Friday, January 30, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0137 - Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Lincoln County, Nevada

"Paranagat" is a First American term meaning “Valley of Shining Water.” 

Although today most of the “shining water” has disappeared, Pahranagat Valley still contains four lakes that receive their waters from a narrow spring-fed stream that runs north-south through the Valley. The three largest springs that feed the lakes are Hiko, Crystal, and Ash, and the four lakes are Nesbitt, Frenchie, Upper, and Lower Pahranagat.

On January 24, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held an open house and dedicated a new visitor center that is located between the Upper and Lower Pahranagat lakes, off of U.S. Highway 93 near Mile Post 32. To help celebrate the grand opening, there were Birds of Prey demonstrations, crafts, solar astronomy telescopes, and lots of food (including homemade Chuck Wagon Stew). The world’s largest blue bird even arrived in time to help in the dedication. We also had the opportunity to attend the premier showing of the new Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge movie, which was very informative.

During the winter months, the Refuge is home to a large number of Tundra Swans, Canadian Geese, ducks, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, egrets, cranes, and a host of other birds and wildlife. Unfortunately, the birds were camera-shy and I didn't have a telephoto lens!

Near the Visitor Center is an abandoned pioneer pig farm and the scale that was used to weigh the hogs before they were sent to market is still embedded in a large Cottonwood Tree.

The historic Walden House is also located near the new visitor center. The stone structure was constructed around 1864 and is believed to the oldest pioneer dwelling in the Pahranagat Valley.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0136 - The Mob Museum, Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (aka “The Mob Museum”) in Las Vegas is a popular tourist attraction that details the history of organized crime in the United States and the actions by law enforcement individuals that attempted to prevent such crimes. The museum contains a collection of mob related artifacts, stories, pictures, movies, and interactive exhibits to help explain how the mob operated across the United States, with emphasis on Chicago and Las Vegas.

For about 30 years the mob controlled Las Vegas, which was known as a “wide Open” City with little or no interference from law enforcement or government officials. The “Rat Pack” and many other Hollywood stars could often be found at the Sands, Dunes, Desert Inn, El Cortez, Frontier, and the many other hotel/casinos. However, to the surprise of many people, it was not law enforcement that forced the mob out of the casino business in Las Vegas, it was Howard Hughes!

Howard Hughes just happened to be staying in the penthouse suite at the Desert Inn hotel/casino during the time Federal law enforcement agents were putting a lot of pressure on the mob’s casino operations; but at this stage in his life, Howard Hughes was not a gambler. The holiday season was approaching and the casino wanted the hotel penthouse suite to be available for high rollers, so they asked Mr. Hughes to leave. Offended by their attitude, Hughes made his famous quote “I’ll buy the Place,” which he did. Hughes then went on to purchase most of the other hotel/casinos in Las Vegas and put the mob out of the casino business. Today, the hotel/casinos are run by large corporations and the gaming operations are closely monitored by both state and federal regulators.

Ironically, Oscar Goodman, the lawyer that defended the mob, went on to become one of the most popular mayors of Las Vegas and it was his idea to purchase the old Federal courthouse/post office and create “The Mob Museum.” The museum was designed by some of the same people that designed the International Spy Museum (Washington, D.C.) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, Ohio). The Museum opened in 2012.

Located on the second floor of the museum building is the actual court room where the Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime were held in 1950 and 1951. The museum also contains part of the wall from the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, along with other exhibits on prohibition, bootlegging, money skimming operations, wiretapping by law enforcement, and mob violence. Museum visitors can even “shoot a pretend” Tommy Gun or have their picture taken while sitting in an electric chair. And, of course, at the completion of your visit the Museum gift shop will attempt to “skim” some of your money!

Friday, January 16, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0135 - Korean Bell of Friendship, San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California

After hiking up the steep trail to the Korean Bell of Friendship in Angels Gate Park (San Pedro, CA), I discovered that there is a road up the back side of the hill. So much for reading the tourist literature after you arrive at the site!

The Korean Bell of Friendship is a massive 8 inch thick bell that is 7.5 feet in diameter and 12 feet in height, weighing over 17 tons. The bell is made from an alloy of copper and tin, with gold, nickel, lead, and phosphorus added to give the bell a rich tone quality.

The bell is modeled after the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla (aka Emille Bell) that was cast in 771 AD for the Bongdeok Temple. The Emille Bell is the largest bell ever cast in Korean history and is now located in the National Museum of Gyeongju. The Korean Bell of Friendship is only slightly smaller than the Emille Bell and both bells are some of the largest bells in the world.

The Korean Bell of Friendship was presented to the American People in 1976 by the Republic of Korea to celebrate the United States bicentennial and to symbolize the friendship between the two nations.

The intricately-decorated bell includes four pairs of figures and each pair includes a “Goddess of Liberty” (Statue of Liberty) and a "Seonnyeo" (Korean Spirit Figure holding a rose branch of Sharon, a branch of laurel, and a dove). In Korean tradition, the bell does not have a clapper, but is sounded by striking the bell with a large wooden log. Ceremony ringing of the bell occurs five times each year – January (Korean-American Day), July 4th (US Independence Day), August 15th (Korean Independence Day), September (Constitution Week), and December (New Year’s Eve). Call for exact times.

The bell is housed in a pagoda-like pavilion known as the Belfry of Friendship, which was constructed on-site by 30 craftsmen that were flown in from Korea. The pavilion is a traditional design that is axially symmetric with a pyramidal roof supported by twelve columns. Each column is guarded by a carved animal representing the Korean Zodiac signs. The pavilion painting design and colors are known as “dancheong” in Korea. Climbing the steep trail was worth it!

 (Picture by Kolohe)

 (Picture by Kolohe)

 (Picture by Kolohe)

 (Picture by Kolohe)

Friday, January 9, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0134 - Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California

Point Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro (California) was built in 1874 based on a design by Paul J. Pelz, who also designed a number of other lighthouses in California, Washington State, and New Jersey. The lighthouses were all the same style and three are still in existence today – Poiint Fermin Light in San Pedro, East Brothers Light in San Francisco, and Hereford Light in New Jersey. The Point Fermin Light operated continually for 67 year before the start of WWII and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

In December 1941 the Point Fermin Light was extinguished because there was a fear that enemy planes would use the light as a beacon and attack the Los Angeles Harbor. At that time the original lantern room, gallery, and fourth order Fresnel Lens were removed and a square, unsightly lookout sack was added in their place, which became known as “the chicken coop” for the next 30 years.

In 1972 local preservationists saved the lighthouse from demolition and then refurbished the building and rebuilt a new lantern room and gallery, patterned after the original design. The original Fresnel Lens was lost for decades and then on November 13, 2006 the lens was located, and positively identified, in a real estate office in Malibu California, where it had been on display for a number of years. The Lens has now been returned to the Point Fermin Light Museum.

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 PM and admission is free to the public. Tours are offered at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 PM. Unfortunately, we visited the lighthouse on a Monday; plus, the fog rolled in just after we arrived. 

 (Picture by Kolohe)

 (Picture by Kolohe)

(Picture by Kolohe)