Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Five Small Town Bakeries - On US Route 6

Many small towns in America seem to have that one place where everyone shows up in the morning for coffee, conversation and a perfect, signature baked item.  On my road trip across America, I asked locals in every town to point me to that special bakery.  Here are five of the best on US Route 6:

1.  PB Boulangerie Bistro, South Wellfleet, MA; A 22 mile bike ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail deserves a reward, and there's no better treat than an authentic, flakey croissant or French pastry.  This newcomer has become an instant hit on "The Cape."

PB Boulangerie
S. Wellfleet, MA

2. Buckie's Underground Bakery, Dennis, MA; Grab a signature “Nutmeg Muffin;" dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar, it will undermine your diet for sure. No wonder the place is packed every morning.

"Nutmeg Muffin" at Buckie's Underground Bakery
Dennis, MA

3.  Danish Maid Bakery, Grinnell, IA; Do what the locals do and buy a “Coney” – a whipped-cream filled √©clair glazed with icing; The Des Moines Register named eating a Coney from Danish Maid “one of the 100 things you must do before you die."

Coney @ Danish Maid Bakery
Grinnell, IA

4. Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Caf√©, McCook, NE;; You can't leave town without trying a Bieroc - a hot calzone-like meat and cabbage pocket - or anything else that comes out of the oven in this 50 plus year old Nebraska institution.

Sehnert's Bakery and Bieroc Cafe
McCook, NE

5.  Erick Schat’s Bakery, Bishop, CA, “Home of the Original Sheepherder Bread" since 1938, Schat's is an "artisanal" bakery in the foothills of the Eastern Sierras.

Erick Schat’s Bakery, Bishop, CA


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hudson River Route 6 Shut Down For A Few Hours Due To Overturned Gravel Truck

Thanks to the techies who developed "Google Alerts" - I can keep up to date with my favorite US Route 6/ US Highway 6/ Grand Army of the Republic Highway/ Roosevelt Highway; all the names that US Route 6 goes by from Massachusetts to California.

Of late, there have been several fatalities on the road - a few pedestrians and some car accidents - most likely due to early darkness on a busy highway.

On Route 6/202 Approaching Bear Mountain Bridge
Photo from Journal News
Yesterday, however, an accident on one of my very favorite stretches of US Route 6 - the few miles out of Peekskill, NY where it pairs with Rt. 202 as it follows the wide Hudson River on curves and switchbacks through bluffs before winding down to the scenic Bear Mountain Bridge - closed the road down in both directions for a few hours.  Click on here for the newspaper and video.  A gravel truck just missed negotiating one of those turns and fell over, spewing crushed rock all over the road.  Fortunately, the driver was OK and no other vehicles were involved.

Having done that drive many times, I'm surprised that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.  It is a breathtaking section of Route 6, but can be dangerous with lots of truck traffic.  I'm including the video I took of that section of the drive below. It begins in Newtown, CT and ends just over the Bear Mountain Bridge....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Best Mom and Pop Motels on US Route 6

These days, jaded travelers might drive past a certain type of lodging - low slung, modest, parking space at the front door - believing that it's probably a no-tell-motel sleazy pay-by-the-hour type establishment.  But long ago, these roadside motels were downright luxurious compared to the tents that road trippers would set up in ubiquitous Travel Camps.  

In its heyday, you couldn't drive far on the 3,652 miles of US Route 6 without seeing one or a cluster of these motels, usually owned by a husband and wife who would do everything from make the coffee to clean the rooms.  Now, though, many of these motels have fallen into disrepair, were abandoned or have deteriorated into these pay-by-the-hour love motels. You can see the sad ruins as you drive across the country.

But some of these Mom and Pop motels have not only hung on, they have thrived.  Owned by couples who offer an inexpensive and clean option, the following motels go the "extra mile" with great service, perfect location, friendliness and amenities you'd find in higher end hotels at twice the price.

1. Sandusky, OH.  If you want a CHEAP place to stay within a few miles of Cedar Point, book a room starting at $30 at the Maples Motel, 4409 Cleveland Rd. (Route 6), Sandusky, OH (1/4 mile from east entrance of Cedar Point), 419-626-1575. Brick and not much to look at, this 24-unit motel is clean and cool and gets plenty of kudos and press for its affordability. With pool, air conditioning, cable TV, and a stones throw from one of the largest amusement parks in the US, the Maples Motel is, according to a recent Lake Erie Living article, “ a sliver of Americana capped with an orange and blue neon sign.”

The Maples Motel
Sandusky, OH
2. Glenwood Springs, CO;  For budget-conscious travelers, the best bang for the buck here is The Red Mountain Inn, 51637 U.S. Highway 6, Glenwood Springs, CO, 800-748-2565,, $66-$120 - a charming courtyard motel of a former era with clean, comfy, cute rooms and the friendliest owners around. Cottages cluster around a central driveway, creating an intimate atmosphere and low rates include free wi-fi, heated pool, hot tub, guest laundry, and a continental breakfast. All less than 2 miles from downtown.

Red Mountain Inn
Glenwood Springs, CO
3. Tonopah, NVFor wallet-watchers, Jim Butler Inn & Suites, 100 South Main St., Tonopah, NV, 775-482-3577,, $70-$95 looks like your typical roadside motel.  But inside the room, there’s a sitting area, a gas fireplace, a flat screen TV, and comfy bed with nice bedding.  The bathroom is the basic sink outside, toilet and shower behind a door kind of thing, but it's clean, very friendly and centally located to all Tonopah attractions.

Jim Butler Inn and Suites
Tonopah, NV
4. Lancaster, CAThe budget minded will be ecstatic at the Inn at Lancaster, 44131 Sierra Hwy, Lancaster, CA 661-945-8771,, $77-$87.  Lancaster identifies strongly with the what used to be Route 6, the Sierra Highway, and though most people travel through on the parallel and faster Highway 14,  the Inn at Lancaster is actually ON Sierra Highway. The Inn at Lancaster is a wonderful, clean, comfortable and pretty place with lots to offer;  a nicely landscaped outdoor pool, a complementary dinner in the early evening (ie, pizza,hamburgers), a complimentary continental breakfast, complimentary movie, fitness center, flat-screen TV’s and free Wi-Fi (always a plus). The Mom and Pop of record, Andy and Jeannie Holnberg, have a place to be proud of.

Inn of Lancaster
Lancaster, CA
Honorable Mention; 

5. Coralville, IA; This motel no longer exists but was inextricably linked to Historic Route 6 and so I have to include it on this list.  Blue Top Motor Court sat proudly on old Route 6 from 1952 – 1996. Twelve tiny cottages were arranged in a semi-circle around a swath of lawn that contained a grill, picnic tables and swing sets.  It was spotless, comfortable, and each cabin had a walk-in closet “larger than my room at the Jefferson Hotel!,” according to one celebrity guest, Bob Hope. Generation after generation of University of Iowa students and professors, families of Medical Center patients and road-trippers returned time and time again – the Blue Top was a touchstone for many. Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa, Mary Swander, then an Iowa Writer’s Workshop student, stayed for months in The Penthouse – the dormer apartment above the motel garages and later wrote an homage to the Blue Top. 

Replica of Cabin #1 at Blue Top Motel
Coralville, IA


Friday, November 18, 2011

Starr Restauranteur Opens Restaurant Named Route 6 Nowhere Near the Real Deal; Starr Restaurants Mogel Stephen Starr Opens Route 6 in Philadelphia Today

We've all known about US Route 6 for awhile now, but The Grand Army of the Republic Highway is gaining notice far from its northern transcontinental route.

Notable East Coast restauranteur Stephen Starr wanted to include a seafood place among his other hotspots in Philly, New York, DC and Florida, and the name Route 6 came to mind because "Route 6 is the main road through Cape Cod."  Little did he (or his PR people) know that the Route 6 in Cape Cod extends all the way to California, and ironically runs 440 miles along the northern border of Pennsylvania.

No matter.  They will soon.  Meanwhile, when you're in town, try a lobsta or fried clam with a swig of specially brewed, unfiltered Rye ESB called Route 6 Ale, at the one and only Route 6 in Philadelphia!
I wish it many successful years!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fracking Vs. Hunting on PA's US Route 6; Video of Dust-Choked Roads

Todays New York Times featured a National Section Front Page piece titled "Gas Drillers Invade Hunters' Pennsylvania Paradise."  Embedded within the story is a map magnifying Potter County, and specifically Coudersport, highlighting also a nice, clear Route 6 shield.  That natural gas drillers have taken over this area of PA's Route 6 should come as no surprise to my readers. I wrote about the hydraulic fracturing controversy, and spoke to those it effected both before and during my trip with inconclusive results.

As I made my way across country on US Route 6, I took daily videos through my windshield.  As you can see from the last few minutes (around 4:45 mark) of these snippets of the Hawley to Wellsboro segment, natural gas extraction might be an economic boon to "G-d's Country," PA, but it is also a dirty, dusty business (at least while clearing and drilling).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Highlight Of US Route 6; The Wonderful Westernaires Learning Leadership and Responsibility on Horseback in Lakewood, CO

 I am often asked to give a one minute commentary on my 3,602 mile trip across country. Most people want to know  "What's the highlight?"  Well, there were many highlights - but the highest light came more than midway through my journey in a town outside of Denver, CO.  I wrote the following about this amazing youth group and hope everyone who reads this gets a chance to see The Westernaires in action:

Westernaires Practice At the Foot of the Rockies
Lakewood, CO

 If you happen to hit Lakewood, Colorado on a weekday evening around sunset, you must make time to watch The Westernaires practice precision riding at break-neck speeds. These impressive 9-19 year olds, will give you goose-bumps, get you teary-eyed and make you proud of our Country’s youth. 
Westernaires Tack Room
Lakewood, CO

The Westernaires, 15200 W. 6th Avenue, Lakewood, Colorado

Westernaires "Tenderfoot Board Meeting"
Lakewood, CO
(303) 279-3767 learn and practice drills at Fort Westernaire  -a complex of indoor and outdoor arenas (7 in all), classrooms, and a phenomenal museum – the Orrin C. Curtiss Westernaire Museum of Western and Riding History - that you can enter if you happen to come through on a Saturday (also a practice day throughout the year) between 10am and 2pm.  Based on the notion that “The Old West had values worth learning,” says The Westernaire’s director, Glenn Keller, “all Westernaires must visit the museum when they first sign up.”  Inside, there’s a library filled with Western and Colorado History books – among them an 1867 Revised Statues of Colorado.  The kids begin their training by first learning about the anatomy of the horse, the history of the region, including Native American History, the origins of the US Cavalry (the Westernaires portray this old branch of the military in shows), and the progression of the saddle. There are branding irons, various kinds of barbed wire, bits, bridles, stirrups and spurs and, incredibly, the carriage that brought Abraham Lincoln to the train in Springfield, IL as he set off for Washington DC to serve as US President.  This was the same carriage used by Buffalo Bill Cody in his Wild West Show, and its not by happenstance that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the Westernaire’s Horsecapades  are so similar.  “We are the West Incarnate,” Keller says.

The Westernaires have had just two directors in the organization’s 62 years; E.E. Wyland who, in 1949 was asked by the Lakewood Youth Council to “start something for kids,” and Keller who, in 1983, grew the Westernaires into the 1,000-strong organization it is today. When Keller took over the reins, only 5% of the Westernaires went on to college.  Today, 95% do. Keller feels that for some of these kids who are at-risk and from broken homes, this program is so important they stay in school just so they can continue to be Westernaires (a requirement). Along with the obvious riding skills, kids learn perseverance, personal responsibility, leadership and respect for adults; all the ingredients of good citizenship.

Westernaires practice at sunset in the Rockies
Lakewood, CO
Children as young as nine years old start out in the “Tenderfoot” division and must learn the very basics even before getting on a horse.  After nine or ten years of practice, drills, diagramming, and bonding with their horse and like-minded colleagues, each Westernaire hopes to be called upon to join the elite Varsity Big Red Team, earning the coveted and prestigious “Red Sweater.”

Westernaires Varsity Big Red Team Member
wearing coveted red sweater
Lakewood, CO
“It’s a real family – you really get addicted,” says one parent/volunteer, Debbie Koop, who has two Westernaires daughters and is an instructor herself.  The program is so important to participants, many return as volunteers; there are 350 – 500 graduates and parents who just can’t let go and want to give back.  They sew the costumes, teach kids at all levels, and take care of the 30 acres of property. “We’re a totally self-supporting organization,” Keller explained. “We believe in doing for ourselves.” For the most part, the Westernaires are funded by ticket sales.  They put on a Wild West-like show – called Horsecapades - in Denver every year, selling over 42,000 tickets at $7 each. Participants in the program pay a nominal fee for training and costumes.  Excelling at precision riding, rough riding, authentic Cavalry Riding and Liberty Riding (no saddle or harness), the Westernaires are one of the best (if not the best) trick-riding teams in the United States, and merit the slogan “Best At Speed.”

It takes determination, tenacity, attention to detail and teamwork, plus lots of heart, sweat and tears to pull off effectively. If you hit it just right, watch a Westernaires drill against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and the setting sun, you will be touched.  Practice is most weekday evenings in the summer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roots and Wings, The Oldest and Newest Frontiers at the Beginning and End of US Route 6

By now my readers know that the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower first made landfall on what are now the dunes in Provincetown, MA.  Yes, they went on to colonize Plymouth, but these voyagers provisioned and began life in the New World on the very tip of Cape Cod that just so happens to be Mile One of US Route 6.

The Mayflower, 1620
Provincetown, MA
So, it seems fitting that if our nation's roots can be found where US Route 6 begins, our wings soar close to where US Route 6 ends - at the Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA. Commercial Airline and Cellular King, Sir Richard Branson, has been testing his latest, privately-financed space-ship, the Feather, for his fledgling spin-off, Virgin Galactic. This century's Pilgrims and Explorers, Branson and his team are at the forefront of space-exploration and commercial space-travel just 120 miles from the historic western terminus of US Route 6 in Long Beach, CA.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top 10; The Prettiest, Coolest, Most Charming Main Streets In the US (On US Route 6)

From Cape Cod, MA to Long Beach, CA, US Route 6 passes through hundreds of communities large and small.  I crossed the country as the economic tide rolled out yet again for the average American homeowner and worker. Shuttling from one Main Street to the next, I noticed that despite the Great Recession, some communities were pulling together to revitalize former flagging downtowns - turning them into places where locals, and even tourists would want to flock.

These, then, are Best Ten Main Streets on US Route 6:

Commercial St. - Quiet in Offseason
Provincetown, MA
1.  Provincetown, MA; If you're into tie-dye, pirates, glitter eye-shadow (on men), steamed lobsters, sand dunes and a frenzied Main St. - come to the edge-of-the-world town of Provincetown, MA to spend a squeezy, pleasy, teasy few hours on Commercial St.  Fun Factor:  Off the Charts.

Center Flagpole
Newtown, CT
2. Newtown, CT; An All-American Town even before this WAS America. Newtown is known for having more pre-1825 homes than any town in state, and at least one - on Main St. -  from which the owner watched Revolutionary War troops walk by while sitting on his front porch. Patriotic Rating: Five (Out of Five) Stars.

Main St. Wellsboro, PA
3. Wellsboro, PA: Best known for the iconic Wellsboro Diner, Wellsboro, PA takes its charming “stuck-in 40’s” identity very seriously.  Street lamps set within a grassy median, tree-shaded sidewalks; this Main Street hasn't changed much in decades and that's the draw.  Charm Factor: Way Up There.

Canals of Vermilion, OH
4. Vermillion, OH; The most picturesque "Yachting Center" in the middle of the country, Vermilion has carved out a series of canals from Great Lake Erie giving its downtown the feel of a crowd-pleasing full-service marina. Views are as sweet as the Ice Cream Sundaes at Big Ed's. Nautical Rating: Unexpectedly High.

Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City, IA
5. Iowa City, IA: Though U of Iowa students love to assemble on the brick, pedestrian-only streets in the center of Iowa City, a broad range of non-students do, too. There's no better place for senior citizens to meander or young parents to push a stroller - where you don't have to worry about moving cars.  Excellent restaurants, a new terrific library, lots of comfy bench seating and playground equipment make Iowa City's downtown a model for other like-sized cities.  Sophistication Rating: Brilliant But Unpretentious.

Downtown Ashland, NE
6. Ashland, NE: This is the smallest Main Street on the list, nestled between the larger cities of Omaha and Lincoln.  But Ashland's got plenty of heart, several art galleries, buildings on the Historic Register, and a winery tasting room. In addition, near the incongruous Licoma Beach Lighthouse on the outskirts of town right on Route 6, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) trained chef has just opened a Bar and Grill. Nifty things are happening in pretty and unassuming Ashland, Nebraska.  Tourist Magnet Rating: High and Growing.

Main St. Golden, CO
7. Golden, CO: The Welcome to Golden sign that arcs over Main Street says it all.  Brick-lined, historic, laid-back - Golden's downtown is everything you'd want in Western Hospitality. There's plenty to eat and buy, and more to see and do including of course, taking one of the most popular brewery tours in the country.  Coors of Golden Colorado is right here.  Howdy Y'all Factor: Ten (out of Ten) Gallon Hats.

Sculptures on Main St.
Grand Junction, CO
8. Grand Junction, CO; An outdoor enthusiast's utopia with world-class restaurants, Grand Junction draws fit folks who love the good things in life.  That apparently extends to public art: Main Street has become something of an outdoor sculpture garden.  Flourishes like filigreed drainage grates, a sidewalk water-playground for kids, and funky shops and eateries prove that Grand Junction puts an emphasis on design as attraction. Main Street Aesthetic: Very Fine.

Newest Downtown Ceramic Mural
Bishop, CA
9. Bishop, CA: Bishop's history is literally written on its walls, or drawn as the case may be. It's all about the murals in this small, adorable Eastern Sierra Mountain town. Tourists come to hire mules and back-country guides and grab a bite to eat, then stay to admire the paintings.  Appearing like a mirage in the middle of the desert, Bishop is that longed-for, charming oasis after a long and dusty drive.  Artistic Factor: Impressive.

Revitalized Main St.
Lancaster, CA
10. Lancaster, CA: Feathery foliage, parking nooks, cool restaurants, playground, shops and (soon-to-be-opened) art/history museum has rendered Lancaster's newly renovated Main St. a pedestrian-friendly hangout.  If you haven't been to this LA commuter town in awhile, you'll be shocked for sure. Formerly down-at-heals, Lancaster is transforming its "broken-windows" reputation into a desirable destination.  Reinvention Factor: Lofty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just In Time for Halloween: Drive the Tombstone Trail - Route 6, Indiana

Why is October always the spookiest month?  I guess because darkness comes earlier, days and nights turn windy, and of course, costume stores sell out of ghosts and goblins (and Freddie Kruger) for Halloween.

In honor of October, I present to you The Tombstone Trail - Indiana's cemetery-studded US Route 6. It's a Route 6 excursion like no other.

 But I'll let the experts tell you:

This is a road trip like no other featuring over eight historic cemeteries across several northern Indiana counties and communities. More than 75 stories spanning the centuries and miles will be found along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway (U.S. 6).
This year the Trail pays special tribute to the 150th anniversary marking the beginning of America's greatest conflict- The American Civil War. Stories from both the Union and the Confederacy will be featured in our local cemeteries.
The Tombstone Trail will also mark the 70th anniversary of the United States entering World War II, and pay tribute to the men and women who served some role during this global battle that defined a generation.
For some a graveyard may seem like the end of the road, but in northeastern Indiana it is just the beginning of a month-long celebration of the lives of those who have gone before us.
Guided, group, and self-guided tours through these silent cities of stone are available.
For more information contact the Noble County Visitors Bureau at 1-877-202-5761You can also find and "like us" on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Best Hotel Happy Hours (and Other Complimentary Amenities) In the USA - On US Route 6

 A hotel “Happy Hour” is usually a quiet scene.  You pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay or Merlot and make small talk with a few other guests. Generally billed as a “wine and cheese reception,” it’s a welcome prequel to a night out and I have to admit, very appreciated, especially because most hotels (by and large fancy ones with big names) make you shell out beaucoup bucks for sample-sized snacks and drinks from your guest-room “Honor Bar.” 

The following establishments however, are standouts. They elevate Happy Hour and other amenities to Royal Treatment; spoiling guests with complimentary afternoon libations, wi-fi and hot gourmet breakfasts. (Sure, it might reflect in the room rate, but we don’t feel nickel and dimed to extremes.)


Happy Hour at Magnolia Hotel
Omaha, NE

The Magnolia Hotel in Omaha, NE takes top honors for an unabashed, complimentary free-flowing beer and wine (a succulent private labeled Cab Sav from Napa) fest.  For one hour each afternoon, you can drink to your heart’s content, chat up the bartender (yes there is one! Be sure to tip him or her), then wobble down the street to Old Market for dinner.  Upon your return, expect warm cookies and cool milk before bedtime and a nice hot buffet breakfast in the morning.  Wi-Fi is also FREE at this boutique hotel in the midst of a fun downtown, making the Magnolia the best bloomin’ place to stay in Omaha. Magnolia Hotel; 1615 Howard Street, Omaha, NE (888) 915-1110 $90-$190.


Afternoon Wine and Cheese Reception
Crowne Pointe Inn
Provincetown, MA

The Crowne Pointe Inn - a cozy-hip place two blocks from tourist mayhem in Provincetown, MA hosts a low-key but bountiful wine and cheese hour.  There’s an extensive selection of both reds and whites, and a beautiful spread of cheese, fruit, crackers and other nibbles. In one of the most jubilant, gay (in all ways) resort towns in America, rooms on or near crazy Commercial St. can hike up sky-high in the summer.  But Crowne Pointe Inn guests enjoy the satisfying “happy hour,” unlimited use of the saunas and mineral bath in its world-class Shui Spa, and a savory multi-course, cooked to order gourmet breakfast for two.  And FREE parking! For Route 6 explorers in the land-of-no-parking-spaces, this is the ultimate perk! 82 Bradford St., Provincetown, MA, 877-276-9631, rates $99-$650 and vary by season.

Ruth and Larry Stoll with Fresh Baked Goods
Atwood House B&B, Lincoln, NE

No booze, but there’s plenty to eat at the Atwood House B&B in Lincoln, NE, especially if you’re a fan of sweets. Congenial owners Ruth and Larry Stoll coddle their guests with white chocolate-dipped strawberries upon arrival, unlimited baked goods throughout the day and movie-theater-sized boxes of candy and popcorn to accompany your choice of in-room flick (from a vast DVD and Video selection). In the morning, you’re treated to an irresistible freshly-cooked gourmet breakfast served on bone china with linen napkins and Waterford Crystal.  All this in an opulent Neo-Classical Georgian Revival mansion just steps from the imposing Nebraska State Capitol Building. Atwood House B&B, 740 South 17th St., Lincoln, NE, 1-800-884-6544,, $85-$199

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

FREEDOM ROCK, an Iowa Route 6 Marvel

My last post highlighted seven awe-inspiring attractions that I encountered on US Route 6.

Going through my notes (as I put together a US Route 6 coast to coast guidebook), I realized that I didn't include some sites that might not be grand in size but effected me deeply.  One such spot was the very remote "Freedom Rock" in Iowa between the tiny towns of Menlo and Casey.

This is what I originally posted while traveling "The 6":

Freedom Rock", drive West from Menlo on the White Pole Rd. until you come to a Greenfield arrow pointing left. Take the left, go over I80 and in a couple of miles you’ll see a painted rock.  Normally crowded, this 56 ton boulder is a literal touchstone for veterans and families of the fallen who come to pay their respects.   The artist, Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II (named “America’s Hottest Husband” by Redbook Magazine a few years back), uses the ashes of fallen vets mixed with paint in his poignantly rendered war scenes.  He repaints the 5 or 6 ft. tall boulder every Memorial Day.  This year, he included “ 5-15-11; Justice Served.”

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA
Young Bubba now wants to take his talent on the road - creating murals for Veterans Hospitals and Military Memorials.

I am a big fan of Dancing With the Stars - and this past Monday I sobbed uncontrollably when injured Iraq Veteran-turned-actor, J.R. Martinez danced a tribute to the soldiers who never made it home.  Seeing that and then remembering my stop at Iowa's Freedom Rock, I dedicate this post to all those who fight for our country and for our freedom.

Thanks also to Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II for keeping our soldiers and veterans in our minds and hearts.

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Seven Wonders (Natural and Manmade) of US Route 6

US Route 6 runs clear across the United States through some spectacular landscapes.  It also touches areas, some remote, where brilliant and brave engineers and construction workers risked their lives to build a never-before-seen marvel.  Here are SEVEN WONDERS - both manmade and natural - to see on US Route 6.

Fort Hill
Cape Cod National Seashore, MA
1.  Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Cod, MA: A National Park established by President John F. Kennedy, the National Seashore takes up nearly 75% of the whole of Cape Cod. With endless Atlantic Ocean views, wide sandy beaches and spectacular dunes, visiting the National Seashore should be on everyone's bucket list.

2. Kinzua Bridge/Viaduct, Smethport, PA;  - about 4 miles off of Route 6 outside of Smethport, the remains of the Kinzua Bridge took my breath away. It is difficult to fathom the extent of the destruction unless you actually see it in person.  In 1882, Octave Chinute (who also worked with the Wright Brothers) designed the bridge aerodynamically using no cross-braces. At 300 feet off the Valley Floor it was the highest bridge on the profitable New York - Erie Railroad line.  In 2003, a freak tornado tore it apart.  Now, visitors walk out onto the "Skywalk" and can stare into the valley and  the twisted remnants of the bridge - at no charge.

World's Largest Geodesic Dome
Henry Doorly Zoo
Omaha, NE
3. World's Largest Geodesic Dome, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE: The“World’s Largest Geodesic Dome” contains both the “World’s Largest Indoor Desert” and beneath it “The World’s Largest Indoor Swamp.”  Yes, the zoo has the skyride, a miniature steam train, a tram, lots of animals in lots of habitats.  OK, it’s a ZOO, for goodness sakes.  But the enclosed deserts, caves and swamps in the dome set this place apart from all others I’ve seen.  There are sand-dunes big enough for ATVing inside!  And lots of exotic birds (like the Kookabura), mini-deer, meercats, pumas, roadrunners, quails, teals, fox, rattlesnake.  Any animal that lives in the desert lives here. Staying on a concrete path, you can’t get lost, which is helpful because downstairs in the nocturnal “Kingdom of Night” exhibit, it gets pretty dark as you descend to caves and then swampland where you’re practically blind as a bat, but with lots of company; there are fruit bats in droves. It’s like being in a haunted house, but with great, big-eyed animals and swimming beavers instead of ghosts.  Some little kids were screaming to get out.  I thought it was the coolest thing.

Continental Divide
Loveland Pass, Colorado

4. Loveland Pass/Continental Divide, ColoradoThe switchbacks, hairpin turns and heart-stopping drop offs are all part of the fun of Route 6 up and over the Continental Divide in a 22 mile stretch called Loveland Pass. Even in summer the drive might feature pea-soup fog and a bit of icy precipitation, but that won't stop hundreds of skiers from barreling down the still-operating Arapaho Basin, nicknamed A-Basin – the highest skiable terrain in the United States. 
Loveland Pass skirts the Eisenhower Tunnel.  The Tunnel prohibits tanker trucks, so those fire-traps on wheels have to negotiate the hairpin turns and switchbacks as well. Be prepared.

Glenwood Canyon on I70
Glenwood Springs, CO

5. Glenwood Canyon, CO on I70/US 6; A triumph in road engineering, this portion of I70 was completed just 20 years ago. Segments of the Glenwood Canyon roadway are cantilevered over the Colorado River, and I70 follows the very curvy path of the river, like a 14-mile side-winding snake.  In some instances Eastbound runs above Westbound lanes.    While driving, I saw a very long freight train hugging the canyon wall as well – on the opposite side of the river.  Cars and train were mirroring each other – a seemingly impossible and elegant dance. 

Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction, CO
6. Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, CO:   This is not a man-made sculpture or little ole plaque, but what should be (and what is in line to be) a new National Park.  Columns of Red and white Navajo sandstone and Green Shale have eroded to form otherworldly shapes in the 11 canyons among the striated and weathered sandstone, and you can take day hikes or drive on an incredible 26-mile paved road. Though National Parks in Utah and elsewhere grab much of the "splendor of nature" attention, the Colorado National Monument rivals Arches, Brice or Zion in magnificence. 

Alabama Hills
Lone Pine, CA
7. Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; Rock formations ready for their close-up.  Every single silent western, singing cowboy movie and later the movies that made John Wayne and Clint Eastwood household names all look the same – setwise.  That’s because they were all filmed in these strange, rounded sandstone formations called the Alabama Hills, just a couple of hours from Los Angeles.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our President and A Supermodel on US Route 6

Atkinson, IL
Last month, President Obama visited the tiny farm town of Atkinson, IL.  Naturally, this being a US Route 6 blog, I had visited the wonderful farm community back in June and was greeted warmly by locals.   When Obama visited last month, he was welcomed with similar graciousness (and lots more of it, of course!) - and newscasters had this to say about his time there:

"President Barack Obama was in the small farm town of Atkinson, Illinois Wednesday talking to locals about jobs, the country's deficit, and regulations put on farmers.

President Obama in Atkinson, IL

He was at a town hall meeting at family owned business Wyffels Hybrids on Route 6.

He arrived at Wyffels around noon and was met by the Wyffel family, U.S. Congressman Bobby Schilling, and State Senator Mike Jacobs.

The president proclaimed as he took the podium it's good to be home. His main purpose there was to talk to folks in middle America about his plan for the future and answer their questions."

Along with many other pertinent issues, Obama had the following to say about Lisa's Place, an Atkinson restaurant I visited and wrote about here.

"I want to thank Lisa of Lisa’s Place.  Where’s Lisa?  (Applause.)  Is that Lisa?  Because Secret Service had to shut down the road and do all this stuff, I know some of you guys have not been able to enjoy her outstanding food.  So as a consequence, my staff has been I think trying to eat up as much as possible.  (Laughter.)  My understanding is I’ve got a pie coming.  Is that correct?  (Applause.)  What kind of pie?  Coconut cream and a cinnamon roll?  (Applause.)  I’m very excited about that.  (Laughter.)  Coconut cream is one of my favorite pies.  So thank you."

Yes, Route 6 plays a large part in our county's history and present - a thoroughfare that spans our country from East Coast to West Coast, bringing Bold Faced Names and the rest of us "Little People" through large cities and small towns. 

And sometimes, when a president shows up, or a supermodel drives too fast, US Route 6 becomes ancillary news.

According to yesterday's report out of Barnstable, MA: 

Barnstable Pottery
Barnstable, MA
"Gisele Bundchen (jih-ZEHL' BUN'-chen), supermodel and wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, was stopped for speeding and given a verbal warning by a Massachusetts state trooper.
State police spokesman David Procopio says Bundchen was going about 70 mph in a 55 mph zone on state Route 6 in Barnstable when she was stopped Saturday."

Gisele Bundchen
FILE - In this June 9, 2011 file photo

Yes, Gisele was stopped and reprimanded - but unlike the rest of us, that simple warning made national news.  I can honestly say I kept within the speed limit while on Route 6 in Cape Cod, but I can't say the same about the rest of my cross-country drive.  I, too, was clocked going 70 just east of the Colorado line in Nebraska.  But unlike Gisele, I was issued a hefty fine rather than a slap on the wrist.