A to Z Challenge: The V 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. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

VThe V Towns

Vulcan, Alberta

Welcome to Vulcan Plaque
Welcome to Vulcan Plaque
Welcome to Vulcan in Klingon
Welcome to Vulcan in Klingon
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007
At the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta 2007
Vulcan Public Library Sign
Vulcan Public Library Sign
Enterprise Family Restaurant - Vulcan, Alberta
Enterprise Family Restaurant – Vulcan, Alberta
Vulcan Visitor Center
Vulcan Visitor Center
Star Trek Wall Mural in Vulcan, Alberta
Star Trek Wall Mural in Vulcan, Alberta

Back in 2007 I had occasion to visit a friend of mine in Alberta, Canada.  One of the side trips we tool was to the town of Vulcan, which has taken full advantage of its name and the association with the TV show Star Trek.  Vulcan is a town located midway between the cities of Calgary and Lethbridge inthe prairies of Southern Alberta, Canada.  The population of the town was 1,940 in 2006, and the population of the county, which is also named Vulcan. See more about my Vulcan visit HERE. Live long and prosper!!

Valier, Montana

Welcome to Valier, Montana
Welcome to Valier, Montana
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana

Last week I posted about a place near Sweet Grass, Montana called Jerusalem Rocks.  About 70 south of there is a town called Valier.  It is a small town of about 700 and really does not have a whole lot there. But, just outside of town is another outcropping of hoodoos and formations in a place called Rock City.  I wrote about this and other similar places in a post HERE.  But, you may also want to check out my complete post on my Montana US Highway 89 adventure HERE.

Vernal, Utah

Welcome to Vernal, UT
Welcome to Vernal, UT
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT
DinoHead
Dinosaur Head Fossil at Dinosaur National Monument
DinNatMon1
Dinosaur bones embedded at Dinosaur National Monument
DaveDinLeg
Sumoflam with a dinosaur Leg Bone Fossil at Dinosaur National Monument
Flaming Gorge, near Vernal, UT (photo from utah.com)
Flaming Gorge, near Vernal, UT (photo from utah.com)

In 1975 I made weekly trips from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah for work as a record/tape distributor.  I loved the drive and Vernal was actually a nice place to visit every week.  In the early 2000s I once again visited with my family as we ventured to the Dinosaur National Monument.  Along with my trips, I would drive the switchbacks form Vernal and over the area known as Flaming Gorge.  This is beautiful country and well worth the visit.  It has been many years since I have been there, and I hope to get there again soon!

Vandalia, Illinois

Vandalia Water Tower with Lincoln on it
Vandalia Water Tower with Lincoln on it
Vandalia State House in Vandalia, IL
Vandalia State House in Vandalia, IL
Breathing Fire in Vandalia
Breathing Fire in Vandalia
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

On a family trip in 2014, we drove through the town of Vandalia, Illinois as part of our return trip home.  Our main reason for coming here was to see a fire breathing dragon…made from metal. But, Vandalia is so much more.  This is where Abraham Lincoln kicked off his career as a politician.  It was the western terminus of the National Road, one of America’s first highways.  The Kaskaskia Dragon was a load of fun for the grandkids too!! Check out my full trip report with lots of photos HERE.

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Entry arch at Vicksburg
Entry arch at Vicksburg
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in Vicksburg, MS
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg

In the summer of 2014 I cruised down the Blues Highway and ended up spending the night in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I woke up early the next day to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park before heading further south on Highway 61. The park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863 and also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. The expansive park includes 1,340 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, 144 emplaced cannons, a restored gunboat, and more. A must see for Civil War enthusiasts, but also a great place to learn about a facet of American history.  Besides the park, the town has a great Coca Cola memorabilia museum and a number of murals along the river wall.  You can see many more photos and a more detailed writeup about my visit in 2014 HERE.

Versailles, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)

A mural on a water tower in Versailles, Kentucky
A mural on a water tower in Versailles, Kentucky
Scrap Metal Horse at Woodford Reserve near Versailles, Kentucky
Scrap Metal Horse at Woodford Reserve near Versailles, Kentucky
Horses graze in the fall on a Woodford County farm near Versailles.
Horses graze in the fall on a Woodford County farm near Versailles.
One of many amazing Horse Farm barns that can be seen in the Versailles area
One of many amazing Horse Farm barns that can be seen in the Versailles area
Versailles is in the heart of the Horse Capital of the World
Versailles is in the heart of the Horse Capital of the World

Living in Lexington, Kentucky offers many wonderful opportunities for “Staycations.”  One great place to visit nearby is the lovely and historic town of Versailles (pronounced Ver-sales) which is on US Highway 62 west of Lexington. Versailles is well-known for its quaint, small-town beauty, beautiful horse farms and Kentucky’s famed bourbon distilleries, including the famed Woodford Reserve.  Many of the famed Bluegrass Horse Farms are in Woodford County and near Versailles.   I have never written a blog post about Versailles, but I would highly recommend a visit there if you come to Kentucky.  Plan the trip in April and go to the races at nearby Keeneland Racetrack then take the Bourbon Trail.  Check out my 2013 blog post about Horse Farm Country with many photos about horses, horse farms and the Horse Capital of the World — right HERE.

Vincennes, Indiana (Honorable Mention)

Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001

In the summer of 2001 my family took a trip westward to Utah (including the trip to Vernal noted above).  Early in the trip we went through Vincennes, Indiana to visit the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. Founded in 1732 by French fur traders, Vincennes is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians. It sits at the intersection of US Highway 41 and US Highway 50. George Rogers Clark (November 19, 1752 – February 13, 1818) was a surveyor, soldier, and militia officer from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky (then part of Virginia) militia throughout much of the war. Clark is best known for his celebrated captures of Kaskaskia (1778) (Way before the fiery dragon noted above!!) and Vincennes (1779) during the Illinois Campaign, which greatly weakened British influence in the Northwest Territory. Because the British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Clark has often been hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest”.  his younger brother William was the “Clark” in the Lewis and Clark expeditions.  This trip was well before my travel blogging days, but the Memorial was definitely one of our more memorable experiences on a trip across the country to see history.

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Louisville and Jeffersonville: Ohio River Sisters

Jeffersonville, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana

Two different cities and a shared river and bridge.  In September 2013 one of my daughters and her friends needed some assistance getting to Louisville and had some business to take care of.  So, with camera in hand, we were off and they did their stuff while I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville.  Here are a few the things I saw in a three hour jaunt thru two towns….

Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN
Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN

This stretch of the Ohio River is the widest and deepest part (about 23 feet) of the Ohio River.

Louisville Slugger headquarters - Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville Slugger headquarters – Louisville, Kentucky

A drive down West Main Street in downtown Louisville offers a number of interesting sights.  You pass by the Art and Museum District of town.  Perhaps the biggest and most interesting site is the amazing Giant Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The bat replica is actually not made of wood.  It is a 120 foot tall steel bat that weighs over 68,000 pounds. The Big Bat is an exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger bat.

The Big Louisville Slugger Bat in downtown Louisville
The Big Louisville Slugger Bat in downtown Louisville
Closeup of Louisville Slugger Big Bat seal
Closeup of Louisville Slugger Big Bat seal

Ironically, just a mere three blocks away is another “Big Bat”.  This one is located at Caufield’s Novelty Shop and is a huge monstrosity of a hanging vampire bat.  They obviously want to capitalize on the “novelty” factor!

Big Bat at Caufield's Novelty in Downtown Louisville
Big Bat at Caufield’s Novelty in Downtown Louisville

Another business on Main Street, just a couple of doors down from the Louisville Slugger Museum is an advertisement for Kentucky Mirror and Paint Glass with a Giant Baseball going through a Painted Window…

Giant Baseball breaking a Window in downtown Louisville
Giant Baseball breaking a Window in downtown Louisville

Not to be outdone, there is the guy there that could actually use the giant bat and ball and probably fight off that vampire thingy… yes, a giant gold replica of Michelangelo’s “David” statue is a right there on main.

Giant David statue with Louisville Slugger bat in Background
Giant David statue with Louisville Slugger bat in Background
Closeup of David...without the bottom half....
Closeup of David…without the bottom half….

This statue was created by Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya and was commissioned to be created in Istanbul, shipped to New York and then to Louisville. It certainly must be the largest representation of a male’s complete anatomy in Kentucky and perhaps even the U.S. (See this photo for details if you dare).  The statue is at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, which is a unique contemporary art museum coupled with a boutique hotel. The 21c Museum is North America’s only museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art of the 21st century. The Museum is open free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More than twenty special exhibitions and installations have been organized by the 21c Museum since its opening in 2006.

21c Hotel Art Car Limo
21c Hotel Art Car Limo
Detail of tile work on the Art Limo
Detail of beadwork on the Art Limo
Pink Penguins can be seen all around the WC21 building
Pink Penguins can be seen all around the 21C building

Learn more about the 4 foot tall Pink Penguins of 21C in this Southern Living article.

Louisville Mural by Bryan Todd
Louisville Mural by Bryan Todd

Mural Artist Bryan Todd completed this giant “Louisville Mural” earlier in 2013. (see article about it).  Around the downtown area and the Highlands district there are other art works…wall murals, street art, etc.

Mural by Louisville artist Noah Church, painted in 2008
Mural by Louisville artist Noah Church, painted in 2008
More of the Noah Church mural in Louisville, KY
More of the Noah Church mural in Louisville, KY

The mural above is a classic piece painted on a retaining wall near Mark’s Feed Store and Ear X-Tacy in Louisville.  Noah has painted a number of murals, many inside cafes and shops around Louisville.  You can see an interview with him here on a mural he was working on in Philadelphia. Following are some detail shots of his whimsical mural.  I have tried to find the story on this one but to no avail…

Detail of Noah Church Mural in Louisivlle
Detail of Noah Church Mural in Louisville
Flying Pig in Noah Church's mural in Louisville
Flying Pig in Noah Church’s mural in Louisville
Duck Head Detail of Noah Church mural
Duck Head Detail of Noah Church mural
Noah Church Mural in Louisville, KY
Noah Church Mural in Louisville, KY
Detail of Noah Church mural in Louisville.  Not sure who all of these folks are...
Detail of Noah Church mural in Louisville. Not sure who all of these folks are…

Another amazing mural can be found at the Artist & Craftsman Supply shop on Barret Avenue.  Just a couple of blocks from the original Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, you can see this huge wall mural from their parking lot. It was painted by Louisville artist Chris Chappell with spray paint (check out a cool time lapse of the work here).

Front entry of Artist and Craftsman Supply store in Louisville with amazing mural artwork
Front entry of Artist and Craftsman Supply store in Louisville with amazing mural artwork by Chris Chappell of Louisville
A detail of the Chappell Mural (and yes, I strategically took this so the tree would look like hair!)
A detail of the Chappell Mural (and yes, I strategically took this so the tree would look like hair!)
Detail of Chappell Mural in Louisville, KY
Detail of Chappell Mural in Louisville, KY
More detail of the Chris Chappell mural in Louisville
More detail of the Chris Chappell mural in Louisville

I found another nice mural on the side of Old Town Liquors on Bardstown Road.  This one is more classic, but nice. Painted by Louisville artists Byron Roberts and Gary Bennett in 2002, it was partially funded by the City of Louisville.  Roberts says of the project “I got my inspiration by standing on a porch in the neighborhood and it presents a perspective of looking inside out.”

Detail of Old Town Liquors mural painted by
Detail of Old Town Liquors mural painted by Louisville artists Byron Roberts and Gary Bennett in 2002
Another detail of the mural at Old Town Liquors in Louisville
Another detail of the mural at Old Town Liquors in Louisville
Detail of Old Town Liquors mural by
Detail of Old Town Liquors mural by Byron Roberts and Gary Bennett
Detail of piano portion of mural on Old Town Liquors in Louisville
Detail of piano portion of mural on Old Town Liquors in Louisville

And a few other odds and ends of art I came across just driving around in Louisville:

Took mural on Ace Hardware store near Bardstown Road in Louisville
Took mural on Ace Hardware store near Bardstown Road in Louisville
Planets mural
Planets mural in Louisville
Some unique street I came across
Some unique street art I came across

Then, in a few places downtown I came across this little guy…apparently somebody’s “tag”

Funny face painted in a number of spots around Louisville
Funny face painted in a number of spots around Louisville

And, to go along with the two “Big Bats” noted earlier, on the other end of Main Street I ran into a Big Batman!

Batman mural in Louisville on Main Street
Batman mural in Louisville on Main Street

Across the street from Batman is the Louisville Slugger Field that has a statue of famed Dodgers shortstop and Louisville native “Pee Wee” Reese.  I remember watching him with Dizzy Dean in the 1960s as they announced the New York Yankees games on CBS.

Pee Wee Reese statue at Louisville Slugger field in Louisville
Pee Wee Reese statue at Louisville Slugger field in Louisville by Louisville artist Raymond Graf

Another unique statue off of main was what I think was an Alice in Wonderland rendition

Alice in Wonderland?
Alice in Wonderland?

While in Louisville I wanted to get a couple of nice shots of the landmark building of Louisville, the Aegon Center building, which is both the tallest and the most noteworthy and recognizable building in Louisville.  It was built in 1993 (I remember well as I was living in Louisville at the time) and is 549 feet tall with 35 floors.

Aegon building - Louisville's tallest building
Aegon building – Louisville’s tallest building
Aegon building dome
Aegon building dome

From Louisville I ventured over the Ohio River into Indiana on the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, that was opened in 1929. The bridge spans over 5700 feet over the river and is one of five bridges from Louisville to Clarksville/Jeffersonville.  I had really never visited Jeffersonville or Clarksville.  My main intent was getting a broad view of Louisville from across the river, but I also was fortunate to see a number of interesting things on the Indiana side of the river….

Clark Memorial Bridge from Louisville to Clarksville and Jeffersonville, IN
Clark Memorial Bridge (US 31) from Louisville to Clarksville and Jeffersonville, IN

On the other side of the river is the colorfully unique Southern Indiana Visitor Center

Southern Indiana Visitor Center - Clarksville, IN
Southern Indiana Visitor Center – Clarksville, IN

Also on this side of the bridge is Water Tower Square…

Water Tower Square in Clarksville, Indiana
Water Tower Square in Clarksville, Indiana

The Clark Memorial Bridge (also referred to as the 2nd Street Bridge in Louisville) has some cool old Art Deco (as if from Superman or Batman) cement pylons. Actually, these columns are identical to each other on each of their respective sides of the bridge. The only differences between the Indiana and Kentucky columns are the state names engraved on the column, as well as each side has their own version of the carved plaque.

Big Entry Pillar on Indiana side of Clark Memorial Bridge
Art Deco Pylon on Indiana side of Clark Memorial Bridge
Art Deco Plaque on Indiana side of bridge
Art Deco Plaque on Indiana side of bridge
Pylon on Kentucky Side of the bridge
Pylon on Kentucky Side of the bridge

Clarksville, Indiana was once a home site to George Rogers Clark (older brother to William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame), and was founded in 1783. It is the oldest American town in the Northwest Territory (the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River). The town is also home to the Colgate clock (seen above behind the water tower), one of the largest clocks in the world. The Falls of the Ohio State Park, a large fossil bed, are also just a short jaunt from the bridge.

Welcome to Clarksville, IN
Welcome to Clarksville, IN
Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, IN
Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, IN
Giant Colgate Clock in Clarksville, IN
40 foot tall Giant Colgate Clock in Clarksville, IN

Louisville and the associated Indiana communities—Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany—all owe their existence as communities to the falls, as the navigational obstacles the falls presented meant that late 18th Century and early to late 19th Century river traffic could benefit from local expertise in navigating the 26-foot drop made by the river over a distance of two miles.

The Falls of the Ohio and the fossil beds along the river
The Falls of the Ohio and the fossil beds along the river
The Fourteenth Street Bridge - a railroad bridge crossing the Ohio River
The Fourteenth Street Bridge – a railroad bridge crossing the Ohio River

The Fourteenth Street Bridge (also known as the Ohio Falls Bridge) was built in 1868 by the Louisville Bridge and Iron Company and was operated for many years by the Pennsylvania Railroad, giving the company its only access to Kentucky. Ownership of the railroad and the bridge passed on to Penn Central and later Conrail, which then sold the line from Louisville to Indianapolis, Indiana to the Louisville and Indiana Railroad, the current bridge owner.

Second Street Bridge as seen from Jeffersonville, IN with Louisville in the background
Second Street Bridge as seen from Jeffersonville, IN with Louisville in the background

Along the Falls is a statue of Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark meeting at the Falls of the Ohio
Lewis and Clark meeting at the Falls of the Ohio

Meriwether Lewis met William Clark (younger brother of General George Clark) in 1803. Together they recruited the “Nine Young Men from Kentucky” that formed the core of the Corps of Discovery. Meriwether Lewis and his party left Pittsburgh on August 31st 1803, reaching Louisville on October 14th where he was met by William Clark.  At their handshake upon this meeting the Lewis and Clark Expedition was born.  (see more detailed history here).

Another view of Lewis and Clark meeting
Another view of Lewis and Clark meeting

Over the years I have driven hundreds of miles across the U.S. and have traced the many paths of Lewis and Clark, even to Astoria, Oregon where their final western destination ended at Fort Clatsop. I have been to L & C sites in Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Idaho and more.  But this is where it all started!!  Here is a map f their entire route.

Lewis and Clark Exhibition Route

After the visit to Clarksville, I headed to Jeffersonville to see what may be there.  To my delight, I discovered a series of floodwall murals, similar to what I have seen in other river communities.

Bench in Jeffersonville, IN
Bench in Jeffersonville, IN

Turns out that the 12 murals depicting the history of Jeffersonville were painted by Robert Dafford and his crew.  This project began in 2007 and was completed in 2012.  Ironically, I had seen his mural works in previous visits to Point Pleasant, WV, Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. (see Paducah work here and the Point Pleasant work here). Dafford apparently has his photorealistic mural art in over 200 locations around the world.

Robert Dafford murals on the floodwall in Jeffersontown
Robert Dafford murals on the floodwall in Jeffersontown
Schimpff's Candy Store - one of 12 floodwall murals by Louisiana artist Robert Dafford
Schimpff’s Candy Store – one of 12 floodwall murals by Louisiana artist Robert Dafford
Band Concert in Town Square - one of 12 floodwall murals painted by Robert Dafford
Band Concert in Town Square – one of 12 floodwall murals painted by Robert Dafford and his team
The Howard House - one of 12 floodwall murals in Jeffersonville
The Howard House – one of 12 floodwall murals in Jeffersonville
A River Scene mural in Jeffersonville by Robert Dafford
A River Scene mural in Jeffersonville by Robert Dafford
A mural depicting Riverboats on the Ohio in Jeffersonville, IN by Robert Dafford
A mural depicting Riverboats on the Ohio in Jeffersonville, IN by Robert Dafford

Just a few blocks away is an entirely different scene.  The Industrial Terrorplex, a massive haunted house and “horror complex” created using state of the art Hollywood effects, offered up some surprises as I rounded the corner.  A couple of huge gargoyles were waiting on the fencepost to pounce down on me.

Gargoyle on fence at Industrial Terrorplex in Jeffersonville, IN
Gargoyle on fence at Industrial Terrorplex in Jeffersonville, IN
Another Industrial Terrorplex gargoyle waits to pounce on someone
Another Industrial Terrorplex gargoyle waits to pounce on someone

The gargoyles were enough to scare me back across the river to pick up my daughter and her friends and make our way back to Lexington.  Along the way I did see a more pleasant statue…Thomas Jefferson said a nice hello as did a few ducks.

Thomas Jefferson statue in Jeffersonville, IN
Thomas Jefferson statue in Jeffersonville, IN
Ducks say hello by the Ohio River
Ducks say hello by the Ohio River
Back to Kentucky over the bridge
Back to Kentucky over the bridge

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