A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The M Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Mystic Pizza – Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

Moon Township, PA

Township of Moon, PA

Muscovy Duck – Damascus, Virginia

A unique Muscovy duck in the river in Damascus

Mammy’s Cupboard – Natchez, Mississippi

Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside

Mail Pouch Barns – Brinkhaven, Ohio; Friendly, West Virginia; Hargett, Kentucky

Mail Pouch Barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV
A rare Mail Pouch barn sighting in Hargett, KY

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield – Brownsville, Tennessee

Sumoflam at Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
A portion of the Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

Mr. Roger’s T-Rex Statue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mr. Rogers T-Rex

Mountain Bluebird – The Badlands National Park, South Dakota

A Mountain Bluebird perched on a fencepost in the Badlands

Mac the Moose – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Monument Valley – Utah

Monument Valley, Utah
Enjoying the splendor of Monument Valley in southern Utah and Northern Arizona around 1983

Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Welcome to the Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline going up
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Maid of the Mist at the bottom of Niagara Falls filled with tourists

Melt Eclectic Cafe – Cincinnati, Ohio

Melt in Cincinnati
Melt Cafe

Metal Green Bay Packer – Pagac’s Bar – Ashland, Wisconsin

Robotic scrap metal quarterback. The guy in the bar said you can plug it in and it actually moves!

Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico

Enjoying a visit to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Midlothian Castle – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Midlothian Castle
Headstone on one of the Gates to Midlothian Castle

Home of Mayberry – Mount Airy, North Carolina

Snappy Lunch – Mt. Airy, NC
Mayberry on Main
Mayberry Cheese

Mount Rainier National Park – Greenwater, Washington

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Mt. Rainier in Washington – visited in 2015
A ferry passes by us in the sound with Mt. Rainier in the background

Migrating Snow Geese – Arkansas

Snow Geese everywhere
Ran into a HUGE flock of migrating snow geese in central Arkansas

Medicine Hat, Alberta

Giant Teepee in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Mickey Mantle Statue – Commerce, Oklahoma

Mickey Mantle Statue in Commerce, Oklahoma

Memorial Falls near Great Falls, Montana

Memorial Falls near Great Falls, MT

Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo. This one posed for me!
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo

Metropolis, Illinois

Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
Giant Grocer Statue in Metropolis, IL

Dinosaur Tracks – Moenave, Arizona

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
The kids at the Dinosaur tracks in Moenave, AZ near Tuba City (July 1993)

Mama Santa Pizzeria – Little Eatery – Cleveland, Ohio

Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa Restaurant in Cleveland, OH

Montour Trail – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Montour Trail – Canonsburg, PA

Miner’s Memorial Mural – Ironwood, Michigan

The men in Miner’s Memorial Mural represent the thousands of men who worked in the Gogebic Range Mines of Michigan and Wisconsin.
A section of the Miner’s Memorial Mural in Ironwood, which was completed in 2012

Mt. Fuji – near Fujinomiya, Japan

Enjoying wintertime at a resort at the base of Mt. Fuji, near Fujinomiya, Japan in 1987
Mt. Fuji, Japan as seen from my airplane seat in 1990 as I flew to Tokyo from Oita.

Multnomah Falls – Multnomah County, Oregon

At Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The unique and quaint Mud Street Cafe in Eureka Springs, AR
Cozy Mud Street Cafe

Memphis Egg – Memphis, Tennessee

With the famous Memphis Egg in 2007

Mothman Museum – Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Glowing Red Eyes of the Mothman
Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, WV

Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California

Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco

Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop – Mapleton, Ontario

Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

 

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Sumoflam’s 2017 Travels in Review

Sunrise in Ocean City, MD on New Year’s Day 2017

On January 1, 2017 I sat on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland to watch a spectacular sunrise and pondered to myself about the opportunities I would have to travel throughout the year. Little did I really know the extent that I would actually travel over the year and I’m grateful that I’ve had a wonderful year of seeing more of this beautiful country.

 

Oddville, Kentucky

Beginning with that glorious morning in Maryland, over the course of the year I have driven nearly 15,000 miles on road trips, many to visit family or be with family, but all of the trips have been wonderful. Some have been close by doing what I refer to as “staycation“ trips in Kentucky. But, throughout the course of the year I have been to 19 different states and have seen a plethora of places and things. Many of the trips included time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. That makes things so much better and enjoyable!

Welcome to Louisiana with some of my grandchildren
All the family gathered at my sister’s Mayfield Smoke Shop in Little Italy, Cleveland

In July we had a family reunion. It was the first in five years and all of my 10 grandchildren and all my five children were here at one time or another and even my sister and her husband and daughter came up to visit. During that time we also visited my extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. So, travel was not the only joyful thing. Family is the best.

The following photos tell just a small story of the past year.  I have already posted some of the things in more detail and have five or six others in the works about specific places.  But here are just some of the places and things form this past year. ENJOY THE RIDE!

Giant Pepsi Pop Bottle Cap in Johnson City, TN
Huge snowman in Lewisburg, WV
Welcome to Hopkinsville, KY for the Solar Eclipse
Chunky, Mississippi
Ran into a HUGE flock of migrating snow geese in central Arkansas
West, Texas
The swamp of Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA
A place called Gnaw Bone in Indiana
Chicago LIVE in Cincinnati. First time I had seen them in over 40 years
Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK
Duck Commander HQ, home of Duck Dynasty in West Monroe, LA
West Virginia’s Capitol Building in Charleston, WV
One of over 50 waterfals in Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Tallest wall mural in US “Once in a Millenium Moon” is 14 stories tall…in Shreveport, LA
Chief Wacinton in Paducah, KY was one of three Peter Toth Whispering Giants I visited this year.
Forest, Mississippi Fire Department
The New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
Pittsburgh, PA at night
Chief Little Owl, one of three Peter Toth Whispering Giants. This one is in Bethany Beach, Delaware
King’s Island Amusement Park north of Cincinnati, OH
Village of Story, IN
Post Office in Happy, KY
The Shack Burger Resort – amazingly quirky and fun – in Cypress, TX
Caught the Sand Hill Migration in early January near Cecilia, KY
The Indian River Inlet Bridge between Maryland and Delaware
The Happy Bible Church in Happy, KY
A section of the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Big Monster at Big Mike’s Rock shop near Cave City, KY
Genesee Falls at Letchworth State Park, near Castile, New York
The Inlet Indian, dedicated to the Assateague tribe, is in Ocean City, MD and is one of three of Peter Toth’s Whispering Giants visited in 2017
Capitol Building in Indianapolis, IN
Big Stone Gap, VA
Pal’s Sudden Service in Bristol, TN
Found a Canadian in Oklahoma
The CastlePost Castle near Versailles, KY
Found a nice beach on Lake Erie… Presque Isle State Park
Big Paul Bunyan in Nitro, WV
Hanging with Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
The “diamond ring” effect begins as seen from Hopkinsville, KY
Large Saturn Rocket at Welcome Center in Elkmont, Alabama
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Historic Downtown Cairo, IL
Fall Colors over the Red River Gorge in Kentucky
Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, TX (Home of the TV Show Fixer Upper)
We slept in Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge, WV
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park on Easter Morning 2017
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY
A place called Donkey in Virginia
Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington, KY
Superman central in Metropolis, IL
Welcome to Missouri
The Hobbit Hole – a unique and quirky shop in Fayetteville, WV
Pop’s BBQ in Morehead, KY
Says it all – Cleveland, OH
Bob Evans Farm HQ – New Albany, OH
Louisville Bridges
Welcome Sign in Indianapolis
Easter Sunrise as seen from Shenandoah National Park

 

 

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O is for Offbeat Oddities – #atozchallenge

For me there is a difference between “Offbeat” and “Quirky.”  I like to look at things that are offbeat as being similar to something conventional or recognizable, but just somewhat off.  On the other hand, quirky is closer to non-conventional and sometimes even absurd (my Q post will focus on Quirky).

Oddville, Kentucky

When I am traveling I love looking at the beauty and nature around me, but I also seek out the offbeat and quirky.  One source I always use to help me find these locations is the Roadside America app. This app covers all 50 states and most of Canada and includes almost anything offbeat, odd, quirky and even downright outlandish and ridiculous. There are literally 1000s of sites and things to find and this makes for something fun on a roadtrip.

Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Mushroom House front side

So, what do I mean by offbeat?  Let’s take houses for instance.  The normal home is brick and mortar, or a trailer home.  But how about a flying saucer or a house that looks like mushrooms?  A trip to the Cincinnati area offers up both of these.

First, there is a house in Cincinnati literally referred to as the “Mushroom House.”  It is built almost completely out of either natural materials or recycled materials.

It is like a house…it is a house.  But it certainly looks different than the “normal” human abode.

A view of Cincinnati’s Mushroom House
Beam Me Up Scotty at the Front Door of Futuro House

Then there are the homes that look like flying saucers.  Called “Futuro” homes, there were many built in the 1960s by a company in Finland.

Across the river from Cincinnati, on a hill in Covington, KY overlooking the Ohio River and US Interstate 75, sits a Futuro House.  It is in a regular neighborhood and stands out like a sore thumb.  If you look carefully off to your right from the Interstate driving south out of Cincinnati right after crossing the Ohio River, you will see it.

The Futuro House in Covington, KY
Beer Can House, Houston, TX

Finally, take a tripdown to Houston for another Offbeat house…the house built totally out of Beer Cans!

Basically done as an art project, this house is also lived in and is built out of 1000s of aluminum beer cans.

I think the owner’s name must be Bud Weiser??

Beer Can House Front
Beer Can House
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon

But houses aren’t the only offbeat places.  If one looks hard the discovery of offbeat eateries can also come to the fore.  Like the houses, these are normal in most respects, but there is just something a tad different.

For instance, there is a great place in Portland, Oregon called Voodoo Doughnut.  The main shop (yes, there are now a few of them) is located downtown and there are lines there 24/7.  They make a great variety of doughnuts and even a few offbeat ones, such as the actual Voodoo Doughnut, which is a person shaped doughnut, covered with chocolate and filled with raspberry filling.  It is stabbed with a pretzel stick…yes, like a Voodoo Doll!

The Voodoo Doll – Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stick!
It is no wonder there are always lines at Voodoo Doughnut – 24/7

Then there is the other offbeat thing…the original shop also has a chapel and some of the bakers are ALSO ordained ministers.  You can be married at Voodoo Doughnut legally and be surrounded by chapel-esque stained glass and everything!

Voodoo Doughnut Stained Glass
Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

Head on over to Missouri for another unique treat.  There is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri (and another near Branson) called Lambert’s Cafe.  These huge facilities cater to tourists and buses.  They offer a variety of yummy meals and have a few things served “home style” – wheeled in on carts and served out of pots at the table (including black-eyed peas, potatoes, tomato stew and more).

But what really makes them famous are their “Throwed Rolls.” And this is where they fit into the Offbeat category.  Literally, they come to the middle of an area in the restaurant, ask who wants rolls and then throw them across the room to you.  You miss them, too bad…

Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
The Throwed Rolls with Sorghum – yummy!

Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…

Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Sumoflam and MSR Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

Convention gets thrown out the door when visiting a facility just outside of Nekoma, ND.  There is a huge cement pyramid in the middle of nowhere.  Seemingly deserted (but fenced off), this used to be an old military facility.

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.  The pyramid included radar and other defense systems.  Now unused, it sits in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota and is an imposing offbeat site.

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND

And a bank is a bank is a bank…right?  What about one for tightwads?

Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
National Mustard Museum Sign, Middleton, WI

Next are museums.  There are hundreds of museums in the United States, but some are more offbeat and unique than others.  Take the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.  Chock full of mustards from around the world, one can buy a lifetime supply of mustards and never have the same flavor twice.

The original Mustard Museum was located in Mt. Horeb, WI, but later moved to Middleton, to be in a much larger facility. A condiment lover’s  dream.

Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin
MBA Degree (Master of Bad Attitude) from the Mustard Museum’s Poupon University (Poupon U)

There are also other fun museums out there.  How about these?

Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum
Sumoflam at Spam Museum in Austin, MN
Spam Museum Billboard – Austin, MN
Spam Museum – Austin, MN
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013 – Blackfoot, ID
World’s Largest Potato Chip – 23″ x 14.5″ at the Idaho Potato Museum

And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”

Visiting Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront in Seattle
This guy greets you at the door at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA

Finally, what’s in a town?  There are some offbeat towns out there.  Many towns have unique names, but some of these are really offbeat and odd.

Odd, West Virginia Post Office
Oddville United Methodist Church, Oddville, KY
Peculiar, Missouri
A Peculiar Church

Some are totally Uncertain….

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!

And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.

DISH Town Hall, DISH, Texas
DISH, Texas

Indeed, there is much offbeat in America and this is just a small sampling of the savory and unsavory offbeat oddities of our wonderful country.  Is there anything Normal?

Normal, IL

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