A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.

This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year.  It was not easy!!  I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it.  And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary.  I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible. 

It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge.  Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling. 

What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing.  I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.

I most certainly look forward to participating again next year.  Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year.  May actually take a long time!!!

A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!

My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns.  See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.

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The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX

 

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The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH

 

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The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX

 

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The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI

 

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The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL

 

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The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX

 

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The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA

 

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The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

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The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

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The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA

 

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The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND

 

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The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY

 

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The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX

 

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The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

RBanner

The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

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The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID

 

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The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH

 

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The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

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The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

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The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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A to Z Challenge: The C 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, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

C The C Towns

Cactus Flat, South Dakota

Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flat, SD
Prairie Dog -- standing watch in Cactus Flats
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flat
Badlands at Sunset
Badlands at Sunset

Visiting National Parks is always a fun adventure and especially this year as the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  One of the great parks in this country is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  Near the northeast entrance and right off of Interstate 90 at Exit 131 is a place called Cactus Flat. As with most National Park entrance areas, this is a touristy area with a couple of “tourist traps” such as the Badlands Ranch Store.  And just near the trading post is the ‘World’s Largest Prairie Dog,” a six ton pink giant that overshadows a REAL Prairie Dog community where you can feed them and take photos.  Read all about my 2013 visit to the Badlands HERE.

Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
"Javelin Man" by Larry Vennard
“Javelin Man” one of many scrap metal sculptures created by Larry Vennard of Centralia, Missouri

I have had a passion for “collecting” scrap metal sculptures from the around the country.  My collections come in photographs of said objects as most are way too heavy and too large for a car.  Most of these artists make them as a hobby and then display them on their properties (see my special post about these HERE).  Back in October 2013, on a return trip from Omaha, we made a visit to the community of Centralia, Missouri to track down one of these artists.  Larry Vennard is a nice guy and a fun artist.  He has a number of scrap metal dinosaurs sitting in his front yard on Highway T.  Check out my full post about Larry HERE.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Portland Light
Portland Head Light

In the summer of 2015 my wife, one of my daughters and some of the grandchildren took a drive to Connecticut to visit our son.  While up in New England, we also made our way up to Maine to visit Old Orchard Beach, but also visited the famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Read about the entire visit HERE.

Climax, North Carolina and Climax, Kentucky

Climax and High Point, NC
Climax and High Point, NC
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY

Most road trips have their highs and lows.  But occasionally the trip can reach a Climax.  In my case I made a trip to Climax, North Carolina and then on to High Point, North Carolina in March 2012.  I stopped halfway there to call my wife and tell her I was somewhere between Climax and High Point. HA!

On another March trip, in 2009, with my wife in tow, we took a back roads “staycation” in Kentucky along KY Hwy 1912 (Climax Brushcreek Road) and I nabbed the photo of the Climax Christian Church. I even joked at that time the for members of the church there, it was always the climax of their week!

Choteau, Montana

A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana

From Canada to Mexico, US Highway 89 is probably one of the most scenic routes in the country. Up in Montana it runs along Glacier National Park.  One of the communities along that route is the town of Choteau. This town is one of the gateways to Glacier and offers a wonderful museum in the Old Trail Museum which offers large dinosaurs, a grizzly bear exhibit and a number of other fun things…even a great place to get an ice cream cone!  Check out my trip down US 89 in Montana from 2014 — RIGHT HERE!

Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue at Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY

Not too far from my home in Lexington, KY is yet another National Park…Mammoth Cave National Park.  Like the other two listed above, this one is surrounded by tourist traps and a Gateway town known as Cave City.  Cave City is one of those touristy towns that has been around since the 1950s.  Along with the Route 66 type of feel with neon and old motels, it is also home to one of only 3 remaining Wigwam Motel Villages, a vestige of the early travel days of the late 1950s and 1960s.  The town is also home to Dinosaur World, which features a number of giant dinosaur statues. Cave City is accessed from Exit 53 on Interstate 65 south of Louisville.  You can learn more about the Wigwam Village HERE.

Charm, Ohio

Charm, Ohio
Charm, Ohio
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH

I am fascinated by other cultures, especially those that live in the US and Canada.  From the Hopi and Navajo Indians to the Amish and Mennonites, some people choose alternative lifestyles without electricity, running water or otherwise.  In my years of travel I have visited a number of Amish communities and one of my favorites is Charm, Ohio.  As its name implies, it has a simple charm to it.  To get there you take Ohio 557 south from Berlin, Ohio.  But be careful, this is the heart of Ohio Amish country and there could be a slow moving buggy on the road.

Chelsea, Michigan

Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company

On one of my trips to Michigan, I made way into the town of Chelsea.  My daughter is named Chelsea, so I thought it would be fun to stop at the Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory and get her a namesake teddy bear.  Chelsea is located on MI Hwy 52 south of Pinckney and Hell and is basically off of Interstate 94 west of Ann Arbor.  It is quaint little town with beautiful architecture, the Teddy Bear Factory and is the home of the Jiffy Company, makers of that famous corn muffin mix.  You can read about my trip there in 2008 by going HERE.

Champaign, Illinois

Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road

Deep in the heart of Illinois and a little south of Normal (in both the literal and figurative senses!) is the cool little town of Champaign, Illinois. This town is off of Interstate 74 west of Indianapolis and has some fun, kid friendly places to visit.  The best place for a visit is Curtis Orchards.  An orchard and pumpkin patch, they offer a real yellow brick road and have a number of Wizard of Oz themed attractions, murals and even the cafe, which is called the Flying Monkey Cafe.  In the back part of the orchard there is a huge metal Indian statue shooting an arrow.  Check out more about the fun visit I made in 2012 HERE.

Cut Bank, Montana

Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank, Montana
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation

For a number of years my daughter and her family lived in Shelby, Montana.  During my visits there I made a few treks down US Highway 2 into Cut Bank, Montana in order to get to Glacier National Park.  Cut Bank is one of the gateways to Glacier and has a number of interesting and even quirky sites.  There are a number of excellent wall murals dotting the town, a huge railroad trestle for railroad enthusiasts and then the “World’s Largest Penguin” statue that touts the town as the coldest spot in the nation.  Check out a write up about my road trip across the Hi Line of Montana back in July 2014 – you can see it HERE.

Caledonia, Ontario, Canada

Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway
Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway

While working in Ontario, Canada in 2008, I had the opportunity to drive all over the province.  One of the interesting stops I found was Caledonia. Caledonia is a small riverside community located on the Grand River in Haldimand County, Ontario and has a population of just under 10,000.  In the late 1880s it became a stop along the Grand Trunk Railway which ran through Canada and into Michigan.  In fact, the 1970s Rock Band, Grand Funk Railroad took their name as a play on this railway.  You can read more about my visit to Caledonia and the surrounding towns of Norwich and Otterville in 2008 by clicking HERE.

Cut and Shoot, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot Police
Cut and Shoot Police – how many Police Departments have Shoot in their name?

I am always in search of uniquely named towns.  There are very few in the country with multiple words in the name, and Cut and Shoot, Texas is one of them.  On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I made my through this town north of Houston just to get a picture with the town hall building….a rustic old piece of art.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see their police cars.  How many police departments actually have Shoot in their name?   Check out more about my drive through…  HERE

China Grove, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to China Grove, TX
Welcome to China Grove, TX

I drove through China Grove, TX back in 2013 on my way to San Antonio.  Indeed, I went out of my so I could see this sleepy little town near San Anton…  (yes, made famous by the Doobie Brothers)

Cool, Texas and Coolville, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Cool Cafe: If We Ain't Shut We're Open - Cool, Texas
Cool Cafe: If We Ain’t Shut We’re Open (and they were actually closed that day!) – Cool, Texas
Old Coolville Wall Mural "Building Community One Block at a Time", Coolville, OH
Old Coolville Wall Mural “Building Community One Block at a Time”, Coolville, OH

Then there are the Cool places to visit.  Cool, TX, which is located on US Highway 180 between Weatherford and Mineral Wells.  Known for their unique cafe, the Cool Cafe, which has been closed both times I went through there. You can see a bit more in my post HERE.   Then, up in Ohio, there is the small community of Coolville, located on US Highway 50 just north of the Ohio River and near the West Virginia border.  You can see my writeup of Coolville HERE.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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Houston to Austin: The Scenic Route

IMG_7418This is the second part of my Galveston return trip journey (see first post if you missed it).  After a night in Houston with my Uncle, I was back on the road through Houston and on to Austin, the long and scenic route….

My route from Houston to Austin ... the long and scenic route
My route from Houston to Austin … the long and scenic route

I chose this roundabout way through the heart of Texas in order to enjoy the unique Texas scenery and perhaps run into some of those quirky things that little towns have.  Initially, I had a business meeting scheduled in Conroe, but it fell through, so I headed to Huntsville, but, as I checked the map I noticed that not too far from Conroe was a small town called Cut and Shoot, Texas.  Voila!!  An unexpected town name treat!

Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot City Hall

According to the history of Cut and Shoot, the town had its unusual beginning and acquired its peculiar name in July 1912.  It was all a result of a religious confrontation and comments made by an 8 year old boy.  Today the town is incorporated and has a post office and a city all (as shown above).

Cut and Shoot Post Office in Texas
Cut and Shoot Post Office in Texas
Cut and Shoot Police
Cut and Shoot Police

From Cut and Shoot it was on to Huntsville to see what some call “The World’s Largest Statue of an American Hero.”  This is the statue of Sam Houston, called “Tribute to Courage”, it stands 67 feet but also has a 10 foot pedestal, giving it a ground to top height of 77 feet.

Welcome to Huntsville
Welcome to Huntsville
Sam Houston Statue
Sam Houston Statue

According to the Huntsville Visitor’s Center, Houston Sculptor David Adickes needed 30 tons of concrete and two years to work on the project. The statue was dedicated on October 22, 1994. Every year, between 50,000 and 65,000 people visit the huge tribute.  Adickes was born in Huntsville, Texas. After graduating from Sam Houston State University with degrees in both math and physics in 1948, Adickes went to the Kansas City Art Institute. He studied painting there, and then went to Paris where he studied art for two years. In 1957, he lived for a year in Japan and then traveled extensively over the next 10 years in the Far East, Middle East, Europe, Russia and North Africa.

This is a full size replica of the head of Sam Houston that sits atop this giant statue
This is a full size replica of the head of Sam Houston that sits atop this giant statue
Sam Houston
Sam Houston

I was really amazed at the size of this one. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see it from the same distance that I saw the Stephen Austin statue from a few days ago. Plus, when looking across the interstate, you really can get a sense of the size in relation to vehicles, as shown in the photo above. For those interested and with some time, Huntsville is also the home of the HEARTS Veterans Museum and the Texas Prison Museum. If you like Ghost Tours (and I know a couple of readers who do), then you’ll be interested in Huntsville’s Ghost Tours.

Texas Hwy 30
Texas Hwy 30

To cut through the heart of Texas, I took Texas Highway 30 west out of Huntsville towards College Station and Bryan, TX.  The first little town I passed through was Shiro.  The town was founded in 1902 by farm families in the vicinity. The settlement’s name, Shiro, was provided by postmaster Frances Marion Mayfield, who selected it from the botanical names in a nursery catalog.

Texas Hwy 30 between Huntsville and Shiro.
Texas Hwy 30 between Huntsville and Shiro.
Welcome to Shiro, TX
Welcome to Shiro, TX

There was not much to see in Shiro, but the joy of taking these back roads is seeing things like the old car below advertising a bar in Shiro.

Bare Bones Bar advertising car - Shiro, TX
Bare Bones Bar advertising car – Shiro, TX
Old Ghost Sign for Coca Cola on a wall in Shiro, TX
Old Ghost Sign for Coca Cola on a wall in Shiro, TX
Downtown Shiro, Texas
Downtown Shiro, Texas
Old Furniture Store in Shiro, TX
Old Furniture Store in Shiro, TX

From Shiro, it was westward on TX 30 towards Bryan, TX

TX Hwy 30 west of Shiro
TX Hwy 30 west of Shiro

The sky was beautiful that day. Couldn’t resist a shot…

Sky and clouds deep in the heart of Texas
Sky and clouds deep in the heart of Texas

After Bryan the highway turned into US 79/190 heading west towards Austin.  When I got to Hearne I followed 79 south towards Rockdale.

Shining sky above US 79/190 in central Texas
Shining sky above US 79/190 in central Texas
Rockdale, Texas
Rockdale, Texas
Thorndale, Texas
Thorndale, Texas

When I got into Thorndale, there was this huge pyramid-looking grain elevator.  It was an unusual site.

Huge unique grain elevator in Thorndale, Texas
Huge unique grain elevator in Thorndale, Texas

After Thorndale, it was on to Hutto, home of the Hippos and the into Round Rock.

Hutto, Texas
Hutto, Texas

I didn’t have time to stop in Hutto, but I did see something pretty funny to me….  Covert Auto has a less than Covert sign….

Covert Chevrolet in Hutto, TX
Covert Chevrolet in Hutto, TX

I had to push into Austin since I was meeting my cousin for dinner in Austin.  I finally got into Austin (the town that wants to stay weird) after a fun drive through the heart of Texas.  I joined my cousin for dinner at the world famous Threadgill’s.

Threadgills in Austin
Threadgill’s in Austin
Threadgill's Home Cooking
Threadgill’s Home Cooking

Threadgill’s started off as a gas station  just north of Austin by Kenneth Threadgill in 1933.  He soon made it a beer joint for musicians to drop in after their gigs.

Howdy from Threadgill's
Howdy from Threadgill’s
Threadgill's is Cool!
Threadgill’s is Cool!

Even though I have always been known to be a music trivia wiz, I learned something new here at Threadgill’s…this was where Janis Joplin got her start as she developed her brassy style that would propel her to become the first female rock and roll superstar.

Janis Joplin painting at Threadgill's
Janis Joplin painting at Threadgill’s
Threadgill's Diner Style
Threadgill’s Diner Style

And of course, they are famous for their food too….how about Texas style Chicken Fried Steak…

Threadgill's Chicken Fried Steak
Threadgill’s Chicken Fried Steak

After dinner, we took a ride for the night life of Austin.  A couple of shots to end the day and end this post.  Next post is all about Austin and the drive to Keller.

The "Owl" in downtown Austin
The “Owl” in downtown Austin – Frost Bank Tower
Stoplight over the capital
Stoplight over the Capital

 

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