Sumoflam’s 2017 Travels in Review

Sunrise in Ocean City, MD on New Year’s Day 2017

On January 1, 2017 I sat on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland to watch a spectacular sunrise and pondered to myself about the opportunities I would have to travel throughout the year. Little did I really know the extent that I would actually travel over the year and I’m grateful that I’ve had a wonderful year of seeing more of this beautiful country.

 

Oddville, Kentucky

Beginning with that glorious morning in Maryland, over the course of the year I have driven nearly 15,000 miles on road trips, many to visit family or be with family, but all of the trips have been wonderful. Some have been close by doing what I refer to as “staycation“ trips in Kentucky. But, throughout the course of the year I have been to 19 different states and have seen a plethora of places and things. Many of the trips included time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. That makes things so much better and enjoyable!

Welcome to Louisiana with some of my grandchildren
All the family gathered at my sister’s Mayfield Smoke Shop in Little Italy, Cleveland

In July we had a family reunion. It was the first in five years and all of my 10 grandchildren and all my five children were here at one time or another and even my sister and her husband and daughter came up to visit. During that time we also visited my extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. So, travel was not the only joyful thing. Family is the best.

The following photos tell just a small story of the past year.  I have already posted some of the things in more detail and have five or six others in the works about specific places.  But here are just some of the places and things form this past year. ENJOY THE RIDE!

Giant Pepsi Pop Bottle Cap in Johnson City, TN
Huge snowman in Lewisburg, WV
Welcome to Hopkinsville, KY for the Solar Eclipse
Chunky, Mississippi
Ran into a HUGE flock of migrating snow geese in central Arkansas
West, Texas
The swamp of Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA
A place called Gnaw Bone in Indiana
Chicago LIVE in Cincinnati. First time I had seen them in over 40 years
Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK
Duck Commander HQ, home of Duck Dynasty in West Monroe, LA
West Virginia’s Capitol Building in Charleston, WV
One of over 50 waterfals in Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Tallest wall mural in US “Once in a Millenium Moon” is 14 stories tall…in Shreveport, LA
Chief Wacinton in Paducah, KY was one of three Peter Toth Whispering Giants I visited this year.
Forest, Mississippi Fire Department
The New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
Pittsburgh, PA at night
Chief Little Owl, one of three Peter Toth Whispering Giants. This one is in Bethany Beach, Delaware
King’s Island Amusement Park north of Cincinnati, OH
Village of Story, IN
Post Office in Happy, KY
The Shack Burger Resort – amazingly quirky and fun – in Cypress, TX
Caught the Sand Hill Migration in early January near Cecilia, KY
The Indian River Inlet Bridge between Maryland and Delaware
The Happy Bible Church in Happy, KY
A section of the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Big Monster at Big Mike’s Rock shop near Cave City, KY
Genesee Falls at Letchworth State Park, near Castile, New York
The Inlet Indian, dedicated to the Assateague tribe, is in Ocean City, MD and is one of three of Peter Toth’s Whispering Giants visited in 2017
Capitol Building in Indianapolis, IN
Big Stone Gap, VA
Pal’s Sudden Service in Bristol, TN
Found a Canadian in Oklahoma
The CastlePost Castle near Versailles, KY
Found a nice beach on Lake Erie… Presque Isle State Park
Big Paul Bunyan in Nitro, WV
Hanging with Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
The “diamond ring” effect begins as seen from Hopkinsville, KY
Large Saturn Rocket at Welcome Center in Elkmont, Alabama
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Historic Downtown Cairo, IL
Fall Colors over the Red River Gorge in Kentucky
Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, TX (Home of the TV Show Fixer Upper)
We slept in Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge, WV
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park on Easter Morning 2017
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY
A place called Donkey in Virginia
Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington, KY
Superman central in Metropolis, IL
Welcome to Missouri
The Hobbit Hole – a unique and quirky shop in Fayetteville, WV
Pop’s BBQ in Morehead, KY
Says it all – Cleveland, OH
Bob Evans Farm HQ – New Albany, OH
Louisville Bridges
Welcome Sign in Indianapolis
Easter Sunrise as seen from Shenandoah National Park

 

 

(23)

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.

(39)

D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.

 

Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

 

(60)