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
The F Towns
I cannot do an A to Z Challenge about towns in America without including Flagstaff, Arizona. Not only is this town the gateway to Grand Canyon National Park, it is also the jump off spot to other National Monuments including Walnut Canyon NM, Sunset Crater NM, Wupatki NM, Montezuma Castle NM, Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon, and the amazing Meteor Crater. The town is only a couple of hours from Monument Valley, the Petrified Forest National Park, Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell and more. Truly a tourist haven. And, it was a major stop on Route 66 and was at the intersection of US Highway 89 and Route 66. From 1981 to 1983 I worked as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours, which was a Gray Line Tour Company. It was there that my family began to grow…three children were born there and I graduated from Northern Arizona University. But one of the best times in my life was working as a tour guide. For any traveler in America, Flagstaff should be one of the Top Five stops on your list!!
Friendly, West Virginia
Friendly, West Virginia is a small town of maybe 150 people. Located on the Ohio River across from Ohio on WV Hwy 2. Highway 2 is an amazingly scenic drive along the Ohio River, running through many small towns. Its only rival is the same route across the river in Ohio and Kentucky (see Fly, OH below). The town is also the setting for the novel Shiloh, a Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor published in 1991. It is the first in a quartet about a young boy and the title character, an abused dog. Naylor decided to write Shiloh after an emotionally taxing experience in West Virginia where she encountered an abused dog. Read more about the drives along the Ohio River in my detailed post HERE.
If I visited Friendly, obviously, I should also visit Friendship in Arkansas. This is another small community of perhaps 200 friendly folks in south central Arkansas. It is accessible off of Interstate 30, but is right on US Highway 67. They even have a Friendship Police Department which seems like an oxymoron. If for any other reason, you can stop there and then tell people that you finally found Friendship. Read about my 2010 visit to Friendship (as well as Metropolis, IL which will be covered in my M Towns post HERE.
In 2010 I took a trip to Texas for work. On the way home I decided to take a trip through the Ozarks. It was a bit out of the way, but was well worth it. One of the places I visited on the way home was Flippin, Arkansas. This nice town is located in north central Arkansas, east of Eureka Springs (which I mentioned on my E Towns post) on US 412. It is the gateway to the Ozarks and a lovely drive. But, then again, many of us know that the word “Flippin” can be used as an alternative to another word, so when the Flippin Police pull you over and you go to the Flippin Jail or even attend church at the Flippin Christian Church or shop at your friendly Flippin WalMart, it brings a laugh.
Fair Play, South Carolina
On August 8, 2012 I was on a trip from eastern Tennessee to Atlanta for work. Along the way I went through North and South Carolina and happened to go through Fair Play, South Carolina. Not sure how the town got its name, but there is something about the name coming from a fight. Interestingly, throughout most of this small town, the Motto “Our Name Says It All” is posted. The photo on the left is the main entry sign. The town is just off of Interstate 85 and is the junction of SC Hwys 243, 182 and 59. You can read more about my visit HERE.
Fergus Falls, Minnesota
On cross country trip in March 2013, I made my way across Minnesota in the cold snowy winter. Along the way I visited Fergus Falls. I think it would be a marvelous place to visit in the late spring or early summer. Being a prairie town there is plenty of wildlife. It is also noted as a Continental Divide location. Having lived in the Rocky Mountains for much of my life, the term Continental Divide conjurs up the place where the rivers flow east or west. But, apparently, the land is located right on the divide between the Hudson Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds. Fairly unique!! You can read about the long trip across Minnesota and North Dakota in 2013 HERE.
Feely, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Came across a place called Feely in Montana on a trip. It is located south of Butte on Interstate 15. Always into the touchy and feely of life, I had to stop and get a picture. No services there and no report about the place here, just a picture.
Flippin, Kentucky (Honorable mention)
OK. If I am going to include Flippin, Arkansas, I might as well give mention to Flippin, Kentucky, which is just north of Bugtussle, KY. See my report on Bugtussle in my B Towns post.
Fly, Ohio (Honorable Mention)
I mentioned Friendly, WV above and the drive along the Ohio River. Just a tad north of Friendly and across the Ohio River is the small community of Fly, OH. I know nothing about the place, but it can join Black Gnat, KY in my bug towns. (I did not include Black Gnat in this year’s A to Z posts).
Four Way, Texas (Honorable mention)
Four Way, Texas is a very small community at a crossroads in the panhandle of Texas north of Amarillo. I went through there while on US Highway 87 heading to Amarillo. At the junction of US 87 and TX 354, there were some buildings with a few murals. That is pretty much all that was there. The hamlet is named for its position on the spot where U.S. Highway 87 from Dumas to Masterson crosses the route from Channing to Lake Meredith and Stinnett.
Future City, IL (Honorable mention)
This is the first nearly ghost town mention in my A to Z Challenge. Future City was developed as a suburb of Cairo, IL, which sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers around the turn of the (19th-20th) century. At that time Cairo was still growing and prosperous. By 1912 Future City would have had a population of several hundreds. Between 1912 and 1913 Future City was almost entirely destroyed by three separate flooding events. The town was partially rebuilt, but Cairo has since collapsed and the area has experienced a drastic drop in population. Today there are 6 or so occupied homes in Future City’s otherwise empty grid of streets.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
This is my 100th Post on Less Beaten Paths. It is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on travel with my family over the last 30 years. This Post will cover the “Early Years: 1980-1995.” Subsequent posts will be “1995-2005” and then the “Grandparent Years: 2005-present.”
As a family man (5 children, 9 grandchildren), I want to dedicate this post to my travels with all of them since the 1980s. These are fairly long posts with lots of family travel photos, so, feel free to skim through if interested, or pass onto another post in my blog. But, I do also want to use this post to show how the creation of a wanderlust in each of them has opened their eyes and minds to the world around them. Thirty years of family life and tens of thousands of miles traveled!! There are lots of Throwback photos in this one!! (Note that many of these have been scanned from original FILM photos — before the days of digital cameras)
All five of my children are 1980s children. My first was born in 1980 and my last in 1989. From 1987 to 1991 we lived in Japan. That was quite an adventure. In 1993 we moved cross country from sunny Mesa, Arizona to the lush green horse country of Kentucky, where we have been ever since. In 2005 my three oldest daughters all got married in diverse parts of the country within 6 weeks of each other. The first was in Tennessee, then, 5 weeks later we were on our way to Montana for the second and the next weekend back in Louisville for the third. Throughout all of these events, I made sure we traveled and saw the sites. That was so much more important to me than the Disneylands of the world.
Growing up I had the opportunity to travel as we moved to a number of places due to my fathers employment. With that in mind, I had always had high hopes to provide the same opportunities to travel for my children. So, even at a young age, we worked on opportunities, even if close by. As a young couple in college, we didn’t have much and we drove an old 1963 VW Bug. Our first trip with our first daughter consisted of a trip from Flagstaff into the San Francisco Peaks wilderness, only about 30 miles away.
As our second daughter Marissa came along, I was working as a tour guide/bus driver while going to school at Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff was really only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful red rock cliffs of Sedona. We made a number of trips there when the opportunity was afforded us…
Our time in Flagstaff ended in 1984 and we moved on to Arizona State University for Masters work and eventually for some PhD work. By the time 1987 rolled around our first son Seth came along, making 4 children. As a result, very little travel occurred at that time except for a couple of family reunions at the Marine Institute on Catalina Island in California and Aspen Grove near Provo, Utah. The heavy duty travel for my family really kicked off big time as we had an opportunity to participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) in 1987. My fluency in Japanese (due to a Mormon mission in the 1970s) helped me land a two year position as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) for Oita Prefecture, where I worked for the Governor’s office (also see this link for Tourism in Oita). Little did we know when we left for Japan in August 1987 that this would open the doors to so many travel opportunities and experiences for the kids, none of whom spoke a word of Japanese when we left.
I left a couple of weeks before the family did and poor Julianne had to travel to Japan with the four children. It was the first flight for any of them and the first time Julianne had traveled to a foreign country (other than a trip to Canada and a couple of visits to Nogales, Mexico). To make things worse, her plane out of San Francisco was delayed and they missed their connection in Seoul, South Korea, so they all stayed overnight in Seoul. Once they did make it to Oita, we were some of the only foreigners there and truly the only foreign family. As a result we were the recipients of a ton of attention. We became the objects of a number of local television interviews, were invited to festivals and events as special guests and were also treated to travel all over Oita (which is just a bit larger than the state of Delaware).
Oita is one of seven Prefectures on the island of Kyushu, which is larger than Maryland but considerably smaller than West Virginia, but very similar to West Virginia in its remoteness and large mountains and hills, not to mention the large amount of countryside. We spent a little over four years living and working in Oita. The girls went to Japanese public schools and became totally immersed in the culture and language. Here are a few photos from our time and travels in Japan with details about the photos.
During our time in Oita each of the children had opportunities to be in TV commercials, department store advertising and other ads. So, not only were they traveling, but they got to be involved in some other unique opportunities, especially as some of the only non-Japanese children in Oita Prefecture.
Like most places in Japan, there are rural areas and then there are industrial areas. We had many special opportunities as a family to visit manufacturing facilities including a giant steel plant, the local newspaper to see how they printed in Japanese, a canon camera factory and a Toshiba Semiconductor plant.
After our four years in Japan, it was time to return home. The children had all become fluent in Japanese and were becoming Japanese. We wanted to get back to America and the Japanese economy had begun to see an economic bubble in 1991, so it was the right time. It was an amazing experience and opened their eyes to the world in so many ways.
So, we returned to Arizona and I commenced looking for work, eventually landing a position in Kentucky as a Japanese interpreter/translator. After about 8 months, I went back and we moved the family to Kentucky. This became the next great adventure for the family and I meticulously planned a good route. Back in 1993 there was no internet, so my research was done via maps and travel guides. We would travel from Mesa, AZ thru Flagstaff, AZ (visiting Sunset Crater National Monument, the Grand Canyon and Wupatki National Monument along the way). We made our way northeast to the dinosaur tracks in Moenave, AZ, then to Monument Valley in Utah and Four Corners Navajo Park. From there we continued eastward through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and eventually into Frankfort, Kentucky. Following is the route for our family’s first ever true cross country road trip (the first of many!!). We departed on July 15, 1993 … Julianne’s and my 14th Anniversary.
Our first stop on this trip was Sunset Crater National Monument and then following along the loop drive to Wupatki National Monument. Sunset Crater is one of the best examples of a volcanic cinder cone in the United States.
AS you head east towards Tuba City off of US 89N, along the way you come to a sign that points north towards Moenave, on the Navajo Reservation (about 6 miles east on AZ Hwy 160). You take that dirt road and just to the left a few hundred feet up the road is a large sandstone area covered in Dilophosaurus tracks. We stopped to check them out and then continued east to Monument Valley.
Of course, everyone recognizes Monument Valley from the movies, TV Commercials and Print ads. It is one of those unforgettably beautiful natural desert scenes and a must stop for anyone visiting northern Arizona or Southern Utah.
Continuing east on US 160 and a bit north from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona you arrive at the Four Corners Tribal Park, the only place in the U.S. where four state corners meet. Soon thereafter we began heading into the mountains with an overnight in Durango and then on to Pagosa Springs the next morning. From there we traveled up and up to the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass – 10,857 feet – definitely one of the high points of this trip.
We continued through the mountains along US 160 through Walsenburg and then on to Lamar and then on US 50 into Dodge City for the night. As we drove through Kansas I recalled that it was the only state that we could smell for miles. The next morning we were off again to the SE corner of Kansas to visit the “Little House on the Prairie” near Independence, Kansas. Of course, this was the title of the book by Laura Ingalls Wilder and was her second home after the family moved from Wisconsin.
Though we made other stops along the way, our next destination was specifically for the girls, who in the 1990s were into the “Precious Moments” figurines. though popular among collectors, they are not nearly as popular as they were in the 1990s.
In any case, we made our way into Carthage, Missouri, on the western end of the state, to visit the Precious Moments Chapel. This was fun for the girls with big Precious Moments Statues, Stained Glass and other at work. This was their first really “offbeat” travel site in terms of uniqueness.
From Carthage we continued on to Frankfort, Kentucky, driving through St. Louis, crossing over the mighty Mississippi and then a straight shot on I-64 through Louisville. It was an amazing adventure for the kids as they got to see a good chunk of the United States. But this was really only the FIRST of many adventures.
This first cross country trip with the family was very revealing. We learned that the kids could manage on a long trip as long as we had a few stops along the way that were interesting and fun for them. It helped them anticipate the next stop too. We also found that they took interest in the history, the geography and even the novelty. We had a living classroom on wheels. This would prove very beneficial in our planning of subsequent trips, whether short or long.
Kentucky was new to all of us. In fact, the Eastern U.S. was new to all of us. The green, the colorful spring and fall seasons. All made for a wonderful new opportunity for adventures, even close to home. During the remainder of 1993 and a good part of 1994, we stayed close to home and explored nearby places. We moved from Frankfort to Nicholasville on Christmas Eve 1993 and could enjoy living close to the larger city of Lexington and all of its amenities. After getting settled again we had more opportunities to explore as the kids learned about the Civil War first hand, they got to see the massive Mammoth Cave and even enjoyed time in many of Kentucky’s beautiful surroundings.
Traveling far away from home wasn’t really on the agenda until mid 1995. At that time we were the host of a French Exchange Student named Barbara Grandvoinet. She was between the ages of Amaree and Marissa and went to school with them. We had room for her and she stayed with us for six months. So, it was the perfect time to plan a trip and get our “wanderlust” fulfillment in. By this time the fledgling internet was getting popular. We had an AOL account and I was able to do some research online. I planned out a trip that would take us through West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and back home through West Virginia. It promised to be an exciting trip. The following map gives a general course for us (though I don’t really recall the entire course).
My goal for the trip was to make it memorable for the kids and to introduce them to journal writing. I didn’t force too hard, but I encouraged them to write in the notebooks that I prepared for them, to tell about the trips and the fun things they did. Some did well…
Marissa took her journaling and photography seriously, even from the get go. She has since become a professional photographer (see her photography site).
From the Mystery Hole tourist trap, we then went to the amazing New River Gorge and saw the huge arched bridge that spans the river. the New River is one of the oldest rivers on the American Continent and the 3030 Arched Bridge that crosses over it is 876 feet above the river.
After an overnight stay at an old hotel near Fayetteville, we visited Lexington, VA and then were off on a drive through the scenic Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We then stopped in Fredericksburg and visited some historical sites and the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shoppe, which showed the kids many old ways of doing things.
From Fredericksburg it was on to the historic Jamestown Settlement. Due to time constraints we skipped Williamsburg, which I had visited a couple of years earlier. But Jamestown was a nice living history center and the kids got to see how the Powhattan Indians lived, they got to climb aboard replicas of the ships that the settlers came on and more. A couple of the kids we causing problems, so I had them “put in a pillory.” The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal. A stock only held the hands, a pillory included the head…just so the difference is made clear.
We then made our way to Norfolk and then to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an amazing structure to cross over/under Chesapeake Bay from the Norfolk area of Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula. After its completion in 1964 it was named one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World. The total length from Virginia to Delmarva is about 23 miles (17 miles from shore to shore). There are actually two tunnels (Thimble Shoal – 5,552 feet and Chesapeake Channel – 5,237 feet) along the way, so you go down under and then back up over the water to man made islands and back under another tunnel.
Halfway across after going through the first tunnel, you come out on an island and there is a 625 foot long fishing pier and a souvenir shop. We stopped there and got the shot above. Afterward, we were back down the second tunnel and eventually came out on the Delmarva Peninsula, where we found an old crab house (really rustic indeed) and literally had a HUGE tray of crabs, crabcakes and other delectable types of seafood. It was called Phillips Crab House in Ocean City. We ate there and then stayed overnight in Ocean City. Indeed, one of the “educational” pieces I have always tried to throw into our trips is eating things local to the area in local cafes and restaurants. I wish I would have gotten some photos!!!
With the arrival in Ocean City, my four children had officially now been on both the West Coast (from previous trips to California and Catalina Island in the mid-1980s) and now the East Coast. With this trip they had also pretty well traversed most of the United States by car (at least from Arizona to Maryland).
After an overnight stay in Ocean City, we traveled to Annapolis, MD and then to Silver Spring, MD, where my aunt lived. We did make a quick stop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and then traveled on to Silver Spring, where the huge and beautiful LDS (Mormon) Washington D.C. Temple is located (see photo above). We also took a day trip down to Mt. Vernon, where George Washington’s home was.
We then finished off by visiting the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia on the way home.
My first stop along the way was for gas. I stopped in Avon, MN…..which, I discovered, is also the home of the Lake Wobegon Trail. The trail is 46 miles long and 10 feet wide. It opened in 1998. Avon is the home of the Lake Wobegon Trails Association. Garrison Keillor, the creator of Lake Wobegon and the Prairie Home Companion show, lived in Avon at one time.
From Avon I proceeded north to Ashby, MN. This is home to a large metal Coot statue, which is what I was looking for. But, as I often discover, the town is also a quaint little place.
The coot statue stand outsides of town on Highway 78 and represents the largest Ashby area sportsmen club, Coots Unlimited (a parody of Ducks Unlimited). There is more about it here.
From Ashby I proceeded north to Fergus Falls, MN. The roads were a little better and my GPS had me taking a back road. I was headed first to the Continental Divide Marker and site, which was built in 2000.
From Fergus Falls I continued heading northwest on I-94. The roads were still icy, but had cleared up somewhat. I then took a quick swing off at Exit 38 (Rothsay) to get a photo of the 14 foot tall, 9200 pound cement prairie chicken statue. I have been here before (as well as a good part of the drive thru North Dakota – see my posts from 2005) . This time I was able to get a more unique view of the giant bird.
I then got back on the freeway and fought more fog. But the fog and snow make for interesting views that one would not see on a clear day. Many trees took on shadowy shapes.
Along the road I found a road sign that provided the perfect description of this day’s trip had been to this point – Downer, MN (exit 15 heading north)
Ironically, shortly after Downer, things cleared up again, just in time for my entrance into the border town of Moorhead, MN. Moorhead has a Norwegian population and is home to the Hjemkomst Center, which houses a replica Viking ship and the beautiful is the Stave Church, a symbol of the Norwegian heritage in the Red River Valley. Built by Guy Paulson, the church is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church in Vik, Norway. Norwegian Stave churches were built just after the close of the Viking Age in Scandinavia in the 1100 and 1200’s. The technique of using vertical posts-or staves- had been modified over time to become wooden architectural works of art.
From Moorhead I entered Fargo, ND and continued heading west on I-94. I passed thru Fargo so I could get to other sights along the road (and to also get out of the miserable snow!!) My first stop in North Dakota was Jamestown. Jamestown is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue the National Buffalo Museum.
The “World’s Largest Buffalo” is a in Frontier Village. It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh.
Further west on I-94 is the small town of Steele, ND. There are about 800 people and one silver Big Bird! “Sandy”, as she is known, is a 40 foot tall 4.5 ton bird. It was constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame, which was built in three different sections. It was created in 1999 by James Miller, a resident of Arena, ND. The crane was built to bring attention to the fact that the Steele area is one of the best birding destinations in North America. Sandhill Cranes are some of the migratory species that nest here.
I loved the shot above. Tons of fun…
I finally made it to Bismarck, ND where I had a couple more interesting stops. Bismarck borders the Missouri River and there are a number of parks along river road. One is Keelboat Park. There is a large four headed thunderbird statue at the park and it is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms.
In Pioneer Park along the Missouri River, there is a fairly new sculpture called “Rising Eagle”, which was made by art students from the United Tribes Technical College. Dedicated in 2007, it was vandalized in 2010 and had to be rebuilt.
As I continued west of Bismarck on I-94, the weather was finally cleared up and there were sunny skies. The views looked great.
A couple of miles before Exit 72 (about 20 miles east of Dickinson, ND) I could begin seeing the following HUGE sculpture by local artist Gary Greff (from Regent, ND). Greff began his projects in 1989 and continues work today through donations from local people and many others. Named “Geese in Flight,” it is the gateway to the famous “Enchanted Highway” and is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture.”
Built in 2001, “Geese in Flight” is 154 feet long and 110 feet tall and weighs over 78.8 tons. The largest flying goose has a wingspan of 30 feet. Gary Greff used oil tanks and oil well pipe to make it. I kind of envision the big “eye” in the middle as looking over the Enchanted Highway.
The Enchanted is a 32 mile stretch of road beginning at Exit 72 on I-94 and then going south through Gladstone and then all the way to Regent, ND. Along the way there are a number of sculptures. Greff even made dozens of small geese that line the nice dirt road up to the Flying Geese sculpture.
From the Flying Geese, I did go south through Gladstone and then on for another 10 miles.
Then about three miles down the road, is “Deer Crossing,” the second of the huge sculptures down the road. The buck is 60 feet long and 75 feet tall. The doe is 50 feet tall and 50 feet long. These were erected in 2002.
I continued south in hopes of seeing more and made it ten miles to the “almost” ghost town of Lefor. The prairie scenery was great.
I made it to Lefor and gave up as I had more traveling to do to get to Miles City, Montana for the night.
There are a number of other giant sculptures along the road south of Lefor, including a 60 foot grasshopper, pheasants on the prairie (including a 60 foot long pheasant), a 51 foot tall Teddy Roosevelt and a “Fisherman’s Dream”, which was completed in 2007 and includes a metal fish leaping up 70 feet through a metal pond surface. Someday I hope to get back there to see all of these. At the end of the road Greff has built an Enchanted Castle Hotel for the final enchanting stop.
I returned back through Gladstone and took a quick spin through the town and caught one final small statue:
I made way to Dickinson and then on to the border of North Dakota and Montana.