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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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Going to California: Santa Rosa – Ukiah – Red Bluff

Goofing around at Carla's house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters
Goofing around at Carla’s house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters

Day 2 of my Woodflock trip started off nice and slow.  No hurry so I was able to sleep in over at Carla’s doublewide in Santa Rosa.  Woke up to a beautiful morning in the trailer park.

Soon, Carla and I were on the road heading north.  She decided to go through Ukiah for a more scenic route (and likely to appeal to my wanderlust!)

In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland
In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland

Santa Rosa is home to a couple of quirky roadside attractions, so we stopped at these on our way out of town.  The first of them was a big hand in front of the mall.  Reminded me that I was in good hands with Carla!!

The Hand statue is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland, who is originally from California but currently has his studios in Washington, D.C.  It was commissioned in 1996 and is made from the same marble quarry that Michaelangelo used centuries ago.  Kirkland has done commissioned works all over the world.

Back side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria"
Back side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria”
Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
"Guardian of the Creek" - a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA
“Guardian of the Creek” – a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA

After the big hand, we visited another site, a big mosaic fish in a park. Entitled “Guardian of the Creek” this one and a half ton fish by Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe. It is 13 foot high and covered in mosaic. It is surrounded by a 30 foot diameter mosaic map of the Santa Rosa Watershed. The large rainbow trout has become an icon and reminder of the restoration efforts by the city to nurture the creek habitat to a more natural state. I really loved the colorful mosaic…certainly one of the nicer big fish statues I have seen.

"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
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Gateway
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Memorial Gateway
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of "Cyclisk"
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

Another Uber Quirky Attraction in Santa Rosa is the 65 foot tall obelisk completely made from junk bike parts.  The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk.” It was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the "Cyclisk" sculpture
A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the “Cyclisk” sculpture
"Cyclisk"
“Cyclisk” by Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector – 2010
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County

These three unique pieces of art really made the entire trip worthwhile in and of themselves! But, there was much more to be seen on the way to Red Bluff. We took the scenic route up US Hwy 101 through Geyserville and Hopland and then up to Ukiah.

Needing to Pee?

Roadtrips always have their surprises, and this one was no exception. As we approached the small town of Hopland, once a thriving agriculture area known for hops, the first thing I see is the big red sign shown to the left. No joke! I’ve never seen a sign like that before!

IMG_2911.JPGTurns out that the sign, and the others that followed it, were to get one to stop at Real Goods Solar, a store that sells off-grid living items including solar panels, bee keeping equipment, hemp products, composting toilets, etc. Founded in 1978, The Real Goods Store is the original purveyor of Solar Living goods. Originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads, the store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Scrap metal “Horn Serpent” at Real Goods

Indeed, the place was so unique that it deserves its own blog post (which will be the next one after this). Suffice it to say it was quirky fun! Read all about soon!

Of the many unique things available for viewing at Real Goods, I have to admit that the scrap metal sculpture entitled “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris was the best.  Many know that I “collect” scrap metal art from around the country.  In fact, my most visited post is my “Yard Art” post which features scrap metal art found all over the country.  This one is now part of that post as well.

"Horn Dragon" by Diego Harris.  Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Ukiah, CA
Ukiah, CA

From Hopland it was on to Ukiah. 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.  Still gotta make my way to Lodi, CA and LaGrange, TX, to name a couple of others.

Carla with some fresh California strawberries
Carla with some fresh California strawberries

Before we got to Ukiah actually, Carla decided that we would make a stop at 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!!

They were sweet and luscious.  Who needs candy or cakes when you can enjoy the wonderfully aromatic freshness of these strawberries!

Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
California Strawberries!
California Strawberries!

With strawberries in hands (and mouths), we passed by Ukiah on US Hwy 101 and made it to Calpella. From there we headed east on CA 20 through some beautiful hill country and then on to Clear Lake (actually, to the small town of Upper Lake, CA).

CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country
CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country

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.  I was so glad we came this way.

Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA

We finally stopped in Upper Lake, which 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.

Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA

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.

Next door to the hotel is the Blue Wing Saloon and they have a number of nice outdoor dining tables.  The property also has some unique art…yep, more scrap metal art and an array of lovely flowers in the gardens.  It would be a fun place to just chillax for a couple of days.

Taking a selfie with the "springy lady" in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Taking a selfie with the “springy lady” in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs...reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs…reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
"Christmas" Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
“Christmas” Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Terry Church's "Moth to a Flame"
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Mendocino County artist Terry Church’s “Moth to a Flame”

And, I couldn’t forget this sign which gave me a chuckle….

DSC_2510Heading southeast on CA 20 we skirted the northern part of Clear Lake.  It was a lovely day and so we had some wonderful views of the lake.  Plenty of birds in the water.  I saw grebes for the first time…a really nervous bird.  Also saw a cormorant in flight.

A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
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

According to some sources, Clear Lake is believed to be one of the oldest lakes in North America. The lake sits on a huge block of stone which slowly tilts in the northern direction at the same rate as the lake fills in with sediment, thus keeping the water at roughly the same depth. Apparently, core samples of the lake’s sediments, taken by U.S. Geological Survey geologists in 1973 and 1980, indicate that the lake is at least 480,000 years old.

We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

There are a few towns along the lake, but none as nice as Nice…well, at least not in name anyway.

Nice is actually pronounced “neece” like the town in France.  But, to me, the nice guy, it is Nice.  And it is a nice name to add to my collection of unique named towns like Tightwad, Normal, Romance, Success, Friendship, Uncertain, etc.

Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA
Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA

Just up the road is Lucerne, named after the town in Switzerland.  The Rest Area at Lucerne Harbor Park, a turnoff by the lake, had a beautiful painting on the back that you can see coming in from Nice.  One of the more intricate wall paintings I have seen.

Full view of the mural in Lucerne
Full view of the mural in Lucerne, CA

This artwork was completed in mid-2009 by muralist Gloria De La Cruz of Clear Lake, CA. The painting depicts the Old Lucerne Hotel and has intricate work of animals and plant life as well.  I really appreciated this one!

DSC_2544After a brief rest in Lucerne, Carla and I were off again, this time to Williams, CA. Williams is at the crossroads of CA 20 and Interstate 5. From what I could see there were two parts to this town…the off the freeway fast food places and the local places in town.

Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA
Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA

The Old Masonic Lodge has a wonderful mural immortalizing the old Williams Hotel, which apparently burned down in 1913. The mural covers the entire two story face of the building.  Painted by Petaluma mural artist John Ton in 2014.  Folowing are a couple more detailed photos:

Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA

Once the break was over, we were on our last leg of the day…north on I-5 to Red Bluff and to our home away from home at Woodflock. This small unique music festival and Flamingohead retreat is held annually at the Sycamore Grove Campground in the Red Bluff Recreation area along the Sacramento River.  A beautiful little location that gets bedecked with flamingos and Antsy McClain music over the course of three days.

Welcome to Woodflock!
Welcome to Woodflock!

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