P is for People – #atozchallenge

I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.

I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.

Having a huge elephant ear with friend Robert Phinney in Dayton, WA
Got to meet Nelson Campbell, Director of the well know documentary Plant Pure Nation, in Louisville, KY

The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.

The diversity of people enriches us.

Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.

Met the Seattle Smile Guy along the way. Didn’t want money… just wanted smiles
Motorbike Quartet in Cebu, Philippines
Street Person – Cebu

First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.

 

Siesta Time – Cebu
Belly Rubbing – Carbon Market – Cebu
Street Person – Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain

For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.

Many of the musicians I have met are genuine.  They are such neat people…not pretentious at all.  It is nice to talk to them about life.  One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s.  I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.

Hanging with guitarist Bobby Cochran in Bardstown, KY in 2011
Sumoflam and world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, c.g.b.
Sumoflam and GUITARIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Edgar Cruz from Oklahoma
One of my favorite people – multitalented musician Bruce Wandmayer, from Santa Cruz, CA
Hanging with my Aussie mate, multiinstrumentalist Pauly Zarb.
Have become good friends with the lovely former country rock singer Patti Hall, who now sells real estate in Phoenix
Sumoflam and guitarist Michael Kelsey from Indiana – he is one of my favorite guitarists and musicians. He is also a fabulous person.
“Crafty” Jack Burger from Lethbridge, Alberta

Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower.  What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!

I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun.  We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together.  So blessed to know these great folks.

Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)
One of many Flamingoheads

Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.

A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.

Enjoying the ride in California with “Christmas Carla” (she was born on Christmas day.
Ione (L) and Carla (R)…kissin cuzzins!!
BBQ Pitmaster Oliver Zuder showing off his trophy at the Oshawa Ribfest in 2008 in Ontario

My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.

In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario.   We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.

Davor Zuder and some smokin’ ribs at Oshawa Rib Fest in Ontario in 2008

Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.

Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe in Tightwad, MO
Tonya Floyd, current owner of the Wigwam Drive-in in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…

I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting.  On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.

David with Nadia Comanci – spent three days with her as her personal guide in Kyushu

One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.

 

Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)
Sumoflam with Troy Landry – 4 years after saying I would meet this guy

Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.

Hanging with Danielle Colby from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012

On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.

Under one of Clyde’s massive creations…his 12 foot tall dragon
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.

Clyde tells stories of his various pieces of art

I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)

Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.

Portrait and landscape photographer Derek Ace (photo by Jeff Dostalek)
Derek Ace self portrait

On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind.  See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.

Author, travel writer, lecturer and musician Tui Snider of Azle, TX
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.

Sumoflam with Shelly Cumbie in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse for a tour of the “Ghosts of Denton”
Writer, Radio Host, Sacred and Mysterious Site Traveler Teal Gray

Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.

Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast.  She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)

Teal Gray Worldwide

The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:

Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts.  See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)

Photographing Wildlife with some of the Jacobson Park Photographers

I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen

What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!

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#TBT – Visiting Erie Canal, JELL-O Museum, Bethlehem, Nicholson Bridge

(Author’s note: This post is another in my Throwback Thursday series.  Taken from August 2008 on a visit to Bethlehem for the Music Festival to join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.  I also visited a number of other sites. At the time I was still working in Woodstock, Ontario)

August 1, 2008: Instead of heading back to Kentucky for the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, PA and join
Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours for their two performances at the 2008 Bethlehem MusikFest.  I decided to make a weekend of it and visit more places along the way that I had yet to get to.  It would be a fun weekend indeed!!

I headed out early and headed southeast towards Buffalo.  My adventures for the first day would take me to the Erie Canal and the Jell-O Museum, among other places.  The map of the entire trip is below.

Woodstock to Lockport, LeRoy and Penn Yan, NY then to Bethlehem and back

My first “tourist stop” along the way was Lockport, New York.  Lockport derived its name from the locks that were built on the Erie Canal through here.  It is only about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls.  Like many towns in NW New York and SW Ontario, the town was initially settled by Quakers.  In the 1820s construction on the Erie Canal was well underway and part of the route would go through Lockport.  The locks were the idea of Nathan Roberts. A sixty foot drop existed at Lockport and a way had to be devised to raise and lower the packet boats to complete the journey to Buffalo. Roberts’s idea was a twin flight of locks with five locks each. In 1823, work began on the lock construction. These locks were crucial to
the completion of the canal.

(click on link above to learn more about the canal)
A portion of a large painting in the museum depicting the construction of the locks on the Erie Canal
Another portions of a large painting in the museum depicting the construction of the locks on the Erie Canal
Another depiction of the locks by Robert E. Hager
Another image of the Locks from 1839 by W.H. Bartlett

Today the town of Lockport welcomes many visitors who come to see the historic locks, which have since been improved upon considerably as technology has allowed.  When I got to Lockport I visited the Erie Locks & Canal Museum, where there was a small video about the building of the canal and locks in the area.  I then walked over to the locks.

A unique welcome sign: Welcome to Lockport, NY
The Lockport Museum
A couple of girls who acted as guides at Lockport
The Old City Hall and the entrance to the Lockport Cave

There are tours down and through the canal from here as well as a boat tour down in the Lockport Cave. Due to time and money constraints I chose not to take them.  But I would love to have the time to take a whole day here to see the sights and history.  Maybe someday…..

There are basically two locks in Lockport, as the sign above shows. The Erie Canal reached Lockport in 1824, but the locks were completed on Oct. 26, 1825.

The complex was built as two sets of five flights of locks (one east-bound, one west-bound) and was considered to be an engineering triumph.  These would help traverse the Niagara escarpment which dropped 60 feet in the Lockport area. Lots of early photos can be seen here.   Following are Some views of the locks in Lockport

Middleport Bridge over the Erie Canal

From Lockport, I headed east along the Erie Canal and made my way into Middleport, a quaint little town with an interesting restaurant and bridge.  The Original Basket Factory was begun around 1893 to make baskets for fruit farmers along the canal.  It later became a nice little restaurant.

Lovely wreath at the Original Basket Factory
The Original Basket Factory Restaurant
The Original Basket Factory Restaurant overlooks the Erie Canal

From Middleport I continued east to Medina, NY (pronounced Ma-DIE-nah as I later found out) on NY Highway 31.  Another nice little town along the Erie Canal, Medina is the home to the
Medina Railroad Museum (which I did not visit) and is also home to a very large sculpted apple along the Erie Canal.

The “Big Apple” of Medina, NY
Another view of Medina’s “Big Apple” overlooking the Erie Canal. The apple is dedicated to the W. NY Fruit Growers who have added to the economy of the area.
The apple was sculpted by Richard D. Bannister between Jan. 99 to Sept. 2000. It is in Lion’s Park.

I went further east of Medina on NY 31 to find the only place along the canal with a tunnel going under it.  Just down the road on the left was Culvert Rd.  Take a left and it takes you directly to the tunnel. Known as the Culvert Road tunnel (or something like that), it was the only one ever on the Erie Canal and has existed here since
Clinton’s Ditch, another name for the Erie Canal. The original road culvert, on a slightly different alignment, was removed about 1854-1855 as part of the Erie’s enlargement.  The contract for the Enlarged Erie road culvert is dated October 24, 1854 and lists Conway and Slater as the contractors. The 1854/1855 Enlarged Erie culvert was substantially rebuilt or replaced as part of the Nine Million Dollar Improvement of 1895. The contract for the new structure was given to Charles A. Gorman and is dated December 7, 1896. The current road culvert represents an attempt during the Barge Canal’s construction to preserve, if unknowingly, the historic significance of the structure. The facade of the south end was dismantled and the stones numbered. It was then reinstalled at a new location to allow for the wider Barge Canal channel.

The Culvert Road tunnel under the Erie Canal
This tunnel is in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the sign indicates
Another view of the tunnel from the other side
This is a view of the Erie Canal just above the tunnel. The rail fence across the canal is the same one above the tunnel photograph above

After my drive along NY 31, I headed south on NY 98 towards Batavia and then east on NY 5 into the historical town of Le Roy, NY. My main objective in visiting Le Roy was the JELL-O Museum.  This delectable bouncy treat was first developed in Le Roy in 1897 by Pearle Wait.  He was working with some cough syrup and laxative tea and then added some gelatin.  His wife called it Jell-O. The recipe was bought by a man named Orator F. Woodward in Sept. 1899. There is a lot of history about Jell-O, but perhaps the one thing that many people my age think of is Bill Cosby.

The JELL-O Museum, in Le Roy, New York
The JELL-O Museum welcome sign
Jell-O Museum T-shirt
Who likes Jell-O?
Bill Cosby memorabilia at the JELL-O Museum
The Bill Cosby plaque on the “JELL-O Brick Road”
Most popular flavors – Strawberry is #1; San Francisco is largest consumer, though Salt Lake City is the largest consumer of Lime JELL-O
Jell-O molds of all varieties
What good is Jell-O without spoons? Dozens hang from the ceiling throughout the museum
A cow adorns the porch–with JELL-O on its forehead
A side view of the Jell-O cow

After Le Roy I headed east on I-90 to highway 14 South.  I then went south through Finger Lake country along Seneca Lake to Geneva, then on 14A to the small town of Penn Yan, which sits on the north end of Keuka Lake.  This is beautiful country.  Penn Yan is also home of Birkett Mills, known for its famous Buckwheat flour, but also known to have the largest griddle in the world.

The World Record Pancake Griddle. People walk by so you an get an idea of the griddle’s size.

I continued south to Corning, NY and then to Elmira and then eventually wended my way to Clarks Summit, PA (near Scranton), where I spent the night. Scranton is the home of then Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate (with Barrack Obama).  I spent the night in the Ramada Inn, which is right next to an extremely high bridge called the Freedom Bridge.  It towers 163 feet high above the town
and is 1627 feet long. At one time was known as the “Suicide Bridge” due to the more than 20 suicides that took place from the 1980s to the present.

The Freedom Bridge over Clark’s Summit, PA

August 2, 2008: I was off to Bethlehem this morning.  No plans to stop along the way, so I headed south on I-380 and then down US 209.  I got into Bethlehem around 10 AM and had a great time driving around the town while waiting for Antsy McClain and the band to arrive in town later in the afternoon.

Bethlehem is in Eastern Pennsylvania and is a city of about 72,000.  It was the home of Bethlehem Steel, which began in Bethlehem in  1857 but succumbed to bankruptcy in 2003.  At one time it was the second largest steel producer in the United States.  The buildings look rusty and the factory is like an old sore.  But, there is now  construction of a new casino on the site.

As I drove around the city I was taken by the cultural diversity.   There is a large Puerto Rican community, the beautiful old Lehigh University and the old steel mill.

The old Bethlehem Steel Mill – now defunct
Another view of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill
Some of the old buildings
Old gears dot the properties
Another old gear
Lots of these could be seen around the area
Large crane on the site of the new casino;
A divergence of new homes with the rusted steel plant in their backyards
A view of a Bethlehem neighborhood as seen from Lehigh University
Downtown Bethlehem, PA

I drove up and down the streets near the steel plant and imagined how this area must have thrived in the heyday of steel production.  Homes were tightly built in rows, with little or no yards.  Nowadays most of the neighborhoods I drove through appeared to be Puerto Rican.

Old steel mill worker homes in Bethlehem
More close-knot homes on a narrow street in Bethlehem, PA
One of Bethlehem’s small narrow streets
More old classic Bethlehem homes
A final look at Bethlehem housing

Lehigh University is a beautiful old campus and has some wonderful old buildings too.

Old rustic tower on the campus of Lehigh University
Strange art piece on the Lehigh University campus
An old classroom building on Lehigh University campus

I also drove around the outskirts of town and there was nice farmland and even some geese….

An old stone house on the outskirts of Bethlehem
An old farm house surrounded by corn fields just outside of Bethlehem
A lovely old rustic barn in the countryside near Bethlehem, PA
Geese relax in a small area of brush near a farm

Of course, the highlight of the visit to Bethlehem was the
MusikFest and most especially, the performance of the fabulous music group known as Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours!!  The Troubs were scheduled for two nights here.  They were just a small part of dozens of performances on a number of stages.  The first night we played at 9 PM on the Liederplatz Stage.

A flag made of at the entrance of the Bethlehem MusikFest
A performance tent at Bethlehem MusikFest in 2008
The famous Antsy McClain rocks the crowd at Bethlehem MusikFest in 2008, with Chris ‘Spoonz” Long on drums, Pauly Zarb on Keyboards and Brian Gavron on mandolin
Fans give Antsy a big Amen

The show was a blast and all had fun.  After the show we all crashed at the hotel.

August 3, 2008: This morning was a great time to sleep in, which I did.  The hotel was comfy, had a huge TV in the room and I just lounged until late in the morning.  Antsy and I then took a small ride around town and then back to the hotel to get ready for the second night’s show.  We played the larger Americaplatz stage at 7:30 PM and had a crowd of nearly 500 watching the show.

Antsy McClain performs on day 2 of the MusickFest. Pauly Zarb on keyboards in the background
Antsy and Adam having fun on stage
Australian talent Pauly Zarb tickles the ivories as Antsy looks on.

The band had a blast…

Antsy McClain
Pauly Zarb..the Australian multi-instrumental talent
Brian Gavron picks a mean mandolin
Chris “Spoonz” Long on the drums

And of course, Sumoflam was on hand to handle the Merch and answer questions.  He Married Up!!

Sumoflam working the tables at MusikFest 2008
The crowds line up for merch and Antsy sightings
Sumoflam gets on stage for “I Married Up.”
Sumoflam high fives fans
Sumoflam joins with mandolin player Brian Gavron to sing harmonies on “Field Trip”

But more than the band, the crowds had a blast (including a number of die-hard Flamingoheads from PA and NJ!!!):

Fans dance to Antsy McClain
Flamingoheads Unite!
The crowd gets into it!
Yes, Antsy signs shirts, especially “I Married Up” Shirts

August 4, 2008: Well, as with everything else, the good things eventually go away and are done.  The two days of fun with the Troubs were done and I had to be back on the road to Woodstock again.  I chose my route home carefully so I could see one spectacular sight on the way.  So, from Bethlehem I drove north on PA 33 then to I-80.  I then drove wet to I-380 and headed north towards Scranton and eventually back to Clark’s Summit.  I exited there and headed north on US 11 towards Factoryville, which took me north along the Lackawanna Trail into Nicholson, PA.  As I drove into town I was awestruck by the amazing sight in front me.  Towering high above the town was this humongous cement train bridge.  This is the Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct which celebrates its 100th anniversary in Sept. 2015).  It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide.  Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!!  The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York.  All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet  below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.

Main street Nicholson, PA and the Nicholson Bridge
The Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA

Considering the immensity of this bridge, it is amazing that it was built nearly 100 years ago.  A detailed history of the bridge is here.
Following are more pictures.  I drove all around the town to get these photos and found that the best place to get photos of the length of the bridge was at the cemetery, which is up on a hill overlooking the town.  This is by far one of the greatest places I have “discovered” on my trips thus far.

The Nicholson Bridge as seen from the old train depot building.
The bridge from a distance
Nicholson Brisge as seen from the cemetery
A view of the bridge and the Tunkhannock Creek valley
A view of the Nicholson Bridge from the cemetery
The Nicholson Bridge as seen from below. It is dizzying to look up at it.
A view of a train crossing over the bridge

After the magnificence of the viaduct, I then had to head north.  I went through a town called Hop Bottom and then on the way up to New Milford. Hop Bottom got its name from the hops that are  grown in the area.  New Milford had an interesting library…

Welcome to Hop Bottom, PA
Old Ghost Sign for the Great Bend, PA Post Office
The uniquely designed Pratt Library building in New Milford, PA

I also made my way through the Finger Lakes of New York.  Along the road north of Ithaca I saw a sign about Taughannock Falls. I knew nothing about this waterfall, but the viewpoint was just off the road, so I took a little jaunt to catch a peek.  The Falls have a drop of about 215 feet and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S. It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately the light was not at the best angle for a good photo.

A view of the bridge at the base of Taughannock Falls in New York
Taughannock Falls in New York
Looking out at Taughannock Falls
Another view of Taughannock Falls in the shadows of late afternoon

Beautiful scenery, but no time to stop along the way…

A pink elephant near Owego, NY
Another view of the Owego, NY Pink Elephant
Corn fields and farms bedazzle in the Finger Lakes region of New York
A view of one of the Finger Lakes in New York
Finally, I ran into some wonderful sunflowers in the Finger Lakes region of New York

And finally, beautiful sunflowers

Some roadside guidance provided by……

 

(1020)

A Quirky and Offbeat Weekend in Cincinnati

The Singing Mural - Cincinnati
The Singing Mural – Designed by C.F. Payne

The first week of April 2014 provided a great fun time for my wife and I as we went to Cincinnati for a weekend getaway.  The main reason was to see my good friend Antsy McClain perform with a new “Trailer Park Troubadours” band that included amazing Aussie musician Pauly Zarb and the fabulous finger picking virtuoso Pat Kirtley and his brother.  We decided to make a weekend of it and visit a few places around Cincy that we have not seen yet.

Cincinnati Skyline
Cincinnati Skyline

Our first stop in town was a place that I have wanted to visit for quite a while.  Called the “Mushroom House,” it is truly one of the quirkiest places in the city.  The Mushroom House is located in the Hyde Park District of the city at the corner of Erie Ave. and Tarpis Ave.  It was created by architect/artist Terry Brown (who died in a car accident in Texas in 2008).  As a professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati, Brown created the building with the help of university students from 1992 to 2006.

The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati
The Mushroom House in Hyde Park area of Cincinnati

The house was built using a variety of materials including wood, colored glass, shell, ceramics, and various metals.  Care was taken to craft these materials into irregular shapes like those found in nature.  Following are a few shots of the house I took.

Mushroom House front side
Mushroom House front side
Mushroom House Chimney
Mushroom House Chimney
Mushroom House side wall
Mushroom House side wall
Mushroom House back side
Mushroom House back side
Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
One more view of the Mushroom House
One more view of the Mushroom House

From the Mushroom House we made our way to the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincy.  Over-the-Rhine (OTR) has been around since the 1780s and encompasses 362.5 acres of the original German community. The majority of structures are two-, three-, and four-story brick or stone edifices erected in the last half of the 19th century for residential and commercial uses.  All types of architectural styles can be found including Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne. The area was once one of the largest German-American neighborhoods in the United States.

Historic buildings in the Over-the-Rhine district
Colorful historic buildings in the Over-the-Rhine district

Over-the-Rhine is also home of the Findlay Market.  The Market is touted as Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market  and is considered one of Cincinnati’s most cherished institutions.

Findlay Market, Cincinnati
Findlay Market, Cincinnati

Findlay Market is home year-around to about two dozen indoor merchants selling meat, fish, poultry, produce, flowers, cheese, deli, and ethnic foods. On Saturdays and Sundays from April to November the Market also hosts a thriving farmer’s market, dozens of outdoor vendors, numerous street performers, and lots of special events.  We got there a little late for the farmer’s market, but had a nice time shopping in the crowded indoor market.

Findlay Market indoor shopping
Findlay Market indoor shopping

We love spices and were thrilled to see a “Gourmet Spice” shop…  Colonel De Gourmet Herbs and Spices has an amazing variety of spices and mixed herbs and spices.  We couldn’t resist the temptations.

Spicing it up at Findlay Market's "Colonel De" Shoppe
Spicing it up at Findlay Market’s “Colonel De” Gourmet Spice Shoppe
Spices Galore!
Spices Galore!
Colonel De's Gourmet Herbs and Spices
Colonel De’s Gourmet Herbs and Spices

We also found some unique Mediterranean pastries, some unique Olive Oils, vinegars and more.  One can find fresh meat, fish, vegetables and lots of other wonderful goodies.

Sumoflam at Findlay's Market in the Over-the-Rhine District of Cincinnati
Sumoflam at Findlay’s Market in the Over-the-Rhine District of Cincinnati
Frank's Fish & Seafood in Findlay Market
Frank’s Fish & Seafood in Findlay Market

All around the neighborhood there are murals and wall art.  Those who follow my blogs know how much I enjoy seeing these great works of art.  There are actually murals all over the city thanks to the ArtWorks organization.  A partial photo listing of many of the great works, including their locations, can be seen here.

Murals on wall near Findlay Market
Murals on wall near Findlay Market represent different shops
Mural representing Findlay Market
Mural representing Findlay Market
Sunflower Wall mural near Findlay Market parking lot
Sunflower Wall mural near Findlay Market parking lot

The most unique mural we saw was a huge one on the side of a building on Race Street called “The Migration of Tradition.” It is a beautiful work made with tiles and paint. It was designed by Tina Westerkamp, another Cincinnati artist.

"The Migration of Tradition" by Tina Westerkamp on Race St. in Cincinnati
“The Migration of Tradition” by Tina Westerkamp on Race St. in Cincinnati
Detail of "The Migration of Tradition"
Detail of “The Migration of Tradition”

All of the shopping and looking piqued our appetites (and it was already 3 PM), so we sought for a local place that offered some vegan faire.  We found a place called Myra’s Dionysus, a small place with an eclectic menu.  They had a variety of Mediterranean Cuisine as well as some other entrees, many of which are vegan.

Sumoflam at Myra's Dionysus in Cincinnati
Sumoflam at Myra’s Dionysus in Cincinnati
Myra's Chalkboard Menu
Myra’s Chalkboard Menu
Inside Myra's - small but clean
Inside Myra’s – small but clean
My meal at Myra's Dionysus - a pesto fettucine, some bread and hummus.
Our appetizer at Myra’s Dionysus – sesame noodles, pita and some tabouli

After our meal we took a drive down the Central Parkway so we could see the mural I had long wanted to visit.  Called “The Singing Mural,” this mural represents the community coming together in celebration of the arts.  It was designed by nationally renowned Cincinnati artist and illustrator C.F. Payne and completed in 2011.  At 25 feet tall and 135 feet long, it is Cincinnati’s largest mural and features some famous faces including Elton John, Bach, Sesame Street’s Grover, Cab Calloway, Beverly Sills, Mr. Rogers and even “Mr. Redlegs.”

Cincinnati's "The Singing Mural" (detail) by C.F. Payne
Cincinnati’s “The Singing Mural” (detail) by C.F. Payne
Another detail of "The Singing Mural"
Another detail of “The Singing Mural”

From the mural it we headed across the river to Hebron, Kentucky to our hotel and then back north to Harrison, Ohio where we would watch the always quirky and fun Antsy McClain and his friends perform.  We visited with them before the show — got to see Antsy’s new grandchild, got to see Pauly (who has been performing in Europe for the past year) and then Pat.

Looking at Antsy's new granddaughter - a real cutie!
Looking at Antsy’s new granddaughter – a real cutie!
Hanging with my Aussie mate Pauly Zarb, who came to the states for a few shows and then back to England
Hanging with my Aussie mate Pauly Zarb, who came to the states for a few shows and then back to England
Kentucky musician Pat Kirtley was on hand to help Antsy.  Pat is an amazing guitarist.  I have known him for about 4 years.
Kentucky musician Pat Kirtley was on hand to help Antsy. Pat is an amazing guitarist. I have known him for about 4 years.
AntsyCincy
Antsy McClain performing live in Cincinnati

After Antsy’s amazing show, Julianne and I returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest (needed!!).  The next morning (late), we headed to Cincinnati’s Northside area for a breakfast brunch at a small eclectic place called Melt. They have an awesome variety of dishes including quite a few vegan and vegetarian dishes.  The food was fabulous!!!

Melt in Cincinnati
Melt in Cincinnati
Great Vegan Brunch at Melt
Great Vegan Brunch at Melt
Melt Cafe
Melt Cafe – Cincinnati
One of Melt's Menu Boards
One of Melt’s Menu Boards

After breakfast we took a drive around the Northside… more murals and a great Graffiti wall reminiscent of what I saw in Toronto a few years ago.

Large Mural on side of building representing the Northside district
Large Mural on side of building representing the Northside district
Artist at work on Graffiti wall in Northside
Artist at work on Graffiti wall in Northside
Colorful Graffiti wall in Northside of Cincinnati
Colorful Graffiti wall in Northside of Cincinnati
More colorful graffiti in Northside
More colorful graffiti in Northside
Graffiti everywhere - very colorful
Graffiti everywhere – very colorful
Sumoflam at Northside graffiti walls
Sumoflam at Northside graffiti walls

A few blocks away was another giant mural on the side of a building.  It too was unique and really stood out….

Tall mural on side of a building in Cincinnati's Northside
Tall mural on side of a building in Cincinnati’s Northside

Sadly, all things mus come to an end.  After a drive around the Northside, it was back on the road south to Lexington.

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