AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – Reflections #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each of my entries highlighted a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  If you missed any of the posts, check out my page with all of the links HERE.  I will reflect back on this past month’s posts.  Enjoy the Read! Enjoy the Ride! (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

What a Whirlwind!

CA 198 in Sequoia National Park

Throughout the month of April I participated in the A to Z Challenge.  It was my fourth straight year, but this one was really my most interesting yet.  Beginning in March the Coronavirus hit the world.  I am amazed how a microscopic thing could have such a massive impact on the world.  The world was shut down effectively, but the internet and the opportunity to post content was not.

Patrick Amiot – “Crow Bar” in Sebastapol, CA

It has been a whirlwind.  What made it more so was knowing (in hindsight) that while the coronavirus was hitting the U.S. in Washington and California back in January and February while I was traveling out there with my daughter and her three children.  Many of the places we visited, including massive National Parks like the Grand Canyon, were eventually closed.  In fact, as of this writing, many are still closed.  Restaurants, hotels and other businesses are closed all over the country.  Interstate travel bans are in effect across most states.  As of this writing on May 5, 2020, nearly 70,000 Americans have died of this virus since mid-February…while we were still traveling!!

I am both amazed and grateful that we are all home and safe. And brought back a boat load of memories.


Interstate 90 at the Montana / Idaho border in late January 2020

I really like to share my travels with the world and the A to Z Challenge provides a great platform to share these with many people of diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Family at the Grand Canyon

Over the course of the past month I posted my 26 posts and included over 300 photos and dozens of unique stories of the places we saw on our epic road trip.  Thus far I have had over 20 comments from readers and well over 200 views of the posts.  I am thrilled for the visits and the experience.

What did you miss?

If you haven’t visited any of my posts, I shared a link to a page that has all of the links at the top of this post.  Please visit it and click on any of the links.  In the mean time, what did you miss?

Montana Highway 1 near Opportunity, Montana
  • A road trip of 8154 miles across 20 states in 21 days
  • Lovely photos of wildlife like eagles, bison, prairie dogs, seagulls and more
  • Amazing scenery from all kinds of geography including mountains, deserts, oceans and massive forests
  • Visits to over a dozen National Parks and Monuments
  • Stories and photos of many unique and quirky road side attractions
  • Visits, photos and stories about towns with unique names
  • A few fun and unique places to eat
  • An opportunity to learn about a different perspective on the amazing diversity of these United States
Pacific Coast as seen from Long Beach, Washington
welcome to Happy, Texas
Bald Eagle, taken on US Highway 2 near Davenport, WA
Big guy at Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, AZ
Mount Rushmore as seen from a tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. The tunnel was built intentionally to frame the monument
Joshua Trees near Baker, CA
Martian Soda anyone?
Sandhill Cranes in West Texas
Paul Bunyan in Klamath, California
San Francisco CA
Uranus Fudge Factory, St Robert, Missouri
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Caddo Lake bayou near Uncertain, Texas


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The B Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet, and not the order of the trip  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the A Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Bald Eagles – all over

On our 8154 mile drive across the United States, we were fortunate enough to see 24 Bald Eagles…we saw them in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon and California.  Not all sightings provided photo opportunities, but we did get some.  Perhaps my BEST EVER Bald Eagle shot came from west of Davenport, Washington on US Route 2.  We saw two eagles fighting over a position a top of a telephone pole along the side of the road. We pulled up to about 30 feet away and that eagle WAS NOT going to give up its spot.  Well, here it is, along with a few others we were able to see.

Bald Eagle, taken on US Highway 2 near Davenport, WA
Another shot of the above Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle in flight along the Pacific Coast in Long Beach, Washington
Bald Eagle seen in northeast Wyoming
Bald Eagle in flight as seen at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA
Another Bald Eagle in Long Beach, Washington

Barstow, California

Barstow lives and dies on Route 66 basically.  Nice little town.  We stayed the night here.

Visiting Barstow, California

Bigfoot Sightings – Uncertain, Texas

Bigfoot Retreat in Uncertain, TX
Bigfoot Crossing, Uncertain, Texas

Bowlin’s Bluewater Outpost – Bluewater, NM

Many of you know that I am a big fan of the Bowlin Travel Centers.  In my third book I had a chapter dedicated to Bowlin’s The Thing in Dragoon, Arizona.  I have visited others as well.  Bowlin is famous for their gazillion billboards along the highways of Arizona and New Mexico.  Bluewater Outpost is in Bluewater, New Mexico, a lovely area of the state.  When I was about 8 years old our family went to Bluewater and rented a cabin by the lake.  It was my first experience riding a horse.  On this trip we didn’t have the time to stop, but I wanted to honor my friends at Bowlin with a little shoutout.

Bowlin’s Bluewater Outpost Bluewater, NM
Bluewater Outppost – Need Moccasins? You can COZIFY yer feet!!

Bovina, Texas

We just passed by.  Another interesting town name.

Bovina, Texas

Bill’s Place – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

We drive through the Route 66 town of Santa Rosa, NM on our way home.  Lots of neon.  We didn’t stop for much, but I took a couple of shots of Route 66ish stuff there.  Bill’s Place is a bar.

Bill’s Place in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Billy the Kid Museum – Fort Sumner, New Mexico

It was late as we drove through Fort Sumner, New Mexico on our way to our overnight stay in Clovis, New Mexico.  I ran into the Billy the Kid Museum and took a shot. It was obviously closed at that late hour, but I thought it unique.

Billy the Kid Museum, Fort Sumner, NM

Bacon Soda (with Maple Syrup) – Nipton, California

We made our from Baker, California towards Searchlight, Nevada and passed through the small community of Nipton, California, which has a unique trading post.  One of the things they sell there are really quirky soda flavors.  The Bacon Soda and other unique flavors are created by a company called Lester’s Fixins.  They have other flavors such as Buffalo Wing, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Pumpkin Pie, Ranch Dressing and Sweet Corn.  Oh, and I can’t forget the Dill Pickle flavor!! Lester’s Fixins is owned by Rocket Fizz, a Soda and Candy Shop based out of Camarillo, California. They have franchise shops all over the United States and even a couple in Canada.

Bacon Soda as seen at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, CA

The Big Orange at Mesa Verde Ranch – Lemon Cove, California

As we drove from Cambria, California to Sequoia National Park along CA Highway 198, we passed through the small community of Lemon Cove.  It was exciting for me as I hadn’t seen citrus trees in years (since our time in Mesa, AZ in the 1990s). We stopped at The Big Orange owned by Mesa Verde Ranch and bought some fresh oranges.  Yummiferous!

Big Orange fruit stand in Lemon Cove, CA
Buy from the growers – the best way!
Mesa Verde Ranch – The Big Orange – Lemon Cove, CA

Bison Art – Quitaque, Texas

On our drive from Clovis, New Mexico into the southern panhandle area of Texas, we drove through the town of Quitaque (pronounced kitty-kway by the locals).  It claims to be the “Official Bison Capital of Texas.”  My love for murals drove me to shoot a couple of their lovely murals.

In God We Trust mural with bison in Quitaque, TX
Bison along the top of a shop in Quitaque, Texas

Speaking of Bison – Custer State Park, South Dakota

As we made our way north from Alliance, Nebraska towards Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, we passed through Wind Cave National Park and then through Custer State Park, both on SD Hwy 87 and then to US Route 16A.  Along the way we took the famed Wildlife Loop Road in search of bison (also called buffalo). There are over 1500 head of these large animals in the park.  We were fortunate to drive right into a dozen of them.  Here are some closeup shots of the North American Bison.

Buffalo are dangerous
North American Bison, Custer State Park, SD
A big bison
Be careful
You looking at me – a young bison
Just chillin

Buffalo, Wyoming

Keeping on the buffalo / bison theme, on the same day as our Custer State Park trip, we meandered into Buffalo, Wyoming. A nice little town of about 5000, it is full of buffalo themes.  I was especially fond of the beautiful buffalo mural.

Buffalo, Wyoming
Buffalo mural in Buffalo, Wyoming
Welcome to Buffalo, WY

Black Bear Motel – Davenport, Washington

Davenport, Washington is quirky little town.  Got a shot of this motel sign to add to my motel sign collection.

Black Bear Motel in Davenport, WA

Big Sky Brewing – Missoula, Montana

I stopped at the  Big Sky Brewing Company on our way towards Idaho because I wanted to pick up a some Moose Drool Brown Ale for one of my friends in Kentucky.  this is where it is brewed and it was available cold.  I’ll have more about Moose Drool in my M Stories post.

Big Sky Brewing – Missoula, Montana

Butte, Montana – Home of 1000 Ghost Signs

OK, I am not sure there are 1000 Ghost Signs in Butte, Montana, but there are quite a few. A Ghost Sign is basically a hand-painted advertising on the side of a building that has been preserved for years.  Many have faded away, but, all across the United States you can see them on buildings. Butte has some nice ones as can be seen below.

Ghost Signs in Butte, Montana
Sweet Candies Ghost Sign in Butte, Montana
Ghost Sign in Butte, Montana

Bay Bridge, San Francisco, California

Though the Golden Gate Bridge is the famous bridge of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge is also a nice one.  We crossed both bridges while in San Francisco.

The Bay Bridge with Alcatraz Island in front of it
The Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Bixby Creek Bridge – Big Sur, California

Another of California’s famous bridges is the Bixby Creek Bridge on CA Highway 1 in Big Sur, California.  This drive is considered one of the best scenic drives in the world and the bridge has gained fame as a result.  We stopped for a photo of it before crossing it on our way south along the Pacific Coast to Cambria, California.

Bixby Creek Bridge – Big Sur, CA

Bandon, Oregon

On our way south on the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon (US Route 101) we passed through the artsy little town of Bandon in southern Oregon.  There are many beautiful Pacific Coast scenes along the way, but Bandon offers up some funky art.  There are two pieces on display that were made completely from garbage collected on the nearby beaches.  These were created by the organization known as  The town also had a number of murals and other art.  Really a cool little town.

Bandon, Oregon
A fish created by, made completely of garbage that has washed ashore on the Pacific Ocean
Natasha the Turtle made by
Whale Mural in Bandon, Oregon
Another whale mural in Bandon, Oregon
Bigfoot sighting in Bandon, Oregon
Fish sculpture in Bandon, Oregon

Big Mural in Baker, California

Baker, California is really one of those “must visit” places if you are into quirky tourist attractions.  This mural shows how it sits in the middle of Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Baker, California mural

Begging Bird of Barstow, California

And finally…as I waited for my daughter and grandkids while they were picking up some snacks and new DVDs for the long ride at a Wal-Mart in Barstow, California early in the morning, this little brown bird (I think it is a type of grackle) came to me begging.  Had to include some pics.

Begging Bird of Barstow..notice the one leg up while it stared up at me.
Begging Bird 2
Begging Bird 3


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Overview – Kentucky to Washington

Sumoflam on the Road Again

In April 2018 I took a nice long road trip from my home in Lexington, Kentucky to my daughter’s home in Port Orchard, Washington and back. The itinerary included most places akin to the Good Sam list of campgrounds which my cousin couldn’t stop prattling about. Though I was gone for 15 days, I spent nine of them traveling more than 6000 miles through 14 states.  Many of my stops were in anticipation of my new book as I wanted some fresh content to add to it.

Lots of great two-lanes on this trip

In the past, I typically wrote one or two huge blog posts about long roadtrips, but, I have decided that a focus on some of the sites would be more apropos, so I am providing a general overview of my trip herein with maps and a few photos.  Following there will be a number of posts about many of the places I visited along the way.

Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa – about 900 miles on Day 1 and 2

DAY 1/2 – Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa

Stopped to see Peter Toth’s Whispering Giants

My first two days were quite eventful as I drove nearly 900 miles with an overnight stay in Bloomington, IL and then proceeded northwest to Storm Lake, Iowa for night two.  The weather was rainy and yucky most of the way and by the afternoon of Day 2, had turned into snow and, in some cases, blizzard-like conditions.  Not fun!

I had very few stops along the way, with the only planned stops being at four locations to see four of Peter Toth’s amazing Whispering Giants.  My next post will be all about the Whispering Giants I visited on this trip and also in past trips.

Stopped at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois and was pleasantly surprised
If driving through northeast Iowa, a stop at the home of American Pickers is always fun.
Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota – about 680 miles


Day 3 – Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Dignity is a stainless steel, 50-foot-tall statue was specifically designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people.

Day 3 was really one of my typical road trip days with plenty of stops along the way, but it was slowed down considerably due to the snow and icy conditions.  Despite that, I visited places such as the Corn Palace (a required stop on a route like this as it changes each year), Wall Drug and a few in between.  The highlight of this day was seeing the amazing (and fairly new) fifty foot tall Dignity statue at a rest area overlooking Chamberlain and Oacoma, South Dakota.  The work was meticulous and lovely.

The Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche, SD

I decided to stay at a non-chain older Motel on this night and ended up at the cozy little Sunset Motel.  In fact, I got there about sunset and was even able to grab a photo of the sunset with the Sunset Motel sign.  This is the kind of motel that still has a real key on an old plastic diamond key holder.

Can’t skip the Corn Palace – a major roadside attraction. Changes every year.
Can’t skip the 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino!!
Day 4 – Belle Fourche, SD to Wallace, Idaho

Day 4 – Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Wallace, Idaho

Snowy morning in Belle Fourche

I woke up to a cold, snowy morning in Belle Fourche on April 5. It was a concern as I knew I would need to be driving through a mountain range across southern Montana on US 212.  Fortunately, the roads weren’t bad until I got up on the pass and then they cleared up with occasional snow showers through Billings, Bozeman and Butte.  I was slowed down somewhat, so I ended up stopping in the small mountain town of Wallace, Idaho for the night.

Snow in Broadus, Montana
Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho

Once again, I stayed at a cool little motel called the Stardust Motel, ironically in the same room number I had the night before. In both cases, I did not request the room numbers.

Wallace is a really unique, touristy town nestled in the Idaho mountains.  I’ll have a blog post about this town over the next couple of weeks.

I did get to see some beautiful scenery on the trip and even visited my old high school in Bozeman, Montana as I made my way north towards Idaho.

Snow covered Teepees in Crow Agency, Montana
The interstate near Livingston, Montana
Men’s restroom door in Northern Cheyenne country – Ashland, Montana
Road Trip Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Sumoflam and Roger Vollmer, former boss from Nava-Hopi tours.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting an old friend and former boss from my days as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ in the 1980s.  Roger Vollmer, who later purchased and then sold the company, now resides in upper Idaho and I was able to drop by Cracker Barrel in Coeur d’Alene and have a nice breakfast and a couple of hours of reminiscing.  Honestly, Roger really helped me lay the foundation in my work ethic and I had a blast working with him.  It was good to see him.

The US 2 Sign at Stevens Pass in Washington

Another great part of this portion of my road trip was hitting US Route 2 from Coeur d’Alene and traveling it all the way to the end in Everett, Washington.  I have now traveled that highway from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Washington.  I still have a small portion from Eastern Michigan to Ironwood and about 450 miles from Maine to New York to be able to say have driven the entire length.  I have driven all of US 66 and all of US 89 at one time or another.

US 2 from Spokane west goes through Washington’s high desert and then eventually into the Cascades and up over Steven’s Pass, which still had snow on both sides of the highway, almost six feet deep in places.  It was spectacular!

A snowy stop sign at Steven’s Pass in Washington
The view of the Cascades as seen from the Skykomish / Gold Bar area of Washington, east of Everett.

Upon arrival in Port Orchard, I spent a week with my daughter and her family.  We took the ferry into Seattle, I traveled with grandchildren to see the rocky beaches and watch seagulls.  Following are just a couple of pics from the visit.

With some of the karvings at Kountry Krazy Kreatures in Kingston, WA
Seattle as seen from Manchester, WA
Granddaughter Livvy poses in the rocks
A seagull gathers clams in Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard
Also saw this bald eagle flyover me at Sinclair Inlet
Some of the buildings of downtown Seattle
A beach scene in Manchester, WA

Finally, early on Saturday, April 14, I was back on the road, heading south towards Portland and eventually east, to spend the night in Bend, Oregon.

Port Orchard, WA to Bend, Oregon

Travel Day 6 – Port Orchard, Washington to Bend, Oregon

As with some of my other travel days, I had to deal with rain and fog for the first part of the trip.  I had hoped for a fun drive down part of US 101 and, despite the weather, I really had a great drive, even if I only drive about 450 miles.  Unlike some of the other drives, I enjoyed forests, mountains, snow, ocean scenes and eventually high desert scenes.  I also made a stop in Olympia, Washington’s state capital, and visited some friends for breakfast.  I’ll have separate posts about Olympia and its awesome wall art/murals.  I’ll also have a nice post about the town of Raymond, Washington.

One of many murals in Olympia, WA
Raymond, WA has an entire community of lifesize metal people
Zigzag, Oregon
US 101 near Allyn, WA
Ran into Bigfoot in Allyn, WA. At least he was smiling
Drove over Mt. Hood highway heading southeast out of Portland
The high deserts of central Oregon are lovely.

Travel Day 7 – Bend, Oregon to Murray, Utah

Day 7: Driving from Bend to Murray, UT thru Nevada

Day 7 of  my driving days was a long day through nearly 750 miles of high desert through Oregon and Nevada.  My destination was my old hometown of Murray, Utah.  The drive from Bend, OR to Denio, NV is pretty much through high desert.  I took the Frenchglen Highway, which was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day. really not many places to stop along the way.  I’ll have a separate post about the Frenchglen Highway (including Brothers, Frenchglen and Fields).  It had also been over 40 years since I had set foot in Nevada, so it was fun to get travel blog photos.  I spent the night at the home of one of my best friends and had dinner with some of my high school friends and their wives.  Great times!

Standing in the middle of the road…no cars..on the Frenchglen Highway in central Oregon
Another scene from SE Oregon
Finally back in Nevada…at Denio, NV
Downtown Winnemucca, NV
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
Hanging with Friends

Travel Day 8 – Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado

Travel Day 8 – Murray, UT to Manitou Springs, CO
Hitting the Colorado border

Day 8 of travel was another long  day as I drove nearly 600 miles from Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado. This day once again took me through deserts, high deserts, mountain passes and into some beautiful country. I hit the town of Helper, UT which is nestled in a canyon and was a railroad and mining town.  Also passed through Price.  When working for a record and tape rack jobber back in 1974-75, I made weekly trips to Helper and Price.  Things have changed considerably. Crescent Junction had a unique place, Papa Joe’s, which I’ll write about separately.

Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction – fun “tourist trap”
Soldier Summit, UT between Spanish Fork, UT and Price, UT on US Rt. 6. Elevation 7,477
Another Whispering Giant by Peter Toth, in Murray, UT

The drive from Grand Junction through Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Buena Vista was absolutely beautiful (US Hwy 50), especially going over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet in altitude. On the way down the hill towards Poncha Springs I even go to see a couple of mountain goats crossing the roads.

Once again, I stayed in a local motel.  Always interesting.


Monarch Pass – the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet in Colorado
Just barely was able to whip out the camera to catch this mountain goat
Old Hotel Neon in Helper, Utah
A scene from US 50 in Colorado near Cimarron
Mule deer taken near Poncha Springs, CO
US 50 East of Gunnison near Monarch, CO
Stayed at the Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs

Travel Day 9 – Manitou Springs, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri

Day 9 drive from Manitou Springs, CO to Kansas City, MO
Entering Kansas on US 40 near Weskan, Kansas

Talk about a long, straight drive.  Made the trip from Manitou Springs, after a visit to Garden of the Gods, (which I’ll write about in a separate post), and went through the deserts of eastern Colorado and Western Kansas on a super windy and dusty day.  Did catch a pretty amazing sunset as a result of the dust storms.  I decided to really go back roads on this leg of the trip by taking the straight as an arrow drive on Colorado Hwy 94 through Yoder, Rush and Punkin Center.  The highway eventually met US Hwy 287 near Wild Horse, CO. Basically, the highway was 85.5 miles long running almost perfectly west to east the entire length.

Garden of the Gods near Manitou Springs
Colorado Hwy 94 – 85 miles of straight highway in the middle of nowhere
Punkin Center, Colorado

I finally got to stop at a place to eat in Kit Carson, Colorado and then continued east on US 40 in Kansas through Cheyenne Wells, Sharon Springs and Oakley, where I got on to Interstate 70 to finish up the ride into Kansas City.   I was fortunate to stay with my good friend Brad Sweeten in KC.

Lunch at Kit Carson Trading Post
Kansas Sunset near Abilene, Kansas

Travel Day 10 – Kansas City, Missouri to home in Lexington, Kentucky

Travel Day 10 – the last leg. Kansas City, Missouri to Lexington, Kentucky
Driving with the windows open and the wind blowing through my hair

On the last day it was pretty much straight through driving. I enjoyed another beautiful sunrise east of Kansas City and then just made my way home with a couple of restroom and gas stops along the way.  What a long, wonderful trip it was!

Over 6000 miles, 14 states, 5 motels, lots of friends and time with family. I traveled through blizzards, rainstorms, snow covered mountain passes, high desert, long lonely highways. Enjoyed sunsets, sunrises, good meals at local places.  Saw eagles, mountain goats, mule deer, hawks and assortment of water fowl.  And, of course, a variety of roadside attractions along the way.

Back in Kentucky
The Shelbyville Horse at the Kentucky Welcome Center near Shelbyville


If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late May or early June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2