Date: November 2023

In this edition of Pinspotting, we visit two unexpected places to find pinball that we stumbled upon purely by accident. One is a museum and one is a beach bar and grill.

American Museum of Science and Energy
115 E. Main Street 
Oak Ridge, TN 37830 USA
+1 (865) 294-4531
http://www.amse.org

Oak Ridge, TN, originally and officially known as the Clinton Engineer Works, was built under a cloak of secrecy by the United States government during World War II as a major site of the Manhattan Project, the massive wartime effort that produced the world’s first atomic weapons.

From 1942 to 1946, Oak Ridge, TN did not appear on any maps and was only referred to as the ‘Secret City.’

The four-storey K-25 gaseous diffusion plant (above) was the world's largest building
When it was built in 1944, the four-storey K-25 gaseous diffusion plant (above) was the world’s largest building, comprising over 5,264,000 square feet (489,000 m2) of floor space and a volume of 97,500,000 cubic feet (2,760,000 m3). K-25 was completely demolished in 2013 to make way for a future industrial park.

The American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute and contains many artifacts of the early history of Oak Ridge, the Manhattan Project, as well as current supercomputing projects and the creation of power from new sources such as plasma fusion.

Supercomputing hands-on exhibit
Supercomputing hands-on exhibit

Now open at Oak Ridge’s AMSE is the special exhibit Let’s Play, the Elements of Electronic Gaming. Visitors can learn about the evolution of games from the first addition of solenoids to pinball tables to modern online and virtual gaming. And they can have fun while doing it; the exhibit features playable versions of arcade cabinets, pinball, and handhelds like Simon. A Periodic Table of Games displays the most influential games of the last century.

Williams Space Mission available to play
Williams Space Mission available to play

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a playable Williams Space Mission pinball game that can be played by visitors for just 25 cents per game. Change is available at the gift shop near the main entrance. The game is on loan from the East Tennessee Pinball company. A clear plastic back for the head is provided so that visitors can view some of the inner workings of the game. A booster stool is provided for vertically challenged visitors. It is one of the four pinballs listed on the exhibit’s so-called Periodic Table of Games.

The Periodic Table of Games
The Periodic Table of Games

Let’s Play! is free of additional charge with general admission to AMSE. Due to its popularity, the exhibit has been held over through the end of 2023.

Nuclear power information

It is likely that nuclear energy will continue to play an important role in our everyday lives far into the future. If you have the chance to visit, the many interactive exhibits at AMSE will both entertain and educate visitors of all ages. The guided bus tours of the former Clinton Engineer Works have resumed as of the summer of 2023. Information can be found here: https://www.amse.org/bus-tours/

If you are unable to visit in person, the AMSE has a virtual tour available on the website mentioned above or there is this gallery of history videos from the Y‑12 National Security Complex.


Rock House
1518 Butler Ave
Tybee Island, GA 31328, USA
+1 912-786-7176
 http://www.rockhousetybee.com/

The Arcade portion of the Rock House Tybee has its own entrance

Tybee Island, a barrier island in south eastern Georgia, has been a beloved vacation spot since the late 1800s. It boasts a tight-knit community and sprawling, pristine beaches with tranquil waves, making it the perfect fall getaway.

Tybee Island is a place where time seems to stand still, offering a chance to unwind and bask in the coastal serenity. It has over three miles of beautiful and well-maintained beaches; Little Tybee Beach, Back River Beach, North Beach, Mid Beach and South Beach – which is the most popular with tourists.

Where the heck is Tybee Island?

Near South Beach is the Tybee Beach Pier and Pavilion which is home to special events such as Tybee Post Must Festival that featured the bands Everclear and The Spin Doctors in 2023. Be sure to check out the Tybee Island Christmas Parade and annual Tree Lighting if you are visiting during the holiday months.

Christmas celebrations start about a month before Christmas on Tybee Island

Tybee Island is part of South East USA’s ‘Low Country’ known for abundant fresh crab, oysters, clams and of course, shrimp. Nearby Savannah, GA was where much of the movie Forrest Gump was filmed, and was the inspiration for today’s Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurants. In the USA southeast, the Low Country Boil is by far the most popular family-style seafood dish.

"Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That... that's about it." Benjamin 'Bubba' Buford Blue (Forrest Gump - 1994)
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That… that’s about it.”
Benjamin ‘Bubba’ Buford Blue (Forrest Gump – 1994)

Tybee Island locals point to Rock House on Butler Ave. as one of the restaurants on Tybee Island that serves an authentic Low Country Boil. It can be ordered with shrimp only (the classic recipe) or with shrimp and crab legs (above). Other seafood favorites such as coconut fried shrimp and fresh oysters on the half shell are also available. If you are adventurous, try their Shark Tacos.

Rock House Shark Taco – Pair it with Landshark beer.

Rock House is also well known for their massive burgers such as the Fat Elvis and the Big Mike. The Fat Elvis was featured on YouTube’s Georgia’s Biggest Burgers video. If a person can eat the Fat Elvis at one sitting, they win a free limited edition T-shirt (X-large sizes only, I presume?)

The Big Mike burger - two half-pound patties of lean beef, bacon, grilled Nathan's hot dog, mayonnaise, Pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion served on a split kaiser roll (made fresh daily), with fresh cut potato fries/chips and a dill pickle spear.
The Big Mike burger – two half-pound patties of lean beef, bacon, grilled Nathan’s hot dog, mayonnaise, Pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion served on a split kaiser roll (made fresh daily), with fresh cut potato fries/chips and a dill pickle spear.

In addition to a large selection of sandwiches, Rock House offers Mexican entrees, salads, chicken wings with your choice of hot, mild, honey BBQ, Cajun, sweet mango habanero, teriyaki, lemon pepper and sweet Thai chili sauces, and hot dogs featuring the southern-style slaw dog. There is far too much on the menu to list it all here but there is a comprehensive menu of food and cocktails on their website.

Wings available with many types of sauce.

In February 2023, Rock House changed their business model from being a beachside ‘dive’ bar to being a comfortable exotic cocktail lounge with excellent food, and live music on the weekends. What had been a hookah lounge morphed into an arcade with air hockey, stand up video games, sit down driving games and of course pinball.

Driving Games at Rock House
Pinballs as of November 2023. Check the Pinball Map app or website for the latest lineup

The games rotate in and out on about a three month basis, but all games that were on-hand the day we visited were in excellent condition and there was only one game that seemed to have one of the ‘toys’ non-functional.

There is a change machine nearby, or the bartenders are more than happy to supply change if needed. It is nice that there is a separate entrance to the arcade which allows the player a chance for better concentration without the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant / bar to contend with.

We saw a number of posters on the wall indicating that Rock House is an IFPA Tournament site with tournaments scheduled once a month from May to September. Check with them for their current tournament schedule and details.

Cheers!!

All in all, we felt that the Rock House is an affordable and fun place to wind down with a cold beer or a frozen cocktail before dinner after spending the day on nearby South Beach or after fishing on the pier.

Don’t forget that only 18 miles away is Savanna, GA and all the entertainment and history that it has to offer.

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