Friday, July 31, 2015

Past POIs - Foam Henge [Natural Bridge, Virginia, United States of America]

During our roadtrip which had us visiting Asheville and Atlanta, we stopped by this roadside attraction, Foam Henge.

If you blink, you will actually miss where you would get off since it is not advertised (there is no signage) and if you don't know where to stop, you'll just drive by it.  If you head west of Natural Bridge Zoo, you will see a dirt road with a fence on the right (north side) less than 5 minutes away, stop here because this is where you want to go.  Note that it is private property, so if you are worried about hopping the fence, get over it because it is open to the public even if it doesn't seem like it.

Foam Henge 'appeared' on April Fool's Day 2004 and has been a popular attraction since.  Foam Henge, as it sounds, is a replica of Stonehenge but made entirely out of Styrofoam.  It was created by Mark Cline and is a well known stop with appearances on MSNBC, Fox, Discovery Channel and TBS as well as Washington Post, USA Today and multiple other magazines and books.

While I haven't visited the original Stonehenge, Mark Cline spoke with tour guides to get the correct measurements and shapes of the stones and a psychic detective to determine how to position Foam Henge so that it is astronomically correct.  The Styrofoam itself is held in place with a pipe held in place by a cement base, imagine how a fake tooth is kept in place.  Be sure to stop by if you are in the area because it is a pretty cool site and with luck, you may be the only ones there like we were.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Future POIs - National Air Force Museum of Canada [Trenton, Ontario, Canada]

During our Civic long weekend trip, I plan to stop by the National Air Force Museum of Canada located in Trenton, Ontario.  It is open to the public and has no admission but is supported through donations.

Hercules CC130, E Model
Founded in 1984, the National Air Force Museum of Canada (originally known as the RCAF Memorial Library and Museum) is the museum that houses the largest number of aircrafts on static display in Canada with over 3,500 artifacts and memorabilia.

Freedom Fighter, CF-116A/F-5
The museum attracts 45,000 visitors a year, with 30 permanent aircrafts, and has the world's only fully restored Halifax Bomber, a World War II bomber which was raised from Lake Mjøsa and restored.

Halifax, Mark VII
Come back next Monday for another Future Point of Interest!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Past POIs - Kinzua Bridge State Park [Mt Jewett, Pennsylvania, United States of America]

Kinzua Bridge State Park is one that has a fairly interesting backstory about how it came to be.

Back in 1881, construction began on the Kinzua Viaduct which, when completed in 1882, was the world's highest railroad viaduct.  It was 301 feet (91 meters) high and 2,053 feet (625 meters) long when it was built.  Initially it was made out of iron but due to heavier freight trains, they had to rebuild the entire thing out of steel which surprisingly only took 105 days to do.  When it was made out of iron it was 1,408 metric tons and it became 3,041 metric tons after it was redone in steel.

By 1959, freight trains weren't allowed to use it anymore and in 1963, Governor William Scranton signed a law to create Kinzua Bridge State Park, a 339 acre park, which was officially opened in 1970.  At this time, there were still occasional excursion trains that would stop here but this was stopped in 2002.  Luckily they stopped trains when they did because in 2003, a tornado hit the viaduct and caused a lot of it to collapse.  In 2011, the viaduct was converted into a pedestrian walkway that is 600 feet (182 meters) long and ends with a glass platform, giving you a nice view of the area.  If you like, there is a hiking trail that takes you to the base of the viaduct, providing you with a different view of it.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Future POIs - Cobourg's Sandcastle Festival [Cobourg, Ontario, Canada]

I have looked at pictures of this in the past and I have never been, but I'm glad that I will be able to check this off the bucket list because we plan to go this year.

Toronto Sun
Each summer, for the last 10 years, Cobourg has held a Sandcastle Festival during the Civic long weekend where over 8,000 visitors come to see the works of sand art from master sculptors.  The competition is open to anyone since there is both an amateur and a professional division.  To top it off, there is a live DJ, kid-friendly events, and sand sculpting lessons.  And, at the end of the day, it ends with a Movie on the Beach under the stars.  Apparently, for this year, their 10th anniversary, there will be fireworks as well!

Come back next Monday for another Future Point of Interest!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Past POIs - Clingmans Dome [Tennessee, United States of America]

Before I did research on this, I actually thought that the observation tower was called Clingmans Dome, but actually, it is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains which is a mountain range that spans both Tennessee and North Carolina.

Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters) is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains, the highest point in Tennessee, and the highest point along the Appalachian Trail.  But, fear not, you don't need to travel too high to get here.  From the parking lot, you are looking at an elevation gain of 300 feet (91 meters) and a total of a 0.5 mile (800 meter) hike.  Oh, access to observation tower is free.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Clingmans Dome's observation tower was built in 1959 and is 45 feet (14 meters) high.  The ramp itself is 375 feet (114 meters) in length and actually has the same grade as the trail so you won't notice a change in your step, quite clever!  The tower is actually one of nine observation towers built as part of the 'Mission 66' program which was meant as a way for the National Park Service to upgrade its facilities (visitor centers, campgrounds, roads, park headquarters, picnic areas, and other tourist facilities) due to an influx of visitors after World War II.  The total cost, $57,000 USD.

Come back Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Future POIs - Swaminarayan Mandir [Ontario, Canada]

A Hindu temple that is pretty hard to miss if you ever drive up the 427, north of Finch in Ontario.


It is part of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism and was built over 18 non-consecutive months with over 24,000 hand-carved Italian carrara marble, Turkish limestone and Indian pink stone.  The grounds cover of 18 acres which has the mandir (temple) and a haveli (cultural center) and Heritage Musuem.

Swaminarayan Mandir
Visiting the temple is entirely free (free entrance and parking), but do note the restrictions on attire (no sleeveless tops, no shorts, and skirts must be knee length or longer) and that you cannot take photos or video inside (outside is fine).

For more information, visit the official site at Swaminarayan Mandir.

Come back next Monday for another Future Point of Interest!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Past POIs - Humpback Rocks [Virginia]

For the next few Past Points of Interest, I'm going to cover some of the sights that we saw during our recent roadtrip to Asheville and Atlanta.

Humpback Rock in Virginia, which is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a free to access viewpoint providing you with a great view of the surrounding area.  The rock itself is greenstone and the name is from how it looks like a 'hump' and is located near the peak of Humpback Mountain.

It is 10 km (milepost 5.8) south of the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway and it a 3.2 km (2 mile) round-trip hike.  You will gain 740 ft (230 m) in elevation and it will probably take you roughly 1 hour to do the hike itself and however much time you need to take pictures and breaks.

Well worth a visit if you are in the area; I hope the stats don't scare you from doing the hike itself.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Roadtrip Summary

Duration: 9 days (Saturday June 13 - Sunday June 21)
Cost: roughly $1,000/person which covers all expenses (gas, accommodations, food, admissions)
Distance Driven: roughly 4,000 km

Top 3 Highlights (in no particular order):

- Georgia Aquarium, which this shouldn't be too much of a surprise for me since I did drive all the way to see it, it was still quite the sight to actually see it and compare it to what you had in mind.  While it wasn't as large as I imagined it would be, the star attraction that I went for, the whale shark, met my expectations.  What exceeded it was definitely the dolphin show.  I know that it has weird times and you need to make sure you get in while there are still seats, it was definitely worth it and I would say, makes the Georgia Aquarium, one of the must-see sights there.

Two whale sharks with two giant stingrays.
- Foam Henge, I know we didn't spend a lot of time at this free roadside attraction, but I think this is a surprising site that exceeded my expectation.  When you read that someone created a foam version of Stone Henge as an April's Fool joke, you expect something silly that is worth a short stopover, but, in my opinion, it is worth making the trip (although only if you are nearby).

Foam Henge!
- Humpback Rocks (Blue Ridge Parkway), we lucked out and this place wasn't a zoo when we arrived and it gives you a great view of the surrounding area.  Do note that there is quite a bit of a hike to get up to this point though.  Well worth it in my opinion.

Lowlights (only had one disappointment):

- Shenandoah National Park, while it isn't bad, it just did not compare at all, in my opinion, to what I got to see at the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  To add insult to injury, there is an admission fee to the park, mind you, it is only $20 and it is good for 7-days, you can get on the BRP for free and it is MASSIVE (over 490 miles).

Must try food places (in no particular order):

- Nine Mile, Allison really like the scallop and mussel pasta dish, and although my jerk chicken pasta was a bit confusing, given how much she liked her dish, I'd say it is worth stopping at.

- Sunny Point Cafe, both of our dishes here were really good and I really enjoyed the drinks and dessert that we had as well.

Huevos Rancheros.
Chicken and sweet potato waffles.
Ice Box Key Lime Pie.
What would I change?

- I greatly underestimated how large some of the areas that I was visiting and I should have done a bit more research.  Awhile I thought that we could do Clingmans Dome and Chimney Tops in the same day, it is a bit of a stretch when you include a lunch break inbetween and then having to drive all the way back to Asheville would have made for a really long day.  In hindsight, if I want to do more of Great Smoky Mountain next time, I would stay nearby in Cherokee which would save roughly 3 hours round-trip versus staying in Asheville.

Hope you enjoy reading about our trip.  If you have any questions about what we did, feel free to ask.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Future POIs - Viktualienmarkt [Munich, Germany]

When we go to Munich, we plan to stop by Viktualienmarkt, an open air street market that has over 140 stalls covering 240,000 sq. ft.

From wikipedia
Originally created all the way back in 1807 by decree issued by King Maximilian I since the market that used to be in Marienplatz was becoming too small.  It has since been expanded greatly to allow for what we see today with the the demolition of various buildings adjacent to it.

From wikipedia
It is open Monday - Saturday from 8:00 am - 8:00 pm, but some shops open later and some close earlier as well.  There are all types of things to buy, flowers, fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, fish, spices and more.

Come back next Monday for another Future Point of Interest!