Places I Want to Go: The Mothman Museum

The Mothman PropheciesThe Mothman Museum is in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Mothman is a large winged man who was seen by a lot of people in and around Point Pleasant in 1966 (an important year for me). I’ve been reading The Mothman Prophesies. I haven’t finished it; I don’t have any time to read, and I keep having to return it to the library. Anyway, I saw the movie. It’s interesting, and it’s interesting enough to have a museum, so I need to go see it. You can’t beat the admission price.

Adults – $3, 10 & under – $1

There’s a museum and a store.

Monday-Thursday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00pm – 5:00 pm

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Desperately Seeking Toynbee Tiles

I love modern day mysteries!

Toynbee Tile at at 8th and 45th in New York City

Toynbee Tile at at 8th and 45th in New York City (7/14/2014)

Toynbee Tiles are a modern day mystery, and I was determined to see at least one of them.

The Toynbee Tile website has a map, Waymarking.com has a Toynbee Tile category, Geocaching.com has a Toynbee Tile cache page, and I used all of them. I researched Toynbee Tiles for years.

In July of 2014, we set out on a Northeast Road Trip. Along with all the other landmarks and oddities that I wanted to see, I was planning to find a Toynbee Tile if I could. I was going to try in Philadelphia because most of them are located there. But there were also several in New York City (and in some other large United States cities and a few in South America). We were going to New York first on this trip, so I picked one from the lists (I don’t even remember which one) that was newish and was probably still there. (They’re often destroyed by street maintenance.)

We got to New York City with a plan of walking around all day, wandering the famous streets. I planned our wandering to go by the tile I had picked to find. We looked for it with no luck.

We continued our wanderings and when we’re crossing the street at 8th and 45th, Benjamin says, hey, is that one of those things you’re looking for? I stop and look, and there’s my first Toynbee Tile in real life!

Toynbee Tile at 8th and 45th in New York City

Benjamin and the Toynbee Tile that he spotted at 8th and 45th in New York City (7/14/2014)

This text on this tile is, “TOYNBEE IDEA MOVIE 2001 RAISE DEAD PLANET JUPITER LAY TILE ALONE -> FEDS OR IT DIES COMUNISTS + MEDIA HELLION JEWS ARE AGAINST IT”

I can’t believe it! My first Toynbee Tile! I took several pictures.

Then we continue our wanderings, get to 51st and 5th avenue, and Terry spots another one!

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City (7/14/2014)

The Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th says, “TOYNBEE IDEA MOVIE 2001 RESURRECT DEAD PLANET JUPITER YOU MUST LAY TILE ALONE -> FEDS AS COMMUNISTS MEDIA AND HELLION JEWS ARE DESTROYING IT. LAY TILE – ALONE -> FEDS”

They all have similar text, and no one knows what any of it means — but there are several theories, involving among other things the historian, Arnold Toynbee, and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City (7/14/2014)

People started noticing the tiles in the late 1980s. A ceramic tile, usually about a foot by six inches, sometimes bigger, is placed in a busy, city street and covered with tar paper. By the time the tar paper is worn off by traffic, the tile is embedded in the asphalt. This works best in the summer because the asphalt softens from the heat.

No one knows who creates the Toynbee Tiles and puts them in the streets, and no one knows what they mean. They’ve been showing up for many decades, and there are several hundred of them, so they don’t think it’s just one person.

I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It was better to just find one on accident while wandering than to seek one out from a list.

There’s a photo gallery of Toynbee Tiles at the Resurrect Dead site where there is also information about the movie that was made about them. And here’s a list of Toynbee Tile from 2011 and another map.

What I Did Last Summer Part 2: Alabama

Alabama Museum of Natural History

The basilosaurus is the state fossil of Alabama.

On day two of our trip, we woke up in Tupelo, Mississippi, hit the road for Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and did our first museum of the trip, the Alabama Museum of Natural History on the University of Alabama campus.

Old Alabama Geological Survey wagon and equipment

Old Alabama Geological Survey wagon and equipment, some of which belonged to Eugene Smith, the guy for which the museum building, Smith Hall, is named.

It’s a really nice museum, and we liked it even better than some of the bigger ones. It’s not a big, flashy one, but it’s classy and has lots of interesting things. It’s a beautiful building, too, Smith Hall, named for Dr. Eugene Allen Smith, an Alabama geologist who also taught at the University. I loved that they had a bunch of his old stuff, personal items and an old Geological Survey wagon and equipment like he used. He dug up a lot of the things at the museum. It was cool to find out about the guy who found the stuff.

Benjamin and Terry at the Museum

Benjamin and Terry at the Alabama Museum of Natural History

After the museum, we headed northeast about three hours to Scottsboro, Alabama to the Unclaimed Baggage Center where lost luggage from all over is collected into a store.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center

Benjamin and Terry head for the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

We found our first geocache of the trip here. I’ll give you a hint. It’s behind that sign out front. Benjamin loved this place. It was one of his favorite places that we went on this trip (along with the Lego Store and the T-Rex Cafe). It’s not just a store; it’s a tourist attraction. We didn’t find a lot, but Benjamin went nuts over their selection of DS games. It was interesting to see what all people had lost, kind of sad. I hoped none of the stuff had sentimental value for anyone, their great-grandmother gave them that purse on her deathbed kind of thing. Benjamin found an unknown object in the toy section for a dollar. We Googled the one word printed on it and found out that it was a small, working replica of a robotic arm, probably a model that a sales rep lost. So, you really can find just about anything there at any given time.

That night we drove to Georgia. We got lost. There was drama. We arrived late at Terry’s brother’s house, prepared to sleep late the next morning…

What I Did Last Summer Part 1: The Crossroads

Four months after our summer road trip, I think I have recovered enough to write about it. Oh, it wasn’t bad, no trauma or catastrophes. The flat tire discovered the next morning at a motel was probably the worst thing to happen. No animals escaped from any zoos.

The Crossroads

Where the devil tuned Robert Johnson's guitar

We set out July 12, 2013 at 8:00 am from Greenland, Arkansas.

I had been wanting to drive through Clarksdale, Mississippi for some years. Ever since I had heard about Robert Johnson and his late night trip down to the crossroads where he met up with the devil who tuned his guitar so he could become the best blues player ever. Or something like that. I read all up on it, found out it was the crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, and they met up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I read how Robert Johnson took his guitar down there and saw the hell hounds snarling and rolling around in the ditch before the devil showed up. And how anyone could do it, go down to the crossroads and have the devil make you prosperous. I thought about taking a pencil down there for the devil to sharpen, to help my writing. But I figured I would always have to write with that same pencil for it to work. I thought about pianists dragging their pianos down to the crossroads on flatbed trailers and wondered how long it took the devil to tune a piano. I read that the usual story was a little off, that you don’t go down there at midnight, but around three or four in the morning, and the guy who shows up isn’t the devil, and he won’t take your soul. He’s just a helpful sort.

I like to see places like this. I know there’s not much there to actually see or take pictures of, but I just like to be there, to have been there, to know what it’s like to stand there and think about what may or may not have happened on that spot.

So, it turns out enough people were intrigued by the story of Robert Johnson that they built a memorial there at those crossroads, a big sign reading “The Crossroads” with crossed guitars and 61 and 49 highway signs.

A group of people showed up while we were there taking pictures. They were really friendly and had musical instruments. They asked where we were from, and I wound up telling them we were there to see the devil. They told me that they had run him off. Then they proceeded to go into the little grassy area in the crossroads under the sign with the trees and began to play gospel music. We figured it was time to go try try the local barbecue.

Abe’s BBQ is about a block up the street from the Crossroads. It was OK. We got out of there for about $35. I found the BBQ sauce too sweet, tasted like it had lime in it.

Benjamin at the Crossroads

Benjamin waiting on the devil...

After the Crossroads, we headed on down the road to Tupelo, Mississippi to a motel and some Pizza Hut delivery.

Next… Alabama!

The Grand Canyon: Wonder or Big Hole in the Ground?

Grand Canyon

The Greatest Canyon Ever!

I know people will want to take me out for saying this, and I will admit, the Grand Canyon is not just a big hole in the ground, it is a magnificent hole in the ground, but once you get beyond that initial amazement, there’s just not much else there.

Birds in a Tree

There are also views like this creepy dead tree with the death birds in it.

We went twice. The first time it rained. We had some time in between showers to see the magnificent hole, and I thought perhaps we had missed something because of the rain. So, I thought we should go back, and we did. This time with Benjamin when he was seven.

Grand Canyon

Really, this is all there is.

It was fun to see Benjamin run up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and announce to me, “Mom, you’ll want to get a picture of this!” and it was fun to see the couple doing the marriage proposal. The woman being proposed to started crying and loudly asking her proposer if he was just joking and hitting him in case he was.

Squirrel

One of the squirrels that you are not allowed to feed, but probably will anyway.

But other than some impromptu shows like that, you get your panoramic shots, you get some very expensive food, and hike up to the most boring “museum” ever. There are the squirrels that you can illegally feed, which might, according to the signs, bite you. Everyone there, however, is feeding the squirrels and probably every other kind of wildlife they see.

The first time we went, just me and Terry, we camped outside the park in the Kaibab National Forest since it was free unlike the park. It was an odd forest, at least to me, different than I was used to in Arkansas. There was no underbrush. It was mostly coniferous trees and the needles covering the ground had kept anything from growing. So, what this means is that if you have to go to the bathroom out there (which of course you will), there is no cover whatsoever for you when one of the many sightseeing planes flies over. I know I gave a little show to a group of tourists.

It always astounds me that the Grand Canyon shows up on those lists of best parks and best places to go and bucket lists. Why? A friend told me she had only seen the Grand Canyon from an airplane, and I told her that was all she needed.

Albuquerque BioPark

Polar Bears

Polar Bears

The Albuquerque BioPark is a big combo zoo and aquarium and botanical gardens. We hadn’t planned to go there, but after driving through Oklahoma and half of New Mexico with nothing going on, Terry and I gave in to Benjamin’s pleas for the aquarium and zoo after he spotted the billboards along the interstate. So this was our first real “stop” on Road Trip 2012. We spent the first night of the trip at a Motel 6 in Albuquerque and then went to the BioPark in the morning.

Now I feel like I should point out, as I shall feel compelled to point out every time New Mexico comes up, there is no cell service in New Mexico. At least not along Interstate 40 from Oklahoma to Albuquerque. I realize there aren’t a lot of people out in there, but there’s cell service in Death Valley. Is New Mexico really more remote than Death Valley?

Gorilla

They had signs warning that the gorillas might throw things at us. This one tried, but lost his balance trying to heave a stick at us and fell into the pit that divides gorillas from humans.

All in all, the BioPark is pretty nice. There are plenty of animals and plenty of fish. They have a nice little collection of sharks and lots of rays that like to splash around in their pool. There are some sea creatures that you can touch and people to tell you about them.

There was the problem with the elephants. We barely got to see them. They have an area for the elephants where you can’t really see them, and that’s apparently where they spend most of their time. The botanical garden is interesting with large ant and spider sculptures around and an anthill maze for the kids (it’s pretty easy).

Here’s where I could go into “Zoos: Right or Wrong”, but I’m not going to. I don’t know how I feel about zoos. I know my ten-year-old loves them (as most ten-year-olds do), and we’ll just have to leave it at that for now.

Rays

Some sort of rays -- they begged us to take them with us.

The zoo and the aquarium are a ways apart, but there’s a train to take you back and forth. We didn’t want to wait on the train, though, so we just drove over.

So, that’s the Albuquerque BioPark. I like these combo sort of things, one stop entertainment (like that combo zoo theme park in Georgia where the roller coaster goes over the alligator pit). It’s a mid-size zoo and a good-sized aquarium, and the price is pretty good, $12 adult and $5 child admission.

Early Reconnaissance Missions

Route 66

The Route 66 thing in Tucumcari that Terry whipped by in 1996 that I finally got him to stop for in 2000 -- he even turned around and drove back by for me.

I used to refer to all of our road trips as reconnaissance missions. Mostly to lessen disappointments I had suffered on the trip. Weird statues that Terry wouldn’t stop for to let me get a picture. Famous city intersection signs that Terry wouldn’t stop for to let me get a picture. My sad face in the window as some one-of-a-kind roadside oddity whipped by. That kind of disappointment. I had to tell myself, this is just a reconnaissance mission. We’re just here to see what there is to see. Now that I know that statue is right there, I’ll be able to get a picture of it the next time we come through here.

And I’m glad I did that. It worked. It turned out to be real.

New York City

I still haven't spent the night in New York City, but maybe New York requires more than one recon visit.

So, my point is that I don’t call them recon missions anymore. They aren’t anymore, I guess. We’re going out west for the sixth time this summer. Of course, there are places that Benjamin hasn’t gone, that I want him to see, like the Great Salt Desert. And he doesn’t even remember going to Death Valley in 2005, so we have to go back there. Besides, we didn’t see the moving rocks when we were there before, the Racetrack. I’ve been wanting to go back for that anyway.

Death Valley

What Death Valley Looks Like

I also want to go back through the Petrified Forest National Park. The petrified trees aren’t all that spectacular, but the hills of the Painted Desert’s Chinle Formation are incredible. I have a couple of photos I took with a so-so camera back in 1997, and I have to get more pictures of that.

Crescent City Sea Lions

I also want to take Benjamin down to the docks in Crescent City to see the sea lions.

 

Glass Beach: A Gotta-See

I just stumbled upon an article about Glass Beach at Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast. I am adding it into the 2012 Vacation Plans since we are headed that way anyway. Broken glass from trash thrown in the ocean fifty years ago has been beaten by the ocean until it’s smooth and pretty. And the beach is apparently full of this stuff, or it used to be before everyone found out about it and started coming there and taking the glass home with them.

So, now I have to research Fort Bragg and see if there’s anything else we need to see while we’re there…

A Word About Fudge

Fudge does not melt. Do not be taken in by those places advertising fudge that won’t melt. They’ve added some kind of corn syrup or something like that to it. It won’t ever melt. Four thousand years from now, it will look the same. It becomes a whole other food. It’s not even really fudge anymore. Some sort of crispy, crunchy, Tootsie Roll mash. The texture is wrong. The taste is wrong. And fudge doesn’t melt anyway! I’ve left it out in the car for hours when it was over 100 degrees outside. It was still in the same shape as when I left it. It’s not like a Hershey bar or something. It’s fudge. It has its own ways. Respect the fudge. Also, the way you can tell if you are buying the best fudge from a candy store is if they give you a fudge knife. I have also gotten fudge spoons and other plastic fudge implements. If they do not give you a fudge implement, beware. It’s probably not the best.