AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The M Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the M Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Muleshoe, Texas

We made our from Clovis, New Mexico into Muleshoe to visit the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge and hopefully see some Sandhill Cranes (which we didn’t see at the refuge unfortunately). Getting there required some driving on dirt roads and other back roads, but it was worth the ride!

The town of Muleshoe is on U.S. Highway 84 and was named for the nearby Muleshoe Ranch. The town of about 4500 people was established in 1913 and incorporated in 1926. The National Wildlife Refuge is about twenty miles to south and was established in 1935, making it the oldest refuge in the state of Texas.

Muleshoe, Texas
Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge
Mule Deer seen on a back road to Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge


One of my favorite states in the country.  When I was a senior in high school in 1973/74 in Murray, Utah,  having moved from Montana in the summer of 1973, I talked about Montana so much that I was given the nickname of Monty Montana.

Welcome to Montana

Mobil Gas Station – Quitaque, Texas

Old Mobil Gas Station in Quitaque, Texas
Mobil Gas Station in Quitaque, Texas
The famous Mobil Pegasus


Welcome to Missouri
Visiting Missouri with grandkids

Manchester, Washington

Manchester, Washington is a small unincorporated community in Kitsap County.  It is a short drive from Port Orchard. Manchester has a little port that has a spectacular view of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound as well as a great view of Seattle across the Sound.

Welcome to Manchester, Washington
Sunrise on Puget Sound as seen from Manchester, WA
Seattle as seen from Manchester, WA

Matador, Texas

We drove south from Turkey, Texas on TX Hwy 70 and drove through the quaint town of Matador, Texas along the way.  Matador sits on US Highways 62 and 70.  The town was established in 1891 and was named for the nearby Matador Ranch.  It has a population of about 600 people.

Matador, Texas
Matador, Texas Water Tower
Main Street Cafe ghost sign in Matador, Texas

Martian Soda, Martian Poop Soda and Maple Syrup Soda – Nipton, California

I have already written about a couple of other unique sodas that we found at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California.  These are also products made by Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop.  Not only do they have the Kumquat flavored Martian Soda, but they also sold a Martian Poop Soda with a marionberry flavor.  I actually drank one of those and it wasn’t too bad.   The Maple Syrup soda is one of a number Rocket Fizz’s Lester’s Fixins Sodas including a variety of Bacon sodas, Pickle Soda, Mustard Soda and more.

Martian Soda we found iat the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California
Martian Poop Soda with a Marionberry Flavor
Maple Syrup Soda as found at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California

Mizu Japanese Steakhouse – Tukwila, Washington

After arriving in Port Orchard, Washington, we joined many other family members for dinner at the Mizu Japanese Steakhouse in Tukwila, Washington, outside of Seattle.  This is one of those fun Hibachi Grill places with the cooking acrobatics, grilled shrimp thrown into your mouth and onion volcanoes.  Lots of fun and fire.

Mizu Steakhouse in Tukwila, Washington
Fun and Fire at the Mizu Steakhouse
Family enjoying dinner at Mizu. There were about 18 of us there.

Moonview and Moonglow Cabins – Uncertain, Texas

During our visit to Caddo Lake, we took a drive around Uncertain to check out the accommodations, which are all so unique.  One place has a Moonglow Cabin and Moonview Cabin.

Moonview Cabin om Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas
Moonglow Cabin in Uncertain, Texas

Mt. Whitney and Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park in California 

Yo may think of giant trees when you think of Sequoia National Park, but there are some amazing mountain scenes as well.  High up in the Sierra Nevadas, these granite monoliths are lovely.

Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park
Another shot of Mt. Whitney
Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park

Moose Drool Brown Ale – Big Sky Brewing – Missoula, Montana

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages — never have.  But, I have friends that do and so I stopped at Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, Montana to grab a six-pack of Moose Drool Brown Ale for a friend here in Lexington. I love the name and my friend loved the taste (AND the poster I got him.)

Moose Drool Brown Ale

Mount Rushmore National Memorial – South Dakota

With grandchildren and driving across the United States, a stop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is important.  The kids were able to get their Junior Ranger Badge there and I was able to to get some great photos.  We actually drove north from Custer State Park up US Highway 16A (Iron Mountain Road) and saw views of the iconic carvings through tunnels from way up high.  What an amazing experience.

Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore
Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore
Another view of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore as seen from a tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. The tunnel was built intentionally to frame the monument

Moriarty, New Mexico

Another iconic Route 66 town.  The old road runs right through town.  The City of Moriarty was named for the first permanent family to settle in the community. Michael Timothy Moriarty, his wife and their three children arrived (at what is now Moriarty) in the fall of 1887, and homesteaded their land.  Though it is a Route 66 town, Moriarty also has two Interstate 40 interchanges.

Moriarty, New Mexico

Memorial Chapel – Happy, Texas

A Happy Church in Happy, Texas

The Memorial Chapel in Happy, Texas

Mesa Verde Ranch – Lemon Cove, California

Mesa Verde Ranch Big Orange fruit stand in Lemon Cove, California


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The I Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the I Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Iowa – Welcome to Iowa

On our trip we hit a small corner of Iowa as we drove north on Interstate 29 from Missouri to Nebraska.

Welcome to Iowa

Indian City Trading Post – Houck, AZ

Drive down Interstate 40 in Arizona and you will see a load of signs like this below for the numerous trading posts.

Indian City Trading Post in Houck, AZ

Iron Mountain Road – Custer, South Dakota

Admittedly, this was one of the highlights of our entire trip.  This drive has been on my bucket list for a number of years.  However, as we got into Custer State Park in late January, we had no assurance that the road would be open because of the possibility of snow and/or ice on the road.  But, as we got into Custer State Park, we were informed that Iron Mountain Road (US 16A) had been opened just a couple of hours earlier.

This 17 mile road is such a unique drive. As the sign photo below shows, there are 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails (a road bridge which loops over its own road), 3 unique tunnels and 4 presidents (referring to Mount Rushmore, which can actually be seen through two of the tunnels.) At its highest point, the summit of Iron Mountain, the windy road hits an altitude of 5,446 feet.  There are amazing views, as you can see from the photos below.

Iron Mountain Road in northwestern South Dakota
Iron Mountain Road info sign
A scene from the curvy Iron Mountain Road
Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota
A splendid vista from the top of Iron Mountain
Some of the road winds through the trees
One of the Iron Mountain Road tunnels
Mount Rushmore as seen through one of the Iron Mountain Tunnels
A view of Mount Rushmore from the summit of Iron Mountain

Itty Bitty Inn – North Bend, Oregon

Sadly, we didn’t stay in this old (established in 1950) motel in North Bend, Oregon, just north of Coos Bay. The Itty Bitty Inn name is now one of my favorite unique motel names.  I did a little research on this motel that is located on Oregon’s very scenic US Hwy 101.  This place even has a Star Trek-themed room (click on the link above to check it out.)

Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, WA

I Love this Town mural – Quitaque, Texas

As we drove through Quitaque, Texas on Valentine’s Day, I saw this lovely mural.  Always love a good mural.

I Love This Town mural in Quitaque, Texas

Interstate Highway Scenes

On my long road trips I really strive to avoid the Interstate highways.  I love the back roads and U.S. highways.  However, sometimes the interstates are unavoidable.  I took a few shots of our drives on the Interstates. On this trip we did hit Interstates 10, 20, 30, 40 and a number of others. Enjoy the ride!

Interstate 27 near Happy, Texas
Sunset on Interstate 15 near Barstow, California
Interstate 15 near Nipton, California
Interstate 30 is scenic with all of the trees. This shot was near Donaldson, Arkansas
Interstate 40 thru New Mexico often parallels Route 66. This scene is near Casa Blanca, New Mexico
A morning scene on Interstate 15 near Baker, California
Interstate 20 in eastern Texas near Longview, Texas
Intestate 40 near Continental Divide, New Mexico
The flatlands of Louisiana can be seen on Interstate 49 near Vivian, Louisiana
Interstate 40 scene near Ganado, AZ


Welcome to Illinois

Welcome to Illinois

Interesting and timely church sign – Equality, Illinois

When we were on the road trip, we, like all Americans, had no idea that the COVID-19 crisis would engulf the world.  This photo was taken on January 25, 2020 in Equality, Illinois.  As I write this on April 9, the United States has hit the 80 day mark since the first case (January 21, 2020 in Seattle, Washington)

An Interesting church sign in Equality, Illinois


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



N is for National Parks & Monuments – #atozchallenge

The US National Park System has 417 official units throughout the country including 59 National Parks, 87 National Monuments, 19 National Preserves, 51 National Historic Parks, 78 National Historic Sites, 4 National Battlefield Parks, 9 National Military Parks, 9 National Battlefields, 30 National Memorials and a number of other National sites including National Rivers, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Parkways and National Trails.

Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Towpath Trail in Cuyahoga Valley NP, Ohio

Officially, the National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A couple of my children at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky in 1997
Badlands National Park in SD

The NPS is a great blessing to the citizens of this country and all others that may visit.  They have some amazing offerings and a road trip that passes by these is not a worthy roadtrip.  These sites are the gems of our country!

Though I have visited all 50 states in the US, I have not been able to get to many of the sites.  Of the 59 National Parks, for instance, I have only visited 28 of them and some of those were way before my travel blogging and photography days. Of all of the others, I have been to 77 of the nearly 350 sites.  So, I still have a long way to go.

Grand Tetons along US 89 in March 2013
Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter Sunday 2017
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998

That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to many of the National Parks, Monuments and other NPS sites. My personal favorites are Glacier National Park (Montana), Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) and Yellowstone National Park (WY) — OK…I love the mountains!!

Following are some photos of some of the other NPS Sites that I have visited over the years.  More are sure to come soon!!  (In fact, just this past weekend — Easter weekend 2017 — I drove the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and got photos of the Easter Sunrise!!)

Easter Morning Sunrise 2017 in Shenandoah National Park
Grave markers of the US Calvary Soldiers that died at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Little Big Horn National Monument in Montana
Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona in 1983
Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1983
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC in 2016
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Visiting Craters of the Moon in Idaho in 2013
Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Agate Fossil Bed National Monument in Nebraska
With some family members and a friend at Glacier National Park (May 2005)
Purple Mountain Majesties – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Mount Olympus and Olympic National Park in Washington as seen from Hwy 104
One of the wild horses on the sand dunes at Assateague National Seashore in Maryland
Visiting the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona with some tourists from the Isle of Man in 1983
Sumoflam at the White House – July 1990
Mt. Rushmore in 2013
Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Visiting Yellowstone National Park in 2014
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Capulin Volcano – part of the Capulin National Monument in New Mexico
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in New River Gorge National River, WV in August 1995
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979. I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.
Sumoflam at the Everglades in Florida in July 1990
At the St. Louis Arch in Missouri
At Golden Gate Bridge in May 2015
My son Seth at Wupatki National Monument in April 1992