April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Overview – Kentucky to Washington

Sumoflam on the Road Again

In April 2018 I took a nice long road trip from my home in Lexington, Kentucky to my daughter’s home in Port Orchard, Washington and back.  Though I was gone for 15 days, I spent nine of them traveling more than 6000 miles through 14 states.  Many of my stops were in anticipation of my new book as I wanted some fresh content to add to it.

Lots of great two-lanes on this trip

In the past, I typically wrote one or two huge blog posts about long roadtrips, but, I have decided that a focus on some of the sites would be more apropos, so I am providing a general overview of my trip herein with maps and a few photos.  Following there will be a number of posts about many of the places I visited along the way.

Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa – about 900 miles on Day 1 and 2

DAY 1/2 – Lexington to Storm Lake, Iowa

Stopped to see Peter Toth’s Whispering Giants

My first two days were quite eventful as I drove nearly 900 miles with an overnight stay in Bloomington, IL and then proceeded northwest to Storm Lake, Iowa for night two.  The weather was rainy and yucky most of the way and by the afternoon of Day 2, had turned into snow and, in some cases, blizzard-like conditions.  Not fun!

I had very few stops along the way, with the only planned stops being at four locations to see four of Peter Toth’s amazing Whispering Giants.  My next post will be all about the Whispering Giants I visited on this trip and also in past trips.

Stopped at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois and was pleasantly surprised
If driving through northeast Iowa, a stop at the home of American Pickers is always fun.
Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota – about 680 miles

 

Day 3 – Storm Lake, Iowa to Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Dignity is a stainless steel, 50-foot-tall statue was specifically designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people.

Day 3 was really one of my typical road trip days with plenty of stops along the way, but it was slowed down considerably due to the snow and icy conditions.  Despite that, I visited places such as the Corn Palace (a required stop on a route like this as it changes each year), Wall Drug and a few in between.  The highlight of this day was seeing the amazing (and fairly new) fifty foot tall Dignity statue at a rest area overlooking Chamberlain and Oacoma, South Dakota.  The work was meticulous and lovely.

The Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche, SD

I decided to stay at a non-chain older Motel on this night and ended up at the cozy little Sunset Motel.  In fact, I got there about sunset and was even able to grab a photo of the sunset with the Sunset Motel sign.  This is the kind of motel that still has a real key on an old plastic diamond key holder.

Can’t skip the Corn Palace – a major roadside attraction. Changes every year.
Can’t skip the 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino!!
Day 4 – Belle Fourche, SD to Wallace, Idaho

Day 4 – Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Wallace, Idaho

Snowy morning in Belle Fourche

I woke up to a cold, snowy morning in Belle Fourche on April 5. It was a concern as I knew I would need to be driving through a mountain range across southern Montana on US 212.  Fortunately, the roads weren’t bad until I got up on the pass and then they cleared up with occasional snow showers through Billings, Bozeman and Butte.  I was slowed down somewhat, so I ended up stopping in the small mountain town of Wallace, Idaho for the night.

Snow in Broadus, Montana
Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho

Once again, I stayed at a cool little motel called the Stardust Motel, ironically in the same room number I had the night before. In both cases, I did not request the room numbers.

Wallace is a really unique, touristy town nestled in the Idaho mountains.  I’ll have a blog post about this town over the next couple of weeks.

I did get to see some beautiful scenery on the trip and even visited my old high school in Bozeman, Montana as I made my way north towards Idaho.

Snow covered Teepees in Crow Agency, Montana
The interstate near Livingston, Montana
Men’s restroom door in Northern Cheyenne country – Ashland, Montana
Road Trip Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Day 5 – Wallace, Idaho to Port Orchard, Washington

Sumoflam and Roger Vollmer, former boss from Nava-Hopi tours.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting an old friend and former boss from my days as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ in the 1980s.  Roger Vollmer, who later purchased and then sold the company, now resides in upper Idaho and I was able to drop by Cracker Barrel in Coeur d’Alene and have a nice breakfast and a couple of hours of reminiscing.  Honestly, Roger really helped me lay the foundation in my work ethic and I had a blast working with him.  It was good to see him.

The US 2 Sign at Stevens Pass in Washington

Another great part of this portion of my road trip was hitting US Route 2 from Coeur d’Alene and traveling it all the way to the end in Everett, Washington.  I have now traveled that highway from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Washington.  I still have a small portion from Eastern Michigan to Ironwood and about 450 miles from Maine to New York to be able to say have driven the entire length.  I have driven all of US 66 and all of US 89 at one time or another.

US 2 from Spokane west goes through Washington’s high desert and then eventually into the Cascades and up over Steven’s Pass, which still had snow on both sides of the highway, almost six feet deep in places.  It was spectacular!

A snowy stop sign at Steven’s Pass in Washington
The view of the Cascades as seen from the Skykomish / Gold Bar area of Washington, east of Everett.

Upon arrival in Port Orchard, I spent a week with my daughter and her family.  We took the ferry into Seattle, I traveled with grandchildren to see the rocky beaches and watch seagulls.  Following are just a couple of pics from the visit.

With some of the karvings at Kountry Krazy Kreatures in Kingston, WA
Seattle as seen from Manchester, WA
Granddaughter Livvy poses in the rocks
A seagull gathers clams in Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard
Also saw this bald eagle flyover me at Sinclair Inlet
Some of the buildings of downtown Seattle
A beach scene in Manchester, WA

Finally, early on Saturday, April 14, I was back on the road, heading south towards Portland and eventually east, to spend the night in Bend, Oregon.

Port Orchard, WA to Bend, Oregon

Travel Day 6 – Port Orchard, Washington to Bend, Oregon

As with some of my other travel days, I had to deal with rain and fog for the first part of the trip.  I had hoped for a fun drive down part of US 101 and, despite the weather, I really had a great drive, even if I only drive about 450 miles.  Unlike some of the other drives, I enjoyed forests, mountains, snow, ocean scenes and eventually high desert scenes.  I also made a stop in Olympia, Washington’s state capital, and visited some friends for breakfast.  I’ll have separate posts about Olympia and its awesome wall art/murals.  I’ll also have a nice post about the town of Raymond, Washington.

One of many murals in Olympia, WA
Raymond, WA has an entire community of lifesize metal people
Zigzag, Oregon
US 101 near Allyn, WA
Ran into Bigfoot in Allyn, WA. At least he was smiling
Drove over Mt. Hood highway heading southeast out of Portland
The high deserts of central Oregon are lovely.

Travel Day 7 – Bend, Oregon to Murray, Utah

Day 7: Driving from Bend to Murray, UT thru Nevada

Day 7 of  my driving days was a long day through nearly 750 miles of high desert through Oregon and Nevada.  My destination was my old hometown of Murray, Utah.  The drive from Bend, OR to Denio, NV is pretty much through high desert.  I took the Frenchglen Highway, which was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day. really not many places to stop along the way.  I’ll have a separate post about the Frenchglen Highway (including Brothers, Frenchglen and Fields).  It had also been over 40 years since I had set foot in Nevada, so it was fun to get travel blog photos.  I spent the night at the home of one of my best friends and had dinner with some of my high school friends and their wives.  Great times!

Standing in the middle of the road…no cars..on the Frenchglen Highway in central Oregon
Another scene from SE Oregon
Finally back in Nevada…at Denio, NV
Downtown Winnemucca, NV
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
Hanging with Friends

Travel Day 8 – Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado

Travel Day 8 – Murray, UT to Manitou Springs, CO
Hitting the Colorado border

Day 8 of travel was another long  day as I drove nearly 600 miles from Murray, Utah to Manitou Springs, Colorado. This day once again took me through deserts, high deserts, mountain passes and into some beautiful country. I hit the town of Helper, UT which is nestled in a canyon and was a railroad and mining town.  Also passed through Price.  When working for a record and tape rack jobber back in 1974-75, I made weekly trips to Helper and Price.  Things have changed considerably. Crescent Junction had a unique place, Papa Joe’s, which I’ll write about separately.

Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction – fun “tourist trap”
Soldier Summit, UT between Spanish Fork, UT and Price, UT on US Rt. 6. Elevation 7,477
Another Whispering Giant by Peter Toth, in Murray, UT

The drive from Grand Junction through Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Buena Vista was absolutely beautiful (US Hwy 50), especially going over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet in altitude. On the way down the hill towards Poncha Springs I even go to see a couple of mountain goats crossing the roads.

Once again, I stayed in a local motel.  Always interesting.

 

Monarch Pass – the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet in Colorado
Just barely was able to whip out the camera to catch this mountain goat
Old Hotel Neon in Helper, Utah
A scene from US 50 in Colorado near Cimarron
Mule deer taken near Poncha Springs, CO
US 50 East of Gunnison near Monarch, CO
Stayed at the Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs

Travel Day 9 – Manitou Springs, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri

Day 9 drive from Manitou Springs, CO to Kansas City, MO
Entering Kansas on US 40 near Weskan, Kansas

Talk about a long, straight drive.  Made the trip from Manitou Springs, after a visit to Garden of the Gods, (which I’ll write about in a separate post), and went through the deserts of eastern Colorado and Western Kansas on a super windy and dusty day.  Did catch a pretty amazing sunset as a result of the dust storms.  I decided to really go back roads on this leg of the trip by taking the straight as an arrow drive on Colorado Hwy 94 through Yoder, Rush and Punkin Center.  The highway eventually met US Hwy 287 near Wild Horse, CO. Basically, the highway was 85.5 miles long running almost perfectly west to east the entire length.

Garden of the Gods near Manitou Springs
Colorado Hwy 94 – 85 miles of straight highway in the middle of nowhere
Punkin Center, Colorado

I finally got to stop at a place to eat in Kit Carson, Colorado and then continued east on US 40 in Kansas through Cheyenne Wells, Sharon Springs and Oakley, where I got on to Interstate 70 to finish up the ride into Kansas City.   I was fortunate to stay with my good friend Brad Sweeten in KC.

Lunch at Kit Carson Trading Post
Kansas Sunset near Abilene, Kansas

Travel Day 10 – Kansas City, Missouri to home in Lexington, Kentucky

Travel Day 10 – the last leg. Kansas City, Missouri to Lexington, Kentucky
Driving with the windows open and the wind blowing through my hair

On the last day it was pretty much straight through driving. I enjoyed another beautiful sunrise east of Kansas City and then just made my way home with a couple of restroom and gas stops along the way.  What a long, wonderful trip it was!

Over 6000 miles, 14 states, 5 motels, lots of friends and time with family. I traveled through blizzards, rainstorms, snow covered mountain passes, high desert, long lonely highways. Enjoyed sunsets, sunrises, good meals at local places.  Saw eagles, mountain goats, mule deer, hawks and assortment of water fowl.  And, of course, a variety of roadside attractions along the way.

Back in Kentucky
The Shelbyville Horse at the Kentucky Welcome Center near Shelbyville

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

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, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late May or early June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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