Friday, June 26, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0158 - The Golden Nugget Hotel/Casino, Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada

Web Picture - Photographer Unknown

The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, patterned after the opulent saloons found in San Francisco in the nineteenth century, opened  in 1946 in Downtown Las Vegas and has always regarded itself as a cut above the other properties along Fremont Street. It is also the place where young business entrepreneur Steve Wynn got his start in the hotel/casino industry. 

In the early 1970s Steve Wynn was a liquor distributor and real-estate speculator. Then, with some inside knowledge of corruption among the staff at the Golden Nugget, he was able to acquire enough stock for a hostile takeover of the property in 1973. The property quickly prospered under his control and additional hotel rooms were added in 1977. Wynn then went on to developed the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City and the Mirage and the Bellagio hotels/casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. 

Although Steve Wynn no longer owns the Golden Nugget, over the years the hotel/casino has been well maintained with new hotel rooms and a water feature added to the property. The new pool area contains a large outdoor aquarium with clear plastic water tubes that go through a shark-filled aquarium. They tell me that you do not have to worry about the shark bite marks on the plastic tubes because no tourist at the pool has ever been bitten by a shark! 

If you are not staying at the hotel, and just want to stop by for a visit, one of the main attractions on display is The Hand of Faith Gold Nugget that was found in Australia in 1980. At 61 pounds 11 ounces it is the largest gold nugget on public display in the World! The nugget was discovered by a man using a metal detector on the land behind his modest trailer where he and his wife and four children lived.

Friday, June 19, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0157 - Fillmore, Millard County, Utah

Fillmore is a small community located in central Utah about half way between Salt Lake City and St. George. Visiting the community today, it is difficult to believe that at one time Fillmore was a hub of activity and the capital of Utah Territory.

Utah Territory was originally much larger than the current State of Utah, so Territorial Governor Brigham Young selected a site in the approximate center of the Territory for construction of a new fort and capitol building. Construction of Fillmore Fort started in 1851 and construction of the capitol building started in 1852.

The design of the capitol building was planned as a massive structure with four three-story wings connected to a Moorish dome at the center. However, only the South Wing of the Capitol Building was ever constructed because other states were created or expanded from lands that were originally part of Utah Territory. Also, Federal funding for construction of the Capitol building ceased and about this same time the Fillmore area geography was found not to be suitable for increased settlement. Therefore, in 1858 the Territorial Capital of Utah was moved to the much larger population center of Salt Lake City.

After the Capital of Utah was moved to Salt Lake City, the Fillmore building was used as a court house, county headquarters, religious meeting house, school, dance hall, theater, jail, and civic center. By the turn of the century the Old Territorial Capitol Building in Fillmore had deteriorated and was going to be demolished, when the Daughters of Utah Pioneers proposed that the Old Statehouse be restored as a museum. The State of Utah agreed to preserve the building and it opened as a museum in 1930. In 1957 the building and surrounding grounds became a Utah State Park.

An 1867 one-room rock schoolhouse and two pioneer log cabins are also located on the Territorial Capitol Building grounds. 

The old Fillmore Fort has been completely demolished and there are no remaining ruins to view. However, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers have constructed a monument at the corner of Main and Center Streets, which is the approximate southwest corner of where the Fort was located. 

The Daughters of Utah Pioneers have also constructed a monument at the northeast corner of the City Park to commemorate Fillmore's Adobe Church, which was constructed in 1854. The Church was located within the Fort and was also used as a school until 1900. Control of the building was transferred to the Relief Society until 1915 and then the building was sold and later demolished.  

Also located on the park site is a log cabin (not currently open) that contains historic artifacts. The City has plans to renovate the structure and reopen the cabin as a small museum. 

Just to the south of the park is an "Art Wood" display, which a local artist has constructed on a vacant lot adjacent to his home. The "Art Wood" sculptures were made by assembling naturally occurring pieces of wood, with detailed painting added to some of the pieces. There is no fee to tour Art Wood display. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0156 - Old Town Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico

When I learned that I had to be in Albuquerque for a conference, I thought that this would be a great opportunity for several new RonnieAdventures. Little did I know how how many tourist attractions close early!

After the conference, I asked the front desk clerk where the local "hot spots" were located and the clerk gave me a strange look and said, "Sir, this is Albuquerque, not Las Vegas! Tourist attractions close between 4-5 PM, stores close between 5-6 PM, and the restaurants that do stay open in the evening close between 8-9 PM. By 10 PM they turn off all of the City lights and roll up the streets." (I later learned that he exaggerated the last part.) We were not too far from Old Town Albuquerque, so that seemed like a logical place to have dinner.

Old Town Albuquerque is the original settlement that was founded by the Spanish in 1706. A church was constructed in 1719 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno and named San Francisco Xavier after the Viceroy of New Spain; however, the name was soon changed to San Felipe de Neri after King Philip of Spain. 

The original building collapsed in 1792 after a heavy rainstorm and the current structure was built in 1793. A convent for the Sisters of Charity was added to the west side of the Church in 1881.

(Carved in the trunk of a large Cottonwood Tree)

The Church is located on the north side of a central Plaza, surrounded by old adobe buildings that have now been converted into restaurants and souvenir shops. Although many of the shops were closed on the evening of our visit, it was still fun to walk around Old Town Albuquerque and enjoy the sights and have dinner. 

Since most things were closed during this visit, I decided that I would have to return again when I had more tome to have additional RonnieAdventures!

Friday, June 5, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0155, Lyon Air Museum, Santa Ana, Orange County, California

I just happened to be in Southern California when the Collings Foundation: Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 stopped at Orange County's John Wayne Airport for a few days. The historic aircraft were on display outside of the Lyon Air Museum and tours of the "Warbirds" were included in the museum entrance fee. For those with excess disposable income, short flights aboard the historic aircraft were also available for $450 each -- I decided the free interior aircraft tours were adequate. 

Various WWII aircraft were also on display inside of the Museum, including a B-17 Flying Fortress, North American B-25 Mitchell, Douglas A-26 Invader, and a Douglas DC-3 Flagship Airliner. The Airliner brought back memories because I remembered taking a Grand Canyon sightseeing tour a number of years ago in a DC-3. The next weekend the plane crashed on takeoff and was totally destroyed. 

Also on display were Hitler's 1939 Mercedes G4 Staff Car, several American made automobiles, military transportation vehicles and a number of motorcycles.