M is for Mountains – #atozchallenge

I love the mountains.  I spent a good part of my life in the mountains – New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona.  These are the BIG mountains.

Having lived in Kentucky for the past 25 years, I hear of people that live in “the mountains of Kentucky” or heading to “the mountains of West Virginia.” In my perspective these are more like hills. But, by the broader definition, there are mountains in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Maybe even Tennessee.

Purple Mountain Majesties – Sawtooth range in Central Idaho
Here I am at the Sandia Overlook near Albuquerque in 1964

When I take trips to the Western US, I always try to make an effort to get to the REAL mountains….the kind over 10,000′ tall.  I love the fresh air of these mountains.  I long for the spectacular views…both from below and on top.

My first ventures into the mountains were as a young boy living in New Mexico.  My Dad also loved the mountains and we often took rides up to the Sandias. We would hike, take picnics and my dad always took pictures. He always took slides because he thought they were better quality.

In 1968 we moved from Dallas to Denver.  While in Denver, my Dad would take us on various drives up to Rocky Mountain National Park, Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak and other mountains.  As a junior high school youth I went with him for the intense hike up Longs Peak, near Boulder.  This mountain hike was a first for me.  I never made it to the top (since we were bogged down by a massive hailstorm in the middle of summer).  But my Dad left me at the stop station and continued up with a couple of friends.

My Dad Joe at the top of Colorado’s Longs Peak in 1968.

Later in life I had the opportunity to take a trip up to the top of Mt. Evans (by car).  It had changed over the years, but still had the mountain goats and the thin air.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake.
Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise

Living in Bozeman, Montana in the mid 1970s was the final straw.  We actually lived up in the mountains south of Bozeman.  I was hooked and still am.  My goals have always been to visit America’s great mountains, mountain ranges and parks. I have been blessed to have been able to do so.

Over the years I have been to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, the Colorado Rockies, the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, the Beartooth Range and scenic drive in northern Wyoming and more.  I have even been to the eastern mountains of Shenandoah, the Alleghany Highlands in Virginia (where I am as I write this!), the Ozarks in Arkansas and Missouri and the Adirondacks.  They have their own wonderful scenery.

Mt. Rainier in Washington – visited in 2015
Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho in 2013
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sister’s Oregon
Lima Peaks south of Lima, Montana
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park
A far off waterfall in Glacier National Park
Mountains of Glacier National Park near Babb, MT
Mountains near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Our daughter Amaree with the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona in the background taken in the fall of 1981.
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
Washington’s Lake Crescent and Mount Storm King in the background
Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Colorful homes and scenic mountains in Leadville, CO
Mt. Jefferson – at 10,497 feet the second highest peak in Oregon

 

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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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A to Z Challenge: The S 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

SThe S Towns

Steubenville, Ohio

Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
Fort Steuben Historical Site, Steubenville, OH
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Dean Martin mural in Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Dean Martin mural in Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH
Ohio Valley Steelworker by Dmitri Akis
Ohio Valley Steelworker by Dmitri Akis

On the banks of the Ohio River bordering the upper panhandle of West Virginia lies the old steel mining town of Steubenville, Ohio. This is the hometown of the famous actor/singer Dean Martin and is known as the City of Murals, with over 25 larger than life murals painted on the sides of buildings around town. The town of over 20,000 seems to be one of those dying steel towns. As I drove around town I got a sense of sadness. Many old crippled folks hobbling along the streets and many of the downtown businesses were welfare-related businesses. Up on the hill above the city there seemed to be a little more life. But, I also saw obvious signs that the town is trying to redefine itself as a historical tourism location with the murals, a new museum dedicated to the Old Fort Steuben and then the Ohio River scenery of course.  Check out my 2008 blog post about this and other Ohio River towns HERE.

Stanley, Idaho

Welcome to Stanley, Idaho
Welcome to Stanley, Idaho
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID
Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
The Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho

I visited Idaho a couple of times in 2013 for some work and took the weekends to travel an see some of the sights. One place I had dreamed of visiting was the Sawtooth Mountain Range.  Nestled at the base of the mountain range is the pristine little community of Stanley, which boasts a whopping 60-70 residents year round.  I could SOOO live in this place.  Pristine views, clean air and a few log cabins….even a Teepee…dot the town.  There is only one gas station and a couple of places to eat.  But what got me was the stunning views.  Check out more about my visit to Stanley in 2013 by clicking HERE.

Sedona, Arizona

Century Plant overlooking Sedona, AZ
Century Plant overlooking Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982

In the early 1980s I attended college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. During my four years there, I spent much of it working for Nava-Hopi Tours as a tour guide.  One of my twice weekly trips was to Sedona via the amazing switchbacks of the Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive. Personally, I am a fan of the Rocky Mountains, but Sedona most certainly is one of the most scenic places in the United States.  The massive red rocks, the colorful character of the residents, the Pink Jeep Tours, the impressive Chapel of the Holy Cross and more…this is a must see location. I look forward to my next visit to Arizona as I have not been to Sedona since the 1990s.

Santa Rosa, California

Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of "Cyclisk"
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”
"Guardian of the Creek" by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa's Prince Memorial Greenway
“Guardian of the Creek” by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa’s Prince Memorial Greenway

In 2015 I visited California to attend the Woodflock event with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. Prior to getting up to Red Bluff, CA where the event was held, I spent a couple of days with some of my acquaintances in the Santa Rosa area and actually got to tour around this funky town. I visited The Hand statue shown above, which is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland. Then there is the ultimate in quirky attractions, a giant obelisk made completely of bicycle parts.  Called “Cyclisk,” this was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000 lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture. There are a number of other fun attractions in this artsy little town.  You can see many more photos and more details in my 2015 blog post HERE.

Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rich Henry and Sumoflam with their rabbit at Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rich Henry and Sumoflam with their rabbit at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry's Ra66it Ranch
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry’s Ra66it Ranch

If you have been following my A to Z Blog Post, you would have noticed on the A Towns post that I covered both Amarillo in Texas and Alliance in Nebraska.  These two locations are home to two of the most well know “Car Art” sites in the United States, namely Cadillac Ranch and Carhenge.  Cadillac Ranch is right off of US Highway 66 in Amaraillo.  But if you continue east on US Route 66 into Illinois, you will come across a lesser known “Car Art” and Route 66 memorabilia spot near Staunton, Illinois. Known as “Henry’s Rabbit Ranch (also sometimes written as ‘Ra66it Ranch’),” this place celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station. Owner Rich Henry and his wife Linda have built up a shop chock full of Route 66 memorabilia, a collection of old half buried VW Rabbits in their unique replicating of “Cadillac Ranch” (thus Rabbit Ranch….) and even have a pen full of live rabbits.  See more about my 2013 visit HERE.

Sisters, Oregon

Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Three Sisters - nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity
Mt. Jefferson - at 10,497 feet the second highest peak ion Oregon
Mt. Jefferson – at 10,497 feet the second highest peak ion Oregon

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Oregon three times between 2011 and 2012 while working for iHigh.com.  On one of the trips I attended the Oregon High School Athletic Directors Conference at a resort near Bend and, along the way, drove some back roads, one of which took me into the town of Sisters, Oregon. The town gets its name from a set of three mountains in the Southern Cascades known as “The Three Sisters.”  From town you can also get a spectacular view of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon’s second highest peak.  Though not as high in altitude as Stanley, Idaho, this westernesque town (their biggest employer is a huge ranch), Sisters is another place that I could most certainly love and enjoy. Definitely worth a visit!

Seymour, Wisconsin

Welcome to Seymour, WI
Welcome to Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI
Hamburger Charlie's dignified face
Hamburger Charlie’s dignified face

Do you like hamburgers? How about hamburger history?  Back in 2012 on a visit to Wisconsin, we made our way into Seymour, which claims to be the home of the hamburger.  According to its history, Charles Nagreen (1870-1951), put ground beef patties in a bun and began calling them Hamburgers back in 1885.  They have an annual hamburger festival and there are a couple of giant hamburgers in town.  You can see more about Seymour by clicking HERE.

Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Police in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum

Perhaps you prefer Christmas year round.  You can get that in the village of Santa Claus, Indiana. There are a number of Santa Claus statues around town, Christmas-themed shops, a Post Office that has a Santa Claus in the front and even a Santa Claus Police Department!!  As a family, we made a visit there during the Christmas season of 2015 and had a good time.  You can see more about our visit to Santa Claus and a ton of photos HERE.

Sandwich, New Hampshire

Sandwich, NH - Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
Sandwich, NH – Discovered that you cannot buy a sandwich in Sandwich, NH
...but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!
…but none of the signs led to a sandwich place in Sandwich, NH. #SandwichFail!

On a trip to Connecticut in the summer of 2015, we made our way into New Hampshire and Vermont so i could knock off the remaining states in my quest to hit all 50.  One of my “wish list” stops was to go to Sandwich, NH in order to get a sat a sandwich there.  We even planned the trip such that we would get there around lunch time.  But, alas, there are no Sandwich places in Sandwich, New Hampshire (that we could locate anyway.)

Sweet Grass, Montana

Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweet Grass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweet Grass, Montana
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweet Grass
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweet Grass, Montana

Way up north in Montana, practically at the Canadian border is the town of Sweet Grass, Montana. Though predominantly a border crossing, the town has a couple of interesting things.  First off, there is a church with a blue roof…a rarity on the back roads of America.  And then there are the interesting geologic hoodoo formation of the Jerusalem Rocks.  These outcroppings can be visited via a rough dirt road.  I have written about these and some other similar formations in a post HERE.

Shakespeare and Stratford, Ontario

Welcome to Shalespeare
Welcome to Shakespeare
Shakespeare Pies - Shakespeare, Ontario
Shakespeare Pies – Shakespeare, Ontario
Antique Shops in Shakespeare
Antique Shops in Shakespeare
The Avon River and Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario
The Avon River and Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, Ontario
A lovely swan on the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario
A lovely swan on the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario

As I have noted before, in 2008 I was working in Canada.  On one a couple of occasions I got to visit the small town of Shakespeare and the neighboring town of Stratford in Perth County. Full of little antique shops and some beautiful scenery, these are certainly two unique places to visit. You can read about some of my exploits in this part of Ontario in 2008 in my post HERE.

Sikeston, Missouri (Honorable Mention)

Sumoflam and wife at Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls
Throwing Rolls at Lambert's
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri - big place
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place

I wanted to mention Sikeston, Missouri namely because it is home to one of America’s more unique eateries…Lambert’s Cafe – the Home of the Throwed Rolls. Offering great home style cooking, big portions, and yes, Throwed Rolls – literally throwing them to you across the room – it is a fun and delicious place to eat. Close to the entertainment town of Branson, Sikeston is a great stop along the way.  Read more HERE.

Success, Missouri (Honorable Mention)

Success, Missouri direction
Success, Missouri direction
Success, Missouri
Success, Missouri

I was heading north on US 63 in Missouri one day.  As I got to Houston, MO (in Texas County — NO JOKE!!), I passed the sign above.  I took the 16 mile trek to look for Success.  The road to Success from Houston is lined with old doublewides and rusted out cars.  No joke!!  And once you find Success, you will see that there is not much there.  At least you can say you found it.

Soda Springs, Idaho (Honorable Mention)

Soda Springs Historic Marker
Soda Springs Historic Marker
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre - Soda Springs, Idaho
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre – Soda Springs, Idaho
Murals in Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
The Soda Springs Geyser - erupts every hour on the hour
The Soda Springs Geyser – erupts every hour on the hour

And my final S Town is Soda Springs, Idaho.  It sits on top of many hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here.  In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here.   Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world.  It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool.  On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser.  The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber.  The water is around 72 F.  It is now controlled by a timer.  It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round.  You can read more about my visit to Soda Springs and other areas in Idaho and Wyoming HERE.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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