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
The E Towns
I finally visited Earth. All of my travels and I had never been there. Yes, there is a town called Earth and it is in Texas. The town is on US Highway 70, east of the New Mexico border in far west Texas. The community only has about 1000 residents, but is big in advertising Earth. There is even an Earth Police Car. See my original post on Earth, Texas from 2011 HERE.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
I was on another Texas trip in November 2012 with my wife. On the way home, after a long day, we decided to find a hotel in a nearby town. We used our phones to find us a place close by and were given Eureka Springs, Arkansas and the Crescent Hotel. Lo and behold, when we arrived, we found out that the Crescent Hotel is considered the most haunted hotel in America. They even give haunted tours nightly. And, I swear, we did see an apparition in our room. We asked “Lucy, Lucy, what did you die for?” and she said “Nothing, nothing, nothing at all.” Eureka Springs is a very unique and touristy location with some lovely eateries, lots of gift shops and more. We had a nice breakfast at the Mud Street Cafe, located in a basement. Great food and great atmosphere.
We visited our daughter and her family in Port Orchard, WA in the summer of 2015. During our visit we went many places and, on one of the road trips from Mt. Rainier National Park, we stopped in the very small community of Elbe, Washington for dinner. The town only has a population of under 30, but operates a huge dinner train…the kind that is stationary. Called the Mt. Rainier Dining Company, it provided a great meal in our own private dining car. The town also has a small church (see here). You can read more about that trip and see more photos HERE.
Way back in the late 1990s, we had occasion to take our daughter to participate in an all-star chorus in Europe. We had to drop her off in Pennsylvania. Along the way, we visited the fun town of Easton, Pennsylvania and their Crayola Factory. Back then they also had a PEZ Museum, but it is no longer there.
I was on a five day trip to Omaha with my daughter in 2014. We took a few days to sight see on the way there and back. One of the places we made our way to was Eldon, Iowa. This community of less than 1000 that sits along the Des Moines River, is like many other midwestern communities, quaint and well kept. It was an old railroad town. But, this one offered something most don’t have…an opportunity to visit the actual house featured in the world famous (and oft parodied) American Gothic House. You can see more about our Iowa visit and the Gothic House HERE.
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Another trip with a different daughter and granddaughter was taken in 2013 as we ventured to Wisconsin for fun. On that adventure we made our way into Egg Harbor, Wisconsin on the Eastern Peninsula of the state. Among all of the lighthouses, this lovely community offered scenic views, shots of seagulls and unique shops and eateries. We ate at the Shipwrecked Pub/Inn and also visited the Chocolate Chicken for desert. You can see the whole story HERE.
East Peoria, Illinois
East Peoria, Illinois is one of those towns with a lot of quirkiness. Drive along US Hwy 24 and US Hwy 150 through town and it is much like a Route 66 drive. There are big animal statues along the route and then there is fun M & M’s Twistee Treat Ice Cream place.
Embro, Ontario, Canada (Honorable mention)
As I have noted in other posts, during 2008 I worked in Woodstock, Ontario at the Toyota plant as a Japanese interpreter. During my time off, I traveled throughout much of southern Ontario. One of the towns I enjoyed visiting was Embro, which is in the larger township of Zorra. Embro is home of the Highland Games, a large event run by the Zorra Caledonian Society since the 1930s to perpetuate “the spirit, music and games of Scotland”. A great little community and a fun taste of Scotland in the hills of Oxford County, Ontario.
Eagle, Colorado (Honorable Mention)
I included Eagle, Colorado in this due to the spectacular views from this town. It is located down the freeway from Vail. I stayed there one evening in 2013 and it was a lovely little town in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. You can see the entire trip report HERE.
Endeavor, Wisconsin (Honorable mention)
And finally, just had to add this one because of the name. I visited Endeavor on the same trip as Egg Harbor (see above).
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them. You can see Part 1 here.
During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.
The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more. This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world. She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)
The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other. It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.
Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998. This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe. Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed. At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France. Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris. Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)
We took three trips to the east during 1998. The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility. While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail. Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us. In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.
From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit). It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.
So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.). This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off. But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents. It was pretty “in-tents”!!
We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one. However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.
We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……
Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip. But, it was not the last trip east. A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa. Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background. Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.
Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!
In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University. While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia. We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…
A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff. In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky. I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.
During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio. Giant picnic basket!
The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us. Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips. We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.
On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum. We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!
Travel continued that year with a couple more trips. Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites. Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.
In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana. This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory. The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.
From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument. This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.
Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites. Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.
From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy. Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln). We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.
There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.
On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).
On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds. When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…
The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan. Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved. Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.
In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents. It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.
With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things. Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.
Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).
We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005. I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters. By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings. In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.
After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana. This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way. Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!! We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)
Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously. It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.
Roadside guidance provided by……
Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days. We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province. We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well. We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well. But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun. Here are a few of the better shots. So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!! Many memories were made…
Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN. The second day was another doozy….
We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest. The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…
The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004). We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….
After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.
After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways. We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area. After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest. We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip… then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.
And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz. The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!
Day 3 – March 10, 2013: A beautiful morning in Miles City, Montana. A cool 45 degrees and bright sunny skies. Should be a wonderful day to drive to Shelby, about 6 or 7 hours away. Following is the path I took to Shelby from Miles City:
Miles City is a town of about 8500 people in Custer County in the far southeast of Montana. The town was founded in 1877 by settlers who had been evicted by General Nelson A. Miles from the Tongue River Cantonment for selling alcohol to the soldiers. It is a typical Western town and actually similar to some Texas towns I have been to.
I took State Hwy 59 north out of Miles City towards Jordan. This took me through high prairies in lands dotted by cattle ranches, old cabins and grazing antelope.
Just before getting into Jordan, I made my way through the small town of Cohagen, an unincorporated sheep farming town. I was enthralled by the bar which also had a pretty old Squirt sign on it.
I also saw another old cabin, something I really enjoy finding on the road.
From Cohagen I went through Jordan and then headed west on Hwy 200 towards Lewistown. About halfway there I came to the Mosby Rest Area, a real nice rest area by the way. This rest area had a few historical markers and sits in a fairly scenic area.
Just up the road I crossed over the Musselshell River in an area where it is drying up.
Not too far west of the river crossing, I came to the town of Winnett. Usually I would pass right by, but their welcome sign caught my eye so I had to meander into this town, which is also the county seat of Petroleum County.
The small town of about maybe 200 people really does have some character. There is a small hotel, a little cafe (which I wish I would have tried out) and a couple of bars. There are some old signs, some nice old buildings and a great view of the butte behind the town.
Continuing west another 25 miles or so on Montana 200 , I came across another small town called Grass Range. Like Winnett, the town of about 100 people seemed to have some character, so I dropped in there as well, and I am glad I did. I think I was happiest about the old wooden grain elevator. What a taste of old western Americana.
The wooden grain elevator used to serve the old Old Milwaukee Road Railroad which ran from Milwaukee thru Montana and on to Seattle, WA. The electrified railroad was built around 1917, and eventually, the Montana portion was abandoned around March 1980, thus giving it “fallen flag” status. There are still remnants of this railroad, including the depot and grain elevator in Grass Range. There has even been a book written about the Montana portion of this unique railroad called Guide to the Milwaukee Road in Montana by Steve McCarter. The book takes you on a trip along the Milwaukee Road railroad across Montana, from the North Dakota border to St. Paul Pass in Idaho. There is also a unique video about it on YouTube.
From the high plains I continued north into the foothills of the geographic center of Montana, better known as Lewistown, the county seat of Fergus County. The town has a unique quality to it…on the edge of the wilderness yet still a population center. In fact, just about a mile before coming into town I saw a bald eagle sitting in a field. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the first bald eagle I had ever seen in the wild. And, in the field next to it I saw a second one take off in flight.
I also saw deer on a hill right in town.
One of the first things you see in town is the visitor’s center, which also has a rocket ship and a replica Statue of Liberty in the park next to it.
I would have to say that the most stunning piece of the town was the Fergus County Courthouse. It reminded me of some of the courthouses I have seen in Texas.
Built in 1907 from a design by Newton C. Gauntt. Gauntt used brick from Hebron, North Dakota to build it. Truly a spectacular old courthouse!!
After Lewistown I headed west towards Belt and then up through Great Falls and then into Shelby.
But, the best part of getting up to Shelby? Grandkidz!!