35 Years of Milestones – Julianne and David

Kravetz35SplashI never dreamed that someday I might be part of something bigger than me
It makes me feel humble, finally I see….All that we have is each other
And that’s all that I’ll ever need”  — Joe Walsh, “Family” from his Analog CD

As the week-long celebration of my 35 years with Julianne comes to an end, I would like to close out with a broad-brush overview of our wonderful 35 year journey (thus far!).  Yesterday I posted a video that our daughter Marissa compiled that includes dozens of photos from this 35 year journey.  If you have not yet seen it, here is the link to that post. We are really no different than any other couple with 35 years behind them.  So much can happen.  This is a look back out our journey together.

David and Julianne in Provo, UT February 1979

David and Julianne in Provo, UT February 1979

When I look back on my family’s growth and the milestones achieved over a period of 35 years, I really realize that so much has happened.  It has been an amazing ride so far! Here are a number of highlights from our 35 years (coupled with photos when appropriate):

David and Julianne Wedding Photo July 1979

David and Julianne Wedding Photo July 1979

From 1979 to 2014:

Kravetz Family ca. 1991, taken in Oita, Japan

Kravetz Family ca. 1991, taken in Oita, Japan

Family 2009

Family 2009

Kravetz Family Group photo with grandchildren and some family members

Kravetz Family Group photo with grandchildren and some family members – 2012

We had 5 children

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

A Kravetz four generation photo - Seth, Rockwell, David, Joe - 2012

A Kravetz four generation photo – Seth, Rockwell, David, Joe – 2012

We had 9 grandchildren

3 of our children served LDS (Mormon) Missions

Amaree on her Mission in Japan

Amaree on her Mission in Japan

o Amaree to Nagoya Japan: January 2001 – July 2002

Marissa on her mission in Thailand

Marissa on her mission in Thailand

o Marissa to Bangkok Thailand: September 2002 – February 2004

Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City South area with his companion -- Tall and Short..

Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City South area with his companion — Tall and Short..

o Seth to Salt Lake City South: October 2006 to October 2008

Both of our boys attained Eagle Scout

Seth at his Eagle Court of Honor

Seth at his Eagle Court of Honor

o Seth in March 2005

Solomon at his Eagle Court of Honor

Solomon at his Eagle Court of Honor

o Solomon in June 2007

We have lived in 18 locations (including 2 extended motel stays while looking for housing and 3 extended work-related stays for David)

o An apartment in Provo, UT

Our first rental house in Flagstaff, AZ ca 1980

Our first rental house in Flagstaff, AZ ca 1980

o 2 Houses in Flagstaff, AZ
o Married Student Housing at NAU in Flagstaff
o 2 Houses and an apartment in Mesa, AZ
o 1 Apartment in Tempe, AZ

Apartments in Oita.  We lived on the 5th Floor

Apartments in Oita. We lived on the 5th Floor

o 2 Apartments in Oita, Japan

House in Frankfort, KY

House in Frankfort, KY

o 1 House in Frankfort, KY

House in Nicholasville

House in Nicholasville

o 1 House in Nicholasville, KY

House on Stanford Dr. in Lexington

House on Stanford Dr. in Lexington – notice our old Aerostar Van

Our current home in Lexington, KY

Our current home in Lexington, KY

o 2 Houses in Lexington, KY
o 1 Apartment in Louisville, KY (David only on extended work contract – 8 months)
o 1 Hotel in Woodstock, ON (David only on extended work contract – 4 months)

Apartment in Paris, Ontario

Apartment in Paris, Ontario

o 1 Apartment in Paris, ON (David only on extended work contract – 4 months)
o 1 Hotel in Cebu, Philippines (David only on extended work – 8 weeks)

We had three college graduates (including David)

Graduation with Bachelors from Northern Arizona University - 1984

Graduation with Bachelors from Northern Arizona University – 1984

o David graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Arizona University (History/Geography/Asian Studies) and then a Master’s Degree from Arizona State University (Political Science/Asian Studies)

Amaree graduation from University of Kentucky

Amaree graduation from University of Kentucky

o Amaree graduated from University of Kentucky (Music Education)

Seth graduation from University of Kentucky

Seth graduation from University of Kentucky

o Seth graduated from University of Kentucky (Engineering)

We have traveled to 6 foreign countries (collectively)

Family visiting Usa Shrine in Japan in 1990

Family visiting Usa Shrine in Japan in 1990

David and Julianne in Kyoto with David's father

David and Julianne in Kyoto with David’s father

o Oita, Japan (lived in Oita, Japan for 4 ½ years)
o Seoul, South Korea (both went through and stayed overnight on flights)
o Suzhou, China (David spent two weeks on business)

David at "Screaming Heads" in Berks Falls, Ontario 2008

David at “Screaming Heads” in Berks Falls, Ontario 2008

o Ontario, Canada and Cardston, Alberta, Canada (Julianne visited 2 times and David spent 8 months working in Ontario)

David and Julianne in Tulum, Mexico

David and Julianne in Tulum, Mexico

o Cozumel, Mexico (David and Julianne took a cruise to Cozumel and visited Tulum)

David on a Jeepney in Cebu, Philippines in 2007

David on a Jeepney in Cebu, Philippines in 2007

o Cebu, Philippines (David took two trips and spent a total of 8 weeks in Cebu)

We have traveled all over the United States

Julianne and I, along with our family have been blessed to have traveled all over the United States, from Catalina Island off the coast of California, to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, from the Great Lakes in Michigan and Ohio to the Mississippi Delta in New Orleans.  We have traversed the Rocky Mountains, crossed the southern deserts, visited the southeast in Georgia and been to New York. The family has been to 20 or more National Parks and Monuments over the years, has visited the Statue of Liberty, the St. Louis Arch and Mt. Rushmore.  We visited Hawaii as a family in 1990 and Julianne and I took a cruise to Alaska in 2004. Marissa spent a summer in France and Amaree toured Europe with a choir. Seth and Holly have visited England and Scotland. These experiences have broadened the horizons of all of us! We have since included grandchildren in many of these trips.

Family in Monument Valley 1993

Family in Monument Valley 1993

Visiting Jamestown, Virginia in 1995

Visiting Jamestown, Virginia in 1995

Visiting the St. Louis Arch in 1997

Visiting the St. Louis Arch in 1997 (with Barbara Grandvoinet from France)

Visiting the Museum in Chicago to see the T-Rex 1994

Visiting the Museum in Chicago to see the T-Rex 1996

Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park in 2005

Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park in 2005

Marissa and her daughter Joselyn at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

Marissa and her daughter Joselyn at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico in 2011

David and granddaughter Autumn in Rhinelander, Wisconsin 2012

David and granddaughter Autumn in Rhinelander, Wisconsin 2012

Chelsea and Solomon with David's sister Sherry in New York City 1998

Chelsea and Solomon with David’s sister Sherry in New York City 1998

We have celebrated the weddings of four of our children (including 3 daughters’ weddings within a 6 week span in 2005)

All three girls married in 2005

All three girls married in 2005

Dad and three married daughters June 2005

Dad and three married daughters June 2005

Chelsea on her wedding day in May 2005

Chelsea on her wedding day in May 2005

o Chelsea married in May 2005

Amaree and Aaron June 18, 2005 in Cardston, Alberta

Amaree and Aaron June 18, 2005 in Cardston, Alberta

o Amaree married Aaron Matthews in June 2005

Marissa and Adam June 25, 2005 Louisville, KY

Marissa and Adam June 25, 2005 Louisville, KY

o Marissa married Adam Noe in June 2005

Seth and Holly wed in June 2009

Seth and Holly wed in December 2009

o Seth married Holly Walker in December 2009

So much more happened over the years.  We had an exchange student from France, Barbara Grandvoinet, who home-stayed with us for about 6 months and then came back for two other shorter visits. She has gone on to become a documentary film producer and we are so proud of her. We also hosted a well known Japanese sculptor/ceramicist, Yukio Yamamoto (from Himeji, Japan), in the 1980s when he came to Arizona.  He and his wife stayed with us for a few weeks and we were instrumental in assisting Yukio in building an ancient style Tozan kiln at my alma mater Northern Arizona University in 1985 (see article here – they misspelled my name…). Yukio passed away a few years ago.

Yukio Yamamoto and wife with some of Julianne's family at the Falls of the Little Colorado river in Northern Arizona in 1985

Yukio Yamamoto and wife with some of Julianne’s family at the Falls of the Little Colorado river in Northern Arizona in 1985

There is now a shrine to Yukio at NAU.

Yukio Yamamoto shrine and museum at Northern Arizona University

Yukio Yamamoto shrine and museum at Northern Arizona University

Barbara with Solomon and Marissa at New River Gorge, WV in Aug 1995

Barbara with Solomon and Marissa at New River Gorge, WV in Aug 1995

There is so much more that has enriched our lives over these years.  Many of the children participated in commercial video shoots in Japan (and David was in a national TV Commercial).

Chelsea in a Tokiwa Department Store Ad in 1990. Her photo hung all over the store for weeks.

Chelsea in a Tokiwa Department Store Ad in 1990. Her photo hung all over the store for weeks.

Seth in a Fukuoka, Japan Department Store Ad in 1990

Seth in a Fukuoka, Japan Department Store Ad in 1990

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

Indeed, this 35 years has been amazing!  I am looking forward to my 50th in 15 years!!

David and Julianne 1979 in Monument Valley

David and Julianne 1979 in Monument Valley

David and Julianne in Japan 1990

David and Julianne in Japan 1990

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

Cheering on UK in 2013 NCAA Championship Game

Cheering on UK in 2013 NCAA Championship Game

David and Julianne - 25 wonderful years together

David and Julianne – 35 wonderfully fun and amazing years together

Julianne and David celebrate 35 years together

My daughter Marissa compiled this look back at our 35 years of “merried” life.

This video includes music by my good friends Antsy McClain and Anthony Snape and also a touching song by Joe Walsh.

40 Years Ago this year: I Didn’t See This Coming

A little over 40 years ago this year I completed my last semester of high school in 1974 at Murray High School in Murray, Utah. In many respects, it seems like just yesterday, but then there are other pieces that make it seem like it was ages ago. I am amazed at how quickly 40 years has passed!

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

The year 1974 marked a new direction for me and my life as I took many avenues towards the location where I am now, 40 years later. I had no idea in 1974 what the next five years of my life would bring me and how that five years of my life would have a profound impact on the direction and course that the rest of my life has taken me.

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David Kravetz 1974 shortly before graduation

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Within a year of my graduation I had gotten a new full-time job and I was traveling quite a bit for Alta Distributing, which was a record and tape rack jobber. This began to fulfill my wanderlust of being able to travel on the road while at the same time fulfilling my joy in music.

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

During my senior year of high school I had begun learning about the Mormon church. Most of my friends during my senior year were LDS members and all lived in my general neighborhood. They were amazing examples to me and treated me like a brother which was a defining note in terms of my eventually joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in January 1975.

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school (Brett Davies & Scott Brown)

My graduation in May 1974 marked an unusual event for me as it was the only time in all of my school years that both my stepmother Marjorie and my stepfather Joe attended a school event of mine together. One or the other had, on occasion, been to one of my band concerts or other events, but never had both of them shown up together at any of my events until my graduation. The fact that they attended my graduation is absolutely a fond memory for me. I can even remember the steakhouse that they took me out to after graduation that night for my graduation dinner.

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge - ca. 1978

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge – ca. 1978

Within a year of my graduation I was kicked out of the house for my following the teachings of the Mormon church. Over the years my relationship with my step parents had bounced up and down.  Though never terrible, there was never that real close feeling of being part of a truly connected family. I can’t blame either Marjorie or Joe, as they had many troubles in their lives. They had troubles between each other and then they had the challenges of trying to raise a pretty much dysfunctional family.

Another rare photo - the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan - ca. 1978

Another rare photo – the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan – ca. 1978

The year 1974 also created memories in relationship to the music that was popular back then as well as some of the movies during that period. There was a great hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Taking Care of Business” which had become popular in 1974 and has remained one of my theme songs throughout my life. Disco began making its moves in 1974 as well and I was (and continue to be) fond of that music genre to this day.

The Hobbit - I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

The Hobbit – I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

It was during the spring of 1974 that I had my first dabbling into J.R.R. Tolkien works. I had to read “The Hobbit” in my English class that spring and I don’t believe that I had ever become so engrossed in a book as I did with “The Hobbit” in 1974. Soon thereafter, and also during that semester in school, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the Lord of the Rings and by J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings. Even back then, despite the great advances in movie technology, I had to wait over 30 years for the first real Lord of the Rings movie to appear. Interestingly enough, at that time the musical group Chicago had released their sixth album and one of the songs on the album was “Wishing You Were Here“. I listened to that album many many times in 1974 and many of them were down in my deep dark bedroom that had no windows as I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Even today when I hear that song, as I did back then, it makes me think of Bilbo Baggins wishing Gandalf were there in the lonely cave as he was being chased by Gollum.

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City – Neil Diamond

I had my first ventures into arena rock concerts in 1974, attending shows such as Loggins and Messina, the Doobie Brothers, America and Billy Joel. That year Elton John released his album Yellow Brick Road and had a tour associated with it, including one stop at the University of Utah’s arena. I was able to attend that show, and it turned out to be one of my most memorable concerts of all time. It was also in 1974 that I saw a group called Steppenwolf perform in Salt Lake City. At that time the lead guitarist was named Bobby Cochran. Little did I know back then that 35 years later I would be friends with that same Bobby Cochran and would be traveling with him as he performed with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I am grateful to be friends with Bobby, who is a guy and an amazing guitarist.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with him in our travels.

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

As my schooling in 1974 came to an end, I had become a fairly accomplished saxophone player on both the tenor and baritone saxophones. I was taking lessons from a  well-known jazz musician at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I actually had dreams of joining a band very similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and practiced my heart out to do so.

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

But, at that time, little did I know, that my life would change dramatically upon being baptized into the LDS (Mormon) Church. My dreams of becoming a professional rock musician faded away. Within a year from my baptism in January 1975, I was called on a mission and went to serve the church in Nagoya, Japan.

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

That two years of my life in Japan ultimately changed the entire direction of my life. After serving from 1976 to 1978, and upon my return to the states, I have spent a good part of the last 35 years involved in full-time work with Japanese-related businesses and even returned to Japan for four years with my family in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan.  Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan. Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

Indeed, Japan is an integral part of my life now and something that did not even occur to me as a senior in high school 40 years ago.

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life.  I have the Samurai spirit!

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life. I have the Samurai spirit!

Upon my return from Japan, I initially attended Brigham Young University and it was there that my met my eternal sweetheart Julianne Bateman. Just a little over five years after my graduation from high school I was married to her and my life once again took a whole new wonderful direction for me as I began a family of my own. In about one month (as I write this) I will celebrate my 35th anniversary with this wonderful woman!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979.  Notice...no moustache!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979. Notice…no mustache!

Our Wedding Photo 1979 - we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

Our Wedding Photo 1979 – we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

I Married Up!!

I Married Up!!

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY.  I love this photo

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY. I love this photo

As a senior in high school I had not even had a girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was already graduated in the summer of 1974. There is no doubt that I had hidden crushes on a couple of cute girls in high school, but between my insecurity in dealing with girls and the fact that I was not a member the Mormon church, I had a few hurdles in front of me that kept me from getting anywhere with any of them. I certainly was not a shy person. I never have been. But I was really scared to death to ask any girls out on a date because I was afraid of rejection. Ironically, in my later years, probably about five years ago, I had occasion to visit Salt Lake City.  During that visit I was able to drop by and see one of the girls that I had a crush on and had become friends with through church. She has had a difficult life as she has struggled through a couple of marriages, but is still the sweet girl that I knew back in the mid-1970s. I told her at the time of my visit that I had a crush on her in high school. She told me that she knew that, and wondered why I had never asked her out on a date. She told me that she would have most certainly gone out with me on a date back then. Oh well, we both went our directions and I am very happily married to my wonderful sweetheart and she too seems to be happy in her current situation.

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  I did not even know of him until 1974.  I saw this in 1975

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo. I did not even know of him until 1974. I saw this in 1975

Another major discovery from 1974 was my finding out who my birth father was. That too was a life-changing experience for me. I had been disenfranchised from my natural mother for many years, and as an 18-year-old I had decided that it was time for me to reach out to her. Fortunately for me, in 1975 I was able to contact my real father and speak to him on the phone, which I did a couple of times. I am grateful for that experience as I never got to meet him. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992, I was finally close enough to Cleveland to try, but by the time I had an opportunity, he had already passed away…in fact, it had only been two weeks prior to my plans to go up there. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have grown very close to my Laurienzo sisters and brother in Cleveland as a result. I have also visited my father’s grave.

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

Visiting my natural father's grave in Cleveland, OH

Visiting my natural father’s grave in Cleveland, OH

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Finally, as I think back on this 40 years since 1974,  I must openly say that I have been very, very blessed. I still have friendships from 40 years ago that mean a great deal to me. During that 40 years I have ventured overseas numerous times, I have had wonderful experiences with jobs, I have met people from all over the world, I have been married and had five wonderful children and now nine grandchildren.

My wife and children in 2009

My wife and children in 2009

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

I have been blessed to be able to develop a number of skills that I never imagined I would have back then (indeed, some of them, such as internet work and web design were completely unimaginable since they didn’t yet exist!!).  Some of the skills I have acquired over the years include the ability to write, photography, travel, singing and music, the ability to make friends wherever I go. And yes, I have become friends with rock stars and have actually toured with a band (Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours).  I still am associated with that band, so even my high school dream of being in a band partially came true.

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines 2006

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

It is amazing how one’s life can take so many turns and go in a direction that one could never dream of as an 18-year-old graduate of high school.

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting NYC in 1990

Visiting NYC in 1990

Life is truly awesome! But it’s only getting better!

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

 

Creating a Successful April Fools Prank




SloofLirpa1Yesterday was April Fools Day 2014. Pranks run rampant everywhere, from the home to big pranks by Google, NPR and others (see this Entertainment Weekly post for some of them).  I sought to try to pull one off yesterday as well, and, by all appearances, it seemed to work….  Here is what I learned about a successful April Fools Prank….

G-Mail April Fools 2011

G-Mail April Fools 2011

Make It Plausible

You want to make a prank that is believable and that throws people off.  Space Alien attacks and other similar things are just a tad unbelievable…   So I developed my concept around something that people who know me could find believeable….I related it to Offbeat Travel.

A Bunch of Bull

A Bunch of Bull

Basics of My Prank

  • Made it Travel Related
  • Devised a “Unique and Offbeat Location”
  • Conceived of a “scenario”
  • Designed photos to match the scenario
  • Got a couple of friends to “pitch in” support
  • Added upon the scenario throughout the day
  • Put in a few “glitches” that could help people catch the prank (if they looked carefully)
Is it Normal?

Is it Normal?

The Story and the Prank

My concept was that I had been given an award as an Offbeat Travel Blogger.  The award came from the Mayor of a Town called Sloof Lirpa.  Since the town name kind of sounded Scandinavian, I decided to put Sloof Lirpa in Norway.  I Googled “Sloof Lirpa” sign post, but found nothing.  Instead, I searched for Scandinavian Sign Posts and found the following sign photo:

Tingwall Sign

Tingwall Sign

I then Photoshopped the NEW town name of Sloof Lirpa onto the sign

Sloof Lirpa

Sloof Lirpa Sign

Since it said “Old Norse” on the sign, this strengthened my “Town in Norway Story”.

Next, I needed some “proof” of the award.  The story was plausible since many know I write all about offbeat backroads locations.  So, I came up with the idea that the Mayor of Sloof Lirpa had sent this honor to me.  I remembered that a few years ago I had visited the Mustard Museum (while it was still in Mt. Horeb, WI — also famous for its giant wooden trolls of Scandinavian Origin).  While at the Mustard Museum I obtained a certificate “fake degree” from Poupon U.  I found that photo and then again Photoshopped it….

Poupon U Certificate

Poupon U Certificate – Master of Bad Attitude (yes, I have my MBA from Poupon U)

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

Of course, the careful observer would notice the different colors of the font and the font itself is different.  But most would glean over it…looks real enough.

For some flavor, I found a photo of a Norwegian town on a fjord and included that with the town name on it:

SloofLirpa2Finally, I colored up the story by noting that I was also awarded an all-expense paid trip to Sloof Lirpa, Norway, departing on April 31 and noted how excited I was about the prospect.

All of this was posted on Facebook (as follows)

No sooner had I posted it and I got a call from my daughter Marissa, who was wondering if it was really true. While on the phone with her, my other daughter Chelsea called and said “Nice Try Dad….”   Marissa couldn’t figure it out until I asked her what day of the week April 31 fell on…..   As well, the likes and Congrats messages flowed onto my Facebook page.  I shared it on a couple of other places, including Roadside America‘s Facebook page.  I was soon receiving a Private Message from one of the Roadside America editors that I work with and he helped me “embellish.”
Just for fun....Caution

Just for fun….Caution

  Let the Embellishing Begin

My friend suggested that I add that I was going to be the judge of Sloof Lirpa’s “Shield Maiden Pageant” – this is Viking country – Norsemen – etc.  So, a “Shield Maiden” is not unlikely.  Further, we noted that this was some sort of promo tie-in with the History Channel’sVikings” series.  Once again, a plausible story…

Lagertha (from Vikings) - a Shield Maiden?

Lagertha (from History Channel’s “Vikings”) – a Shield Maiden?

As well, I added that they also have a festival honoring the Giant Troll “Sloof Lirpa” and that there is a 20 foot tall wooden carving of him in the Town Square.  I got this idea from my visit to Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, the “Troll Capital.”

Giant Troll of Mt. Horeb (the one of the left silly!!)

Giant Troll of Mt. Horeb (the one of the left silly!!)

As questions came in on Facebook, such as “Is this an April Fools Joke?”, I would note that I already had my tickets…flying out of Cincinnati on “Viking Airlines” on April 31.  And, of course, I had the photo with my “Official Certificate”.  One person even asked if my wife was going with me and I let her know that she couldn’t because she couldn’t get the time off on such short notice.  Note, if someone looked up Viking Airlines, they would see it is NOT a joke!

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Plane

Viking Airlines Plane

I had quite a few people, but the “Prank Signs” were there….  April 31 does not exist.  “Sloof Lirpa” is April Fools spelled backwards.

The Giveaway – The Escape

Finally, as an “out”, at the end of the evening I posted the following, implying that I was “duped” and that it was an April Fools joke on me….. HAHA

Here is what I posted on ALL locations that I had shared the post:

This just in from Roadside America ( who apparently nominated me for this great honor): “Late-breaking development: The town of Sloof Lirpa has withdrawn its invitation to Sumoflam after realizing there was a translation error resulting in a misdirection of their mail. They were actually trying to honor “Malfomus”…” Yes, I have been asked to return the Viking Airlines ticket and am now deflated after what appears to have been a dastardly April Fools joke!!

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!

 

Loving Nature – Nature as seen through the camera lens




A Canadian Goose lands in the lake

A Canadian Goose lands in the lake (Lexington, KY)

As I have traveled the country and even remained at home, I have fallen in love with nature and the glorious creations of God.  Despite my penchant for visiting quirky and offbeat roadside attractions, it is the wonders of nature that enthrall me on the road and even in my own home town.

A bee doing its job with the lilacs in my back yard

A bee doing its job with the lilacs in my back yard

Back in February I wrote a post about my favorite Animal Photos, but nature is not just about animals and birds and insects.  It is also about sunrises, sunsets, trees, clouds, flowers and more.  Nature gives me a better challenge to learn photography and manage my skills.

Autumn Colors on a horse farm near Lexington, KY

Autumn Colors on a horse farm near Lexington, KY

Living in Lexington, Kentucky offers me the opportunity to enjoy four real seasons…flowers in the spring, fall colors, nice summers and the occasional snows and ice of the winter.  Everyday can provide a wondrous surprise.

Windblown icicles on a lamp in Lexington

Windblown icicles on a lamp in Lexington

Following are a few photos that provide a taste of nature’s glory as I have seen it through the lens of my camera.

MOUNTAINS

The Sawtooth Mountains as viewed from Stanley, Idaho

The Sawtooth Mountains as viewed from Stanley, Idaho

I love the mountains and perhaps one of the most breathtaking views I have ever had was taken in Stanley, Idaho on a beautiful spring afternoon.  The Sawtooth Range and its jagged peaks epitomize the beauty of the Rocky Mountains to me.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho

Mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from near Babb, Montana

Mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from near Babb, Montana

SWAMPS

Cyprus in Caddo Lake as seen from Uncertain, Texas

Cyprus in Caddo Lake as seen from Uncertain, Texas

Caddo Lake is the only remaining all natural lake in the state of Texas and it is also a swamp.  I had an early morning visit there one February and really enjoyed the almost spooky serenity of the swamp and the moss hanging from the trees.

Caddo Lake in the morning

Caddo Lake in the morning

I learned to play with the camera a bit and with some color adjusting, I was able to make the above view of cyprus in Caddo Lake a bit more colorful.

FLOWERS AND TREES

Texas Bluebonnets mingle with Indian Paintbrushes near Cool, Texas

Texas Bluebonnets mingle with Indian Paintbrushes near Cool, Texas

I love the amazing variety of colorful flowers that can be seen on the road.  Driving from Weatherford, Texas to Mineral Wells, Texas in the spring, one can experience miles of flowers as seen above. A lovely experience!

A Row of Trees on farmland near Tripp, South Dakota

A Row of Trees on farmland near Tripp, South Dakota

I love old trees.  They provide protection, shade and beauty…even when leafless. One of my favorite tree photos comes from Missouri on a lonely back road.

Tree in Fog taken on a back road in Missouri

Tree in Fog taken on a back road in Missouri

Trees are not the only plants out there though.  I have discovered some awesome flower fields that are practically breathtaking, such as the tulip field and sunflower fields shown below.

Sunflowers near Seymour, Wisconsin

Sunflowers near Seymour, Wisconsin

A tulip field on a back road near Woodstock, Ontario

A tulip field on a back road near Woodstock, Ontario

And single flowers look nice as well, especially with bees on them!

Ox-Eye Daisy from McKee, KY

Ox-Eye Daisy from McKee, KY

Bee in Flower taken in my back yard

Bee in Flower taken in my back yard

I am also amazed at the delicate beauty of small flowers such as these below

Buckwheat flowers at Craters of the Moon.  The blossoms are about the size of a US dime

Buckwheat flowers at Craters of the Moon. The blossoms are about the size of a US dime

Dogtooth Trillium was taken in Oxford County, Ontario

Dogtooth Trillium was taken in Oxford County, Ontario

This asterisk was shot on Buckhorn Island, NY

This asterisk was shot on Buckhorn Island, NY

Yellow flower shot at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho

Yellow flower shot at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho

The desert offers an amazing variety of plant life as well.  I grew up around the desert never really appreciating the beauty that I now enjoy in later life.  Here are a few desert photos.

This agave, also known as a "Century Plant" was shot near Sedona, Arizona in 1983

This agave, also known as a “Century Plant” was shot near Sedona, Arizona in 1983

I took this cactus blossom at San Xavier del Bac in Tucson

I took this Christmas cactus blossom at San Xavier del Bac in Tucson

This barrel cactus in bloom was also taken in Tucson, AZ

This barrel cactus in bloom was also taken in Tucson, AZ

I really love the yucca against the white sand hills of White Sands National Monument

I really love the yucca against the white sand hills of White Sands National Monument

THE SKIES

Way above the plant life and animal life are the skies…the moon, the sun, the clouds.  These too offer some life enhancing views.

I got this moon shot on March 19 late in the evening.  This was its color.  It was awe inspiring.  Taken in Lexington, KY

I got this moon shot on March 19 late in the evening. This was its color. It was awe inspiring. Taken in Lexington, KY

I also took this on March 19 in the morning.  It is the sun behind the clouds using the blue tinted glass from inside my car.  Taken in Lexingt

I also took this on March 19 in the morning. It is the sun behind the clouds using the blue tinted glass from inside my car. Taken in Lexington, KY

This is a shot of the moon in the morning after the sun came up in Lexington

This is a shot of the moon in the morning after the sun came up in Lexington

The sun rises in Lexington with a wondrous glow

The sun rises in Lexington with a wondrous glow

And the clouds provide more fun viewing on their own.  Here are a few shots taken while I drove around town in Lexington…

Wispy clouds on a winter morning, taken in February 2014

Wispy clouds on a winter morning, taken in February 2014

Cloud furrows?  I saw these clouds one morning while filling up with gas.

Cloud furrows? I saw these clouds one morning while filling up with gas.

I am still amazed at the formation.  I wonder how these clouds could have formed these furrows so evenly.

Orange clouds of sunset over Lexington in January 2014

Orange clouds of sunset over Lexington in January 2014

X Marks the Spot.  Airline chemtrails sometimes criss-cross in the sky.

X Marks the Spot. Airline chemtrails sometimes criss-cross in the sky.

This was one of many X photos in the sky that I have taken, but certainly one of the most defined.

Watercolor skies over Lexington

Watercolor skies over Lexington

I love the “Watercolor Skies” that sunrises and sunsets bring

The moon glows at dusk over Lexington

The moon glows at dusk over Lexington

Morning sun shaded by clouds caught on a morning drive in Lexington

Morning sun shaded by clouds caught on a morning drive in Lexington

THE FOUR SEASONS

The seasons offer a plethora of natural scenes, each with its own kind of beauty….

Winter

Ice encapsulates berry covered branches

Ice encapsulates berry covered branches

Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY is iced over

Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY is iced over

Geese head south for the winter

Geese head south for the winter

Icicles decorate a plank fence in horse country

Icicles decorate a plank fence in horse country

A male cardinal perches on ice covered branches

A male cardinal perches on ice covered branches

Spring

As winter leaves, the flowers of spring cover the ground and the trees

Dogwoods and Magnolias in full bloom in Charleston, Missouri

Dogwoods and Magnolias in full bloom in Charleston, Missouri

Redbud in bloom in Kentucky

Redbud in bloom in Kentucky

Trillium only bloom for two weeks.  This is Ontario's Provincial Flower - taken in Sparta, Ontario

Trillium only bloom for two weeks. This is Ontario’s Provincial Flower – taken in Sparta, Ontario

Cherry Blossoms at Lexington Cemetery in Spring

Cherry Blossoms at Lexington Cemetery in Spring

A brightly colored lily found in Woodford County, Kentucky

A brightly colored lily found in Woodford County, Kentucky

Beautiful blossom captured at a park in Seattle, Washington

Beautiful blossom captured at a park in Seattle, Washington

Summer

Summer brings the heat and humidity in Kentucky, but also the amazing shades of green and evening shadows

Blue Heron calls out on a summer day

A Blue Heron calls out on a summer day

Corn Rows can be seen all over the Midwest as summer nears its end

Corn Rows can be seen all over the Midwest as summer nears its end

Birds convene at Jacobson Park in Lexington for the hope of a free bite of bread

Birds convene at Jacobson Park in Lexington for the hope of a free bite of bread

An old tree stands tall on a summer day

An old tree stands tall on a summer day

Afternoon shadows on a late summer day

Afternoon shadows on a late summer day

Geese take flight in Kentucky

Geese take flight in Kentucky

Graceful blue heron in flight over the water

Graceful blue heron in flight over the water

I love Blue Herons!  They are probably my favorite bird…so graceful and majestic

Fall

When fall comes along the beautiful darker oranges, browns and yellows emerge.  Like springtime, Kentucky has beautiful fall colors

So many different shades of orange and red in the fallen leaves

So many different shades of orange and red in the fallen leaves

Horse farm country in the fall

Horse farm country in the fall

Fall Colors in Lexington, KY

Fall Colors in Lexington, KY

What is Autumn without the pumpkins?

What is Autumn without the pumpkins?

More Colors of leaves

More Colors of leaves

A Few More Favorites

Squirrel Prints in the Snow

Squirrel Prints in the Snow

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Ducks float on the lake at sunrise

Ducks float on the lake at sunrise

A squirrel hangs on a tree

A squirrel hangs on a tree

Nature is awe inspiring.  I feel so blessed to experience it all!!

New Book on Texas Travel: Tui Snider – Unexpected Texas

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a repost from my Less Beaten Paths Travel Blog in promotion of my friend Tui Snider and her new book “Unexpected Texas”]

Tui Snider - author of "Unexpected Texas" (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Tui Snider – author of “Unexpected Texas” (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Throughout my time as a travel blogger I have had the opportunity to correspond and exchange notes with many other travel bloggers who are also find of the offbeat and quirky. One of those with whom I have worked with often is Tui Snider, from Azle, Texas.

Tui is a freelance writer and travel blogger specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cultural traditions, and quirky travel destinations. Her articles and photos have appeared in BMIbaby, easyJet, Wizzit, Click, Ling, PlanetEye Traveler, iStopover, SkyEurope, and North Texas Farm and Ranch magazines, among others. She also wrote the shopping chapter for the “Time Out Naples: Capri, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast 2010” travel guidebook. Unexpected Texas is her first book.

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

First off, I am honored to have been asked to be a part of her “Blog Tour” and to help interested travelers find another valuable guide for seeing some of the more unusual and fun parts of our great country. (Also, some lucky viewers will won some nice prizes….see below for details!!) I have had a chance to peruse this book and it is really chock full of splendid places on back roads you never heard of. Having traveled 1000s of miles of Texas backroads myself, I know that this will likely be Tui’s first book, but not last, on the wonders of Texas.

Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)

Some of the places, such as the Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower that adorns her cover are places I have been.

 

Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

For Tui, travel is a mindset. Her motto is “Even home is a travel destination,” and she believes that “The world is only boring if you take everyone else’s word for it.” She has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. Her first book, “Unexpected Texas” is a guide to offbeat and overlooked places within easy reach of the Dallas – Fort Worth region of North Texas.

The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider's book.

The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider’s book.

Tui provides a nice overview of the quirky, offbeat and even scary places around north Texas, sharing often overlooked travel tips for places within a day’s drive of Dallas and Fort Worth. Some of the quirkier chapters include details on how to visit the:

  • Gravesite of an alleged space alien.
  • Courthouse displaying an embalmed lizard in a velvet-lined casket.
  • Statue of Jesus wearing cowboy boots.
  • Museum commemorating the lynching of Santa Claus.
  • Life-sized wax replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
  • Building made entirely of salt.
  • 65 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica.
  • Petrified wood cafe.
  • World’s smallest skyscraper.
  • Only Michelangelo painting in America.
The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Personally, I have driven hundreds of miles of roads in Texas and visited over 100 cities and towns, including a few of the places Tui covers in her book, such as Mineral Wells and the famous Douglas Hotel, where it was rumored that Bonnie and Clyde had stayed numerous times. I have also been to the Fort Worth Stockyards, Granbury, Denton, the Fossil Rim Animal Park and more. But I have barely scratched the surface in terms of the number of places Tui details in this great book!

Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

As an author, Tui now has a page of her own on Amazon

You can also find Tui all around the web. Feel free to drop by and say say hi:

Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel Blog

Tui Snider’s Facebook Author Page

Tui Snider’s awesome Instagram Page

Tui’s Pinterest Page

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

My Favorite Animal and Bird Photographs

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

Though I am mainly known for my travel blogs and photography, over the years through my travels and at parks with the grandchildren and even at home in my own backyard, I have had the opportunity to capture some fun images of animals and birds.  This post will present a few of my favorites and the stories behind them.  I hope that you will enjoy this little “animal tour.”

A blue heron in flight over the Kentucky River, near Shakertown

A blue heron in flight over the Kentucky River, near Shakertown

I have always loved watching animals and birds.  And it seems that as I have gotten older, this fascination has grown deeper.  Here are few stories and photos of some of the animals I have come across, broken down by animals, birds and insects.

LARGE ANIMALS FROM ALL OVER

Antelope Family - A doe and her two calves scamper across grassland in central Colorado

Antelope Family – A doe and her two calves scamper across grassland in central Colorado

The photo at the top of the page along with the one directly above depicts North America’s fasted land animal, the pronghorn antelope. Throughout the years I have seen thousands of these, mainly in Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.  I can recall seeing herds of them in southern Wyoming in the miud-1970s when I drive from Vernal, UT to Rock Springs, WY on business. I captured the photo of the four antelope at the top while driving from Miles City, Montana through the prairies to Shelby, Montana in March 2013.  There were actually about 8 or 9 along the side of the two lane highway.  I had to whip the camera out quickly to grab this lucky shot.  It is truly one of my favorites.  The other shot was taken in June 2013 on a road trip from Idaho Falls, ID to Dallas, TX.  I was north of Craig, Colorado on a two lane highway through the mountains.  This was captured with my telephoto lens as I took about 20 shots of them speeding across the grass.

Elk in Oregon

Elk in Oregon

I captured this shot of an elk relaxing in Western Oregon, west of aptly named Elton, Oregon.  This elk was roaming freely on an Elk Reserve with about 30 head.  I have seen similar reserves in Rexburg, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming.  I have rarely seen an elk in the wild and usually it is cow.  The bulls are more difficult.

Longhorn Bull - Fort Worth, Texas

Toothy grin from Pecos Bill the Longhorn Bull – Fort Worth, Texas

Speaking of bulls, I got this shot of “Pecos Bill” the longhorn while visiting my sister in Fort Worth.  We went to the stockyards and this huge bull was being ridden down the street by a cowboy.  People can then pay this cowboy and have their photo taken while sitting on the bull.  No thank you….

Giraffes relax

Giraffes relax in the grass at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, Texas

On a separate trip for work to the DFW Metroplex, I had a weekend to spend with my sister and her family and we took a drive to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.  This is a great place to see wildlife up close, and that is what we got with one of the giraffes!  We even had him licking us through the window with his long black tongue!! (See full details in my blog post here)

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

Fossil Rim offered the opportunity to see other animals such as zebra, oryx, Asian deer, cheetahs, rhinoceros and a variety of big birds (see below).

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

I live in Lexington, Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World.  I have plenty of photos of horses grazing in the fields, but this is one of my favorites as a galloping horse eyed me during a photo shoot on a snowy winter morning in Woodford County.  About a dozen horses were racing around in the field and a got a number of other good shots.

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

I got the horse above while visiting the Amish Community of Charm in Ohio. This horse was attached to one of the Amish Buggies and was parked by a shop.

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

One nice spring morning I took a back roads drive with my wife and we came across this mule who stared at us and looked almost crazy.  Couldn’t resist snapping a couple of shots.  Indeed, horses are not the only four-legged equine in Kentucky.

Bison in Yellowstone

Bison in Yellowstone

Of course, how can I leave out the amazing Bison.  Though typically also called buffalo, they are actually really bison.  I got this photo of wild bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park.  It was one of dozens of shots I got that day, including one of a HUGE bison that walked right by my car and had to be over six feet tall.  It was an amazing animal!!

SMALLER CRITTERS

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

There are also lots of smaller animals to be seen in travels and even in my own yard. One of my most endearing photos was taken at Cactus Flats, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park. I saw this mother coddling her young.  I took about 20 shots and this one really was an “Awwww” moment for me as she hugged her babies.

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

Of course, one of the most commonly seen little critter is the squirrel.  I have seen a number of varieties on the road, including black squirrels, red squirrels and gray squirrels.  I see dozens around my house, which I think are actually Fox Squirrels.  In fact, I got some great shots of them playing in the trees on a winter morning a couple of days ago (as I write this…)

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

The Fox Squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel in North America.  They love our neighborhood because of the abundance of nut-producing pin oak trees.

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

The little guys love to visit our deck (as do many birds – see below).  I always try to keep my camera handy at the table as quite often these guys will appear, as did this one above.

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

I have posted this photo before, but need to include it here.  I took nearly 40 shots of this squirrel poking around in the snow in my front yard in early February 2014. They were consecutive shots, so I didn’t see this shot until I went through all the photos.  I had to crop it and blow it up a bit, but it was an awesome (and lucky) shot.  It almost appears that he is angry and getting ready to heave a snowball at me!

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

I got about 10 shots of this red squirrel in Nebraska City, Nebraska in late 2013.  He was obviously prepping for the winter, but I thought his mouth full of nuts was priceless.

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

I was on a business trip in Rexburg, Idaho in March 2013 and one weekend I took a trip to the Grand Tetons National Park.  Not all of it was open since there was so much snow.  But on one side road I caught this fox diving for mice in the snow.  He stopped for a moment to pose for me.  Another lucky shot taken with my zoom lens.

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

I was in Omaha for the 2012 USA Swimming Olympic Qualifying events and we were broadcasting some of the events.  As part of the broadcast pieces we featured some scenes from Omaha, including the Henry Doorly Zoo. It is famous for the big dome that houses their desert wildlife, including the meerkats.  The one above practically posed for me. I swear he was smiling for the camera!!

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

And, for the last of the animals is this happy little dog that my wife and I came across on a trek we made into southeastern Kentucky.  We made our way up to the top of Black Mountain, the highest point in the state and there were some other folks up there.  They had this dog in a basket in their motorcycle.  He seemed pleased as punch to have an opportunity to Enjoy the Ride!

BIG BIRDS, LITTLE BIRDS

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

I have a real fascination with birds and love watching them and love photographing them.  I probably have over 2000 bird photos I have taken and I’m only adding a few of them herein, including the Emu above, which was taken at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, Texas. I also got the angry ostrich below at the same location.

Angry Ostrich at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, TX

Angry Ostrich at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, TX

Seems like everywhere I go I can see ducks and geese, but only once did I get the opportunity to see a group of duck hatchlings in Georgetown, KY during a fall visit to Evans Orchard.  Talk about adorable!!

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

Then the ducks grow up to be quackers!! They have their own dynasty!!  I took the shot below at Jacobson Park on an icy winter day.  The ducks seemed to enjoy it.

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

One of the beautiful sites we see here in Kentucky are geese in flight as they migrate north and south. Many fly right over our house.  Here are a couple of geese shots that I am proud of.

A solitary Canadian goose glides in the sky above my house in Feb. 2009

A solitary Canadian goose glides in the sky above my house in Feb. 2009

Geese flying south taken in the skies of Lexington in February 2014

Geese flying south taken in the skies of Lexington in February 2014

While on the subject of big birds, one of my all time favorites is of the girl staring down a swan at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario.  I was visiting the park and taking photos of the beautiful swans when I got lucky with this shot, taken in 2008.

Stare Down - taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

Stare Down – taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

On a visit to Idaho Falls, Idaho I happened upon an amazing sight…seagulls and geese fighting over bread.  With camera in hand I got some fabulous shots.  Here is the best of “The Fight”, taken in April 2013.

The Fight - Seagulls and a Goose fight over bread in Idaho Falls, Idaho

The Fight – Seagulls and a Goose fight over bread in Idaho Falls, Idaho

This party is for the birds - geese, ducks and seagulls socialize in Idaho Falls

This party is for the birds – geese, ducks and seagulls socialize in Idaho Falls

I frequent Jacobson Park in Lexington during the summer with my grandchildren.  I always have camera in hand.  I got a great shot of ducks taking flight one afternoon. Ironically, my grandchildren were the source of this as they were chasing the ducks around.  I love this shot because there are three others below all staring at me.  It was an awesome shot (if I say so myself)

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

Speaking of seagulls, I have photographed them in Oregon, on the east coast and a myriad of places in between.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Seagull - Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

I was returning to Kentucky with my wife after a visit with my daughter’s family in Montana.  As we traveled in southern Montana, near the small town of Dell, I had hoped to take a back road to see some of the bison on Ted Turner’s expansive ranch off of I-15.  While casually driving down a dirt road overlooking the ranch I heard an eerie bird sound, almost a screeching sound, that I had never heard.  I grabbed my camera as I saw two birds in flight.  I took about 30 shots. The one below shocked me after I was able to sit down and review the photos.  What I saw were red-crested sand cranes in flight.  It was beautiful…

Sand Cranes in flight over the prairies of southern Montana, taken April 2013

Sand Cranes in flight over the prairies of southern Montana, taken April 2013

On another trip west in 2013, I was traveling across South Dakota on the Oyate Trail (US Hwys 50 and 18).  As I drove by Lake Andes, just a few mile north of the Nebraska border I saw a flock of white birds sitting in the lake.  I made my way into the town of Lake Andes and found that there was a park by the lake and the birds were all flocked on the park side of the shore.  I got as close as I could and was beyond joy to see a flock of pelicans.  Once again, I took a couple dozen shots of these beautiful birds.  Here is my favorite.

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

Water birds are not the only big birds I have come across in my travels.  On a trip in Montana I was just coming into Lewsiville when I spotted a bald eagle in a rare spot on the ground in a field, obviously looking for mice.  I had to stop and turn around and hoped that it would stay in place, which it did.

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

One Sunday I accompanied my wife on a church calling into the small town of McKee in central Kentucky.  On the way home we took a couple of back roads (my joy!) and came across these three turkey vultures guarding their prey. They stood firm!

Turkey vultures and dinner near McKee, KY taken in spring 2013

Turkey vultures and dinner near McKee, KY taken in spring 2013

But the all-time favorite big bird of mine is the lovely and graceful Blue Heron.  I have even nicknamed them “Herry” every time I see one.  At the top of this post I caught one gliding above the Kentucky River near Shakertown. I also see them often at Jacobson Lake in Lexington.  Here is one of my favorites. ( I will likely do a complete post just on these birds in the near future).

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

Of the large birds, I must include one more.  A few years ago we took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo with my grand children.  While there I had the opportunity to get some close shot of a peacock.  Voila….

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

Then there are the smaller birds that hang around the neighborhood. Here are a few of them

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A robin perched on my back deck

A robin perched on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

A black and white bird on a fencepost near Yellowstone National Park

A black and white bird on a fencepost near Yellowstone National Park

Polar Vortex and Balmy Alaska weather

Couldn’t resist! Twitter follower @fuzzygalore posted about the current Polar Vortex that has turned most of the U.S. into a walk-out freezer.

She tweeted today: “If you think the polar vortex has been bad, imagine a bipolar vortex!!”

Classic!!

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I also decided that I could go sunbathing in Juneau, Alaska today. While Lexington, KY hovered at -4° with wind chills of around -23°, Juneau was at a balmy 37°. Who would have ever thought that any place in Kentucky would be colder than any place in Alaska in the middle of winter??

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Dreaming of the Alaskan beach in January…..