A Look Back at 2017

Been a year worth many Smiles! Smile Gas in Madison Heights, VA

I have to admit that my life is rich and joyful. This past year has been one very interesting and challenging year. There have been more ups and downs then a roller coaster ride in Kings Island.  But I made it through the year with a smile on my face!!

The year started off on a high note as we were in Maryland finishing up a Christmas vacation and I saw a beautiful sunrise. We had some nice travel and then I started a new contract job for PrecisionHawk, a company that manufactures drone software. I was very excited, though it was a contractor position, I was able to work from home which made it very nice. My contract was supposed to be for one year but later on in the year the company transitioned management and many decisions were made, including one to eliminate all positions outside of North Carolina, which included me. That was totally unexpected, but, those kinds of things happen in this economy nowadays so one has to just roll with the punches.

Sunrise as seen from Ocean City, MD on New Year’s Day 2017…that’s the Atlantic Ocean.

Visiting PrecisionHawk HQ in NC in early January 2017

In February my daughter Marissa and I made a trip to Houston to drop off a trailer to my son Seth and his wife Holly.  We took Missy’s kids and had some fun stops along the way there (in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) and back (in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri).  Road trips are always a blast, but are even more fun with Grandikidz!

Visiting Alabama with Landen, Lyla and Joselyn

The giant Saturn Rocket on display at the Welcome Center near Huntsville, AL

Lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS (see Roadside America Post abt Mammy’s Cupboard)

Stopover in Louisiana

Holding a baby gator at the Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

They do get much bigger!!

Being Chunky in Chunky, MS

Having Fun with the Grandkidz at the Magnolia Market Silos in Waco, TX

Time in Houston was fun as well.  Found a great quirky burger joint that we all went to.  Pretty unique…

The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX – a load of fun!!

After visiting the family we returned home, first with a stopover in Uncertain, Texas to see the swamps.  Though uncertain about things, we met Aaron Applebaum (Mystique Tours) who took us on a boat tour through the swamp.  Didn’t see gators, but this February morning was a nice ride.  The kids even go to drive the boats.

Uncertain, Texas

Joselyn and Grampz on the boat somewhere in the swamp of Caddo Lake, near Uncertain

Aaron Applebaum let’s Landen drive the boat in the swamp

from the swamps of Texas/Louisiana, we headed north through central Arkansas and Missouri — a route that brought both planned and unplanned adventures.  In the middle of Arkansas, we came across a massive flock of migrating Snow Geese as we crested a hill.  What an amazing sight!!  We went through Missouri and then had a super time in Metropolis, IL.

Thousands of snow geese take to flight in central Arkansas

Hitting Missouri with the grandkidz

Having a super time with Superman in Metropolis

Later in the month my wife and daughter had a trip to Indianapolis to attend Time Out For Women. Wanting a road trip, I went along for the weekend ride.  We went out of our way to visit Story, IN and the Story Inn for lunch.  While they were at their conference, I visited some places in Indy.  Always seeking adventure!

Story, Indiana

The Historic Story Inn offered some amazing food!

Nashville, Indiana

Welcome to Indianapolis!

Hanging with Anthony Snape after his fabulous show at the Lexington Opera House.

We didn’t travel in March at all, but I was thrilled to attend an amazing concert in Lexington, where I got to meet up with my old Australian musician pal Anthony Snape, who performed with the amazing Tommy Emmanuel.  I took Marissa and she had a blast!

Later in the year I also got to attend a couple of other concerts, which I’ll note below.


Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter 2017

Julianne’s sister had a time share reservation in Virginia and so they set up a three night stay over Easter Weekend. As always, I wanted to drive.  I would take Julianne up there and then drive back on Easter morning.  I had a spectacular Easter morning visiting Shenandoah National Park and celebrating my own Easter Sunrise Service.  Had a spectacular moon (and even got a photo of Venus!!!) and took a really nice shot of a deer.

Easter Moon (taken with a Nikon D5200 and Tamron 200mm-600mm lens)

Caught this deer at sunrise off the side of the road. It stayed long enough for a quick shot.

Easter sunrise from atop the Shenandoah Mountains

By July I was out of “full time“ work and was striving to make it on the two or three small contracts that I had for a number of years with Vype magazine. That made things very difficult.

A composite of me with all of my grandchildren in 2012 and then again, same pose in 2017 (minus the youngest)

Hanging with the Grandkidz at the Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY. Yes, we stayed there!

That said, it was probably fortuitous that my position was eliminated because in July one of the highlights of the year came along and that was being able to be with my entire family for the first time in five years. All of my children and all my grandchildren were gathered together here in Kentucky and we had in some cases up to two weeks of reunion with family members.

With the family reunion came some additional fun as we traveled with parts of the family to a number of diverse areas including Mammoth Cave National Park, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant and along the way a couple of beautiful state parks with amazing waterfalls, then on to Cleveland where we had another huge family gathering with my Laurienzo family and most of my family that was with us on the trip.

With Grandkidz at Mammoth Cave NP

Mammoth Cave

At the amazing waterfall in Letchworth State Park in New York

One of dozens of waterfalls in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in New York

With my wife’s sister Laura and her husband Richard in the depths of the gorge at Watkin’s Glen

Got to see my good friend Corey White, who was performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

Visiting King’s Island as a family – what fun!

Making a splash with my granddaughter Autumn

All of us enjoyed the view from atop Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA


With my sisters Nicole and Tina and brother Joe in Cleveland

My sister Sherry came up from Texas with her husband Brian and daughter Savannah to join us for a couple of days.  Had a thrill going with them to see the band Chicago perform in Cincinnati.  I hadn’t seen them since 1975!!

Traveling to Cincinnati with Sherry and Brian to go see Chicago

Chicago Live in 2017!

One of the many roller coasters at King’s Island

The two weeks in July was an amazing time and one which most of us will not forget too soon.  We even got some family pics, including this goofy one at Waveland State Historic Park near Lexington.  I was contracted by the park to do their official photography for websites and other materials.  It has been fun to do this throughout the year.

The whole family in prime form – July 2017!

The year also brought sadness for me as one of my very good friends, Joseph Higginbotham, got ill and eventually passed away. Joseph was a good man and he had no family, very few friends and really nobody there for him, so I made numerous trips to West Virginia while he was in intensive care, a nursing home and ultimately in hospice. I was with Joseph at his bedside when he passed away.

Remembering my good friend Joseph Higginbotham, who passed away in June 2017

I also had a dear sweet cousin pass away. Donna Shoemaker, a cousin of mine through my Laurienzo family, passed away this year. She was one of the sweetest and kindest souls I’d ever met. Knowing her added luster to my life!

With my cousin Donna in 2016.

Visiting with Charles Snow

During 2017 I was also able to visit in North Carolina with one of my very close friends from college days who had also worked with me at Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ. Charles Snow has been a friend of mine for well over 36 years, and I was thrilled to visit with him in North Carolina. He too has had some major illnesses and it breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out for him daily as he suffers and struggles from a rare disease and from congestive heart failure. This kind of thing brings sadness to my heart. Besides him, I have a few other friends who are struggling.

Happy Happy Happy

But, where there are downs, there are also upsides. And the year brought many wonderful and exciting things for me, some of which were lifetime thrills!

When you speak of the highlights of your life, it often centers around children being born, getting married or some big events like that. I have had many of those in my life, but this year I had three big “Once in a lifetime” type of rare events happen.

The first of these occurred in January when I had heard about the possibility of seeing the migration of sandhill cranes as they come through Kentucky. In mid-January ventured south to Barren River Lake to check it out during their sandhill crane event. I was excited as I saw 200 or 300 Sandhill Cranes far out in a field. I couldn’t ever get very close.

Got to be amazed by Sandhill Cranes in January…1000s of them.

But, I had also heard that there might be some near Cecilia, Kentucky, which is near Elizabethtown. So that morning I drove up I-65 to Cecilia and drove around a little bit. Soon I came across a flock of these tall, beautiful sandhill cranes. To my astonishment, I soon saw that there were thousands of them! They surrounded me in every direction. The eerie sound they make echoed in my ears while I saw the beautiful grace of these birds taking off and landing in massive numbers while many others stayed on the ground feeding on the leftover corn in the farmland that they were in.

Love the Sandhill Cranes!

I hung around for nearly 5 hours watching this beautiful event, all the way until sunset. It will always remain a highlight of my life, though I plan to visit and revisit again in future years, including this upcoming January (2018).  Ironically, in December of this year we went to Barren River Lake State Resort Park and stayed three nights.  I once again saw hundreds of this birds!

Sandhill Cranes in December 2017 near Barren River Lake State Resort Park

Viewing the Solar Eclipse near Hopkinsville, KY

Another event happened, also in Kentucky. The middle of the year there was the famed great solar eclipse of 2017. It was a full eclipse which is very rare. In my 61 years of life, I had never seen one. So I took the day off and I booked it down to Hopkinsville, Kentucky where it was supposedly the epicenter and perhaps the best place in the world for viewing the eclipse. Thousands and thousands of people gathered from all around the world to witness this natural event. I was one of them.

Many cars had things on them like this one to go see the Total Eclipse

Thousands were in chairs to see the eclipse

This kid was focused!

For a couple of hours I drove around witnessing the “circus“ atmosphere in Hopkinsville. People were dressed in eclipse T-shirts and many had their Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon“ T-shirts on. Of course, everyone had their solar sunglasses!

As the event got near, I sought to find a place away from many people. I eventually found a small church that had parking for $10 and I paid them and I went and parked and sat and watched the event with amazement. I tried desperately to find a good filter for my camera in the previous weeks, but was not able to, so I had to wait until the actual event occurred to get some photos, which are shown below. Talk about a wonderful highlight!

Total Eclipse as seen through my Nikon

I got the Diamond!!

The last shot with my camera before the sun came out. Didn’t have a filter.

The third big exciting event of my life happened just a few weeks ago as I published my first book. I plan on publishing another 11 in the series, but my first book, titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” is a book that took thousands of miles of travel and a lot of visits to out of the way places. I had written many blog posts and taken hundreds of photographs to finally create enough content for this book and those that will follow.

Published my First Book in December. Available on Amazon…sold over 100 copies and over 150 Kindle downloads in first month

Another highlight and good note for me for the year was being hired as a full-time employee by the website ComicBook.com in October. This was my first hired position in over five years and I have to say that I was filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity. I am currently managing their database, which is massive and includes movies, television shows, anime and many other things. It’s a great opportunity for me and it’s a blast to work with superheroes all day!

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

This year I spent many hours visiting the nearby Jacobson Lake in Lexington, taking photographs of sunrises, sunsets, nature scenes and lots of birds. It has become my “happy place” where I can seek solace and enjoy the wonderful variety of God’s creations.

I got my first good photographs of eagles in 2017. There are two bald eagles that are hanging around the lake and I was able to photograph them and experience that wonder.

Heron with breakfast

One of my many bald eagle shots

Not only did I get to see eagles, some of them close up as the photo below shows, but I also was able to witness a massive flock of Snow Geese in Arkansas as I traveled with my grandchildren, I was able to watch Osprey dive in the water and grab fish, I watched with amazement as a Baltimore oriole wove its nest in a sycamore tree over a number of days. This year became my bird watching year and it was wonderful.


Took this Bald Eagle shot near Cave Run Lake

My happy duckling

I am amazed at nature and the variety that it offers. It’s been wondrous to watch cormorants swimming in groups in the lake as they “herd“ fish into a corner and then feed voraciously! It has been interesting to see the unusual and curious looking merganser ducks swim in flocks together. It is always peaceful to watch the graceful flight of a great blue heron or a great white egret. Both of which I’ve been able to experience this year. (I’ll be doing a subsequent post on my best bird shots of 2017 — so watch for it.)

A Red-winged blackbird

This goldfinch apparently had a bad day

Great White Egret in Flight

An amazing bird – the Osprey

Then there are others….

Flying squirrel

Blue Heron with Breakfast

Despite the negative political climate that has evolved in America, the terrible hurricanes and earthquakes and fires that are devastated much of America, I have been very blessed to be in a lovely place and not be directly impacted by any of these things. I have been able to enjoy life to its fullest this year. I’ve been able to see God’s creations. Through my photography I have made many new friends. I am fortunate to get to see many of them at the lake. I’ve been able to have joy with my 10 grandchildren, my five children and my lovely wife throughout the year.

Some of my photographer friends….thanks to them for making 2017 a good year

Hanging with Eddie Flinchum at the lake

Jerome Keeler

Charles Gough

Hallie Faurest

The gang at an eagle shoot meetup at Taylorsville Lake

Finally, we finished off the year on a high note.  Earlier in the year I had been contracted to do the photography for Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington. Through them we coordinated an agreement with the Barren River Lake State Resort Park. We spent three days in a unit down there (read Staycation) between Christmas and New Years.  Saw some splendid sunrises and sunsets and got to revisit the Sandhill Cranes. There were thousands of them all over the sky.

Winter evening sky at Barren River Lake

Sandhill Cranes fly across the sky

Daughter Chelsea takes after her Dad, catching the sunset

Found Paradise Point nearby — what a kick (there will be a separate blog post about this)

Brilliant Sky over Barren River Lake

When I look back on the year 2017, it will be with joy and happiness and many many many fond memories.

Choose Happy

So, as 2017 comes to an end, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy and I look forward to a splendid 2018!

End of 2017 — sunrise near Barren River Lake

2015 In Review: The Photos

Taking a selfie in San Francisco

Taking a selfie in San Francisco – photo by Carla Lockwood

Over the year 2015 I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to both coasts and a few other places.  I also made a few trips to local areas to score some “joy points.”  With camera in hand I took 1000s of photos and following are some of my favorites from the year, with a brief story behind each photo.

Among the 1000s of photos are selfies, family shots, friends, scenery, wall art, nature and an abundance of other photos.  I will not include selfies in this collection as I do a separate post on selfies and the fun I have with those.  Rather, this post is a collection of my favorites (and in some cases there are some viewer favorites as well).

Top Ten Photos from 2015

#1 – Horses Grazing in Fall Colors – This photo was probably the hit of the year.  I posted this and a few others on November 3 in a Photo Gallery on Facebook (see original post here) and it had over 3000 shares.  This photo was taken on a drive back from Louisville.  I decided to take Old Frankfort Pike, which is one of the Bluegrass Area’s most famed back road drives.  When I saw this variety of horses, I checked my rearview mirror and saw there was no traffic coming.  I stopped on the road, opened the car window and took this shot, hoping it would come out.

DSC_7323#2 – Seagull Eye – We visited our daughter and her children in Port Orchard, WA in late July and early August.  On one of the days we took a ferry across the Puget Sound into Seattle.  While on the boat, some folks were feeding the seagulls and I was able to grab some nice shots.  This one, in my opinion, was a doozie.  I took this with my telephoto lens, so I was able to get very close.

DSC_4713#3 – Fog Over Golden Gate Bridge – During the Memorial Day weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend Woodflock, a music/camping adventure sponsored by singer/songwriter/poet/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain.  It has been held for 6 years in a row in at a campground in Red Bluff, CA. I flew out there and was picked up by Carla Lockwood, who was kind enough to be my host for a couple of days and take me up to Red Bluff from San Francisco.  Along the way, we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for a spectacular view of the bridge and also of San Francisco across the bay.

GGB3#4 – Geese in Flight at Sunrise – I make numerous visits to Jacobson Lake in Lexington.  It is my “Joy Point Factory” as I can go on an early morning, catch a sunrise, look at the birds and just relax from the cares of the world.  On one glorious sunrise morning, I caught this flock of geese taking off.  I have many photos of geese in flight, but this one was different as the sunlight glowed through the translucent wingtips of the birds.  It was a lucky catch.

11092932_10153214958117090_2091834428_n#5 – Sunrise on Old Orchard Beach – In September we made a visit to my son Seth and his family on the occasion of the birth of our 10th grandchild.  My daughter Marissa and her children accompanied us on this trip and, during the visit, we ventured on a two day trip to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.  We spent the night at Old Orchard Beach, south of Portland, ME and I got up early in hopes of catching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.  I capture over 50 shots of this amazing morning, but this one was the best of the lot. This was not filtered…it is exactly as it looked that morning.

11995710_10153603290737090_1419687584_n#6 – Raindrops on Lilacs – We have a huge lilac bush that grows on the side of our house next to our deck.  In the spring it is a wonderful sight to behold.  One morning it had rained early and I went out on the deck and noticed droplets still remaining on the flowers.  I was able to capture the simple beauty as well as the miniature reflection in the raindrop.

11196383_10153263423727090_2061527146_o#7 – Blue Heron in the Morning – I have noted many times on my blogs that I have a fascination with blue herons. When I make my frequent trips to Jacobson Lake, I am always on the lookout.  One morning, while driving close by the lake, there was a heron on the side of the road standing in low water.  These are nervous birds and they typically take off.  But, this one sat there.  I rolled down the car window and was able to capture the closeup beauty of this magnificent bird.  He/she was literally only 7 feet away from me and didn’t take off until it got aggravated by me sitting there for five minutes enjoying its beauty.  I scored extra joy points that day!

10994847_10153404063257090_292100981_n#8 – Sunbeams Over Lexington – During 2015 I did a good deal of work in downtown Lexington.  One morning as I parked in the Victorian Square parking structure, I saw a glorious sunburst floating over Rupp Arena.  I took a few shots and was fortunate to capture one that really represented it well.

11950915_10153590934167090_485412227_n#9 – Sunrise at Jacobson Lake – I made 20 or 30 visits to Jacobson Lake during the year.  Some mornings were not as vivid, but brought me the relaxation I desired.  But there were the rare morning where the clouds and sunrise were phenomenal.  November had two or three of these.  The sunrise captured below was taken on the morning before Thanksgiving.

11127911_10153214956827090_804448474_n#10 – Full Moon – 2015 seemed to offer some amazing full moons, more than I can recall (perhaps we had more clear skies this year!) I had a couple of opportunities to snap some great full moon shots.  This one was probably my best one, taken in the summer.

11094336_10153213995982090_1718367189_oHONORABLE MENTION

Of course, only 10 photos really does no justice for the year as there were many more good ones.  Following are quite a few others that I would like to share. Just a title and the photo.

Sunset over Mt. Rainier as seen from the Puget Sound

Sunset over Mt. Rainier as seen from the Puget Sound

A flower photographed at Tacoma Zoo

A flower photographed at Tacoma Zoo

Turtle Family - Jacobson Lake, Lexingotn

Turtle Family – Jacobson Lake, Lexington

A time lapse of Lunar Eclipse in November

A time lapse of Lunar Eclipse in November

Different textures on a flower

Different textures on a flower

Sunrise on Ice...sun glow through icicles on back deck in February

Sunrise on Ice…sun glow through icicles on back deck in February

A field of tulips at the Kentucky Arboretum near University of Kentucky

A field of tulips at the Kentucky Arboretum near University of Kentucky

Clouds with a unique texture taken in March in Lexington

Clouds with a unique texture taken in March in Lexington

Sunrise as seen from downtown Lexington

Sunrise as seen from downtown Lexington

Geese in formation flying over Lexington in November

Geese in formation flying over Lexington in November

Moon glows over a winter tree in January near Versailles, KY

Moon glows over a winter tree in January near Versailles, KY

Leaping Squirrel

Leaping Squirrel

Golden Gate Bridge in May

Golden Gate Bridge in May

Fall colors in Horse Farm Country

Fall colors in Horse Farm Country

Russian Thistle taken at Sundance Resort in Utah in June

Russian Thistle taken at Sundance Resort in Utah in June

A squirrel readies a nut for his food storage

A squirrel readies a nut for his food storage

Sunrise over Jacobson Lake in November

Sunrise over Jacobson Lake in November

Pink clouds tinted by the early sunrise in Lexington

Pink clouds tinted by the early sunrise in Lexington

A blue heron gracefully glides over the ice on Jacobson Lake

A blue heron gracefully glides over the ice on Jacobson Lake

February snow in Horse Farm Country

February snow in Horse Farm Country

A turkey vulture spotted in a neighborhood takes flight

A turkey vulture spotted in a neighborhood takes flight

Seagulls in flight over Puget Sound in Washington

Seagulls in flight over Puget Sound in Washington

Gazing away on a lovely autumn morning

Gazing away on a lovely autumn morning

Tacoma Narrows Bridge at sunset

Tacoma Narrows Bridge at sunset

A lilac blossom prepares to bloom

A lilac blossom prepares to bloom

Geese landing in the water at sunrise

Geese landing in the water at sunrise

Morning Dove as seen from a downtown office window in Lexington

Morning Dove as seen from a downtown office window in Lexington

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Foggy Sunrise as seen from Delong Road near Lexington

Foggy Sunrise as seen from Delong Road near Lexington

Rocky Mountains of Colorado as seen from a plane

Rocky Mountains of Colorado as seen from a plane

The eyes of a metal sculpture glow with the sunrise -- taken at Singletary Center on University of Kentucky Campus

The eyes of a metal sculpture glow with the sunrise — taken at Singletary Center on University of Kentucky Campus

Lovely clouds at sunset over Lexington

Lovely clouds at sunset over Lexington

Sunburst over Jacobson Lake

Sunburst over Jacobson Lake

Nature's Art as seen from above a tulip in bloom

Nature’s Art as seen from above a tulip in bloom

Mt. Rainier in Washington

Mt. Rainier in Washington

Countdown 365: #344 – Enjoying the Ride on the Open Road

Duck Lake Rd MT 464-X2One of my favorite pastimes is driving on the open roads of America. There is something about the freedom of the highways that attracts me.  I can be driving through a bleak desert or in the mountains or in the high plains and it is always the same.  More joy points.

Some people hate long drives.  They get uncomfortable.  They want to get I 80 near Green River WY June 2013-X2out and relax.  But for me, driving on the open roads IS relaxing. The view is always changing.  Wildlife may be in the distance.  Unique buildings. Mountains and hills. The variety is astounding.

I love the excitement and anticipation of what might be seen over the next hill or around the next bend. Maybe there will be a spacious view of a lake

Road in Ontario

in the distance, or maybe just a narrow canyon to drive through with towering walls of basalt on both sides of the road.  Either way, it is wonderful. And this is what I refer to as enjoying the ride.

I have driven on gravel roads for miles with the sounds of small rocks banging on the bottom of the car and dust flying out behind me. In the 1930s that is what most of the roads were probably like.

Following is a selection of some of my favorite “road scenes”.  My joy rides if you will.

Alturas Creek Rd ID June 2013-X2ID 32 S towards Driggs-X2Gravel road E of Craig CO June 2013-X2CrabOrchardKY-X2Grand Loop Rd Yellowstone-X2E on US 64 S of Raton NM June 2013-X2I 15 S near Kevin MT-X2Entering Salida CO June 2013-X2The open roads are most certainly one of my many blessings.


Media #TBT – Arizona Living Magazine 1983

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

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

In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for a company called Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I was blessed with the opportunity to take hundreds of people all over northern Arizona to places like Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, Sedona and a number of national parks and monuments. (more about this on my Less Beaten Paths Blog in a #TBT special post)

In 1983 I had a writer named Lea Lundberg from Arizona Living Magazine take a tour with us and she wrote a nice 2 page spread about it, including a number of quotes from me.  Following is a Flipbook with the actual article from July 1983. (Note that I am using a demo version of Flipbook Software, so there will be an obnoxious ad in the middle…)

[flipbook id=”1″]

2014 – Year in Review: Livin’ the Dream

IMG_4063The year 2014 was a marvelous year for me.  As with all years of life, there are always ups and downs, and this year was no exception.  But, I always strive to take a positive vent on things (as much as possible) and there was much positive that happened this year.  Following is my retrospective view on 2014…the Good, the Bad and the Wonderful (no Ugly here…sorry!).  I really was living the dream!


I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

I made this 35 year banner for Facebook

Celebrated my 35th Wedding Anniversary

35 Years of "Merried" Life

35 Years of “Merried” Life

July 15, 2014 was a momentous day in my life as I celebrated the 35th anniversary of wedded bliss with my sweet eternal companion Julianne. Even now I am awestruck at how she has put up with me all of these years.  My quirkiness, my playfulness and yes, my more often than occasional thoughtless foot-in-mouth disease.

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

I love hanging around with my BEST friend

Julianne has been a wonderful example to me and, in the words of my favorite musician Antsy McClain, I truly “Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream”

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

Julianne and David have enjoyed 35 years!

First grandchild baptism

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

Grampz and Kade on Baptism Day

In late May we got to go to Montana to attend the first baptism of any of my grandchildren. This was a wonderful event as Kade Matthews was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am proud of this little guy with a big heart and wonderful spirit.  There will be more baptisms coming in the future, but the first is always wonderful

Seeing ALL of the children and grandchildren

Our family has spread out across the United States (literally coast to coast!), thus making it difficult to see them all at one time.  Not since Christmas 2012 have we all been together.  However, as of Christmas 2014, we were able to spend time with all of the children and grandchildren at one point or another.

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

With 5 of the Grandkidz at Christmas 2014

  • Amaree – Our oldest was living in Shelby, Montana the last time we got to visit her and her family (including husband Aaron and four children – Kade (8), Charlie (7), Olivia (5) and Benson (3))  We were blessed to visit them in May for Kade’s baptism and also spent some time traveling in Montana with them.  It was a wonderful time. In October, they moved further west to Port Orchard, Washington in a job transfer for Aaron. They are loving their new place and I am hoping to be able to go out there and visit in 2015 for Charlie’s baptism.
  • Grampz with Amaree's children.  Fun to see Livvy, Charlie, Kade and Benson

    Grampz with Amaree’s children. Fun to see Livvy, Kade, Charlie and Benson

  • Marissa – Our second daughter Marissa still lives nearby in Lexington.  It is always fun to see her sweet family (including husband Adam and three children – Joselyn (7), Landen (6) and Lyla (3)). It has been a blessing to have them nearby and have the opportunity to hang with those sweet grandkids! Marissa’s wonderful talent as a photographer and videographer always continues to impress.
  • Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Enjoying time with Autumn, Joselyn and Landen

    Fun with Lyla

    Fun with Lyla

  • Chelsea – Our third daughter Chelsea also lives in Lexington and we get to see her and our oldest grandchild Autumn (9) quite often. Chelsea recently became engaged to Jorge Mendez and is excited about the opportunity to go to Mexico and visit his family in 2015. She continues to do well on her job as a manager at a local Wendy’s restaurant.
  • Seth – Our oldest son Seth lives in Vernon, Connecticut.  He and his wife Holly and son Rockwell (4) have been busy in life, Seth with his engineering job at GE and Holly with her business “Cutting It Cute.”  We really had lost hope of seeing them in 2014, but, they surprised us in late December with a Christmas visit and it was amazing to see us.  They shared some other exciting news (coming soon).  With their visit we finally got to see ALL of our children and grandchildren this year.
  • Three Generations of Kravetz...David, Rockwell and Seth

    Three Generations of Kravetz…David, Rockwell and Seth

  • Solomon – Our youngest son Solomon moved out to Colorado to join some friends in a joint business venture.  Though times have been challenging, the business seems to be picking up steam.  Sol visited us earlier in the year for a couple of days.  It was good to see him and hear of his progress.  He has remained upbeat and seems to be finally finding his pathway in life.  We are proud of him.
  • Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

    Its Sol Good with Mom and Dad

Kravetz Family Reunion

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Kravetz Family Reunion 2014

Another great highlight this year was a Kravetz family reunion, held in Galveston, Texas in late June 2014. Though not all were able to attend, I was happy to meet with my sister Sherry and her family, my step-dad Joe, my Uncle Lou and his wife Toni, and many of my cousins.  It was a wonderful four days on the beautiful island of Galveston.  On the way back home I spent an evening at my Uncle Lou’s house in Houston and then a day with my cousin Lewis in Austin, finally finishing up in Keller, Texas with my sister Sherry and her family and my dad, before heading home.

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

Visiting with my Dad in Keller, Texas

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry's daughter)

With my cute niece Savannah Blessing (Sherry’s daughter)

Extensive Travel Opportunities

Welcome to Louisiana

Welcome to Louisiana in 2014

As noted above, in 2014 I was able to travel to Montana and also to southern Texas. As is typically the case, I drove and made a vacation/blogging trip out of these.  During the year I visited 18 states and drove close to 10,000 miles in road trip travel (not counting local Kentucky travel).  Detailed blog posts on my travels can be seen on my Less Beaten Paths blog (see actual post HERE). But, I will note below some of my “Bucket List” locations that I was able to check off.

Visiting Oklahoma

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014

  • Paul Bunyan Statue in Bemidji, MN – I have wanted to visit here since I was 8 or 9 and first saw it in a LIFE travel book back in the 1960s. Finally made it in May 2014! (see blog post)
  • Beartooth Highwayon the border of Wyoming and Montana – Supposedly one of the most spectacular mountain drives in America, it has been on my list for many years.  I made it (just barely) on Memorial Day weekend in late May 2014.  I got there a couple days after it was opened for the season and there was still piles of snow. It will leave me with everlasting memories of the beauty of this earth. (see blog post)
  • Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska – One of the “Car Sculpture” places I had hoped to visit, I was able to get here on my way from Montana in late May. It was a fabulous visit! (see blog post)
  • Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

    Visiting Carhenge in Alliance, NE

  • Traversing US Highway 2 across northern US – Though this is still a Bucket List item (since I have east coast to Michigan and then western Montana to Washington coast remaining), I was able to knock off a big chunk of the 2,571 mile highway as I drove from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Browning, Montana (about 1,171 miles) (see blog post)
  • Didn't matter which way.  Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

    Didn’t matter which way. Had a great time. (This is in Lake Jackson, TX by the way)

  • Travel the “Blues Highway” in Mississippi – Another of my “Bucket List” trips, I had hoped to someday travel US Highway 61 north to south in Mississippi.  I was able to do this (see blog post)
On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

On the Blues Highway in Mississippi

Meeting New Friends and Old Friends

This past year provided me with the opportunity to visit a couple of old friends from the past and also opportunities to meet a few “new” friends from Facebook and otherwise. Also wonderful and fun to continue old relationships and to also create and foster new ones!  Here are a few:

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

Visiting with musician friend Antsy McClain (and gawking at his grandchild pix) just before a show in Ohio

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

A visit with my friend Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Hanging out with Texas travel blogger, author and photographer Tui Snider in Azle, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Got to visit with old friend Brian Gavron in Austin, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs' fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Having BBQ with my old friend and fellow Troubs’ fan Michael Fisher in Georgetown, TX

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Got to meet Troy Landry from Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Visiting my fellow Flamingohead Tiffany in Ohio

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Waving to the world with new friend, Texas author and ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie Tucker in Denton, TX

Building My Own Business

As reentering the work force has gotten more difficult for me due to my age and extensive experience, I really dug in hard this year to build my own business, Sumoflam Productions, and really strived to make it on my own (coupled with Julianne’s work at University of Kentucky). After learning WordPress through my blogging, I have been able to expand my expertise  and indeed was able to build the business throughout the year with new clients and partnerships. I worked hard to learn more skills and have successfully built a number of sites this year in the WordPress platform. Following are a few of the sites I have done and manage now:

There are a number more and all can be seen listed at My Sumoflam Productions Site

Also during the year I was contracted for website work and broadcast monitoring for Blue Million with monitoring internet broadcasts of the PRCA Rodeo and other broadcasts on the Wrangler Network.

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

Working the Great American Rivalry Series

And America’s largest marketing producer of high school rivalry football games, The Great American Rivalry Series contracted me to manage their social media, arrange and monitor broadcasts and also manage and update their website during the 2014 high school football season. We did 100 games this year and that made for a busy few months at the end of the year. It was a wonderfully busy time.

Sumoflam in the News

In 2014 I was asked to write a couple of articles for local press.  These were both fun adventures.  The first one was about the playground at Jacobson Park. (See Entire Article here).  I wrote the article and also provided the photos.

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014.  My article about Jacobson Park

Hamburg Journal, Sept 2014. My article about Jacobson Park

In November I was asked to write an article about the murals and wall art in Lexington for Ace Weekly magazine. This article was posted online in December and may appear in their end of the year issue.  They also included a complete photo gallery of my photos of Lexington’s amazing street art.

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Ace Weekly online edition in December 2014

Also, in December, I was involved with Lexington Nativity Festival, which was sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I managed the website and the media relations for the event. The Lexington Herald-Leader photographer Pablo Alcala out to do some shots and I was included in this and the newspaper gallery in late December.


Nativity Festival Gallery featured in Lexington Herald-Leader. Photos were by Pablo Alcala

A Few More Odds and Ends

I got to visit with my cousin Lewis Goldstein a couple of times in 2014.  Once was a sad affair at the loss of my uncle Jay Goldstein, who passed away in Louisville.  I also got to spend some time with Lewis at his home in Austin after the family reunion in Galveston.  Always good to visit with one of my favorite cousins!

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

Got to visit with my cousin Lewis a couple of times in 2014

In 2014 I really kicked my blogging and photography into full gear.  I had 38 posts on my Less Beaten Paths blog (and over 50,000 page views during the year).  I also posted 20 posts on this blog and have had nearly 5000 page views this year. Between my travel photos and local photos, I had nearly 500 selfies (HA HA….I love these iPhones!).  I also took well over 5000 photos of travels, family, sunrises and sunsets, birds, squirrels, bison, antelope, murals, wall art, sculptures and more. I had nearly 3700 views of my photos on my SmugMug Photo site. I will be doing a post about my favorite photos of 2014 in early January 2015.

My SmugMug Photo site

My SmugMug Photo site

Overall, this was an amazing year.  I am grateful for all of the blessings, all of the adventures and all of the family and friends.

Life is Good

Life is Good


Tui Snider’s New Book “Paranormal Texas” is now out! Reviews are in!

TuiMy good friend and fellow travel blogger Tui Snider has recently published and released her second book this year. (See my post about her first one HERE).  Just in time for Halloween and the occasional hauntings, this book is a GREAT guide to some of the quirky, offbeat and unique haunted places, graveyards and spooky retreats in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Why creep around at night when so many haunted places in north Texas are open to the public & active during the day? Tui Snider explains the intriguing stories behind some of the paranormal activity in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, and she also gives directions to these places so you can visit them first hand. Here are a few.

*Serial killer’s grave where EVP’s are common
*Amusement park with a haunted candy store
*Country graveyard with a glowing tombstone
*Haunted hotel where a university teaches ghost hunting
*Elevator that opens by itself when pretty women walk by
*Historic cemetery where people get orbs in broad daylight
*Ghost town with an operatic apparition
*B&B with a ghost who is protective of women
*Theater that kept its ghost in mind when remodeling
*Historic town squares where every shop has a ghost

Tui2Tui is also currently offering a Trick or Treat Giveaway and she’s lowered the price on the Kindle version of Paranormal Texas to a mere 99 cents during the Book Release Trick-or-Treat Giveaway. On November 1st, the price pops back up to $4.99. For more details, visit her page about the Giveaway.

I know Tui personally and know the time and effort she takes for research is impeccable.  You can rest assured that this book is packed with great information.

Sumoflam with Tui Snider

Sumoflam with Tui Snider


A number of folks have submitted their comments already:

Diana Coffin – Graves County, Kentucky: “I love this book.  I was just dying to learn more about the unique cemetery stories.”

Carrie Noe Cash – Tightwad, Missouri: “I usually don’t go out of my way to pay for a book online, but this one piqued my interest so I dropped my 99 cents and got it.  Well worth every dollar I spent! Gonna save my pennies and maybe take a trip to Texas.”

Perry Normal – Uncertain, Texas: “I was not certain why Ms. Snider didn’t visit Uncertain to learn about our “Swamp Thing,” but she certainly had some other great stories, especially the one with the orbs in the cemetery! We get those here too.  Maybe her next book can be on the Paranormal in East Texas.”

Rufos Realle – Roswell, New Mexico: “Living with the paranormal daily in UFO central, I found this book to be a wonderful break from the other-worldly appearances here in Roswell.”

Ima Gooly – Boring, Oregon: “Ms Snider has brought excitement to my life.  I have sought to find a new nesting place for my snakes and lizards.  I plan on moving to Fort Worth and spending my time visiting these hauntingly familiar places and hopefully discovering a few of my own.”

Angelica Diablo – Hell, Michigan: “Books on the Paranormal and Ghostly are like arrows, happy is the GothGirl that has her quiver full of them! Thanks Tui for providing me a new and hellaciously yummy book!”

Check out my Travel Blog – Less Beaten Paths

If you subscribe to this blog, you will notice that I haven’t posted in a while.  That is because I have a complete Travel Blog now at http://lessbeatenpaths.com.  You can see many of my recent trips and there are links to older trips from my other blogs as well.

I will continue to post to this blog occasionally as I move it to a new theme.

Thanks for following!!


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

Three Days in Wisconsin – Day 2

Three Days in Wisconsin

(Finding Some Unusual

August 3-6, 2012

Day 2 – Jurustic Park, Chain Saw Totem
Forest, Hodag and a giant badger

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz


Aug 5, 2012:
We were up bright and early in Wassau, WI, ready to pursue what promised to be
an exciting and fun day…but a really long one.  This day included my planned
highlight of the trip…a visit to the famed
Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. 
This place is a bit complicated to get to, but VERY well worth the drive. 
From Wassau, we headed west on State Highway 29, which we followed all the way
to State Highway 97 which we took all the way into Stratford. From there we went
west again on State Highway 153 until we got to County Rd E.  From there we
went South again.


Along the way, there is always plenty to
see…barns, farmland, strange places…here are a few of the scenes along the
way to Jurustic Park


An old bus in the trees, Killdeer Rd (must be some good roadkill!!),
a church steeple beyond the corn fields, and an old barn (I love old barns)


We continued south after crossing over County Rd C.  Soon
thereafter the road made a fairly sharp Left and then veered to the Right again. 
After crossing over a small river, we eventually came to Sugar Bush Lane on the
right.  This is a loop road, though we took the second entry to it. Either
one will get you there and you will definitely see the sculptures off to your


Jurustic Park is the brainchild of former
attorney Clyde Wynia, who calls himself a paleontologist. In reality, he has
taken to doing metal work and welding of a hundreds of critters, which, he
claims (in his paleontologist hat), were many of the “extinct creatures that
inhabited the large McMillan Marsh near Marshfield during the Iron Age.” 
He claims to have discovered these creatures and has worked to get them back
together.  Wisconsin Public Television has a
from an interview they did with him in April 2011…its a good



Jurustic Park Welcome Sign…Sumoflam with “Paleontologist” Clyde
Wynia…learning about one of his many discoveries


Needless to say, I took well over 100
photos of the work there.  It was amazing…I will have a special edition
on my Less Beaten Paths
just about this place.  In the meantime, here are a few fun photos
of the place.



The Mailbox..you can’t miss it.  No smoking sign “The Butt
Stops Here”


L-R: An attorney, a Dragon and a Hobbit giving a thumbs up.


Two views of the centerpiece — a giant 18 foot tall dragon

“Designed as an Army Dragon, but now a Navel Dragon–see outie on


“Down Payment on a Horse” and a befuddled frog



A guitar strumming frog and a “Petuna” Planter



Some toothy grins…


Attacking Fish







Tools of the trade


Clyde Wynia – Paleontologist founder of Jurustic Park

Jurustic Park, Marshfield, WI

While we were at Jurustic Park, there was a group of 50 somthings
that pulled up in their Corvettes, all parked in his very small parking lot. 
Was fun to see my classy car parked alongside all of the Vettes…


Mine is the car that is NOT a Corvette!!

After about an hour and half long visit being serenaded by Clyde
and his marvelous stories and antics, it was time to get back on the road again.
We again headed northwest towards Colby, WI.  Yes, THAT Colby, famous for
Colby cheddar.  We were all excited to get there and get some fresh cheese,
and hopefully, fresh squeaky cheese curds.  We did make it to Colby, but
alas, there are no longer any cheese factories there and you cannot get fresh
Colby cheddar in town (or so we were told….).  But the water tower makes
you think you’ll get some….


“Original” Home of Colby Cheese…none there any longer


After filling up with gas, we found some packaged cheese from a
factory 12 miles away.  That would have to do <sigh>.  We then
continued on our merry way north on State Highway 13 to our next unusual
destination near Medford, WI.  Once in Medford we had to get on Highway 64
and head west, which we took all the way to County High E.  From there we
made a right turn (North) and followed it all the way to County Highway M. 
We then made a left turn at County Highway M (West). 


I must note that along the way we saw some interesting things….



Fuzzy’s General Store and Bait Shop
, A
Bathtub road marker and an Amish Road Sign….


We continued past Mondeux Dr (on the left) and County E (on the right) and proceeded about another
mile.  The next sight was visible as could be on the left, just before
Forest Rd and the entrance to the Chequamegon National Forest.  So, what
were we looking for in this wooded area of Wisconsin?  Nothing other than
the forest of Chain Saw Totem Poles!!



The unique chainsaw mailbox sits at the entrance to Gordy Lekies
Chainsaw Totem Pole Forest


A guy by the name of “Chainsaw Gordy” Lekies created this unusual
piece of artwork and chainsaw collection as early as 2007. Gordy is a timber
harvester by trade in the Medford area.  He has over 400 chainsaws
collected and they are all now on display in poles on his property next to
Highway M.



Over 20 telephone polls are now displaying hundreds of old



There is still a pile of them waiting for a telephone pole
home…the guy on the right is some of Gordy’s chain saw art


We next proceeded back east on County Highway M towards the “Cranberry
” in hopes of seeing a real Cranberry Bog and maybe getting some
Cranberry goodies (Cranberry Cheese???).  We continued along Highway M
until we hit Forks Rd., turned left and headed north, which eventually got us to
the Cranberry Trail.  My disappointment was that there were no promotional
signs or anything, so we just drove up and down the road until we found what we
were looking for.



We did find the Cranberry Trail, some of which turns into a dirt
road, as shown above.


Finally found the

Copper River Cranberry Company
facility, along with a non-descript bog
behind it. 

No Cranberries and Copper River was closed (it was a Sunday mind


Though the Cranberry Trail was a disappointment, we still had
plenty to do.  We proceeded towards our next main stop,

Rhinelander, WI
. Along the way up US 51, we found more novelties and even
found a Tomahawk…that’s the name of a town.



Butt Hutt BBQ, a Giant Moose at Road Lake Pub and Grill (though not nearly as
the big Moose
in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

(famous for the
Tomahawk Fall Ride
) and

The Wilderness Pole
sculpture in downtown Tomahawk.

This wood carving, standing in the middle of a boulevard, depicts
a northwoodsy scene involving bears, fish, eagles and a loon.


continued North on US 51 until we hit US 8 and then headed east toward
Rhinelander, also known as the “Heart of Hodag Country.”  What, pray tell,
is a Hodag? There is a great unique writeup

. According to the Rhinelander website,

the Hodag is a mysterious woodland creature that makes its home
in the Rhinelander Area.

Why the Hodag is only found in the Rhinelander Area is not
certain. However, many people believe that it is the clean lakes, dense forests
and incredible natural beauty that ties the Hodag to the Rhinelander Area. 
The photos below are of the Hodag statue in front of the Chamber of Commerce:



famous Hodag of Rhinelander, WI


Rhinelander we continued on US 8 towards Monico.  Along the way we found
more fun stuff…totally by happenstance:



and behold…a Graffiti Trailer, a HUGE painted Rock and



Monico we visited the “Rhinelapus
statue, which appears to be an attempt to play on the fame of the Hodag. It was
all fenced in and difficult to get a photo.  It is like a huge three-clawed
tree monster. In any case, it was not nearly as impressive to me as the Hodag.


Monico we headed south on US 45 as we worked on winding up our long eventful
day.  Soon we came upon the small burg of Birnamwood, WI.  There
really is not much there, but we did come across what appears to be the world’s
largest Badger Statue, ironically greets you at the Northern Exposure Strip
Club.  Forget the club…but don’t forget the badger.  You can read
the whole story on Roadside America
We also saw Chet & Emil’s with a large Chicken in town.


Giant Badger of Birnamwood…Chet & Emil’s Broaster Chicken


Perhaps our biggest surprise came as we approached Wittenberg, WI…a huge
expansive field of sunflowers in full bloom.  These were absolutely amazing
and, as the sun was heading down, the shadows were awesome.  I took about
50 photos.  Here are a few:







To be
honest, it is the wonderful surprises like these that make back road traveling
so much fun.  This sunflower field reminded me of a time in Ontario when I
came across an expansive tulip field near Woodstock (see
the photos on this page



More barns on the road towards Seymour, WI


final stop of the day before heading into Green Bay for the evening, was in
Seymour, purported
home of the hamburger.




Statue of
Charles Nagreen
(1870-1951), who put ground beef patties in a bun and began
calling them Hamburgers back in 1885. 

Notice the Hamburger Planters!!  Click on his name or photo to read the
entire story.


learning about the beefy hamburger, we had one last surprise waiting for us on
the road to Green Bay.  Not cheese, not Packers…but Buffalo…  We
saw these buffalo on State Highway 54 heading east out of Seymour. Apparently
owned by Maass Farms,
these buffalo (or bison) are destined for the food chain.  But, they still
looked majestic, even in their pens.



Maass Farms Bison near Seymour, WI


was a long day and we finally made it into the Quality Inn in Green Bay…tired
yet fulfilled from a fun day of back road adventures.


Wisconsin Road
Trip – Day 1:Beef, Cheese, Mustard and a
Grumpy Troll

Wisconsin Road Trip – Day 3: Green Bay, Lambeau Field and Door
County Peninsula


Some roadside guidance provided by……


 See more of
Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

Visit Sumoflam’s “Less
Beaten Paths
” blog for more interesting places


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

Three Days in Wisconsin (Finding Some Unusual Things!!)

Three Days in Wisconsin

(Finding Some Unusual

August 3-6, 2012

Day 1 – Beef, Cheese, Mustard and a
Grumpy Troll

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz


Aug 3, 2012:
It was a rare occasion, an
opportunity to take a vacation.  My daughter Chelsea wanted a road
trip…she wanted her daughter Autumn to experience a “Grampz Style” road trip. 
So, on this long weekend in August, the three of us hopped in the Town Car and
embarked on a trip to Wisconsin. The goal of the trip was to hit some of south
central Wisconsin, see some “roadside attractions” and then drive to Green Bay
and up the Door County Peninsula and then back to Lexington. We drove on Friday
evening to cut off some of the long drive to Wisconsin, with an overnight stay
in Avon, Indiana. Following is the map of our trip.  Following is a map of
our trip from Lexington to Wisconsin and back.


General map of our 4 day trip – Lexington;
Avon, IN; Covington, IN; Champaign, IL; Middleton, WI;

Marshfield, Medford, Tomahawk,
Rhinelander, Seymour, Green Bay, Egg Harbor, Gibraltor and then to Hebron, IN


Aug 4, 2012:
A quick night’s rest in Avon and then on the road to Wisconsin.  Along the
way we made a few stops.  For fun, I was wearing a “Wear’s the Beef?”
t-shirt that Chelsea had given me from Wendy’s.  I had planned to do this
for a stop later in the day, but it worked out really well for our first stop,
which we just so happened to see off of the freeway, near Covington, IN. 
There is a place called the
Beef House Restaurant,
which is apparently famous for its yeast rolls.  We were way too early to
eat there, but I could not resist getting a photo with the sign!!


I think I found the beef!!


After the quick photo-op stop in Covington, we headed west towards the first
scheduled stop — to see the large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Noodle statue in
Champaign, IL. Yes, this is a Wisconsin trip so we needed some cheesiness, and
we got it first in Illinois!!  Though a novelty roadside attraction for
someone like me, this is actually part of a
serious advertising
begun by Kraft Foods in 2010.  These 20 foot long, 9 foot tall
Noodle replicas have been placed in landmark areas such as

Fisherman’s Wharf

Wrigley Field
.  They also have one at their plant in Champaign, IL. 
Once we found the location, we noticed we could drive into the employee parking
lot  and walk right up to the noodle to get photos. Now that makes for a
Beefy Mac and Cheese (with my where’s the beef shirt!!). Here are a couple of



Kraft’s “You know you love it.” giant noodle statue. Map to this
location is below.

Kraft Factory in Champaign, IL

While in Champaign we decided to make a stop at the
Curtis Orchard. My
main reason was because of the huge Indian Statue (see below), but as we got
there, we found a number of other treasures.  The orchard has pretty much
turned the place into a Wizard of Oz themed attraction, including a Flying
Monkey Cafe!!  We stopped for photos, some apple cider and other goodies
and even followed the Yellow Brick Road!!


Chelsea and Autumn enjoy the Giant Rocking chair and find their way on the
Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchard in Champaign, IL


The Indian Archer, aka The Chief, was originally located in Danville, IL. 
The 17 foot tall copper statue was built

in 1949 for Herb Drew’s Plumbing and Heating.  When the business closed in
1994, the owner’s grandson

moved the Indian to the Curtis Orchard.  Apparently, the statue represents
Kesis, a famous Kickapoo Indian from Illinois.

The photo on the right is a large silo with a representation of the tin



This is painted on a barn door (notice the lock in the middle.  I am in the
picture to provide a size comparison.


Well, we have had the beef, the cheese and some fruit….time for some Mustard!! 
From Champaign, we headed north towards Wisconsin to get to the famous Mustard
Museum.  However, along the way, we ran into another unexpected
treat…another of the many Wind Farms that I have come across in my travels. 
This one is called the Twin
Groves Wind Farm
. The Wind Farm features over 240 turbines across 22,000
acres of land. It generates over 396 megawatts, enough to meet the energy needs
of about 120,000 homes. In my travels I have seen these in California, Kansas,
Ontario, Montana, Illinois, North Dakota and more.  They are always
fascinating.  I really love a couple of the shots I got of these because of
the mingling with the corn fields of Illinois.  Autumn and Chelsea were
stunned by the size of these towering wind turbines.



A few of the over 240 Turbines in the Twin Groves Wind Farm


Onward north up Interstate 39 out of Normal, IL towards Madison, WI, we made our
into Middleton, which is situated northwest of Madison on the Beltline. 
Originally built and housed in Mt. Horeb, WI (see
my original writeup on a visit there here
), the
National Mustard Museum
has moved to much bigger digs in Middleton.  There they now have a nice two
story facility with everything you ever wanted to learn about Mustard, but were
afraid to ask…or taste. According to the official Mustard Museum website,

National Mustard Museum began
the “Mount Horeb Mustard Museum” when its founder & curator, Barry Levenson,
started collecting mustards on October 27, 1986. The story of the Mustard Museum
traces its roots to a late night visit to an all-night grocery when Barry heard
a deep, resonant voice as he passed the mustards:
you collect us, they will come.” 

Currently the National Mustard Museum houses over 5400 varieties of Mustard from
around the world as well as hundreds of pieces of Mustard Memorabilia. 
Also, the place offers degrees from Poupon U.  I now have three degrees
from there (snicker).  Ironically, we so happened to arrive on National
Mustard Day!!  What a kick!


National Mustard Museum — Founder Barry
Levenson on the left along with his fancy glitter headed employee.



Barry’s mustard inspired art work “The
First 27 Virtues of Mustard”.  Barry studied under Professor Elbert
Culpepper at the new

museum of Crappy Art in Flushinghard, VA.



Got Mustard?



A couple of the 1000s of varieties
available for sale.



I think this is the only Mustard Vending
Machine anywhere…and, if you like bacon, you can also get your fix a the NMM.



Mustard displays aplenty…the one on the
left is to show the variety of containers available.

On the right are varieties produced in
every state in the US.



Welcome to Poupon U…you can actually get
a diploma while there. The diploma above is the MBA degree.



There is an official “Poupon U
dumping station” — I made a donation!!

The restrooms feature “Plochman’s
Mustard Bottle” Soap Dispensers


After being mustarded away, we were back
on the road meandering our way towards
Mt. Horeb
Chelsea was excited about Mt. Horeb due to its famed troll statues. 
Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a
along Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road.
Many of these were created by local artist
Michael Feeney. We
found a few on our visit…. 

Click here for a nice map
of the town, with all of the trolls and other



Welcome sign.  This scrap metal dragon on the right was
created by Wally Keller, a nearby resident. 

I visited his menagerie a number of years ago near Vermont, WI. 
See my link at




Open House Imports is full of troll goodies…Moonhill Mercantile
has a cool looking sign


These three trolls reside at Open House Imports


Some of the trolls of Mt. Horeb – A small troll from the shop; a
new one in town; “Sweet Swill”; another nameless one


Two views of the “Peddler Troll”


We finished off our visit and pretty much our day by grabbing
some grub at the “Grumpy
“, a local pub, brewery and dining establishment.


‘Nuff said…and shown!!


Wisconsin Road Trip – Day 2: Jurustic Park, Chain Saw Totem
Forest, Hodag and a giant badger

Wisconsin Road Trip – Day 3: Green Bay, Lambeau Field and Door
County Peninsula


Some roadside guidance provided by……


 See more of
Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

Visit Sumoflam’s “Less
Beaten Paths
” blog for more interesting places


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
, “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


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

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.