Sunday, June 30, 2013

Surfing With A Stand Up Paddleboard

   My nephew Casey Chai is an All Around Waterman. He surfs, dives, spearfishes, you name it. Here he is mastering the Stand Up Paddleboard in the waves of Ala Moana Beach Park on the island of Oahu


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Santa Monica to Venice on Bike - Discovering the Forgotten Canals of Venice, California

   If you are visiting Los Angeles, it is well work the time to spend a day in Santa Monica and Venice. My wife Madelyn and I rented bikes on the famous Santa Monica Pier and made it to Venice in about 45 leisurely minutes. As often with any travel experience, the journey is often the best part.

   (Note: Parking in Santa Monica is probably going to be your first concern. Turn onto the pier to find the cheapest and most abundant parking)

   The Santa Monica Pier is a great place to wander. A small amusement park sits above the Pacific. The Ferris Wheel gives you a great view of Malibu to the north, Santa Monica to the west, and Venice Beach to the South. It's well worth the price.

Madelyn on the Ferris Wheel with the Pacific Ocean in the background

The Roller Coaster on Santa Monica Pier. Not much of a thrill ride, but it is fun to ride a coaster above the Pacific Ocean

   After hanging on the Pier for a while, we rented bikes and headed south toward Venice Beach. The bike trail is wide and straight. An easy ride for all ages.

   One of the first stops is the Original Muscle Beach.  Today, most of the workout buffs are in Venice Beach. This is a nice place to stop and have some fun on the rings and other various apparatus.

   Notice how large the beach is in Santa Monica. We were there in early September. With school back in session, there weren't very many people on the beach.

A little cafe about halfway to Venice where we stopped for a cold drink

   Arriving in Venice, the sidewalk gets a little more crowded. This is the famed Venice Boardwalk. Plenty of places to stop, walk and wander. One of the benefits of riding your bike here, is that you don't need to find a place to park

The Venice skateboard park, part of a large park on Venice Beach.

   It's a little hard to find, but well worth the time to search and discover the remaining canals of Venice Beach. The canals and the town Venice were built by tobacco millionaire Alfred Kinney in 1904, who wanted to recreate the atmosphere of Venice, Italy. The town along with it's amusement pier,  became a huge tourist draw.
   With the advent of the automobile, many of the canals were filled in in 1929. By the 1940's, the sidewalks had to be condemned by the city. In the 1950's, Venice became knows as the "slum by the sea".
   It wasn't until 1992 that the city of Los Angeles decided to renovate the remaining canals, draining them, rebuilding the walls, bridges and sidewalks. Today, the Venice Canal Historic District has seen it's property value's skyrocket. 
   Sadly, only about 1/4 of the original canals exist today.

One of the bridges over the canal

Google Maps: Venice Canal District

This home owner never imagined that one day, their home would be featured on the 'Travel With Hawkeye" blog

As you can tell, the homes in this former run down neighborhood have now become very desirable properties

One of a number of gondolas we saw in the canal. At one time, when Venice was mainly canals, gondolas were quite common.

A renovation project on one of the streets that cross the canals

The canal at low tide

In downtown Venice on Windward Boulevard, just off the Boardwalk, you can find remnants of Alfred Kinney's original buildings

On the far end of Windward Boulevard, some of Kinney's original structures

An old post card of an original photo from Venice, California's heyday

On the way back to Santa Monica Pier

Enjoyed my blog? 
You might also enjoy my novel, The Travis Club


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

San Antonio's Most Enigmatic Attraction: Davy Crockett's Tomb

Author's Note: Readers of The Travis Club have asked my about numerous San Antonio historical references in the book, usually presented as short excerpt's from the main characters quirky writings. Readers have written me asking what is really true?
   For the most part, all the historical excerpts are true, with some minor changes to help advance the book's plot.
   I thought I would take the opportunity to point out a few of The Travis Club's most popular historical pieces and the story behind them
The oldest active cathedral in the US, San Antonio's San Fernando Cathedral

In my book, The Travis Club, I tell the story of a young writer who discovers that the contents of Davy Crockett's tomb in San Antonio's oldest cathedral are not what they seem. He quickly realizes, there will be consequences for his discovery.

  One of the most often frequent questions I'm asked, "Is Davy Crockett's tomb really in the back of San Fernando Cathedral?"

  Yes. And no.

The Tomb at the back of San Fernando Cathedral

   Yes, there is a tomb in the back of San Fernando Cathedral. And the tomb does state that it is the final resting place of Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, Jim Bowie and the other defenders of the Alamo. But there is more to the story than meets the eye.

The outside of the tomb has photos of Travis, Crockett and Bowie.

This stone lays adjacent to the tomb.

   First we must point out that San Fernando Cathedral opened in 1728, 48 years before the birth of the United States and over 100 years before the Battle of the Alamo. But you may have noticed on the stone above, that the bodies were laid to rest in 1938, 100 years after the battle. That is our first clue that something is amiss.

  The controversy about the tomb starts in 1888, when Colonel Juan Segiun wrote a letter stating that he took the remains of the Alamo defenders and buried them beneath the altar at the cathedral. Most people dismissed the letter until nearly 50 years later, when on July 28 1936, workmen digging a foundation for a new altar, discovered charred human remains.

   Excitement in San Antonio grew as church officials realized the importance of their discovery. The remains were exhumed with a variety of witnesses on hand, including writer Frederick C. Chabot, Mayor C. K. Quinn, Postmaster D. J. Quill, Adina DeZavala, daughter of Lorenzo DeZavala and Mrs. Leita Small, caretaker of the Alamo.

   The remains were placed on public display for a year, then entombed on May 11, 1938. To quell rumors surrounding the findings, the diocese published a now rare book entitled The Truth About The Burial of the Remains of the Alamo Heroes.

   Most historians doubt that the remains of Crockett, Travis, Bowie are buried in the tomb. First of all, Santa Anna ordered the cremation of all bodies left at the Alamo. Most likely Mexican and Texan soldiers were burned and buried together.

   Secondly, Seguin did not return to the Alamo until after the Battle of San Jacinto, almost a month later. There is an argument that the remains are those of Alamo defenders, but it would be a bit presumptuous to assume they are the actual remains of Davy Crockett.

    In my fictional work, The Travis Club, a young writer discovers for the first time, the real story behind the tomb and the consequences behind his discovery.

Enjoy the story of Davy Crockett's Tomb? You might also enjoy my new novel, The Travis Club