V is for Vistas – #atozchallenge

Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista.  And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.

Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring.  Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations.  Enjoy the ride and the views.

Sunset at the Badlands in South Dakota
St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho
A view of the Portland Head Light in Maine
Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Golden Gate Bridge in 2016
Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Oregon
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Highway to Cody, Wyoming
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Horse Country – Lexington, Kentucky
Cincinnati Skyline
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983
Delaware Seashore Bridge at sunset
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Beautiful Highway heading into Virginia from Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
Beach at Clallam Bay, WA adorned with seagulls
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ
Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
Arkansas Hwy 8 near Amity, AR
Scenic cinder Hills and Shadows as seen on Idaho Hwy 33
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The Tetons as seen from near Drummond, ID
Sunset in the Sweetgrass, north of Dunkirk, MT
White Sands, NM
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia
Sunflowers forever near Lexington, KY
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Pennsylvania sunrise as seen from Boyce Mayview Park near Upper St. Clair, PA
Fall Colors from the Eagle’s Nest above Bancroft, Ontario near Algonquin
Texas Hwy 30 between Huntsville and Shiro
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters, Oregon
Somewhere in Kansas
View of the Beartooths near Red Lodge, Montana from the highway was awesome
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park

 

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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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A to Z Challenge: The T 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

TThe T Towns

Tightwad, Missouri

Tightwad, Missouri
Tightwad, Missouri
Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
Tightwad Fire Department
Tightwad Fire Department
Tightwad Cafe - Tightwad, Missouri
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri

On a trip to Kansas City back in November 2011, I returned via some back roads in south central Missouri.  My main destination of choice was Tightwad, Missouri.  This is an unincorporated town of about 65 or 70 people.  The village’s unusual name is said to stem from an episode in which a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra fifty cents for a better watermelon. Some sources claim the transaction involved a rooster rather than a watermelon.  However, there is really nothing definitive.  Nonetheless, the town is fun. Perhaps the biggest point of excitement was the Tightwad Bank, which at the time was a real bank (their website says that the closed on June 29, 2015 to become Tightwad Financial, Inc. and moved to Overland Park, KS).  According to its original website, the bank was founded on September 5, 1900 as Reading State Bank, a Kansas chartered commercial bank. On March 27, 2008 the bank opened a full service branch in Tightwad, MO and changed its name to Tightwad Bank. You can see my 2011 post HERE.

Talent, Oregon

Welcome to Talent
Welcome to Talent
Talent Mural
Talent Mural
Talent City Hall
Talent City Hall
TalentOR2
Talent Police – Better watch out if you have no talent!!
"Shoe Tree" in Talent, OR
“Shoe Tree” in Talent, OR

One evening a few years ago we were watching the well known TV Competition show “America’s Got Talent,” when they introduced one of the competitors and indicated he was from a place called Talent, Oregon.  I knew then that I had to find a way to that town! In April 2012 I had that opportunity while on a business trip to southern Oregon. Called “The City of Talent“,  I am not sure how much talent there actually is here.  With a Talent Police Department, a Talent City Hall and even a unique “Shoe Tree,” it is certainly a unique place to go to find some Talent.  See my full post about Talent HERE.

Toad Suck, Arkansas

Toad Suck, AR
Toad Suck, AR
Toad Suck, Arkansas
Toad Suck, Arkansas

On a road trip to Texas and Arkansas in 2007, we wound our way from Memphis into Arkansas and found a place called Toad Suck (after already visiting Booger Holler – see the B Towns post).  Like many odd named communities, Toad Suck has a small population.

According to a local website, the town got its name as follows:

“What does “Toad Suck” mean anyway? Well, the answer is quite simple… Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze”

Check out my post of the entire 2007 trip including our visit to Toad Suck HERE.

Thermopolis, Wyoming

Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120

I first visited Thermopolis, Wyoming in 1972.  As a 16 year old, I was disenchanted with things at home in Bozeman, Montana and decided to “run away” from home.  I hitchhiked my way from Bozeman to West Yellowstone, where I helped a family move things into a truck.  They gave me a ride as far as Thermopolis, where I continued on through Wyoming’s Wind River Canyon, riding with a nice Native American lady, who got me into southern Wyoming.  I eventually caught my final ride into Denver, where we used to live. Obviously, I got in trouble and returned back to Bozeman.

I again found myself in Thermopolis in the summer of 2014.  This town is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. From the south Thermopolis is the gateway to Yellowstone Country, and coming from the north it is the gateway to the Wind River Canyon.  See my full trip from Cody to Carhenge via Thermopolis HERE.

Teton Valley and Tetonia, Idaho

Teton Mountain View Lodge
Teton Mountain View Lodge
Dave's Pubb - Tetonia, ID
Dave’s Pubb – Tetonia, ID
Teton Drive-in
Teton Drive-in
Grand Tetons
Grand Tetons

In 2013 I was blessed to make 2 trips to Rexburg, Idaho for work.  During those times I made it a point to visit the Grand Tetons from different angles.  One of the wonderful places to do this was in the Teton Valley and from Tetonia. The views are amazing and the mountains are splendid.  Check out the entire trip post HERE.

Tuba City, Arizona

Creek through Tuba City, AZ
One of the many “tangled waters” found in and around Tuba City, AZ
Old School from the 1950s in Tuba City. Been abandoned for years.
Old School from the 1950s in Tuba City. Been abandoned for years.
Red Rocks near Tuba City, AZ taken in 1983
Red Rocks near Tuba City, AZ taken in 1983
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1991. Cola Mine Canyon is a few miles from Tuba City
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1991. Cola Mine Canyon is a few miles from Tuba City
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon
Elephant Buttes east of Tuba City on US 180
Elephant Buttes east of Tuba City on US 160

As I have noted in other posts on this blog, in the 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff.  As part of my work I took may tourists on excursions into Navajo and Hopi country.  Heading north on US Highway 89 out of Flagstaff and then catching US Highway 160 east, the  first major town is Tuba City.  Next to Flagstaff, it is the second largest city in Coconino County (which in land area is the second largest county in the United States) and is located on the Navajo Reservation.  Continuing east on US 160 the drive eventually gets you to Kayenta, the gateway to Monument Valley.  Instead, take AZ 264 south and you head towards the three mesas of the Hopi Reservation.  In fact, the name of the town honors Tuuvi, a Hopi headman from Oraibi who converted to Mormonism. The Navajo name for Tuba City, Tó Naneesdizí translates as “tangled waters”, which probably refers to the many below-ground springs that are the source of several reservoirs.

Tuba City is also kind of the gateway for a spectacular canyon known as Coal Mine Canyon, which is accessible about 15 miles away on AZ 264 on the way to the Hopi Reservation.  I have literally visited there a couple of hundred times.  The canyon is one of many remote, little-visited sites in the Southwest where the main interest comes from the detail of the rock – the colors, forms and textures of the eroded sandstone – rather than the large scale appeal of such grand places as Zion and Monument Valley. Coal Mine Canyon is first sighted about 15 miles from Tuba City, and the usual viewing area is reached by a half mile drive along a dirt track – narrow and bumpy but fine for all vehicles – that leaves highway 264 between mileposts 336 and 337. This track leads to a new-looking 2 story residence, but the canyon rim is a little way to the right, at the end of a side track that passes an isolated windmill and water tank, ending at a parking area next to a rather forlorn picnic spot consisting of a few concrete tables & chairs surrounded by bare red earth within a fenced enclosure.

Tornado, West Virginia

TornadoWV
Welcome to Tornado, West Virginia
Tornado Church
Tornado Church
Tornado Post Office
Tornado Post Office

In 2012 I made another road trip to North Carolina and took a side road through West Virginia for the sole purpose of driving through a Hurricane and a Tornado.  Hurricane is a bit west of Charleston, WV.  Once there, take US Highway 60 southeast and about 16 miles down the road you can drive through Tornado.  Officially, Tornado is recognized as Upper Falls, WV.  But there are still signs for Tornado. You can see my trip report about my visit to these two places HERE.

Tavistock, Ontario

Tavistock Recreational Centre
Tavistock Recreation Centre, Tavistock, Ontario – Home of the International Crokinole Championships
Crokinole Book
Crokinole Book
Tavistock Arena, Tavostock, Ontario - Home of the World Crokinole Championships
A Crokinole Board
Playing Crokinole at the 2008 International Crokinole Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
Playing Crokinole at the 2008 International Crokinole Championships in Tavistock, Ontario

During my 2008 time in Ontario, I was invited to the 10th Annual World Crokinole Championships by then Tavistock Mayor Don McKay, one of the officials at that year’s event.  I was greeted by Mayor McKay and also met Tavistock Gazette Editor Bill Gladding.  Both were gracious enough to introduce me to this game.  The championships are held in this small town as this is where the game was apparently invented in the 1870s. Crokinole (pronounced croak-i-knoll) is an action board game with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs. Historically, the game of Crokinole got its start near Tavistock. According to the Crokinole website, “the earliest known Crokinole board was made in 1876 in Perth County, Ontario, Canada.  Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin.   You can see my complete report of this June 2008 HERE.

Tomahawk, Wisconsin

Tomahawk, WI
Tomahawk, WI
Big Bull Moose in Tomahawk, WI
Big Bull Moose in Tomahawk, WI
Tomahawk Water Tower
Tomahawk Water Tower

The town of Tomahawk, Wisconsin is located on US Highway 51.  We ventured into this colorful town during a 2012 visit to Wisconsin.  We had just finished visiting Jurustic Park in Marshfield (see the M Towns Post) and were on the way to Rhinelander (in my R Towns post).  Tomahawk has a nice big Moose, a BBQ Place called the Butt Hutt and a lovely Eagle sculpture in the downtown area.  Read about the entire trip HERE.

Tripp, South Dakota

Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota
Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
My version of a John Deere ad - outside of Tripp, SD
My version of a John Deere ad – outside of Tripp, SD
A Flag painted on a window in Tripp, South Dakota
A Flag painted on a window in Tripp, South Dakota

Tripp, South Dakota really offer s very little, but it has a great name for a Road Tripper!!  Its all in the Tripp right?  Located on South Dakota’s Oyate Trail, which basically follows US Highway 18 across the state.  It is between the town of Menno to the east and the lovely Lake Andes to the east.  See more about the Oyate Trail Drive HERE.

Tunica, Mississippi

Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS
The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS
Old Benches outside the Gateway to the Blues
Old Benches outside the Gateway to the Blues

The summer of 2014 was a great travel year for me.  I made four big trips, one of which was to Galveston, Texas via US Highway 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi. If approaching from Memphis, then one of the first stops worth making along the highway is in Tunica.  Tunica is huge resort town with a number of hotels and casinos.  But it is also home to the Gateway to the Blues Visitors Center. The Visitors Center is built in a rustic train depot, circa 1895.  It is filled with guitars, maps, souvenirs, etc.  Definitely worth a stop.  See the report on my first leg along the Mississippi Blues Highway HERE.

Tioga, Texas (Honorable Mention)

TiogaTX
Welcome to Tioga, Texas, birthplace of Gene Autry
Tioga Heritage Museum
Tioga Heritage Museum
Rustic shopping area of Tioga, Texas
Rustic shopping area of Tioga, Texas

Tioga is a small town in Texas near Sherman and Denison on US Highway 377. It is the birthplace of country music legend and former California Angels owner Gene Autry.

Ten Sleep, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Tensleep Canyon on US 16
Tensleep Canyon on US 16
Ten Sleep
Crazy Woman Cafe and Pub in Ten Sleep, WY
TenSleep2
Dirty Sally’s in Ten Sleep, Wyoming

OK.  If you found a town named Ten Sleep, wouldn’t you include it in your post?  This town is located near Ten Sleep Canyon which is on US Highway 16. It is located in the Big Horn Basin in the western foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, about 26 miles east of Worland and 59 miles west of Buffalo.  I drove through here in 2013 on my way from Idaho to Dallas.  I left Gillette, went through Buffalo and eventually made may way into Worland.   See my full trip post HERE.

Torch, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Torch, Ohio
Torch, Ohio
Ohio's Smallest Church, the Healing Chapel, is located in Torch.
Ohio’s Smallest Church, the Healing Chapel, is located in Torch.
The Healing Chapel, Ohio's Smallest Church in Torch, Ohio
The Healing Chapel, Ohio’s Smallest Church in Torch, Ohio

Finally, there is the small blink your eyes and you’ll miss it place along the Ohio River known as Torch, Ohio.  Torch is not too far from Coolville, OH (see my C Towns post). (Ironically, the first town north of Coolville on Ohio 144 is called Frost…I did not go there). I could not find anything to provide information as to how Torch got its name. As for the little chapel in Torch, I did some research and came to find that it was built by Lloyd Middleton of Coolville. The non-denominational small chapel (its only 10 ft. by 14 ft.) is open 24/7 and anyone can go in to pray and seek respite.  A more detailed writeup of the church’s history and the Ohio River drive can be seen HERE.

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