Monday, August 23, 2010

Cable Car

One of the first things that I wanted to do when I knew I was going to San Francisco this summer, was to ride on a cable car. That's all I would talk about doing when people asked me what I was going to do in SF. At the end of our day out and about on Fisherman's Wharf, we took a cable car back to a BART station to go to the hotel. There was a long line for the cable car, but it was worth it! I got to sit in the open air part and look at everything going by. I also got to experience the hills in SF. No way would I want to park my car on one of those!! The cable car did not let me down, it was an awesome ride! Again, something I want to do during daylight the next time I'm in SF.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Buena Vista/Ghirardelli Square

At the end of Fisherman's Wharf, near Ghirardelli Square, is the Buena Vista. The Buena Vista is the home of the Irish Coffee. This place was packed when we went in at about 8 o'clock. It was getting chilly out, so the coffee was warming me up (along with the alcohol). It looks like an old time diner/bar on the inside, and has a great view of the bay. I highly recommend heading here when in San Francisco.

Another place at the end of Fisherman's Wharf is Ghirardelli Square. There are shops here, but more importantly, the Ghirardelli factory. We got here late, but were able to go into the chocolate shop and try some chocolate. If I ever get back to San Francisco again, I will be getting here earlier and checking it out more.


I'll be honest, I didn't really want to go here when I was planning on going to San Francisco this summer, but I am really glad I went! Once you get to the Island, there is a National Park Ranger (Ranger John) greeting you and letting you know what's going on today on the Island. From there, you can head up to a building that has a gift shop, mini museum, and a short video going through the history of Alcatraz. The whole time you're on the Island, you're going at your pace and leading your own tour. As I entered the prison itself, I had an eerie feeling. It was neat seeing all of the cells, and knowing this place that you're standing in is infamous. There was a solitary confinement cell that a ranger would let you in so you could see what it felt like for 30 seconds. I opted out of that, but my friend went in and said it was creepy. I went into a normal cell to see what it was like. There's a great view from the prison grounds. The warden had an excellent view of San Francisco. I didn't expect to spend more than an hour or so on the Island, but with everything you take in there, we were on the last boat off the Island for the day (we were there for about 3 hours). Good stop if you are going to San Francisco.

Pacific Coast HIghway

This isn't a tourist trap, but it's something that I feel everyone should do in their lifetime. In early June, my friend and I drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and from San Francisco to Cresent City, CA, along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). It was a gorgeous drive. Even if you're prone to motion sickness, it's worth the sickness. It's not too twisty, or up and down until you're past San Simeon. There are many places to get out and take pictures, or to just walk around and bask in the beauty that is the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Philly Cheesesteak

Geno's Steaks: 1219 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia PA
Pat's King of Steaks: 1237 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia PA

Another must on my list of things to do in Philly was to see for myself which one of these places had the best cheesesteak. I've watched WAY too much Food Network and Travel Channel, and have seen these places battle for the title of best in Philly. Our first stop was Geno's, since we were walking down 9th Street and Geno's is the first one heading that direction. There were three of us in Philly, and we didn't really want to each get a cheesesteak. We decided that we would get one at each place and split it three ways. We asked the person at Geno's if we could have a plastic knife to cut it in thirds, but they said they'd cut it for us. The employees there were pleasant and seemed to be happy to be there. The sandwich was great. Nothing was overpowering on it, the bread was soft, the onions were cooked just right, and the cheese whiz was good too! Our next stop was across the street at Pat's. We got in line, and waited just a few minutes for our sandwich. We asked if we could have it cut in thirds, but he told us he only cuts it in half. Well, he said to my sister, "I only cut it in half sweetheart." If you know my sister, you know that him calling her sweetheart ticked her off. We sat down to eat the sandwich. The bread was dry, the onions were really strong, and the provolone was not melted. After eating both sandwiches, we decided that Geno's has the best cheesesteak.

Rocky Steps

Rocky Steps: Philadelphia, PA

When I found out that I was going to Philadelphia, I had a few things I wanted to do and see, but this was a must. Before heading out to Philly, my sister kiddingly said, "You should download the Rocky theme and play that as you run up the steps." She should've known better, because I did. I got ready to go up the steps, and began playing the music. I knew I was making a fool of myself huffing and puffing up the steps to the the theme of Rocky, but people were commenting on it, and smiling. That's all I could ask for. When I got to the top of the steps, I noticed that there are bronze footprints of Rocky's. We took our pictures of the feet, and of the steps going down. There were many other people there running up the stairs, many of them singing the theme. There is a statue of Rocky off to the side at the base of the steps. There were many people taking their pictures there as well. It made me feel old when there were kids asking who Rocky was. I think this was the best place we went to in Philly.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell: Philadelphia, PA

When I got to Independence Mall, I was expecting to see the Liberty Bell outside, roped off with some chains. Little did I know that it was actually inside a building with all sorts of history regarding the Liberty Bell. After waiting a few minutes in line to get in, and then my bag looked through (which gave the security person a laugh since my Santa hat was in there for Christmas card photos), we walked to the Liberty Bell. It's in a small area in the building, and if you're in there with a bunch of people, you have to wait for the right moment to get a picture without someone standing in front of it. Or, you can just shove your way to the front like some people were doing. I wanted to take some funny pictures, but since there were a bunch of people there I thought I should just pose for a couple. It was good to see the actual bell, and not a replica like I've seen in other places.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Longest Escalator

Western Hemisphere's Longest Escalator: Silver Spring, MD

  • Directions: Take the red line train towards Glenmont. Exit on the Wheaton stop. The escalators take you out of the station.
I didn't believe my friend when he told me that the longest escalator was in the metro system in DC. My sister and I went a few years ago to double check this. It was humongous!!!!! It took us forever to get up there, and my knees were weak coming down the stairs. We decided to go again this trip to time how long it took to get up to the top. It took us 2 minutes and 49 seconds to get to the top without any walking! It's a nice place to check out, because you don't need to leave the station to see it. It does take some time to get to the stop, since it is one of the last stops on the red line.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ford's Theatre

Ford's Theatre: 511 Tenth St, NW, Washington, DC 20004

  • Directions: Take the Red Line Metro to the Metro Center station. Head out to F Street, and turn right. Head to 11th Street, and turn right again. The theatre will be just down the street.
I have always been interested in the Civil War era. The first time I was out to DC, the theatre was closed for renovation. Last spring I made it a must stop on our trip. My sister and I didn't bother to reserve tickets online for a dollar, we decided to wait in line at the theatre to get tickets. What we didn't know is that we should've reserved online...a few weeks before getting out there. When we were waiting in line at about 10 or 11am, we were told they were out of tickets for the day, and we may be able to get tickets for the next day. We were able to get tickets for that day because people didn't want the tickets anymore. I was so excited about it! First, when we got back to the theatre, we had to wait in line almost all the way down to the end of the block. When we finally got into the theatre, we were ushered to the balcony and given a speech as to the history of the building, the night Lincoln was shot, and what the building was used for after Lincoln was shot. The person speaking to us wasn't dressed in period clothes, she was just a park ranger since the theatre is run by the National Park system. We then find out that the theatre was gutted and used as offices until it was renovated again back after WW2 (or sometime around there). Nothing that was in there was there when Lincoln was shot, except for a portrait of Lincoln himself. We wanted to go to the museum, but found out the museum at the theatre wasn't open during peak times. The whole thing was done in about 20-30 minutes. Afterwards, you're then able to go across the street to see the house where Lincoln died. It was interesting, but you wait in line again with the same people from the theatre. There are so many people trying to get through, that you really can't take pictures or appreciate the house. I was really disappointed in the whole experience, and friends who have been have felt the same way. Maybe they'll make it better in the next few years, and I'll try to give it another chance.

Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl: 1213 U Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C

  • Directions: Take the Green Line metro to the U Street station, go up to the street level, and it's right across the street.
I wouldn't call this restaurant a tourist trap, it's like the sign says, it's an institution. People from Bill Cosby to the First Family have eaten here. I've been to DC a few times now, and every time I'm here, I keep saying I'm going to come up here. My sister and I decided we wanted to make this our first stop when we got in this morning. We got up there at about 1:3oish, and there was a line out the door, to the point where we had the door closed on us because there were too many people inside! It was worth the wait. Once we got inside, the people were friendly and helpful. It was mind blowing the amount of diversity inside. Small children, senior citizens, business men in suits, to teenagers having fun. The whole staff was friendly, and worked together like a well oiled machine. Once we put in our order, our food was right to us. I looked at my chili half smoke, and wondered how I was going to attack it. It was smothered in chili, and I knew I was going to be wandering around DC after this. I decided that I was going to start with a knife and a fork. That changed when I saw the man in the business suit sitting next to me pick his up and eat it without getting it all over him. I decided that I could do that too. I didn't get anything on my clothes, but all over my face and hands. It was nice seeing everything cooked in front of me as well. This is definitely a spot I will be returning to!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

McDonald's Museum

McDonald's Museum/Store No. 1: 400 N. Lee St., Des Plaines, IL

  • Directions: From the Leaning Tower in Niles: Keep heading west on Touhy Ave. Once you get to 294, you will take the first right after 294, which will be River Road. Take River Road north a few miles (will turn into Des Plaines Ave). The store should be where Lee and Des Plaines meet.

Let me start out by saying this was our last stop, we had been driving for days, were on each other's last nerve, and I had possibly been driving with road rage in Chicago. We got to the McDonald's across the street from the museum to see was closed. We all were quite upset that it was closed. I had been talking about it, and planned on seeing it, and we showed up to find it closed. I was ready to pull a Wally World (from National Lampoon's Vacation). We took a few pictures and went into the McDonald's to get lunch. They said it was closed for renovations or something, but it would've been nice to know that before we got there!

This was our last stop for our trip. We were glad to get back on the Interstate and only 3 hours from home!

Leaning Tower of Niles

Leaning Tower of Niles: 6300 Touhy Avenue, Niles, IL

  • Directions: From I-94: Take exit 39B onto Touhy Ave. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp. The tower will be after Lehigh Ave.

On our trip to the South, I felt as if I had been around the world. We had gone through exotic cities (named for cities in other countries), and seen landmarks from famous places. One of our last stops for the trip was the Leaning Tower of Niles. It looked like the one in Pisa. We all got out of the car excited, and planning out our posed pictures. We got some good pictures of us trying to "hold" it up. It was such a nice day, we took our time taking pictures and enjoying being out of the car for awhile. We all had fun on this stop. Thankfully, no one was giving us weird looks there!

Radio Flyer

Large Radio Flyer Wagon: 6515 W. Grand Ave., Elmwood Park, IL

  • Directions: From I-90/94: Take exit 47A. Head south on N. Western Ave. Turn right onto W. Fullerton Ave. Keep following Fullerton, it will eventually turn into Grand Ave. It will be on Grand Ave.

I never had a Radio Flyer wagon, that I recall, but I remember riding in friend's Radio Flyers as kids. Just the thought of Radio Flyer makes me want to go back to my childhood. I was SO excited to see it!! I felt like a kid again when walking up to it. We couldn't get into the factory to get close to it, but we got some good pictures through the gate. It was reminiscent of taking pictures of the White House through the gate in Washington, DC. It would've been nice to get up close to it, but this was good too. It was totally worth more time in the car with my sisters to see this.


Frankenmuffler: 7759 S Harlem Ave, Burbank, IL

  • Directions: From I-90/94: Take I-55 South. Exit onto Hwy 43/Harlem Ave. Keep following for a few miles until the Haunted Trails Family Amusement Park.

The Chicago area is also a great place for tacky things to be seen. We stopped at a few while we drove through to get back to Wisconsin.
Since I had seen a few muffler men this summer, I felt I needed to see Frankenmuffler. We drove and drove and drove for what felt like forever to find this one. It's just inside a mini-golf place, and they had other things that would've been worthy of pictures as well. We all got out and took our pictures, and didn't want to get back in to drive any more! We could all see the end of the trip was near though.

Duct Man

Giant Duct Man: 1366 Hopple St., Cincinnati, OH

  • Directions: From I-75: Take exit 3. Turn right onto Hopple St., then drive four blocks. On the right, at the corner of Meeker St. In Camp Washington area of Cincinnati. Outside of Jacobs Mechanical.

This guy isn't in the nicest of neighborhoods, but we didn't know that as we were trying to find him. We had to come to see him because my sister and I like to refer to a family friend as a "robot." It was worth seeing, even though we were wondering about our welfare in the neighborhood. This robot is made entirely of duct work. It was also worth it because my sister and I kept singing the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati as we were looking for it. :)

Notre Dame Cathedral Replica

Notre Dame Replica/World's Largest Hand Blown Stained Glass Window: 1140 Madison Ave, Covington, KY

  • Directions: From I-75/71: Take exit 192 onto W. 12th Street/Hwy 1120. Head east/right. Turn left onto Madison Ave.

I've never seen the real Notre Dame Cathedral in person, but having studied French for many years in high school/college, I thought I needed to see this. I have seen many pictures, and this looked exactly like it. I was looking for Quasimodo in the bell tower and everything. Inside I guess it looked a lot like it as well. My sisters had been there before, and couldn't believe how similar it was. It was a peaceful way to begin winding down a long trip.

Florence Y'All

Florence Y'all Water Tower: Mall Circle Rd, Florence, KY

  • Directions: From I-75: Take exit 180A and go towards the Mall. Able to see it from the Interstate.

After being in the south for a while this summer, I was definitely used to hearing "y'all." When doing my research for places to see, I saw this and thought we had to stop. People I was talking to who were from that area laughed when I told them I was going to stop and take a picture, but knew exactly where it was. It was fun to get out and take a picture of a water tower in the middle of a mall parking lot.

Big Bone Lick State Park

Big Bone Lick State Park: 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY

  • Directions: From Hwy 127: Head west on Hwy 1292. It will be up a few miles on this hwy.

How could I NOT stop and take pictures here?! This is the reason my sister and I now want to carry Santa hats in our cars year-round. This picture was used as our Christmas card this year. There are times my mind is that of a 13 year old boy, and I HAD to come find this state park. It was actually kinda cool looking around, after spending about 10-15 minutes taking pictures of the signs with everyone. If you click on the link above, there are other places that are mentioned that we hunted for, but couldn't find. You'll know which ones I'm talking about if you put yourself in a 13 year old boy's head. The best part was this winter I met someone who grew up near the park. He knew what we were talking about!!

Huge Mortar and Pestle

Bondurant's Pharmacy: Village Drive, Lexington, KY
  • Directions: From the Dixie Cup: Get back onto Mercer Rd. Head to Hwy 25 South. Go West on Hwy 4. Take Hwy 4 until the Hwy 60/Versailles Rd. Exit. Turn right onto Versailles Rd./Hwy 60. Turn left on Village Dr. It's right there.
The second, and last stop, in Lexington. They don't lie when they say it's a huge mortar and pestle. This building is a local pharmacy. When we pulled in, it was closed, and there weren't many people near or around it. People were looking at us for posing for pictures in front of it. If I lived in a town that had a huge mortar and pestle, I'd get out and offer to take group shots for people. I'd think you'd get used to people taking pictures. This was one of the best stops...thus far on the trip.

Dixie Cup Water Tower

Dixie Cup Water Tower: 451 Harbison Road, Lexington, KY

  • Directions: From Hwy 460: Take 25 South/Broadway Street. This will turn into Lexington Rd and then Georgetown Rd. Turn left onto Mercer Rd. Follow until the water tower is in front of us.
Lexington is a great place for tacky places to stop. This was one of two stops we made in Lexington. I would've stopped for more, but it was nearing the end of the trip and we all wanted to get going towards home. This is a stop that doesn't disappoint. It is on the property of a Dixie Cup plant. You can't get really close to it, but you can still get really good pictures. I missed the opportunity of a lifetime by posing so it looked like I was holding it, but we got some good pictures. I will forever think of this stop when I drink from a Dixie Cup.

Daniel Boone's Grave

Daniel Boone's Grave: 215 E. Main St., Frankfort, KY

  • Directions: From Hwy 127: Take a right onto Hwy 60 (Louisville Rd). Follow Hwy 60/Louisville Rd/Taylor Ave/2nd Street/Capitol Ave/Main St. It will be in the Frankfort Cemetery.

I'm not one for cemeteries, they tend to creep me out. This was an amazingly gorgeous cemetery. It sits on a cliff of a river in Frankfort, and has a great view of the Kentucky capitol building and downtown Frankfort. There's a nice plaque and big statue type thing where his grave is. It was worth driving through Frankfort to see. The graves are all really old, and it's hard to imagine people lived so long ago. It was also hard NOT to imagine zombies coming up to grab you. As I said, cemeteries creep me out, so my imagination was out of control there. My imagination was kept in check when my sisters kept getting close to the edge of the cliff to get me freaking out too.

World's Largest Cross

World's Largest Cross: Effingham, IL

This was our first stop on our trip to, and along, the World's Longest Garage Sale (which was blogged about here). We had been driving for hours, and it was about 1am when we got to this site. I had written down directions, we could see it, but we couldn't find our way to the cross. I don't know if it was because I had been in the car for about 6 or 7 hours when we got there, but I didn't think it was as big as the cross in Groom, TX. The one in Groom you could see miles and miles before you got to it, and it was huge when you were a mile or so away from it. This one, you couldn't see until you got to the exit for it. I tried taking pictures from the gas station we filled up at, which was about a mile from the cross, and it was tiny. I couldn't get a good picture of it. The one that I have posted here is the best one I could get from the road, right near it. I will always stand by my opinion that the Groom, TX cross is the largest cross, at least in the Western Hemisphere.

National Mustard Day

National Mustard Museum: Middleton, WI

There are so many tacky festivals in Wisconsin, and this one is the best! Every year on the first Saturday in August, the Mustard Museum hosts National Mustard Day. It's always been in Mt. Horeb, WI (a 30 minute drive from Madison), and has had a small town feel to it. There are samples of mustard everywhere you turn, a car show with all yellow cars that are being judged as to which one is the closest color to yellow mustard (judges walk around with a plate that has French's mustard squirted on it), mustard related games, and the Dutchess of Mustard walking around taking pictures with people. It's been a great festival. The museum is fun too. There are many bottles of mustard from around the country, and around the world. There's a video that's playing on how to make mustard and other mustard curiousities. In general, the museum in Mt. Horeb was small, but quaint. They had a big sales area with a "mustard bar" for sampling mustard before you bought it. This summer I'll have to check out the new location in Middleton.

Captain Morgan

Captain Morgan: Pirate's Cove, Wisconsin Dells, WI

This past summer my friends and I made our way up to the Dells (quite possibly the tackiest place in Wisconsin) for a day of fun. It was cold and kind of cloudy, so we passed on the normal pilgrimage to the waterpark. We decided to spend the day mini golfing and window shopping. The mini golf place, Pirate's Cove, is very tacky with all sorts of pirate stuff. It's fun just looking at all of the tacky things there. The best one that we saw was the Captain Morgan in the playground in the picnic area. I couldn't believe that they would put a pirate that looks like him in a children's play place. I HAD to take a picture of this! If there weren't kids running around all over the playground, I would've taken the opportunity to pose with him.

Cowboy Muffler Man

Cowboy Muffler Man: Plainview Rd, Sherman, TX

I don't know what is up with "muffler men", but there are a whole lot of them in this country I've learned. In the Dallas area, there's this muffler man, and one that looks like the guy from MAD magazine. I guess there's some sort of rivalry between them. We wanted to see both, but decided the other one wasn't going to be on our way to anywhere. It turns out, we took our friend to the airport before heading back home, and we saw the other muffler man as we drove by. We didn't have time to snap a picture of it. When we finally found this muffler man on our way home, I got us lost trying to find it on the way down to Dallas, we weren't disappointed. This one was in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. The locals were looking at us like we were freaks, but com'on, who wouldn't stop to take a picture of this! There was no parking or place to park other than the side of the road, so my friend I was traveling with got out to take the pictures while I kept the car safe. It was well worth going off the beaten path to find this muffler man.