Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Alcatraz Souvenirs

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- Karen

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Welcome to The Rock

A little over 4 years ago, I visited Alcatraz for the first time as a tourist and on this recent trip, I brought out-of-town visitors. To see my 2008 posts, start here.
Today, by Pier 33 where passengers wait to take the Alcatraz ferry is a huge model of the island.

During the 20 minute ferry ride, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and Alcatraz Island come into view.

Before we disembarked, I took a picture of the lower deck of the ferry.
There is plenty of room indoors, but most people prefer to be on the upper decks with no windows to hamper the view of the scenery.

From the ferry's upper open deck, you can see Building 64, what used to be residential apartments for the guards who worked on the island and previous to that it housed soldiers when the island was a military prison.

This was once the Officer's Club where it served as a general store when the island was a military prison in the early 1900's. When the island was converted into a federal prison in 1934, it served as a recreation hall, gym, 2-lane bowling alley and soda fountain for the prison guards. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1970 and all that is left is the concrete skeleton.

The highlight of visiting Alcatraz, in my opinion, is going through a self-guided audio tour of the cellhouse at the top of the island. Included with the price of the round-trip ferry ride, visitors walk through the interior with headsets listening to recorded voices of former guards and prisoners. The audio is available in multiple languages and it is highly recommended.

If you have seen the old Clint Eastwood movie "Escape from Alcatraz", you might remember the opening in this cell. After working for months on an escape plan, on June 11, 1962, three inmates escaped from Alcatraz through their cell's 6"x9" vent. To date, no one allegedly knows what happened to them. You can read more about this successful escape here.

This row is the Isolation area and is said to be haunted. It is reserved for the most dangerous or violent inmates who were not allowed to leave their cells for exercise. The cells with the heavy doors were known as "The Hole" where prisoners are shrouded in complete darkness for days and given a restricted diet.
There are some night tours and even overnight tours of Alcatraz, but I prefer day tours just in case these ghosts are real. :D

A docent gives a talk at the prison's former mess hall.

According to the sign at the entrance to the mess hall, experienced inmates thought Alcatraz served the best food of all the Federal prisons. One of the prison regulations was "Take all that you wish, eat all that you take."

After 29 years in operations, Alcatraz closed on March 21, 1963 due to growing operating expenses.
The menu you see at the top is the last meal served here.

Behind the bars where all those people in the previous photo were looking at is the prison's kitchen. Yes, inmates worked here and used sharp utensils. The board to the far left is an outline of all the knives used in the kitchen. The outline made it easier for guards to spot any missing utensils.

- Karen

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bird Island?

What are these birds squawking at?
I visited Alcatraz Island yesterday and discovered it has turned into a bird island. It must be breeding season because there were seagulls and seagull chicks everywhere. Perhaps this was how the Birdman of Alcatraz started.

Here is the answer to the question...
The juvenile seagulls were hungry and screaming at momma or papa for food.
I read that for seagulls, both parents feed their offsprings.

This is a younger seagull than the previous bunch.
You can still see the spots from the baby chick stage.

Many think seagulls are a nuisance, but have you ever seen cute seagull chicks?

The Brandt Cormorants own this part of Alcatraz Island.
You can see the San Francisco skyline in the distance.

- Karen

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Mailboxes To Go

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- Karen

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Garden Sculptures

Not far from Elkhorn Slough is this garden art gallery.
I don't know if I would want these sculptures in my garden, but they are certainly intriguing.

I would not mind having this in my garden as the squirrels and other critters would love to climb it and I can tell everyone Paris is in my backyard.

Two stowaways commandeering a boat or are they enjoying the view of their fish meal below?

Hmmm, I am still trying to figure out what this one means.
I must not have any imagination.

- Karen

Friday, July 20, 2012

Protected Species

A few weeks ago, I traveled through Elkhorn Slough in a large pontoon boat that can probably hold up to 30 people.
Workers from the National Marine Sanctuary kept a close eye on visitors to ensure the wildlife are not disturbed.

We spotted Brandt's Cormorants that have occupied a wooden pier.

A raft of sea lions invaded a man-made island. Their overcrowded quarter appears to be quite uncomfortable.

Whereas these sea lions with plenty of elbow room live harmoniously with the pelicans.

A group of sea otters have not a care in the world, just a simple life to lie in the water and enjoy their seafood meals.

- Karen

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Afternoon Nap

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- Karen

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Downtown Jackson, Wyoming

This is the main thoroughfare of downtown Jackson, Wyoming.
It isn't very large, but it is big on tourist shops, eateries, and traffic.

The sidewalks made of wooden planks give it a rustic look.
On this cold and rainy May, the place only had a handful of visitors, but I bet the benches are packed during the warm summer months.

I didn't notice this until I got home.
Most saloons are for those 21 years of age or older, but a "family saloon" is news to me.

The town has many galleries selling sculptures like this one by Gary Lee Price called "Ever the Twain Shall Meet".

Or, this one by Vic Payne called "Memories".

This statue is in the middle of the town square park also known as the George Washington Memorial Park.
I believe this statue is dedicated to John Colter, one of the early explorers to this area of the west in the early 1800's.
If I am not mistaken, the names inscribed in the plaques below are a memorial to veterans from the area.

This sculpture needs no introduction.
It is stationed outside an antique store and he looks a little overused.

They take their guns seriously here.
This pair are door handles to an art gallery.

No, there aren't real gunfights here anymore, just wild west shows for summer tourists.

Heed the warning about following traffic rules.

- Karen

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cowboy Bar

In downtown Jackson, Wyoming is the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
It was originally a doctor's office, then a bank, a cafe, and finally a bar.
It was the first bar in Wyoming to receive a liquor license after Prohibition in the 1930's.

The knobbled pine gives the exterior an distinctive look.

During my research for this post, I could not find why one of its many owners had come to name it The Million Dollar Bar, but perhaps it could have been all the silver coins that are embedded on top of the bar.

My favorite part of the bar is the saddle stools.
I could not wait to get on one.

They had normal chairs and tables too.

The interior has low-lighting and decorated with many cowboy memorabilias.

What is a bar without pool tables?

Along with cowboy and wilderness etchings on its exterior wall is this plaque by the local preservation board in recognition for maintaining and preserving this building for 50 years or more.

- Karen