“You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement,” ~ Francisca Alonso
There is the passion of an artist, the preciseness of an engineer, and a profound empathy for the human condition that informs a conversation with architect Francisca Alonso, one that is as captivating as the transformative vision she has for residential design in the 21st century.
Francisca and her husband/architect partner of 30 years, Antonio, are co-founders of AV Architects + Builders, established in 2001 and based in Great Falls, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Francisca’s father was the famous architect Melvin Villarroel Roldan, who has designed luxury resorts and hotels on the Mediterranean coast and all over the world. When Francisca and Antonio launched their business in 2001, they decided to carry on the legacy of resort-style living. The company’s mission is, “Building custom dream homes designed around your lifestyle, that make you feel like you are on vacation, every day of the year.”
While there are many formative pillars of AV’s design philosophy, Francisca sums them up with the following tenets:
Removal of Clutter
Control of clutter is a key ingredient to a happy house. It’s rejuvenating. It’s like a detox. At the end of the day we don’t need so much. When have you ever walked into a luxury vacation home that had clutter? When you are staring at clutter, it creates distractions, so make certain that multiple storage solutions are a part of your home design.
Every indoor space that we design has a mirror image in an outdoor related space. A master bedroom has a patio. A great room may have an outdoor grotto. A front entrance will have a front porch.
A 2,000 sq. ft., home, for instance, should have at least a third of that – 700-800 sq. ft. – set for designed outdoor space.
Double the Windows, plus Limited Hallways and Doors
Our designs call for double the amount of window space in a standard home in our area. And there should be at least two viewpoints to the outdoors and nature in every spot in the house, all of which reduces stress and adds to your well-being. This requires broad open-concept floor plans, multi-use spaces, and the limiting of hallways and doors.
(Many of Francisca’s window designs, especially in bedrooms where windows have to provide egress in case of emergency, have an almost Mondrian quality, with offset panels virtually creating a piece of art in glass. The offset allows for one large casement window – facilitating egress and allowing for cross ventilation – while smaller windows of different sizes and shapes infuse design interest.)
Quality of Materials
We don’t want you to have a lifetime membership at the hardware store, so we build with materials that last. Instead of using pine trim we use PVC, which is rot-free. We use aluminum windows, so you don’t keep painting them, and engineered quartz or porcelain instead of granite so you don’t have to keep treating it. You should enjoy your home, not have to maintain it.
Smart Home Peace of Mind
Home security from your smartphone is so easy to do nowadays. We design a fully integrated system that controls lighting, alarms, temperature settings, and locking systems. The system can even detect moisture in specific areas and will send a message to your phone that will tell you if there is water under you dishwasher. It’s all about safety and energy efficiency.
But Francisca and her team have added another layer to the concept of stylish resort living, and it is outlined in a book she authored called, Nesting for Empty Nesters, The Vacation Style Living Approach to Aging in Place.
A magna cum laude graduate of The School of Architecture at The Catholic University, Francisca is also CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) certified, a prestigious designation bestowed by the National Association of Home Builders. It is with that training that she imagines a residence that uses smart design to prepare your home now for a better quality of life in retirement and beyond.
Francisca explains, “People are living much longer and more active lives these days. If we design or remodel a house for a couple in their 50s, they may live there until they’re 90. So why not build blocking now behind a wall that can anchor a grab bar or handrail in 20 years? Why not build a curbless shower with no doors that looks sleek now, but will allow disabled access in 30 years? There are hundreds of beneficial manifestations of Aging in Place design.”
In this regard, Francisca seems to think of everything. She is currently working with researchers at a Washington D.C. area university on building a sensor into a shower floor, or any space, that will detect an unusual compression of the floor that might be consistent with a fall, which can then be signaled to a family member for follow-up.
In addition to her father’s influence, Francisca admits to an affinity for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, which is hinted at with some of her flowing horizontal rooflines. “Wright designed a home that was built for the end-user,” she describes. “Architecture is not monumental or ornamental, it’s designing for a person and how they will operate in their home.”
And like its co-founder, the company is passionate, precise, and profoundly empathetic in bringing trusted and flexible home design solutions to those of us approaching a fulfilling and active life as seniora. In Francisca’s sage affirmation, “You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement.”
The Tennessee Music Scene Attracts Visitors of All Ages
Tennessee was made for music. The Tennessee Music Pathways program illustrates this best.
Perhaps it’s the singular geographical breadth of Tennessee – a 500-mile span that sees the Volunteer State remarkably sharing a border with eight brethren (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina) – that literally make it a crossroads, a geographical confluence of culture, cuisine, dialect, and maybe most importantly, an enduring and profound crossroads for American music.
For it is in Tennessee where seven genres of music – country, gospel, bluegrass, soul, blues, rockabilly, and rock – found a home, were nurtured and have flourished, from Memphis and Nashville to Chattanooga and Bristol. And, all of that enriched musical history can be explored through a new program from the State’s tourism folks called Tennessee Music Pathways (www.tnvacation.com/tennessee-music-pathways).
Tennessee Music Pathways
Tennessee Music Pathways is a state-wide driving tour program that identifies, interprets, and preserves a broad perspective of Tennessee music events, locations, and stories, some great and well known, and some less so, yet equally intriguing. Working with the state historian and through internal research at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, more than 500 locations, including birthplaces, resting places, hometowns, high schools, churches, and locations of first-known recordings or performances of the musical pioneers and legends, are being incorporated into the driving tour.
“Tennessee Music Pathways connects fans to the people, places, and genres that make Tennessee the Soundtrack of America,” says Tourist Development Commissioner, Kevin Triplett. “From the largest cities to the smallest communities, this state-wide program identifies, explains, and preserves the legacy of music in Tennessee.”
In addition to the seven genres that have found a home in Tennessee, the state has more musicians per capita than anywhere in the world and is home to world-renowned music attractions such as Beale Street, Bluebird Cafe, Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Dollywood, Graceland, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and the historic Tennessee Theatre.
The State also has partnered with Rolling Stone to offer a program called Six Degrees, a custom online search tool that allows users to enter an artist’s name to see their ‘pathway’ to Tennessee in six degrees or less.
For instance, enter the name Frank Sinatra and you’ll discover that he was inspired by the rhythmic swing of Billy Holiday, who considered legendary Chattanooga native and Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, as her mentor for musical phrasing. Look up U2, and you’ll see that the band from Dublin recorded the hit song “When Love Comes to Town,” featuring legendary blues performer B.B. King, at historic Sun Studio in Memphis.
Additionally, for those looking to relocate or retire, the state has designated 22 rural and urban locations as Retire Tennessee Communities, all of which either include or frame some of the iconic landmarks of the Tennessee Music Pathways, and all provide the resources and amenities needed to be a viable retirement community. You can discover these communities online at www.tnvacation.com/retire-tennessee/communities.
So, how did Tennessee come to be the home of seven distinct, yet intricately related musical expressions? For the country and bluegrass genres, we can look to the thousands of Scotts-Irish immigrants who moved to the southern Appalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th centuries, bringing their fiddles and folk music with them. Over the decades their lyrical immigrant music evolved, often in isolation, hidden on mountain cabin front porches or in humble churches across North Carolina, Virginia, and east Tennessee.
That is until 1927 when Ralph Peer, a record executive in New York City for the Victor Talking Machine Company, was scouting for recording talent in the southern states. Peer set up a makeshift recording studio in Bristol, in the very northeast corner of Tennessee, and put the word out he would pay $50, a fortune in those days, for individuals or groups to record their music. Peer’s groundbreaking efforts there are reverently known in the music world as the Bristol Sessions.
The Birthplace of Country Music
Roughly 30 miles away, in the shadow of Clinch Mountain in Virginia, A.P. Carter got the word, and he, his wife Sara, and her sister Maybelle drove to Bristol to make a record. You could do a Ken Burns documentary on the colossal impact of the Carter family on American music, but on the afternoon of August 2, 1927, the three sang “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow,” with Maybelle on scratch guitar and Sara on autoharp. That afternoon marked the birth of commercial country music in the United States. Fittingly, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located in Bristol, with Mother Maybelle Carter as its matriarch. Bristol is a Retire Tennessee Community.
The popularity of country music was growing in pockets around America in the 20s, largely through the local radio broadcasts of Saturday night barn dances: staged performances of music, square dancing, and other entertainment. Even Chicago had the WLS National Barn Dance radio show.
But, the granddaddy emerged in 1925 when the WSM Barn Dance in Nashville – renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927 – became a sheer gravitational force for country, gospel, and bluegrass talent in 1932. That year, the station boosted its signal to 50,000 Clear Channel watts, allowing most of the eastern and central United States to tune in to the Opry. So important is WSM that in 2001 the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville incorporated the unique diamond shape of the WSM radio tower into its logo.
It’s a bit harder to pinpoint the genesis of gospel music in Tennessee, as the genre covered the southern states like dew, born largely from the music emanating from evangelical revivals. We can, however, look to 1871 when an African-American a capella choir from Fisk University in Nashville first began touring and performing Negro spirituals and gospel music…and they still do today. The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum is located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, just down the road from Ms. Parton’s home town of Sevierville.
As Nashville was emerging as the country music capital, Memphis, tucked on the banks of the Mississippi River in far west Tennessee, was doing the same as a home to the blues. Its gravitational force was Beale Street, where blues clubs and juke joints sprouted like wildflowers in the early 1900s. B.B. King moved from Arkansas to Memphis in 1948 and became the acknowledged crowned head of the city and undeniable international ambassador for the blues. The original B.B. King’s Blues Club is located in the heart of vibrant Beale Street. King is also acknowledged as one of the founders of the R&B and soul genres.
From the Tennessee Music Pathways website, “They say Country and Blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll. Stand in the delivery room at Sun Studio and watch it grow throughout Tennessee.”
Indeed, The King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley’s first hit recording had the African-American blues song “That’s All Right Mama” on the A-side and the classic Bill Monroe bluegrass song “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the other. But, the tempo and virility of each song was vastly increased from the original, and therein, Elvis took a giant step in blurring genre lines on his way, along with others, to create a brand new one.
We’ve only scratched the surface here of the vast depth of Tennessee’s musical legacy, iconic landmarks, songwriter inspirations, countless performing arts sites, and renowned music festivals. The 500-mile breadth of Tennessee awaits to share with you and your family the Soundtrack of America.
To live where you vacation is more accessible now than ever.
Let’s take a quick look at history. It’s not something you really ever think about, but who actually were the first Americans to take a proper vacation… other than the ultra-rich Vanderbilts, et al. According to research by the Smithsonian Magazine, they suggest that the first American vacationers were lured to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York by a Boston preacher, who in 1869, wrote a widely-read treatise on the spiritual and health benefits of time spent lakeside in the forest. An unusually wet spring that year, however, meant the mosquitoes and flies were abundant in both numbers and aggravation. City slickers who had never slept in a starched, white tent under the stars were underwhelmed at the prospect of their vacation.
This is not so much a problem in 2018, when vacation possibilities are endless and luxurious. And with repeat visits, vacation destinations become ever-more comfortable, familiar, homey, and sometimes even soul-transforming. So much so that a vacation destination might just grab hold and say, “You know, this would be a wondrous place to relocate or retire.”
Just ask the couples we spoke to about their transformation from vacationers to residents.
Nick and Diane Karbonik first started bringing their girls to Ocean City, MD, and Rehoboth Beach, DE, 40 years ago during summer vacations from their home near Baltimore. So there was no learning curve when the couple decided to retire at The Peninsula, an artfully-sculpted 800-acre community tucked between those two historic beaches and framed by the expansive Indian River Bay.
Diane reveals, “A couple years ago we were visiting our daughter and son-in-law, who is the head golf professional at a country club in Rehoboth Beach. One day he managed to get us a tee time at The Peninsula. I remember driving through the community that first day and saying, ‘Gosh, I could live here.’ And now we do!”
The Peninsula offers gracious waterfront living, a predictably spectacular Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and a stunning new clubhouse that just opened last year. Amenities also include an eight-court tennis center; an indoor, outdoor, and wave pool complex; athletic club; a protected nature reserve; the restorative Calmwater Spa; and gourmet fare from the Terrace Grille.
“When we first started coming here on vacation, Rehoboth Beach was a sleepy, little summer town. But now it has year-round vibrancy, with plenty of great restaurants, quaint shops, civic activities, and of course the historic boardwalk, which is great multi-generational fun,” explains Diane.
One of the added benefits of The Peninsula’s central location is easy day-trip access to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia (all just over a two-hour drive), and Historic Williamsburg and Jamestown are just over three hours away.
“When we first started coming here on vacation, Rehoboth Beach was a sleepy, little summer town. But now it has year-round vibrancy, with plenty of great restaurants, quaint shops, civic activities, and of course the historic boardwalk, which is great multi-generational fun.”
— Diane Karbonik
We thought the Karbonik’s 40-year vacation history with Rehoboth would hold the record until we met Gail Mitkoff, who has been vacationing in Ocean City from her family home in metro Washington, D.C., since junior high, a full 50 years!
Decades of blissful vacationing at Ocean City over the years finally led to a more permanent villa purchase there in 2015, overlooking a rare eagle’s nest near the beach. But a year later, retirement took hold and Gail decided to seek life in a more formal community and a single family home, where friends were easier to meet and recreational amenities were in abundance.
Enter Bayside, a welcoming planned community on Fenwick Island, just a stone’s throw over the Maryland border north into Delaware, and a new chapter in life.
Gail had to stop and gather herself prior to describing all the activities in which she participates at Bayside. “Well, first there is the golf course, which I don’t use a lot, but it sure is beautiful to look at. And I certainly take advantage of the new health and aquatic center, biking trails, crabbing, and fishing, not to mention the miles of sublime beach strolls that can only come with a coastal life. And I even joined the mahjong club,” she said with a twinkle.
Gail is also in regular attendance at the Bayside Institute, a catalyst for bringing community residents together in wellness, creative writing, heart- healthy cooking, kayaking, flower arranging, and loads more. And she thoroughly enjoys concerts at the community’s outdoor Freeman Stage, featuring musical artists like Vince Gill, Smokey Robinson, the Celtic Tenors, a theatrical performance of Mary Poppins, and more.
The same central location travel benefit go for Bonnie and Tom Nelson, who purchased a vacation condominium 15 years ago at Bay Creek in Cape Charles, VA, overlooking the historic waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Turns out Bay Creek was just far enough south from their permanent residence in Kinnelon, NJ, to get close to water and enjoy a more temperate climate, while enjoying all the benefits of living among both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus golf courses.
Three years ago, the Nelsons graduated from vacationing in the condo to a more permanent residence in a single family home wrapped by holes 3, 4, and 5 on the Palmer course, which the grandkids have turned into a kind of five-hole loop to play after dinner when the course is quiet. Now in high school, those kids learned to play golf at around age five from the assistant golf professional at Bay Creek, and one of them has made his high school varsity golf team as a freshman!
Bay Creek is predictably rich in amenities, most noticeably a two-mile stretch of sand beach, one of the few beaches on Chesapeake Bay’s eastern shore. There’s also a marina, beach club, and fitness center, plus bayside dining at the embracing Coach House Tavern.
Bonnie is an accomplished gardener, as evidenced by their home’s recent selection for the 2018 Eastern Shore Home and Garden Tour. “What attracted us to Bay Creek in the first place remains what we love today: The great vistas, the beach, the golf, and the amazing sunsets,” offers Bonnie.
Cape Charles is a vintage seaside town overlooking the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Founded by a railroad magnate in the late 1800’s, it was said to be designed around New York City, with even a small “Central Park.”
Dorothy and Marv Gelb | St. James Plantation, Southport, NC
Some folks are more quickly smitten than those who have waited 50 years, like New Yorkers Dorothy and Marv Gelb, who bought a pre-retirement lot on their very first visit to St. James Plantation in Southport, NC, in 2006. The pair was visiting Dorothy’s best friend since third grade, Linda Jenkins, and her husband Bob.
Dorothy describes that, “The Jenkins gave us a glorious tour of St. James and coastal Southport as only locals can, then took us out on their boat for a picnic cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway. And we were sold. It’s that wonderful here.”
The Gelbs have had a lot of time to reconsider their lot purchase, but repeated vacations over the years confirmed their love of the area, and in 2016 they built their dream retirement home and have quickly become engaged in the local community.
Bob is an adept piano player and has become in high demand, playing ‘standards’ at charity fashion shows, art galleries, the local hospital, and fundraisers for the St. James Service Club. Dorothy is very active in the Southport Presbyterian Church, when she’s not playing tennis or taking a tennis clinic.
St. James Plantation is just an idyllic 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape tucked at the very southeast tip of North Carolina. Life at St. James is all about being outside and being active. The community has 81 holes of golf, 13 tennis courts, a marina, a beach club, four fitness centers, and 36 miles of hiking and biking trails. Naturally, there is also the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean beyond for boating, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
“We are completely embracing the active lifestyle in Southport,” remarked Marv. “We are on the Atkins diet, we’re bicycling every day, going to the beach and pool, and living as active and healthy a lifestyle as we can in this beautiful setting.”
And, of course, they can always grab a can of bug spray at the marina store in the event of an unusually wet spring!
“We are completely embracing the active lifestyle in Southport.”
— Marv Gelb
Bayside is an award-winning classic beach resort community developed by the regionally renowned Carl M. Freeman Companies. Tree-lined streets showcase a community of stunning homes - all inspired by the New England coastal towns.
Our Bayside community is ideally nestled in this quiet resort town with access to all that it has to offer. As one of Delaware's finest coastal destinations, Fenwick Island is beautifully serene but with plenty to do. Once you're here, you might notice your cares melting away as the beaches of Fenwick Island call your name.
The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay offers an exquisite collection of homes in vintage coastal architecture. With a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, unmatched amenities and instant access to Delaware's famous Atlantic beaches, there is simply no place like The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay.
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To many it is a sanctuary, the most wonderfully versatile piece of recreational equipment ever conceived. A thing that allows you to close your eyes and connect to the ancient swells and rhythms of the sea. A thing that can silently transport you to secret coves and unimaginably beautiful places. A thing that allows you to work as hard as you’ve ever worked and race 32 miles out to Catalina Island in the sport’s iconic championship. Or express your inner “devotional warrior” on your floating yoga mat … your paddleboard. While every long pull on the paddle carries you farther and farther away from the stress of the day.
Jump on Board
Sound inviting? Then seek out a place near you to learn to paddleboard and you’ll begin to understand the enriching hold of the fastest growing water sport in the world and an elixir for those in their silver years…both from a fitness standpoint and an aesthetic one.
Tom Lawn got hooked on paddleboarding as a newcomer five years ago when he bravely decided to paddle out to a shrimp boat trawling just off the tip of the North Carolina coast where he was unexpectedly adopted by a pod of some 80 dolphins following the boat for free snacks. So close Tom could touch them, the pod let him paddle along for a mile or so. And then the board had him.
At 66, Tom is a fixture at St. James Plantation, a 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape in Southport, NC, where he is unmistakable driving the mint condition, aqua blue Dodge van he and his wife Sue bought new in 1977. His paddleboards ride on top of the van, surfboard inside, with the couple’s Llewellin Setter, Esker, calling shotgun.
According to Tom, “Paddleboarding is so many things. It can be spiritual while paddling alone through the pristine backwaters of the bay. Or just family time, with Esker perched on the nose of the board and Sue paddling beside in her kayak.”
Sometimes Jenna Chenevert and Susan Goodwin will just sit down on their paddleboards and eat the lunch they packed earlier back home. Neighbors at Eastman, a welcoming four-seasons community in New Hampshire, the two thrive on the fitness and aesthetic benefits of paddleboarding on the community’s miles-long lake, and all around New England.
Jenna shares that, “It’s amazing how much stand up paddling exercises your core and legs, plus it requires excellent posture. But for seniors, perhaps the biggest benefit is how it enhances your balance abilities.”
Susan particularly embraces the natural beauty that comes with the activity. “I love paddling through the early morning fog on our lake, or for 30-mile stretches on the Connecticut River, where the fall foliage reflected in the water is just stunningly beautiful.”
A Little History
Today’s paddleboarders carry on a legacy that some suggest dates back 3,000 years to Peruvian fisherman who paddled reed boats out past the surf break, then stood up and surfed the fully stocked boat back home. But the earliest actual evidence shows a Polynesian paddleboarder heading out to greet Captain James Cook off Hawaii’s Kona coast in a famous engraving dating back to 1779. It would be his ancestors who brought paddleboarding to light two centuries later on the north shore of Oahu.
You will want to do a lot of research before buying a paddleboard, but generally you’ll be looking at a board that’s 10-12’ long and costs between $500-1,500. A lighter graphite paddle will be worth the investment to your hands and arms on long rides. Make certain, also, that the weight of the board (generally 24-30 pounds) is manageable and that you’re able to lift the board, or comfortably load it on a car rack for transport. There are even inflatable paddle boards that are lighter and easier to manage.
So, if the idea of enhancing your physical and spiritual health, while meeting new friends sounds inviting, just look for the mint condition, aqua blue van and say hi to the explorative new world of paddleboarding!
This 3,600 acre lakeside community is tucked in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region. Two hours north of Boston and minutes from Lake Sunapee, New London, Lebanon and Hanover, residents have easy access to medical facilities, employment, educational opportunities and a multitude of cultural venues.
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Utah’s name is derived from the Native American Ute tribe, “People of the Mountains.”
The Utah Territory was settled in 1847 as a refuge for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today, about 62 percent of Utahns identify as Mormons.
Utah is home to five national parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef; six national forests—Ashley, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-LaSal, Uinta, and Wasatch-Cache; and seven national monuments—Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, Dinosaur, Rainbow Bridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Timpanogos Cave, and Hovenweep.
Rainbow Bridge is the world’s largest natural-rock span at 309 feet high and 278 feet wide.
Utah became the nation’s 45th state in 1896, but the federal government still owns about 65 percent of its land.
Utah leads the nation in per-capita consumption of Jell-O, which is appropriately the state’s official snack.
Famous Utahns include outlaw Butch Cassidy, entertainers Donnie and Marie Osmond, actor/director Robert Redford, writer Scott Orson Card, and Frisbee inventor Walter F. Morrison.
Although classified as a “high desert” region with more than 300 days of annual sunshine, Utah has more than 11,000 miles of freshwater fishing streams. In winter, the relatively dry climate produces a powdery precipitation that the state’s thriving ski resorts promote as “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”
Life expectancy in Utah is 80.2 years, higher than the national average of 78.9 years.
U.S. News & World report ranks Utah #2 in the nation for health care quality and the state’s best hospitals as University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, and Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.
Utah was named among the “5 Best States in Which to Retire in 2019” by The Motley Fool for its relatively low taxes, health care access, and natural outdoor recreations.
St. George, located in southwest Utah, ranked as America’s fastest-growing metropolitan area in 2018 and annually hosts the Huntsman World Senior Games.
The Great Salt Lake in Utah covers more than a million acres, but its deepest point is only 34 ft. below the surface and its average depth is just 13 ft. When explorer Jim Bridger “discovered” it in 1824, he initially thought he’d reached the Pacific Ocean.