P is for People – #atozchallenge

I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.

I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.

Having a huge elephant ear with friend Robert Phinney in Dayton, WA
Got to meet Nelson Campbell, Director of the well know documentary Plant Pure Nation, in Louisville, KY

The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.

The diversity of people enriches us.

Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.

Met the Seattle Smile Guy along the way. Didn’t want money… just wanted smiles
Motorbike Quartet in Cebu, Philippines
Street Person – Cebu

First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.

 

Siesta Time – Cebu
Belly Rubbing – Carbon Market – Cebu
Street Person – Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain

For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.

Many of the musicians I have met are genuine.  They are such neat people…not pretentious at all.  It is nice to talk to them about life.  One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s.  I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.

Hanging with guitarist Bobby Cochran in Bardstown, KY in 2011
Sumoflam and world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, c.g.b.
Sumoflam and GUITARIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Edgar Cruz from Oklahoma
One of my favorite people – multitalented musician Bruce Wandmayer, from Santa Cruz, CA
Hanging with my Aussie mate, multiinstrumentalist Pauly Zarb.
Have become good friends with the lovely former country rock singer Patti Hall, who now sells real estate in Phoenix
Sumoflam and guitarist Michael Kelsey from Indiana – he is one of my favorite guitarists and musicians. He is also a fabulous person.
“Crafty” Jack Burger from Lethbridge, Alberta

Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower.  What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!

I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun.  We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together.  So blessed to know these great folks.

Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)
One of many Flamingoheads

Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.

A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.

Enjoying the ride in California with “Christmas Carla” (she was born on Christmas day.
Ione (L) and Carla (R)…kissin cuzzins!!
BBQ Pitmaster Oliver Zuder showing off his trophy at the Oshawa Ribfest in 2008 in Ontario

My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.

In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario.   We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.

Davor Zuder and some smokin’ ribs at Oshawa Rib Fest in Ontario in 2008

Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.

Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe in Tightwad, MO
Tonya Floyd, current owner of the Wigwam Drive-in in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…

I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting.  On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.

David with Nadia Comanci – spent three days with her as her personal guide in Kyushu

One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.

 

Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)
Sumoflam with Troy Landry – 4 years after saying I would meet this guy

Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.

Hanging with Danielle Colby from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012

On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.

Under one of Clyde’s massive creations…his 12 foot tall dragon
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.

Clyde tells stories of his various pieces of art

I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)

Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.

Portrait and landscape photographer Derek Ace (photo by Jeff Dostalek)
Derek Ace self portrait

On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind.  See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.

Author, travel writer, lecturer and musician Tui Snider of Azle, TX
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.

Sumoflam with Shelly Cumbie in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse for a tour of the “Ghosts of Denton”
Writer, Radio Host, Sacred and Mysterious Site Traveler Teal Gray

Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.

Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast.  She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)

Teal Gray Worldwide

The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:

Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts.  See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)

Photographing Wildlife with some of the Jacobson Park Photographers

I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen

What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!

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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

 

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A to Z Challenge: The P 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

PThe P Towns

 

Pella, Iowa

Welcome to Pella
Welcome to Pella
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA - the largest working windmill in the United States
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Jaarsma Bakery - Pella, Iowa
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Unique building corner in Pella, IA
Unique building corner in Pella, IA

There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa.  Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit.  It is also home to the Pella Window Factory!  See a more complete post about Pella HERE.

Peculiar, Missouri

Welcome to Peculiar, MO
Welcome to Peculiar, MO
And let's not forget...A Peculiar Water Tower
And let’s not forget…A Peculiar Water Tower
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Police Car
A Peculiar Police Car
Peculiar Post Office
Peculiar Post Office

In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts,  I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia.  Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri.  Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way.  The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868.  See my original 2012 post HERE.

Pierre Part, Louisiana

Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Swamp People Truck at Duffy's Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Swamp People Truck at Duffy’s Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part

Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize.  But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”.  You can read the whole story HERE.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Dafford's History Mural in Point Pleasant.
Dafford’s History Mural in Point Pleasant.

A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit.  Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2.  The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman.  The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph.  See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.

A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris

Welcome to Paris, Kentucky
Welcome to Paris, Kentucky

I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up.  Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River .  I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times.  There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link).  The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.

Paris, Ontario

Welcome to Paris, Ontario
Welcome to Paris, Ontario A nice place to live
Downtown Paris, Ontario
Downtown Paris, Ontario
A view of Paris and the river
A view of Paris and the river
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell received first long distance phone call in Paris in 1876
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que - Paris, Ontario
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario

During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time.  Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty.  There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place.  Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.

Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The famed "Jesus in Cowboy Boots" monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
The famed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
I bid farewell to Paris...that's me in the reflection...
I bid farewell to Paris…that’s me in the reflection…

I have been to Paris, Texas three times.  There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993.  For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S.  See my post about this battle HERE.  It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery.  (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.)   called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.

Paris, Tennessee

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris Catfish
Welcome to Paris Catfish
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower

On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S.  Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers.  Read more HERE.

Port Orchard, Washington

Welcome to Port Orchard
Welcome to Port Orchard
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
The Mattress Ranch "pasture" in Port Orchard
The Mattress Ranch “pasture” in Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard

In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days.  We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle.  There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.

Powder River, Wyoming

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming

On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre.   It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace.  See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.

Paducah, Kentucky

Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Paducah, Kentucky
Paducah, Kentucky
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY

Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town.  Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin.  There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river.  Their chief was named Paduke.  This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on.  He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did.  Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi.  Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856.  It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub.  Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.

Port Gibson, Mississippi

Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson

As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns).  One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well.  Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above.  Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures.  And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple!  See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.

Palmyra, New York

Hill Cumorah
Hill Cumorah
Book of Mormon Publication site
Historical location of the publishing of the first Book of Mormon took place in Palmyra, NY
Hill Cumorah Monument
Hill Cumorah Monument commemorating the location where Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the Angel Moroni. The plates were translated and later became the Book of Mormon
Hill Cumorah MOnument with Moroni
Angel Moroni sits atop the Hill Cumorah Monument
The home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra
A replica of the home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon.  Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon.  Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing.  My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013.  You can see my full writeup HERE.

Perryville, Kentucky

Welcome to Perryville
Welcome to Perryville
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
One of many unique shops in Perryville
One of many unique shops in Perryville

Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment.  The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.

Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)

Ole's Big Game Steakhouse - Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse – Paxton, Nebraska
Big Moose at Ole's (and one with antlers too)
Big Moose at Ole’s (and one with antlers too)

On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska.  The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants.  Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.

Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)

Pembroke, New York
Pembroke, New York
Kutter's Cheese in Corfu, New York
Kutter’s Cheese in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter's Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter’s Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York

On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY.  I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me.  And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.

Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)

Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY
Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY

On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York.  One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc.  They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.

Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Ponder, Texas
Ponder, Texas
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don't Ponder about going to a fire.
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don’t Ponder about going to a fire.
This is a church that has Ponder in the name....Ponder your eternal future
This is a church that has Ponder in the name….Ponder your eternal future
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder...ponder away!
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder…ponder away!

And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area?  Think about it ok?

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