A Review: The Navy SEAL Art of War by Rob Roy

(Author’s Note: You can order “The Navy SEAL Art of War” on Amazon.com)

Rob-Roy-300x232

Former Navy SEAL Rob Roy

When you meet Rob Roy, you have no idea that this man served as a Navy SEAL and was a charismatic leader in that organization He spent twenty years (including time with the famed SEAL Team Six) in the SEALs. When you shake hands with this gentleman, you don’t feel the burning fire in his bosom that exudes when he trains executives in a Boot Camp fashion in his 80 hour intensive leadership course that uses military combat training to teach executives the leadership skills they need for success. Its an amazing difference.

Rob Roy

Rob Roy in combat gear

Rob Roy the person is an enigma. But, as a former soldier he was ruthless and was the ultimate team player. You can get a sense of this from the first lines of his new book titled “The Navy SEAL Art of War.”

For me, a teenager during the Vietnam War era, war and war methodologies were never appealing.  However, while at Northern Arizona University and focusing my studies on Asian History and Geography, I took a course on geopolitics and first learned of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” as well as others like Claus von Clausewitz “On War” and Macchiavelli “The Prince.” I became fascinated by the strategies of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Mao and by the time I was in my Master’s course work in Political Science at Arizona State University, I was totally engrossed in learning insurgency strategies and guerrilla tactics.  So, my ideas on war have changed over the years.

Navy Seal AoW

The Navy SEAL Art of War is now available on Amazon.com. Click above for more

At the very beginning, in his introduction to the book, Rob Roy tells the story of Paulo, a man who is used to being the guy who tells everybody else what to do. We learn that this business leader was ashen and visibly failing, with sweat sliding down the worn creases of a weathered brow. This restaurant magnate in his mid-40s, who had successfully built a business and was a great leader in his industry, was emotionally and physically broken.

And this introduces us to the Boot Camp mentality of Rob Roy’s Special Operations Training Groups (SOT-G) that undergo his “Leadership Under Fire Training” program, which has a unique no-holds-barred and no-ego-spared process  that will either make or break a successful individual.
Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

Roy’s book has over 50 small anecdotal chapters and was designed after Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Each chapter unfolds story after story of experiences from the Navy SEALs. He relates experiences of teamwork, leadership, mental toughness, humility, attention to detail and a myriad other attributes.

But don’t be mistaken.  Though the stories are indicative of military training and experience, they are really life stories. Each small chapter provides a new building block to help construct one’s life towards better leadership and management of one’s self and others.
I am especially impressed by his chapter titled “Have Servant’s Heart.” In this chapter he details the importance of a true leader actually serving those whom he/she leads. The passionate care about the well-being of subordinates has proven vital in the careers of the most successful leaders.  Serving others with dignity and nobility is a fabulous trait.
Retired Marines General James N. "Mad Dog" Mattis

Retired Marines General James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis

In another chapter Rob Roy emphasizes how former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who was considered to be a ruthless warrior-statesman, would make sacrifices for his soldiers, even to the point of doing things way below his pay grade, just so that his younger soldiers and officers would be able to spend time with their families during holidays.  General Mattis was an example of vigilance, discipline, professionalism, innovation, lifelong learning and leadership.

Perhaps the most poignant and important chapter to me is the one titled “There Is No Finish Line.” When people ask me how I’m doing, I always say “I’m awesome, but getting better,” a concept I developed from years of working with Japanese companies and learning of the unique principle Kaizen (Continual Improvement). Masaaki Imai, the father of Kaizen is known for great ideas such as “When you solve one problem, you will see ten more,” or “Kaizen is everyday improvement, everybody improvement, everywhere improvement.” The whole idea is that there is always room for improvement. And Rob Roy teaches the same principle in this chapter. The opening paragraph to the chapter says it all:
Kaizen

Kaizen – Continual Improvement

Instead of looking for the finish line, tell yourself there is no such thing. Instead, constantly immerse yourself in (and learn from) the journey. And continually be prepared for what’s just around the corner.

I have had the great opportunity to meet Rob Roy and personally discuss some of my own challenges with him.  Indeed, it was his book that inspired me to get into high gear and begin my weight loss journey a few weeks ago (see blog post here). I have taken the “No Finish Line” philosophy in my goal to gain my health back and get in shape. Rob has been an inspiration and the chapters of his book continue to help drive me forward on the journey. In fact, I have created my own “team” in the form of Team Sumoflam that is loaded with friends and family (including Mr. Roy!!) that provide the needed encouragement and drive to succeed in this journey.
David "Sumoflam" Kravetz with Rob Roy

David “Sumoflam” Kravetz with Rob Roy

The Navy SEAL Art Of War” will inspire and will provide emotional and mental nourishment to your soul as you progress through each chapter. Rob Roy has thoughtfully authored a book that will help you know who you are.
The reality is that it takes hard, continuous work to really know oneself; to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. But smart leaders find the same energy, passion, and competitiveness that they apply to the challenges in their everyday lives and they routinely turn it inward – focusing on knowing themselves better in order to gain a leadership advantage.
Chock full of good wisdom, the Navy SEAL Art of War is an excellent read!  Order it today!!

Halloween: Sumoflam in Costume

Sumoflam on the blazin' bench in Hell (Michigan that is)

Sumoflam on the blazin’ bench in Hell (Michigan that is)

Everyone knows that Halloween time is a time for young and old alike to get all dressed up in costumes.  I have never been one to shy away from this, even when it is not Halloween.  Here are a few Sumoflam spookies and Sumoflam spoofies from over the years….

SumoBull

I always try to take the bull by the horns…or be the bull with the horns….

Another Horn Shot...this guy is really bullish

Another Horn Shot…this guy is really bullish

Besides the antics, I have been “in costume” many times.  How about a few….

I was the terrible giant in a Jack and the Beanstalk play back in the early 1980s in Flagstaff....Fee Fi Fo Sumoflam

I was the terrible giant in a Jack and the Beanstalk play back in the early 1980s in Flagstaff….Fee Fi Fo Sumoflam

In Japan I did a number f TV shows…this one I was dressed as an evil Onoguri demon (or something…)  You can see a video of the creepy dancing HERE

Sumoflam the Onoguri

Sumoflam the Onoguri

A few Halloweens back I threw on some fun outfits for a Trunk or Treat….

Sumo-Elton

Sumo-Elton

Sponge Bob Sumoflam

Sponge Bob Sumoflam

Then there was the time I put on my “pink shades” and really Flamingo-eyesed myself in Louisville…

Flamingoe-Eyes...

Flamingo-Eyes…

I always like interesting shades…in fact, my future is so bright I gotta wear shades

Sumoflam in shades

Sumoflam in shades

Sumoshades

Sumoshades

There is the Japanese costumer in me.  I had many opportunities for dress up in Japan…

Sumoflam the Samurai - for a TV show in Japan

Sumoflam the Samurai – for a TV show in Japan

The dignified look in a nice kimono for a Japanese New Year's TV show that I was a co-host on

The dignified look in a nice kimono for a Japanese New Year’s TV show that I was a co-host on

Well...not quite in Japan and not quite the right size...but I tried to be a samurai....

Well…not quite in Japan and not quite the right size…but I tried to be a samurai….

Dressed down for Tanabata festival in Oita, Japan.

Dressed down for Tanabata festival in Oita, Japan as part of the Asahi Solar Contingent

Speaking of Asahi Solar, back in 1990 when I lived in Japan, I worked for them. They sold Solar Water Heaters, a big business in Japan. I was asked to be in a commercial where I would sit in the bath tub and sing an old traditional Japanese song while playing with this little doll, named Solar Bo, that would shed his clothes when put into hot water. It was a hit commercial all over Japan for about 6 months. Still funny after all these years. Anyway, the advertising agency Dentsu guys decided to make a “Making Of…” video and had me flying over Arizona in a bathtub to the tune of Ghostbusters…hey…its Halloween music.

Then there is me hiding behind a Ghostbuster donut….

Bustin' makes me feel good

Bustin’ makes me feel good

Donuts aren’t the only place you’ll find me hiding….

Hiding in the sand in a sandbath in Japan

Hiding in the sand in a sandbath in Japan

Hiding in the leaves

Hiding in the leaves

Hiding behind balloons

Hiding behind balloons

I visited this place called Screaming Heads in Ontario.  Really cooly ghouly spooky place.  See my travel post about it HERE.

Hiding behind Screaming Heads

Hiding behind Screaming Heads

Hiding behind a thing...something

Hiding behind a thing…something in San Francisco

Incognito in Council Bluffs...blended right in...

Incognito in Council Bluffs…blended right in…

Then there was the day in Provo, UT in 1978 where some friends dressed me up….’nuff said…

Costume Party in Provo, Utah, 1978

Costume Party in Provo, Utah, 1978

Indeed, I am unabashed.  I’ll even stick my head out (or in) to have a gag shot…

Krav in the Hat

Krav in the Hat

Dressing up is fun, but sometimes, just making faces or even just having a bad hair day is fun (and maybe even scary)

Bad Hair Day

Bad Hair Day

Big Mustache

Big Mustache

Who knows? (Taken in 1977 while a missionary in Japan)

Who knows? (Taken in 1977 while a missionary in Japan)

Twins..

Twins..

Then, there is that other holiday…and I have dressed up for it  on many an occasion over the years.  The one below is from Japan in 1977.

SumoClaus

SumoClaus in 1977

Not to be too witchy, but I found myself a good witchy woman for Halloween…Happy Halloween!!

Witchy Woman

Witchy Woman

Livin’ the Dream – Following the Reinvention of Myself

Last week I put up a post on my Less Beaten Paths travel blog noting how writing that blog lead to a reinvention of myself and my career path (and also celebrating that blog’s 50,000th visit). This post is a follow-up to that one and I do it on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide blog because it’s not really associated with travel (though I do note some travel things in here….let’s face it, its in my blood).

Livin' the Dream

Living the Dream – masking Antsy McClain

I have called this “Livin’ the Dream” as that is the best way for me to express what my current career situation is for me.  I have gone from nightmares to living the dream and doing what I am passionate about.

DreamJob1To me, a “dream job” does not necessarily mean a job that provides tons of income, but rather a job that provides satisfaction and doing what I love doing. Don’t get me wrong, income is necessary and more of it is better.  But doing what I love while earning money to do it…now THAT is a Dream Job!

My fist real dream job - being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

My first real dream job – being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

Over the years, I have had a number of dream jobs. Perhaps my first was working as a tour guide in Flagstaff, Arizona in the early 1980s.I drove vans and buses and took tourists all over the beautiful locations of northern Arizona to places like Sedona, Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, the Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, and many other fabulous locations including the Grand Canyon. I met wonderful people, saw beautiful scenery year around, and I truly had a great time.

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

It was not until the late 1980s when we had an opportunity to go to Japan as a family that I was able to experience my next “Dream Job.” After graduation from Arizona State University with a Master’s Degree in Political Science/International Relations, I landed a position through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) to work for the Oita Prefecture Government as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR).  In fact, I was one of 32 Charter CIRs in the first year of the JET Program, which also brought nearly 500 Americans, Canadians and British to Japan to teach English.  This was my second “dream job” as I once again got to work with people from all walks of life from different parts of the world as they visited Oita and I got to travel, I did TV shows and had a wonderful two years on that gig (as well as an additional 2 years with Asahi Solar Corporation. My children were in TV commercials and all of these were a result of that particular position.

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita's Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita’s Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian Gymnast from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I did many TV shows while in Oita.  This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum.  I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I did many TV shows while in Oita. This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum. I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I was a co-host for a New Year's Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989.  Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

I was a co-host for a New Year’s Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989. Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

Upon returning from Japan in 1991, I struggled to find gainful employment for quite a while and ended up doing a lot of Japanese translation work and other work related to my Japanese language skills. Though very skilled in Japanese, I believe that I went through a “burnout stage” because of all of what I was doing. Indeed, it was a Japanese-related position that brought the family to Kentucky in 1993.

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Nevertheless, it was interesting to work in manufacturing plants such as the big Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky (1997) and the Toyota plant in Woodstock, Ontario (2008). I worked in a number of parts manufacturers plants as well. Learning the manufacturing process was quite enlightening. In between a couple of those jobs, I worked on a Japanese-owned horse farm (which was beautiful) and I also spent a number of years working at Lexmark where I thrived on the job, but I would never call them “dream jobs.” The best part of the job at Lexmark was the opportunity I had to travel to Cebu in the Philippines (where I trained my eventual replacements!).

Island Hopping in the Philippines

Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with "Team Higante", the crew I was training in 2006

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with “Team Higante”, the crew I was training in 2005

The trips to Cebu (which altogether totaled about 7 weeks) were definitely one of the best parts of the job. Despite the daily work routines, I spent many evenings and every weekend traveling around Cebu and other islands.  In fact, my first real trip journals (which lead to my travel blogging) were borne out of these trips (check out these early trip reports). Little did I know back then what my travel writing would do for me!

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

After Lexmark I did more Japanese work and eventually made my way to Ontario (which I noted above).  I really did not enjoy the translating work, but it brought income.  The best part was the travel to and from home every two weeks.  I took a different route each time, took lots of photos and wrote lots of trip journals (see them here).

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led "tour" of Southern Ontario

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led “tour” of Southern Ontario

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

After my Ontario gig ended, I spent nine months in a job that was a literal hell for me.  I worked as a call center rep for Sprint, then Boost Mobile, then Apple.  I hated the jobs…low paying, low morale and no challenge.  I sought for opportunities to leave at every corner.  And, then in 2009 it finally happened.

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

My next real “dream job” evolved from being hired by iHigh.com in 2009. I have always enjoyed working in web design and web related services. I have also always enjoyed working with people. And, furthermore, I have loved working in things related to sports, especially high school sports. As a result, my position became one of great passion and enjoyment. Indeed, I did not even take a vacation for almost 3 years. My job was practically a vacation.The job also included a great deal of travel and meeting with people at high schools around the country. I got to do broadcast work which I enjoyed immensely.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park - we broadcast a number of Pony Club events.  Was great fun.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park – we broadcast a number of Pony Club events. Was great fun.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events.  I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events. I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

That dream job came to an abrupt end on November 2, 2012. At that time the company had made some major decisions in the business direction and the shifts left both my wife and myself unemployed as we did not fit into the new program.I was devastated as my “dream job” had fallen out from underneath me.

Had to Ponder the Future

Had to Ponder the Future

From the time I lost that position in 2012 through 2013 I struggled again to find any full-time employment. And that is where my previous post begins and how I have participated in the “reinvention of myself” and my skill sets.

Resilience in hard times is always best

Resilience in hard times is always best

I like to think of myself as being resilient. I have learned to adapt to change and always try to take a positive angle towards it despite any challenges, frustrations, hurdles, etc.I also make a great effort to not burn bridges along the way and to do a good job wherever I am up until the last day.

Working with VYPE

So, this reinvention of myself and my skill sets led me to learn the WordPress CMS through my travel blog and then through this blog and others. Relations that I had created such as those at VYPE.com brought me work and I was able to continue to build on the foundation that I had learned through my blog. With VYPE.com I worked with a developer and helped build the entire network after VYPE left iHigh and had to build their own network.and now, for over a year, I have worked with them and manage their entire Web structure which is all based on the WordPress platform. Through them I picked up other work and through other connections I picked up even more work to where I now have number of clients and I was working from home. I was doing things that I enjoy as putting together websites is just a form of creativity that I seem to thrive at.

Working with Antsy McClain

Working with Antsy McClain

With the freedom of working from home, I have reestablished the management of a number of websites I had done in the past. One of these was moving my good friend and well-known singer/songwriter/recording artist/graphic artist Antsy McClain’s website into the WordPress platform.  I once again manage this for him and work closely in his promotion. Indeed, this has been part of “Living the Dream” as I remain in the music industry, something I had dreamed about as a high school student.

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

Then, in early September I got “The Call.” I had been doing some work with my former boss at iHigh.com who now runs a multimedia company called BlueMillion.com. Blue Million is a digital technology and marketing company specializing in social media, digital marketing, and live video to online and mobile audiences around the world. Through this work, he called me from the offices of iHigh, Inc., which runs the Great American Rivalry Series.

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

This company used to be a sister company of iHigh.com, but recently split away as iHigh.com moved to VolarVideo. I was asked to use my web skills and social media skills to be their “Control Central” during football season. This has literally brought me full circle as I am now working out of the old iHigh Office on Mondays and Fridays and then from home during the week.  Like the days of iHigh, I watch and monitor high school football from the office on Friday nights.  I get to work with many of the high school coaches and broadcast organizations of the past as well. I count this both as an immense blessing and a recognition for my devoted hard work ethic.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Coupled with this, I have partnered with Fieldhouse Media Group as their Web Manager (and as an extension I am the Digital Media Coordinator for VYPE.com, part of FMG now). I work with many wonderful people. As a result of this work, I am once again working with a number of broadcast groups across the country and am able to bring them on to the VYPE network as partners.

David&Tui

Sumoflam with Texas author and blogger Tui Snider

Another wonderful “dream fulfiller” which originated with my blog writing was “meeting” other bloggers, photographers and writers. They have all inspired me in so many ways that I will continue to “reinvent” myself and move towards writing some books about travel the back roads of America…an extension of my blog. (Shown above is Tui Snider, author of two books recently and blogs at Mental Mosaic).

A couple of others that have become an inspiration:

Derek Ace a professional photogapher...does amazing work.  We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014

Derek Ace, a professional photographer…does amazing work. We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014 (See some of his work on Facebook)

A video about Minnesota Travel Writer Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog about Minnesota (and beyond).  We have shared many inspirational stories and places.  He has been an inspiration.

The Dream Job is here and better than ever. Its not about the money, its about the doing what you enjoy and excel at. I now have a photo blog, a photo site on National Geographic and have become a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association  Life is Good!

Life is Good

Life is Good

The Selfie King – The Art of the Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie – Alligator, Mississippi, June 2014

This is all about “The Art of the Selfie.” I have taken hundreds of them and love doing so.  In 2013 the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” As most of us know, the “selfie” has become a very popular form of sharing one’s activities, travels and a photograph with one’s friends, family and the world.  Though taking self-portraits has been around since the birth of photography (Robert Cornelius, a pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839), since the mid 2000s, and especially since 2010, the genre has exploded, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

Clowning Around (Sumoelton)

Clowning Around (Sumoelton) – taken at home, Halloween 2012

I have always been one that wanted to have my picture taken wherever I went, more as a record, but in the past couple of years, with the new technologies that smart devices provide us, I’ve been very active in taking selfies without having to have other people interact with me. Honestly, with the posting of all these selfies, one might think that I am self absorbed. But that is not really the truth. I enjoy sharing the joy and excitement of the places that I have been and the activities that I have participated in.

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho – March 2013

Even as a young boy I was always fascinated with being in front of the camera. Over the years I’ve had numerous “goofy” pictures taken of me and I’ve even taken a few “selfies” on my own. Here are a few “non-selfies” from years gone by.

My first "selfie" using a mirror.  I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder.  I took it from an angle

My first “selfie” using a mirror. I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder. I took it from an angle.  Taken in 1977 in Ogaki, Japan

I took this "selfie" in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 - Turned the camera towards me and "point and shoot"

I took this “selfie” in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 – Turned the camera towards me and “point and shoot”

Mirror image - used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, March 2013

Mirror image – used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Tetons National Park, March 2013

Kewpie Hair - took this after a nap with wet hair - taken in the mirror with my cell phone

Kewpie Hair – took this after a nap with wet hair – taken in the mirror with my cell phone – July 2014

Nowadays, it seems like I take them wherever I’m at, whether I’m traveling across the country or whether I’m with my grandchildren. Taking selfies is fun for me and fun for those around me (I hope).  But they also have become a great way of documenting trips and events.

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY - October 2013

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY -November 2013

In May and June I took two trips across the United States. The first trip was north to Michigan and across four states to Montana to see my daughter and her family. From there I returned south into Wyoming and across Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri to return home. On the second trip I drove south through Tennessee Mississippi and Texas and then back home through Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Friendship, Arkansas - July 2014

Friendship, Arkansas – July 2014

On both of these trips I took close to 100 selfies each. Many of these were posted in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and some of my travel blog posts at lessbeatenpaths.com. As I moved across the states, friends and family were able to follow me (probably to the point of overkill). Of course, anyone that follows my adventures knows that I also like to ham it up in many of my selfies.  Always more fun.

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana - May 2014

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana – May 2014

In this post, I have no intention of posting all 150 or 200 of my selfies from those trips, but I am going to post a selection of them that I found fun and interesting. I will include the location and, if there is a back story, I’ll include a little of that as well. At the end of the post, I am also going to include a few of my other favorites from past trips.

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014.  This is the famous Welcome to Austin mural

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014. This is the famous Greetings from Austin mural

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin - May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin – May 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses - this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses – this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming - May 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming – May 2014

At Mammy's Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014.  Yes, I ate in that place too...unique looking place

At Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014. Yes, I ate in that place too…unique looking place

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Personally, I think that the selfie has become a great form of “journal keeping.” These are things that will allow family and friends to look back and see what we have done. I think that too many people don’t document the things that they have done and then we lose that personal history.

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas - June 2014

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas – June 2014

Wyoming's Wildlife - yes, probably me...  taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Wyoming’s Wildlife – yes, probably me… taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit.  This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit. This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope.  Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope. Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P'maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana - June 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P’maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana – June 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

With Sam Houston's head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

With Sam Houston’s head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

Naturally, when I travel, no matter when it is, I have my cameras on the ready.  In the past couple of years I try to also get photos with state signs and unique town signs. Here are a few from trips over the past couple of years.

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota.  Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota. Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013.  We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013. We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania...so I smiled in July 2013

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled in July 2013

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Rudyard, Montana - and no, I am not the Old Sore Head...  May 2014

Rudyard, Montana – and no, I am not the Old Sore Head… May 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name - taken in June 2014

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name – taken in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in May 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in June 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Then there are my ham it up, goofy and whimsical selfies that I love to take.  Here are a few from previous road trips and at home, around movie theaters, and other odds and ends for fun.

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

Home of the Hamburger - with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

Home of the Hamburger – with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington - July 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington – July 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's Museum in September 2013

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Almost didn't see the stop sign covered in snow at the "Top of the World Store" in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Almost didn’t see the stop sign covered in snow at the “Top of the World Store” in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Then there are my references to Antsy McClain…my good friend and favorite singer/songwriter….

Livin' the Dream - taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 - refers to Antsy's CD of the same name

Livin’ the Dream – taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 – refers to Antsy’s CD of the same name

Juxtaposed Antsy's Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

Juxtaposed Antsy’s Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

A "dualie" with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

An “usie” with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

Everything's a Dollar - in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Everything’s a Dollar – in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Enjoy the Ride - The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song "Living in Aluminum"

Enjoy the Ride – The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song “Living in Aluminum”

And just a few more goofball selfies to round out this post…

I get the point at Gronk's in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

I get the point at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota's Enchanted Highway in June 2013

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway in June 2013

With a bottle of "Route Beer" at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

With a bottle of “Route Beer” at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

And how about some Ice Cream with that "Route Beer"... in Peoria, IL

And how about some Ice Cream with that “Route Beer”… at Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I "kind of" fit in....  This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I “kind of” fit in…. This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

I recently read that there are now words being created for group “selfies,” with “usie” being one of the more common names, but other names are used as well.  here are a few “usie” pix I have gotten over the past couple of years….

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

The best “usies” are with my wife Julianne, this one at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

An 'usie" with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

An “usie” with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

This "usie" is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel's "Swamp People" series.  He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana.  I got this with him at his Dad's bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

This “usie” is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel’s “Swamp People” series. He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana. I got this with him at his Dad’s bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

An "usie" with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An “usie” with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An "usie" with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

An “usie” with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

Naturally, as a grandfather of nine, I get a number of “usie” photos with my grandchildren.  My next “selfie” post will include quite a few of them, but, in closing, here are just a couple of my all time favorites to include in this first post.

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Wnjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

Enjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

On that note I will end by noting that I am grateful for the wizardry of technology that allows us to do these “selfies” and “usies” and share them with the world. Photography has become fun and documenting one’s life has become more fun. Wizardry is fun…right Gandalf?

Sumoflam and Gandalf "usie"

Sumoflam and Gandalf “usie”

So, with that being said, I will probably have a couple more posts in the future of other selfies and most certainly of some family “usies.”

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

An Ode to America

SumoflamUSAAs we approach Independence Day 2014 I look at my country with different eyes than I did 20 or 30 years ago.  We have gone through some tough times as a country and these have impacted each of us at a personal level.

The economy is tougher than it has been in years and many of us, including me, have gone through job losses, economic difficulties and more. It has not been a fun ride.

Yet, we move on and we survive.  We find ways to make it.  Despite the political and ideological differences that sometimes divide our diverse population (as can be seen be all of the banter on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), we still come together as a country.

LambertsCafeOzarkMOThis became very clear to me as I traveled across America during May and June of this year. Whether in the plains of North Dakota, the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Wyoming or the impoverished deltas of Mississippi, the flag hung high, people were Americans (and not political parties, races or otherwise).  All spoke their dialects of English (and indeed, American English in Minnesota is different than that of American English in a small town in Southern Mississippi or in central Nebraska).

EStLouisILUltimately, I am grateful to live in this free country.  I can gripe about rising gas prices, Obama’s political agendas, dramatic inflation, bad roads or anything else.  But, I have the right and freedom to gripe if I desire…it is my inalienable right in this country.  Something many other countries don’t have.

I have the freedom to drive across this great nation without discrimination and go through the Blackfeet Reservation, a Cajun community and predominantly Scandinavian community or a small mid-American farm town and still feel these freedoms and experience others enjoying them.

So, despite any challenges, I believe it is time for me and all of us to Fall in Love with America again.  So, here is an ode to America by my good friend Antsy McClain.  It was his reminiscence of experiences while loving in America. I was fortunate enough to work with Antsy in producing and making this video. I hope you enjoy it.

The 3/50 Project

If you have not heard of the 3/50 Project (see http://www.the350project.net), you need to get on board today.  Our economy is hurting and many of us are suffering from it.  I know I am.  I have been off-shored twice.  Big business is putting hard working Americans out of business and out of work.

As those of you who follow my trip journals know, everywhere I go I try to support the Mom and Pop shops, the local museums, the local restaurants and shops.  These folks are great and they are the REAL America…..(and Canada…)
Just one point of advice…..read the flyer below then go for it…..

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

2008 Retrospective – Part II (Travels in Ontario)

This past year represented a new chapter in travels for me.  Indeed, being alone as much as I was caused me to reach into my creative side.  Over the years I have always loved to travel.  I have been blessed to see many places.  But, being in a place lie Woodstock, Ontario for over 8 months and traveling back and forth to Kentucky, sometimes every other week, led me to focus on what I am calling “micro-visits.”  We don’t have to travel far to see things of interest and to enjoy the many creations of both God and His children.

Along with my travels, I developed a more acute desire to document these travels and share them.  Obviously, if any of you have been to my website at http://www.sumoflam.biz , you will know that I have documented various trips through the years.  But, the Canada adventures were an opportunity to really focus on an area and bring it to the world, and this is what I attempted to do through trip journals and accompanying photographs.
There were basically two aspects of my adventures – continuous documentation of places and things in SW Ontario and then variation in my trips to and from Kentucky to see new places along the road.  Most of these trips have been well-documented on both my website (see http://www.sumoflam.biz/ontario.htm) and also here in my blog.  So, I will just note some of my favorite places and some of the things that really caught my eye.  As well, as the year progressed, I found myself focusing on various themes: Roadside Oddities (ala http://www.roadsideamerica.com), murals and community development, scenery, historic buildings, riverine scenes, unique things.
Visiting Ontario

Prior to February 2009, the furthest east I had ever been in Canada was in Steinbach, Manitoba, which I visited with Solomon on Aug. 30, 2007 (see http://www.sumoflam.biz/WashJournal2.htm).  I had never been to Ontario, which is the most populous of Canada’s provinces and second only to Quebec in land area.  According to Wikipedia, Ontario was home to over 38% of Canada’s total population after the 2006 census.

Flag of Ontario, Canada

Ontario has many natural borders with the United States and touches all but one of the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.  It is also borders the large Hudson Bay to the north.  Like Minnesota and Wisconsin in the U.S., Ontario has thousands of natural lakes and ponds and some spectacular rivers.  The Niagara Escarpment cuts across the Province making this area a waterfall seeker’s paradise, including the spectacular Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls of Niagara Falls National Park.
The southwestern section of the province, where I was working, is spanned by the northern boundary of Carolinian Forest, which is dominated by an abundant variety of deciduous broad-leaf trees.  this forested area is considered to be one of Canada’s richest in terms of plant life and animal life.  Included in these trees are those maple trees that provide the Canadian Maple Leaf symbol.
Entering Ontario

Due its sheer size, there are many places to enter Ontario from the United States.  For us Kentucky folk, the most convenient locations include two ports of entry near Detroit that enter at Windsor, Ontario (Canada’s southernmost city) and one north of Detroit going into Sarnia, Ontario.  On the east side, near Buffalo, NY there are also three or four ports.  I later discovered a couple of smaller ports of entry along the St. Clair River north of Detroit, where one would take a ferry across the river and enter in small customs areas.
My first time I had to get my work visa for Canada, so I entered the port of entry at Windsor over the Ambassador Bridge.  There is also a tunnel from downtown Detroit.  
I really do not like the drive from Windsor to Woodstock.  the first time I drove a in the evening and it seemed like a long boring drive.  The freeways in southern Ontario (namely the 401, 402 and 403 and the QEW) are all very nice roads, but the 401 that runs from Windsor is a two hour stretch through agricultural and industrial areas, with very little scenery.  It is predominantly flat.    On top of that, Detroit is in the middle of a horrendous construction project on I-75 and just getting to the Ambassador Bridge or the tunnel is such a hassle, that on late trips, I was making efforts to find other ways to get in.
Woodstock, Ontario

My first arrival in Woodstock was pretty non-descript.  The small town of about 40,000 people is the county seat of Oxford County and is still about 128KM from Toronto (Canada’s largest city).  Surrounded by corn fields, wheat fields and cattle grazing land, it just seemed like it would not be too interesting of a place to spend 8 months.  But, I soon found it to be different.
The city has the nickname “The Friendly City”and I soon found it to be so.  I soon became friends with Oxford County Tourism Director Cathy Bingham, who provided me with guidance on many an adventure…close enough to do in a few hours, yet interesting enough to provide the wanderlust desires of an old lonely man away from his loving family. (I will have more on Cathy Bingham in Part IV of my 2008 Retrospective).
BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR  It is blasted cold!!

Having arrived at the beginning of February, I learned one thing very quickly about SW Ontario.  It is BLASTED cold!!!  If I have one truly negative thing to say about the region, it is that.  For one, SW Ontario is surrounded on three sides by Lake Huron, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.  This area is one of those “Lake Effect” areas in the winter:  Cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lake water and this provides energy and picks up water vaopr which freezes and is deposited in the area.  It can lay large amounts of snow on land areas in its paths. And I was able to experience these lake-effect snows and freezing cold temperatures first hand all through February and March, and even somewhat into April.  But, though the cold seemed dreary, on the clear days after a snowfall, there were beautiful expanses of snow-covered countryside glistening everywhere.
                                                                               A couple of snowy scenes taken near Woodstock
Paris, Ontario

After a while it was getting tiring living in a hotel, so I soon found a small little apartment to rent so I could have a “home away from home.’  This little place was nestled snug alongside the beautiful Grand River in the small town of Paris, Ontario. (see my writeup and photos of Paris at http://www.sumoflam.biz/ParisON.htm).  Even smaller than Woodstock, Paris is a beautiful little town and I will have many fond memories of this place, though I was only there for a few months.  The Grand River and Nith River cut through this town.  There are many old Victorian buildings.  The Paris Bakery and Camp 31 BBQ were two of my most favorite places to visit for goodies.
                                                             A couple of views of Paris, Ontario.  It truly was a nice place to live.
I left Paris at the end of May and it was kind of bittersweet.  But, during that time I enjoyed travels all around the area.  Indeed, we spend so much time speeding from place to place that we miss all of the little things….
Favorite Places in SW Ontario

SPARTA

I have traveled hundreds of miles on many of the backroads of SW Ontario – through farmland, small towns, Amish/Mennonite country, Maple bush and lake shores.  I visited Niagara Falls three times while working up in Ontario…once in the winter, once in the spring and once in the summer.  I have practically cirumnavigated Lake Ontario and have driven the shores of Lake Erie.  Perhaps my most favorite place to visit in SW Ontario is Sparta, a very small burg near St. Thomas.   Sparta has history, scenery, some great food and even a bit of whimsy.  The bakery and the Sparta House Tearoom and Restaurant are great places.  They each specialize in goodies that can’t be found anywhere else.  And the whimsical Winter Wheat and Anything Goes shops are just lots of fun.
                                                                          Winter Wheat is just a fun place to visit
SHAKESPEARE/STRATFORD

The small little town of Shakespeare and its neighboring town of Stratford are also very wonderful.  Shakespeare is about as small as Sparta and is dotted with little antique shops and speciality shops.  The architecture is unique.  Stratford has the feel of a small European village(as I would envision it — not been to Europe yet).

                                                  Stratford (L) and Shakespeare (R) make for a nice day trip

I love seeing the swans in the Avon River in Stratford.  They come right up to you and let you feed them. They have no real issues with us human types.

ELORA

I was struck by the spectacular beauty of the Elora Gorge–one of many areas of the Niagara Escarpement.  The small town is a bit touristy, but the views of the Grand River running through the chasms of the gorge are breathtaking. Unfortunately, this is one place I only visited once and it was for only a short time.  I would really like to spend a prolonged time there.
                                                                                                             A couple of views of Elora Gorge
DUNDAS

Yet another small burg, near the huge city of Hamilton, I love this place bacuse of its proximity to the Niagara Escaprment.  Though nothing beats the magnificent power of Niagara Falls, the more delicate and beautiful falls are found in this area.  It is claimed that there are over 100 waterfalls in and around Hamilton and Dundas.  A couple of these are really worth a visit and, if travelling from Woodstock or Paris, can be seen on the way to Niagara, which is what I did at the end of April.  Tew’s Falls drops 135 feet, but is fairly narrow.  Just a short distance from there is the Webster Falls, which drops 72 feet.  Both are glorious in their own ways.

  

                               Tew’s Falls                                                               Webster Falls

THE LAKES – ONTARIO AND ERIE

During my eight month stay in Ontario I made numerous visits to the Great Lakes.  My first venture to Lake Ontario was in the dead of winter and the lake was frozen.  It was an amazing sight to behold as great chunks of ice were formed on the shores and in the midst of the lake.  Over the months I was able to see the evolution of the lakes through the seasons.  I absolutely loved this beauty.  South of Woodstock, along Lake Erie, there are nearly 60 large Wind Turbines for electricity generation.  The beaches are beautiful in the summer, especially along the northeastern shores of Lake Erie.  Back in July I actually drove back from Niagara after seeing my wife and daughter off on their way back to Kentucky an found myself meandering on small narrow roads along the coast of Lake Ontario.  It was fabulous!!
                                                                                                   Some Lake Erie scenes

                                  A large ship can be seen in the distance on Lake Erie.

TORONTO

Obviously, I cannot neglect Toronto, Canada’s biggest city.  I visited this city 4 times while in Ontario.  It is a fabulous place to visit, especially Kensington Market.  This place is so colorful…the buildings, all similar in structure, are all painted in a variety of ways.  And, in the market areas the walls have become the canvas for the hands of meticulous grafitti artisits.
                          The colorful houses of Kensington and some of the fabulous grafitti artwork fouund on the walls.
ALGONQUIN NATIONAL PARK

Perhaps my most memorable experience was my visit to Algonquin in late September.  The fall sceneray was nothing short of breath-takingly spectacular.  It was a marvelous two days.  Here are a couple of the full size photos….

Other sites and places of interest in SW Ontario
During my eight months working in Ontario, I took over 2000 photographs.  Here are some of my favorites…
Tulips near Norich Township
                     A field of tulips near Norwich Township in Oxford County
 Ontario Provincial flower - Trillium
The Provincial flower of Ontario –  A Trillium, taken near Sparta, Ontario.  These are only in bloom for two weeks a year
 
 Maid of the Mist in the churning waters of the Niagara River at the base of Horseshoe Falls
  
  Montrose Covered Bridge, Montrose, ON.  the only covered bridge remaining in all of Ontario
  
 A Mennonite woman sews while selling maple syrup near St. Jacobs, Ontario
 
 I loved this red barn and its shadows.  Taken near Paris, Ontario
  
  Lawn bowling “bowls”.  Taken at a lawn bowling tournament behind my apartment in Paris, Ontario
  
  A little girl interacts with a swan in Stratford, Ontario
  
   A crokinole board taken during the World Crokinole Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
  
  Old tobacco kilns add symmetry to the fields near Delhi, Ontario
  
  Some boys emerge from a pond after fishing near Waterford, Ontario
  
  The Walters Family perform during dinner at the Walters Family Dinner Theater near Woodstock, Ontario
  
  The Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop, in Mapleton, Ontario (near St. Thomas)
A whimsical Broom Family at Winter Wheat near Sparta, Ontario
 Grafitti wall in Kensington Market in Toronto
I was struck by the irony of this Mennonite Wagon speeding by the big modern homes near Wellesley, Ontario
The Final Treasure

My final find of my time in Ontario is the Screaming Heads near Burks Falls, Ontario.  Artist Peter Camani has created some fascinating sculptures and, I was fortunate enough to visit on a misty morning at the end of September with fall colors in the background.  Here are three of my favorite shots…full sized…
            
            
That’s it for my quick observations about Ontario.  Part III will cover my travels to and from Ontario.  During those trips I visited Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania.
Have camera…will travel

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

2008 Retrospective – Part I (Events)

(Warning: This blog entry promises to be long and detailed.  Read on at your own pace.  I have tried to break it down into different subjects. As well, I am going to be brutally honest and forthcoming.  Those of you that know me well are fully aware that I am one who shares my feelings — good and bad. )

I have not been able to write any updates on the blog for a while.  The last two months have been very hectic.  But, for the last week my mind has driven me bonkers as I have reviewed the events of this past year.  The year 2008 sent me on a MAJOR roller coaster ride with massive highs and lows.  But, I am still on the right side of the dirt in 2009 and have lived to tell about 2008, so here goes…..
2008 HIGHLIGHTS

There were a number of highlights in 2008…(all will be detailed later on in this entry)
-I got a job after 3 months of unemployment
-Another grandson was born — a real Christmas present
-I survived a harrowing automobile accident
-Many new and wonderful friends were made up in Canada and I saw some wonderful sights while up there
-Got to go on a cruise with my darling sweetheart and the Trailer Park Troubadours to Cozumel
-Worked on the now released Antsy McClain CD “New Good Old Days” and am currently the publicist for this release
-Enjoyed many FABULOUS experiences with my family
-My son Seth returned home after serving an honorable two year mission for the LDS Church
There were some “lowlights” as well, but I will just mention them in the context of the document below
TOUGH START TO 2008
The year started out rough for us.  I was unemployed and receiving unemployment.  I was working as a pizza delivery driver for Papa John’s to help supplement our income, but it wasn’t much.  By mid 2007 I had lost quite a bit of weight and was doing well on my diet and exercise.  But, the stress of the job at Lexmark, the pending job loss at the end of November, worried about paying bills, and working at a pizza joint for the last three months of the year threw me off kilter and I began to gain weight again.  By the time 2008 rolled around, I was on the receiving end of hand to mouth disease….since I don’t smoke, I literally ate my worries away.
However, thanks be to my good friend Joseph Higginbotham for introducing me to a company in Georgetown called Consultant Solutions, Inc. .  CSI, as they are called, provides numerous types of services to Toyota, including Japanese interpreting and consulting.  Through this introduction, I made contact with thad Johnson, the President.  Like me, he had worked on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) in Japan as had some of his other employees.  Bottom line, after a couple of meetings with him and his partner Ko Kishi, I was offered an opportunity.  This was exciting, but there was a real downside — I would go to Canada and would be up there for an indefinite amount of time, with only a once a month or so opportunity to come back home.  Nonetheless, we needed the work and I figured that the experience would do me some good.  So, on Jan. 31, 2008, I was on the way to Woodstock, Ontario for an adventure far beyond my expectations.  I was to work as an interpreter at the new Toyota facility being built in Woodstock.  
ON TO CANADA

With a great deal of sorrow and sadness, yet also with some excitement and anticipation, I headed north up I-75 thru Detroit to Canada.  I obtained my work visa at the border, headed thru Windsor, ON and then finally into Woodstock.  Initially I stayed in the Super 8 Hotel there in town and then took the 7 minute drive every morning to TMMC.  Woodstock is a pretty non-descript little town.  It has some nice old churches, but is in the middle of farmland and is really an agricultural area.  At least, that was my first impression.  Most of my first few days were spent at the hotel.  After my first week, I caught the flu and had to miss a couple of days of work. Not fun.  Then, just three days into my visit, I dropped my laptop on the floor while it was open.  I was carrying it to the bed to deal with a phone call.  The monitor was shattered and so were my spirits.  I ended up going across the street to Staples to get a standing external monitor (which actually made things much nicer to look at.  But, after doing that, I got all set up and the hotel’s internet went down!! I was devastated!! All of my efforts and complaining seemed to be of no avail.  
It got plenty cold and snowy.  This was my van on the day before I left to go back home.

Fortunately however, about mid-February, I was able to return home for a week…per prior arrangement with CSI and Toyota.  I had made arrangements to join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours on their 2008 Polyesterfest Cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Nothing like going from the great white north to the jungles of the Yucatan!!!
CRUISE TO COZUMEL

It was nice to get away from the cold of Canada and get back with my sweetheart for a Valentine’s trip to Cozumel.  We drove down to New Orleans and then took the cruise (see this link for more on the cruise).  It was lots of fun, but I have to admit here that I did a great disservice to Julianne as I spent a great deal of time doing Troubs’ work and did not focus on her as I should have!!  

     David and Julianne in front of the Tulum Mayan ruins on Yucatan Peninsula

After the 5 day/4 night cruise, it was back home from New Orleans and then back to the reality of Ontario.  Once I got back to Woodstock, I determined to stay at the Quality Inn rather than at the Super 8 hellhole….  I had the internet and the hotel was much nicer.
By week 2 back in Woodstock I had gotten into a small apartment in Paris, ON that sat alongside the beautiful Grand River.  It was much more pleasant than the hotel and the internet worked!! (see this link for more about Paris).  But, it was getting cold and snowy there in Ontario.
WORKING AT TMMC

It had been a few years since I had worked in a manufacturing facility.  And this plant was still under construction, so I was learning many new things.  It was quite an experience. I began the work effort both interpreting for the safety classes and interpreting down on the floor, mainly for the trainers on the Komatsu Presses.  Since it was a construction zone, we had to wear orange vests, gloves, helmets, safety glasses and safety shoes. Dressed to the hilt!!
Work went well and I was learning a great deal.  It was still hard to be up without family, but I basically survived using Skype to video conference with Julianne.
DISASTER HAPPENS

In  early March, I had the opportunity to go see my good friend Aaron Boone play football in Cleveland.  Aaron plays for the Utah Blaze in the Arena Football League.  I had been planing to go see this game for nearly 3 weeks and had also planned on visiting my Laurienzo half-sisters while in Cleveland. It so happened that as the weekend neared there were warnings everywhere about a pending massive snowstorm, but I was determined to go, despite Julianne’s strong requests not to.  I even took off early on that Friday, March 7, to get ahead of the storm.  But, as I was about one hour west of Cleveland, the skies darkened and the roads began to get seriously icy and slick.  Long story short, I was knocked off the road on I-90 bya semi and spun out and then had a head-on collision with the I-90 barrier wall.  I really thought that this was how it was going to end for me.  I was scared to death. (see this page for the extensive details).  It turned out that the car was totaled, but, thanks to heavenly blessings, I was saved and without a scratch. 

               Turned out to be worst snowstorm in years!!

After spending 2 nights in a hotel in Norwalk, I finally was able to get away and did make it to the game to see Aaron.  ut it came at great cost.  I did end up getting a new vehicle, a 4WD Ford Explorer, the next weekend.  
In retrospect, I really should not have gone.  But it really was wonderful to see my sisters Nicole and Tina and to also see Aaron play, despite a last second loss.
I spent nearly 6 weeks away from home before finally making it home on March 20 for Easter weekend.  Julianne spoke in church that weekend as well.
From then on I went home once every 4 weeks until May, when my contract with TEMA ended.  I was excited to finally get to go home and looked forward to the possibility of working in CSI’s Georgetown office, but it was not to be….
BACK TO CANADA, PART I

As I drove home that May weekend and made my way into the Sarnia border crossing, I was called by Thad Johnson.  TMMC’s Assembly Maintenance Department had requested I return and actually wanted me on that next Monday. So, my stay in Lexington was short again.  It was a sad departure, but this time it would only be for a month or so.  I had closed out the apartment, so I stayed in the Quality Inn again.
The work in Assembly was a much different job.  I was on my feet alot and I had tons of documents to translate.  But, it was interesting.  I was fascinated by all of the construction and seeing how a big manufacturing plant is put together piece by piece.
This contract ended at the end of June, so I was back on the road to Kentucky again, only to learn, once again, that I would be going back to Woodstock after the July 4th weekend to work the Body Weld Department.  This would be a longer contract.
BACK TO CANADA, PART II

Since I knew I would be returning again, I arranged for Julianne, along with Marissa, Adam and their daughter Jos, to come up to Ontario for the 4th of July weekend. We drove up together.  It was nice to share the trip, but I also knew the long contract (through at least October) would be grueling.  Fortunately, we were able to arrange for me to return home every other week, which was much nicer.  I will mention this family visit more below.
Once again, working in this area was fascinating.  The extremely complicated process of teaching the robots and keeping them all in sync so that tey don’t collide — now that is a massive undertaking.  It was amazing to watch and I wish there were some way I would have been able to take video.
RETURN TO KENTUCKY

At the end of October I finally was able to return home to Kentucky…be with family…work in Georgetown doing document translations. It was yet another learning curve, but a challenge I was ready and able to take on.  But it was not to last.  Around the beginning of November, I found myself on the way up to Canada again for a stint with Paint, but ended up working again in Body Weld since I did not have a paint suit to wear (that fit me).
Unfortunately, after being there for two days, I was walking through the plant to take care of an interpreting issue on the line and I tripped over a pallet stopper (a long, two inch tall metal beam attached to the floor).  I banged up my knee pretty bad.  Initially, I thought I would be OK, but after sitting down and having lunch, I was not able to stand on it at all.  Thad told me to come home immediately.  I did so, saw the doctor the next day and had X-rays.  Fortunately, nothing was broken, but I was not to do anything on a plant floor for a couple of weeks.  So, it was back to the office in Georgetown.
SETH RETURNS

In mid October Seth returned from his two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He served an honorable two years in the Salt Lake Valley.  Many, including us, wondered what it would be like to serve as a missionary where the church was supposedly pretty strong, but Seth filled us in and let us know that it was a challenging place to serve.  
It was a joy to see his return at the Lexington Bluegrass Airport.  He was meeting some of his nieces for the first time and was seeing all of us after a long time.
A TOUGH DECEMBER

The month of December had very few bright spots.  The economy had been slipping miserably since mid-year and I had lost nearly 40% of the value of my IRA retirement account.  Work at CSI was starting to thin out due to some issues we were having with a compay we did translations for in Japan. By mid-December, I was pretty much out of work at CSI.  As of today (January 2, 2009), I have been off for more than 2 weeks.  When I don’t work at CSI I don’t get paid.  So, in many respects, I am back where I was in December of last year…the equivalent of unemployed and working a couple nights a week at Papa John’s delivering pizzas.  I was hoping that work may reappear by Jan. 5, but, as of today (Jan. 11), I am still not bringing in any kind of substantial inclome – it is a chanallenge.
The upside is that I have been able to spend time at home with family, sped time working on the release of the new Trailer Park Troubadours CD and get some things done around the house as well.
JOY AND PAIN IN ONE WEEK

One of the most anticipated events of 2008 was the birth of my new grandson, Landen Noe.  On Dec. 16 Landen was born, making grandchild number 5.  Red headed and cute, much joy came of this wonderful addition to Julianne’s and my posterity.  (Marissa details all of this, with wonderful photos, in her blog at http://www.missnoeitall.typepad.com/
However, some of the brightness of this great event was dimmed by news that took place earlier that week.  My oldest daughter Amaree, who was with her husband Aaron and their two boys Kade and Charlie in Salt Lake on a visit, had called us with the sad and shocking news that she had miscarried her third child.  Amaree details the pain and sorrow of this in her blog entry at http://www.photokami.com/blog/?p=732.
Overall, it really was a blessed year as we had what we needed.  Throughout the year, though there was a great deal of physical separation, we shared many precious moments and much time together.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

More Adventures in SW Ontario: Baseball, Crokinole, Swans and Stuff

More adventures in SW Ontario
Baseball, Crokinole, Swans and stuff

Beachville-Embro-Tavistock-Shakespeare-Stratford-St. Marys
by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

June 7, 2008: Today would turn out to be an interesting day with loads of variety.  I headed out around 8:30 after sleeping in.  I then headed west on county road 9 towards the small village of Beachville, Ontario, which is between Woodstock and Ingersoll. Beachville is where the first recorded game of baseball was played, at least in Canada, if not in N. America.  I also made a visit to the World Crokinole Championships.  If you have not heard of Crokinole, you’ll know what it is after reading this.  After that I made a venture into Perth County, visiting Shakespeare, Stratford and St. Marys. Some beautiful spots.  After this day of events, I returned to the hotel, showered and then headed to Bright, Ontario to see the Walters Family Dinner Show.  I have done a separate page on that visit.

Beachville: This is a small town just west of Woodstock founded in 1791.  The town was NOT named because of a nearby beach.  Rather, it was named after Andrew Beach, who was the postmaster. The town also claims to have had the first post office and grist mill in Canada. I am not sure how many people live here, but there aren’t many.  But, the town does have its claim to fame being noted for the first game of baseball ever played on June 4, 1838, one year before the game in Cooperstown took place. This game was played by the Beachville Club and the Zorras.  This event is now commemorated at the Beachville District Museum.


According to the history, a group of men gathered in a Beachville pasture on June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball and had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. Beachville’s claim is based upon a letter to “Sporting Life” magazine by Dr. Adam E. Ford detailing the rules and recalling the names of the various players. On April 26, 1886, Dr. Ford, a physician who had grown up in Beachville and emigrated to Denver, Colorado, wrote the letter describing the June 4, 1838 match. Ford’s letter confirmed that the game had a long history in his community since: “certain rules for the game” were insisted upon by two of the older “gray
haired” players, “for it was the way they used to play when they were boys.” The importance of Ford’s letter lies in the fact that it provides the first formally recorded account of baseball as a formal game.  In this letter, the game was described as having five bases or “byes,” base lines twenty-one yards in length and the distance from the pitcher to the home bye was fifteen yards. Innings determined the length of the game as opposed to playing to a specific number of runs. Fairly and unfairly pitched balls were described and techniques mentioned for the pitcher to make it difficult for the “knocker” to hit the ball. The differences between “fair and” “no-hit” balls were described and each side was given three outs per inning. Base running became even more exhilarating because you did not have to follow a straight path to the next bye, (or base). If in danger of being plugged you could take off into the outfield, and while fielders then had the chance to “plug” you, other runners could advance.

Field Breakdown for the First Game

The two teams playing that day were the Beachville Club and the Zorras. The Zorras hailed from the north townships of Zorra and Oxford. The site selected for the game was the field just behind Enoch Burdick’s shops, (today near Beachville’s Baptist Church.)  The ball was a ball of double twisted woolen yarn, “covered with good, honest calfskin.” It was sewn by Edward McNames, the local shoemaker. And, according to Dr. Ford, “the club was generally made of the best cedar, blocked out with an axe and finished on a shaving horse with a draw knife. A wagon spoke or any nice straight stick would do.”

One of the Original Jerseys from the first game

Replica of Original baseball used

An old catcher’s mask, ball glove and chest protector from the
olden days of baseball

The reason for my visit today was that the museum was celebrating the 170th anniversary of the first game by setting up a field and different age groups of teams would compete.  Winning teams would get a trophy and each participant would get a commemorative patch.

L-A commemorative jersey from the 150th celebration.
Commemorative patch went to all participants.

I did not stay for the game, but I did look around the small, but unique museum. There are a few other baseball artifacts and there are a number of other old farm implements and other things.

An old sled, some old pulleys and the original Beachville jail
are on one of the barns

Old farm tools, gauges and yokes


An old National Truck that was converted to a bus

The museum building, first built in 1851

An old game board

There are lots of old farm and business implements on the site

Embro: I left Beachville shortly before the games had begun and was on my way to Tavistock, Along the way I went through the town of Embro, which is famous in Ontario for their Highland games, which take place in July. The town is yet another small town, but has a rich heritage.  I loved the sign in front of town and the big Tug-of-War.

An old hardware store, the unique Embro sign and a nice church

The town of Embro is also famous for renowned missionary the Reverend George Leslie Mackay, who founded the first Canadian overseas mission in Tamsui, Taiwan in 1872.  He was the first Canadian missionary to venture to China. In 1881, Mackay inspired the people of Oxford County to launch an ecumenical drive throughout Oxford County that raised over $6,000 to help establish Oxford College, now part of Aletheia University in Tamsui. He also
founded many schools and the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei.  Oxford County and Tamsui, Taiwan have become twinned and have a number of exchange activities as a result of the McKay connection.

Bust of G.L. McKay located in downtown Woodstock

This was done by Sculptor Neil Cox from Toronto

I next headed to Tavistock (East Zorra-Tavistock), which is, coincidentally, the home of the Zorras that played the first baseball game.  Tavistock is a small agricultural community and sits on the northern border of Oxford County and is just a few miles south of the small town of Shakespeare, Ontario in Perth County.  The entire township (including Innerkip, Hickson and some rural areas) has a population of little over 7000. Their largest industry is cheese manufacturing. I arrived in town and saw that the entire town was having a yard sale, similar to how neighborhoods in Lexington do it.  I thought this was a unique idea and most definitely a good exercise in community building. (Mayor McKay told me that this is done in conjunction with the Crokinole tournament to provide the members of the community to do something during this event that draws folks from all over Canada and the United States.)

Vital residents of Tavistock (other than the people)

Cheese is a large industry in this township

I was invited to the 10th Annual World Crokinole Championships by Tavistock Mayor Don McKay, one of the officials at this year’s event.  I was greeted by Mayor McKay and also met Tavistock Gazette Editor Bill Gladding.  Both were gracious enough to introduce me to this game.  The championships are held in this small town as this is where the game was apparently invented in the 1870s.


Tavistock Arena, home of the World Crokinole Championships

Historically, the game of Crokinole got its start near Tavistock. According to the Crokinole
website
, “the earliest known Crokinole board (with legitimate, dated provenance) was made in 1876 (not 1875 as previously reported) in Perth County, Ontario, Canada.  Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin, and dating from the 1870s, have been discovered within the past 10 years, suggesting confirmation of this locale as the probable ‘cradle’ of Crokinole birth.  Earlier Canadian written sources detail the game from the mid-1860’s.  Several years after that time, a registered American patent suggests 1880 as the time when commercial fabrication began – first in New York, then Pennsylvania.  The games that no doubt contributed to the arrival of Crokinole seem to be the 16th century British games of shovelboard-from which modern-day shuffleboard descends, the 17th century pub game shove ha’penny, and the Victorian parlor game of squails that appeared in England during the second quarter of the 19th century.  In addition, Burmese or East Indian carrom (developed during the 1820s) seems a logical ancestor of Crokinole due alone to the very similar shooting or fillip technique involved.  And while a German game known as ‘knipps-brat’ (various spellings in high and low Germanic dialect exist) may have had similar features, game historians agree the aforementioned British and Asian predecessors seem the most likely links to modern-day
Crokinole.”  The design of the board is credited to craftsman, Eckhardt Wettlaufer ca. 1876.


Oldest known Crokinole board on left (made in 1876) and modern day competition-use board on right.

Crokinole (pronounced croak-i-knoll) is an action board game with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs.


Crokinole objectives and a full board used in the tournaments

I am not going into detail about the rules as they can be seen here. But the object of the game is to knock your opponent’s disc into the ditch or into a lower scoring position.  Players flick (or shoot) the discs with their fingers and try to hit the opponent’s discs to gain the most points.  Points are scored as shown in the above diagram.  There is also a variety where the players can use cues.  For the world tournament, the games are timed.



Flicking the disc or using a cue, either way, you want to knock
the opponent’s disc out

The Tavistock and District Recreation Centre was near capacity with a registration
of 548 people playing throughout the day.  There were not only folks from all over Canada, but there were representatives from seven US states (including Colorado and California) and even participants from Scotland and Australia. The joy of this game is that young and old can play together.  This was evident in that there were 6 year old participants and even an 87 year old. For a full detailed article about the tournament this year, please visit Bill
Gladding’s (from the Tavistock Gazette) news article. Read carefully…I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bill mentioned me and my site as well.

Over 500 participants from around the world participated

Brian Cook, from Owen Sound, ON,  was this year’s champion
(as well as last year’s)

(photo courtesy of Bill Gladding, Tavistock Gazette)

A couple final notes about Crokinole.  The interest in this game has increased in recent years.  In 2006 there was a documentary movie made on the game. The world premiere occurred at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo, Ontario in early 2006. The movie follows some of the competitors of the 2004 World Crokinole Championship as they prepare for the event. It also features interviews with Wayne Kelly (Mr. Crokinole) and Crokinole board maker Willard Martin.  Also, Joe Fulop, who was awarded a lifetime achievement award and of whom the Toronto Press coined as the “Wayne Gretsky of Crokinole“, has written a new book called “It’s Only Crokinole: But I Like It”, an 83 page book about the game.  This year’s champion, Brian Cook wrote a section and, ironically, the person for whom I worked for 5 months as a contract Japanese interpreter at Toyota in Woodstock, Derek Kidnie, also wrote a section.  Turns out that Derek is an avid Crokinole enthusiast and I never knew!!  Strange how this world throws fun things at you! By the way, Mr. Fulop’s book is available for $18 (or $27 for a color edition) by calling him at 519-235-1022 or by email at
jfulop@cabletv.on.ca.

 

Crokinole: The Movie  & Joe Fulop (on left)
author of Crokinole book with Barry Raymer

(Fulop/Raymer photo courtesy of Bill Gladding, Tavistock Gazette)

The fascination with Crokinole was fun, but short-lived for me.  I would have loved to stay all day, but I also had a number of places to visit before the day was done.  I left Tavistock and headed north to my next stop, about 3 miles away…

Shakespeare: This small and quaint little town is an antique lovers paradise.  I think there are maybe 750 people that reside in this town.  The town was founded in 1832 by David Bell, and used to be known as Bell’s Corner. The name changed from Bell’s Corner to Shakespeare in 1852 when Alexander Mitchell suggested naming the town after his
favorite playwright, William Shakespeare.

The old sign to Shakespeare & the Shakespeare Antique Centre

I really had no idea what I would run into in Shakespeare, but one shop (or
shoppe in Canadian) caught my eye….

Anything Funky with “stuff” or “junk” always catches my eye

What really caught my eye was the flamingos (being Sumoflam and
all….)

I met owner Terianne Miller, who work with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for many years, recently opened this unique shop. She actually has aspirations of “flamingoizing” the shop.  Funky Junk was really a fresh shop and had some really reasonable prices.  In fact, I got one of the wire flamingoes as seen above.  The green ball actually has a
solar panel/light in it and lights up.  I got one for Julianne…for only $15!!



Bears Am I in Shakespeare, Ontario

A couple of doors down from Funky Junk was the Bears Am I shop. This shop is owned and operated by Bear artist and collector Sue Gueguen. Sue provides one of those fascination stories to me.  From the outside the shop appears to be one focused on selling teddy bears, etc.  But, the REAL story is that she makes many of the bears herself. She has been making them since she was 7 years old.  In 1989 she started doing her craft — making bears from real fur from old coats, etc.  She calls her hand-crafted (I prefer that over hand-made because these really are a craft!) bears “Powder Puff Teddies.”  Her bears are fully jointed, have German glass eyes and the noses are embroidered.   She spends hours on the bears.

Sue Gueguen hard at work hand-crafting one of her Powder Puff Teddies

The key to her work is that families bring in their old fur coats, or other fur items that they want to remember as an heirloom item. Sue has had folks bring her a number of types of furs.  She has even made a bear out of skunk fur!!

Sue shows a kangaroo skin that will soon become a bear. 

The bear on the right was made from raccoon fur.

Sue had a number of interesting stories and we had an enjoyable discussion. She really got a kick out of my story about the Trailer Park Troubadours song Aunt Beula’s Roadkill Overcoat.  For her benefit and yours, here is a picture of the overcoat from the 2008
Polyesterfest Cruise that the Troubs’ sponsor.

Aunt Beula’s Roadkill Overcoat

(photo courtesy of Jim Aspinwall)

Stratford: Not too far west of Shakespeare is the lovely town of Stratford. I cannot really do the town justice on this page, but will at least preview it. Since I will now be in Ontario until October, I plan on making a longer trip to Stratford for more exploration.  The town sits along the Avon River and there are some beautiful sites along the river in town. There are also fascinating buildings and lovely parks, including the famous Shakepearean Gardens, which I did not visit on this trip.



Some Stratford Scenes

Along the river there are a number of small boutiques and lots of small cafes.  But the most impressive part to me and what I really wanted to see was the swans on the Avon River.  The serenity of river along with the gracefulness of the swans provided me a peaceful feeling.

Swans on the Avon River

And I got the double pleasure of catching a young girl and her family interacting with the swans.  In fact, these swans are very tame and not afraid of individuals.  While I was taking photos one of the swans actually pecked at my feet, my pockets and hands.

I love the photo in the middle as they stare each other down.
It was a lucky shot!

Her mother and father enjoyed them as well


The ducks also wanted their day in the spotlight

St. Marys: The final leg of today’s trip took me into St. Marys, which in a sense was full circle as it is home to Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame.   I found my way to the museum but had no time to go in.  I did get a couple of shots of the outside though.  Some of those inducted in the past include former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins; the first black ball player in the majors, Jackie Robinson; Andre Dawson from the Montreal Expos; former L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda; and James “Tip” O’Neill, who became the namesake for the former U.S. Speaker of the House.


The Canadian
Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario

More fascinating tome were the stone water tower, the waterfalls, and the lovely muraled youth center.  The stone water tower was built in 1899 and currently displays the slogan “St. Marys: The Town Worth Living In”.


St.Marys water tower and looking downtown


Waterfalls with scenic backdrop. Another angle of the church on the hill.



The St. Marys Youth Centre is totally surrounded by murals.  The art work is fabulous!!


I have tried to find more info on the artists, but have had no success


After my visit here, I headed back to Woodstock, took a shower and headed straight to Bright to attend the Walters Family Dinner Theatre Show.  You can see more on my page
about that visit here.