The Best Way to Eat Stingray? Smoked, of Course.

When you have a newly minted 6 year old in tow, you go where they are sure to be entertained!   We visited the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to see the otters, stingrays and turtles and to, of course, have our picture taken in the crab.

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Paige in the Crab Shell at the Aquarium

There was even a “petting zoo” where we could touch or pet the sting rays.  They were really very friendly….probably because they thought our fingers were worms or something as equally yummy.

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Stingray at North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores

The best food can always be enjoyed upon the recommendation of a local, so we asked the aquarium photographer for his favorite lunch time seafood restaurant.  He recommended The Ruddy Duck in Morehead City which was a short drive from Pine Knoll Shores,.

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The Ruddy Duck in Morehead City, NC

He also recommended that we choose the special of the day.  OK….the special on that particular day was the Smoked Stingray Reuben Sandwich.  I was the only one brave enough to put that recommendation into action and actually settled on the Reuben.   I was a little uncertain, however, the waiter told me that if I didn’t like it, he would eat it and I could get something else on the menu.  He was that sure I would enjoy it.

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Smoked Stingray Reuben

I couldn’t get my lunch companions to take a bite, but it was actually quite good!  If you are ever in Morehead City, NC, my recommendation for a great meal, right on Onslow Bay, is The Ruddy Duck…. make sure to order their daily special!

In retrospect, it is a little suspicious that the aquarium employee sent us to The Ruddy Duck, recommended the special, which also happened to be the stingray….

Li’l Daisy is Fresh!

 

I was invited to a friend’s house a few years ago whose claim to fame was curating the “best margarita ever”.  I mean, really, EVER?  Imagine my disappointment when I was presented with a sugar & water, green dye, and lime flavored concoction.  Oh, my friend, the disappointment.   I made it my mission to discover the best alternative (outside of squeezing a dozen limes by hand) to this horrid mixer.  I am by no means a tequila connoisseur, but you won’t find one that goes down much smoother than the Peligroso brand, however the heart of a margarita comes from the mixer.  By accident, I stumbled upon the Freshies brand, which has the most appealing flavor.  The salt around the rim of your glass is the perfect compliment to the tangy lime stock of the mixer.  If so inclined, you can even add triple sec to your potion or even a few ounces of your favorite beer.  I’m  personally satisfied to have just the Freshies mixer and tequila.  Now that, my friend,  is the Best Margarita EVER!

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Freshies Margarita Mix

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Freshies Bloody Mary Mix “Hot Mary”  

Hot Mary, blessed be thy name!  Divine intervention with a lime, pickle and olives.  If I had any celery in the fridge, I would have thrown that in too!   I picked up Freshies Margarita Mix and Hot Bloody Mary Mix the other day.  I wanted to add pictures to this blog and needed the real deal so I mixed up a batch of both.  I’m not one to let anything go to waste so I had to  drink them both once I was through.  They were, of course, fresh and delicious and the Bloody Mary had just the right amount of spice!  On occasion, I’ll even throw in a dash of Tabasco and/or black pepper, but it’s  really not necessary with the “Hot Mary” mixer.

Freshies stared in a little mountain town called Telluride.  The story began with a chef and a bartender (just like any other good story).  Their cocktails had become famous throughout the west, so they decided to start bottling the mixers.  Today, you can enjoy those same recipes that make Freshies Cocktail Mixers the best product out of a bottle, guaranteed.  These Freshies are all natural, free of preservatives, gluten free and totally delicious.   [This came straight off of the mixer bottle]

Apparently, Freshies is bottled in Denver, CO (that’s on the bottle too) and here is their website:  FRESHIES

To purchase Freshies in Buena Vista, Little Daisy Liquor Store carries several varieties.  Little Daisy Liquor

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Vertex Festival in Buena Vista, CO

Vertex

Buena Vista is expecting 20,000 tourists this summer the first full weekend of August, 2016, courtesy of The Madison House #MadHouse.

Megan Carpenter, office manager at Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce, has put together a playlist for the festival on Spotify.  Check it out!

Vertex Playlist compiled by Megan Carpenter

Disclaimer:  The photo used in their advertising is of Mt. Shavano, approximately 20 miles south of the designated music venue site.

 

Traveling on the Edge

Our Adventure began on the Skyline Drive just outside of Canon City.  This scenic roadway was built with prison labor in 1908 and spans a hogback ridge.  At the top, our view of the City of Canon City to the east and Highway 50 to the west was breathtaking!  The road was quite narrow with a sheer dropoff on either side, so it’s not for the feint of heart….

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All Aboard!!  The first passenger train to run through the Royal Gorge at Canon City, Colorado was in the 1880’s.  By 1890, four passenger trains a day passed through the Royal Gorge.  With the popularity of buses and automobiles the last passenger train through the Gorge ran on July 27, 1967.

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BDS_0310 copyWhile waiting for the train to depart the station, we ordered lunch and wine from the on-board bar & grill.  A glass of white zin was the perfect compliment for our turkey cheese melt sandwiches.  Somehow, they even made Paige’s hot dog & bun seem gourmet.

 

The line was reestablished in the fall of 1998 as a tourist scenic attraction.  It leaves Canon City for a 24 mile round trip to Parkdale, Colorado.  The trip takes just under 2 hours.

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 Our tickets entitled us to ride in the parlor car, however, with the 60 degree weather, we were drawn to the open air car for the return trip.

DSC_5192 copyWe were told there could be big horn sheep, (which we did see) bear (we weren’t expecting to see any bear this time of year), duck, and geese.  We’ve driven through the canyon many times and I had never noticed the wood stave water line hanging off the canyon wall.  The train ride brought a whole new perspective.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This wood stave waterline was a steel wrapped pipeline to carry water to the town of Canon City.  It was made out of redwood and the constant flow of water made the wood swell which sealed against water leakage.  The steel braces prevented breakage under pressure yet kept the structure lightweight.

 

BDS_9859 copyThis is part of the remaining dam structure that diverted water to the pipeline.  It was used from the early 1900’s until 1974.  Commercial companies were rafting the Gorge in the ’70’s.  According to the guide, rafters had to portage around the dam.   You might wonder why Canon City had to pipe water that would run downhill naturally.  By capturing the water at a higher elevation and piping it to town it could be naturally pressurized.

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This a remnant of one out of dozen foot bridges that allowed workers to walk to the other side for maintenance on the waterline.

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This rock formation is called “Old Man in the Rock”.  I actually think I see two faces.
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Because the gorge narrows to only 30 feet wide with canyon walls that rise 2600 feet above the water, a hanging bridge was constructed to hold the tracks in 1879.  It was designed by a Kansas engineer, Charles Shaler Smith and cost $11,759 to build.  The steel A shaped girders span the Arkansas River and are anchored to the rock wall on the other side of the river.

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We saw this little structure along the route and forgot to ask the guide what he thought it was.  I emailed it to a railroad expert I know and his response back was that he thought it was a valve house for the water pipeline. June 11, 2013 saw wildfire tear through the Royal Gorge. 3800 acres burned, which also shut the train down for about 5 days.  At least a mile of the wood stave pipeline was burned, leaving the steel wrap behind.  A cleanup effort  to prevent the steel rings from polluting the river is underway.  The fire also burned 48 of the 52 buildings in the park.

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However, the fire did not reach the historic suspension bridge 1053 feet above the Arkansas River.  The suspension bridge, which we’ve previously crossed by both car and foot, was built in 1929 at a cost of $350,000.  It was originally a toll bridge.  It is 1260 feet long and 18 feet wide with almost 1300 wood planks (of which 250 are replaced a year).   After reconstruction of the park, it reopened to the public in March 2014.

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As we pulled out of the station and returned, we passed the medium security prison on the edge of town in Canon City.

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This territorial prison was built in 1868 as part of the federal prison system.  After Colorado’s statehood, it became a state prison in 1876.  The first inmate was John Shepler on June 13, 1871, Prisoner No. 1.  This prison, still in use today, was also home to Alfred Packer (known as Colorado’s Hannibal the Cannibal) as well as Unibomber Ted Kazynski. The prison is referred to as “Old Max”.

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The original guard tower which is obviously no longer in use.

We’ve taken this particular train ride several times and it never disappoints!

 

#RoyalGorge  #Train #Tourist #Colorado #Prison #OldMax #BigHornSheep

Hand-Crafted Whiskey Cocktail

The Deerhammer Distilling Company  is located in downtown Buena Vista, Colorado.  They bottle whiskey under their own label.  They even have a tasting room in the front of the distillery.  According to the owner, Lenny Eckstein, The Deerhammer chose their name in deference to the “Mother of Buena Vista”,  Alsina Dearheimer. Direct Link to Info on Buena Vista History

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The pronunciation of Buena Vista is hotly debated by almost every tourist and newcomer.  It may take some time, but you’ll know you are firmly entrenched in the community when you finally accept the unique pronunciation and are proud of it.  According to Suzy Kelly, author of “Buena Vista’s Tales From the Past”,   Alsina proposed changing the name from Mahonville to Buena Vista, with the emphasis on the “u”.  Alsina did not speak Spanish and her mother tongue was German, so she most likely had a thick German accent, which would account for her choice in the pronunciation.  Buena Vista loosely translates to beautiful view in Spanish.  Alsina wanted the pronunciation to focus on the “b – u” in beautiful.

More Buena Vista information can be found in A History of Chaffee County by June Shapitus and Suzy Kelly at Chaffee County History

But I digress (which is not an unusual occurrence), The Deerhammer doesn’t open until late afternoon, however, they are worth the wait.  They provide a quality whiskey in which they then create a crafted cocktail….my favorite being the High Roller.  They even provide tours of their distillery.  Here is a link to their site:  For the Best Whiskey Ever, Click Here  Cheers!

 

 

Top 10 Places to Eat in Buena Vista

I had the chance to dine at the Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up recently.  Ryan McFadden, the owner had a few minutes to sit down with me to reminisce about his move to Buena Vista, Colorado as a restauranteer.

BDS_0132Ryan and his wife, Heather, and two girls, arrived here in April of 2009 at the behest of his sister, Molly Heynekamp, and her husband, Mick.  The Heynekamps were slated to open a restaurant and brewery in South Main, an up and coming subdivision in Buena Vista.  The McFaddens left New Mexico behind and embraced their new home while immersing themselves within the community.

Ryan incorporated both his psychology and business degrees to co-manage the Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery.  After his sister and her husband sold their interest in the restaurant to focus on their brewery and taproom, Ryan left to manage the Eddyline Brewery & Taproom during its recent transition and expansion.

Ryan said goodbye to the Eddyline family for good in the summer of 2014 to create a new eatery inside the former State Highway Dept. building.  His concept is a fresh take on simple classic food.  For him, it all starts with the spoon.  Hot or cold, we all use a spoon.  He founded an eatery that focuses (with a fresh twist) on pasta dishes, salads, and yogurt by the ounce, and of course, a spoon.  He has rounded out his varied menu with several meat dishes and fresh baked bread.

This business started as a “Proof of Concept” that has proven to be a downtown destination.  Ryan is looking to the future with a second location and to expand his bread line.

Doyle's Undertaking bldgDoyle Furniture Maker & Undertaker once sat on the same site as what is now known as the State Highway Dept. Next door to the mortuary was a livery stable, the fire department and the Webb Hotel.  The DeRemer Hook & Ladder Co. was formed on June 8, 1881, at a time when volunteer firefighters answered the call of the bell by hooking themselves to the water cart and pulling it to the fire.  Imagine their surprise, in 1934, when the bell rang and they arrived to find their firehouse burning.  The bell was still ringing as it crashed to the ground.  The only building on this block that is still standing today is the structure in the far right of the image.  It was built in 1885 by J.F. Jacobs.  It once housed the Webb Hotel, Welkers Antique Store, Meister House and Mother’s Bistro.    Courtesy of Buena Vista Heritage Collection and “A History of Chaffee County”.

Ryan is contributing to  Buena Vista history himself, however, the building which houses his eatery had a life of its own.  It is now referred to as the State Highway Dept. building, but it was built in the 1920’s by George “Skinny” Pyle as a car garage.  Because it was heated, locals rented space inside the building during the 40’s and 50’s to store their vehicles to ensure they would start when the weather had a bit of a nip to it.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the highway department moved in and painted their name across the front (which is still visible).  Today, The Trailhead, an outdoor adventure retail store and Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up cater to both locals and tourists alike.

So here are my choices and in no particular order (it just depends on what you are hungry for):

  1. Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up (see above….love it all! They also carry Eddyline and Elevation craft beers)
  2. The Lariat Bar & Grill (best burger & tap beer in town)
  3. Los Girasoles (2 for 1 margaritas, lovely salsa & chips)
  4. Eddyline Brewery & Taproom (home of the Whitewater Pizza!  Great music on the patio, locally brewed craft beer.  Honey Wheat is my all time fave – grab a growler!)
  5. The Rooster’s Crow (breakfast – bacon – until 2 p.m.)
  6. K’s Dairy Delite (fish & chips if you are in a hurry, and of course soft ice cream!)
  7. The Midland Stop (located in South Main – great flavorful gelato and a great cup of coffee or tea)
  8. Eddyline Restaurant (located in South Main…anything on their menu….it’s all wood smoked!)
  9. Jan’s Restaurant (yummy comfort food)
  10. Jade Garden (Asian food, great for lunch if you are in a hurry)

#BVRocks     #EscapetotheMountains   #SimpleEatery  #TheTrailhead   #StateHighwayDept