Our journey has taken us into the past before. We have seen the graves of famous gunslingers. We have walked in the forests of the ancient Redwoods. We’ve slept just outside of buildings so old that they had collapsed under the weight of history.
So, where to now?
Hold on to your butts.
“Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA, the building blocks of life. A DNA strands like me is a blueprint for building a living thing.” – Mr. DNA, Jurassic Park
So, where does one find ancient mosquitoes that have been trained in the old ways as bloodthirsty assassins and DNA traps?
No, really. Have you seen the amount of mosquitoes that Michigan has? It’s like a mini-vampire breeding ground. There could be all kinds of things being transmitted by their mutant mosquitoes…DNA, malaria, the ridiculous stupidity it takes to come up with plans to abduct and murder their governor. Sorry Michiganders, but if the mitten fits…
Welcome to Jurassic P… er. Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park. Abandoned.
Located about 25 miles from Ann Arbor, the Prehistoric Forest was first opened back in 1963, and was quite the attraction for its time. Life-sized fiberglass dinosaurs where just the tip of the tail for this amusement park. There were cavemen, waterfalls, an active man-made volcano, a Safari train, and fossil digging pits.
As with so many old roadside attractions, Prehistoric Forest fell victim to the interstate that routed traffic away from memory making roadtrips and into the fast lane. Attendance dwindled in the ‘80’s, but Prehistoric Forest managed to limp along until 2002, when it closed it’s gates for good.
The park is private property, and there are plenty of signs letting you know that. Immediately upon our arrival, a police officer arrived to give us the stink eye and let us know that we can take pictures, but not to trespass. There is one large dinosaur visible from the parking lot, and a few fake trees and cacti scattered around.
Taking a sneaky peak into the forest, you can find the king of dinosaurs, Mr. T-Rex. In a sick twist of fate, time has only made short-arm jokes more painful for him.
Rumor is that the owner of the Prehistoric Forest still has big dreams of re-opening the amusement park. I think that ship has probably sailed, but perhaps…if they spared no expense.
As it sits, the property is just going the way of the dinosaur. I do hope the prehistoric decay is left to be enjoyed by those that are eager to hear stories of the past whispering through the trees and flimsy fences.
Just a reminder for those that want to visit abandoned places…take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but…nothing!
We waited. We hid. We isolated ourselves. We wore masks and we social distanced (at least 10 miles from anyone every chance we got). Then we got our vaccines, and so did most of the family. So, how about a spring drive to see the ones on the east coast to start our summer? We could take a month, drive slow, enjoy the sights. Easy. Simple. No rush, no fuss, no hassle…
What was that saying about the best laid plans?
We started off in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed along side the river and watched the windsurfers, played games… and spent a small fortune saving the lives of both dogs. Rusty, and Frankie, being explorers like us, both managed to get into something that made them deathly ill. They each spent 2 days in the animal hospital on IV antibiotics and fluids, and were sent home with lots of fun drugs.
*** We pause this blog to give a special shout out to everyone at The Columbia Veterinary Hospital for the amazing care and compassion they showed our fur-kids. There may have been tears of gratitude as we drove away with them.***
After all that fun we thought, hey, the worst part is behind us, smooth sailing from here (Pro tip: Don’t ever assume it will be smooth sailing). Farewell Bend, the Oregon State park along the Oregon/Idaho state border was our next stop. This time, we simply took some pictures, played with our reinvigorated doggos and relaxed along the Snake River.
Next Stop: Milner Recreation Site in Idaho. Without discussion, we apparently decided to follow the Oregon Trail in reverse as we slowly tootled along the Snake River. Just a few feet away from where the greatest ol’ motorhome, Matilda, sat, were the very ruts carved by wagon after wagon during the westward expansion (and the sad land theft from indigenous peoples) of the United States. Being so close to hundreds of year old history that you can see and touch is quite a feeling.
Remember that pro-tip earlier? Well just enough time had passed that we felt like we were truly on the road again. Then we stopped somewhere and a squeal like the banshees of legends greeted our ears. Matilda began losing power and we were forced to pull off the road. We breathed in a sigh of relief at realizing it was just a thrown belt and we could get it fixed and back on the road ourselves (this part of the story doesn’t end here).
Our next mini-adventure found us under the bridge, like trolls. GPS said we should be somewhere else, but it was occupied. So we explored, and we found a hidden, off-grid gem. A gem that turned into an extra couple days stay because our dear Frankie had to return to the vet. The minor infection in her ears that we thought would clear up with the drugs from the previous trip had gotten worse, and was now a full-blown double ear infection. Fortunately they have vets in Utah. The Wasatch Hollow Animal Hospital took care of our little lady (Thank you so much!).
Okay, is that enough headaches now? Should be good to go now, right? Right? We had plans for two stops, one in Wyoming, and one in Nebraska, before making the final jump to our family on the east coast. And yet, nothing went according to plan.
Just before the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, Matilda broke down again. The banshees had returned and it sounded as if our very souls were in danger. It turned out that the previous belt failure was not due to an old belt, but rather a smog pump that had seized up. After 2 days on the side of the road as we tried to track down a part, we were able to make our way to the Dugway recreation site about 20 miles away.
Think this part of the adventure is a simple buy a new part and replace the old one? Oh no, that would not make for a juicy story. Nope, we had to discover that the shop that had installed the previous pump had duct-taped the back of the pump together. Not only did they duct-tape the main air line to the pump, but they also skipped installing the check valve or even the right high pressure air lines. In all, we learned that we had previously paid an $800 bill for a shoddy installation of the wrong parts.
But wait, there’s more…
We were forced to wait for 4 days to find out if we could even order the part, only to find out that it was available for 2 day delivery the whole time. At least we now had a nice quiet spot with a decent view. The only advantage to living our life when Murphy comes to visit.
Is there any good news to talk about for the last 2 months? Sure there is.
The wildlife that visited us was amazing. We spent the majority of the 2 months alongside a couple of rivers, and the seclusion was wonderful for both of us, our writing, and our dogs to run and play.
So now what? Well, we cross our fingers, leave offerings and say prayers under seventeen different religions and spiritualities, check the dogs’ temperatures, triple check every belt, fluid level, electrical connection, and then hold our breath as we turn the key and get moving on. The Traveling Writing desk will not be held back (at least not for long).
In the second half of the 1800’s people rushed west to claim land for themselves, to pan for gold, and to build their own prison cells. The latter wasn’t actually a plan, but it is what happened to the first of the criminals to be imprisoned in Yuma Territorial Prison. The first inmates were required to build their own cells. The prison officially opened in July of 1876.
Yuma Territorial was named Hellhole by the inmates that were incarcerated there. The average summer daytime temperature in Yuma was 110 degrees. Hellhole, indeed. Cells were open-air, with no air conditioning or heaters for the winter nights in the desert.
In it’s 33 years of operation the prison housed an assortment of criminals. 3,069 prisoners were in and out of the Hellhole population, including 29 women, and for a few years, even one child that was born at the prison by his incarcerated mother.
The prison was under constant construction during its years of operation, with most of the work being done by the inmates. I would think that building your own cage is an especially fudged up kind of prison.
While the inmates claimed the conditions were hell, they also took advantage of various clubs, sports teams, and live music. The prison band was apparently quite good.
Besides the dreadful heat of an Arizona summer, the Hellhole was also named with their solitary confinement in mind. The Dark Cell. The dark cell was used as solitary for prisoners misbehaving. The cell was a 10×10 dug out of the rock. Aptly named, the dark cell had no open windows, only a small vent in the ceiling that guards would drop the prisoners’ daily meal of bread and water through. At night, there was not a speck of light available to the inmate shackled in the solitary cell, wearing only his skivvies. Prisoners with an extended stay in the dark cell were often sent to the state run insane asylum in Phoenix upon their release from solitary. The dark cell is said to be haunted…and with the trauma of being left in pitch black with only the bats for company, I can see why it might be…although if I was a ghostly presence hanging out in prison in the after life, I would probably haunt the kitchen, not the dark cell.
Due to overcrowding, Yuma Territorial Prison was shut down in 1909. The prisoners were sent to a larger prison in Florence, Arizona. After the closure of the prison, the local schools used the facility for a few years. By 1920 the empty prison was being used as shelter by the homeless, and during the depression it was transformed into temporary housing for unsheltered families.
Yuma Territorial Prison is now a state historical park. You can attend scheduled tours by volunteers, or follow a self-guided tour through the prison campus. There are many artifacts and photographs of the years as a prison, as well as historical documents and history of individual inmates and guards.