A to Z Challenge: The N Towns #atozchallenge

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

NThe N Towns

Nicholson, Pennsylvania

Tuckhannock Viaduct - Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Tuckhannock Viaduct – Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson, Pennsylvania
The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below
The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below
Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA
Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA

Nicholson, Pennsylvania is a rather non-descript town in the eastern part of the state, close to New York. But, it does have one major attraction….The Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct) which is 2375 feet long , 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide.  Yes, 24 stories tall !!!!!  The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York.  All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground level.  Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915. Amazing to think that this bridge is over 100 years old!! See more about the bridge HERE.

Nekoma, North Dakota

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND
A silo and wind turbine coexist near Nekoma, ND

Go north on ND Highway 1  from US Highway 2 in central North Dakota and it will take you to Nekoma, North Dakota, not too far from the Canadian border. Like Nicholson above, the town is rather non-descript and practically a ghost town except for a few wind turbines and one other major item – America’s largest pyramid.  In the middle of nowhere. Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.  See more about northern North Dakota in my 2013 post HERE.

Natchez, Mississippi

Entering Natchez, MS
Entering Natchez, MS
Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Sumoflam at Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy's Cupboard Dining Room - Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside

US Highway 61 in Mississippi is known as the Blues Highway.  From the Tennessee border near Memphis all the way to Natchez are historical towns filled with blues history. In the midst of all of this is Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe….the epitome of vintage novelty architecture. Built in the 1940s, this unique place is a MUST SEE and MUST STOP destination if anywhere close. All of the food is home made.  I had a nice sandwich with their wonderful homemade bread.  But their homemade cake was to die for!!  I couldn’t resist….  See more about southern Mississippi in my 2014 post HERE.

Neah Bay, Washington

Welcome to Neah Bay, Washington
Welcome to Neah Bay, Washington
Wooden guardians of Neah Bay?
Wooden guardians of Neah Bay?
Sail Rock in the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Sail Rock in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Pacific Ocean in NW Washington
A totem pole in Neah Bay, WA
A totem pole in Neah Bay, WA
On the Pacific Coast at Neah Bay, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States
On the Pacific Coast at Neah Bay, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States

In 2015 my wife and I flew to Seattle to visit our daughter and her family.  While there, we all went northwest to the small town of Neah Bay, which is located on the Makah Indian Reservation. It is a small fishing town nestled in a corner by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the east.  Much of the area near the Pacific is high cliffs over looking the ocean.  Lots of Makah Culture surrounds the town. It is a beautiful place that is a long, fun drive!  See more about our 2015 visit to Neah Bay HERE.

Nauvoo, Illinois

Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
The completed LDS Nauvoo Temple in 2002
The completed LDS Nauvoo Temple in 2002
Another view of the Nauvoo Temple in 2002
Another view of the Nauvoo Temple in 2002

There are not many Mormon historical sites as important or famous as Nauvoo, Illinois.  As members of the LDS Church, my family has visited there a few times both before and after the completion of the current temple there. The town is full of Mormon history, many small shops, and folks dressed in period clothing doing things as they did in the 1800s, such as making soap, printing presses, etc.  Every year they also have a magnificent pageant that covers the history of the LDS Church including the storied history of Nauvoo.  See more about Nauvoo on their website HERE.

Newport, Oregon

Mo's Seafood - Newport, Oregon
Mo’s Seafood – Newport, Oregon
Giant Mural on outside of Mo's in Newport, Oregon
Giant Mural on outside of Mo’s in Newport, Oregon
Mo's Interior
Mo’s Interior
Mo's Halibut with their "world famous clam chowder"
Mo’s Halibut with their “world famous clam chowder”

Back to the West Coast, but in Oregon.  Along the famed Pacific Coast Highway (US Highway 101), Newport sits on the Pacific southwest of Portland and is home of Mo’s Seafood, which supposedly has the best Clam Chowder in America (and I can attest to the fact that it was amazing!!).  It is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which the mural above represents. See more about Mo’s and other unique eateries all over the US and Canada HERE.

Newark, Ohio

Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999
Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999

Want to see a HUGE picnic basket?  Visit Newark, OH, home of the Longaberger Basket Company.  Their headquarters building is shaped just like a picnic basket.  No Joke!

Normal, Illinois (Honorable Mention)

A Normal Water Tower
A Normal Water Tower
Am I Normal? Who knows?
Am I Normal? Who knows?
A colorful cow in sunglasses seen in Normal, IL
A colorful cow in sunglasses seen in Normal, IL

Not a lot to see in Normal, Illinois.  But I do like the town name. I have written a bit about Normal HERE.

Nice, California (Honorable Mention)

We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

BeNiceorGoAway

Then there is a place in California I visited in 2015 called Nice.  Just stopped for a picture with the sign!  Be Nice or go away! See more about Nice and other central California oddities HERE.

New Salem, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Salem Sue Sign in New Salem, ND
Salem Sue Sign in New Salem, ND
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

Finally…the humongous Holstein known as Salem Sue in New Salem, North Dakota.  Talk about udderly moooving roadside attractions. Read about our 2005 visit to see Salem Sue and a number of other GIANTS along Interstate 94 in Minnesota and North Dakota HERE.

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2014: The Highlights and Top 10 Sites Visited

The year 2014 brought me some wonderful opportunities to travel and even fulfill some travel dreams. In the past year I traveled nearly 10,000 miles on road trips and traversed through 19 states (including my home state of Kentucky).  With all of this travel I was able to hit a few “bucket list” stops and also drive a good part of some “bucket list” highways as well. Overall, the year was splendid.

The Big Highlights

  • 9,700 Miles Driven
  • Traveled through 19 states
  • Drove about 1,200 miles of US Route 2, one of my Bucket List Highways.  Drove from Ironwood, MI to Browning, MT
  • Drove the Blues Highway in Mississippi
  • Drove the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming (which Charles Kuralt noted as “the most beautiful drive in America” and I concur

My Top 10 List of Places Visited (in order)

1. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN

Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota - Dreams can come true!
Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota – Dreams can come true!

I had dreamed of visiting here since first seeing pictures of it in a Life Magazine Book in the 1960s.  A dream came true in May. (see full post here)

2. Drive the Beartooth Highway (US 212) in Wyoming and Montana

At the Beartooth Highway in May
At the Beartooth Highway in May
Panoramic Scene of Beartooth's at 11,000 feet
Panoramic Scene of Beartooth’s at 11,000 feet

For years I had hoped for a chance to take one of the most beautiful drives in America.  I was lucky on this one as the highway was opened for travel on Memorial Day weekend, just a couple of days before I got there.  (see full post here)

3. Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE

I have had this on a Bucket List for a number of years.  Along with Cadillac Ranch (in Amarillo, TX) and “Spindle” – the Cars on a Spike in Cermak Plaza (Berwyn, IL – and no longer there), these were my BIG THREE car art sites on my Bucket List.  This was the last one to check off, though I have found smaller scale ones along the way as well (such as Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL) (see full post here)

4. The famous Austin sign in Austin, Texas

Sumoflam visits Austin, Texas
Sumoflam visits Austin, Texas

This is probably one of the most famous “Welcome to” signs in the country and one I wanted to say I had been to.  Well, here it was, in June. (Full post coming in January 2015)

5. Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, Mississippi

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

This unique eatery deep in the heart of Mississippi made the list because of its quirky style.  I had not heard of this place until doing my research on the Blues Highway.  But it was a definite “Must See” place on the way.  Glad I made it here. (see full post here)

6. The Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota

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

Another iconic roadside attraction (one of many) in Minnesota, this big guy on US Highway 2 was well worth the visit.  Wish I could have stopped for dinner…(not his…MINE!) (see full post here)

7.  Rock City in Valier, Montana

Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City, Montana
Rock City, Montana

While visiting family in Montana, I was told about this place called Rock City, a unique geologic site.  Had to make a visit, so we went as a family.  Well worth the trip! (see full post here)

8.  Giant Pyramid Structure in Nekoma, North Dakota

Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility

I came across this unusual site while perusing Roadside America and looking for something to see in northern North Dakota near US Route 2.  Well, I found a doozy!! (see full post here)

9. Visit to the home of “Swamp People” in Pierre Part, Louisiana

Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam and Swamp People's Troy Landry...one of the friendliest and most personable guys you'll ever meet (Troy that is...)
Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)

When the TV show “Swamp People” premiered a few years ago, I told my wife that I would someday make it to Louisiana and meet Troy Landry, one of the stars of the show and fun guy to watch catchin’ alligators.  Well, in June I did it! (see full post here)

10. Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming

This is another one of those places I just came across while driving through Wyoming.  An amazing geologic site.  My only disappointment was that it was surrounded by fencing.  But, I did get to meet a fellow traveler and amazing photographer named Derek Ace (see his Facebook page).  We have since become friends on Facebook and I really love the photos of his travels and unique perspectives on our broad expanse.

A Couple of Other Notable Items

I got to meet Facebook friend, fellow travel blogger and author Tui Snider (visit her site) while on the road in 2014.

Hanging with Tui Snider in Azle, Texas
Hanging with Tui Snider in Azle, Texas

Her books “Unexpected Texas” and “Paranormal Texas” are both great travel guides for the Dallas and northern Texas area. It was fun to meet her. We continue to exchange travel ideas and photos as we go.

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

One of Tui’s favorite comments is “Even Home is a Destination” and I have certainly made Lexington a destination in 2014. The proliferation of massive wall art murals, among other things, have kept me busy.  I was even published in Ace Weekly Magazine for a post about these.

Indeed, 2014 was a great year for travel!

Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND

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