Detroit: An Unexpected Music Tour

If you read our last post, you know that the Motown Museum was our first excursion in Detroit. Tickets were purchased in advance for the earliest tour on our first day.   

When we arrived, a bit early, there was a group of people prepping for a video shoot in front of the museum.   We asked one of them what was happening and were told that Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor from CBS, was preparing a segment about things to do in Detroit.  We didn’t know of him, but will watch for his segments on CBS Sunday morning.

While waiting we asked the same person where else they were highlighting that we might want to go.  He recommended the Third Man Records Tour that they had done the previous day. 

A person from the Detroit Tourism Bureau was also there and genuinely thanked us for coming to Detroit.  He approved of our general list of coming attractions and recommended that we also go to Buddy’s Pizza, home of the original Detroit Pizza.  

We had places to go and an afternoon free before our first baseball game. I was able to get tickets on my phone for the Third Man Records tour and we were off.

Jack White grew up in Detroit and is a singer and songwriter who performed with his wife in their band called White Stripes.  They performed together during their marriage and for a time after their divorce. Eventually he went on to a successful solo career. (If  you haven’t heard of him – I hadn’t either – but I was definitely in the minority in Detroit.   Randy knew of Jack White  but listens to a lot more music than I do.)

Jack White formed Third Man Records to allow him to press his own music onto vinyl.   He called it Third Man because, prior to making his career music, he supported himself by doing upholstery.   At that time he was the third upholsterer on the street.  

He upholstered this bench for the business as a tribute to his past.

Jack White records to tape and then produces his vinyl records. Over time others asked to have Third Man Records produce their records.  

Taped recordings are digitized through a special computer.  

A lathe produces the master stamper.    These lathes are very rare because vinyl records had their time decades ago and is only recently having a resurgence. This 1970s lathe was purchased from a German sound engineer and he and his group came to Detroit to train Third Man Records engineers on its use.

They have also been contracted to do vinyl reissues of earlier albums.  The master tapes, with more advanced technology available today, allow the new listener to hear aspects of the music that previous technology did not produce. 

Some musicians (including school groups) are allowed to perform live and go directly to vinyl.  Those records include all the quirks that can happen in a live event.  

Third Man Records allow the artist to choose custom colors and designs. Price adjusted for complexity!

Pictures were not allowed while we were in the factory, but we stood for a while and watched two people complete their part of record production. They began with an orange colored composite chub – roughly the size of a tennis ball.  A second person kneaded color pellets into the chub.  It was then pressed and the musical track stamped onto the vinyl.  When the record came out of the machinery it was an orange disc with a starburst of contrasting blues and purples expanding out from the center.

Eighty employees produce 10,000 records per day. Not all are as highly customized as the one we observed.  We saw other options that were single color, or split colored.

We were told that black vinyl has always produced the best sound but the development of new composites has narrowed the gap in quality to be almost insignificant.

Every single record goes through audio and visual quality control and 95 percent pass.   We saw individual records being put into their covers one at a time. That process is not automated.

If I’ve given you enough (or more than enough) detail – read on!  If you’d like more of the science and technology behind stamping vinyl records,  I found this very good 7:00 minute video filmed on the Third Man Records site.  Access that video here

After our tour we went to a nearby restaurant called Hopcat. It had been recommended by our dinner waiter the night before..  Hopcat was ranked #21 of 591 restaurants in Detroit on Trip Advisor, so seemed worthy of a visit.

We saw on the menu that Hopcat has French Fries ranked in the Top 10 in America by the Food Network Magazine so of course we had to try them. 

Yes, they were good!

After lunch we made our way to Comerica Park to take some pictures before the game. 

In a couple hours we would be there watching the Seattle Mariners play the Detroit Tigers.  

Comerica park opened April 2000 costing $300 million and includes an impressive front entrance, a carousel and ferris wheel.   

There was a statue of Ernie Harwell, a major league baseball sportscast for 55 seasons. Forty two of those years were with the Detroit Tigers. 

It was Pink Out the Park night highlighting the fight for a cure for breast cancer.   

Before the game hundreds of women who had experienced breast cancer walked around the field.  A woman seated next to us said that she may only go to one game a year but that game is always the Pink Out the Park game.

We all received a pink pullover and experienced a variety of events.  

Both teams and the umpires held signs for women they knew impacted by breast cancer.

If you notice the Little Caesars advertisement on the video board – their world headquarters are in Detroit just a few hundred yards from the stadium.

One interesting deficit (in our opinion) of Comerica is that they do not post out of town scores on any of their boards.   We have seen those scores in every other ballpark we have been in.

The Mariners won game one of the series.

Fireworks at the stadium concluded our first day in Detroit. We had a short walk to our downtown hotel.

Next up:  We go on an Architecture Tour of Downtown Detroit and have authentic Detroit Pizza at Buddy’s.

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Detroit? Yes, Detroit!

We had some interesting looks when we said we were going on a trip to Detroit.  By choice – on purpose. The idea started when I looked at the Seattle Mariners schedule to see where they would be playing in May that would be new to us, somewhere we hadn’t already been. That would be Detroit.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Nashville experience with country music, and thought learning about the Motown Sound could be great too.  We expected that we would recognize Motown music and artists more than we had with country music.

Someone recommended we watch the documentary Hitsville about the people and process of Motown before we went.  Hitsville was only available on Showtime which we do not have. I had to start a trial subscription and then download the movie on the iPad. We took turns watching it on the plane to Detroit.  

Hitsville was worth every inconvenience and we recommend it – even if you aren’t going to Detroit!

We went on the Motown Museum Tour our first morning in Detroit.

Hitsville and the short movie we began our tour with had segments with many people but the primary hosts were Barry Gordy and Smokey Robinson   (It was fun that we had just seen Smokey in Nashville in December.)

Barry Gordy based his design development for Motown using the experience he gained working on the Ford assembly line.  He envisioned a process that included Finding the Stars, Unlocking Potential, Writers and Producers, Quality Control, Artist Development and Touring.  Underlying foundations would be Competition Breeds Champions and Innovate or Stagnate.

Barry Gordy’s parents and siblings had a family savings club.  Each family member was expected to contribute.  When money was needed by one of the family,  a request was made and a response determined.   Barry requested a $1000 loan, and was granted $800.  

Barry Gordy’s wife found the house that became the Hitsville studio and later it and the one next to it became the Motown Museum.   

One of Gordy’s first collaborators was Smokey Robinson. They released “Shop Around” under the Tamala label in 1959. The song was out there doing okay, but not great.  Gordy called Smokey at 3:00 am suggesting a redo.  It became their first major hit and big seller.  That also began the tradition that the Hitsville studio was always open because you can’t time creativity.

Gordy switched the name of the label to Motown in 1960 in a nod to Detroit as the Motor City.

Smokey Robinson was a primary songwriter and wrote for many of the Motown stars.  The songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland was also writing for many of the Motown stars.  

The studio took responsibility for finding and creating hit songs for their artists.   

Southern migration for jobs in Detroit factories led to many gifted musicians being in Detroit. After hours, they played in clubs and churches.  The Detroit public schools had a strong music program which developed more musicians.   Hitsville gave them a place to gather.  It was a once in a lifetime musical event from 1960 – 1972.

Barry Gordy hired the best people he could find and key positions were held by men and women, black and white, and also those of Jewish faith. 

Gordy used talented Detroit jazz musicians as his studio musicians. These musicians were already gifted at improvising and playing without written music. The group was known as the Funk Brothers.

The studio and its artists could shift and change things anywhere along the process because everything was done in house. 

Over time the Motown studio purchased eight homes for various aspects of the business.

The Motown Museum owns six of them.

There is a wall in the museum that has copies of many Motown albums.  Our guide told us that the first four albums released were without artist pictures. Gordy knew the music would appeal to all people but he first needed them to be willing to listen. That was more likely to happen without them knowing an artist was black.

The process of choosing to release a song was a collaborative effort.  A quality control group decided whether they thought a song was a hit. They asked each person, if you only had one dollar left to your name, would you spend it on buying the song?  If not, the song was abandoned or tweaked. Gordy found that the collective competition sharpened their tools but didn’t dampen the love and cooperation.    

Motown was a collective, collaborative success. These are the tape masters for many of the songs.

Artist Development was done across the street in the house now owned by a sorority.   Motown artists were taught the creative steps for writing, singing and presentation.  Here they learned choreography and dancing. 

They were assisted with costuming. Motown artists even had etiquette instruction so they would know how to interact with fans, the media, other celebrities and even royalty.  

Marvin Gaye was a jazz performer in Detroit and wasn’t having much success. Barry Gordy helped him transition to the Motown Sound. Years later, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” became Motown’s best selling song.

Diana Ross and the Supremes took longer than most Motown groups to refine their act and get that first hit.  “Where Did Our Love Go” made their mark and was followed by many others. They were eventually Motown’s highest volume group.  The Supremes performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on December 27, 1964 in the first of 14 appearances.

The Temptations was another group that took awhile to find their first hit but eventually made it with “My Girl.”  It was followed by many more.

Martha Reeves was a secretary at this desk at Motown. She got her chance on the mic when a union rep was coming in and they needed a vocalist (as required by contract) in the studio right away.  Martha’s first hit was “Dancin’ in the Street.”

Stevie (before he was Stevie Wonder) was ten when he began at Motown.  He enjoyed a particular brand of candy bar so Gordy made sure it was always in the same location in the machine. Dimes were set on top so Stevie could always find one.   

Motown signed and developed the Jackson 5 featuring a very young Michael. 

Michael eventually donated a hat and glove to the museum.

Over time Motown artists began touring the country. In Detroit, they were used to separate neighborhoods for blacks and whites, but they experienced different levels of segregation in the south.   Integrated groups were enjoying the music but the world was ugly outside the music hall. 

Martin Luther King recognized the emotional integration Motown was making in the country. Its impact was profound. Black became chic. 

In 1968, five of the top ten records of the year were from Motown. The company outgrew the houses and moved to downtown Detroit for four years.

With a cycle of great success comes change, and that happened at Motown. Artists had some freedom but only within Gordy’s boundaries. Instead of top-down driven innovation, the artists began to want to innovate their own talent. 

Diana Ross, Barry Gordy’s biggest star at the time, defied and almost separated from him over her plans for her future career.

Holland Dozier Holland left Motown over principle and formed their own company. 

Stevie Wonder, at age 21, considered leaving Motown to do his own thing.  Instead, he negotiated with Barry to have full control over his own music.  He and Marvin Gaye were the first to be allowed full creative control.

Despite Smokey Robinson sending Gordy information about earthquakes and smog, eventually, the company moved to Los Angeles.  Motown then changed from a record company to an entertainment conglomerate.  For example, the Jackson 5 had records, a cartoon series and a show on Broadway.

Pushing Barry Gordy’s boundaries even further, Motown artists wanted to address the country’s social problems in their music.  They wanted to impact what was happening in the world.   

Marvin Gaye was one of the first to do this with the song “What’s Going On.”  Gaye layered multiple tracks of himself singing and playing.  The production was brilliant and the content was outside Motown’s previous brand.

The company Gordy had started grew beyond his assembly line artist development and beyond his original vision.  Ultimately, like his artists, he believed that reflecting the world was a good thing.  

Back in Detroit, the original house, and studio A are available to tour. We were able to go into the small recording studio where so many famous artists had recorded hits with that unique Motown Sound. Together, our tour did our own rendition of My Girl paired with some choreographed moves. We definitely could have used some artistic development!

The studio piano is an 1877 Steinway.  After the studio moved to Los Angeles, the piano was eventually deemed unplayable until Paul McCartney donated funds to refurbish it.  

At the end of our tour, we were invited to “Shop Around” in the gift shop!

Detroit has many large murals. This one was right outside our hotel. It was a great first morning in Detroit. Yes, Detroit!

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Kauai: Our Last Day

We dropped our hostess off at the airport early on our last day on Kauai.  We were taking the overnight flight so had a full day to spend on the south side of the island.

We stopped first at the Kauai Museum.  We learned that the Polynesians were early inhabitants on Kauai.  They purposefully brought in pigs, dogs and chickens around 400 AD.  They accidentally brought rats.

These poi stones are unique because of the handle.  This type has been found only in the Marquesas and on  Kauai. Archeologists use artifacts such as these to show Polynesian migration.   (Side note on poi:  We learned that poi should be allowed to ferment and that is how locals eat and enjoy it.  Poi served to tourists in luaus is generally not fermented.)

In Polynesian history, men and women did not eat together and women did not eat pigs.  Women did the weaving (and probably a lot of other things!) and men were the farmers, birders, boat builders and warriors.

Royal capes were decorated with thousands of feathers from four native birds.  The birds were humanely trapped and only a few feathers were taken from each so as to do no harm.  Unfortunately, at least one of those native bird species went extinction in the 1830s due to mosquitos.  

Another native bird, the nene, was about 25,000 strong in the late 1700s.  Due to hunting and introduced predators, the nene was almost extinct in the 1950s with only 30 remaining birds.  The nene has rebounded well with intervention and has upgraded to “threatened” with just under 4000 birds worldwide.

There is physical and anecdotal evidence that Hawaiians were surfing centuries ago!

For better or worse, Captain Cook landed in January 1778.  The native peoples thought he was the Hawaiian God of Peace. When Cook returned again in 1779, the people had figured out he was not a benevolent god and killed him and some of his men.

Then the missionaries came. The families of some stayed for generations and became part of the power structure of the islands.

Communities of Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese workers were developed – primarily to work in the sugar plantations. (The Portuguese brought the ukulele to the islands.) We visited one of those former plantations for the rest of our activities of the day!

We went to the Kilohana Plantation for a rum tour, train ride and luau!

We joined the guide and our fellow rum tasters in the buggy.

We drove by a stand of rainbow eucalyptus.

We walked deep into the tropical forest…. well kind of deep.

We found our first rum sampling.  

We had small samples of gold, dark, vanilla and sugar, coconut and chocolate rum. The first two weren’t very good and the last two were quite tasty!

I don’t remember what this drink was, but it had rum in it and was delicious!

Randy looks like he enjoyed it too.

We saw a few sights from our buggy along the way. 

We learned that pigs outnumber humans 7:1 on Kauai!  There are about 400,000 feral pigs posing environmental problems. Control measures are being considered.  

There is no current attempts to control the Kauai chickens!  

This was our second rum sampling destination

We had passion fruit, orange and tumeric daiquiris – and chips and chocolate. Afternoon snack of champions!

We were returned to the 1935 plantation house to await our next adventure – a ride on the Kewahuana Train.  A 1948 diesel from Colorado pulls the cars over 3.5 miles of track around the former plantation. 

Sugar plantation were agriculturally and economically significant on Kauai. Production began in 1835 and by 1910 there were ten massive plantations on the island. Over time other countries produced cheaper sugar because of proximity to where it was needed. 

This plantation stopped producing sugar in the 1970s. There is no more sugar cane grown on any of the Hawaiian islands – the last being on Maui in 2018. .

Currently 105 acres of the plantation’s land is operated under long term leases. The subcontracting independent farmers are trying to farm diverse crops in sustainable ways.  Currently Hawaii imports 90 percent of its food. 

Our last activity was a luau held on the plantation grounds. Fortunately it was held in a covered space!

We were additions to a table of luau VIPs. Nearly every luau performer and staff came by to speak with them at some point. The family was very gracious and included us in their conversations. The patriarch of the group was playing in the band, as he has been for decades.

.The main course was, of course, shredded pork!  It was delicious but at this point in the week, we’d had shredded pork several times.

We enjoyed the singers and dancers…

but we especially enjoyed this little girl enjoying the dancers!

Following the luau we headed to the airport and our red-eye flight to Phoenix. Despite the rain, our week on Kauai was great. Our flight home…..not so much…..but we survived it to nap the next day!

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On Kauai: Noni and Waimea Canyon

We were ready to learn about noni so went to Kaakaaniu Plantation for a free tour at the Organic Noni Farm.  (A free tour means they hope you purchase their product but we knew that going in.)

The farm and business is family owned and operated with great assistance from Steve, our guide. He works with noni from tree planting to sales of the finished product.

Steve told us that Polynesians either brought noni to Hawaii or recognized it from previous use when they arrived.   Archeological evidence suggests noni has been used for 40,000 years – most likely as a medicine or pain reliever.  Noni has anti inflammatory properties.

Noni trees are constantly producing.  This photo shows the various stages of development from blossom to ready to pick all on the same branch. The trees produce non stop year round.

This is what a noni looks like when it is mature enough to use.  

We tried some of the pulp and it tastes like bleu cheese!.  We like bleu cheese but it was odd to taste it in fruit!

Noni is a complete protein and could be a primary food source.  However, the Organic Noni Farm does not suggest it be used in that way.

Their primary product is a 14:1 concentration fruit leather.  They suggest a daily dietary supplement dosage of one  2″ by 2″ square per day for maintenance and up to 4 squares per day for medical conditions. 

As an organic supplement, they suggest noni is helpful as an antioxidant for inflammation and arthritis, with additional possible benefit for almost everything!  (We bought some noni leather but haven’t tried it so can’t speak from personal experience.)

The Organic Noni Farm has worked with the University of Hawaii to develop a moisturizing lotion and a pain relief lotion. 

Noni processing, from picking to product, takes one week.  The mature noni softens for a few days, is put into liquid form, and then dehydrates for 60-72 hours.  The entire process, including packaging, takes place in this building.  Nothing is outsourced.

The Organic Noni Farm has 1000 trees. 

The trees provide way more noni than the family can currently process. Much goes to waste but there is a continual supply.

In caring for the trees, they fertilize with worm cast tea. The worms eat blended kitchen waste and give off castings (poop).  

The castings are made into a tea and each tree gets one cup of tea twice a year.  The trees are  also surrounded with mulch.   (Pictured is our friend, Donna, who hosted us on this trip.)

The farm has a number of other fruit producing trees, primarily for family use. These are apple bananas.   The stalks are one and done. Once a group of bananas is grown, that stalk dies off..

Papaya tree are male, female or hermaphroditic (containing both male and female properties in a single tree). Properties from both genders are necessary for papaya production.

The papaya trunks have heart shaped markings as fronds fall away.

We were told about Norfolk pines.

They were imported to the Hawaiian Islands during an age when ships needed mast replacements using strong straight trunks.

Another tree species, common on Kauai but not native, is the Albesia. Albesia trees in Africa grow to 30 feet and are a hardwood.   Because of water availability on Kauai, the Albesia trees here grow 60-70 feet high and are a soft wood.  It is the Albesia tree that is used for the mulch around the noni trees.

Staying with trees, this is the colorful bark of the rainbow eucalyptus. . Native to the Philippine islands, the rainbow eucalyptus were brought to Hawaii in the 1920s to help with reforestation and erosion.

After our tour was complete, we purchased our noni products and left the plantation.  

We were told to look for the nearby rock wall.  It surrounds 800 acres purchased by Mark Zuckerberg.  This enclosed property once had 75 home sites. It now has only one – his.  Our guide indicated that there is both good and bad in having high profile owners on the island. They are frequently generous, but also have specific wants that may not always mesh with local customs.  Mark Zuckerberg owns 1300 acres on Kauai. 

When our sight seeing flight was canceled again due to weather, we drove to Waimea Canyon.

It was also too wet to hike so we drove around a bit and looked at views of the canyon.

We ate at Porky’s – a famous west island eatery.

One more food related item – below is a common Hawaiian comfort food – loco moco.

It combines layers of white rice, burger and brown gravy. It is topped with runny eggs.

I don’t like runny eggs so this was the version I ordered! It was very good.

Next up: Rum tour and Luau!

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Kauai: A Rainy Island and Albatross

We were able to enjoy a week in Kauai courtesy of our next door neighbor, Donna.  She had enough time- share points to have most of a month on the island.  Her family members came and went and, when she found she’d be alone for her last week, she invited us to join her. 

We were on Kauai in 2013 so much was familiar including the lush country side.

Also familiar were the “rare”and “special” Kauai chickens! 

We saw (and heard) them once or twice.

 Or maybe a thousand times!

We also enjoyed seeing these birds again!  They are Red-Crested Cardinal although they aren’t actually part of the Cardinal family.  Native to Brazil, these lovelies are related to Tanagers.

I accidentally got this cool shot of the Red-Crested Cardinal on the condo deck!  

There might have been crackers involved.

We had been on this one lane bridge to Hanalei before.  

The 5-7 vehicle courtesy is the same as 2013.

Unfortunately this bridge and others were closed by flooding on the day we were to have had a food tour in Hanalei.  It was canceled. 

Rain, in greater amounts than usual, impacted our week on Kauai several times.  We couldn’t go for a plane ride to see the Na Pali Coast on two separate days. There were other excursions that just weren’t as appealing in the rain.  

We were still able to enjoy our week! On a sunny moment in time, Randy and I took a walk in the neighborhood adjacent to the time share complex.

We came upon this sign for albatross crossing!

Very shortly we came upon a few individual albatross!  They were intriguing as we knew almost nothing about them. My trip notes said “research albatross” so I did.

I went specifically to the site  Their information is extensive, but I’m shortening your education to just a brief summary:

There are 22 species of albatross world-wide but the ones that visit Kauai are called Laysan albatross.  They have wing spans of over six feet.  

Laysan albatross spend most of their lives on the waters of the Pacific.  They, and other varieties, may not touch land for years at a time.  The Laysan travel great distances from the waters off North and South America to Hawaii to the Arctic. 

As much as they live at sea, albatross cannot nest on the water.  Each November adult albatross return to land to breed and raise chicks. 

Albatross mate for life.  Given that they return to the nesting site at different times, researchers believe they don’t travel together throughout the year.  A mate left alone will usually pair up with another.

Black-Browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) pair, Falkland Islands.

Many hundreds of thousands of albatross nest in the northern Hawaiian islands.  About twenty years ago, the Laysan Albatross began nesting on Kauai. 

There are currently several hundred nesting pairs, some choosing residential sites.

Albatross build a nest on the ground and lay one egg a year. Both parents take responsibility for the egg and chick.    The viability of the eggs and their successful hatching is about two thirds of eggs lain.

One parent stays on the egg while the other flies thousands of miles north to feed.  The journey takes one to two weeks while the remaining parent never leaves the nest, even to eat themselves. 

The gestation period is 70-80 days.

At three weeks of age, the chick is left “home alone” for days at a time while both parents go on the food cycle to bring regurgitated “take out” for the growing chick.  

The chick is fed this way for four months.  Combined, the parents make 25-30 trips traveling about 60,000 miles.  

The chick grows to its adult size during this time. At about six months, an internal clock and compass leads the chick, independently, to the edge of a cliff where it runs and jumps and flies.  

It probably won’t touch land again for 3-5 years when it will return to it’s place of birth to find its own mate and start the cycle again.   These are pretty fascinating birds!

Next up:  We learned about the growth and use of noni.

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Road Trip: Palm Springs, California

We planned a road trip to the Palm Springs area of southern California to see a show at the McCallum Theatre.  Usually we see any show we want in Phoenix but we were not home when Come From Away played here last summer.  More on that later.

Our trip involved a two night stay so we visited a few places highlighted on a travel show on PBS called Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.

We started at Salvation Mountain in Niland, California.  

Salvation Mountain began as a temporary monument representing God’s love as perceived by Leonard Knight (1931 – 2014).  

Leonard found all religions to be too complicated instead believing all that was needed was repentance and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  

He put his belief into his Salvation Mountain.

He worked on his monument over 28 years using plaster covered hay bales, items scrounged from the dump, and half a million gallons of latex paint.

The PBS show made us aware of visiting the town of Julian to have pie at the Julian Pie Company..  

A long standing family operation, almost all pies start with home grown apples. We had apple and berry pie for dinner!

Again, following the PBS show recommendation, we visited Borrego Springs to see a collection of larger than life metal sculptures.

There are 130 sculptures in and around the town of Borrego Springs. The town is surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The largest concentration of sculptures are in an area north of town called Galleto Meadows.  

We lucked out with some wildflowers too!

Philanthropist, and Galleto Meadows owner Dennis Avery, commissioned sculpture artist Ricardo Breceda to build the sculptures from 2008-2012. That seems a nice gig for an artist during the recession!

We drove through and walked around the expansive area.

The sea serpent has body parts on both sides of the road!

As fun as these side experiences were, the purpose of our trip was to see the musical Come From Away at the McCallum Theatre.

We become aware of the show when visiting Newfoundland last summer.  

I have not yet written about that trip. However, we so enjoyed re-living our Italy trip by writing it after the fact, that I will probably write our Canada trip as time allows this summer. By then Randy may be able to find the end of that trip somewhat amusing!  No, probably not….teaser!

Anyway, in preparation for seeing the musical we both read Jim DeFede’s book The Day the World Came to Town.

We learned that Newfoundland is pronounced Newfin-land.  They have their own time zone that is 90 minutes ahead of US Eastern Standard Time.  Their isolation leads to a cooperative spirit for the survival of all.

The history of helping others rose again in 1942 when two US military ships were destroyed by running aground in a violent storm.  One hundred ninety three sailors drowned but 186 were saved by the heroic efforts of Newfoundlanders.

The island has a long history of aviation importance as a refueling stop for military and civilian aircraft.  Newer jets with longer range has greatly reduced aviation traffic but the long runways remain. 

On September 11, 2001, United States airspace was closed at 9:54 a.m. EDT after the terrorist attacks. There were 4546 aircraft aloft over the US and they were directed to land. There were an additional 400 international flights heading to the US, mostly from Europe..

Of those 400 flights, 250 aircraft were diverted to Canada.  Those planes carried 43,895 people.  Thirty-eight planes, landed in Gander, Newfoundland with crew, passengers, and an assortment of animals.  

Imagine 6595 extra people joining a town of 10,000!   The book and the musical tell the story of the locals and passengers and how they passed the next four days together.  The service provided by the population of Gander is unimaginable – yet they did it.

Photos were not allowed of the production. If you ever have the chance to see the musical, do it!  At the very least, read the book!

An interesting side note to entering the theater – ID and proof of COVID vaccination were required.  We had received this information with our tickets. Masks were recommended but not required.

The next day we had a four hour drive back to Phoenix and made a couple more stops along the way.

Our first stop was the Salton Sea Visitor Center.   

The depression for the lake was caused by tectonic shift, sediment collection and flooding along the Colorado River.  It has a salt water, fresh water, salt water history.

The sea measures 372 square miles and is the largest lake in California.  It sits 277 feet below sea level. It was once the second busiest (of 273) state parks in California.  Its heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even after its peak, the Salton Sea was still a haven for fish and fishermen and birds and birders.  

Placards in the visitor center are now slapped with History labels as so much has changed.

With climate change and drought, the salinity has increased too much to support fish and the last of the fish died two years ago.  Given that, there are now much fewer birds.  The politician Sonny Bono was very interested in the health of the Salton Sea. There are maintained birding areas with his name in the southern part of the sea.

The Salton Sea currently has higher salinity levels (60 grams per liter) than the Pacific Ocean but less than the Great Salt Lake.

As we left the area we were quite confused by the assortment of agriculture that was dying off, and new agriculture being planted.

We were stunned to see this new water canal. 

I know the water and agriculture scenario is complicated given the drought but allowing established crops to die, while starting new crops, when water is scarce just doesn’t make a lot of surface sense.  

On to a person who made more sense of his life – General George Patton.   

Our last stop in the area was at the General Patton Memorial Museum.  The museum is extensive with details, not just about Patton, but about all military activity during his lifetime.

Some very brief highlights of his life are that he had a family legacy of military service stretching from the Revolution to World War II.

Patton went to West Point and participated in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics as the first American athlete in the pentathlon.

He was instrumental in beginning a tank training program during World War I.

After the US got into WWII, Patton chose the site for, and led, the Desert Training Center  in the American southwest.  He was from southern California so knew of the Mohave Desert area. 

His goal was to prepare American soldiers for war against the Axis regimes in Northern Africa.  

There were camps holding about 15,000 soldiers scattered in the region. At one time there were over 200,000 soldiers training in the Desert Training Center.  

The camps were spartan with no luxuries at all.  Men lived in tents and ate standing up. There were two chapels, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. This is a representation of one of them at the museum.

When the original engagements did not go well in northern Africa,  Eisenhower appointed Patton to come in and lead the troops.  He emphasized discipline and things turned around. 

Patton is seated second from the left as we view the picture. Eisenhower is seated in the center with General Omar Bradly to his left (our right).

Patton’s next accomplishment was capturing Sicily. He followed that with an unusual strategy in the Battle of the Bulge.

Patton must have been a good interview because the museum was full of his quotes.  Patton speaking also got him into some trouble . At one point he was sent to desk duty for accusing a shell shocked soldier of malingering. 

He also caused trouble for those trying to work through difficult situations with diplomacy.  After being his earlier champion, Eisenhower removed Patton as Commander of Bavaria because of things he said.

General George S Patton suffered a broken neck in a car accident in 1945. Two weeks later he died from a blood clot related to the paralysis suffered in that accident.  He and his wife decided prior to his death that he should stay with his troops. General Patton was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. 

For those who might wonder, we visited Joshua Tree National Park and did the Aerial Tramway when we were in Palm Springs in 2015. Those observations are in the post One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four.

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Arizona: Burros and Wildflowers

Returning from Las Vegas, we made a detour along Historic Route 66 to visit Oatman, Arizona. We knew it as a tourist ghost town with wild burros that wander the streets.  

Oatman is a former mining community and burros were common beasts of burden for the industry.  As the mines were abandoned, burros were sometimes released to fend for themselves.  The burros in Oatman are descendants of those mining burros.

We arrived in town on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and found way more than we expected.  Oatman was very busy!  

There were the old buildings and wooden sidewalks you expect in a western ghost town.

It didn’t take long to find the burros! They are technically wild, but also tame enough to enjoy a scratch or snack.

We bought a bag of hay cubes to feed the burros but they were not interested in “healthy” food. 

They wanted better treats than we were offering.

The locals performed a wild west showdown for us!

We wandered through some of the old buildings and shops.

This restaurant was decorated with $1 bills and was busy enough that we only peeked inside.

We missed the Bed Races but it looks like it could be fun!

Olive Oatman’s restaurant and saloon was closed but it suggested a connection between her and the name of the town – something I hadn’t picked up on previously. Prospector Johnny Moss named the area after Olive Oatman in 1860 during her celebrity era.  

Olive Oatman and her family were part of a group traveling west to settle in western Arizona or southeastern California.  Some of the group decided to stay in New Mexico while others stayed near Tucson.  Although the Oatmans were warned of the danger, they eventually traveled further west alone.  

Ninety miles east of Yuma, the Oatmans and their seven children were engaged by Native Americans and the encounter turned deadly.  Both parents and four of the children were killed.  A teenage son survived and two daughters were taken captive.   

The girls, ages 14 and 7, were taken by the Yavapai and lived as slaves for about a year.  They were eventually traded to the Mojave tribe who treated them as adopted daughters. They were given tattoos identifying them as members of the tribe.

Over several years, people interacting with the tribe noticed the white girls living amongst the Mojave.  Word made it back to civilization. Olive was eventually “rescued” although accounts differed on whether she appreciated being taken away. (Prior to finding Olive, the younger sister died, along with many of the Mojave, during a drought.)

Olive was reunited with her brother and became a bit of a celebrity on the lecture circuit. She later married and lived until age 65.   

Entering and departing Oatman we were delighted to see bright yellow wildflowers against the stark landscape. 

We were at the right place at the right time for Mexican poppies!

When you live in the desert, spring wildflowers are such a gift.  The winter of 22-23 has been wet and cool.  

Water is desperately needed and we also knew that the moisture might treat us to a nice wildflower season.

Twice this past week we ventured out on a desert hike looking for wild flowers.

White Tanks Regional Park is near us and we enjoyed seeing a variety of flowers.

A few days later we went just a bit further to Lake Pleasant Regional Park.  There were more flowers there!

Lake Pleasant is one of our favorite parks because not only are there nice trails, but there is a lake, a restaurant at the marina, and the possibility of seeing wild burros.

It seems like hiking Wild Burro Trail should work for seeing burros! We see them about every third time we visit Lake Pleasant. 

On this day we heard the burros way before we saw them!  We could discern their general location by listening to their loud braying. It still took some time to find them high upon the ridge.  (This picture is using a phone zoom lens.) One of the three burros is just to the right of the saguaro in the top middle. They blend in so well that they must be moving to see them at this distance.

Burros and wildflowers (and lunch at the marina) made for a great day at Lake Pleasant!

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PHX: Two Tours in One Day!

We toured Chase Field in downtown Phoenix! 

The Arizona Diamondbacks were created through MLB expansion 25 years ago.  They came into the league at the same time as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Diamondbacks were the youngest team ever to win a World Series Championship – after only four years in the league!

The stadium’s construction cost $354 million dollars and was first named Bank One Ballpark.  It had 48,500 seats, about the same as today.  Although only 25 years old,  it is the fourth oldest ball park in the National League.

In 2006, the name was changed to Chase Field. We met for our tour outside the main offices.

Our guide, Molly, began where most fans walk into the stadium. This area highlights things about Arizona.

She told us about ways the Diamondbacks contribute to Arizona. Funds are raised at every game with a 50-50 raffle. A ticket winner gets half the proceeds while the designated charitable group gets the other half. We have seen these amounts be in the $60,000 – $80,000 range many times. One time we saw the total go over $100,000!

The Diamondbacks also raise money for charities with the sale of authentic game worn gear.   

In conjunction with the local power company, the team develops and donates fields for Arizona youth and provides replica Diamondback team jerseys.

The stadium opened with a natural grass playing surface but has since transitioned away from it.  The current “grass” is made of organic coconut fibers.

The perimeter areas are made of a granite and plastic composite.  The infield is made from a mixture of sand and clay.

The change allowed for savings of 2,000,000 gallons of water and also created the ability to have other events at the stadium throughout the year. 

The roof opens or closes in 4.5 minutes.   We didn’t learn about it on the tour but the local news has told us that the roof needs repairs to the point where it is not operated when people are inside.   The roof position decision must be made before the game begins.  

The stadium air-conditioning system can cool the stadium in 2 hours.  Cooling is defined as 74 degrees at field level and 80 degrees on the 2nd level.  We often sit on the third level and it is still quite comfortable – especially if we strategically sit in the vicinity of the cooling vents.  The stadium is partially solar powered.

There is a 33 percent rise In the stadium’s third deck for good viewing – but the trek up can seem steep.

The video board measures 136 by 46 feet and there is 120 feet of video ribbon surrounding the field.  There are over 750 TVs in the stadium.

We have been to Chase Field numerous times but it was always crowded and we hadn’t known about the stadium museum named the 20th Anniversary Experience.  We weren’t able to go in on our tour because of off season construction. We will look for the World Series Trophy and World Series Ring on display there the next time we go to a game.

Chase Field is the only park with a pool!  A group event at the pool allows for 35 people, food, parking, towels to keep, and a lifeguard.  The cost begins at $7000 for a game but rises based on the opponent.  That means you Dodger and Cubs Fans.

There are 68 suites which hold 20 people each at an event cost of $2500. 

Food is included and guests have suite seating and stadium seating.

The Owner’s Suite has space for 34 guests.

We were unable to go into the Press Box because of work on an elevator. Disappointing but there was an advantage to going in the off season – We were able to go in the Diamondback’s locker room!

As we approached we saw the Diamondbacks’ Player Awards.

There are numerous tables surrounded by lockers. There were shower, spa and training areas that we were able to see but not photograph.

As we left the clubhouse, heading to the dug-out, we saw this interesting chart showing activities based on game times.

The dug-out!

Field view from the dug-out.

Randy mostly enjoys my love of baseball.

For bats and gloves…

Need a new pitcher? Call the bullpen.

It was an interesting tour that will increase our enjoyment of games at Chase Field. Perhaps we will look for other stadium tours as we travel.

Our second tour of the day was of The Phoenix Theatre.  We are frequent patrons of this downtown theatre and are always amazed at the quality of their productions.

While entering the theatre, you pass through the Steven Spielberg Hall of Mirrors. His debut movie was shown here when he was a young employee at the theatre. 

The Phoenix Theater began in 1920 and in 1923 the prominent Heard family donated their carriage house as the first building.  The Phoenix Public Library was also held at the site.

The main stage was built in the 1950s and seats just less than 400 people.

It works but is far from luxurious.  They are in the midst of a fundraising and building project.  We donated and got perks – including this tour!

Another perk was being invited to a Director’s Talk after a delightful performance of An American in Paris.

The artistic director and dialect coach talked specifically about the An American in Paris production and then the whole experience of shows moving from movie to stage or stage to movie.  They highlighted successes and failures of both. The dialect coach talked about the process of being specific with regional dialects.

Our tour guide, Kristen, told us a production gets three weeks of rehearsal.  This is the primary rehearsal space as the main stage is utilized for an ongoing production at the same time.

The numbering in the rehearsal space is matched on the stage so set crew and actors know where they, and things, will be.

The orchestra pit was once under the front of the main stage.  Many years ago it was deemed too small and the orchestra was moved to another space.  

Through a series of video cameras and screens, the music director can see the stage and the actors can see him.  It is amazing how well it works considering they are totally separate!

The theatre has 60 full time employees including directors, ticket staff, set designers, costumers, and prop people.  The actors are employed per show, not on a full time basis.

While visiting the costume shop, we learned that vodka can be used for a quick cleaning and deodorizing of costumes between shows. The lighting on stage utilizes 200 bulbs of 500 watts each. The theatre always feels cold to patrons but we understand the need to cool it down better now!

While waiting utilization on another show, costume pieces are stored by gender, type and era.  The racks look much like a goodwill emporium.

The prop shop also looks like a thrift store!  

These are the props and costume pieces used for the current production of An American in Paris. They are kept ready just off stage. I never looked too closely at the props or costumes during a production before but now I know to be amazed with what they do with marginal things!

There were two random bits of theater trivia we learned on our tour:

The Green Room we associate with guests or performers waiting to “go on” is from Marie Antoinette’s reign.  While hosting a lavish party, she put those marginal theater folks in a green tent so they would be less noticeable to her important guests. 

We also learned about the microphones and battery packs actors use while onstage.  The microphones aren’t terribly expensive and their periodic replacement is expected.  The battery packs are very expensive and condoms are used as a water proof or sweat proof barrier to protect them.  Our tour guide told a good story about someone who was new to the financial side of the theatre questioning the line item expense for so many condoms!

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PHX: Mystery Castle

Boyce Gully left his home and family in Washington State when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1929.  His doctor recommended he move to a drier climate. Boyce left his wife, Frances, and their five year old daughter, Mary Lou, and did not tell them where he was going or that he was ill. He believed he was likely going to die.

While waiting for whatever would come, Gully acquired land in the desert south of Phoenix by filing a mining claim. 

To gain title he had to live on the land and do some actual mining. He did just enough mining to qualify for the land but it was never a priority. Gully was eventually deeded his 40 acres. The above photo shows remnants of his mining equipment.

Boyce and daughter Mary Lou had loved building sand castles together on the Washington Coast. She had once asked him to build her a real castle. He set about building a castle that couldn’t be washed away.

Boyce’ contact with Frances, and MaryLou was minimal over the years. He never did tell them he was ill or that he was building a castle.

Boyce obtained free materials (bricks) and rocks whenever and however he could. 

People gave him their excess or random items. He was creative in what he used as construction materials. 

He used downed telephone poles and wood from abandoned sites and rail cars.  

He used whatever he could find or gather. 

Old wheels became windows. 

These glass blocks are used dishes.  

The castle cost very little in dollars.

Eventually, there were eighteen rooms and thirteen fireplaces.

There is a courtyard made of stone and rejected construction bricks.

Looking through the Phoenix Window revealed the once small town of Phoenix. (Phoenix is a bit bigger now and doesn’t fit.)

Stairs go from the courtyard to the open upper level.

Following Boyce’ death in 1945, daughter Mary Lou and wife Frances learned they had a castle outside of Phoenix.  

They traveled to Arizona to claim it. 

Boyce left a trap door under the alligator with letters, documents and two $500 bills.

The castle was featured in Life magazine in 1948 and people made the trek seven miles south of Phoenix to see it.  

Mary Lou started giving tours for 25 cents per person. That included coffee and a donut provided by Frances. 

The women lived in a castle without water and power until Frances died in 1970.    

Mary Lou was able to obtain water and power to the main rooms later in the 1970s.    

She offered chapel services for weddings. It is still possible to be married at the Mystery Castle.

This collection of shoes once belonged to brides who married at the castle chapel. Mary Lou wrote the following poem: If the bride, Leaves one shoe, Then forever will, The groom be true.

The castle gained status over time – although no one seemed to know what the Emmy sign was about. A brief internet search on my part also yielded no answers.

It isn’t clear that Bill Clinton visited the Phoenix Mystery Castle, but he corresponded with Mary Lou.

Mary Lou lived in the castle her father built for her until 2010 when she passed away. 

Currently, tours are offered seasonally on a limited schedule.  The guides spoke about finding snakes in the castle during the summer months. Between the snakes and limited services, summer tours just aren’t viable. The price is $10 – cash only. We did not get Frances’ coffee and donuts but still enjoyed the tour very much.

The castle and grounds are on seven of Gully’s original 40 acre mining claim. 

Some of the remaining acreage was donated to Maricopa County as it was developing South Mountain Regional Park.  The view of Phoenix from the Dobbins Lookout window doesn’t quite hold all of Phoenix now either.

Next up: More of Phoenix – Two Tours in One Day!

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Outside Nashville: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

When we travel, you can be sure I have done the research.  That includes hotels, things to do and places to eat.  The morning we headed to Mammoth Cave National Park, my research failed us.  All of my breakfast places were downtown, or south of the city.  We wanted a place that was generally north towards Kentucky.

Apple maps said Monell’s was close and had good reviews.  What a wonderful surprise it turned out to be!

Monell’s serves family style so you walk in and are seated at large tables with whomever happened to walk in just before or after you.

The bowls and platters started going around and our table mates were good to explain what we were eating when it wasn’t obvious.  We knew about grits but did not know a thing about corn pudding!  Yum!

We sat with a group of pastors from the campuses of Cross Point Church of Middle Tennessee. They were so pleasant, asking about our time in Nashville, and what people eat for breakfast in the southwest.   In a true act of southern hospitality, they bought our breakfast and created a very nice memory of our trip.  

Adequately nourished, we drove two hours to Mammoth Cave National Park.  There was no entrance fee, only a fee for tours.

I had reserved our cave tour ahead of time.  Because it was December, our options were limited and I chose the History Tour. Very likely it is what I would have chosen anyway.

We knew we would be walking two miles and going down and up 546 stairs.   We would be 310 ft below the surface at the lowest level 

Archeological evidence suggests the cave was used 4000 years ago by prehistoric man.  They scraped minerals at least ten miles into the cave.   (In 1935, a  prehistoric body was found.  It was taken out and analyzed, then returned.) 

After more than 2000 years, the cave was rediscovered in 1798.  Legend says that John Halges shot a black bear and the wounded animal led him into Mammoth Cave. 

Local men explored a bit and found mineral deposits. Saltpeter production begin shortly after and peaked during the War of 1812.  Saltpeter was mined by slaves and sent to Delaware to make gunpowder. 

Mining was discontinued after the war.

By 1816 people starting visiting the cave.  Local men and boys led the tours and those guides and visitors had to work a lot harder than we did! 

Tours stopped at The Bottomless Pit, one and a quarter miles into the cave.  

In 1838 three enslaved men were sent into the cave to be the guides.  They were Stephen Bishop, Mat Bransford and Nick Bransford.  The enslaved men were able to keep their tips.  (Years later Bishop’s grandson also guided tours.  The Branfords and their descendants were tour guides in the cave for over 100 years ending in 1939.)

Stephen Bishop was just 17 when he began leading white people into the cave. He later said he felt a sense of respect and authority guiding tours that he never felt above ground. 

Someone hired Bishop to take him beyond the bottomless pit, where no one else had been before.  They went another 25 feet.

Stephen Bishop explored many more miles within the cave over many years. He went down to the rivers and up to Mammoth Dome.   

Bishop was the first to discover the eyeless cavefish.  The enslaved guides sold the fish above ground and were able to keep the money. 

When Bishop found a lantern on the cave floor in an area he had never been, he knew an opening had been found from above. There are eleven natural entrances to the cave but the park service believes only one was ever used by humans.

Bishop, who called Mammoth Cave a “grand, gloomy, and peculiar place” was granted his freedom in 1856.

Steven Bishop  died in 1857 and is buried in the Old Guides Cemetery within the park.  

His headstone was donated by a park visitor 20 years after his death.  The stone had been intended for a union soldier, thus the military symbols.

Tuberculosis patients were brought into the cave in 1842-43 as a proposed cure for the disease.  This experiment was not successful but two tuberculin huts remain.  (The cave was also used for a mushroom farm,  for a famous sleep study, and as a shelter in the 1950s and 1960s.)

The river system above and within the cave was critical to forming Mammoth Cave.  The entire region sits upon more than 400 feet of layered, eroding, limestone. Over millions of years, subterranean streams have honeycombed the region with caves.

This kind of limestone topography is called Karst. The map shows Karst areas in green.

The cave system supports 130 species including northern and southern classes of eyeless cavefish.  Some species are specially adapted to live their entire lifespan in the cave while others come in and out.   

The site that became Mammoth Cave National Park was first commissioned by Congress in 1926.  The land previously was occupied by 600 farms, villages and independent cave operations.   Some people sold their properties willingly to the Park Service while others were acquired through eminent domain.

In 1933 four Civilian Conservation Corps camps were formed and park infrastructure was built.  The CCC also had the job of dismantling the former farm buildings.    They left three churches and 100 cemeteries.  (Verified descendants can still be buried in cemeteries within Mammoth Cave National Park).

The park was officially dedicated in 1941.

The 400 mile mark of explored and documented passageways in Mammoth Cave was achieved in 2012. Currently, there are 426 miles of passageways documented.  Many more hundreds of miles are presumed.  

The passageways are above and below each other turning and intertwining, like a plate of spaghetti.  It is the largest cave system known in the world.

As you can see, other known caves in the world aren’t even close to the size of Mammoth Cave.

Twelve miles of the cave are currently toured and six miles are paved.  Our tour was on a paved route.

Fat Man’s Misery is a section where the path is quite narrow. Tall Man’s Misery is a section where the “ceiling” is very low.  Even I had to duck a few times.

We saw writing on the walls and ceiling.  Writings or carvings that were done before 1941 are considered historical graffiti. After 1941 the same activity became a federal offense.

Someone put up a Christmas Tree in the cave while we were there in December 2022.

We had to go up ALL THESE STAIRS to exit the cave.  

To avoid the spread of of White Nose Syndrome, we had to walk through a solution to get infectious particles off our shoes as we left the cave. 

Those inclined to visit Mammoth Cave might visit other caves.  And we have! We visited both Wind Cave National Park and Jewell National Park (both in South Dakota) well before we started writing about our adventures.

Mammoth Cave is impressive in its size, and interesting in its history, but it is not the prettiest cave we’ve seen – at least not the part we saw on this tour.

If you are interested in a few of the other caves we visited, click on the links below. Our most recent visit to Carlsbad Caverns (and Roswell, NM) in 2021 is recorded in Below and Beyond.

To read about two southern Arizona caves, Colossal Cave and the pristine, highly protected Kartchner Caverns, read The Tale of Two Caves from 2018.

This is the last post from our Nashville trip. We planned to go to Tennessee twice in our RV days but never made it.  Years later we are finally able to add the Tennessee and Kentucky stickers!

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