Category Archives: Places I’ve Been

The Ten Best Things about Truth or Consequences, NM

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The New Mexico towns I’ve spent the most time in are Taos and Truth or Consequences. Each is special in its own way to me. In my next two posts, I’ll share my ten favorite things about each town. Since I was in Truth or Consequences when I wrote this post, I’ll start there.

The Ten Best Things About Truth or Consequences

#1 My favorite thing in T or C (as the locals call the town) are the historic bathhouses with hot mineral water for soaking. Especially when it’s cold out, I love to soak in that hot, hot water. (Read more about the Truth or Consequences bath houses here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/05/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/06/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/08/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences-part-2/.)

#2 The town has a really cool name. Originally the town was called Hot Springs, NM, but in 1950, it became Truth or Consequences to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the radio program of the same name. (Read more about the name change here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=+truth+or+consequences.) I appreciate the reminder to tell the truth or face the consequences.

#3 T or C is warm (or at least warmish) in the winter. When Northern New Mexico is too cold for me, I head south to this town in the Chihuahua Desert. According to https://weatherspark.com/averages/31751/Truth-or-Consequences-New-Mexico-United-States,

The cold season lasts from November 22 to February 14 with an average daily high temperature below 59°F. The coldest day of the year is December 25, with an average low of 28°F and high of 50°F.

#4 Miner’s Claim (318 N Broadway Street) is one of the best rock shops I’ve ever visited. The store is crammed packed with gems, minerals, beads, incense, jewelry, knickknacks, and shiny rocks. The guy behind the counter owns the store, and he’s friendly and knowledgeable. While he does stock high-end items, his prices are fair, and there’s plenty in the store for folks on a limited budget.

The turtle that gives Turtleback Mountain its name.

#5 There’s a turtle reclining on one of the mountains overlooking the town! I love geological formations that look like animals!  (To read more about Turtleback Mountain, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/25/another-geologic-formation-that-looks-like-an-animal/.)

The sculpture Joy, by R. William Winkler with one of the Pelican Spa buildings in the background.

#6 Truth or Consequences is an art town, and I don’t just mean the work on display in galleries. The town boasts lots of great art on public walls and in front of businesses. From murals to sculptures, there’s lots of cool art to see while walking around T or C. (Read more about the art in T or C here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/10/art-in-truth-or-consequences/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/12/more-art-in-truth-or-consequences/.)

#7 The town is so into art, it has an Art Hop on the second Saturday of each month. (https://www.facebook.com/Truth-or-Consequences-Art-Hop-2nd-Saturday-of-every-month-6-9pm-188812578899/) The Art Hop is a great excuse to meet up with friends and see what’s new in the galleries. (For a list of art galleries and shops in Truth or Consequences, go here: https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/shopping/art/.)

#8 The plants are cool in T or C. There are more cacti here than in the Taos area, and the ornamental rosemary grows in huge bushes. I like to break a small branch of rosemary off a bush and tuck it behind my ear for a smell more delicious than any perfume. The last time The Man and I left T or C, we cut several large pieces of rosemary from a plant in front of a gas station and arranged it on the dashboard for a great smelling van.

The Rio Grande as seen from Rotary Park.

#9 Folks can get up close and personal with the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences. The river runs right through town. It’s accessible from Ralph Edwards Park, as well as Rotary Park. People fish in the river from Rotary Park and south of it too. If a person wanted to, s/he could wade right into the Rio Grande in T or C.

A panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake from the campground in the state park.

#10 If the Rio Grande isn’t enough water for a desert dweller, T or C is less than ten miles from the 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake State Park. According to https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/attractions/elephant-butte-lake-map/, Elephant Butte Lake is New Mexico’s largest body of water. The lake offers miles of trails, two marinas, sandy beaches, fishing, boating,  and a campground.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Any questions about Truth or Consequences can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

Reconnoitering in the Desert

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Last week my friend and I walked around the desert, looking for a place to make a good camp on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. While we were walking around, I took photos of some of the things I saw.

This photo shows the old car we found in the wash. It’s very rusty.

The most unusual thing we saw was the rusted remains of an old automobile. Believe me, the car was not in a place it could have easily been driven to. In fact, it was in a place that seemed impossible to drive to. It was high up in a wash, in a place I think no motorized vehicle could go.

How do you think that car got here? I asked my friend.

I dunno, he drawled.

I think it was washed here in a flood! I said. How else could it have gotten here?

The car seemed old, not just because it was rusty. The design of the car seemed old. I think the car had been sitting there for years, decades even. I don’t think anyone is going to drag the car out of the wash. I think the car is going to sit there until it becomes one with the earth.

This is the front of the car we found in the wash. It looks really old to me.

Wow! Look at that bug! I said when I saw a beetle sunning itself on a small rock. I like to see creatures hanging out in nature.

We poked at the beetle a little, just to see it move, then we felt bad about disturbing it. It tried to hide in the shadow of the surrounding rocks. I tried to move it back to the sun where I’d first found it.

Later, I almost stepped on it as I skidded down from a higher level where I’d climbed.

Watch out for our little friend, my friend said to me, but I thought he was talking about the dog. Luckily, I didn’t step on the beetle, although I was pretty out of control at the moment, waving my arms and trying to get down the steep, rocky incline without falling.

Here’s the rock formation I’d climbed up to look at more closely:

I stood at the base of it and looked at the openings in the rock. I think it was full of packrat nests. I saw what I thought was feces, and got away from it fast. I don’t need any New Mexico plague, thank you very much.

I think the formation was made of sandstone. It felt gritty to the touch, and seemed as if it could easily disintegrate or wash away. Although at first I thought camping up against it might make for a good campsite, we ended up deciding it was too unstable to trust with our lives.

After a couple of hours of walking around, we found a spot my friend liked. It was mostly flat and mostly secluded. He set up his tent and hauled his things over while I reorganized the van.

As I left in the late afternoon, I saw the sunset in my sideview mirror.

It was a lovely end to a lovely day in the desert.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

The Grand Theatre (Tracy, CA)

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When I was out walking the self-guided tour of the historic buildings of downtown Tracy, CA, the coolest place I saw was the Grand Theatre.

img_7412According to the walking tour brochure,

The Grand Theatre was built in 1923 by German born John Droge to present vaudeville acts and then-silent motion pictures. The first “talkies” were show in 1929. Remodeled in 1940 in an Art Deco style, the movie house continued until 1977. In 2007 the city restored the theater complex and it was reopened as The Grand Theatre Center for the Arts.

According to the theatre’s website (http://atthegrand.org/AboutUs),

The classical Grand Theatre, designed by architect Albert W. Cornelius, opened on August 11, 1923 as a premiere vaudeville half-house in the area.

The facility received a major remodel during its heyday between 1939 and 1941 (under the Allen’s ownership), garnered with bold new art deco features including a sculptural marquee designed by Alexander Cantin and futuristic mural by Anthony (Antoon) Heinsbergen. Between the mid-40’s and 1977, it functioned as an eclectic movie house with occasional live performances.

This municipal interdisciplinary arts center is the only one of its kind in the state of California offering professional and community-based fine arts programming through arts education, exhibitions, performances and rentals of all kinds, in a single complex, and is one of only small network of similar facilities in America.

The 37,000+ square foot facility opened in September of 2007, hosts 50,000 patrons a year and is currently celebrating its 10th Anniversary Season. The Center is owned and operated by the City of Tracy and managed by the Cultural Arts Division in the City Manager’s Office.

img_7400I went inside to have a look around, and was surprised to find free Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) activities underway. I grabbed a free piece of pan dulce and exited the building.

There were some cool murals on the theatre’s 7th Street wall. They caught my attention, and I stopped to give them a good look.

The murals are part of the Tracy Mural Project. According to the project’s website (http://atthegrand.org/TracyMuralProject),

The Downtown Tracy Mural Project began in the summer of 2015 in conjunction with the Tracy Artwalk.  The Project invites local and regional artists to create murals and street art at 7th Street and in Jackson Alley on the walls of the Grand.  This innovative project features temporary murals owned by the City of Tracy. They remain on display from weeks to years, rotating as new works are presented.  The public appreciation of these projects has led to futhur interest to create murals at other locations in downtown Tracy.img_7397

Several themes have been explored in a variety of media, ranging from spray paint to wheatpaste, energizing the streetscape and celebrating the arts in our community.  We are open to any ideas which add interest and excitement to the downtown district!

I really liked the robots decorating the wall during my visit.

I also liked the mural featuring the wolf and the crow. The mural was painted by Ilena Finocchi. According to Finocchi’s website (http://www.ilenaf.com/ilenaf.com/Pub_Art/Pages/Tracy_CA_Mural.html),

In nature, the wolf and the crow can be frequently found in each other’s company. They have been linked together in play and in foraging for food. The crows fly ahead of the wolf pack to locate food, and the grateful wolves leave behind food for the crows. This symbiotic relationship between the two species is mutually beneficial.

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    In developing the Grand, citizens and civic leaders looked more than a decade into the future to see the community’s needs and goals. They, much like the crow, flew years ahead and decided that reviving the arts at the Grand was the cultural nourishment that Tracy needed. They raised money and awareness to rebuild and reopen the Grand as the creative hub for the City of Tracy. The wolves soon followed and the Grand reopened with support of the community.

    Since opening, there have been many hard working crow-like staff members who have had the foresight to keep the Grand evolving with the changing needs of the wolf-like hungry community. The mural is a way for me as an artist to assume the role of the crow and through the art let the community know about the dedication and hard work of the staff at the Grand. The Grand has become a positive and powerful force in the community, not only in participation in the arts, but also as a cultural jewel to draw new businesses and corporations into town.

    The mural is a celebration of the long road of hard work and the driving force of the arts and its positive impact on the community.

The other cool mural is “Planet of the Apes” Kenney Mencher.

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According to the Tracy Press (http://www.goldenstatenewspapers.com/tracy_press/news/more-music-murals-for-artwalk/article_2350e088-2e8a-11e6-94fe-e3e964b2ff82.html),

Mencher, who is the Grand’s artist in residence this summer [2016], will create a streetscape with a “Planet of the Apes” theme on Seventh Street. Wilson said the piece will provide a photo opportunity for visitors to pose on a bench with the mural wrapping around them.

From what I surmise, Mencher painted the robots too.

The Tracy Press also reported in the aforementioned article,

The murals are designed to be temporary projects, lasting from a few weeks to a few years.

I’ve grown to think of murals (especially murals approved by a municipality) as permanent. As the Merry Pranksters proclaimed, art is not eternal. Apparently the murals in Tracy prove this idea to be true.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Tracy Historical Museum and Downtown Walking Tour

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I was house sitting in Tracy, CA,  staying with two adorable little dogs and working on my book. Other than two daily thirty minute walks with the pups, I mostly stayed indoors. After five or six days in the house, I decided I had to get out and do something different.

img_7363I’d checked out the things to do in Tracy before I rolled into town, and there wasn’t much on the list. However, I did see there was a historical museum in the town, and admission was free. Score! I headed to the Tracy Historical Museum (1141 Adam Street) on my day out.

The museum is housed in a building that was originally a post office. Built in 1937, the building became a rec center in 1967. The museum took over the space in 2003.

The museum is very clean, bright, and well organized. The img_7365information given is easy to read. The long, narrow room on the left houses display cases on either wall. The artifacts in those cases are described adequately; I felt I was able to really understand what I was looking at and its context within the area’s history. When I explored the main room in the middle of the museum, well, not so much.

In the middle room, artifacts were grouped in sort of vignettes. There was a kitchen vignette complete with life-size housewife mannequin, a mannequin dressed in a nightgown and sleeping cap, and a child-seize mannequin dressed all in white. (Was the child mannequin wearing a nightgown? A baptismal gown?) There was also a “farming” vignette, showing implements for working the land from back in the day. 

My problem with these vignettes is that various items from various time periods are displayed with little explanation of what they are, what they were used for, or what time period they were used in. For example, the caption for a photo of the kitchen vignette from the museum’s brochure reads,

img_7372Kitchen display of household goods from the late 19th–early 20th century, among period photographs, artifacts and memorabilia from Tracy’s railroad and farming heydays.

Although “late 19th–early 20th century” narrows things down a bit, it’s still a little broad. There’s no indication if a cup from 1873 is sitting next to a plate from 1913. Also, items seem to be displayed willy-nilly. Why is there a rolling pin on a table that otherwise appears to be set for a meal? What are those items jumbled on the shelves beyond the table?

What’s the difference between an old “household good” and an “artifact”? Doesn’t throwing (or even placing carefully) household goods, photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia all in one display make for quite a hodgepodge? The Tracy museum seems to be working under the false assumption that every old item it  owns must be displayed at all times, whether or not it can help tell the story of the town’s history.

img_7374Past the kitchen display is a small display of old dolls. Creepy! Especially creepy was the life size (“five foot”) doll sitting in a rocking chair. There were explanatory notes with this doll. The notes are in the photos, and I was able to zoom in and read them. The doll’s name is Leila. She is named after Leila Smith whose “1880 dress” she is wearing. The doll was made in the late 1980s, which means she’s younger than I am. The wicker chair the doll is sitting in “was donated by the Cordes family,” but no indication is given as to who the Cordes family is, why they might be important, how old the chair is, or why it might be historically significant. img_7373

My favorite items in the museum are in a back room. In addition to an old bank vault and other office equipment, several antique typewriters are on display. The typewriters look to be in good condition, and it seems as if a modern writer could  sit down in front of one of them and churn out the Great American Novel.

img_7371In the museum, I found a brochure for “Historic Downtown Tracy.” The brochure includes a map and information about “the Historic Buildings of Downtown Tracy.” I like self-guided (translation: free) walking tours, so I decided to follow the route in the brochure.

According to the brochure, Tracy was founded on September 8, 1878 and was incorporated in 1910.

In the 1870s, the Central Pacific Railroad…moved its operations from the Ellis coaling station at the foot of the Altamont hills, three miles eat to the junction with the rail line from Martinez…Tracy was…built around the intersecting railroad tracks…

img_7416I walked the tour in reverse of the layout in the guide because I started walking from the museum instead of driving to the starting point on E. 6th Street and beginning there. The first historic building I saw was the Tracy Inn. The brochure says,

When the transcontinental Lincoln Highway was routed through Tracy along 11th Street, the Tracy Inn was built to capture the trade of motorists.

The Tracy Inn was designed in the California Mission Style and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

After walking several block on Central Avenue, and passing the Grand Theatre (which will get a post all its own),I turned down 7th Street to img_7393see the old city Hall and Jail, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. The brochure says,

This uniquely designed building housed the courthouse and city hall from 1900 until 1917  and the jail until 1940. Those arrested were held in two jail cells and faced the judge in the single room courthouse for sentencing. More serious criminal cases were sent to the county seat in Stockton.

No indication is given as to what exactly is unique about the design of this building.

img_7402After another walking another block on Central Avenue, I turned down 6th Street and followed it down to stand in front of the building which originally housed the West Side Bank. This building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the brochure,

Abe Grunauer, a leading merchant, landowner and Tracy’s first Mayor, started the West Side Bank in 1910. The Neo-classical Revival architecture features Corinthian pillars, an arched entrance with a copper door frame and a blue limestone facade.

I wouldn’t say I had a bad time at the Tracy Historical Museum or on the walking tour of the historic buildings of downtown Tracy. However, I wouldn’t say I had a lot of fun either. I kind of felt as if I were on an assignment for a class. I suppose someone really interested in California history would enjoy such an excursion a lot more than I did.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Goddess Temple Revisited

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Every time I’ve visited The Poet and The Activist in Las Vegas, we’ve made a trip out to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet. (Read my prior post about the Goddess Temple here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/21/the-temple-of-goddess-spirituality/.)

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This photo shows the exterior of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality including the seven interlocking copper hoops made by Richard Cottrell and three of the four turrets constructed by ceramist Sharon Dryflower.

The Goddess Temple is about 45 miles North of Las Vegas, with a lot of desert in between. To get to the temple, visitors from Las Vegas pass the the tiny community of Indian Springs, as well as the military industrial complex in the form of Creech Air Force Base and the prison industrial complex in the form of High Desert State Prison. There’s a lot of sadness on that stretch of Highway 95.

img_5447Thankfully, the land the Temple of Goddess Spirituality sits on is both a literal and metaphoric oasis in the desert. As the Genevieve Vaughan, the woman who envisioned and financed the temple says on the temple’s  website (http://www.sekhmettemple.com/temple-of-goddess-spirituality/goddess-temple-herstory/84-2/),

Hundred-year-old cottonwood trees dot the oasis. Sweet-smelling creosote bushes, mesquite trees and salt cedars drink from the precious underground water. Many birds and wild animals participate in the delicate and beautiful ecosystem.

The temple holds its ground in the midst of many negative energies. Like the land herself, the temple’s energies remain positive, delicate, down to earth, and sane.

When I visited the Goddess Temple for the second time in March 2016, the sun was out and the sky was a

The Goddess Sekhmet with flowers

The Goddess Sekhmet with flowers

gorgeous blue. It was quite a contrast with my first visit on an overcast day. During my second visit, I took more photos. I took photos of things I’d photographed during my first visit, hoping for better shots. I think I got several really nice images.

I really enjoy visiting the Goddess Temple. I like walking around the grounds and seeing little offerings people have left. I like looking at the art that’s been created there too, but mostly I like going into the temple and sitting with Sekhmet and other representations of Goddess(es) there. (Are there many different goddesses or only one Goddess in multiple forms?)

On my most recent visit to the temple grounds, The Activist, The Poet and I had tea and poppy seed cake with the resident Priestess and another woman who is living and working there. After bidding farewell to the two older women, The Poet, The Activist, and I walked the long way to the sanctuary. Two women were sitting on the floor of the temple, having a tarot reading. We three newcomers gave them their space. I walked around outdoors taking photos while The Poet and The Activist sat outside to sing and chant. (Hearing the two of them sing and chant from a distance brings me great comfort. I feel like a little child who knows all is well even though I can’t see the adults because I can still hear them.)

Madre del Mundo by Marsha A. Gomez

This statue Madre del Mundo by Marsha A. Gomez sits inside the Temple of Goddess Spirituality.

After the tarot card ladies left, I went into the temple and sat on a low bench. I lit a white sage bundle I’d brought from my van and offered up the smoke to Sekhmet and the Goddess in all of her guises. I enjoyed the smell of the sage smoke too. When the sage had burnt almost all the way down, I set it in one of the containers filled with sand next to the statue of Sekhmet. I relit some incense sticks that had gone out and savored the tranquility of the place.

I don’t consider myself a highly spiritual person, but I appreciate the Temple of Goddess Spirituality as a place of peace and healing. It is definitely one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in the Las Vegas area.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

The Stagg Tree

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According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_giant_sequoias, the Stagg Tree is the fifth largest giant sequoia in the world. It is the largest giant sequoia in the Sequoia National Monument within the Sequoia National Forest, and the largest giant sequoia outside the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

img_6582The tree’s Wikipedia entry [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagg_(tree)] says the Stagg Tree is located

in Alder Creek Grove in California‘s Sierra Nevada mountains.

The tree is NOT in Deer Creek Grove, as was stated on another website I looked at. (I have visited both the Stagg Tree and Deer Creek Grove, and they are nowhere near each other. They are over 40 miles apart!)

According to the tree’s Wikipedia page, the tree was first called the Day Tree, presumably in honor of “L. Day” who

noticed the tree in 1931 and, with help from two others, made measurements of it in 1932.

In 1960 the tree was renamed in honor of

Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862-1965), a pioneering football coach at the University of Chicago who spent much of the last several decades of his life coaching in Stockton in the nearby San Joaquin Valley.

The Wikipedia page also says img_6584

Wendell Flint, the author (with photographer Mike Law) of To Find the Biggest Tree, measured it in 1977 as follows:

Metres Feet
Height above base 74.1 243.0
Circumference at ground 33.3 109.0
Diameter 1.5 m above base 7.05 22.9
Diameter 18 m (60′) above base 5.6 18.2
Diameter 55 m (180′) above base 3.8 12.5
Estimated bole volume (m³.ft³) 1,205.0 42,557.0

Presumably the tree has grown in the last forty years and is even larger than these statistics indicate.

The Stagg Tree grows on private land, but when I visited in the summer of 2016, the tree was accessible to the public.

The tree can be reached from Highway 190, which passes through Camp Nelson, CA and on to the small community of Ponderosa. (Another website I looked at says some navigation systems suggest accessing the tree by turning onto Wishon Drive [County Road 208] toward Camp Wishon. Apparently the road suggested is unpaved and closed in winter. This route is probably not a good idea for most cars.)

From Highway 190, turn onto Redwood Drive. (Redwood Drive is only on one side of the road, so you don’t need to know if you are turning left of right. Simply turn onto the road, which Google Maps also labels as 216.) When you get to the first fork in the road, stay left. At the second fork in the road, stay right to stay on Redwood Drive. At the third fork, stay left to stay on Redwood Drive. (If you take the right fork, you will be on Chinquapin Drive and you will be lost! If you do get lost, ask anyone walking around how to get to the Stagg Tree. The locals know how to get there.) I believe there is a sign pointing in the direction of the Stagg Tree at img_6598the last fork in the road.

If I remember correctly, the pavement ends before the parking area. Keep driving on the dirt road until you img_6597see the sign that says you’ve reached the parking area for the Stagg Tree hike. After you’ve parked, you have to cross a gate to start the hike to the tree. The gate may be closed and locked, but unless new signs say otherwise, it is ok to cross the gate on foot and walk to the Stagg Tree.

There are several signs along the path marking the way to the Stagg Tree.

The walk to the tree is fairly easy. It is not wheelchair or stroller accessible, but healthy folks with no mobility issues should be able to get there and back with no problem. The path is fairly flat until the last fork to the left . The path that branches off from the last fork is a bit steep (downhill to get to the tree, and uphill to get back.) Again, folks with no mobility or health issues should be able to make it to the Stagg Tree and back with a minimum of stress.

img_6587The Stagg Tree is not a heavily visited area. When I visited, I was the only person there. As I was walking toward the tree, another group was leaving, and as I left, another group was arriving, but I got the Stagg Tree all to myself for at least thirty minutes.

I’m not sure why the tree is less visited than other attractions in the area. Maybe drivers are leery of making a drive taking them so far off the main highway. Maybe most tourists who aren’t big into hiking are hesitant to go on a infrequently populated, unpaved, slightly steep trail. Maybe folks who are regular hikers think the short, easy hike to the Stagg Tree is beneath them.

In any case, I enjoyed my time alone with the Stagg Tree. It’s a great tree to visit to get away from the crowds and experience the sites and sounds of nature. Its size is quite impressive, and it’s fun to tell friends about seeing one of the largest creatures on the planet.

I took all of the photos in this post. The Stagg Tree is the giant sequoia in all of the photos.

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Squashing Pennies

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I have a friend who collects squashed pennies. Well, I think she collects them. At some point she collected them, but I didn’t ask her if she still did before I went to Las Vegas. She might be over the squashed pennies while I am still blissfully mailing them off to her.

What’s a squashed penny, you may ask? According to Wikipiedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elongated_coin) squashed pennies (aka squished pennies, aka pressed pennies, aka elongated coins)

are coins that have been elongated (flattened or stretched) and embossed with a new design with the purpose of creating a commemorative or souvenir token.

Do you know what I’m talking about now? If you don’t, have a look at the two pressed pennies in the photo below to get an idea of what I mean.

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According to the Penny Collector website (http://www.pennycollector.com/history.html), elongated coins have been around for over 100 years.

Although an example of an elongated coin is rumored to have been produced some years earlier, it is generally accepted that these tokens were first made during the 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago, Illinois to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. There were four different designs utilized during that event.

If you’ve never seen a pressed penny before, you probably don’t know how they are made. First of all, the penny pressing machines I’ve seen require 51 cents: two quarters (to pay for the pressing process) and the penny that will be pressed. Again, from the Penny Collector website:

An elongated coin is made by a coin, token, medal or metal blank being forced between two steel rollers. An engraving is on one or both of the rollers and as the coin passes through the rollers it is squeezed or elongated under tremendous pressure from the original round shape to one of an oval and the engraved design impressed into the coin at the same time.

On my way to Vegas, I stopped at the Alien Fresh Jerky store in Baker, CA store because I’d read online about a penny squashing machine there. However, I found the store devoid of penny pressing machinery. So sad! No pennies pressed with an alien theme for my friend!

When I got to Vegas and told my friends about my failure to squish a penny for my pal, they too got into the coin pressing spirit. It was The Activist who found the Penny Collector page listing the locations of pressing machines across the U.S. and around the world. (Start your search for a penny presser near you here: http://www.pennycollector.com/AreaList.aspx.)

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Before we headed off to the Ethel M. chocolate factory in Henderson, NV, I said I hoped there was a penny

presser there. The Poet said it would be nice if there was a machine there, but I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up. But guess what! The Ethel M. factory does have a penny squishing machine. I quick put my two quarters and one penny in the appropriate slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. It wasn’t long before the Ethel M. elongated coin clinked and rattled out of the machine’s innards and into the retrieval cup.

As we headed back to West Las Vegas, The Activist announced we were going to pass the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop. He remembered from looking at the Penny Collector location page for Nevada that there was a penny presser there. He asked me if I wanted to stop.

Hell yeah! I said. The more pressed pennies, the merrier. Besides, that penny portrait of Ethel M. is a little bit boring. I thought my friend needed something with a little more pizzazz to represent Las Vegas.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World's Largest) Gift Shop.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop.

The Activist parked the car and I said, Now the problem is going to be figuring out which door I should go in, since the Bonanza has multiple entrances. Then I saw it! The penny presser was outside the store. I didn’t even have to go inside to squish my penny. Quick, quick, I put my coins in the slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. After a clink and a rattle, I had a squashed penny featuring the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in my hand.

You may be wondering if this whole business of squashing pennies is legal. The answer is YES (in the United States)! The Penny collector website gives the following information in it’s FAQ:

The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, “prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage.” However, it has been the opinion of some individual officers at the Treasury Department, though without any indication of approval, the foregoing statute does not prohibit the mutiliation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.

You didn’t think I was out there breaking the law in Las Vegas, did you?