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

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  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 W Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Wyoming

Another of the 20 states we visited on our 8154 Trip.  Sadly, we passed this sign in the evening, so it was dark.  Welcome to Wyoming.

Welcome to Wyoming

Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, Arizona

One of the more iconic throwbacks to Route 66 travel (and other travel for that matter) is the Wigwam Motel (also called the Wigwam Village). Built in the 1930s and 1940s, the rooms are designed liked teepees.  (See some history here) Originally there were seven of these built across the country with two in Kentucky, and then one each in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and California.  As of this writing, only three remain: One in Cave City, Kentucky (near Mammoth Cave National Park), one in Holbrook, Arizona on Route 66 (near Petrified Forest National Park) and the other on the city boundary between Rialto and San Bernardino, California, also on Route 66.  I have written about the one in Cave City, officially known as Wigwam Village #2, in a previous post in 2008.  My family actually rented five units in July 2017 as part of a family reunion.

Hanging with Grandkids at Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY in 2017

These villages were originally developed by a guy named Frank A. Redford in the 1930s.  He even had the design patented in 1936.   The first of them was built in Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1933, but it closed in 1935 after Redford built a larger one in Cave City in 1937.  This one consisted of 15 Teepees.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 1988. (Facebook Page)

Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY

Wigwam Village #3 was built in New Orleans in 1940, but went out of business in 1954. Wigwam Village #4 was built in Orlando, Florida in 1948 and had 27 guest rooms. It was razed in 1974. Wigwam Village #5 was built in Bessemer, Alabama in 1940 and had 15 Wigwams.  It went out of business in 1964. Wigwam Village #7 was built by Redford in 1947 in Rialto, California on Route 66.  It has gone through times of disrepair, but was renovated in 2005. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

You can sleep in a Wigwam in Holbrook, Arizona

The one in Holbrook, which is the subject of this story, is officially listed as Wigwam Village #6.  This particular one was built in 1950 by Chester E. Lewis and is probably the most famous of all of them due to its location on Route 66 and close to the Petrified Forest National Park.  Lewis had purchased the rights to Redford’s design as well as the rights to use the name.  Lewis came up with a novel idea for paying Redford.  He installed coin-operated radios in each room and every dime inserted for the 30 minutes of play time would be sent to Redford as payment.

This location has 15 Wigwams and can still be rented.  In keeping with the authenticity of the originals, there are no telephones, internet or other modern amenities, though they do offer air conditioning and cable TV.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May  2002.

Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, AZ
Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, Arizona
Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, AZ

Wig Wam Pub & Texas BBQ – Bremerton, Washington

Speaking of WigWams, on our 8154 trip, I got to visit with one of my close friends from high school while out in Washington.  Since I was in Port Orchard and he lived close by, we decided to meet at the Wig Wam Pub in Gorst (actually in Bremerton).

WigWam Pub & Texas BBQ, Bremerton, Washington
Collection of Beer Tap Handles hangs on the ceiling
Lots of stickers
Having dinner with my high school pal Alex Milne. We had not seen each other for 47 years.
Inside of Wig Wam
Dinner at the Wig Wam – BBQ Chicken, baked beans and creamy good potato salad.
Definitely a Happy Place

Wahoo, Nebraska

Wahoo is one of the places that was not in the plan.  We just happened to drive by and I had to stop.  I always love a unique town name and Wahoo certainly fits the bill.  The town was founded in 1870 and the name apparently comes from the eastern wahoo, a shrub found on the banks of Wahoo Creek. Apparently, the term “wahoo” was what the indigenous people called the deciduous shrub.

Wahoo, Nebraska
Welcome to Wahoo, Nebraska
Patriotic Wahoo Water tower

Windmill Country – Hyannis, Nebraska

Driving through the Nebraska Sandhills, we went through the small community of Hyannis (which I wrote about in my H Stories).  There were signs welcoming people to Windmill Country.  The town is home to the Hyannis Windmill Days, a weekend celebration that started in 1989.  Not sure why they call it Windmill Country however.  I think that Nebraska City may be a better choice since they are the home of the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum (which I wrote about a few years ago)

Welcome to Windmill Country – Hyannis, Nebraska

Wallace, Idaho

Wallace, Idaho is one of my favorite stopover places.  A unique town nestled in the mountains of the Silver Valley in the Idaho Panhandle.  In 2004 then Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be the Center of the Universe.  He had a manhole cover specifically made to mark the exact spot. Every September the town celebrates the Center of the Universe.

While in Wallace, we also stopped for some hand thrown pizza.  It was great!

Welcome to Wallace, Idaho
Center of the Universe, Wallace, Idaho
Center of the Universe Manhole Cover
Having pizza in Wallace, Idaho
Downtown Wallace, Idaho

Washoe Theatre – Anaconda, Montana

Driving through Anaconda, Montana, I came across another great theatre marquis.  This time it was for the Washoe Theatre, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was designed in 1930 in the Nuevo Deco style and apparently has a lavish interior.  It was also designed to have near perfect acoustics.

Washoe Theatre – Anaconda, Montana

Window Rock, Arizona

On this trip, we didn’t actually drive into Window Rock, which is the government capital of the Navajo Nation.  But, I wanted to grab this sign, both for the landscape behind it and the Indian Highway 12 arrowhead logo.

Window Rock, Arizona

Waterville, Washington

Waterville, Washington is in the heart of Washington’s wheat country and is located on US Highway 2.  The small museum in town has an interesting Dowser statue that was created by Pateros, WA Sculptor Richard Beyer.

Waterville, Washington
The Water Dowser by sculptor Richard Beyer, completed in 1966.
Dr. Pierces Golden Discovery Barn Sign in Waterville, WA
Picturesque historic Douglas Church in Waterville, WA
US Route 2 near Waterville, Washington

World Museum of Mining – Butte, Montana

Butte is an old mining town and so, should be home for a mining museum.  Unfortunately, on the day we drive through, it was not open.  But, the entrance gate for the World Museum of Mining is classic.  The museum was founded in 1963 and is one of the few museums in the world located on an actual mine yard.

World Museum of Mining – Butte, Montana
Welcome to the World Museum of Mining

Worms, Nebraska

Welcome to Worms! Yes, there is a town named Worms!  This place was on my radar for our 8154 Road Trip and, to me, was a must see.  Though only about 40 people live here and there is no green town sign for it, it was well worth it.  It is home to a biker bar called Nitecrawlers (see my N Stories) and has a couple of unique murals.  The town was supposedly named after Worms, Germany.  It was actually settled by Germans as early as 1874.

Worms, Nebraska

World’s Tallest Thermometer – Baker, California

Baker, California is fun place with the Mad Greek Cafe, Alien Beef Jerky with its Alien Statues and UFOs and other fun.  But, it is really known for its giant thermometer.  This amazing landmark stands 134 feet tall and can measure up to 134°F (57°C).  It commemorates the record 134°F temperature recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 11, 1913.

The tall thermometer was build in 1991

World’s Tallest Thermometer – Baker, California
World’s Tallest Thermometer sign in Baker, California
Sumoflam at the World’s Tallest Thermometer

Wind Cave National Park – Hot Springs, South Dakota

Visitor Center – Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Wilbur, Washington

Wilbur, Washington on US Route 2, including an homage to Charlotte’s Web

Welcome to Wilbur, Washington
Old Wilbur, Washington marker
Wilbur, Washington welcome center. Charlotte’s web reminder

Williams, Arizona

Old Route 66 town in Arizona…  Williams, Arizona.

Welcome to Williams, Arizona
Route 66 in Williams, Arizona

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

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 https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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#TBT – Being an Arizona Tour Guide in the 1980s

Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border
Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border

In the early 1980s my young family was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and I was going to school full time at Northern Arizona University. During this time, I had a stroke of luck in landing a job as a tour guide/bus driver for a company called Nava-Hopi Tours (The Gray Line of Flagstaff). (Note: After the 9/11 incidents, NHT had troubles as people didn’t travel and they went out of business in Oct. 2001)

At that time I had already changed my major to History/Geography and this job offered me the opportunity to build on that experience.  It also provided me plenty of time to study as the tourists would be out looking at the sites.  I would drive them to the locations and then would let them meander on their own when we got there. (I was even covered in Arizona Living magazine in 1983 – see my companion post about that on Sumoflam Singlewide blog)

Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 - taken in Arizona
Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 – taken in Arizona

The area around Flagstaff is probably one of the best places around for tourists to see the natural beauty of the southwest.  Just a short drive from Grand Canyon National Park, it is considered the park’s gateway.  Yet, there are a number of other places nearby including 7 National Monuments (Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Navajo, Canyon de Chelly, Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon) and is fairly close to the Petrified Forest National Park.  It is also nearby the Meteor Crater, the Navajo Indian Reservation, the Hopi Indian Reservation, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and more.  Native American culture and history abounds as well as an abundance of natural scenery.

Sumoflam and tourists at Petrified Forest in 1983
Sumoflam and tourists at Petrified Forest in 1983

By this time in my life I was already filled with a wanderlust and desire for travel.  This was truly a dream job and I thrived on it.  I loved the great scenery.  There were places that many folks never knew existed, such as Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation.

Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation
Coal Mine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation
I revisited Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
I revisited Coal Mine Canyon in 1990

I was always fascinated by my visits to the Hopi Reservation, which sits in the middle of the Navajo Reservation.  The Navajos, though residing in mud hogans (as well as houses), were a tribe that moved around.

Water scene near Tuba City, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, ca. 1982
Water scene near Tuba City, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, ca. 1982

The Hopi, on the other hand, lived in pueblos high on mesas, where they had lived at least since the 1600s.  We frequently took trips to the village of Walpi on my tours.  This place had been lived in for centuries.

Walpi Village
Walpi Village n the Hopi Reservation, much as it looked in the 1980s.

Of course, besides the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon were tourist favorites.  The scenery, the red rocks and the shopping were great draws.  I took over 200 trips there in three years.

Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982

The entrance to Oak Creek Canyon on US 89-A from Flagstaff is a massive drop down on amazing switchbacks.  This drive would scare tourists, especially when in a big charter bus.  I used to tell people to do what I did when I was in the switchbacks — “Close Your Eyes!”  Always got a chuckle….

Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek did have occasional flooding, as in this photo in 1982
Oak Creek did have occasional flooding, as in this photo in 1982

On many trips, I took an alternate route when I just had a van.  We would drive down the extremely scenic (and bumpy dirt road) of Schnebly Hill Road. This drive offered amazing sweeping vistas of the Red Rocks of Sedona.

A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona below.  This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983
A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona below. This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983

There were other hidden treasures such as the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, which is east of the Grand Canyon (and also on the Navajo Reservation) and flows into the Colorado River.

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River
Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca 1984

These falls only run a few days a year and sometimes not at all.  But, when the river is running, these are massively impressive, especially in the middle of the desert.

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca. 1983
Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River, ca. 1983

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a tour guide in the 1980s.  I miss the opportunities to meet folks from all over the world (I took people from every US State and from over 60 countries during my time at Nava-Hopi Tours.)

Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument
Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument in 1983

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