AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The E 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 E Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Egyptian Theatre – Coos Bay, Oregon

I love classic theatres and wish I had more time and opportunity to visit them on the insides and see their amazing architecture.  Coos Bay’s Egyptian Theatre is a wonderful old place.  It was built in 1925 and was added to Ntional Registry of Historic Places in 2010.  The inside was designed in Egyptian Revival style to celebrate the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt.

Egyptian Theatre, Coos Bay, Oregon
Front decor of the historic Egyptian Theatre in Coos Bay, Oregon

El Rancho Hotel – Gallup, New Mexico

In my original road trip travel plan, I had us scheduled to stay in the historic Route 66 El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, but our travel was delayed, so I had to change plans (which is not unusual for me).  Touted as the Home of the Movie Stars, the hotel was the definition of luxury and included many amenities that were lacking in other typical tourist hotels of the day.  The hotel was opened in 1937 and used as a base for movie productions and a comfortable place for the stars to stay during those productions.  Famous stars such as John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Jane Wyman and Katherine Hepburn are among the many famous actors and actresses to sleep in the beds of the El Rancho.  Maybe on my next trip it will work out for us.

Famous El Rancho Hotel, Gallup, New Mexico

Edna’s Drive-In – Davenport, Washington

Davenport, Washington is a small town on US Highway 2.  There are only about 1700 residents in this town located in the northern wheat belt of the Columbia Basin in eastern Washington.  Due to its size, there are not many chain businesses here.  But, there is what appears to be a fun place to eat.   It is the typical  1960s-style eatery and serves up burgers, fries and milkshakes.  Sadly, the day we drove through, it was still closed, so we didn’t get to try it out.  I have seen older photos of their sign and apparently the “Seven Days without Ednas Makes One Weak” on the marquis has been there for a long time.

Edna’s Drive-In, Davenport, WA

El Falcone – Winslow, Arizona

Winslow may be well known from the Eagles song Take It Easy, but it is also a famed Route 66 town.  Both in 2019 and then in early 2020,  I had the opportunity to visit Winslow and, in both instances, I ate at El Falcone (also just called Falcon Restaurant).  I have had breakfast and dinner there.   Breakfast was excellent.  Dinner was so so.  Service is good and the place has a historical feel to it.

El Falcone, Winslow, Arizona
Chorizo with eggs breakfast  at El Falcone in Winslow
El Falcone interior
Route 66 signs at El Falcone in Winslow, AZ

Equality, Illinois

Are you seeking Equality?  Me too.  And I found it in Illinois. The town of Equality is small.  Only about 600 residents on Illinois Hwy 13 in southeastern Illinois.  Though I am not sure how this small town got its name, it has an interesting back story that really reflects the total opposite of its name.  Apparently, in 1838, a local salt maker and illegal slave trader kidnapper and illegal slave breeder, John Hart Crenshaw, began building his manor house at Hickory Hill just five miles east of Equality; he used the house for his business of kidnapping free blacks and breeding slaves to sell into slavery as part of the Reverse Underground Railroad.  So much for Equality.

Equality, Illinois Water Tower
Equality, Illinois Post Office

Elk as seen in Seaview, Washington

As we drove through Seaview, Washington, we came across a small herd of elk.  Had to stop for pictures.

Elk in Seaview, Washington
You looking at me? An elk stares back in Seaview, Washington

Egret in Uncertain, Texas

Typically, in the swampy  areas of Louisiana and Texas it is not at all unusual to see the Great White Egret, a beautiful bird.  Such was the case as we drive the back roads of Uncertain, Texas in February.

Great White Egret – Uncertain, Texas
Great White Egret, Uncertain, Texas

Eric Seastrand Memorial Highway – CA 46 – Cambria, California

Cambria, California is a beautiful town on the Pacific Coast on the famous CA Hwy 1, just south of Big Sur.  In 1993, CA Hwy 46, from Cambria to US Hwy 101 near Paso Robles, California was named the Eric Seastrand Memorial Highway in honor of former California legislator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives Eric Seastrand, who died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 52.

This is a lovely drive that we took on our way from Cambria to head east to Sequoia National Park.

Eric Seastrand Memorial Highway, CA 46, near Cambria, CA
Sunshine as seen from the Eric Seastrand Memorial Highway.  Pacific Ocean and Cambria can be seen in the background.

Exeter, California

On or trip east from Cambria, we continued on CA Hwy 198 through Visalia and then into Exeter, California, which sits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  This drive presents some lovely views of the Sierras.

Exeter, CA and Highway 198 with the Sierra Nevadas up ahead.
Snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada range as seen from CA Hwy 198 near Exeter, CA
CA Hwy 198 near Exeter, California heading towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range

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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