Popeye Statue in Lowell, AR in 2009
At the Popeye Statue in Lowell, AR in 2009
In Texarkana, AR in 2009
In Texarkana, AR in 2007
Booger Holler, AR 2007
Booger Holler, AR 2007
At Toad Suck in Arkansas in 2007
Who can forget Friendship when they are on the road…Friendship, AR in 2014

washington41- Washington (2004): I first was in Washington on an airplane flight to Japan, but never set foot out of the plane, so I didn’t count that.  My first setting foot took place in 20014 when Julianne went to Seattle on our to a cruise to Alaska. I later made a trip in 2007 with Solomon for a Trailer Park Troubadours tour after a visit in Montana.  I revisited Idaho on this same trip. We most recently had an amazing 10 day trip to Washington in August 2015 and visited much of western Washington, including a visit to the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States.

On a Ferry in Washington with Mt. Rainier in the background - 2015
On a Ferry in Washington with Mt. Rainier in the background – 2015
Visiting Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington in 2015
Visiting Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington in 2015
At Neah Bay in the northwesternmost corner of the contiguous United States in 2015
At Neah Bay in the northwesternmost corner of the contiguous United States in 2015
On the Mukkaw Beach in NW Washington with the Pacific Ocean in the background in August 2015
Watching grandkidz play in the Pacific Ocean in Washington State in August 2015
Watching grandkidz play in the Pacific Ocean in Washington State in August 2015

alaska42- Alaska (2004): Julianne’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by taking all of their children and spouses on a cruise to Alaska.  We visited Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.  It was fabulous! I would love to make another trip to Alaska.  In fact, one of my dreams would be to take the Al-Can Highway from Montana, through Alberta and up to Alaska.

Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska in 2004
Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska in 2004
View of another cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska…taken from our cruise ship at 5 AM in 2004

wisconsin43- Wisconsin (2005): My first trip to Wisconsin took place in 2005 as my two sons Seth and Solomon, joined by Marissa, traveled to Montana for Amaree’s wedding.  We stopped and saw pink elephants, ate cheese and saw lots of mosquitoes. I later visited in 2007 with Solomon and we hit northern Wisconsin and visited JFK, the Twine Ball Man. I again made a three day trip with my daughter Chelsea and granddaughter Autumn, and went up the eastern Peninsula from Green Bay.  Finally, in 2014 I made my way across northern Wisconsin on US Hwy 2.  I like Wisconsin…at least in the summer.

Welcome to Wisconsin on US Hwy 2 in 2014
Dragon attack at Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in 2013
Say Cheese in Beloit, WI in 2013
With JFK the Twine Ball Man in Lake Nebagamon, WI in 2007

south-dakota44- South Dakota (2005): After my daughter’s marriage, Marissa, Seth, Solomon and I made our way back home and went south so we could visit South Dakota, see Mount Rushmore, the Corn Palace and more.  I have since made it back a few times and visited other national parks and even made my to Winner!

At the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in 2013. This was my third trip here.
Visiting South Dakota for the 4th or 5th time in 2013
Visiting South Dakota for the 4th or 5th time in 2013
Badlands National Park in SD
Badlands National Park in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Mt. Rushmore (side view of George Washington) in SD in 2013

nebraska45- Nebraska (2007): With all the trips across the country, it is amazing to me that I never got to Nebraska until 2007 on my trip home with Solomon after visiting Washington. Since then I have been all over the state, but have nothing better than my visit to Carhenge in Alliance in 2014.  In 2012 I also visited for iHigh and got to meet Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and actually hold his Heisman.  That was pretty cool.  On that same trip I worked in Omaha for the US Swimming Olympic Trials and met a number of famed swimmers.  It was a unique experience.

Welcome to Nebraska in 2014
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, Nebraska in 2007
One of my bucket list places — Carhenge in Alliance, NE in 2014

oregon46- Oregon (2007): My first steps in Oregon were in Pendleton after a visit to Walla-Walla, Washington while in the southwest corner of the state with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.  On our way back home, Solomon and I made our to Hells Canyon and Joseph.  I visited Oregon a few times in 2011 and 2012 for iHigh and fell in love with Portland and Central Oregon.  I have actually been along the entire Pacific Coast, visited Mt. Hood and enjoyed the breathtaking Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River.  Oregon is certainly one of my favorite states.

Perhaps my favorite all-time wterfall is Multnomah Falls in Oregon. This was taken in 2012
Perhaps my favorite all-time waterfall is Multnomah Falls in Oregon. This was taken in 2012
Yes, there really is a place called Boring, OR
Yes, I have eaten at Voodoo Doughnut in Oregon.
Hell's Canyon in Oregon in 2007
Hell’s Canyon in Oregon in 2007

south-carolina47- South Carolina (2012): One would think that with all of the travel to North Carolina, Georgia, etc., that I would have made it to South Carolina sooner than 2012.  But, my first trip was actually with iHigh on my way from northeastern Tennessee to Atlanta.  I again visited in 2014 as we stayed in Hilton Head with Marissa and her children on our way to Atlanta and central Georgia.

At Hilton Head Beach with the Atlantic Ocean behind me in South Carolina in 2013

maine48- Maine (2015): As noted above on Connecticut, we made a visit in September 2015 to visit Seth on the occasion of the birth of our 10th grandchild. Marissa and her children joined us on this 12 state trip.  I had looked forward to this trip for a few months as I knew I would finally have a chance to get to the northeastern US and perhaps get my last three states.  On September 7 we made it into Maine and stayed on the Atlantic Coast in Old Orchard Beach, a beautiful place, but certainly not long enough. The next day we made our up to Portland and then across to New Hampshire.

Enjoying the grandkidz on Old Orchard Beach on the Atlantic Ocean in Maine
Enjoying the grandkidz on Old Orchard Beach on the Atlantic Ocean in Maine
Visiting the beautiful lighthouse on the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine in 2015
Visiting the beautiful lighthouse on the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine in 2015
Morning sunrise with the grandkidz on Old Orchard Beach in maine
Morning sunrise with the grandkidz on Old Orchard Beach in Maine

new-hampshire49- New Hampshire (2015): We entered New Hampshire on Hwy 25 and were in Freedom.  I looked all over for a post office so I could “send a postcard from Freedom” as the lyrics to Antsy McClain’s lyrics to “Living in Aluminum” proclaim, but, alas, we couldn’t find one.  Then, I failed again as we sought to get a sandwich in Sandwich.  Ended up getting one in Holderness at Squam Lake Market.  UGH.

Welcome to New Hampshire in Sept 2015 - State #49!
Welcome to New Hampshire in Sept 2015 in Seabrook – State #49!
Visited Sandwich for a sandwich.....
Visited Sandwich for a sandwich…..
...but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!
…but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!
Ended up getting sandwiches 5 miles away in Squam Lake, NH
Ended up getting sandwiches 5 miles away in Squam Lake, NH

vermont50- Vermont (2015): And finally…NUMBER 50 on September 8.  We made our way across New Hampshire via US 202 through Keene and into the Vermont town of Brattleboro.  I got out and got a photo of the Welcome to Vermont sign (with me in it) to memorialize it.  Though it was only the small southeastern corner of the state, I had actually made it.

And Finally...#50 Vermont (21,523 days after being born in Cleveland, OH)
And Finally…#50 Vermont (21,523 days after being born in Cleveland, OH)

ArkadelphiaARWith all of these visits to the 50 states, I have seen much of this wonderful United States and I count myself blessed.  Along the road I have also accomplished some of the following:

  • Visited 29 of the 59 US National Parks
  • Visited 40 of the 117 US National Monuments
  • Visited 25 of the 49 US National Historic Parks
  • Visited 4 of the 9 National Military Parks
  • Visited 91 of the 100 biggest cities in the US (missed a few in southern California)
  • Been by 29 of the tallest buildings in the US, including the newest and tallest One World Trade Center in NYC at 1776 feet
  • Been to 7 of the tallest statues in the US
  • I have been over most of Route 66, as well as other long highways including US 2 across the northern US from Michigan to Montana, US 1 on the Atlantic Coast, US 101 in California, Oregon and Washington.
Rugby, ND in 2014
Rugby, ND in 2014

 

  • Been to the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, ND

 

 

 

IMG_7249

  • Been to the Geographical Center of the contiguous United States (near Lebanon, KS)
  • Been to 27 of TIME’s Top 50 American Roadside Attractions
  • Been to 6 of National Geographic’s Top 10 Roadside Attractions
  • Been on some of the highest highways in the US including the highest paved road (Mt. Evans Scenic Byway 14, 240′) as well as Trailridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (12,183′), Beartooth Pass in Wyoming (10,947′), Galena Summit in Idaho (8,701′)
Falls of the Little Colorado River on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Took this photo in 1983
Falls of the Little Colorado River on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Took this photo in 1983
  • Been to many of America’s greatest waterfalls including Niagara Falls (NY), American Falls (NY), Lower Falls of the Yellowstone (WY), Multnomah Falls (OR), Havasu Falls (AZ), Cumberland Falls (KY), Grand Falls of the Little Colorado (AZ) and Taughannock Falls (NY)

All I can say is that I have been very blessed in my travels and to see this beautiful country.  Of course, the 175 blog posts on this blog and the nearly 25 other posts I wrote before this blog was started detail many of the places I have been fortunate enough to get to so far.

RoadsideAmericaLogo2Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my good friends at Roadside America who have provided me with many great places to stop at on the back roads of this great country.  I have worked with them on many occasions and provide many a photo for their site.

Go to their site and get the app.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

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Going to California: Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA

Welcome to Real Goods
Welcome to Real Goods
As I mentioned in my previous post, along the way to Red Bluff and Woodflock, we made a stop at Real Goods in Hopland, CA.  The place was so unique and fun that it deserved its own special blog post.

The Real Goods Store got its start in 1978 with a focus on solar equipment. According to their website, the store was originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads. The store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
This is of particular interest to me as I worked in the Solar Water Heater industry in Japan from 1989 to 1991 for Asahi Solar Corporation.  During that 2 1/2 year stint I represented the company on visits to China and the United States, in conferences and exhibits and more.

Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
We also sponsored two college solar cars in the original GM Sunrayce in 1990 (Colorado State’s Stelar V and Arizona State’s Sun Devil Cruiser) and  brought the cars and their teams to Japan to compete in the Asahi (TV/News) Solar Car Race in Kobe, Japan.  Further, during my work I assisted in the installation of the first solar water heater on the Hopi Indian Reservation.  Working with the company, I was also instrumental in the company adding solar electric panels to their new headquarters building in Oita, Japan in 1991.

real-goods-solar-living-sourcebook-1With my involvement in solar, I also purchased a copy of the Solar Living Source Book back in 1990, while attending the Solar Energy Conference in Denver, CO.   Real Goods founder John Schaeffer published his first edition of The Solar Living Source Book in 1982. It was written as a one-stop information source for renewable energy and sustainable living. The Source Book is a comprehensive reference for the layperson on renewable energy technologies and sustainable living. It is now in its 14th Edition and has sold over 700,000 copies.

Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Little did I know that when I visited Real Goods on this trip that I would also have the opportunity to meet and speak with John Schaeffer, the founder of Real Goods and also the author of this Solar Living Source Book.  In fact, I now have the latest edition which was kindly signed by Mr. Schaeffer and he was also kind enough to get a picture with me.

Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Initially, I was not aware that we would be making a stop at Real Goods (nor did I even know of its existence!).  But Carla surprised me.  Knowing my penchant for quirky and unique places, she thought this would be a good place.  As we pulled into Hopland, immediately I could tell that a unique place was coming up.  First thing I saw on the side of the road was a “Needing to Pee?” sign. HA!  I had never seen one of those before.  Other signs included:

“Real Goods Solar Living Center”

“Everything Under the Sun”

“Weird Restrooms”

“Soothing ponds and Oasis”

“Greenest Store on Earth”

Soon we were turning into the Real Goods entrance, which is also home to the Solar Living Institute. I got pretty excited about the “solar” part though didn’t have much time to look at that AND the store.

MetalSculpture
Sumoflam with “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris
First thing that caught my eye as we pulled into the parking lot was a giant metal sculpture which looked like a dragon with a square Victrola speaker head.  Turns out that this sculpture is called “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris.  I am always enthralled by scrap metal sculptures such as this (and sometimes these are plain metal sculptures…not made from scrap metal).  this one was a doozy!

The sign talking about "Weird Restrooms"
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
From there I went to the store.  They were supposed to have “Weird Restrooms,” which would be a “must see” quirky adventure for me.

I needed to use the restroom anyway…the red sign provoked me, I promise!

DSC_2463
Explanation of Weird Restrooms

The "weird part" is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall.  Other recycled items can be found within as well.
The “weird part” is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well.
I also caught an interesting sign in the restroom, though there were no examples of this to be seen in the restroom.

The Toilet Sink sign...there were none here...
The Toilet Sink sign…there were none here…

Caroma2
…but we have one!! Our Caroma Profile Smart toilet
I got a kick out of “The Toilet Sink” sign.  Many probably don’t get it, but I can assure that Julianne and I do get it.  We actually HAVE ONE!!  When we remodeled our home a couple of years ago, we were going to have a small half bath. We thought back to our days in Japan and VOILA! We found one here in the use made by Caroma called a Profile Smart toilet. A bit pricey but perfect for our needs.
caroma1
The Caroma Profile Smart has a dual flush system too in order to conserve water. We may have the only one like it in Lexington, KY
Just around the corner from the “Weird Restroom” is an even stranger contraption, a funky drinking fountain…

The funky drinking at real Goods
The funky drinking at Real Goods

Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
And, from what I understand, there are many other quirky things I missed on the grounds (due mainly to our lack of time there) including trees growing out of cars (The Memorial Car Grove).  This is where the rusting hulks of 50s and 60s “gas hog” cars have been turned into planter boxes for trees and flowers! These ‘grow-thru cars‘ are a fitting counterpoint to the ‘drive thru‘ redwood tree a hundred miles north. I am sorely disappointed to have missed this one since I have been to a number of other car art places such as Carhenge, Cadillac Ranch, Rabbit Ranch and “Spindle” (which no longer exists).

A view of the Real Goods Store
A view of the Real Goods Store

Another view of the Real Goods Store
Another view of the Real Goods Store
The inside of the store is a menagerie of uniqueness with all sorts of items that homesteaders can use.  They have bee keeping equipment, composting toilets, self help books, solar chargers, etc.  Truly a fascinating, one-of-a-kind store (and website).

Bees working in the "see thru" working beehive at Real Goods Store
Bees working in the “see thru” working beehive at Real Goods Store
I was fascinated with the ‘see thru” working beehive.  I have never seen anything like it and to watch the bees hard at was amazing!!

They also sell all of the equipment needed to do your own beehives.

A larger view of the hive....truly an amazing site
A larger view of the hive….truly an amazing site
Real goods is probably the most comprehensive TRUE “do-it-yourself” store I have ever seen.

Beekeeping for Dummies...yes, there is a book for that
Beekeeping for Dummies…yes, there is a book for that

Another view of products in the Real Goods Store
Another view of products in the Real Goods Store

Need hats?  They have plenty of them at Real Goods
Need hats? They have plenty of them at Real Goods

Real Goods Store
Real Goods Store
I am really glad to have been able to stop here and recommend that anyone driving along the Redwood Highway (US Hwy 101) near Hopland, CA stop by this unique store and Solar Education Center.  Unlike me, plan a couple of hours rather than a quick 30 minute stop!!

 

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