Woodflock – a relatively unknown destination for those unfamiliar with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. For the last six years Flamingoheads from California and other places have gathered in the Sycamore Grove campground along the Sacramento River near Red Bluff, CA to enjoy time schmoozing with Antsy and the band and each other through music, meditation, arts and crafts and food. Held every Memorial Day weekend, the campground turns into a flamingo haven.
I have traveled with Antsy McClain on a cruise to Mexico, I have accompanied him on Field Trips in Kentucky and Texas and have toured with him and the band in Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and California, but I have never had the opportunity to attend the pinnacle of Flamingohead Fantasy trips…Woodflock. That is, until last week. And what a trip it was!
I departed on a non-stop flight to San Francisco from Cincinnati on Thursday. It was a nice four and a half hour flight with views of clouds until we got over the Rocky Mountains In Colorado and oh what a view. The snow covered peaks and the lakes…phenomenal. We went right over Mount Evans, where I have set foot in the past. How fun.
I arrived in San Francisco at about 11:30 AM California time and was met there by my Flamingohead friend Carla, a sweet and bouncy young lady of 70. Carla had worked out a few plans for our day and our drive to Santa Rosa, where she lives.
We left SFO and began our trip north to the city where we first visited Golden Gate Park to see the lovely mural in the visitor’s center, the beautiful flowers and a cool old Dutch windmill. The park is a beautiful inner city park with lots to see, but we had to move on to see some of the other sights. Here are a few scenes.
In 1901, John McLaren, together with Park Commissioners Adolph B. Spreckles and Reuben Lloyd, convinced the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission to build a windmill 300 yards from the ocean. This windmill could take advantage of the prevailing winds to pump water for the park’s irrigation system. Completed in 1902 at a cost of $25,000, the North Windmill was designed by Alpheus Bull Jr., a prominent San Franciscan at the time. Over the years it has had to go through various restorations, but the blades now function, though the pump has long been removed.
Golden Gate Park runs along the coast and so there are plenty of beach scenes and birds, etc.
Our next stop was for lunch. What better place than an old fashioned diner. We stopped at the historic Mel’s Drive-in, a throwback to the 1950s both in style and cooking. Every table had a Rock-ola jukebox with 50s and 60s songs. Though working hard to change my diet, coming to this diner was risky…the meatloaf looked fabulous. But, I stuck with a large salad and a couple of rolls. No butter. Great diner atmosphere and what appeared to be great diner food.
The original Mel’s Drive-in, built in the 1940s, was used for George Lucas’ classic film American Graffiti. There are now a few in the San Francisco area and even a couple, with the trademarked name and logo, at amusement parks. Following is a brief portion of the history from their website:
Following is a brief portion of the history of Mel’s as taken from their website:
“Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs started it all back in 1947 when they built their first car hop eatery, inspired by similar restaurants serving motorists in Los Angeles. With a staff of fourteen carhops covering a 30,000 square foot parking lot, they lured the hungry with a local radio personality broadcasting a live remote. As music reverberated through car radios in the drive-ups, the curb-stepping gals of 140 South Van Ness became a new paradigm for service.
At all hours of the day and night, crowds of patrons that fancied dining-in-your-car came early and often. It didn’t take long for the first unit to multiply into eleven! Six Mels became landmarks in the Bay Area with additional cluster achieving their own notoriety in Stockton and Sacramento. They reigned for almost twenty years, until a parade of franchised fast food outlets finally outpaced their service. As the new philosophy of “serve yourself” began to reprogram attitude about dining, Mel’s began its gradual decline.”
A Drive Down Lombard Street in San Francisco
After a good lunch and a break, we drove around town and made our way to Lombard St., the so called Crookedest Street in the World. The one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets has eight sharp turns that supposedly make it the crookedest street in the world. The design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and built in 1922, was intended to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles. The sign at the top recommends 5 mph. There were dozens of tourists at the top of the road, all along the crooked road and even dozens more when we got to the bottom. A fun little drive, as can be seen from the video above.
After our little brake infused jaunt down Lombard St., we then meandered around town over to Fisherman’s Wharf. Following are a few scenes from along the way.
From Fisherman’s Wharf we made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. There was plenty of construction going on so traffic was slow going. But, once we got to the bridge the fog began to sneak in above the bridge…a beautiful sight. We crawled across the bridge, which was covered in foot traffic as well. Truly a major attraction.
Once across the bridge we found the viewing area which offered not only a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but an expansive view of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, Coit Tower and more. And the weather was perfect.
I was last in San Francisco in 2009 with Antsy McClain when he and the band performed at the Great American Music Hall (see video below). But we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the bridge. So it was an awesome opportunity.
After the bridge we made our way into Novato to join another Flamingohead sweetheart, Ione, who would be lending me her RV (nicknamed IRV) for the weekend in Red Bluff. We had some great Chinese food at the China Palace and then joined together for a fun picture to memorialize the occasion.
After dinner, Carla drove us up to her doublewide trailer in Santa Rosa, CA. She Lives in Aluminum and is happy there in Lot #36 …see the video below if you don’t get it!! (Taken in 2009 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco…video by Sumoflam)
A nice 2500 mile day!
Next post will cover Santa Rosa to Ukiah to Red Bluff!
This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1Part 2 )
After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year. In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones. These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah. Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another. It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….
In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed). So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington. Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:
This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time. We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took. Along the way we saw a few fun things…
After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.
After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.
The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together. This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie. As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well. Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)
The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride. We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike. This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL. It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video. In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.
From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota. We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!
Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN
From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta. It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….
I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain. We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…
We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…
We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie. During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass. We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…
We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls. Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…
During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out). But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington. Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook. John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody). Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie. So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh. It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.
This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me. We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management. After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.
From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!). It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”
We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky. More unique stops were made along the way…
After a long trip, we finally made it home. This was to be the last of my trips with just my children. All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips. I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.
Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…
In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin. We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)
On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more. See more here.
We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.
I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them. However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us. I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips. Here are a few scenes…
My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18. Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between. Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well. Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.
Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!
Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.
Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly. That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….
Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!
April 3, 2013: Yet another day on the road home as Julianne and I take our time to see a few of the sites on the way. This day we drove from Des Moines to a couple places in Iowa and eventually into Illinois. Here is our route:
First thing we did was head to Pella, Iowa, which is not too far from Des Moines. Pella prides itself as being a “Touch of Holland” and indeed is very Dutch. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States. Pella was originally settled in 1847 by about 800 Dutch immigrants. They named the town Pella, which in Dutch means City of Refuge, due to the fact that these immigrants were fleeing religious persecution in their home country of the Netherlands. Pella is also the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the famed sheriff of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
We had been advised by friends to definitely try the “Dutch Letters” while here. Dutch Letters are a flaky almond paste filled pastry. Shaped like an S, they were apparently a traditional Christmas pastry in Holland. We stopped at the Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street in Pella to have some of these. They would be our breakfast. Turns out they have a lot of other goodies!!
Another treat we were advised to try was Pella Ring Bologna. There are two well known places to get this ring bologna in Pella and we stopped at Ulrich’s Meat Market which is a couple doors down from the Jaarsma Bakery. Not onl is the ring bologna good — the meat sticks were fabulous!!
The town of Pella is quaint and picturesque. It was a pleasure to walk around and see some of the scenery, including a few smaller windmills and the larger one. Here are a few scenes from Pella.
Pella is famed for its tulips, but we were too early for them. But, daffodils are another Dutch bulb plant. And they were in full bloom.
Of course, perhaps the most famous thing in Pella (besides the famed Pella window factory) is the huge authentic working Dutch Windmill. The Vermeer Mill, as it is called, is an 1850s style working windmill. It is 124 feet tall and is the largest working windmill of its kind in the United States. The mill is totally wind powered and is actually used like the windmills of old to grind wheat into flour. It was built in Holland and assembled in Pella in 2002.
There is a Dutch Interpretive Center and small Dutch Village attached to the Windmill. Within its confines are a number of Dutch style buildings , including Wyatt Earp’s birthplace. We didn’t go into the village since admission was $10 per person, which we though was rather pricy.
After a pleasant time in Pella, we were back on the road. With my penchant for going to strange named towns, I wanted to make our way down some back roads to What Cheer, Iowa. Originally named Petersburg in 1865 but was renamed What Cheer in 1879 after the Postal Service declined the name of Petersburg. The Wikipedia article linked here has some details as to the origin of the name What Cheer.
Ironically, as we drive through town, I exclaimed to my wife that the town name should be “What Cheer?” as the small town looks like it is falling apart and many of the businesses have been abandoned. There were a little over 600 people in this small town according to the 2010 census.
Reminiscent of downtown Pella, there is one nicely kept building in What Cheer, with the nice corner turret. It used to be a bank, but is apparently now a residence.
There was one other refreshing site in town. One home had some unique artwork surrounding the yard.
From What Cheer we made our way northeast to I-80 and then into Le Clair, Iowa, a small touristy town along the Mississippi River. This was my second visit to Le Claire as I had been here before to visit Antique Archaeology, home of the “American Pickers” TV show on History Channel. On my previous visit back in June 2012 I even got to meet Danielle and get a shot with her.
When I visited in June last year Danielle had a shop in Le Claire across the street from Antique Archaeology called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. She is actually well known for “up-cycling” things and making them into clothing, jewelry, etc. The shop has since moved to Chicago.
There are lots of unique things for sale at the shop, many which had been picked from shows past. Here is a small sample of some of the things in the shop. Recognize anything?
A video clip of the American Pickers episode with the Laurel and Hardy masks.
You would be mistaken if you think that Antique Archaeology is the center piece of Le Claire. This unique little town is chock full of personality, antique shops and more.
Pelo’s is your typical old sundry and fountain type shop, except that it now has a coffee shop, open mike nites and more.
Julianne was thrilled to visit some of the shops, but her biggest thrill was being able to “pick” a 1930s quilt from a shop in Le Claire. This hand pieced and hand sewn quilt was in a small shop along the river. The gal in the shop obviously didn’t know quilts like Julianne does as she had this quilt for sale for $150!! It was a splurge purchase for us, but, we believe that the value of this quilt is really closer to $800 or $1000 due to its age and almost pristine quality, along with all of the 1930s fabric.
We could have spent more time in Le Claire, but had to move on. My ultimate goal stop for the day was to get to Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.
Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog! Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.
And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!
This was officially our final stop on the way home so it was a perfect place to “cozy up” with my sweetheart….
After spending the night in Springfield, Julianne and I booked it back to our old Kentucky Home in Lexington. It was a long trip, almost 2,800 miles (including side trips into towns, etc.) and over 55 hours of driving time. We traveled from Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT (to see the grandkids) and then across northern Montana, south into North and South Dakota, east thru Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally home. This was Julianne’s longest road trip ever (her previous one was when we moved from Mesa, AZ to Frankfort, KY in 1991 — that was about 2100 miles).