Free Museum Day – Descanso Gardens

Photo Jan 28, 1 30 42 PM

I decided to partake in the free Museum Day in Los Angeles, CA last week. I have been spending far too much time indoors and was glad for an excuse to get outside. There were a lot of places taking part, but I chose Descanso Gardens because I had never been. It was a lovely day out, with the temperature in the 80s, despite it being ”winter.”

It seemed as though many people parked in the residential area, but there was ample parking in the actual lot. My boyfriend, Brian, and I got our tickets online, which helped us avoid standing in an extra line. We stopped by the café first, which is right before the entrance. My lunch was good and the perfect amount of food. A woman in the line mentioned that she likes to take advantage of free museum days. Last year, she went to MOCA in Downtown LA, but said it was so crowded that she doubts she would ever go again on the free day. Descansco was definitely busy, but there were moments of complete quiet and peace, which were much needed. We got to enjoy a bench by the lake for a fair amount of time without interruption.Photo Jan 28, 2 11 00 PM

 

The grounds are enormous, with much to see. Each season has it’s own group of blooming flowers, with spring having the most. I really enjoy how it is set up, allowing you to walk through different sections. The Oak Forest and Ancient Forest were my favorites and Japanese Gardens are always beautiful and calming.

There are a few trails and places that are a bit of an uphill hike. We walked up a bit of a steep hill to find that it was an even steeper walk down, walking next to a fence. Most of the grounds are even and accessible for everyone, though. They do offer wheelchairs at the Visitor Center. Also, there are benches and bathrooms throughout the grounds.

The Boddy House, former home of E. Manchester Boddy, who founded the gardens, was an unexpected hike uphill, at least on the route we chose to take. If you have difficulty with something like that, please make sure to plan ahead and look into other routes/options so that you can enjoy this attraction. Restored in 2007 and opened as a museum in 2008, the Boddy house is considered a “must-see.” There are informational signs within the house and the rooms are, rightly, roped off. There is a functional sink with a sign that asks everyone to please not touch or use it, but, clearly, someone turned the handles because there was splattered water within the basin. (That both annoyed me and made me laugh.) The rooms and furniture are a “re-interpretation” of its appearance. Since the house and furnishings are contemporary, it didn’t have the same historical feel as many other places I have been, making it feel like more like going to a house party at a very nice house. There are docents available, but due to the crowd, it didn’t even occur to me to find one to gain any insight. Again: Free Museum Day. Brian couldn’t help himself as we left the building, telling random people where the keg was. Everyone enjoyed his joke, I think.

We also went to the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which is next to the Boddy House. It has nature-themed art, of course.

On our way out, we did stop in the gift store, where they sell many garden-related items as well as food items, like jellies and bread mix.

I am glad to have visited Descanso Gardens, regardless of the crowd. It did take Free Museum Day to get me to finally visit, but it will only take a change of season to get me to go again. I am looking forward to the lilacs in the Spring.

Lilacs to be
Not quite lilacs.

 

 

 

* Wear comfortable shoes.

**Make sure to bring water in your recyclable bottle.

Descanso Gardens

1418 Descansco Drive

La Canada, Flintridge, CA 91011

(818) 949-4200

descansogardens.org

 

 

 

 

 

Salton Sea, Take 2, Bananas & Salvation Mountain

The first time I went to Salton Sea, I assumed it was some tiny little body of water, so figured it would be a cinch to find Bombay Beach. Sara and I got there and found a closed visitor’s center and a very smelly run down shack. This time, I made sure to actually research where it is.  This time was also my boyfriend’s first Dart and Map adventure, where it takes 8 hours to go on a 2 hour trip.

Brian and I went to Pappy and Harriets to meet up with some of his friends and to see Lucinda Williams, who was already on the stage playing by the time we got there.  Pappys is a great little restaurant and music joint in Pioneertown, which is about 1 1/2-2 hours from Los Angeles. Pioneertown was originally built as a set for Hollywood Western movies. Now, it has a motel, Pappys & Harriets and the old set buildings with weekend shoot-out reenactments.

We chatted Lucinda up a little bit after the show, which was very cool, and  since I had a few drinks by then, I babbled about how I had learned to play one of her songs on the guitar. Except, it probably sounded more like “ohhh! You inspired me to pick up the guitar and PLAY! bleeh awesome! woo supporting women woohoo” or whatever I said.  My happy drunk is very puppies and rainbows. And then I was probably asleep by midnight.BANANAS!

The discovery of the International Banana Museum trumped my excitement of finally knowing the location of Bombay Beach. Ever since I met a banana in San Francisco, I have developed a bit of an obsession for all things banana. (No, I do not have a million little banana trinkets.) Brian and I got up and out of our hotel room and drove to the banana nirvana. The website said it was open. I didn’t think to call anyway. So, of course, it was closed. Closed! : (

The owner did answer the phone when I called while in front of the place, but he was on his way out of town. Banana dreams. Foiled. (I can’t think of a good banana pun, so foiled will have to do.)

Next, we went to Bombay Beach. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, with Hollywood celebrities flocking there.  The high salinity, followed by storms destroyed this playcation hotspot by the 70s. If you look up the Salton Sea, you always see a picture of a decaying van. So, when you get there and do not see it, there is disappointment. Fortunately, Brian knows a lot of people and ran into a guy he knew. That guy was with a girl that had been visiting since the 80s and directed me to the iconic van. Now it looks like this: IMG_2170IMG_2164

There were some dead fish and random objects along with the rubble of what once was.

 

Brian grabbed the camera and snapped this very awesome photo. IMG_2161

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There are a bunch of trailers off of the beach where people still reside.

 

We went to a local place called Ski Inn for lunch before we darted off to Salvation Mountain, which is another iconic place you have to visit when you are in Southern California.

Salvation Mountain is the recently deceased Leonard Knight‘s way of sending his message to everyone that “God is Love.”  It is about 20 minutes East of Bombay Beach.

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Surely you have seen a picture of this…

People donated paint to him so that he could create his brightly colored mountain, filled with art.  We walked around and checked out all of the cool art on and within the mountain. We were curious about Slab City as well, being that it is RIGHT THERE, but have read enough about it to maybe go when we are feeling more adventurous. Slab is an off-the-grid kind of place. Though it sounds like there are plenty of artists and very interesting types of people there, we were advised to skip it.IMG_2209

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What’s up there?

We decided to go around the Salton Sea instead of back tracking.

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fft fft ffft fft ffft

 

Love driving through new places! I don’t know why it fascinated me that it is so close to Mexico, as was made very clear by the Border Patrol stop we had to make on our way back up. Since we weren’t smuggling anyone or anything, we zipped past and watched the Sea on our right until we reached the 10 Freeway to Los Angeles.IMG_2225

 

-Jenn

An Encounter With Dinosaurs and an Old Buzzard

Putting our best feet forward

Day 1 of our epic cross country adventure- This trip we left from LA, heading East as I would eventually drop off Jenn in Chicago for a visit with her fam before I headed on to friends in Massachusetts. With previous trips that started out as a 4 day excursion but wound up with us still on the road 2 weeks later roaming and discovering where we might end up next, we were well prepped for these travels.

It’s so big

First up, the world’s tallest thermometer located in Baker, the Gateway to Death Valley, because if you can’t find a ball of string big enough in these parts a thermometer embodying all that is grand about Americana culture will do.

Next stop, Las Vegas. Leave it to us to treat Sin City as a pit stop and a place to “do lunch”, but we needed to refuel, which we did at The PBR Rockbar on the strip.

We took the bull by the horns at Rockbar

 

 

 

We didn’t need to dance ‘til dawn this time around- been there, done that a dozen times – although we did miss our usual poolside service with cocktails topped off with toasted coconut at The Cosmopolitan, but this day we dined outdoors, beneath its looming exterior, remembering its glistening chandeliers, at the appropriately named The Chandelier bar and morning-after recovery brunches at Wicked Spoon, which we were wickedly tempted to try again, but were more than satisfied by our bold bar food selections and our sidewalk patio setting, watching the variety of people Vegas has to offer on display passing by. We skipped drinking PBR’s and stuck with root beers as it was back on the road for us following our meal.

The next test for us was to pass through the Valley of Fire without being burned. No problem for these two pros as we safely entered Utah, but only temporarily were we secure, for next up was an unexpected encounter with dinosaurs!

 

 

 

 

Run, Sara, run!

The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in St. George. Containing some of the best preserved tracks and fossils, which were discovered during a real estate project to level some land, and dating back more than 195 million years, this gem is a true Jurassic Park to treasure, and just as much fun for us to be let loose in.

That dinosaur sure is lucky it was protected from Jenn by that glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaver would be where we would settle that first night, but not before we let off a little restless energy at Renegade Lounge.

What lies beyond the red door?

This one stoplight town, and one bar, thanks to some sort of grandfather clause, as told to us the last time we were there by the guy whose grandfather owned the place, is the local hot spot. That’s right, this wasn’t our first time in these parts and served as a familiar go-to drinking hole, as it did for the other patrons passing through or seasonal workers stationed there.  As soon as we arrived, Toto, we realized we weren’t in Los Angeles anymore. A group of friendly guys chatted us up, invited us to join them, bought us drinks and even offered up the delivery pizza they had at their table. (Those looking for a light bite can help themselves to the popcorn machine on the bar top.) Not one asked us if we were in the biz, or even what biz for that matter. There was simply actual human interaction and conversation taking place. And they were ever so much more interesting than any A-list celebs I’ve met.  These guys weren’t just delightfully social, turns out they were death defying. I’ve had my share of crappy day jobs, from working for a pent up office manager who wanted me to decorate all of her binders with pretty patterns of wallpaper cover sheets and stylish font styles when labeling them to a high powered portfolio manager with unmanaged anger, who couldn’t make eye contact but could scream at you from down the hall and an office away. His former assistant quit in tears. I stuck it out amused by his issues. But unlike our new acquaintances, I had never risked my life by going below ground, surrounded by deadly gas at a geothermal plant drilling for hot water. Cade, who had tempted us to their table with cheesy bread and dipping sauce accompanying the pizza, (yeah, we’re very high-end and hard-to-get when we’re on the road) showed us video of them on his camera phone suiting up in tactical gear and gas masks as they prepped for their next shift. And I thought my ill-fitting tuxedo pants I got at a thrift store for my uniform during my catering days were bad. I just had to make sure I had my comfortable shoes and a wine opener on hand versus hoping I didn’t inhale anything toxic in order to make it through a shift.

Old Buzzard and Funny Shit sharing a laugh

We shared tales of cheating death and our taste for adventure. The crew was as colorful as their job description. Hector and AJ restocked the rounds as I was introduced to their boss man they affectionately called “The Old Buzzard”. He in turn nicknamed me “Funny Shit” as I made him laugh. He then tried to make me dance. Boys on the road, especially in the West, sure do like and look for any opportunity to two-step.  We both soon learned I do not, and really can’t. The Old Buzzard who had suffered his share of challenges as a former bronco rider on the rodeo circuit, including a broken hip that caused him to limp, soon gave up on me declaring after a turn on the dance floor, “You keep leading. You don’t know how to follow!” Such is the curse, or benefit, depending on your dance partner, of being an independent woman. We returned to our stools and swapped stories of adrenaline rushing activities we enjoyed. I told him how I had jumped out of an airplane, he told me to top that I needed to ride a bull.

So you think you can dance?

He then took Jenn for a spin and got her to two-stepping after she had wrapped up a freestyle session blowing it out with Cade in a dance-off below the pulsating disco lights.

 

 

 

 

 

Swing your partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tired from the day’s long drive we took our bows for the night and trekked back to our hotel, the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn, where we had comfortable beds waiting and a complimentary breakfast the next day before hitting the road, well rested and refreshed for the journey ahead.

Vroom, vroom!
-Sara

© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

Baseball Art, Lavender and Animals!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek6sJ_n0lVI%5D

I read about a baseball exhibit and was very excited. Then saw it was at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.  I automatically assumed it was going to be some hippie weird hemp rope odd something not very baseball-like exhibit.

THANK GOD! I was wrong!  Not one to pass up trying something new, I drove over to the museum to check it out. The museum entrance fee is already dirt cheap, but is even cheaper with a KCRW card. ($5!) Yay!

Up to the 3rd floor I ran. No. I am lying. I totally took the elevator. ZOOM to the 3rd floor. So, it’s dead silent up there. I am the only visitor. No weirdo museum people analyzing anything next to me! I could stare at things as long as I wanted and NO one was there to pressure me into moving on. It was a Thursday in the early afternoon. Good time to go, folks. Good time. A security guard appeared exactly when I realized I didn’t bring my regular camera with the timer.  I got this awesome picture.

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The exhibit are all items owned by a collector named Gary Cypres. His sports memorabilia collection is one of the largest in the world. There were quilts, cigar boxes, drawings (from the 1800s, yo!), a roulette wheel table (sweet!), old bats (no, not your mother-in-law) and

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In 1903, this bat was
presented to the
Boston Red Sox for
winning the first
World Series.

lots of other cool items.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       IMG_4567I really dug the art made of unraveled sock and shoelace threads. A man named Ray Materson was imprisoned (drug-related thing) and decided to get all artsy by making these little squares of baseball players. I am only putting up one here.

IMG_4547
Look at the detail. Dang!

This exhibit runs through September 9, 2012.

 

New Oak Ranch is a lavender farm in Ojai, California. They also have walnuts, olives and tangerines. During the summer, their ranch is open to the public. Since I adore lavender, it made sense to take the hour drive for the experience. I fantasized about running through the lavender fields and rolling around with the wind blowing through my hair.  Maybe Gene Kelly, Olivia Newton John and the Muses rollerskate with me. . .

You are given clippers and a twisty tie and are set free into the fields to cut your own IMG_4603batch. You can cut some for cooking (Provence) or go for the aromatic lavender (Grosso!) IMG_4604There are bees all over. I am not a fan of being around stingy things so was a bit concerned. They have a sign up stating that the bees won’t bother you and I decided to just believe them and waltz through. One with the bees. . . one with the bees. .

Won’t even lie. The bees were so into their pollinating that I felt a bit bad cutting down their fine work, but did it anyway.  They did not bother me once. Err.. okay. One seemed to yell at me until I moved a little bit.

After gallivanting about in the fields, it was time to check out the products. One of the owners, Karen Evenden, was standing by to help me decide what to buy. Lavender everything. Lotion, spritzer, body wash, sea salts, jams, scones, honey.  Karen let me try the jams and honey. I grabbed as much as I could. I am really looking forward to making the scones. The lavender buds for cooking and tea are fantastic. Been throwing them in my vegetable saute´ and loving it!  Make sure to check out the above video. A really cool woman named Brooke explained everything about the ranch to me and Karen describes some of the products. Great people!

Again, the lavender fields are only open in the summertime, but their products are available through their website  all year ’round.

The Gentle Barn is an animal rescue sanctuary for farm animals. They rehabilitate animals. IMG_1334Poor things were abused, neglected or meant for butchering. A few people posted about it on Facebook so I looked into it and found out it is very near Los Angeles. Just a 25 minute drive. There are cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, donkeys, cats, dogs, turkeys, IMG_1344and llamas. And you can pet every one of them. Okay, not the llamas. So I just stared at the pretty eyelashes on one of them.  It is a $10 donation to get in and well worth it! The animals are adorable (duh) and very mild mannered.  Some of the animals were bred to be food and were genetically modified. Poor things. IMG_4631                                            There is a cow (their therapy cow) that has bow legs and arthritis. She can’t stand up for very long. She’s the one I pet the most.

When you feed the carrots to the horses, make sure to visit the ones a little further back.

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Yay! Carrots!

One was making a lot of noise to make sure I stayed put and gave her attention.  Definitely pet the turkeys. Was pretty cute to have one look at me like I was the best thing ever for doing that!

Gentle Barn is definitely a family-oriented place. Great to teach your children to be kind to animals.

Ellen and Portia DeRossi are big fans of this place. It was even on Ellen’s show. I visited with the turkey named after Portia. So, I guess that means I sorta met a famous turkey. If you can’t get there, you can donate through their website. They would sure appreciate that!

I finally got to feed Ostriches and Emus in Solvang at Ostrich Land.

I seem to goIMG_4716 to Solvang an awful lot these days (sssh!) and have always wanted to visit this place but never did for some reason (wine.) It is $4 per bowl of food.  The birds are all behind fences and reach their heads over to eat.  They all had the best expressions on their IMG_1364faces and walked like Big Bird. Fine. Maybe they aren’t really “expressions” but, whatever.  Hit this place up before you make it to the wineries. That would be my advice. Very silly fun.

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Don’t forget about us! We are past the ostriches. We like the food, too!

 

Thanks for reading!!  – Jenn

© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

Who knew LA & Wrightwood could be so much fun?

Recently, my brother, Don, visited me in Los Angeles. We started off the week by trying the Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack on Melrose Avenue. Delicious and

ink.sack_

inexpensive food! We were both very stoked.  My brother is a foodie and always has a list of restaurants he wants to try when he is in town. His choices never fail!

Next up were Make Music Pasadena and the Pasadena Chalk Festival. I don’t know if the music fest will be an annual thing, but it was pretty neat. There were a whole lotta bands. I won’t even lie and pretend I had a clue who any of them were. I had heard of Dengue Fever because their song One Thousand Years of a Tarantula was placed in a season finale of the show Weeds. It was a pretty awesome ending. We watched Dengue perform and then moved onwards to the food trucks around the corner so my brother could enjoy Nom Nom and I could nosh on a sandwich from the Lobsta Truck. Also there were the Grilled Cheese and India Jones trucks, but I can hit them up another time!  All of them have awesome food, I must say.

After dinner we were off to Dodger Stadium. It took us no time to get there from Pasadena.

Dodger-Stadium1
Sorry boys, I’m a White Sox girl!

What took forever was getting INTO the stadium. Geesh! The White Sox were in town playing the Dodgers.  We won!  Seeing baseball with my brother rules! Dodger Stadium is the 3rd oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Pretty cool! One odd thing was the organist played “Alone Again.” It’s weird, right? The other odd, but VERY LA thing is the special parking for Lexus owners.

Dodger-Stadium-parking
Well…..Excuuuse Me!

Since you know you are wondering, I’ll tell you: There were no incidents at all at the stadium. Everyone was well behaved and nice so don’t let the very unfortunate incident last year keep you from checking out the ballpark!

A few days later, we had dinner at Sweetsalt in Toluca Lake. Another Top Chef find by my brother. Service was amazing! Food was incredible! AND and and and … they have Macarons!! Holy S***!! I definitely scared the staff with my cookie obsession thing.

Finally, we hit an Angels vs. Giants game at Anaheim Stadium with another friend of mine.

Charlies-Angels-of-Anaheim-II
My brother’s “Charlie’s Angels” pose.

I love going to that stadium. It’s so efficient to get in and out!! Plus, the White Sox are usually there when they are in town, so I have learned to love that place.  And it was a great game!

The next weekend, my cousin, Lisa and I went whale watching with Newport Landing in Newport Beach. lisajenn_whalewatchingNo whales (I never ever see whales! wah!) but we did see dolphins, which is always cool and we definitely enjoyed the boat ride! Cousin time!

 

Last, but definitely NOT least was my trip to Wrightwood to enjoy their annual Mountaineer Days.

mountaineer-days

I had a fantasy that there would be a gaggle of cowboys, but knew that wasn’t what it was about at all. It’s a family-oriented event with stage coach rides, rock climbing, gold panning, cowboy reenactment shows, live bands and plenty of booths showcasing businesses in the local community. I talked to a few folks in the Chamber of Commerce booth. They love their town and were hoping I was going to stay a few days. Not this time, but most definitely in the future!  I checked out their local bookstore, Beverly’s Books. Of course, I bought a book called, “The Wild West”.  Buying books everywhere I travel seems to be my “thing.”

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I enjoyed the sweet greyhounds up for adoption and the adorable bobcat kittens

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My name is Cat. Bob Cat.

that normally reside at Forever Wild Sanctuary.                                                                  At Applewood Court, I bought some maple flavored fudge from a man with a kitten nose and whiskers painted on his face (he was probably VERY excited about that.)  Just as the cowboy show started, I had to hop on the stage coach to catch my ride. Reenactments are always SO cheesy and bad but I can’t stop watching and loving them!!!!

The Wrightwood Historical Museum was open, so I popped in to look at all of the pictures they have displayed. I loved the woman that was working inside and made sure to chat her up a bit about the history of Wrightwood. Sumner Wright is considered to be the “Father of Wrightwood,” though he was not the first IMG_1241person to live there. He ran his family ranch, Circle Mountain Cattle Company and also had an apple orchard! Don’t miss the goodies outside and in the back of the museum!  They have old signs from the town, a 1930s cabin replica and a few other fun things.

The hunger pains finally got me and I meandered down to Joe Mudd’s Pie & Coffee and Guitars, apparently. IMG_4152 I grabbed a sandwich and a fantastic slice of walnut pie to go.

I just had to take the 2 Highway home since I had never explored that way. And holy smokes! I stopped at least 80 million times to check out the scenery.IMG_1281It’s just beautiful! I took a ton of pictures and totally ate the walnut pie instead of saving it until I got home. oops.

Here is a shout out to a vendor in the video:

The hair pieces on the mannequin heads in the video are by Grace Design (909) 288-8288. She was really nice and the hair pieces were really amazing. Very tempting, but IMG_1230I’m too lazy to dress up well enough to warrant wearing one. The heads all have names on their necks so people can explain which design they like when they order! She is in Fontana.

 

 

Signing Off!!  – Jenn                                                                                                                                       IMG_1257

 

 © 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

Mansions and Ghosts in San Jose!!

On a road trip to Big Sur. . .we ended up in San Jose.  It just so happened that every hotel anywhere near Big Sur was booked and, naturally, we had not planned ahead.  Luckily for us, one of the only hotels available happened to also be one of the very coolest. We completely scored and stayed at the historic Dolce Hayes Mansion. Yea, we did that. We stayed in a mansion. Albeit, a converted to a hotel-mansion, but a MANSION! Yes, please!  Unfortunately, we arrived too late to dine, but did enjoy a glass of wine in the Coyote Creek Lounge, which was just a quick elevator ride downstairs..in the basement. bawhawhawhaw!! Actually, it wasn’t a creepy-ass place at all. I really liked it and am totally leading you on right now.

The next day, we wanted to be able to say we lounged at the pool of a mansion, so made the effort to relax (woa! that is SO an oxymoron!)  instead of rushing off, as we tend to do. For a little while, we were frou-frou heads in the fancypants hotel robes they provided. . . until hunger pains and ghosts called.

We had to check out the Winchester Mystery House™. The story of the house goes as such: Basically, a woman, Sarah Winchester (as in Winchester guns – pew! pew!!), lost her child and years later, her husband. She went to a spiritual advisor that told her to move West, buy a house and continue working on it 24/7 to appease spirits that allegedly took her family and would take her life as well.  There were hundreds of rooms at one point, crazy stairs and doors that lead to nowhere. Oh, and it is supposed to be haunted. Sounds like my kind of place! It would have been a lot of fun to check it out without the tour, but it wasn’t allowed, so we took the 1 hour tour, hoping to have a supernatural experience. The tour costs $30, which is a wee bit expensive (though I do understand there are costs to keep it open.) Our tour guide was super actor tour guide dude. He was VERY into his job. Sadly, we didn’t see any ghosts. (Figures!) But, ghosts didn’t come out to greet me at The Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado a few years ago, either. Soooo, maybe it’s just me. (Watch your backs, ghosts! I’m going to see one of you someday!)

This place is cool, historical (duh) and it is definitely worth checking out.

Do it!                                       – – –    Jenn

© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright