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



I’ve Been Everywhere – Part III: More Unique Town Signs

Rabbit Hash, KY
Rabbit Hash, KY

There are literally hundreds of fun town names around the U.S. and I have barely scratched the surface with them.  In my last post, I noted many names that are common adjectives or descriptive.  This post will have some signs from some of the more unusual place names and hopefully, a little about how the names came to be.

Rabbit Hash, KY sign
Rabbit Hash, KY sign

Rabbit Hash, KY – This small town of about 40 people is right on the Ohio River in Boone County.  Besides its name, it is also famous for its string of mayors…all dogs. Nobody really knows for sure when the original name of Rabbit Hash came to be.  According to a Wikipedia article, ” The hamlet was originally known as Carlton and was required to change its name because mail was being mixed up with the larger community of Carrollton several miles down the Ohio River. It is still the Carlton voter precinct. During the early 19th century the town, now known as “Rabbit Hash”, was well known for a rabbit hash meal. Steamboats often stopped to order the famous hash as they traveled along the Ohio river. A local legend states that, in 1831, a pirate ship docked and entered the town, where they proceeded to burn all of the buildings and kill every person. The next steamboat to stop for hash saw only a three foot sign with the words “rabbit hash” written. It was the only structure standing, and was thought to be the name of the town.”

Metropolis, IL
Metropolis, IL
Smallville Billboard
Smallville Billboard from New Adventures of Superboy #16. Art by Kurt Schaffenberger

Metropolis, IL – Like Rabbit Hash, Metropolis is located along the Ohio River, very close to Paducah, Kentucky. And it really is not a Metropolis (as is typically represented in the Superman movies), but is probably much closer to the Smallville of Superboy fame.  Note the similarities in the two signs above.   Metropolis has had a people living in the area for thousands of years, but the town got its name back in 1839 when the town was platted.  Everywhere you go there are Superman things, including a giant statue in town square.  The town also has another giant guy at the grocery store.  It is also the home to Fort Massac State Park, a great historical site.

-A couple of things of note:

  • On January 21, 1972 DC Comics declared Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman”.
  • On June 9, 1972 the Illinois State Legislature passed Resolution 572 that declared Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman”
  • The city holds an annual Superman Celebration held the second weekend in June.
  • The local newspaper is named The Metropolis Planet, inspired by The Daily Planet, the fictional paper in Superman’s Metropolis.
Toad Suck, AR
Toad Suck, AR

Toad Suck, AR – This name apparently comes from the days when steamboats ran the Arkansas River, well before the current Lock and Dam were built.  Legend has it that when the water was too low, the sailors would dock the steamboats and refresh themselves at the local tavern where they would “Suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.”   Toad Suck is actually only the name of the park.  The town is Bigelow, Arkansas.  However, there is a Toad Suck Convenience Mart that sells Toad Suck Souvenirs and just down the road in Houston, AR you can chow down on steaks at Toad Suck Bucks. You can even visit and like their Facebook Page.

Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus, IN

Santa Claus, IN – Unlike its counterpart North Pole, AK, Santa Claus is in a much warmer climate. According to the History of the Town, ” it was a child who provided the inspiration in naming this community after Santa Claus. Going into the fall months of 1852, there was no Santa Claus community. Residents of the area had spent months trying to select a name for the community but none of the proposed names carried universal appeal. Then, on Christmas Eve, as the congregation gathered at the church for yet another meeting, the sound of bells was heard outside. ‘Santa!’, a jubilant child rang out, ‘It’s Santa Claus.’ “That’s it!”, shouted one of the elders. ‘Why not call it Santa Claus?’ The residents all agreed and the town of Santa Claus was born.” Like Metropolis, everywhere you turn there are Santa Claus statues.  The Post Office is the only one in the world named Santa Claus.  The town is home to a number of unique Christmassy shops and also has a small amusement park called Holiday World.

Hop Bottom, WV
Hop Bottom, PA

Hop Bottom, PA – This town is located in Susquehanna County and is very near Nicholson, PA, home of the famed Tunkhannock Viaduct. Though the name sounds funny, it does make sense.  The nearby creek bottom at one time was covered with Hop Vines, yes, the hops used to make America’s favorite alcoholic beverage.  as of 2010 there were about 350 residents in the small scenic town.

Tightwad, MO
Tightwad, MO

Tightwad, MO – This is by far one of my favorite road trip stories.  The town, located on Missouri Hwy 7, is very small — only about 30 or 40 residents. It was unincorporated until 1984 though there has been a Post Office there since the early 20th Century.  Supposedly, the town’s unusual name is said to stem from an episode in which a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra fifty cents for a better watermelon.  There is a real bank in town called the Tightwad Bank, which I have written about on some of my other blogs, including this one. The bank sells T-shirts, mugs and hats and you can open an account and get checks with Tightwad Bank on them.  The Tightwad Cafe does not take credit cards.

Dr. Pepper, TX
Dr. Pepper, TX

Dr Pepper, TX – This is the only “fake” sign in my set today, housed outside the Dublin Bottling Plant, which used to be the only place in the world that sold Dr Pepper made with the original pure cane sugar recipe. On 12 January 2012, it was announced that Dublin Dr. Pepper will no longer be produced, after the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company settled a trademark dispute instigated by Dr Pepper Snapple Group.  Until that time, the town would have one day out of the year when they officially became Dr Pepper, Texas.  The Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling was the oldest remaining Dr Pepper bottler until 2012, producing the beverage continuously since 1891.  As for the sign…every June the town would have Dr Pepper Days and the town, for that one day in June, would officially become Dr Pepper, Texas. By the way, notice that the population on the sign is 1024 – from the original 10-2-4 of Dr Pepper.

Bucksnort, TN
Bucksnort, TN

Bucksnort, TN – Yes, there really is a town called Bucksnort. Its a small unincorporated community in Hickman County, Tennessee. It is located near Exit 152 on Interstate 40, a few miles east of the Tennessee River, just down the Interstate from Only, TN, which I wrote about in my last post.  This town name has an unusual story. Apparently, the moonshine business was quite active in the 1880′s. There was a man named William “Buck” Pamplin who sold his homemade brew and people would say “Let’s go to Buck’s for a snort”.  As people often do the whole phrase was condensed down to “Bucksnort” and it stuck.  True or not, it makes for a great story.   By the way, there is also a Bucksnort in Alabama.

Black Gnat, KY
Black Gnat, KY

Black Gnat, KY – Black Gnat is a Green county community about five miles northeast of Greensburg on US 68. Tradition says the community name stems from a time in the late 1800s when the schoolhouse was being painted white and hordes of gnats covered the building.

Fly, Ohio
Fly, Ohio

Fly, OH – While on the subject of bugs, how about Fly, Ohio? This is home of the Fly Ferry Landing. It is just across the Ohio River from Sistersville, WV.  Not sure where the name came from.

Drain, OR
Drain, OR

Drain, OR – I love the sign “Entering Drain.”  Made me feel like my trip was about to go down the Drain.  Actually, Drain is quite a quaint place.  Like other unique towns in Oregon such as Talent and Boring, Drain was actually named after Charles C. Drain, who had emigrated west and purchased the land Drain now sits on back in 1861.  The town eventually grew around the Drain Train Station of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Today, the town is a small touristy place, famed for the “Drain Castle“, an old Victorian house that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Drain is also home to a couple of old covered bridges.

Three Brothers, AR
Three Brothers, AR

Three Brothers, AR – Located in historic Baxter County, I could not find much pertaining to this little dot on a map.  There is a Three Brothers Church and a Three Brothers Cemetery. But that’s all I know.

Marked Tree, AR
Marked Tree, AR

Marked Tree, AR – Keeping in Arkansas, Marked Tree, is the only town in the world named Marked Tree. Of even more interest is that the town may be the only one in the world that is located between two rivers a quarter of a mile apart flowing in opposite directions. The town got its name in the 1880s.  The settlers chose “Marked Tree” because of an “old marked tree” on the bank of the Saint Francis River near the railroad camp. The story goes that Osage Indians traveling northward up the Saint Francis River marked a tree at the first point at which Little River is only ¼ mile distant across the land between the rivers. By dragging their dugout canoes across this short portage to Little River they could continue their trip northward and eliminate eight miles of up-river paddling.

Fair Play, SC

Fair Play, SC

Fair Play, SC – This is a small town in Oconee County, in the northwestern corner of South Carolina. There are a couple of churches, a couple of stores and a big lumber yard.  Did lots of digging and all I could find was that the town gets its name from a fight.


DISH, TX – DISH (yes, it is officially all caps) is in Denton County, northwest of Dallas. his community, established in June 2000, was originally named Clark. In November 2005, the community accepted an offer to rename itself “DISH” (all capital letters) as part of a commercial agreement with the satellite television company Dish Network.

Bugtussle, KY
Bugtussle, KY
Bugtussle, TX
Bugtussle, TX

Bugtussle – There are officially FOUR Bugtussles in the US that I am aware of.  One in Kentucky, one in Texas, one in Oklahoma and one in Alabama.  The signs above are for the Kentucky and Texas versions, which I visited on one trip the same day.

Bugtussle, Texas – Bugtussle is at the junction of Farm Road 1550 and State Highway 34, ten miles south of Honey Grove and five miles north of Ladonia in southeastern Fannin County. The community was initially called Truss, after John Truss, who settled there. It was founded in the 1890s and had a post office in 1893–94. Later the town’s name was changed to Bugtussle. The most popular legend is that the name commemorated an invasion of bugs that spoiled a church ice cream social although a variation on this anecdote suggests that the relatively isolated spot, long popular as a site of Sunday school picnics, offered little else for picnickers to do after they ate than watch the bugs tussle.

Bugtussle, Kentucky – This is literally on the Tennessee border in Monroe County.  The community was named by local comedians for its doodlebug population.

A final note: The fictitious Bugtussle, TN was the home town of Jed Clampett, from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Tomahawk, WI
Tomahawk, WI

Tomahawk, WI – Next is a chop chop of the Tomahawk. The town of about 3500 traditionally traces its founding to the establishment of construction camps for a dam and a railroad in 1886. The company leading the effort was the Tomahawk Land and Boom Company, headed by William H. Bradley, who is thus considered to be the principal founder of Tomahawk. The town site was platted in 1887, with lots sold in Milwaukee that summer. The city was incorporated in 1891. In the 10 years after the first construction camps were built, Tomahawk grew rapidly, boasting many stores, a three-story hotel, many saw mills, a paper mill, and service via three railroads.  Today is a stop on the road, but there are a few places to eat, a giant moose statue and an interesting sculpture with eagles in the middle of town.

Muleshoe and Earth, TX
Muleshoe and Earth, TX
Earth, Texas
Earth, Texas

Earth, TX – Back to Earth folks…  This town on U.S. Highway 70 and Farm Road 1055 in northwestern Lamb County, was established in 1924 by William E. Halsell. Originally Halsell called the place Fairlawn or Fairleen, but it was renamed Earth, supposedly for a sandstorm blowing when storekeeper and first postmaster C. H. Reeves had to come up with a name acceptable to postal authorities in Washington. Earth was incorporated in 1947.  They do have a great time with the name.  Ironically, it is about a 3 hour drive from the alien infested town of Roswell, NM.

Muleshoe, TX – Since I have it in the photo, how about if I close with Muleshoe. The town derives its name from the Muleshoe Ranch which was founded by Henry Black in 1856. The town was incorporated in 1926. It had been founded just 13 years earlier, when the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway laid tracks across the agrarian expanse of Bailey County.

Part IV: Some faraway places right here on earth….