Tag Archives: american pickers

After leaving a job in the Ohio oil fields, 26-year-old Andrew Wasnac blazed his own path as a bladesmith

Inside the detached garage off his house in Akron, Ohio, you can smell the burning coal. Open the door and you’ll see Andrew Wasnac forging a hot piece of iron on an anvil resting on an old tree trunk. There’s an American flag proudly displayed on the wall and a pile of homemade tongs in the corner. This is Colony Knives — where Andrew taught himself how to twist and stretch steel.

If you were going to start a new project, like restoring a car, you’d go to the store to pick up some tools and parts. Bladesmiths can’t do that — Their tools are obsolete. This means every vice, clamp, even the forge in a bladesmith’s shop is built by their hands before they can even start making an actual knife.

“I’ve been forging knives inside my garage for about three and a half years,” explains Andrew. “I used to sling a sledgehammer out in the oil fields. I always felt like I should be using this tool for myself not someone else. I left the fields and dove into blacksmithing and never looked back.”
It took him a few tries to get a handle on the entire process but once he did, he realized the potential of what he just tapped into. The stuff we buy in stores is junk.
“I became very frustrated with the downfall of quality tools available today. Forging American steel blades is my way of reminding people of our roots while honoring the traditional techniques of bladesmithing. At one point in time, it wasn’t possible to just go out and buy something. If you wanted it — you had to make it.”
That being said, not only is Andrew and bladesmith, but he also has to be a woodworker to make the handles, and a leatherworker for the sheathes — because you can’t send a knife out without a cover! 
Born and raised in Akron, Andrew takes great pride in basing his American-made brand in his hometown, especially with Goodyear Headquarters right down the road. 
Andrew has such respect for the American work ethic and perseverance, that he even included 13 stars for the 13 original colonies in his logo. It was actually his fascination with history that led him to his bladesmithing path.
“I grew up in a household of antique enthusiasts and was always traveling to fairs and festivals where there was a live blacksmith. It was guaranteed that if my family couldn’t find me, all they had to do was follow the smoke and smell of coal. Even so many years later, it is a love that has never dulled.”
Speaking of things that *aren’t* dull, you should watch how Andrew tests the integrated bolster blades of his knives. His tester videos on Instagram are satisfying enough for any craftsman to appreciate.


“When it’s time to test the knives, I do a series of bend, flex, hardness, and retention testing. Each piece I make is tested according to what task it’s designed for. For example. A kitchen knife will be tested for proper geometry and sharpness by slicing food, like tomatoes. If the knife can slice through a tomato sideways without having to hold it down, then it passes.”

A bladesmith has to be resilient because there will be days when you’ve been dodging sparks for weeks on a single pair of tongs or get stung by a hot iron.

“You gotta think 20 steps ahead when manipulating iron. I’ve had moments where steel has shattered like thin ice across my calloused hands. It infuriates you. 100 hours of work in pieces on the floor. You throw your tools in the yard and kick the grass, but you know you’re just gonna pick them up and try again. If you’re proud of what you do, then the fear of failure doesn’t distract you from creating something that will be a family heirloom for generations to come. That’s what keeps me motivated in moments like that.”

There a lot to be said about someone who is so young who, in a time of instant gratification, appreciates the low and slow approach. The art of working with your hands is making a comeback with this generation of makers, and Andrew is here to participate. 

“Life on Two Lanes means to me that, in my craft, one lifetime would never be enough to learn and master all the different techniques of blacksmithing and bladesmithing. Having to start from scratch with my craft by building my own tools, has shown me the importance of self-reliance as well as quality in all that I do.  American goods can be difficult to come by these days. I started Colony Knives to be part of the something our founding fathers would have been proud of.  I’m in for the long run and proud to do what I do.”

See more of Andrew’s creations, FOLLOW him on Instagram

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Our new Two Lanes leather journals are hand-made by a 100-year-old family business in Franklin, TN! Butter soft and ready to hit the road with you with summer!


Previously published on the Des Moines Register May 16, 2019, , Des Moines Register

LeCLAIRE, Ia. — “Why am I here?”

That’s Mike Wolfe’s opening salvo at every farm, corn crib, attic and cellar he visits to sift through junk looking for gems on “American Pickers,” the mega-hit reality show he created and still stars on.

But recently, he’s been asking himself that same question: “Why am I here?”

Sometimes, he means it plainly — with his schedule of two weeks filming on the road for every two weeks at home, he jokes he can forget exactly what he’s doing sometimes — but often, it’s existential.

How did a kid from a single-parent household in Davenport, Iowa, who barely graduated high school become a millionaire and a celebrity in antique circles? Where did a listless 20-something carrying around a camera to film himself asking about other people’s trash get the gumption to believe this could be a TV show?

And what about him keeps viewers tuning in after a decade of “Pickers”?

In all that first-person thought, the answer resides decidedly in the third-person. The show has little to do with him or even with the “picks,” as fans call the objects he buys. All that, he says, waving a hand like he’s swatting a fly, is window dressing.

The essence of “Pickers” comes in the answer to his question: “Why am I here?”

“Every object has a story,” he says, holding eye contact. “And that story is reflective of a family, or of a place, or of a time, or of a moment. So it’s a show about all of us. It’s reflective of all of us.”

It’s also a show about transitions — whether people are dealing with major changes in health, family makeup, finances or even the death of a loved one, Wolfe’s job is to bring positivity and a moment of celebration within that tragedy.

He’s up to the task, but when you have hours and hours on two-lane highways to think about the weight of all of it, it gets, well, heavy.

And it gets him to thinking about his own transitions; his own answer to the question he will toss out to 45-episodes’ worth of farmers, collectors and hoarders when the new season of “American Pickers” premieres Monday: “Why am I here?”

In his case, the more specific question is: When you have achieved personal and professional success with a show that dominates ratings and has the shelf-life of a Twinkie, what else do you do? And when you love physical history and rural life in a world that prefers images and ideas carried on fiber optic cables and places where takeout is dinner more often than home cooking, how do you keep the past alive?

Walking the streets of his hometown, stopping in his packed store, Antique Archaeology, and munching tacos at his friend’s Mississippi riverfront Mexican joint, he attempted to work those questions out.

“I’m a storyteller, so is it my responsibility to tell that story?” he asks. “I think it is, like, it is big time. (And) the show is at the point now where it’s, like, I want to talk about these things that matter.”


Third from the bottom

If you think about life as a road trip — an apt way to describe Mike’s experience, given his time traveling on them — Wolfe knew the route from here to there wasn’t going to be smooth, brightly lit highways. From his earliest memories, he understood that his road to success would require him to machete through the overgrowth, lay his own gravel and bring enough provisions to make it through the trip.

As a thin, lanky, poor kid in Joliet, Illinois, and then LeClaire, Wolfe said he was mercilessly picked on, getting jumped to and from school and having milk poured on him in the cafeteria.

In a real-life version of Frogger, Wolfe, now 54, avoided bullies by cutting through yards and alleys to get to school.

“The alleys were safe places for me, and that’s where the garbage was, too,” Wolfe says. “And so the garbage became my toys and they became part of my imagination and they became part of who I was.”

Along the way, he made friends with the old men whose garages overflowed with rusty junk, spending hours chatting with them about bygone days. (On that front, not much has changed, he offers.)

“This old man gave me a cigar box and that was, like, everything to me, you know, because of the colors and the way it smelled and the fact he gave it to me,” Wolfe says.

In school, Wolfe couldn’t focus. He’d read textbook pages over and over as though he was interpreting an alien language. But anything he could get his hands on — autos, woodshop — that clicked.

Massive collection of 110 vintage muscle cars revealed in southwestern Iowa ahead of the auction

‘American Pickers’ comes back to Iowa in search of rusty gold

After graduating third from the bottom of his class — a great memoir title, he says — he bummed around some community colleges in the Midwest, taking a few years to realize that his success wouldn’t be tied to a degree.

He worked in a warehouse building bikes in his early 20s before being promoted to the sales floor. His garbage collecting became “picking,” and he kept it up because, he says, “it’s hard to sell a bicycle in January in Iowa.”

Before the internet, he picked in the only way he knew how — by knocking on farm doors. He’d spend hours talking to the owner and, sometimes, come away with nothing.

His life was so weird to his friends, and the stories he told were so revelatory, nearly everyone around him would say, “Wow, you should be on a TV show.”

After hearing it enough times, Wolfe decided they might be on to something.






Since 2012, the crowds of gather at OLIO, — the best-kept secret in St. Louis


More than 20 million people traveled the Two Lane back roads of America to St. Louis for the World’s Fair in 1904. It’s where they saw new inventions, experienced different cultures, tasted new foods, and celebrated our accomplishments as a human race.

These days, those same state routes continue to lead adventure seekers to the city and its monuments like The Gateway Arch, the steps of the capital, and Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game. But right now, we want to talk about what’s cookin’ in the kitchen at one of the best-kept secrets in town.

In the Historical Botanical Heights neighborhood of South St. Louis sits a 1930’s Standard Oil Filling Station. Inside, Chef Ben Poremba is pulverizing garbanzo beans into a thick paste and flash frying octopus tentacles. You read that correctly — fried octopus in a filling station.

A dish like that should be served and enjoyed in a space just as unique and individual as it is. Step inside OLIO.



In 2012, as part of an urban renewal endeavor, Ben repurposed the gas station and its many charming features for his Israeli themed-restaurant, OLIO. You can see how Ben kept with Standard Oil’s traditional red, white, and blue color palette on the exterior. The garage, once used for performing oil changes and routine maintenance, now seats guests, a full-service bar, an herb garden, and an extended patio.

Inside the decor is simple with subtle nods to the buildings shop history. Notice the utility lamps hung by extension chords over the bar, the mix of the rusty workshop and marble tables, and the large garage door which is open when the weather allows. Don’t forget to catch the desk lamp chandelier in the garage too!

The fresh bouquets of herbs and candles throughout contrast yet complement the original brick and polished concrete floors. The fusion of mechanic and Mediterranean doesn’t sound like it would work, but these pictures don’t lie.

FUN FACT: Ben also purchased the 1890’s house next to OLIO for his sister restaurant, ELAIA. It’s the former home of Mr. Kinsworthy — the original owner/operator of the filling station!


By rescuing these two side by side, well-constructed buildings, two new businesses have found a home in the new St. Louis.

When you visit OLIO (or ELAIA) and feel like walking off your braised lamb shoulder dinner, you’re only a few blocks away from the Missouri Botanical Gardens and Tower Grove Park!



It’s fitting that inside this space where cans of motor oil were kept on the shelves, now have been replaced with bottles of olive oil. The bread served at OLIO is shaped and baked by hand using freshly-milled Missouri-grown wheat and a custom-made hearth oven. 

Bread isn’t the only way this restaurant pays homage to the past — they use a 500-year-old Sicilian recipe for a sweet and sour sauce called agrodolce which is served with their eggplant caponata. While this type of cuisine may seem overwhelming to those who prefer their basic burgers and fries, we promise there’s no reason to be intimidated by slow-roasted meats, pickled veggies, and unfamiliar sauces. Isn’t the point of traveling to vacate your life and try new things? Start with their charcuterie board then ease into the hummus, smoked trout, and bacon wrapped dates.

After the meal, kick back with an aperitif or a bottle of St. Louis’ best brew outside in the herb garden/patio. We highly recommended it!

Urban renewal is a trend we enjoy most on our travels. It’s a healthy sign to see a community with an appreciation of their past and intentionally making room for it in their future. It’s a type of storytelling that we can all benefit from — both with our minds and stomachs.

Share a restaurant you’ve enjoyed on Two Lanes that was located in a uniquely renovated space so we can all learn a little more about places like OLIO!


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Learn more about OLIO HERE

See the menu


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Downtown Cooperstown, New York

Dotted along the Two Lane back roads of America are small towns waiting to be explored. When we spend time in these secluded places we learn their history, participate in their traditions, and rub shoulders with their community members experiences that send us to times gone by and places nearly lost. Cooperstown, New York is a town with that magic. 

Founded in 1786 during the Revolutionary War, Cooperstown is a one-streetlight town nestled in the foothills of the Northern Catskills.  It has culture, state parks, shoppable main streets, baseball, local beer… what more could we ask for? 

Here are some recommendations for experiencing the best of America’s Hometown.




Play ball! Cooperstown is home to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Folks travel from all over to see artifacts and memorabilia from more than 300 of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived. Catching a game at Doubleday Field is not to be missed. Not only have home runs been hit here for almost 100 years but really — what is summer without peanuts and crackerjacks?

Mark Your Calendar! Hall of Fame Weekend 2019 will be held in Cooperstown, July 19-22!

When you’re done watching those pop-flies stretch your legs at Glimmerglass State Park or cool off in the clear waters of the  4,000 acre Otsego Lake. Fish, rent a pontoon, waterski, swim — however you prefer to enjoy a day at the lake. 

Cooperstown celebrates its history and community pride in many ways. Spend the day at The Farmers’ Museum for an interactive experience with mid-19th century life. While you’re there, you can also tour the historic Lippitt Farmstead and ride the completely hand-carved The Empire State Carousel. Together, these places represent the agricultural and natural resources of New York.


If music is your thing, Cooperstown is your place!  The Glimmerglass Festival offers a summer-long calendar of musical theater and concerts presented lakeside on the lawn at the Alice Busch Theater.   

And for adventures in shopping, park the car and treasure hunt on foot through the many antique and craft shops on Main Street. These family-owned businesses are ready to send you home with local goods too! Don’t miss shops like Ellsworth & Sill (operating in the same building since 1898!) Silver Fox Gift ShopTin Bin Alley (for hand-made fudge) and dozens more! And speaking of fudge,  let’s talk food and drink.

Main Street Cooperstown, New York



If you’re feeling thirsty, you gotta visit Brewery Ommegang. Not only is it located on an old 140-acre hop farm in the Susquehanna River Valley, but it’s also the first new farmhouse brewery to be established in America in over a hundred years!  

If something fruity is more your thing,  head to Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard. After a few sips of their cider, you’ll understand why it has been a Cooperstown tradition for more than 150 years.

Recognizing and honoring the area’s agricultural history, the community supports its local farmers by gathering regularly at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market and Oneonta Farmers’ Market, shopping for the freshest produce to serve up the best of farm-to-table dining.  

And if you’re not cooking for yourself, the local restaurants are legendary!  Dine lakeside at one of the best-kept secrets in town —  the Lake Front Restaurant & Bar.  After it reopens on May 23, you can order the famous Triple Play Grilled Cheese at Blue Mingo Grill or for more farm-to-table, minus the do-it-yourself, try Origins Cafe

Craving something sweet? You can create your own ice cream flavor at The Cooperstown Penguin or order a cinnamon roll at Schneider’s Bakery




After a long day of eating and exploring, you’re going to be looking for a place to rest — and your choice will depend on how rustic or luxurious you want to be. Cooperstown offers inns, manors, bed and breakfasts, hotels, cabins and campgrounds. We like the Landmark Inn because of its proximity to Main Street and the Hall of Fame. Check out The Cooper InnLimestone Mansion, and Cooperstown Bed and Breakfast too! 

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

The Otesaga Resort Hotel, built in 1909, is worth the visit even if you’re not a guest. Its waterfront location on the southern shore of Lake Otesaga makes it a great spot for rocking in a chair on the porch and watching the waves roll in. 

Modern accommodations are nice, but sometimes nothing beats camping out and cooking over an open fire. Belvedere Lake Campground & Family Resort and Hartwick Highlands Campground are great places for an outdoorsy experience.  

Now that you’ve got all the information you need about Cooperstown, it’s time to pack a bag and have some fun. See ya on Two Lanes this summer!

Porch views from The Otesaga Resort Hotel



Our new handmade, ceramic mug was inspired by the storefront signs on Main Street we see on our Two Lane travels. SHOP NOW




This hidden Two Lane mountain town of less than 500 celebrates traditional Appalachian music inside their century-old country store every Friday night.

Park your car on S. Locust Street and start walking towards the glowing banjo perched above the green and white striped awning. Like a neon navigational light, you move closer to it until you begin to hear the sounds of banjos and fiddles. The sweet smells of something delicious spill into the streets and wrap around the crowds waiting to get inside the Floyd Country Store tonight.

Standing as a piece of historic significance in Floyd, Virginia for more than 100 years, generations of all ages make the pilgrimage to the store to hear and play the bluegrass and old-time music that’s rooted here. Pay your $8 cover at the door, order a pinto platter with all the fixins, and take a seat. The Friday Night Jamboree is about to start.

For 35 years, the folks of Floyd have been hosting these “pickin’ parties” inside the country store amongst the peanut brittle and penny candy as a way to remain connected to their community through fellowship and music. The past four years, store owners Heather and Dylan Locke have been running the shows are ready to celebrate!

 The past four years, store owners Heather and Dylan Locke have been running the shows are ready to celebrate!

“The music and dance around Southwest Virginia is as important as anything else,” explains Dylan. “It brings people together and has been doing so for centuries. Our Friday Night Jamboree has  become an important part of the legacy of traditional music and dance and will continue to provide a gathering space for years to come.”

And it has!

The Floyd Country Store hosts visitors and musicians from all the world for a weekend-long celebration in this one-stoplight town. Beyond the Jamboree, they host concerts/dances on Saturdays, old time/bluegrass jams on Sunday. They also offer a workshop to teach traditional music and dance styles.  

So what makes this Jamboree so special that people travel from all over to experience it?


“I think the chaos and saturation of media and hashtags make us all crave the places, sounds, and dishes that remind us of our youth and hometown,” says Dylan. “It’s nice to unplug and find some of thesoul revival Floyd provides.

We recommend showing up early and having a home-cooked meal (Heather’s own recipes!) prepared by the team. Her Brunswick stew and key lime pie are not to be missed! Be mindful where you sit because people have been attending the jamboree for so long that they have reserved seating near the stage! Just as you’re scooping up your last delicious bite, the music will begin.

“This is a unique celebration that takes place in our small community every week and provides an opportunity for us to join together in fellowship,” explain Dylan. “There are not many places left in the world where there’s such simplicity and authenticity around music, dance, and storytelling. The ties to the traditions of the mountains are so deep and natural here.  The Jamboree offers a sincere representation of how life has been here in the mountains of Virginia for generations.”


The best part is, similarly to a Texas Dance Hall, The Friday Night Jamboree is a family-friendly event!

“You will see 2-year-olds, 90-year-olds and college students on the dance floor together,” explains Dylan. “The environment of the Floyd Country Store with the history of the old building and all of the throw-back items on the shelves all combines to provide an atmosphere like no other. When folks visit on a Friday night, they can feel and see the community’s love for its traditions and are welcomed with open arms.

Dylan is preserving more than just town traditions — He is preserving a small business across the street too! He rescued County Sales, the local record store across the street from the country store. When the general store reaches its 250 person capacity, the music spills out into the street in front of it! (Fact: The detailed, handpainted sign out front was done by Greg Locke — a local who has painted all the windows and business signs on Floyd’s Main Street.)

There are many fun moments during the event, but a favorite Jamboree tradition for Dylan is the kids dance.

“The band clears the dance floor of everyone older than 12-years-old for a dance tune. At the end, the adults throw their pocket change out on the floor for the kids to scoop up so they can go buy some more penny candy and ice cream. I love how young people understand the importance of this culture and that the elders are so happy to encourage them to love it even more.” 

Places like Floyd, Virginia and their Friday Night Jamboree are the authentic experiences we all hope to discover when we travel the back roads. They make us appreciate those simple things in this world.

“Life on Two Lanes for us is about pulling people away from the digital world and getting back to simplicity. We promote that lifestyle in Floyd and it provides experiences for people that are meaningful and potentially transformative. We are encouraged by all of the young people in our community who are and will be carrying on our traditions and continuing to keep the music playing for generations to come.”

FOLLOW Two Lanes for more back road destinations 
Learn more about Floyd, Virginia and the Friday Night Jamboree HERE
Floyd General Store reminds us of the ones in Mike’s TN neck of the woods. (Check out his favorites on the back road general tour Mike created last summer!)



In our Two Lane travels, we have discovered a handful of small towns each with their own unique history and charm. (Some with fewer than 1,000 people!) We’ve gone through our travel log and compiled a list of our favorites to share with you for your next back road drive.

Don’t forget to tag #ontwolanes so we can follow and share your adventure!

Main Street Galena, Illinois. Photo courtesy of www.platomadison.org


Ask any local why they live in Galena, Illinois and chances are they’ll respond much like store owner Joe (a.k.a. Buzz the Drifter) Sprengelmeyer did on a recent trip we took to this picturesque town. We’re not lying when we say picturesque….this place really does look like a POSTCARD.  A postcard that hasn’t changed much since its lead ore boomtown days over 150 years ago.  

Galena is one of the few places left in America that’s literally been untouched, with over 85 percent of its buildings landing on the National Historic Register. You’ll find a 118-year-old blacksmith shop, authentic Italian pizza, and the longest running antique store in town,  La Belle Epoque (the “beautiful days” in French, or put simply “the good ol’ days”).  Mike Wolfe has been picking in this store for almost 20 years!



LEFT: Downtown Oatman, Arizona via @patx1 RIGHT: Oatman Hotel Resturant via @maria_runesson


Fun Fact: Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here in 1939. The 135 citizens of the town make their living selling handmade goods to travelers on Route 66. A must-see is the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, it’s the only two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Write your name on a dollar bill and tape it to the hotel’s restaurant wall while you wait for your homemade chili and fried bread to be served. Take in the magnificent sights of the Black Mountains and feel the freedom of the open range.

Watch out for the wild burros! They run free ’round this Old West town. These friendly little donkeys, once used for mining labor, were set free back in the 1920s after a fire shut down the mines for good.  But they weren’t unemployed for long – they’re now the official Oatman Welcome Committee.



Downtown Lanesboro. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce


Located in the heart of Bluff Country, this quiet, artsy town of fewer than 800 people is one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest. Lanesboro is ideal for couples looking to unplug and be in the moment without the fast and flashy distractions of modern day life. We say that upfront because upon arrival you’ll most likely find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast.

The charm of this place comes from the fact that the entire town seems to be frozen in time. No buzzing neon signs, traffic lights, or fast food chain here! Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods.

If small town solitude is what you and your shotgun rider crave, consider Lanesboro your lovers getaway!



LEFT TO RIGHT: Former “The Wheel” owner AC Howell, building owner Mike Wolfe, current “Trek Bicycle Shop” owner Timothy Wakefield


This town, just about an hour south of Nashville has become one of Mike’s favorites.

You can often find him here wrenching on an old car in Columbia Motor Alley, grabbing a drink at Muletown Coffee on the historic square or a new pair of tires at Trek Bicycle Shop. The Columbia community is proud to be known as the “Mule Capital of the World” since 1817. The locals have been hosting the Mule Day parade and events annually since the 1840s and is one of the largest livestock events in the world.

Other attractions include the former home of President Polk, the century-old courthouse and the Chickasaw Trace County Park. It is a great small town destination if you are headed toward Tennessee to visit Antique Archaeology.



Photo courtesy of Visit Natchez



In 1716, the French named this place after the American Indian tribe in the area called the “Natchez”. Being the oldest city along the Mississippi River, it was recognized as the hub of the steamboat era. (As you explore the city you’ll notice the steamboat anthem throughout.) 

With more than 100 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, wine tastings, browsing Antique Row, and catching mighty Mississippi River sunset at Bluff Park it’s not difficult to find something interesting while in town. Don’t leave without a bottle of muscadine hot sauce and Charboneau Rum — the first legally distilled rum produced in Mississippi.



Follow Two Lanes on Instagram for more small town travel inspiration



 Antique Archaeology shirt is for the ultimate picker and motor oil fan. Includes zip codes for both Nashville and LeClaire stores.




A child holds on tightly as they weave their way between the cones towards the donkey jump on Lincoln Avenue. Photo Credit: Rory Clow
It’s fun and games in the street when the citizens of Steamboat Springs come out of hibernation.

Have you ever seen a marching band ski down the Main Street of your town? We’re gonna venture to say NEVER…

For the citizens of Steamboat Springs, a northern Colorado town bordering Medince Bow-Routt National Forest, it’s a sign that it’s time to come out and play. What first began as a way to help the locals combat cabin fever during the long mountain winters, has since developed into a series of snow-themed events to both entertain and energize the community. 

For four days in February, (6th-10th 2019) neighbors bundle up and head to Lincoln Avenue for what is considered the oldest continuous winter celebration west of the Mississippi, the Steamboat Winter Carnival. 

It’s a celebration on the Main Street of America’s winter playground and we won’t let you miss it! Here’s what you’ll experience.

Locals ride their horses down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit: Rory Clow


Snow. Lot’s of it.

The snow that falls in Steamboat Springs is referred to as “champagne snow” — a phrase that was coined in the early 1950s by a local rancher who said the snow tickled his nose like champagne. (The powder is so good that Olympians from across the country come here to train!) For the citizens here, snow is no burden, but the best way to play!

“Skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Witness unusual events like skijoring, the donkey jump, and adult show-shovel races.

You’ll quickly realize that many of the events are fueled by actual horsepower — because even they deserve to stretch their legs in the winter! These mighty steeds get in on events like “skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. There are also adults seated on snow shovels which are tied to the back of, you guessed it, horses, for snow-shovel races. Trust us — the sight of this will make you forget about your numb face and fingers!

If you’ve got some little snow bunnies that you travel with there are a few events for kiddos too! The donkey jump (a crowd favorite) is a small ramp that can reach a distance of 40 feet! Local kids are eligible for the dog sled race where they’re pulled by their family dog down Lincoln Avenue.

Dogs and dads pull the little ones during the winter carnival celebration. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Illuminated mountains and watch for the famous Lighted Man.

When the sun sets, everyone heads to the slopes for the Night Extravaganza on Howelsen Hill where you can expect to see daredevils jump through flaming hoops, skiers with flares parade down the mountain. Finally, the last one down the slope is the Lighted Man, a person of local lore. This skier descends the mountain wearing a 70-pound battery powered LED light suit, sizzling sparklers and a backpack with Roman candles shooting off his back just as the closing ceremony (a bright fireworks show) begins. 

LEFT: LED skiers make their way down the hill RIGHT: The famous Lighted Man descends wearing a 70-pound LED suit with Roman candles. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Community camaraderie

We can all benefit from local events whether we live there or not. Joining others in celebrating their traditions and history helps us learn how we can be better in our own community. Because being neighborly is more than just a wave between shoveling snow or washing the car — it’s actively participating and celebrating everything that makes our towns unique.

Pack a bag of our cold weather gear and we’ll see you on you in Steamboat Springs, Colorado February 6-10, 2019!

Click HERE for more Winter Carnival details

Winter Carnival closing ceremonies always include fireworks signaled by the Lighted Man. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Steamboat Springs isn’t the only place with cool traditions and unique Main Streets! Here are a few more of our other favorite towns we’ve explored on Two Lanes:

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In 1871, taking advantage of the Homestead Act, Mary Rickman Anderson and her husband David paid the $10 fee and headed out across Kansas to claim their 160 acres. The family’s first home was a sod house, so poor that their children slept in beds suspended from the cellar rafters – the only way to protect them from snakes and insects. After David’s death the following April, Mary, and her eight children had to work extra hard to keep their land but they did, and eventually, they built a new home from limestone found on their property. And 18 years later, in 1889, Mary finally had full ownership of the farm after she made the final $8 payment on the land.

LEFT: Francesca Catalini outside an abandoned building. RIGHT: The 1889 home of Mary Rickman Anderson and her children
LEFT: Francesca Catalini outside an abandoned building. RIGHT: The 1889 home of Mary Rickman Anderson and her children

This is just one of the many stories that Francesca Catalini, 32, uncovers every day as she documents the histories of the disintegrating structures across the Kansas prairies.

LEFT: This mill produced flour from 1875 to 1941 along the Cottenwood River. RIGHT: Church of Lost Springs from 1821.

“I moved from Colorado three years ago to a small town just outside Wichita,” explains Francesca. “Out west, I was accustomed to shooting mountains and old abandoned mining towns. My first week in town I began exploring the Two Lane backroads. I’d drive for miles with stretches of nothing then suddenly happen upon a crumbling building in the middle of nowhere. Like a moth to a light, I’d find myself outside my car, knee deep in prairie grass, with my camera clicking away.”

The only problem: When she was ready to post her photos on Instagram, Francesca had no idea how to caption the images. Rather than resorting to a worn out cliché about “the road less traveled,” she took prints of her photos and began knocking on the doors of the neighbors and farmers nearby to see what they knew about these ruined buildings, information she could use to caption her art. What began as a hobby has now evolved into a full-blown preservation project as Francesca works to save the stories of the small towns and settlements that dot the Kansas prairie.

“I’ve come to find that farmers know everything. If you consider generations of the same family cultivating the same soil for all those years, you can bet stories have been handed down about the area.”

At its peak in 1910, this Kansas ghost town had 21 residents. It was just a small stop along the railroad, but the town couldn’t have been more alive. Above city hall, there was a dance floor. On the weekends a band would play up there, the music spilling out into the streets. All that remains is this farmhouse.

On top that, Francesca uses “old school” research tools like the library, microfilm, genealogy books, newspapers, and the local historical society to help identify the subjects of her photos. Her favorite method is simply approaching the locals in town and starting a conversation — a concept that to some may seem as archaic as the structures in question.

“Strangers don’t talk anymore. I feel like we look down at our phones more than we look into the eyes of the people on the streets. I can’t tell you how many times these chance encounters have led to introductions with relatives, teachers, and community members who’ve helped me understand the impact of these places when they were in their prime. Sometimes simply asking about them brings back an appreciation for the soul of the town”

Silos and ghost signs RIGHT: Lawrenz Feed Co. in Wellsville, Kansas dates back to 1884

The clock is ticking on the race to save these stories because many of the storytellers Francesca interviews are nearing the end of their lives. They hold the keys to the area’s history, and she feels keenly the responsibility to gather and preserve their memories about the places that shaped them.ve their first-hand experiences about the places that shaped them.

“Many of these places have little to no documentation and sometimes they’re 100-years-old. The unstable state of the structures with their sunken roofs, creaky floors, and remote locations can be intimidating. The current rundown state of general stores, churches, post offices, and mills should not dictate or lessen their significance. Their stories are radically important to the thread of the town. I never want people to walk past an old building, not knowing its role in the community.”

LEFT: Fetrow General Store was a popular place to buy penny candy in 1927. RIGHT: an eerie mill rests in rust on the back roads of Kansas

Francesca hopes that her photos and their stories will inspire others to get curious about old buildings in their own state and beyond.

“Your personal experiences in your hometown give you roots there. What’s even more incredible to me is how a place that holds no ties to you, can latch on and make you feel part of it. It’s the emotional connection to the story that leaves a lasting impression. With each picture, every conversation, it’s my hope that I can take these memories and preserve them as an inclusive piece of local history through my lens.”

In 1917, the Santa Fe Railroad laid its tracks right through the middle of this farm. At one time there was a lumber yard, two grocery stores, several houses, two elevators, and a depot. Today the land is still farmed, but the town is a ghost.

 Classic Antique Archaeology Target Logo embroidered on the front