Monday, April 21, 2014

Cool Places in America: Grotto of Redemption, West Bend Iowa

Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months....

Hello again,
I guess Iowa has more than corn to it? My parents dragged me here when they got this contract working for a large combine manufacturer. We went out for a hike and I got lost in a maze of maize; at any moment I thought the children of the corn were going to pop out and get me. Or even worse those strange kids from that Star Trek episode.  I was so scared that when I did find my way out I scared the bejeebers out of this couple as I ran out hitting my head with ears yelling "Corn, Corn, Corn!".

Well I was so thankful I made it out alive I went to the Grotto of Redemption. Built by pastor Father Paul Dobberstein after his fight with pneumonia was the beginning of the grotto movement in the country! The grotto was built as a shrine to the Virgin Mary to thank her for healing him. The whole thing is built from agates, geodes and semiprecious stones, and it makes up the world's largest collection of minerals and petrified material, with a geological value of $4 million. It's a football field in length.The pastor took 50 years to build it. The grotto is thought as the largest in the world! I was so happy I made it out of the corn field alive, I had to come here. I just hanged with Jesus at different points during his life. I shared a chocolate milk with him in several places. We just hanged. It was cool.


So if you can get through Iowa without getting lost in the corn, you should come hang with the bearded guy and check out all of the cool stones here at the Grotto of the Redemption!

~Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler's latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com.Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up becoming your best vacation ever!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cool Places in America: The Lost Sea, Sweetwater TN

Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months....

We moved to the Smoky Mountains where the fireflies are king and the bears walk through your backyard on a slight angle. My parents got another contract to develop software for an old bootlegging family up in the mountains. There in TN I found this cool cave.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, its America's largest underground lake. First, you have to tour  the giant caves 140 feet below ground to get there.Then you are welcomed to ride on a glass bottom boat across "The Lost Sea". An ancient cat's bones have been preserved at New York City's Museum of Natural History that were found here, but its 20,000 year-old jaguar tracks are still down there. Plus the temperature is always 58 degrees summer, winter, spring, or fall. In the past the cave was used as a refrigerator. It is the largest fridge I ever seen! People used to dance down here, make moonshine, and have cockfights; what a combination. Then again my older brother said it sounded like the clubs he hangs out in. I do not get it. The lake is so big they have not even found the back of it yet. You can see 4 acres of it before it goes into the rocks out of sight.

So if you are in TN and want something cool to go, no pun intended, then check this place out. Truly one of the cool places in America.
~Tyler

 To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler's latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vaction ideas that might become the best vacation you ever had!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Cool Places in America: Mystery Spot; Santa Cruz, California

Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months....

Remember when Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny would walk off a cliff and not fall...until. Until Bugs Bunny loaned Elmer his book on the laws of gravity. After a short read Elmer takes a long fall. Well I read the same book, but I forgot it all when I went to the shed at Mystery Spot. It reminded me of that hallway in Willie Wonka where he walked to the back of the hall and the room shrunk. In this place you do not shrink, but lean.

During a drive through the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, California, can stop to witness firsthand the effects of Bugs Bunny gravity. The Mystery Spot is 150 ft. in diameter and features a slanted shed that visitors walk through and witness strange variations of gravity, like an object rolling up a plank rather than down it.  When you walk in the house you fall sideways! The Spot's web site speculates that aliens planted metal cones in the ground, scrambling the area's terrestrial physics. After taking a guided tour, visitors can puzzle over whether this is truly paranormal or an optical illusion, and then trek on through the Redwoods.


 Here is the spoiler:
http://www.sandlotscience.com/MysterySpots/Mystery_Spots_1.htm

Now I always thought my parents jobs were always a little slanted which explained why we kept falling out of one town into the next....

~Tyler
To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler's latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com.Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might surprise you and become the best vacation you ever had.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cool Places in America: Ave Maria Grotto

Hello,
I used to love the book and the movie the Borrowers. Imagine if they had their own city? In Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, Ala. they do. Well I think they could of moved in and not had any trouble... There is this monk from Bavaria, Brother Joseph Zoettl, who made these wonderful miniatures of shrines and cities from around the world. It is real awesome. My parents and I lived in Cullman for 3 months before I found this place. Then we were off to who knows where 2 months later. It was a short contract...


Brother Joseph ZoettiThe builder of the miniatures at the Ave Maria Grotto was a Benedictine Monk -- Brother Joseph Zoettl, O.S.B. Born in Landshut, Bavaria in 1878, he was maimed in an accident that gave him a hunchback, but luckily it did not hurt his ability to bend over and build the miniatures.

In contemplating the Main Grotto, which was to be the centerpiece of the whole park, Br. Joseph had yet to decide on the type of building materials he would employ. A solution was handed to him when there was a derailment of the L&N railroad. One freight car full of marble overturned and the marble was crushed. It was useless to the owner so he gave it to Saint Bernard. The monks went up and carted it down; it was exactly what Brother Joseph needed as the main stalactites to hang in the Great Grotto.

The material which adorned the works had been donated by people who admired and had seen the beauty in his previous works: the small grottoes enclosing Father Lawrence O'Leary's bargain statues, crucifixes, ash trays, etc. People sent colored glass, marbles, cold cream jars, punctured commode floats, wrecked marble, broken bathroom tile, costume jewelry, gifts from every state in the union and from many foreign countries.

The first replicas were erected on the monastery recreation grounds, but because of the large number of visitors, a new site was selected and on May 17, 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto was dedicated. Brother Joseph continued his work for over 40 years, using materials sent from all over the world. He built his last model, the Basilica in Lourdes, at the age of 80, in 1958.

The Ave Maria Grotto, located on the grounds of Alabama's first and only Benedictine Abbey, consists of over 125 miniatures, reproductions of famous churches, shrines and buildings. Encompassing an area of over three acres, this miniature fairyland sees visitors from all over the world.

More detailed information can be found in the book titled Miniature Miracle by John Morris sold in the Grotto gift shop. I got a copy of the book and I use it as reference as I construct houses for my train set.

It goes to prove in the most sleepy towns if you look hard enough you will find something that is truly amazing. For I did find something in Cullman. Alabama!
~Tyler
For more information about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy his latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cool Places in America: Nederland CO and the Dead Guy


Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months....

Today I am going to share with you this really dead town we lived in with this really dead guy. For one weekend at the beginning of March it becomes one of the coolest places in America.

During the Frozen Dead Guy Days coffin races, a slow-motion parade, and "Frozen Dead Guy" lookalike contests are held. A documentary on "Grandpa Bredo", called Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed, is shown. Other events include a tour of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still frozen; a "polar plunge" for those brave enough to go swimming in Colorado in early March (which generally requires breaking through the ice); a dance, called "Grandpa's Blue Ball"; pancake breakfasts; a market showcasing local artists; snowshoe races, and snow sculpture contests. Glacier Ice Cream makes a flavor called Frozen Dead Guy which is fruit-flavored blue ice cream with Oreo cookies and sour gummy worms. Tours of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still frozen were suspended after 2005, after Grandpa's family "became frustrated with Frozen Dead Guy Days", but they resumed with the 2010 celebration. So who is the Frozen dead Guy?

In 1989, a Norwegian citizen named Trygve Bauge brought the corpse of his recently deceased grandfather, Bredo Morstøl, to the US. The body was preserved on dry ice for the trip, and stored in liquid nitrogen at the Trans Time cryonics facility in San Leandro, California from 1990 to 1993. In 1993, Bredo was returned to dry ice and transported to Nederland, where Trygve and his mother Aud planned to create a cryonics facility of their own. When Trygve was deported from the United States for overstaying his visa, his mother, Aud, continued keeping her father's body cryogenically frozen in a shack behind her unfinished house. Aud was eventually evicted from her home for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing, in violation of local ordinances. At that time, she told a local reporter about her father's body,and those of two other individuals,and the reporter went to the local city hall in order to let them know about Aud's fears that her eviction would cause her father's body to thaw out.

The story caused a sensation. In response, the city created a law outlawing the keeping of "the whole or any part of the person, body or carcass of a human being or animal or other biological species which is not alive upon any property". But public support made the town create an exception for Bredo, a grandfather clause. Trygve secured the services of Delta Tech, a local environmental company, to keep the cryonic facility running. Bo Shaffer, CEO of Delta Tech, is known locally as "The Iceman" and caretaker responsible for transporting the dry ice necessary for cryopreservation to the IC Institute, something he has done since 1995. In that year, the local Tuff Shed supplier and a Denver radio station built a new shed to keep the body of Bredo in. In the fall of 2012, Jane Curtis Gazit (Owner, Keep Magnolia Clean, LLC) and Mike Wooten became the new caretakers of Bredo.



Well I am glad we did not stay another year, just to have a single weekend be amazing. But then again, if you are traveling through Colorado in March you definitely should join the festivities.
~Tyler

For more information about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy his latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might surprise you and end up becoming the best vacation you ever had!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cool Places in America: A Day Trip on Rt 127 and Rt 133 North Shore of Boston

Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler,  once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months....

Believe it or not, I have never been on Rt 66. Then again, I have been on Rt 127 a million times and still love every trip. This is definitely one of the coolest places in America. On this road are some of the finest American Castles. My father would sneak us down the private roads off Rt 127 to see some great Jacobean and Tudor Estates. In many of these homes several presidents made their summer residences. The road starts just outside of Salem in Beverly and heads to Gloucester . There are so many things to do on this road. Once you get into Gloucester you have a choice to continue north on 127 or follow 133. Today we are going left. On Rt 133 you will head out of Gloucester and enter Essex before moving on to Ipswich.

Well lets start at the beginning. Once you cross the Salem-Beverly Bridge you will take a right. Follow that 1/16th of a mile and take a left. To your right will be some cool houses and beaches. On Independence Park you can see a canon used to shoot the HMS Nautilus during the Revolutionary War. It kept missing for hours along with the canons on Fort Lee Salem. The two locations did not even hit the ship once. The Nautilus just sailed away unscathed during high tide after getting stuck on a sand bar. At the light you will now take a right onto RT 127. Now just follow the signs.  The road for the most par is a straight shot of some beautiful curves. There are so many cool houses to see on this road!

The first stop you will want to make is to drive through the Endicott College campus and see their square Irish castle. It is not one of my favorite castles on the road, but it is cool to see anyway. Now head back onto Rt 127 and go about a 1/4 mile. To the left will be a stone wall and road heading up a hill. Park on it and see the face on the wall. Two young men were driving on RT 127 when they lost control of the car and hit this wall. In commemoration of them their friends had added simple clay faces to the wall. Now head back onto the road and go slow. You do not want to miss anything.

Then you will go through Beverly Farms downtown area. After leaving Beverly Farms and right before entering Manchester take a right at the Old Corner Inn and go over the train bridge. Take a left and stop for a second and look under the bridge, you might even get to see the train go by. Then drive straight to the water. Take a break and walk out on the pier to the gazebo in the harbor. Its pretty cool too. Now turn around and drive pass the bridge. Follow the road and ignore all the private road signs. There are some real cool homes on the road. At the end take a left back on to Rt 127 and drive pass the Old Corner Inn again. Next you will enter Manchester-by-the-Sea. Just keep going and follow the signs for Rt 127.

About 2 miles out of town you will see a green sign for Magnolia, take that right. You will curve around to the downtown section. Drive straight through the square and up the hill. You will curve up the hill and curve your way down. At the bottom right there will be a dirt parking lot. Park in it. Follow the trail to the cliff on the ocean and you have found Rafe's Chasm. It is a great rock hopping place. You can hop from rock to rock for hours here. Sometimes you will see seals. There is one section of rocks that looks like an ancient boat ramp. To the right is a large chasm you can walk in during low tide. From the top you can repel down. It looks amazing right after a storm because the ocean turns green and foamy. During hurricane Katrina the waves were 40 ft tall over the top of the 40 ft cliffs here. That was an awesome storm!

Once you leave the parking lot continue north on the road. As you curve to the left you will see another castle. Hammond Castle is pretty cool. They have swords and armor inside. There is an indoor pool with a ceiling that opens and closes. They can make it rain and lightning in the room. Around the pool is the front of a Bavarian medieval merchant village. The castle was put together out of several castles from Europe. They say John Hammond who owns the place haunts the castle still. Sometimes he takes a shape of a black cat and sits in his favorite chair. He loved his cats, his dogs, not so much... He also invented radio control and we would sail a ghost ship from his living room in the harbor scaring the neighbors.

Continue heading north till you come back to Rt 127. Take a right. Go for almost a mile and take a left at the fork and head toward Essex on Rt 133. About 3 miles down the road you will enter downtown Essex. On the right you will see the Flying Dragon Antiques. If you are a treasure hunter like myself, you will love scouring through this place. Also up the road is the White Elephant antique store. This store is pretty cool, but their outlet store down the road on Rt 133 is even better because they have a $5 and $1 section!

Go another 2 miles after the White Elephant outlet store and take a right where the white sign says Castle Hill. Castle Hill is the mansion used in several films like Witches of Eastwick and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Come to the T in the road and take a right. Go for a half mile and take a right into Russel Orchards. Stop here for some great chunky cheese bread, some fudge, and a hot cider in their farm stand. Then go out back and feed the animals. In season you can pick your fruit and vegetables. When you are done take a left out of the parking lot and head back the way you came. When you get back to that T, just drive straight till the next T in the road. Then take a right. You will pass a river on the right with a cool waterfall and keep going and take the next left. On this road is largest amount of 1600 and 1700 houses still occupied in the country. At the end of the road you will meet up with Rt 133 again. This time head south on RT 133 and head back through downtown Ipswich. Follow the signs and stay on Rt 133 till you come to a fork with an old hospital on a hill. Keep going straight on Rt 1A South. Now Rt 1A and Rt 22 is also a real cool road with great gardens, houses, and country drives but you must be tired by now and those rides should be left for another day. So now go home!
~Tyler



To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler's latest book "Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida" on Amazon.com. Keep checking back often for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up surprising you and becoming the best vacation you ever had!