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.

ABanner600

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

 

KBanner

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

 

QBanner

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

 

TBanner

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

 

YBanner

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 E 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  what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

E The E Towns

Earth, Texas

Welcome to Earth, Texas
Welcome to Earth, Texas
Yes, there is Earth Police
Yes, there is Earth Police
Old Earth Welcome sign
Old Earth Welcome sign

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

The Crescent Hotel, America's Most Haunted in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The Crescent Hotel, America’s Most Haunted in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, AR…totally made of glass and steel
The unique and quaint Mud Street Cafe in Eureka Springs, AR
The unique and quaint Mud Street Cafe in Eureka Springs, AR
Looks like Humpty Dumpty is alive and well in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Looks like Humpty Dumpty is alive and well in 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.

Elbe, Washington

Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Elbe Railroad Station
Old Elbe Railroad Station
Small Elbe Church
Small Elbe Church

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.

Easton, Pennsylvania

Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Eaton, PA
Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Easton, PA
Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA
Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA

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.

Eldon, Iowa

Eldon, Iowa - Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House
Eldon, Iowa – Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House
American Gothic House Sign
American Gothic House Sign
The American Gothic House
The American Gothic House
Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA
Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA

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

Welcome to Egg Harbor, WI
Welcome to Egg Harbor, WI
The Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor, WI
The Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor, WI
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor
Ahoy matey...how about some lunch at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor, WI
Ahoy matey…how about some lunch at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor, WI

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

Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl's Bakery in E. Peoria
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria
M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, IL
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, IL

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)

Embro, Ontario, home of the Highland Games
Embro, Ontario, home of the Highland Games
Richards Sope on side of Hardware Store in Embro, Ontario
Richards Sope on side of Hardware Store in Embro, Ontario

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)

Mountain Scene from Eagle, Colorado
Mountain Scene from Eagle, Colorado

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)

Endeavor, WI
Endeavor, WI

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.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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Montana Roadtrip – Day 1: A Cheesy Drive to Yooperville

Excitement at 4 AM as I get ready to leave on a long roadtrip!
Excitement at 4 AM as I get ready to leave on a long roadtrip!

I began my 4600 mile trek to Montana and back by driving from Lexington, Kentucky to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (these folks call themselves “Yoopers”) and the small town of Ironwood.

Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading east on I-74 in central Indiana
Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading west on I-74 in central Indiana

As with most of my long road trips, the first leg did require a bit of driving on the interstate which I try to avoid once I get into the midst of a trip. For a change of pace, I headed north to Cincinnati and then west on I-74 to Indianapolis and then continued on I-74 all the way to Bloomington, IL.  I have made numerous trips to Indianapolis and into Illinois, so I am not documenting much about those states in this post. I should note however, that from Bloomington I followed US 51 north, though much of it was along I-39 all the way into the middle of Wisconsin.

Welcome to Illinois on I-74 at Indiana/Illinois Border
Welcome to Illinois on I-74 at Indiana/Illinois Border
Driving north out of Bloomington, IL
Driving north out of Bloomington, IL
Driving north on I-39 / US 51 towards Beloit, WI
Driving north on I-39 / US 51 towards Beloit, WI

Of course, whenever possible, I do try to take some side trips off of the interstate to visit new places. On this particular venture, I strolled into El Paso, Illinois for a looksee. This is one of those small towns that give you a good taste of Americana. I had seen a photo of this old bed-and-breakfast type restaurant with an old neon sign. So, I wanted to check it out myself and see if it was still there. And, to my joy it was!

Visiting "The Elms" in El Paso, IL
Visiting “The Elms” in El Paso, IL

If I were a filmmaker, I would add “The Elms” restaurant and the building that it used to be housed in as part of the set of “Bates Motel.”  It has that old feel, yet it also has a spooky appeal to it.  The restaurant opened in the 1940s and finally closed down in March 2003. In its heyday it was a draw from all around.

The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL.  Vintage neon and a classic old building.
The old abandoned Elms Restaurant in El Paso, IL. Vintage neon and a classic old building.

From El Paso, I continued north into Rockford, Illinois. I had a number of places I’d hoped to go see, but due to time constraints and my desire to get to the Upper Peninsula before dark, I skipped over all but one site there. I made my way to the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza since it was right off of the road. Established in 2002, the plaza celebrates the United Nations’ official September 21 International Day of Peace. The plaza showcases 44 flags, and has messages of peace in more than 60 languages. The photo below is of the “Harmony Index” it was designed for this particular location by nationally known sculptor Lee Sido.

Harmony Index at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza designed by
Harmony Index at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza designed by Lee Sido
Over 60 flags fly at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza in Rockford, IL
Over 44 flags fly at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza in Rockford, IL

After Rockford, I headed north into Beloit, Wisconsin. People that make it into Beloit are greeted by the uber-friendly Smiley Water Tower. Of course, entering Wisconsin also brings you face on with cheesiness everywhere!

Beloit's Smiley Water Tower greets visitors to Wisconsin
Beloit’s Smiley Water Tower greets visitors to Wisconsin
Say "Cheese!" - You're in Wisconsin!
Say “Cheese!” – You’re in Wisconsin!

In this case, I don’t necessarily just mean cheese as in the food, but Wisconsin is dotted with unique big animal statues. My first bout was with a big bulldog near the water tower. This is the mascot for the Road Dawg Restaurant in Beloit.

The Big Bulldog mascot of the Road Dawg Restaurant
The Big Bulldog mascot of the Road Dawg Restaurant

And around the corner things got even cheesier at the Cornellier Superstore (cheese-r-us.com)! There is cheese all over the wall (outside that is) and a number of cheesy looking statues of animals outside as well. If you like taking cheesy selfie photos, then this is a good place to start!

The famous mouse with sausage and cheese outside of Cornellier Superstore in Beloit
The famous mouse with sausage and cheese outside of Cornellier Superstore in Beloit
Who stole my cheese?
Who stole my cheese?

Besides the cheesy mouse, there is a big Holstein cow at front. If you’re not into cows, there is also a big cuddly bear with honey and lots of interesting things inside the shop. And, of course, you can get all kinds of cheese!

The Beloit Holstein Cow outside of Cornellier Superstore
The Beloit Holstein Cow outside of Cornellier Superstore
Cuddling with the Honey Bear in the front of Cornellier Superstore
Cuddling with the Honey Bear in the front of Cornellier Superstore

From Beloit I continued north to Janesville. It is the home of “Bessie the Cow.”  I was really udderly fascinated by the big brown cow out front of the Arby’s Restaurant. Though not nearly as big as “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota (see my photo from 2005), it is the second largest cow statue I have ever seen! (And I do have a collection of them)

Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Udderly Amazed at the size of this cow!
Udderly Amazed at the size of this cow!

Continuing north, I made my way into DeForest, Wisconsin. As a traveler, if you were at all interested in the quirky or offbeat, then this is a must stop if you are in the area! Their famous pink elephant with big Buddy Holly glasses is a site worth beholding and worth getting into a photograph with. I understand that there are a few of these elephants around the country, but this is the only one that I am aware of with glasses. And, if you go into the Shell gas station, they sell pink elephant magnets, T-shirts, stickers, and they even have a pink elephant liquor store.

The Pink Elephant of DeForest at exit 126 on I-94
The Pink Elephant of DeForest at exit 126 on I-94
Check out the glasses on this dude!!
Check out the glasses on this dude!!
Need a Pink Elephant T-Shirt?  I know where you can get one!
Need a Pink Elephant T-Shirt? I know where you can get one!

Just down the street from the Pink Elephant is Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. They have a big Holstein Cow as well.  This one is named “Sissy the Cow.” Sissy is very close in size to Bessie.  Indeed, they may be sisters!!  I was really lucky to get the shot I did as Bessie has done a “Chick-Fil-A” to Burger King….look carefully….

Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI.  Playing a little "Chick-Fil-A" on Burger King!!
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little “Chick-Fil-A” on Burger King!!
One of the two murals that decorate the outside of Ellenbach's Cheese Chalet
One of the two murals that decorate the outside of Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet

As is known to many of the followers of my travel blog, I always endeavor to find towns with unique names. This time, I actually came upon one named Endeavor in Wisconsin.

Endeavor, WI
Endeavor, WI
Grampa's Swamp Side Bar & Grill in Endeavor, WI.  Not sure how it is, but love the name!
Grampa’s Swamp Side Bar & Grill in Endeavor, WI. Not sure how it is, but love the name!

One of the reasons I take joy in driving the back roads of America is that I run into places that are an expected. I’m always looking for a Smiley Water Tower, or barn with a smiley on it. But this time as I passed through Hancock, Wisconsin I came upon Smiley’s Old Time Diner! Now, how fun is that! I just wish I would’ve had time to stop and check out the menu (which includes things like meatloaf o Monday, etc.) but had to press onward.

Smiley's Old Time Diner in Hancock, Wisconsin
Smiley’s Old Time Diner in Hancock, Wisconsin

I continued north on Interstate 39 until I got to Wausau, Wisconsin. From there the freeway ends and US 51 continues on its own past the colorful town of Tomahawk, Wisconsin (which I visited in 2012 and you can see pictures of it here). US 51 continues north and passes numerous lakes, ponds and touristy towns such as the scenic town of Minocqua, Wisconsin, which is basically on an island in the midst of Lake Minocqua.

Skies at dusk in northern Wisconsin on US 51 south of Minocqua, WI
Skies at dusk in northern Wisconsin on US 51 south of Minocqua, WI
Sunset at Lake Minocqua, WI
Sunset at Lake Minocqua, WI

I pulled into this small lovely village right near sunset, and so I was blessed to get some beautiful sunset pictures with the lake. As well, they have a big diner called Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, which was closed at the time, but has a big old Bunyan and Babe statue and so I joined them for a photo opportunity!

Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Sumoflam in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Sumoflam in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Babe at sunset in Minocqua, WI
Paul Bunyan and Babe at sunset in Minocqua, WI

Continuing north on 51 hit got darker and so I just pressed forward missing some other sites such as the second largest black duck statue and a couple of others along the way. I finally made my way to my hotel in Ironwood, Michigan fairly late in the evening.

Sunset over Lake Minocqua, WI
Sunset over Lake Minocqua, WI

This long “Day One” trip covered approximately 825 miles and I was on the road for over 16 hours in total enjoyment!

Typical Red Barn in Wisconsin
Typical Red Barn in Wisconsin

The next leg of the trip will be covered in my next post and will feature the sites of Ironwood, Michigan and the drive all the way across Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota.

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