V is for Vistas – #atozchallenge

Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista.  And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.

Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring.  Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations.  Enjoy the ride and the views.

Sunset at the Badlands in South Dakota
St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho
A view of the Portland Head Light in Maine
Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Golden Gate Bridge in 2016
Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Oregon
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Highway to Cody, Wyoming
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Horse Country – Lexington, Kentucky
Cincinnati Skyline
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983
Delaware Seashore Bridge at sunset
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Beautiful Highway heading into Virginia from Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
Beach at Clallam Bay, WA adorned with seagulls
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ
Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
Arkansas Hwy 8 near Amity, AR
Scenic cinder Hills and Shadows as seen on Idaho Hwy 33
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The Tetons as seen from near Drummond, ID
Sunset in the Sweetgrass, north of Dunkirk, MT
White Sands, NM
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia
Sunflowers forever near Lexington, KY
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Pennsylvania sunrise as seen from Boyce Mayview Park near Upper St. Clair, PA
Fall Colors from the Eagle’s Nest above Bancroft, Ontario near Algonquin
Texas Hwy 30 between Huntsville and Shiro
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters, Oregon
Somewhere in Kansas
View of the Beartooths near Red Lodge, Montana from the highway was awesome
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park

 

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K is for Kentucky – #atozchallenge

One word: Staycation

My family moved to Kentucky with in 1993. We moved from the western United States and had not lived in a humid, green environment since our time in Japan in the late 1980s.

Kentucky the Beautiful
Kentucky Backroads

Like many others, when we heard the word Kentucky, we thought about the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky bourbon. There was not much else to really understand or know about Kentucky.

Honestly, looking back I can say that our move to Kentucky was one of the best things we ever did. Kentucky is a beautiful and diverse state. Living in Lexington, which is the Horse Capital of the World, we are surrounded by beautiful horse farms. In fact, I can leave my driveway and be driving through horse farm country within five minutes. The black plank fences, the nicely mown fields, immaculately expensive barns and the horses out grazing in the field… always uplift our souls.

Kentucky Capitol Building in Frankfort
Black Plank Fences are all over Kentucky…this is Horse Country
Lebanon, KY

There are so many things to see and do in Kentucky. The worlds largest cave, Mammoth Cave is here. Beautiful waterfalls, streams, rivers and lakes. The hills of eastern Kentucky are lovely.

The drive across the state takes about six hours if you’re driving east to west from the furthest points. The diversity that you will see on a drive like that is amazing.

Mail Pouch Barn in Central Kentucky
Rabbit Hash General Store in Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
Lexington at Sunset
Wisdom, Kentucky
Mare and foal jaunt
Oddville, Kentucky
Sumoflam at Cumberland Falls
Flippin, Kentucky Post Office
Ice Storms leave lovely art

Kentucky is one of those states that has true four seasons. The wintertime typically has snow and sometimes we even get some pretty impressive ice storms.  Not fun in and of themselves, the ice storms leave beauty hanging around.

After winter comes springtime and the abundance of colorful flowers and flowering trees. One of Lexington’s favorite places for visiting and viewing flowering trees is the Lexington Cemetery. It is a lovely place when everything is in bloom.

Cherry Blossoms in Lexington Cemetery
Yes, it can snow in the spring and cover the flowers.
Kentucky is famous for its lovely Redbud Trees
Thoroughbred Park

April is the start of the horse racing season in Kentucky. Keeneland Race Track is one of the premier race tracks in the United States and then after the Kingman meet horses move onto Louisville and Churchill Downs and eventually the Kentucky Derby. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to attend those events and they are a lot of fun.

But there are many other horse activities in Kentucky such as show jumping and even Polocrosse — a mix between polo and lacrosse done on horses.

 

Polocrosse at the Kentucky Horse Park
Show Jumping at Kentucky Horse Park
Horses frolic
A horse relaxes against a tree in late winter
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

Throughout the year, I make my way to a local reservoir/lake on the outskirts of Lexington. It is called Jacobson Lake and is part of the huge Jacobson Park. It is a beautiful place to come early in the morning and watch a sunrise or come in the evening and catch a sunset. I also thoroughly enjoy spending time at the lake and listening to the birds and watching and photographing birds. There are a variety of them from the great blue heron in the beautiful bald eagle and Osprey, to many smaller birds such a seagulls, Killdeer, blackbirds and bluebirds and Cardinals.

Blue Heron taking flight at Jacobson Lake
We call this Bald Eagle “Jake”. The local eagle at Jacobson Lake
Sunset at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY
Blue Heron grabbing some breakfast
Fall at Jacobson Park

Summer in Kentucky is generally mild but can be warm and sometimes very hot and humid. Those are the times to stay indoors or to go to the lake and sit out on the lake. The family has made a few visits to Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky to enjoy the nice environment.

Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe
Wigwam Cafe in Ravenna, KY

Also, during the summer I often take back road drives around Kentucky. There are so many lovely little two lane back roads that one can take and see the landscape, lifestyle and many other unique things. On these trips I’ve discovered old churches, beautiful old farm houses and buildings. I’ve come across fields of sunflowers. I even came across “Kentucky Stonehenge.”

Sumoflam at Kentucky Stonehenge
An old bourbon plant in Woodford County
Turkey Vultures guard their meal near McKee, KY
Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville
Sandhill Cranes

Traveling south of Louisville I took a back road during the spring in hopes of catching the migration of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. And I was fortunate enough to be there when they were there in the small little town of Cecelia, Kentucky.

 

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky

On other trips we have visited Cave City, a kind of National Park resort town that supports Mammoth Cave. Cave City offers one of only three remaining historic Wigwam Motel complexes, the other two being in Arizona and California. Further south on the same interstate or taking a back road, is the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. This is the only factory in the world that builds the Corvette. Kentucky is also home to the largest Toyota plant in the United States, a huge Ford production facility in Louisville that makes F150 pick up trucks.

Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Wigwam Motel in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, part of the 2013 PRHBTN Festival in Lexington, Kentucky

 

Both Lexington and Louisville feature amazing murals and wall art.  Lexington even has an organization called PRHBTN that invites famed street artists from all over the world to come to Lexington and paint on buildings around the city.  There are some amazing pieces.

 

Louis Armstrong Mural by Sergio Odeith from Portugal, for PRHBTN 2015
Another large mural on the side of an old warehouse in Lexington’s Distillery District

I love Kentucky. I am so glad that we had the blessing to move here to this beautiful state. If you have not visited Kentucky, you need to add it as a “must see” to your list.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen
One of many horse barns
Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Paducah, Kentucky
Mural Tribute to Kentucky Bourbon by Esteban Camacho Steffensen
Jac’s Coffee Shop – Harlan, Kentucky
Past Time Cafe storefront – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

And, if you live in Kentucky…go take a “staycation” and see this great state.

 

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A to Z Challenge: The J 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

J The J Towns

Jamestown, North Dakota

World's Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
The Chuckwagon Cafe - serving a 4 Meat Buffet
The Chuckwagon Cafe – serving a 4 Meat Buffet

One of my fun places to stop in North Dakota is Jamestown. It is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue and  the National Buffalo Museum.  It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh and is one of the giants across the US. See more about my visit to Jamestown HERE.

Joseph, Oregon

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
Joseph, Oregon is the Gateway to Hell’s Canyon
A view of Hells Canyon
A view of Hell’s Canyon near Joseph, Oregon
The Spirit of Joseph by Steve Parks
Sumoflam with “The Spirit of Joseph” Eagle sculpture in Joseph, OR. Sculptor was Steve Parks
Sacajawea Peak
A view of Sacajawea Peak near Joseph, Oregon
Wallowa Lake
Wallowa Lake near Joseph, OR

Known as “The Little Switzerland” of the United States, Joseph, Oregon is a scenic town on the shores of the lovely Wallowa Lake. I visited this community in 2007 and was enthralled by the beauty.  Like many towns, they have an art walk with many fine outdoor sculptures, including the intricate eagle sculpture “The Spirit of Joseph” by Steve Parks.  Joseph was named after Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe.  Joseph is also about an hour away from the awe inspiring Hell’s Canyon. Despite the grandeur and wide expanses of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Hell’s Canyon has been carved much deeper by the Snake River. The canyon is about 100 miles in length and there is one 40 mile section that is nearly 5500 feet deep. But the steepest point from river to rim is at Granite Creek. This is an amazing 7900 foot deep section of the canyon!! The widest expanse across the canyon is 10 miles. The Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway is an awesome way to spend a day driving and taking in the wonderful views.  See more about my NW Oregon  and SW Washington roadtrip from 2007 HERE.

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana
Welcome to Jeffersonville, Indiana
One of the many floodwall murals of Jeffersonville, Indiana
One of the many floodwall murals of Jeffersonville, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana Visitors Center
Jeffersonville, Indiana Visitors Center
Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN
Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN
Meriwether Lews meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio near present day Clarksville, IN
Meriwether Lews meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio near present day Clarksville, IN
Gargoyle at Industrial Terrorplex
Gargoyle at Industrial Terrorplex (added especially for my Gargoyle loving friend and author Tui Snider)

Just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY is the river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Two different cities and a shared river and bridge.  In September 2013 , with camera in hand,  I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville.  The town has a series of floodwall murals which are delightful to walk along and see. 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. Jeffersonville is also home to 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. See more about this unique Ohio River town in my 2013 post HERE.

Juneau, Alaska

Downtown Juneau Alaska
Downtown Juneau Alaska
Cruise Ship in Juneau
Cruise Ship in Juneau as seen from OUR Cruise Ship at 5:30 AM
Juneau Tram
Mount Roberts Tramway
View of Gastineau Channel as seen from top of mountain
View of Gastineau Channel as seen from top of mountain
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau

One of the few places you cannot get to on a backroad by car is Juneau, Alaska.  Only accessible via air or boat, we visited while on a cruise in June 2004 with other family members.  Sitting along the Gastineau Channel, the town is picturesque and touristy.  It is the gateway to Mendenhall Glacier as well.  Mendenhall Glacier is about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. We also took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain and enjoyed a spectacular view.  The tramway’s cars rise 1,800 feet from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the Mountain House, offering expansive views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. The Tramway is one of the most vertical tramways in the world. See the entire report of this trip HERE.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

"Howdy Stranger" Sign at Teton Pass summit
“Howdy Stranger” Sign at Teton Pass summit
Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
Antler Arch of Jackson
Antler Arch of Jackson
The famous Cowboy Bar neon sign
The famous Cowboy Bar neon sign
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
Grand Tetons as seen from outside Jackson, WY
Grand Tetons as seen from outside Jackson, WY

One of my FAVORITE places in the US is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It is the gateway to the Grand Tetons National Park and is a beautiful town nestled in a picturesque valley. See my full post from a 2013 visit HERE.  It is one my “Heaven on Earth” places.

Janesville, Wisconsin (Honorable Mention)

Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI

Another of the interesting towns in Wisconsin, Janesville is not too far from Madison and north of Beloit.  The town has big cows and cheese factories as well as a great history.  Definitely worth a visit.

Jackson Center, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio
Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio
Wally Byam Caravan Club HQ in Jackson Center
Wally Byam Caravan Club HQ in Jackson Center
Sumoflam hanging at the Airstream Visitor's Center
Sumoflam hanging at the Airstream Visitor’s Center

Jackson Center, Ohio is the home of the Airstream Factory. Everyone has seen these iconic trailers on the roads.  This is where they come from.  They give tours!!  Check out a report about my visit there in May 2008 right HERE.

Jamaica Beach, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation

On one end of Galveston Island in Texas is Jamaica Beach, with nice beaches, condos to stay in and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico.  Brown pelicans are in the air everywhere.  See my 2014 post with many pelican shots and lots of views of the beautiful gulf coast HERE.

Jamestown, New York (Honorable Mention)

Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York
Lucille Ball Birthplace
Lucille Ball Birthplace

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include another Jamestown.  (And yes, I have also been to Jamestown, VA to see the old Jamestown history!!) Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball.  There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town.  We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities and the murals.  See my full report about my New York trip to Jamestown and other places nearby by clicking HERE.

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