Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013
(A time lapse image of the Arc de Triomphe and it's formidable round-about.)
Friday, May 31, 2013
|(Gray Pride and "Live Long and Prosper" at the south end of the E.T. Highway)|
|(The 13-mile stretch of Groom Lake Rd., but don't look for street signs...there aren't any)|
|(The first sign we came to was not the expected sign. Note, however, the white security vehicle on the ridge to the right of the sign)|
|(Note BIG gun barrel sticking off the side)|
Saturday, May 25, 2013
OK, so traveling... pretty basic, no need to explain. But what I DO get asked all the time, "What the heck is geocaching?" Well, it is a global scavenger hunt, of sorts. Not too tough to figure out (if you go to the official website, www.geocaching.com there is about a 2 minute video explaining it), basically people use satellites and GPS coordinates to hide and find "caches", of which there are 2-million hidden all over the world. They can range from the size of an acorn up to a 5-gallon paint bucket, and in addition to a log to be signed by the finder, people leave and trade trinkets and 'trackables'. There are also special events planned for the caching community. I recently attended my first event a couple of months ago: the annual Geo-Poker Run here in Vegas. Then while in Florida last month, I attended another and then this past weekend, a few more while in Rachel, Nevada.
My mom actually introduced me to the hobby and I fell in love with it instantly. For the first couple of months, mom didn't get out of the car, but would humor me if we were traveling. I finally got her out of the car and got HER addicted and now we obsess about it together. Today I got my 600th find. Honestly, I feel guilty if I miss a day, LOL. It's a great hobby for the single person and families. It can be free (I started with a free membership and a free app on my cellphone as a GPS) or you can put as much into it as you want (the high end GPS unit; I use a fairly inexpensive one...the Garmin Oregon 450, but admit I'm still learning how to work it). I will say that we don't leave the house or plan a vacation without knowing where all the caches are ahead of time!
At any rate, I will try to do a bit better about keeping up on my blogs. I have no plans of going anywhere exciting for the next month or so, so perhaps boredom will send me to it. I need to blog about Area 51, EPCOT and our kick-ass hotel deal, Florida, San Francisco and a couple of other short trips I've had in the past 6 months. Stay tuned...
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Once the dam was complete and the entire valley flooded to create the largest man-made lake in the United States, it was only possible to see St. Thomas if you visited by scuba diving the 50-60 feet to where it rested on the bottom. Given Lake Mead's visibility, you probably won't have seen much, and after learning to scuba dive in one of the best locations in the world (the Bahamas), I refused to lower my standards. But It's actually much more interesting now that it's back above the water. The town has actually flooded and reappeared about five times with the various levels of water in the lake in the past 75 years, until our water level dropped to an all-time low a few years back. I'm not sure you could actually walk out there during any of the past brief reappearances, but that is definitely not a problem now. Standing at the trail head which starts at a ridge overlooking the town site, you can barely see the lake in the distance, that's how far the water has receded. I'm not sure what I expected to see when I got there; I mean, I knew it wouldn't be in pristine condition, but all that water has taken its toll. There are still numerous "foundations" (actually, at first look, they appear to be just foundations but if you look closely, you'll see that you may actually be looking at a second story or roof that has been so completely overtaken by the silt and vegetation that the majority of the structure is 'submerged' by the remaining dirt...there is one large structure that you can clearly see where the floor of what looks like the foundation has sunk in one corner where there was either an air bubble or the sand didn't fill it evenly), several of them quite large. One is the Post Office, one is the Hotel, one is the schoolhouse. From the ridge, the town looks like nothing but a few straight roads, so I was disappointed, but if you go down there, you'll see remains everywhere. The town seems to have been built with an oval main street that reminds me of a race track with structures built around it and on the inside. I followed the whole street back to the trail when the toe-sprain issue arose and cut my visit short. It's a little eerie if you're there by yourself. There may be no wind or noise at all except for the Mormon crickets we have so many of this time of year. If you are near any structures that have what look like wells or ventilation shafts with rebar grates screwed over them, have a look in them. They actually look down into where the structure may have lower floors you can't see from the surface looking at the remains. This can be a little tough if you come at midday like I did...the sun directly overhead made it very difficult to see anything, but a handy cellphone flash works, too.
If you decide to visit, I would do so quickly. For you locals like me who have been curious but procrastinated, get there soon. The town will probably never have to worry about being submerged again, however a forest of scrub and short trees are now taking over what was previously the lake bed. The forest is winning. Several remains have already been swallowed up and its clear that very little maintenance is being done to stop it. When you take the trail down from the ridge to explore, I have a few words to the wise: 1) You will see what look like foot paths crisscrossing the main path. If I had to take a guess, I'd say these were probably well-established paths before the flooding, so very little vegetation has grown there, though some of them do eventually choke off. PROCEED WITH CAUTION! Especially if you're alone. I took a couple of them and was fortunate enough to find some smaller foundations (probably houses) back in the forest. The trees, however, are about 6 feet or more and it is extremely easy to get disoriented or lost in. 2) You may want to avoid walking in the middle or around the edges of a structure, especially if you think there may be additional floors under what you can see. I noticed a few where corners are settling and sinking and it was clearly easy to step in the wrong spot and get stuck...or worse. 3) People who appreciate the history of the town respect the archaeology are the site and do not remove anything found there. I noticed a couple of places where visitors have laid out pieces of old bottles, cans, pottery, etc. so that others can look at them. Please do the same and do not remove anything you find there. Metal detectors are forbidden. 4) Due to our killer heat here, not to mention critters like rattlesnakes and gila monsters, you should really only go between November and March. Otherwise, you're taking your life in your hands! Depending on if you go all the way around the town from one side to the other, the hike is about 2.5 miles, easy and flat the entire time once you come up/down the ridge from the trail. The elevation change there is about 60 feet. The only thing I was really bummed about is that there is nothing telling you what building you're looking at. I was guessing at most of them, but I had to come home and compare my pictures to the few, poor quality pictures taken 100 years ago. If you do a web search on St. Thomas, you'll find plenty of articles and information sites, but I've listed a few below. Enjoy!
Monday, November 12, 2012
Since my last post, which I think was about 3 weeks ago, I've been staying busy. Hiking almost everyday and I spent a week visiting friends in Orange County, California, which included one's famous (and yummy!) grilled-4-cheese sandwiches while waiting on the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. My friends have converted their back patio area into the coolest pirate-themed bar EVER, complete with a hand-made wooden bar and decorations that would make even Disney proud. So much time, effort and money has been put into it (and some of us contributing more stuff whenever possible), that you want to spend as much time back there as possible. Even on chilly nights, which was every night I was there.
Aside from a few grave-rabbit errands in the Westminster area, I talked three of my friends into a visit to the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum. I've been wanting to go for years, ever since I went to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, back in 1999. It's so sad to say, but I was not taught about the Holocaust in school. I'm forty, and I don't know whether it was a "don't teach" subject or because I was raised in a small southern town, but I didn't know anything about it until "Schindler's List" came out in 1993 (a movie I highly recommend). That is such a sad commentary on our school system. We learned about WWII and we knew about Anne Frank (I'm not sure if we read it or watched the movie), but I never really understood why she and her family were hiding. I guess I just thought they were criminals or because they didn't want to be Nazi's.
The differences between the Los Angeles and the national museums are, obviously, the size, and the nature of many of the exhibits. I spent hours in the national museum and still had to rush through (I was there on business and had to sight-see between planned events over the course of three days...May is National Law Enforcement Week in DC, when cops like me overrun the city). I would recommend the museum highly to anyone visiting Washington, DC... above many other things to see while you are there. I especially recommend it to families with children old enough to understand the tragedy and everything they have at the museum, to prevent it from ever happening again in future generations. I remember as we entered, each person is given a passport with the story of a different Jewish victim. As you go room to room, you turn a page in the passport and get to know more about your person. You won't know if he/she survived until the last page. That's an eye opener. There is a real train-car used in one of the concentration camps, as well as detailed scale models of the camps as well.
One of the most striking exhibits in the national museum is the Tower of Faces, the 17-year creation of Yaffa Eliach. This exhibit is so powerful, that I promptly went home to do some research. I am half-Lithuanian (to my knowledge, according to my genealogist mother, there are no relatives or ancestors of Jewish decent, but with so many huge Jewish comunities there, it is entirely possible that there were) and the faces of the Tower represent the Lithuanian town of Eishyshok. There was a large Jewish population there, which had existed for nine CENTURIES, before the Nazi's came and completely decimated it, practically overnight. When you walk into the tower, you are on a ramp, and surrounding you, climbing two stories above you and another story below you, are 1,600 photos of the citizens of Eishyshok. It really puts things in perspective.
There are so many outstanding exhibits at the national museum I could blog about, but it just has to be seen in person to really appreciate it. It's a true learning experience for all ages and religions.
If you live on the west coast and can't get to the U.S. Museum in DC, then The Los Angeles Holocaust Museum is also interesting, but obviously on a much smaller scale. I believe we were there for 2-3 hours. The majority of the exhibits are donated items, clothing, flags, etc. There is a replica train car and a very detailed miniature model of the Sobibor Extermination Camp. This is a self-guided museum. When you enter, you will be given a smart-phone device and a set of earphones (note: if you wear glasses, the earphones may cause headaches), and each item is numbered, so you just enter it on the device. In the first room is an inter-active table, which you'll see has photos floating on it. If you touch any photo, it will bring up the personal information for that person. It's similar to the passports given at the National museum. There is also a room that has numerous TV monitors scattered about, each featuring a history of a different concentration camp and their victims.
George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There are few horrific events in history that should be remembered and avoided more than the Holocaust. There are still ridiculous pockets of people who still believe the murder of 6 million Jews is a fabrication and never happened. If you meet one of these idiots, please slap the shit out of them for me! Denial is no reason for ignorance. If you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust, as I was, please do the research and plan a trip with your family and friends to a museum near you. There are several scattered throughout the country. If you get to DC, DEFINITELY plan a few hours there. It's very difficult to walk away unaffected.