Monday, October 31, 2016

Home Of The Blob!

     Home Of The Blob!  ~ Downingtown Diner, Pennsylvania
     Currently I am stuck working in Pennsylvania.  Hopefully I will be back in the Southwest before winter sets in, but for the time being, making the best of this monotonous situation is all that can be done.  I would much rather be celebrating Halloween in Las Vegas, but all is not lost.  Fortunately I ran across a creepy dining destination today in Pennsylvania, which brightened my day!
     The Downingtown Diner is "The Home Of The Blob!"  Some of the young readers of this website may ask "What is The Blob?"  The Blob was a late 1950's sci-fi horror movie that achieved cult status.  The Blob was one of the first B-Grade horror movies to be filmed in color and it was Steve McQueen's legendary first starring role.  
     Hundreds of B-Grade horror movies were pumped out by low budget producers back in those days and most followed a common storyline format.  The Blob is often cited as being a classic example of the stereotypical cadence of events that occur in horror films from this genre.  For example, the first victim of The Blob was an Afro American male.  The second victim of the monster was a blonde female.  The third event in the classic cadence involved the monster invading a public building.  Taking shelter from the monster in a local hangout was the fourth part of the stereotypical chain of events.  The Downingtown Diner was the local hangout that was turned into a survival shelter in The Blob movie.    
     The Downingtown Diner is where Steve McQueen and the surviving members of the cast holed up, till somebody figured out a way to destroy The Blob.  The Downingtown Diner scenes were filled with dramatic dialogue concerning how dire the situation was.  Steve McQueen did such a great acting job in the Downingtown Diner scenes, that he was recruited by Hollywood and soon he became a major motion picture star.  This was a great loss to the B-Grade horror movie industry, but thats how it always goes.   
     Several Blob filming locations in Phoenixville and Downingtown were preserved for all posterity.  The old movie theatre in Phoenixville and the Downingtown Diner by far are the most popular Blob tourism destinations.  To top it all off, there actually is a Blobfest event that takes place in this area each year.  I worked in little tavern in Phoenixville last year and the local clientele honestly still talked about The Blob movie, as if it was just filmed yesterday.  The legend of The Blob lives on in these two old southeastern Pennsylvania towns.
     The Downingtown Diner is still a classic tin box style pre-fab building, just like it was way back when The Blob movie was filmed.  "The Home Of The Blob" is the restaurant logo.  This claim to fame can be seen on both the signage and the menu.  Other than the logo, there really is not much more Blob memorabilia to see in this place.  This is too bad, because there is a niche marketing sector of devoted horror movie fans that surely would purchase a Blob t-shirt, coffee mug, snow glass paper weight or just about anything that has to do with The Blob movie.  As it is, the Downingtown Diner only offers Blob Sandwiches, Blob Pancakes and the Blob Burger Special.  
     I just had to eat something on the Downingtown Diner menu that commemorated The Blob movie, so I ordered the Blob Burger Special.  The Blob Burger Special actually turned out to be a pretty good meal, which kind of put a twist on things.  It sure is better to eat The Blob, rather than be eaten by The Blob!
     Downingtown, Pennsylvania, is a long ways away from the Desert Southwest, but occasionally I do publish articles about destinations east of the Mississippi.  Should the Downingtown Diner be placed on your lifetime travel bucket list?  That depends on how much of a B-Grade horror movie fan that you really are.  All I can say is that visiting The Home Of The Blob is a great thing to do on Halloween!                                  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jerome Ghost Town, Arizona!

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     Jerome Ghost Town!
     Ghost town destinations are a fun topic during the month of October.  Visiting an old ghost town sometime around Halloween is a good way to get a thrill, because nearly every ghost town has a reputation for being haunted or cursed.  There actually are businesses that specialize in this kind of ghostly tourism venture.  During the last decade, paranormal tourism has become a viable industry in the west and this has helped to keep many old ghost towns on the map.
     Jerome, Arizona, is a historic ghost town that is definitely worth checking out!  The geology of the mountains in this area is what made this settlement happen.  A rich vein of copper bearing ore was exposed on the earth's surface.  The native people mined this ore for many years, till Spanish explorers noted the location on a map.  The ore bearing vein sat idle till the 1870's, when stakes were claimed.  The copper ore vein was loaded with gold and silver, so the first round of mining started a gold rush, which in turn was the beginning of the rough and rowdy western town of Jerome.  
     The amount of copper ore discovered at Jerome turned out to be worth much more than the traces of the secondary gold and silver metals.  In fact, the copper ore vein at Jerome turned out to be the biggest mother load in the world.  Because of copper value fluctuations, the copper mining at Jerome did not reach a peak until WWI when copper was in high demand.  At this time, Jerome was a bustling wild west city with a sizable population.
     Post WWI fluctuations in the price of copper caused periods of meager earnings mixed with a few booming years.  Eventually, the copper mining played out at some time in the late 1950's.  The geology of Jerome was also undergoing negative changes at this time, which made living in Jerome a high risk proposition.  The use of explosives in mining excavation techniques and shifting ancient volcanic fault lines made the steep slopes of the mountain unstable.  Since the town of Jerome was literally built on the steep mountain slopes, the unstable ground caused many building to slide downhill.  Many of the old historic buildings crumbled into piles of rubble and this was the final straw that broke the town's back.          
     Technically, Jerome is a living ghost town, because a small population remained in this place long after the boomtown era was over.  This town was never completely abandoned, but it was nearly forgotten by outsiders, because of its remote location in the mountains and its reputation for unstable ground.  Those who remained in Jerome had to shift gears and establish a tourist industry.  Jerome is now a haven for artists, craftsmen and ghost town tourism.     
     Coming from the direction of Prescott, Arizona, the roads leading to Jerome are a steep winding climb up the mountain that will test the ability of any car.  I did the mountain climb in a Dodge Scat Pack 392 Hemi Challenger with a six speed stick on a Sunday morning when no other cars were on the road.  Honestly, the drive was an adrenaline rush like no other and the sound of the big Hemi echoing in the canyon was pure inspiration.  
     Maybe the challenging drive up the mountain is why so many hot rod car rally and motorcycle rally organizers choose Jerome Ghost Town as a destination.  More than likely, it is because of the weekend party reputation that Jerome has become famous for.  
     Jerome is a great place to park the car and wander around on foot for the day.  The streets are lined with art studios, antique shops, wineries and specialty businesses that cater to visitors.  There are a few good saloons and eateries in Jerome that thrive off of the weekend warrior tourism industry.  
     There is even a restaurant in Jerome called Haunted Hamburger, which has a paranormal theme.  I just had to check this creepy restaurant out!  I was sat at a table on the open air veranda that overlooks the entire valley below.  The view was spectacular!  The Haunted Hamburger and the local craft beer was a pretty darn good lunch too.       
     Mountain biking and hiking trails in this region offer plenty of opportunity to get some fresh air.  History buffs will enjoy tours of the old Douglas Mansion, the Sliding Jail and Mine Museum.  Jerome even offers luxury hotel accommodations.  The Jerome Grand Hotel actually was a hospital from the old copper mining age.  The building was designed with a classic Spanish architectural theme, so converting the building to a luxury hotel was a natural choice.  The hotel sits high on top of the mountain and it overlooks the town below.  The famous Asylum Restaurant is located in the Jerome Grand Hotel and this place is a center for paranormal activities around town.
     Jerome can be a place for wild party times and it can be a peaceful retreat.  Many famous people like the seclusion that Jerome offers.  There are plenty of old homes that have been converted to bed & breakfast retreats.  Yes, some of the bed & breakfast joints offer a paranormal theme too.
     As one can see, there is no escaping the ghostly theme of Jerome.  This was once a wild gold mining boom town and plenty of people were gunned down in the streets.  Jerome has many unsolved murder mysteries and the ghosts of the past let their presence be known quite often.  The ghostly activity in Jerome is real and it is not just an advertising ploy to draw tourists.  Those who can sense the spirits will agree, Jerome is alive with ghostly acitivity. 
     There are few living ghost towns in the west that are like Jerome.  Jerome is unique from a design standpoint, because the town is located on such a steep mountain slope.  While wandering around the narrow streets and climbing the steep staircases, one cannot help but to imaging that this entire ghost town will eventually slide downhill.  Till then, Jerome is a great place to visit, especially during the Halloween paranormal tourism season!   

Friday, October 7, 2016

Slotzilla! ~ Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

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     Slotzilla! ~ Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas
     Las Vegas is party central during the month of October.  The First Friday Art Festival, Pride Parade, SEMA Convention and plenty of Halloween events are taking place during the next few weeks.  This means that plenty of people will be looking for wild things to do while visiting Las Vegas.  For some folks, "the wilder the better" is a motto and there is no better place to party the night away than Fremont Street!
     Fremont Street is where the classic old Las Vegas still lives on.  The mob era heritage is cherished downtown and most people agree this is where visitors can get the most bang for their buck.  Gaming table limits are lower, the prices of a great T-Bone Steak is dirt cheap and the slot machines actually payout jackpots.  Better still, the entertainment on Fremont Street is also on the house.  
     There are several band stages on Fremont Street that host top performers.  The Fremont Experience overhead canopy is a 300 yard long high resolution theater screen with a great sound system to match and the hourly light shows are free.  Every casino has a street level open air bar that keeps the party going on till the wee hours of the morning.  To top it all off, Fremont Street now is the home of one of the greatest zip-line thrill rides of them all ... Slotzilla!  
     The old Fremont Zip-Line was installed a few years ago and it was an instant success.  The price was right and thrill seekers got a kick out of flying through the air under the Fremont Street Experience Canopy.  The original zip-line only stretched about half the length of the Fremont Street entertainment area.  
     The old zip-line system was set up as a temporary fixture, so there were limitations.  Success enables innovation and plans were made to improve the zip-line by making it a permanent fixture.  The result was the awesome 12 story tall Slotzilla!  
     Slotzilla looks like a gigantic slot machine with zip-line windows where the prize wheel would normally be.  Thrill seekers are jettisoned out of the giant slot machine right down Fremont Street under the canopy.  
     There are two Slotzilla zip-line tracks to choose from.  The bargain priced low zip-line goes about halfway down Fremont Street, just like the original one did.  Riders of the low zip-line are seated upright in a harness, which gives riders the sensation of swinging on a vine.  The new Slotzilla zip-line launches about 10 feet higher and it runs the entire length of the Fremont Street Experience.  Riders on the high zip-line are harnessed in the prone position and the effect of flying through the air head first compares to soaring like a bird.  
     As one can imagine, flying down the high zip line under the Fremont Street Experience canopy at night during a light show after having a few cocktails can be likened to a psychedelic experience.  Sensory overload leads to smiles and hysterical laughter long after the zip-line ride ends.  The Slotzilla experience is definitely recommended for those who just cannot get enough of Las Vegas.   Doing it just for the thrill of it all is what Slotzilla is all about, so go for the gusto and give it a try!