A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.

This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year.  It was not easy!!  I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it.  And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary.  I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible. 

It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge.  Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling. 

What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing.  I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.

I most certainly look forward to participating again next year.  Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year.  May actually take a long time!!!

A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!

My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns.  See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.

ABanner600

The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX

 

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The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH

 

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The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX

 

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The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI

 

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The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL

 

GBanner

The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX

 

HBanner

The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA

 

IBanner

The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

KBanner

The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

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The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA

 

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The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND

 

OBanner

The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY

 

PBanner

The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX

 

QBanner

The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

RBanner

The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

SBanner

The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID

 

TBanner

The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH

 

UBanner

The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

YBanner

The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

ZBanner

The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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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.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

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A Whirlwind Trip to Palmyra, NY and the Hill Cumorah Pageant

Lunchtime on a Skyscraper
Lunchtime on a Skyscraper by Sergio Fernari – Williamsville, NY

My wife and I took a quick whirlwind trip to Palmyra, New York this past weekend (July 19-21, 2013) to attend the spectacular Hill Cumorah Pageant, which is presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Naturally, along the way we made a few stops.  The three day trip was a lot of driving and a lot of fun.  Following is a map of the trip.


View Larger Map – Lexington, KY to Palmyra, NY and back

The first part of the drive was straight up through Cincinnati and Columbus with just a small gas stop in Grove City, Ohio. I have traveled these roads so often, I think I have run out of places to see. (Actually, I am sure there are a number of smaller roads I could still do!!).  We stopped overnight in the Akron, with a quick stop in Green, Ohio to have dinner at Menches Brothers, the Inventors of the Hamburger and the Ice Cream Cone.

Menches Bros. in Green, Ohio
Menches Bros. in Green, Ohio

According to Menches Brothers history, “History recorded that Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork for their sausage patty sandwiches at the 1885 Erie County Fair. Their supplier, reluctant to butcher more hogs in the summer heat, suggested they use beef instead. The brothers fried some up, but found it bland. They added coffee, brown sugar, and other ingredients to create a taste that stands distinct without condiments. They christened this sandwich the “hamburger” after Hamburg, New York, where the fair was being held. At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Frank and Charles baked waffles in Parisian waffle irons and topped them with ice cream. They then had an idea to wrap the warm waffle around a fid, a cone-shaped splicing tool for tent ropes. The waffle cooled and held its shape to provide an edible handle for eating ice cream. Returning home to Akron, the Menches began production of “premium” cones at their Premium Popcorn Works factory.” Menches currently has 50 different varieties of burgers on their menu.

Sumoflam at Menches Brothers
Sumoflam at Menches Brothers
Menches Brothers
Menches Brothers

Interestingly, neither my wife or me tried their hamburgers, which still use the original recipe.  I tried their Perogie Pizza, which is also fairly famous.  It is a pizza made with garlic mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and bacon.  And really yummy!

Famous Perogie Pizza at Menche's
Famous Perogie Pizza at Menche’s
Spinach and Mushroom Spaghetti at Menche's
Spinach and Mushroom Spaghetti at Menche’s
The 50 Chart at Menches Brothers - competition to see who can eat all 50 varieties of Menches Burgers
The 50 Chart at Menches Brothers – competition to see who can eat all 50 varieties of Menches Burgers

As for the actual inventor of the hamburger — I have been to Seymour, Wisconsin where Charlie Nagreen claims to have invented the hamburger (see my original post about this).  Further, Wikipedia has a great entry about the various claims (see Wikipedia article). Ironically, both the Menches and Nagreen make their claims ca. 1885. One thing is for sure, there was nobody with the name of McDonald that has a claim on the first hamburger!!

Daffin's Candy Store - Sharon, Pennsylvania
Daffin’s Candies – Sharon, Pennsylvania
Sharon, Pennsylvania
Sharon, Pennsylvania

After a good night’s rest we were on the road eastward.  Our firs stop was in Sharon, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour east of the Akron area and just over the border from Ohio.  Sharon is the home of Daffin’s Candies, which claims to be the “World’s Largest Candy Store.”  It is also home to the “Chocolate Kingdom.”

Daffin's rows of Candy Cases
Daffin’s rows of Candy Cases
Chocolate candy cases at Daffin's in Sharon, Ohio
Chocolate candy cases at Daffin’s in Sharon, Ohio

The 20,000 square foot store is chock full of every candy imaginable, including a huge variety of chocolates.  I saw some candies I hadn’t seen in years.

Aisles of packaged and single candies at Daffin's
Aisles of packaged and single candies at Daffin’s

The original candy store was started in 1903 by George Daffin in Woodsfield, Ohio.   After a couple more moves over the years, the store made its way into downtown Sharon, Ohio in 1947.  It was also the factory for making the chocolates at that time.  They eventually got so busy they had to move.  Besides the store, they now also have a 30,000 square foot factory.

Paul Daffin statue - 3rd Generation owner and idea man behind the Chocolate Kingdom
Paul Daffin statue – 3rd Generation owner and idea man behind the Chocolate Kingdom
Chocolate Kingdom entrance at Daffin's
Chocolate Kingdom entrance at Daffin’s

For me, the drawing card to Daffin’s was not necessarily the size of the store, but rather the unique “Chocolate Kingdom” housed in the back of the store as it fits the whimsy and quirky characteristics of places of I like to visit. The Chocolate Kingdom includes large chocolate animals and two large castles, and an entire miniature village with chocolate houses and railroads. The big drawing cards are a 400-pound chocolate turtle, a 125-pound chocolate reindeer and 75-pound chocolate frog, not to mention a few other animals. There are also chocolate castles, a train, a village, and a Ferris Wheel.

Sumoflam at the Chocolate Kingdom in Daffin's
Sumoflam at the Chocolate Kingdom in Daffin’s
Famous 400 pound chocolate turtle in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin's
Famous 400 pound chocolate turtle and his frog friend in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin’s
Chocolate Rhino in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin's
Chocolate Rhino in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin’s
Chocolate Animals at Daffin's
Chocolate Animals at Daffin’s
Another chocolate castle at Daffin's
Another chocolate castle at Daffin’s
Chocolate Castle in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin's
Chocolate Castle in Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin’s

After picking up a few pieces of chocolate, we were on the road again.  While in Sharon I saw a unique building with some cool lamps.  Also saw a nice wooden sculpture across the street from Daffin’s.

Wooden sculpture in a yard across from Daffin's in Sharon, PA
Wooden sculpture in a yard across from Daffin’s in Sharon, PA
Buhl Mansion in Sharon, Pennsylvania
Buhl Mansion in Sharon, Pennsylvania

The Buhl Mansion is considered one of America’s Top 10 Most Romantic Inns and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by noted Youngstown architect Charles Owsley (1846–1935) and built in 1891. It is a 2 1/2-story, ashlar sandstone residence with Richardsonian Romanesque style features. It features round arches, steep gable wall dormers, an inset porch with heavy arches, stone finials, and several turrets with copper capped spires.

Buhl Mansion Lamps
Buhl Mansion Lamps

From Sharon we headed east on US 62 through Hermitage and Mercer to I-79 and then headed north.  This is a very scenic stretch of interstate as it goes through the beautiful hills of the Allegheny Plateau with the offering of plenty of rural scenery.  We proceeded north until we got to the Meadville exit (147A) so we could stop and see an assemblage of artwork on the roadside….all made from road signs.

Stop Sign Flower in Meadville, PA
“Stop-Flower” in Meadville, PA

Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322 (photos below).

Signs & Flowers in Meadville, Pennsylvania
Signs & Flowers in Meadville, Pennsylvania

Under the direction of Professor Geffen, art apprentices worked in collaboration with PennDOT welders, road crew and heavy equipment operators to create a sculptural garden that speaks of our human impact on the planet. Twelve enormous (10′-12′ high) road sign flowers and rolling mounds echo natural forms.

Blue Flower in Meadville, PA
Blue Flower in Meadville, PA
Detour Flower
Detour Flower
Road Closed Flower
Road Closed Flower
Side view of Signs & Flowers
Side view of Signs & Flowers
Road sign Roses
Road sign Roses
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers

Just a couple of blocks away is the Read Between the Signs work. This work is a 1,200’ x 9’ sculptural relief constructed from reclaimed road signs that is located at the gateway into Meadville.  This is really quite amazing work considering the media used to make it. (Some of the photos below were taken during a trip through here in 2011 – thus the snow…)

Balloons (less than 10 tons)
Balloons (less than 10 tons!!)
Couthouse
Courthouse and tree
Train and signs
Train and signs
Singing Cowboy
Singing Cowboy
Roller Coaster
Roller Coaster
Store front signage
Store front signage
Which Way? Tree
Which Way? Tree
Grazing
Grazing in a Litter Free Zone
Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel

After the little “Sign Break” in Meadville, we were back on the road to New York.  We made it to I-90 and zipped on past Erie and Buffalo with an occasional nice view of Lake Erie to the north of us.  By 3 PM we were a bit hungry so we took the Pembroke Exit off of the Toll Road to find somewhere to eat.

Pembroke, New York
Pembroke, New York

Just near Pembroke, in the small town of Corfu, we came upon Kutter’s Cheese Factory.  This one made me laugh!!

Kutter's Cheese in Corfu, New York
Kutter’s Cheese in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter's Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter’s Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York

From Kutter’s we drove down the road to the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant, also in Corfu.  This rustic little restaurant/bar is built along the Indian Falls of Tonawanda Creek, which flow over the Onondaga Escarpment. Though not huge, the falls are certainly scenic. The falls are a curtain falls with a height of about 20 feet and a crest width of roughly 100 feet.

Indian Falls Log Cabin
Indian Falls Log Cabin
Indian Falls Restaurant - Corfu, NY
Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant – Corfu, NY
Rustic Indian Falls Restaurant
Rustic Indian Falls Restaurant

The restaurant has a nice room with open windows that overlooks the falls.  We enjoyed our lunch with the sounds of rushing water and a great view.  In fact, the best view of the falls is from this little restaurant.

Indian Falls as seen from a window in the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant
Indian Falls as seen from a window in the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant
Indian Falls from the parking lot of the Indian Falls Log Cabin restaurant
Indian Falls from the parking lot of the Indian Falls Log Cabin restaurant

We did have a nice lunch by the way…  Their Sweet Potato Fries are sweetened and then come with a nice cinnamon sugar butter dipping sauce.

Sweet Potato Fries at Log Cabin Restaurant
Sweet Potato Fries at Log Cabin Restaurant
Indian Falls Log Cabin
Indian Falls Log Cabin
Prime Rib Sandwich at Log Cabin Restaurant
Prime Rib Sandwich at Log Cabin Restaurant

After lunch we continued east to Palmyra, New York and the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. We arrived around 6:30 PM.  The Pageant would not start until around 9:15 PM, so we hung around, relaxed, and I took pictures of what was going on.

Hill Cumorah Cast
Hill Cumorah Cast

The Hill Cumorah Pageant began in the early 1920’s when a small group of missionaries from New York City gathered for the Cumorah Conference at the Joseph Smith Farm in Palmyra to celebrate Pioneer Day, the day when Brigham Young first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  In July of 1934, the conference was moved from the Farm to the Hill Cumorah, the large hill behind the visitor’s center.  Today the Pageant, with its incredible staging, lighting, special effects and colorful costuming is still carefully designed to keep its message about Jesus Christ both simple and pure.  I actually plan on writing a more complete post about the Pageant with many photos soon. (Link will be here when completed)

Sumoflam poses with the actor who portray's the wicked King Noah from the Book of Mormon
Sumoflam poses with the actor who portray’s the wicked King Noah from the Book of Mormon
One of the actors who portrays the prophet Lehi, who led his family out of Jerusalem
One of the actors who portrays the prophet Lehi, who led his family out of Jerusalem
Angels trumpet in the beginning of the performance
Angels trumpet in the beginning of the performance
Moon glows behind one of the towers used for lighting of the production
Moon glows behind one of the towers used for lighting of the production

The performance was a grand spectacle and very moving.  I have been to other LDS Church Pageants (in Mesa, AZ; Manti, UT and Nauvoo, IL), but this one was perhaps the most amazing of all of them with fires, mists, volcanoes and storms all on the stage.

Sumoflam with Laman and Lemuel, sons of Lehi
Sumoflam with Laman and Lemuel, sons of Lehi

After the pageant we headed back towards Buffalo, New York for an overnight stay in Williamsville, NY.  Though over an hour away, it was the closest place to find a reasonably priced motel.  The pageant draws visitors from all over the U.S. and hotels are filled a year in advance or more.

Memorial Statue in memory of the victims of Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009.  This is located in Patriots and Heroes Park in Williamsville, NY
Memorial Statue in memory of the victims of Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009. This is located in Patriots and Heroes Park in Williamsville, NY

The small village of Williamsville is replete with numerous bronze works of art thanks in great part to the hotel and restaurant entrepreneur Russell J. Salvatore, the owner of a number of places in the area (along with his family).

Russell J. Salvatore Statue in Williamsville's Patriots and Heroes Park
Russell J. Salvatore Statue in Williamsville’s Patriots and Heroes Park
Tribute statue for firefighters during the attacks on New York's World Trade Center.  This is located in the Patriots and Heroes Park in Williamsville, NY
Tribute statue for firefighters during the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. This is located in the Patriots and Heroes Park in Williamsville, NY

Perhaps the most unique of all of the pieces in the area is the Lunchtime on a Skyscraper sculpture by Sergio Furnari, which is based on a popular photograph taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932.  An Italian sculptor, Furnari owned a mobile tourist attraction which he took around New York and which he created himself. Sergio made his living driving it around New York and selling souvenir versions of the statue to people. Russ Salvatore offered to buy it from him and eventually purchased it for $50,000 and then paid to have it moved to the front of his Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville.

Lunchtime on a Skyscraper in Williamsville, NY
Lunchtime on a Skyscraper in Williamsville, NY
Rear view of Lunchtime on a Skyscraper
Rear view of Lunchtime on a Skyscraper

Once the ten-ton crane positioned the sculpture, Russ then hired local mural artist Tim Martin to create a mural of New York City below the men. The hand-painted billboard makes the statue look authentic, as if they are truly eating lunch 38 stories up in the sky.

Another view of Lunchtime on a Skyscraper
Another view of Lunchtime on a Skyscraper
Closeup of Tim Martin mural that is at bottom of sculpture
Closeup of Tim Martin mural that is at bottom of sculpture

There are a couple of other unique sculptures

Large buffalo statue made out of stone at Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville, NY
Large buffalo statue made out of stone at Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville, NY
Bronze of children playing in front of Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville, NY
Bronze of children playing in front of Garden Palace Hotel in Williamsville, NY
Children playing - sculpture in Williamsville, NY
Children playing – sculpture in Williamsville, NY

After breakfast we were on our way home again.  I always like to take a different route whenever possible, but we also had our schedule to consider.  Nonetheless, we dropped south towards Jamestown, NY.  We went west on I-90 until the Fredonia exit and then south on NY Hwy 60 towards Jamestown.

Town of Gerry, NY
Town of Gerry, NY

Along the way we drove through the small town of Gerry, NY.  I had to stop for a photo as one of my good friends in Lexington is named Gerry.  Took this in his honor!! (Hope you are reading Gerry!)

Lucille Ball Birthplace - Jamestown, NY
Lucille Ball Birthplace – Jamestown, NY

Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball.  There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town.  We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities (The Lucy Desi Museum and the Desilu Studios) from the outside.

Desilu Studios - Jamestown, NY
Desilu Studios – Jamestown, NY
Lucy Desi Museum - Jamestown, NY
Lucy Desi Museum – Jamestown, NY
Lucille Ball Theatre in Jamestown, NY
Lucille Ball Theatre in Jamestown, NY
Desilu Playhouse - Jamestown, NY
Desilu Playhouse – Jamestown, NY
Jamestown Banner advertising Lucille Ball Festival
Jamestown Banner advertising Lucille Ball Festival
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to see her grave marker in the cemetery.  I did get a shot of a huge mural however…  The mural was done by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr. and completed in October 2012.

Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Large Lucy Mural as seen from downtown Jamestown, NY
Large Lucy Mural as seen from downtown Jamestown, NY
Old buildings in Jamestown, NY
Old buildings in Jamestown, NY

From Jamestown we headed west on Interstate 86, also known as the “Southern Tier Expressway.”  This used to be US Rte 17, but, as of 2013, much of this has been converted to interstate.  The section we were on goes all the way to Lake Erie and is a very scenic drive. We eventually hit I-90 in Erie, PA and then headed south to I-79, which we followed towards Pittsburgh.  Along the way we were stuck in a huge traffic jam due to road construction near Moraine State Park (Exit 99) in Pennsylvania.  It did allow me time to get some wildflower photos from the car….

Wildflowers on I-79 south of Worth, PA
Wildflowers on I-79 south of Worth, PA
Wildflowers on I-79
Wildflowers on I-79
Wildflowers on I-79
Wildflowers on I-79
Wildflower on I-79
Wildflower on I-79
Wildflowers on I-79
Wildflowers on I-79

The rural scenery is also wonderful on I-79 as it rolls through the Allegheny Plateau.

Farm near Harmony, PA on I-79
Farm near Harmony, PA on I-79
Rows of corn in Western Pennsylvania as seen off of I-79
Rows of corn in Western Pennsylvania as seen off of I-79

We eventually got off at Exit 88.  I wanted to visit the town of Zelienople, chiefly because I had not been to a town that started with the letter Z (as far as I could recall – turns out I had been to Zanesville, Ohio in the past and we passed through Zanesville all on our way back on this trip too!! – 2 Z Towns in one day). Taking the road to Zelienople, we passed a turn to Harmony, Pennsylvania.  Seemed to me that our church founder Joseph Smith had spent time in Harmony, so we decided to drop in.  As we looked at the historic buildings we saw nothing there about our church.  So, we Googled it and found out that the “old” Harmony, PA is now called Oakland (in NE Pennsylvania).  Nonetheless, THIS Harmony was a quaint little town and was worth the visit anyway.  Zelienople and Harmony actually share a Chamber of Commerce and are practically one in the same place. The towns are located in the Connoquenessing Valley.

Welcome to Zelienople-Harmony, PA
Welcome to Zelienople-Harmony, PA
Rustic old barn in Harmony, Pennsylvania
Rustic old barn in Harmony, Pennsylvania
Old Log Cabin - Harmony, Pennsylvania
Old Log Cabin – Harmony, Pennsylvania
Old Log House in Historic Harmony, Pennsylvania
Old Log House in Historic Harmony, Pennsylvania

Harmony is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The area was settled by a German religious group known as Pietists, who broke off from the Lutherans and came to America in 1804. The first group of settlers arrived in Harmony in November 1804 and erected nine log cabins. They also laid out the town with three streets running north and south with three streets running east and west with a large diamond in the center. (More History here)

Harmony Museum - Harmony, Pennsylvania
Harmony Museum – Harmony, Pennsylvania
Harmony, Pennsylvania
Harmony, Pennsylvania

From Harmony we returned to I-79 and continued south and then west on US 22 towards Steubenville, OH, crossing a narrow strip of West Virginia. There is about a 5 mile section of West Virginia’s panhandle that is squeezed between Pennsylvania and Ohio.  We stopped in Weirton, WV for lunch) through However, it is actually not the narrowest neck of land in the U.S.  My research shows that the panhandle of Maryland’s mountainous western area is a geographic anomaly, a 1-mile-wide strip between Pennsylvania and West Virginia (near Cumberland).  As for Weirton, WV, it too has some geographic significance. The town extends from the Ohio border on the west to the Pennsylvania border on the east. This makes it the only city in the United States that borders two other states on two sides, and its own state on the other two sides.

Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH

My main reason for the stop in Steubenville was to get a photo of the huge Dean Martin mural.  I had been to Steubenville (also known as the “City of Murals“) once before (in 2008) and had many of the murals (see the full post here).  But the Dean Martin mural eluded me (I had added a photo to my post that I found elsewhere).  This time I did find it…

Sumoflam and Dean Martin
Sumoflam and Dean Martin

Dean Martin was originally born Dean Crocetti and is Steubenville’s most celebrated citizen. They have a Dino Festival in town every June.  The Mural below was painted in 1998 by Robert Dever.

Dean Martin mural in Steubenville painted by Robert Dever
Dean Martin mural in Steubenville painted by Robert Dever

From Steubenville we followed the scenic drive along the Ohio River, passing through Brilliant, Ohio… (love the name).

Welcome to Brilliant, OH
Welcome to Brilliant, OH

From Brilliant we continued south through Columbus and on to Lexington.  What a whirlwind trip!!

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