Here is the second part of Don Wildman's Off Limits scrapbook - featuring New York, Arizona and more.
You can actually visit and take a tour of Biosphere 2, located outside of Tucson. I always wanted to see the Biospehere domes—I’m a big Buckminster Fuller fan. The Bios are not domes, more like pyramids, but they represent a truly bold endeavor. Say what you will about the success or failure of that endeavor, it is now being used to further our understanding of the environment.
There are some 54 Titan missile silos in the US west—remnants of a nuke system that protected us from the 60s into the 80s. I toured a guy named Drew’s personal silo. He’s gonna build a house over it—there’s a whole community of people who buy these things and develop them. Sure beats a self-storage bin. This experience, as I am a child of the Cold War was utterly thrilling. And chilling.
Honestly the places we stay are never awful, especially in this day and age of Holiday Inn Express: even the most modest chains have gotten it together.
Such was the case with Rm 115 at the Best Western…but there was a Chinese restaurant with a very fitting message to a television host. Ate there many times, in the middle of a big parking lot, coming home to very dated decor.
We did 2 mining segments for our Arizona show: gold and silver. Unfortunately, we could only put the gold in the show, which bummed me out -- I love these guys. The Silver King was the richest vein of silver anywhere and a whole town of 500 residents, 7 saloons existed where now there is only empty canyon. Great stories told by Jack San Felice -- look up his book and read some great history.
I'm a big dam man. I just can't imagine how they were conceived, built and continue to operate so successfully! I'm amazed and flabbergasted, no matter how many times I see them. This one is extraordinary and historic and started the Salt River Project, the water utility that supplies Greater Phoenix today. This dam once looked like it does in this photo, then a few years back, they coated it in concrete, made it taller and bigger at the base and voila, modern times.
The Lost Dutchman is a legendary mine that is apparently filled with incredibly rich gold ore; if you could locate it you'd be a billionaire. Oh, except now it's on state land so you'd have to give all your money to the state of Arizona. Nonetheless, people (crazy people) are still venturing out into the wilderness to try to find the buried entrance -- and dying. Supposedly the thing is cursed!
Chattanooga is filled with history and there’s a wacky hotel made out of its original train station. I did not spend the kind of time necessary there to enjoy the strange offerings…alas.
I loved this little town and could spend a month on the Civil War history there--and in the spa. After emerging from the cave where we were shooting a total mud creature, head to toe disgusting, exhausted, I was late getting back to the hotel. When we arrived, I asked the valet if the car was waiting and he pointed at the biggest white stretch limo I'd ever seen. I had to laugh; I shuffled over to the driver's window looking like a degenerate and explained that I'd be right down…and did he have the champagne cold? Driver was confused.
The picture here is of the Raccoon Mountain reservoir that is filled up every night with “pumped storage,” meaning water from the Tennessee River below. Then they release it in the morning and create electricity. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the big show in town for everything utilitarian and they've got some cool, well, infrastructure. If you’re into that.
Rafting the Nolichucky River with this group is quite a time—but filming is always more demanding than anyone ever thinks. The show starts off with me getting dunked, something that happened 4 times that day. Why? Because I was in the catapulting rear end and my feet were fully paralyzed. Jeesh, that water was arctic!
This is the cave system we filmed. The front of the cave is sheer tourism and full of little kids…we groaned. Then, oh never mind, it's actually the coolest cave I've ever been inside. Well, that's a big claim—but it was cool. You could die in there and nobody'd find you. The kids would eventually smell you, though.
Believe it or not, corn meal production is an art form. We visited a really spectacular facility operating with an original belt and pulley system that makes more happen from a single old motor than you'd believe. This grain meal then can be made into some bang-up shine.
What can you say about one of the real Wonders of the World? Well, for one thing—how'd you screw it up? I'm sorry but the tourist town located at Niagara Falls is more than a bit lackluster and I'm being kind. The falls are fantastic, worth the journey alone, outrageous moving nature and really fun, any way you view them. But Niagara itself? What happened?
Check out that building! The City Hall is the best example of why Buffalo is one of the most confusing towns in America. I mean, that Art Deco masterpiece belongs to a huge exploding metropolis, taking over the world…which is what Buffalo was doing back when this thing was constructed in the Roaring 20's. Buffalo was an industrial powerhouse back then.
I don't get a chance to interview many big city mayors but the Mayor of Buffalo was kind enough to give up an hour of his day for the show. We discussed the water production facility known as the Colonel Ward Pumping Station. Yowza…that was some machinery. And some mayor—I really liked the guy, very generous spirit and very eager to explain his great city.
When you visit Niagara Falls, you look across the river at the other side and the Canadians are practically dancing in the streets with their casinos and hotels. Over here on the American side? Whatever, the Falls...
There is real hope for the future in Buffalo and you can see why. Great buildings, cool downtown, much potential.
This great Beaux-Arts building symbolizes Buffalo's potential. Constructed in 1912, it was inspired by the Pan-American Exposition that had happened a few years prior in which the first beams of electric light were shone upon the city.
I tried to get the crew to go into this famous bank building with me to see…the vintage penny banks exhibition. This display kinda blew my mind—how many ways you could design a bank.
I heard about a controversy while I was in Buffalo, that some locals resented the fact that their esteemed museum had sold off a lot of the old collection in order to fund a restoration and put their money into modern art. Well, all I can say, as a one-time visitor, they did right. I had no idea how great a museum space I was walking into there. It's hip, classy and expansive. There was Picasso, Renoir, and a bunch of Warhols.
I love NYC, but I certainly understand people who don't; it's not a good place to be if you don't know it well. It challenges your senses; it often makes you feel like you don't belong--at least, that's the way it used to make me feel.
I lived in NYC on and off for about 20 years, riding my bike instead of public transit, buying my eggs over easy in the local diner, watching neighborhoods form and dissolve, learning the wheres, whys, and hows to exist efficiently in a town that's determined to run circles around you.
I got my first apartment in Tribeca in 1991, the year before Derek Jeter started playing shortstop. Buck Showalter was Manager then. I started listening to the radio broadcasts of the Yankee games as I patched walls and repainted. In those halcyon days, I bonded with the resurgent Yanks and rode their wave right into a dynasty.
All of NYC is on one island or another but you'd never think of it, standing at, say, 34th and Fifth. But, take it from me, it can get that way—stir crazy! By making our show about the islands that actually look like islands, I think we pointed out the sometimes awkward truth of New York life. Sometimes you want a ticket off.
Great brand name, huh? We wore these boots to cover the story of the Gowanus Canal out in Brooklyn. I'd heard of the GC for so many years but never thought I'd be paddling it. The GC is a former industrial waterway, a canal made from a natural estuary and in the early 20th century it was an economic powerhouse. Now it's about to become a real estate boom.
The city is cleaning the canal up by repairing the circulation system that will now bring fresh water from the East River. This will, in turn, stimulate a natural ecosystem and nature takes over from there. We used the Workbrutes when we went into the tunnel crews were repairing to handle this new flow.
I am a big fan of AAA. In fact I'm their spokesman, sort of. I really believe everyone should spend the little money necessary to have AAA coverage. I think it's a great deal!
It has been my greatest honor and pleasure working with this gang and a few others not pictured. I'm seriously blessed by these guys, whose names I'll leave to the show credits. They're true skilled professionals--and a lot of fun to hang out with, too.
I was excited about doing this story because I'd always been curious about all those thousands and thousands of gravestones you see from the LIE. And then I discovered that was a different cemetery. Whoops.
No matter, Greenwood was filled with remarkable tales and ideas. First off, did you know that Greenwood was one of the prompts for Central Park in Manhattan?