Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande, CA.

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.

Manzanar War Relocation Center.

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.

Monument marking the cemetery. It was built by internees in 1943.

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’.

Guard Tower
Basketball Court

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.

Thanks for reading :).

Ellis Island, New York.

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. 

The Great Hall.

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.

The museum has a lot to look around and take in so leave yourself plenty of time. Definitely buy tickets in advance.  Tickets start at $18.50 and also include Liberty Island https://www.statuecruises.com/statue-liberty-and-ellis-island-tickets/  

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.

Thanks for reading. 

http://www.shutterstock.com/g/Elizabethmaher?rid=2892667

Quick Stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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.  

A visitor admiring the facade of the Branch Bank of the United States (details below).
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Jackson Pollock (American, Cody, Wyoming 1912–1956 East Hampton, New York).
From Williamsburg Bridge , Edward Hopper (American, Nyack, New York 1882–1967 New York).
Merced River, Yosemite Valley, 1866, Albert Bierstadt (American, Solingen 1830–1902 New York).

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.

Boiserie from the Hôtel de Cabris, Grasse.

Thanks for reading.

The Abandoned Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel and Baker, California, USA.

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 World’s Tallest Thermometer

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).

Alien Fresh Jerky

Luis Ramallo opened his first Jerky shop in Crystal Springs, Nevada, in the year 2000. In 2002, he moved the store to Baker, CA.

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada, USA.

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.

Ruins of the School Building
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 

Useful Information:

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.

Happy exploring!

Goldwell Open Air Museum, Nevada, USA.

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.

Fred Bervoets, Tribute to Shorty Harris.
Charles Albert Szukalski, Self Portrait.
Charles Albert Szukalski, Self Portrait.
Charles Albert Szukalski, The Last Supper, 1984.
Dr. Hugo Heyrman, “Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada” 1992.
Sofie Siegmann, Sit Here!
Charles Albert Szukalski, Ghost Rider, 1984.

The museum is open 24/7.

Happy exploring!

Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, USA.

1705 Mariposa St, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
https://www.anchorbrewing.com/

I have to admit, I’m not a beer or ale fan and going to Anchor was my boyfriend’s choice.  However, I really enjoyed it.  We were in a small group of about 10 people.  You get to walk around the brewery, see the whole brewing process and learn about how Anchor Steam is made, as well as learn about the history of the company.

The Anchor Art Deco Building.

The Anchor Brewing Company dates back to the 1890s and was the creation of German brewer, Gottlieb Brekle.  In 1965, to save it from closure, Frederick Louis Maytag III purchased the company.  In 1979, Anchor moved to its current location on Mariposa Street.  The building was once a coffee roaster and is a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture.  

Our tour guide was super enthusiastic and from seeing the staff in the factory, it looks like a great place to work.  The tour was $25 but I would say you get that in beer if you want it.  As I’m not a huge beer fan, I only had a taste, but you get to sample a lot of their different beers. The tour talks about their past, where they are now and their vision for the future. As well as how they are trying to keep the history and their methods of brewing alive.  Anchor Brewing is community minded and supports local initiatives as well as California State Parks from the sale of their California Lager.

Grist Mill. This was used until Anchor moved their new location in 1979. The date is unknown, but according to the Anchor website, the design dates it to the late 1800s.
2018 Christmas Beer

Useful Information:

  • Guided public tours every day
  • Approx. 1.5 hours long
  • Tours are $25 per person
  • Beer tasting included
  • Booking is advised
  • Don’t forget your ID

Zzyzx, San Bernardino County, California, USA.

Formerly Soda Springs

Located off Highway 15 in California, Zzyzx is home to the California State University Desert Studies Centre.  However, it was once home to a health spa called Soda Springs.  The spa owner, Curtis Howe Springer was born in 1896 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He worked as an insurance salesman and then a radio evangelist, calling himself “the last of the old-time medicine men.” However, it seems that Springer had no formal medical training.  After making some money through preaching and selling homemade homoeopathic remedies, Springer used the money to file a mining claim in the Mojave Desert, which he called the area, Zzyzx.

Springer built a hotel and health spa on his desert land, heating the water with pumps and claiming that the site offered miracle cures.  Soda Springs ran for almost 30 years with people believing they were receiving natural medical treatments.  In 1969,  several customers made complaints and the American Medical Association subsequently investigated Springer, labelling him the “King of the Quacks.”   He was convicted in 1974 of fraud for which he served prison time.  Springer died in 1985 at the age of 88 in Las Vegas.

Only a few of the old buildings remain today but nevertheless, they are a reminder of the obscure story of Curtis Howe Springer and how one man managed to con people for the majority of his life.

Tips for visiting.

We just stopped by on route to Los Angeles. The place was quiet with maybe one more person having a look around. I assume you can walk around at your leisure as we did, but if you want to make sure before visiting, contact the university. http://nsm.fullerton.edu/dsc/desert-studies-center

Happy exploring.