Category Archives: Points of Interest

Carhenge Monument

Carhenge Monument - by Charley Carlin

Carhenge Monument

At Stupid Vacations oddities are a specialty. We love oddities.  And the Carhenge Monument really qualifies. A step up fro Cadillac Ranch for sure, this qualifies way up there.  In far western Nebraska, away from the interstate on the north and the interstate on the south lies Alliance, Nebraska. Carhenge as built in the late eighties and at first the town thought of it as an eyesore. Small towns and small town politics is always a puzzle, with some vocal opinions om both sides of the aisle. The locals whined and complained until they figured out that The Carhenge Monument is a draw for tourism and that brings tourist dollars. So now the guy is a local hero. Tie that all in with the City of Alliance being in the path of the last solar eclipse and about a bazillion tourists came to know and love Alliance and Carhenge. There are additional odd art pieces in the town of Alliance. Carhenge is a fun oddity and a must see for sure.  Definitely a bucket list item for  the oddity fanatics.


About The Author
Charles Carlin - Finding Roadside Oddities

Charles Carlin

Charley is a magnet for those slightly odd and one of a kind places, some of which you may have never heard about. Charley easily found all over the web. Just Google Charley Carlin for more insights. He can also be found via Reviews on YELPTrip Advisor, and Google Maps

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is the Nation’s first waterfowl refuge. Established in 1908 under President Theodore Roosevelt it encompasses over 40,000 acres. The 10 mile drive around the refuge is a bird watcher’s paradise.  The species visible varies throughout the year, as some of the birds are migratory.

Take the Loop Drive – Slowly

The loop drive through the refuge is a bit puzzling on the first trip.  When I started the loop many of  the areas that would be flooded during the rainy season were pretty dry. The water in the roadside canals was stagnant and I was getting a bit disappointed. I was thinking ‘my gosh this drought in California is awful’. But I stuck it out. Dusty, oh my was it dusty.

I kept rolling through the park rolling and rolling and finally I came to a stand of cottonwood trees. The stand of trees is a sign for me to stop and be quiet and wait patiently. The payoff is coming. Then there was water and then there were birds and birds and birds and birds it was marvelous.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Best Viewing Times

Best viewing is always early and late in the day, however there is always some degree of action throughout the day. On my last trip,  I came up on a raptor having lunch and he flew directly in front of my windshield to a tree on the opposite side of the road. Wonderful. Then as I was approaching the tree where he was dining, he flew back in front of me and flew off into the reeds. It was a falcon and I got such a beautiful view it was breathtaking.

This place is always worth the drive, and if it’s dry, or you get the wrong season there will always be some action. Most noteworthy are Bald Eagles in addition to the Golden Eagles, American White Pelicans and over 200 other bird types that are resident at various times of the year. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is mind boggling today, and to think of it in in 1908, when it was founded, is indeed inspiring. Ah the imagination.  Where there’s water there will be life. Oh what an incredible slice of life.

 

Lowell Observatory of Flagstaff Arizona

We came into Flagstaff and were so excited about our possibilities, especially the Lowell Observatory. We wanted a nice dinner and a movie. Sounded simple enough. We checked into our motel conveniently located directly across from the Northern Arizona University and right on the old Route 66. Sounds to me like no problem in locating something nice, very nice. We looked up the best rated Indian dinner in Flagstaff and came up with the Dehli Palace.

This sounded perfect, especially since Anet had just returned from a 3 week pilgrimage in India. The Dehli Palace came through with a fabulous meal and we have returned on several trips to or thru Flagstaff. Now it was hard to find the first time as the street number meant you had to pick the correct shopping center, and that took two tries and a lot of go back to go forward to the correct driveway.

Pluto Discovered at Lowell Observatory

Anyway we figured there would be a choice of movie houses in Flagstaff, but that was not to be. There was only one, with eleven screens, and none of the movies tickled our fancy. So we fished a bit and found that the Lowell Observatory was only 3 miles away. Incredible we thought to find an observatory in downtown Flagstaff.

The Lowell Observatory is just up the hill a bit on the Northern Arizona University campus and was open till ten on this night. Additionally there were lectures on Pluto, this year marking the 95th anniversary of its discovery. The night we were there the Pluto Dome was open for tours. It seem  that Pluto’s presence was theorized for some time, but finally spotted by a hard working man right here at the Lowell Observatory. Wow! We got to see the actual telescope and observatory the he used for the discovery. needless to say the staff at the Lowell still think Pluto is a planet and I wholeheartedly agree.

Now the discovery of Pluto was done not by looking at the stars, but by taking photographs and comparing subsequent photos to see how things moved. The stars would cycle in a known pattern, however a planet, like Pluto, would move differently. We go to see copies of the pictures that verified the existence of Pluto, then called Planet X. February 18, 1930 was the day of discovery. Venetia Burney was the 11 year old girl who suggested the name Pluto. Pluto referenced the name of the Roman God of the underworld who could make himself invisible. Additionally Pluto started with the initials P L that were the initials of Percival Lowell who had predicted the existence of Planet X. And so the name was adopted.

Incredible Scientific Talks at Lowell Observatory

The lecture we heard was by an astrophysicist who was so excited, and I believe highly caffeinated. She spoke at over 300 words a minute (estimated)  with occasional gusts even faster. Some of it we got but a lot went into interstellar space never to be heard again.

We toured outside a bit and were given a wonderful look at Saturn through a freestanding telescope on the patio. It is always exciting to find such a friendly energetic staff.

The small museum display of the Pluto discovery revealed many details for me. Pluto will always be a planet for me, no matter what the astronomers decide. The displays and lectures will vary, so call ahead or check the web to get the latest most up to date information.

General Sherman Tree

The General Sherman Tree, listed as the largest living thing on earth, makes it a must see on everyone’s bucket list. Well it is impressive, and the tree definitely has pull for visitors. It is Located in Sequoia National Park above Visailia and east of Fresno, it is easy to find. A winding road is definitely worth the drive. To visit the tree there are two options.

General Sherman - World's Largest

General Sherman – Just Ahead

I like to think of the options as the easy way and the harder way. As the elevation is nearing 7,000 foot, oxygen is short, and for city dwellers, even short walks can be difficult. For those who are sedentary, pay attention, and you will be happier on your trip.

General Sherman – The Harder Way

General Sherman Tree - Largest Living Organism

World’s Largest Living Tree – General Sherman

– For the walkers – The longer way is to go to the Sherman Tree main trail and parking. Sounds like
the right thing to do doesn’t it? This will lead you to a what they say is a half mile trail to the Sherman Tree. It is down hill to the tree, and I think it is a lot longer than a half mile down to the tree. It is then about 3 miles back up the exact same trail to the parking lot. Up hill with lots of steps and at over 6,000 foot elevation, this will be very difficult for those unaccustomed to altitude. For the Hikers, it will be a short jaunt.

General Sherman – The Easy Way

Go to the Giant Forest Museum and park across the street. Enjoy the museum for a bit and then Continue reading

Wardholme Torrey Pine - Carpinteria CA

Wardholme Torrey Pine

The Wardholme Torrey pine tree is the most amazing pine I have ever seen. Now I have been to Wardholme torrey Pine - Carpinteria CaliforniaCarpinteria many times and driven past Carpinteria on US 101 hundreds of times, but who would have guesses you could find the Largest Torrey Pine in existence? Really in Carpinteria?

Anet wants coffee and the car wants gas, so we made the standard stop for rest room, coffee and gas. I gassed the car and she found a coffee place across the street. The Lucky Llama. It was just across the street and down a few doors down. She calls me and Continue reading

Meteor Crater – Winslow Arizona

It seems that Tourists and Explorers have a penchant for large holes in the ground and Meteor Crater qualifies. Just 26 miles outside of Winslow, Arizona if you are traveling west on Interstate 40, or 44 miles out of Flagstaff if you are traveling east on Interstate 40, Meteor Crater is a natural phenomena that is not to be missed.

Meteor Crater Panorama - by Charley Carlin - For Stupid Vacations

Meteor Crater Panorama

Meteor Crater – Formerly Canyon Diablo Crater

Whether you are interested in astronomical events and ancient history, or even US History, Meteor Crater has a bit of each in the Visitor Center. The perspective on how a large rock can cause such a change to the landscape is worth some thought.

<center>Meteor Crater by Charles Carlin for Stupid Vacations</center>

Meteor Crater over a mile across

No amount of brochures, pictures or videos can give the perspective that looking over the Meteor Crater edge can give. The magnitude and force of a meteor to make a crater of this size is truly mind boggling. Yes it is a drive off the interstate, but not that far. Yes there is a charge, and its worth it. The view from the observation deck is expansive and for me breathtaking to think about the time between impact and the formation of a crater that has lasted tens of thousands of years. Truly incredible. Yes in summer it is hot as hades to be outside.  One does not have a choice where the meteor fell 50,000 years ago. The place sat undiscovered and misunderstood for so long. The history inside and the movie explain the current understanding and are eye openers for most. This is a must do one kind of a trip.
Enjoy, I did, and more than I might have speculated beforehand.

P.S. For a full lowdown on the history and the elongated arguments about whether it was a volcanic or impact creation is in Wikipedia for those who desire a deeper story revealing the claims made by scientists over the decades concerning the creation of meteor crater.

P.P.S. Be sure to see Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff  for an astronomical good time.