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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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urban exploration

Sharks Cove

Snorkeling on Acid

Snorkeling Hawaii

We putted along down the congested back roads towards Turtle Bay ready for snorkeling Hawaii. Nate sparked up a cigarette puffing plumes of smoke out the window. I gazed out at the coastal beauty beckoning my eyes with blue tendrils of crashing splendor. The calm swell attracted many beach goers from all over, and normally I avoided the tourist pits, but this time was different.

Nate looked over at me suddenly and blurted out, “You want a hit of acid bro?”

Sharks Cove Sunset

Sunset on Sharks Cove

Without much hesitation, I reached down and pulled a tab off a strip of blotter paper. The tasteless square moistened under my tongue for a few minutes before swallowing it. I took acid many times in the past, throughout college, and hitchhiking up through California, so I knew what to expect. Each time felt like a new adventure as I waited for the trip to begin.

We stopped at a surf shop in Haleiwa to buy snorkeling equipment first before continuing on to Turtle Bay. The parking lot connected to the beach resort jam-packed with cars. With people all looking to bask by the cove, like beached whales, our intention of seeing tropical fish appeared dismal, but we dove in anyway.

I swam around looking at murky clouds of seawater as my eyes spotted a lone tetra jolting between the cracks of brain-coral. The cove sucked for snorkeling. Little kids splashed about causing a ruckus by the shoreline, kicking and thrashing about, while giggling with smiles of joy. Fish disappeared into the depths of the ocean, and suddenly it no longer mattered. My mind began to escape me like an endless dream of happiness.

The cool water dribbled off my skin as I immersed myself in her beauty. The beauty of Mother Nature brought a twinkle to my eye as my vision sharpened quickly.

I lost Nate through the sea of people, but I just kept swimming and swimming. Slowly my mind dove further into an imaginarium of eclectic thoughts. Everything felt happy. Everything felt alive around me. The waves. The coral. The urchins. The sand. I loved Hawaii and its random adventures as I floated there in the ocean, forgetting to breathe. I coughed up mucous and salty phlegm-like water as my body slowly became more incapacitated from the drug.

The small current pushed me to the shoreline and I fumbled to take off my snorkel, mask and flippers, tumbling into the sand. I fell on my ass and giggled with a tenacity to wander enjoying every bit of snorkeling Hawaii.

In this trippy euphoria Nate came into view and we both made our way back to the car with no destination in mind. The ground moved around us as his car felt stationary guiding us back the way we came. We laughed and chain smoked the last of our cigarettes as Nate chanted the same lyrics to a ska-punk song over-and-over again.

“It’s only just begun,” I thought. And it did. We pulled off a few miles down the road outside of an abandoned building. It felt like a primal spot to lose our minds. An old Hawaiian couple posed for the camera taking pregnancy photos in an eery door-frame. We hobbled through trash, decayed coconuts, Styrofoam and rusted construction equipment stepping over barbed wire and metal bed-frames as my body wandered to another extreme emotion, fear.

The dark, gloomy jungle cast its shadows on us making each step through the wasteland of the Convalescent home even more chilling. My heart thumped, and fingers trembled. I finagled through waste fearing I might step on a stray heroine needle. It made my toes cringe between my broken sandals, until losing them altogether when I set my eyes on a Banyan tree. It crept around the backside of the vacant building, wrapping its limbs around the roof like a parasite feeding off its master.

Underwater Trippin’ in Oahu

Snorkeling Hawaii

Snorkeling Hawaii on acid in Turtle Bay

Fear shook every ounce of blood pumping through my veins. I watched in a trembled stupor as Nate monkeyed his way to the top of the roof. Climbing and swinging up the prison-bar windows, using rusty metal pegs as footholds, he reached the top, fearless and anxious to down-climb the Banyan tree.

I took another approach for fear of tetanus. I studied the Banyan tree like a bouldering problem until finally gripping its bark, steadily inching up its trunk. Nate chucked plaster tiles off the roof as his mood shifted to destruction. I felt scared and numb as I reached a point of no return three-quarters of the way up the tree. But, my fear morphed into comfort with the slight breeze, feeling content as I sat with my legs dangling on either side of a sturdy branch. We sat up there for hours. He sang. I looked off into the canopies cascading around me. Their sharpness intrigued me looking like a blanket of green Legos.

Our moods shifted and we found ourselves back on the road headed to Sharks Cove. The low tide whispered our names putting our vehicle to a halt. Before I knew it I found myself tiptoeing barefoot across jagged coral like stepping on the tips of pointed needles. My feet ached as my mind alluded the pain. But with each step closer to the tide pools we looked out at the sun greeting us with one last smile of happiness as it shined its orange radiance throughout the sky. All my emotions felt like one as I awed in the beauty before me. This was the best acid I ever took. Snorkeling on acid turned into a series of random adventures making my last days in Oahu one to remember.

Train Hopping Binghamton

Train Hopping Binghamton with the Noodle

Train hopping Binghamton

“Happy Birthday Marien! I hope exploring Castle on the Hill, your first skydive and train hopping Binghamton made your birthday one to remember buddy.”

After spending a few months backpacking around Europe with his girlfriend, my friend booked a ticket back to the USA and took a bus to Rochester, where we picked him up. Arriving Sunday with the intentions of making his first skydive, he waited patiently with anxious urges to jump only to get it pushed back by the sunset. I felt responsible in some way, but I held to my promise and tried to make this the best birthday of his life. Out of all my friends back home in Delaware he was the only one who took the plunge to visit me at WNY Skydiving and with that the story unfolds, a three day escapade filled with adventure, adrenaline, a little doggy and my wife.

With a small trek through the landing area on the drop zone, following the perimeter of the corn, we roamed through the brush. Thistles and corn stalks scratched our legs with the starry night sky illuminating our path as we walked deeper into the woods filled with dry pine needles, neatly stacked wood and dead fallen trees. We propped our tents staking them between the tall trees, their tops swaying from the faint whistle of the wind, as we set up our camps. With four logs positioned in a square I began to add tinder to the fire, kindling it with paper plates and toilet paper. Its flame lit the night sky with an orange blaze, sizzling, crackling and popping bits of charcoal. We scorched marshmallows over it for a midnight snack before dozing off to sleep, its heat fading away into the brisk night, as we drowned in peaceful bliss.

Morning, we awoke to a light drizzle and gloomy sky, with the work-day cancelled we set out for Castle on the Hill, in Dansville, NY. The drive took us through the rural countryside filled with green pastures, endless wheat hills and desolate small towns along back-country roadways. My friend never explored an abandoned building before so I felt excited for him and his first urban exploration experience. We parked the car at the local park and walked half a mile towards the castle on the hill. Decaying since 1971, it stood tall crumbling to the decadent force of nature, which took over a majority of the complex.

Dansville: Castle on the Hill

Dansville: Castle on the Hill

History takes us back to 1798 when Nathaniel Bingham stumbled upon a water source of rich minerals and opened a spa in Dansville called the Dansville Water Cure facility. He practiced Water Cure or hydrotherapy as he believed the water from “Breakout Creek” contained therapeutic properties bringing his theory to life in the year 1854. It flopped without much success and the property was sold.

Caleb Jackson purchased the complex in 1870 naming it Our Home on the Hillside. Both men believed in hydrotherapy, but with his discovery of Granola and his persistent efforts, Our Home on the Hillside became especially popular. It drew legendary icons including Susan B. Anthony and Clara Barton among others such as, Frederick Douglass.

But the building took a turn for the worst with a fire and even after the Jackson Family fireproofed the building, bringing it to a larger scale and spending $200,000 on construction, modern treatments and advancements in medicine and pharmacology surpassed any popular efforts of the water cure philosophy causing the institute to go bankrupt in 1914.

The building continued exchanging hands without prospering until 1929 when Bernarr Mcfadden purchased the sanatorium. The witty yet eccentric business man renamed it the Physical Culture Hotel as his involvement in body building structured the ideal of the resort. The hotel took on roles of a hospital for the ill while maintaining a popular buzz among the wealthy. Celebrities who stayed at the thriving resort indulged in tennis, swimming and starlit views from the roof with dancing and sunbathing.

Dansville: Castle on the Hill

Marien looking down at the rubble from Castle on the Hill

After McFadden’s death the building was reacquired but steadily dwindled to its death in 1971 and now stands there to this day, slowly decaying, brick-by-brick until it will eventually collapse, sliding down the hill spreading its debris across Route 256.

The iron staircase of this 5-story building told a tale of its heyday symbolizing the prestige and wealth of those occupying this hotel. We walked through the dust, and rubble, floor-by-floor peering out windows and creaky doors that dropped off into oblivion. Sections of flooring gave way to decay, and complete rooms crumbled to the ground leaving an empty space full of rusted piping, and brick rubble where parts of the roof fell to its demise. We walked cautiously through the main hallways, distraught about entering any rooms for fear of falling to our demise. Graffiti lined the walls with tags, and evidence of teenage love along with political banter scribbled on the roof, “Feel the Bern” and cryptic messages, “Did you bring the salt?” near the elevator shaft. I did not feel spirits here like I did in the JN Adam Memorial Hospital but our exploration was limited due to the sad state of structural support in the Castle on the Hill.

We stood in plain sight on the roof as we followed the main I-beam across what remained tiptoeing over concrete and brick avoiding any holes or soft spots with serious caution. The view of Dansville cast out below with its stormy sky, a pastel of gray clouds blended with the greenery below making it feel like a picturesque haunted film with us in the center of it. Droplets of tears shed from the clouds touching our skin faintly and we raced out of the building, exiting at a different location to avoid citations. The state of decay made our exploration limited, but we managed to escape the downpour by seconds following a long drive home in rain.

We camped that night like all the other nights, deep in the woods, behind the corn stalks, between the tall pine trees glistening from the fire. It took a bit more effort this time to start a fire, but we kept at it and persistence brought us warmth. The night ended with crackling embers and a cool breeze sending us off into a deep sleep, a sleep only felt in the outdoors.

WNY Skydiving

Marien making his first skydive at WNY Skydiving

With sleepy eyes and the sun poking its light through the pine trees we both woke from a deep slumber, taking several minutes to finally adjust to getting in motion. So what did we do after our trek back to the hangar? We made a skydive! My friend made his first jump and surprisingly did not shit his pants due to his strong fear of heights. My boss yelled, “Welcome to the Jungle Baby…You’re gonna DIE,” as I laughed, with my foot on the step of the Cessna 182. Marien looked shocked with an exasperated look on his face. He turned slightly pale, “Oh Fuck…I’m not gonna die?”

We all situated ourselves in the plane as we flew to altitude and to my surprise my buddy remained calm despite his dreadful fear of heights. My skydive felt like any other jump, but the true joy came from the fear, pure adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment when we hit 10,000 feet. I felt proud of him as I opened the door with a smirk on my face, the relative wind swaying my hair every which way as I pounced off the step into a front flip. I felt proud that he faced his fear and all the feelings he felt would go from fear to a happy sense of accomplish upon the chute opening, which it did from his loud remarks of joy. His freefall, like many others, including myself, involved opening his mouth and yelling profanity.

The experience is like none other. The pure adrenaline upon putting your foot out on the tiny metal step of the C-182 while the wind chills your body sending goosebumps up your legs and arms making your hair stand on its end is incomparable. But then you jump, plunging out into flips and shit, until you get stable in a belly-to-earth position, while the Tandem Instructor pulls the drogue out and the wind rushes all around you, flapping your cheeks at 120 mph. Your eyes tear up under the goggles; your throat dries out from the wind; your heart pounds from the adrenaline and you spend more time trying to look down as you fall to your death than enjoying the experience around you. Then, “POOFFFF,” the chute opens and you scream profane words of joy and excitement. But that’s not where the adventure ends. You still have a canopy ride down to earth and with swift toggle turns and 360’s you find yourself on the roller coaster ride, which you thought you would experience in freefall. Then you land and you cannot believe what you just did…You jumped out of a fucking plane and survived and your life will never be the same. It’s like chasing the feeling you get after your first bump of cocaine. You stand up on your two feet and kiss the earth. This is what it’s like to live. This is living, but there’s more to this adventure. It does not end here.

Dansville: Castle on the Hill

An iron stairwell…

After our skydive, the work-day ended and we found ourselves on the road again with a short trip to Letchworth State Park to check out the immaculate views of the three waterfalls along with the old trestle bridge built in 1875 with hopes of train hopping lingering in the back of my mind. My wife and I grabbed the Empire Pass and drove down to the Upper Falls. Marien and I carried our backpacks with the intention of catching out on a train. I generally knew trains rolled through there on a daily basis later in the evening between 3 PM and 10 PM, but did not know specific times. So we enjoyed the view of the falls with the backdrop of the trestle bridge and active cranes moving about behind it. The mist of the waterfalls splashed against our faces as they continued working on the new bridge. Kelly read a book as we soaked in the precious views waiting for the work-day to end. We paced back and forth with our packs strapped over our shoulders, waiting and wondering when and if a train would slow down around the curve of the bridge. If it would slow down just enough to catch on the fly. Most of train hopping is safety, with knowing which units are rideable and at what speeds you should hop on when catching on the fly, but a lot of it is patience as we found out.

Dansville: Castle on the Hill

Exploring the roof and trying not to fall through…

Kelly left us in the park as she hit the road for the drop zone around 5:30 PM. My original assumption of the train arriving around 5 to 6 PM was incorrect. Marien and I waited along the steep, muddy hill by the tracks. A group of construction workers roamed through the woods surveying the area for trees to trim back, scaring us, as we lay on the hill with an incognito presence. The patience killed us, but it came with every train hopping experience I could think of, so we waited. The workers eventually left as their 8-hour shift came to an end so we wandered around down the tracks, south of the Genesee River. We killed the time by starting a small campfire and eating some beans we packed for our train hopping adventure. Food eaten on the road tasted better, I do not know why, but it just did.

The clock dwindled onward as 6 PM turned into 7 PM and then we started wandering back to the bridge. I looked for monikers and marks of other train hoppers and found one scribbled under the trestle bridge by Tomato back in March of 2013. I knew this spot was hoppable, just when and where was the question. We plopped our asses on the concrete foundation underneath the trestle bridge as it creaked, whistled, and made faint noises, from what we did not know. I sat there perplexed and wary of the lack of daylight. I did not want to catch on the fly in the dark. With a completely bummed look on my face I threw in the towel after 5.5 hours of waiting without any results. We roamed back down the stairs we climbed initially to reach the tracks, and followed a footpath to the Genesee River. A look of disdain crossed both our faces, but a night of wild camping in one of the country’s best parks would not be so bad, so we made the best of it. We skedaddled down the slippery slopes of slate and walked along the banks of the river looking for a spot to camp, free from people and animals, particularly snakes.

9 PM approached and the last bit of sunlight peeked out over the horizon for one last final farewell. Then we heard it! We both looked at each other with a look of excitement as adrenaline pumped our blood. Jumping, jiving and hustling up the embankment by the river we saw a train putting over the trestle bridge with grainers, boxcars and gondolas attached to it. I huffed and puffed with my pack on my back and water jug in hand, running up the steep path towards the railroad tracks. The rustic stone stairwell meandered back and forth, zigzagging to the section of Park Drive which remained under construction as the new bridge was being built. A look of hopelessness pummeled both of us as we sat there huffing and puffing, with our hands on our knees, bent down, and sweaty. We kept at it, but when I looked up the train already passed. “Only 15 cars,” I thought? Normally the freight rolling through there is miles long. Sweat poured off my brow forming puddles beneath my feet. The night sky laughed at us for our futile efforts and now we needed to find a camping spot in the dark. But all hope was not lost, we continued to stake out the bridge, maybe luck was on our side or maybe it was not.

We camped out on the hill and I grabbed his flashlight as my vision adjusted to the darkness unfolding around us. We sat and waited, debating whether we would catch on the fly in the dark, or if we would just camp on the hill and suddenly our choice slowly came to fruition with the loud bellow of a train horn coming from the north of the Genesee River. A look of terror crowded Marien’s face, but he held firm to following my actions.

Train Hopping Binghamton

Train Hopping Binghamton without realizing it…

After a few minutes the train gradually chugged by with it’s bright light shimmering off the main unit. We scrambled down the hill, running towards the tracks and waited. I turned on the flashlight once the conductor approached the bend as to not giveaway our position. The bolts spun too fast on the wheels. So we stood there and waited as a mile of the train passed us by, waiting for that split second decision to hop on a safe, rideable unit. Would it come? We both stood their anxious, stupefied, mesmerized by the sheer size of the freight train slowly gliding by us, its wheels screeching around the bends of the tracks and suddenly our opportunity presented itself. I locked onto an Intermodal Doublestack 53′ T-Well unit traveling a few miles per hour and caught on the fly, climbing the ladder with ease as Marien followed. We set foot on a hotshot ride to freedom as we moseyed over the Genesee River on the old trestle bridge, headed south to the unknown.

That feeling of riding freight came back to me and nothing beat train hopping. I looked over at my friend and a huge smile cast out across his face. I knew he felt the same feeling in that moment. The feeling of adventure, the unknown, and riding into the night without a worry in the world, looking up at the starry sky, appreciating the finer aspects of life around us as we rode through nature on our freight train ride to freedom. I wished time did not matter in that moment, but I knew the adventure was short-lived with my work schedule limiting my adventures and his schedule limited as well. We enjoyed the night sky, the wind hitting our hair, swaying it every direction and the stars smiling down at us, their bright faces illuminating the countryside around us as we made a clear shot to Binghamton in just 4-hours.

Train Hopping Binghamton

Train Hopping Binghamton

The first chance we got we hopped off in Johnson City before entering the train yard in Binghamton. I hung off the ladder and steadily ran out over ballast as to not fall and fuck myself up, he did the same as I shined our only source of light, making sure no signage existed ahead. We walked through the night in a dead city, with no one on the streets and the only sign of life from hip-hop blaring out windows. The train yard always existed downtown in the ghetto, which meant two important pieces of information, walking at night became a bit more dangerous, but at least the Greyhound existed nearby. We huddled up that night by the tracks, shimmying into our bivysacks under a cozy, spacious bush by the abandoned part of town, soaking in a few hours of sleep before a bus-ride back to Rochester. That was how I sent my friend off to Boston on the epic birthday of a lifetime, exploring Dansville: Castle on the Hill, making his first skydive and train hopping Binghamton on his first experience ridin’ the rails.

JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

The inside of the onion dome at the JN Adam Memorial Hospital…this place is even cooler than Dansville:  Castle on the Hill, no fallin’ through the floor here…

So we finally took a day to check out the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital located in Perrysburg, NY. The hospital is located in the small, desolate town of Perrysburg on 300 acres of overgrowth hidden between County Road 58 and its main entrance off Airview Drive. We read much on the web about people getting arrested so we took extra precaution, but for a Friday afternoon for a few hours, we did not encounter unwanted attention by the police.

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital from above

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Walking through the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital with the wife…looking forward to checking out the rest of Abandoned New York

Where did we park? We hit up the Perrysburg Diner across from the Spoon Saloon and ate a few sandwiches, which ended up giving us both explosive defecation. So I do not recommend eating there, but if you park around lunch time and look inconspicuous, you have a clear approach down the roadway to the entrance. Watch out for patrol vehicles that randomly drive down the access road to catch trespassers. If you hear a vehicle approaching just hop in the overgrowth and lay low until it passes. We did not have much trouble finding the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital, however, we did have a difficult time gaining entry to the complex, well Kelly did.

So if you are one of those people who does not enjoy hopping tall fences with barbed wire, then the alternative route is gaining access through holes or parts of the fence you can crawl underneath. From the main road on Airview Drive if you head left past the main entrance you will see a beaten dirt path that goes up to the fencing. Behind you stands a tall smoke stack and a building enclosed in barbed wire fencing with a bunch of huge gears and machinery and in front of you stands the rest of the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital. As of July 2016, we found two access points through the fencing here, one involved pulling up the fence and crawling underneath and the other involved squatting and crawling through an open hole. I do not recommend bringing bolt-cutters anywhere when trespassing as you will get automatic burglary charges for breaking and entering, however, if someone else does the work for you then use these entrances for entry and remember your whereabouts in case you need to make a run for it.

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Heavy Machinery???

Why was this my favorite exploration spot? Sunlight shined throughout the building with a warming feeling, while we experienced cold chills in the dark and creepy crevices of rooms cast away from any daylight. A flashlight was not necessary, but I wish we brought one to explore the darker rooms. Watch out for the floor in some places as it’s very easy to fall through the decrepit, brittle flooring after years of decay. The earth has taken over much of the complex with roofs and flooring falling inward, paint peeling from every wall-face and ceilings caving in with nothing but dust and debris dribbled across the remains of the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital.

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Theater anyone?

The experience felt similar to my other urban exploration adventures such as The Rosewood Center, and Forest Haven Asylum, but it maintained its uniqueness in many ways. The place looked abandoned in a day, where they left everything behind. We found Ritalin articles from the 1960’s, old toys and dolls, wheelchairs, light fixtures in pristine condition, and other knickknacks. Bolts, gears, engines, all lay on shelves collecting rust from oxidation over the years. Graffiti inked the walls like a series of cryptic tattoos, with numbers, German phrases and excerpts from Dante’s Inferno, but the most appealing aspect of the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital lay within its rooftop. We gained access to the roof through its stairwell leading to the fourth floor and I must say my eyes embraced the immaculate beauty cast below. Clusters of pine trees marched on in an endless parade matching their dark green colors with the light blue horizon as a series of cumulonimbus clouds painted the sky, dancing above us. I thought of the people who lived here in the past, spending their whole life in the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital, and dying, or taking a brief stay. My nose wrapped around the freshness of the air and my eyes around the splendor of the hospital’s surrounding. At least JN Adam embraced the idea of fresh air, and peaceful views to help boost the spirits of the patients here, whether suffering from tuberculosis or another illness, the architecture and design definitely considered this tranquility.

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Toxic Toys for girls and boys…

We ended our exploration with a brief trek through the theater doors and the center building, shaped similar to an onion dome. Without getting into much description I will leave this for your own exploration. Maybe you will feel the spirits while you wander through the complex, or embrace the history of what took place in these rooms, sinking your eyes into the artwork that once was. Enjoy and stay safe!

Abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Rooftop views of the abandoned JN Adam Memorial Hospital

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Driving back on highway I-17 from Arcosanti we stumbled upon a huge abandoned site. It looked like the old Black Canyon Greyhound Park I heard blurbs about on other abandoned blogs, but there was no way of knowing without exploring the ruins it left behind. We pulled off at exit 242 so Kelly could grab a pack of smokes, but I felt an uncontrollable urge to explore the Park’s history and confirm its location, so we stopped to check it out. I tightened the straps to my backpack and just as I shut the rear passenger door the 5-0 pulled up at the stop sign. His piercing stare engaged me, our vehicle and then the park and my gut immediately turned sour. Kelly grabbed her phone and pretended to snap a selfie of us together with the mountains in the background. The police officer turned and parked his SUV onto the dirt shoulder trying to hide behind cacti and tumbleweeds. I noticed this and the close proximity of the park to the road and canned the idea immediately hoping to come back at some point in the near future.

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Black Canyon Greyhound Park Side Entrance

Originally we planned to drive to Lake Havasu to explore the abandoned schoolhouses and watch a warm winter sunset from across the lake, but we slept in too late and changed our plans last minute. Instead we spent the past weekend wandering around the Black Canyon Greyhound Park exploring its abrupt demise. Right off I-17 by exit 242 the park sits decaying since the 1980’s when it abandoned its operations. The small, crooked, chain link fence dangles there a few feet off of the roadway welcoming any trespassers with a misdemeanor if caught.

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Chairs piled up across the floor

We parked the car at Chileen’s Steak House and walked down the road scoping the area for policemen as we roamed in and out of the desert foliage. As we neared the exit I scanned the area for people and quickly made a run for it across the street as Kelly followed behind me. We hopped a small, crooked gate and hugged the foliage due to the park’s close proximity to the roadway. We zigzagged through the patchy grass, stepping on bald spots of dirt as I watched tumble weeds bounce by in the distance. One by one we entered the building through the side entrance, which reminded me of a run-down roof meant to cover gas pumps at a petrol station. Each pillar degraded severely over many years of decay with deteriorated concrete and exposed, rusted re-bar corroding from lack of maintenance and the wrath of mother nature. Graffiti artists tagged the inner walls of the building with bright colors making each tag stand out distinctly from the others as we scanned the walls. My nostrils flared from years of dust and decay, but the charred pieces of wood, scorched walls and caution tape all screamed signs of arson. Thick pieces of industrial glass crackled under my feet as they screeched against the concrete flooring. The building held spectators on the ground floor with plastic stadium-style seating separating each level with a concrete terrace design. I imagined all the seats lined up with spectators yelling, rooting for their greyhound to pull ahead as it neared the finish line galloping around the last bend. The gamblers all clasping their tickets, throwing their hands in the air as they spat out chants praying for victory. I opened my eyes and saw all the broken glass scattered throughout the park. The orange and yellow seats piled up in the far corner of the stadium, dull and faded from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. A set of wooden chairs off to the side all disintegrated from years of desert heat, termites and decay, all that remained, the curved, wooden backings. Everything stood there, old, dull and abandoned, as I circumnavigated the room, except for two huge, vibrant signs hanging from the rafters. The orange and yellow colors blasted the words “Red Seating, Yellow Seating, and Orange Reserve” signifying the different seating packages available in the Black Canyon Greyhound Park’s heyday.

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Bright signs – dull stadium

We stepped through one of the panels of the shattered, floor-to-ceiling, windows facing the abandoned track and Arizona mountaintops. My eyes wandered to the metal roof access stairs. We lightly walked up them and reached the top peering across a dry-rotted timber bridge deck nailed diagonally across the roof. I noticed holes in the roof with crusty, yellow insulation as we walked on the rickety timber steps towards the box seats. We avoided the loose nails, and missing timber by tip-toeing across the support in the center. To avoid glimpsing down to the ground floor below I shifted my eyes to my feet as I slowly put one foot in front of the other as if walking a line. When we reached the end I noticed a black SUV parked off the side of I-17. A husky man exited his vehicle looking at the abandoned property 100 yards away from us. Kelly and I hid in an abandoned restroom above the box seats. A sink of shale filled to its brim where water once came out of its spicket hung from the wall. Tiled debris covered every inch of the floor and the toilet looked like someone took a sledgehammer to it.

Black Canyon Greyhound Park

A walk of faith looking into the sun

We waited ten minutes. I poked out my head and noticed the vehicle scurried back onto the highway. Phew…our adrenaline passed. We walked the plank one last time to get back to the ground floor in order to continue wandering through the adjacent buildings on the property. Rental paperwork, and utility bills spread out across the floor of the next room as Kelly sifted through ransacked filing cabinets looking for clues of the Black Canyon Greyhound Park’s past. At one time, the owner’s rented the housing blocks to employees keeping the caged areas for the racing dog’s. A graffiti artist spray-painted a series of kitty cat faces throughout the property, nearly appearing in every room.

[Read More Abandoned Arizona]

Arcosanti an Arizona Oddity

Arcosanti an Arizona Oddity?

Was Arcosanti an Arizona oddity or a sustainable idea way before its time? Paolo Soleri did not think so. Despite being a completely theoretical idea, Soleri funded his life’s work through designing and producing ceramic and bronze windbells through methods he developed from silt-casting. With over 40 years of production he used this financial cushion to test out his theories on a more sustainable society. Where did he do this? The middle of nowhere off of highway I-17 in the city known as Arcosanti. A village away from the norms of society cast in the beautiful sandy desert surrounded by prickly cactus pear, dirt roads and an infinite amount of stars in the night sky, a perfect utopia. The idea of Arcosanti entailed maximizing space with limited land through roadway elimination. Basically, Soleri wanted to combine ecology with architecture in what he coined the term, “arcology.” He envisioned a future society where architecture implemented into the ecosystem with limited harm to the environment. This theoretical community, designed for 5,000 people on roughly 15 acres of land, started in 1970 and still continues construction today. Soleri built the structures in Arcosanti with similar techniques he used to make the windbells. Despite eliminating roadways and automobiles Soleri theorized for a series of escalators, elevators, moving pedestrian sidewalks and other green forms of travel for the community with roadways into and out of the city. Soleri passed away in 2013, but his passion and sustainable vision on a new path for society lives on in the souls of both old-timers and young, upcoming architects and engineers today. 5-week and 10-week workshops are held in the community at a fair price and if deemed worthy you can stick around to help the community construct more of Soleri’s plan and see it come to fruition. If you want to learn more about this oddity I highly recommend taking the tour. They ask for a small donation of $10 per person, but it’s worth every penny.

Arcosanti an Arizona Oddity?

Arcosanti

One of the few structures built within the community through similar methods used in windbell production.

Arcosanti

The auditorium where bands and other musicians play. They fill the front with water during shows to enhance the acoustics.

Normally I hate guided tours. We almost left because we arrived an hour early for the 1 PM tour and my impatience almost got the better of me. But, we drove an hour out-of-the-way to see this Arizona oddity so I toughed it out. As we walked around I noticed the expensive pricing of the windbells and immediately felt turned off by it. It seemed like a for-profit corporation squeezing every last penny out of tourists for their own personal agenda off a dead man’s idea. Do not judge them off the windbells! During the tour we learned that the money from windbell sales drive the continued construction of the community buildings Soleri envisioned. Without people buying the bells they do not have a means of financial capabilities to continue his dream. Soleri strictly wanted it this way because he did not want investors taking over on an idea meant to save society and the earth. The power of money always ruins everything. The video and tour are all worthwhile if driving through the area. I cannot stress enough how much I recommend visiting Arcosanti. Despite it never coming to fruition after 40 years they continue to make progress on his envision one step at a time. Their current roadblock being the dirt roads limiting further construction of the community as the government requires asphalt roads to go ahead. They are always looking for extra help and knowledge. If you know anything about Federal funding from grants or workarounds for continued construction please feel free to contact me and I can send your information to higher-ups in their community.

Arcosanti

Arcosanti an Arizona Oddity: This is the room they produce the bronze windbells!

The architecture within the ecosystem is utterly amazing! Families, volunteers and workers all live on site in their community of 100 people. Guests can stay in their “hotel” rooms for $30/night, which gives you access to the pool and the ergonomically designed seats for star-gazing.

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