Author Archives: Charley Carlin

American Windmill Museum

American Windmill by Charley CarlinThe American Windmill Museum is a real gem here. I had no idea such a museum existed and this one is really super. On the grounds which looks to me to be somewhere around 25 or 30 acres there are windmills everywhere old to new all over the place. One might think oh that’s nice then move on and miss the whole shooting match. The building is huge there are two of them there are hundreds of different windmills on display, complete with stories of operation time periods and where they were used. It’s quite eye-opening to see all the things that have happened in the history of the windmill.

I was amused by the small windmills that were used in the 20’s 30’s and 40’s to run your radio when you’re out in the middle of nowhere on the Prairie. Thence you could hear what was on the radio. Cool!

Now in addition to all these windmills there is something I’ve never seen before which is a collection of millstones. Yes the stones that were used to grind grain and coffee and chocolate and bunches of other things including animal feed and who knows what all else. Someone collected all these and saved them and gave them to this Museum.  That is another complete mini-museum.

Now add on to this huge huge model train layout and beautiful miniaturization around the train. Well that’s enough to amuse any child or adult.. And to make sure nobody’s left out on the other side is a collection of Miniatures not dollhouses but just miniature houses that describe many things from the past it’s Charming it’s well done it’s worth the stop it’s a fabulous Museum I would give it six stars but 5 is the limit here.

 

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.

 

20 Mule Team Museum – Boron CA

While coming through Boron, CA the 20 Mule Team Museum is awaiting your visit. I think it is waiting for anyone to visit. We were on our way to the Saxon Aerospace Museum (next door) and we arrived right at opening time. Wow! Right on time, however, as luck would have it the place was locked. No one around.

20 Mule Team Museum Hours Vary

Well as places like this can be, and usually are dependent upon volunteers. In this small town, Boron (population 2,253), we weren’t too surprised. A few minutes later a pickup with two guys pull up and they wave one finger indicating, I think, that it will just be  few minutes.  Well they park their truck and tell us that the person who is opening the museum today, was having breakfast and they pointed at the restaurant across the street. No problem I say.  

So I wander next door to the 20 Mule Team Museum.  Now this place I have driven by for many years, and not stopped as the grounds looked pretty sad. Scattered around the place is bunch of ferric oxide disguised as mining equipment.

So,  I go into the museum, which is also the chamber of commerce of Boron, and sign the guest book and start looking around. The whole place seemed a bit small, and I thought this would be a real short visit. Then I was greeted by the staff member and the fun begins. She lit up everything and and museum began to take form. The back rooms came to light, There were models, displays, and photographs of the 20 Mule Team Experience. The viewing area has a movie about the mules and how they were used in the transport of the borax. The information is what you need to know if you are going to have mules pull your wagon. for sure it told me more about mules than I will ever need to know.

The collection of history is a nice stop to break the trip, be it to Vegas, Phoenix or beyond. I enjoy the work volunteers put into preserving history that would otherwise just fade to dust or rust in the desert. Oh Yes! Its Free. So help support it with a donation!

Evergreen Aviation Museum of Oregon

The Evergreen Aviation Museum was an unexpected find on my way to Portland. There were lots of the hotels around that were full or  at a price higher than I wanted to pay, so I after some searching I ended up in McMinnville, Oregon. Now that I had a room for the night I looked around for something to visit the next day.  What a museum of flight. As I only had a few morning hours I examined all the exterior planes and was impressed. They even had a Russian MIG 29! The list of planes at the Evergreen Aviation Museum is very long and quite distinguished.

Evergreen Aviation Museum – Home of the Spruce Goose

The most incredible of all the planes is the Spruce Goose built by Howard Hughes in 1947. At the time The Spruce Goose was the largest plane on earth. Now things may have changed when you say largest what. The Spruce Goose is for sure the largest wooden plane ever built. The wingspan is thought to be the largest. With the advent of stronger and more powerful engines, there are planes with much larger takeoff weights. Anyway it is definitely the largest something or other.

Well, anyway, I loved the driveway  into the Evergreen Aviation Museum. The road is painted as if it was a runway! This is a very nice touch. The the planes adorn the outside are all around the incredibly giant hanger that houses the spruce goose and LOTS and LOTS of other planes! The planes are not cramped in any way. Some aeronautical museums really crunch the place together, but not here. This spacing made for easy pictures. When the museum opened I only had an hour before I needed to meet someone at the Portland airport. So, for 25 bucks I chose to be content with my exterior portion of the museum, and an incredible view into the huge hanger.

This looks to me like a place to spend the day or more. With all the fantastic displays inside, and a giant theater next door it might even take more than a day for those with aeronautical leanings. I am sure I will be coming back to this museum. This place is definitely worth the side trip if you are in the Portland area. 

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.