Those who regularly follow this blog know that the website Roadside America is one of my favorite sources for the strange and unusual. A few years ago we visited most of the Roadside America attractions for Columbus and detailed them in this post
Hudson Yards is a massive redevelopment of the west side of Manhattan, built over the West Side Rail Yard. With 15 buildings constructed or planned ranging as high as 1,280 feet, it is completely changing the west side.
In the middle of this is the Vessel, a 150′ high honeycomb like structure with 2,500 steps and 80 landings for viewing. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, it has become a popular tourist spot. The crowds are controlled by timed, free tickets, so we were free to move about uncrowded.
While I was taking photos I got the feeling they would all look alike, but was pleasantly surprised when I went through them how different each level and position changed the look.
The small Mexican town of Boquillas was for many years a mining town, until that ended in 1919. Fortunately for Boquillas it lies directly across the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park.
This worked great for years, with tourists crossing the border to go up into town for lunch, then returning to the park. All that ended with 9-11, and the border closings.
For more than 10 years the small town dwindled down to almost nothing, until finally the US Government built a remote immigration center and the flow started again.
The border crossing is only open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but our good luck had us there on a Sunday so we headed across the river in a rowboat.
The ‘Park and Ride’ lot on the Mexican side was where we picked up our ‘ride’ into town – a burro.
The townsfolk have this worked out – the family own some burros, and they walk along with you as you ride up the 1/2 mile hill into town, where they take you to their family owned restaurant. (there are two restaurants in town).
The food and cold beer were excellent.
After lunch they showed us around town, stopping off at his wife’s souvenir stand where we picked up something.
Their little town is resourceful. With a church and a school, they have everything they need to survive 160 miles from the nearest town in Mexico.
They do make trips across to the Rio Grande Village in the park to pick up needed supplies.
We continued our tour around town. While there are a few abandoned buildings, most are in use.
We stopped at the Park and Ride lot in town for our trip back down the hill.
A quick ride across the Rio Grande, followed by a brief visit to US immigration and we were on our way – full from lunch and with great memories of a cool little Mexican town.
The small town of Weston, West Virginia is the home to the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Completed in 1864, it is often considered the second largest hand cut stone building in the world, behind only the Kremlin in Moscow.
Designed by Richard Andrews, it is nearly 1/4 mile long with wings coming off the main building. It was designed to house 250 people, but by the 1950s nearly 2,400 patients were jammed in.
Weston has seen better days. From a peak population of 9,000 it now is home to about 1/ 3 of that.
Once the hospital closed in the 1990s a group purchased the historic building from the state and has done some partial restoration.
Some of the center sections, including the auditorium, have been restored.
There is also a small museum with a number of items – including original patient art.
Some of the displays show the sad approach to mental health in past days – including a display for a lobotomy.
But we are not here for the museum – we are here for the darker side of the history of the place.
We took the ‘Paranormal Tour’. The building has a reputation of being one of the most haunted places in America.
Perhaps it has something to do with this room – the lobotomy ‘recovery’ room. Not really sure exactly what a recovery from a lobotomy was like, but I doubt it was very pleasant.
Our tour Val entertained us with ghost stories – including one for this room where they did a video shoot and a ‘ghost’ appear in some of the promotional photos.
The stone structure and general decay of most of it definitely adds to the aura.
Some of the wings had inspirational paintings remaining on the walls from the 1990s when the building closed.
Abstract art? Nope – seriously peeling paint on a ceiling with the bars on the stairway.
Numerous TV ‘ghost hunter’ type shows have stayed here overnight and filmed.
When I asked why a few of the rooms had this orange tile – Val demonstrated that they were the ‘restraint rooms’ – note the small round patches on the tile on the right side of the photos – it is where the restraints were secured to the wall.
Why is this door only to be use by ghosts? We are 3 floors up with nothing on the other side but air – and a 30′ drop to the ground.
The wings last were painted to different the mens wings, from womens, from childrens (yes, children), and the criminally insane.
At a few places in the facility you find offerings to the ghosts, such as candy and cigarettes.
The children’s section has to be the saddest. Some children had the misfortune of being born there and end up being raised there since their mother was a patient and they had no other family.
The staff believes if you leave other ‘offerings’ such as the baby carriage that it will attract the children ghosts.
Having been in a few buildings like this (Mansfield, Moundsville, etc) this one was in much better shape un-restored than those.
In this room Val was summoning a ghost named Larry to turn the flashlight on and off. Some on the tour were hardcore believers and were really into it (which added to the overall amusement of the afternoon) while others hmm – looked up the story of ghosts and magnetic flashlights on the internet (not going to give a spoiler here).
Val did a great job sharing the stories of the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Unfortunately I did not see or feel any ghosts.
We flew from Maui through Honolulu to Kauai on a Tuesday evening. Using google maps we made our way to our hotel, which took us past the shipping docks to who knows where.
The following morning we were up and on our way before sunrise. After about an hour and a half, and a quick breakfast in Waimea, we made our way up to Waimea Canyon.
We were greeted by the official bird of Hawaii – the rooster.
We made our way through the park until we reached the famed Kalalau Overlook. If it looks familiar, it should, it was used in Jurassic Park.
We are about 4000′ above the ocean at this point.
Look closely you will see the helicopter well below in the valley.
The other highlight of the area is Waimea Canyon.
Waipo’o Falls cascades into the canyon.
From a distance you can see why it has the nickname Grand Canyon of Hawaii.
It is immense, especially given how small the island is overall. This area of Kauai is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and well worth the trip.
We made our way back down to the coast, and found this dirt road that continued in the direction of the bluffs we had just been on.
Eventually we reached the end of the road and found this amazing secluded beach with a view of Ni’Hau.
The waves, while not as impressive as what was in Maui, still made a great ‘Hawaii Five O’ look.
But it was the view of the cliffs that made the dusty ride worthwhile.
On our return trip to Lihue we stopped by the site of a Russian Fort, which was near the town of Waimea. Just down the hill from this fort a river ran into the ocean making some great sand dunes.
Further along the coast we found Salt Pond Park and Beach. Nearby pools produce the famed Hawaiian sea salt, but the beach was more picturesque.
Our final stop of the day was at Kauai Coffee. Very touristy, but amusing.
They claim to have 4 million coffee trees, and near the visitor center you can take a walk amongst them.
They also had some displays on how the beans are dried. These are for show, as this is a large commercial processing facility (that does not offer real tours of the plant).
Remember that drive in the dark – it was much better in the sun!
An amazing view at the Menehune Fishpond, literally a mile from our little hotel. The moral of this view is don’t always trust first impressions, the hotel and the views were spectacular – you just have to go through the cargo shipping area when you come from the airport.
In the small north central Pennsylvania mountain town of Coudersport is a cool (literally) little tourist attraction known as the Ice Mine.
Technically it is not a mine, it is a small cave that due to some unique geothermal reasons cold air gets trapped in the mountain during the winter. Once summer comes the cold air begins to expel the warm air, causing ice on the moisture that seeps into the mountain.
It had been a tourist attraction up until the 1960s when it closed, but has recently been re-opened.
We showed up because of a huge sign in town saying ‘Ice Mine is Open’, but as we arrived we found that it was supposed to open the next morning as we were met with a sign that said ‘closed’. Still I drove up.
We did however have the good fortune of meeting Gary, the owner, who was more than happy to show us around.
Sure enough on this 85 degree day ice was pushing up out of the ‘mine’, and the air temperature near it was about 45 degrees.
The ‘mine’ is at the bottom of a 17′ pit, and goes down another 17′ into the ground. As a result of the perpetually cold environment the moss and other growth in the pit is more similar to Northern Ontario than Northern Pennsylvania.
While not the most impressive sight around, it is still a very ‘cool’ experience, and Gary is a great guy who is proud of his hometown, and would welcome a visit – they are indeed now open for the summer. If you find yourself driving across historic U.S. 6 across northern Pennsylvania – go see him. And if you want to know more detail on how ice can form in the summer check out the wiki page