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
Moon Township, PA
Muscovy Duck – Damascus, Virginia
Mammy’s Cupboard – Natchez, Mississippi
Mail Pouch Barns – Brinkhaven, Ohio; Friendly, West Virginia; Hargett, Kentucky
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield – Brownsville, Tennessee
Mr. Roger’s T-Rex Statue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mountain Bluebird – The Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Mac the Moose – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Monument Valley – Utah
Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, Ontario
Melt Eclectic Cafe – Cincinnati, Ohio
Metal Green Bay Packer – Pagac’s Bar – Ashland, Wisconsin
Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico
Midlothian Castle – Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Home of Mayberry – Mount Airy, North Carolina
Mount Rainier National Park – Greenwater, Washington
Migrating Snow Geese – Arkansas
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Mickey Mantle Statue – Commerce, Oklahoma
Memorial Falls near Great Falls, Montana
Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Dinosaur Tracks – Moenave, Arizona
Mama Santa Pizzeria – Little Eatery – Cleveland, Ohio
Montour Trail – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Miner’s Memorial Mural – Ironwood, Michigan
Mt. Fuji – near Fujinomiya, Japan
Multnomah Falls – Multnomah County, Oregon
Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Memphis Egg – Memphis, Tennessee
Mothman Museum – Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mel’s Diner – San Francisco, California
Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop – Mapleton, Ontario
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.
The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!
Here is a map that includes many of the places:
During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.
A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.
We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.
Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.
Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.
The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.
Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below. I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!
During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.
In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!
During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna, where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.
Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story” was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.
Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family. I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!
During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.
It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.
Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.
On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY. Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.
Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:
As noted in my previous post about Prosperity/Canonsburg/Washington areas of Pennsylvania (see post HERE), we took an afternoon with my wife’s sister and her family to take a drive around Pittsburgh. Obviously, an afternoon does no justice to a large beautiful city like this, but that was all the time we had. Fortunately, I have been to Pittsburgh before and have knocked out a few places worth visiting (see my post which includes some Pittsburgh sites HERE).
Our drive took us past the amazing glass structure built by PPG — their headquarters. Some call it the “Glass Castle” and indeed, it looks like one.
Actually named PPG Place, this amazing building is one of six structures designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee and completed in 1984. The six buildings cover three city blocks and five and a half acres. All of the buildings are of matching glass design consisting of 19,750 pieces of glass. The complex centers on One PPG Place, a 40-story office building.
We also crossed over the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge, named for the 60’s era Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. We passed by the Andy Warhol Museum (but didn’t stop to visit).
A study in 2006 noted that there were 446 bridges in Pittsburgh thus giving the town the nickname “The City of Bridges.” Of course, not all of them are the massive structures crossing the three major rivers. There are nine or ten prominent bridges, including the Clemente, which is one of the “Three Siblings,” which are three parallel, nearly identical self-anchored suspension bridges that cross the Allegheny River at 6th, 7th, and 9th streets. They were named for prominent Pittsburgh residents: Roberto Clemente Bridge, Andy Warhol Bridge, and Rachel Carson Bridge.
After driving around a bit, we headed to the Monongahela Incline to take a ride up Mt. Washington, a hill that provides amazing panoramic views of Pittsburgh. This proved to be the highlight of this trip.
The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S. It opened on May 28, 1870, and has since then transported millions of passengers. Built at a cost of $50,000, the incline opened up Mount Washington to development, enabling people to live 600 feet above the city and still have easy access to factories and businesses along the river.
At one time Pittsburgh had 15 inclines. Today the Monongahela and its younger sister the Duquesne (about a mile away) are the only ones that remain. The cars are not self-powered, and do not even have operators on board. Instead, they are pulled up and down the inclined track by a cable driven by an engine in the upper station, where the operator works. The cars operate in pairs, permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable, with one going uphill and the other going downhill simultaneously. The cars therefore counterbalance each other, so the engine needs to provide only enough power to overcome friction and the difference in the weight of the passengers in the two cars.
The ride up the hill is about 635 feet and climbs a little over 365 feet in altitude at a grade of about 35 degrees. At its max speed of 6 miles per hour, the ride takes about three or four minutes. There is no air conditioning in the buildings or on the actual trains. So, on a hot day like we experienced, it was a warm wait.
Each car holds about 23 people, with room for about 8 persons in each section of the car. It is certainly something I would want to sit down on rather than stand in. The view from the window can be kind of scary.
Once atop Mt. Washington, the view is breathtaking with expansive views of the three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio) and the many bridges over these rivers.
While at the top, we took in the view, walked over to DiFiore’s for an ice cream treat and a rest. From there I caught sight of an amazing wall mural. Titled “Bloom,” this giant mural was painted by Gerard Tonti in October 2007. This is one of a number of large Art Murals funded by the Sprout Public Art project of Pittsburgh. According to the website Pittsburgh Murals and Public Art, there were 32 original Sprout murals, but there are many more throughout the 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Looks like my next trip may be a mural hunt!!! (Pittsburgh Murals has created a great spreadsheet for the mural/public art seeker HERE.)
Also while driving along the top of Mt. Washington we came across a lovely statue sitting on the edge of the hill (at Greenbriar Avenue and Sweetbriar Street). Titled “Point of View,” this 2006 bronze sculpture by James A. West depicts George Washington and the Seneca leader Guyasuta, with their weapons down, in a face-to-face meeting in October 1770, when the two men met while Washington was in the area examining land for future settlement along the Ohio River.
That pretty much ended the day trip to Pittsburgh for us. It was fun, but certainly warrants another visit in the near future.