Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Tucked away in the suburbs of Philadelphia rests an amazing piece of lost American history.It lies hidden away on the grounds of the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania, at one time one of the most technological places in the World. During the time of the cold war this may have been one of the most difficult places to access. The surrounding property housed numerous laboratories focusing on the development of aircraft equipment, advanced navigation systems, aerospace equipment, and submarine detection. But perhaps it's most important work was training future pilots, and eventually astronauts.
In order to train for the strenuous conditions involved with operating a fighter jet, one must be accustomed to numerous changes in gravity forces being applied to the body. The best way to do this is to build a machine capable of producing these anomalies. In 1947 construction began on the largest human centrifuge ever built, and in 1950 operations began. Originally the centrifuge was meant to only train pilots, but by the middle of the 1950's things were quickly and quietly changing.
By the late 1950's America was engulfed in a cold war with Russia. Besides battling in an arms race, the two countries were neck and neck in a space race. At this time the legacy of the centrifuge would change forever.
During a time in the late 1959 a who's who of American citizens could be found at the massive machine. Allen Shepard, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and numerous others all took rides in the famous Mercury 7 gondola. Every astronaut who took part in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs trained right here.
"Sadistic", "dreaded"," diabolical", "torture chamber", "a gruesome merry-go-round", these are just a few ways John Glenn and others have described the centrifuge. Packing 4,000 horsepower and the capabilities of maneuvering your body in disorienting positions, the centrifuge certainly wasn't meant to be played with. While being used to train the astronauts, a few decided they wanted to truly test the magnitude of this vicious machine. In 1958 a Naval reserve officer rode in the gondola for nearly a minute at over 20 Gs. Another rode inside at an astounding 32 Gs for nearly half a minute. As the need for speed geared everyone's adrenaline it wasn't a feasible way into space. In the late 1950's two daring scientists loaded a La-z boy recliner into the gondola and proved that man could survive for more than 24 hours if kept at a steady 2 Gs. Their theory helped to be extremely helpful in being able to accomplish space exploration.
The centrifuge ceased using the Mercury 7 gondola in 1964, and had it placed in the Smithsonian museum. But the facility remained opened, and was a training grounds for many future pilots. In 1996 the base fell victim to closure, and operations were relocated to Maryland. All operations of the centrifuge ended shortly thereafter and the gondola was left to collect dust.
Today the behemoth spinning gondola is still resting in it's home in Warminster. Fortunately the doors are still open. Tours take place regularly at the Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum. The place is loaded with past artifacts from the early days of aerospace training. Most of the place looks similar to how it did when in operations. The control panels are nicely intact, and look strangely antiquated compared to today's technology. Of course the spinning gondola is still in place and you can even take a step inside, but don't worry they won't turn it on...even if you try to bribe them! But donations are greatly accepted.
Video look at the Johnsville Centrifuge
Saturday, November 17, 2012
If you find yourself traveling the back roads of southern Adams county in Pennsylvania, you may be surprised to learn you are in possibly one of the safest places in the country. But before you find yourself immersed in the tranquility of the area, be sure you keep your eyes peeled or you may end up on the wrong side of an interrogation table.
Stowed away in the mountains of Liberty township, resting six stories underground is a United States Government complex knows as Raven Rock. The facility provides communication services for the Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Communications Center. The area is often referred to as Site R, the underground Pentagon or the backup Pentagon, which is exactly what this complex was designed to be.
In 1948 as the cold war with Russia was heating up, plans were developed to build a hidden underground infrastructure. Things began to boil over in 1949 when the Soviets detonated a nuclear explosive, by 1951 construction began. A 1/2 million cubic yards of granite were hauled away from the mountains in as little as 10 months. In 1953 buildings A, B, and C opened, followed 10 years later by buildings D, and E. The entire complex consists of 66 buildings and 716 acres. Beneath the mountains, and hidden behind massive steel doors, the compound houses their own power plant and water reservoir. Within the grounds is a subterranean living quarters, fitness center, medical facility, chapel, and even a convenience store. Its believed to hold enough supplies to last 3,000 people approximately 30 days. This massive underground headquarters is meant to act as the defense headquarters in times of war. It's believed former Vice President Cheney frequented the base quite often in the days following 9/11.
Most of the activities that take place in this massive underground complex are highly classified. In May of 2007 the Federal Register published a Department of Defense policy declaring it unlawful for any person "entering in or on the property...to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map or geographical representation of the Raven Rock Mountain Complex without first obtaining the necessary permission." Guess I better get going! A couple of guys in black suits are knocking at the door...probably just the Mormons again.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Passing through the parking lot of the Stephen T. Maher training facility in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, nothing seems unusual or out of the ordinary. But hidden in a small hillside near the entrance of the parking lot is a nuclear fallout bunker. This bunker is alleged to hold several months of food, medical supplies, weapons, and communication devices. The bunker is said to be there to protect the Secretary of the Interior and his closest staff members in the event of a nuclear attack. Seeing that the Stephen P. Maher facility is a training grounds for the National Park service, this seems quite plausible. If you find yourself nearby stop by and give the door a rap, don't be surprised if no one answers. If someone does, I'm not sure if you should run or ask if they got room for one more!
Monday, November 12, 2012
Many out there may not be aware how much destruction is looming right around them. Littered throughout this nation are hundreds of missile bases. Fortunately for us most of these have been decommissioned since the demise of the cold war, leaving numerous abandoned fields scattered throughout. Most were sold to municipalities, or given back to the government. Some went to private individuals, a few stayed active, and a couple were just forgotten. One is sitting deserted in the municipality of Granite, Maryland. An area once known for? You guessed it...granite! In fact the granite was used to help build the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. By 1920 the quarries were emptying and so was the town. When the threat of nuclear attack came approaching from the Soviet Union, the sleepy town was re-awakened with threats of an apocalypse.
In order to protect the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C. a hub of missile bases were positioned around the metropolitan areas. The rural area of Granite, nestled only 20 miles outside of Baltimore was a prime location for such a base.
The facility was equipped primarily with Nike Hercules nuclear warhead missiles. Citizens at that time were quite aware of the doom and gloom that was lurking in their backyard, what they weren't aware of was the amount of impact these nuclear weapons would have had, if they had to be used. Each of these missiles packed as much as 45 kilotons of mass destruction. Luckily for the citizens of Granite and the rest of the country, none of these behemoth monsters were ever unleashed. The impact felt could have left the neighboring city of Baltimore in dust and crumble.
Lost behind the rusted fence and the dilapidated barbed wire on Herndon road, lies what's left of the Nike missile base of Granite.The No trespassing signs that line the fence, blow hazardously in the wind. Crumbling block buildings dot the landscape, while massive radar towers once imposed the horizon. Underground bunkers have since been welded shut and now the area is used as a training grounds for the Maryland State police.
The former base in Granite is one of the few that's still mainly intact. While most would like to forget this dark past in American history, I feel there's many others who would love a chance to visit a lost missile silo. After all it was our tax money that helped to build all these weapons of devastation.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Hidden away in the humble town of Port Jervis, New York is a rare place most just pass right over. Tucked away in the rear of the Laurel Grove cemetery, lies the Tri-State monument. A place where you can literally be in 3 states at once. The monument sits under Interstate 84 and is a converging point for the states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The area once served as battle grounds between the states of New Jersey and New York. The two states once battled for the sought after land, where the Delaware river and Neversink river merge together. Maybe they both knew the small borough would someday be named one of the 10 coolest small towns in America.
The current monument that stands is a replacement for an original which decorated the spot as early as 1774. Also nearby is a monument for the merging of Pennsylvania and New York, which technically occurs in the center of the Delaware river. But if you don't wish to slip into your waders and would rather stand in 3 states at once, I'd opt for the photo opportunity on land.
Friday, October 5, 2012
The light from the porch illuminated onto the tall gentleman who was standing nearby. The light cast his shadow directly in front of us, imposing a shadow of blackness as we approached the steps. Upon climbing the incline, he stepped to us with a somber greeting. We paid our fee and he took a seat. As we waited for others to arrive, we spoke briefly with the gentleman. His eyes casting out of the large brimmed hat he was wearing. His attire consisted of period dress for the time of the early 19th century. As the rest of our tour arrived the imposing gentleman arose and spoke out in his baritone voice. This was to be our guide for the evening. He grabbed his trusty lantern and we followed him into the cobblestone streets of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
As we meandered throughout the hilly town, we stopped at several local landmarks thought to possess supernatural entities. The tour consisted of a visit to an old tavern haunted by spirits who never left. While in operation, the owner would often hear the sounds of someone falling down stairs. There were several accounts of unidentifiable phenomena that had convinced the owner the place was inhabited by lost spirits, from a period long passed. Since the closing of the establishment it has been rented out to several tenants, who don't seem to hang around very long.
We also paid visit to a cave that was used as a secret lab for a doctor who conducted some very controversial experiments. An old hotel where some strange happenings have been occurring for over 100 years. As our guide led us to these destinations he told tales of grisly happenings that had occurred in the premises, as well as the strange events that had been taking place ever since. He would also throw in his own thoughts as to why he believed these haunting's had been happening.
One of the most disturbing tales he told, was of a former slave who had helped John Brown during his overtake of the federal armory in town. The bloody and beaten man was dragged through the streets of Harper's Ferry. The angry mob brought the battered man to an area known as hog alley. This had been a gathering place of the hogs who scavenged through the town, feeding on the trash that was not properly discarded. The hungry hogs aggressively tore the defenseless gentleman apart and quickly devoured the carcass. Though the former slave was a criminal in the public's eye, it was later revealed that the only reason he helped John Brown during his raid on the armory, was so he could purchase his wife and children back, who were being held as slaves elsewhere. I found this particular tale to be quite disturbing, the mental images created in my mind and the sympathy I felt for this gentleman have still remained with me.
There were numerous destinations on the walk. The town is full of history and violence making it one of the best destinations for ghost tours. Several places we visited on the tour gave me a sense of something abnormal occurring nearby. My hairs would stand up on end, and I would feel a sense of an unnatural presence close. One particular place where I felt this the strongest, also consisted of a mass of orbs when photographed. Orb's are not something I'm 100% confident in, but I don't automatically dismiss their presence.
The tour was done fantastically! Our guide was a walking historian, he had mentioned to us that he also worked in Gettysburg and Antietam. He was a perfect mixture of mystique, knowledge, humor and eerieness. The ghost tour at Harper's Ferry has been rated as one of the best in the country. It's not difficult to see why, situated in a charming town still lost in a history of violence and bloodshed. And a tour guide who gives you just the right amount of giggles, thrills, and chills.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
The Starucca viaduct is a beautiful stone archway bridge that spans across the sleepy town of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. Built between 1847-1848 the bridge has stood as a testament of time as well as craftsmanship. The bridge was built as a crosswalk between two mountains. Another plan was to re-route the train tracks, but that deemed to be a more hazardous route.
At its time of completion it was considered the largest stone viaduct in the mid 19th century, it was also considered to be the most expensive railroad bridge in the World. The grandiose overpass was constructed mainly of bluestone from the local quarries in the area. It also incorporated concrete bases to help support the towering trestle. This may have been the first time that concrete was used in the supporting of an American bridge.
The Starucca viaduct has been recognized as both a National historical, and engineering landmark. It has also been mentioned in numerous works of literature, as well as been depicted in many artworks. Seeing the serene beauty that surrounds this graceful bridge it's not difficult to become a bit more creative or at least a tad more at peace.
Video look at the Starucca viaduct
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Opened to operations in 1915, the railroad bridge was at that time, the largest concrete bridge in the United States. Concrete was a rather new method of construction at the time, and many doubted the structure's integrity. Well for another 50 years the bridge continued to maintain its noteriety as the largest in the U.S. and was even considered to be the 9th wonder of the World by some. In 1977 the bridge was placed on the National registry of historic places.
Today the viaduct is still in use, helping to transport goods through northern Pennsylvania, as well as southern New York. And the bridge still serves as an essential component to tourism in a tiny mountain town in northeast Pennsylvania. Driving into the area as you witness the quiet town in the foreground, the massive infrastructure nearly takes your breath away.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
In the tiny town of Kingsley, Pennsylvania sits a man made marvel. Spanning 1600 feet over the Martin's creek the Kingsley bridge is quite an engineering feat. The concrete structure consists of 10 arches, the highest being 150 feet.
The viaduct was built between 1912-14 and was completed one year ahead of schedule. Construction came during the Summit cutoff, a major overhaul of the local tracks done by the Delaware-Lackawanna & Western railroad. The new construction of several viaducts in the area would cut the traveling time of trains traveling from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania to Hallstead, Pennsylvania. Marin's creek viaduct is often considered the little brother of the Tunkahannock. The structure is quite impressive to see, though it does pale in comparison to the local Tunkahannock viaduct.
The viaduct was important enough to our country that it was guarded from attack during World War 1. Troops slept in the swampy marshes surrounding the area, in order to protect this historical structure.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Stories around town claimed Mr. Moyer's wife was not thrilled with having to move out of her home to relocate to Syracuse. To keep his wife happy Mr. Moyer had their home moved to the top of his work. Others around town had stories that weren't quite as romantic.
In a 1937 newspaper interview a family member revealed that the home has never been inhabited and contains nothing but machinery to operate an elevator and rafters for the structure. The house was designed as an architectural gimmick. Mr. Moyer was even said to have raised one of his carriages onto the roof to attract attention to his latest model. The Moyer Carriage manufacturing facility once consisted of four buildings, each with a Victorian home perched on top. Today the one along North Salina street is the only one remaining. Unfortunately the building has sat empty since 2005 so no one's certain how much longer it will remain a quirky Syracuse attraction.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
When people think of Joseph Smith and the Mormon church they're often closely associated with the state of Utah. Strangely enough the beginning stages of this religion were formed in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania.
Founder Joseph Smith and his wife retreated to the hills of Harmony, Pennsylvania in December 1827. It was here, at his father-in-laws home that he began to translate the gold plates he received from the angel Moroni. During April 1828 and the spring of 1829 most of the plates had been translated and recorded, thanks in large part to his wife Emma, as well as several friends and family members. Together they helped record the transcripts, as well as maintain the farmland.
During his stay in this remote county, Joseph and his scribe Oliver commenced to the nearby woods to seek guidance. While praying for guidance a resurrected John the Baptist paid a visit to the men and instructed them to baptise each other in the Susquehanna river.
Shortly after the two men relocated to Fayette, New York where the remaining manuscript for the book of Mormon was finished, and publication arrangements began. Joseph's wife Emma continued to stay in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph returned back in June 1830, but his stay was short lived. After the Book of Mormon was released the family was threatened with violence and legal issues. In late August 1830 the family left permanently.
In 1919 the former home of Joseph and Emma burned down. The buried foundation is near a commerorative memorial remebering the works of Mr. Smith and his importance to the mormon religion. Today the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints owns approximately 288 acres surrounding the former homestead.
Traveling the byways of Susquehanna county it's not hard to see why Joseph chose this place to do his most rewarding work. The area has a peace and calmness not often found in other places. Even in 2012 the county seems to be trapped in a lost time, and that's a charming attribute you just can't create, it's gotta be natural.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Hidden away in the middle of nowhere... more specifically the mountains of central Pennsylvania, lies a burger joint unlike many others. Since 1977 Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has been a local favorite spot for burgers and brews. But this place isn't just your average burger and beer joint. To generate attention to their restaurant and their extensive menu, the pub began to introduce giant burgers to the public. It all started with a 2 pound cheeseburger challenge, including all the fixins and a homemade bun.
In 1998 Denny's really upped the ante and introduced their "Ye Olde 96er." A 6 pound burger full of all the toppings, including ketchup, mustard, relish, banana peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. A young petite college student from New Jersy was the first to complete this massive burger. Since that time many more have tried and very few have succeded.
Denny's has been consistently raising the bar on massive burger making. Shortly after introducing the "Ye Olde 96er" they began work on their next masterpiece, the "Beer Barrel Belly Buster", a full 15 pounds of hamburger meant to consumed by 1 or 2 people, that is if you choose to accept this daunting challenge. They have also tried to claim the illustrious Guiness World record for largest burger. Unfortunately lots of other establishments have the same hopes, in order to put their place on the map.
Today you could waltz right into Denny's Beer Barrel Pub and attempt their many challenges. The 2 pound "Pub Challenger" and the 3 pound "Pub Super Challenger" are on the regular menu and are usually prepared within 30 minutes. To complete the challenge you are given a time restraint, 1 - 1 1/2 hours depending which challenge you choose, and you may only have one topping removed from the burger. Oh yeah! They also don't give you any utensils to help you tackle this monster. I have attempted the "Pub Challenger" on two seperate occasions and have failed miserably, which is cool with me, I just like to see the looks on the other patrons face when they haul that big burger out to my table.
The walls of the entry way into the pub are lined with polaroids of more succesful patrons from the past. Included are their respective times for finishing their challenge. Outstandingly their is a photo of a gentleman who attacked their 15 pound challenge, and devoured it in less than 10 minutes. Others on the wall include some celebrities who have visited and various Penn State football alumni who attempted to tackle the challenge, most were unsuccessful.
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has been featured on numerous food and travel programs, and have been featured on Rachel Ray, as well as "The Colbert Report." Their menu includes an extensive amount of delicious food, including a variety of delicious chicken wings and they also have 21 beers on tap to help wash it all down.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The town of Bethel where Woodstock was held is a very small farming community located in the Catskill mountains. Think of the smallest town you can. That place is a metropolis compared to Bethel, New York. The town mainly consists of farms, the exact place where Woodstock was held. Local farmer Max Yasgur gave promoters permission to use his 600 acre farm as a hosting grounds for the festival. The unprepared town eventually got swarmed with massive traffic jams, backing up automobiles through upstate New York for hours.
The concert promoters made Woodstock such a huge event, by there who's who list of musicians who appeared. As word spread about the size and the population of the concert, other artists were quickly trying to visit the tiny hamlet of Bethel. Contrary to the masses Woodstock went off without too many problems, there were very few acts of violence, but many random acts of love helped to define Woodstock as one of the top 50 moments that changed the history of rock-n-roll.
In 1997 the site of the concert and a subsequent 1,400 acres were purchased to celebrate the 3 days of peace and music. Eventually in 2008 the Bethel center for Arts opened. The facility hosts a number of concerts throughout the year and also houses a 1960's museum. The museum focuses more on the events that took place during the 1960's, and how Woodstock was the culminating event of a generation attempting to promote love and harmony throughout the world.
Meandering through the fields surrounding the arts center provides a very surreal feeling. I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride and emotion as I strolled the grounds, making me feel hopeful for the world. And as I trounced across the land where the stage had stood I couldn't help but imagine a sea of like minded people all sharing in the music and love that was provided. Than I imagined my fantasies of being a rock star, and strutting across stage with a guitar slung around my neck. As I climbed back into my vehicle and headed back down highway 17 I couldn't help but think what a special moment it must've been to have been there. And how subsequent attempts to repeat this peaceful music event have been mired by large corporate entities only concerned with profits and not with love.
Monday, July 23, 2012
The small town of Austin, Pennsylvania is a place that is proud of their resilience. They have suffered through tough economical times, blazing town fires, and unfortunate flooding. Though none were more tragic than the catastrophe that occurred on September 30, 1911.
At the turn of the 20th century a thriving lumber industry was helping to keep the tiny community afloat, though the timber was quickly disappearing. In an effort to keep an economicable market in the area, a local Senator persuaded businessman George Bayless to open a nearby mill. Subsequently the Bayless paper company began construction and started production in 1900. The company employed 200 locals when it first opened. In 1909 after several years of operation the company decided the rain short seasons were slowing production. In a effort to have a more steady supply of water a dam was built nearby. On December 1, 1909 the largest gravity dam in Pennsylvania was completed. The structure was a major engineering feat for it's time. The dam stood 50 feet high, 540 feet long, and 25 feet thick, unfortunately it was designed to be 30 feet thick. In less than two months problems were already occuring. In late January 1910 an unexpected early winter thaw caused a massive bowing in the dam wall. Several attempts were made to alleviate the pressure, sadly many of the engineers recomendations were ignored and the attempts were fruitless. Many of the townsfolk feared the dam would eventually lead to catastrophe, but also realized without it there would be no industry.
Immediately following some of the townsfolk left and vowed never to return, they claimed to have had their share of floods and fires and were through with Austin. Fortunately those who stayed strived and demanded to make their town better than ever. As a community they rebuilt their tiny village and continued on. The once destroyed Bayless paper mill went back into operation. Ironically the stay was short lived, in 1933 a fire destroyed the paper manufacturer and operations ceased infinitly. Even the Austin dam was repaired, sadly in 1942 it failed again. This time was much less drastic and claimed no lives.
Since than the town of Austin, Pennsylvania has struggled like so many other small towns in America, but they have what most don't...charm. The remains of the dam still exist just north of town. They are a constant reminder of the tragedies that have occured here, and also a rememberance of the times that came before. While so many other communities are destroying their history, the town of Austin is embracing theirs. The dam is surrounded by a beautiful, virtually untouched landscape.
They have also found the area serves as a great natural ampitheater, and the remains of the dam offer an amazing backdrop for a laserlight show. Every year they host an annual celebration commemorating their tragic history, and having damn good time while they do it!
Join the celebration July 28, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Lately there's been a great deal of controversy surrounding Penn State and it's football program, and the actions of those involved with the team. All of this turmoil has now led to the removal of a Beaver Stadium staple. For over a decade a statue of coach Joe Paterno has adorned the corner of the stadium. The area became known as Paternoville due to the large number of students who would camp out near the area before important home games. On the wall that surrounds the statue is a quote from the former coach stating how he hoped he made Penn State a better place. No matter your opinions on this scandolous and controversial story, the JoePa statue will no longer be a Penn State landmark.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Driving along interstate 81 in Pennsylvania can be quite montonous and unenjoyable. Luckily there are a few bright spots along this nearly 233 mile stretch of highway. Near the Mason-Dixon line at exit 24, welcoming you to the Blue mountains sits one of the largest paint cans in the world. The 35 feet high can comes adorned with a lid and a handle. Originally the structure was a water tower from the previous owner. When the Benjamain Moore paint company purchased the property they decided to use the eyesore as a marketing tool. Now if only we could find a way to spruce up all of I-81. Maybe they should put a giant object near every exit!
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
We would like to take this opprutunity to introduce the newest team member of Outta the Way. Duece is a unique character who introduced himself into our lives on my most recent birthday. While visiting the Ripley's Odditorium in Atlantic City Duece found his way out of his glass cage, and into our car. Since then he's been traveling around with us on our adventures and sneaking into as many photo ops as he can. He enjoys being the center of attention, often riding in the middle of the back seat, getting a great view of all those who tailgate us. He also enjoys saltwater taffy, hide and seek, playing woodwinds, and looking for his one true love, a two tailed female companion. Keep your eyes peeled for Duece in more upcoming blogs, he may even be hiding in some strange places.
Age-2 Human yrs.-25
turn-ons-walks on the beach, sharing milkshakes, marathon runners
turn-offs-multiple personalities, meat eaters
fave. music-"The Turtles"
fave. book-Tortoise and the Hare
fave. movie-(tie) "TMNT 2-Secret of the Ooze"/ "Brothers of the Head"
fave. quote- "two heads are always better than one"