Lee's headquarters Gettysburg

Lee's headquarters Gettysburg
The recently restored area around Lee's Headquarters in Gettysburg PA!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Canal Street, New Orleans

"The Great White Way of the South.  As many as fifty thousand people gather here within a distance of five blocks during any festivities such as Mardi-Gras and New Year's Eve.  The main retail district of New Orleans."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New Orleans Hard Rock Cafe

There are some chain places that I do love.  The Hard Rock Cafe is one of those.

We always have good luck at HRC.  I love looking at rock memorabilia and I think they have good food.

New Orleans was no exception.  On our trip to the area, stopped by and had fun.

We interacted with some great locals on this trip, and our waiter Norm (THE Norminator) was among the best.


Me and Norm traded stories about seeing Kiss in concert.  He has always seen them with makeup.  I got to brag about seeing them without makeup.

As he took great care of us during our meal, Norm was a great conversationalist.

Like many of the others we met in town, Norm was just a good guy, and he took a seat at our table for probably 45 minutes as he talked about concerts, food, and living in New Orleans.

I know some people pass on HRC, but I still love 'em! 





Friday, September 27, 2013

Boggy Creek Monster- Fouke, Arkansas

On our way back from New Orleans, we stopped in Fouke Arkansas, home of the Boggy Creek Monster!

It seems locals have been seeing the big guy for a century.  In the early 70s, a fun film (a G rated movie about a monster!) came out, which drew a ton of attention to the are.  "The Legend of Boggy Creek" made everyone aware of Fouke, and their rarely viewed cryptid.

Tourists came out to try to see the creature.  Locals were both annoyed at people invading their privacy, and they were glad to capitalize on the folks stopping by out of curiosity.

Monster-Mart in Fouke is still there to sell a tourist a t-shirt, book, or postcard relating to their local legend!

You know me, I love places like this!  I actually did some of my Christmas shopping here!  And, the people running the place were super cool, giving me directions to some other sites in the area.  You can tell they love running Monster-Mart!

Monster-Mart has several news paper articles and other items relating to the Monster on display.  This is a fun place to hang out for a bit before checking out the rest of the area.

Here is a link to some more info on Monster-Mart

http://www.rue-morgue.com/2013/06/fouke-monster-mart/


http://foukemonstermart.net/

There is a Fouke Monster fest too!  I MUST attend that one at some point!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Road Trip To New Orleans... Part 2



So, what can you say about New Orleans?  We finally made it there and we were able to spend several days exploring the city.

The city is full of sites, food, museums, people, etc., etc.

We parked our car at our hotel immediately and we did not see it again until leaving on our last day in town.

I must give a HUGE endorsement to City Sight Seeing of New Orleans.  We REALLY loved these guys for several reasons.  Go to their site-

http://www.citysightseeingneworleans.com/

I did some research before our trip, and I found that you can do a "hop on hop off" tour bus through them for $29 a day, or $39 for an entire week!  PLUS, if you do the $39 dollar deal, you get a couple of extra guided walking tours too!  If you check out prices on tours in town, you will find out quickly that THIS IS A GREAT VALUE!

I did not buy our tickets in advance though, so when we got to town, I did talk to a tour sales person on the street.  They were obviously working for another tour company and they advised us of other tours (including a single 3 hour tour at $49).  I asked if they had anything comparable to the City Sight Seeing Tour bus and they did not...

We left and found a bus stop for City Sight Seeing and bought our $39 tickets.

We used our bus passes a lot each day, AND we were able to take advantage of 2 of the walking tours offered!

One of our tour guides was the informative and funny Kat (I'm pretty sure thats what she said her name was).  We were actually on her bus a few times and we loved her.  I noticed that when we went by some spots a second time, she always mentioned the very historical spots each time, but she changed things up a bit too. 

We did a tour through the Garden District with Dave and we felt like we were hanging out with an old buddy.  The guy is gold and answered every question and knew a ton.  Getting to see the homes and hear stories about Trent Reznor, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Archie Manning and others was a true highlight of this entire trip.  Oh, and we saw the home where Jefferson Davis died!

We were very pleased with the value of this pass, I can't stress this enough.  AND I am glad that I did a little research before getting to town and I KNEW which tour company to go with.  Oh, and those double decker busses are the best. You can get some great photos riding on top!

Back to New Orleans in general.  There was a part of me that wanted to visit all of the museums, the minor league baseball park, and the aquarium, but we agreed that this was an area to explore for what it was.

I think most people know about New Orleans and what it is about, so I won't go in to the areas history or reputation.  I will try to be honest about my own personal observations.

AND let me start off with a bit of personal disclosure.  I am the opposite of what this town is about.  I like to get up early and get to bed at a respectable hour.  I like to sip coffee slowly and read at coffee shops.  I will take Mayberry over Vegas any day of the week.

So, I was a bit out of place here.  This is not my kind of town, but it was absolutely a town on my "to visit at some point" list.

And we enjoyed this town a lot.

About the food.  We loved it all.  I can't say anything bad about it, and everything we had was big and delicious.  Some of the more notable things we had were a catfish po boy at the River's Edge and we enjoyed a a couple of nice meals at Hyatt French Quarter restaurant called "Powdered Sugar."

I know, bragging about a meal from the hotel restaurant might sound unimpressive, but we really liked this place.

Its funny, we were talking to someone we met right after coming home.  He had also went to New Orleans AND stayed at the Hyatt.  He also felt a bit overwhelmed by the city, but he enjoyed his stay at the Hyatt, and he also spent a lot of time at Powdered Sugar.  I forget his exact words, but he said he felt normal again once he returned to this hotel for the evening.

We were at Powdered Sugar each night- they had great coffee and a great staff.  Cynthia (It may have just been Cindy) was there each evening and she was a lot of fun.  We chatted with her each night about the city and her experiences there.  She remembered our orders from the previous nights, and she was just a lot of fun.

They might want to think about starting up some more Powdered Sugar restaurants.  A pro staff, and having room for people to come in and have a nice meal or just a cup of coffee creates a nice environment.

We did stop by the US Mint in town and we had a great chat with National Park Ranger Lee McDowell.  It was kind of funny, Lee was a ranger out at Devil's Tower around the time that we were there!  I am sure our path's crossed before!

A lot of the National Park Rangers we meet are simply gold, and Lee was no exception.  We talked about everything from my dad trapping skunks to the jazz sites in New Orleans.

We really didn't encounter any problems while out and about, and we felt safe.  A couple of times when we asked locals for directions though, they made it very clear that we should not walk to where we were thinking about going.  At one point we asked a local about walking 5-6 blocks to the cemetery.  The person asked us how we were getting there.  When we said we were planning to walk, the local told us we couldn't.  In fact, he made us promise not to walk there.

We ended up just going there on the tour bus.  Still, even with the sites and excitement, there is a real concern about safety in some areas.  And we did get that feeling of concern from talking to several people.

Still, we had fun.

We passed on several tours, notably the ghost tours.  I usually like to do this sort of thing, especially in an area like New Orleans, but we weren't feeling it.  AND, at $25 a person (that seemed to be the going rate) we weren't motivated.

We did take our own tour that we sort of put together ourselves.

The thing that really stuck out to us about the trip to New Orleans was the people.  We had some very sweet and somewhat personal conversations with the people we came across- and this is the thing I really loved about the town- there is a certain REALNESS to the locals.  After spending time with some of the very sweet people around, we almost felt like we were old friends.  Kat, Dave, Cynthia, Lee, Norm (at the Hard Rock Cafe) love what they do, and they clearly love interacting with the travelers they come in to contact with.  There was a real sadness we felt when we left each of these individuals.































Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vulcan the Iron Man, Birmingham, Ala

This old postcard of one of my new favorite attractions anywhere notes-

"Vulcan" is the largest iron man in the world.  It is 53 feet tall and is mounted on a 120-foot pedestal atop Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham.  It was cast in a Birmingham foundry of pig iron, made from iron ore from the Birmingham district and sent to the 1904 World's Exposition in St. Louis, typifying the natural resources of the district.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mothman Festival- Point Pleasant, West Virginia

West Virginia is a state that is constantly growing on me.  I find myself looking for excuses to get there!

I found a great excuse this past weekend when we made a day trip to the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

You know I love finding a reason for a road trip, and if that road trip involves a strange legend or some bit of folk lore then I am absolutely in!

If you are not familiar with the Mothman, look him up!  The Mothman is one of my favorite legends, and he is forever linked to the town of Point Pleasant.

I won't speculate on what the Mothman may or may not have been.  You can do that on your own, or you can look up any number of other sites with any number of theories.

Let me suggest that at some point in your life, you do read the book, "The Mothman Prophecies".  John Keel's book that really started awareness of the Mothman is just an interesting and creepy book.  Even if you are a total skeptic, this is a fun book to read for it's creep factor.  Then, after you read the book, visit Point Pleasant!

Back to the actual Mothman Festival.  We drove up early Saturday morning, and got to town right around 10.  It was rainy.  REALLY rainy, which, made for a rough drive from Kentucky, but I felt it sort of enhanced the vibe for a festival of a mysterious creature.

I do think the rain kept attendance down for some time, and I think a few vendors may have no-showed because of the weather.  Still, there were plenty of people around, and there were many things to do!

We visited the Mothman Museum!  The museum has many props from the 2002 movie based on Keel's book, and they also have other props from TV shows about the critter.  Oh, and there are plenty of items relating to the original sightings, and to the collapse of the Silver Bridge.

This year we were able to take one of the bus tours offered by the Mothman Museum.  The ride is around an hour and 15 minutes.  We were driven by the road where the first sighting occurred, the office where one of the first witnesses worked, and we also went inside of an igloo in the famous TNT area.

The "Men in Black" did hassle us before we went on our trip, questioning us about where we were going.  They advised us not to go to the TNT area as, "scary things are out there, like bunny rabbits with pink makeup."  It was very entertaining.

Our tour guide on the bus knew all about the Mothman, and she had theories of her own- some that were a bit dark! 

Back at the festival we were able to chat with some really interesting people!  Jeff Wamsley runs the festival and the museum, and this has become a real labor of love for him.  He has a personal connection to the legend and the area (he remembers the day the bridge collapsed).  Plus, with admission to the festival being free, and the museum charging an embarrassingly reasonable $3, Jeff isn't doing this to get rich.

We were also able to talk to the very cool Lyle Blackburn who has written a book on the "Beast of Boggy Creek".  More on him later.  We recently passed by Boggy Creek as we drove through Arkansas and I am sure I will have a post or two up about that soon.  It was a lot of fun talking with him about Boggy Creek.

I was super excited about meeting Rosemary Ellen Guiley, who has written about 50 (FIFTY!) books an all sorts of unusual things.  I just read a book of hers on West Virginia, and one on Salem Massachusetts.  We talked about Salem some.  More on her and her books too, I promise to get reviews up before Halloween!

Anyway, I really love all of the interesting guests at this event too!

We did want to get back home before dark, so we had to leave the Festival earlier than I wanted.  This is a festival that justifies hanging around for both days!

http://mothmanfestival.com/




Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vulcan- The Iron Man- Birmingham Alabama

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting to be impressed with Birmingham.  And, frankly, this isn't the kind of town you tell people that they must go to.

In fact, you never hear people saying, "you MUST go to Birmingham."

To be honest, we sort of added it as a stop on our road trip to New Orleans just because of the towns rich baseball history.

My best buddy Adam is from Birmingham though.  I asked him about some of the other things to do in town, and he mentioned Vulcan.


He is one of the tallest statues in the US.  Plus, he is up on a huge pedestal and he just looks perfect.

He was made for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis to show off what Birmingham could do with Iron.

After the World's Fair, he was shipped back to Birmingham and shuffled around a little until he found his current home on Red Mountain in 1936.


He spent some time at the Fair Grounds before that, and he was used as a bit of a product pitchman, and he was seen holding various other items in his right hand at that time, including coke.

Now, when you visit Vulcan, you can take the stairs or the elevator to his observation deck.  The deck is a bit shaky.  It almost feels like scaffold, and you know you are up in the sky!  It is exciting and scary!

There is a great museum at the park too, detailing Vulcan and his history.  There is a display right now on items that have been made with Vulcan on it (statues, postcards, etc.).

We stopped by to see Vulcan during the day, then we went to a Barons game, and after that we went back to see him at night.  What a great way to spend a day in Birmingham!

I am definitely moving Vulcan to the top of my list of things a road tripper must see in their lifetime!




Saturday, September 21, 2013

Road trip to New Orleans... Part 1

OK, I just got back from a nice road trip through 8 states, going down to New Orleans and back up to Kentucky.  We saw a lot in every state, though New Orleans was our main stop.

To be honest, we made this road trip in an effort to hit some states we had not been to before.  We are trying to visit all 50, and driving through this area allowed us to go to Louisiana and Arkansas, states we had never been to at all.  We changed planes once in Texas, so we had never REALLY been to Texas and we were able to hit Texarkana on this trip.  Mississippi and Alabama were states we have passed through before briefly.

So, in a lot of ways, we were going through some areas just to go through them.  Sure, New Orleans is one of those areas you want to go through at some point in a life time, but otherwise, we were going places just to go there.  And, after this trip, we are up to 37 states that we have visited!

Our first night on the road was spent in Chattanooga Tennessee.  If you have read this blog before, you know that I love Tennessee almost as much as I love Kentucky AND Chattanooga is at the top of my list.  We got an early start on the road after work and headed south!

We only had enough time in town to catch a Lookouts game.  I love minor league baseball, and this team and park are very special to me.  The season is over now, but make sure you go by the stadium next time you are in downtown.  Its walking distance and it is amazing.  We were able to watch a true Volunteer state game as the Chattanooga Lookouts hosted one of my other favorite teams, the Tennessee Smokies.

The next day we drove to Birmingham for more minor league baseball (counting the AA Barons current park which just opened this year, there are THREE historic ballparks in town!).  We did go to a Barons game at their new stadium, Regions Field, which is perfect.  It offers a great view of downtown (I love a stadium with a nice skyline view).  AND you can see Vulcan from the park!  In a game that could only ever occur in Alabama, the Barons hosted the Montgomery Biscuits.

Back to Vulcan......  Are you familiar with Vulcan?  I wasn't until recently, when a pal from Birmingham told me about it before our trip.  Vulcan was definitely one of the coolest things we saw on this trip.  MUCH more on Vulcan later, but this is a very under appreciated tourist stop.

We left Birmingham and went to the Vicksburg Mississippi area.  This is another one of those places you do want to hit at some point in a lifetime, but we were sort of expecting something similar to Gettysburg.  We enjoyed the National Park at Vicksburg, but the town is not Gettysburg.  Oh, and the USS Cairo was very cool, that alone was worth the trip to the area!  Where else can you see a somewhat reconstructed shipwreck from the Civil War?

We walked the streets checking the area out and we just didn't have the same experience we had in Gettysburg.  We saw a cola museum that looked cool from the outside.  After going in and spending a few minutes, we realized that the "museum" was not cool (it was small).  We left Vicksburg.

The next day we drove to Louisiana.  I must say that I had large expectations. 

Our first stop once we crossed in to the state was at the welcome center right off of 55.  The place looked great.  I love welcome centers.  I always pick up brochures of places we are going to, and places I might want to catch on another visit.

We walked up to the center and noticed a sign that said "free smiles and free coffee."  Both sounded good right about then.  We walked to the door and it was locked.  We looked in and saw people sweeping.  Then I realized that the sign said they opened at 8:30.  According to my cell phone, it was 8:28.  It was obvious that the casual sweepers inside knew we were out there, but they were not going to open up a minute early.

I thought about the friendly staff I always encounter at the visitor centers in West Virginia (I almost feel like some of those guys are old friends).  I also thought of the time we stopped at the Hallmark visitor Center in Kansas City.  We were there 15 minutes early and the very sweet person running the center came out and excitedly let us in early.  That obviously would not be happening here.  Not cool Louisiana.  We left before they could open the door.  We would not be taking advantage of their free smiles.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Random thoughts on Friday

Man, it is such a festive time of the year!

I just wanted to mention that I will really try to amp up the Autumn/Halloween posts.  AND, I will try to get some posts up relating to my recent roadtrip to New Orleans and back!  With a place like New Orleans as a focus, plus trips to Fauke Arkansas, and Point Pleasant, West Virginia, this blog might have a bit of a Fortean feel for the next couple of months!

Speaking of Point Pleasant.  They are hosting the Mothman Festival again this weekend!  If you live in the Eastern part of Kentucky, you can make a day trip out of this.

http://mothmanfestival.com/

Also, did you get to the Scare Fest in Lexington last weekend?  I did and I had a lot of fun!  You might want to think about this for next year!  The dealer area was roomy and the crowd was friendly and lively!

http://thescarefest.com/

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Civil War Tour- Over the Rhine Ohio

I think I have done just about every tour that the American Legacy guys up in Cincinnati offer!

They are getting good crowds and I can see why.

We did the Civil War one recently.  I thought doing a Civil War tour in this area would be a stretch, but I was wrong!

Taking a tour in Cincy or northern Kentucky is a fun day trip.  Check their web site for details!

http://www.americanlegacytours.com/tours/civil-war-cincinnati/








Monday, September 16, 2013