Monday, October 16, 2017

Home Sweet Home

From Fredericksburg we traveled on to Austin where we spent four days getting the camper ready to go into storage for three months. 

 "Life in the Fast Lane"   This is Marlin's favorite picture. He had me take this out the window while we were driving!   Only in Texas can you be traveling 80 miles per hour and have all the other traffic pass you by.  Jed would love this!

One of the rationalizations for taking this unusual fall journey was to leave our camper in the warmer parts of the country and not have to fight traveling through the ice and snow of January.   Most of those four days were spent cleaning, fixing, packing, and nailing down details.  All in 90 degree heat.

We did manage to get out one night for some music in Austin.  We decided to go to The Central Market for one-stop dinner and music.   Central Market is a huge "Whole Foods like" market, with an in-store cafeteria and outdoor patio where they have a different  band playing every night. This night was a local jazz group called the Summer's Arch. 

The Market is obviously very popular with families.  With the playground behind the stage, plenty of open space for strollers, a large area for dancing, and perfect evening temperature in the 70's, what better entertainment for kids and adults as well.  It was fun to watch Dad's and Mom's joining their little ones on the dance floor.  Such a wonderful place for families to introduce children to the joys in music.

This unusual adventure has come to its scheduled end.  Leaving our camper and truck at a storage space was a bit unsettling, but at least it will be shaded by a huge, lovely, live oak tree while we are gone.  See you in January.

We arrived home in Dixmont in time to enjoy the the remains of some beautiful and colorful foliage.
Good to be home again.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fredericksburg TX

Fredericksburg is a beautiful, well preserved city that was established in 1846 by German immigrants. That German heritage is still very apparent today.  Dozens of buildings, constructed from local limestone rock or oak logs, that were built in the 1800's are beautifully preserved and are currently in use.   This is the second time we visited this City and it probably won't be the last.

Our first day in town we located the Visitors Center and learned about a City walking tour being held that very evening at 4:00.  While waiting for the tour to begin, we found the Fredericksburg Pie Company and sampled some of their pie.

Apple Pie that afternoon,

Cherry Pie the next morning.

The walking tour began at a small house built in 1880 and is open to the public as an example of  what is historically called a "Sunday House".

When the town was developed, each emigrant was deeded one town lot and an additional 10 acres of farmland outside of the town.  Apparently, as farms grew, families spent the week days on the farm, but came to town on Sunday for church.  Even into the 1930's and 1940's some farmers continued this practice and the term "Sunday House"  now describes many of the small dwellings within the City limits.

The tour was given by a retired school teacher, and her knowledge and recall of the people and history of the area was amazing.  We walked at least 4 miles and viewed 30 or more historic buildings where she could quote names and dates of the original inhabitants, along with their type of business.

This beautiful limestone building, built in 1881, was the County Court House up until 1939.  It now houses the Fredericksburg library.

Many of the dwellings we viewed had this type of historical marker.

We unknowingly arrived just as the annual Oktoberfest was about to begin.  My favorite sign seen along the sidewalk in front of a clothing store!.  Any, yes, they were giving out free cans of beer if you came in to check out the store..

We were advised to attend the Oktoberfest on Friday night, because they were expecting 20,000 people over the weekend.  Several blocks of the city were closed off to foot and vehicle traffic.  Rotating bands played in four separate areas, there were multiple tents for artisans to sell their products, food courts in various locals, and strolling acts throughout the venue. 

We started off with a beer and listening to a traditional German band called Oma and the Oompahs, where many attendees were wearing traditional German costumes.

The stilt wearing clown wandered in and out of the tents and played practical jokes on patrons.

Strolling musicians entertained while they walked and talked to people.

Great spot to have a picture taken.  Marlin refused to pose but  this young man didn't mind.

Food was, of course, German.  Opa's is a local sausage company.  Our dinner sampled some of the Bratwurst and Jalapeno sausage, but later that night when we were hungry for desert, nothing sweet could be found.

The main event was naturally BEER.  The entire length of this bar showcased 50 different beers.

Lots of polka dancing.

Entertaining evening, and the beer was great.

Much more to see and do in this charming City.  Last time we visited we spent two days at the Nemitz Pacific War museum, which was excellent.  Also, lots of fun shopping, or just looking in the  varied assortment of shops along Main Street.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Palo Duro Canyon and Charles Goodnight

Just south of Amarillo, in the town of Canyon, is Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Greeting signs proclaim, "Welcome to the Grand Canyon of Texas"! Since this 27,000 acre State Park is located within the second largest canyon n North America, I guess the title is appropriate.

View from the visitors center

The land was deeded by private  owners in 1933, and the park was opened in 1934.  Seven companies of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were sent to Palo Duro Canyon from 1933 until 1937 to develop road access and to construct buildings, shelters, bridges and trails.  Much of the work continued even after the official opening.

The road into the canyon, while pulling the camper, was a bit daunting.  In fact the entire three days here we worried about the trip out.  Could our aging pick up do the job of pulling up those long, long, steep grades?

The campsites were placed in scenic spots throughout the canyon.  That is the tail-end of our camper on the left.

The location was beautiful, except it rained all three days we were there and the beautiful red clay washed down and around our camper, creating a muddy entry way,

These are the cabins built by the CCC in the 1930's.  They are still used today, with the addition of air conditioning.

Many spots were begging to be explored but because of the heavy rains over the past two weeks, all park trails were closed.

This looks like the side of the road but it is actually a 30 foot drop off.

The canyon is 120 miles long and 600 to 800 feet deep.  The Palo Duro Canyon State Park only includes a portion of this area.  These formations were outside Park boundaries, on a County road where you could get a close up view of amazing spires.

Looks like a castle wall.

Much of the literature about the park talks about Charles Goodnight.  In 1876 ,Goodnight, in partnership with John Adair, established a ranch within the canyon that incorporated over 1,325,000 acres with a herd of 100,000 head of cattle.  "Everything is bigger in Texas"

 Goodnight lived what sounds like a "larger than life" cowboy existence.  From scouting for the Texas Rangers, creating the Loving/Goodnight trail from Texas to Wyoming, partnership in the largest ranch in the Texas panhandle, to saving the original strain of western bison, he certainly stands out.  In fact, it is reported that Larry McMurtry's, Lonesome Dove, is based on Goodnight's adventures.

Today there is a small town he created, named Goodnight, that includes the restored residence he built for he and his wife Molly, in 1887.

An elaborate home for the era that even included electricity.  The historically accurate restoration includes several original pieces, as well as other period furnishings. 

Goodnight's wife, Mary Ann, affectionately called Molly, was know to invite an eclectic group of guests for dinners at the ranch that included cowhands, government representatives,  ranchers, and local Indians, such as Quanah Parker.

She taught school to ranch children and cowboys alike, in the ranch bunkhouse.  She is credited with being the person who saved a couple of new born bison calves that began the restoration of the herd that now exists and roams throughout Caprock State Park just south of Palo Duro. 

Adjacent to the Goodnight homestead is a small business called Herd Wear Store.  This business sells products made from bison, mostly Buffalo Gold fibers, which combine buffalo fir with silk and/or yak fibers to create soft, strong, and warm  gloves, socks, and hats. will give you a look at their products.

They also have custom made buffalo coats.

This one would run about 3,000 to 4,000 dollars.  A bit large, but you can order one made to individual measurements. 

This model was actually an old coat that the owner purchased on ebay.  The Miskin family began raising bison about 30 years ago, regrouping 15 years later with the creation of bison fiber products.  Cecil Miskin said he opened this retail shop as a retirement project.  Sounded like he is putting in about 12 to 14 hours a day.  Some retirement!

 It was a friendly, fun stop where we learned a great deal about marketing bison products.  About 55,000 of the existing 450,000 bison in the U.S., are processed for meat annually.  Producers work together to insure that the numbers of processed bison do not negatively affect the overall growth of bison herds nationally.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Amarillo, TX

Amarillo Texas is located in the far north of the Texas panhandle, only 60 or so miles from the New Mexico boarder.  Surrounded by hundreds of miles of flat, dry, (usually) prairie, you would not expect there to be much of interest there.  The main reason we wanted to spend a day or two here was to check out the "Cadillac Ranch".

Having seen pictures of this permanent public roadside sculpture many years ago, it has been on my wish list to see the real deal some day. The location, in itself, is half the fun.

Interstate 40 incorporates a frontage road, that parallels the highway, and allows access to side roads and businesses.  As you drive on this frontage road, you pass  an occasional RV park or side road, but mostly acres and acres of corn fields.

You need a sharp eye to pick out ten tall "things"  off  toward the back of a field where corn had been recently harvested.  We might have missed it if it weren't for the dozens of cars parked by a metal gate opening through a barbed wire fence.  As you can see, it is a distance back from the road, and today it was mud all the way..

Not usually surrounded by water, these ten Cadillac cars were first displayed, half buried in the dirt, back in 1974.  Three young men from an art group called the "Ant Farm"  came up with the idea, somewhat symbolizing the birth and death of the Cadillac tail fin, and  presented it to millionaire Stanley Marsh 3.

Marsh donated the land and became a long time  patron and supporter of the project.  The cars, vintage 1949 thru 1963 were found in junk yards, or as running used cars.

Long since having lost their original colors, and many parts, spray painting graffiti is not only tolerated, but encouraged.  There is a dumpster at the gate for empty cans, but those that are not quite empty after an art project are left for others to use up.  This young lady was totally prepared for the experience, complete with paint, stencil, tape, and mud boots!

Not only the young folks get into the spirit of this interactive art project, this gentleman of 70 years, was having a blast.

Father and daughter (I think), working together.

She painted, he carried her and the paint, so she didn't get wet and muddy

All I did was take pictures.  No spirit of adventure. (Mostly no boots)

The Cadillac Ranch mania has extended to local RV parks.  I thought this was the most clever.

Another RV park has what looks more like how the Cadillac's appeared when they were originally sunk in the mud.

Later that day we picked up a local brochure listing things to see in Amarillo.  One recommendation was the RV Museum.

Turned out to be an extensive collection of old restored camper trailers of all types. Currently the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Sales and Service establishment is enormous, but according to the published story, he started out buying one RV to use for vacations and to rent out the rest of the year.
It was a 1974 Winnebago and Jack was the first Winnebago dealer in Texas.

The collection includes different styles and models from the 1940's through the 1970's

Each trailer has been restored to original condition or displayed as they were found. They all include a sign giving the details of where they were located, manufacturer, and how much restoration needed to be done.

A classic of the 70's

This 1942 Harley Davidson motorcycle was used in WWll

The museum had a very large collection of motorcycles.  This was my favorite.  Great way to spend an afternoon, and there is  no admission charge.

We rounded out the day with an early dinner at THE BIG TEXAN steak house. 

The famous Route 66 passes through Amarillo and although its hay day is long past, the highway still has a mystique, along with many GIANT signs that were popular when the road was the primary route between California and Chicago.

Big Tex and  this larger than life steer are two examples of the roadside attractions on the old Route 66.  Better than billboards, I'd say.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch is known, as the sign says, for the 72 ounce "free" steak

It is free if you can eat the entire steak, baked potato, roll, salad, and the shrimp appetizer, all within one hour's time.  If not it costs you $72.

Those who take the challenge sit at an elevated table with a countdown clock, clicking off the seconds, directly overhead  When we arrived there were two men at the table, with ten minutes left on their clock.  When the timer reached three minutes, they both got up and left, most likely to pay their $72 bill.

My sirloin was 8 ounces and it was all I could do to finish that much.

Another fun day of being a tourist in Amarillo, Texas