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.

 

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..:)

A Day in Charleston

Recently, I took a day trip to Charleston with a couple of friends. It was not our original plan, to be honest. We had originally planned to go hiking in Dupont Forest. Mother Nature had other ideas, however, and it rained at Dupont during the time of our trip. It did not, however, rain on the coast that day so we re-calculated and went to Charleston instead- which of course was still a lovely day.

 

On our excursion, we stayed around the downtown Charleston area. There is so much to do in that area that we found plenty of sites to see on our day trip. A friend of mine arrived prepared, having printed a map of downtown Charleston, and from there we made our selections. We parked near Waterfront Park and met at the Pineapple Fountain. From there, we wandered down to Rainbow Row then decided to tour the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

 

Afterwards, we started looking around for a place to eat. One of my friends was a vegetarian so we walked from restaurant to restaurant reading menus on windows until we settled on the Sweetwater Cafe.  I had a delicious tuna melt on sourdough with a side salad and sweet tea. My friends both had breakfast dishes. We discussed our next move over lunch. The City Market was close by so we decided to go there next. There were hundreds of vendors at the market with a plethora of unique and beautiful items, including the famed sweetwater baskets of Charleston. I bought a couple of small gifts. I might have bought more but I was traveling on foot and knew that I would have to carry the bags.

 

After the City Market, we went to visit the horses. Charleston, like so many historic cities, offers carriage tours. We had heard that the public was welcome to visit the horses-carriage ride or not-just to say hello so we found a stable and met this beautiful guy, who was resting when we stopped by.

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The remainder of our trip was pretty much a self-guided walking tour to view old buildings that we thought might be of interest. We saw some churches

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cemeteries

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and an old prison.

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We also saw some beautiful historic homes. One thing I loved about Charleston is that, even though the homes are beautiful, they aren’t always uniform. There’s a “Charleston style” that carries throughout the city, but I literally saw homes side by side of different styles and colors, and the effect was charming.

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Before we ended our day, we treated ourselves to a Belgian Gelato. I chose chocolate hazelnut. It was delish! Full of gelato, we wandered back to our cars and prepared for the drive home. I looked at my phone and saw that we had walked 7 miles throughout the day. I guess we got in our hike, anyway.

Old Baldy

Old Baldy, located on beautiful Bald Head Island, turned 200 years old in 2017.  The longest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, Baldy was originally built to mark the entrance of the Cape Fear River.

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According to the website Baldy has:

108 steps and five landings with a ladder into the lantern room.

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It is 110 feet tall with one door and six windows.

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I climbed the lighthouse about a month ago. So far, I’ve been to three of North Carolina’s seven main lighthouses and Old Baldy is the first one I’ve been able to climb. The panoramic view from the top was breathtaking and an amazing reward for all of the huffing and puffing it took to get there.

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Bald Head Island can be reached by ferry which leaves from the Deep Point Marina out of Southport. Once on the island, you can get around by foot (the island is 4.8 miles long and 2 miles wide) or bike or you can rent a cart. There are restaurants on the island (I stopped in at Mojo’s on my trip), walking trails, beach access and a conservancy that features events like kayaking, surf fishing, touch tanks, birding and even stargazing after dark.

BHI is a tiny island with a lot to offer if you are looking for an interesting, relaxing and unique day trip.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Currently, there are seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three: Cape Lookout, the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy. I hope to visit them all.

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I traveled to the Oak Island Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get out the house, and I remembered that I’d been planning to visit the lighthouse, which was a little less than an hour’s drive from my home, for quite a while. As I drove through the rural route that would take me to the lighthouse, I remember thinking, I would never live out here, because there didn’t appear to be much to do. I would see things a little differently once I reached my destination.

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The light from the lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach Rd on Oak Island, can be seen for 16 miles. It’s rather exciting to see it flashing in the distance as you approach the beach. The lighthouse was built in 1957 to replace a steel lighthouse on Bald Head Island (Bald Head and Oak Island are very close to one another) and when it was first lit in 1958, carbon-arc mercury lamps, which were used prior to incandescent lights, provided so much light that it was the brightest in the United States and the second brightest in the world. The light is currently powered by a 1,000 watt halogen bulb and displays 4 one second flashes then 6 seconds of blank. It stands 153 feet tall and has 131 steps that can be climbed to reach an outside balcony, although you must schedule a time to climb the lighthouse. It is not open during any set hours.

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It is very easy to access because it sits just by the road. There is a tiny parking lot directly in front of the lighthouse with free parking for 30 minutes. I saw another public access parking lot just down the road. Across the street is a walkway onto Caswell Beach. After I poked around the lighthouse, I crossed the street to check out the beach. It was super quiet compared to the beaches where I live, and I saw several pelicans flying so close to the shore that I could actually make out their little pelican faces. I glanced behind me to see the flashes from the lighthouse, and it occurred to me how fortunate the locals are to live so close to such a quiet beach adorned with their own personal lighthouse. Ok, I thought, maybe I would live here.

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Moore’s Creek

I squeezed in a historical excursion today. Moore’s Creek National Battlefield, located in Currie NC, is the site of the first influential victory by the Patriots in the American Revolution. The battle, which took place on February 27, 1776, ended British authority in the colony and empowered North Carolina to be the first colony to declare independence. The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge as well as the Battle of Sullivan’s Island close to Charleston, SC were the first open conflicts of the American revolution and led to the Thirteen colonies declaring Independence on July 4, 1776. (Wikipedia)

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Today, the 87-acre park has reenactments, a tour of the battlefield and a visitor center which offers videos, displays and other educational opportunities.

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On the grounds, a History Trail (0.7 mile) follows a walk across Moore’s Creek and features several monuments. The Patriot Monument honors John Grady, the only Patriot killed in the battle. A Loyalist Monument honors those who supported the British cause who “did their duty as they saw it” and another monument honors women in the region for the roles that they played in the American Revolution. The Tarheel Trail  (0.3 mile) begins near the end of the History Trail.

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It was an informative trip for me as I did not realize what an important role NC played in the American Revolution. I’m sure I learned it in school a looooong time ago, but it was nice to have the reminder. It was also a really beautiful place to walk. I even saw some friends along the way.

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The Fort Fisher Hermit

“Hermits are hermits at home before they hit the jungles. Everybody ought to be a hermit for a few minutes or so every twenty-four hours, to study, meditate and commune with their creator.” Robert E. Harrill (1893-1972)

Robert Harrill had some difficulties in life. He was born on February 2, 1893. His mother died of typhoid fever when he was 7-years-old and he was sent to live with his authoritarian grandfather and an abusive step-grandmother. As a child he learned to find solace in the woods, hiding among the trees and playing in the creeks, to escape his family.

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Originally, he wanted to be a Baptist minister. He didn’t have financial support from his family, though, so he worked on farms until he earned enough money to attend the Boiling Springs Baptist Boarding School. While in school, he acquired a “printing outfit” and worked for local newspapers as an apprentice. This lead to a newspaper career that lasted until he was 40-years-old when, according to The Reluctant Hermit of Fort Fisher, he began to have health problems from lead poisoning. After that, he worked an assortment of jobs in an effort to support his family. He and his wife, Katie, had five children total but lost two children, an infant daughter and a son, Alvin, who committed suicide as a young man.  

 

Robert battled what he called demons in his head for many years. On one occasion, his wife’s family had him committed to Broughton Mental Hospital in western NC, but the stay was brief and he left on his own. All of these factors produced stress on his marriage and eventually Katie left to accept a job as a housekeeper in Pennsylvania. She took the children.

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At the age of 62, Robert hitchhiked to Fort Fisher, NC where he set up residence in an abandoned WWII bunker and eventually became the Fort Fisher Hermit. Robert was a curious “hermit”, though. Initially, he retreated to the marshes of Fort Fisher to escape the demands of the modern world and even judgement from other people, but he was a likeable man, well-spoken and described as a “gentle” spirit, and people were drawn to him. Whenever someone crossed his path in the marsh, he generally welcomed the company and before long, he was receiving many visitors. During his stay at the bunker, he received about 100,000 visitors and eventually he became the second largest tourist attraction in North Carolina behind the USS Battleship North Carolina. Had he been a blogger, I think he would have had a heck of a following.

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Unfortunately, not all of his visitors came with the best of intentions. He was beat up and robbed on several occasions and on June 3, 1972, he died under suspicious circumstances. The only consolation those close to him could take from his death was that he died on his own terms and he died free.

 

“Millions of people, at some time or another, want to do just what I am doing, but since it is so much easier thought than done, they subconsciously elect me to represent them.”

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For more information on Robert check out the following links to the book and film which are the sources for my blog:

 

The Reluctant Hermit 

 

THE FORT FISHER HERMIT | FilmBuff

 

Meandering along the Basin Trail

In case you haven’t noticed, I quite enjoy walks and hikes. My latest excursion, last weekend, was The Basin Trail at Fort Fisher. The Basin Trail (difficulty: easy) is 1.10 miles one way-so a little over 2 miles there and back.  It begins at the Fort Fisher Visitor Center and winds along the sound side of Fort Fisher across straw, wooded walkways and sand. It travels down a path surrounded by trees, shrubbery, the marsh, a World War II bunker and it ends at an observation deck overlooking the Basin.

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Along the way, you can expect to see Spartina salt marsh, hermit crabs and an assortment of seabirds, including but not limited to, plovers and oystercatchers. There is also an abundance of fish, shrimp, clams and oysters. Depending on the time of year, you may also see loggerhead turtles, hawks, ducks and many more species.

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You will pass a WWII bunker that was originally built by the Army Service Forces in 1942 when Fort Fisher was part of a training and support facility for Camp Davis, located in Holly Ridge. Fort Fisher closed as a training facility in 1944 and the bunker was abandoned; but from 1956-1972, Robert Harrill, a hermit who lived on the salt marsh, found and occupied the bunker. Mr. Harrill fascinates me and I intend to talk about him further in a separate post. 

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Once you reach the observation deck, you will see Zeke’s Island across the water. You may also see Brown pelicans fishing, kayakers or even an occasional wind skier.  

After you walk the trail, you can do like I did and enjoy the beach. The parking at the visitor center is free and provides access to the beach. The visitor center also provides restrooms, tables and an area to rinse off when you exit the beach.

Not a bad afternoon for free fun.