Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Rare Dentzel Carousel At The San Francisco Zoo

This is the second in a series about antique carousels in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The carousel at the San Francisco Zoo is a rare menagerie carousel and is one of only fourteen in the world. It is also one of only seven carousels, built by the Dentzel family, existing in the United States. Why is this special? Because modern day carousel animals are made from cast metal and fiberglass but the old ones were hand carved from wood. Dentzel carousels in particular were known for their intricate lifelike animals, enhanced with whimsical trappings.

 This Dentzel Carousel was built in 1921 and installed for the opening of the Pacific City Amusement Park in Burlingame, CA in July, 1922. The amusement park lasted less than two years (an interesting story in itself) so the carousel was sold to the San Francisco Zoo in 1925.

 I'm glad to say the SF Zoo has taken good care of this carousel, renovating it several times over the years. It consists of 50 animals and two chariots. The outer animals are standers, meaning they have three or four feet on the ground and do not go up or down. They are however, the most beautifully decorated because they are the ones easily seen by spectators.

The two inner rows are made up of jumpers, moving animals with all four feet off the ground.

If you take the time to look, you will notice some fantastical additions to the saddle trappings.

The outer and inner panels that cover the machinery are worth noticing as well.

There is usually a “lead horse” (most decorated) on the outside row of the carousel. I don't know if this is the lead horse or not, but it was certainly my favorite!

The only drawback to this carousel is that it relies on recorded music; it does not have an organ. But it's variety of animals more than makes up for it and it only costs $3 a ride. Also, adults may ride free if they are standing next to their child.

Go to the SF Zoo's website for more information on location, admission and hours. And if you'd like to know more about the zoo, you can check out my other blogs:
Regarding The San Francisco Zoo
A New And Fantastic Playground At The San Francisco Zoo 
Please Touch! Animal Sculptures At The San Francisco Zoo 

Want to know more about carousels in the SF Bay Area? Check out the first blog in this series. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Round-up Of Horses - The W.E. Mason Carousel at Oak Meadows Park, Los Gatos, CA

This is the first in a series about antique carousels in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The W.E. Bill Mason Carousel in Oak Meadow Park, Los Gatos was originally manufactured by a British company (Savage Brothers Ltd) in 1910. It rotates clockwise, with the left side of the horse facing outward, (same as driving on the left) and so was called a roundabout instead of a merry-go-round or carousel. Carousels manufactured in the USA rotate counterclockwise. This is just one of the many tidbits I picked up researching carousels.

Here's another tidbit; the outside of the outer horse is called the "romance side" because that is the side most visible to spectators. The romance side has more ornamentation, often including glass-paste jewels or a  carved animal on the trappings.

When this roundabout was manufactured, the Savage company wasn't doing too well and they were getting near the end of their inventory of carved horses. So they rounded up horses from other manufacturers and produced a carousel of dissimilar horses. For instance, the outside row has horses carved by Gustave Bayol, France's most famous carousel carver. The middle row horses had to be replaced sometime in the 1930s. That row now has five horses by CW Parker, two by Charles Dare and two by Armitage-Herschel. The inside row has horses by G&L Lines.
What does this mean? It means that the style of horse in each row is completely different, which I believe is unusual for most carousels.

Look at the above picture. Do you see the sign? "So sorry, ladies must ride astride!" Women in the early 20th century were still expected to sit sidesaddle and wear a skirt.

By the way, this roundabout was originally created for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition held in San Francisco in 1915. After the exhibition, the roundabout was sold to a traveling circus. In the 1930s, it was sold to the Foley & Burk Shows traveling carnival. It was retired in 1967 and given a new life in 1980 when it was purchased by the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and brought to Oak Meadow Park.  An all volunteer team spent ten years restoring the horses and machinery. Local artists painted panels to hide the inner machinery and complete this work of art.

They even added a replicated Wurlitzer organ to make it more authentic. (future blog about carousels and Wurlitzer organs coming soon).  Unfortunately, the organ is a bit fragile so they usually play recorded music.

There are 30 horses in all (one inside one a replica made of fiberglass) and two carriages. You will usually see at least one carriage on an antique carousel; they were originally placed there for those who wanted a calmer ride.

 And one more tidbit - some of the horses have tails made of real horsehair, like this one.

You can visit the Bill Mason Carousel in Oak Meadows Park and ride the carousel for just $2.

Winter Schedule: November 1 to March 14th, Sat and Sun 11 to 3.
Spring Schedule: March 15 - June 7, Sat and Sun 10:30 to 4:30
Summer Schedule: June 8 - August 15, Daily 10:30  to 4:30
Fall Schedule: Aug 16 - Oct 31, Sat and Sun 10:30 to 4:30

Directions to Oak Meadow Park: 233 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA 95032.

Besides the carousel, there is also a miniature steam engine you can ride that has its own interesting history.

If you'd like to learn more about carousels; stay tuned, more blogs are forthcoming.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Add Postcrossing to Your List of 
Ways to Travel Cheap!

I am pleased to host fellow traveler and blogger Janet DorĂ© of  The Wandering Ex-Housewife for this week's blog. Postcrossing is a unique idea that could appeal to children and adults alike.

by Janet Doré | The Wandering Ex-Housewife

I’ve had a chronic case of wanderlust from the moment I licked a real Italian gelato while gazing at the Cinque Terre. Even back in my executive wife days, 5-star was not my travel style. Give me two frugal adventures over one luxury vacation any day. Today, I am a single woman and single mom who is, by necessity, singularly focused on finding different ways to travel cheaply.

I have Paulo Magalhaes to thank for one way I can travel without spending more than $5 or taking any time off work.

Back in 2005, Paulo took a classic concept, brushed it off, and breathed new life into it. Remember the pen pal projects you did back in elementary school? If you were lucky, you got to write to a mystery kid in some exotic far off land. If you were really lucky, you kept up the writing and became real friends. gives today’s adults a venue for finding a pen pal – and it’s one of many ways to travel cheaply. Okay, it’s virtual travel, but it has some cool perks for avid travelers:

  1.   It's a fun and interesting way to research unique places for your next travel adventure.
  2.   It's a fabulous way to meet people around the world that will very likely be open to giving you free local travel advice - either in writing or maybe in person (rumor has it a marriage was born of a single postcrossing postcard!).
  3.  In this day of emails and e-cards, there's something special about opening your mailbox and finding an old fashion handwritten picture postcard.
  4.   You get to see lots of cool stamps.

At the very moment I wrote this, Postcrossing had 607,198 users from 211 countries. And, they've been extremely busy sending a total of 34,143,549 postcards! By the time you’re reading this, I guarantee you it will be more.

Here’s how it works:

 1.  Create an account at
 2.   Request an address and a "Postcard ID."
 3.   Find an extra cool postcard from your hometown (or some place you've visited).
 4.   Wait like an excited kid for your postcard to come from some random place in the world!

Postcrossing is just one of several creative ways to travel cheaply that I’ve discovered over the years. If you’re wanting more, check out my Travel Cheap Tips on

Thanks to my fellow budget traveler, Karen, for sharing my passion and my budget travel tips!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Hike In Huddart Park And Breakfast At Bucks - Woodside, California

My husband and I hiked through redwood trees, ferns and falls on an easy trail in Huddert Park in Woodside, California. Though we were in the heart of Silicon Valley, we felt far removed from the traffic and noise. Woodside will do that to you; people here pay a lot of money to live in a town that looks a lot like a country village. But the good news is, except for a six dollar parking fee, the hiking is free.

Within the 974 acres, there are several parking lots, picnic areas, restrooms and playgrounds. There are hiking and equestrian trails, and group campgrounds available for reservation.

We drove in from the Woodside Road exit, drove through the main entrance and parked near the Madrone picnic area and Peninsula AIDS Memorial Grove. Then we walked the Dean Trail to the Crystal Springs Trail, toward the Toyon Group camp and Toyon road, back to the Crystal Trail and our parking spot - a little over four miles.

We could hear the Crystal Springs bubbling and it wasn't long till we came up next to it. It seemed strange that the water was running so freely (hey, someone left the tap on!), after experiencing our California drought, but of course we loved it.

We were hungry after our hike so we drove back into the town of Woodside and stopped at Buck's restaurant. Buck’s is located near Sandhill Road, the venture capital Capitol of Silicon Valley. Buck’s is well known as a restaurant where many tech deals are born. In the past, celebrities such as Robin Williams and Sting have visited as well.

It's not much to look at on the outside . .

But inside, every square inch is decorated with some crazy or wonderful kind of thing. Many of the things were personal items belonging to the restaurant’s owners, Jamis and Margaret MacNiven. Other items came from auctions or gifts from friends and strangers.

You could come back again and again to Buck's and discover new things every time. The back of the kids menu has a treasure hunt where kids can try to find items like a plastic dog named Glenn or a surfing alligator or a sword stuck through the door. One of my favorites is the flying astronaut.

The prices are in line with most Silicon Valley restaurants; that is, not cheap but not too expensive either. Service is good and the food is delicious. And there is great reading material on the front and back of the menu.

If you go: here's a link for directions to Huddart Park
                and here's one for directions and opening hours for Buck's Restaurant in Woodside.

Hiking Reminders: bring water, dress in layers and wear shoes with good treads.
Huddart Park Website