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.
The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI
The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY
The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO
The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND
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
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
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
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
The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY
The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT
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
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
The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY
The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN
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
The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY
The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT – Yellville, AR – York, NE
The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT
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
The W Towns
Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton. My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years. Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich. He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town). You can see my full post about this trip HERE.
When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls. But not too far west of there is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above. The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town. Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.
There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them. One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20. This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti. It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family. He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992. The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances. Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.
Wall, South Dakota
There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction. However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota. I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere. Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.
Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)
As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there. On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts. A few examples are shown above. You can see more and the whole story HERE.
Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world. It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate. Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two. I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.
Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)
In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad. Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010. A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.
Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)
I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above. The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there. There is also a museum. Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.
West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)
I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section. And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area. But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above. This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada. You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.
Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)
I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names. I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013. I definitely wanted a photo with the sign. What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner. So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same. You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
With the Grandkidz with us, every morning was an early one, so we were on the road in Walcott fairly early. First thing I saw as I stepped out of the hotel was this big semi carrying a blade for a wind turbine. This would set the stage for some subsequent visits along the road this day. You never really know how big these are until you have a frame of reference, like a huge truck.
From the truckstop we meandered into the small town of Walcott to get a glimpse of something really unusual. A house built to look like a medieval castle… Castle Hall. According to stories, this was built in 1905 to look like Balmoral Castle in Scotland, but it is nothing like it in my eyes.
This goes to show that you never know what you might see in small town America!!
Of course, then there is my penchant for scrap metal art. This scrap metal flower piece was just across the street from the Castle Hall. Had to snap a shot to add to my “collection.”
From Walcott it was Westward Ho towards Iowa City, with a quick stop in Coralville. I got to visit with Thomas Jefferson there while waiting for Marissa and the kiddos at the Coral Ridge Mall.
While I was waiting I also caught a couple of bugs on flowers….
From Coralville, we headed south on US 218 towards the small town of Riverside, IA. Why Riverside? Well, the small quaint town is “officially” the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise — Star Trek. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry approved the Riverside Town Council’s recommendation to make it so….in 1985. The future historical birth, which is set to take place on March 22, 2228, is also celebrated annually by the people of Riverside.
The town even has its own Starship…the Starship “Riverside”
There is also a small History Center and Souvenir shop in town as well as a bench dedicated to someone and it was donated by none other than William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk from the old Star Trek TV series in the 1960s.
The town holds an annual TrekFest in June that draws thousands of Trekkies.
This was not my first venture into Trekkiedom…. back in 2007 I visited the town of Vulcan in Alberta, Canada (see my blog post) with my good friend “Crafty Jack” Burger (see my longer post about that visit), a guitar maker from Lethbridge. I got a good shot with the scale model of the Enterprise there.
Well, enough about boldly going where no man has gone before. We ventured further south for a quick stop in the small town of Swedesburg, IA….a little taste of Sweden.
The straw goat, also known as a “Julbock”, is one of the biggest symbols of the Swedish Christmas tradition and also serves in this town as a lure to come visit the town and its famous museum.
Since the Swedish museum was closed, it was further south towards our planned for destination. But, we had to go through Mt. Pleasant and so I stopped to get a shot of their local Statue of Liberty.
From Mt. Pleasant we proceeded west on US 34 until we hit Iowa Hwy 16, which we took south to the town of Eldon. Why Eldon?
Well, this actually is a very famous place in the history of American Art as it is the location of artist Grant Wood’s 1930″American Gothic” painting — you know, the one with the two folks, the guy with the pitchfork in front of the house. Not only is the painting famous, but it is probably one of the most parodied pieces of art anywhere (in my opinion). Only a few other images, such as the Mona Lisa or Scream, by Edward Munch, are as widely known as American Gothic, and because of its high visibility, the painting is an easy choice as a parody.
The visit starts at the American Gothic House Center, just a few yards from the actual house in the painting. This is not only a museum dedicated to the painting, but it also houses a number of parodies, provides visitors with prop clothing to wear and do their own photo in front of the house, etc.
The original portion of the house that contains the two Gothic windows was built in 1881-82 by Catherine and Charles Dibble. As the original owners of the home, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Dibble House. Grant Wood used his sister Nan and his dentist Dr. B.H. McKeeby as the models (see more here). Ironically, the models for the artwork never posed together when they were drawn prior to, or during the painting of American Gothic. This was conceptualized by the Grant Wood.
Shawnee, Kansas photographer Jason Tracy (see his site) has kindly given me permission to use his high res photo of a Klingon man and woman at the Gothic House. Jason has a number of unique and offbeat Conceptual Portrait works (see them here).
Of course, we can also do our own!! And that is the real fun of this place. Here we got my granddaughter and grandson to pose (not too willingly mind you…) And then I got a couple of them in myself.
Besides the Gothic House, Eldon does have a couple of murals, an old (and famous) opera house and a few other goodies….
As we left this fun little town, lo and behold, I ran into another rooster with a top hat. Two in two days!!
After such a fun time in Eldon, it was hard to move on, but we did. We returned north on Iowa Hwy 16 to US 34 and then continued west until Ottumwa and then north on US 63 towards Des Moines. At the junction with Iowa163 we veered west in order to take the children to Pella to see the giant Vermeer Dutch Windmill and even get them a treat at one of the fabulous Dutch bakeries there. This was my second time there and I am always impressed with the architecture, especially that of the Pella Opera House and the Pella “Klokkenspel”.
The Historic Pella Opera House was opened in 1900 and has gone through a number of renovations and uses. Today it is a colorful reminder of both Dutch heritage and early 1900s architecture.
The Pella “Klokkenspel” has eight four-foot mechanical figures that perform at regular intervals to the music of a 147-bell computer driven carillon. This is one of only a handful of animated musical clocks in the United States. Unfortunately, we were not there during a performance time of these characters, which are held daily at 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. The building also adds a unique flair to the beauty of downtown Pella.
The bakeries in Pella are absolute delights. On my last trip to Pella (see post here) my wife and I visited the Jaarsma Bakery, but on this visit Marissa and kids dropped into the Vander Ploeg Bakery, which is only about 5 doors down from the Jaarsma. Both of them offer “Dutch letters,” those crispy, flaky, buttery pastries filled with almond paste, shaped into an “s,” and covered with large, crunchy sugar crystals. The kids loved them!!
A few more scenes from Pella:
From Pella we continued on Iowa 163 all the way into Des Moines and then on to Interstate 235. Along the way we passed the impressive Iowa Capital building with its gold plated dome and four other domes. One of the most impressive capital buildings I have seen in my travels.
After passing through Des Moines, we made our way into Iowa Wind Turbine country around Casey and Adair. The Rest Area on I-80 near Casey (on the Westbound side) has a giant wind turbine blade installed. The kids were all asleep, so we didn’t stop. But we did get a photo of it:
Continuing westward toward Adair we could begin seeing the huge MidAmerican owned Rolling Hills wind farm, which currently consists of nearly 200 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, making it the largest wind farm in Iowa. According to a number of reports, the state generates nearly a quarter of its energy from wind, first in the nation, and the number will soon grow as more than 600 more wind turbines are slated for installation through 2015.
Wind Turbines are massive monsters. Unlike the old Dutch windmills (as seen in Pella), these units are about 262 feet tall from base to rotor shaft (twice as high as Niagara Falls!!). The blades are each 161 feet in length and the rotor diameter is 331 feet.
The wind farms are a boost to the economy of the counties involved as farmers and other land owners get thousands of dollars for the utilities to use their lands. Some consider them unsightly. I love the graceful feel of these “modern flowers” blossoming out of the fields. With these added funds, it is no wonder that Adair, Iowa has a famous Smiley Water Tower!! The town of Adair is humorously known as “the happiest town on Earth” and its town welcome sign greets visitors with “Welcome to Adair It’ll make you Smile!”.
Adair also has a not so friendly history as it was the site of the first train robbery in the West and was also the world’s fist robbery of a moving train. The notorious Jesse James and his gang robbed a train supposedly carrying $75,000 in gold on the evening of July 21, 1873. Unfortunately for them, the shipment was delayed and they only were able to get away with about $3000 worth of gold. There is an historical park in the town that we didn’t have time to visit. There is more about it here.
The drive down Interstate 80 from Adair to Council Bluffs is really beautiful in mid-September as the corn has turned brown, wildflowers are in bloom everywhere and the soybean leaves are turning yellow. Here are a few scenes from the road…mind you, it was late afternoon so the shadows made things even more thrilling!
Soon after hitting Council Bluffs we arrived in Nebraska and headed toward rain. We made our way to Nebraska City, the birthplace of Arbor Day.
Overall it was a great day of travel and the grandkidz had a fun time. Rest up for Nebraska City promises lots of fun on Day 3!