A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The J Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.


Judy Garland Birthplace – Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Sumoflam at Judy Garland birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup – Beachville, Ontario

Jakeman’s Maple Products – Beachville, Ontario
Jakeman’s Sign

Jackalopes Everywhere – Superior, Wisconsin; Wall, South Dakota; Douglas, Wyoming; Fort Worth, Texas

Jackalope Crossing
A cuddly Jackalope at Wall Drug, SD
A Jackalope Bird or something at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin
Douglas, Wyoming Jackalope
Jackalope on top of a car dealership in Ft. Worth, TX

Jungle Jim’s Restroom – Cincinnati, Ohio

Jungle Jim’s Restroom entrances are deceptive. They actually lead to immaculate huge restrooms.

Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Waldo, Arkansas

Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Waldo, Arkansas

Jolly, Texas

Jolly, Texas
I am being Jolly – I think

Juke Boxes – Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California

Rockola Juke Boxes line the store and fill it with 50s and 60s music

Jerry Siegel / Joe Schuster – Creators of Superman – Cleveland, Ohio

Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home
Superman Street signs at the corner of Kimberley and Parkwood in Cleveland – Jerry Siegel Lane and Lois Lane
A plaque in front of the Jerry Siegel house gives the history of his work.
Action Comics blowups at Joe Schuster Home
Amor St. has become Joe Shuster Lane. It too is on Parkwood (known also as Lois Lane)

James Frank Kotera – JFK The Twine Ball Man – Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin

James Frank Kotera – JFK – The Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI

Jumbo the Elephant Statue – St. Thomas, Ontario

Sumoflam with Jumbo in 2008

JELL-O Museum – Le Roy, New York

JELL-O Museum in LeRoy, New York
Head shot of JELL-O Cow in Leroy, NY

Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk – Riverside, Iowa

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA

Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

Another of the premiere roadside attractions in America!!

Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Jurustic Park

J.C. Penney Mother Store – Kemmerer, Wyoming

Where it all started

J.C. Penney Mother Store

Jesus in Cowboy Boots – Evergreen Cemetery – Paris, Texas

The famed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX

Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota

Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN

Jerusalem Rocks – Sweetgrass, Montana

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012

Juneau, Alaska

Downtown Juneau Alaska
Cruise Ship in Juneau

Jelly Belly Room – Santa’s Candy Castle – Santa Claus, Indiana

One of the Jelly Belly Walls
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting!

John Wayne House – Winterset, Iowa

Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Welcome to Jeffersonville
The Howard House – one of 12 floodwall murals in Jeffersonville

Three Jamestowns – Jamestown, New York; Jamestown, North Dakota; Jamestown, Virginia

Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Lucy Desi Museum – Jamestown, NY
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
My sons Seth and Sol on deck of one of the ships in Jamestown, VA in August 1995
Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995

Joplin, Montana

Joplin, Montana…Biggest Little Town on Earth

James Garfield Monument – Lake View Cemetery – Cleveland, Ohio

James Garfield Statue inside Garfield Monument
The James Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland

Jackalope Capital of the World – Douglas, Wyoming

Get your Jackalope Hunting License Here

My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY
New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye

Joseph Smith Cabin – Palmyra, New York

LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s Cabin in Palmyra, NY

Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers – Rexburg, Idaho

Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger

Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa

Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Yummy Dutch Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Welcome to Jackson, Wyoming!!
Jackson, Wyoming and Ski Slope
Antler Arch of Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Joe Mama’s Fine Italian – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Joe Mama’s Fine Italian Restaurant

Jacobson Park – Lexington, Kentucky

My Happy Place

Lovely parhelion (sun dog) over Jacobson Lake in December 2016
Winter sunrise at Jacobson Park
Fall at Jacobson Park

Jamaica Beach – Galveston, Texas

Jamaica Beach Water Tower

Jesus of the Ozarks – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Jesus of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR

Joseph, Oregon

Sacajawea Peak – Joseph, Oregon
Giant Eagle Statue – Joseph, Oregon

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2



D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.


Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY



A to Z Challenge: The X Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

XThe X Towns

For the X towns, I am taking a little deviation.  Since there are really only two places in the United States whose names begin with X (namely Xenia, Ohio and Xenia, Illinois), I am including a few places that have X in the name as well.

Xenia, Ohio

Welcome to Xenia, OH
Welcome to Xenia, OH
McColly Covered Bridge built in 1876
McColly Covered Bridge built in 1876
Charleston Mill Covered Bridge built in 1882
Charleston Mill Covered Bridge built in 1882
Stevenson Road Covered Bridge built in 1877
Stevenson Road Covered Bridge built in 1877
Ballard Road Covered Bridge built in 1883
Ballard Road Covered Bridge built in 1883
Clifton Mill in Clifton, OH
Clifton Mill in Clifton, OH

Xenia, Ohio is in central Ohio and is the County Seat for Greene County. I visited the town in 2008 specifically to hit the many covered bridges in the area.  Though most are not really in Xenia, but rather are in Greene County, Xenia was just the main destination.  Greene County has at least seven of them.  I have pictured a few above.  An, not far from Xenia is the town of Clifton and there is a bridge there as well as the Clifton Mill.  A great place to visit.  You can see more photos and read the history of these bridges on my 2008 post HERE.

Lexington, Kentucky

This is a large horse mural on a water tower off of I-75 north of Lexington
This is a large horse mural on a water tower off of I-75 north of Lexington
Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, part of the 2013 PRHBTN Festival in Lexington, Kentucky
Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, part of the 2013 PRHBTN Festival in Lexington, Kentucky
Large Horse barn on Yarnelton Rd. near Lexington
Large Horse barn on Yarnelton Rd. near Lexington
Thoroughbred Park
Thoroughbred Park
Horse and jockey racing down the track. Perhaps my favorite photo of all from Thoroughbred Park
Horse and jockey racing down the track. Perhaps my favorite photo of all from Thoroughbred Park

OK.  I admit it.  Lexington, KY is my home town.  There is a great deal to see here as this is the Horse Capital of the World and also the center of the Bourbon industry.  The city has some great eateries (try the Lexington Diner!!) It is the home of Keeneland Race Track, the Kentucky Horse Park and now also has a couple of dozen murals.  Rather than provide links, just go to this blogs’ Search Bar and type in Lexington to see a number of posts about Bourbon Trails, Horse Photos and the amazing murals and wall art that dot the city thanks to the PRHBTN group and LexArts.

Texarkana, Arkansas

Texarkana Water Tower
Texarkana Water Tower

Texarkana, Arkansas (and its neighbor in Texas) share a common road and share a post office, the only US Post Office that sits on a state line and is on two states. See more about one of my many visits (or drive thrus) of this town HERE.

Oxford County, Ontario

Snow Countess - large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario
Snow Countess – large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario
Woodstock, Ontario water tower
Woodstock, Ontario water tower
Jakeman's Maple Products - Beachville, Ontario
Jakeman’s Maple Products – Beachville, Ontario
Bruce Windmill Farm - Woodstock, Ontario
Bruce Windmill Farm – Woodstock, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario

I have mentioned in my blog posts a number of times that I spent 8 months living in Woodstock and Paris, Ontario.  Woodstock is the seat of Oxford County, which offers an abundance of interesting places to visit including the location of the first baseball game played in North America.  Read more on my detailed 2008 post HERE.

Rexburg, Idaho

Rexburg, ID
Rexburg, ID
Rexburg, Idaho LDS Temple
Rexburg, Idaho LDS Temple
Big Jud's Country Diner - Rexburg, Idaho
Big Jud’s Country Diner – Rexburg, Idaho

I spent a few weeks in Rexburg, Idaho in 2013 and got to travel extensively.  Nestled in the mountains of Idaho, it is close to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  It is a small college town and home of BYU-Idaho.  Definitely a great place to visit.  Check out my detailed post about Rexburg (one of many) HERE.

Cotopaxi, Colorado (Honorable Mention)

Cotopaxi Store, Cotopaxi, Colorado
Cotopaxi Store, Cotopaxi, Colorado
Sange de Cristo Range near Cotopaxi as seen from CO Cty Hwy 1A
Sange de Cristo Range near Cotopaxi as seen from CO Cty Hwy 1A
US 50 south near Cotopaxi, Colorado
US 50 south near Cotopaxi, Colorado

In 2013 I drove from Rexburg, Idaho to Dallas, Texas for business.  Part of the trip took me on US Highway 50 which went through the small, but beautiful Cotopaxi, Colorado. See the entire trip HERE.

Exie, KY (Honorable Mention)

Greasy Creek Homestead in Exie, KY
Greasy Creek Homestead in Exie, KY

Not much to say other than there is a place called Exie, Kentucky and it has this Greasy Creek Homestead place.   It lies at the intersection of U.S. Route 68 with Kentucky Routes 487 and 745, south of the city of Greensburg.

Texline, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Texline, Texas
Texline, Texas
Main Street of Texline
Main Street of Texline
Sumoflam at Texas Border in Texline, Texas
Sumoflam at Texas Border in Texline, Texas

Like Exie, Texline, Texas is a blink your eyes and you’ll miss it place.  On the border of New Mexico and Texas, the town is in northwestern Dallam County, Texas and has a population of about 500. The town is named for its location near the New Mexico-Texas state line.  I drove thru there in 2013 on the same day as I drove through Cotopaxi, Colorado above.

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