Midnight at the Oasis of Laughlin, Nevada

In all of our casino camper travels, we never made it to one of Nevada’s most popular RV destinations, Laughlin. Recently, in keeping with our New Year’s idea of exploring a little closer to home, we decided to rectify that oversight… CONTINUE READING >> 

Back during our days of living in our motorhome we were known to park for a night at a casino along our way. Most allow this, and if they did we felt like it was only fair that for the privilege we should at least go inside for a game or two.

But in all of our casino (and Walmart) camping travels, we never made it to one of Nevada’s most popular RV destinations, Laughlin.

Recently, in keeping with our New Year’s idea of exploring a little closer to home, we decided to rectify that oversight. But this time we didn’t stay in the parking lot, or even the RV Park across the street, we had a nice room indoors.

The first thing we noticed about Laughlin when driving in was the lush, green landscape along the big river that runs right smack dab through the middle of the Mojave Desert. It’s quite a sight to see the Colorado River, fresh from cutting through the Grand Canyon, create this oasis.

The town’s namesake, Don Laughlin, must have thought that too, when he first laid eyes on this spot while flying over back in 1964. He was looking for a new place to build a casino and felt this was nearly perfect.

When we arrived at the end result of his vision we learned all about his eccentric journey from Minnesota fur trapper to casino king with a city named after him. While still in high school, he bought a few slot machines and ran an only semi-legal gambling ring up in the land of 10,000 lakes.

His Minnesota cash cow was going so well that he dropped out and made his way to Las Vegas to open the 101 Club. It was after selling that enterprise a few years later that he set out in search of a new site to develop where California, Nevada and Arizona meet.

Laughlin picked this location not only for its natural beauty, but also its proximity to Route 66. With that in mind he bought a rundown little motel and christened it the Riverside Resort. Time proved his instincts to be right on.

He saw the potential in his incredibly humble beginning of two tables and a dozen slot machines, along with the eight tiny rooms.  Making his “resort” even smaller was the fact that only four of those rooms were available because he and his family were occupying the rest.

Over the following decades multiple renovations took place and steady growth led to the two towers with over fourteen hundred rooms that loom over the river today.

At some point the local Postal inspector decided the growing settlement needed a name and dubbed it Laughlin, after the founder. Before too long, other casinos began to sprout up so that now there is a mini Las Vegas style strip.

But unlike Vegas, it is not overly crowded and crazy. Plus, it has scenery to enjoy that isn’t man made neon, fountains, or landmark reproductions. We loved the ability to walk along a real river and see the mountains and stars.

When the sun came back up we made a bee-line back to this latest version of the Riverside Resort to check out Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Museum & Antique Car Sales.

The cars aren’t all his, they rotate the displays from private collections and consignment offers of some of the world’s most celebrated makes and models such as Corvettes, Mustangs, T-Birds, Cadillacs, Rolls-Royces, and Ferraris.

Many are outstanding examples of some of the earliest vehicles made, with Ford Model T’s especially featured, while most are from the heyday of classic American automobiles, with a healthy dose of muscle cars thrown in.

There are historic, along with notorious, limousines, cars, and motorcycles from Hollywood, and some incredibly well preserved antique workhorses like tow trucks and delivery vans from everyday life… and every single one is in pristine condition.

One last surprise awaited us near the cars. We found a couple display cases of antique slot machines tucked away in a corner.

Since they were secured behind glass, we couldn’t try slipping a nickel into any of these one armed bandits to see if the odds were any better than the electric monstrosities we had thrown away a few too many bucks in the night before.

Something to remember when staying in a casino parking lot for “free” in the RV.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A Valentine Bouquet of Our Top Romantic Getaways

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are our picks for places we feel are best for keeping the love flame burning. Sometimes there is nothing better for reigniting that spark than a romantic Getaway… CONTINUE READING >> 

We are often asked, What is your favorite place that you have visited?  The answer to that is complicated, because it has a habit of changing depending on our mood, memory, and where we have been most recently.

None of that matters for this collection though, since in honor of Valentine’s Day we will be confining our picks to places we feel are best for keeping the love flame burning. Sometimes there is nothing better for reigniting that spark than a romantic Getaway.

With that in mind, here are some ideas that stand out from over our last decade of globetrotting:

Paris:

Ok, we know this is somewhat clichéd, but there is just no arguing that The City of Light is one of the most romantic cities anywhere on earth. That said, we do have a few ideas you may not have heard about before such as a walk through the catacombs, a picnic and boat ride on the canals, a search for the weirdest artworks in the Louvre, or a climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

Hawaii:

Most of Northern hemisphere is still pretty darn cold right now, so we could not leave out a tropical escape. Hawaii means beaches and fun in the sun, but how about adding to that heat by visiting, and even going inside of a live volcano?

Prague:

Wandering around the Czech capital feels like walking through the pages of a fairy tale storybook and much like those books, legends abound. Live them first-hand at the home of the Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperors the Prague Castle, or visit the enchanting Old Town Square and its magical Astronomical Clock. The chilling bone-filled Ossuary at Sedlec is a must see, as is the home to so many mysteries the Charles Bridge. After all of that, some legendary food awaits once upon any time.

New Orleans:

The Big Easy is always near the top of our list of favorite places for fun, food, festivals, and of course, romance. It is as close as we can think of to leaving the country without leaving the country.

Your own hometown:

Speaking of staying close to home, how about exploring the options right in your own backyard? There must be a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, or a museum that has piqued your interest, or some nearby attraction that is just begging for a weekend getaway.

There is no better time than the present to give it a try and…

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

First Setting Eyes on Île Tintamarre

It’s not often that we find a place completely unknown to us, but Île Tintamarre is one we found hiding in plain sight. Join us as we explore the quirky history of this intriguing little land just off the Northeast coast of of Saint Martin… CONTINUE READING >> 

We have been to Saint Martin several times over the past fifteen years or so, but when we visited with Dream Yacht Charters last November we were surprised by something totally unexpected… an entire island that we had never heard of.

Hiding in plain sight, just off the Northeast coast of the French side of the main island, we discovered, or more correctly our exceptional captain Serge brought us to, the uninhabited yet indubitably captivating Île Tintamarre.

Our limited fluency in French linguistics led us to speculate on the name had something to do with the color of the sea, but we were way off. For no apparent reason the island seems to have been named for an old Acadian French word concerning making loud noise.

After going ashore, we learned that was only one of several oddities about this island.

Being so close to one of the Caribbean’s most modern islands meant that we had flawless cell service, so we could whip out our phones and Google on the go while exploring… so Google we did.

After some brief spelunking in a seaside cave on the beach where we made landfall, and an encounter with several of the island’s seemingly infinite population of hermit crabs, we made our way inland to see if we could find some traces of the stories we had found online.

The island’s history could best be described as quirky, which pairs perfectly with its topographic peculiarities. Unlike its much larger and mountainous nearby neighbor, Tintamarre is virtually flat. This feature influenced two unusual periods in the island’s past.

The first began in 1902 when Diederik Christian, a Dutch noble who owned the island, came to establish a plantation.  Although his main motivation seems to have been to escape taxation, he did manage to build an operation that included some 150 workers and had some success growing cotton and raising livestock.

We found a few ruins left behind from the farming activity, mainly a gate and stone fences, but there are still the remnants of a few buildings too.

He also might have been a little loco, because before long he established his own currency and ruled the island as a self- appointed monarch. Either imperial ruling, or perhaps the seclusion, must not have agreed with him, because by 1931 he sold the island to L. C. Fleming and returned to his estate on Saint Martin.

Guess he figured paying the taxes was worth it.

At this point France reclaimed the territory, which led to another unusual occurrence. Since the French Caribbean islands fell under control of the Vichy government during World War II, Tintamarre became a safe haven for Nazi submarines.

Seems the U-boats would rest on the shallow bottom just off shore while recharging their batteries and stocking up on fuel and provisions.

Not long after the war the second flat land inspired era began. An eccentric aviator by the name of Remy de Haenen rented the island and created an air traffic hub of sorts. He also may or may not have been involved with selling supplies to the German subs.

Once again the level ground contributed to the project by making the clearing of an airstrip an easy undertaking. After picking up some surplus military planes and a flying boat from PanAm, by 1946 Remy had his airline, Compagnie Aerienne Antillaise, up and flying.

Unfortunately, the pioneering flight service encountered three severe accidents in 1947, setting it back drastically. Then a huge hurricane in 1950 did it in once and for all.

While nearly no trace remains of the airport, we had very little trouble visualizing the runway cutting through the overgrown island bush as we walked across the Western end of the strip.

There is one last oddity that Île Tintamarre has been known for, mud baths. Somehow rumors spread that the messy muck along the southern shore had healing powers and folks began to flock to it. Adding to its fame was the fact that most chose to shed all of their clothing for the experience.

However, a few years ago the French authorities proclaimed the goop poisonous and banned the public from partaking in its dubious health benefits. While many ignore the directive, we chose to heed the warning and head back to the boat.

We felt quite confident that an evening aboard would be every bit, if not more beneficial than wallowing in the mud.

That, and dinner was waiting.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Read more about our sailing adventure across the Caribbean here:

Look out below! Holding Our Breath Beneath the BVI

The British Isles… Virgin That Is

Catamaran Cruising the Caribbean 

A big thank you to Dream Yacht Charter for providing this adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.

7 Best Sailing Places in Seattle

If you want to enjoy some of the best of what Seattle has to offer, a boat rental in Seattle is a no-brainer for anyone travelling to this special city… CONTINUE READING >> 

Every year, on the first Saturday in May, something wonderful happens in Seattle. This is the official start of the boating season. The city has celebrated this occasion every year since 1913. For that reason alone, it should be obvious that Seattle takes boating very seriously! If you want to enjoy some of the best of what Seattle has to offer, a boat rental in Seattle is a no-brainer for anyone travelling to this special city.

From the scenic beauty of Poulsbo, to the tranquility of Bainbridge Island, Seattle has a lot to offer anyone who wants to rent a boat for a day or the weekend.

The great thing about this list of the 7 best sailing places in Seattle is that there’s something for just about everyone. Whether you want to relax on calming waters, or find yourself just a heartbeat away from Downtown Seattle, we have some wonderful ideas to consider:

1. First Saturday in May: This one is obviously a little dependent upon being in Seattle, but if you love sailing and boating, it’s well worth trying to make the occasion. Thousands fill up the shores that make up Montlake Cut. This is also known as the easternmost portion of the Washington Ship Canal. Head there yourself to watch hundreds of sailboats and other water vehicles along the water. There are even races.

2. Lake Union restaurants: Looking for a unique experience with our boat rental in Seattle? Check out the array of restaurants that can be found along Lake Union, as well as Lake Washington. Many of these restaurants, such as Chandler’s, feature slips, so it’s easy to stop somewhere for a bite.

3. Poulsbo: Some people visit Poulsbo for the day. Others can make a weekend of it. Regardless of which you choose, Poulsbo offers some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere in Seattle. Also known as Little Norway on the Fjord, it is the perfect way to experience everything the historic downtown locale contains. The calming waters of Liberty Bay serve as a lovely backdrop.

4. Bell Harbor Marina: Anyone who wants to experience Downtown Seattle in singular fashion will want to keep the Ball Harbor Marina in mind. You can get to the legendary Pike Place Market with ease. You will also have easy access to some of Seattle’s best restaurants. Docking options are available for guests, affording you a view of the city that has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. You will likely find yourself overwhelmed with the majesty of the Olympic Mountains. Imagine this place during the 4th of July!

5. San Juan Islands: Surrounded by deep blue waters and gorgeous, natural greenery, there is something about Seattle’s San Juan Islands that gives you the impression of an entirely different universe. Indeed, given the marvelous peace and quiet of this area, it is amazing to remember that the city of Seattle is essentially just around the corner.

6. Port Orchard: Just fifteen nautical miles from Seattle, Port Orchard is a detour well worth taking. The historical maritime atmosphere of the area is just lovely. Beyond some great opportunities for salmon fishing, Port Orchard also connects you to some of Seattle’s best local restaurants. Visiting this area, it is possible to catch glimpses of anything from orca whales to submarines.

7. Lake Washington: If you just like the idea of being able to have a quiet picnic on the water, or if you’re really into water sports, this thirty-three-square-mile body of water is a must-visit destination in Seattle. The fishing is just perfect, no matter what your taste, and this is where you can find some of the best sailing the state has to offer.

Conclusion:
No matter what you’re in the mood for, our boat rental in Seattle can accommodate you. The above list should make it pretty clear that Seattle and Seattle’s sailing culture has something for just about everybody. If you want to have a peaceful afternoon, Seattle can give you that. If you want a day of wild fun in the sun, Seattle can make that possible, as well! The possibilities can seem endless, with great activities for all ages and interests.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Going Ground Hog Wild

It is almost time for Phil to poke his head out once again, and folks across the country are certainly hoping he finds an early end to winter, so we thought we would revisit our visit to Punxsutawney… CONTINUE READING >> 

Punxutawney Phil in Top Hat

It is almost time for Phil to poke his head out once again, and folks across the country are certainly hoping he finds an early end to winter, so we thought we would revisit our visit to Punxsutawney.

Even though our visit didn’t coincide with the big day, we didn’t feel that we could pass through Pennsylvania without a stop at the town that decides our frozen fate every February.

Are they crazy about groundhogs in Punxsutawney? You betcha. The place is (wood) chucked full of them.

Not counting groundhogs (real, wooden, fiberglass, bronze, or welded metal) the town of Punxsutawney has a population of a bit above 6,700.

Legend has it that the town got its odd name from a defeated Native American sorcerer who was killed in combat. The ashes of his burnt body turned to sand fleas or Ponksad and through these lovely fleas he continued his harassment of man. Ponksad-uteney means The town of the Sand fleas.

Punxutawney Phil as Lady Liberty

We saw neither flea nor sorcerer on this trip, so we?re assuming the town has rid itself of these pests. Or maybe we were just lucky that the vermin weren’t out and about in December.

Like a lot of folks, we learned about Punxsutawney from the movie Groundhog Day, which celebrates the town’s annual tradition of yanking a large rodent out of a stump to predict the weather.

This occurs every February 2nd, right smack between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, in a tradition that dates back to the ancient European holiday of Candlemas.

Even though both holidays include springtime predictions, the Europeans never seemed to discover camping out, tailgating, or the shadows of furry prognosticators.

All they did was look up to see if it was sunny or cloudy and predict then, as now, sunshine meant six more weeks of winter.

Pantall Hotel Punxutawney

Back in Pennsylvania, the first whistle pig was held high above the now famous Gobbler’s Knob in  Punxsutawney in 1887. It’s doubtful anyone at the time expected this humble hill to become the epicenter of seasonal forecasting.

Now the sole keepers of those long-held secret weather rituals are a handful of top hat bedecked Inner Circle members of the Groundhog Society.

Should a person be so lucky as to be ensconced among the elite few of the Inner Circle, an aisle at the local supermarket will bear his name — a high honor indeed.

Strolling through the Tree Circle in the town square to see the beautifully lit trees decorated by local schools and community groups. Hand in hand, we wondered in the crisp, winter air when suddenly a sharp screech broke the silent night.

Punxutawney Groundhog Glockenspiel

We spun around just in time to see a jolly family of chucks dashing back into their hole on the top of the tree-clock-glockenspiel in front of the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge across the street.

Venturing out to see the rest of the town by the light of a grey winter day, our first stop was the town library  where the famous woodchuck himself resides.

Punxsutawney Phil, and his wife Phyllis, spend everyday but The Big One in their climate controlled den. The hutch can be viewed from either outside or inside of the library. Our viewing was a tad anticlimactic, since the stars of the show seem to do a lot of sleeping.

Our next stop was The Wizard?s Workshop and it turned out to be a must-see. The proprietor, Randy “The Wizard” Rupert, is an ice sculpting champion and now uses the same chainsaw technique on various sized parts of trees.

Punxutawney Phil the Groundhog

With our usual snarky attitude, we entered past the sign that read What wood you like for Christmas? and Come see what I saw — expecting a hoot, but instead walked into a true master’s den.

Oh, the joys we found there. Randy, the only true link we found to the movie in the entire town, was the guy who taught Bill Murray how to pretend ice sculpt.

The angelic ice carving in the movie is his, ditto the electric chainsaw Bill used for the movie. The saw is prominently displayed in the store along with a VCR tape and poster of the celebrated flick.

The Wizard's Workshop Punxutawney

The most charming aspect of the workshop is Randy himself, who jawed with us for quite sometime about his art, the movie, and the quirks of Punxsutawney.

Oh my.

Off the beaten path was a slightly disturbing groundhog and we did quite a bit of blinking as we stood next to it — trying to chase out the image that was forming in our heads.

“Phil Your Dreams with Butterfly Wings” outside the hospital is meant to represent new life emerging from a cocoon, but from most angles, it sure seems to represent something else entirely. If you bring your grandkids, it might give you a good chance to explain just where new life really comes from.

Putting that image out of our minds, we knew we couldn’t leave without a visit to the famous Gobbler’s Knob. It’s easy to find, just follow the whistle pig prints up Woodland Avenue to the center of the weather forecasting world.

Gobbler's Knob Punxutawney

The Knob is festooned with signs and art dedicated to the most famous seer of them all, Punxsutawney Phil, including the greeting Can you believe it, we’re at Gobblers Knob.

Believe it or not, we could.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com