On January 1, 2017 I sat on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland to watch a spectacular sunrise and pondered to myself about the opportunities I would have to travel throughout the year. Little did I really know the extent that I would actually travel over the year and I’m grateful that I’ve had a wonderful year of seeing more of this beautiful country.
Beginning with that glorious morning in Maryland, over the course of the year I have driven nearly 15,000 miles on road trips, many to visit family or be with family, but all of the trips have been wonderful. Some have been close by doing what I refer to as “staycation“ trips in Kentucky. But, throughout the course of the year I have been to 19 different states and have seen a plethora of places and things. Many of the trips included time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. That makes things so much better and enjoyable!
In July we had a family reunion. It was the first in five years and all of my 10 grandchildren and all my five children were here at one time or another and even my sister and her husband and daughter came up to visit. During that time we also visited my extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. So, travel was not the only joyful thing. Family is the best.
The following photos tell just a small story of the past year. I have already posted some of the things in more detail and have five or six others in the works about specific places. But here are just some of the places and things form this past year. ENJOY THE RIDE!
I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.
There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.
One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It 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 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.
One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.
I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.
But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture. And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!
I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.
The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river. An amazing feat of engineering.
I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.
Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.
Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.
Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars. They look futuristic and are cool to drive over. I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.
Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.
Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular. But they are not the only religious buildings.
The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.
I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.
And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.
Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.
After being gone for nearly a month in Idaho and then a few days in Dallas for work in mid June (2013), I took the final leg of this adventure and a two day trip to return home to Lexington via Branson, Missouri, where my wife was visiting with her sister. This would turn out to be another fun adventure as I traveled through Oklahoma and the Ozarks. Following is the route I took for the trip. I left in the afternoon and arrived about midnight in Branson.
I headed straight up US 75 to Denison and while there at least got a glimpse of the HUGE Eisenhower statue that can be seen off of the freeway. I took a photo of it while driving by, so it is not as good as I would have hoped.
I continued north on US 75 until it turned into US 69 as I crossed into Oklahoma and made my way into Durant, Oklahoma. Durant is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.
Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. It is in a very nice area near lakes and rolling hills. There are colorful horses dotting the town and some other surprises as well!!
Turns out that Durant, Oklahoma is also home to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.
Finally, on the way out of town I ran into these unique scrap metal horses in a park in Durant. These appear to be the handiwork of South Dakota “found metal sculptor” Doug Owen.
From Durant I headed north on US 69/75 through a number of small towns until I got to Atoka, Oklahoma.
Atoka, Oklahoma is a town of a little over 3000 people. It was settled in the mid-1800s and was an important stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Road. The small town was considered the capital of the Choctaw Nation in the late 1800s and was named after Captain Atoka who led his people here during the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830s.
Due to my time constraints, I didn’t have a lot of time to stop along the road on this trip, but I did make my way past the beautiful Atoka Reservoir and into McAlester, Oklahoma.
Upon arrival in McAlester I got to see a throwback to the 1950s…at the Happy Days Hotel there are 50s themed rooms including the “Elvis Suite,” “I Love Lucy,” James Dean and Marilyn Monroe rooms at the hotel.
Angel’s Diner has the black and white checkerboard floors, diner seating and more. I wish I would have had time to stop in…..but I had to continue on to Branson
One of the more spectacular sights along the drive north on US 69 is the huge Eufaula Lake, with over 600 miles of shoreline, it is the largest lake in Oklahoma. It was beautiful as I approached close to sunset.
Shortly after passing by the lake I arrived in Checotah, Oklahoma and then headed west on Interstate 40. It was getting dark, so I zipped my way on to Branson, Missouri through Arkansas. Sorry…too dark for photos…
The next morning my wife and I took two cars and drive back from Branson to Lexington, Kentucky. We had to get back, so we didn’t have much time to see anything in Branson. I did get a photo of a huge guitar sticking out of a building….
Our route from Branson to Lexington was not a direct route as I wanted to take my wife by Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MO for lunch, as you will see later on. Here is our nearly 600 mile route for Day 2:
The drive across southern Missouri is always nicer OFF of the freeways. I had been on US 60 between Branson and Sikeston three or four times. But, of course, there are always interesting things to see along the way.
Gotta love a name like Uncle Rooster’s!! They even have a giant rooster out front….
From Seymour, the countryside becomes mainly farmland until about Mountain View and Cabool. We saw thousands of rolled bales of hay and other nice rural scenery along the way.
We stopped in Mountain View, Missouri for a quick rest break and a drink. While there, lo and behold, I saw some scrap metal horse sculptures that looked amazingly similar to the ones I had seen in Durant, Oklahoma the day before. I believe they are the work of South Dakota artist Doug Owen.
From Mountain View we proceeded eastward on US Route 60. Here are a couple more scenes from the road:
Not soon after seeing the aerial acrobatics of the plane above, we made our way into Sikeston, Missouri. Sikeston is at a major junction of US 60 from the west, Interstate 55 (N-S thru Sikeston) and Interstate 57 from the east. But for me, the real highlight was being able to once again visit Lambert’s Cafe. I had been to the one in Ozark, Missouri a number of years ago, but never to this one.
Lambert’s is one of those places that buses full of tourists stop at, highway drivers stop and more. All sorts of Kitsch with license plates everywhere, old photos and, most importantly – good food and LOTS of it. But, perhaps the real drawing card is the “Throwed Rolls”, a tradition at these stops since the beginning.
To get a roll you must raise your hand and they throw it to you. You miss and hits the floor….too bad!
Sometimes the roll throwers do miss. We saw some up on the overhangs…
The unique thing about this place is the Family Style servings. You order your food and a side and then they bring you a number of other sides – fried potatoes, fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas and more. These are as much as you care to eat.
The environment there is fun as well….
After a hefty lunch, we really wanted a nap, but we actually had to scoot onwards towards home. Just a short zip up I-57 and we were in Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet for one of the biggest confluences in the country. There are two big bridges to cross at this point.
One moment you are in Missouri, a few minutes later you go through Illinois and straight into Kentucky.
After driving the narrow KY Hwy 286 to Paducah, we were excited to get on the freeway, but, I got a taste of Dallas in rural Kentucky as we were stuck in non-moving freeway traffic for well over 30 minutes.
But, after it all cleared up, we were on I-69 breezing away and then eventually onto the Bluegrass Parkway.
And, finally, back home in Kentucky after being away and on the road for over 5500 miles, 33 days and driving through 15 different states during that time.