A Friend I Haven’t Seen For 11 Years

A friend I haven’t seen for 11 years has been living in Washington, Georgia for 5-6 years. We used to be co-workers in a bank way back 2006. We were cream of the crop and excelled in all that we do. We became friends, more like close friends and everything we did was history. We were Washington Mutual’s telephone banker. Washington Mutual was one of the best financial institutions back in the old days but was bought by J.P Morgan Chase Bank during the global crisis back in 2007. I quit my job before it was completely handed to JPMC and went to my chosen profession. I haven’t seen her after that until she left to Georgia with her husband and son. We just kept in touch through social networking sites such as Facebook.

I drove from South Carolina to Washington, Georgia which was about 2-3 hours from Aiken. I arrived in Washington, Georgia at about 1000H. When I got out of the car, we were just so happy to see each other again and nothing has changed. We were still like the immature telephone bankers even though it has been a decade. We talked and talked about the people we used to work with, reminisced the experiences we had, and even tried to call some of our other friends online. The first day was filled with excitement in getting to know what we have been doing in our lives. She and her family offered to be the host of my trip and I am so glad. They offered the guest room and I took a quick nap from the long drive while she was planning for the itinerary for the afternoon and the next day trip.

I was taking a nap when my phone beeped. I got a message asking if I am ready to go swimming. They have decided to go to Washington Swimming Pool since their son wants to dip in the pool. It was almost 95 degrees in Georgia that day so, it was a good idea to dive in.

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Washington Swimming Pool

But I am not used to going swimming under the heat of the sun and it was also at 1300H so, I just stayed under the patio umbrella. We only let their son enjoy the pool while we were just talking and looking at kids having fun. After an hour or two, we left coz her husband has to work. At 1730H, we have decided to go to the mall. The nearest mall is Augusta Mall which is almost an hour drive.

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Augusta Mall

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Inside Augusta Mall

We only did window shopping and bought some snack for her unico hijo. 2 hours later, they took me to Augusta Canal Historical Trail. The trail is near Marriott Hotel and is good location for exercising.

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Augusta Canal Historical Trail

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Marriott Hotel

Augusta Canal is a historic canal located in Georgia, is supplied by the Savannah River and passes through levels in suburban and urban Augusta before the water returns to the river at various locations. It was devised to harness the hydro power at the fall line of the Savannah river to drive mills, to provide transportation of goods, and supply water in the municipal. It is the only canal in the United States which still continues to be used for its original purposes of providing power, transport and municipal water.

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Augusta Canal Historical Trail

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Augusta Canal

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Augusta Canal Viewdeck

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Augusta Canal

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Otters in Augusta Canal

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Jessye Norman Amphitheatre in Augusta Canal

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View of Downtown Augusta Skyline from Augusta Canal Trail

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Augusta Canal Trail Fountain

We left the trail at 1730H and headed home and called it a day. I went to sleep early from getting exhausted driving. On my second day in Georgia, they decided to show me to one of the famous amusement parks in Georgia. We went to Stone Mountain Park which is near Atlanta.

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Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock with carvings that depict three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. The theme park is located at 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA 30083. It has a lot of activities and hosts festivals and events. To know more, just click here.

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Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis

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Stone Park Theme Park has attractions for all ages such as dinosaur explore, dinotorium, 4D Ice Age, Stone Mountain Museum, Summit SkyRide, Scenic Railroad, and many more.

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Dinosaur Explore

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Ankylosaurus or the Fused Lizard

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Parasaurolophus or the Similar Crested Lizard

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Dilophosaurus, the fast moving carnivore

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T-Rex

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The most famous dinosaur

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Dinotorium

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On our way to ride the train

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Great Locomotive Chase Adventure Golf

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Riding the train for the Scenic Railroad

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Live Show from the Scenic Railroad

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Stores at Stone Mountain Park

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Directions at Stone Mountain Park

We spent almost the whole day in Stone Mountain Park but we still missed the main attractions which were the Summit SkyRide, to get on top of the Stone Mountain and also the fireworks. The weather that day was not in our favor that the park has to cancel any attractions that has something to do with the sky. But I still had fun though. Then, we left Stone Mountain Park and discussed on where to dine for supper. We have decided to go something Asian, Korean to be precise, so, we went to Iron Factory in Athens, Georgia.

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Iron Factory

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Miso Soup

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Fresh Pork Belly or Samgyupsal

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Then, we went to explore Athens after eating.

My Georgia trip to meet my friend whom I haven’t seen for 11 years has been one of the highlights for this year. It was memorable and I can’t wait to do it again. We were planning of going on a trip somewhere and I hope it’ll come true. The whole experience was amazing even though it was just a quick visit for 2 days. Not to worry coz we have many more days to come and to have fun, for now, it’s not goodbye but see you next time.

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The Rivera Family and the Lone Traveler

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Visiting Tennessee

I have a long time friend who has been wanting me to visit her in her new home location. I met her during our college days. It was a big coincidence that she also has the same birthdate as I do, we worked in the same company back in the Philippines and also in the Middle East, we also went to the same university, and even took our driving class together. We, basically, had the same fate. We came in the United States at the same month and now, we are calling each other as twins. She lives in Memphis and since I have a 6-day off from work, I have decided to finally meet her in our new home country and visiting Tennessee was also on my to-do list for the year.

I arrived in Memphis early morning by riding the Greyhound Bus Lines. My friend and I met in the bus station and took me for a ride within Memphis. We have visited some sights in Memphis and we have come up with a decision to spend a day in Nashville since the drive from Memphis to Nashville is about 3 hours.

On my first day in Tennessee, we visited the Memphis Pyramid.

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Memphis Pyramid

Memphis Pyramid or was known before as the Great American Pyramid and Pyramid Arena was originally built as an arena located in downtown Memphis. The structure plays the on Memphis’ namesake in Egypt and is the 10th tallest pyramid in the world. The Memphis Pyramid used to host sports and entertainment but was stopped and was converted to a megastore by Bass Pro Shops that has shopping, a hotel, restaurants, an archery range, and a bowling alley. But the most visited part of the pyramid is the outdoor observation deck at its apex. Unfortunately, we were too early that they were still closed.

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Memphis Pyramid is also a tracker boat center.

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Big Cypress Lodge

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Stag Display

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Welcome to Paradise

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Stores with a pond

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Stores with a pond

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Bear Display

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Wild Hogs on the loose

Second stop was a home of a famous singer, Elvis Presley. We went to Graceland.

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Welcome to Graceland

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Historic Landmark

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Elvis Presley’s Mansion

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Elvis’ Private Plane, Lisa Marie

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Street decor

Graceland is a mansion that was owned by Elvis Presley. It currently serves as a museum and the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a national landmark. Graceland has been the second most-visited house in the United States, second only to the White House. After we visited Graceland, we headed back home and called it a day.

Day 2 in Tennessee, my friend and I drove all the way from Memphis to Nashville. We left early at 5AM so we can cover a lot of nice places in downtown Nashville. We got to the capital of Tennessee at 8 in the morning and looked for a parking spot. We made sure to park near a tourist attraction and that was in Nashville Music City Center.

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Nashville Music City Center

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Nashville Music City Center is a convention complex located downtown. It was developed by Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. The music city center is ginormous, clean, spacious, and there are a lot of conference rooms. We got to the music center just to use the restroom, took a peek of what was going on and after that we left and headed to the next spot.

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and research centers dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the American music. It has also one of the most extensive musical collections in the world. We were only taking pictures outside the museum since my friend and I were not music fanatics at all. So we decided to skip seeing the gallery and ventured on our next destination which was just few blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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Stix Sculpture

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Stix Sculpture is 70 feet tall and made up of 27 wooden poles. The poles are spaced in an irregular pattern throughout the surface area of the roundabout and the vertical degrees of the poles varies from 0-15 from the center axis. The poles were painted in stripes with different colors. Fifteen up-lights were embedded into the landscaping to light up the sculpture at night which results in a vibrant display of colors, light and shadow. This masterpiece was brought to reality by an artist named Christian Moeller. When we  got there, we weren’t amazed by the sculpture. It lack flavor but probably because it was in the morning were we can’t appreciate the lights and colors of the wooden poles. Hence, we walked forward and went to Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts is an art museum. It is located right next to Union Station. The art museum has a wide gallery space, used to present visual arts from different artists. The Frist Center does not have a permanent collection, instead, the museum focuses on creating exhibitions from around the country and the world. We didn’t go inside the museum but went through the Union Station.

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Union Station Hotel Nashville

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Union Station Hotel Nashville was used to be a railroad terminal but now has been changed to a hotel. The look of the Union Station shows the architectural features and the details were just stunning. My friend and I walked on foot to our next tourist destination which was the Ryman Auditorium.

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Ryman Auditorium

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Ryman Auditorium or formerly known as Grand Ole Opry House and Union Gospel Tabernacle is owned and operated by Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. It hosts live performances and is the home of the Grand Ole Opry. The auditorium was included in the National Register of Historic Places and also designated as a National Historic Landmark as its role in country music popularity. There were a lot of tourists in the area so we just decided to go to our last but not the least destination, the Tennessee State Capitol.

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Tennessee State Capitol with Andrew Jackson statue

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Tennessee State Capitol

Tennessee State Capitol is the home of the state legislature and also the location of the governor’s office and is considered as a National Historic Landmark. The state capitol is one of Tennessee’s capital’s most prominent structure. In the state capitol, a monument of Andrew Jackson is at the left side of the capitol. Andrew Jackson was one of the country’s president.

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Andrew Jackson memorial statue

Our last stop was in Parthenon. It is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon in Nashville serves as an art museum that stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park and a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. This location has been a movie backdrop of some films such as the 1975 Nashville and 2010 Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. The Parthenon was a good tourist attraction but it lacks flavor. It was bland and was just a mere building but a perfect view for picture taking.

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Parthenon

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The remaining hours were spent walking around downtown Nashville and just enjoying the sights, the old buildings, and the scenes.

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Bridgestone Arena

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AT&T

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On my last day in Tennessee, we were back in Memphis. We just walked around Memphis and talked about how we were fascinated that we’ve come a long way just to achieve our dreams.

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Memphis Street Sign

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The Flag of the Nations and the Bell in downtown Memphis

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Mud Island River Park

We tried to go to the Mud Island River Park but they were closed for the season when we were there and re-opened on April 2nd week. Then, we headed to Harbor Town which was just on the other side of the river. We were killing time in Mississippi River Greenbelt.

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Mississippi River

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Mississippi River Greenbelt

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Apartments in Harbor Town

For my whole experience visiting Tennessee, it was superb. I got to see my dearest friend and spent traveling around the 2 most visited cities of the state, Memphis and Nashville. It was memorable and I just had a checkmark on my bucket list of sightseeing the Volunteer State.

 

Meeting People Through One Common Interest

Gotta catch ’em all! Yes, you got it right. I am talking about a hit mobile game. Through the game, Pokémon Go, I am meeting a lot of people and I’ve been traveling quite a distance. I used to travel for one common purpose and that is to explore what the destination has to offer. But recently, I got a new reason to travel. That reason is to meeting people through one common interest, to get stronger in the game, Pokémon Go.

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photo cr: Pokémon Go

I started to get hooked in the game when it was launched and made available to all mobile users. I downloaded it last July 7th when I was still in Los Angeles, CA. My cousin’s son who is also a Pokémon follower told me about the game being online. We downloaded the game and went out to the streets to find and catch the Pokémons. Sad to say since it was just recently launched, the server kept on crashing that we have to close and re-open the app for quite a lot of times. Even though it closes several times, we got to catch some Pokémons. We were overwhelmed of the game and almost got into an accident. So, it is better to follow what the game says when you run it. That is to always look on your surroundings.img_4692A couple days after it was launched in L.A, we got to Long Beach to try to catch some water pokémons but to our surprise, we only caught Pidgeys and mostly flying Pokémons. We also went to Manhattan Beach but still failed to catch rare monsters. Even though we didn’t get what we were expecting, I still got the added benefit of playing the game. I got to see Queen Mary in Long Beach and enjoyed watching people playing beach volleyball in Manhattan Beach. Yet, I haven’t met people since the game was just released. I went back to Cleveland and drove all the way to Caldwell, my hometown. To this moment, I am still playing the game and through this game, I get acquainted to some of my neighbors who are also playing the game. I’ve talked to players online and met another trainer in Fairlawn after telling me that the cemetery is a Pokéstop heaven.

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Fairlawn’s Pokéstop Heaven

I have visited the mall in Zanesville due to a Pikachu sighting and I did capture one.

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The Most Famous Pokémon character, Pikachu

I also have gone to Athens that along the riverside in the OU school campus, you can capture most water pokémons and I did capture goldeens, squirtle and more. I’ve traveled to Marietta to see what monsters they have and got to explore the city.

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The streets of Marietta

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Marietta Park

I even went to Vienna/ Parkersburg in WV just to catch ’em all and I did wander in Julia-Ann Square Historical District.

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Julia-Ann Square Historical District

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Old Homes

img_4688I’ve gone far to St Marys, WV due to sightings of rare pokémons and checked the Middle Island.

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St. Marys, WV

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Middle Island in St. Marys, WV

img_4622All those places I have gone to, I met a lot of pokémon players. They were battling the gym, capturing some wild monsters but even though we were just looking on our mobile, we still got time to say hello and give information and advices on how to get stronger. I don’t socialise to people most of the time but through this game, I got to talk and meet these cool people.

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My current Pokémons

There maybe a lot of negative rumors about the game but it totally depends on how the person look at it. I find it advantageous for my case since I travel a lot and I got to do my daily walking or jogging exercise because of the game for me to hatch my poké eggs. I got to see the benefits of the game and I hope others will find it too. Yes, it is addictive but a gamer needs also to have self control.

PS: Poké trainers I met don’t want their faces showed for personal and safety reasons.

Spring Has Sprung and Etc.

Spring is a season after winter and before summer. This season means rejuvenation, renewal or birth with most of the flowers, plants and animals on hibernation mode to become active again. Flowers bloom and animals back to hunting food in the wild, forest and even on streets. Upon seeing these and the sudden change of climate and increase of temperature, it is a good sign to be more active outdoors. Since this is a season where most people will say, spring has sprung, meaning spring is here and it is time for everyone to be more energetic and engaging to the outside world.

During winter, I was more of a homebody for most of the time and once I saw the trees having buds and the flowers about to bloom, I have decided then to come out and be more adventurous this time. When spring is mentioned, it always comes into my mind of a specific flower that blossoms during this season. It is widely popular and rare since there are only particular places in the world where it has this. It is very famous in Japan but is also indigenous in some Asian states such as Korea, China and India and they called it, Sakura in Nihongo or Cherry Blossoms.20160329_131349I really wanted to see this flowering tree blooms so, I have researched where I can find it here in the United States since I can’t just flew to Japan to see it. There were a lot of locations within the U.S where you can find them. The most popular cherry blossom destination is in Washington, D.C in Tidal Basin and they also celebrate it as National Cherry Blossom Festival. Second area would be in Northern Philadelphia. Yet both locations I can’t go to since it is more than 8 hours travel from my place. But, it didn’t stop me from doing more research. Then one day, a picture popped out when I typed in Ohio cherry blossom and it says the location is in the south part of the state. It is located specifically in a school campus in Athens, Ohio along the bike path with the view of the Hocking river. It will only take me an hour and half drive to get to Athens so, off I go. I got to Ohio University  at noon. It was a lil chilly but it didn’t bother me. The school campus was ginormous, they have their own golf course, stadium and lots of school buildings and apartments.

Golf Course

Golf Course

School Buildings

School Buildings

Bobcat Stadium

Bobcat Stadium

But I was not there to see the school. I was there to see ‘sakura‘. I walked the bike path for about 20 mins since I parked my car near the golf course. And finally, I saw these lovely trees.20160329_13080120160329_131047 20160329_131314 20160329_131329 20160329_131226After seeing it, my spring is complete.

While I was driving back home, I have thought of doing some side trips. I usually utilised the back roads passing thru McConnelsville. There is this one park in McConnelsville in State Route 78 that is considered a tourist attraction. They called it the Big Muskie’s Bucket. It is within Miner’s Memorial Park.

Miners Memorial Park Historical Marker

Miners Memorial Park Historical Marker

As what it says on the marker,

Miner’s Memorial Park
Agriculture dominated the economy of southestern Ohio’s Morgan County until the 1940s when harvests dwindled, the population declined, and land values dropped. Surface mining the area’s rich underground coal deposits replaced agriculture as the major industry and revitalised the declining local economy. As the nation’s demand for electricity grew over the next half-century, so did the demand for coal as fuel for nearby power generation plants. During mining’s heyday in the 1960s to the late 1980s, American Electric Power’s former Central Ohio Coal Company subsidiary employed nearly 1,000 people. Nearby communities — such as Cumberland, Caldwell and Chandlersville — thrived. As time passed, however, the robust coal industry was hit hard by environmental regulations that reduced the market for the area’s high sulfur coal. In turn, mine work forces shrank considerably and local businesses closed.

20160404_123607The centerpiece of Miners Memorial Park is the Big Muskie’s Bucket. The story behind it is ‘Big Muskie’ was once the world’s largest earth moving machine. It was built in 1969 and could move 39 million pounds of earth and rock every hour, revealing rich coals in southeastern Ohio. The Big Muskie could swing its boom for 600 feet and weighed 13,500 tons. In 1990s, when power demands and other factors convinced the owners to shut it down and was then salvaged for metal scraps by mid-1999. What remains today is a monstrous metal bucket. The bucket sits on a rise, overlooking the valley that it once mined.

Big Muskie

Big Muskie: Turning Coal to Power

What is left, the Big Muskie's Bucket

What is left, the Big Muskie’s Bucket

Big Muskie's Bucket

Big Muskie’s Bucket

Since we mentioned power, the next destination after I visited Big Muskie’s Bucket was just around my town, Caldwell . It is located in Highway 78 East of town at the junction of Hwy 564, you will find a small park on the southeast corner paralleling Hwy 78. It is named as the Thorla-McKee Well.

Thorla-McKee Well Historical Marker

Thorla-McKee Well Historical Marker

As what the marker says,

Salt was an important commodity to early settlers because of its use in daily living. In 814, Silas Thorla and Robert McKee dug a well in search of salt brine. They discovered salt and by accident, discovered oil. Oil’s value was unknown to them so they had to separate the oil from the salt water by soaking the oil up from the surface with blankets. The oil was wrung from the blankets, bottled as ‘Seneca Oil’ and sold as a ‘cure all’. The remaining brine was boiled down to extract the salt.

To expound the story, it was then said both Silas Thorla and Robert McKee noticed a deer was licking a spot on the ground and figured that it might lead to an underground pool of salt brine. They, then, drilled a well, lined with hollowed-out logs looking for salt. Salt was important in preserving meat during long winter months and also livestock needed salt. They did find salt brine but it was fouled with oil. They tried to separate the oil from the salt brine thru blankets wringing out the oil as nuisance since oil wasn’t of much use in 1810s. The oil was put into bottles and sold as a digestive elixir, Seneca Oil.

Thorla-McKee Well

Thorla-McKee Well

By the time that oil became really valuable in America, Thorla and McKee were long dead. This well by accident is what the local chamber of commerce calls the ‘first oil well in America’ nowadays.

The First Oil Well in America

The First Oil Well in America

Visitors can still visit this place in a small park in Caldwell with a wheel less caboose near the parking area and the historical marker. But unlike the chamber of commerce, it only ventures to call it the ‘Thorla-McKee Well’.

Ohio Historical Marker

Ohio Historical Marker

Wheel-Less Caboose

Wheel-Less Caboose

Articles Way Back Then

Articles Way Back Then

Indeed, spring is here. The sun is shining but since I am in Ohio, sometimes snow just falls from the sky which is not unusual. So far for my spring travels, I’ve got to see these places whether it snows, rains or the sun shines. As long as a traveler enjoys his travels, then, that is acceptable, may it be spring has sprung and etc.