AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The S Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with  the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the S Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Please note that this one is a fairly lengthy post. So, Enjoy the Read and Enjoy the Ride!

Sesame Street – Seabeck, Washington

While driving through Seabeck, Washington we came upon Sesame Street.  So now I can tell you how to get to Sesame Street!

I can tell you how to get to Sesame Street — Its in Seabeck, Washington

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum – Santa Cruz, California

Had a nice visit in Santa Cruz to see the beautiful ocean views.  Came upon the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which was closed.  The building also has a nice lighthouse on top – the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum – Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Lighthouse on top of the Surfing Museum

The Sweet Place – Philipsburg, Montana

When we drove through Philipsburg, Montana, off of Montana Highway 1, we were pleasantly surprised by the huge candy store called The Sweet Palace.  The place was huge and has an amazing variety of candy, chocolate and fudge.  There are also some unique varieties of soda.

The Sweet Place – Philipsburg, Montana
The Sweet Palace – World’s Greatest Candy Store
Sweet Palace – Lots of Goodies
Sweet Palace – use a basket
Sweet Palace – Chocolate

Sleeper Market – Sleeper, Missouri

Driving through Missouri and just off of Interstate 44 on Missouri Road F, we drove through the small community of Sleeper, Missouri.  It was named after a railroad employee in the 1880s.  Apparently the employee had gotten a nicname of “Sleeper.”  I loved the Sleeper Market sign.

Sleeper Market – Sleeper, Missouri
Sleeper, Missouri

Seaside, Oregon

Colorful sign, but lots of rain on this day as we drove the the community of Seaside, Oregon.  on US Hwy 101.

Welcome to Seaside, Oregon

Sandhills Journey Byway – Nebraska Highway 2 – Central Nebraska

As we drove west across Nebraska, we hopped on Nebraska Highway 2, which is also known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.   This is a 272 mile journey through the Nebraska Sandhills, the Ogallala Aquifer, the Nebraska National Forest and more.  It runs from Grand Island, Nebraska to Alliance, Nebraska.

Sandhills Journey Byway – Central Nebraska

Sapp Brothers Water Tower – Nebraska City, Nebraska

There are many unique and iconic water towers along the back roads of America.  The Sapp Brothers truck stops all have nice coffee pot water towers.  The photo below is of the one in Nebraska City.

Sapp Brothers Water Tower – Nebraska City, Nebraska

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a wonderful city on a lovely bay.  I have been there a few times.  On this trip we didn’t have a lot of time for the city, but got a nice skyline view from above the Golden Gate bridge and did a drive through some of the city. We drove by the Salesforce Tower, which is the second tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

San Francisco, California
Downtown San Francisco
Salesforce Tower in San Francisco – 970 feet tall. Tallest in San Francisco and 2nd tallest west of the Mississippi River.
Housing in San Francisco

Stateline Road – Farwell, Texas

I have written about it before.  The Stateline Road between Farwell, Texas and Texico, New Mexico is mainly a 20 mile long dirt road.  We took it to get over to the National Wildlife Refuges near Muleshoe, Texas.

State Line Road – Farwell, Texas
20 mile long dirt road Stateline Road in Farwell, Texas

Sun ‘n Sand Neon Sign – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Santa Rosa, New Mexico is a treasure trove of vintage neon signage from the days of Route 66.  The Sun ‘n Sand Motel sign is a classic.  Though the motel has been closed for a few years, the historic iconical sign still remains.

Sun and Sand Motel old neon sign in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Spotted Horse, Wyoming

Driving northeast on Route 16 in Wyoming, we came across the little place known as Spotted Horse, and famous for the big spotted horse in the front of the place.  It is a small store, an old Standard Gas Station and a bar.  We only stopped for pictures.

Spotted Horse, Wyoming
Spotted Horse, Wyoming, Population 2

Shawnee Chief Motel – Shawneetown, Illinois

I always like to get vintage motel signs and the Shawnee Chief Motel sign.  This is an old Mom and Pop motel near the Ohio River town of Shawneetown.

Shawnee Chief Motel – Shawneetown, Illinois

Seattle, Washington Skyline

Whenever I visit my daughter in Port Orchard, I have to take the short drive to Manchester to grab a skyline shot of Seattle.  On this trop it was cloudy and allowed for a unique shot.

Seattle Skyline

Sandhill Crane Migration – Dimmitt, Texas

One of the things I looked most forward to on the return trip home was seeing Sandhill Cranes.  We made the long trip from Clovis, New Mexico to Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge to see them, but only found disappointment.   But, as we continued west towards Fort Worth, I was overly delighted to see massive flocks of them migrating north near Dimmitt, Texas.  It is always an amazing sight and, of course, their eerie calls can be heard from far away.   We saw even more near Seymour, Texas.

Sandhill Cranes as seen near Dimmitt, Texas
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes flyover
Massive numbers of Sandhill Cranes in west Texas
Sandhill Cranes fly by wind generators
Sandhill Cranes in west Texas
Sandhill Cranes in Seymour, Texas

Patrick Amiot, Junk-art Sculptures, Sebastopol, California

California is a huge state and I have only had rare occasions to visit.  On this trip we were close to the town of Sebastopol, a place highly recommended to me by my friends at  This town is home to junk-art creator Patrick Amiot who collects all sorts of junk and creates art.  The town of Sebastopol and neighboring areas are dotted with dozens and dozens of his works.  I took many photos and will feature more in my new 8154 Book, but here are a few shots from the visit.  His works are whimsical and fun.

Sebastopol, California -Patrick Amiot artist home
Patrick Amiot – “Crow Bar” in Sebastopol, CA
Drive junk-art in Sebastopol
Junk-art Mermaid – Sebastopol, California
Junk-art Sailor – Sebastopol, California
Junk-art Babe Ruth – Sebastopol, California
Batman and Robin in Sebastopol, California
Skeleton Rider – Sebastopol, California
Catcher – Sebastopol, California
Hanging with the T-Rex in Sebastopol

Seagulls from all over

Every time I am on the coast or near water, I am blessed to see seagulls.  I love watching these playful birds.  Here are few of the many shots I took on the road.

Seagull – Langlois, Oregon
Seagull – North Bend, Oregon
Seagull – Long Beach, Washington
Seagull – Cannon Beach, Oregon
Seagull – Manchester, Washington
Seagull – Santa Cruz, California
Seagull – Cambria, California

Slow Down for Wildlife Sign

Always a sucker for a fun sign.  Saw this one on the road up to Sequoia National Park.

Slow Down for Wildlife sign – Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park – California

As we traveled south from Washington, my daughter insisted that we find a way to get to Sequoia National Park.  It was way out of the way, but well worth it.  The drive from the park entrance up to the park is long and arduous, but so beautiful.

Sequoia National Park
Giant Sequoia Trees
Towering Trees
Sequoia Trees
Sunshine through the Sequoias

Shopping Cart Sculpture – Nipton, California

Nipton, California is such a whimsical and unique place.  I have written about it on a few other posts.  But, I wanted to include the really funky sculpture made from shopping carts outside of Nipton Trading Post.

Shopping Cart Sculpture – Nipton, California

Snow Geese Migration near Dimmitt, Texas

I had barely caught my breath from the excitement of the sandhill cranes on the road to Dimmitt, and then, just a couple of miles later we came across thousands of snow geese.

Snow Geese Migration – Dimmitt, Texas
1000s of Snow Geese
Snow Geese with one Canada Goose
Snow Geese and Canada Geese
Migrating Snow Geese

Sunrise, Sunset – California

Sunrise in Baker, California
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, California

Signs of Seabeck – Seabeck, Washington

Seabeck, Washington
Signs of Seabeck 1
Signs of Seabeck 2

San Francisco Peaks – Flagstaff, Arizona

San Francisco Peaks – Flagstaff, Arizona
San Francisco Peaks

Spaceship – Baker, California

Spaceship – Baker, California


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



AtoZ Challenge 2020 – 8154: An Epic Road Trip – The M Stories #atozchallenge

In early 2020 I traveled across the country with one of my daughters and three grandchildren.  We traveled 8154 miles through 20 states over the course of three weeks.  My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip.  Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip.  I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America.  Please enjoy the M Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)

Muleshoe, Texas

We made our from Clovis, New Mexico into Muleshoe to visit the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge and hopefully see some Sandhill Cranes (which we didn’t see at the refuge unfortunately). Getting there required some driving on dirt roads and other back roads, but it was worth the ride!

The town of Muleshoe is on U.S. Highway 84 and was named for the nearby Muleshoe Ranch. The town of about 4500 people was established in 1913 and incorporated in 1926. The National Wildlife Refuge is about twenty miles to south and was established in 1935, making it the oldest refuge in the state of Texas.

Muleshoe, Texas
Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge
Mule Deer seen on a back road to Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge


One of my favorite states in the country.  When I was a senior in high school in 1973/74 in Murray, Utah,  having moved from Montana in the summer of 1973, I talked about Montana so much that I was given the nickname of Monty Montana.

Welcome to Montana

Mobil Gas Station – Quitaque, Texas

Old Mobil Gas Station in Quitaque, Texas
Mobil Gas Station in Quitaque, Texas
The famous Mobil Pegasus


Welcome to Missouri
Visiting Missouri with grandkids

Manchester, Washington

Manchester, Washington is a small unincorporated community in Kitsap County.  It is a short drive from Port Orchard. Manchester has a little port that has a spectacular view of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound as well as a great view of Seattle across the Sound.

Welcome to Manchester, Washington
Sunrise on Puget Sound as seen from Manchester, WA
Seattle as seen from Manchester, WA

Matador, Texas

We drove south from Turkey, Texas on TX Hwy 70 and drove through the quaint town of Matador, Texas along the way.  Matador sits on US Highways 62 and 70.  The town was established in 1891 and was named for the nearby Matador Ranch.  It has a population of about 600 people.

Matador, Texas
Matador, Texas Water Tower
Main Street Cafe ghost sign in Matador, Texas

Martian Soda, Martian Poop Soda and Maple Syrup Soda – Nipton, California

I have already written about a couple of other unique sodas that we found at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California.  These are also products made by Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop.  Not only do they have the Kumquat flavored Martian Soda, but they also sold a Martian Poop Soda with a marionberry flavor.  I actually drank one of those and it wasn’t too bad.   The Maple Syrup soda is one of a number Rocket Fizz’s Lester’s Fixins Sodas including a variety of Bacon sodas, Pickle Soda, Mustard Soda and more.

Martian Soda we found iat the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California
Martian Poop Soda with a Marionberry Flavor
Maple Syrup Soda as found at the Nipton Trading Post in Nipton, California

Mizu Japanese Steakhouse – Tukwila, Washington

After arriving in Port Orchard, Washington, we joined many other family members for dinner at the Mizu Japanese Steakhouse in Tukwila, Washington, outside of Seattle.  This is one of those fun Hibachi Grill places with the cooking acrobatics, grilled shrimp thrown into your mouth and onion volcanoes.  Lots of fun and fire.

Mizu Steakhouse in Tukwila, Washington
Fun and Fire at the Mizu Steakhouse
Family enjoying dinner at Mizu. There were about 18 of us there.

Moonview and Moonglow Cabins – Uncertain, Texas

During our visit to Caddo Lake, we took a drive around Uncertain to check out the accommodations, which are all so unique.  One place has a Moonglow Cabin and Moonview Cabin.

Moonview Cabin om Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas
Moonglow Cabin in Uncertain, Texas

Mt. Whitney and Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park in California 

Yo may think of giant trees when you think of Sequoia National Park, but there are some amazing mountain scenes as well.  High up in the Sierra Nevadas, these granite monoliths are lovely.

Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park
Another shot of Mt. Whitney
Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park

Moose Drool Brown Ale – Big Sky Brewing – Missoula, Montana

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages — never have.  But, I have friends that do and so I stopped at Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, Montana to grab a six-pack of Moose Drool Brown Ale for a friend here in Lexington. I love the name and my friend loved the taste (AND the poster I got him.)

Moose Drool Brown Ale

Mount Rushmore National Memorial – South Dakota

With grandchildren and driving across the United States, a stop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is important.  The kids were able to get their Junior Ranger Badge there and I was able to to get some great photos.  We actually drove north from Custer State Park up US Highway 16A (Iron Mountain Road) and saw views of the iconic carvings through tunnels from way up high.  What an amazing experience.

Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore
Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore
Another view of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore as seen from a tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. The tunnel was built intentionally to frame the monument

Moriarty, New Mexico

Another iconic Route 66 town.  The old road runs right through town.  The City of Moriarty was named for the first permanent family to settle in the community. Michael Timothy Moriarty, his wife and their three children arrived (at what is now Moriarty) in the fall of 1887, and homesteaded their land.  Though it is a Route 66 town, Moriarty also has two Interstate 40 interchanges.

Moriarty, New Mexico

Memorial Chapel – Happy, Texas

A Happy Church in Happy, Texas

The Memorial Chapel in Happy, Texas

Mesa Verde Ranch – Lemon Cove, California

Mesa Verde Ranch Big Orange fruit stand in Lemon Cove, California


I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at



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.