A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.

This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year.  It was not easy!!  I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it.  And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary.  I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible. 

It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge.  Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling. 

What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing.  I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.

I most certainly look forward to participating again next year.  Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year.  May actually take a long time!!!

A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!

My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns.  See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.

ABanner600

The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX

 

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The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH

 

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The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX

 

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The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI

 

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The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL

 

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The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX

 

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The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA

 

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The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

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The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

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The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA

 

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The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND

 

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The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY

 

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The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX

 

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The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

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The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

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The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID

 

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The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH

 

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The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

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The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

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The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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A to Z Challenge: The P 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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

PThe P Towns

 

Pella, Iowa

Welcome to Pella
Welcome to Pella
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA - the largest working windmill in the United States
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Jaarsma Bakery - Pella, Iowa
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Unique building corner in Pella, IA
Unique building corner in Pella, IA

There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa.  Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit.  It is also home to the Pella Window Factory!  See a more complete post about Pella HERE.

Peculiar, Missouri

Welcome to Peculiar, MO
Welcome to Peculiar, MO
And let's not forget...A Peculiar Water Tower
And let’s not forget…A Peculiar Water Tower
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Police Car
A Peculiar Police Car
Peculiar Post Office
Peculiar Post Office

In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts,  I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia.  Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri.  Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way.  The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868.  See my original 2012 post HERE.

Pierre Part, Louisiana

Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Swamp People Truck at Duffy's Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Swamp People Truck at Duffy’s Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part

Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize.  But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”.  You can read the whole story HERE.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Dafford's History Mural in Point Pleasant.
Dafford’s History Mural in Point Pleasant.

A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit.  Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2.  The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman.  The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph.  See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.

A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris

Welcome to Paris, Kentucky
Welcome to Paris, Kentucky

I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up.  Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River .  I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times.  There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link).  The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.

Paris, Ontario

Welcome to Paris, Ontario
Welcome to Paris, Ontario A nice place to live
Downtown Paris, Ontario
Downtown Paris, Ontario
A view of Paris and the river
A view of Paris and the river
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell received first long distance phone call in Paris in 1876
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que - Paris, Ontario
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario

During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time.  Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty.  There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place.  Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.

Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The famed "Jesus in Cowboy Boots" monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
The famed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
I bid farewell to Paris...that's me in the reflection...
I bid farewell to Paris…that’s me in the reflection…

I have been to Paris, Texas three times.  There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993.  For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S.  See my post about this battle HERE.  It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery.  (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.)   called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.

Paris, Tennessee

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris Catfish
Welcome to Paris Catfish
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower

On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S.  Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers.  Read more HERE.

Port Orchard, Washington

Welcome to Port Orchard
Welcome to Port Orchard
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
The Mattress Ranch "pasture" in Port Orchard
The Mattress Ranch “pasture” in Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard

In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days.  We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle.  There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.

Powder River, Wyoming

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming

On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre.   It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace.  See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.

Paducah, Kentucky

Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Paducah, Kentucky
Paducah, Kentucky
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY

Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town.  Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin.  There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river.  Their chief was named Paduke.  This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on.  He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did.  Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi.  Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856.  It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub.  Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.

Port Gibson, Mississippi

Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson

As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns).  One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well.  Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above.  Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures.  And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple!  See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.

Palmyra, New York

Hill Cumorah
Hill Cumorah
Book of Mormon Publication site
Historical location of the publishing of the first Book of Mormon took place in Palmyra, NY
Hill Cumorah Monument
Hill Cumorah Monument commemorating the location where Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the Angel Moroni. The plates were translated and later became the Book of Mormon
Hill Cumorah MOnument with Moroni
Angel Moroni sits atop the Hill Cumorah Monument
The home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra
A replica of the home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon.  Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon.  Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing.  My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013.  You can see my full writeup HERE.

Perryville, Kentucky

Welcome to Perryville
Welcome to Perryville
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
One of many unique shops in Perryville
One of many unique shops in Perryville

Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment.  The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.

Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)

Ole's Big Game Steakhouse - Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse – Paxton, Nebraska
Big Moose at Ole's (and one with antlers too)
Big Moose at Ole’s (and one with antlers too)

On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska.  The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants.  Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.

Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)

Pembroke, New York
Pembroke, New York
Kutter's Cheese in Corfu, New York
Kutter’s Cheese in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter's Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter’s Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York

On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY.  I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me.  And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.

Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)

Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY
Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY

On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York.  One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc.  They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.

Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Ponder, Texas
Ponder, Texas
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don't Ponder about going to a fire.
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don’t Ponder about going to a fire.
This is a church that has Ponder in the name....Ponder your eternal future
This is a church that has Ponder in the name….Ponder your eternal future
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder...ponder away!
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder…ponder away!

And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area?  Think about it ok?

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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……

 

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