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.
The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI
The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY
The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO
The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND
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
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
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
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
The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY
The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT
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
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
The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY
The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN
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
The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY
The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT – Yellville, AR – York, NE
The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT
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
The L Towns
First stop on the L Town Road Trip is LeClaire, Iowa. This town literally sits on the shore of the Mississippi River and is definitely a river town. Today the town is perhaps most well known for the shop known as Antique Archaeology, home of the famed History Channel TV Show American Pickers. The show has enjoyed 14 seasons and has nearly 200 episodes as Mike and Franks travel the back roads of the U.S. looking for the rare and valuable items in old barns and other odd places. Their Office Manager Danielle frequents the show as well. I got to meet her in 2012 (see photo above). But what many don’t know is that the western icon Buffalo Bill Cody was born here. Born near LeClaire in Scott County, Iowa, in 1846, Buffalo Bill rode on the Pony Express at the age of 14, fought in the American Civil War, served as a scout for the Army, and was already an Old West legend before mounting his famous Wild West show, which traveled the United States and Europe. There is a museum in his honor in LeClaire. Cody, Wyoming is named for him. The town has a number of unique antique shops and eateries. Definitely worth a visit. I like the place so much I have been there FOUR times!! See more detailed posts about my visits HERE and HERE.
Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
On a trip I took with my son back in 2007 to the western US, we made our way into a backwoods town in northern Wisconsin in search of the famed Largest Twine Ball in the World. We finally found the 19,000 pound monstrosity on the shores of Lake Nebagamon just east of US Highway 53 and south of US Highway 2 near Superior, WI. As unique as the ball was, were fascinated by the creator of this iconic attraction, James Frank Kotera, who calls himself “JFK the Twine Ball Man” and claims to be the most famous JFK. I even made a video of this guy….enjoy a laugh. You can see a flashback post of my 2007 visit HERE and then check out my 2007 Mockumentary Video with JFK below.
Lesage, West Virginia
Drive along the Ohio River out of Huntington, West Virginia and a few miles up WV Highway 2 you’ll come across what appears to be a junk collectors’ paradise. What it really is may surprise you…it is a world famous hot dog joint known as Hillbilly Hot Dogs. The place has been features on Diners, Dives and Drive Ins as well as a number of other shows. And yes, they do make a killer hot dog!! Check out my really fun 2008 Slide Show HERE.
LeRoy, New York
So, you have had the Hot Dogs and you want dessert? How about taking a trip to the community of LeRoy, New York on New York Highway 5 and visit the funky little JELL-O Museum. A ceiling full of spoons, a couple of “Did You Know JELL-O quizzes,” Bill Cosby memorabilia and lots of JELL-O souvenirs. See my 2008 trip report that includes more about the JELL-O museum HERE.
Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Travel along NC Highway 97 and you will eventually hit a crossroads at Lizard Lick Road and come across the small community of Lizard Lick, NC. The town supposedly got its name from a “passing observer who saw many lizards sunning and licking themselves on a rail fence.” In any case, it really became famous in 1998 when Nintendo did a big splashy introduction of their game called “Yoshi’s Story.” Then, in September 2009 Lizard Lick once again received publicity, this time on a national level when TruTV became aware of a local towing and recovery company owned and operated by evangelist and Lizard Lick honorary “Mayor” Ronnie Shirley and his wife Amy Shirley, called Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery. The program, called Lizard Lick Towing, ran for four seasons from 2011-2014
Lake Jackson, Texas (Honorable Mention)
On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I was apprised of a town called Lake Jackson, Texas. Located on Texas Highway 288, it doesn’t necessarily offer too much, but it has a REALLY curious street name — in fact, a couple of them. The main street through town is called This Way and downtown it intersects with another street called That Way. You can read the story on the photo of the plaque above. Definitely a fun quirky place. Read more about my visit HERE.
Lost Springs, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)
Back in 2007 I made a trip through central Wyoming on US Highway 20 with my son Solomon and we came to a place named Lost Springs, which had a sign proclaiming Population 1. At that time it was one of only three or four towns with that population. On a return visit in 2014, the town had grown by three. There is a Post Office, Bar and Antique shop…all were closed on both visits. The entire town must have been on vacation…all four of them. See my original 2007 Post HERE. My 2014 Return Trip is documented HERE.
Langdon, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
Finally, there is that small town north of US Highway 2 in North Dakota called Langdon. Located at the crossroads of ND Highway 1 and ND Highway 5 very close to Canada, my interest in the town was its Spartan missile in the park. You can see more photos and read more about it HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
As I travel across these great United States (and Canada too) perhaps the most common sight along the way is Barbecue (BBQ) places and diners, big and small. Following are a few of the places I have visited (or at least passed and wished I had time to stop in for a visit….).
Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, WV
Ever eaten at a junk yard? Ever had enough guts to do so? Well, if you head north of Huntington, WV along the Ohio River to the small little village of Lesage you can do just that at Hillbilly Hot Dogs. A junk collector’s dream and a neatnik’s nightmare!
I really got quite a kick out of some of the wackiness here…
Like many offbeat roadside eateries, Hillbilly Hot Dogs has been featured on TV shows. They have also been featured on the Travel Channel, the Food Network and others. Here is a short clip from Diner’s Dives and Drive-ins.
Then, there is their famous BIG SIZE dog called the Homewrecker!! They also have a Big Bad Bubba Burger!!
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – Kansas City, Kansas
Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas is a BBQ joint in a gas station. I actually think the gas station takes second fiddle to the BBQ. Fortunately for us, we got there just before the rush. By the time we got our food, the line was clear out the door. Like many of the places on this post, Oklahoma Joe’s has been featured on TV shows including some on the Food Network and PBS.
I have discovered thru my travels that many BBQ places participate in competitions for best sauce, best BBQ, etc. Oklahoma Joe’s is no exception. In fact, that is how they got their start. Owner Jeff Stehney began his career in BBQ by participating in Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) competitions. In 1993 he and his partners (team Slaughterhouse Five) won eight grand championships. They did this with their Oklahoma Joe’s 24″ smoker. In 1996 they opened their first shop in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Kansas City location opened in 1996. They now have three locations in Kansas.
But, of course, the best part….the BBQ!!
Big Jud’s Country Diner – Archer, Idaho
Continuing the string of made famous by TV diners, I visited Big Jud’s in March 2013. Located in Archer, Idaho, a small town outside of Rexburg, this “country diner” is rustic, but, the food isn’t! I have never seen such HUGE burgers and portions anywhere!!
Like many places, they have their “Chow Down” contests. Eat the big burger in a certain amount of time and you get a t-shirt, a photo on the board and even a free meal. My friend Trevor Mortensen, from Rexburg, joined a team to try this…
But check out what this other kid was having while we were there….
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Hutch’s on the Beach in Ontario is a classic 1950s style burger joint (actually, since 1946!). This place is practically right out of American Graffiti (even though it is in Canada). Black and white checkerboard floors, big fresh made burgers, great fries and shakes. A juke box that played music from the 1950s….
I loved the nostalgia that Hutch’s brought me….
Of course, like any of these places, we came for the “real” food…burgers, fries and milk shakes made the old fashioned way.
Stewart’s Drive In – Russell’s Point, Ohio
Located in central Ohio, southeast of Lima, Russells Point, Ohio is a touristy destination with Indian Lake bordering it. While driving to Indian Lake to see the sights, I came across the old fashioned drive in. I had to stop for a drink and an ice cream cone. What a pleasure!! Had someone come to the car and everything!
Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, North Carolina
If you have ever watched the Andy Griffith show or Mayberry RFD, you would have heard about “The Snappy Lunch,” which was mentioned in Episode 007 of the Andy Griffith Show on November 14, 1960. Andy Griffith actually ate there as a young boy growing up in Mt. Airy. Opened in 1923, it is the oldest eating establishment in Mt. Airy and is famous for its Pork Chop Sandwiches.
The pork chop sandwiches served up at Snappy Lunch were a first for me. I had never had one, but I would most certainly return for another. I caught owner Charles Dowell busy at work cooking up his specialty back in March 2012. He passed away in September 2012 at the age of 84. He began working at The Snappy Lunch in 1943 and by 1960 he had purchased the cafe.
So, if you are wondering what time it is…..
Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota
While on a trip to Montana in 2005 with my kids, we made our way into Waite Park, MN, just west of St. Cloud. We got in fairly late after a day of traveling in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We had pushed to get here in time so that we could eat at Space Aliens. And, we were lucky, it was a Wednesday and all you can eat night. I had two BIG HUNGRY boys, along with myself and one of my daughters. We chowed down to say the least!!
Mort Bank and David Glaser, like other BBQ proprietors, got their start in BBQ competitions. Having won the National Barbecue Convention for “America’s Best Ribs” in Tennessee, they returned to their home in North Dakota and opened up a store in Bismarck and a second one in Fargo, North Dakota.
As for the Barbecue — they have actually trademarked “Positively the Best Ribs in the Entire Universe”. Their slowly smoked 20 spice ribs were really fantastic. In fact, we ate them empty that evening!!
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana
Alzada is a very small unincorporated community in the far southeast corner of Montana, practically bordering Wyoming and South Dakota. The long empty stretch of U.S. Highway 212 is basically the only way in and out. Originally named Stoneville in 1880, the town’s named needed to be changed due to a Post Office conflict. In 1885 it was named Alzada in honor of the wife of the postmaster. It is an old cowboy town steeped in cowboy history. But, it also is known for the Stoneville Saloon – “Conveniently located in the middle of Nowhere!”
I think the real draw is the tag line “Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food”
We had been driving all the way from Great Falls in 2005 on our way home from Montana and this was one of the MAIN destinations for us that day. We got here starved. Turns out that this is now a “biker bar” frequented by many bikers on their way to Sturgis, SD, which is about 67 miles to the southeast of Alzada. We stopped and ate, but enjoyed the atmosphere more than anything…
OK, we had some burgers and fries while here. But they do serve steaks and a few other goodies. Needless to say, we were in a hurry so we didn’t try their famed canned delicacies…
Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A write up about diners cannot truly be justified without noting the Philly Cheesesteak rivalry in Philadelphia. No place represents the heart and soul of the Philadelphia better than the corner of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. This is the cheese-steak epicenter where Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks face off 24 hours a day for the Cheesesteak crown. So, what’s the best way to do it? My friend and I hit BOTH places in the same evening.
First stop was Geno’s Steaks, located in a corner of the intersection of E. Passyunk and 9th Street. Geno’s was started in 1966 by Joe Vento with $6.00 in his pocket, 2 boxes of steaks and some hot dogs. If you can’t order in English, then don’t try this place. They have signs up that explicitly state you must order in English.
The intimidation doesn’t stop at English only. There is a specific way to order as well. You must order with Provolone, American or Cheese Whiz. If you don’t do it right they may chew you out!! Fortunately, there is a constant stream of customers ordering so you can listen and learn. They whip out those steaks with whiz pretty quick!
After indulging in a tasty, hot and yummiferous Geno’s Steak sandwich (mine had Provolone), my friend and I meandered across the “X” to Pat’s King of Steaks. This shop is older than Geno’s, having opened in 1930 by Pat Olivieri, who ran a hot dog stand originally.
Their website claims that this was where the cheesesteak was invented … there is even an historical marker on the site:
Unlike Geno’s, there are not “Speak English” signs, but they are still persnickety in terms of ordering in a timely fashion as they also whip those cheesy meaty sandwiches out quickly.
The final product is what everyone comes for:
And the winner? It was definitely ME!! I got the best of Philly in a double take.
Dash-Inn Drive In – Shelby, Montana
This is another one of those drive up diners where someone will come out to your car and serve up great burgers, fries, onion rings, tater tots, etc. My wife and I had the opportunity to eat here in March 2013. It was as you would expect…great prices, great service and great food!
Camp 31 BBQ – Paris, Ontario
I have eaten at BBQ places all over the U.S. and in parts of Canada. However, I have to admit that the absolute best experience I ever had was at Camp 31 in Paris, Ontario. In 2008 I had the opportunity to work in Woodstock and I rented a place in Paris, about 20 miles south of Woodstock. I made my way to Camp 31 at least twice a week. It was heavenly.
Started originally in a Sawmill in Alabama, the owners moved to Canada and opened up in an old sawmill building in Paris. The inside is rustic which makes the BBQ all the better tasting.
Camp 31 BBQ has a diverse menu and a good variety of goodies. Their cornbread is sweet, their BBQ sauce is tangy, their meats are tender and their service is impeccable.
Many BBQ places compete and Camp 31 is no different. In fact, they compete all over Canada and in the US. They even have a tour bus with built in smokers!!
And here is why….
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner opened their doors as a Diner in 1948. Started by Cecil Thompson, it is now owned by Richard Connelly who has worked at Goody Goody since 1955, when he was 14 and began peeling potatoes and working as a carhop.
There is plenty of seating at Goody Goody and very little wait. They really move the folks through and the service is fast.
The diner has a diverse menu, but they are especially famous for their “Wilbur”, a breakfast omelet filled with potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes and then covered with chili and cheese. Sometimes it is referred to as a “slinger” A delectable delight of a dish.
Another favorite is Goody Goody is the waffles and fried chicken, a good southern dish.
Gronk’s Grill and Bar – Superior, Wisconsin
Gronk’s Grill is the ultimate mixture of hamburger joint and BBQ joint. Like Jud’s, they offer HUGE 6 and 8 pound burgers (The “Enger Tower Burger” and the “Great Divide” respectively). You finish these off you get a t-shirt and a place in their Hall of Fame. They also offer BBQ ribs and hot dogs.
This is what you can get if you are really really hungry…the Enger Tower
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is known for its barbecue and one of the prime establishments of Kansas City Barbecue is Arthur Bryant’s. This BBQ joint opened in the 1920s and once it moved from its original location to the corner of 18th and Brooklyn, near the old Municipal Stadium, it gained its national fame as major league baseball players and others visited the place. Some claim that Arthur Bryant is the “legendary King of Ribs” and is considered by some to be “the most renowned barbecuer in history.” Bryant died in 1982 at the age of 80, but the legendary flavor continues.
Unlike many BBQ places, Arthur Bryant’s serves their BBQ on slices of white bread. I had never had it that way except at home. Apparently, Bryant had created his special sauce so you “could put it on bread and eat it.” Well, they did put it on bread and I did eat it. Fabulous barbecue, great prices, good smoky environment (smoky from BBQ that is) and sweeeeet sauce!
Cozy Drive 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!!
Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City, Missouri
Apparently, Paul’s is so good that locomotive engineers literally stop the train on the tracks and get out to get some of Paul’s tenderloins and burgers. On my visit we were more interested in something cold and sweet on our palate after enjoying some great Kansas City BBQ elsewhere. And, this was a chart topper!!
Patche’s Mini Mart – Bradfordsville, Kentucky
As I drive the Less Beaten Paths, I do run into little gems like Patche’s. Patche’s is named after owner Patsy, who is called Patche’s by all her friends. It is a gas station, mini mart and a little grill. I was hungry on a long drive so I stopped. I asked her what was the specialty and she told me “grilled boloney sandwich with egg and cheese.” I had her make one up for me.
Patche’s is a two person show – Patche’s on the grill and her assistant.
There are so many places on the road to stop. I have another set of shots I will include in a “Leftovers” section in a week or so. But, as you enjoy the ride, also make sure to enjoy some of the local fare. It’ll do you good.