Marysville, Ohio – July 2019 – Music Machines

For more than 60 years Dave Ramey has been one of the best in the country in restoring old music machines. These mechanical devices date from the early 1900s, and feature a number of instruments including pianos, banjos, drums and others.

Dave’s business has been located in Marysville, Ohio for more than 10 years. In an effort to encourage people to check out downtown Marysville, they have placed the machines in a number of the small shops. All you have to do is show up, use one of the free nickels, and get a song from a cool machine.


































Buenos Aires – June 2019 – Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World

Buenos Aires, Argentina is said to have more live theater than any other city in the world. In my 10 days there I even saw an impromptu performance on a subway, which at first I thought was a real argument.

With all of these theaters it is bound to have one or two that go out of business – like this one.



Ah but Buenos Aires is smart enough not to tear it down. Adolfo de Vincenzi purchased the theater and restored it into a bookstore called the El Ateneo! This translates in English to anthenaeum, which was a school in ancient Rome. The word is commonly used for libraries, etc.

The results were spectacular. Numerous publications, including National Geographic, have named the El Ateneo these most beautiful bookstore in the world. I agree.



In addition to the main level, two of the upper levels have books.



The cafe is located on the stage.



The old lighting controls are also located in the cafe.



No matter the angle of view, it is amazing.







In addition to housing the children’s section, the lower level has a small display detailing the history of the theater.



As with many old theaters, the ceiling has a great mural.













The El Ateneo – a true Buenos Aires treasure.






Fairview, Oklahoma – May 2019 – Little Mountain on the Prairie

As you drive across the flatlands of Oklahoma one feature you do not expect is a redish mesa rising 200 feet above the prairie, but that is exactly what Gloss Mountain does.



In fact there are a few of these features in the area just outside of the small, appropriately named town of Fairview.



The hike up the mesa was on some sketchy looking stairs, but they worked – from the top you have a panoramic view of the area.






These unique features were formed long ago when the area was under a sea that left behind layers of shale and siltstone, with a top layer of gypsum. There is something known as selenite in gypsum that is glossy, hence the name.



The mesa’s were formed from erosion over thousands of years.





From here you have a seemingly endless view across the flat lands.





Once you reach the top you pass numerous fields of wild flowers.





Gloss Mountain – an unexpected and fun hike in the middle of Oklahoma.








Avery Island, Louisiana – May 2019 – Jungle Gardens

With Avery Island’s location in southern Louisiana the main agricultural business is sugar cane.



With the year round warm, wet weather it is the perfect climate for nature to grow. In the late 1800s the son of the founder of Tabasco sauce, Edward Avery McIlhenny, created the botanical gardens known as Jungle Gardens.



The gardens cover 170 acres of Avery Island.



There isn’t a large number of different plants, flowers and trees, but the gardens are well laid out, and immaculately kept up.



As with most of Louisiana, water is always nearby.



Including this nice pond, with a warning sign to not feed the alligators (which seems like anyone would know that).



We did NOT feed this alligator.



The turtles were safely out of harms way.



A few buildings remain from the early days of Tabasco pepper growing.




This drive is appropriately named Wisteria Lane, as you make your way under the Wisteria arch.



The highlight however is Bird City. In 1895 Edward raised eight egrets in captivity, releasing them in the fall for their migration. The next year they returned with more egrets.

Ever since then thousands of egrets return to Avery Island in the spring and reside there until late summer.

When we arrived for the Tabasco tour we were one of the few who opted to purchase combination tickets for the factory tour and the gardens. It was money well spent!








Morgan City, Louisiana – May 2019 – Offshore Oil Rig Museum

Deep in the bayou country of Louisiana is the town of Morgan City.



Located on the Atchafalaya River, it is located less than 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. With the offshore oil industry centered off of Louisiana and Texas, Morgan City is an important industrial town of support companies.



One of the highlights of Morgan City is The Rig Museum. This museum has a nice collection of diving and submersibles that has been used in the industry since it’s inception.



While outside are some retired items.



The highlight though is located outside in the river. It is the world’s first offshore oil drilling platform.



The rig is named Mr Charlie, after the financial backer of the venture when they started up in the 1950s.





While it might be dwarfed by today’s platforms, the main deck is still an impressive 50’+ above the water, offering a great view of the bridges and docks of the river.



Our guide, industry veteran Bryce, was very thorough in explaining the design, and use of the rig. Here he shows us a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used in the construction of platforms.



Everything is supersized in this industry, including this massive hook.




The drills bits aren’t available at the local Home Depot.



The pipes come in 30′ lengths.



The drill itself – with all of the large equipment, all of it in movement in the ocean, an oil platform is a loud, dirty, dangerous place for the crew to work.



Drilling requires pressure and water.



Drilling mud is also used to carry rock cuttings to the surface, as well as lubricate the drill bit. There is a massive storage for this that at times requires somebody to descend this long ladder into the mud hold.



Oil platform workers work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. If the weather is poor and a boat can’t come pick you up, or the helicopter can’t land on the helipad atop the rig, you throw your stuff and you into this cage and hang on as they hoist you into the air.

Our time with Bryce at the Rig Museum was insightful. The next time I stopped to fill the car up with gasoline, I thought more about the work that went into getting that product to market.

Moss Point, Mississippi – May 2019 – Gulf Coast Gator Ranch

The Gulf Coast Gator Ranch is located in the swamps of southern Mississippi, near the town of Moss Point. They specialize in raising alligators for commercial use, but they also retrieve ‘nuisance’ alligators from golf courses, etc.



Their ranch is surrounded by a levee and fence to keep the wild alligators away from their alligators. Because their gators get lots to eat they grow to impressive sizes.



They lurk about in the ponds and nearby grasses.



You can buy ‘gator chow’ and throw them over the fence to the gators.



They are everywhere!



Some just hang out on land enjoying the warm Mississippi sun.



Our host, and boat captain – Captain ‘Frog’ – brought out a baby alligator for us to hold.



It was time for part 2 of our morning – an airboat ride!



Just outside their ranch we found this guy keeping an eye on us.



Fortunately he was just hanging around for a snack as well – marshmallows.



As we headed out into the swamp we passed by even more gators.



The black waters of the bayous were beautiful. Captain Frog was very knowledgeable about the plants and flowers of the swamp, and the traditional uses, as he grew up in the swamps of Louisiana. He had the perfect Louisiana accent to go with it.



We would ride for a while then stop and check out the wildlife and surroundings.



At times Captain Frog would pick up speed as we went sailing through the grasses with ease.



There is an amazing amount of beauty in the swamp.



This might look like a pile of brush, but it is an alligator nest, where the female gators place their eggs.



For good measure we passed a couple more gators on the way back to the dock.



It was great to ride along with Captain Frog – we learned about the swamp, saw lots of gators, and had a good time blasting around in the air boat.

Gulf Coast Gator Ranch is a highly recommended stop if you are in the area.