B is for Back Roads – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

I live to travel the back roads of America. These are the core of my travels around the United States and Canada. They always offer the best of everything: scenery, traffic conditions and a myriad of surprises.

 

A gravel road south of Belvidere, SD
A road approaching a checkerboard wheat farm near Cut Bank, MT

To me, the definition of a back road is anything that is not an interstate highway. However, I prefer the kind that are two lane and in many cases don’t even have stripes down the middle. Those are the best! I am even happy to be on a gravel road at times!

In this day of GPS maps and tracking, taking a back road is all the more opportune! If I take a road and get lost, I can typically depend on my GPS to get me back on the road where I’m going.  But, more often than not, I don’t care where I’m going, I just want to see where I’ve been.

Killdeer Road near Athens, WI
Interstate 5 near Sunny Valley, Oregon
Heading into a wind farm near Rugby, ND
On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
A road in the middle of a cornfield near Bloomington, IL

Back roads are the threads and fibers of our country. Many might travel the big interstate to get from one place to another, but sometime along the way they will need to leave the highway and get on to a smaller road to get to their final destination.  For me…the back road is ALWAYS my destination!

Back roads lead to numerous discoveries. I have driven back roads through every state in the United States (except for Alaska — I took a bus in Juneau, so does that count?) and always have come across something unique or interesting.  I have driven through cornfields in Iowa and pineapple groves in Hawaii.  I have seen many a wheat field in Montana and Saskatchewan.  I love driving the roads through the mountains of Colorado, Montana and Idaho, but am just as happy on a desert road in New Mexico or Texas.

The Road through Juneau, Alaska
Following the Amish on a road near Aylmer, Ontario in Canada
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington

Sometimes my back road adventures are planned. I will have learned about something unique in a certain area and will try to go there via a back road. (You may want to check out my road trip from Bugtussle, KY to Bugtussle, TX — through Only, TN, for instance. See it HERE.) Other times, I just take a road and see where it leads.  And that is often the most fun!

Not every back road leads me to where I want to go. I specifically recall a time on a trip in Missouri. Driving down the highway I saw a sign pointing to Romance. And as I turned there was also a sign pointing to Romance Church. Since it was only 2 miles down the road, I decided I would take the road to romance. It was a windy, narrow little road that eventually turned into a gravel road and by the time I got to the end of the road there was a large building with some people sitting out on the porch. It looked as if it might’ve been a church at one time, but it was obviously a residence. I believe that this was once the community of “Romance.” But there was nothing there indicating such and so to this day I claim that I took a road to Romance and it was a dead end.

I took the road, but never did find Romance in Missouri in 2011
Success, Missouri direction

On a similar trip in Missouri I saw another sign to a town called Success. Obviously, my penchant for wanting to go to towns with unique names has always sent me down those roads. I turned left out of the town of Houston, MO and headed down the 16 mile road to Success. Much to my surprise, all the way along the road I could see abandoned old trailers and rusty old cars littering both sides. Granted, this is in a section of the Ozarks that is known for its poverty. I finally made it to Success and even got a photo in front of the Success Post Office. But I learned quickly, that, at least in Missouri, the road to Success is not very glamorous.

Success, Missouri

One time, on a road trip with the family through Louisiana, we came across a café in the middle of nowhere. We decided to stop and maybe try some Cajun food. They had blackened alligator! None of us had ever eaten alligator. But what was more fun was the Cajun music that was being played. There was a Zydeco band with lots of dancing and some of the dancers actually came after my children and asked them to dance. It was a wonderful and totally unplanned experience that we would’ve never seen had we not taken a back road.

Wind River Canyon, WY

Back roads always lead to somewhere, even if it is only a dead end. However, you’ll never know what’s there unless you take one! Following are a few more photos of some of the back roads I have been on.  I have hundreds of these, so this is just a sampling.  Enjoy the ride….  and preferably on a back road!

Rolling road near Gurney, WI
Downtown Ironwood, MI. Check out the giant Hiawatha Statue at the end of the road
On a quiet road near Baggs, WY
Three Turkey Vultures block the road near Gray Hawk, KY
Road leading to the Bridge of the Gods near Cascade Locks, Oregon
The Canadian highway near Fleming, Saskatchewan
NM 152 near Truth or Consequences, NM
The road to Alta, WY near Teton Valley, ID
Loop Road west of Sweet Grass, Montana right on the Canadian border
The highway leading to Carhenge in Alliance, NE
A local road near my home in Lexington, KY
The road through Bedias, TX
Driving along the coast in Galveston, TX
The cornfields near Adair, IA
I-80 near Green River, WY
A gravel road east of Craig, CO
Main Street in lovely Stanley, ID (yes it is a gravel road!)
SD 79 just south of the North Dakota border
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Drive through the pines trees along OR 38 near Reedsport, OR
Driving in the autumn colors of Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada
The road in Ketchikan, AK ends with a cruise ship
Share the road with the Amish in Arthur, IL
The lonely road into Lost Springs, WY – Population 4

 

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2015 In Review: The Year In Travel

San Francisco, May 2015
San Francisco, May 2015
Seattle, WA August 2015
Seattle, WA, August 2015
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ, September 2015
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

The year 2015 started off with plans to travel to a couple of locations,
but not the extent of the travel that I enjoyed in 2014. As it
turned out, I had

some great experiences and more travel than had been originally planned. It was truly a good year for my travel as I have noted in my blog posts and Facebook posts throughout the year.

Coast2Coast

Flying in 2015
Flying in 2015

Unlike most of my travel, which I like to do by car on back roads, the year’s travel adventures saw me traveling by airplane on a number of occasions. I don’t mind flying, honestly, but I prefer driving because I can see more of the landscape. However, schedules and other things necessitated my flying to many of the destinations I went to this year.

In a nutshell, in 2015 I was blessed with the opportunity to travel
to the West Coast twice. Once to the Seattle area and once to the
San Francisco area. I also made my way into my old home stomping grounds in Salt Lake City and was able to visit old friends and the beautiful mountains near Sundance Resort on a business trip.

Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

And, one of my travel highlights of the year was being able to go to New England with my wife, my daughter Marissa and her children and visit the last three remaining states of my 50 states adventure. So, I finally
could say that I have set foot in all 50 states before I turned 60 (see my 50 State Review Here). We also had a couple of smaller road trips including one to Cincinnati and one to Louisville and were able to see if things on those trips as well.

Some of the major highlights of this year’s travel include:

One of the famed lighthouses on the Maine coast
One of the famed lighthouses on the Maine coast

-Visiting Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, just knocking out the
last of my 50 state visits in the United States (see the first of my blog posts about this trip)

Grampz with grandson Charles on the beach in Neah Bay, WA
Grampz with grandson Charles on the beach in Neah Bay, WA
Watching grandkidz play on Atlantic coast at Old Orchard Beach in Maine
Watching grandkidz play on Atlantic coast at Old Orchard Beach in Maine

-Setting foot on a Pacific Ocean beach (See Neah Bay Post here) and also setting foot on a beach in the Atlantic Ocean (Old Orchard Beach, ME post coming soon)

With my wife in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
With my wife in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

-An extended visit and travel around Washington state

Flying over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, including Mt. Evans
Flying over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, including Mt. Evans

-Flying over the Colorado Rocky Mountains and viewing the snow-capped peaks from an airplane

Happy Me at Woodflock
Happy Me at Woodflock

-Attending the famed “Woodflock” gathering in Red Bluff, CA
over memorial day holiday (see my Woodflock Post here)

Welcome to Santa Claus
Welcome to Santa Claus

-A year end trip with grandkidz to Santa Claus, IN at Christmastime (see my detailed blog post)

Heading east with the grandkidz!
Heading east with the grandkidz!

Along with all of this travel, I was able to see a number of unique and quirky sites. I ate at a couple of unique restaurants. Got to
spend time at one time or another with all of my 10 grandchildren.

Along the way I saw mountains, zoos, wildlife, coastal sunrises and sunsets, famed bridges, big cities, small villages.  Some of the more “unique” places can be seen below in pictures.  It was a great year!!

Sandwich, NH - Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
Sandwich, NH – Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH

Following are a few shots of some of the more interesting places

Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
Fat Smitty's in Port Townsend, WA
Fat Smitty’s in Port Townsend, WA
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA
Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA (featuring Bigfoot!)
Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA (featuring Bigfoot!)
Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ (famous from Cake Boss)
Carlos Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ (famous from Cake Boss)
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus, IN  exit and Sumoflam
Chilling on the porch at Sundance Resort in Utah
Chilling on the porch at Sundance Resort in Utah
Famed Pink Elephant Car Wash in Seattle
Famed Pink Elephant Car Wash in Seattle
"Cyclisk" - Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Giant whale mural in Seattle
Giant whale mural in Seattle
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place - I guess Santa also has a car!
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place – I guess Santa also has a car!
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne, at Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey, PA
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne, at Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey, PA
Sumoflam at MrDHEO's wall painting in Lexington, one of a few new PRHBTN murals
Sumoflam at MrDHEO’s wall painting in Lexington, one of a few new PRHBTN murals
Welcome to Paradise - Washington
Welcome to Paradise – Washington
We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

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Washington State: Mt. Rainier National Park

DSC_5960Our last couple of days in Washington and we finally made it to Mt. Rainier National Park.  This was a fabulous day trip from Port Orchard and we were blessed with amazing weather.

DSC_5963For this trip we headed south to Tacoma and then eventually made our way to WA 410 and to the small picturesque town of  Enumclaw.  We had a couple of hours to get there, so we stopped for a play break for the kids and a stretch break for the adults.  We found a nice park that afforded us all some time to get stretched and even take a few photos.

Livvy climbs the ropes to the top in a ark in Enumclaw
Livvy climbs the ropes to the top in a ark in Enumclaw
Kade having fun
Kade having fun
Hanging with kids in Enumclaw
Hanging with kids in Enumclaw
Benson hanging around
Benson hanging around
Charles just playing
Charles just playing
Grampz and Bensie
Grampz and Bensie
White River runs along WA 410 near Greenwater, WA
White River runs along WA 410 near Greenwater, WA

From Enumclaw we continued west on 410, also called the “Chinook Byway,” along the White River to Greenwater, WA.  The historic Naches Trail brought ox and horse drawn wagons through this area carrying early settlers west. Many years later, touring cars carried early visitors through Greenwater to the newly dedicated Mt. Rainier National Park.  Today, this place

Old Naches Trail Sign
Old Naches Trail Sign

is a dot on the map with a couple of touristy stops and a bar/cafe. Lots of Sasquatch carvings around the place as well.  By the time we got to Greenwater, everyone was hungry.  So we stopped at a place called Naches Tavern to get some lunch.  They had a nice picnic area on the side (the kids couldn’t go into the tavern portion) and actually had a pretty good menu.

Naches Tavern
Naches Tavern
Find the Sasquatch
Find the Sasquatch
10 foot tall Sasquatch carving at Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA
10 foot tall Sasquatch carving at Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA

DSC_6051Naches Tavern is a rustic old place and has apparently been around as a watering hole since the early 20th Century. The inside is decorated with old memorabilia of the Naches Trail and a covering of dollar bills all over the walls.

Naches Tavern 1
Naches Tavern 1
Old telephone sign in Naches Tavern
Old telephone sign in Naches Tavern
Dollar Bills on the walls at Naches Tavern
Dollar Bills on the walls at Naches Tavern
I found a Davey Dollar in Naches Tavern!
I found a Davey Dollar in Naches Tavern!
No Pets Allowed...notice what the pets look like!
No Pets Allowed…notice what the pets look like!

After lunch we were back on WA 410 heading towards Mt. Rainier National Park.  Chalk up another National Park visit for me!

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA

The drive on 410 offers up some wonderful scnic views of Mt. Rainier but also of other mountains.  We got to a wonderful overlook near Naches Peak Overlook called the Tipsoo Lake Parking Area.

Panorama of Tipsoo Lake Parking Area near Naches Peak Trail
Panorama of Tipsoo Lake Parking Area near Naches Peak Overlook
Cowlitz Chimneys as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking area
Cowlitz Chimneys as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking area
Wildflowers near Tipsoo Lake
Wildflowers near Tipsoo Lake

From the parking area there is  a wonderful easy trail that walks along the ridge allowing a great view of Tipsoo Lake as well as wildflowers and wildlife.  We all walked that trail to the point where it started a decline down to the lake.  We wanted to get to Mt. Rainier, so we only went that far.  Along the walk I got some great closeup shots of birds in action, a chipmunk scurrying off and then the breathtaking view of Tipsoo Lake.

Birds on trail to Tipsoo Lake
Bird on trail to Tipsoo Lake
A chipmunk scurries to hide from my camera. Caught it just in time.
A chipmunk scurries to hide from my camera. Caught it just in time.
Mt. Rainier as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking lot
Mt. Rainier as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking lot
Another bird caught on the trail
Another bird caught on the trail
AA view of Tipsoo Lake as seen from the trail
AA view of Tipsoo Lake as seen from the trail
Sumoflam at Tipsoo Lake
Sumoflam at Tipsoo Lake
More wildflowers
More wildflowers
Family all walking along the trail from Tipsoo Lake
Family all walking along the trail from Tipsoo Lake
A Halo surrounds Mt. Rainier
A Halo surrounds Mt. Rainier

DSC_6178After our little hiking break we were back on the road to return to Cayuse Pass and then north to visit the Sunrise Visitor’s Center.  This location offered some amazing views of Mt. Rainier as well as of the Cowlitz Chimneys.  This is also the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park.

Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise
Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise
View of more of the Cascades
View of more of the Cascades
Stevens Canyon
Stevens Canyon

From Sunrise, we headed back to 410 and south to Cayuse Pass and WA 123 which would take us into Stevens Canyon and then around the east end of the mountain on the windy road towards Paradise.

Winding road to Paradise
Winding road to Paradise

We reached Paradise and it most certainly matched the name. Splendid views of the mountain.

Paradise is not as high up as Sunset, but it still offered a different perspective of Rainier and the Cascades.

Mt. Rainier from Paradise
Mt. Rainier from Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
One of many waterfalls seen along WA 123
One of many waterfalls seen along WA 123
Deer on the road from Paradise
Deer on the road from Paradise
Giant redwoods surrounded the highway
Giant redwoods surrounded the highway
Pine forests.
Pine forests.

After visiting the mountain we were soon on our way back to Port Orchard via Longmire, WA on WA 706 and then on to Elbe, WA.  The road was lined with giant redwoods and other tall trees.  It was a splendid drive.

WA 123 heading to Elbe, WA
WA 123 heading to Elbe, WA

Once in Elbe, we stopped for dinner at the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. to eat in an old Railroad Car.  It would be a fun experience for all  of us!

Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Dining Car at Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company
Dining Car at Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company

The Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company includes a caboose motel (The Hobo Inn), a gift shop, the Cascadian Dinner Train and a restaurant and lounge.  Great for railroad buffs, the Cascadian Dinner Train, once known as the American Freedom Train, apparently toured the country with 26 cars displaying over 500 treasures of Americana.  It was a unique place for all of us to eat.

Making friends at the entrance of the Dining Car
Making friends at the entrance of the Dining Car
Caboose Motel - the Hobo Inn
Caboose Motel – the Hobo Inn
Scaleburgers, across the street from the Dining Train.
Scaleburgers, across the street from the Dining Train.  Apparently known for great burgers, hot dogs and shakes.
We got to eat in the "luxurious" Silver Palace Car
We got to eat in the “luxurious” Silver Palace Car
All of us in the Silver Palace Car for dinner
All of us in the Silver Palace Car for dinner
Elbe Church
Elbe Church, Elbe, WA

Elbe is also know for its historic Elbe Church.  This tiny (18-by-24 foot) church sits on its original location and has a rich German heritage.  It bears the name of the founders’ origin, the Elbe River valley near Hamburg, Germany.  The church has been around since 1906. Forged by the town’s first blacksmith, a 4-foot iron cross tops the 46-foot steeple, which houses the first bell.  The church still features its original altar and elevated pulpit as well as one of the hand-carved pews. Lettered prominently on the steeple of the landmark Elbe Lutheran Church is “Ev. Luth. KIRCHE” (Evangelische Lutherische Kirche), a reminder of the founders’ German origins.

Alder Lake near Elbe, WA
Alder Lake near Elbe, WA

From Elbe, we drove along the eerily picturesque and spooky Alder Lake.

The lake is dotted with old tree stumps and is really kind of “out of this world” looking.  And, some of these are really quite huge stumps.  Quite an amazing site after all of the magnificent trees we had seen throughout the day.

Alder Lake stumps near Elbe, WA
Alder Lake stumps near Elbe, WA

Finally, as we approached the small town of Eatonville, we got one fabulous view of Mt. Rainier, which, in my opinion, was probably the highlight photo of my entire 10 day visit to Washington!

Closeup shot of Mt. Rainier form near Eatonville, WA
Closeup shot of Mt. Rainier form near Eatonville, WA
Another Rainier view from near Eatonville, WA
Another Rainier view from near Eatonville, WA

It was a glorious day of travel and a wonderfully scenic drive around one of America’a most amazing mountains!!

 

 

 

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