The Year in Travel: 2016 from A to Z

The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long  cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!

Here is a map that includes many of the places:

Abingdon, VA – Eastern terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Zanesville, Ohio home of the Y Bridge
Julianne and David at Xenia Station on the Little Miami Scenic Trail

During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.

Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Julianne and Laura at the North Bend Rail Trail HQ in Cairo, WV

A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.

All of us at Whitetop Station at the beginning of the 10 mile downhill Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus, VA
Flying to Houston from Cincinnati

We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.

Visiting my youngest grandchild Sam in Houston
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.

Riding with Tina and Jim around Cleveland
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh

Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Classic Neon of famed Dumser’s Drive-In in Ocean City, MD

The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986
Washington DC Temple at Christmas
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC
Old Paradise Cafe sign in Ocean City. What is a beach resort town without a flamingo or two?
I think I counted about 12 themed mini golf places on the main drag in Ocean City, including dragons, pirates and dinosaurs.
Township of Moon, PA (I have also been to Earth, TX, Mars, PA, Jupiter, FL and even Vulcan, AB

Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below.  I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!

Made it to Hope, AR, just before the 2016 elections. Hope is the home of former President Bill Clinton.
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office
Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY
I found Novelty in Ohio…
…and found Prosperity in PA
There is a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio
A Sugar and Water corner is in Chillicothe, OH
No Name Street in Millersburg, OH
Lost? Try going the Udder Way, This is in Yellow Springs, OH at Young’s Dairy
And I found where Bliss Happens in Maryland
Reuben Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries at In the Country in Damascus, VA

During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.

In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus
At Damascus Old Mill Inn in Damascus
The Little River Cafe in Oregonia, OH is most easily reached by bike. It is literally on the side of the trail. The road to Oregonia is way out of the way.
Elliston Place Diner in Nashville

In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!

Hanging with Antsy McClain at a dive in Nashville
Had lunch at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville. Great food and a large collection of one of a kind Antsy McClain art on coffee cups
Antsy McClain art on Coffee Cups — one of dozens of original pieces on display at Flatrock Coffee in Nashville
The Antsy Backup gang at the recording studio in Nashville
Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe

During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna,  where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.

Birthplace of KFC
Visiting Cumberland Falls with my daughter and her kids.
The Colonel and Me at Sanders Cafe
The fall colors as seen from the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Colorful trees and leaves line a small road in Red River Gorge
Story of Superman at Joe Shuster’s former home

Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story”  was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family.  I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!

Cleveland Water Tower
Murray Hill Rd….where I was born. Little Italy
Sumoflam with Mama Santa’s owner Papa Tio
The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.

Home of Wendy’s
“Where’s the Beef?” memorabilia from the famed advertising campaign in the Wendy’s Museum in Dublin, OH
Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH
Bobby Vinton Statue in the Canonsburg, PA McDonald’s
Bobby Vinton Stage items on display in Canonsburg McDonald’s

It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode  their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.

Julianne, Marissa and the kids on the Little Miami Scenic Trail near Beatty Station, OH
We stopped at Young’s Dairy for some fresh ice cream on this hot day
One of Peter Toth’s 50+ Whispering Giants…this one in Ocean City, MD

Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
Delaware Seashore Bridge
Another Peter Toth Whispering Giant in Bethany Beach, DE
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY.  Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Enjoyed a nice Amish Buffet in Ronks, PA on the way back from Maryland

As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.

Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:

Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
We visited Texas in October. This was in Texarkana, TX
A shot with Elvis in Memphis
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
The Washington Court House in Washington Court House, OH was one of many unique buildings I got to visit in 2016
Cleveland Fire Memorial
Assawoman Dr. in Ocean City, MD
Visited Moon, PA in 2016. Visited Earth, TX in 2011. Earth vs Moon Police!
World’s largest Geodesic Dome in Novelty, OH
Many Unique Restaurants could be found in Ocean City and up in Delaware…
Fun with my wife at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia – taken when we visited the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
An old Mail Pouch barn in Brinkhaven, OH
Of course, you can always come across unique shop names, like this one in Houston
Killbuck Depot on the Holmes County Trail in Ohio
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too.
The Got Muchies Truck in Royalton, KY. Too funny for words
Had to add this sign…this place was one of our true 2016 highlights!
The 370 foot long Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River near Brinkhaven.
Damascus calls itself Trail Town USA for a reason. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and others come to a crossroads here.
Korean War Memorial in Zanesville, OH… hundreds of real helmets
Welcome to 84 Country – Eighty Four , PA
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop in Ohio
Holmes County Trail is in the middle of Amish Country. The Bike Trail is shared with Amish Buggies
Hiker painting on a restroom wall in Damascus

 

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The Back Road to Memphis: US Route 79

Bozo's Hot Pit BBQ - Mason, TN
Bozo’s Hot Pit BBQ – Mason, TN

With this post I continue blogging about some of our wonderful US Highways as I strive to avoid the interstates in my travels. In June, I took a trip to Galveston, Texas for a family reunion. The entire length of the trip was predominantly US Highways or State Highways as I made my way to Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and then southern Texas.

Route to Memphis from Lexington via Russellville, KY and US Route 79
Route to Memphis from Lexington via Russellville, KY and US Route 79

The first leg of this trip would take me from Lexington to Russellville, KY where US Highway 79 begins.  Following that highway, I would make my way into downtown Memphis, TN. From there I would catch US Highway 61 (The Blues Highway) down through Mississippi (the next post in this series). Though I have been throughout a good part of Kentucky and also have taken trips into Tennessee numerous times, this was my first venture on US Highway 79 in over 12 years.

Roadtrip
Getting ready to leave on my road trip…early morning start at 4 AM

My objective was to make sure I was on US Highway 79 by about sunrise, so I was on the the road heading west very early in the morning out of Lexington and then to the Bluegrass Parkway and onto I-65 south. I then took the Western Parkway heading west towards Central City, Kentucky, the birthplace of the Everly Brothers. Along the way, I experienced a beautiful sun rise which is in the photo below.

Sunrise as seen from the Western Kentucky Parkway near Leitchfield, KY
Sunrise as seen from the Western Kentucky Parkway near Leitchfield, KY
Watercolor Skies near Leitchfield, KY
Watercolor Skies near Leitchfield, KY

At Caneyville, KY I took State Highway 79 south to Russellville. It was a nice drive through mist covered farmland.

Kentucky Highway 79 south of Caneyville, KY
Kentucky Highway 79 south of Caneyville, KY
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Kentucky Highway 79 just north of Russellville, KY
Kentucky Highway 79 just north of Russellville, KY

As noted above, my main objective for going to Russellville was being able to travel south along US Highway 79 all the way into Memphis.  I didn’t see much in Russellville, but there was a fun sign for Ray Bones BBQ, which is apparently now out of business…at least the sign was still there!

The former Ray Bones BBQ in Russellville, now closed, did have a fun sign
The former Ray Bones BBQ in Russellville, now closed, did have a fun sign
Downtown Russellville, KY
Downtown Russellville, KY
This is where US 79 starts in Russellville, KY
This is where US 79 starts in Russellville, KY
A nice red barn in a corn field south of Russellville on US Route 79
A nice red barn in a corn field south of Russellville on US Route 79

The first real excitement along the way was as I approached the Tennessee border near Guthrie, Kentucky. Mind you, Guthrie is way out of the way for most things but they do have a wonderful large pink elephant and a giant cow with sunglasses!

Ghost sign on a the side of a building in Guthrie, KY
Ghost sign on a the side of a building in Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
The American Cafe in Guthrie, KY... old sign
The American Cafe in Guthrie, KY… old sign, but still in business

The big pink elephant can be seen from US Highway 79 just before the function with US Highway 41.  I turned left on US 79 and a couple of blocks later came across the huge cow with glasses. The cow with glasses is reminiscent of the Pink Elephant with glasses in DeForest, WI (see my post about that from earlier this year).

Pink Elephant in front of a convenience store in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in front of a convenience store in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Glasses in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Glasses in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses
Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses

Just after Guthrie, I crossed into Tennessee and headed towards the small town of Paris, Tennessee.

Heading South on US 79
Heading South on US 79
Welcome to Tennessee
Welcome to Tennessee

I made a brief stop in Clarksville to visit a couple of friends and then from Clarksville, it was on to Paris to some beautiful lake country including a drive over the Kentucky lake which is part of the Tennessee River.

Welcome to Clarksville, TN
Welcome to Clarksville, TN
Classic Neon Sign in Clarksville, even called a Motor Hotel, before the days of Motels...
Classic Neon Sign in Clarksville, even called a Motor Hotel, before the days of Motels…
Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee
Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee
Dover, Tennessee
Dover, Tennessee

The drive from Dover, Tennessee south on US 79 is also called the Tennessee River Trail.  It is a scenic drive through pine trees and then eventually over the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake.

Tennessee River Trail south of Dover, TN
Tennessee River Trail south of Dover, TN
US 79 south of Dover, TN -- pine-walled highway
US 79 south of Dover, TN — pine-walled highway
US 79 just north of the Tennessee River
US 79 just north of the Tennessee River
Lots of signs just before crossing the Tennessee River near Paris Landing State Park
Lots of signs just before crossing the Tennessee River near Paris Landing State Park

Paris, TN is a nice little town, perhaps best well-known for its replica of the Eiffel Tower. They have competed with Paris, TX for the “biggest” replica of the Eiffel Tower in a town named Paris (I wrote a complete blog post about that). But here are a couple of photos from Paris, including the Tower.

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower  painted on it.
The Paris, TN water tower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall

Paris, TN also lays claim to a big catfish statue atop of another welcome to Paris sign. Actually, the Catfish is meant to be the sign to the other famous Paris attraction: “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry.” Held annually on the last full week of April, the festival revolves around the “Fish Tent” where more than 12,500 pounds of catfish is served with all the trimmings.  This event has been held since 1953.

Welcome to Paris Catfish
Welcome to Paris Catfish – heralds the “World’s Biggest Fish Fry”

From Paris, US 79 headed south west towards Memphis through a number of small towns. One of these small towns is named Bells, Tennessee. It was funny for I pulled into town right at noon and there were church bells ringing from a couple of locations.  Bells…matched the name indeed.

Bells, Tennessee water tower
Bells, Tennessee water tower
Downtown Bells, Tennessee
Downtown Bells, Tennessee

Bells is also the home of the Pictsweet Company, a family-owned vegetable company (for four generations). Many in the south enjoy their selection of frozen vegetable products.

Pictsweet_RGB

From Bells I followed US Highway 70A/79 and drove on to the town of Brownsville, Tennessee, apparently “A Good Place To Live.”

Brownsville, TN water tower
Brownsville, TN water tower

When arriving in Brownsville, my eyes beheld a massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who in 1989 began creating a monument to his parents.

Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

Tripp used salvaged metal to construct what is considered to be the largest outdoor sculpture in the United States. This strange art monument covers about an acre and, at the tallest point, reaches a height of 125 feet.

Tripp's Mindfield Cemetery
Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp's Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN

According to Tripp, the sculpture is intended to represent various events in his life including the death of his father, Rev. Charles Tripp. And on top of this, Billy trip as requested that upon his death, he be interred into the same location.

A section shot of Billy Tripp's Mindfield
A section shot of Billy Tripp’s Mindfield
A funny sign at the Mindfield
A funny sign at the Mindfield
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
One of many sculptures in the Mindfield
One of many sculptures in the Mindfield
Well, a Flamingo fits this perfectly!!
Well, a Flamingo fits this perfectly!!
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

After this unique visit I was back on US 79 and continuing into Memphis.  There were no stops in Memphis as I was heading towards the “Blues Highway” (US Route 61) for the second leg of my trip.  That will be my next blog post.

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The Two Towers of Paris – Tennessee and Texas

Two Towers
A Tale of Two Towers

This is a tale of Two Towers – both in a place named Paris, but one is in Tennessee and the other in Texas. The map below shows that they are about 8 hours away from each other.

Paris2ParisMap
Paris, TN and Paris, TX – Home of the battling Two Towers

There are seventeen towns in the U.S. with the name of Paris (and one in Ontario, Canada as well — and I lived there for a while).  I have been to Paris in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri.  But the towns of Paris, TX and Paris, TN are the only ones to have an Eiffel Tower that is fairly large.  Paris, Michigan has a smaller one.  And there are a couple of other places, such as Atlanta, Austin and Las Vegas that have them…. but I am focused on the Paris versions. See this page for a list of NINE replicas around the world.

Paris, TX
Paris, TX
Paris, TN
Paris, TN

I took a road trip to Galveston in June 2014 and along the way I had occasion to pass through both of these towns named Paris (Paris, TX and Paris, TN) and capture their versions of the Eiffel Tower.  (I’ll have some posts about my trip through the state of TN, MS, LA, TX, AR, MO and some of the unique places I visited coming in August 2014).

Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall

Both of these towers were built in 1993 and a battle ensued for the tallest.  At first, the Tennessee version of the Eiffel Tower was originally built in 1990 at Christian Brothers University, but was later donated to the town of Paris, where is was moved and reassembled. The tower was designed to scale by Tom Morrison, professor emeritus of civil engineering; Jim Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Roland Raffanti, engineering lab technician, from Christian Brothers University. According to Brother Patrick O’Brien, Morrison designed the model’s design based on the original drawings of Gustave Eiffel. At 60 feet tall, the tower is a nearly perfect 1:20 scale replica of the original.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, TX Texas’s was built by the Boilermakers 902, a labor union representing workers of the former Babcock and Wilcox Paris Plant, and was 65 feet tall.

Eiffel Tower in Tennessee goes to 70 feet in 1998
Eiffel Tower in Tennessee goes to 70 feet in 1998

In 1998 when Tennessee moved its’ tower to Paris they expanded their tower to 70 feet.  But, the Texans wouldn’t have it. They made the claim of being “The second largest Paris in the World,” so in 1998 town boosters added a large red cowboy hat to the top of the 65 foot tower, which made it a tad taller than Tennessee’s tower.

The Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat on top
The Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat on top

Both are dwarfed by the massive Eiffel Tower replica in Las Vegas, but in the battle of the American Paris Towers, currently, the Texas version holds true to things being bigger in Texas….

 

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