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
The R Towns
Roswell, New Mexico
How can I do a post about towns that start with the letter R and NOT include Roswell, New Mexico? I can’t!! Roswell is perhaps the most out of this world town in the United States (I’ll cover Vulcan, Alberta as Canada’s out of this world town in the V Towns post next week). On a return trip from Arizona, my daughter, son and grandchildren drove through Roswell and then home through Texas. I didn’t write a post about this trip though I do have a number of photos from the trip on my Pinterest and SmugMug pages. Roswell is a fun place!
Regent, North Dakota
Regent, North Dakota is the southern Gateway to the Enchanted Highway, one of the most amazing offbeat and quirky drives in the United States. The 32 mile drive features a number of pieces of the unique (and massive) artwork of retired Regent, ND school teacher Gary Greff who has taken on this effort in order to keep the small dying town from becoming a ghost town. To me, this is a Top Ten Road Trip Destination. One of my most popular posts on this blog is my complete photo/travel review of Regent and the Enchanted Highway. Check it out – complete with maps, descriptions, mile points, satellite photos — its right HERE.
In 2012 I took a three day trip to Wisconsin with one of my daughters and her daughter. We visited Jurustic Park (see my M Town Posts), Green Bay, Egg Harbor (see my E Town Posts) and also made our way north on US 51 until we hit US 8 and then headed east toward Rhinelander, also known as the “Heart of Hodag Country.” What, pray tell, is a Hodag? There is a great unique writeup HERE. According to the Rhinelander website, the Hodag is a mysterious woodland creature that makes its home in the Rhinelander Area. Why the Hodag is only found in the Rhinelander Area is not certain. However, many people believe that it is the clean lakes, dense forests and incredible natural beauty that ties the Hodag to the Rhinelander Area. See more about this trip HERE.
Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
One of the country’s uniquely named towns is a small Ohio River town known as Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. According to the Rabbit Hash website: “The town’s name, “Rabbit Hash” is said to have originated during the flood of 1847 when the abundant local rabbit population was driven to higher ground and became a food staple in a special stew called “hash.” Little documented history of Rabbit Hash actually survives, primarily because devastating Ohio River floods in 1884, 1913 and 1937 deluged the little town and ruined many records.” See more about my 2008 visit to Rabbit Hash. A fun side trip for anyone! Read it HERE.
Raton, New Mexico
Head south on Interstate 25 out of Trinidad, Colorado, cross into New Mexico and you come into the throwback touristy town of Raton, NM, which is also at the intersection of US Highways 64 and 87. The town is dotted with 50s and 60s style neon signs and motels, a nice retro downtown area and a great Visitor’s Center. You can see more about my Colorado/New Mexico trip and my visit to Raton HERE.
Red Lodge, Montana
Red Lodge, Montana is one of the gateways to the Beartooth Scenic Highway (US Highway 212), perhaps one of the most scenic and splendid high mountain drives in the country. The town itself is beautiful, though touristy as it also promotes itself as a Gateway to Yellowstone National Park as well. Read about my 2014 Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge experience in more detail HERE.
Riverside, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
If you are a Star Trek fan than you know about Riverside, Iowa. It is most likely the only town you can find that is the FUTURE BIRTHPLACE of someone, in this case, Captain James T. Kirk, who is scheduled to be born on March 2, 2228. Touting itself as the place “Where the Trek Begins,” you can find some Star Trek memorabilia, a Starship replica and more.
Rugby, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
You may think North Dakota is in the northern climes, but, actually, when considering North America, it is almost in the middle. In fact, the small town of Rugby IS the Geographical Center of North America. Not too far off of US Highway 2 in North Dakota, its a good photo opportunity. See more about my US Highway 2 Zip Trip across North Dakota HERE.
Rudyard, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Further west on US Highway 2 in Montana is the town of Rudyard. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things. You can read more about the town and surrounding towns on Montana’s Hi-Line (US Highway 2) — HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Over the years, I have traveled to a number of what I call “Theme Towns.” These would include places such as Vulcan, Alberta with its Star Trek theme (see post of my visit in 2007); Metropolis, IL and its Superman theme (see post of my visit); Hershey, PA and its chocolate theme (see post about recent visit in 2015); Roswell, NM with an alien theme; Douglas, WY and its Jackalope theme (see post here); and Hell, MI with its Devils and hell-fire (see post here). Another one I visited back in 2012 was Santa Claus, IN with its Santa and Christmas inspired themes. That visit was a short pass-thru visit on my way west to Kansas City.
On my grandson Landen’s 7th birthday, Dec. 17, we gathered up Landen, his sisters and his cousin Rockwell, along with my daughter Marissa and my wife and took a day trip to visit Santa Claus during the holiday season. It was a lovely, though quite cold, day to take the two and a half hour trek from our own horse and bourbon themed Lexington up to Santa Claus.
Our trip up was uneventful. It was cloudy in the morning so we didn’t
see a sunrise. However, by the time we got to the Santa Claus exit off
of I-64 west, the skies was bright with sunshine and a few spotty
We got into town about 11:30 EST, but it was Central Time there. Our
intent was to head to lunch first and then visit the town.
One might think that Santa Claus would have a quaint little rustic
downtown area with Christmas-like cottages and a Gatlinburg-esque
atmosphere. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. Though there
are Santa statues throughout the small town, the actual town consists of a strip mall (Kringle Place) with a few Christmas-themed shops, then, a couple miles down the road there is a museum, the original post office, an old church and the “Candy Castle.” The town has a hotel called Santa’s Lodge, with a restaurant called St. Nick’s. There is a campground at Lake Rudolph. Besides the Santa-themed attractions, the biggest drawing card to the town is the Holiday World Amusement Park with its huge roller coasters and water slide amusements. Obviously, at this time of the year it is closed for the season.
Thus, this visit to Santa Claus was really in the “off season” though,
for three weekends in December the town is bustling with Christmas
visitors and its variety of Christmas activities, some of which were
still available on this particular Thursday visit. (Mind you, the
County Tourism office recommended I visit on Saturday, but that wasn’t going to work for us).
We got to St. Nick’s restaurant at 10:45 and it didn’t open until 11,
so we kind of hung around the lobby of the Santa’s Lodge hotel, which
was nicely decked out for Christmas. The town really has sparse
dining options. Besides the obviously Santa-themed St. Nick’s, the only other options appeared to be a Subway (with a Santa out front) and a Pizza/Sandwich place in the Kringle Plaza strip mall. If you want to eat vegan, good luck!
St. Nick’s has a few Christmas designs and the menu is certainly Christmasy. The menu items were typical American faire. We were there on a slow day and found little that we could eat (as far as vegetarian options were concerned.) We ordered the tri-color tortellini with artichoke pesto, kind of excited about the Christmas colored noodles. But, much to our dismay, our server came back a few minutes later to tell us it had been discontinued and that the “new owners” we’re getting “new menus” soon. So, we opted for the salad bar, which sufficed (somewhat). All the kids got kids meal chicken fingers and fries, which were hefty. I asked about the “Reindeer Paws,” which were advertised on the Santa Claus, IN website (see here), and our server had never heard of them. Apparently they used Reindeer Paws as the name of their Buffalo Wings but no longer.
By this time, my wife was already noting another “Sandwich Fail,”
referring to our September 2015 trip to New England and our out of the way drive to Sandwich, NH to get a sandwich (and our ultimate discovery that there are no places in Sandwich to get a sandwich).
Though the waitress was pleasant, the food was lackluster. But, in a town with few choices, it was probably better than the other two places. Thankfully, they gave us a 10% discount due to all of the troubles. That was helpful considering the cost of meals for seven people.
Now that tummies were full, we were ready to venture into town and see all of the offerings of this small Indiana village. Our first stop was some photo shoots inside and outside of Santa’s Lodge. The interior is nicely decorated for Christmas (perhaps year around). And, outside, they have the 10 foot tall “Angry Santa” statue — that’s what I call it anyway. He doesn’t look too friendly, though he did pat me on my head!
From Santa’s Lodge we decided to head over to the Santa Claus Museum and Village, which was east on IN 245 a bit past IN 162. The old historic Post Office and old Santa Claus Church are located there, along with a 20 foot tall Santa Statue. The Santa Claus Museum features historical documents, photos and artifacts illustrating the progression from the tiny settlement of Santa Fe (pop. 65) to the present day town of Santa Claus. Exhibits feature the story behind the town’s famous name, the history of tourism, and artifacts highlighting the town’s unique history. The town was established in 1854 and known as Santa Fe (pronounced “fee”). In 1856, when the town was working to establish a post office, the United States Postal Service refused their first application as there was already a Santa Fe established with the USPS. Several town meetings were held, during which the name Santa Claus was selected.
The town now has the world’s only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus. Because of this popular name, the post office receives thousands of letters to Santa from all over the world each year. A group of volunteers known as Santa’s Elves ensures each child receives a reply from Santa Claus; this tradition has been in existence since at least 1914.
The kids sat the old style desks to write their letters to Santa. It was a nice little unique atmosphere.
After each child completes their letter, the parents (or children) include their mailing address on the letter and Santa will send them a letter to respond to them. There is no charge for this. It is a fun concept for the kids (and donations are accepted for those wishing to help out Santa’s volunteers)
Just behind the old Post Office is the old church. It is a small, cozy building. It was built in 1880 and still is heated by a wood burning stove.
The inside is sparse, but warm. There is a nice nativity scene at the front. The grandkidz went in and sat down in one of the pews and all sang Silent Night together. It was really sweet!
A little on further down the road is “Santa’s Candy Castle,” the perfect place to pick up some goodies for the kids. And during the Christmas season, they also provide an opportunity for the kids to chat with Santa’s Elves in the North Pole online and find out if they have been Naughty or Nice. Its a nice interactive thing for the kids to do and they get a certificate afterwards that is encased in plastic! (There is a cost involved, but I was able to get coupons online and save a few dollars at santaclausind.org)
We had already determined who was Naughty and Nice between Mom and Daughter….but the grandkidz needed to wok with the north Pole elves to get that determination.
The interactive program on the computers requires a special code and each child is assigned to a specific elf for their interview. The Elves ask a few questions and then make some advice before they finalize the certificates. The kids have fun with this and so the adults!
Then came the BEST part of the visit to the Candy Castle….yep, the Candy!! The store has a Jelly Belly Room, a giant PEZ wall and a huge assortment of favorite goodies, even some that are not typically seen in the eastern US (such as the Rocky Road Bars). Each of the grandkidz got to choose ONE thing for being on the good list (per Grampz).
Then there are the Bean Boozled Flavors – including such yummy goodies as Skunk Spray, Toothpaste, Booger, Vomit, Baby Wipes, Moldy Cheese, Stinky Sock, and Grass Clippings. YUM! And yes, we got some of these too. Take the Bean Boozled Challenge if you dare…I have and lived to tell about my vomit and skunk spray experiences.
The Candy Store also offers a variety of fudge, popcorn and taffy flavors all served up by Santa’s Nice Little Helpers who were there for us on this day. If you dare (which we didn’t) you could try out the famed Frozen Hot Chocolate.
The Candy Castle also has a few ornaments and books as well as a Santa Claus Hall of Fame wall. Here are a few more photos from this fun place.
My daughter in law Holly wanted us to pick up a nice ornament from Santa Claus. She SPECIFICALLY asked my daughter to get it and didn’t want to ask me. When I called her and asked her why she wouldn’t want me to do it she said “I don’t want you bringing home a pickle ornament or some other weird ornament.” Ironically, I had never heard of a pickle ornament. But, t my amazement, there were indeed pickle ornaments for sale at Santa’s Candy Castle. They even came along with a story.
According to whychristmas.com the story of the Pickle Ornament is as follows:
The tradition of the Christmas Pickle has got to be one of the strangest modern Christmas customs in that no one is quite sure why it exists at all! It was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. Some families now have the tradition of hanging the pickle on the tree, with the first person/child to find it getting a present. But it probably didn’t start in Germany!
Needless to say, we got Holly her nice ornament, but ALSO got her a Christmas Pickle ornament. I couldn’t resist. We read the little info sheet to all at the family gathering. “An age-old German good luck emblem, this realistic, hand-painted glass ornament adds a touch of legend and humor to holiday decorating. According to tradition, the first child to find the pickle ornament, which parents hide deep within the trees boughs, gets an extra gift from St. Nick.” Oh what fun it was!
Now that we determined that the kids were all good and that they were all candied up, we got back in the van and headed over to Kringle Place to visit some of the shops there and maybe, just maybe, get a chance to see the REAL Santa. The Santa Claus Christmas Store has a HUGE selection of Christmas collectibles including ornaments, nativities, Christmas decor items and a special room to visit Santa Claus…a really special one.
Then of course, there was the chance visit with the REAL Santa Claus. Marissa said it best… “This Santa was pretty awesome. Lyla wasn’t even scared at all- which has not been the case for the fast few we have seen. And I just loved the chair. After asking the children what they wanted for Christmas he asked them if they knew why we really celebrated Christmas. And then they had a conversation about Jesus. (And look at his chair!)“
By this time we were pretty zonked. Marissa and Julianne still wanted to do some shopping, so I took the kids and we took a drive around the rest of the town. We found a few unique surprises along the way as we did.
To my surprise and delight, we discovered a Santa Claus Police Car! I asked the kids why they would need a Police Car in Santa Claus and Landen piped up with “Santa needs someone to decide who is Naughty and who is Nice.” HA! And now, I have another unique Police Car to add to my collection as well. here are a few other Santa Claus fun places.
And then there are the many Santa Claus” statues in town. The town even has a hashtag “#SantaSelfie”. I saw at least a dozen Santa statues around town at the banks, the post office, the library, the Subway sandwich shop, and other places.
These are all themed to give that wonderful feeling as one travels around town. Even the City Hall is decked out with a Santa Claus and holiday decorations.
Some of the Santas around town are whimsical. Others are much more traditional. Some are life size and others are larger than life. Here are a few more of the Santas around town.
And finally, even Sumoflam gets to meet Santa Claus in person!! He told me I was a good boy this year!!
This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1Part 2 )
After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year. In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones. These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah. Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another. It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….
In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed). So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington. Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:
This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time. We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took. Along the way we saw a few fun things…
After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.
After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.
The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together. This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie. As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well. Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)
The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride. We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike. This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL. It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video. In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.
From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota. We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!
Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN
From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta. It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….
I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain. We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…
We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…
We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie. During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass. We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…
We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls. Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…
During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out). But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington. Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook. John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody). Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie. So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh. It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.
This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me. We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management. After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.
From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!). It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”
We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky. More unique stops were made along the way…
After a long trip, we finally made it home. This was to be the last of my trips with just my children. All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips. I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.
Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…
In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin. We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)
On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more. See more here.
We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.
I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them. However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us. I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips. Here are a few scenes…
My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18. Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between. Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well. Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.
Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!
Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.
Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly. That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….
Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!