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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!
This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them. You can see Part 1 here.
During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.
The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more. This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world. She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)
The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other. It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.
Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998. This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe. Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed. At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France. Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris. Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)
We took three trips to the east during 1998. The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility. While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail. Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us. In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.
From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit). It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.
So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.). This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off. But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents. It was pretty “in-tents”!!
We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one. However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.
We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……
Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip. But, it was not the last trip east. A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa. Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background. Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.
Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!
In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University. While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia. We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…
A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff. In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky. I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.
During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio. Giant picnic basket!
The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us. Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips. We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.
On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum. We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!
Travel continued that year with a couple more trips. Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites. Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.
In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana. This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory. The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.
From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument. This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.
Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites. Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.
From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy. Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln). We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.
There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.
On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).
On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds. When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…
The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan. Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved. Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.
In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents. It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.
With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things. Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.
Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).
We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005. I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters. By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings. In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.
After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana. This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way. Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!! We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)
Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously. It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.
Roadside guidance provided by……
Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days. We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province. We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well. We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well. But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun. Here are a few of the better shots. So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!! Many memories were made…
Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN. The second day was another doozy….
We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest. The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…
The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004). We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….
After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.
After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways. We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area. After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest. We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip… then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.
And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz. The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!