Saturday, April 26, 2008

Legends of America in Hollywood Magazine

Before I write part two of our Utah Adventure, I must catch everyone up on Kathy's little interview with a Hollywood Magazine. As I mentioned in my blog "The Las Vegas Launch Pad", Kathy met me out in Vegas on a Wednesday, patiently waiting for me to wrap up work at the NAB Convention. She doesn't do the Vegas thing very well, so instead, she gallivants off through the country side finding more ghost towns to write about, and meeting off the wall, interesting people along the way.

While Kathy was driving out in the boonies of Nevada, she gets a call from a gal identifying herself as being with OK Magazine. She wanted to talk to Kathy about Route 66, and in particular, the Blue Whale just outside of Tulsa Oklahoma. Kathy starts going into her usual Route 66 rant, thinking that it was someone from an Oklahoma Magazine. Then the gal asks Kathy why she thinks that Brad and Angelina should take their kids there. ....pregnant pause... "Brad and Angelina who?" "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie!"..."This is who again?" "OK Magazine"...."Oh, Brangelina!"

Needless to say Kathy isn't used to being asked about Hollywood stars, but it was a good for a thrill anyway. This week, OK Magazine released their May 5th edition, and theres Kathy's quote right on page 48. What's even more cool is the fact this is the second time in less than a year Kathy has been associated (in round about ways) with Hollywood. The first time was via the Special Edition DVD of "3:10 to Yuma", and her work appearing in a documentary included on the disc. My gal and her site are getting around more and more. Don't worry though...I'll keep her grounded in the Old West.

Ps. I still promise to write part 2 of our Utah Adventure. Hope to get to that before weekends over, but may get interrupted by a quick trip to Toronto. Check back soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Utah Adventure Part 1 - Ever Changing Landscapes

The coffee pot at this Super 8 Motel in Green River is a bit distracting, noisily brewing our second pot of 'in room' java. It's a distraction that Kathy and I are enjoying however considering we didn't have any coffee at the Super 8 in Kanab yesterday, not even from the fancy brew station in the office. And coffee is definitely needed before starting out on our next portion of this Utah Adventure.

Our journey together wouldn't begin until Friday. I had just wrapped up a successful week with my real job in Radio Automation at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas. It was a fantastic show, with our product winning a 2008 Cool Stuff Award from Radio World. Kathy had met me at the Hilton Wednesday night and was experiencing some cool stuff of her own, including a call from OK Magazine with one of the most unusual requests she has come across yet. Wish I could write all the details here, but I gotta wait until after the April 23rd edition of OK Magazine hits news stands. Be sure to check back for all the details next week. She also had some interesting experiences with the local folk at Good Springs Nevada, but I'll let her tell that tale in her own blog.

Vegas to Zion....

Both of us on a good role, and excited to get out of Vegas, we hit the road Friday morning up I-15 toward Utah, taking an unrelated side stop at St George to see a co-worker of mine. Beautiful second home for my California friend, and experiencing the land scape I could understand why many from that state would migrate there. It was only the beginning of our true appreciation for this incredible state however, as being Kansans I don't think we realized the incredible beauty that Utah has to offer.

From St. George we shot up past Leeds and turned off on on State 17 through Toquerville, where just a short ways out we experienced our first quirkiness in Ash Creek. Kathy gets excited over some of the strangest things, so it was no surprise she would be forcing me into a u-turn as soon as we passed the Shoe Tree. Yes, a tree full of shoes hanging by their strings. I know, exciting stuff huh. Keep in mind I'm traveling with a woman that wants to buy land, create a road on it called PP Highway, and put a bottle out house at the end. A little further up the road after turning off on State Highway 9, we were stopping again at Virgin Utah, and Kathy being Kathy just had to get a picture of herself standing below the sign. She offered to take mine in return, but I didn't find the notion as flattering, considering I turn 40 this August (Steve Carell reference).

We almost missed our first targeted Ghost Town. Grafton is hidden off the road near Rockville, and if you blink you'll miss the sign toward the east edge of Rockville that points you there. You can tell that the area is an artists haven, with beautiful landscapes and the towering cliffs of Zion National Park nearby. There are still several structures from the 1800's settlement, including a church that appears to be well maintained. While we were there we spotted a local painter taking advantage of a gorgeous blue sky day, capturing a small, luscious green field and cozy little home perched at the edge valley in the shadows of the cliffs nearby. Definitely a good stop for ghost town enthusiast's and those just dreaming of a beautiful place to live.

After Grafton and Rockville, we reached Springdale and crossed into Zion National Park. Travelers should note you have to pay to travel this highway through the park, but it's worth every penny of the $25 admission (2008 rates). Huge monolithic red cliffs carved over millions of years that made us immediately feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of earths life. Awed at the beauty, then amazed at the ingenuity of workers back in the late 1920's who completed a mile long tunnel through one of the cliffs, allowing visitors to pass to the other side and beyond into the next valley below. It would be our first National Park on this trip, and just a teaser for the views to come.

Only Dummies speed through Kanab....

After leaving the park we turned off Highway 9 back south toward Kanab on State Highway 89. We probably would have turned north, but looking at the maps we didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling about any other places to stay within reach that late in the day. Kanab is a quaint little town, but large enough to offer several choices of hotels. Home to the Kanab Movie Ranch, several westerns have been filmed here, from "The Outlaw Jose Wales" to "The Lone Ranger". We made sure to get a feel of the town, traveling all the way through to make sure we wouldn't miss anything.

On the other side of town we passed one of the local sheriffs officers sitting on the side of the road. Being my friendly self I thought about waving, but then realized something was a 'off' in his demeanor. "I think that's a dummy!" My proclamation sounding unsure as we made our U-turn back into town. Kathy now insisting that I pull up beside the cruiser so she can get a pic, while my mind racing to prepare questions to ask the officer in case I was mistaken. I wasn' was a dummy sitting with his eye slightly turned toward his side mirror, giving one the impression as you passed by that he was closely monitoring your movements. "I guess that's one way to save the tax payer!" Now giddily amused at our find, we head back to the main intersection, ready to turn East to explore the rest of the town. At the other end we passed by another officer on the side of the road, and Kathy was already squawking for me to slow down least until we saw him turn his head. Enough of that quirkiness, we got a room and called it a night.

If you ever go through Kanab, make sure to stop and eat at Houston's Trails End. Talk about your hometown goodness with a touch of Old West flare! The waitresses wear gun holsters to keep their pen and tickets handy, and greet you with a darling smile. And the food, oh my the food...I had a Spanish Omlet that morning that could have been my only meal of the day. Stuffed with all that you would expect, then add in a special seasoned taco meat...YUM YUM. Just thinking about it, I may have to go find myself a snak before finishing this blog...I'm hungry all over again.

Kanab to Green River...Are we on another Planet?

After finishing off a great breakfast at Houstons, we traveled north on 89, then East on Highway 12. First on our agenda that morning was Bryce Canyon National Park, a must see attraction into the weird wonders of mother natures force. Carved out of the sides of a Canyon, huge spiral columns of red rock give the appearance of giant stilagmites as you peer over their incredible beauty toward the valley below. Looks like the National Park calls them Hoodoos, but what ever they are, I had no idea we had such enormous beauty in Utah. There are lots of hiking trails through the hoodoos, so if you're in shape and want an adventure, this is a great stop. It will cost you another $25 (2008 rate) to get into the park. Kathy had the foresight to purchase an Annual National Parks pass ($80- 2008 rate) back at Zion, so we were covered.

After Bryce, we started back down into the valley below to check out some Ghost Towns near Cannonville. All that remains really is a cemetery and a couple of old, falling down houses that used to be Georgetown. This was also the first time we noted how desolate and unwelcoming the landscape was in this part of Utah. I couldn't imagine how anyone could live off this land, though the beauty that surrounds it is nice. Very dry, dusty and overall seems to be unsupporting of life back in the Old West...I guess there could have been more water back then, but it's not there anymore, and neither are the Ghost Towns we were out to seek.

Continuing on Highway 12 through Henryville, the road changes to "A Journey Through Time Bye-Way". This stretch to Escalante was just unreal. The grey rock and dirt that cover parts of the trip are a sharp contrast to the bright red columns of Bryce Canyon, and you almost have the feel you have been launched to the moon. It's the strangest landscape we'd seen on this journey, and a great place to "drive through".

We made another stop in Boulder to see the Anasazai Indian Village State Park. Nice little museum and relatively recent discovered ruins mark the most northern evidence of the Anasazai race in America. Don't expect Mesa Verde here, but if you are an Native American history buff, it's a good stop. We couldn't stay long as we still had plenty of Utah to cover, so on up Highway 12 we went, turning east on Highway 24 to our next target, Capital Reef National Park and the Ghost Town of Fruita.

Now this was right up Kathy and I's alley. The drive to the park was nice I guess, but inside was more incredible views of the Monolithic Red cliffs, with a beautiful green valley that was home to many until the 1950's. Fruita's economy appeared to be dominated by Cherry Orchards, and several building's have been well maintained for visitors to catch a glimpse of what life was like.

While stopped at one of the historic buildings we spied a barn off the side of the road with a couple of horses milling about. I thought it would be a good picture opportunity to get Kathy petting one of them, so I called one over. It seemed eager enough to greet us, but as soon as Kathy reached out to pet it, the horse bit her arm. It was just a nip, but made Kathy re-think what she believed was her natural animal magnetism.

Just beyond Fruita is a scenic drive that takes you along the path of the pioneers. It's a slow go, and will cost you $10 (2008 rate), or National Parks Pass, but a good journey back in time eventually through a Gorge that towers above you closely on each side. We almost felt claustrophobic in some places, but the incredible surroundings were enough to push on. At the end of the road you park and hike through the canyon another mile or so to see an authentic Pioneer Register carved into the canyon walls. There's also a couples of Petroglyph's from ancient Indians along the way that give you a real since you've stepped back in time. For us, definitively worth the hike.

By this time Kathy and I are worried about where we are going to stay the night. Our travel plans take us on northeast toward Green River, however it's late enough to call it a day in Hanksville. As we exit the park, the landscape changes yet again, becoming more desolate as we move on, and while I'm sure Hanksvilles a nice place, we didn't get the feeling there would be any Pizza delivery, much less wireless internet. So on to Green River we went, up 24 to I-70, then a jog east to Green River.

Next on the agenda, more incredible Utah beauty in State and National Parks, then some more of what we really came to Utah for....Ghost Towns of the American West.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Vegas Launch Pad

As I stare out my hotel window a block off the strip, I can see the lights of the Old Vegas, still shining, but maybe not as bright as they once were. 12 stories up in the Las Vegas Hilton, I peer to the left and see the New Vegas, it's neon seemingly brighter, beckoning in it's Disney like, yet corporate way for me to leave the comfort of my room and venture into their fantasy world of constant bells and chimes, begging for me to stick in that next $20 bill with the false promise of riches as a reward.

It's 3am. Back home in Kansas City I would still be dreaming...jumbled thoughts racing at 'rem' speed, on the verge of the magic moment where the days revelation, quickly to be forgotten, brings me out of blissful rest. Not today. Not in Vegas. Here I wake early, trouble finding rest for my weary mind as anticipation of the week ahead works to a frenzy. It's quickly becoming a yearly tradition, this restless dance that promises adventure and memories abound.

For the past several years, each April I travel to sin city as part of my wonderful career in Radio Broadcasting. It's the annual National Association of Broadcasters Convention, bringing thousands of visitors from around the world to see the latest innovations in Television and Radio. Doesn't really mean a whole lot to those not in the industry, but for some companies it's make or break for their products. At first, for me, it was a nice distraction from the daily office routine. A chance to meet many of the clients I'd only visualized through the other end of a phone line. And they never look they way they sound...the guy with the deepest and ballsiest voice is usually the 5'6" scrawny disc jockey who, when speaking, appears almost cartoonish with a voice that could never match their physic. The whole Vegas experience quickly became routine after only a couple of years, and it was almost robotic how I prepared my mind for the four days of standing on the show room floor, almost losing my voice, preaching the gospel of our latest Radio Automation software.

That all changed when I met Kathy, and my travels to Vegas took on a new dimension through Legends of America. For her, it was the perfect staging area for searching out ghost towns and history of the American West. She makes it a point to coordinate her trip so that she meets me here in Vegas about a day before I'm finished with the convention. Travels close to Vegas while I wrap up work, then takes me on a longer adventure as soon I'm done. In 2006, we traveled down to northern areas of Arizona, spending some time at the Grand Canyon and concentrating efforts for her in depth work on Route 66. It was a nice trip, but by then the whole Route 66 trek was becoming old hat for me. I think it was Kathy's 2nd or 3rd round on the Mother Road, making sure to document each and every detail of those out of the way places that once thrived before the Interstate stole away their life's breath.

Last year she changed things up a bit. Instead of meeting me in Vegas, she flew into Phoenix. Spent a couple of days traveling northern Arizona visiting some very interesting 'way out of the way' ghost towns of the Old West. As soon as the NAB dog and pony show was over, I met her there and we started making our way south. Once we got through Tucson and started down I-19, I quickly realized just how south we were. Border Patrol agents in green and white Home Land Security trucks dotting the road every few miles as we moved in closer to Nogales on the Mexico border.

The real adventure began when we veered off the interstate, out to seek our featured destination of the day, Ruby Arizona. After about a mile on the state highway it occurred to me. "I'll just bet we see some illegal immigrants sneakin in on this trip"... The words still hanging in the air of our rented Jeep when out of the corner of my eye I caught a small group of men running through the brush just a few yards from the road. Being raised in the Texas Panhandle, then living in Kansas for so long, it caught me by surprise. I mean, think about often do you see a group of men running through desert brush, then all simultaneously hitting the deck as soon as they spot you. I didn't know how to react, so I went with my first instinct and quickly put on the brakes as I declared "Like those right there!"

Now, I know I'm the one who stopped, but as Kathy started turning on her camera and moved toward the door handle, a since of panic hit that told me I should hit the gas as quickly as I hit the brake. "Wait! I've got to get a picture of this" Kathy said, as each man peered up like prairie dogs then quickly ducked back down. Too late, my chicken shit ass was out of there, not wanting to stick around for the spectacle and hoping that just one of those Homeland Security trucks would appear out of thin air. As we built up distance between us, Kathy could see them jumping the road, almost seeming to laugh with glee as some kid would do playing hide and seek. It should have been our cue to be more prepared, and think through where we were heading, but we were focused on history, and Ruby was a Gold Mine.

We soon left our nicely paved State Highway, for the dirt and rock of a State Road. How they could call this a State Road was beyond me, aren't their rules for what qualifies? There were places washed out that I would never dare travel in my car, but we anticipated this and the Jeep made it just fine. Along the way we would see milk jugs of water placed along the side of the road, we assumed for the immigrants passing through. But as far as seeing any more, the hills of southern Arizona would shield them from our quizitive view.

We finally reached Ruby, and it was worth the effort. The once thriving mining town had a rich history, including bandits, murder and justice. We could even feel the ghostly presence of occupants past as we toured the abandoned school house, and had a wonderful time hearing the stories told by the lone occupant, hired by the lands owner to safe keep the towns historic treasures. By the time we were done, I was ready for more stable ground though, and glad to be heading to the hotel in Nogales.

Nogales it self has a great history, but that wasn't our focus. The next days travel started early as we had a busy schedule traveling along the border, seeing more ghost towns once thriving on Arizona's mining opportunities back in the late 1800's. Towns like Harshaw and Washington Camp that would delight Kathy for days digging up stories of yesteryear. The plan was to stick as close to the border as possible, traveling down some pretty desolate back roads at a snails pace, dragging out what was probably a 70 mile trip over toward Bisbee, to a day long adventure.

Kathy and I, still in our gh0st town bliss, were ignorant to the danger we were putting ourselves in. We finally realized just how much danger when after a long stretch without seeing a single soul, we happened upon five border patrol vehicles. Their watchful eyes as we passed by should have been enough to tell us we shouldn't be there, and as one of the agents pulled in behind us, thoughts of being interrogated raced through my mind. He never 'pulled us over', just kept a distance behind as we made our way toward more abandoned ruins. As we finally stopped to take pictures, the agent slowly made his way beside the jeep and stopped. "What are you folks up to out here?" His eyes moving toward the back of the jeep, then landing on Kathy in the passenger seat...her straw cowboy hat pitched back with a silly grin on her face as she held a map up declaring "Ghost Town Huntin!" The agents eyes seemingly relieved as he quickly sized us up as tourists and didn't bother getting out of his truck. "We normally don't get visitors like you back here. Usually their too scared"...."Scared of what?" I retorted, trying to imagine what would be so bad, other than a few illegal immigrants crossing our path. "Drug smugglers mainly", the agent's voice rang out with a tinge of amusement at just how naive we were.

It hadn't even crossed our mind. You hear about it all the time in the news, but for what ever reason we were so caught up in our adventure, we never stopped to think about the real danger of running into less desirables in the middle of a drug transaction. People who wouldn't think twice about shooting us on the spot, or stealing our Jeep, leaving us deserted, miles away from any civilization. Needless to say, Kathy and I didn't stick around long, and soon we were back on our way to Bisbee, thankful for the reminder that ghost town hunting should be better thought out.

The rest of our trip was fantastic. Catching the sites of Tumbstone, Bisbee and many other notable Old West main stays. The trip wasn't long enough though, and Kathy and I have said more than once that we need to hit that area of Arizona again. It gave her plenty of writing material though, and both of us some great memories.

This year, Kathy's meeting me in Vegas again. She'll arrive Wednesday, day before my work is wrapped up. Plans on hitting a ghost town or two she didn't get on the last trip nearby, then Thursday doing Route 66 again out to Barstow and back. Friday, we're heading out for Utah, where we will spend the next several days visiting places of yesteryear and digging up history. I'm sure it will be another great adventure, with plenty to blog about here in the days to come. In the meantime, it's daylight now, and time for me to come back to reality. Vegas awaits to tempt my wallet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Awesome March

The numbers are in for March, and Legends Of America saw over 480, 000 unique visitors stop by. According to Awstats, here's the breakdown

Reported period Month Mar 2008
First visit 01 Mar 2008 - 00:00
Last visit 31 Mar 2008 - 23:59

Unique visitorsNumber of visitsPagesHits
Traffic viewed *480546
(1.34 visits/visitor)
(2.58 Pages/Visit)
(55.97 Hits/Visit)

So what were you reading about in March? Well, for the most part, Jesse James continued to have a strong hold, mainly due to the release of the DVD "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". The Top 10 search phrases (out of over 247,000) that brought visitors to Kathy's website were:

jesse james2.2 %
route 662 %
robert ford0.8 %
la llorona0.7 %
doc holliday0.5 %
doc holiday0.5 %
geronimo0.4 %
wyatt earp0.3 %
harriet tubman0.3 %
calamity jane0.3 %

Besides the main page and search results, the Top Ten pages visited were:


We're working on getting stats from last year for a comparison, but due to the server move in February it's taking a while. We have the data, it's just that it's on Kathy's computer. And getting Kathy to relinquish her computer long enough for me to get the data off is a challenge. She works on the premise that no matter what's wrong with her computer, or what's needed, there's never time to stop updating stories, restoring photos, and answering emails. Now, you might wonder why I don't just do it while she's taking her daily power nap, or in the middle of the night while she's sawing logs. That's because she never closes any of her work, and if I just happen to reboot I'm afraid I'll be sleeping on the couch for a week. So, I've resigned myself to the fact that there must be a distraction that will prompt her to let me do my techy stuff.

That distraction will come soon enough as Kathy meets me out in Las Vegas next week while I'm on a business trip, and we take a few days to travel through parts of Utah on another adventure. She has to turn off that damn laptop to travel, and I'm sure I can get access to the data from the hotel room before she starts her day. It's going to be a fun trip to Utah, and one that will produce several blogs here for sure ;).