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

 

CBanner

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

 

DBanner

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

 

JBanner

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

 

LBanner

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

 

MBanner

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

 

XBanner

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

 

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

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A to Z Challenge: The U 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 towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

UThe U Towns

Uncertain, Texas

Uncertain, TX
Uncertain, TX
Uncertain Department of Tourism
Uncertain Department of Tourism
The Uncertain General Store and Grill
The Uncertain General Store and Grill
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Spanish moss draped Bald Cypress of Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
Caddo Lake near Uncertain, TX
The Church of Uncertain
The Church of Uncertain

There are not many towns in the country that begin with the letter U, but I have a couple of good ones here, especially the first one — Uncertain, Texas.  Though their website calls them a “city,” it is really not much more than a small community of about 150 people that live along the shores of Caddo Lake. Caddo Lake is stretched across the Texas-Louisiana border and is Texas’ only naturally formed lake and covers 32,700 acres of a maze of channels, meandering bayous, and sloughs within thousands of acres of Spanish moss draped bald cypress. Though out of the way, it was certainly worth the drive.  Check out my blog post from my February 2010 visit to Uncertain and a few other places HERE.

Uncasville, Connecticut

Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT

When we visited our son in 2015 to see our new grandson, we took a trip from the Hartford area south to Mystic, CT (See my M Towns post).  Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Uncasville on CT Hwy 32.  It is not really a touristy place, but we were in search of dinosaurs..namely Wells Dinosaur Haven. This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs.  The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication.  Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.) You can read about our trip to Uncasville and Mystic in my 2015 post HERE.

Upper Lake, California

Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Hippie Joe's Gas in Upper Lake, CA
Hippie Joe’s Gas in Upper Lake, CA
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America

Also, in 2015, I took a trip to California, which I have mentioned in previous posts (I mentioned this same trip in my N Towns post for Nice, CA and my S Towns post for Santa Rosa). Located on California Highway 20, it is a beautiful little drive. CA 20 is dotted with many small lakes and a number of scenic views.  It is MY KIND of back road highway, with a variety of things to see along the way.   Lots of beautiful scenery and vistas on this drive.  Upper Lake, is a rustic little place nestled in the upper reaches of Clear Lake. The town of Upper Lake is the gateway to the Mendocino National Forest and is a fun little town.  In the middle of town sits an old hotel and also a quaint little outdoor saloon/eatery. The Tallman Hotel was built in the 1890s and is now a 17 room luxury hotel/bed and breakfast place.  It fits in nicely with the rustic, old west style of the town.  You can see my full trip report HERE.

Ukiah, California (Honorable Mention)

Ukiah, CA
Ukiah, CA
California Strawberries! found near Ukiah, CA
California Strawberries! found near Ukiah, CA
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry picked up fresh at a farm near Ukiah, CA
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry picked up fresh at a farm near Ukiah, CA

I have now been to three towns that also are names of Doobie Brothers songs. The other two are Blackwater, MO and China Grove, TX. Yes, I collect (and visit) town names from songs.  Ukiah is on US Highway 101 and there are many farmer’s stands along the road.  We hit a Strawberry Stand along the way.  I think we stopped at Saechao Strawberry farm, on the Redwood Highway, another name for this portion of US Hwy 101.  These strawberries were AMAZING!!

Upton, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)

An old cabin in Upton, KY
An old cabin in Upton, KY
Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY
Sumoflam at Wonderland Rd. in Upton, KY
An old trailer on Wonderland Rd. -- not really a Wonderland...
An old trailer on Wonderland Rd. — not really a Wonderland…

Finally, on a back road trip to Elizabethtown for a concert in 2014, I set out to find Wonderland Road, which is in Upton, KY near Interstate 65 south of Louisville. I did find it, though most of the homes were trailers and old cabins. It really didn’t seem like a wonderland to me.  But, it is deserving of a mention here.

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

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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A Trip to New England – Part II: September 2015

This is Part II of my posts about our visit to New England, most specifically Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (with a drive through Massachusetts).  Day 2 was a nice day of travel south to Mystic, CT and then north all the way to Maine.  Following is a map with our basic route

Map of Connecticut to Maine
Map of Connecticut to Maine

We took a fairly easy morning and went over to pickup our grandson Rockwell, who would join us on this two day adventure and off we went.

Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT

DSC_6882Our first stop was at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT.  This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs.  The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication.  Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.)

Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven

DSC_6898Fairly easy to get to, you get off at Exit 79-A on I-395 , then immediately take Hwy 2A exit 1. Drive north on Hwy 32 for a half-mile. Wells Dinosaur Haven will be on the left, across the street from the casino. It’s back in the trees and easy to miss, but look for the red house, brown fence, and small dinosaur sign.

One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Sumoflam and Bronto at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT

Though visiting is free, Mr. Wells requests that you ask to enter.  So, we knocked on the door and I even called the number (860-848-0616) to get permission.  Nobody was home, so we went in and I made sure that we left nothing but tracks, a Guest Book Entry and a Donation.  It really was fun for the kids to walk through and see all of the dinosaurs.  The adults were fascinated too!

Dinos peek though the grass
Dinos peek though the grass
Another dinosaur type at Wells Dinosaur Haven
Another dinosaur type at Wells Dinosaur Haven

DSC_6888Jeff Wells’ work is very good.  I would count this place among my must see places that would include Jurrustic Park in Wisconsin, Enchanted Highway in North Dakota and others.   I will likely do a special post just on this place in the near future.

Welcome to Mystic, CT
Welcome to Mystic, CT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

After our visit in Uncasville, we were off to Mystic, CT for a visit and for lunch.  Founded in 1654, the town now has a little over 4000 residents.  Many know of the town due to the famous 1988 movie Mystic Pizza which helped kick Julia Roberts and Matt Damon off in their careers.  We had actually considered going there to eat, but decided against it after hearing numerous reports that it really wasn’t too good.

But, since it was the site of a well known movie, it was a fun place for a photo op! So, Julianne and I hit the scene and at least got a photo.  Wherever I am with my sweet wife is a slice of heaven!

Mystic Pizza cast with Lili Taylor, Annabeth Gish and Julian Roberts in 1988
Mystic Pizza cast with Lili Taylor, Annabeth Gish and Julian Roberts in 1988
Mystic, CT signpost
Mystic, CT signpost

DSC_6909Mystic is actually a very scenic New England coastal village.  They have a well known Aquarium (which we didn’t visit due to cost and time limitations), a seaport, which includes a unique museum called The Museum of America and the Sea, and nearby in Groton is the Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum.  Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule, so we opted out of these two museums as well.  But, we DID have time for lunch and opted for a local eatery that served Thai and Asian cuisine since we are all fond of that kind of food.

4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro, Mystic, CT
4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro, Mystic, CT

IMG_4639We discovered the 4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro on our drive in and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there.  It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy.

The restaurant is not a large place, with only a few tables.  The staff was very friendly and helpful (and willing to handle a crowd with three adults and four young children).

4 Roosevelt Menu Board...changes frequently
4 Roosevelt Menu Board…changes frequently
The whole gang was ready for a good lunch!
The whole gang was ready for a good lunch!
Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu at 4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro in Mystic, CT
Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu at 4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro in Mystic, CT

Each of the kids got some kids specialities and I think there was some curry ordered and a couple of vegetable dishes.  I enjoyed the Pad Thai with tofu. The prices were reasonable and the food was excellent!

 

Welcome to New Hampshire! US State #48 for me.
Welcome to New Hampshire! US State #48 for me.

With tummies full, and palates pleasingly tantalized, we were ready to take off on the long drive north to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. We hopped on Interstate 95 and stayed on the road through Massachusetts, skirting around the traffic of Boston on I-495, a quick cut through New Hampshire and then into the bottom neck of Maine, my first visit there.  With a stop in New Hampshire’s Welcome Center Rest Area (in Seabrook, NH) and then into Maine, I had officially hit my 48th and 49th states in the United States!

Sign Post in Seabrook, NH
Sign Post in Seabrook, NH
On the road with da grandkidz in New England
On the road with da grandkidz in New England

After the brief stop in Seabrook, we were back on the road headed for Maine.  Unfortunately, I-95 offers few glimpses of the rocky coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.  You need to be on US Highway 1 to get those great views.  We were hsutling to get to Old Orchard Beacwhile the sun was still up so that the kids could play on the beach and Julianne and I could sit on the beach and watch the sunset.

 

View of Old Orchard Beach and the Atlantic Ocean from the Normandie Motor Inn
View of Old Orchard Beach and the Atlantic Ocean from the Normandie Motor Inn
Outside the Normandie Inn with grandson Rockwell
Outside the Normandie Inn with grandson Rockwell

We had made prior arrangements to stay at the Normandie Motor Inn, a 1960s style Motel that was literally right on the beach.  We were a two minute walk from our room to the beach. They had a special rate and it was perfect for us for the one night stay.

I think was actually my first time ever to stay in this kind of beachside motel.  I was close back in the 1980s when I stayed in a motor inn near Rehoboth Beach, DE, but it was a five minute drive from the beach. So, it was a thrill for this young-hearted grandpa!

Julianne and I enjoying sunset on the beach at Old Orchard Beach, ME
Julianne and I enjoying sunset on the beach at Old Orchard Beach, ME
Grandkidz enjoy their first look at the Atlantic Ocean on Old Orchard Beach
Grandkidz enjoy their first look at the Atlantic Ocean on Old Orchard Beach
Julianne and I watch the grandkidz playing on the beach in Old Orchard
Julianne and I watch the grandkidz playing on the beach in Old Orchard
Bell Buoy Menu
Bell Buoy Menu

We watched the sun go down and then we watched as some folks came in to do some night fishing for sea bass. Their poles were lit up with blue lights that would shake and shimmy when there was a fish on the line.   And, when the fun was over, we made our way into town to find some dinner and enjoyed some fresh seafood at a place called the Bell Buoy Restaurant.   It was very kid friendly though it also had a bar. The kids were all happy with their meals.

Waiting for dinner at the Bell Buoy in OOB
Waiting for dinner at the Bell Buoy in OOB
Outside for the required Selfie
Outside for the required Selfie

It was a long day…we were tired and finally made it to bed. The morning would bring us a wonderful sunrise and a new day of fun.  I’ll cover that in Part III.

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