Showing posts with label USA Road Trip 2010. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA Road Trip 2010. Show all posts

Jan 13, 2013

Vintage San Francisco Postcards

With my recent postcard obsession, I was going through my collection and I stumbled onto these vintage inspired San Francisco postcards I bought while on my western USA road trip in 2010.  These seemed too cool not to share.

Oct 16, 2012

Benny's Bullpen at Binion's

It was during our time downtown on Fremont Street that I had a request to visit a place that accidentally became meaningful on my last trip to Las Vegas in 2010.  Located at the back of Binion's Casino is Benny's Bullpen.  It's a quiet and relatively tame place compared to a lot of the other hangouts close by, but it was here that my friend Dave and I had drinks and a bite to eat during our night in Vegas on our second road trip down to Indio, California.

Since Dave passed away last year it's been easy to find symbolism in random things, but when I entered the bar and saw the same lounge chairs and table empty, almost exactly as we'd left them a few years before, it kind of struck a chord.  The image I snapped of Dave here was the one I used at the top of my Remembering Dave post immediately after he passed.  It was like nothing had changed in the entire bar.  Sitting in the same place and glancing at that empty chair brought back a flood of memories, and I was happy that Mike and Erin were there to renew the experience with me.

It ended up being one of the few breaks on the trip where we didn't talk about the trip. Instead we shared a few stories and mused about our ambitions.  We talked about things we still wanted to do, and about everything that's changed since we said goodbye to Dave.  It was relaxed and familiar, and in a comforting way it made me feel closer to Dave than I had since his funeral. 

The shot I took of Dave in 2010.

This is a brief photo montage of the first part of my trip with Dave in 2010.

Sep 15, 2012

Bixby Canyon Bridge

The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway was incredible.  The scenery, the ocean, the winding roads, and lots of good music seemed to dictate the pace of our near perfect drive.  Bixby Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge or Bixby Creek Bridge, is the most popular landmark along the 101 and it's easy to see why.  

This short stretch of road provides stunning views of the California coastline.  From the rocky cliffs to the pristine beaches, this is Big Sur at her best.  As you slow down to cross Bixby Bridge your surroundings suddenly open up as you glide across the canyon.  For that brief moment, it's like seeing the PCH for the first time all over again.   

Sep 13, 2012

Alcatraz Souvenirs

In addition to the Alcatraz postcards I picked up, I managed to leave the Rock with a decent collection of prison related memorabilia.  I have to give credit to the folks in the gift shop because I found it very easy to spend money there.

During our visit in September 2010, the Save the Rock preservation project was already well underway.  What I hadn't realized ahead of time, was that pieces of Alcatraz concrete were actually being sold as souvenirs.  I thought it was a clever way for them to raise extra money for the project, and I was more than willing to get a one of kind piece of memorabilia to remember the trip (even if it was just a piece of concrete).  I thought it was kind of like buying a piece of the Berlin Wall.  

I also picked up a giant Alcatraz prison key with a Golden Gate National Parks stamped tag.  It hangs on one of my inspiration boards now. I just thought it looked cool.

Magnets are nothing new in my collection (see here) but I really liked these ones.  The branding of Alcatraz is really well done throughout all of their merchandise and marketing, and I really liked all of the replicas they made available.  These magnets of the lighthouse and of one of the signs in the prison are good examples of their attention to style and detail.

Another cool replica I bought was this tin cup. They actually had all of the cafeteria utensils, including sectioned plates, available to buy.  As expected all of this stuff was overpriced, but in fairness, they're also really high quality souvenirs that all have a really nice weight to them.  I didn't buy more souvenirs at any single location than I did at Alcatraz on our 2010 road trip across the Western USA. 

Sep 12, 2012

Escaping to Alcatraz

Nearly two years ago to the day, my friend Dave and I took the popular ride across the bay to Alcatraz Island to join swarms of other tourists for an afternoon exploring one of the world's most famous prisons.  Having shared several photo sets from this excursion before, it hit me how I hadn't really talked about our experience from visiting this iconic landmark.  Frankly, it seemed like a fun post to write.

We drove up from Indio the day before, taking a welcome detour through Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway.  We only had one full day for site seeing in San Francisco before we had to continue our long drive home, so the main attractions topped our list. We bought our tickets for Alcatraz online before leaving on our road trip knowing that time would be in short supply.  If there's one piece of advice to take to heart on visiting, buying your tickets before hand is it.

Dave's orange VW bug bounced and weaved easily around the hills of downtown San Francisco, which was a good thing because we weren't sure where to go exactly.  Our hotel was out by the airport, so it wasn't until that morning that we actually got our first glimpse of the city.  Haphazardly we found Lombard Street and from there we could see Alcatraz Island out in the bay.  It wasn't so difficult to see where landmarks were, it was just a challenge to understand ways of actually navigating to them.  Long story short, we found Pier 33, boarded our ferry, and headed out to the Rock.

The first thing that crossed our minds when we got to Alcatraz was how big the island actually was.  There's plenty to explore, and while the prison is obviously the highlight, it's a surprisingly small part of the location.  After getting off of the ferry you start walking a long path up the hill to where the prison house is.  There are numerous smaller buildings along the way, some of them now ruins, which only seem to add to the mystery and eeriness of the island.

As you reach the prison it's a bit surprising to see what rough shape some of it is in. The facade is crumbling in some parts, there a substantial cracks, and you start to think about the fine line between preserving the ruin and preserving the original building.  We did soon realize that while restoration has been ongoing, the prison was already in rough shape when it closed in the sixties.

Once inside you shuffle into what was the communal shower room to pick up an audio deck and headphones to take your self guided tour of the landmark.  I really loved the audio tour as it added so much ambiance to the location.  Between stories about famous inmates, escape attempts, and the function of the prison, they played sounds of the cell doors slamming, the guards talking, inmates playing their instruments, etc.  It brought the abandoned structure to life.  Despite all of the people around, it actually made the experience feel more personal and unique than I imagined it would.

One of the funny things about Dave and I each doing the tour was that because we could pause it when we wanted to take more time to look at something, our tracks ended up at different parts.  We would look at each other to say how interesting something was only to discover that we were listening to different parts.  This only created more confusion when Dave wanted to catch up, but lost his place on the track.

We checked out the few rows of infamous cell blocks, explored solitary confinement, and made our way out to the recreation yard.  Not surprisingly, the view of San Francisco from Alcatraz is impressive.  You can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, and the skyline is all right there in front of you.  They said that was one of the worst parts of being an inmate there, the life and energy of the city was constantly teasing you.

One of the cells shows the scene of the famous 1962 escape with a dummy head in the bunk and the concrete around the air vent chipped away.  Three inmates managed to make it from their cells, into the utility corridor, and out to the bay.  While it's believed they all drowned, their bodies were never found leading some to believe they made it ashore.  Whether they survived or not, their escape was masterful in its execution.

We made our way back outside and were greeted by more stunning views of the city and the towering lighthouse.  Alcatraz Island is actually the oldest light station on the west coast of the United States.

Probably because we knew we had to wait for the ferry anyway, we seemed to spend quite a while just enjoying the view and talking about our trip. We ended up in the gift shop before heading back to the city, where I managed to build a nice collection of souvenirs.  Dave and I both seemed to come away from the island with more questions than we came in with, but I suppose that was a good sign.

There is something truly captivating about the dark history of Alcatraz, knowing that people were locked up there, and then touring it as entertainment. I'd love to go again someday, but until then it's not an experience I'll soon forget.