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Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

WV/OH/IN Mini Roadtrip

Posted by Stu On July - 9 - 2006

Palace of Gold, WV

I was going to a family reunion at my aunt’s in Indiana. I’d been out there a few times but always drove with my mom, so I never got the opportunity to go off on my own. Since we’d just bought a new car with kickass gas mileage (40 MPG), Annie and I decided to drive out ourselves this time. Due to work we only had a few days to play with, but I figured I could make a mini road trip out of it. Unfortunately, this was also the same week as the nationwide heat wave.

We headed out at 1 AM and got about an 2 hours into Pennsylvania. We stopped off at a rest stop and attempted to sleep. The combination of horribly high humidity and 18-wheelers turning in every few minutes resulted in maybe 2 hours of sleep. On a brighter note, half a tank of gas got us from the Jersey shore all the way to Altoona.

Our first goal was the Palace of Gold in West Virginia. I didn’t know much about it beforehand other than it looked pretty cool. The palace itself is dedicated to Srila Prabhupada, who helped bring Hinduism to the West. Not something you’d expect to find in the mountains of West Virginia. It’s free to walk the grounds and visit the temple, but to tour the palace itself is $6. The tour lasts 20-30 minutes, depending on how many bad jokes the guide tells.

It wasn’t in our original itinerary, but we found out West Virginia Penitentiary was nearby, so that became stop #2. It wasn’t what I was expecting; maybe I’ve been spoiled by Eastern State in Philly, but overall I thought WV was pretty boring. It’s also only group tours, and I can’t stand group tours. It’s very annoying trying to get good pictures with a bunch of people in my way. Overall it was worth the $8.
Fair warning – only the first room is air conditioned. Walking down cell blocks in 90+ degree heat is not fun.

Cell block in WV Penitentiary

There were a few small places in Ohio we had planned to visit – just silly roadside things like bushes cut to look like people and some guy’s yard filled with small buildings he built out of pebbles – but daylight was running a little short, and we just didn’t have enough interest to try and find them. I was very, very lucky to find an old and somewhat secret cemetery though. Before the trip, I wrote down a few highway geocaches to visit; the one I picked in Ohio just happened to be up the road from Knob Prairie Cemetery – which oddly enough is behind a corporate office. There was also a list of rules you had to follow, otherwise you were considered to be trespassing. According to the sign, you could only visit on weekends or holidays. Guess we were trespassing then. Oh well.

Many of the stones at Knob Prairie are in very sad shape…but at least the grass gets cut!

We finally got to my grandpa’s house a bit before midnight. The next day we didn’t do very much except go to Nashville, IN and shop. I bought yet another dagger – a Scottish dirk. There’s a place not far from Nashville that I’ve been wanting to find for years, but it’s about a mile walk into the woods to get to it. The heatwave stopped us this time, and I’m pretty sure the path would have been overgrown like it was last time. I’ll have to try again in the fall or winter.
The day after we went to find our next goal – pyramid ruins in the town of Needmore. A 1:5 scale replica of the Great Pyramid, along with a section of the Great Wall were to have been part of a planned development in the 1950’s. Well, the funding seized, and the partially built pyramid has sat at the end of Old Highway 37 ever since. From the looks of it, not much was finished, and the whole area is becoming reclaimed by nature. Trees are growing out of the “pyramid” now.

Looks more like hanging gardens than a pyramid now.

Not far from Needmore is Bedford, where our next place, Bluespring Caverns, was. I had been to Bluespring 5 years earlier but never paid attention to where it was. I was surprised to find out it was pretty close to my family’s section of the state.
Bluespring Caverns were the first caverns I’d ever visited, as well as the only ones I know of where the entire tour is by boat. The tour is about an hour and cost us $12 each.

Formation in Bluespring Caverns.

That would be our last stop for this trip. The last few days would be spent stealing internet connections with Annie’s laptop and hiding in the corner at the family reunion. Oh yeah, I also went to my first drive-in theater – Cinema 67 – and saw a double feature of Click and Pirates 2. Two large thunderstorms passed over while we were there; the lightning lit up the entire sky quite a few times. $6 for 2 movies while being out in 2 storms of doom? What a deal! Sure beats the $8.50 I spend in NJ for one movie, a sticky seat, and a scratched up screen.
There was actually one last stop we were supposed to have made in Ohio – at a castle. But we found out the castle opened at 11 AM, and we’d be a good 2 hours past it by then. Maybe next time.

Popularity: 2% [?] Pine Barrens Exploring/Camping Trip

Posted by Stu On April - 9 - 2006

The Carranza Monument

I had wanted to put together some sort of trip for quite some time, but due to my extreme shyness and lack of order, I never really got around to it. I usually don’t plan out my trips; I just leave and hope I see what I set out to see. I didn’t even have a campground picked out until the day of the trip.
I had quite a few board members prod me, so I randomly picked out a weekend and hoped it’d work out for everyone. I also put together a list of roughly 20 places that were in or near the Pines that I thought were interesting enough to warrant a visit. This list was quickly whittled down to about half for a number of reasons: distance; chance of being flooded; lack of parking space (some Pines places just aren’t meant for groups); and some are just plain boring.

The day of the trip rolled around, and the group size went from roughly 20 people down to 10. Eight of us met up at the Batsto office to get our camping permits; the other 2 would come later. It was there I finally decided on a camping site – Godfrey Bridge, a place I passed by several times during my trips in the Pines.
Initially, our first stop was to have been the Circus Drive-In. Unfortunately, we forgot just where it was and ended up going the wrong way on the White Horse Pike. Luckily, Annie remembered where Winslow Junction was, so that became our first stop of the day. A blue convertible followed us up and down the road 3 times, apparently thinking we were there to vandalize the trains in broad daylight. We found out a few minutes later it was a worker at the station. I guess they realized we weren’t a threat and finally went in the office.

On the way to our next stop, Hermann City, we saw Rt. 542 was blocked off. We didn’t know why; we had just driven down it maybe an hour before. We had to take a very, very long detour, which thankfully took us right to the parking area for the ghost town. We met the rest of our group there and learned what happened – a motorcyclist tried passing 2 cars and instead crashed head first into a Jeep; the biker was killed. I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I felt very odd that this happened not long after we went down the same road.

Ruins at Hermann City

After poking around the town ruins, we decided to start heading toward camp, since we had about 2 hours of daylight left. The grave of Charles Wills was on the way, as was the ghost town of Friendship, so we quickly stopped at both before heading to Godfrey Bridge.
We had rented 3 tent sites, so we split up into our respective groups and set up camp. I was surprised how fast my bunch got the tents up.
It was your typical night – staying up way later than it feels, making smores, etc…except it was unusually cold, and this pain in the ass whip-poor-will kept us up much of the night. I shared my tent with 2 chicks. I’m just that hardcore.

Sunday started out somewhat badly. There was a narrow path in our campsite where I parked the truck. I didn’t notice the night before, but there were 3 small stumps along it, and somehow I managed to miss them when I parked the truck. So I tried maneuvering around them. The combination of that and having too much crap piled in the back and blocking the back window led to disaster – I backed into a tree, smashed the entire back window, and dented the gate so badly it wouldn’t open. Not a good way to start the day. We picked up the glass and left camp.

First stop of the day was Sibbel Shaler’s grave – 2 other kids were there. One asked about the grave, and after summing up its history & stories, the kid said “dude do you read Weird NJ?” or something equally idiotic. I wanted to punch him.
Up next was Weymouth Furnace, which was more of a ride than I remembered. There, the group split in 2 and each went its separate way; three continued south and west to see some other things; the rest of us started to head home, mostly because we were worried about driving around with no window. I quickly stopped by the Carranza Memorial, because, surprisingly, there were some among us who had never seen it. After that my brother and his friends left, so we were down to 4. I decided to show a coworker Brooksbrae before taking her home, so that was the last stop of the trip.

Ruins at Weymouth Furnace

Overall, it was a fun time, other than the truck fiasco. I didn’t really care afterward anyway; a few days later I bought a 2007 Yaris and had the truck junked. It had too many problems before the trip, and the backing up incident was just the last straw. To be honest, I’m surprised it survived the whole 270+ mile trip.

This truck is probably rusting away somewhere now…..and rightfully so.

Popularity: 3% [?]

New England ’05

Posted by Stu On October - 9 - 2005

A view at The Flume

We got screwed on this trip. The weather really was against the entire Northeast this particular weekend. At least I finally got to visit Vermont – I had been to every other New England state, and even Quebec, but I always somehow managed to skip around Vermont. As such, it was supposed to be the centerpiece of this trip.

We had already reserved our campsites at 2 different places, one in VT and the other in NH. I worked til noon and left for Vermont around 1. It took about 7½ hours to get to our campsite, Lazy Lions (a very nice site, by the way); another half hour and we’d have been locked out. Putting a tent up with no light but your car’s headlights and a crappy lantern is an interesting experience.
We had intentionally picked Lazy Lions because it was minutes from our first official stop of the trip – Hope Cemetery in Barre. But first we went to see the “Whispering Statue”; it’s surrounded by a semi-circle wall and bench. Someone is supposed to sit across from you (the statue’s in the way so you can’t see them) and whisper. You’re supposed to be able to hear them. Well, either it was the traffic or we weren’t doing something right, but we couldn’t get the dumb statue to whisper.
We had some trouble finding the cemetery, mostly because I forgot the name of it (told you I don’t plan these things very thoroughly), but we finally managed.

Hope Cemetery

The stones at Hope were….wow. This place is right behind Sleepy Hollow on my list of favorite graveyards. It’s fairly big, so you could easily spend an hour or two there. If you look at the Hope page, you’ll notice the sky in many of the pictures is very dark – an omen for the rest of the trip.

I had read about a silly little place in northeastern Vermont – a chapel for dogs. It sounded so absurd that I had to visit. It was only about 45 minutes from where we were. We ventured to St. Johnsbury, or St. Jay’s as the locals allegedly call it, to check out this “Dog Chapel.” And what we saw was just that – on a mountainside was a small chapel with several dogs running around. The banisters and benches were also shaped like dogs. There were 2 normal doorways and a doggie door leading in. Inside was a statue of a dog with wings; the walls were covered with photos of people’s pets. Like most churches, this one had stained glass – with dogs. Next to the chapel was a gift shop. Dogs must be Catholic.

It would be a bit of a drive, but we wanted to go to New Hampshire next and go back to The Flume, which we hadn’t seen in 2 years. I wanted to get better photos of it, and we just plain loved the place. A few miles up the road from our goal, we found some ruins of an old iron forge – not overly impressive but still worthy of being included in the trip. When we neared The Flume, the roads were wet and the sky was practically black. We knew we had just missed some heavy rain, but it looked like it could start again at any moment. We were very lucky and had no rain the whole time there.

Stairs leading to the dog chapel.

We headed up to our campsite, which was literally minutes from Maine. I was planning to visit something small in Maine, but things wouldn’t turn out that way. We stayed at White Birches, and this time we actually got to the site BEFORE night. We didn’t feel like cooking at the campsite, so we went to a small place up the road, Mr. Pizza. The food was good and their White Mountain Mudslide kicked ass.
It began to rain a little bit. We had nothing else to do so we turned in early.
I awoke at 5 AM with water dripping on my head. The rain was now a downpour. Our tent had flooded and the sleeping bag was wet. We slept in the car for 4 hours. Around 9, it was still raining heavily, so we packed up camp and left. We only had 2 more stops to make – we wanted to revisit America’s Stonehenge and Salem.

We were hoping we’d drive through the rain by the time we got to Stonehenge. Well, we didn’t. But we stopped there anyway to buy a magnet. Yup, we went about an hour out of our way just to add to our magnet collection.

We reached Massachusetts. It was still raining. We knew we’d have to give up on Salem and decided to just head home.

It rained the entire drive home. Not once did it stop. All the way from northern New Hampshire to southern New Jersey. Route 93 to the Mass Pike to the NY Thruway to the Parkway to Route 9.

Stupid hurricane leftovers.

Despite our time being cut in half by the weather, it was an alright trip. I think the first two were much better though.

Popularity: 3% [?]

New York State

Posted by Stu On May - 9 - 2005

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

I was being forced to go to a wedding for Annie’s cousin in New York, so I figured I might as well make a weekend trip out of it. Weddings are painful enough as it is, but this was especially awkward for me – I barely knew her family, and now the family of her cousin’s fiancee was being thrown in the mix. So I needed some ‘splorin’ to make me feel better about the whole thing. The wedding was on a Saturday, so I took off from work on Friday and we headed up pretty early.

Before this I was already looking into putting together a NY trip. Trouble was we didn’t have too much time to play with, so I could only pick places somewhat close to the wedding. I put together a small list of things I wanted to check out the first day: Howe Caverns (very touristy, but I always wanted to see them); Secret Caverns (Howe’s “competition” up the road); Pratt Rock; “the world’s largest kaleidoscope”; and something similar to the Stone Living Room somewhere in the Adirondacks. The second day would be a return trip to Sleepy Hollow, since I hadn’t been there in 2 years and it was less than an hour from the wedding.

After about a 4 hour trip, we reached Secret Caverns. I decided to go there first because I knew it was the smaller of the 2 caverns, and I didn’t want the popularity of Howe influencing my judgment of the place.

Entrance to Secret Caverns…definitely more showy than Howe.

As I’ve said on both their pages, Howe versus Secret is a classic example of the big commercialized place versus the little indy guy who has no voice. They both cost about the same, but the tour at Secret Caverns is roughly half the time than over at Howe – 45 minutes compared to 80. However, because Howe is world famous and all that, much of the ‘adventure’ aspect of it has been wiped out for the sake of “safety” – aka protecting the stupid. You take an elevator down to the caverns, the caves are all well lit, there are paved walkways, etc….at Secret you’re walking down, there’s much less lighting, and there sure ain’t no fancy walkways – you’re gonna get wet and possibly muddy. However, at Howe you get to take a boat down an underground river…..but Secret has a 109′ underground waterfall.
My verdict? Go see them both. They’re both worth the money.
I mentioned this on one of their pages, but on the extra DVD that came with Jersey Girl, Kevin Smith also visits both and makes it pretty clear which one he prefers. He’s actually on one of Secret’s signs.

Underground boats of doom.

After a few hours of playing in caves, it was time to go back through the Catskills and start picking things off our list. We didn’t realize just how long we were in the caverns and how spread out the places we wanted to visit were from each other. We managed to get to Pratt Rock, which in all honesty was the priority item on the list. I had never seen anything like it before – an unfinished tomb carved into a mountainside. Poor guy didn’t even get to be buried in it. We saw a pretty big covered bridge somewhere, but they were doing road construction, and it looked like it was out over the water with no roads connecting to it. We were running out of daylight and had to scrap the last 2 places; we had actually passed the retarded kaleidoscope thing earlier, but it was closed. We knew there was no way we were finding The Rocky Lounge. We managed to get back to the Thruway and stayed the night in Kingston. We saw Kingdom of Heaven at the local theater…it was pretty boring.

Mr. Pratt took himself pretty seriously.

The next morning we rushed to Sleepy Hollow because I knew we’d be spending a few hours there. I had no idea how much of the cemetery I missed on my first visit. I’m sure there are parts I still haven’t seen. Well, after hanging out with the Irvings, Carnegies, Chryslers, and Rockefellers, it was time to face my fear and head to the wedding.

I’d rather hang out here than go to any wedding.
…ew, that sounds so goth.

As for the wedding….well, I was nervous out of my mind. Then someone said something about an open bar.
Open bar?
I tell ya, a mudslide really takes the edge off. So does a rum & coke. So does the Cap’n. And vodka. And wine. And the wine from the guy who was supposed to sit next to me but never showed.
Other than having to put a garter on that hot chick’s leg and the headache on the way home, I think I did alright.

Popularity: 2% [?]

New England ’04

Posted by Stu On October - 9 - 2004

Comstock Covered Bridge, CT

We wanted to do another New England trip, but we didn’t want to go as far as we did the previous year – mostly because my truck was starting to show her age and I didn’t want to end up being stuck. We decided to go as far as Connecticut and Rhode Island this time.

We headed up on a Friday night and stayed, coincidentally, in a town I used to live in (I lived in Branford for about a year when I was 4). Our first stop of the trip was about an hour away – Gillette Castle. We woke up pretty early and headed there. I had no knowledge of the place other than it was a castle. I found out while there that it was the home of the guy who played Sherlock Holmes on TV. It was a very unique house, but I really wish we were told before we went in that there was no flash photography allowed and that once you go upstairs you can’t go back downstairs.
I found out about the castle from a decade-old tourism pamphlet. It also mentioned a ghost town nearby. I couldn’t find any information about it, so I asked some of the people at the park. They directed me to…..I don’t know where, but it wasn’t what I saw in the pamphlet. We followed their directions and got lost…..but in doing so we stumbled upon Comstock Covered Bridge. On the way back we found what looked like a ghost town, but there were several NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere. There was also nowhere to park. I couldn’t walk around the place, and I didn’t want to get pictures from the roadside in the car, so we just passed on by.

Hallway inside Gillette Castle.

We next drove to Rhode Island. We had 2 planned stops there, the first being the grave of Mercy Brown. I’d read about it several times before and wanted to see it for myself. Nobody else was at the cemetery when we visited, which was good for me because I feel odd when people are around me when I’m photographing grave stones. Someone had placed an apple and a gourd on Mercy’s stone. It spooked us a bit that a nearby grave had sunken.
Our second stop was supposed to have been an abandoned building shaped like a jug of milk, but it was too far from where we were and it wasn’t all that interesting anyway. The map showed that we were near the tomb of an Indian chief – I forget the name. We drove to the very end of the road and found nothing. We really had nothing else to do, so we headed to Mystic to go to the aquarium. I wanted to check out the port at Mystic, since I hadn’t been there in about 20 years, but just about everything was closed. We poked around some small shops not far from the aquarium, and that was about it. Our next goals were back on the other side of the state, so we headed back to Branford and stayed in the same place again. While in Branford, we saw Shaun of the Dead, which is probably why I’ll never forget this trip. Screw all the places I went to; that movie ruled. I still can’t believe the ticket girl asked me for ID.

Mercy Brown – an alleged vampire.

The next day we headed up to Waterbury to visit a mountaintop curiosity – Holy Land. The place was nuts, but then again most places that I’ve gone to dealing with religion are. This was a sort of outside museum/park showing different stories from the Bible. Abandoned for quite some time now, the displays are crumbling, and most of the statues are headless. We noticed on one rock a pile of half-charred Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets.

What’s left of the Last Supper at Holy Land.

Last goal of the day was the infamous ghost town of Dudleytown, way up in Cornwall. I had absolutely no directions or information about the place, except that it was “near the intersection of Routes 4 & 7.” This hint proved to be useless. We had nothing else to do, so we drove around Cornwall and West Cornwall a bit. If I were to ever move to New England, it would be around there.

That was about it for us. We headed home.

Popularity: 3% [?]

New England ’03

Posted by Stu On October - 9 - 2003

America’s Stonehenge, NH

This will always be one of my most memorable trips. It was the first time I went off on my own – no family, no school trips – just me & my (at the time) good friend Annie. It was also one of the first weekends we ever spent alone, and while we weren’t together yet, I think this trip helped lead to it. There were originally supposed to have been 4 of us, but the other 2 couldn’t go for whatever reason. I’m glad.

I really didn’t know where to go, but some friends had recently gone to Salem, and my dad also said I’d like Salem. So that was first on the list. I was poking around on New England maps, and I saw Salem in New Hampshire wasn’t too far from Salem in Massachusetts. I remembered seeing on History’s Mysteries something about a Stonehenge in Salem, NH, so I figured I’d give that a shot as well. I briefly toyed with the idea of going to Danvers, but some other sites had just gotten in trouble for going there, so I figured I would stay away from that. I figured the 2 places I had would be enough for a short weekend trip and that I’d probably find more stuff on my own.

I learned to never leave on a Friday night to go to New England – the exit ramp to get from the Turnpike to NYC is horrible. The GW Bridge itself is also pretty bad. It took us about 6 hours to get to Salem (MA). We knew hotel prices would be absurd there, so we made the trek up to the other Salem (NH) and stayed at the Park View Inn. We could’ve lived in our room.

There was a little drizzle in the morning, but it cleared up a bit when we got to the Stonehenge. The place was smaller than I thought, and we only spent a bit over an hour there; I had to figure out something else to do. My friends who suggested Salem to me had also mentioned another place, but I couldn’t remember the name. Scanning the map of NH we had, I saw the name and remembered – they told me to check out The Flume. We had about a 2 hour drive ahead of us, and we knew The Flume would be closing early that day, so we had to haul. We were lucky and made it about a half hour before they stopped letting people onto the buses.
The Flume was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The walk is somewhat long but very scenic. I don’t know how to describe the place in words. This is also where I saw my first 2 covered bridges. We decided to stay at the Park View again, but on the way back down, I introduced Annie to the wonderful world of Cracker Barrel.

Bridge crossing over The Flume

We left pretty early and headed down to Salem, MA. We would spend the entire day there. First we did all the touristy stuff – the pirate museum, witch museums, and some crappy 3D thing called “Terror on the Wharf” or something. One of the museums did a reenactment of the witch trials. One actress was named Elizabeth, and if there really is such a thing as love at first sight, it happened to me in that museum. I talked about her for quite some time after that. Annie hated me for a while.
After wasting money in a 3D horror house which lasted maybe 3 minutes, we decided to start looking for “site worthy” stuff. All Salem had was old cemeteries, one of which had pilgrims and people from the witch trials in it. I wanted to get a photo of the place where the gallows were, but we had 2 different museums tell us 3 different locations, so I scrapped the idea. We first went to Old Burying Point, the older of the 2, and then to Howard Street. We wanted to go on the ghost walk, which wasn’t until 8 or 9 PM, I forget which. So we spent the rest of the day going in the shops and just hanging out. I considered going to the pirate museum again because pirates rule.
There were ads for 3 different ghost walks; the one we went on was for Spellbound Tours. The woman who led it said hers was the original and the others copied off her. She also had an album of pictures she claimed were from her walks. I took pics at all the “hot spots”, including an abandoned prison. Didn’t get anything, not even stupid orbs.

Really old dead people in Salem, MA.

We left Salem around 10 at night. Figuring we could save some money, we drove straight home instead of staying over again. We got in around 4 in the morning. It was a tough drive home but I managed.

We liked the trip so much that we decided to go to New England one weekend every October.

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