Chasing Summer: Off the Beaten Path in America

Do you recognize this two thousand year-old Mayan temple from Mexico’s northern Yucatan? We wouldn’t think so, because it isn’t Mayan, and certainly isn’t in Mexico.

This way-off-the-beaten-track ruin is the 150 year-old Mt. Savage Iron Furnace which produced pig iron in northeastern Kentucky in the mid 19th Century. This little-known industry and the iron that it produced were an important part of American history.

Unusual landmarks like these furnaces are exactly the kind of backroad sights we love discovering in our summer travels. From an unexpected nude beach and gypsy queen’s grave, to campside “frisky” buffalo  and the backwoods homestead of a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Summer officially arrived a few days ago, and thanks to Canadian cooling and jet stream gyrations we’ve had day-after-glorious-day of near record low temperatures. July’s inevitable heat and humidity won’t hold off much longer, so our first thought was: “Let’s go camping!” Which is exactly what we’re doing this very minute.

So if you think you’d like to sleep in a wigwam, face down a grizzly, gaze upon some giant American folk heroes, or see how some coastal residents turn hurricane damage into art, then we’ve got you covered. For the next few weeks, we’ll be dusting off some of our favorite posts from previous trips and hope you’ll follow along.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

38 thoughts

    1. Laura, I’ve never heard or seen of these furnaces before, so it’s an interesting story. It must have been an incredibly inefficient process and taken lots and lots of trees. ~James

  1. It is always exciting to uncover some hidden gems. We had record hot temperatures here in England in June, but it has cooled down a little now. I hope you have a great summer of exploring 🙂

    1. Thanks Gilda. English summers can be warm, but the three years we were there, they were all delightful, particularly given what we were accustomed to (Khartoum, Dallas). One of our favorite summer things to do was pack an overnight bag, go to Victoria Station on Saturday morning, and just randomly pick a village to visit for the weekend. It made so many wonderful summer memories. ~James

    1. Thanks Anita. The photo of the lady picking flowers was taken at Cross Creek, the Florida home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It’s a very special place and you’ll see the photo again soon when we run the post. Happy July 4. ~James

    1. Not to worry Joyce. We’re always careful with bears and are on our best bear behavior, that is, never, ever leaving food outside and making noise when we hike. And of course, we’re always prepared to jump into the car with the windows up. 🙂 Hope you and Dascal are well and having a good summer. Love, JH

    1. Thanks Joanne. We’ve gotten accustomed to, and are quite fond of, looking for offbeat stuff to investigate. It keeps it interesting for sure. I hope that your summer is going well. ~James

    1. Thanks Leslie. Over the years, we’ve discovered that blogging has made travel more rewarding. It forces us to pay more attention, and think outside the normal travel box. ~James

  2. You two have a knack for finding the obscure, hidden and fascinating tidbits of architecture, history and fun stuff! Happy camping and happy exploring! Enjoy the cooler temps. Here, in Oakland, CA, it is quite chilly for our liking…

    1. Thanks Liesbet. After all, our tag line is “Travel tales with a twist,” and we try hard to live up to that motto. And anytime we’re talking about a new post the first question we ask each other is: “What’s your angle?” This method makes it more interesting for us, and it keeps us motivated and learning. ~James

    1. Mary, we’ve done a couple of multi-month cross country trips and they were wonderful. We will always continue to travel overseas, but there’s an almost unlimited amount of amazing places to see right here in the US, and we never take it for granted. Have a great time on your trip. ~James

  3. For a moment I did think of some Mayan pyramid from Mexico when I saw your first photo. What a nice surprise to know what it really is! Have a great time outdoor, James & Terri! I love every single photo in this post.

    1. Thanks for the comment Mickey and for dropping by the blog. When we travel we’re always on the lookout for interesting, offbeat sights. This normally means that we get to see areas that we wouldn’t usually see. And for us, that’s what travel is all about. ~James

  4. Have fun camping. We just spent three weeks showing Canadian and American friends Spain. It was fun but a bit exhausting.Love these interesting, off the beaten track sites!

    1. Thanks Darlene. Guests are fun, but being host, tour guide, meal planner, and all-around driver of the train is exhausting. Hopefully you have lots of R&R planned for yourself. ~James

  5. You find the best places and sites and quirky attractions! Hope your travels have been good lately. We’ve been to Italy and France — ’bout time, is what we say! The landscapes and landmarks are remarkable. But we still like all the funky things we see in the states!

    1. Rusha, you’ll appreciate that a few days ago we toured the Maker’s Mark Distillery in tiny Loretto, KY. They have joined with Chihuly and there are a number of his works scattered around their Idyllic campus. It’s definitely off the beaten path, but was worth the search (and the booze wasn’t bad either). Go to and check it out. ~James

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