Monday, April 20, 2015
In the eastern part of New Mexico along I-40 lies Tucumcari Mountain. There are conflicting legends as to how this mountain got its name. It is, however, a prominent point in this flat land and can be seen for many miles as I approached the town of Tucumcari, which lies in the shadow of this mountain. I understand several western movies were shot at this location with the mountain playing a supporting roll in the background. As I gazed at the mountain I noticed that modern day technology had invaded this ancient rocky uprise. The top of the mountain was littered with communication towers. Kind of funny really. The height of the old mountain was needed to serve a new purpose. I understand the need to use this area for current technology but the towers take away from the overall look of the mountain at the same time. Old vs new. OK hmmmmm.....
Friday, April 17, 2015
I remember when Lady Bird Johnson promoted the beautification of the nations highways with the wildflower program. She wanted to see the highway medians filled with wildflowers. She had the right idea and I could see the results of this program as I drove through Texas. The medians were ablaze in color. The state flower, the bluebonnet, was well represented along with the yellow and orange colored flowers. The colors stretched for miles. Just beautiful! Thank you, Lady Bird!!
I have been fortunate to drive throughout Texas and see the diversified beauty of this great state. Many times I have driven along I-10 from the eastern entrance in the Orange/Port Arthur area through Huston to San Antonio. The far eastern regions have the bayous and swamps like Louisiana and then the vastness of the flat terrain unfolds. But there are green trees and vegetation and although the terrain is flat, it does not look like a desert. I have driven south from San Antonio along route 37 to Corpus Christi and Rockport. Along the way I saw what a more coastal plain looks like with the short grasses covering the ground and then the arrival of the Gulf beaches. I've driven along US 281 and some of the smaller rural routes in the Hill Country of Texas. The rolling hills and greenery are absolutely beautiful and between the major cities of Austin and San Antonio there is so much to do here. But, don't forget the smaller towns. That is where all the "surprises" are. Earlier this year I drove through northeastern Texas, entering the state from Louisiana along US 80 which runs roughly parallel to I-20. I passed through the cities of Longview and Tyler along the way. I headed southwest along route 31 towards Waco to avoid a major winter storm hitting Dallas/Ft. Worth. That was a "white knuckler" drive as I was scared to death that I would encounter black ice on the road as darkness approached and the temperature sank to the freezing mark. I may have held up the traffic behind me a bit but, quite frankly, I didn't care. I drive according to the road conditions, not the speed limit! I have driven in major city traffic jams and I have driven in very isolated areas. Driving in West Texas along I-10 is one of those areas. Once I left the Hill Country I encountered a great vast desert that is so isolated that it becomes a radio "dead zone". The area has a beauty, though, with its starkness. The mountains in the distance are intriguing. However, as the sun set lower into the horizon and my destination for the night was still a couple of hours away I began to really feel the isolation of this place. The sun set. There were no lights from houses to be seen anywhere. Only the stars were shining and what beauties they are! I began to feel very small in the whole scheme of things, like a grain of sand in the universe. Was I important? Would I be missed? Of course I would. I just needed to confront those thoughts. And, driving in this somewhat lonely (but lovely) place brought out those thoughts in me. I just needed to say it. And then on the horizon there was El Paso. Recently I decided to drive in a different westerly direction through Texas by driving north and then west. I left San Antonio and drove up routes 83 and 84 to Lubbock and then on to Amarillo. Along the way I drove down into the Palo Duro Canyon. Except for the canyon, this part of the West Texas panhandle is very flat. No trees. Nothing. Just flatness. I could easily visualize a cattle drive going through this area. Just flatlands and open sky. But the towns are thriving and filled with interesting things to see and do. So far my travels through Texas have taken me along well traveled routes in the eastern part of the state to smaller state highways cutting through the countryside to the more desolate (but beautiful) areas of the western part of the state. I've loved seeing all of what I've seen, so far. I have had many opportunities to get off the interstate and explore the smaller towns along the way and I like that very much. There is beauty everywhere. And much more to explore.
Here it is. Just a little sampling of what I traveled over when I was driving in West Texas. Route 66 runs parallel to I-40 and sometimes they are the same road. For the most part I traveled on the interstate but whenever I pulled of the exit ramp into a small town along the way I found myself driving on the old "main street of America". Route 66, just like US 80, was a major cross country thoroughfare in the earlier part of the twentieth century but was gradually replaced (and renumbered, in some cases) by the newer interstate highways. But it's still here in bits and pieces. A simple reminder of what was. (I can almost see the corvette now. Or is that a mirage?) As the signs say "Get your Kix on Route 66".
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I have seen pictures of the Cadillacs partially buried in the sand and I knew they were somewhere in the Southwestern USA. Well...I found them. They are located just outside of Amarillo, Texas and since I was in the area I decided to stop by and see them for myself. Drive about five miles or so west from Amarillo along I-40 and you will find them on the left side of the highway frontage road. The frontage road is actually Route 66. It seems appropriate that Cadillac Ranch would be located along Route 66. It is public art and, therefore, free to the public. The public is also free to add their own artwork to the cars in the form of spray paint. Every five years the cars are given a new base coat of paint and after that, it's everyone for themselves. Up close the cars are very colorful and interesting to see but if you are on the highway traveling at a high speed they are easy to miss because they are dwarfed by the vastness of the flat desert landscape. Glad I stopped, though.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I first became aware of the Palo Duro Canyon while reading James Michener's novel TEXAS. The canyon provided the perfect cover for bands of outlaws. Unsuspecting travellers were easily spotted from the many hideouts and ambushed. The history of this canyon, filled with treachery, is also a story of breathtaking beauty. The canyon is located in the panhandle of West Texas near Amarillo. The terrain of this area is flat, flat, flat. Nothing. Nada. Flat as a pancake. However, out of this flatland a canyon was carved over a period of millions of years. It is the second largest canyon in the United States (next to the Grand Canyon). The canyon just appears out of nowhere. Flatland to canyon!! Just like that! The first sight of the canyon is amazing. The depth of the valley, the colors of the rocks, the visible layers of sediment.....all of it. Amazing. The Palo Duro Canyon is part of the state park system in Texas. There are several campgrounds set up for both tents and trailers as well as a few rustic rental cabins that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's. There are many hiking trails throughout the park ranging from short one mile hikes to longer twelve mile trails. There are picnic areas for day travelers, like me. Along the way I came across a large pavilion with rockers on the back porch facing the canyon walls. This is a perfect place for slowly rocking and contemplating the majestic beauty of this canyon. This is one of those places that I would like to return to some day but the next time I will bring camping gear. I will be back.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Just outside of Lubbock, Texas (next to the airport) is where you will find the Silent Wings Museum. This museum is dedicated to the WWII glider program (thus the "silent wings"). This is a very interesting museum and I learned quite a bit about a program I did not know anything about prior to this visit. Basically the glider planes were designed to ferry soldiers and equipment into enemy territory during the war on the European front. To silently glide into the war zone and not be detected was their advantage. The disadvantage was that these missions were basically one-way missions because the planes could not be relaunched once they were on the ground. The planes were generally damaged on landing and the pilots and soldiers scrambled to retrieve as much of the plane as possible for further use before the enemy arrived. The gliders were lightweight and were constructed with a wood frame and a thin fabric skin. Improvements were made to the design to help protect the pilots during landing. I watched a short film in the theater that told about the glider program and the pilot training. One of the former pilots stated that his job basically was to crash a plane every day. Putting that statement into perspective made me realize how heroic these pilots were. Thank you so much for your service. This museum is really worth seeing. Aircraft buffs will enjoy the many planes and helicopters on display. But you don't have to be knowledgeable in aircraft in order to enjoy this museum. The Silent Wings Museum is a gem. It's a place for learning and enjoying. Please stop by.
While I was visiting Lubbock, Texas I stopped by the Buddy Holly Center. The center houses the museum dedicated to the late singer/song writer Buddy Holly. The museum displays include his guitars, clothing, program bills and, of course, his signature horn rimmed glasses. The documented time line chronicles his professional career which was tragically cut short. He was born and raised in Lubbock and was part of the West Texas music scene. The Buddy Holly Center is much more than a museum. It is a cultural center dedicated to the arts. There are two art galleries housed in the building. Both galleries featured contemporary art created by artists from Texas. Enjoyable visit!
Sunday, April 12, 2015
I attended church in Lubbock, Texas this morning. What a beautiful setting for worship! I was present for the 11:00 a.m. traditional service. Communion was served. The choir members sang like angels. (yes, they did) The minister's sermon was inspiring. There is a large ornate stain glass window behind the alter area and other stained glass windows line the sides of the sanctuary. Dark oak wooden arches decorate the ceiling in the large sanctuary. The church is lovingly cared for by the congregation. I am so happy I found this truly wonderful place to worship today.
I have always been fascinated by hidden passageways whether they be narrow paths between two buildings, neighborhood alleys or outdoor stairwells. It doesn't matter. I always wonder where they go. What is at the end? I was sitting in a small cafe yesterday afternoon looking out at the street and at the buildings on the other side of the street when I noticed an outdoor stairway placed between two buildings. As I ate I kept wondering where the stairs went. What was at the other end? I finished eating and as I left I walked across the busy street to the other side so that I could better examine the object of my interest. I could see that the entrance to the stairwell was beginning to get overgrown. The stone walls on either side of the stairs looked solid enough. I got closer and then...I looked. What!?! There was nothing at the top! It was empty! Just air! And blue sky! Oops, I didn't notice that one of the bordering buildings was undergoing reconstruction and was currently gutted. No wonder the stairs led to nowhere. There just was nothing there for it to "go" to. The laugh is on me. Nice stairs, though. I guess they will "go" somewhere, someday.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
I stopped in Lubbock, Texas for the night. As I got out of my car I looked up at the sky and I was amazed to see this cloud formation. I have never seen anything like it before. At first I thought I was looking at a VERY large space craft just hovering over the city. I was wondering if we were all about to be "beamed up" so to speak. Wow! This is my first trip to the Texas panhandle. Is there something unusual going on here?!? hmmmmm
I passed through the town of Ballinger, Texas on my way to Lubbock and I had to stop and take a picture of these pretty flowers lining the sidewalk leading to the county court house building. The iris plants were in full bloom and the vibrant colors were magnificent. That's all. I just thought you might like to see the colorful flowers. You can almost smell them, don't you think?
Many a time as I travel along rural highways I see the small signs by the side of the road announcing that a historical marker is ahead. The sign generally gives a mile notice and I spend what I estimate is the distance of a mile looking for the marker. So many of them slipped by before I was able to slow down enough to see them. Sometimes traffic or time schedules keep me from stopping. That's kind of a poor excuse since these signs are commemorating a person or event and are put along the highways for people to stop, read and, maybe, learn something. Today I was traveling up route 83 in west Texas and I decided to stop at a few of the markers (there were many) and read the plaques. This marker tells about John Chisolm, a cattle baron, who was a rancher in the area with a herd of thousands of longhorn cattle. He was famous for his cattle drives, crossing the dangerous waters of the Brazos River with his large herd and delivering the cattle to the confederacy in the east. Farther down the road I found another marker that was dedicated to Samuel Maverick, a farmer from this area who fought in the Texas war for independence and was instrumental in negotiating the surrender of soldiers in San Antonio. Each sign is different and, yet, in some ways they are all the same...like little gifts given to the public to be enjoyed. So, the next time you are driving along a rural highway and you see a sign announcing a historical marker is ahead, take the time to slow down and see (read) for yourself. Please. You will not be disappointed.
Monday, April 6, 2015
Yesterday I had the pleasure of accompanying my four year old granddaughter to the Disney on Ice production of FROZEN at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Wonderful! The audience was packed with families and many of the children came dressed in the costume of their favorite character. There was even one little boy dressed as Olaf, the snowman. Adorable. A few Dad's wore moose ear head gear, as well. The show was wonderful and the skating was spectacular. So-o-o-o-o much fun! Kept the four year old mesmerized. That and popcorn. Perfect afternoon family time.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
The airplane in this picture is the plane that Lyndon Baines Johnson used when he was the vice president of the United States of America. He jokingly referred to the plane as Air Force One (half). It is parked under this awning on the Johnson Ranch in Texas. Just thought you might like to know. hahaha