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East Village Rock n’ Roll Tour

Posted by Stu On January - 9 - 2013

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Photos from November 2011


I laugh whenever anyone says history classes are boring, because I’ve taken some really cool and unusual ones, case in point The History of Rock n’ Roll.  Yes, I swear that was a real class, and an excellent one at that.  For a class trip, we took a guided “Rock n’ Roll Tour” of New York City’s East Village.  Unfortunately, after only a half hour or so, the batteries in my camera died, so I had to resort to my phone’s camera.  And THEN it started to rain.  Oh well.  Still had a fun time seeing places significant to rock history and roaming around the city a bit.

One thing I noticed right away was the way power lines and traffic signals were decorated:




Most of the places visited fell under one of three categories:  they were old clubs, places photographed for album covers, or former residences of rock stars.  I know some of this doesn’t translate well into a write-up, especially pictures of apartment buildings, but I will do my best.

One of our first stops was this mural on the side of the Niagara bar.  Joe Strummer was the singer and rhythm guitarist for The Clash.



We visited the sites of three influential clubs in the Village:  The Continental, Fillmore East, and CBGB.  The Continental is still a bar, but bands no longer play there.  The other two are no longer clubs.

The Continental was important during the beginnings of the punk and new wave scenes in NYC.  The Ramones, Iggy Pop, and many, many more played here.


This place must have been crammed when bands were playing.


The Fillmore East is now a bank.  Due to construction, I couldn’t get a good pic of the entire building front.  The Allman Brothers Band’s famous live album was recorded here.


CBGB closed in 2006.  Countless bands played there over the years, but again this club was very important to the New York punk and new wave scenes.  Bands including Blondie, the B-52’s, The Talking Heads, and again the Ramones got their starts playing in this and other local clubs.  It is now a vintage clothing store.  Some remnants of its club days remain, such as the layers of band stickers stuck on the walls and even ceiling.  I tried to get a picture of some of these stickers, but a big bouncer dude came over, jammed his finger into my shoulder, and said, “You can’t take no pictures in here.”  I was then asked to leave.  Leave it to me to get kicked out of a club when it’s not even a club anymore.  So just an outside shot will have to suffice.



The next batch of places are locations from various album covers.

The Gem Spa is a famous newsstand in the Village.  It’s also featured on the back cover of the New York Dolls’ first album.



This may look familiar to Led Zeppelin fans:


These buildings were used for the cover of Physical Graffiti, minus one floor:


Unfortunately, the gate was closed, so I couldn’t get closer to this next one.



OK, so what’s the significance of that wall?  It’s where the first Ramones cover was shot:


The tour briefly stopped at a building where Charlie Parker, famous jazz musician, lived.  His home is actually on the National Register of Historic Places.  There’s a plaque on the front of the building, but the tour moved on before I could approach it and get a picture.  Right next to this building is an apartment where Iggy Pop stayed.

Charlie Parker Residence:


Iggy Pop’s apartment building:


One of our last stops was a building where Madonna stayed early in her career:


All in all, this was a fun trip.  Again, I know it’s not much to look at; can’t really do much to make pictures of apartments interesting.

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Mars Bluff Bomb Crater

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011


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.





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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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


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.






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.


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.





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).




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.

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Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Photos from May 2011


Man, was this an adventure. When a game commissioner has to drive you back to your car, you know you had a good day.

I had read about a ghost town called Alvira which was used during World War II to produce munitions.  The government purchased the town and surrounding land via eminent domain (i.e. everyone was kicked out and given almost nothing for their land) and promised residents they could get their land back after the war.  Obviously that did not happen.

Alvira was supposed to have remnants of both its life as a quiet village and also that of its military usage.  And off we went.

My GPS and map sent us down a dirt road which eventually dead ended at a gate covered with barbed wire and a sign stating we were approaching prison property.  Deciding that this was probably not the right way in, we wisely chose to find another way.  Eventually, we wound up parking in a game lands parking lot.  Armed at this point with only GPS coordinates leading to a few geocaches, we decided to hike in.  About a half mile or so down the trail, we came across our first bunker:





From here we eventually came across a lake.  Down another trail we came across two more bunkers.  One was sealed shut, while the other one was wide open and filled with random stuff.




We were happy to find so many bunkers, but by this point we were wondering where the actual ghost town was.  I had seen pictures of signs for it online but had yet to come across any.  My GPS coordinates only pointed to these few bunkers, so I was clueless.  We found what looked like a main trail and walked on it for a bit.  Eventually we came to a small building, which turned out to be the office for the game commissioner.  We went in and asked the people inside if they knew where Alvira was.  They told us the town itself was just up the road a bit, along with the ruins of two churches and some cemeteries.  We mentioned we had found a few bunkers on the way in.  One of the guys responded with, “Of course you did; there’s over 140 of them.”
We then said we weren’t completely sure where we were in relation to our car; we were a bit lost by this point (hey, it happens).  One of the workers gave me a map of the game lands that had all the known bunkers marked on it.  From this we figured out where we parked.  One of the guys was heading home and offered to drive us out to our car.  On the way to our car, we passed by the sign for Alvira (posted at the top of this article).
Once back at the car, we retraced the roads and paths the commissioner drove.  Along the roadway near the commissioner’s office, we found a few foundations of what I’m guessing were houses.  There were a few markers with numbers and letters on them as well.  A few bunkers were along this dirt road as well, though they were mostly sealed shut.  Some were vandalized pretty badly too.






Down the road even farther, we passed a few cemeteries.  The one at the very end of the road is what drew our attention, however.  Pillars and plaques from an old church still stood, though in bad shape.  Almost nothing was left of the church itself, other than some rubble from its foundation.
Behind this area we found yet another barbed wire fence, with the prison off in the distance.








Overall, despite the blunders we made (not having enough information, getting lost, etc.), this was an enjoyable trip.  There wasn’t as much of the actual town left as I had hoped, but the number of bunkers made up for that.


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Sheppton Mine Disaster Site

Posted by Stu On January - 24 - 2012

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In August of 1963, three miners were stuck 330 feet below the ground when the Sheppton mine caved in.  Two of the miners stuck together and waited two weeks for rescue, initially eating tree bark and sucking water out of the bark for survival.  Within a week, holes were drilled to them that allowed air, food, water, and the beginnings of a rescue.  One miner, Louis Bova, was never seen again, despite making contact with his two coworkers, and his body was never recovered.

I first heard about the Sheppton mine disaster from a principal in a nearby school where I was doing some observation hours.  I was told a memorial could be found along a main road in Sheppton.  It surprised me that I had never heard of this mine disaster before, and it was more confusing that there was little information regarding its location.  I was determined to find it on my own, so one day in May 2011 I decided to make a small trip out of it; in addition I decided to check out and geocache in a few surrounding towns I had never been to before:  Sheppton, Oneida, and Brandonville.

Sheppton and Oneida are right next to each other, and each is just a few blocks long; the mine site was between the two towns.  I drove around and found no roadside monuments.  Sheppton actually reminded me of Children of the Corn, to be honest; most of the buildings on the main street are vacant, and I saw nothing but groups of kids walking around.  Down one road, however, I saw the following sign, and I figured that was a good starting point:


I parked near this sign and simply started roaming the field behind it.  For a little while there was a path, but it served little good since it went right into a pond:


I walked across a rocky stream because I thought I saw another trail to my side:


Following this path a bit, I saw something off in the distance:



This monument was certainly not just off a main road, but rather a good distance off a back road.  Still found it all by myself.  It’s much more a grave than a memorial for a mine disaster, however.  It’s dedicated to Louis Bova, the miner who could not be found.



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Lockport Cave

Posted by Stu On July - 12 - 2011

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Not content spending our mini-vacation just looking at water, we found some other things to see on the way up to Niagara Falls.  I saw something online about a cave tour with a boat ride not too far away from our destination.  Still on somewhat of a cavern kick (we visited 3 in Pennsylvania over the summer) and being in a part of New York we had never visited before, we figured it’d be worth checking out.  So after seeing the World’s Smallest Church, we were off to Lockport Cave.

The tour starts in what is the old City Hall building; from the inside, it looks like it was more recently a diner.  Here the tours leave.  You get a quick spiel about the canal’s lock system and then it’s off to the cave entrance. You walk down several steps and are led to a large…pipe?

Lockport Cave isn’t actually a cave; it’s completely man made and was blasted out during the mid-1800’s.  It was actually a hydraulic tunnel that ran power to local factories.







The entrance into the cave is sort of bizarre, as you’re walking down this long tube.  Kind of reminded me of the end of ET a bit.  There is a bit of a walk, and then everyone is piled into a small boat and taken farther into the tunnel.  All in all, decent tour.








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