Sunday, March 29, 2015

the little blue church


Right outside the gates and just down the road from the LBJ ranch sits a very pretty little church.  It stands out because of its blue color.  I am fascinated with older country churches because I know that they have been and still are at the heart of a rural community.  My sister and I pulled into the parking lot and were taking pictures when a parishioner stopped by and spoke with us, telling us about the long history of the church.  He was so proud to be a life long member and it showed.  He asked if we wanted to see the inside and, of course, we said yes.  The inside is lovely with its white walls and pastel colored trimmings.  They are currently replacing all of the clear glass windows with stained glass windows.  The window replacement project is ongoing with the installation of each window done upon the completion of the full payment for each window.  There is one window opening awaiting its stain glass replacement and that will be done this summer.  When President Johnson was visiting his ranch he would worship here.  He always took a seat in the front row on the right.  What a lovely church!

Friday, March 27, 2015

the Little White House

About thirteen miles outside of Johnson City, Texas sits a ranch that has been in the Johnson family for generations.  About two hundred acres of the over two thousand acres of land has been deeded to the National Park Service.  This is where you will find the Little White House or the Texas White House occupied by Lyndon Baines Johnson and his family while he was President of the United States of America in the 1960's.  My sister and I took a tour of the house and found it to be a very comfortable, cozy home with all the original furnishings that were used by the president's family, including clothing, on display for the public to see.  The house was unpretentious and a true reflection of the humble beginnings of the President.  Admission is $3 (can't beat that!) and well worth the drive.  The house sits close to the banks of the Pedernales River and down the lane from LBJ's birth place as well as his burial place in the family cemetery.  The tour of the ranch includes a winding drive through the pastures and stops at the barns.  There is also a small hangar where the official airplane he used while in office is parked.  He affectionately referred to the plane as Air Force One Half.  The ranch is an operating cattle ranch and cattle feel free to roam right in front of your car, if they want to.  Beautiful property. Serene bucolic setting.  Lots of history.  Glad we came.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

President Johnson's birth place

My sister and I were touring the Lyndon Baines Johnson ranch just outside of Johnson City, Texas and we came upon the place where the former President was born.  The actual building has been replaced but it is a close resemblance to the original house.  It is a true "dog trot" style structure and today it serves as a guest house.  President Johnson lived in this house for the first six years of his life with his parents and several siblings.  His grandparents lived just down the road.  The house sits in a very peaceful spot with a river running close by.  As you can see, he came from very humble beginnings and then went on to become powerful as president of the United States.

LBJ's boyhood home

After we took the tour of President Johnson's ranch we returned to Johnson City and located his boyhood home.  He lived in this house from the age of six until he was in his twenties.  Many of his relatives lived nearby.  The house is operated by the National Parks Service and is open free to the public.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wimberley, Texas

There is a small town in the Hill Country of Texas called Wimberley.  The heart of the downtown district is lined with cottage size buildings filled with just about anything you are looking for in gift items, clothing and home decor.  Check out the oversize boot made from cracked mirrors in front of this store!  My favorite emporium was the one operated by the Wimberley senior citizens.  Everything was hand made (in the USA, of course!) and was definitely made with love.  I was particularly drawn to the crochet baby items.  After we investigated the shops we stopped for lunch at Ino'z Brew and Chew.  Very good casual dining indoors or out with a view of Cypress Creek.  I had the pulled pork sandwich.  Yum!  Check it out.

Wimberley Glass Works

I visited the Wimberley Glass Works for the first time this last December.  A few days ago I had the opportunity to take my sister to the glass works to see the beautiful hand blown glass items they make on site.  We watched the artists as they created long twisted shards of glass that they will be using in a commissioned hanging chandelier to be installed somewhere (I forget) in the USA.  They are currently at about the 500 mark out of the 2500 pieces needed to complete the project.  The showroom is beautifully decorated with lamps, bowls, plates, ornaments and vases.  If you are in the area, please stop by.  It is impressive!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gruene, Texas

Come to Gruene (pronounced Green), Texas, please.  You will be glad you did.  It is a small town about three miles outside of New Braunfels and a delight to visit.  Gruene Hall is the oldest dance hall in Texas and it is a great place to stop, enjoy the food and drink and listen to the country western music.  Many big name entertainers have performed here.  The main street is dotted with small cottages filled with crafts and antiques.  We stopped at the Old Gristmill restaurant for lunch and were treated to really tasty food in an old mill building with a view of the river below.  Two thumbs up!!  The Victorian bed and breakfast on the corner is an eye catcher.  Also, take note of the old brick hardware store building previously owned and operated over a century ago by Mr. Gruene, himself.  Although the historic downtown is small, please plan to spend some quality time here just enjoying the sights and sounds of this wonderful little town with lots to do.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rockport, Texas

There is a small town resting on a peninsula just east of Corpus Christi called Rockport, Texas.  In its hey-day a century ago it was well known for its luxury resort hotels in the Victorian style of architecture.  This was the place to go to enjoy the gulf breezes, dine in high style and dance the night away in glamorous ballrooms.  The hurricane of 1919 (and a downward economy) took care of that by knocking them all down. Oh dear.  Today Rockport is a very active artists community with many of the older storefronts in the historical downtown turned into artist galleries.  It is a very family friendly vacation spot with many free things to do and see.  The aquarium with its adjoining education building is open to the public.  There is also an educational center nearby with interactive displays for all ages.  Please stop by the art center and tour the gallery.  There is also a sculpture garden outside of the gallery with large sculptures on permanent display.  There are benches everywhere.  So, pick a bench, relax, let your mind wander and enjoy the gulf breezes.

the walking flower

We thought this was a very interesting sculpture.  It is metal work with small ball shapes added to the ends of the stems.  Very simple artistic design just right for contemplation.  There are stone benches surrounding the sculpture provided for your contemplative moment.  The sculpture is located on the grounds of the Rockport Art Center.

Fulton House

While in the Rockport/Fulton area of Texas my sister and I paid a visit to the Fulton House.  The house is undergoing a massive historical renovation and we could not tour the inside of the house but we were able to visit the museum building across the street from the house.  The house was built in the late 19th century by George Fulton who was prominent in the cattle business and was also a prolific inventor, engineer and designer of bridges.  The house is owned by the state of Texas.  Built in the second French revival style with mansard roof lines, the building was able to withstand several major hurricanes that have struck this coastal area.  The timber construction was done horizontally rather than vertically and that allowed the house to sway instead of being blown apart by the high winds.  During the hurricane of 1919 the windmill was destroyed but to this day you can see the rotary blades lodged in a tree on the next block.  The house will again be available for tours later this summer.  Until then the beauty of this prominent coastal home can still be enjoyed from the outdoors.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Corpus Christi Cathedral

My sister and I had heard that the Corpus Christi Cathedral was a beautifully built church in downtown Corpus Christi, Texas so while we were in town we decided to visit and see for ourselves.  Oh, yes, it is beautiful.  According to records the church congregation is over a century old.  The current cathedral was built in the early 1940's.  It has very high ceilings and a magnificent pipe organ in the balcony.  The stained glass windows are exquisite.  There is a chapel located in an alcove off to one side of the sanctuary.  We visited during a week day and the entire sanctuary was silent and inspirational.  We paused for a few minutes to gather our thoughts, sit in the pews and reflect on all things beautiful.  What a blessing.

the USS Lexington

Wow!  Guess what I found "parked" (moored, of course) in the bay at Corpus Christi, Texas.  Why it's the USS Lexington CV-16 also known affectionately as THE BLUE GHOST.  It is a Navy aircraft carrier now retired from active military duty.  One of my brothers trained as a pilot aboard this ship when it was docked in Pensacola, Florida many years ago.  So, this was a must-see destination for my sister and me while we were visiting the area.  There are five self guided tours aboard the ship.  The FLIGHT DECK tour gave us opportunities to see actual aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, arresting gear, the navigation bridge and the plank.  The second tour was called the FOC'SLE where we saw the officers and junior officers quarters, anchor machinery and a Pearl Harbor exhibit.  The GALLERY DECK was the third tour.  We were able to see the CVE/CVL exhibit, Captains cabin, combat information center, library and ready rooms.  Tour four involved the LOWER DECKS.  On the tour we saw the chapel, crew's galley, dental clinic, engine room, POW exhibit, scale model exhibit and sick bay.  The last tour was on the HANGAR DECK.  Here we saw WWII aircraft, a flight simulator, fantail, engines and the 3D mega theater.  The 3D movie made us feel as though we were flying in the aircraft with the fighter pilots!!  All in all, we had a great time AND we got plenty of exercise along the way. The deck was quite hold on!  The stairwells were steep and the steps were narrow so our quads and biceps got quite a workout.  There is so much to see so plan your time accordingly.  We were on board for about four hours and we kept moving the entire time.  The ship tours are set up like a maze but arrows keep you moving in the right direction.  Watch out for the uneven flooring especially in the doorways.  Occasionally we would come upon an unlit stairwell that was cordoned  off to the public.  Never resisting an opportunity to scare myself, I, of course, had to look over the rail and into the deep, dark a bis and, yes, scary-scare myself.  I can't imagine being trapped so far below deck in that severe darkness.  We did, at the end of our tours, get to walk out into the sunlight with an appreciation for all who have served aboard this mighty ship.  If you are in Corpus Christ, Texas, please stop by and see this magnificent vessel.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Japanese Sunken Gardens and Theater

I went to see the Japanese Sunken Gardens in San Antonio, Texas.  It is located very near the zoo and parking is free.  The pathways and foot bridges were all made from stacked rocks and stones.  The pathways twist and turn and were built on various levels.  At the time of my visit many of the flowers were not blooming but the walk through the carved out pathways was definitely worth the time spent walking them.  Peaceful and calm.  Perfect for quiet meditation.  Just as I expected it would be.

Friday, March 13, 2015

thoughts on US 80

Driving along US 80 gave me the opportunity to see things I wouldn't see if I was driving along the interstate and it also "brought me back" to another time in my life (my childhood) when roads like US 80 were THE interstate highways of the day.  I was able to pass through many small towns--some that were thriving and some that appeared to be almost abandoned.  Some of the towns had grown into cities with surrounding suburbs.  It seems the growth, or non growth, is based on transportation routes  or, in some cases, educational institutions.  Savannah, Macon, Montgomery, Jackson, Monroe, Shreveport and Dallas are all examples of large cities that have grown because they are located at the confluence of major highways.  Statesboro, Georgia seems to be thriving because Georgia Southern University is located here and that brings in a large influx of student population plus all the services needed to support the residents.  The downtown area is well trafficked and the storefronts are filled. Another example of a thriving college town is Ruston, Louisiana where Louisiana Tech is located.   There are midsize towns along the way that have historical significance such as Vicksburg National Military Park.  The smallest towns I drove through, most of which were in Louisiana, seem to be towns that time has forgotten.  Frozen in time.  Very quiet.  The downtown store fronts were abandoned.  The hardware/farm implement store and a small grocery seemed to be the only businesses in operation.  Being a dreamer and able to envision what these towns must have looked like at an earlier time,  I was saddened to see their abandoned condition.  These towns were by-passed by the interstate system and fell, naturally, into their current condition.  Ghostly grey unpainted wooden buildings with or without roofs all in a row.  Transportation has always played an important part in the development and growth of our country.  The first settlements were along the coastline.  Eventually towns sprang up along rivers.  As overland routes were carved out through the wilderness, so came development.  As routes were abandoned or became less traveled the development slowed or stopped all together.  This is what I saw on my journey across US 80.  It is a slow paced drive.  If you take this route please plan on taking twice as long to reach your destination. You will be driving at a slower speed, stopping in smaller towns and, perhaps, enjoying a picnic along the way.  There is one constant that I could count on in nearly every town I drove through.  DOLLAR GENERAL   I believe this is the most popular store of choice across America.  Enjoy your trip.  Enjoy the sights.  Enjoy the sounds.  Enjoy the history.  Enjoy the slower pace.  Just enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

San Antonio bound

I left Waco and drove south on interstate 35 to San Antonio.  The temperature was above freezing and the roads, although wet, were good for driving.  I was glad to drive into San Antonio and begin my visits there.  Thus ends part one of my westerly trek.

Wascom to Waco

And before I knew it I was in Texas.  There is no welcome sign along US 80 at the border between Louisiana and Texas.  All of a sudden I was entering Wascom, Texas and that was that!  Wascom, like so many of the towns I drove through along the route, was small with just enough services for the population to live comfortably.  I drove on through the countryside and criss crossed I-20 several times.  I was listening to the weather report all of the time and was painfully aware that I was driving into some severe winter weather.  At Longview, Texas I made the decision to abandon US 80 and head southwest along route 77 towards Waco, Texas where I planned to spend the night.  It was late afternoon and I was watching the temperature gauge and I could see the outside temperature was hovering around freezing.  I was painfully aware that road conditions can change quickly and I was afraid that black ice could form on the roadway.  I forged ahead at a comfortable speed.  The sun sank and so did the temperature.  I drove on and finally reached my destination.  Relief.  I was off the road for another night and I was happy and thankful.  I was a little disappointed that I missed out on the last one hundred miles of my US 80 tour but caution trumps desire.  And I'm fine with that.