I am rich…very rich. Not in money, but rather rich in experiences and rich in grandchildren. As the Proverb says “Children are like arrows. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”
At age 60 I have been blessed to have 10 grandchildren (so far). These are my joy and I am so grateful. And, besides loving them to death, I have also passed on the fascination of wanderlust. Most of my grandchildren are already well traveled thanks to my daughters and sons that have continued the tradition of getting on the road and seeing the world.
I have had numerous opportunities to join my grandchildren on roadtrips. It is absolutely amazing to see their reactions to the world around them, to watch them scamper on a beach, to play with butterflies or to hold a baby gator.
Following are a few photos of my travels with the “grandkidz” as I refer to them. They represent travel all over the country from the past few years.
The year 2016 was not a banner year for travel for me as there were no super long cross country trips taken like I had done form 2012-2015. However, over the course of the year we did take a number of smaller trips and a couple of fairly long trips. I visited 11 states during the year and made it to some places where I hadn’t been for nearly 30 years. Even made it into towns from A (Abingdon, VA) to Z (Zanesville, OH) and one with an X too (Xenia, OH)!!
Here is a map that includes many of the places:
During the course of the year we visited a few major cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee.
A good portion of my travel in 2016 was related to rails to trails bike trails that my wife Julianne had desired to ride. We visited some lovely bike trails in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. While Julianne rode, I would take the back roads and meet her along the trails. This was until I got my own bicycle on my birthday in October.
We took one flight during the year which was to Houston to celebrate a calling for my son in church and to visit our grandsons. In late October, we also drove to Fort Worth, Texas for the funeral of my father. Not as joyous a trip, but we did visit a few locations along the way for fun.
Our trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh were predominantly because Julian sister Laura had moved from Idaho to the Pittsburgh area. So she met Julianne on a couple of the bike ride trips. She and Julianne also attended a conference at the Kirtland Temple and while they were there, I visited my family in Little Italy in Cleveland and also took some tours around the city with my sister Tina and her husband Jim.
Then we visited Laura in Pittsburgh, we got to see a number of wonderful things in Pittsburgh including the Monongahela Incline, hey unique rail type system that pulled us up to the top of Mt. Washington where we had spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh and the three rivers down below.
The year ended on a high note as we took a long trip to Ocean City, MD where we stayed with Julianne’s sister and her husband Richard and their daughter for about a week on the beach. It was a wonderful trip! It was during this trip that we also visited Washington DC and the large LDS Washington DC Temple with all of its amazing Christmas lights. I also made my way up to Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, both of which I had not visited since the 1980s.
Of course, whenever we take road trips I always try to find the unique and the unusual whenever possible. And most of our trips were not immune from my searching to do so. On our trips visited such wonderful places as Friendly, WV, Prosperity, PA, Novelty, OH, Happy, KY, Eighty Four, PA and a few other unique named towns as indicated in photos below. I even located a Yellow Brick Road in Ohio and a Bliss Happens Lane in Maryland!
During the year we often ate at places that were focused on bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts. One such location was in Oregonia, OH. It was way out of the way to get to. Then there was the place on the Virginia Creeper Trail which was almost impossible to get to my car but was built specifically for the bicyclists coming down the Virginia Creeper Trail.
In August, we got to visit Nashville and hang with my good friend and musician Antsy McClain. He took us around with a few other “field trippers” and showed us some of the sites of Nashville including music Row, some music dives and some good places to eat including the oldest diner in Nashville. We also have the unique chance to sit in a recording studio with Antsy and sing back up vocals on one of his songs!
During the course of the year, I also took a few “staycation” trips within Kentucky. This included one on the bike trail with Julianne, but also to Ravenna, where I visited hey famed café called the Wigwam. I also took a fun trip with my grandchildren and my daughter Marissa down to Cumberland Falls and then on into Corbin to visit the Harlan Sanders museum and restaurant which is where the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got it start. During the fall I took a solo trip up into Red River Gorge to get pictures of the fall colors. I was about a week too late to get most of them, but that was because we were in south eastern Virginia on the Creeper Trail to see the beautiful colors down there.
Some of the other more unique places that I got to see over the past year would include the “Birthplace of Superman,” which was in Cleveland, as well as the house where the movie “A Christmas Story” was filmed. Also while in Ohio, I visited the world’s largest geodesic dome in Novelty, OH. That was fascinating.
Of course, I can’t neglect to mention the visit to Little Italy to see my birthplace and family. I ate fine Italian cuisine at Mama Santa’s and had a great time seeing other sites there. Its the best Little Italy in the US!
During the year I also visited two fast food restaurants that had included museums in them. The Wendy’s restaurant in Dublin, OH had a whole section built in there with the history of Wendy’s and a large statue of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. In Canonsburg, PA, there is a McDonald’s restaurant that includes dedications and memorabilia of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, both of whom grew up in Canonsburg.
It was fun for me to visit Xenia, OH and see the murals and the architecture and then also travel around some of the other areas nearby with Julianne and her sister and/or our grandchildren who rode their bikes along some of the bike trails including the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
We visited the Little Miami Scenic Trail twice and each time had a great time.
Overall, I have to say it was a wonderful year. I saw dolphins swimming at sunrise on Christmas morning in the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. We got to visit some of our great national historical sites in Washington DC. On many of the trips, it was fun to travel with the grandchildren and see the delight in their eyes they saw big waterfalls, giant statues and other interesting places.
On a final note, I have to say that we did visit a few interesting places to eat. A great taco place in Houston, and, as I mentioned before, the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY. Also of note were the Crabcake Factory in Ocean City, MD and a Japanese place with a unique name Saketumi, in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
As I start a new position in new venture 2017, I look forward to traveling. The new company (PrecisionHawk) is in Raleigh, NC and so I will be taking a trip there in early January. Who knows what other delights I will find in 2017.
Following are a few other random shots from my trips in 2016:
Just a week after a nice three-day visit to northern Ohio (see post HERE), Julianne and I made our way to Canonsburg, PA, which is south of Pittsburgh. Julianne’s sister Laura recently moved there from Idaho with her husband and daughter and wanted us to visit.
From Lexington, Canonsburg is about a 5 Hour drive. We loaded Julianne’s bicycle onto the bike rack and were off shortly after she got off of work. We also took our first trip with one of our grandchildren, our oldest named Autumn. She has traveled with her mother and me on a long trip to Wisconsin, but this is her first trip alone with Grampz and Grandma.
Most of the trip was fairly uneventful as we headed east on Interstate 64 into West Virginia and then north on Interstate 79 just outside of Charleston, West Virginia.
Along the way, we decided to stop for a couple of snacks and found a unique Amish market located in Flatwoods, WV. The shop is
located in the Flatwoods Factory Outlet. As is often the case when making an unknown stop, there’s always a surprise in store. We were looking for some interesting food items and/or snack items to enjoy, but while there, we found that they have a giant Amish-made chair to sit in. Always have to include the quirky things!
We also picked up some goodies to leave with her sister and we got some hot mustard that was absolutely amazing! The view from behind the store into the hilly farmlands of Pennsylvania was very nice and I’ve included a photo of that above. After our break and an ice cream cone for Autumn, we were back on the road heading towards Canonsburg.
After arriving in Canonsburg, and having a nice evening together, we spent the next day touring around Pittsburgh (that post will follow this one).
The next morning, Julianne and her sister decided to take a bike ride down the Montour Trail Bike Trail, a 46 mile trail from Moon Township (northwest of Pittsburgh) to Clairton. This is one of a number of Rail Trails that Julianne will take over the next few weeks (I’ll write about each of those in upcoming special “Bike Trail posts – watch for them!). This trail is actually part of a larger set of trails that stretch nearly 330 miles to Washington, D.C. (Known as the Great Allegheny Passage) Julianne and Laura hope to ride that complete trail in 2017 (And maybe I’ll be ready by then too!!)
While they were doing that, I arose early took a ride into the countryside nearby and captured a beautiful sunrise early in the morning. It was a beautiful drive up US Hwy 19 into Upper St. Clair, PA. There was a hint of fog in the air and the sun came up over the rolling hills and verdant farmland.
After breakfast, I took another ride to visit the small town of Prosperity, PA. The small unincorporated village is south of Washington, PA on PA Hwy 18. Obviously, I wanted to add this as another of those uniquely named towns that I like to visit. Prosperity really doesn’t look like it’s that prosperous of a town, but did have some unique old buildings and of course the Prosperity Post Office! (I have also found Success, Romance and Uncertain, among many others in my travels.)
On my way back from Prosperity, I made my way through the city of Washington, PA. The city is the County Seat of Washington County, which was the first county in the U.S. to be named Washington – done so in 1781. As the home of the old Washington and Jefferson College (the oldest college west of the Alleghenies), it is definitely a college style town but has some very old charm and many old historical buildings and some unique history.
Most impressive about Washington was the amazing looking historic courthouse with a large golden statue of George Washington on top. This is apparently the fifth version of the county courthouse, with this one being built in 1900.
Washington also gained notoriety in 1794 as a result of the Whiskey Rebellion, which was led by David Bradford. The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The so-called “whiskey tax” was the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. It became law in 1791, and was intended to generate revenue to help reduce the national debt.
Washington, is also the home of the PONY League, one of the well-known youth baseball and softball organizations that can be found throughout the world. They have a World Series event every August in Washington.
But, I would have to say that the small Borough of Canonsburg actually holds some merit as one of the more interesting places to see in the area. First off, it was the home to two famed singers from the 1960s – Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. And the local McDonald’s restaurant offers a rare glimpse of them and their lives with an in-restaurant little museum (the second such “Fast Food Museum” I had seen in as many weeks – the other being the Wendy’s/Dave Thomas Museum in Dublin, Ohio – see that one HERE). The museum display includes photos, albums, yearbooks, clothing and instruments, as well as the statues.
And then down the road from the McDonald’s is another statue honoring Perry Como. It is located in front of the bourough offices.
The statue of Como was unveiled in May 1999 and the city pipes his music 12 hours a day. (I must have missed it the day we were there).
A couple of historic pieces are also in the Canonsburg downtown area.
Canonsburg is also home to one of the quirky and iconic Turtle Twist Ice Cream Shop, shaped like an ice cream cone. The Ice Cream Shaped building was originally created by Twistee Treat Ice Cream out of Florida. The buildings are 28 feet tall and 20 feet wide and made of fiberglass. The original Twistee Treat company went out of business in 1990, but a new company was formed in 1996. Turtle Twist is a former Twistee Treat building. Their building was previously installed in 1992 at an amusement park in Lakewood, NY in 1992. It was then purchased and reassembled in Canonsburg in 2004. I have only seen one other of these in my travels (see M&M Twistee Treat in E. Peoria, IL)
Speaking of Ice Cream, there is another well known place in Canonsburg known for its ice cream and as well as its chocolate and chocolate art work. The Sarris Candies Factory and Ice Cream Parlour covers an area the size of a full city block, and carries over 100 yards of chocolate, penny candy, ice cream and life-like plush toys. Not sure what it is about Pennsylvania and chocolate. In other visits I have seen the huge Hershey’s facility in Hershey, PA and also Daffin’s Chocolate in Sharon, PA, known for its huge chocolate sculptures (see my post about Hershey HERE and my Daffin’s post HERE) . Both Daffin’s and Sarris claim to have the world’s largest candy stores. Sarris does also lay claim to an amazing 2600 pound Chocolate Castle (Daffin’s has a 400 pound chocolate turtle in their Chocolate Kingdom).
Some of the facts that Sarris notes about their castle:
Weighs 2600 pounds
It is 12 feet tall from floor to ceiling
It is 8 feet long and 3 feet long
It took 8 people three months and 2000 man hours to create
The whole confection room is also surrounded by 65 feet of beautiful hand-painted wall murals depicting a circus train ride through Candyland.
The shop has tons of candy products, massive plush toys including some life size ones and then there is the amazing Ice Cream shop.
Finally, some mention of a couple more places nearby that I visited. Not too many towns are named with a number, but Eighty Four, PA is one of the few numbered towns. There are a number of stories surrounding the name, but the town was actually founded in 1884 and the Post Office sought the name of Smithville, but it was already taken. So, apparently, the Postmaster H.F. Weir asked the post office be named after the year founded.
In 1957 a lumber company was created in town and was named 84 Lumber. It has grown dramatically with more than 250 stores, component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, custom millwork shops, and engineered wood products (EWP) centers in 30 states, representing the top 130 markets in the US.
Not too far from Washington is a place called Laboratory, PA, yet another strange name. But I also noticed an historic plaque with the name of Pancake. But there was already another Pancake in Pennsylvania. Some internet research warranted the following explanation (found on Jim’s Journey Website HERE):
Earle Forrest wrote about this area in his 1926 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania in the chapter on South Strabane Township. He discusses first George Pancake, then Jonathan Martin and adds this paragraph:
“About thirty years ago the late Dr. Byron Clark, who resided near the end of East Maiden Street, Washington, established a chemical laboratory for the manufacture of patent medicine, which he sold throughout the country. He had a post office established and named the place Laboratory, by which it is still known, although the original name of Pancake still sticks.
And finally, there was the Library Volunteer Fire Company in South Park, PA, near Washington. How did it get that name?? The Library Volunteer Fire Company was organized in October 1939 and was comprised of 21 firefighters and one truck housed at the corner of Brownsville and Library Road. Presently, the company is located at 6581 Library Road in South Park Township.
My next post will cover some of our visit to Pittsburgh