A to Z Challenge: The F 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

F The F Towns

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 - taken in Arizona. Nava-Hopi was located in Flagstaff, AZ
Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 – taken in Arizona. Nava-Hopi was located in Flagstaff, AZ
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff
My son Seth at Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff in 1992
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

I cannot do an A to Z Challenge about towns in America without including Flagstaff, Arizona.  Not only is this town the gateway to Grand Canyon National Park, it is also the jump off spot to other National Monuments including Walnut Canyon NM, Sunset Crater NM, Wupatki NM, Montezuma Castle NM, Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon, and the amazing Meteor Crater.  The town is only  a couple of hours from Monument Valley, the Petrified Forest National Park, Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell and more.  Truly a tourist haven.  And, it was a major stop on Route 66 and was at the intersection of US Highway 89 and Route 66.   From 1981 to 1983 I worked as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours, which was a  Gray Line Tour Company.  It was there that my family began to grow…three children were born there and I graduated from Northern Arizona University.   But one of the best times in my life was working as a tour guide.  For any traveler in America, Flagstaff should be one of the Top Five stops on your list!!

Friendly, West Virginia

Friendly, West Virginia
Friendly, West Virginia
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV

Friendly, West Virginia is a small town of maybe 150 people.  Located on the Ohio River across from Ohio on WV Hwy 2.  Highway 2 is an amazingly scenic drive along the Ohio River, running through many small towns.  Its only rival is the same route across the river in Ohio and Kentucky (see Fly, OH below).  The town is also the setting for the novel Shiloh, a Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor published in 1991. It is the first in a quartet about a young boy and the title character, an abused dog. Naylor decided to write Shiloh after an emotionally taxing experience in West Virginia where she encountered an abused dog. Read more about the drives along the Ohio River in my detailed post HERE.

Friendship, Arkansas

Friendship, Arkansas
Friendship, Arkansas
FriendshipAR3
Friendship Police
Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office
Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office

If I visited Friendly, obviously, I should also visit Friendship in Arkansas. This is another small community of perhaps 200 friendly folks in south central Arkansas.  It is accessible off of Interstate 30, but is right on US Highway 67. They even have a Friendship Police Department which seems like an oxymoron.  If for any other reason, you can stop there and then tell people that you finally found Friendship.  Read about my 2010 visit to Friendship (as well as Metropolis, IL which will be covered in my M Towns post HERE.

Flippin, Arkansas

Flippin, Arkansas
Flippin, Arkansas
Flippin Police
Flippin Police
Old Flippin Jailhouse
Old Flippin Jailhouse
Flippin Christian Church
Flippin Christian Church

In 2010 I took a trip to Texas for work.  On the way home I decided to take a trip through the Ozarks.  It was a bit out of the way, but was well worth it.  One of the places I visited on the way home was Flippin, Arkansas. This nice town is located in north central Arkansas, east of Eureka Springs (which I mentioned on my E Towns post) on US 412.  It is the gateway to the Ozarks and a lovely drive.  But, then again, many of us know that the word “Flippin” can be used as an alternative to another word, so when the Flippin Police pull you over and you go to the Flippin Jail or even attend church at the Flippin Christian Church or shop at your friendly Flippin WalMart, it brings a laugh.

Fair Play, South Carolina

Fair Play SC
Fair Play, SC
Fair Play Menagerie
A really interesting Church Sign in Fair Play, SC

On August 8, 2012 I was on a trip from eastern Tennessee to Atlanta for work.  Along the way I went through North and South Carolina and happened to go through Fair Play, South Carolina.  Not sure how the town got its name, but there is something about the name coming from a fight. Interestingly, throughout most of this small town, the Motto “Our Name Says It All” is posted.  The photo on the left is the main entry sign.  The town is just off of Interstate 85 and is the junction of SC Hwys 243, 182 and 59.  You can read more about my visit HERE.

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Downtown Fergus Falls

Continental Divide Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Information Center in Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Information Center in Fergus Falls, MN

On  cross country trip in March 2013, I made my way across Minnesota in the cold snowy winter.  Along the way I visited Fergus Falls.  I think it would be a marvelous place to visit in the late spring or early summer.  Being a prairie town there is plenty of wildlife.  It is also noted as a Continental Divide location.  Having lived in the Rocky Mountains for much of my life, the term Continental Divide conjurs up the place where the rivers flow east or west.  But, apparently, the land is located right on the divide between the Hudson Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.  Fairly unique!!  You can read about the long trip across Minnesota and North Dakota in 2013 HERE.

Feely, Montana (Honorable Mention)

Feely, Montana
Feely, Montana

Came across a place called Feely in Montana on a trip.  It is located south of Butte on Interstate 15. Always into the touchy and feely of life, I had to stop and get a picture. No services there and no report about the place here, just a picture.

Flippin, Kentucky (Honorable mention)

Flippin, Kentucky Post Office
Flippin, Kentucky Post Office

DSC_1131

OK.  If I am going to include Flippin, Arkansas, I might as well give mention to Flippin, Kentucky, which is just north of Bugtussle, KY.  See my report on Bugtussle in my B Towns post.

Fly, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Fly, Ohio
Fly, Ohio

I mentioned Friendly, WV above and the drive along the Ohio River.  Just a tad north of Friendly and across the Ohio River is the small community of Fly, OH.   I know nothing about the place, but it can join Black Gnat, KY in my bug towns.  (I did not include Black Gnat in this year’s A to Z posts).

Four Way, Texas (Honorable mention)

Sign to Four Way, Texas
Sign to Four Way, Texas
Mural in Fourway, Texas
Mural in Four Way, Texas
Another mural in Four Way, TX
Another mural in Four Way, TX

Four Way, Texas is a very small community at a crossroads in the panhandle of Texas north of Amarillo.  I went through there while on US Highway 87 heading to Amarillo. At the junction of US 87 and TX 354, there were some buildings with a few murals.  That is pretty much all that was there.  The hamlet is named for its position on the spot where U.S. Highway 87 from Dumas to Masterson crosses the route from Channing to Lake Meredith and Stinnett.

Future City, IL (Honorable mention)

Sign to Future City, Illinois...I guess it is not there yet??
Sign to Future City, Illinois…I guess it is not there yet??

This is the first nearly ghost town mention in my A to Z Challenge. Future City was developed as a suburb of Cairo, IL, which sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers around the turn of the (19th-20th) century. At that time Cairo was still growing and prosperous. By 1912 Future City would have had a population of several hundreds. Between 1912 and 1913 Future City was almost entirely destroyed by three separate flooding events. The town was  partially rebuilt, but Cairo has since collapsed and the area has experienced a drastic drop in population. Today there are 6 or so occupied homes in Future City’s otherwise empty grid of streets.

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#TBT – Being an Arizona Tour Guide in the 1980s

Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border
Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border

In the early 1980s my young family was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and I was going to school full time at Northern Arizona University. During this time, I had a stroke of luck in landing a job as a tour guide/bus driver for a company called Nava-Hopi Tours (The Gray Line of Flagstaff). (Note: After the 9/11 incidents, NHT had troubles as people didn’t travel and they went out of business in Oct. 2001)

At that time I had already changed my major to History/Geography and this job offered me the opportunity to build on that experience.  It also provided me plenty of time to study as the tourists would be out looking at the sites.  I would drive them to the locations and then would let them meander on their own when we got there. (I was even covered in Arizona Living magazine in 1983 – see my companion post about that on Sumoflam Singlewide blog)

Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 - taken in Arizona
Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 – taken in Arizona

The area around Flagstaff is probably one of the best places around for tourists to see the natural beauty of the southwest.  Just a short drive from Grand Canyon National Park, it is considered the park’s gateway.  Yet, there are a number of other places nearby including 7 National Monuments (Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Navajo, Canyon de Chelly, Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon) and is fairly close to the Petrified Forest National Park.  It is also nearby the Meteor Crater, the Navajo Indian Reservation, the Hopi Indian Reservation, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and more.  Native American culture and history abounds as well as an abundance of natural scenery.

Sumoflam and tourists at Petrified Forest in 1983
Sumoflam and tourists at Petrified Forest in 1983

By this time in my life I was already filled with a wanderlust and desire for travel.  This was truly a dream job and I thrived on it.  I loved the great scenery.  There were places that many folks never knew existed, such as Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation.

Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation
Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation
I revisited Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
I revisited Coal Mine Canyon in 1990

I was always fascinated by my visits to the Hopi Reservation, which sits in the middle of the Navajo Reservation.  The Navajos, though residing in mud hogans (as well as houses), were a tribe that moved around.

Water scene near Tuba City, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, ca. 1982
Water scene near Tuba City, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, ca. 1982

The Hopi, on the other hand, lived in pueblos high on mesas, where they had lived at least since the 1600s.  We frequently took trips to the village of Walpi on my tours.  This place had been lived in for centuries.

Walpi Village
Walpi Village n the Hopi Reservation, much as it looked in the 1980s.

Of course, besides the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon were tourist favorites.  The scenery, the red rocks and the shopping were great draws.  I took over 200 trips there in three years.

Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982

The entrance to Oak Creek Canyon on US 89-A from Flagstaff is a massive drop down on amazing switchbacks.  This drive would scare tourists, especially when in a big charter bus.  I used to tell people to do what I did when I was in the switchbacks — “Close Your Eyes!”  Always got a chuckle….

Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek did have occasional flooding, as in this photo in 1982
Oak Creek did have occasional flooding, as in this photo in 1982

On many trips, I took an alternate route when I just had a van.  We would drive down the extremely scenic (and bumpy dirt road) of Schnebly Hill Road. This drive offered amazing sweeping vistas of the Red Rocks of Sedona.

A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona below.  This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983
A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona below. This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983

There were other hidden treasures such as the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, which is east of the Grand Canyon (and also on the Navajo Reservation) and flows into the Colorado River.

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River
Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca 1984

These falls only run a few days a year and sometimes not at all.  But, when the river is running, these are massively impressive, especially in the middle of the desert.

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca. 1983
Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca. 1983

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a tour guide in the 1980s.  I miss the opportunities to meet folks from all over the world (I took people from every US State and from over 60 countries during my time at Nava-Hopi Tours.)

Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument
Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument in 1983

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