During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The K Towns
Kemmerer, Wyoming and Diamondville, Wyoming are basically twin cities that reside in what is called “The Fossil Basin” due to the abundant fish fossils in the area. On the way into Kemmerer I passed Fossil Butte National Monument, but did not have time to stop there. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found here including fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They are apparently exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation. There are also “Dig-your-own” fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville. So, this is a haven for fossil enthusiasts. Also, In 1902 James Cash Penney came to Kemmerer to open a business. He set up the “Golden Rule Store” and opened its doors on April 14, 1902 in partnership with two other individuals. The partnership later dissolved, and, in 1909 Penney moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City to be closer to banks and railroads. The “Mother Store” still operates in Kemmerer. You can see more about my visit to Kemmerer and other Wyoming spots HERE.
Keystone, South Dakota
Keystone, South Dakota is the Gateway to Mt. Rushmore National Monument. The town has a number of touristy shops, lots of hotels and motels and a few little resort types of things, typical of a “Gateway” town. The real point is that you need to go through Keystone to get to Mt. Rushmore National Monument. A wonderful place to visit. Check out my post about my 2013 roadtrip from Glendive through the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota and into Keystone HERE.
In my last post I wrote about Juneau and our cruise in 2004. After our visit to Juneau we then went on to Ketchikan, Alaska. The town is dotted with totem poles and lots of souvenir shops. It really was a fun place to visit.
Kensington District in Toronto, Ontario
OK, I admit it…Kensington is just a district of Toronto, Canada’s biggest city. But, in many respects it is like a little enclave of a town in the midst of the city. The smells and aromas of the food and markets are wonderful, but even better is the eye candy in the form of colorful store fronts, wall art, street art and shop signs. I was always a fan of wall murals and art, but it was in Kensington that I fell in love with “graffiti” and Street Art, which has continued to this day. I visited Kensington in 2008 on part of an all day trip to Toronto. See the full story with a ton of photos HERE.
Kadoka, South Dakota
Kadoka, South Dakota is the Gateway to the Badlands National Park. A great little rustic town with a couple of Trading Posts, and a few interesting statues, etc. Scrappy, the scrap metal deer made from auto parts was fascinating to me. See my full post about Kadoka and the Badlands HERE and HERE.
Kremlin, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Kremlin, Montana is another of the interesting small communities on US Highway 2, the Hi-Line, in Montana. The town of Kremlin apparently got its name from a Russian immigrant who was laying railroad track in the area around 1890. He saw the Bears Paws mountains in the distance and they reminded him of home.
Kirkwood, Missouri (Honorable Mention)
Kirkwood, Missouri is a suburb of St. Louis and is known for its massive collection of outdoor artwork, especially the pieces located in the Laumeier Sculpture Park. I am always a fan of creativity and outdoor art and the large number of huge pieces at the Sculpture Park was fascinating. You can see photos of many of them on my post about a visit to St. Louis and Kirkwood in 2010. The post can be seen HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
(Note: I was working at the Toyota Plant in Woodstock, Ontario as a Japanese interpreter at the time I wrote this post in 2008)
March 26, 2008: It was a beautiful day and I got off work at 4:00 and decided to head out on a small road trip around the region. A couple of days ago I met with Cathy Bingham, Director of the Oxford County, Ontario Tourism Office in Woodstock. She had contacted me about my Jakeman’s Syrup page and wanted to meet with me to give me more ideas. We had a wonderful visit and she gave me some unique ideas, told me about the history of the area and focused me in on some different places to see, both in Oxford County as well as the surrounding counties. One of the DEFINITE MUST VISITS was to see the Tundra Swans near Aylmer, Ontario. So, I decided to do that along with a couple of other side trips. Following is an overview map of the route I took…about 78 miles all together.
The first place I visited was just outside of Woodstock. I left Toyota and headed down Highway 2 (Dundas St.) into town all the way to the Highway 59 turnoff heading north (Vansitart Rd.). I crossed over the Thames River and up a couple of hills to see another place that Cathy had recommended to me, based on my yard art interests. This particular place is the home of Cliff Bruce and his wife. Cliff Bruce has an eclectic collection of Windmills, whirly-gigs and other oddities scattered throughout his yard. Following are just a few shots of the place:
He calls it Windmill Hill. There is a gate that keeps visitors out and the dogs in, but the sign in the driveway says to “Push the Button” to open the gate. I did that, but the gate did not open. Since I did not know if today was the two double shot gun day, I decided to just walk around the outside and get a few shots of his yard decorum.
The first thing I noticed from the driveway was the working walk/don’t walk lights and the railroad crossing lights…which came complete with the bell ringing. I wondered if the neighbors got tired of hearing the railroad bell go off every two minutes…for yes, there are neighbors.
Then came the front yard. He not only has windmills, but lots of unusual statues, etc. Fun fun fun.
From there I had to trudge through the foot deep snow around the south side of his house. I was walking through some kind of field. As I walked along the fence, the Bruce’s dogs paid me a visit (from the other side of the fence). But I kept shooting away. So many things…in so little space.
One could really spend a couple of hours looking around this place. So many little things everywhere.
Cliff seems to have a fascination with flying things and moving things. He had a few small amusement airplanes and helicopters in the yard, like Fred Flintstone (above) and the plane and helicopter below.
The menagerie in his yard goes on and on.
From Windmill Hill I headed back into Woodstock and then on to the 401 freeway to head west towards London. I got off at exit 203 to head south on Highway 73 (Elgin Rd.) towards Aylmer, Ontario (which the locals pronounce as “Elmer,” so I was initially confused in trying to find the place). Along the way I went through the small village of Harrietsville. I was surprised to run across more yard art…in fact, a place that fabricates yard art out of sheet metal and scrap metal. I just had to stop!!
On my stop at TCM I met an older man who said that he was one of four who owned and worked the place. He makes the items with the stones while others do some of the metal work. He told me about how he had a heart attack and the doctor said he could only be saved if he stopped smoking. I asked if I could get his photo, but he declined. Nonetheless, he was quite the talker.
i got a kick out of the guitar playing metallic dragon below:
Time was flying and the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, so I shuffled off to Aylmer to go see the swans…the main goal of this little excursion. In speaking to Cathy, she told me that from her experience, the best time to see the swans is in the afternoon as they are the most active. So, I took her word for it and hoped that my afternoon visit would pay off.
I drove down 73 until I got to Glencolin Line and at that corner was a nice blue sign with a swan on it and an arrow pointing left. I followed Glencolin about 5 km to Hacienda Dr., where there was another sign pointing to the left. Just shortly up the road was another sign pointing to the right. This was the place – the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area:
A small jaunt down the road led to some viewing stands. One was open and a couple more were enclosed with open windows. As I got out of the car I could hear an assortment of honks, hums, whistles and various other noises emanating from the small pond (named Tundra Pond) where there were literally thousands of Tundra Swans (in fact, there is a group of volunteers that feeds them and counts them daily — today’s count was 4268). In fact, the Aylmer Museum sponsors a Tundra Swan Line which allows people to call in and get a daily migration report and count of the visiting swans. I had never seen more than one or two swans at a time, so this pretty amazing to me to see thousands of them. And mingled in with them were a number of Canadian Geese.
I learned that the swans are in different groups. Since they mate for life, the “married couples” are in one place, the singles are in another and then the young ‘uns are just out playing in the water. Watching them fly was also cool as these birds are so graceful and their huge size really adds emphasis. It was really an amazing visit!!
My return trip took me through the booming town of Aylmer. I went through Aylmer and then ventured back along the back roads of Elgin County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, before returning to Brant County and Paris. Along the road I encountered Mennonites in their horse-drawn buggies. Aylmer actually has a Mennonite Furniture Store. I think the photos speak for themselves. All told, it was a wonderfully adventurous afternoon and a beautiful one at that with partly cloudy skies and 45 degree temperatures.
The back roads of southern Ontario always offer some wonderful scenes. So glad to have visited in 2008 and to be able to look back at these great memories.
In 2008 I spent about nine months working as a Japanese interpreter in Woodstock, Ontario at the new Toyota Plant that was being built there at the time. Over the course of that nine months I had many opportunities to visit dozens of places in rural Ontario and made my way to Toronto and some if the larger towns in the area around Toronto. I have posted a number of “Travel Journals” with extensive details about all of these visits on my Sumoflam Trip Journals site.
Southwestern Ontario is centered on the city of London. It extends north to south from the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron to the Lake Erie shoreline, and east to south-west roughly from Guelph to Windsor. Other significant towns and cities in the region are Brantford, Cambridge, Chatham, Goderich, Ingersoll, Kitchener, Owen Sound, Sarnia, St. Thomas, Stratford, Tillsonburg, Waterloo, Windsor, and Woodstock.
In this first edition of my “Adventures in Southwestern Ontario” series, I will take a brief trip around Oxford County, one of the fifteen counties/municipalities comprising Southwestern Ontario. Oxford County has been a municipality (rather than a county) since 1991. It covers a little over 787 square miles and has a total population of just over 100,000 people. It is almost in the center of the Southwestern Ontario region and is one of the land-locked counties.
Oxford County is predominantly agricultural with dairy being one of its industries (Thus the big statue of the Snow Countess above). Also in the area is a famous “sugar bush” where maple syrup is made. Corn and tobacco are also crops in the area. While in Woodstock I became good friends with the Director of Tourism at the time. She was gracious enough to provide me with plenty of ideas on where to visit, when to visit, etc. I was also honored by inclusion of three of my writeups on their website.
I was fortunate enough to experience three seasons in Oxford…I arrived in the middle of a cold and snowy winter. But, I enjoyed the spring and the flowers. I also enjoyed the wonderful summer and even sometime into the fall.
Oxford County is chock full of history with some unique museums — including two National Historic Sites. The Woodstock Museum is one of the National Historic Sites. Located in the old town hall, the museum, though small, houses the 1879 Council Chambers, a number of historical artifacts from early settlers and even a rifle display.
The other National Historic site is the Tillsonburg Museum – the Annandale House, which I did not get a chance to visit (there are so many great places to visit in SW Ontario!!!). But, I did get a chance to visit the smaller Beachville District Museum in the small community of Beachville, Ontario. This small town has the unique status of claiming to be the home of the first ever recorded game of baseball in North America. According to the museum, the group of men who gathered in a Beachville pasture on June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. It occurred one year prior to the famous Cooperstown game. The museum has a number of artifacts from this game and even has an annual game on the land outside the park, using the original 5 base configuration.
The Beachville Museum is also home of a number of agricultural implements and old vehicles.
Baseball was not the only game that got some fame in Oxford County. The game of Crokinole celebrates its annual World Championships in Tavistock, a town in northern Oxford County.
What is Crokinole? Basically, Crokinole is an action board game similar in various ways to marbles with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs.
The earliest known crokinole board was made by craftsman Eckhardt Wettlaufer in 1876 in Perth County, Ontario. Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin, and dating from the 1870s, have been discovered since the 1990s. It seems to have been patented on April 20, 1880, in New York City by Joshua K. Ingalls. In 2006, a documentary film called Crokinole was released. The world premiere occurred at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo, Ontario, in early 2006. The movie follows some of the competitors of the 2004 World Crokinole Championship as they prepare for the event. Ironically, a former work associate of mine in the 2000s in Lexington was a participant in the championships and has been noted in books and the movie.
Tavistock is home to a number of Mennonite Churches and groups. Indeed, Oxford County has a number of Mennonites and Amish in the area. Here are a few shots I have from my visits with them (some may be from neighboring counties)…
On one trip south of Woodstock, I was on a dirt road and came across an amazing tulip farm. Here are some shots…
Woodstock is also home to one of the more unique “Yard Art” menageries – The Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill.
The Bruces have amassed a quirky collection of windmills, whirl-a-gigs, railroad implements and more…all in their yard. There are few places like this that I have run across over the years and miles (Hamtramck Disneyland in Detroit is another).
In the form of entertainment, I had the opportunity on two occasions to visit the Walters Dinner Theatre in Bright, Ontario (Bright is also known for its Cheese Factory)
The Walters Family offers a little taste of Branson in the back woods of Ontario. They have established a fun program…a country dinner buffet and then an hour and a half of live music, sometimes from some great guest musicians. From June to October they put on six shows a week through the end of October and then in December they put on a Christmas extravaganza. (You can see more of complete writeup here)
It all started a number of years ago when father Garry had his three children Bradley, Kimberley and Darren form the Walters Trio. Soon Garry and his wife Shirley were learning drums and bass guitar and joined the kids in performances. As a family they have toured with the Osmonds and have performed with Lawrence Welk and other groups.
The buffet line for Rolled Ribs (with sage stuffing), roast beef, cole slaw, potatoes and gravy, veggies and fresh baked bread. They even had creamed horseradish which I slathered on my rolled ribs…yum!
Perhaps one of the best things about the Woodstock area is internationally known Jakeman’s Maple Products, located in Beachville. I got to visit Jakeman’s on a number of occasions and love their fresh maple syrup. Back in 2008 I even had a nice page about them (see here).
Jakeman’s is owned by Bob and Mary Jakeman, who are fourth generation Maple Syrup farmers. As their history states in their brochure, Bob’s great grandfather George and his wife Betsy Anne Jakeman came from Oxfordshire, England to Oxford County in Ontario. They were taught the maple syrup making technique by local native Canadians. Back then they collected the sap and boiled it down in an iron kettle over an open wood fire until it was golden brown. The family business has grown throughout the years and now the Jakeman name is known all over Canada and throughout the world. They have over 1000 taps.
Their shop is housed in an old rustic building. Originally built in 1855, it used to be the Sweaburg General Store and post office in Sweaburg. In 1976 the Jakeman’s moved the entire building to its present location. Inside is a maple gift shop, a small museum and a pancake house (much different than a IHOP!!). My first thought as I entered was WOW, look at all of the different products made from maple syrup…cookies, candies, wine, snacks, etc. Of course, they had a great variety of 100% Maple Syrup, which is drawn from trees on site, boiled on site and bottled there as well. You can see a good variety of their products (and order them as well) at their website: www.themaplestore.com. Unbeknownst to me, their #1 Medium Maple syrup was named the best tasting in Canada among 8 national brands by the National Post newspaper in 2004.
Trees are “tapped” to get the syrup. On one of my visits, Bob explained the process in detail.
Fact: It takes about 40 liters of Maple sap to make 1 liter of Maple Syrup. Fact: They don’t start boiling it down until they get at least 500 liters of sap. Fact: A tree is tapped once a year in a different place each year. The trees have scars from previous years. Fact: The sugar bush is self-generating. They do not plant the trees. Rather, the trees seed the ground and grow. Fact: The Jakeman’s Maple Bush has about 1000 trees that are tapped. They contract with many others in the area as well.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings in March every year Jakeman’s offers a pancake breakfast along with small tours of their facility. The pancake breakfast is a fundraiser for the local 4H Club and all of the members are there to make pancakes, take orders and serve. There is room in the Jakeman’s store for about 35 people.
On a final note, I would like to introduce the flower called a Trillium. A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Ontario. It is also an official symbol of the Government of Ontario. One wonderful place to see an abundance of trillium in the spring is the Trillium Woods Provincial Park south of Woodstock.
The Trillium only blooms for about two weeks in May and can be seen dotting some rural areas. The Nature park is unique in its variety of trillium, not only the white ones, but some of the more colorful ones as well.
So, head to Woodstock, learn some history, eat some maple syrup, listen to some great Branson entertainment, take a wlk through a flower garden and go learn the game of Crokinole!! You’ll be glad you did!!