Route 66-Hackberry and Seligman,AZ

Once we had seen what we wanted at the Hoover Dam, we headed towards our next destination, Route 66. Route 66, the “Mother Road”,  was one of the original US highways. It was established in 1926 and stretched from Chicago, IL through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona finally ending in Santa Monica, California for a total of 2448 miles. It was a major route for those migrating west during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. For more information, click here.

 

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Our first stop along the Mother Road was Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona. Historically, Hackberry was a small town of ranchers and miners. Today, it is a vintage museum offering a wealth of memorabilia for Route 66, and is a popular spot for tourists and bikers traveling the road. It was an awesome place to take pictures. We went inside the store and found a vintage diner display, a gift shop and an assortment of snacks and beverages. I was able to purchase 3 postcards for $1 which I thought was an amazing price.

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After Hackberry, we drove 60 more miles to Seligman, Arizona. Seligman is a small town that was part of the original Route 66 from 1926-1978, but it was eventually bypassed by Interstate 40. It was also a site along Beale’s Wagon Road and the Santa Fe Railroad. Angel Delgadillo, a resident, barber and founder of the Historic Route 66 Association, has stated that traffic to Seligman pretty much disappeared with the opening of I-40. When we arrived, it was late in the day and many shops were closed, however, we were able to walk around Angel and Vilma’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop then we ate a delicious dinner at Lilo’s Cafe, an American-German restaurant.  

 

With full bellies, we headed on to Williams, Arizona to rest up for the night before heading to the Grand Canyon the next day.

The Hoover Dam

After a brief stay in Las Vegas, we hit the road to drive 33 miles to the Hoover Dam. We had rented a car at the airport in Vegas because we wanted to see some sites along the way to Los Angeles. The Hoover Dam, located on the border of Nevada and Arizona, does not have a street address. For driving directions and GPS coordinates, click here.  

 

The Hoover Dam was built between 1931-1936 during the Great Depression. As the southwest began to develop, it was built to divert the Colorado river in an effort to control the flow of water, provide power and for irrigation purposes. Today, it provides water and hydroelectric power to over 20 million people and to farmland in Nevada, Arizona and California. It forms Lake Mead which is the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of volume.  Originally named the Boulder Dam, it was renamed the Hoover Dam for President Herbert Hoover.

 

Some interesting facts about the Hoover Dam:

 

  • Thousands of workers contributed to building the dam and more than 100 died during construction.
  • The average temperature during construction was 119.9 ℉.
  • The dam is 726 feet high, 650 feet thick at the bottom and 45 feet thick at the top. It is  1,244 feet long.
  • 6 million tons of concrete were poured to build the dam
  • The power capacity of the Hoover Dam is 1,345 megawatts. In one year it can create 4.2 billion KWh (kilowatt hours).
  • Over 100 million people tour the dam each year.

 

The Hoover Dam is considered an engineering wonder and there are several lookouts around the dam for viewing. It is definitely worth a visit, but if you go, hold on to your hat. I found it to be quite windy and almost lost my hat a few times! 

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Beach Girl in Vegas

Last summer, my kid sister moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. After several months of not seeing her, I decided to schedule a trip, along with another family member, to visit her in LA. As we planned the visit, we decided that we also wanted to see the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and part of Route 66 so our trip expanded into something even bigger which I think of as the “wild west” excursion. We began and ended our adventure in Las Vegas since Vegas is centrally located between the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles.  

 

Las Vegas

 

Although Las Vegas was more of a connector city for us on this trip, we still had a little time to explore it. We flew into Vegas and stayed there our first evening before heading to the Hoover Dam the following day. After a little research, we booked a room at Planet Hollywood and couldn’t have been happier. For approximately $100 which we split (depending on the night, you can pay even less), we stayed in a super spacious room with two queen sized beds and a large bathroom containing two sinks, a large tub and a separate shower. Planet Hollywood offers both valet parking and free parking at the Miracle Mile shopping center which connects to the hotel. In order to save money for the rest of our trip we parked ourselves, but be aware that the hike to the hotel can be long when you self-park since you have to carry your bags through Miracle Mile to reach the hotel. The hotel contains a casino and several restaurants in addition to 2,567 rooms (!) and the Zappos theater which has hosted the likes of J-Lo, the Backstreet Boys, Lionel Richie and more.

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After hiking to the hotel and oohing and ahhing over our room, we headed downstairs to grab a bite to eat at the Earl of Sandwich restaurant. It was pretty good except that Earl of Sandwich has this weird combination beverage of earl grey tea and lemonade, in keeping with the theme I’m sure. I like tea and lemonade but earl grey tea with it’s unique taste has no place near lemonade in my humble opinion. No big deal. I just poured it out and got something else. If we had wanted to make more of an evening out of our meal, Gordon Ramsay also has a couple of restaurants in and around the hotel.

 

Afterwards, we hit the Vegas strip (Planet Hollywood is right in the middle of things) and walked down to the Mirage hotel to see their free show of a simulated erupting volcano which happens three times a night at 7, 8 and 9 pm. Click here for a Youtube video. After the erupting volcano, we walked to the the Bellagio for their free water fountain show, a personal favorite of mine. Here is a video of the fountain show to the tune of “Luck be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra. The fountains perform every half-hour from 3-8 pm and every 15 minutes from 8pm-midnight.

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A little history of Las Vegas:

 

Las Vegas acquired its name in 1821 from Rafael Rivera who was a member of a trading party that was stopping for water on the way to Los Angeles (guess we were not the only ones to use Las Vegas as a connector city). At that time, the area contained several artesian wells and was surrounded by green areas, believe it or not. The name Las Vegas actually means “meadows” in Spanish. Urbanization began in Las Vegas in 1902. In 1931, when construction began on the Boulder Dam (now the Hoover Dam), the Mafia built the casinos and showgirl theatres to entertain young males who were drawn to the city when they moved in to work on the Hoover Dam. Electricity from the dam allowed for the building of additional hotels. In 1966, American businessman Howard Hughes arrived in Vegas. His presence tempered the effect of the Mafia as he worked to change the image of Vegas to make it more glamorous. He is credited with turning it into a more touristy area. The 1960’s was also the heyday for one version of the famed “Rat Pack”, a group of entertainers (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammie Davis Jr. and more) who were centered around the casinos. By the 1980s, the effect of the Mafia died out, in part to the aging population of the World War II generation and in part to a drop in organized crime. Beginning around 1989, Vegas became more of a mega-resort area and today most of the hotels are owned by mega-corporations. For more information, see this article on the history of Las Vegas. 

We enjoyed our brief time in Vegas, but after after strolling around for a while, we retired to our room to rest up for an early start to our next destination, the Hoover Dam.

 

Pretty Place

Recently, I came across this picture of Symmes Chapel aka “Pretty Place”. I think it is one of the most beautiful chapels I’ve seen, at least judging by the photo, and I can’t wait to visit it someday (very soon, I hope).

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Photo Credit: Dave Allen

 

I did a little research on Pretty Place and found that it is located in a very small portion of South Carolina that lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Constructed in 1941, it sits on the property of the YMCA Camp Greenville. Mr. Fred W. Symmes donated the chapel for the enjoyment of children who camp at the YMCA during the summer, but visitors are welcome to visit the chapel during daylight hours and the chapel can even be booked for special events like weddings.

 

If you’re interested in seeing a schedule for the chapel, click here or you can call ahead  at: (864) 836-3291.

 

I know that this is one destination that has found a spot on my bucket list.

 

Happy Easter, all!

Hammocks Beach/Swansboro

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an excursion. Things have been complicated lately, and other thoughts and concerns have presented distractions. That’s ok. Life happens. But this morning when I got up and saw the sun shining on a beautiful day,  I decided that it was time to go exploring. I called one of my favorite sidekicks, and started the conversation like I often do, “I know it’s late notice, and it’s fine if you’re not interested but…” About two hours later, we were on our way to Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro, NC.

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Hammocks Beach consists of 1520 acres. It includes a mainland area that offers a visitors center, lookouts, a launch site for canoes, kayaks and ferries and a hiking trail. It also consists of four barrier islands: Bear Island, Huggins Island, Dudley Island and Jones Island which are accessible by ferry or private boat. Bear Island is the biggest attraction of the four. It is 4 miles long, has a south facing beach and contains hiking trails, as well.

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The history of Hammocks Beach is an interesting one. Originally, it was inhabited by Native Americans. Once the Native Americans migrated northward, pirates moved in and roamed the waters and the islands around the park. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used Bear and Huggins Islands to defend the mainland and during WWII, the Coast Guard used the area to monitor for German U-boats. In the early 20th century, the island was acquired by a neurosurgeon from New York named Dr. William Sharpe who willed it to the NC Teachers Association, an organization of African American Teachers. In 1961, they donated the park to the state of North Carolina. Originally intended as a park for minorities, the park was opened to everyone after the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammocks_Beach_State_Park)

Since we were at Hammocks Beach Park during the off-season, my friend and I were unable to take the ferry over to Bear Island. We stayed on the mainland, strolled around the museum in the visitors center and went to the lookouts on the grounds. We found the hiking trail but a controlled burn prevented us from walking the entire length of the trail.

We turned our sights to downtown Swansboro which was only about 8 minutes away, and found a restaurant close to the water named Boro. I had delicious Brazilian chicken in a tomato basil wrap with sweet potato fries and slaw. My friend had a burger and fries. The price was pretty affordable as we both paid about $11 and some change for lunch.

Afterwards, we walked the length of Front St where the restaurant was located. Quaint shops lined the street along the water. We found a candy shop called Candy Edventure and I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge.

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They also sold scorpion suckers…

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and ant suckers…

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but I opted not to try those. (I can’t think why) (Eww).

With fudge in hand, we strolled back up the street and slipped into a coffee shop/bar named Bake, Bottle & Brew.  I figured that a cup of coffee would go really well with my dessert. It ended up being my favorite place on that little strip.

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With our bellies full and our sense of adventure satisfied, we headed home. I’m thinking that I may go back during the summer to see what those places are like during the busy season, but I really enjoyed hanging out there today while everything was kind of quiet, too.

Until next time..:)

Views of New York

Recently, I decided to take a short trip to New York City with a friend. It was a bit of a spontaneous trip, we planned less than a week out, but the idea for the trip had been knocking around in my head for a while. I live on the east coast but I had never been to New York, and in my mind, it was overdue. In typical fashion for a trip to the city, I ran the entire time I was there. I told my friend that in a lot of ways, I felt that the entire trip was an exercise in resourcefulness as we moved from one mode of transportation to another. We drove from home to RDU airport, located in Morrisville, NC to catch our plane. We parked in one of the most distant parking lots to get a better price for parking then caught a shuttle to the airport. Once we were in the airport, we walked to the appropriate terminal. We flew on our plane, landed in New York and grabbed a cab to the hotel. Once we were situated at the hotel, we obtained a map of the subways, used the subways to get around and then walked where we wanted to go. 14, 986 steps one day.  We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We caught the Staten Island ferry for the excursion. At the end of the visit, we caught another car back to the airport, walked to another terminal, flew on another plane, took another shuttle to our car and drove back home. Phew!

Obviously, I have lots of thoughts about everything that happened in between which I’m sure I will write about over time. While in the midst of all this moving about, I did manage to write a couple of haikus and of course, snap some pictures. The haiku below is about my impression of the city as I flew in that first day. I was struck by how tiny the enormous buildings looked from the sky, like an architectural model. In fact, from my seat on the plane, they didn’t even look definitively like buildings at first, but rather large rocks standing up to reach or worship the sky.

Jagged rocks reaching

to the sky, lined up Legos

or modern Stonehenge

Below are a few more pictures that I snapped of buildings from other angles. The first set are pictures I took of a few buildings from the opposite direction, underneath, as I explored the Brookfield Place shopping center.

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The last picture is a view from my plane as I left the city at sunset on my last day.

 

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Carolina Beach State Park

July 4th was a busy day for me. I couldn’t sleep and woke up before dawn. I used the time to watch the sunrise on the beach then I called my 75-year-old father, who I figured would be up, to go to breakfast. After breakfast, we drove down to Carolina Beach State Park. I’ve been wanting to check out CB park for a while, and now I want to go back.

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Carolina Beach State Park is 761 acres large along the Cape Fear River and Snow’s Cut which is part of the Intracoastal waterway. There are 8 hiking trails scattered throughout the park ranging from .35 mile to 3 miles long: 6 miles of hiking trails total. All are sandy terrain and considered easy.

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A marina provides access to boating and fishing. Campsites tailored toward both families and groups feature amenities such as picnic tables, grills and fire rings. There are some cabins available for reservation and restrooms with hot showers are located nearby.

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On my trip to CB State Park, we hiked part of the Sugarloaf Trail which travels through the marsh along the river. We saw waterbirds along the way and several fiddler crabs crossed our path as we made our way along the route. I have intentions of going back with a picnic lunch and hiking the trail to the Sugarloaf Dune which I hear offers an excellent view.

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Definitely check this park out if you are in the area. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

 

New Orleans Streetcar

via Daily Prompt: Tender

It has been about 8 months since I visited New Orleans for the first time. One of my friends is a HUGE Keith Urban fan so we traveled to NOLA to attend a concert at the Smoothie King arena downtown.

The wonderful thing about going somewhere for the first time is that it is perfectly acceptable to be a shameless tourist. Besides the concert, we filled our weekend with all of the typical NOLA tourist activities. We took the streetcar to Bourbon Street  where I’m pretty sure I dined on the best shrimp jambalaya I will ever consume in my life, and to Cafe du Monde where I sampled the best beignets I will probably ever taste. We took a bus tour of the Garden District, which was beautiful, then to the 9th Ward where we saw houses and neighborhoods that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

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All of these memories linger in my mind, and now with a base of experience, I have a better idea of what I want to explore further if I go back to New Orleans; but there is another memory from the streetcar that lingers, as well, and it is a simple one.

The streetcars intrigued me. Their charming trademark appearance of wooden seats and exposed light bulbs were distinctly New Orleans. For those who don’t know the mechanics of the streetcars, they run on electricity. They don’t travel quickly, and there are frequent stops. They offer a unique experience but also require some patience. There was a variety of people thrown together on the streetcars: tourists, people going to and from work and residents just running errands.

The first night we were in New Orleans, we took the streetcar to Bourbon St. That is a story in itself. We missed our stop and would not have known except that I started talking to a female passenger who informed me that if we were going to Bourbon St, we had to get off the streetcar quickly. I told the driver and she did stop for us…two blocks out from Bourbon St. She pointed to a stretch of dark road and said, “It’s two blocks that way. Just go straight and you will walk right into it”. We hesitantly got out of the car and stepped into a city that was strange to us then walked down the dark stretch of road to Bourbon St. It didn’t help my nerves when I looked back at the woman on the streetcar and noticed a look of concern on her face. But we made it there okay and it was a lesson learned. When we left, we took a taxi back to the hotel since it was so late.

As I said, there was a diverse group of passengers on the streetcar. I remember one time during our travels when the streetcar stopped for several minutes to pick up another passenger. I glanced out the window, curious to see who was boarding. An older man in a wheelchair sat on the curb. He held a large bottle of water, a cup and a small dog on his lap. I learned that the streetcars are equipped with platforms that can be lowered to the curb for people who use wheelchairs, but there is a process to lowering the platform and it takes a few minutes. I glanced around the car which was relatively full, and noticed that even though we were full and on a delay, no-one seemed impatient. Everyone took the pause in stride. I glanced back down at the man. He poured some water into his cup and shared it with the dog on his lap. For some reason, I was filled with a sense of tenderness. For the man, for the dog and even for the passengers who patiently waited for his arrival inside the car. Shortly thereafter, he wheeled onto the lowered platform and was raised up to join us.

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All in all, it was a really enjoyable trip. I was reminded by a couple of people during the weekend to “be careful” as I explored the city as a tourist, but I was very fortunate. Most of the people I encountered were friendly and patient. Even helpful. And also, in case you are wondering, Keith Urban was great in concert! If you get a chance to see him, you should go.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

 

 

Evanescent

There is something magical about wandering into a scene when the light is just so. It is one of the greatest rewards of walking outside. A fleeting moment can merge the senses into an imprint that sits on your soul for hours, maybe longer. And it can be a simple view in a place that you visit frequently. Below are a few pictures of those evanescent moments from one of my afternoon walks in a park that I visit often.

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