Category Archives: USA
Our friend in Asheville thought we would enjoy the LaZoom City Comedy Tour and she was right on point.
The 90-minute open-air bus tour winds its way through charming Asheville and manages to impart quite a bit of local flavor and history between the funny, corny, and sometimes bawdy, commentary.
This is a great city – chock full of unique locally owned shops and restaurants (over 90%) and more craft breweries than anywhere else in the country. You can bet the breweries are mentioned during this tour, which allows consumption of wine and/or beer while on board, and includes a rest stop at the Green Man Brewery.
Two facts that made an impression:
- despite the ghost stories, no one died during the Civil War’s Battle of Asheville, and
- last month Asheville’s nationally renowned Wicked Weed Brewing company sold out to Anheuser-Busch. We hope it’s not the start of a trend.
Check out their website for times, fees and other tour options: http://www.lazoomtours.com/
It’s easy to take things for granted. Many of us never take the time to see what’s in our own backyard.
Miami’s Stiltsville was a unique, raucous, lively, storied, and often infamous, cluster of shack houses about a mile offshore in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Known for both wild parties and old-fashioned family weekends in the sun, Stiltsville was a destination that promised fun and a hint of the unknown.
When I moved to Miami in the 70s, I took Stiltsville for granted, passing up opportunities to visit. The community had rebounded from Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Betsy in ‘65. But then, on August 24, 1992 – it was gone. Or at least most of it was gone. What was left after the fierce winds of Hurricane Andrew was mired in controversy and political wrangling. Not considered old enough (50 years) for designation by the National Trust for Historic Places, powerful people wanted the remaining seven damaged structures demolished.
My husband and I were among the fortunate few when we recently visited Stiltsville on a glorious, sunny afternoon, and spent some very special time (with very special friends) relaxing at the colorful Bay Chateau House.
For four decades, our good friends’ family owned home #14, “Haven from Slavin.” I’ve always enjoyed their family stories of weekends spent fishing, swimming and exploring the tidal flats surrounding the homes. Water levels on the flats are 2-3’ and during low tide drop to just a few inches; a perfect aquatic playground. Their three sons, now with children of their own, enjoy an exceptional shared history of their days on the Bay. It’s one of those sons who is now part of a group of caretakers for the Bay Chateau House.
Today, there are no private owners left at Stiltsville. Instead, there is the unusual relationship forged by the Park Service and former owners; the non-profit, public-private Stiltsville Trust formed in 2003. Owners were transitioned to caretakers of this incredible resource. The U.S. Government now owns the entire area, a part of America’s only national park 95% under water, Biscayne National Park. Visitors can see the area by boat, but very few have the opportunity to actually enter one of the homes.
At its height in the 60s, there were 27 buildings, most on pilings raising them about 10’ above the sandy flats. Earliest records indicate man-made structures as early as 1922, and in the 30s Eddie “Crawfish” Walker sold bait and beer from a shack nailed to a barge. Later in the 30s, things got really hopping with off-shore private clubs. Then the Quarterdeck Club had a long run from the 40s until it burned in 1961, but much of Stiltsville’s boisterous reputation is due to the Bikini Club. The Bikini Club, run out of a yacht towed out and grounded in 1962, made quite a name for itself in its short three-year history. Its reputation was for hard-drinking, gambling, nude sunbathing and who knows what else. The club was closed down for operating without a liquor license and possession of 40 under-size, out-of-season crawfish.
Private clubs notwithstanding, most of the stilt homes were owned by private families, who just loved the beauty, freedom and camp-like vibe of the natural setting. Of the seven surviving structures, one is the Miami Springs Power Boat Club started by firefighters, policemen and workers who lived near the airport. The others are known as the Leshaw House, Hicks House, Baldwin-Sessions House, Ellenburg House and A-frame House.
I’m told by locals that Flipper’s famous TV scene going from deck to Bay was filmed at the A-frame House. Stiltsville also had many famous human visitors, including several Florida governors, local judges, Steven Stills, rib-master Tony Roma and Ted Kennedy. It’s been featured on film and in print, including TV shows Miami Vice and Sea Hunt, as well as several books by local best-selling author Carl Hiaasen.
Who knows what treasure will be the next to disappear. Look around . . . while you can.
For More Info:
For a well-done 30-minute documentary produced by WLRN and featuring local expert, professor Dr. Paul George, visit Stiltsville through this link: http://video.wlrn.org/video/2365452261/
Biscayne National Park: https://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm
Check out my latest Pinecrest Magazine story: about lost love; or is it?
Magic, Madness or Marvel? Miami’s Historic Coral Castle Just Might be a Little Bit of Each
Thanks to our daughter and her fiancé we had a wonderful time on our morning whale-watching excursion. Leaving from Balboa Island at 9 AM, I quickly forgot my concerns about the (really) chilly weather and potentially rough seas, when we spotted two grey whales just as we left the harbor. We followed the whales for quite a while as they headed south on their long journey from Alaska to Mexico. As the marine haze lifted it turned into a beautiful, clear day.
During the 2-hour trip with Newport Coastal Adventures, we zoomed around in a 6-passenger zodiac at 20-30 mph and that was a thrill ride all its own. Another highlight was finding ourselves in the middle of a pod of hundreds of playful common dolphin.
It was a blast. We loved it!
We are having a really nice time in Southern California. It’s been very chilly (I wore four layers to play golf), breezy and dry; a really lovely part of our country. The Rancho Valencia Resort is stunning with lush landscaping and lots of privacy. My favorite residential architectural style has always been Spanish/Mexican, so I feel right at home among the terracotta, colorful tile and beautiful courtyards.
We have enjoyed spending time with friends, making new friends, exploring the area and hitting more than our fair share of the area’s wonderful restaurants. I loved the 90 year-old vintage charm of the restaurant in La Jolla’s ocean-front La Valencia Hotel. As far as seafood, our meals at The Fish Market in Solana Beach and The Pacific Coast Grill in Cardiff were top-notch.
I found La Jolla disappointing and preferred the aptly named Rancho Santa Fe with its stables, ranches and rolling hills. We’ve even had hot air balloons firing-up along the winding roads here. As far as coastal towns, I’ll take the quirky beach vibe in Solana Beach any day. A shout out to my friend Andi for directing me to the charming, unique shops on Cedros in Solana Beach. It was a lot of fun. The guys have played a lot of golf, but I only played one round at the Del Mar Country Club – where our foursome was among the five total players on the course for the day – felt like we owned the place.
We’ve even managed to fit in a visit to the famous San Diego Zoo. One hundred years old this year, they are in the midst of some serious (and behind schedule) renovations. They need the improvements, much of the Zoo is a bit tired and animal areas are smaller than I like to see. It made me realize how great our young ZooMiami has become.
Now, if they can only do something about the traffic . . . .
Biggest college game ever – 156,990!
VOLS prevailed over Virginia Tech 45-24.
It was hot, we walked a lot, both bands were great. Sassy, well-fed gals behind us kept up running commentary – but Southern girls do know football. Loved seeing Lee Greenwood sing “Proud to be an American.” BTW, that Hokie band actually played “Do the Hokey Pokey.”
“Rocky Top Tennessee” – best game song ever!
Our final adventure of this road-trip was a tour of the Corvette plant and museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Early in the itinerary we got to see hundreds of thousands of Harleys, truly hogging the roads in the Black Hills. Today was a more fitting comfort level for my husband, who is a Corvette-owner.
The one million square foot plant is where all Corvettes have been assembled since 1981 (earlier Vettes were put together in Dearborn MI and St. Louis, MO). It was an interesting tour and fun to learn about some of the new features, like the in-car camera to record drives. The facility has the feel of organized chaos with conveyors running in all directions overhead, delivering car parts to various sectors of the plant. They were on target for completing 160 cars that day; 10 were finished during our tour. Every Vette is pre-ordered and paid for in advance.
The museum was nice; way more historical detail about Corvettes than I need to know. The most interesting part to me was seeing the area where the sinkhole claimed 8 cars a couple of years ago. In a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade, the museum has created a detailed interactive exhibit and displayed the 8 damaged cars, or what was left of them-not much.
The cute Corvette Café proved to be a good spot for lunch before heading home.
4,400 miles since we headed across the country, we were back in our own bed.
For your next travel adventure, see the USA!
Sidebar: You can book the plant tour and museum visit on-line ($16 combo ticket). http://www.corvettemuseum.org/. Be sure to allow ample time to park, the tour entry is at least ¼ mile from the parking area. You cannot take anything into the plant – no camera, phone, purse, backpack, etc. – nada. You need to wear closed shoes and don’t need to worry about a jacket, it was on the warm side.