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.

ENJOYING THE RIDE

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

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

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 https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

(13)

AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The C 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 C Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Caddo Lake – Uncertain, Texas

In my “A Stories,” I mentioned Aaron Applebaum of Mystique Tours and his great boat rides through the swamps of Caddo Lake in northeast Texas.  In this post, I am dropping a few photos of this beautiful swamp, as we saw it in February 2020. Caddo Lake is a 25,400-acre lake and bayou on the border between Texas and Louisiana. The lake is named after the Southeastern culture of Native Americans called Caddoans or Caddo, who lived in the area until around the 19th century. It is a protected wetland and includes one of the largest flooded cypress forests in the United States.

Caddo Lake – Uncertain, Texas
Caddo Lake bayou
Bald Cypress of Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake Texas
Having fun on a boat ride in the swamps of Caddo Lake

Caprock Bison Co. – Quitaque, Texas

In my “B Stories” post yesterday I commented on the “Bison Capitol of Texas.”  One of the big Bison companies in Quitaque, Texas is the Caprock Bison Company.

Caprock Bison Company – Quitaque, Texas

Cambria, California

We were fortunate that a friend of ours in Cambria, California offered us a place to stay on our way down CA Highway 1.  Cambria was actually our stopping point south on the Pacific Coast as we then headed east for the long return home.  Cambria is a small town.  Gas was very expensive.  But the scenery of the ocean, the beautiful, tall windswept trees and the fun, light atmosphere was wonderful.

Cambria, California
Unique pines in Cambria, CA
More unique pines of Cambria

Coos Bay, Oregon

On our drive south along US 101 from Port Orchard, Washington, we drove through the town of Coos Bay, Oregon.  We stayed overnight in North Bend, Oregon, which is just north and a twin city to Coos Bay.

Coos Bay, Oregon
Large ship mural in Coos Bay, Oregon (you can see the size by looking at the person in the bottom left of photo)
The Old Tioga Hotel building in Coos Bay.

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

As I have often noted, Carhenge is one of my favorite tourist attractions in the United States.  I included a chapter about it in my third book (see the book here).  I had a book signing in January 2020 and spent the night in Alliance and the next morning we drove out on a bitter cold and snowy morning to catch the sunrise before heading north to South Dakota. This is what we saw.

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Closeup of a portion of Carhenge
January sunrise at Carhenge

California

Over my many years of travel, I had visited California on a number of occasions.  However, my February trip coming south from Oregon was my first visit to Northern California.  So, Welcome to California!

Welcome to California

California Balsamic – Ukiah, California

While driving south on US 101 in California, we eventually made our way into Ukiah, California where we ultimately spent the night.  However, the main reason for this visit was to get over to see Thomas Allen and his California Balsamic Company.  My wife had heard about this company from some of her Whole Food Plant Based groups and wanted me to pick up a few bottles.  Well, Thomas has created a sort of Baskin Robbins of Balsamics with many vegan and other options.  I was amazed at the flavors.  They use only high quality Trebianno and Spirgola grapes that come from Modena, Italy.  While there, Thomas kindly gave us a tour of his facility and tastings of many of their wonderful flavors.  I HIGHLY recommend his product!!

In fact, I spoke with Thomas today and he informed me that they have a HUGE April (2020) special going on.  So, if you like Balsamic Vinegar, please jump over to https://californiabalsamic.com/ and check out the April Stay At Home Special.  You can also call Thomas with questions.  His number is on the website.  Tell him Sumoflam sent you.

Thomas Allen, owner of California Balsamic in Ukiah, California
Some of the many flavors of California Balsamic
California Balsamic

Custer, South Dakota

Welcome to Custer, South Dakota

Welcome to Custer, South Dakota

Custer State Park – Custer, South Dakota

Custer State Park is in western South Dakota has some wonderful drives, especially the famous Wildlife Loop Road which travels though 18 miles of grasslands and pines and offers opportunities to see wild bison (see my photos in my “B Stories” from yesterday’s post), elk, prong-horned antelope, deer and even the adorable little prairie dogs.  And, if you have young kids, the state park offers the opportunity to get a Junior Ranger badge, much like the National Park programs.

Welcome to Custer State Park
Custer State Park visitor’s center
Some of the scenery in Custer State Park, South Dakota
Pronghorn Antelope relax in the grasslands of Custer State Park
A bison grazes in Custer State Park

Carrot Cake Soda – Nipton Trading Post, California

Yesterday I posted about Bacon Soda.  How about some Carrot Cake soda, which I also found at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, CA.  See yesterday’s post to learn more about the company that produces these unique flavors.

Carrot Cake Soda as seen in Nipton, California

The Chowder Stop – Long Beach, Washington

By the time we got to Long Beach in southern Washington, it was lunch time.  We drove around this very touristy looking town for a place to eat.  Being the winter season, many places were closed, but NOT the Chowder Stop!  And on a cold winter day, who wouldn’t want some tasty chowder?  Let me tell you…their chowder is so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it!!  NO JOKE!

The Chowder Stop in Long Beach, Washington
Chowder so thick you can stand a spoon up in it.  So very yummy!

Center of the Universe, Wallace, Idaho

Wallace, Idaho is a quaint little town nestled in the mountains of southwestern Idaho.  We stopped there for dinner (had some great pizza!) and also to get some shots of the Center of the Universe manhole and signs.  According to a writeup on RoadsideAmerica.com, “On September 25, 2004, mayor Ron Garitone of Wallace issued a proclamation that his town’s intersection of Bank and 6th Streets was the “Probalistic Center of the Universe.”   You can read the rest of the story on their website.  (Visit their site and give those guys lots of love!)

Center of the Universe, Wallace, Idaho
The Center of the Universe manhole in the main downtown intersection of  Bank Street and Sixth Street in Wallace, Idaho

Clearmont, Wyoming

There is really nothing special about Clearmont, Wyoming, but we did drive through the small community.  The Historical Center had a nice little mural on the oldish building.

Clearmont, Wyoming
Welcome to Clearmont, Wyoming

Covellite Theatre – Butte, Montana

I love getting photos of old Theatre and Movie marquees.  This one we saw in Butte, Montana

The old Covellite Theatre in Butte Montana

Coulee City, Washington

Coulee City runs along a the southern banks of a the huge Banks Lake on US Highway 2 in central Washington State.  This is beautiful country.  I loved the welcome sign for Coulee City.

Welcome to Coulee City, Washington

Campbell, California

I have friends that live in Campbell, California, so we dropped by to visit them.  Campbell is proud of its old-fashioned water tower, one of only a few like it remaining in California.  Obviously, as much driving as I do on America’s back roads, I have seen others like it in other states.  But, to honor this lovely historic town, I am including a photo of it here.

Campbell, California
The famous Campbell Water Tower
One of a few murals that can be found in Campbell, California

Coca-Cola Ghost Sign in Tulia, Texas

There are likely hundreds of Coca-Cola murals dotting this huge country.  Caught this really classic one in Tulia, Texas

Coca-Cola Mural in Tulia, Texas

Country Friends Antiques Retro Signage in Moriarty, New Mexico

All along US Route 66 there is unique and fun signage.  This old retro starburst sign was likely for a motel in the 1960s, but now it is the sign for the Country Friends Antique shop in Moriarty, New Mexico.

Retro signage in Moriarty, New Mexico at Country Friends, Antiques

Crowell, Texas

I don’t post photos of every little town we drive through, but I am a big fan of Americana singer Rodney Crowell and this reminds me of him.  I don’t believe that there is any relationship.  Crowell is on US Route 70 a tad southwest of the Texas panhandle.  It is a typical small Texas town as the main street photo below shows.

Welcome to Crowell, Texas
Main Street in Crowell, Texas

Cormorants

I always like wildlife.  At home in Lexington, Kentucky, I get to watch cormorants do their thing almost daily.  Its always nice to see this unique diving birds in other environments.

Cormorants relaxing on a rock in Santa Cruz, CA
A Cormorant dries its wings high up in a tree in Caddo Lake swamp in Texas

Comet II Restaurant – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

All along Route 66 one can find throwback neon signs.  This classic neon for a restaurant is located in the Route 66 town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Comet II Restaurant in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

City Drug Store – Happy, Texas

I visited Happy, Texas because it was, well, Happy!  The main street had many happy places, like the Happy Self Storage which was located in the old City Drug Store building.  In this case, I took this shot because I really liked the old brick building with the hand painted sign.

City Drug Store in Happy, Texas

Colors of the West – Williams, Arizona

Another nice example of throwback neon signage on Route 66 in Williams, Arizona is the Colors of the West sign.  They apparently sell Native American goods, such as pottery, rugs and quilts.

Colors of the West shop in Williams, Arizona

Cruiser’s Cafe 66 – Williams, Arizona

And finally, another Route 66 Neon sign in Williams, AZ.  Had we had the time, I would have loved to have stopped here to eat. You can see more about Cruiser’s at https://www.cruisers66.com/

Cafe 66 Neon Sign, Williams, AZ

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

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 https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

(21)

AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The A 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)

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

While in California in mid-February, we visited San Francisco and viewed Alcatraz Island, the famed island-prison, from afar.

Visit Alcatraz
Alcatraz Prison on an island in the bay.

Avenue of the Giants, near Pepperwood, CA and other northern locations

On this trip we drove US Highway 101 all the way from northern Washington, though Oregon and all the way to Santa Cruz, CA, where we took Highway 1.  Along the way, in northern California, in the Redwood Forest, we took Avenue of the Giants, a nice 31 mile drive through the giant redwoods. Following are few shots from this lovely drive through amazing giant redwood trees.

Avenue of the Giants, northern California
Sumoflam Selfie on the Avenue of the Giants
Avenue of the Giants near Scotia, CA
Avenue of the Giants near Scotia, CA

Anaconda, Montana

Our trip from Kentucky eventually took us through Montana on our way to Washington.  Taking back roads, we took a drive through the historic mining town of Anaconda, Montana.

Welcome to Anaconda, Montana
Anaconda, Montana

Alliance, Nebraska

Alliance, Nebraska is the home of the famed tourist attraction Carhenge.  I wrote about Carhenge in my third book and, as a result, I was invited to do a book signing at the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance.

The Alliance Theater, Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

Awesome Possum Flea Market – Hamburg, Iowa

Always fun to find unique store fronts.  We found the Awesome Possum Flea Market in Hamburg, Iowa. Despite being almost late January, they were still playing Christmas music on a loud speaker outside of the store.

Awesome Possum Flea Market

Aaron Applebaum – Swamp Tour Guide Extraordinaire – Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas

On our return trip home we stopped in Uncertain, Texas to take a swamp tour, our second one, with Aaron Applebaum, who runs Mystique Tours and gives boat rides year-round through the swamps of Caddo Lake.  Aaron is very friendly and knows the swamp well.  You are in very good hands with him.  My good friend and fellow travel writer Tui Snider and her husband Larry, joined us on this trip.

Taking a swamp ride with Aaron Applebaum of Mystique Tours. In this photo are Lyla, Joselyn, Marissa, and Landen Noe, Aaron Applebaum, Larry and Tui Snider and me.
Hanging with Aaron Applebaum

Animals Are Wild – Sequoia National Park, California

Be warned, when you are in the national parks and national forests, animals are wild and should not be fed or touched.  The sign below tells it all.

All Park Animals are Wild — Sequoia National Park, California

Alien Fresh Jerky and Crazy Giant Aliens – Baker, California

A drive through Baker, California offers the unwitting tourist a delightful mix of eye-candy and tasty treats.  Sadly, when we got to Baker, Alien Fresh Jerky was closed, but we still got to see the fun.  Watch out for Aliens!!

Alien Fresh Jerky, Baker, CA
Alien Fresh Jerky Shop, Baker, CA
Watch for the aliens. Look carefully and you might see a strange human reflection.
Alien Street Lamp… Peace Out
Try the Invisible Jerky

Arrowhead Motel – Hyannis, Nebraska

Another of the many unique signs discovered on the backroads of America.  This one was in the small town of Hyannis, Nebraska

Arrowhead Motel sign in Hyannis, Nebraska

Audubon Parkway – near Owensboro, Kentucky

We left from Kentucky and, on part of the trip form Lexington, we took the Audubon Parkway, which was named after John James Audubon, the famed bird artist, who was from Kentucky.

Audubon Parkway, Kentucky

Alibi Pub and Eatery – Wilbur, Washington

Wilbur, Washington is a small town on US Route 20 west of Spokane.  I liked the store front, so here it is.  Alibi Pub has a Facebook page.

Alibi Pub and Eatery in Wilbur, WA

Alioto’s Restaurant, 8 Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California

I love unique signs.  Driving through the Fisherman’s Wharf district of San Francisco, I saw this fishy sign.  Sure wish we could have stopped to eat here.  Looks good.  Check out Alioto’s on their Website.

Aliotos Neon Sign, San Francisco

Ardmore, South Dakota

Drive across America and you will see many small towns, like the ghost town of Ardmore, South Dakota which sits on SD 71 just north of the Nebraska border in the Ogalala National Grassland.

Ardmore, South Dakota

Arkansas

One of the twenty states we drive through.  Welcome to Arkansas!

Welcome to Arkansas

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

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 https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

(44)