AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The D Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet, and not the order of the trip  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the D Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Dinosaurs

Seems like whenever you get near a trading post a fun place, there always seems to be a dinosaur or two hanging around.  I have dozens and dozens from previous road trips. Here are a few I got on our 8154 Trip.

Clean up your Dog Poop (or should it be Dino Poop?) at Nipton Trading Post, Nipton, CA
Scary dinosaur as seen in Holbrook, AZ
A bunch of Dinosaurs at the Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, AZ
Big guy at Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, AZ
A Gnarly Dino hanging around Uranus, Missouri
Scrap Metal T-Rex in Sebastapol, California
Dinosaurs at Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company in Holbrook, Arizona

Dr. Pierce’s Barn Sign — Waterville, Washington

Barn signs are very common in the eastern United States (think Mail Pouch Tobacco or Rock City or Meramec Caverns).  In all of my travels in the western United States, I rarely see them.  However, on this trip I saw two barns with the Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery painted on them.  One is in bad shape and hard to get to for a photo, but this one in Waterville, Washington is a classic.

So, Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce (1840-1914) was one of the more successful 19th century Snake Oil Quacks.  He first started his pharmaceutical entrepreneurship in Buffalo N.Y. pushing his own “blood purifier” known as Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery.  He, and his son, Valentine Motts Pierce (1865 -1942)  successfully sold the elixir for 90+ years.  You can still find old bottles and boxes of this in some antique stores and museums.

Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery Barn Sign in Waterville, Washington

Devil’s Elbow, Missouri

Route 66 has many iconic stops along the route from Chicago to California.  In Missouri, one of the more famous ones is Devil’s Elbow, which is also famous as a quirky town name.  Situated on the Big Piney River, a few miles east of St. Robert, Missouri, on Route 66,  the small unincorporated community was named for the big “devil of an elbow” bend in the river.

The place has a post office, though it was destroyed during the flood of May 2017.  It has since been added to Shelden’s Market which also serves as a souvenir shop and local gathering spot.

Obviously, as close as I was, I couldn’t resist a stop, though the market and post office were closed on the Sunday morning we came by.

Devil’s Elbow, Missouri
Devil’s Elbow Post Office

Dutch Mill Diner – Tillamook, Oregon

We were in Tillamook late and had made a stop at the world famous Tillamook Creamery.  But, we also had to drive through town.  I was excited to see the Dutch Mill Diner and its classic neon sign. What a bummer that they were closed the evening we drove by.  This is one of those classic 1950s-style diners with the black and white checkerboard tiled floors, cushy booth seats and soda fountain stools.  Would have been a fun stop.

A fun name and a classic neon sign at the Dutch Mill Diner in Tillamook, Oregon

Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room – Caddo Lake, Texas

I have already mentioned in a couple of this years’ posts that we took a fun swamp cruise with my friend Aaron Applebaum of Mystique Tours in Uncertain, Texas.   During that ride in mid-February, one of the more unique places we saw on the swamp ride was Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room, an old run down shack on stilts in the middle of the swamp.  I think the only way to even get there is by boat.

The story of the place says that the building was originally built in the 1800s but became a popular place during the days of Prohibition (from about 1919-1933) . Back then, Marion County (where Uncertain is located) was a dry county, so this place was built across the water in Harrison County, where people could get a drink.

On closer inspection, you can also see their “House Rules” on a sign next to the place.  See the photos below.

Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room, Caddo Lake, Texas
Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room
Dick and Charlie’s House Rules

Direction / Mileage Sign Posts

I always get a kick out of the sign posts that point in the direction of a place and provide the mileage.  In some cases, they are just made for directional purposes.  Here are a few I ran across on this trip.

Direction Sign found in Nipton, California
Direction Sign Post in Raymond, Washington
Neighborhood signs in Seabeck, Washington
More Seabeck Signs

Desert Skies Motel – Classic Route 66 Neon Sign –  Gallup, New Mexico

Desert Skies Motel Classic Neon Sign, Gallup, NM

Davey, Nebraska

We were on the third day of our long trip when we came upon the small community of Davey, Nebraska.  What a place for a Selfie (since my name is David…duh).  And with a number 1 on it to boot!

The small community apparently has about 150 people, but they do have a classic old Post Office. The town was founded in 1886 and was named after one of the local pioneers, Michael Davey.

I was thrilled to come across Davey, Nebraska
Davey, Nebraska Post Office

Danger Sign – Santa Cruz, California

Danger Sign – Santa Cruz, California

Dallas Railway & Terminal Co. – San Francisco, California

Lots of rail cars in San Francisco.  This was on the side of one of them.

Dallas and Railway Terminal on side of rail car in San Francisco

Diner Sign – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Diner sign in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Dairy Queen Sign – Williams, Arizona

I was kind of excited to run across this classic old Dairy Queen sign in Williams, Arizona on the trip.

Dairy Queen Sign in Williams, Arizona

Dirt Roads

While in Western Texas I had wanted to visit the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge and the neighboring Grulla National Wildlife Refuge in eastern New Mexico (which is administered by the Muleshoe NWR).  There were supposedly large numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the area and I hoped to get some photos.

As we left our overnight stay in Clovis, New Mexico and made our way to Texico, New Mexico, we found that the road to Grulla was along a nearly twenty mile long, well-maintained dirt road aptly named Stateline Road as it went down the Texas – New Mexico border.  The road was nearly 20 miles from Texico / Farwell to Grulla.

Stateline Road between Farwell, Texas and Texico, New Mexico
Stateline Road
Stateline Road between Texas and New Mexico

Deer as seen near Muleshoe, Texas

We saw this buck while driving on the Stateline Road dirt road
A second buck was just down the road

Dimmitt, Texas

Welcome to Dimmitt, Texas.  I mention Dimmitt because it was near here that we crossed the MAJOR migration paths of both Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese.   As well, the town is located on the old Ozark Trail which ran from St. Louis, Missouri to El Paso, Texas.

Dimmitt, Texas
Migrating Sandhill Cranes as seen near Dimmitt, Texas on TX Hwy 86
Migrating Snow Geese as seen near Dimmitt, Texas on TX Hwy 86

Daffodil Sculpture – Nipton, California

For the small community of Nipton, California, which is literally in the middle of nowhere, there is really a lot to be seen.  I am always in favor of some fun metal sculptures, especially when they are colorful.

Daffodil Sculpture – Nipton, CA

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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