V is for Vistas – #atozchallenge

Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista.  And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.

Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring.  Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations.  Enjoy the ride and the views.

Sunset at the Badlands in South Dakota
St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho
A view of the Portland Head Light in Maine
Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Old Orchard Beach, ME
Golden Gate Bridge in 2016
Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Oregon
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Highway to Cody, Wyoming
A lonely highway in south central Nebraska, near Overland
Horse Country – Lexington, Kentucky
Cincinnati Skyline
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983
Delaware Seashore Bridge at sunset
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The long straight highway near Cohagen, MT
Beautiful Highway heading into Virginia from Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
Beach at Clallam Bay, WA adorned with seagulls
New York City at night as seen from Hoboken, NJ
Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
Arkansas Hwy 8 near Amity, AR
Scenic cinder Hills and Shadows as seen on Idaho Hwy 33
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The Tetons as seen from near Drummond, ID
Sunset in the Sweetgrass, north of Dunkirk, MT
White Sands, NM
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia
Sunflowers forever near Lexington, KY
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Pennsylvania sunrise as seen from Boyce Mayview Park near Upper St. Clair, PA
Fall Colors from the Eagle’s Nest above Bancroft, Ontario near Algonquin
Texas Hwy 30 between Huntsville and Shiro
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters, Oregon
Somewhere in Kansas
View of the Beartooths near Red Lodge, Montana from the highway was awesome
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park

 

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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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A to Z Challenge: The W Towns #atozchallenge

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 towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

WThe W Towns

Wharton, Texas

Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich

Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton.  My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.  Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  You can see my full post about this trip HERE.

Welland, Ontario

Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled "History of the Niagara Peninsula" by Heinz Gaugel
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
 "Working Women" by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
"Wagons" by Andrew Miles
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles
"Main Street" by Mike Svob
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario

When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls.  But not too far west of there  is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor
art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above.  The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town.   Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa

I have always wanted to go to Winterset, Iowa, famed for the “Covered Bridges of Madison County” (See a map here).  Robert James Waller made these famous with his book called The Bridges of Madison County. The county originally had 19 covered bridges, but now only six remain.  There are actually a couple of other places with quite a few covered bridges including the bridges in Greene County, Ohio (see map) near Xenia, Ohio which I will feature in my X Towns post later this week,  (see my write up of my visit to many of these), the 18 bridges in Fairfield County, Ohio (also see map) and the 17 bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio (also see map here), including the newest and longest, which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet long (see my photo of this bridge).  Kentucky and Michigan both still have quite a few as well. There are just over 125 covered bridges still in the United States and I have been fortunate to have visited many of them.  Therefore this was an exciting visit for me.  But Winterset is also famous as the birthplace of John Wayne.  You can see my complete and detailed post about Winterset HERE.

Wapiti, Wyoming

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion – Wapiti, WY
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti

There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them.  One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20.  This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti.  It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.

Wall, South Dakota

Wall Drug 714 Miles
Wall Drug 718 Miles – Austin, Minnesota
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall's Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
Wall’s Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug - these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug – these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino

There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction.  However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota.  I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere.  Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.

Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there.  On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts.  A few examples are shown above.  You can see more and the whole story HERE.

Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)

Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world.  It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate.  Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two.  I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.

Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)

Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR

In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad.  Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010.  A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.

Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Highway into Worland, WY
Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above.  The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there.  There is also a museum.  Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.

West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge

I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section.  And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area.  But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above.  This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada.  You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.

Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota

Winner Food Center

Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names.  I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013.  I definitely wanted a photo with the sign.  What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner.  So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same.  You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.

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