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

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

Iowa – Welcome to Iowa

On our trip we hit a small corner of Iowa as we drove north on Interstate 29 from Missouri to Nebraska.

Welcome to Iowa

Indian City Trading Post – Houck, AZ

Drive down Interstate 40 in Arizona and you will see a load of signs like this below for the numerous trading posts.

Indian City Trading Post in Houck, AZ

Iron Mountain Road – Custer, South Dakota

Admittedly, this was one of the highlights of our entire trip.  This drive has been on my bucket list for a number of years.  However, as we got into Custer State Park in late January, we had no assurance that the road would be open because of the possibility of snow and/or ice on the road.  But, as we got into Custer State Park, we were informed that Iron Mountain Road (US 16A) had been opened just a couple of hours earlier.

This 17 mile road is such a unique drive. As the sign photo below shows, there are 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails (a road bridge which loops over its own road), 3 unique tunnels and 4 presidents (referring to Mount Rushmore, which can actually be seen through two of the tunnels.) At its highest point, the summit of Iron Mountain, the windy road hits an altitude of 5,446 feet.  There are amazing views, as you can see from the photos below.

Iron Mountain Road in northwestern South Dakota
Iron Mountain Road info sign
A scene from the curvy Iron Mountain Road
Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota
A splendid vista from the top of Iron Mountain
Some of the road winds through the trees
One of the Iron Mountain Road tunnels
Mount Rushmore as seen through one of the Iron Mountain Tunnels
A view of Mount Rushmore from the summit of Iron Mountain

Itty Bitty Inn – North Bend, Oregon

Sadly, we didn’t stay in this old (established in 1950) motel in North Bend, Oregon, just north of Coos Bay. The Itty Bitty Inn name is now one of my favorite unique motel names.  I did a little research on this motel that is located on Oregon’s very scenic US Hwy 101.  This place even has a Star Trek-themed room (click on the link above to check it out.)

Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, WA

I Love this Town mural – Quitaque, Texas

As we drove through Quitaque, Texas on Valentine’s Day, I saw this lovely mural.  Always love a good mural.

I Love This Town mural in Quitaque, Texas

Interstate Highway Scenes

On my long road trips I really strive to avoid the Interstate highways.  I love the back roads and U.S. highways.  However, sometimes the interstates are unavoidable.  I took a few shots of our drives on the Interstates. On this trip we did hit Interstates 10, 20, 30, 40 and a number of others. Enjoy the ride!

Interstate 27 near Happy, Texas
Sunset on Interstate 15 near Barstow, California
Interstate 15 near Nipton, California
Interstate 30 is scenic with all of the trees. This shot was near Donaldson, Arkansas
Interstate 40 thru New Mexico often parallels Route 66. This scene is near Casa Blanca, New Mexico
A morning scene on Interstate 15 near Baker, California
Interstate 20 in eastern Texas near Longview, Texas
Intestate 40 near Continental Divide, New Mexico
The flatlands of Louisiana can be seen on Interstate 49 near Vivian, Louisiana
Interstate 40 scene near Ganado, AZ

Illinois

Welcome to Illinois

Welcome to Illinois

Interesting and timely church sign – Equality, Illinois

When we were on the road trip, we, like all Americans, had no idea that the COVID-19 crisis would engulf the world.  This photo was taken on January 25, 2020 in Equality, Illinois.  As I write this on April 9, the United States has hit the 80 day mark since the first case (January 21, 2020 in Seattle, Washington)

An Interesting church sign in Equality, Illinois

WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON

I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family.  You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l

 

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Washington State: Fat Smitty’s – The Quirky Burger Joint

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty's
Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s

Every so often I come across an eatery that looks so quirky and fun that I must stop there.  On my recent trip to Washington, we stopped in one of

these places.  Weeks before the trip, my daughter and son in law apprised me of these place near Port Townsend, WA and said that it was “So Sumoflam” that we would go there.

Fat Smitty's at the edge of Discovery Bay, WA
Fat Smitty’s at the edge of Discovery Bay, WA
Fat Smitty's in Port Townsend, WA
Fat Smitty’s in Port Townsend, WA

Fat Smitty’s is a funky little burger joint sitting on US Hwy 101 at the junction with WA Route 20 in the Discovery Bay region of Port Townsend.  The outside is decorated with a couple dozen chain saw carved statues of food and other oddities.  Colorful and fun, it is a must stop!

Fat Smitty's
Fat Smitty’s
FatSmittys2
Sumoflam at Fat Smitty’s

So, on our trip to Neah Bay in July (see post here) we stopped at Fat Smitty’s for lunch.  And, true to their word, this place is a “Sumoflam stop du jour” for sure. Even though I am working on not eating too many burgers, I relaxed my restriction for this one time visit to this one time unique little place.

Fat Smitty's ceiling covered with money.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
Cash
Cash

 

But if the outside is a drawing card, the inside is an invitation.  This place is literally plastered with 1000s of dollar bills (and a few other denominations)!  I have never seen anything quite like it.  Check out all this money!

Much of the cash has the donor’s names on it or where they are from.  Almost every single bill has something written on it.  Really unique interior decor!!

Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty's
Legal Tender Wallpaper at Fat Smitty’s
Duck Cash
Duck Cash

Back in 2012, owner Carl “Fat Smitty” Schmidt enlisted Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to remove all of the money from his walls (see newspaper article) as dozens of inquiries had come in about how much was there.  At that time 27 years of cash was removed totaling $10,316, most of which he donated to a kitchen at a Scout camp in Washington.

Cash on the Ceiling
Cash on the Ceiling
M&M Memorabilia abounds in the shop's second room
M&M Memorabilia abounds in the shop’s second room

Apparently, according to Schmidt (in another article), the plastering of money all started back in the 1980s when two sales reps from Caterpillar wanted to pin their business cards to the wall along with a dollar bill.  From there it grew and apparently they never touched the walls.

Marine Wall at Fat Smitty's
Marine Wall at Fat Smitty’s
Larger denominations and business cards can be found as well
Larger denominations and business cards can be found as well

Schmidt, who was in the US Marines in the 1960s, also has a couple of walls dedicated to US Servicemen.

Many still add their business cards to the wall.  You’re lucky if you can see one amongst all the cash.

More uniqueness at Fat Smitty's
More uniqueness at Fat Smitty’s

On this particular visit, I was taking photos and noted that I write travel blogs.  A table of guests noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!

hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, WA
hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Yes, they do make a nice burger at Fat Smitty's
Yes, they do make a nice burger at Fat Smitty’s

Of course, I suppose I should also mention the fact that this place has hamburgers…..I got one of those as well…honestly not in my whole foods plant-based regimen, but, it was a vacation and they didn’t have any vegan offerings (nothing even close!)

And just a couple more shots of the outside woodwork of the place:

Other side is a Pepsi bottle
Other side is a Pepsi bottle
A giant wood-carved ice cream cone at Fat Smitty's
A giant wood-carved ice cream cone at Fat Smitty’s
Big hands hold up the building
Big hands hold up the building
Watch out for the giant skeeters!!
Watch out for the giant skeeters!!
They even sell Fat Smitty's T-shirts
They even sell Fat Smitty’s T-shirts

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