Area 51 Drive Thru

One place I never had on my agenda for vacation destinations last week, was Area 51.  It didn’t even come to mind when I thought of Nevada, so when we headed North out of Las Vegas to spend the weekend in the mountains at a friend’s house….. that’s exactly where I thought we were headed… to a friends house.  It wasn’t until I saw the GPS and noticed we were on Extraterrestrial Highway !





It was shortly after then when I looked up and I SAW AN ALIEN !!!!!



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It was a kooky little store inside a metal shed that sold a lot of T-shirt with UFOs and sci-fi related items.  Probably in a metal building so as to keep the aliens from sucking people out and into their space ship. 

Just beyond that we reached the small town of Rachel, Nevada




The history of Rachel is that it was a town that grew up around a tungsten mine, which closed in 1988.  The town of 500 quickly dwindled to around 50 today. It became a hot bed of activity for UFOs and quickly became a destination for fans and believers.  Area 51 and the Air Force’s top secret base.  We think this was the road to Area 51, but it’s obviously not going to be marked. 



We made a loop around a ranch in the main area of Rachel before continuing on our journey.   In my defense, I usually take pictures and look at them later.  I didn’t see that this sign said photography prohibited.


 It was exciting at the time, but I became a big baby chicken when we considered driving up the road to Area 51 the next day on the way home.  I really got freaked out and didn’t want to go.  I was afraid that if were were stopped by the feds, they might be having a bad day and not just let us turn around. So for now this was exciting enough for me.  


This is a funky video that I had seen several years ago, but still like to watch.  I know that guy was confusing Air Force 1 with Area 51.  That’s what makes the video even more hilarious. 

There’s No Place Like Home

It’s official.  Post-Vacation depression has finally set in.

I found out how I was missed when I went back to work.  I went down to the cafeteria and the guy behind the counter ringing me up for a Snapple asked where I had been.  I told him I was on vacation in California.

“Connecticut?” he asked.

“No, California,” I repeated because he doesn’t speak English well.  He then pointed to my T-shirt which had Connecticut on it.  I smiled and told him that was last year’s trip and that I hadn’t gotten around to doing laundry yet.  It reminded me that I am sort of like a walking billboard sometimes.

I love being on the train almost as much as my vacation destinations.  When you go to the dining car, they seat you with other people so they have full tables and there is room for everyone.   It’s interesting to discuss with the other passengers where they are headed, their experiences and, almost as if it’s required, why they are traveling by train.

Sometimes conversation starts slow. During dinner my 2nd night on the train trip home, I was seated at a table across from an elderly gentleman and next to a middle aged woman.  The southwest chief Amtrak train was actually heading northeast at this point.

“You must be going to Milwaukee,” the man said finally breaking the ice.  It also broke a wide smile across my face as I thought about home.

“I am.  I was on vacation in California,” I replied.  The train originated in Los Angeles so a lot of us had boarded in Cali.

“I was in San Francisco for a reunion of my ship’s crew.  I served on the USS LITTLE ROCK,” he told us.

“The LITTLE ROCK?  The one that’s in Buffalo?” I asked and was correct.  He was impressed and a little proud that someone of my generation would know that particular ship.  I explained my interest in all things Maritime.

Once our meals arrived and after a brief hiatus in conversation the man asked me if I knew what the best part of being on vacation was.  I was a little puzzled and thought since we were at dinner it might have been the fact that you didn’t have to cook or do dishes.

“The best part of vacation,” he clarified, “is coming home.”

I smiled again.  I had been away from my family for 2 weeks and was missing them terribly.  It made me a little teary as I agreed.  I love to vacation in California and other places I’ve been, but I would never choose any of those places over Milwaukee.

“I’ve never been to Milwaukee really.  Took a plane through there,” the man said and then he asked me what made Milwaukee so great that I’d leave sunny California for it.

“I love Milwaukee,” I looked down at my shirt.  It was black with the image of a Godess-like woman leaning on a globe that says Milwaukee Feeds and supplies the World.  It may have at one time, but even me as Milwaukee’s biggest bolster, would have to admit that it doesn’t anymore.  To me the shirt always emitted a tone of Socialism

“If I were a tourist there where should I go?” he asked.

I explained how our art museum “The Calatrava” is known throughout the country, as well as our Summerfest, which is the largest music festival.

I was asked if those were my favorite since I mentioned them first.  I admitted they weren’t but that it was something that was supposed to make Milwaukee popular.  I said I would choose the Milwaukee Symphony or the Milwaukee Repertory Theater over the art museum. 

“Then what makes you smile about Milwaukee, the way you did when I first mentioned it?” he asked.  

I love Milwaukee’s architecture.  It has an old world charm in that many of the buildings are still in use from the 1800’s having survived the urban blight when industrialization when out the window (or should I say to China).  So many of our old buildings have been given a new life in the form of condos and office buildings such as the Pabst and Schlitz breweries.  It’s neat to see an expertly built brick building butted up against a clearly modern structure.  Old meets new.  That’s what Milwaukee is about.

But if looking for free things, Wisconsin is so pretty in every season that if I moved I would miss hiking and biking through the State Parks and along the lake front.  We’re lucky to have 2 Great Lakes for our borders.  My personal favorite is finding historical landmarks and it’s so easy to travel around Wisconsin compared to California.   I said I like to vacation in Wisconsin and go to places like Holy Hill, The Dells, Cave of the Mounds, Apostle Islands and The House On The Rock.   

The man was really intrigued until I started telling him that there were once pyramids in Wisconsin in Aztalan (A.D. 1000 and 1300. The people who settled Aztalan built large, flat-topped pyramidal mounds and a stockade around their village. )

Wisconsin DNR photo of Aztalan

I thought I needed to reel the man in again so he knew I wasn’t just telling wild tales because he had never been there before so I began to tell him the story of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company and the 28 submarines that were built on Lake Michigan during WWII.  I figured bringing it back to the Navy side of things would get him back into the conversation. 

The lady who had been quiet til now decided to mention the trouble with the police shootings.  I think she was tired of hearing me go on and on (She was from Chicago…. I think there might have been a rivalry there) so it ended my Chamber of Commerce lecture. But just because she stopped me from talking, it doesn’t mean I won’t go on and on if you want me to 🙂



Maggie’s Hollywood ! !

Hollywood Sign

I recently returned from a 2-week vacation to the west coast.  One week was spent in California and the second week was spent in Las Vegas with a friend.  When I was in California I had the opportunity to do only  a very little star searching as I only spent a few hours in Los Angeles and Hollywood.  Hardly significant time to get the full effect.

I spent over an hour pacing up and down the sidewalk taking pictures of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is a list of all the starts I took.  The most important to me were of course The Monkees, Kermit, Jim Henson and the Muppets.  It was also neat to find all the stars for the cast of The Dick Van Dyke show (one of my all time favorites).

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Here is a full list of Walk of  Fame Stars that I took pictures of:

Hollywood Walk of Fame Stars

Halle Berry
Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford
Donald Trump
Jerry Lewis
Jackie Chan
Gilda Radner
Edgar Bergen
Tony Curtis
Telly Savalas
Bert Lancaster
Jan & Mickey Rooney
Vivien Leigh
Ray Charles
BB King
Lindsay Wagner
Bing Crosby
Sally Field
Will Ferrell
Sammy Kaye
Eddie Cantor
Ingrid Bergman
Mellisa Etheridge
William Shatner
Glenn Miller
The Munchkins
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Elton John
Jack Nicholson
Micky Mouse
Herb Alpert
Hugh Jackman
Paul Williams
Pen & Teller
Phyllis Diller
Bugs Bunny
Alfred Hitchcock
Dick Van Dyke
Randy Travis
Nicolas Cage
James Doohan
Charlie Sheen
Brooks & Dunn
Ricardo Montalban
Bob Hope
Big Bird
Patrick Stewart
Richard Dreyfuss
DeForest Kelley
Kelsey Grammer
Cindy Williams
Penny Marshall
Michael J. Fox
Mary Tyler Moore
The Simpsons
Charles M. Schulz
Walt Disney
John Denver
Ray Parker Jr.
Sidney Poitier
Rose Marie
Don Knotts
George & Ira Gershwin
Irving Berlin
Spanky McFarland
The Beatles
Clint Black
Etta James
Charles Champlin
New Kids On The Block
Stan Lee
Ethel Merman
Tom Hanks
Vivian Vance
Jerry Stiller & Anne Mera
Woody Woodpecker
Chuck Norris
Tony Danza
Lionel Hampton
Ted Turner
Alice Cooper
The Mills Brothers
Jean Harlow
Hans Zimmer
Burgess Meredith
Morey Amsterdam
Rod Serling
Ron Howard
The Muppets
Garry Marshall
Linda Evans
Ray Bolger
Steve McQueen
Danny Kaye
Winnie the Pooh
The Andrew Sisters
Spencer Tracy
Claudette Colbert
Ozzy Osboure
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Judy Garland
Adam West
Fred Astaire
Ella Fitzgerald
George M Cohan
Bob Barker
Ed Harris
Sylvester Stallone
James Cameron
Bob Eubanks
Herb Jeffries
George Burns
Gracie Allen
John Lithgow
Guy Lombardo
Boris Karloff
Raymond Bur
Peter Falk
Errol Flynn
Jack Benny
Rip Taylor
Al Jolson
Frank Capra
Will Rogers
Jamie Lee Curtis
Mister Rogers
Dr. Seuss
Pee-Wee Herman
Orson Wells
Frank Sinatra
Alfred Hitchcock
James Cagney
Jim Henson
Perry Como
Nichelle Nichols
Tommy Dorsey
The Monkees
George Takei
Gene Roddenberry
Harry James
George Reeves
Betty White
Allen Ludden

I did visit Grouman’s Chinese Theater (now known as TCL Chinese Theather).  If given the opportunity I would have photographed all the prints and autographs in cement, but there were tons of other tourists milling about and their feet were covering much of what I wanted to photograph.  I felt kind of naive in that the first cement slab I wanted to find was John Wayne because of the famous I Love Lucy episode where she stole it and then tried several times to replace it.  To my slight disappointment…. John Wayne’s slab did not look like the one on Lucy.  I don’t know what I was thinking  🙂  Here’s a slide show of a sampling of stars


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The other bit of star gazing I did was actually in a cemetery.  I have visited cemeteries in the past as a vacation destination for Presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Fillmore, Wilson, Kennedy) and for historical figures (some local history, some general American history), but I had never been to a “celebrity” grave site before.  While Forest Lawn is the place most associated with Hollywood, I had no plans for that plot of land.  I wanted to “see”  and pay my respects to 2 pretty significant people in my life; and those being Richard Dawson and Bob Crane.  How fitting that they were both buried in the same place.  I’m a big planner when I go on vacation so I had a list of internment’s and a general idea of where they were located.

I started out at the top of the cemetery and began walking up and down the rows one by one.  The first gravestone I saw was for Don Knotts.  His had so many engraved pictures from his most memorable roles.  It read, “He saw the poignancy in people’s pride and pain and turned it into something hilarious and endearing.  He will always be Deptuy Fife to me.  ❤

I walked further and saw Mel Torme, Eva Gabor, Natalie Wood and Louis Jourdan before I found Bob Crane’s grave.  I had seen what the stone looked like on the internet before, but when it sneaks up on you like that, I was surely taken by surprise.  It was if I had actually been standing before him because just like other celebrities I got real nervous and quickly took a picture and moved on before I started crying.  His had a nice poem at the bottom. The stone was divided in two sections, his on the left and his last wife Sigrid Valdis on the right.

I found other memorials for Karl Malden, Walter Matthau, Merv Griffin, Rodney Dangerfield, Jack Lemmon, Carroll O’Connor (A favorite of mine), Peter Falk, Jim Backus (Mr. Howell !!!!) , Marilyn Monroe (fans kiss her grave stone leaving lipstick marks) and Jack Klugman (another one of my favorites).  I stood there perplexed that I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  I stepped under a tree and pulled out my phone to connect to the internet to try and figure out where Richard was placed.

All I had to work off of was a picture.  I could see a white building in the background, a sideways facing bench and 2 planted pots.  I felt like I was looking at a treasure map.  With those clues in hand I was about ready to put my phone in my pocket when I got a text message….. I’m sure I’ve mentioned (if you haven’t already heard it) that my text tone is Richard Dawson calling my name 3 times.

The entire time I was in the cemetery, there was a woman sitting next (and talking) to a grave at the very edge of the park so I had been courteous not to go over in that area.  (This cemetery has both regular and Hollywood graves)  I took my clues and headed in that near direction.  I found the bench, I saw the pots not far ahead.  And then two steps in front of me I found what I was looking for.

I knelt down in shock and before I knew it, my head was in my hands and I was sobbing.  It was like the reality of him not being here anymore had sunk in.  There was no one there to give me a kiss, hold my hand to  make me feel calm.  After a few minutes and leaving my own memorial, I stood up and did what I could to wipe my eyes and nose with my shirt.  I could see Bob from where I was standing and that made me smile so I walked back over there again with more confidence.  It was getting late in the morning, as I had a reservation to go horseback riding in the Hollywood hills so I had to leave.

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It wasn’t my intention, but on the last day of my vacation, a week later, I decided I had to come back one more time.  Not so much to find the other celebrities that I didn’t see the first time such as Dean Martin, but to say goodbye one more time.  This time I was able to walk directly over to Richard’s grave.  Bob’s was a bit more challenging as the sprinkler was on and despite my attempt to dodge it, I got soaked.

Here is a short montage of the photos I took at the cemetery


California Saga

I wanted to post a few things from my vacation, which was my 2nd trip to California.  To kick off the next few posts, here is a song by The Beach Boys called California Saga.  As always, you can play the video below while reading the lyrics. 

“California Saga: California”

Written by Al Jardine

On my way to sunny California
On my way to spend another sunny day

Water, water get yourself in the cool, clear, water
The sun shines brightly down on Penny’s place
The sun shines brightly down on the bay
The air’s so clean it’ll just take your mind away
Take your mind away
Take your mind away

Have you ever been south of Monterey
Barrancas carve the coast line and the chaparral flows to the sea
‘Neath waves of golden sunshine
And have you ever been north of Morro Bay
The south coast plows the sea
And the people there are of the breed
They don’t need electricity
Water, water, cool cascades of clear, clear water
The sun dance final scene sets the hills ablaze.
Horizon edges quick up the mountain’s way.

Have you ever been down Salinas way?
Where Steinbeck found the valley
And he wrote about it the way it was in his travelin’s with Charley
And have you ever walked down through the sycamores
Where the farmhouse used to be
There the monarch’s autumn journey ends
On a windswept cyprus tree

Water get water get yourself in that
Get yourself in that get yourself in that cool, clear, water
The sun shines brightly down on Penny’s place
Get yourself in that water
The air’s so clean that it just takes your mind away
Take your mind away
Take your mind away

Have you ever been to a festival, the Big Sur congregation?
Where Country Joe will do his show
And he’d sing about liberty
And the people there in the open air, one big family.
Yeah the people there love to sing and share
Their new found liberty