Countdown 365: #357 – Explorers in the Age of Discovery

Christopher Columbus in a park near my birthplace in Little Italy, in Cleveland

Christopher Columbus in a park near my birthplace in Little Italy, in Cleveland

Today is Columbus Day 2015. When I think of Columbus Day, obviously thoughts of Christopher Columbus come first. But ultimately, I think far beyond him and think about many of the other great explorers that reached out to the world especially in the age of discovery in the 1400s and some even earlier than that.

I am grateful for the bravery, vision and wanderlust in these individuals.  Certainly, they all took risks and many of them went exploring for their respective royalty, who paid them well in hopes of gold and in hopes of converting souls to their version of Christianity.

On this day I see many derogatory remarks about Columbus on Facebook, and perhaps some of it is true.  But, we cannot discount the efforts he made to reach out, as did many others.

A few that I am grateful to have studied and learned about….

A statue of Leif Erikson in Duluth, MN on the shores of Lake Superior

A statue of Leif Erikson in Duluth, MN on the shores of Lake Superior

Leif Erikson (b. ca 970 – d. ca 1020): Leif comes from Viking heritage and was likely born in Iceland, though he also lived in Greenland. Around 999 AD he made his way to what is currently known as Newfoundland, but did a great deal of exploring, eventually calling the land Vinland.

According to the stories written in the 1200s, he gathered a crew of thirty-five men, and mounted an expedition towards the land he had heard about from a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson described. Leif’s father Erik the Red was set to join him but dropped out after he fell from his horse on his way to set sail, an incident he interpreted as a bad omen. Leif followed Bjarni’s route in reverse and landed first in a rocky and desolate place he named Helluland (Flat-Rock Land; possibly Baffin Island). After venturing further by sea, he landed the second time in a forested place he named Markland (Forest Land; possibly Labrador). Finally, after two more days at sea, he landed in a luscious place with plentiful stores of salmon. As winter approached, he decided to encamp there for the winter, and broke his party into two groups – one to remain at camp and the other to explore the lands. After discovering grapes and vineyards, he named the land Vinland.

ZhengHeZheng He (1371–1433 or 1435): Zheng was a Hui court eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat, and fleet admiral during China’s early Ming dynasty. I first learned about him while in college in a Chinese History class at NAU. I was fascinated. Zheng commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. Zheng He’s fleets visited Brunei, Java, Thailand and Southeast Asia, India, the Horn of Africa, and Arabia, dispensing and receiving goods along the way.  Zheng He presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain, and silk; in return, China received such novelties as ostriches, zebras, camels, and ivory from the Swahili. The giraffe he brought back from Malindi was considered to be a qilin and taken as proof of the favor of heaven upon the administration.  He had massive ships and it was said that his fleet had over 24,000 sailors.

Zheng He ship in comparison with Columbus

Zheng He ship in comparison with Columbus’s boat

FerdinandMagellanFerdinand Magellan (c. 1480 – 27 April 1521): Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organized the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth.  From 1519 to 1521 he traveled around the world, many times facing extreme danger, bad weather and even struggled against his own Portuguese leaders.  He eventually died in the Philippines.  On March 16, 1521 Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to reach the Philippine archipelago. Magellan relied on Enrique, his Malay servant and interpreter, to communicate with the native tribes. He had been indentured by Magellan in 1511 after the colonization of Malacca, and had accompanied him through later adventures. They traded gifts with Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua who guided them to Cebu on 7 April.

The Philippine warriro Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island, Cebu

The Philippine warrior Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island, Cebu

Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards; both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians and were given the image of the Holy Child (later known as Santo Niño de Cebu) which along with a cross (Magellan’s Cross) symbolizes the Christianization of the Philippines. Afterward, Rajah Humabon and his ally Datu Zula convinced Magellan to kill their enemy, Datu Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan wanted to convert Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Humabon, but Lapu-Lapu rejected that. On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small attack force. During the resulting battle against Lapu-Lapu’s troops, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear, and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons.

Map of Magellan's travels

Map of Magellan’s travels

Ironically, I have been to Cebu (see my journals of visits in Cebu) and Mactan and visited the site where Lapu-Lapu’s troops killed Magellan. I am grateful to have set foot in a place where this famed explorer went.

Kids on an ship replia in Jamestown, VA

Kids on an ship replia in Jamestown, VA

These four explorers, as well as other greats such as Marco Polo (whom I will have a separate post on), Lewis and Clark (also a separate post) and John Wesley Powell (yet another post) have always meant a lot to me.

I love to travel and am thankful for the spirit of wanderlust and adventure borne into me. Like, Columbus, Magellan, Zheng and Erikson, I seek after new and unique places.  It is a different world today, but I have still been blessed to experience some of the same things – the smells and sights of China, the Philippines and Japan. The varied landscapes of the United States and Canada. The oceans and Great Lakes.

Visiting the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Philippines in 2005

Visiting the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Philippines in 2005

Truly, I have been blessed with the spirit of adventure and I am grateful to be able to walk the paths and read the stories of their encounters.  They have made the world a smaller place.

 

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″]

Coming Soon to Sumoflam Singlewide Blog – 2015

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

As 2015 has already come on strong, I already have plans in the works for new blog posts and, honestly, I can’t wait, so I thought I would pop in a little teaser of what to expect over the next few weeks:

#TBT Posts

Cartoon2

Cartoon from Oita Godo Shinbun (Oita Daily News – Japan)

The #TBT (Throwback Thursday) movement is getting bigger and I have already boarded that train on my Less Beaten Paths Travel Blog as I look back at old travel journal entries that are now going to be integrated into the blog.  For this particular blog in 2015 my #TBT Theme will be “Sumoflam in the Media” and I will resurrect magazine articles, newspaper articles, television shows and commercials that I have been in over the years.

 

 

 

Second Mesa, AZ

Cover article for the Asahi Solar Magazine – Me with Hopi Indians, providing a Solar Water Heater to them in 1990.

In this I will include my short-lived TV documentaries from Japan, translated versions of my newspaper column while living in Japan, more recent publications in American Magazines and Newspapers. And, there may be a few other fun surprises.  Watch for these every Thursday (or at least every other Thursday).

A TV Food Competition Primer

FN-ShowLogo-Chopped-1920x1080I have become an avid viewer of great Food Competition programming on television, including Food Network shows such as “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “The Great Food Truck Race,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and more. While listening to judges, I have learned all sorts of interesting things from cooking styles, food names and, most interestingly, terminology such as “flavor profile” and others.  I will introduce you to some of these and try to explain them away. Appearance and taste aren’t the only winning things with these shows as many culinary experts are becoming TV stars.  I’ll introduce some of them as well.

Scampering with squirrels – a Photo-Essay

DSC_5838Over the last couple of years I have become enamored with squirrels!  Through all of my wildlife photography, I have captured some great squirrel shots.  At the same time, as I look out by back deck door I have thoroughly enjoyed the amazing shows that squirrels present including their leaping, their frolicking with others and their foraging.  My fascination is seemingly endless.

How to be “Awesome, but getting better”

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

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

I have become known for replying “I’m awesome, but getting better” when asked how I’m doing.  I am a firm believer in trying to take a positive vent on things and be resilient.

Life may be hard, but the attitude one takes can really be life changing. I enjoy every day of life despite the stresses, challenges and obstacles thrown at me. I hope to share some of this positivity in an upcoming blog post.

The Joys of Being a Grandparent

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

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

My nickname is “Grampz” to my Grandkidz.  We are all hip…we use the letter Z at the end.

I never dreamed of having 9 (and maybe more) grandchildren.

I may have been an OK parent, but I like to believe I am a Helluva grandparent!

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!

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS

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.

NativityFest

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

 

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

Creating a Successful April Fools Prank




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

G-Mail April Fools 2011

G-Mail April Fools 2011

Make It Plausible

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

A Bunch of Bull

A Bunch of Bull

Basics of My Prank

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

Is it Normal?

The Story and the Prank

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

Tingwall Sign

Tingwall Sign

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

Sloof Lirpa

Sloof Lirpa Sign

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

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

Poupon U Certificate

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

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

Sloof Lirpa Award after some Photoshop work

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

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

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

All of this was posted on Facebook (as follows)

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

Just for fun….Caution

  Let the Embellishing Begin

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

Lagertha (from Vikings) - a Shield Maiden?

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Logo

Viking Airlines Plane

Viking Airlines Plane

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

The Giveaway – The Escape

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

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

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

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!

Happy Yad Sloof Lirpa!!

 

New Book on Texas Travel: Tui Snider – Unexpected Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel Blog

Tui Snider’s Facebook Author Page

Tui Snider’s awesome Instagram Page

Tui’s Pinterest Page

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

My Favorite Animal and Bird Photographs

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

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

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

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

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

LARGE ANIMALS FROM ALL OVER

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

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

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

Elk in Oregon

Elk in Oregon

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

Longhorn Bull - Fort Worth, Texas

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

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

Giraffes relax

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

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

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

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

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

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

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

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

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

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

Bison in Yellowstone

Bison in Yellowstone

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

SMALLER CRITTERS

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

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

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

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

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

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

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

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

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

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

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

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

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

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

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

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

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

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

BIG BIRDS, LITTLE BIRDS

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

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

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

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

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

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

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

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stare Down - taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

Stare Down – taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

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

Seagull - Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

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

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

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

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

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

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

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

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

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

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

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A robin perched on my back deck

A robin perched on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

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

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

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.