Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Archive for the ‘Other Areas’ Category

Mars Bluff Bomb Crater

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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Another find due to geocaching.  I wanted to make a day trip out of our visit to South of the Border, and I happened to notice this oddity was just outside Florence.

On March 11, 1958, an Air Force pilot heading to England accidentally dropped a bomb on the community of Mars Bluff.  Nobody was killed, but the home of Walter Gregg was leveled, and some of his family members were hurt in the blast.  Although often referred to as an “atomic” bomb blast, the nuclear core of this bomb was thankfully not in it when it was dropped.

Getting to the bomb crater site was rather tricky.  We had to park in an abandoned trailer park, which had several uncovered manholes on its “roads.”  An overgrown path first led to the foundation of the destroyed home and then to the bomb site.  We were surprised to see the site is somewhat maintained, complete with a wooden replica of the bomb and a board with information about the incident.

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The bomb crater itself was not exactly what I was expecting.  It’s only a few feet deep and looks more like a nearly empty pond than the site of a large explosion.  It has been more than 50 years, though, and nature is beginning to reclaim the blast site.

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Popularity: 14% [?]

Abandoned Family Inn

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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While pulling into South of the Border, we noticed an abandoned motel literally up the road on the North Carolina side of the border.  Next to it was a vacated fast food place; in fact, the only place nearby that wasn’t abandoned was a Waffle House, which is where we stopped for a quick bite (not like we had other options).  We decided to explore the motel a bit before heading to SotB, which turned out to be a good idea, as this place was far more interesting.

The sign said Family Inns of America.  I found out the chain still exists but only in VA, TN, and LA.  I was unable to find out when this particular motel closed, but I did find out robberies took place there on at least two different occasions.

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Popularity: 16% [?]

South of the Border

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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For a few years during my childhood, my family would drive down to Florida every February, and my brother and I always anticipated the stop at South of the Border.  If you have never heard of South of the Border, then you haven’t done much driving on I-95.  This roadside oddity, literally just south of the NC/SC border, is a Mexican themed, well, tourist trap, complete with its own motel, multiple gift shops, arcade, and restaurant.  For decades, it was a must-see spot for folks driving to DC or Disney, though it seems we’re hard-pressed to figure out why.  At the time, signs for it would pop up hundreds of miles away; I believe when I was younger they began showing up in northern Virginia, heading southbound anyway.  To be honest, I don’t have much memory of just why I liked stopping at the place.  There were big statues of animals and Pedro, the place’s mascot.  Sure, there were fireworks, but even at that young age I knew cheaper fireworks could be found elsewhere.  I remember my parents saying even back then, “This place is stupid.”  I’m pretty sure they only stopped there to shut the kiddies up.

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Fast forward about 20 years.  Since my wife and I have been vacationing in coastal North Carolina for the past few years, I wanted to make a day trip out of SotB, since I hadn’t been there in nearly 2 decades.  At first she was hesitant, but then when I mentioned a bomb crater would be included in the day’s itinerary, she agreed.  So off we went, to see if my childhood memories were accurate, or if SotB was indeed “stupid.”  Was there more to this place than gift shops and kitsch statues?  Hearing many people say the place had gone downhill in recent years added to my curiosity.  The dwindling number of signs along I-95 and their ever-shrinking radius seemed to reflect this idea; I believe the first southbound SotB sign now appears somewhere in the middle or bottom of NC as opposed to northern Virginia 20 years ago.

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The 200′ Sombrero Tower is very noticeable from I-95.  Upon pulling in, however, we learned that this place needs a lot more than a 20-story hat to keep tourists’ attention; the place was a virtual ghost town, with maybe three other cars in the parking lot.  Much of the animal statuary from my childhood was gone, not that this should be a selling point to begin with.  The first building we entered was the arcade.  The sign promised “hundreds” of games; there were maybe twenty.  A few buildings were closed.  We entered a few different gift shops, all of which sold essentially the same stuff; we of course bought our obligatory fridge magnet and shot glass.  Some of the merchandise was quite off-the-wall, even for a place like this.

I’d also like to point out that even the signs have gone downhill.  Besides there being fewer of them, they are now much more boring.  I remember when I was a kid, they were over-the-top ridiculous, with terrible puns, gaudy colors, and often 3-D or used some other sort of prop.  In short, they were creative; they made you WANT to visit SotB.  The new signs just plain suck; they’re all black with ugly white lettering. I was going to do a side-by-side comparison, but I’m having trouble finding pictures of the older signs online.  I had a book of old SotB signs I bought as a kid; if I can find it, I will scan some pictures and post them.

There really wasn’t much to do, so we walked around for a bit and took some photos.

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Ethnic stereotypes have never been so happy to see you!

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I love that game!

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Popularity: 8% [?]

Fort Fisher and the Hermit’s Bunker

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Fort Fisher photos from May 2010
Hermit Bunker & Grave photos from May 2011

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This wound up being a 2 part trip.  My wife and I have been vacationing in southern North Carolina for a few years.  While looking up things to do, both traditional and nontraditional (you can only go to Myrtle Beach so many times), I found something about Fort Fisher, which saw some combat during the Civil War.  This was somewhat intriguing, but what was even more interesting was something being mentioned about a hermit living in a World War II-era bunker near the fort.  So off we went.

The fort has a small but informative museum regarding Fort Fisher’s history and involvement with the Civil War and World War II.  We walked around the fort grounds for a bit.  There wasn’t all that much – a few cannons and some mounds.  No signs indicated anything about a WWII bunker or a hermit.  After going to the nearby state aquarium (that had an albino alligator), we resumed our search for the elusive bunker but came up empty.  Running out of daylight, we decided to do some more research and try again next year.

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The following year, we were much better prepared.  With coordinates and geocaching hints, we had a much better idea of where we were going.  We parked near the beach access and walked down the beach.  Eventually, a boardwalk led the way.

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As we progressed, the flies became more unbearable.  Finally, we reached the bunker, which was much smaller than I expected, and not necessarily what I think of when I hear the word “bunker.”  By this point, the flies had left, but immediately upon arriving at the bunker site, we were attacked by the largest, most persistent swarm of mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  Seriously.  Just in the area in front of the bunker.  How does that work?

I quickly snapped pictures of the outside of the bunker, the inside, a plaque on it, and a sign to the sign which I’m guessing highlighted the life of Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit.  I’m not really sure, to be honest, because I didn’t get to read it.  I took my 4 pics and hauled out of there.  We must have killed a hundred mosquitoes each.  Our arms were literally covered in them.  Interestingly, just a few yards away from the hermit’s homestead, the mosquitoes stopped following us.

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Robert Harrill lived in this tiny building for nearly 15 years; all it took for me was about 30 seconds to decide to vacate.  Considered somewhat of a philosopher, he received many visitors during his time as a hermit.

We learned Harrill’s grave was found a few miles from Fort Fisher (he was found dead in his bunker in 1972).

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I found it interesting that Fort Fisher’s official website mentions nothing of its hermit.  Little indication is given as to where exactly the bunker is, and it seems a private group provided the signage and plaques in his honor.  Robert’s story, and his final dwelling, are fairly elusive to the casual tourist.

Perhaps that’s the way he would want it to be.

Popularity: 13% [?]

Maid of the Mist

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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The Maid of the Mist is a boat (there are several Maids, really) that takes off from either side of Niagara Falls and brings tourists almost next to the bottom of the falls.  You get a tour of the basin and surrounding area as well.  The “Mist” part is an understatement; you’re going to get wet.  Mist patrons are given ponchos beforehand.

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When you get close enough, you can barely hear anything over the noise of the falls.  The boat gets pretty close and just hovers there for a few minutes.  Getting shots without getting my camera drenched was quite a challenge.

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Rainbow Bridge connects the NY & ON sides of Niagara Falls.

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Of all the tours/attractions we took/saw, not one acknowledged this place on the shoreline of the Ontario side.

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Elevator/observation deck for Cave of the Winds on the NY side.

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Popularity: 6% [?]

Cave of the Winds and Niagara Falls State Park

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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We were told this was a must-do if going to Niagara Falls.  The Cave of the Winds can be found on the New York side.  The name is somewhat misleading, as there is no cave anymore; it was made unsafe and then ultimately destroyed by falling rock.  When we learned we weren’t going to a cave, we began to wonder what exactly we paid for.  Well, there may be no cave anymore, but there is the opportunity to walk almost directly under the falls.  Many platforms and walkways constructed by wood (the tour guide said these are dismantled and rebuilt every year) let visitors walk directly into the falls’ power.  Seriously.  It can throw you around a bit.

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The Cave of the Winds is found in Niagara Falls State Park, which has some great views from the top of the American Falls.

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Popularity: 5% [?]

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