Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Random thoughts on Friday

The weather is nice right now! I have been walking around, seeing things, and of course, going to some baseball games!

Check out my other blog for some ideas relating to minor league baseball. The state has 4 minor league teams in the state (and countless college teams). The weather is good and minor league baseball games are affordable!

I did get to see the Owensboro and the Lexington pro basketball teams last year. Both put on great shows. Lexington was stacked with former UK stars and Owensboro pepped the city up with good playing, and a fun show at the Sports Center (LOVED their mascot!). I am not sure of the future for either franchise. I thought Owensboro was drawing a respectable crowd. Lexington's team just didn't get the basketball headlines this year. I don't want to joke about their situation, but their were nights I thought about trying to go to a game, but I wasn't exactly sure where they would be playing. Both teams did well in the tournament and I hope they both hang on.

I hope arena football makes a come back in the area too. Lexington's Horsemen stuck around for several years and the team put on a 1st rate show at Rupp. They were drawing a few thousand fans a game and really looked like pros. There were rumors that they would make a come back, but those rumors seem to be fading.

I love taking little road trips on great days like these. Spending a day in E-Town, Paducah, Owensboro, Somerset, etc. sounds like a plan!

I am mentally thinking out some of the things around the state that I want to get around to doing. I haven't stopped by Horse Cave in some time. Florence and Covington will be on my travel plan list soon too.

I spent some time in Owensboro the other day. I really love the downtown area by the science museum. There is the museum and The Creme coffee shop, which is very cozy. This might be my favorite coffee shop in Kentucky. The place looks nice, and serves a good product. Next door to the Creme is a great little gift shop. The same people run a small movie theater above the gift shop that they rent out for parties. I am going to have to do a review of each soon, as they are both great additions to Owensboro.

Also in the same area is a cool photo/print & antique type store. It doesn't stand out, but they have some nice items. The shop has some nice framed photos of downtown and of the Executive Inn. It is funny, because the Big E has been gone less than a year, but it feels like it was there a much longer time ago. Check out the affordable Owensboro prints at this shop.

Oh, and I think there is a little horse race going on in Louisville this weekend. Keeneland is over in Lexington (I took some fun photos there this season that I will get up soon). I hope your horse does well at the Derby!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Superman, the Cool Ectors Mall and monuments in Owensboro

Owensboro has statues everywhere! I don't know how long TD's has had "The Thinker" out front of the store, but it has been there for some time. I also don't know where he come from.

As Owensboro's most noticeable structures get knocked down or lay abandoned, I think back to their glory days. Gabe's Tower was, and is still an incredible structure for the town. Check out my other entry on the Gabe's postcards, but it still stands out.

I remember being a very young kid in Owensboro, and riding past there a lot. I remember being more impressed with the waving statue of Gabe in front of the hotel. I would always wave at him.

I was in Owensboro a bit ago, and I asked a friend about the old Gabe statue. I figured it may have been destroyed or something.

"Not so!" a friend told me! Gabe is still around.

Not far from Lincoln Mall, there he was, still waving behind a storage facility! He has aged, and he still has a 60s-70s look to him, but he was still big and amazing.

He was fenced in but you can still get a good look at him. I am not sure who owns him, but it hit me that he would look great downtown, near or inside of the museum! He is a great piece of Owensboro history.

My friend Rick Phelps has made several statues displayed inside and outside of the Cool Ector's Mall. Most noticeable outside of the shop are his huge Darth Vader cut out, and his Superman statue on the side parking lot. Superman is becoming a bit of a landmark in town. Rick said that it makes him proud to see dads taking pictures of their sons in front of the massive statue.

Inside of the Cool Ectors Mall, Rick has several other cool creations, including a Bat-Man Statue, and a cool pirate ship he made hangs from the ceiling!

And, on a more official level, there is the cool newer Buffalo statue in town too!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Old Postcard: Mount Washington, PA

Postmarked 1911 (!) from Pittsburgh, and franked with a one cent stamp, I yelped briefly when I found this postcard.

This is another place where I have been many times, and I have enjoyed the very same view the people on the postcard enjoyed, only a century or so later. Pittsburgh is still this photogenic! Notice the spelling of Pittsburgh on the front of the card!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Old Postcard: Electric Fountain in Reservoir Park, Fort Wayne Indiana

I thought about not posting about this postcard, but man is it pretty. Also, it is an Indiana postcard, so it is close to Kentucky!

Also, for what it is worth, the scan takes away some of the detail of this perfect little picture.

"This fountain is equipped to throw water twenty-five feet into the air. The color effects are secured by a battery of thirty vari-colored floodlights. The fountain was donated to the city of Fort Wayne by the General Electric Company.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old Postcards: Gabe's Tower in Owensboro

Well, Gabe's is still in Owensboro, but it is not as exciting as it must have been decades ago. All 3 of these postcards are similar on the back, noting a phone number for "Gabe's Inn" (we always called it "Gabe's Tower").

The back of one postcard boasts, "120 Deluxe Suites, Just Wonderful Food... Cocktails... Swimming Pool In The Sky, Roof Garden... Full Facilities for Banquets and Meetings..."

2 of the postcards note, "Located in the Friendliest Convention City in USA".

I cannot find a good photo of the old statue of Gabe at all, which was a landmark on its own at one time. The statue was waving, and as a kid, I always waved back.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Old Cincinnati postcards

Hey, check out these old postcards I picked up recently! Man, I love postcards, old or new. I buy them whenever I travel, and I like finding old ones relating to towns I love. Unused ones, or used ones with a vintage postmark and a note from a friend are all great!

Here are some old linen ones of Cincinnati.

The top one is gorgeous, showing the city from as seen from the Kentucky side. It is funny, I have stood at this same point many times. The town still looks familiar, even without the stadiums staring back! I do not have a date for this one.

The middle card is titled "Interior of Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio." The Terminal in Cincinnati is still a great resource for the town. It seems to be a bit of a local secret in a way to me, as a lot of people from outside of the area seem to know little about it. The back of the undated card reads, "The main concourse of the Union Terminal, built at a cost of $41,000,000, is semi-circular in shape, and the right and left hand sides of the dome contain the largest silhouette mosaics in the world, the left hand mural portraying the history of transportation, and the right hand, the growth of Cincinnati. It also contains information and ticket windows, retail shops, restaurant facilities, etc."

The bottom card, titled, "Concourse, Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio" was used, and is postmarked 1942! Oddly, "free" is written where a stamp should go (though "place one cent stamp here" is printed on the card).

With the great linen texture on the cards, they look like vibrant small paintings. All would look great matted and framed!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crystal Cave, PA

While driving around Pennsylvania, we stopped at Crystal Cave. It was a nice show cave. I took a few pictures. Check them out!

To be honest, this wasn't the most spectacular show cave ever. In fact, compared to some of the show caves we come across here in Kentucky, this one seemed a bit small. That's OK though, it is still worth a visit.

It is in a weird area of PA. Roadside America is in the area. You are in the area around West Virginia where the Flatwoods monster and Mothman were seen. Other odd stuff is going on to. We saw a barn owl on "Witchcraft Road" near here, and he looked creepy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wallace Station- Versailles Kentucky

We stopped by Wallace Station the other day for lunch after seeing a segment on KET it.

There was a line out the door, and it did take a few minutes to get to order, but it was worth it! And, I would expect the lines to be getting longer since Wallace Station is getting some exposure from "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives".

We actually did not know about this until we went inside and saw Guy's signature on the wall. Pretty cool. I am not sure which show I like more, this one, or Man Vs. Food. I guess that is a debate for another day.

Here are the basics. The restaurant itself reminds me of one of those friendly little country stores you find in rural areas. It was crowded, but there was still plenty of seating.

Sanwiches are about 7-8 bucks each and they are worth it. I had half of my triple decker at Wallace Station, and the other half I ate later that evening for dinner. I really could have made that sandwich 3 meals.

We shared a "Danger Brownie" too which was unreal. I don't know if it was the sugar, or the little burbon ball on top, but I was dizzy (in a good way) after a few bites. My wife had to drive home.

The guys running the place were great too. They were all super friendly. We asked for a box for our uneaten half sandwiches, and they wrapped them up for us!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roadside America, Shartlesville PA

Laurence Grieringer spent 60 years building what has become known as Roadside America. He became pretty obsessed with building his miniature town.

On a personal level, I am a bit jealous of him. I think many guys think it would be fun to build a miniature city. I have built a few HO scale buildings myself over the years, and I do hope someday to have the space and time to work on an actual small city and train lay out.

It looks like Laurence spent his time going the scratch building way, making and designing his own buildings in the Reading PA area.

In some ways, Roadside America is very easy to describe. It is in a big room arranged in a big square with room to walk all the way around the miniature city.

It is much more complicated than that. There are many buttons to push which prompts certain things to happen on the layout. Farmers work, people dance, and vehicles move.

Every half an hour there is a light show, as the city goes through a day cycle. American images are projected on a wall as patriotic music plays. I know many people might think it sounds cheesy, but it is authentic cheesy. I have heard the display has been part of Roadside America for decades. Even if you are not one to wear a red white and blue shirt on the 4th, this will bring a tear to your eye. It might be too Mayberry for some, but it is real, and it is sincere. I told the very polite lady working there that I enjoyed the show part of it, and she seemed to take pride in it being a part of Roadside America.

I took a lot of pictures during my trip to Roadside America, but, like many other great roadside attractions, my pictures are not a fair representation. It is easy to show a detailed photo of one or two of the buildings, or one photo of as much of the layout as I can fit in one picture, but there is so much more going on.

The attraction dates back to the 40s and it has remained pretty much unchanged since the passing of its creator in the early 1960s. There are no real digital enhancements, and even it's web presence is minimal (see their web site).

So, the next time you are driving through Pennsylvania, try to make sure you stop at Roadside America. Check out Laurence Grieringer's creation, and enjoy the fact that such a town still exists.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Louisville Zoo

It is hard for me to say that I like one zoo more than another. I like them all. I love seeing animals. I used to feel that zoos were wrong, keeping animals in cages and all, but I don't feel that way anymore. I think there is a lot to gain from zoos. Also, I was told that there are animals that actually have longer life spans in captivity than in the wild.

Anyway, here are some picture I took at the very happening Louisville Zoo. They have a nice, clean facility with all of the great stuff you would expect at a top level zoo. I personally liked the bat exhibit, which was attracting a crowd.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lost Sea Sweatwater, TN

I think I have a pretty good understanding of this cave/lake inside of the cave.

The cave name is Craighead Cavern and the lake inside of it is known as the Lost Sea.

This was one show cave we really wanted to hit on our way through Tennessee. It looks great, and it has a very interesting history.

I like how some show caves actually have an entrance through their main building/gift shop. I think it is kind of cool how you have to go inside of a place to get to the cave. There is a tunnel from the main gift shop/ticket area into the cave that reminds me of something out of Stargate, or some other cool sci-fi show.

Jaguar remains were found here in 1939. A nightclub was also in operation during the 1940s.

There is a lake here, which was once considered the largest lake in a cave in the world. I believe the guide told us that it is now the second largest, as a bigger one was discovered outside of the US (so it is still the biggest cave lake in the US).

During your cave tour, they actually take you out on the boat. There are fish in the lake.

The lake's history is pretty exciting. In fact, the legend of the lake is one of those stories that almost sounds made up. The legend makes me appreciate how big and unexplored our great country still is.

In 1905 a young boy was exploring the cave, and after climbing around, and not really knowing where he was in the dark cave, he threw some rocks. The sound that the boy heard was a clear plopping sound- the sound of his rocks going in to a body of water.

When he got out, he went around and told people that there was a lake in the cave. Pretty much no one believed him until decades later, when other explorers came across the lake.

Our tour guide told us that when the cave started taking passengers out on the lake in boats years later, that little boy, now a mature adult, was the first tourist to go.

And the legend of the lake gets even better. During the 1970s, a guy named Jim Wyatt explored and mapped out some of the underwater caverns with a team.

You must check out Jim's web site about his mapping adventures. He had access to the caverns, and to their entire underwater system.

Please take a moment to check out Jim's article. Jim is just writing a short description of what he did in the 1970s but it sounds very exciting to me.

On Jim's web site he described the bottom of the like as being very silt like, comparing it to jello. There were no rock bottoms, and in some places the silt was up to 6 feet deep.

Jim described overhead cave ceilings with caked on silt. Obviously, every time they breathed, some of the silt and rocks would fall.

One event pretty much seems to have ended their exploring the Lost Sea. During a dive, a large rock fell near the divers. The rock was described as being the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!

Wyatt notes that the bubbles they were sending up were causing debris to fall. They had little visibility to begin with, and the water was cold.

Jim's group ended their exploration. He says, on his web site, that he feels there were many more passages to be explored there.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cathedral Caverns Alabama

We found ourselves driving from Huntsville Alabama to Gatlinburg some time ago. We had picked up a brochure about this cave somewhere on our journey. It sounded interesting form the description.

To be honest, this was a "maybe" on our trip. Its one of those things that looks fun, but because of other things on the schedule, you could take it or leave it.

We had left Huntsville a day earlier than we had expected. Plus, we started seeing a lot of signs for Cathedral Caverns, so we thought what the heck. We had time.

Cathedral Caverns was easy to locate, and it wasn't far off of the main road. There were signs up everywhere, boasting of their many world records (which, I have read on other web sites, are mostly exaggerated records, but they were still impressive).

We got to their main visitor area/cabin. It had a very informal feel. There were a couple of staff people who sold us tickets, and then casually chatted with us while we waited for our tour to start. We set on the cabin porch, calmly talking, and rocking in their rocking chairs.

The main cave entrance is really right next to the visitor center/cabin. It is very convenient. I have been to many other show caves where you have to buy a ticket at a visitor center, and then hike up hill a ways before the tour even starts.

We had a very casual tour with a great tour guide named Penny. She seemed to love the cave, and told us a ton of history on it.

Somehow, there is a sharks tooth stuck in the ceiling of the cave at one point.

There are many cool formations here that look like other stuff. They have a lot of cool lighting too that creates the formations.

Penny told us there was a crystal room that you would have to cross a rocky area to get to, and you would have to be pretty small to squeeze into the opening leading in to the room. The room was not on the tour, and even veteran staff at the cave had not attempted to go there.

There was a Disney film taped inside the cave at some point too.

Oddly, even though this is another of many show caves we have visited, it really stood out. The cozy visitor cabin is a great place to relax while on the road. The walk through the cave was not too strenuous. It was pretty flat compared to most. Also, we didn't have to go out of our way to get here. This was, by far, the highlight of our Alabama trip.