Located along Route 66 near Oro Grande, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is definitely one of those quirky roadside attractions that are uniquely American. Being from the UK, we just do not have places like this and these are the types of places as to why I love visiting the USA. The ranch was the home of Elmer Long who inherited his fathers bottle collection and just kept on collecting, creating wonderful sculptures from the many different bottles that he has acquired. Sadly Elmer passed away in 2019. As you walk amongst the bottles, you hear chimes and noises from the bottles and objects that make up the unique bottle trees. I love Elmer’s and have been twice, with another trip planned later in 2020, hopefully!
It is free to walk around the bottle tree ranch, there is a donation box where visitors can leave a contribution to keep the ranch open.
Below are just a few of the many photographs that I took at Elmer’s. Thanks for reading.
Angel Island is located in the San Francisco Bay area, just across the water from it’ more famous neighbour, Alcatraz. There is a lot to see on Angel Island, and one day is definitely not enough time, especially if you are on foot.
Obviously you can not take your car on Angel Island, but you can take a bike, or hire one there. We were on foot but the next time I visit, I will definitely hire a bike as there is not enough time in a day to see everything if you are walking. There are also segway and tram tours that you can take https://angelisland.com/ .
Flora and Fauna
Angel Island has a lot to see and there are things for people with a variety of different interests. For starters, the scenery on the island is incredible, with views of the whole bay area. You can see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco on a clear day. As well as the beautiful scenery, Angel Island has an array of birds, Canadian Geese, hummingbirds, juncos and scooters to name but a few. There are also many other species of wildlife that inhabit the island, including, raccoons and deer. The island is also home to native and non-native plants. The military planted various trees and shrubs during their time on the island, including Monterey cypress and eucalyptus. Plants native to the island include; Coyote brush and elderberry.
In 1863, the federal government established Camp Reynolds (West Garrison, named after the first officer to fall at Gettysburg) on the island.
In 1899, a quarantine station was established at Fort McDowell in order to isolate troops who had been exposed to contagious diseases while serving overseas.
Angel Island was home to one of 19 immigration stations that were established in the early 20th century. Angel Island was the main station for immigrants arriving from the Pacific, mostly Asian, especially Chinese. However, some non-Asian immigrants did pass through (see my post on Ellis Island for immigration from the Atlantic).
Below are a few images that I took whilst on the island. You are free to walk around and have a look at most of the buildings. You cannot go inside a lot of them due to health and safety. There are some buildings that are used to house staff, signposting is not always clear and they tend to shout at people if they get too close. In my personal opinion, the interpretation could be greatly improved. There are interpretation boards dotted around but I think there could be loads more done in terms of telling the story of the island. There is a museum which tells you a lot about the island, but it would be nice for more of the buildings to be open for visitors to look around and to learn about what purpose they served.
I have visited the Owens Valley on Vacation a number of times. My first visit was back in 2012. However, it was not until 2017, that I finally visited Manzanar, after driving past it numerous times.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the U.S. government began making plans for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans. On the 19th of February, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers. The order resulted in over 100,000 Japanese-Americans being removed from their homes and placed in internment camps.
The camps were located in isolated areas where the weather could be burning hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. People had to leave behind their businesses and possessions, taking only what they could carry.
After my visit to Manzanar, I seemed to come across lots of information relating to the persecution of Japanese Americans during World War II. I think after visiting Manzanar and the emotional effect that it had on me, things just caught my eye more. For example, I was watching a documentary on art in San Francisco, and I learnt about the photographs that Dorothea Lange captured of Japanese-Americans, in the early 1940s. Then whilst doing some research for a paper that I was writing for my MA on the California Water Wars, I came across a fascinating book by Karen Piper called Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. In short, the book tells the story about how the people and environment of the Owens Valley have suffered since the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built to divert the course of the Owens River in 1913. The fugitive dust from the drying of the Owens Lake caused toxic dust storms in the valley where Manzanar is located, meaning Manzanar detainees were subject to this dust. The dust has been known to cause disease and death among the people that inhaled it. Not only were these poor people forcefully removed from their homes, but they were also subject to toxic dust, from which they could not escape (n.b. at the time Manzanar was in operation, no-one knew the dust was toxic).
By November of 1945, Manzanar was deserted, the war had ended and the Japanese-Americans returned home. However, some people had no home to go back to. It took another 44 years for the US government to apologise to those interned at Manzanar. Camp survivors were given $20,000 by president Ronald Reagan.
Prior to the drying of the Owens Lake, the area where Manzanar is located was full of beautiful fruit orchards. The Owens River provided ample irrigation for the growing of produce and the area was named after the Spanish word for apple, ‘manzana’.
After the war ended, Manzanar was razed. However, many of the buildings were sold to local residents of the Owens Valley. When Manzanar was preparing to be opened to the public, the NPS attempted to relocate the original buildings. However, they did not have much luck. They did manage to reclaim a building that was at Bishop airport, but many of the buildings that are there today are replicas.
I have wanted to visit Ellis Island since learning about immigration during my undergraduate degree. I finally got there in 2019, and I certainly was not disappointed.
Ellis Island first opened it’s doors in 1892, and closed in 1954. At it’s peak, approximately 5,000-10,000 immigrants passed through Ellis Island every day. It is estimated that about 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island during the time of its operation.
Several laws and legislation were put in place to restrict immigration starting in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was followed in 1894, by the Immigration Restriction League and the Dillingham Commission in 1911. In 1917, literacy tests were introduced meaning that immigrants had to pass reading and writing tests in order to be granted entry to the US. This meant that many poorer immigrants, especially those from eastern Europe, with no education failed the tests and were denied entry. The Immigrant Quota Act of 1921, restricted immigrant numbers to 357,000 per year, and the National Origins Act of 1924, reduced immigration even further to 150,000 per year. A culmination of these resulted in Ellis Island becoming redundant and finally closing it’s doors in 1954.
On the 11th of May 1965, Ellis Island became part of the National Park Service and in 1976, Ellis Island opened to the public. In 1984, it was renovated with $160 million from donations made to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service. The project was completed in 1990, and Ellis Island reopened to the public.
Below are a few pictures that I took whilst visiting Ellis Island along with a video for a more in-depth look inside the buildings. I tried to include as much of the museum as I could on the video for those people who can not get there in person.
Located on the 1st Floor is the Baggage Room, Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890, Journeys: New Eras of Immigration 1945- Present, and the American Family Immigration History Center. On the 2nd Floor there is the Registry Room (Great Hall), the Hearing Room, Theater 2, and two exhibit galleries: Through America’s Gate and Peak Immigration Years: 1880-1924. Finally, located on the 3rd floor there is the Bob Hope Memorial Library, Dormitory Room, and the exhibits: Ellis Island Chronicles, Treasures From Home, Silent Voices, and Restoring a Landmark.
I would definitely advise you to book an early security check (the ticket time is your security check time, not your ferry time). I arrived at 8.30 am (my ticket time was 9 am) and there was no line so I got straight through. By the time I returned from the island, just after lunch time the queue was huge.
There is a free audio guide also included in your ticket price. On both Liberty Island and Ellis Island there are cafe’s, but the food could definitely be improved, they only seemed to serve fast food. I was there in the morning and there were no breakfast options.
Ellis Island is open every day except the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving) and December 25.
More information on the history of Ellis Island can be found here and here.
The main reason that I visited the MET whist I was in New York was to look for a staircase that was once located inside Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire. I think I covered just about all of the museum but unfortunately, I could not seem to find the staircase anywhere.
The MET is gigantic and you need at least a day to look around the museum and if you want to read everything, probably a week. The museum is so big they have the whole facade of a building located in the American Wing, in the The Charles Engelhard Court (picture below).
I only took photographs on my phone so the quality is not great. There is also a short video at the end of the open storage, which I thought was a great idea as most museums do not let the public access their storage.
The MET first opened on February 20, 1872, at 681 Fifth Avenue. In 1871, the museum was granted land between the East Park Drive, Fifth Avenue, and the 79th and 85th Street in Central Park, which is where it resides today. The building has over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space and is 20 times the size of the original building.
Just a few things to note before you go. I got there at about 9.50 am, the museum opens at 10 am and there was a queue of people already waiting for the museum to open. Once the doors open, the queues went down pretty quickly. There are machines inside the main entrance where you can buy tickets, or you can buy them in advance online.
I was especially interested in the whole rooms that the MET had on display. Unfortunately, only one of the pictures came out on my phone.
LuminoCity Festival is a festival of lights, held on Randalls Island, New York the festival is a spectacular display of light art. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere like this, it was definitely an unusual experience and I highly recommend it. Just a few things to note before you go. Book tickets in advance on the website https://www.luminocityfestival.com/ , adult tickets are $38 each. There is a shuttle bus that departs and returns from Manhattan, E 125th and 3rd Ave, but you can also get the M35 bus. However, if it is late at night, I would recommend the shuttle if you cannot take your own car. I would advise buying tickets beforehand, but we got a return ticket on the day as we did not feel comfortable getting the public bus late at night. There is parking available on the island, but it is $20 per car, OUCH!
This year (2019), the festival ran from November 23rd and is on until Jan 5th 2020. Entry is 4:00pm-11:00pm on selected days. Below are a few images that I took, along with a video.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. This is partly due to because I’ve not really been anywhere and partly because I’ve been uninspired to write or take photographs. However, back in August, I visited Amsterdam for a weekend break and thought I would write a brief post about what I got up to whilst I was there.
This was my second visit to Amsterdam, my first visit was back in the winter of 2013. This time, I only took my point and click camera, not my DSLR due to only taking hand luggage on the flight. The weather all weekend was beautiful and it was wonderful just to mosey around the city and enjoy the atmosphere.
Getting there and Getting Around
We flew from Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) and paid about £75 each for return flights with Flybe. This price included hand luggage only, to check in a bag will cost you extra, in fact, it costs almost as much as the flight itself (£25 each way). As we were only going for a few days, we managed just fine with hand luggage. The only downside to this was that I could not take my large camera as you only get 10kg. Bear in mind at the airport they were checking some bags (not all) to make sure they weren’t too large or heavy. We saw at least two people that had to check their bags in as they were over the size or weight limit. Remember, cheap airlines will try and get as much money as possible out of you so be sure to measure and weigh your bag before you leave home. Doncaster airport does have parking, however, it was going to cost us £75 to leave our car for 3 days, OUCH! So we took the bus from Sheffield, which was £7 one way and got my partner to collect us when we returned home. The flight was only about 45 minutes long and it was quite comfortable as flights go. You have to pay for everything on the flight so take your own water and snacks on board should you need them. When we got to Amsterdam, we took the train into the center of the city, one way, it cost about € 9.00. We got off the train at Amsterdam Centraal and took the bus to our hotel. To get around, we purchased the Unlimited GVB Day/Multi-Day Ticket, 96 hours (4 days) which cost €24.50. We also used this ticket to get back to the airport at the end of our trip.
We stayed at the WestCord Art Hotel. The hotel was basic, and did not come with breakfast. I booked through eBookers and paid £340.86 for a twin room for 3 nights. Breakfast is available to purchase for EUR 16.5-20.5 for adults and EUR 8.25-10.25 for children. The location of the hotel is a short bus ride from the city center, we did walk it a few times but it was a good 3-4km each way. If I visited Amsterdam again, I would stay closer to the heart of the city, just to be more in the hustle and bustle of things. If you like to be in a quieter location, then this hotel is perfect.
Rooms were clean and basic and did have a Nespresso machine and a fridge. I’m not a fan of Nespresso so I took a walk each morning to get coffee from elsewhere. There weren’t many local places, so I walked about 1.5 miles to Haarlemmerdijk where there were plenty of different options for nice coffee.
Things to do
Like most tourists, the Red Light District was something I wanted to see, but whilst walking down the streets and alleyways, looking at all the women in the windows, I felt a sense of guilt for looking at women as commodities. Some of the women looked incredibly young and were very beautiful and it made me wonder why they choose to work in such an industry. As soon as I returned home I purchased a book by Sarah Forsyth called Slave Girl. The book is about an English girl that was unknowingly trafficked into working as a prostitute in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. After reading the book (although I’m not overly convinced the story is 100% true, parts of the story don’t add up or make much sense), my opinion is that, in a progressive society, where we as women are fighting for equal rights, women in windows for the pleasure of men seems a little backwards. Perhaps most are willingly there and I understand they are only trying to make a living like the rest of us, but my personal opinion is that something needs to change.
The next thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit Ann Frank’s House. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, most people are familiar with the story of the Frank Family, but visiting the actual apartment really brings it home, especially as there are still personal touches in the house left by the family. For example, there are pictures of movie stars that Anne’s sister put up as she wanted to be an actress. Photography is not allowed in the house but we booked the tour with the introduction beforehand. A guide talks you through the story, which lasts about 30 minutes. Here you can take pictures of some of the artifacts and the pictures that are on the walls. To visit Anne Frank’s House you have to book tickets in advance online. Still expect to queue to get into the house, but it’s well worth it.
The next place that I visited was the Jewish Historical Museum. Entry is €17 for Adults and €8.50 for students. The ticket covers five locations: the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and the National Holocaust Museum. The only other place on that list that I went to was the National Holocaust Museum. This museum, I think is relatively new and they are just developing it. There isn’t a great deal to see at the moment, but it’s worth a look as it’s free once you have your ticket.
The next museum I visited wasRijksmuseum. Adult entry is €20 and they do not offer a student discount. The museum was very busy and there is a lot to see, but I personally was not overly impressed by it. After reading rave reviews online, I thought it was a little disappointing. Perhaps I unfairly comparing it to the British Museum, which is wonderful and free.
The last two museums that I visited were the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum. My advice would be to just visit the Sex Museum (Sexmuseum de Venustempel), I thought the Erotic Museum was rubbish in comparison and it was more expensive at €7 with the Sex Museum only being €5.
Food and Drink
Although I don’t smoke, I thoughtBarneys Uptown was really nice if you do want to smoke and drink (usually you can only do one or the other). They also serve food, the menu is not huge, but the food was nice and reasonably priced. For breakfast, theBreakfast Club was my favourite place. I think they have a few locations in the city. For dinner, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Van Speyk, the food was mediocre, service under par and prices were expensive. This isn’t somewhere I would recommend, nor return to. It felt like one of those places that simply was there to rip off tourists. We also ate at a placed called Cafe Broer “Brunch, Dinner & Drinks”, which I thought was really nice. Service was friendly, the menu wasn’t massive but the food was really good and very reasonably priced. It also felt like it was more of a local place than one geared towards tourists.
Overall, Amsterdam is a really nice city to visit, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. I had read the odd article online that said Amsterdam is corrupt and the police are on the payroll of the underworld, but I don’t know how true this is, I certainly did not feel like I was in a corrupt city. I felt much safer walking around Amsterdam than I do in London. I definitely want to return with my DSLR, maybe next summer, but my next trip is to New York in November.
Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel opened in 1957 and closed in 2009. There is not a great deal of information about the motel, but it is currently for sale at a price of $390,000. I first saw Arne’s on a YouTube video and so when we were driving through Baker, I had to stop off for a look.
The town of Baker was named after Richard C. Baker, president of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad.
Baker has some other cool places to stop including; The Mad Greek Cafe, The World’s Tallest Thermometer and Alien Fresh Jerky.
The thermometer is 134 feet tall in honour of a 134 degree Fahrenheit (56.67 degrees Celsius),recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. The thermometer was built by the Young Electric Sign Company of Salt Lake City, Utah in 1991 for a man named, Willis Herron, a local businessman who spent $750,000 to build the thermometer next to his Bun Boy restaurant (now closed).
Luis Ramallo opened his first Jerky shop in Crystal Springs, Nevada, in the year 2000. In 2002, he moved the store to Baker, CA.
On the way to Beatty, Nevada sits the once booming town of Rhyolite. Today, there is nothing much left of Rhyolite apart from a few ruins, the bottle house and the old station. Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite ghost towns. I first visited Rhyolite back in 2016, and then returned in 2017. Unfortunately, in the space of a year, I noticed more graffiti and the old truck near the bottle house had gone.
In 1904, Frank ‘Shorty’ Harris and Eddie Cross discovered gold in the nearby Bullfrog Hills. By 1908, it is said that Rhyolite had a population of around eight to twelve thousand people. Although the mine produced more than $1 million in bullion in its first three years, by 1910, it is estimated that the population fell to just under seven hundred people. The last Rhyolite resident passed away in 1924. Many of Rhyolite’s buildings were relocated to the nearby town of Beatty. The Miner’s Union Hall in Rhyolite became the Old Town Hall and many other buildings were used to construct a school.
Rhyolite gets a mention in Ian Flemming’s 1956 novel, Diamonds Are Forever.
Spectreville is a fictional place but there is a Specter Range near Amargosa Valley in Nevada.
The Bottle House (known as Tom Kelly’s Bottle House) was restored by Paramount pictures in January of 1925 for the filming of a silent movie, The Air Mail. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I did not take a picture of the house.
The movie, The Island (2005) starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor was partially filmed in Rhyolite as was Six-String Samurai in 1998.
Rhyolite is a mixture of private and federal land.
Entry is free and the ghost town is open 24/7
Remember, be respectful and take nothing but pictures.
Next to the ghost town of Rhyolite sits the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The museum began in 1984 when Belgian artist, Charles Albert Szukalski installed ‘The Last Supper’. I must admit, I don’t know much about art and sculptures. However, the sculptures are said to be designed within the context of the desert landscape that it is situated in. The sculpture of the miner and penguin is a tribute to Frank “Shorty” Harris. Harris, along with his partner, Ernest Cross founded Rhyolite along with many other mining towns around the Death Valley area.