A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]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.

ABanner600

The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

IBanner

The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

KBanner

The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

LBanner

The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

PBanner

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

 

QBanner

The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

RBanner

The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

SBanner

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

 

TBanner

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

 

UBanner

The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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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

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

YBanner

The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

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The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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A to Z Challenge: The M 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

MThe M Towns

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
Ahhh..trolls
Ahhh..trolls
Another Mt. Horeb Troll - for good measure
A Mt. Horeb Troll – for good measure
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI

There is no better place to catch some trolls than in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a “Trollway” along Wisconsin Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road. Many of these were created by local artist Michael Feeney. We found a few on our visit….  Click here for a nice map of the town, with all of the trolls and other attractions.  Click HERE to read more about my 2012 visit and see more trolls.

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Balloons and more
Balloons and more
Roadsign art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville

Traveling Interstate 79 North towards Pittsburgh, you can hop off of Exit 147 onto US Highway 19 and head towards Meadville.  Not too far off from there you will run into something interesting.  Along the road there is a giant menagerie of roadside art…all made from repurposed roadsigns that PennDOT had donated. Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322.  See more photos and more of the story HERE.

Metropolis, Illinois

Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
"Super" Family Trip - Metropolis, Illinois
“Super” Family Trip – Metropolis, Illinois
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL

Many of us have grown up hearing the name “Metropolis” and associating with the big city that Superman.  Well, there is actually a town in Illinois called Metropolis and they celebrate their Superman status with an entire town square dedicated to Superman and a newspaper called the Planet. See more in my post about Metropolis from 2012 HERE.

Marshfield, Wisconsin

Jurustic Park
Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Marshfield, Wisconsin is located just north of US Highway 10 smack in the middle of Wisconsin.  And, about four miles north of Marshfield, you can turn off onto Wisconsin Highway 97 and then onto Highway E on the north edge of Marshfield at the Wal-Mart stoplight. Go north past Menards 3 1/2 miles to Sugarbush Lane for 1/2 mile and you will see strange metal sculptures — you are then at Jurustic Park, the brainchild of former attorney Clyde Wynia. Once you get there and park, you will likely be met by Clyde and he will give you the ultimate tour, tell you the stories (both real and made up all intermingled) and will demonstrate and explain some of his nearly 1000 pieces.  I asked him how many he has made and he said he has never counted them!! Jurustic Park is a MUST SEE destination if you are anywhere near. See my detailed post from 2012 about Clyde and Jurustic Park HERE.

Moenave, Arizona

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.

In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Many of my tours took visitors to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona.  One of first stops on these specific trips was at a little place known as Moenave, which is just off of US Highway 160 a few miles east of US Highway 89 north of Flagstaff.  Not too far up Hwy 160 on the left there is a turn off to the Dinosaur Tracks.  This spot on the Navajo Nation may be one of the most well preserved dinosaur track fossils around and, with probably close to 200 tracks, it may also be one of the biggest sites.  The site has become so popular, that the Navajo Nation may soon be creating a small visitor center and a fence to protect the site from vandals.  Currently you can still visit these for free, but it is advisable to leave a tip to the kind Navajo folk that “guide” you among the tracks.  Bear in mind that you’ll need to take what they claim about the tracks with a grain of salt.  Though paleontologists have verified these as authentic, there are no T-Rex tracks and no dinosaur poop on the site.  Just a number of three toed tracks.

Mystic, Connecticut

Welcome to Mystic, CT
Welcome to Mystic, CT
Mystic, CT signpost
Mystic, CT signpost
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

Connecticut offer many unique treasures, and one of them is most certainly Mystic, which sits on US Highway 1, just south of I-95.  The town is on the Block Island Sound and is not too far from the northeastern stretches of Long Island in New York.  We visited Mystic in 2015 as part of our New England visit/adventure.  I was more interested in seeing the site of the 1980s movie Mystic Pizza, but also found that the small town has an awesome seaport with some tall sail ships, a fairly well known (though expensive) aquarium, a submarine museum, and even a nearby dinosaur park in Montville.  It certainly deserves more than the couple of hours we devoted to the town. By the way, we have heard that you don’t want to try the pizza.  But, I would advise you try the Thai at the 4 Roosevelt Bistro, which we discovered on our drive into Mystic and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there.  It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy.  See more details of our visit to Mystic an other areas in New England HERE.

Montrose, South Dakota

Porter's Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
Porter’s Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter's Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image

Back in 2013 I was on a return trip home from Idaho with my wife.  We had left Mitchell, South Dakota (see below) were driving east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls.  Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site.  I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me.  For some reason I had overlooked this one!!   You can see more about my trip HERE.

Minot, North Dakota

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Once again, in the Dakotas, there is so much to see.  On a 2014 trip west to Montana, I made a stop in Minot, ND, which is on US Highway 2 in western North Dakota. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.  You can see more about this trip across North Dakota on US Highway 2 HERE.

Mitchell, South Dakota

World's Only Corn Palace
World’s Only Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
The Corn Palace - 2013
The Corn Palace – 2013

Back in South Dakota again, you can’t miss out on the Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD.  It is one of those iconic must see roadside attractions. Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921.  Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here.  Definitely worth a visit if you are on Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota.

Mapleton, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese
Taxidermy and Cheese all in one stop!

The small community of Mapleton, Ontario is one of those “blink you miss it places.  However, it is also one of those unique and offbeat places, featuring the Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop.  See my 2012 post for more details HERE.

Medina, New York (Honorable Mention)

Big Apple Medina, NY
Big Apple Medina, NY
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal

Clear up in northern New York, not too far from Niagara Falls, is a small town called Medina which is home to TWO unique oddities. The most well known is the Culvert Road Tunnel, which is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not (one of my site sponsors) featured site. This is the only place one can “cross” the Erie Canal by going UNDER it!!  Also, if you thought the Big Apple was in New York City, think again, the real Big Apple sits beside a bridge.  The apple was sculpted by artist Richard D. Banninster in 1999.  See my whole 2008 story about both attractions HERE.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Honorable Mention)

Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Back up in Canada, the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home of the world’s largest moose statue, named Mac the Moose.  I first visited there as a high school junior for a band tour in the 1970s BEFORE the moose.  I once again made my way to Moose Jaw in 2007.  Touted as the World’s Largest Moose, Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons.  He was made by Saskatoon artist Don Foulds in 1984. Mac is considered to be one of the most photographed roadside attractions in all of Canada.  See more about my 2007 visit HERE.

Mars, Pennsylvania (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to Mars
Welcome to Mars
Mars, PA
Mars, PA

Finally, for you outer space and alien lovers, you can visit Mars, Pennsylvania and see their out of this world spaceship in the city park downtown.  Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, which is actually the “Fightin’ Planets.” See my post about Mars HERE.

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Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Back Roads Travel with Family – Pt 2

Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999
Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999

This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them.  You can see Part 1 here.

During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.

Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky 1996
Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky July 4, 1997
Kid s with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1996
Kids with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1997

The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more.  This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world.  She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)

St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997

The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other.  It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.

View of downtown St. Louis form the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997
View of downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997
View of Capital Building from top of St. Louis Arch, taken Sept. 1997
View of Capital Building from the Gateway Arch, taken Sept. 1997

Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998.  This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe.  Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed.  At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France.  Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris.  Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)

Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey Chocolate World
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey’s Chocolate World, June 1998

We took three trips to the east during 1998.  The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility.  While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail.  Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us.  In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.

Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Eaton, PA
Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Easton, PA

From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit).  It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.

Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA
Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA

So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.).  This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off.  But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents.  It was pretty “in-tents”!!

Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998

We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one.  However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.

Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998

We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……

National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998
National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998

Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip.  But, it was not the last trip east.  A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa.  Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background.  Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.

Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998
Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998

Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!

Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998
Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998

In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University.  While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia.  We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West  as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…

Abe Lincoln Monument near Laramie, Wyoming 1999
Abe Lincoln Monument at Summit Rest Area on I-80 near Laramie, Wyoming Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s.  Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s. Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ  in late 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ Dec. 30, 1999

A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Akela Flats, NM near Deming - Dec. 22, 1999
Akela Flats, NM near Deming – Dec. 22, 1999

Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff.  In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky.  I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.

Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999
Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999

During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio.  Giant picnic basket!

Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000

The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us.  Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips.  We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.

On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum.  We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Family visits "Sue" the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Family visits “Sue” the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum.
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum

Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!

Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001

Travel continued that year with a couple more trips.  Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites.  Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.


View Larger Map – Map of our 2001 trip to Nauvoo

Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001

In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana.  This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory.  The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001

From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument.  This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.

Traveling in the van, Summer 2001
Traveling in the van, Summer 2001

Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites.  Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.

Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer's Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001
Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer’s Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001

From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy.  Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln).  We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.

Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois.
Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois

There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.

The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001.
The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL

On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).

Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2000
Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001

On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds.  When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…

My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children's Museum in 2013
My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children’s Museum in 2013

The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan.  Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved.  Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.

Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, Utah
Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, CO, summer 2002

In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents.  It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.

Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002
Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002

With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things.  Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.

Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).

Traveling Siblings - Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in July 2004
Traveling Siblings – Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in August 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota, summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant (HO HO HO) in Blue Earth, Minnesota, August 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN July 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004

We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005.  I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters.  By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings.  In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.

Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005

After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana.  This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way.  Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!!  We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)

June 2005 "Montana Wedding" Roadtrip
June 2005 HUGE “Montana Wedding” Roadtrip

Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously.  It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.

Roadside guidance provided by……

Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days.  We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province.  We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well.  We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well.  But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun.  Here are a few of the better shots.  So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!!  Many memories were made…

Millenium Park, Chicago
The kids at Anish Kappor’s “Cloud Gate in Millenium Park in Chicago. June 2005
Say Cheese
Say Cheese – We were in Wisconsin after all – June 2005
Pink Elephant, DeForest, WI
Marissa outdoing Seth (who visited in 2004) at the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI – June 2005 (By the way, Marissa’s favorite animal has always been the elephant)
Solomon in Minnesota
Solomon in Minnesota – June 2005
Space Aliens Bar and Grill
Seth and Solomon finish off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens Bar and Grill near St. Cloud, MN

Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN.  The second day was another doozy….

Largest Pile of Cans - Casselton, ND
Marissa at World’s Largest Pile of Cans in Casselton, ND. This has since been taken down. June 2005

Along with visits to some of the “World’s Biggest” things (the giant Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, MN, the giant Sand Crane in Steele, ND and the giant Buffalo in Jamestown, ND), we also visited the world’s largest Holstein Cow “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota.  This was utterly fun!

Salem Sue in North Dakota
Milkin’ it for all its worth at “Salem Sue” statue in New Salem, North Dakota – June 2005

We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest.  The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…

Glacier National Park
Seth, Julianne (who flew out) and Marissa enjoy the expansive views at Glacier National Park in Montana. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Chiptymonk
Solomon tries to feed a “chiptymonk” in Glacier National Park in Montana – June 2005

The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004).  We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….

Marissa and Seth's Last Stand at the location whereGeorge Custer is buried at Little Big Horn National Monument, Montana June 2005
Marissa and Seth’s Last Stand at the location where George Custer is buried at Little Bighorn National Battlefield, Montana June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana.  A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana. A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Stoneville Saloon
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks, Lousy Food, Conveniently located in the Middle of Nowhere….
Mt. Rushmore, SD
Marissa shows off Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota – June 2005

After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.

Jackalope at Wall Drug, SD
Solomon rides a Jackalope at Wall Drug in Wall, SD
Wall Drug, SD
Mt. Sethmore at Wall Drug in South Dakota – June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota - June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota – June 2005
Cactus Flats, SD
Marissa feeds the prairie dogs at Cactus Flats, SD
The "Soulman" withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD - June 2005
The “Soulman” withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD – June 2005
Corn Palace, MItchell, SD
Marissa at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD – June 2005

After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways.  We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area.  After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest.  We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip…  then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.

Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad
Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad – June 24, 2005

And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz.  The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!

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