Cool Places in America: Mystery Spot; Santa Cruz, California

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

Remember when Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny would walk off a cliff and not fall…until. Until Bugs Bunny loaned Elmer his book on the laws of gravity. After a short read Elmer takes a long fall. Well I read the same book, but I forgot it all when I went to the shed at Mystery Spot. It reminded me of that hallway in Willie Wonka where he walked to the back of the hall and the room shrunk. In this place you do not shrink, but lean.

During a drive through the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, California, can stop to witness firsthand the effects of Bugs Bunny gravity. The Mystery Spot is 150 ft. in diameter and features a slanted shed that visitors walk through and witness strange variations of gravity, like an object rolling up a plank rather than down it.  When you walk in the house you fall sideways! The Spot’s web site speculates that aliens planted metal cones in the ground, scrambling the area’s terrestrial physics. After taking a guided tour, visitors can puzzle over whether this is truly paranormal or an optical illusion, and then trek on through the Redwoods.

Here is the spoiler:
http://www.sandlotscience.com/MysterySpots/Mystery_Spots_1.htm

Now I always thought my parents jobs were always a little slanted which explained why we kept falling out of one town into the next….

~Tyler
To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com.Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might surprise you and become the best vacation you ever had.

Come back Every Thursday at 3pm for another post from Tyler the Boy Who is Always on the Move!

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Cool Places in America: Ave Maria Grotto

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

I used to love the book and the movie the Borrowers. Imagine if they had their own city? In Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, Ala. they do. Well I think they could of moved in and not had any trouble… There is this monk from Bavaria, Brother Joseph Zoettl, who made these wonderful miniatures of shrines and cities from around the world. It is real awesome. My parents and I lived in Cullman for 3 months before I found this place. Then we were off to who knows where 2 months later. It was a short contract…

Brother Joseph Zoetti

The builder of the miniatures at the Ave Maria Grotto was a Benedictine Monk — Brother Joseph Zoettl, O.S.B. Born in Landshut, Bavaria in 1878, he was maimed in an accident that gave him a hunchback, but luckily it did not hurt his ability to bend over and build the miniatures.

In contemplating the Main Grotto, which was to be the centerpiece of the whole park, Br. Joseph had yet to decide on the type of building materials he would employ. A solution was handed to him when there was a derailment of the L&N railroad. One freight car full of marble overturned and the marble was crushed. It was useless to the owner so he gave it to Saint Bernard. The monks went up and carted it down; it was exactly what Brother Joseph needed as the main stalactites to hang in the Great Grotto.

The material which adorned the works had been donated by people who admired and had seen the beauty in his previous works: the small grottoes enclosing Father Lawrence O’Leary’s bargain statues, crucifixes, ash trays, etc. People sent colored glass, marbles, cold cream jars, punctured commode floats, wrecked marble, broken bathroom tile, costume jewelry, gifts from every state in the union and from many foreign countries.

The first replicas were erected on the monastery recreation grounds, but because of the large number of visitors, a new site was selected and on May 17, 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto was dedicated. Brother Joseph continued his work for over 40 years, using materials sent from all over the world. He built his last model, the Basilica in Lourdes, at the age of 80, in 1958.

The Ave Maria Grotto, located on the grounds of Alabama’s first and only Benedictine Abbey, consists of over 125 miniatures, reproductions of famous churches, shrines and buildings. Encompassing an area of over three acres, this miniature fairyland sees visitors from all over the world.

More detailed information can be found in the book titled Miniature Miracle by John Morris sold in the Grotto gift shop. I got a copy of the book and I use it as reference as I construct houses for my train set.

It goes to prove in the most sleepy towns if you look hard enough you will find something that is truly amazing. For I did find something in Cullman. Alabama!

~Tyler

For more information about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy his latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com.

Cool Places in America: Nederland CO and the Dead Guy

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

Today I am going to share with you this really dead town we lived in with this really dead guy. For one weekend at the beginning of March it becomes one of the coolest places in America.

During the Frozen Dead Guy Days coffin races, a slow-motion parade, and “Frozen Dead Guy” look alike contests are held. A documentary on “Grandpa Bredo”, called Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed, is shown. Other events include a tour of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still frozen; a “polar plunge” for those brave enough to go swimming in Colorado in early March (which generally requires breaking through the ice); a dance, called “Grandpa’s Blue Ball”; pancake breakfasts; a market showcasing local artists; snowshoe races, and a snow sculpture contests. Glacier Ice Cream makes a flavor called “Frozen Dead Guy” which is fruit-flavored blue ice cream with Oreo cookies and sour gummy worms. Tours of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still frozen were suspended after 2005, after Grandpa’s family “became frustrated with Frozen Dead Guy Days”, but they resumed with the 2010 celebration. So who is the Frozen Dead Guy?

In 1989, a Norwegian citizen named Trygve Bauge brought the corpse of his recently deceased grandfather, Bredo Morstøl, to the US. The body was preserved on dry ice for the trip, and stored in liquid nitrogen at the Trans Time cryonics facility in San Leandro, California from 1990 to 1993. In 1993, Bredo was returned to dry ice and transported to Nederland, where Trygve and his mother Aud planned to create a cryonics facility of their own. When Trygve was deported from the United States for overstaying his visa, his mother, Aud, continued keeping her husband’s body cryogenically frozen in a shack behind her unfinished house. Aud was eventually evicted from her home for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing, in violation of local ordinances. At that time, she told a local reporter about her husband’s body,and those of two other individuals,and the reporter went to the local city hall in order to let them know about Aud’s fears that her eviction would cause her husband’s body to thaw out.

The story caused a sensation. In response, the city created a law outlawing the keeping of “the whole or any part of the person, body or carcass of a human being or animal or other biological species which is not alive upon any property”. But public support made the town create an exception for Bredo, a grandfather clause. Trygve secured the services of Delta Tech, a local environmental company, to keep the cryonic facility running. Bo Shaffer, CEO of Delta Tech, is known locally as “The Iceman” and caretaker responsible for transporting the dry ice necessary for cryopreservation to the IC Institute, something he has done since 1995. In that year, the local Tuff Shed supplier and a Denver radio station built a new shed to keep the body of Bredo in. In the fall of 2012, Jane Curtis Gazit (Owner, Keep Magnolia Clean, LLC) and Mike Wooten became the new caretakers of Bredo.

Well I am glad we did not stay another year, just to have a single weekend be amazing. But then again, if you are traveling through Colorado in March you definitely should join the festivities.

~Tyler

For more information about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy his latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might surprise you and end up becoming the best vacation you ever had!

Cool Places in America: A Day Trip on Rt 127 and Rt 133 North Shore of Boston

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

Believe it or not, I have never been on Rt 66. Then again, I have been on Rt 127 a million times and still love every trip. This is definitely one of the coolest places in America. On this road are some of the finest American Castles. My father would sneak us down the private roads off Rt 127 to see some great Jacobean and Tudor Estates. In many of these homes several presidents made their summer residences. The road starts just outside of Salem in Beverly and heads to Gloucester . There are so many things to do on this road. Once you get into Gloucester you have a choice to continue north on 127 or follow 133. Today we are going left. On Rt 133 you will head out of Gloucester and enter Essex before moving on to Ipswich.

Well let’s start at the beginning. Once you cross the Salem-Beverly Bridge you will take a right. Follow that 1/16th of a mile and take a left. To your right will be some cool houses and beaches. On Independence Park you can see a canon used to shoot the HMS Nautilus during the Revolutionary War. It kept missing for hours along with the canons on Fort Lee Salem. The two locations did not even hit the ship once. The Nautilus just sailed away unscathed during high tide after getting stuck on a sand bar. At the light you will now take a right onto RT 127. Now just follow the signs.  The road for the most par is a straight shot of some beautiful curves. There are so many cool houses to see on this road!

The first stop you will want to make is to drive through the Endicott College campus and see their square Irish castle. It is not one of my favorite castles on the road, but it is cool to see anyway. Now head back onto Rt 127 and go about a 1/4 mile. To the left will be a stone wall and road heading up a hill. Park on it and see the face on the wall. Two young men were driving on RT 127 when they lost control of the car and hit this wall. In commemoration of them their friends had added simple clay faces to the wall. Now head back onto the road and go slow. You do not want to miss anything.

Then you will go through Beverly Farms downtown area. After leaving Beverly Farms and right before entering Manchester take a right at the Old Corner Inn and go over the train bridge. Take a left and stop for a second and look under the bridge, you might even get to see the train go by. Then drive straight to the water. Take a break and walk out on the pier to the gazebo in the harbor. Its pretty cool too. Now turn around and drive pass the bridge. Follow the road and ignore all the private road signs. There are some real cool homes on the road. At the end take a left back on to Rt 127 and drive pass the Old Corner Inn again. Next you will enter Manchester-by-the-Sea. Just keep going and follow the signs for Rt 127.

About 2 miles out of town you will see a green sign for Magnolia, take that right. You will curve around to the downtown section. Drive straight through the square and up the hill. You will curve up the hill and curve your way down. At the bottom right there will be a dirt parking lot. Park in it. Follow the trail to the cliff on the ocean and you have found Rafe’s Chasm. Longfellow set his poem The Wreck of the Hesperus here. It is a great rock hopping place. You can hop from rock to rock for hours here. Sometimes you will see seals. There is one section of rocks that looks like an ancient boat ramp. To the right is a large chasm you can walk in during low tide. From the top you can repel down. It looks amazing right after a storm because the ocean turns green and foamy. During hurricane Katrina the waves were 40 ft tall over the top of the 40 ft cliffs here. That was an awesome storm! The most recent Northeaster was almost as fun.

 

Once you leave the parking lot continue north on the road. As you curve to the left you will see another castle. Hammond Castle is pretty cool. They have swords and armor inside. There is an indoor pool with a ceiling that opens and closes. They can make it rain and lightning in the room. Around the pool is the front of a Bavarian medieval merchant village. The castle was put together out of several castles from Europe. They say John Hammond who owns the place haunts the castle still. Sometimes he takes a shape of a black cat and sits in his favorite chair. He loved his cats, his dogs, not so much… He also invented radio control and we would sail a ghost ship from his living room in the harbor scaring the neighbors. Well actually a friend of his father, Nikola Tesla, gave him a bunch of inventions he was not going to pursue. Then his father screwed Tesla’s dreams of free electricity after he invested in millions of dollars in copper to be placed on telephone poles to make the electric company a fortune. Hammond’s father was a friend of Cecil Rhodes, who almost got him killed if it was not for Mark Twain. Rhodes created the Rhodes scholarship to indoctrinate past colonies of England at Oxford and take them over again (including America). he also created apartheid…

 

Continue heading north till you come back to Rt 127. Take a right. Go for almost a mile and take a left at the fork and head toward Essex on Rt 133. About 3 miles down the road you will enter downtown Essex. On the right you will see the Flying Dragon Antiques. If you are a treasure hunter like myself, you will love scouring through this place. Also up the road is the White Elephant antique store. This store is pretty cool, but their outlet store down the road on Rt 133 is even better because they have a $5 and $1 section! Unfortunately it closed and is now in a section in the back on one deep and long table of their original shop and upstairs is half price.

Go another 2 miles after where the White Elephant outlet store was and take a right where the white sign says Castle Hill. Castle Hill is the mansion used in several films like Witches of Eastwick and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Come to the T in the road and take a right. Go for a half mile and take a right into Russell Orchards. Stop here for some great chunky cheese bread, some fudge, and a hot cider in their farm stand. Then go out back and feed the animals. In season you can pick your fruit and vegetables.

When you are done take a left out of the parking lot and head back the way you came. When you get back to that T, just drive straight till the next T in the road. Then take a right. You will pass the Ipswich River on the right with a cool waterfall and keep going and take the next left. On this road is largest amount of 1600 and 1700 houses still occupied in the country. At the end of the road you will meet up with Rt 133 again. This time head south on RT 133 and head back through downtown Ipswich. Follow the signs and stay on Rt 133 till you come to a fork with an old hospital on a hill. Keep going straight on Rt 1A South. Now Rt 1A and Rt 22 is also a real cool road with great gardens, houses, and country drives but you must be tired by now and those rides should be left for another day. So now go home!

~Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up surprising you and becoming the best vacation you ever had!

Cool Trips to Bucks County PA

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler, once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

Welcome back to my blog about all of the cool places in America I have lived. My parents the software engineers, they live contract by contract so I never know where I am going to live from month to month. One month it is the deserts of Arizona and the next it is the freezing cold of Montana?

Today I am going to tell you about this cool county in PA. Buck’s County is where Washington had Marblehead MA fishermen row him across the Delaware. They have this cool town called New Hope where Salvidor Dali used to sign blank scrolls asking you to forge paintings on them. Also in Bucks County there are two castles filled with cool tile and the strangest and largest stuff I ever have seen hanging from a ceiling. Then there is the cool steam engine we would ride on every weekend! We kept trying to get a frequent flyer pass, but we failed desperately….

In the winter we would go cross country skiing at the Washington Crossing Park in NJ. Also people in the area would reenact Washington crossing the Delaware every Christmas Eve. That was real cool to watch. Then on the PA side we would climb Bowman Hill. This was a cool tower built on the site in which scouts for Washington was posted on. You could see the whole valley and the Delaware River for miles. At the bottom of the hill the tower stood on what was this real cool garden.

Then on summer weekends we would go to New Hope. I loved going into this one shop where they sold real swords from the 1500’s.  During Christmas they had carolers and people dressed up like characters from Dicken novels walk around. In their shops you could find anything in this old Victorian town which got a face lift from the arts and craft movement! I also loved going to the Night Owl which rested above the canal and I would get some real cool Led Zeppelin albums there. They had Native American shops, shops for Star Wars geeks like myself and my father, and head shops with cool posters. Plus we would sit in this tavern called John & Peter’s and I would see posters of people I just bought albums of who played there. The last time we went there was a poster that members of the Parliament Band was playing that night, way after my bed time….


Then nearby was Mercer Castle. The Mercer Museum was built to house Henry Mercer’s extensive collection of objects representing everyday life in the pre-industrial age. The Museum’s permanent exhibits remain dedicated to this purpose, displaying more than 40,000 tools and artifacts in the Museum’s original core. Over 60 early American trades are represented, including woodworking, metalworking, agriculture, and advertising; plus furnishings and folk art. Never are two visits the same to this unique “preserved” museum that includes a fire engine suspended from the balcony, a complete gallows, and much more. I loved this place, but I kept waiting for something to fall on someone….It never did. Plus we would go to Mercer’s house too. Fonthill Castle is Henry Mercer’s concrete castle house with 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces and over 200 windows of varying size and shape. The interior walls, floors and ceilings are elaborately adorned with Mercer’s handcrafted tiles. Tiles and prints from around the world also show the collecting interests of this Bucks County native. The majority of Mercer’s furnishings and personal effects remain where he placed them, and guided tours explore the various aspects of his remarkably creative life. A tour of Fonthill truly offers a window into Henry Mercer’s unique architectural and artistic vision. My mother loved all of the tile.

But my all time favorite was the steam train ride from New Hope to  Lahaska on the New Hope and Ivy Land Railroad. Once I got to ride up in the caboose! My father used to tell me when he was little he would ride the train in Flemington NJ and then get this fresh baked chocolate chip cookie before going into this cool model train store which had trains running on the walls and in the front window. I love riding old trains. I have been on that one in Flemington and another in Durango CO.

Well we stayed there almost a year before we moved again…. Check back later and I will tell you about some more cool places in America, because I have lived in them all!!!

~Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy his latest book:
Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida which is available on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might just surprise you by becoming the best vacation you ever had!

Cool Places in America~ Smithville, NJ and the Bicycle Railroad!

Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler, once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….

Now I have a Christmas tale to tell you. Every boy wishes to wake up on Christmas to find a new shinny bike under the tree. Imagine a bike railroad! This guy Smith in the Pines made some amazing bikes including the railroad…

The first time my parents worked for the “Mad Inventor” deep in the heart of the Pine Barrens of NJ I was 8 years old. As you know my parents are software engineers who are always on the move. Contract to contract. Their biggest client is the “Mad Inventor”. I think he has some Military contracts since he lives equitable distanced to Lakehurst Naval Engineering and a section of Fort Dix in Whiting, NJ. Who knows what he is up to and my parents will never tell me…

Near his guest house we stay in is a town called Smithville. Today it has a bunch of shops and restaurants my mother loves and my father puts up with. We have visited there several times throughout the years. So much so I looked up its history and it had this cool bike train! Well I thought it did..

The town with the Bike Train was closer to Mount Holly NJ.In 1892, Arthur Hotchkiss received a patent for a bicycle railroad and contracted with the H. B. Smith Machine Company to manufacture it. The initial track ran 1.8 miles from Smithville, in a nearly straight line, crossing the Rancocas Creek 10 times, and arrived at Pine Street, Mount Holly. It was completed in time for the Mount Holly Fair in September, 1892, and the purpose of the railway was supposed to have been enabling employees to commute quickly from Mount Holly to the factory at Smithville. Monthly commuter tickets cost $2.00. The record speed on the railway was 4.5 minutes, and the average trip took 6–7 minutes. The railway was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It only had one track so that it was impossible to pass another rider, and if riders traveling in opposite directions met, one had to pull off onto a siding. By 1897 ridership had declined, and the railway fell into disrepair.

Now Smithville started as a village in Eastampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey. It was originally established as Shreveville in 1831 by Jonathan and Samuel Shreve as a textile village on the Rancocas Creek. It was purchased by Hezekiah Bradley Smith in 1865 and renamed to Smithville. The H. B. Smith Machine Company, which produced the American Star Bicycle beginning in 1880, was located there.

The American Star Bicycle had a small front wheel, 18–23 inches in diameter, steered, and the large rear wheel, 42–60 inches in diameter, provided the forward driving force and bore most of the rider’s weight. The light load on the front wheel was reported to have made it skittish on loose surfaces such as sand and gravel. American Stars incorporated pneumatic tires very soon after they were developed, and braking was provided by a spoon brake acting on the rear wheel and actuated by a lever on the right handlebar.

A pair of independent treadle mechanisms collected power from the rider’s legs instead of a crank. Power from each treadle was transferred to the rear wheel by a leather strap over a ratchet mechanism. (See image in gallery below.) The attachment point of the leather strap could be moved to provide multiple gear ratios, and both treadles could be pressed simultaneously for a brief increase in torque. A spring attached to the ratchet rewound the strap when the foot was raised. This treadle arrangement also allowed riders of different sizes to ride the same bike comfortably without modification, as the pedals were not constrained to trace a circle about an axle. An undated advertisement lists prices from $75 to $120, depending on wheel size and finish, which varied from “plainly finished machine; painted and striped” to “all nickled and polished, except the rim, which is painted and striped in gold.” They also made a tricycle.

Smith started making the tricycles in 1887 and 1888 and patented a steam tricycle in 1889. At the first Maricopa County Fair in 1884, Lucius Copeland demonstrated his steam bicycle, one of the first motorcycles, a steam-powered Star high-wheeler. It was claimed to have traveled 1 mile (1.6 km) in 4 minutes, at a steam pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (5.5 bar), and carried enough water and fuel to run for an hour.

Smithville is still a great place to visit. While Mom loved the shopping and my father dragged his face around handing her his charge card, I got to ride the paddle boats. I wish I was not too old, I could of rode on the toy train too…but I like the Smithville by Mount Holly better with the walk on the pond. So did my father, it cost him much less…

~Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up surprising you and becoming the best vacation you ever had! Red proved to be always full of surprises…

Cool Places in America~ Haunted Toys ‘R’ Us

Once my parents moved me to Sunnydale California to work on a warehouse program for Toys R Us.  Well of course I went to work with them several times. In fact I went there so much I was on first name basis with the ghost in the aisles.

The story starts decades earlier when much of the area was farmlands, including the area where the store itself was built. On this location the Murphy’s had an orchard. One of the farm hands, Johnny Johnson, fell in love with the orchard’s owner’s daughter in vain. To get his mind off his sorrow, he took to chopping wood. While he was doing this he hit himself in the leg and bled to death.

He now roams the aisles of the Toys ‘R Us and plays with the toys. He likes bouncing balls down the aisle looking for someone to play with him. I picked up the ball once and threw it back. That is how I met him. After that we used to play air hockey all of the time, sometimes he would cheat though…He is a practical joker also, he likes running the faucet when customers walk into the bathroom.

~Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida” on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up surprising you and becoming the best vacation you ever had! Red proved to be always full of surprises…