Bentleyville Lights Up The Holidays

I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season—Ashley Tisdale

Every Christmas there are tons of holiday themed events from light festivals to Christmas Tree lightings. But if you are looking for something that’s a cut above, then look no further than Bentleyville.

img_7216Bentleyville isn’t a place, but an event. It started as a home owner’s annual Christmas decoration display that grew into a phenomenon that is now known as “Bentleyville ‘Tour of Lights’.”

What makes Bentleyville different? For starters, it is strictly native to Minnesota; it is massive; it’s extremely family friendly—even more so than other seasonal Holiday events, and it is completely free.

There is a parking fee of five dollars per car load, or a person can take a train to the event for a slightly higher cost, but the entrance and snacks once inside Bentleyville are 100% free.

The annual festival that has came to be known as Bentleyville has grown exponentially over the years. It’s so large that it is now held in Duluth’s 10-acre Bayfront Festival Park during the frigid months of November and December.

As the sun goes down and a chill starts to move across the icy shores of Lake Superior, Bentleyville comes to life. It runs nightly from Thanksgiving to December 26, with the gates opening at 5 pm.

Visitors to Bentleyville are treated to a spectacular array of brightly lit Yuletide displays, which cover the entire park. Fabulously designed illuminated walk-through canopies crisscross through the park and connect to other sections.

There are several big attractions for kids. Santa Claus is there every night till Christmas Eve. Rudolph is available for pictures, and Mrs. Clause is on hand to tell stories and hand out candy canes.

The free snack stations also draw crowds. The Cookie House with its cookies, coffee andimg_7334 hot coco is a must stop. The Marshmallow Hut and fire pits for roasting marshmallows attracts a lot of people, so does the popular Popcorn Shack. Again…all of these are no charge.

In the center of Bentleyville stands a remarkable animated Christmas Tree. It is a 128′ high manufactured marvel that towers above the festival. The tree has more than 150 thousand LED lights. Its frame is made from 17 tons of iron and 24 yards of concrete. The star that crowns the tree is actually an eight foot ball of steel with 28, three foot long, spikes pointing out of it.

When fully lit the Bentleyville Tree has a cutting presence. It pierces the darkness and welcomes visitors from miles away. It is easily seen from the interstate going into Duluth.

The “Tour of Lights” is a perfect harbinger for the Holiday season. The cold weather enhances the experience and the light displays warm the spirit. Christmas will seem more magical and exciting for adults and children alike after a night in Bentleyville.



John Wayne Birthplace & Museum

Speaking as an actress, I wish all actors would be more like Duke and speaking as a person, it would be nice if all people could be honest and as genuine as he is. This is a real man – Maureen O Hara

In a small town slightly southwest of Des Moines, IA is a tiny four room house that stakes claim to being the birthplace of one of America’s most celebrated actors: John Wayne. The future actor was born in Winterset on May 26, 1907 as Marion Robert Morrison.

Now the small rural town is making the most of its former resident by boasting about his birthplace with a museum and tours of his childhood home.

The John Wayne Birthplace and Museum (JWBM) is open daily from 10 to 5 pm (winter 10 to 4pm). Its tickets are priced so it’s affordable for anyone. The cost is $15, with discounts for children and seniors, to experience the truly unique life of Marion Robert Morrison. 

johnwaynestatuePeople that appreciate celebrity-driven attractions will enjoy the museum and gift shop. The museum is small, but it has an impressive array of personal John Wayne photos, movie memorabilia and stories that even a casual fan will appreciate, including an explanation on how the nickname”Duke” came about.

IMG_6363As for the gift shop, it is free to visit and has lots of products and merchandise. A Crow’s View suggests purchasing a JWBM pen or pencil; at .50¢ each, they are affordable and easily the best priced items in the store.

I found the house that Marion Robert Morrison, aka John Wayne, was born in more interesting.  Although the actual room of Wayne’s birth is lost to history, its historical significance to American cinema and pop culture is undeniable.

Touring Wayne’s childhood home is a stark reminder of the American dream; moreover, it is a powerful illustration that a child born in such humble circumstances can eventually rise to stardom. In Morrison’s case, he went on to become John Wayne a Hollywood legend and an icon, if not a national treasure.

The JWBM is a must see for any ardent fan of John Wayne. It’s worth checking out. Like John Wayne, it’s distinctly American.

Mary Tyler Moore Immortalized In Bronze

A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate…, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile–Mara Buxbaum

Mary Tyler Moore’s passing was a huge blow to Hollywood and fans around the world; however, female journalist particularly took her passing extremely hard, but for far different reasons.

The television icon was more than just a ground breaking actress, brilliant business entrepreneur and philanthropist; she was a role model who also influenced a generation of women to become journalist.

Over a long career spanning decades, Mary Tyler Moore’s signature role was Mary Richards from the eponymously titled “Mary Tyler Moore” show.  The 70s sitcom was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and centered around a young single career woman working as a news producer.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-9-49-51-pmThe series ran from 1970 to 1977; it received numerous awards for the cast, crew, and the star: Mary Tyler Moore (MTM). In fact, during its run the series won a record 29 Emmy Awards.  A record that stood for 25 years.

In 2001, MTM was immortalized by TVLAND when a life-sized bronze statue of Mary Richards tossing her tam into the air was unveiled. This iconic image captured the exuberance and excitement of a professional woman who ultimately did “make it on her own” in a new city and career.

When interviewed about being immortalized by a bronze statue, MTM said, “Forget about it, this is a unique situation. I never thought I’d have anything like that.”

0012The statue is exclusive to minneapolis and quite popular. Fans from around the state and the nation flock to the statue to pose for pictures and mimic the legendary hat toss.

When Minneapolis put the statue in storage due to downtown road construction, public outcry prompted city leaders to place it back on display.

Visitors to Minneapolis who wish to see the statue can find it quite easily at the visitor center. A Crow’s View suggests taking the light rail to the Nicollet Mall stop. This will allow people to avoid parking hassles and place seekers right at the statue’s location. After exiting the train, the statue is only steps away from the train station on the southeast corner of S. 5th St.

The visitor center’s hours are limited, but the statue can easily be seen from the large display windows if travelers show up after hours. Later in 2017, the city plans to return the statue outdoors for 24-hour access.

Visitor center hours are: 10:00 am–6:00 pm, Monday-Friday; and 12:00 pm–5:00 pm, Saturday-Sunday.


Visitor Center

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

MTM Statue Facts


Panama: More Than A Gateway

Panama has long been a safe harbor for adventurers, schemers, and those with a piratical turn of mind.–Amy Wilentz

The tiny nation of Panama is a small Central American country primarily known for its famous canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It’s capitol, Panama City, is often referred to as the “gateway to the world.” Although the famous canal is front and center in the minds of most people, there is much more to see than just the Canal de Panama.

Panama City is a modern metropolis that has a lot to offer visitors. The city has beautiful scenic views and a spectacular skyline, while a plethora of historical landmarks, vibrant restaurants, shops and cafes await to be explored by visitors.

However, Panama is a nation of extremes.

The capitol city has the same modern advantages of any city in the global north. Public water fountains deliver safe drinking water, and the bathroom facilities are well kept; yet, a short drive outside of the metropolitan area, and the typical sites of a developing nation are present.

The further away from Panama City a person gets and the worse the conditions become. The bathroom facilities are less stellar and basic creature comforts disappear too. Small rusted rooftop shacks pepper the landscape while outdated cars, trucks, and equipment waste away along poorly kept roads and fields.

However, once a person travels outside of the sphere of Panama City’s influence, about 60-miles. Scenic pristine tropical jungles await visitors willing to leave the comfort of the city behind.

To see Panama’s extremes for yourself, A Crow’s View suggest traveling to San Blas. This small tropical island chain is part of the Archipelago’s islands. They are about a four-hour trip from Panama City. That includes a 4×4 ride along rugged off road trails and a boat ride.

This trip will allow a person to see the awesome beauty of Panama’s mountains, jungles, and the tropical Archipelago’s islands of the Atlantic ocean. You will even meet some native San Blas residence that are a pseudo-independent nation within Panama.

In the words of Gustave Flaubert, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

The Ghostly Town of Golden  

Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeableWallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

img_4187Just off exit 76 along Oregon’s Interstate Five, stands a small ghost town. The mining community of Golden was founded during the gold rush. In its heyday, the town served about 500 area minors (mostly Chinese immigrants) and produced up to 1.5 million dollars of wealth.

Getting to the ghost town is quite easy from the main highway. Take the Wolf Creek exit (as mentioned above, number 76). For people traveling southbound, you will have to drive through the town of Wolf Creek and pass under the Interstate Five overpass before proceeding east for about three miles on Coyote Creek Road. Northbound travelers only have to take the Wolf Creek exit and turn right to be on the path towards Golden.

Once at the town’s site, there is parking along the Golden2shoulder. After viewing the ruins, visitors can cross the main road that IMG_4182passes through Golden and take a trail that leads to the Golden Coyote Wetlands. The site is where minors worked more than a 150 years ago. It’s a beautiful area that’s recovering from the devastating affects of hydraulic mining.

A Campbellite minister, Reverend William Ruble, formally established the town of Golden in 1890. Its religious foundation took front and center during its existence. The small mining community had two churches and no saloons, a rarity for mining towns. According to the Josephine County Historical Society it made “this town unique in Western annuls.”

Golden has an interesting history with pop culture too. Its cemetery was featured on an episode of “Gunsmoke.” However, the town never had a graveyard until after Hollywood came knocking. In fact, all of the faded and illegible wood markers are leftover props. There are some contemporaneous headstones peppered throughout the cemetery, but they were placed there after the episode’s airing as memorials to former residence of Golden. No one is actually buried there.

Ultimately, the pursuit of riches is what fueled the town’s growth, and when the gold dried up, the city’s population dwindled. “In 1906, thirty-six children still went to school in Golden. Now not a soul lives here,” reported former KEZI News anchor Rick Dancer in a 2014 report.

Golden3Version 2Today only fragments remain of this 19-Century community, but like in the city’s prime, the fabric of the town’s DNA is apparent. The Campbellite church proudly stands tall welcoming visitors to Golden, and the old school building, which doubled as another church, prominently stands too. Both buildings are open and accessible to visitors.

The remnants of several other buildings still stand. They are obviously not safe to enter and aren’t open to travelers. Despite their dilapidated state, they are still picturesque to a skilled photographer.

Enjoy taking a step back in time by visiting the ghosts of Golden.


Oregon Exit 76

Golden, Oregon

Golden’s History

The Pacific Northwest: Bandon

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”–Jacques Cousteau

If you find yourself driving down Oregon’s coastline, take a moment and set your GPS to 43.114193, -124.435927, and let it take you to the city of Bandon.

This quaint little coastal town may sound small and boring, but it has a lot to offer. Visitors can choose from crabbing and fishing to golfing, shopping, taking a wine tour or simply spending time at the beautiful boardwalk in “Old Town,” not to mention enjoying spectacular views of Oregon’s rugged coastline.


Morning View Of Bandon Beach

Averill was founded in 1853; however, in 1873 Irish settler George Bennett and his sons moved to the area from Bandon, Ireland. The following year the settlement’s name was changed.

Seventeen years later on February 18, 1891 Bandon was officially incorporated.

The next 10-years Bandon would see its iconic Coquille River Lighthouse built (1896), a jetty constructed (1897-98), and its population swell from low double digits to more than 600 people.

As Bandon entered the 20-Century, it was poised for growth. The town had wood and wool manufacturing, a school district, a post office, churches and a robust cheese making industry.

IMG_3001Within the first ten years of the new century, Bandon’s population would grow to more than 1800 people and its harbor would become a principle port between San Francisco and Portland. With an average of 300 vessels visiting annually, Bandon became a primary tourist attraction on the Oregon coast.

Sadly, as the 1900s rolled on, the municipality would face several vicissitudes that would forever alter its course. A blaze in 1914 destroyed the waterfront and the “Great Fire Of 1936” reduced the city to ashes. Bandon was economically devastated for years to come.

Rebuilding began immediately and concluded in 1946. Over the next 70 years, generations of residence went to work reclaiming Bandon’s status as a resort community. The first step was creating a new tradition, the Cranberry Festival, in 1947.

The ensuing years saw cheese production become a major component of the city’s identity. At one point, when the old Bandon Cheese Factory closed, the city lost a huge part of its individuality.

Steady growth continued for much of the 50s and 60s, and ambitious revitalization campaigns of the 70s and 80s brought upgrades to infrastructure and services; thus, setting the stage for non-pelagic industries to play an essential role in the local economy.

The 90s ushered in significant milestones. Bandon and its lighthouse celebrated their centennial anniversaries and a wastewater treatment plant dedication was held; however, the 2000s weren’t as kind.

The new millennium started with a back eye. Tillamook Dairy purchased the popular Bandon Cheese Factory and eventually closed it. Face Rock Creamery, a new cheese producer, which is built upon the site of the old factory, stated, “This was a sad and upsetting day to Bandon residents and tourists alike.”

However, the 2000s did have some high points. The population ballooned to 2800 people, all open streets within the city were paved, and highway 101 was widened to include a turning lane; also a new water clarifier was built at the treatment plant.

A seminal moment occurred in May 2013; Face Rock Creamery opened its doors and heralded in the return of a primary attraction: cheese making.


Today, Bandon has a lot to offer visitors besides its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Obviously, its location is a major selling point for tourism and the backbone of its economy, but golf, cranberries, wood products, cheese and wine making have also developed into an integral part of the city’s future too.

Thanks to outstanding foresight, Bandon is once again a vibrant community.

The next time you’re in the Pacific Northwest, or just visiting the Oregon Coast, take the time to explore Bandon. The beaches, lighthouse, and city will provide you with lots of options to enjoy your stay.

City Of Bandon Website

Bandon Cheese History

City of Bandon/History

Bandon Dunes Golf

Bandon Crossings Golf

The Pacific Northwest: Sights Around Oregon

“Rain in the Northwest is not the pounding, flashing performance enjoyed by the eastern part of the nation. Nor is it the festive annual soaking I’d been used to in Southern California. Rather, it’s a seven-month drizzle that darkens the sky, mildews the bath towels, and propels those already prone to depression into the dim comforts of antihistamines and a flask.” ― Melissa Hart

The State of Oregon is often overshadowed by Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and Multnomah Falls, not to mention its climate. Outside of those four factors, most people know very little about this state, and that is truly a shame because Oregon has mild summers and stellar scenic beauty throughout its boarders.

Below is a list A Crow’s View suggests travelers should visit, many of which are somewhat obscure.

1) The Painted Hills; John Day, Ore.IMG_1503


2) Wreck of the Peter Iredale near Astoria, Ore.IMG_1612


3) The end of The Lewis & Clark Trail; Seaside, Ore.

IMG_15284) Table Top Rock Trail & Summit; Rogue River, Ore.


5) The North Umpqua Trial; Idleyld Park, Ore.

IMG_2411FullSizeRender-4The preceding list is obviously short and missing some fantastic destinations. This post’s purpose is to tantalize readers and to give them something to think about when visiting Oregon; it also serves to kick off a new series about the Pacific Northwest.

Future posts will have in-depth information about the locations listed above and features discussing other great places to explore throughout the Pacific Northwest.

In the mean time, the links below will serve as excellent portals to learn more about these destinations.

Happy Travels!

Painted HIlls

Pete Iredale Wreck

Lewis & Clark Trail

Table Top Rock

North Umpqua Trail