U is for Unique Monsters: Dinos, Dragons & Other Monsters – #atozchallenge

People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons.  Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive.  All we have are fossil evidences and legends.

A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon.  I have seen hundreds in my travels.

Dragon Biting my head off – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.

Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI

Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first.  First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI.  According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”

A giant monster sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller

Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country.  In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center.  Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.

20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI.  Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.

Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit.  Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!

Big Dragon – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Welcome to Jurustic Park

And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.

Hungry Dinosaur – Wally Keller collection near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Scrap Metal Dinosaur – work done by Wally Keller – near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.

Sumoflam and Larry Vennard at his Iron Sculpture Park in Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway “T” Rex near Centralia, MO
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL

This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

 

A closeup of the fire!
Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

There are, of course, many other dragons out there.

“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Dragon with Cowboy Boots at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX
Metal Dragon on a Building – Clayton, New Mexico
Guitar Playing Scrap Metal Dragon – Harrietsville, Ontario
Dragon head – Salida, Colorado
Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

But, its the dinosaurs that impress.  Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters.  In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Connecticut
A T-Rex at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, MD
A 15 foot dinosaur overlooks Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs – located in Choteau, Montana on the “Dinosaur Trail”
Big dino in Bynum, Montana
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY

Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Life size and REALLY REAL looking.

Dinos break out of Indianapolis Children’s Museum
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum

And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country

A Dinosaur Sighting outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural history
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Colorful Dinosaur near Carnegie Museum, originally part of DinoMite Days in 2003
Scrap Metal Dinosaur chasing a ram – Glasgow, Montana
Rudyard Dinosaur, Rudyard, MT
Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Grazing Dinosaur – Harrietsville, Ontario
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino, in Wall, SD

and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America, WY

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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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The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

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:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

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.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

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.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

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.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

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.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

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.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

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.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

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!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

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 the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

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!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

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.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

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!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

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.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

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.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

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.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

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.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

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:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

 

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