Friday, February 28, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0089 - Chloride and Santa Clause, Mohave County, Arizona

Chloride is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in the State of Arizona, and at one time there were more than 75 mines operating in the area that supported a population of over 5,000 inhabitants. Today, the population is listed at 352. However, with the rising price of gold, the Tennessee Mine has reopened using a new low-impact environmental approach to reprocess tailings from previous mining activities.

In the 1840s prospectors first discovered deposits of gold and silver in the area; but mining was not widespread until the 1870s, after a treaty was signed with the Hualapai Indians. By the late 1890s the Arizona and Utah Railway was extended from Kingman to Chloride, which greatly increased the population and the mercantile trade. However, the mines played out and by the 1940s Chloride was nearly a ghost town.

A number of old buildings are still on display and open to the public, including some stores and a restaurant. The town residents have also recreated an old west town (Cyanide Springs) where they hold mock gunfights on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. Cyanide Springs is also home of the Wild Roses, the world’s only all-female gun fighter troupe.

It is interesting to drive around the side streets of Chloride just to view the various yards. Many of the residents display “lawn art,” which consists of anything rusty that you can find discarded in the desert. Some of the items are even for sale. Bring on the American Pickers!

Located on US Highway 93, not far from the Chloride exit, are the abandoned remains of Santa Clause (Arizona). 

Santa Clause was founded in 1937 by a real estate promoter that constructed or moved several buildings to the site, including the old Kit Carson Guest House that was renamed the Santa Clause Inn. The plan was to use the parched desert location to attract land buyers to the area. After twelve years of sparse land sales (even though some parcels of land were sold, no one actually moved there) the property was sold to investors that decided to promote the “Santa Land” idea to tourist as they traveled by on US Highway 93 (the main road from Kingman to Las Vegas).

Santa Clause turned out to be a full-fledged tourist attraction and a must-stop location where kids could see Santa anytime of the year at “Santa’s Desert Retreat.” At Christmas time, letters could be sent to the post office and they would be stamped from “Santa Clause.” A series of buildings were added using a North Pole theme and there was a small pink train with hand-painted renderings of Santa and his elves that kids could ride. Duncan Hines representatives visited the facility and stated that the restaurant was one of the best places to eat along Route 66 (of course, Santa Clause wasn’t located on Route 66, but it helped attract business) and the restaurant became famous for its rum pie. However, over time business declined and the facility was abandoned in 1995.

I only visited the facility one time when it was in operation, but I can still remember the two little grandmother’s that made the pies each morning. And, in my opinion, they were the best pies in the area, even though the restaurant was not located on Route 66.

Friday, February 21, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0088 - Space Mission to the Ronodov Nebula, Pleasant Grove, Utah County, Utah

How could I resist an invitation to go on a Space Mission, to go where no man has gone before, to  explore new planets and civilizations, to reach for the stars!

We arrived at the Space Port Docking Center and were escorted to a briefing room where we were told that we had been assigned to the UCS Columbia (a Federation Space Ship). Our mission was going to be to the Ronodov Nebula, where a "Top Secret" research station was located; but all communications with the Station had been lost. Apparently, the research station was so classified that only the President and a few of his staff even knew that the station existed. We were told that the Secretary of Defense wanted to join the mission and would meet us aboard the ship before we departed.

After transporting up to the ship's bridge, we found a variety of activity in process as the support crew was preparing the ship for departure. The crew for this mission was personally selected by the Captain, but not necessarily familiar with the Columbia, so the Captain assigned everyone to a position on the bridge and each staff member was given a brief training session on how to operate the equipment at their station. I was assigned to be the Medical Officer and found my duty station, which was at the far end of the bridge on the lower level. We were instructed to log into our computer and get familiar with the various drop-down menus available for our individual job functions. The Officers that controlled the ship's power thrusters and navigation systems were given extra training because we were told that on a previous mission one of the crew members accidently pressed the warp speed thruster button while the ship was still in the docking station - they have never found the space ship or part of the docking station.

I logged into the computer at the Medical Station and discovered that I had access to two different drop down menus - one menu contained instructions for medical procedures and the other menu was for ordering supplies. Checking the supplies menu I discovered that I could order a lot more than just medical supplies. Actually, I could order anything I wanted. So, I decided to see how well the system worked by ordering a case of phasers and had them delivered to Deck 6. However, before I could check to see if Deck 6 received the order, a doctor from the Space Port delivered a bag full of medical supplies to my station, which I thought was strange because I already had a bag of medical supplies. I remembered seeing this same scenario on a Star Trek movie, and the doctor was really a spy and the medical bag contained a bomb; so I borrowed a phaser and told the phony doctor to reach for the stars. (I had to borrow the phaser because according to the Geneva Convention doctors can not carry weapons. I just told the person that lent me the weapon that I was going to use it for "preventive medicine.") The Captain came over and looked in the bag and discovered that it was full of  -- medical supplies. I told the Captain that there must be something hidden in the bag because I saw this scenario in a movie. He told me to just go back to my station and look busy.

The Captain then announced that we were one person short on the Bridge and there was no one to operate the Short Range Communication equipment. He wanted to know if anyone had any communication equipment experience, so I raised my hand and told him that I once owned a CB radio. With a puzzled look on his face he asked: "What is a CB radio?" He then asked me if I knew Twitter, Linkedln, Tumblr, or Flickr and I had to admit that I had never met those people. For some reason, he decided to have the Long Rang Communications Officer also operate the Short Range equipment.

In the mean time, it was total chaos on the bridge. The Secretary of Defense showed up several times to check on the mission progress and every time he showed up everyone had to stand up, then sit down, then stand up , then sit down, etc. Finally, the Captain just told everyone to just stand up until they finished the training session and we could move the ship out of the docking station. To add to the noise level, the ship's main computer kept talking to everyone at the same time and then got into an altercation with one of the crew members over a printer that wouldn't work. (It turned out that the printer power button was turned to the "off" position.)

To make matters worse, the head of Security (the Captain's older brother) was all over the bridge trying to give everyone directions and advice, which were often different than what the Captain was trying to accomplish. The Captain ordered the head of Security back to his station several times and told him to be quiet, but the head of Security did not follow the Captain's directions. Much to the surprise of everyone on the bridge, the Captain then pulled out his phaser, zapped his own brother, and had him thrown in the brig. And, all of this happened while we were still docked to the Space Port. Needless to say, everyone suddenly became much more attentive and the ship was able to leave the docking station.

Shortly after undocking, the navigator plotted a course for the Ronodov Nebula and we made a jump to hyper space at warp speed. The viewing screen at the front of the ship looked just like you see in the movies - first there were stars and when we hit warp speed there were just straight white lines where the stars had been located.

While we were cruising at warp speed I had a few minutes to visit with the First Officer and learned that he and the Captain had been on several other space missions together; thus, the Captain had picked him to be First Officer as a replacement in case the Captain became incapacitated in any way. I realized that he probably did not know about all of my space experiences and SAC training in the Air Force, so I asked him if he knew why the Captain had picked me to go on the mission. He looked kind of puzzled, and then he said "I think it was because you were the only one old enough to drive us to the Space Port." I decided it was time to visit the head of Security in the brig to see how he was doing.

The head of Security was still out, so I gave him a zap with my special medical tool that would heal everything and he immediately woke up. After checking his pulse he seemed fine, so I let him out of the brig and sent him back to his work station, after giving him a "pep talk" about how to take orders from the Captain..

About this time we arrived at the Ronodov Nebula. However, on the front viewer we could see that there was an asteroid belt between our ship and the space station and we would have to negotiate our way through it. The Captain ordered the ship to proceed through asteroid belt slowly so that we would not contact any of the large asteroids. Unfortunately, the Computer kept giving navigational directions in " port" and "starboard;" which was really confusing to "left" and "right" brained people. Then, unfortunately, someone accidently pressed the warp drive button instead of the directional thruster button. Have you ever seen an asteroid coming at you at warp speed? We didn't either, but everything went totally black for several seconds before the Supreme Creator told us over the intercom that we would be allowed one chance to backup in time and restart our journey though the asteroid belt. The Captain was then severely chastised by the Creator for crashing the ship and told there would be substantial penalties inflicted upon the captain and crew if we made another mistake.

On our second attempt we made it through the asteroid belt safely and arrived at the space station. The entire space station appeared dark and lifeless, and we could not get a response from the space station using our Short Range communication equipment. Therefore, the Captain decided that the bridge crew would beam down to the space station to determine why they were not responding and to check the space station's computer memory for any data that could be salvaged. 

Arriving at the space station, we found that the crew were all dead, but the ship's computer was still operational, so the computer's memory was downloaded onto a storage device that we could take back to the Columbia.

We had just arrived back at the Columbia and downloaded the data from the space station's computer when we were attacked by unknown assailants that had beamed aboard our vessel. The attackers then kidnapped the Secretary of Defense and beamed back to their ship before we could stop them.

Suddenly a space rupture opened, and the alien ship disappeared through the rupture.

The Captain ordered everyone back to their duty stations, so that we could give chase and rescue the Secretary before the rupture closed.

Although the alien ship had a head start, the Captain directed us to follow the same path through the space rupture, even though we did not know what was on the other side.

The trip through the rupture was really a rough ride with everything bouncing around and all of the ship's warning systems were on high alert. Red lights were flashing and loud horns were blasting away to warn of potential structural failures to the ship's integrity. Because the Medical Station was adjacent to the Communication Station, the Captain told me to call Earth and report our situation, but I replied"Captain! I'm a Doctor, not a Communication expert! You will have to get someone else!"

Somehow we made it through the rupture, but once on the other side, none of our communication devices worked and we did not know where we were at.

We finally found a planet that looked just like Earth, but it wasn't the Earth that we came from. The Captain told us that we probably found an alternate reality, so we decided to beam down to the surface to see what we could find..

After everyone arrived at the surface, we regrouped and started to explore the planet; but, we were immediately surrounded by soldiers that captured us and took us to their leader. The Captain kept trying to explain that we were from an alternate reality, but the soldiers kept asking us questions about the history of our planet. After some explanations from the crew comparing our planet to their planet, it became apparent that the histories of both planets were exactly the same up to the Cold War era with Russia. On their planet, the Russians won the Cold War and now controlled the entire world, but the group that captured us were Freedom Fighters that had been Americans and wanted to return democracy to the people. Unfortunately, the Russians had recently started building eight-foot-tall mechanical Uries that were going to be used to hunt down the Freedom Fighters.

The Freedom Fighters said that they could recreate the space rupture so that we could get back home, if we would first help them destroy the Urie factory and eliminate their General. Since we didn't have any other choice, we agreed to help them.

Once back on the Columbia we went to the coordinates provided and beamed down to the Urie factory. The lighting in the factory was very dim, but at the far end of the room we could see the General giving orders to the Uries. As our eyes became accustomed to the low light, we couldn't believe what we saw - the Urie General was the Secretary of Defense that we had brought to the space station! About this time the General realized that we were in the factory and everyone immediately began firing laser weapons. Just when we thought we were going to be overrun, the Freedom Fighters showed up and joined in the fight. The Captain ordered everyone back to the ship because the Freedom Fighters were going to detonate a bomb that would destroy the factory and reopen the space rupture.

We had just reached the Columbia when the space rupture opened, so we immediately negotiated our ship through the rupture and then found ourselves back at the asteroid belt. The Captain ordered the ship to set a course for Earth and to proceed at warp speed. Within a few minutes we were back at the Space Port.

At our debriefing, we all received commendations for a job well done! (And, birthday cupcakes from the Captain's Mother!)

End of Mission!

Friday, February 14, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0087 - Texas, 2014 Part II

While in Texas, part of the time we stayed at a house on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson; so one evening we decided to have dinner in Kingsland at the Junction House Restaurant, an old renovated 1900s Victorian era house. The food was good, but I kept hearing this loud noise upstairs as though someone was using a chainsaw. When I asked the waitress about the noise, she said that she couldn't hear anything but occasionally some guest do hear a strange noise that sounds like a chainsaw. She went on to explain that the house was originally located in Round Rock, but in 1998 the house was cut into six pieces and moved to its current location as part of the Antlers Hotel & Historic Railroad District. Apparently, some people think the place is haunted because it is the house that was used in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre movie.

I was so intrigued by the story that I decided to come back the next day and take pictures of the house and other Historic Railroad District structures, which include a train depot, the Antlers Hotel, and several train cabooses that have been converted into overnight rental units as part of the Antlers Hotel. I had a strange feeling as I was taking a picture of the house, and then when I returned home, I couldn't believe it! The only picture taken on the entire trip that didn't turn out, was the picture of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre house This was really, really, weird!  Anyway, I borrowed a house picture from the web, so that you could see what the house lookes like. Also, intriguing is that there is no mention of the house, or a picture of the house, on the Kingsland City web site, or in the Texas State Travel Guide. Is the house really haunted? You decide!

Web Picture (photographer and picture date unknown)

While staying at the Lake Lyndon B. Johnson house, I also had the opportunity to take several pictures of some beautiful birds that liked to be fed on the back porch.

Also, close to the house that we stayed at was the Blue Bonnet restaurant in Marble Falls. We managed to stop by the restaurant several times to eat and sample their famous pies. (A must if you are ever in the area. They have "Happy Pie Hour" from 3-5 PM each day.)

Located north and east of Marble Falls is the Bertram Train Depot, where you can catch a ride on the Hill Country Flyer/Bertram Flyer. They also offer a number of other train trips on a limited basis (murder mystery, wine tasting, Bluebonnet Festival, North Pole Flyer, etc. Check their web site for a list of events.)

Located north of Austin is the small community of Hutto. In 2003, the Texas State Legislature named Hutto the "Official Hippo Capital of Texas" because there are over 3,000 painted concrete hippos populating the town. Most people that come to Hutto have their picture taken with Henrietta, the 2.5 ton concrete hippo located in the Historic Downtown District. (I'm not in the picture because I was afraid that people wouldn't be able to recognize which one was Henrietta!)

We arrived in Brenham too late in the day to take the Blue Bell Creameries tour, home to the "best ice cream in the country;" however, we did make it to the Blue Bell Country Store where they serve ice cream for $1.00 per generous scoop. It is fortunate that I don't live too close to this place!

Although we didn't make it to Huntsville on this trip, a few years ago we stopped in Huntsville to see the famous Sam Houston Statue that is so large it can be seen from six miles away. The wild flowers in the area were also beautiful.

Also, on a previous trip, we visited the NASA/Space Center Houston, which is a must if you are ever in the area. At the Houston facility you can see artifacts and displays from the space race that include the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, moon landing, and space shuttle programs.



I typically don't fly out of the Austin Airport, but I will always remember being at a convention that was held at a country club about 30 miles outside of Austin in 2001. About mid-way through the conference, on September 11, people realized that our Country was under attack for the first time in history. Panic set in!  People were trying to leave Austin by any means possible - train, bus, rental car, etc. Some people were even so desperate they purchased used cars, so they could drive home. There were only about a dozen of us that decided to just hang around and wait for the airlines to start flying again; and things got a little boring at the Country Club, so we spent the last few days at a hotel in downtown Austin where we could at least purchase some clean clothes. People kept giving me a hard time because I had decided to grow a beard before I went to the conference; and , unfortunately, I don't have a very nice looking beard because it grows wild in every direction. I was actually accused of looking like Osama Bin Laden, which worked against me when the airport finally reopened. The TSA people were certain that I was a security threat and I wasn't sure that they were even going to let me get on the plane. Anyway, after arriving home I shaved off my beard and I have never tried growing a beard again! (When you fly into Las Vegas from Austin, the flight path follows the Colorado River for about the last 100 miles.)
Traveled 1,586 ground miles in 8 days.