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.

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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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My 100th Post! Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Back Roads Travel with Family – Pt 1

Fredericksburg, Virginia Aug 1995
Fredericksburg, Virginia Aug 1995

This is my 100th Post on Less Beaten Paths.  It is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on travel with my family over the last 30 years.  This Post will cover the “Early Years: 1980-1995.”  Subsequent posts will be “1995-2005” and then the “Grandparent Years: 2005-present.”

Kravetz girls in Sedona, AZ Oct 1992
Kravetz girls in Sedona, AZ Oct 1992

As a family man (5 children, 9 grandchildren), I want to dedicate this post to my travels with all of them since the 1980s.  These are fairly long posts with lots of family travel photos, so, feel free to skim through if interested, or pass onto another post in my blog.  But, I do also want to use this post to show how the creation of a wanderlust in each of them has opened their eyes and minds to the world around them.  Thirty years of family life and tens of thousands of miles traveled!! There are lots of Throwback photos in this one!! (Note that many of these have been scanned from original FILM photos — before the days of digital cameras)

Monument Valley, Utah July 1993
Monument Valley, Utah July 1993

All five of my children are 1980s children. My first was born in 1980 and my last in 1989.  From 1987 to 1991 we lived in Japan. That was quite an adventure. In 1993 we moved cross country from sunny Mesa, Arizona to the lush green horse country of Kentucky, where we have been ever since. In 2005 my three oldest daughters all got married in diverse parts of the country within 6 weeks of each other.  The first was in Tennessee, then, 5 weeks later we were on our way to Montana for the second and the next weekend back in Louisville for the third.  Throughout all of these events, I made sure we traveled and saw the sites.  That was so much more important to me than the Disneylands of the world.

Usuki, Japan 1988
The Family in Usuki, Japan 1988

Growing up I had the opportunity to travel as we moved to a number of places due to my fathers employment.  With that in mind, I had always had high hopes to provide the same opportunities to travel for my children.  So, even at a young age, we worked on opportunities, even if close by.  As a young couple in college, we didn’t have much and we drove an old 1963 VW Bug.  Our first trip with our first daughter consisted of a trip from Flagstaff into the San Francisco Peaks wilderness, only about 30 miles away.

Our Young Family in the San Francisco Peaks - March 1980
Our Young Family in the San Francisco Peaks – March 1980
Amaree near San Francisco Peaks in North Arizona 1981
Amaree near San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona 1981
Sumoflam & girls near San Francisco Peaks October 1981
Sumoflam & girls near San Francisco Peaks October 1981

As our second daughter Marissa came along, I was working as a tour guide/bus driver while going to school at Northern Arizona University.  Flagstaff was really only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful red rock cliffs of Sedona.  We made a number of trips there when the opportunity was afforded us…

Our family at Schnebley Hill overlooking the Red Rocks of Sedona in 1980.
Our family at Schnebly Hill overlooking the Red Rocks of Sedona in 1980
Marissa in Sedona, Arizona 1982
Marissa in Sedona, Arizona 1982
Amaree and Marissa on a tree at Tlaquepaque Shopping Center in Sedona 1982
Amaree and Marissa on a tree at Tlaquepaque Shopping Center in Sedona 1982

By the end of 1982 we had three daughters and were staying busy with school.  We didn’t have much time for travel.  We made trips to the Phoenix valley for visits with my wife’s family and those mainly were straight down the freeway.  But, I kept busy traveling northern Arizona with tourists.  We would visit the Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Montezuma Castle Nat’l Monument, Tuzigoot Nat’l Monument, the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, Monument Valley and, on occasion, we would take some to Canyon de Chelly, the Petrified Forest, Glen Canyon Dam, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas.  I loved these trips and thrilled in giving domestics and foreigners a full fledged detailed overview of everything.

Sumoflam and the old Nava-Hopi Tours #90 van.  I put on 1000s of miles onto this baby!
Sumoflam and the old Nava-Hopi Tours #90 van. I put on 1000s of miles onto this baby! (ca 1982)
Being a Tour Guide with Nava-Hopi Tours at Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ 1983
Being a Tour Guide with Nava-Hopi Tours at Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ (ca.1983)
Little Amaree, then 2 1/2, tries to drive the big charter bus in Flagstaff, AZ (Oct 1982)
Little Amaree, then 2 1/2, tries to drive the big charter bus in Flagstaff, AZ (Oct 1982)

Our time in Flagstaff ended in 1984 and we moved on to Arizona State University for Masters work and eventually for some PhD work.  By the time 1987 rolled around our first son Seth came along, making 4 children.  As a result, very little travel occurred at that time except for a couple of family reunions at the Marine Institute on Catalina Island in California and Aspen Grove near Provo, Utah.  The heavy duty travel for my family really kicked off big time as we had an opportunity to participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) in 1987.  My fluency in Japanese (due to a Mormon mission in the 1970s) helped me land a two year position as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) for Oita Prefecture, where I worked for the Governor’s office (also see this link for Tourism in Oita).  Little did we know when we left for Japan in August 1987 that this would open the doors to so many travel opportunities and experiences for the kids, none of whom spoke a word of Japanese when we left.

With family at a festival in Oita, Japan in Feb 1988
With family and another American friend at a festival in Oita, Japan in August 1988

I left a couple of weeks before the family did and poor Julianne had to travel to Japan with the four children.  It was the first flight for any of them and the first time Julianne had traveled to a foreign country (other than a trip to Canada and a couple of visits to Nogales, Mexico).  To make things worse, her plane out of San Francisco was delayed and they missed their connection in Seoul, South Korea, so they all stayed overnight in Seoul.  Once they did make it to Oita, we were some of the only foreigners there and truly the only foreign family.  As a result we were the recipients of a ton of attention.  We became the objects of a number of local television interviews, were invited to festivals and events as special guests and were also treated to travel all over Oita (which is just a bit larger than the state of Delaware).


View Larger Map – Oita, Japan (on the island of Kyushu)

Oita is one of seven Prefectures on the island of Kyushu, which is larger than Maryland but considerably smaller than West Virginia, but very similar to West Virginia in its remoteness and large mountains and hills, not to mention the large amount of countryside.  We spent a little over four years living and working in Oita.  The girls went to Japanese public schools and became totally immersed in the culture and language. Here are a few photos from our time and travels in Japan with details about the photos.

Family putting O-mikuji (prayer papers) on a rock during a celebration in Oita
Family putting O-mikuji (prayer papers) on a rock during a celebration in Oita
Family at Kumamoto Castle in 1988
Family at Kumamoto Castle in 1988
Daughters play on the beach of the Pacific Ocean in Saga-no-Seki, Japan in 1989
Daughters play on the beach of the Bungo Channel at Saga-no-Seki, Japan in 1989
Family at Usa Shrine in Oita Prefecture ca. 1990
Family at Usa Shrine in Oita Prefecture ca. 1990
Family at Usuki Buddha statue in Usuki, Oita, Japan ca 1988
Family at Usuki Buddha statue in Usuki, Oita, Japan ca 1988
Seth and Chelsea at a waterfall in Japan where they were shooting a TV commercial.
Seth and Chelsea at a waterfall in Japan where they were shooting a TV commercial
Chelsea in a promotion for Tokiwa Department Stores
Chelsea in a promotion for Tokiwa Department Stores
Amaree in a promotional ad for a department store in Fukuoka, Japan
Amaree in a promotional ad for a department store in Fukuoka, Japan
Seth was in an advertisement for a store in Fukuoka
Seth was in an advertisement for a store in Fukuoka
Marissa during a video soot for a French restaurant in Oita
Marissa during a video soot for a French restaurant in Oita

During our time in Oita each of the children had opportunities to be in TV commercials, department store advertising and other ads.  So, not only were they traveling, but they got to be involved in some other unique opportunities, especially as some of the only non-Japanese children in Oita Prefecture.

My girls at Kamiura Town hall where we were invited to participate in a festival.  They ate FRESH sashimi from a fish taken right out of the sea!!
My girls at Kamiura Town hall where we were invited to participate in a festival. They ate FRESH sashimi from a fish taken right out of the sea!!
Amaree and Marissa getting holy water at a Shinto Shrine
Amaree and Marissa getting holy water at a Shinto Shrine
Julianne and kids watching them cut a fresh fish.  We all ate sashimi (raw fish) while the fish still wriggled!!
Julianne and kids watching them cut a fresh fish. We all ate sashimi (raw fish) while the fish still wriggled!! Taken in Kamiura Township Nov. 1987
Amaree learns how to do MochiTsuki (making rice cakes the traditional way)
Amaree learns how to do MochiTsuki (making rice cakes the traditional way)
Chelsea tries her hand at MochiTsuki too
Chelsea tries her hand at MochiTsuki too
Marissa got decked out in a Kimono for New Year's Day with her friend Rika
Marissa got decked out in a Kimono for New Year’s Day with her friend Rika
The children got a special visit with the then-Governor of Oita, Morhiko Hiramatsu.
The children got a special visit with the then-Governor of Oita, Morhiko Hiramatsu
We made many trips around Kyushu, including Fukuoka and Kumamoto.  Here are the girls at Suizanji Park in Kumamoto
We made many trips around Kyushu, including Fukuoka and Kumamoto. Here are the girls at Suizenji Park in Kumamoto
Trains are everywhere and we took most trips by train.  This was always a fun experience for the kids
Trains are everywhere and we took most trips by train. This was always a fun experience for the kids

Like most places in Japan, there are rural areas and then there are industrial areas.  We had many special opportunities as a family to visit manufacturing facilities including a giant steel plant, the local newspaper to see how they printed in Japanese, a canon camera factory and a Toshiba Semiconductor plant.

Family prepares for a tour of the Toshiba Semiconductor Plant in Oita
Family prepares for a tour of the Toshiba Semiconductor Plant in Oita

After our four years in Japan, it was time to return home.  The children had all become fluent in Japanese and were becoming Japanese. We wanted to get back to America and the Japanese economy had begun to see an economic bubble in 1991, so it was the right time.  It was an amazing experience and opened their eyes to the world in so many ways.

Seth at Grand Canyon in 1992
Seth at Grand Canyon in April 1992
Seth at Wupatki National Monument in April 1992
Seth at Wupatki National Monument in April 1992
Kravetz Kids at Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona Oct. 1992
Kravetz Kids at Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona Oct. 1992

So, we returned to Arizona and I commenced looking for work, eventually landing a position in Kentucky as a Japanese interpreter/translator.  After about 8 months, I went back and we moved the family to Kentucky.  This became the next great adventure for the family and I meticulously planned a good route.  Back in 1993 there was no internet, so my research was done via maps and travel guides.  We would travel from Mesa, AZ thru Flagstaff, AZ (visiting Sunset Crater National Monument, the Grand Canyon and Wupatki National Monument along the way).  We made our way northeast to the dinosaur tracks in Moenave, AZ, then to Monument Valley in Utah and Four Corners Navajo Park.  From there we continued eastward through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and eventually into Frankfort, Kentucky.  Following is the route for our family’s first ever true cross country road trip (the first of many!!).  We departed on July 15, 1993 … Julianne’s and my 14th Anniversary.


View Larger Map

Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

Our first stop on this trip was Sunset Crater National Monument and then following along the loop drive to Wupatki National MonumentSunset Crater is one of the best examples of a volcanic cinder cone in the United States.

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ

AS you head east towards Tuba City off of US 89N, along the way you come to a sign that points north towards Moenave, on the Navajo Reservation (about 6 miles east on AZ Hwy 160).  You take that dirt road and just to the left a few hundred feet up the road is a large sandstone area covered in Dilophosaurus tracks. We stopped to check them out and then continued east to Monument Valley.

The kids in front of Mitten Butte in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in July 1993
The kids in front of Mitten Butte in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in July 1993

Of course, everyone recognizes Monument Valley from the movies, TV Commercials and Print ads.  It is one of those unforgettably beautiful natural desert scenes and a must stop for anyone visiting northern Arizona or Southern Utah.

Family at Monument Valley, Utah July 1993
Family at Monument Valley, Utah July 1993
Our youngest Solomon and Marissa get themselves in four states at once at Four Corners
Our youngest Solomon and Marissa get themselves in four states at once at Four Corners in July 1993

Continuing east on US 160 and a bit north from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona you arrive at the Four Corners Tribal Park, the only place in the U.S. where four state corners meet.  Soon thereafter we began heading into the mountains with an overnight in Durango and then on to Pagosa Springs the next morning. From there we traveled up and up to the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass – 10,857 feet – definitely one of the high points of this trip.

Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado....the Continental Divide, July 1993
Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado….the Continental Divide, July 1993

We continued through the mountains along US 160 through Walsenburg and then on to Lamar and then on US 50 into Dodge City for the night.  As we drove through Kansas I recalled that it was the only state that we could smell for miles.  The next morning we were off again to the SE corner of Kansas to visit the “Little House on the Prairie” near Independence, Kansas.  Of course, this was the title of the book by Laura Ingalls Wilder and was her second home after the family moved from Wisconsin.

Family at Little House Site near Independence, Kansas  July 1993
Family at Little House Site near Independence, Kansas July 1993

Though we made other stops along the way, our next destination was specifically for the girls, who in the 1990s were into the “Precious Moments” figurines. though popular among collectors, they are not nearly as popular as they were in the 1990s.

Precious Moments Figurines

In any case, we made our way into Carthage, Missouri, on the western end of the state, to visit the Precious Moments Chapel.  This was fun for the girls with big Precious Moments Statues, Stained Glass and other at work.  This was their first really “offbeat” travel site in terms of uniqueness.

Family at Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri July 1993
Family at Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri July 1993

From Carthage we continued on to Frankfort, Kentucky, driving through St. Louis, crossing over the mighty Mississippi and then a straight shot on I-64 through Louisville.  It was an amazing adventure for the kids as they got to see a good chunk of the United States.  But this was really only the FIRST of many adventures.

Family in Frankfort, Kentucky with the State Capital Building, July 1993
Family in Frankfort, Kentucky with the State Capital Building, July 1993

This first cross country trip with the family was very revealing.  We learned that the kids could manage on a long trip as long as we had a few stops along the way that were interesting and fun for them.  It helped them anticipate the next stop too.  We also found that they took interest in the history, the geography and even the novelty.  We had a living classroom on wheels.  This would prove very beneficial in our planning of subsequent trips, whether short or long.

Seth in Perryville, KY at a Civil War Reenactment, Oct. 1994
Seth in Perryville, KY at a Civil War Reenactment, Oct. 1994

Kentucky was new to all of us.  In fact, the Eastern U.S. was new to all of us.  The green, the colorful spring and fall seasons.  All made for a wonderful new opportunity for adventures, even close to home.  During the remainder of 1993 and a good part of 1994, we stayed close to home and explored nearby places.  We moved from Frankfort to Nicholasville on Christmas Eve 1993 and could enjoy living close to the larger city of Lexington and all of its amenities.   After getting settled again we had more opportunities to explore as the kids learned about the Civil War first hand, they got to see the massive Mammoth Cave and even enjoyed time in many of Kentucky’s beautiful surroundings.

Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Family at the entrance to Mammoth Cave, October 1994
Family at the entrance to Mammoth Cave, October 1994
Amaree and Marissa in Mammoth Cave, Oct. 1994
Amaree and Marissa in Mammoth Cave, Oct. 1994
Kids on Pontoon Boat on Bear River Lake in Southern Kentucky on Halloween 1994
Kids on Pontoon Boat on Barren River Lake in Southern Kentucky on Halloween 1994
Seth and Solomon learn about one of Kentucky's big attractions - Horse Racing at Keeneland in April 1995
Seth and Solomon learn about one of Kentucky’s big attractions – Horse Racing at Keeneland in April 1995

Traveling far away from home wasn’t really on the agenda until mid 1995.  At that time we were the host of a French Exchange Student named Barbara Grandvoinet.  She was between the ages of Amaree and Marissa and went to school with them.  We had room for her and she stayed with us for six months.  So, it was the perfect time to plan a trip and get our “wanderlust” fulfillment in.  By this time the fledgling internet was getting popular.  We had an AOL account and I was able to do some research online.  I planned out a trip that would take us through West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and back home through West Virginia.  It promised to be an exciting trip.  The following map gives a general course for us (though I don’t really recall the entire course).

View Larger Map – Family trip August 1995

Barbara, Marissa and Chelsea in a hut in historic Jamestown, VA - August 1995
Barbara, Marissa and Chelsea in a hut in historic Jamestown, VA – August 1995

My goal for the trip was to make it memorable for the kids and to introduce them to journal writing.  I didn’t force too hard, but I encouraged them to write in the notebooks that I prepared for them, to tell about the trips and the fun things they did.  Some did well…

lions and tigers and eagles Oh My - our first offbeat attraction at Wilson's in Ansted, WV - August 1995
Lions and tigers and eagles Oh My – our first offbeat attraction at Wilson’s Mystery Hole in Ansted, WV – August 1995

Marissa took her journaling and photography seriously, even from the get go.  She has since become a professional photographer (see her photography site).

Marissa taking photos at the Mystery Hole in Ansted, WV - Aug 1995
Marissa taking photos at the Mystery Hole in Ansted, WV – Aug 1995

From the Mystery Hole tourist trap, we then went to the amazing New River Gorge and saw the huge arched bridge that spans the river.  the New River is one of the oldest rivers on the American Continent and the 3030 Arched Bridge that crosses over it is 876 feet above the river.

The kids at New River Gorge overlook
The kids at New River Gorge overlook
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in August 1995
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in August 1995

After an overnight stay at an old hotel near Fayetteville, we visited Lexington, VA and then were off on a drive through the scenic Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We then stopped in Fredericksburg and visited some historical sites and the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shoppe, which showed the kids many old ways of doing things.

Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, VA
Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, VA

From Fredericksburg it was on to the historic Jamestown Settlement. Due to time constraints we skipped Williamsburg, which I had visited a couple of years earlier.  But Jamestown was a nice living history center and the kids got to see how the Powhattan Indians lived, they got to climb aboard replicas of the ships that the settlers came on and more.  A couple of the kids we causing problems, so I had them “put in a pillory.” The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal. A stock only held the hands, a pillory included the head…just so the difference is made clear.

Chelsea and Solomon were acting up so we had them put in a pillory in Jamestown.
Chelsea and Solomon were acting up so we had them put in a pillory in Jamestown.  Wished I had some rotten tomatoes!!
Barbara, Marissa and Chelsea in a Powhattan hut in historic Jamestown, VA - August 1995
Barbara, Marissa and Chelsea in a Powhattan hut in historic Jamestown, VA – August 1995
Seth and Sol on deck of one of the ships in Jamestown in August 1995
Seth and Sol on deck of one of the ships in Jamestown in August 1995
Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995
Kids in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1995
Solomon the soldier, in Jamestown August 1995
Solomon the soldier, in Jamestown August 1995
Kids take over the ship at Jamestown, VA - August 1995
Kids take over the ship at Jamestown, VA – August 1995

We then made our way to Norfolk and then to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an amazing structure to cross over/under Chesapeake Bay from the Norfolk area of Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula.  After its completion in 1964 it was named one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.  The total length from Virginia to Delmarva is about 23 miles (17 miles from shore to shore).  There are actually two tunnels (Thimble Shoal – 5,552 feet and Chesapeake Channel – 5,237 feet) along the way, so you go down under and then back up over the water to man made islands and back under another tunnel.

Solomon and Seth at the Sea Gull Fishing Pier on the northernmost man-made island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel August 1995
Solomon and Seth at the Sea Gull Fishing Pier on the northernmost man-made island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel August 1995

Halfway across after going through the first tunnel, you come out on an island and there is a 625 foot long fishing pier and a souvenir shop.  We stopped there and got the shot above.  Afterward, we were back down the second tunnel and eventually came out on the Delmarva Peninsula, where we found an old crab house (really rustic indeed) and literally had a HUGE tray of crabs, crabcakes and other delectable types of seafood.  It was called Phillips Crab House in Ocean City.  We ate there and then stayed overnight in Ocean City.  Indeed, one of the “educational” pieces I have always tried to throw into our trips is eating things local to the area in local cafes and restaurants.  I wish I would have gotten some photos!!!

Washington DC LDS Temple, August 1995
Washington DC LDS Temple, August 1995

With the arrival in Ocean City, my four children had officially now been on both the West Coast (from previous trips to California and Catalina Island in the mid-1980s) and now the East Coast.  With this trip they had also pretty well traversed most of the United States by car (at least from Arizona to Maryland).

After an overnight stay in Ocean City, we traveled to Annapolis, MD and then to Silver Spring, MD, where my aunt lived.  We did make a quick stop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and then traveled on to Silver Spring, where the huge and beautiful LDS (Mormon) Washington D.C. Temple is located (see photo above).   We also took a day trip down to Mt. Vernon, where George Washington’s home was.

We then finished off by visiting the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia on the way home.

Amaree in Usa, Japan 1987
Amaree in Usa, Japan 1987

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