Tag Archives: Americana

A Perfect Replica of a Perfect Canal Boat: Welcome Aboard the Lois McClure!

Sailing the Canals Like its Ancestors

Canals built America. They were the vital veins of commerce and trade before the railroads took over. New York’s Erie Canal comes to mind, but that was just one of many that helped to define a young United States in the early 1800s. Navigating these winding waterways were canal boats, which came in all shapes and sizes over the years. They were designed for long trips between ports and were pretty nifty for 19th century engineering–many of them complete with folding sails and a raisable keel.

Most canal boats from that era are long gone, but the Lois McClure shines new light on how these vessels worked and what life was like on board. Lois McClure is a perfect replica, built like the schooners of their day. Launched in Lake Champlain (Burlington, VT) in 2004, the McClure spends a good amount of time on the go, using the same canal systems its progenitors once did. Except it’s not a ship of commerce, but one of education, stopping at various ports to show the public just how intricate these vessels were.

A great summertime visit, check out Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s website to see if the boat is at its homeport or is heading to your neck of the woods.

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San Francisco’s Hotel Zephyr is a Playground for Adults

And it’s Awesome!

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We thought we saw it all when we walked into the micro hotel at London Gatwick Airport (which was really freaking cool!), but Hotel Zephyr captivated us in a different way. The rooms resemble staterooms on a cruise ship, complete with porthole windows and private balconies with spectacular views. The lobby and common areas have circular benches, murals with a modern twist (like Popeye the Sailor with tribal tattoo sleeves), games galore, and walls lined with the doors of old shipping containers—a fitting touch for the Bay Area.

But it wasn’t until we ventured out to the hotel’s courtyard that our flashback to childhood was complete. From the oversized game of Connect Four to a Ping-Pong table that’s not actually a table—but a giant pipe straight out of Super Mario World—to the periscope that provides guests with a view over the hotel’s fence, this is truly what Hotel Zephyr is all about (and markets itself as): a playground for adults! It’s a really great way to unwind after spending the day exploring this magnificent city.

Oh, and the food is great, too!

Located in San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, Hotel Zephyr is only a short walk to Pier 39, which we also found time to explore later on that evening.

LINKS
Hotel Zephyr
Pier 39

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World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet

Only in Vermont

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We found ourselves in Burlington, VT a couple of weeks ago. So, first off, Burlington is awesome! If we had to do college all over again, we would have gone there! Great college town, great local craft beers, and come on–Ben and Jerry’s! It’s just a young, hip town in a state known for its complete coolness.

Then we found this, the world’s tallest filing cabinet. OK, so it’s actually a bunch of filing cabinets stacked on top of each other, but seriously, where else would you find such a thing?! Definitely worth a look before your trip to the next local brew house. “

Could you file this in drawer 31? Thanks.”


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Bowling Lanes Turned Checkout Lanes At This Grocery Store

Bowling Shoes Not Required

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A special thank you to Erin and Jeff McNeil, owners of this Grocery Outlet location, for assisting UndiscoveredWanderings with this article. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are pleased to share our experience with our readership.

A few weeks ago, we did a piece on a retro-themed grocery store in Seattle’s Skyway suburb. Just when you finally wrapped your mind around the concept of a grocery store that’s also a tourist destination, we’ve got another one for you, except it didn’t start out as a store. It was once a bowling alley.

The same owners of the Skyway Grocery Outlet location actually started their first store here in Renton, WA–just outside of Seattle–in 2010 (the Skyway one in 2013). A bustling bowling alley for 40 years, when the McNeils moved in and turned it into a Grocery Outlet, they knew they had to keep the local heritage alive, so they built their store around the bowling alley. They even asked the demo crew to leave the old bowling lanes intact, which are now part of the checkout lanes.

As Erin explained to us, a number of local artists have done work here to keep Seattle’s heritage alive. Many of the old trophies and bowling memorabilia that dot the store’s landscape were donated by locals who had lots of memories and stories to tell.

There’s a lot of Seattle heritage here, for sure. “We try to promote local”, she told us. It’s a source of pride in the community. 

LINKS
Learn more about the owners
Visit the Skyway location


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You’ve Arrived at Seattle’s Most Retro Grocery Store

Of Course We Found This in Seattle!

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A special “thank you” to Erin and Jeff McNeil, owners of this Grocery Outlet location, for helping UndiscoveredWanderings with this article. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are pleased to share our experience with our readership.

When was the last time you thought of a grocery store as a tourist destination? When was the last time you were in Seattle? If there’s any city in America with offbeat grocery stores, why wouldn’t it be here? We were encouraged to visit this particular store by our Airbnb hosts during our visit last year. “It’s a grocery store with lots of cool iconic stuff in it”, we were told.

Our curiosity drew us to the road…

And so we ventured to Grocery Outlet—specifically, the Grocery Outlet of Skyway, Washington, just outside Seattle. It’s one of two stores independently owned and operated by Erin and Jeff McNeil. The McNeils, who’ve been in the grocery business for most of their lives, had a goal: to make their stores not only a place to shop, but also a destination. See why they got UndiscoveredWanderings’s attention? But how does one make a grocery store, of all things, stand out when there’s so many in every neighborhood?

One Word: Retro

It started years ago, when the building located at 68th Avenue South was just another neighborhood grocery store under a different name and ownership. Skyway was a bustling hub, a haven for musicians–including a young, up-and-coming Ray Charles—and intellectuals alike. It had the Route 66 vibe back then, Erin explained to us. The store eventually closed down and the building sat abandoned for a number of years.

But in 2013, the McNeils opened up this, their second store, under the Grocery Outlet chain. Yet they wanted more than just a place to buy groceries. They wanted a place, Erin recounted, that would be talked about and make the community proud. It was their goal to attract shoppers from throughout the Seattle area. With the neighborhood’s rich history in mind, they stuck to Skyway’s retro roots. It’s been a labor of love ever since…and it’s paying off.

The McNeils put as many retro-themed items in their store as possible. They sourced from places in Washington, Oregon, and even Canada to acquire the most offbeat and nostalgic items, including a life size Clark Kent in a phone booth, readying his Superman costume. There’s plenty of local history here, too, like old lockers from the local fire department (see gallery below). All of these items adorn shelves, floor space, and ceiling tiles as you casually make your way through the isles. The aura of the store definitely channels that back-in-time Route 66 feeling.

By the way, Erin and Jeff sourced all of these items within three months prior to Grocery Outlet–Skyway’s grand opening. Not bad. And their primary means for finding all this cool stuff? Craigslist.

Four years later, the McNeils are pleased with the store’s progress; Erin described things as being in a “good rhythm”. Not only has the community flocked to Skyway’s Grocery Outlet, their clientele continues to expand to include regular shoppers from all over the Seattle area. And of course, there’s the out-of-town visitors like us.

This is truly an Undiscovered Wandering, a title we reserve for the most offbeat places we visit. Oh–we mentioned that this place is one of two stores. Yup, there’s another one out there, which was built into an old bowling alley. Read about it here.


We always enjoy hearing from our readers and welcome you to send us your travel stories through our Share Your Travels page. We’ll always publish under your name. Your contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible.

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