ROAD TALES III
:: JFK DALLAS ::
:: USAF MUSEUM :: ROY
ROGERS MUSEUM :: REAGAN
LIBRARY :: GRACELAND
:: SUN STUDIOS
MOVIE RANCH :: HIGH
DESERT EDEN :: HUBBARD
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS :: 9-11
GROUND ZERO :: ERB CONVENTIONS :: GRANDSTAND
On our first visit to New York
City we arrived at rush hour and were hemmed in by a sea of yellow cabs.
We escaped to Central Park where we stayed until the traffic was less hectic.
We then made our way to downtown. The only parking available was in an
alley where we had to leave our keys with a young black guy. Many of the
buildings at that time were run down and there were many strange street
people. We made our way along Broadway past a cat lady seated on a crate
and covered with squirming felines. Farther along, we and the sidewalk
crowd were hailed by a camera crew perched on a slow moving truck. We were
directed to pretend that we were looking in amazement at stage coach going
down Broadway while the cameras recorded our reactions. They were going
to film the actual stagecoach later and mix it all together. I believe
it was for an TV episode of McCloud. Soon after that we were rudely shoved
aside by a guy running past us and down into the subway entrance. We heard
a noise behind us and turned to see two police officers with guns drawn
coming at us. Quite an introduction to the Big Apple. We learned later
that the police were after a punk who had just robbed a liquor store. We
sampled NY food at a diner and rescued our home on wheels to make our escape
from Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. We found an abandoned lot in New
Jersey that had a good nighttime view of the Statue of Liberty across the
Hudson River. Come the dawn we headed south to find more adventures.
New York would be a much different city when we returned 40 years later.
In May 2006, we were invited by
Phil Collins and Danton Burroughs of ERB, Inc. to attend the Opening Night
Celebrations for Tarzan the Broadway Musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre
in New York City. We took advantage of our return visit to "The Big Apple"
to marvel at the changes that had occured since our first visit almost
40 years ago. We took in all the famous sites and sights, but our visit
to Ground Zero of the horrific 9-11 tragedy was probably the most emotional
experience. On this 15th Anniversary of 9-11, we've included a few our
photos of that visit in the accompanying poster collage. Be sure to click
full size -- viewing on computer monitor screens is recommended.
A visit to New Orleans is a musician's
dream. We had a great time exploring Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
Strolling along this famous street overlooked by balconies from which ladies
used to advertise their wares we enjoyed the almost non-stop music either
by street musicians or emanating from the open doors of the long string
of bars and clubs: exciting dixieland and blues. We paused to listen to
Huey "Piano" Smith ("Rockin' Pneumonia) before entering Al Hirt's Jazz
Club. Sometime during our Orleans stay we visited Fats Domino's fast food
restaurant -- alas, no sign of Fats. We would see Fats on a future visit
to Las Vegas however.
On one of our many USA visits in
the late '60s we slept in our station wagon most nights. When we reached
the Sunshine State we spent the night in an orange tree grove. Later, we
were suprised to learn that this was to be part of the location for Walt
Disney World that opened in late 1971. We were working on a very limited
budget but took in many tourist spots in the area. The area was just starting
to expand into the major tourist mecca it became after Disney opened shop
and we were amazed at how everything had grown when we returned with the
kids about 25 years later.
The main Florida attraction for
us on this early trip was Cape Canaveral where space and moon exploration
was getting into high gear. On our late '60s visit to Cape Canaveral we
were able to walk over the abandoned original launch pad that had been
used to launch the first successful space missions. We were also able to
explore an early command centre. While riding the shuttle bus to the mammoth
VAB Vehicle Assembly Building -- the largest single-story building in the
world -- the bus was stopped to allow the passing of a vehicle carrying
a huge rocket. Actually the "huge" rocket was the escape rocket that can
be see atop the main rocket. It looked much larger on the ground. It was
on its way to prepare for one of the Apollo launches. We also marvelled
at the Missile Crawler Transporter used to transport spacecraft from the
Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) along the Crawlerway to the launch pad.
We were back in Canada on tour in North Battleford, SK when the later July
16, 1969 Moon landing took place. We watched it on our small portable TV
our music tour bus.
1991 seemed a perfect time to make
a return to Florida. Our three kids were old enough to enjoy a road trip
to Disneywolrd, we were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and we
were about to move from our country home in Strathclair to Brandon where
we were taking over SOO'S, the family Chinese restaurant. This was to be
one of the last long trips made in our '70s Ford Funcraft camper. The kids
slept in the large bed above, while Sue-On and I stayed below on the main
pull-out bed. For much of the trip they entertained themselves with their
Legos spread all over the floor.
There were a few hazards on the
trail: 6-year-old China-Li fell out of the top bunk one night -- landing
on us in the bed below. The American Southland was very hot. We had no
air conditioning in the van and the heat from the engine kept us pretty
toasty through the day and well into the night. Once in Florida we fell
into a "Timeshare Demo" that offered an RV stay in exchange for listening
to a sales pitch over a meal. The sales guy quickly gave up on us and we
set up for a free stay in the Roy Rogers RV park. We parked by a small
lake and the kids set up a tent for the night. It was only later that we
learned that many of the local lakes were plagued with alligators. Luckily,
the kids survived. The hotel we eventually checked into at Kissimmee with
its A/C, shower, and soft beds was a welcomed destination and provided
a comfortable home base for our week-long adventure.
WALT DISNEY WORLD
The highlight of the trip for the
kids, of course, was "Wally World" -- a dreamworld for all ages. We took
a few days to explore all the attractions and rides. Little China-Li was
very disappointed when the wouldn't let her on some of the rides because
of her age and height: Thunder Mountain RR, Space Mountain, etc., but the
visits to Cinderella's Castle, Haunted Mansion, Downtown Boardwalk, Epcot,
MGM, et al and the rides on the monorail, Jungle Cruise, Small World, Pirate
of the Caribbean, lake boats, etc. made up for it. The nightly parade and
incredible fireworks displays provided a perfect conclusion to each day.
NASA: CAPE KENNEDY
There were considerable changes
at the Cape's Kennedy Space Centre when we and our three kids visited it
in 1991. The complex had expanded greatly and had many more attractions
for tourists. The control centre was far more advanced, rockets were larger
and we watched the construction of the very first modules of the International
Space Station. At that early stage of construction we were actually permitted
to walk through the modules in the construction area. There were many attractions
for tourists: museum, displays, I-Max, demonstrations and an actual retired
space shuttle to explore. Shuttle Commander Terry Wilcutt is brother to
our friend and fellow ERB fan, Dennis. Commander Wilcutt contributed an
article for my ERBzine.com site Volume
0435 describing how the SF works of Edgar Rice Burroughs had been a
major influence on him and his interest in space exploration.
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM &
BAILEY CIRCUS MUSEUM
As a youngster, my first exposure
to the razzle dazzle, lights, costumes, acrobats, music and excitement
of live entertainment was provided by the circus when it "came to town."
As a farmboy I had developed an appreciation of our many farm animals,
but the circus was my introduction to exotic animals from far-off lands:
elephants, lions, tigers, bears, show horses, huge snakes, et al. The thrill
of seeing these animals has stayed with me and fueled a lifelong love and
appreciation of wild animals and a love of travel to distant lands.
During our many summer tours of
Exhibitions we had worked and partied with many of the Midway performers
-- often from the Conklin Shows. I also had fond memories of the Royal
American Shows midway which thrilled me in my early days when they were
part of the Provincial Exhibition in Brandon. Many of the midway performers
and workers had told us that they wintered in Florida in the Sarasota area.
For this reason when we visited Florida, the Ringling Complex in Sarasota
was our first destination. We spent an afternoon exploring the multi-million
dollar Ca D'Zan mansion, Mable's rose garden, the art museum with a huge
collection of art, and a circus museum.
Ca d'Zan was circus owner John Ringling's
opulent mansion. He and his wife Mable chose Sarasota Bay as the site since
they loved the water, and it reminded them of the Grand Canal in Venice.
We explored all the mansions run-down rooms. The mansion was in such a
state of disrepair it was used as the location for Miss Havisham's decrepit
mansion in the Hollywood remake of Charles Dickens' classic Great Expectations
starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Close to the mansion was Mables Secret Rose Garden
which featured over 1000 rose bushes and many statues of loving couples.
The highlight for us was the statue
1200 rose plants are of the same
varieties she planted. The Circus Museum displayed costumes, wagons,
performance equipment, posters, photos and other artifacts chronicling
the history of the Circus.
BUSCH GARDENS and SEA WORLD
Busch Gardens were an interesting
visit. An exciting feature was a 70 acre enclosure, the “Serengeti Plain"--
the largest free-roaming enclosed habitat outside of Africa. The Monorail
was under repair but we rode the Serengeti Express Railroad to observe
the exotic African wildlife. The motto was “where people are caged and
animals run free.” We had lunch in the Moroccan Village, with cafes and
Moroccan craftsmen along with entertainment from acrobats, belly dancers,
sword swallowers, magicians and organ grinder monkeys.
There were a number of roller coaster-type
rides in the park. We rode the Tanganyika Tidal and the Stanley Falls Flume.
Both rides ended in a steep drop into a pool of water below. We were all
soaked - quite refreshing on such a hot day. On our way over to a theatre
show we passed the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, a group of Clydesdale
horses used for promotions and commercials by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing
The film in the theatre had a Fantastic
Voyage theme. This sounded intriguing, but when I learned that the highlight
of the theatre was "jiggle seats" I was disappointed. We had experienced
this effect in other theatres and I had always left the show with a bout
of motion sickeness. I left the rest of the family and walked over
to the brewery that offered a free tour and beer tasting. I walked past
a bird/animal show at the front of the building and rode a long, long escalator
-- "the stairway to the stars" -- to the roof where the tour began. The
tour was interesting and the cold Budweisser samples were refreshing. I
rejoined the family and we drove over to Sea World. I had a fascination
with this type of theme park since the early '50s via one of my Marineland
View-Master reels. Sea World was closer and larger so it was the one we
chose. The kids enjoyed the whale and dolphin antics in the pool and the
many ocean realated attractions.
Cypress Gardens with its formation
water skiers, vegetation, film location background, Butterfly House, and
light displays used to be THE attraction in Florida. It appeal has been
eclipsed in recent years by all the new theme parks. It had such a history
though, that we felt it was worth a visit. Our kids seemed to enjoy it
but remarked that it was full of old people. On the way back we visited
another "old people" attraction: the Tupperware factory and museum. Sue-On
found some useful containers to bring home.
TEXAS: THE LONE
During our first visit to Texas
we stopped at Brownsville. My Mom and Dad had driven here for a short break
from their Marshall Wells hardware store in Newdale and had stayed at the
Fontana Hotel. A few years later they bought a small trailer a Mission.
We moved on to Padre Island where we had a good time on the sandy beaches
-- the first time that we had encountered sand too hot to walk in. The
Alamo was next.
The Alamo remains hallowed
ground and is a Shrine of Texas Liberty. It was the site of the legendary
battle between Mexican and Texian forces for the independence of Texas
from Mexico. While the Alamo fell to the Mexican Army after a heroic 13-day
battle, the efforts of defenders of the Alamo set the stage for eventual
victory over Mexico. Despite its historical significance the Alamo didn't
have to much to offer on our first visit in the early '70s. I remember
that we had our first real taste of real Mexican food in a nearby restaurant
- much better than our first experience. During our honeymoom in Banff
we had brought a can of tamales back to our tent -- we weren't impressed
:) I was shocked though, at the filthy condition of the kitchen when
I had to walk through it to the even filthier toilet. We just closed our
eyes and and actually enjoyed the meal.
Forty years later we returned to
on our way back from an Edgar Rice Burroughs convention in College Station
and Texas A&M University. The facility was expanded greatly to cater
to the daily flood of tourists and we took many photos: Alamo Shrine front
and interiors, Wall of History, Barrack, Arcade, Garden, Fountain, and
We moved on to Austin where we explored
the city streets, the impressive State Capitol Building and a large park.
We were hoping to attend a taping of the Austin City Limits show but it
wasn't in production during the summer months.
One of our main reasons to visit
Dallas was to walk around the site of the Kennedy Assassination: the JFK
Museum at the book depository, Dealy Plaza and the Grassy Knoll. I even
stood on the X in the middle of the street that marked the spot where the
Oswald's bullet hit the President.
Before leaving the city we toured
the George W. Bush Library.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . MUCH MORE