Video: Old West Ghost Town Of Bodie, California


Here’s a double dose of American nostalgia for you. Back in the 1950s, Maxwell House coffee had an “American Scene” series of TV shorts. This episode takes us to the ghost town of Bodie, California.

Gold was discovered in Bodie in 1859 and soon it became a boomtown with more than a dozen large mines and countless smaller claims. Some $80 million in gold was extracted from the surrounding hills, a huge amount for the 19th century.

Bodie is a popular destination these days and is lovingly preserved by the California State Parks. Back when Maxwell House filmed there, it was still not quite a ghost town. It had a population of nine, and one rugged miner was still looking for a big strike. The few diehards hoped that Bodie would become a boomtown once again. It was not to be.

So sit back and enjoy this show from the early days of television, talking about the early days of the Old West.

The Lincoln Highway: Following The Main Street Across America

Lincoln Highway

Route 66 is often called “The Mother Road,” and a drive along it brings up all sorts of nostalgia for those simpler days when there was no app for that and nobody could call you while you were driving.

It wasn’t the first cross-country road, however. The Lincoln Highway, which we should perhaps call “the Grandmother Road,” was finished in 1913 as part of an ambitious project when automobiles were still in their infancy. As you can see from the map, it stretched 3,389 miles from New York to California and included 13 states in all.

Much of Lincoln Highway is now U.S. Route 30, and you can still drive along it. While it doesn’t have the aura and popularity of Route 66, a dedicated band of fans are trying to change that. The Lincoln Highway Association is gearing up for the road’s centennial next year with celebrations all along the old road. The association already has a great state-by-state guide to the Lincoln Highway online listing points of interest. The highway passes by dozens of national and state parks, sights of historic importance, as well as some important cities.

The Europeans are getting into it to, with a Centennial Tour by a hundred vintage vehicles that will be flown to the United States and driven along the entire route. The best way to see the United States is by car, after all!

Since it’s been largely bypassed by the Interstate, you’ll find lots of unspoiled nature as well as little old towns that seem lost in time. Old settler’s cabins sit lonely in the Nevada desert, and in Utah you pass ghost towns, while occasionally you can spot bypassed sections of Lincoln Highway meandering off into the wilderness, its surface cracked yet clearly visible after a century. Like on Route 66, some old businesses along the way have been lovingly restored to their early condition. Check out the old gas station in the photo gallery!

Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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Video of the Day: Vintage Hong Kong revealed


Want to take a slow boat to China? Get lost in vintage Hong Kong in this 1938 video of the gateway to China. The harbor city was still under British rule, and you can watch men in linen suits and pith helmets stroll alongside rickshaw drivers. Some of the narration is a bit, uh, politically incorrect by modern standards but the footage is priceless.

Have more time for nostalgic travel? The Travel Film Archive has hundreds of videos from around the world from 1900 to 1970. Find a cool travel video from this decade? Leave us a tip in the comments for a future Video of the Day.

Photo Gallery: Abandoned Americana

Americana
The old America is all around us. Americans used to be farmers. They used to go to drive-in movies. They used to think Route 66 was the greatest highway in the world. Some still do.

If you drive out of the city and leave the strip malls and cookie-cutter suburban homes behind, you’ll find it soon enough. Head down a county road and you’ll pass dilapidated farmhouses and overgrown gardens, the handiwork of people from our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generation. Like this old farm in Clay County, Missouri, near the Jesse James farm. I was with a couple of friends on a Jesse James road trip and we drove many of the back roads of western Missouri, places where Jesse committed his crimes and hid out from the law.

Everywhere we went we found this old Americana. On the outskirts of Kansas City we found a drive-in movie theater unchanged since the 1960s, and still open for half the year. To the west of Lexington we followed a potholed country road that led to a tributary of the Missouri River. Half a century ago there was a ferry at the end, popular enough that this road was lined with gas stations, hotels, and nice homes. The ferry disappeared when I-70 was built, and one by one the homes and businesses were abandoned.

Then there’s route 66, half ghost highway and half tourist trap. And old boom-and-bust mining towns like Bodie, California, now a State Historic Park. Not to mention all the failed businesses, the empty big box stores and bankrupt shopping malls that are creating the new ghost towns of the U.S. Much of industrial Detroit looks like an archaeological site.

Next time you go on a road trip in the U.S., get off the Interstate and take a county road. drive slow and look around. You’ll find the old America that hasn’t quite left us.

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Bargain hunting in Madrid’s famous Rastro market


Shopping is a fun part of any trip, yet sometimes it’s hard to find something truly unique, something that tells a bit about the culture but stands out from what 10,000 other tourists bought that year. Finding a good souvenir can be a real problem.

In Madrid, you’ll never have that problem. At El Rastro, a giant open-air market that happens every Sunday from about 7am to 2:30pm, you can find pretty much anything. Part swap meet, part flea market, part bargain emporium for cheap imports, El Rastro has something for everyone, and piles of things you’d think nobody would ever buy.

Take this fish-shaped candle holder, for example. It’s hard to imagine someone taking this home, but it’s got a certain lure that made me almost cave in, because it’s so bizarre it deserves a home. Then there’s that collection of door locks behind it. The box contains about thirty of them, and only one still has its key. Is there a market for locks with no key? I do know someone who collects antique keys, so is this just the flip side? Do these people meet somewhere and try to reunite old locks with their long-lost keys?

It’s hard to get out of El Rastro without buying something and just the experience of wandering through the crowd looking at all the cultural detritus is a great way to learn about Spain. El Rastro has been voted by Gadling as one of the ten great markets of the world. Gadling also named it as one of the top ten places to have your pocket picked, so be careful. Madrid’s pickpockets are some of the best in the world, and they loooooove El Rastro.

Armed with a camera, a small amount of cash stuffed deep into a buttoned-down pocket, and no other valuables whatsoever, I headed out to explore, accompanied by Madrid’s leading ghost story writer. Somehow that felt appropriate.

%Gallery-96401%The most popular way for madrileños to visit El Rastro is to go to Metro stop Tirso de Molina and head downhill. This Sunday the square was filled with communist, socialist, and anarchist tables selling mementos of Spain’s Second Republic, as well as books, punk CDs, and lots of pins, stickers, patches, etc. to help you flash your leftist identity. Working our way downhill we ran a gauntlet of cheap imported kitchenware, tools, jeans, and heavy metal t-shirts. Not a bad hunting ground if you need to pick up some disposable clothes to wear on your trip, but nothing that really screams “Spain.” Except for the Chinese-made and very flammable-looking flamenco costumes for little girls.

El Rastro has no core and no real boundaries. Stalls sprawl along side streets and antique/junk shops line both sides of some avenues. Our path was the usual madrileño meander with no set course except a general direction downhill. The further you go down, the more interesting it becomes. Soon the open-air Walmart is replaced by sketches by local artists, handmade crafts, dusty old toys, and tattered movie posters. A circle of old men rummaged through a table of battered VHS tapes. A long table filled with old carpenter’s tools tempted for DIY fans. People selling stamp collections stood next to stalls piled high with used porn and old martial arts magazines.

The pop culture stuff is some of the most interesting. Here you can see what those old men with the VHS tapes consumed when they were kids–comic books with gaudy covers, Mexican pulp novels, and pennants for half-forgotten football (soccer) championships. There’s something very revealing about rummaging through another culture’s nostalgia. Forty years ago Spain was a fascist dictatorship with a struggling economy. Yet Spain was still Spain, and people liked to have a good time. The paper might be cheap, the print a bit blurry, but I could imagine Spanish kids devouring the latest issue of Coyote or Esther as eagerly as we read Superman or Archie. Come summer they’d head to the beach blaring Spanish pop music on that bright green plastic transistor radio, kicking that old soccer ball in the days when it was still inflated.

Now we had reached the bottom of the hill, where some real antiques (and a whole lot of junk) was being peddled. A cluster of stalls did a brisk trade selling ten year-old laptops with cigarette burns, rickety old chairs, and a collection of fine mirrors and glassware that had graced a some stately home a century ago but now were in desperate need of some love and attention. Every price is open to haggling. The prices for cheaper stuff tend to be less flexible, but it’s always worth a try and haggling is part of the fun. Some people get quite animated, showing Spain’s Arab heritage. At times it felt like I was in the bazaar of Cairo or Damascus.

So what did we buy? Remarkably neither of us spent more than 12 euros ($15), although we could have easily spent ten times that.

Me:
A collection of three classic films on DVD that was originally part of a newspaper promotion
La sangrientas battallas de Montecasino (part of a WWII series that came every week in a newspaper back in the Eighties)
Buffalo Bill contra Los Fumadores de Opio (a translation of an c.1900 American dime novel, translated & reprinted c.1930)
An imitation Zippo adorned with a symbol of the Spanish Republic

Andrew:

Two dirty old lampshades he plans to use for an art project.

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday morning?