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

 

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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

 

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The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

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The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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 W 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

WThe W Towns

Wharton, Texas

Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich

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.

Welland, Ontario

Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled "History of the Niagara Peninsula" by Heinz Gaugel
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
 "Working Women" by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
"Wagons" by Andrew Miles
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles
"Main Street" by Mike Svob
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario

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.

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa

I have always wanted to go to Winterset, Iowa, famed for the “Covered Bridges of Madison County” (See a map here).  Robert James Waller made these famous with his book called The Bridges of Madison County. The county originally had 19 covered bridges, but now only six remain.  There are actually a couple of other places with quite a few covered bridges including the bridges in Greene County, Ohio (see map) near Xenia, Ohio which I will feature in my X Towns post later this week,  (see my write up of my visit to many of these), the 18 bridges in Fairfield County, Ohio (also see map) and the 17 bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio (also see map here), including the newest and longest, which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet long (see my photo of this bridge).  Kentucky and Michigan both still have quite a few as well. There are just over 125 covered bridges still in the United States and I have been fortunate to have visited many of them.  Therefore this was an exciting visit for me.  But Winterset is also famous as the birthplace of John Wayne.  You can see my complete and detailed post about Winterset HERE.

Wapiti, Wyoming

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion – Wapiti, WY
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti

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

Wall Drug 714 Miles
Wall Drug 718 Miles – Austin, Minnesota
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall's Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
Wall’s Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug - these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug – these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino

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)

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

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)

Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

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)

Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR

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)

Highway into Worland, WY
Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

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)

Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge

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)

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota

Winner Food Center

Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

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.

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Back Roads Travel with Family – Pt 2

Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999
Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999

This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them.  You can see Part 1 here.

During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.

Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky 1996
Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky July 4, 1997
Kid s with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1996
Kids with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1997

The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more.  This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world.  She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)

St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997

The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other.  It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.

View of downtown St. Louis form the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997
View of downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997
View of Capital Building from top of St. Louis Arch, taken Sept. 1997
View of Capital Building from the Gateway Arch, taken Sept. 1997

Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998.  This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe.  Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed.  At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France.  Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris.  Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)

Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey Chocolate World
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey’s Chocolate World, June 1998

We took three trips to the east during 1998.  The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility.  While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail.  Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us.  In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.

Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Eaton, PA
Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Easton, PA

From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit).  It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.

Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA
Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA

So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.).  This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off.  But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents.  It was pretty “in-tents”!!

Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998

We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one.  However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.

Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998

We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……

National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998
National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998

Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip.  But, it was not the last trip east.  A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa.  Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background.  Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.

Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998
Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998

Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!

Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998
Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998

In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University.  While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia.  We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West  as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…

Abe Lincoln Monument near Laramie, Wyoming 1999
Abe Lincoln Monument at Summit Rest Area on I-80 near Laramie, Wyoming Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s.  Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s. Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ  in late 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ Dec. 30, 1999

A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Akela Flats, NM near Deming - Dec. 22, 1999
Akela Flats, NM near Deming – Dec. 22, 1999

Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff.  In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky.  I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.

Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999
Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999

During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio.  Giant picnic basket!

Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000

The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us.  Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips.  We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.

On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum.  We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Family visits "Sue" the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Family visits “Sue” the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum.
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum

Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!

Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001

Travel continued that year with a couple more trips.  Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites.  Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.


View Larger Map – Map of our 2001 trip to Nauvoo

Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001

In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana.  This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory.  The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001

From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument.  This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.

Traveling in the van, Summer 2001
Traveling in the van, Summer 2001

Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites.  Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.

Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer's Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001
Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer’s Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001

From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy.  Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln).  We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.

Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois.
Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois

There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.

The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001.
The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL

On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).

Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2000
Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001

On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds.  When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…

My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children's Museum in 2013
My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children’s Museum in 2013

The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan.  Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved.  Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.

Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, Utah
Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, CO, summer 2002

In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents.  It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.

Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002
Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002

With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things.  Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.

Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).

Traveling Siblings - Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in July 2004
Traveling Siblings – Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in August 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota, summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant (HO HO HO) in Blue Earth, Minnesota, August 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN July 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004

We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005.  I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters.  By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings.  In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.

Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005

After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana.  This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way.  Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!!  We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)

June 2005 "Montana Wedding" Roadtrip
June 2005 HUGE “Montana Wedding” Roadtrip

Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously.  It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.

Roadside guidance provided by……

Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days.  We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province.  We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well.  We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well.  But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun.  Here are a few of the better shots.  So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!!  Many memories were made…

Millenium Park, Chicago
The kids at Anish Kappor’s “Cloud Gate in Millenium Park in Chicago. June 2005
Say Cheese
Say Cheese – We were in Wisconsin after all – June 2005
Pink Elephant, DeForest, WI
Marissa outdoing Seth (who visited in 2004) at the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI – June 2005 (By the way, Marissa’s favorite animal has always been the elephant)
Solomon in Minnesota
Solomon in Minnesota – June 2005
Space Aliens Bar and Grill
Seth and Solomon finish off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens Bar and Grill near St. Cloud, MN

Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN.  The second day was another doozy….

Largest Pile of Cans - Casselton, ND
Marissa at World’s Largest Pile of Cans in Casselton, ND. This has since been taken down. June 2005

Along with visits to some of the “World’s Biggest” things (the giant Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, MN, the giant Sand Crane in Steele, ND and the giant Buffalo in Jamestown, ND), we also visited the world’s largest Holstein Cow “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota.  This was utterly fun!

Salem Sue in North Dakota
Milkin’ it for all its worth at “Salem Sue” statue in New Salem, North Dakota – June 2005

We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest.  The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…

Glacier National Park
Seth, Julianne (who flew out) and Marissa enjoy the expansive views at Glacier National Park in Montana. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Chiptymonk
Solomon tries to feed a “chiptymonk” in Glacier National Park in Montana – June 2005

The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004).  We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….

Marissa and Seth's Last Stand at the location whereGeorge Custer is buried at Little Big Horn National Monument, Montana June 2005
Marissa and Seth’s Last Stand at the location where George Custer is buried at Little Bighorn National Battlefield, Montana June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana.  A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana. A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Stoneville Saloon
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks, Lousy Food, Conveniently located in the Middle of Nowhere….
Mt. Rushmore, SD
Marissa shows off Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota – June 2005

After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.

Jackalope at Wall Drug, SD
Solomon rides a Jackalope at Wall Drug in Wall, SD
Wall Drug, SD
Mt. Sethmore at Wall Drug in South Dakota – June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota - June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota – June 2005
Cactus Flats, SD
Marissa feeds the prairie dogs at Cactus Flats, SD
The "Soulman" withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD - June 2005
The “Soulman” withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD – June 2005
Corn Palace, MItchell, SD
Marissa at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD – June 2005

After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways.  We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area.  After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest.  We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip…  then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.

Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad
Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad – June 24, 2005

And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz.  The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!

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