Cool old architecture where you wouldn’t expect it

Waycross, Georgia, population 15,000 is at the northeastern tip of the massive Okefenokee swamp — reason enough to love it.

But it is also home to lots of funky architecture, including buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.





There were several vacancy signs and not much activity on a weekday, in this little city.


I didn't even inquire about work at the third-generation family owned paper.

The beginning of the beginning


It was beginning of the beginning for the United States of America and the beginning of the end for native tribes' societies when the Pilgrims landed here in 1620. It was also December, so while I am kicking myself for being here in near freezing weather in mid-October, they were even less prepared.


Plymouth Rock is symbolic, but I found the portico built over the rock in 1921 to be equally important. Here, 300 years after those tired refugees walked ashore, a firmly established nation erected a symbol of permanence. We had yet to face the Great Depression, wage battle with nuclear weapons or experience terrorism on our own soil.


To this day, the town of Plymouth is an energized place.


Groups of school children embark on physical history lessons.


While the shoreline is haloed in a crowd of boats.

Another American icon was from Indiana, too


Guess what other famous love of mine is from Indiana?

At the Fairmount Historical Musuem I browsed a mind blowing display of James Dean's personal belongings, which included school report cards, clothing, letters, and art work, along with awards, contracts and other memorabilia.

I talked to people who knew his family. They told me great stories about Dean's high school past times, interests and personality. He was never really a rebel, like Hollywood made him out to be. In fact, Dean was an only child who lost his mother to breast cancer when he was nine. He was raised for the most part by relatives. He grew up a sensitive, artistic soul, who would visit Fairmount from Hollywood and act no different toward friends and family than before.

He was killed in a car crash at the age of 24.

Here's a letter Dean wrote to cousin Marcus Winslow, who is 12 years his junior. Dean was in his early twenties at the time and was working in New York. The letter was regarding some drawings Winslow had sent him and reflects Dean's Quaker beliefs.

Clicking on the photo will open it in a separate window, where it should be large enough to read.


It's interesting there is so much more left of James Dean's life in Fairmount than there is in Lafayette of either Shannon Hoon or Axl Rose, though they were born much later.

Fairmont, population 3,000, is still a small town.


"Around here you IMG_3407 walk up and down the street and people say hello to you and you answer them back," says museum volunteer Phil Zeigler (right), a U.S. Navy veteran.

IMG_3394 "'Happy days' are gone, but it is still very Americana," fellow volunteer and Army veteran Mike Davis (left), 67, who attended high school with Marcus Winslow, concurs. "People are still happy and friendly."

Magical Mountain View in the Ozarks


On summer evenings, the small city of Mountain View, Ark., in the heart of the Ozarks, is a place from dreams. Groups of folk musicians (who may or may not have a history playing together) set up in and around the downtown squares.

They know the old songs, the new songs; some songs have been reclaimed through Internet research.

Bugs and birds and Arkansas accents, plus the sweet smell of melting ice cream mix with the music under a yellow moon.

St. Paul, Neb. – a car lover’s paradise

I arrived in St. Paul, Neb., a cool-seeming town of about 3,000, just in time for the Royal Coachmen car club's annual car show, drag race and street dance.

At the show I saw my first 2009 Chevrolet Camaro in the "flesh."


is an iconic American company in the news for recent financial
problems, so it's good to see they managed to release the new Camaro — promised since 2006 and the first since Chevrolet discontinued the line in 2002. With a base price of just over $23,000, it's still an everyman's sports car.

The owner of this one told me of the several Camaros he's had,
the 2009 model handles best. It's got plenty of power and gets 28 miles to
the gallon, he says. Fully loaded, he paid $45,000.

To get from the car show to the drag strip, people piled in the back of flatbed trailers being pulled by John Deere tractors.
Over bumpy fields and down the main roads we went.
I couldn't help but think, "This would never be allowed in Seattle… probably not even in Wenatchee. This is a reason to love the midwest."

The drag races were awesome. People lined up their vehicles in twos without regard for classes. Mustangs could race Mustangs, but it was more likely to see a guy in a late model BMW facing down his neighbor in a 1970s TransAm, or a Road Runner versus a pickup.

The driver on the right side of this picture spun his tires so long before the race, he left piles of smoking rubber in his wake.


I'm sad to say I missed the burnout contest and auto parts swap meet scheduled for the next day. I left all my good parts at home, anyway.

Would Jesus visit Whiteclay?


Just over the Nebraska border on the outskirts of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservaton is a town with about a dozen residents and four stores that daily sell an estimated 12,000 cans of beer. IMG_1934
It's a dusty, intentionally forgotten place for most, dubbed "skid row on the prairie."
A group of alcoholics loiters in the parking lots and empty buildings, panhandling and leaving behind Hurricane and Camo cans.

Depending where you look, though, Whiteclay could be considered beautiful.
It's not just the golden fields in the distance or the dirt roads so littered by crushed aluminum and colored shards of glass, they sparkle in the evening sun.
There is a colorful mural on the side of busy not-for-profit thrift store, a soup kitchen that invites street people to eat, talk and pray. There's also an artists co-op and community garden.


The programs were started by Bruce and Marsha BonFleur, who in 1998 moved to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation from Florida with their two young children.
The BonFleurs were living a typical upper-middle class life ("comfortable and getting more comfortable," says Marsha) when Bruce got the "call."IMG_1915

"God said, 'I want to use you, with the help of others, to restore dignity to my people. And you will do that through the creation of jobs," says Bruce.

At that time, he did not know who "my people" referred to. He began researching Lakota nation and the idea came full circle.

The BonFleurs, who have backgrounds in business building, education and publishing, first worked in the Pine Ridge schools. In 2004, they opened 555 Whiteclay, a thrift store.

Because Whiteclay is over the Nebraska border, it is the main alcohol source for nearby Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Pine Ridge is the largest city on the reservation, with a population of 15,500. No alcohol is allowed to be consumed or sold, according to tribal rules.

Reports in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper indicate an 80 percent alcoholism rate on the reservation – one of the highest rates in the country. Resulting diseases and fatalities make the average life expectancy there mid to upper-forties.

There have been riots and protests and lots of attempted legislation over the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay, yet it continues.

With all the bitterness and recidivism, it would be easy to get discouraged or even jaded here.
Neither words describe the BonFleurs.

"God didn't call us here to shut the beer stores down. He called us here to be a light," says Bruce. "In fact, when we came here, God told my wife, 'Stop looking around at what you see and begin to praise me for the transformation that's going to take place.'"

He says God had to work on cultivating compassion in him before he could be used — enough compassion to bring to his house for dinner a drunk man covered in flies and human excrement.

Their outreach is based on relationships and jobs. The thrift store employs six tribe members, part time.

With help from mission teams, the BonFleurs are working on a large garden area with a community stage. They are finishing a work shop and storefront for the Lakota Crafters cooperative. Artists will be aided by small grants and through a microlending system in which each crafter is loaned a couple hundred dollars for supplies. The loans are to be paid back after the crafts are sold, says Bruce.

The BonFleurs have a Bible-based strategy, too.
"555," the name of the thrift store, refers to the five smooth stones David in the Bible used to slay the giant – in this case alcohol abuse. Secondly, it refers to the two fishes and five loaves of bread Jesus used to feed the multitudes he was teaching. Lastly, it references five spiritual callings Christians believe God gives his people — to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepards and teachers.

To find out more, go to: or


A town called Pony


Pony, Montana is considered a ghost town, but people do live here.


I love the anachronism of a reflector on an old hitching post.


Curious that the Bud flag gets to fly so  high…


And how ironic I shot this building from the vantage point of the potholed road, since the next several days of my trip exploring the Tobacco Root Mountans were dominated by muddy, potholed roads. I never thought I'd crave a night in the suburbs (just one night to recuperate), but I did!

Anaconda’s historic art deco theater


The Washoe Theatre still shows movies, using original equipment from the 1930s. Shows are $4; it's an extra 25 cents to sit in the balcony.
Inside, the theater is adorned art-deco style with ornate carpeting, drapes and fairy tale murals – most still original.


Anaconda resident Dianna Kellie works at the theater part-time and knows all the history. She made her own outfit, using photos in a 1930s catalog.