Published: April 29th 2010April 28th 2010
Monday morning, April 19, 2010, was overcast as we headed east on TX 71 to Bastrop and TX 95 to Elgin where Irene guided us onto several county roads until we reached Lexington where we caught US 77 on into Waco. The further we drove, the more the skies cleared. Different kinds of wildflowers appeared along the road, but there were few spots where I could pull over with the trailer. We hoped those flowers would present themselves again when I wasn’t towing the Pilgrim. As we got closer to the Quail Crossing RV Park, we turned onto a residential street in a small subdivision. I assured Kay that Irene either had taken us on the most direct (but not simplest) route or had taken us to the wrong destination. The RV park owner assured me that Irene had done her job correctly!
Since we planned to have only three days in Waco, we already had decided to forego laundry and cleaning until we reached Tyler TX on Friday. Tuesday morning we set out for four of the objectives we had on our list and the three “must sees” the RV park manager identified. You might not know that Dr.
Heaven For A Gunsmith
Texas Ranger Museum - Waco TX
Pepper was formulated in Waco and that there is a museum housed in the original (and now former) bottling plant. Vintage delivery trucks and bottling equipment are on display along with bottles, advertising materials and promotional gimmicks. Animatronic and audio video presentations examined the initial development of the Dr. Pepper formula and the impact of new ancillary products (such as automated bottle washers) on the growth of the company. The visit ends in the area of the gift shop and, go figure, a soda fountain where old-fashioned sodas with syrup and carbonated water are made by hand. Worth a visit.
Our next stop was the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. If you are interested in (mostly) antique firearms, this is a must see. A variety of other historic gear is also on display - saddles, spurs, chaps, hats and other cowboy paraphernalia; surveying equipment (many early Rangers doubled up as surveyors) as well as movie and television artifacts. I never realize how few in numbers are the Rangers - slightly over a hundred. Many who have served are noted in the various recounts of Ranger endeavors either in static displays or in audio video presentations - the
pursuit and ambush of Bonnie and Clyde; the standoff with the Branch Davidians; the hunt for “The Railroad Killer” and subsequent surrender of Angel Reséndiz. Most of the early historical accounts were new information for me and were interesting even though I had no knowledge of the players or the events. Worthwhile if you enjoy western or law enforcement history.
The third “must see” was the suspension bridge which has a variety of facets that could trigger a visit. The engineering is remarkable. The aesthetics are unique. The history is tantalizing. As I stood in the middle of the former roadway, I could imagine the women gathering up their children and scurrying from the bridge as a herd of longhorn cattle approached - perhaps being driven by LBJ’s grandfather and great-uncle to the stockyards we saw last summer in Dodge City KS. Walter Mitty, where art thou? A block away is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Don’t let the initial simple monument fool you - the memorial extends along the Brazos River for about a block to the west. Simple and elegant in its own way with benches so one can sit, remember, reflect and honor the fallen.
Powerful In A Simple Way
Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Waco TX
check-in “brain-pickin’,” the RV park manager had mentioned Willie’s Place and the Whiskey River Saloon in Carl’s Corner TX. On Wednesday we were heading north anyway, so we drove the extra thirty minutes or so to see the Willie Nelson photos and memorabilia in the truck stop/restaurant/museum/honky tonk. There were tons of interesting pictures of Willie posing with a wide variety of people from the famous to the ordinary. There were autographed guitars for sale, but there was very little in the way of tourist mementos save CDs and T-shirts. Breakfast was still with us so we didn’t eat, but it’s worth a stop if you find yourself on I-35 south of Dallas/Fort Worth near the junction of I-35E and I-35W.
Our next stop was the Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village in Elm Mott TX just a handful of miles north of Waco. The Crafts Village is a campus for learning homesteading skills including woodworking, blacksmithing, bee keeping, cheese making and horse-powered farming. Gardeners were busy tending the young plants. Several artisans were at work and explained the basics of spinning, weaving, potting and milling. Of course, a visit to a traditional village would be incomplete without a traditional
Oh, Yes, And By The Way...
Historical Marker - Crawford TX
morsel of nutrition. Breakfast still lingered so only a cup of sweet potato/jalapeno soup and a desert was in order; but the meals looked scrumptious, and the deserts were delicious. Oh, the soup, you ask! It was soooooooo good that I’m going to give it a try myself. Definitely worth the time if you’re in the area.
Thursday had a short day on the agenda with only visits to two sites scheduled. We both enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship displayed in stained glass windows, and Baylor University is home to the Armstrong Browning Library. The library houses research materials relating to British poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and is elegant in its own right; however, the stained glass makes the structure incredible. Our only other planned stop was the Bear Habitat - home of the two Baylor mascots, Lady and Joy. Unfortunately, the bears were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were napping. Oh well, it wasn’t raining, and walking around campus was fun. I had seen the sign a couple of times and figured, “What the hell! You’re this close. Why not?” The sign read - “Crawford 9.” I wanted to see how much (or little) Crawford
A Friend In A Time Of Need
AH-1S Cobra Gunship -Veterans Memorial - Hubbard TX
crowed about its most famous citizen. Very little, it turned out. In a nutshell, “George and Laura bought a ranch here and vote here.” The afternoon found maintenance and laundry on the agenda.
In the morning, we broke camp and set out on TX 31 for Tyler TX. The intensity of the bluebonnet display along the roadside diminished but was replaced by scattered concentrations of brilliant, yet-to-be-identified yellow flowers. Since blue and yellow are the two colors I distinguish best, I was particularly impressed when my old friends shared a field almost equally with my new friends. I wondered if the bluebonnet season was waning or if we were moving away from bluebonnet territory. Passing through Hubbard TX, I spotted an AH-1S Cobra Gunship like the ones that regularly worked with my unit in Vietnam. It had been given to the City of Hubbard in 2002 for an historic display. Our early afternoon arrival allowed us to complete the weekly cleaning chores before dinner. We had driven to Tyler through intermittent, moderate rainstorms; however, they were only the harbinger of the approaching night. Rains heavy enough to sound like hail and winds strong enough to give shake, rattle and
Practice, Me Lad, Practice
Four Winds Renaissance Faire - Troupe (Tyler) TX
roll a whole new meaning were the nighttime theme. The Pilgrim weathered the storm just fine. Unfortunately, Mississippi did not.
Saturday morning we were ready to step back in time at the Four Winds Renaissance Faire in nearby Troup TX. We knew from the Internet that this was the final weekend of an eight weekend Festival and that a variety of period entertainment was in the offing every weekend - musicians, jesters, comics, jugglers, magicians and belly dancers. Period foods were available - shepherd pie, turkey legs, sausage or steak on a skewer and strawberries on a stick. Period games were available for the kids - a pair of water balloon catapults to do battle and a wooden horse that rolled down an incline on rails as the “knight” tried to skewer a ring with his or her lance. Vendors marketed mostly period wares - clothing, jewelry, purses, belts, knives and swords. Renaissance is, indeed, a way of life for some and is at least an avocation for most of the participants. Period clothing was required for all participants and was worn by most of the attendees. The Gaelic dialect was heard regularly.
We learned from the Faire
My Lady With A Spear???
Four Winds Renaissance Faire - Troupe (Tyler) TX
Director that each weekend had a different combat theme - swordsmanship and dueling, axe and knife throwing, foot combat and, this weekend, mounted combat. This weekend, the sword, spear, rings and quintain would be contested on horseback before the grand finale - the joust. A parade heralded the beginning of the tournament, and the Marshall outlined the scoring for each event. In the first event, an apple was placed on the top rail of a fence in the middle of the arena. The knight (or one of the two competing ladies) rode his galloping horse alongside the fence and attempted to impale or slice the apple with his sword. Various points were awarded for the slash or the skewer. In the next event, the knight threw his spear from his galloping horse at a bull’s-eye placed on straw bales and scoring was done in the traditional manner. Next, six ribbons with rings slightly larger than the knight’s lance were suspended from posts erected in the arena and swayed precariously in the wind. The knight galloped past and attempted to “skewer” as many rings as possible with his lance. The last horsemanship event was the quintain, essentially a practice machine for
And The Real Deal Is The Joust
Four Winds Renaissance Faire - Troupe (Tyler) TX
the joust. The knight galloped past the quintain and struck a shield on the apparatus with his lance. Points were awarded for the number of revolutions produced by the impact. Great fun!
Since only about five to ten percent of the people on the grounds were not dressed in period clothing, we were noticeable to say the least. Several participants sought us out to extend a welcome and to engage in a brief conversation. As we peered inside the “castle” (where the king and queen relaxed between engagements), the queen beaconed us inside. During our conversation with the royalty and the court, the belly dancers arrived for a private showing and some photo ops. Then … the time for the joust had arrived! The rules are complex and, given that I don’t understand them well, I will abstain from attempting an explanation. Suffice it to say, the jousting competition was exciting. None of the competitors was injured nor knocked from his horse, but the blow administered by one knight caused his lance to shatter. After the joust, one of the singers we had spoken with earlier invited us to the Pub Sing - a sort of jam session where
the groups mix and match members and try out new songs or skits. What a fun way to enjoy dinner and end our day at the Faire. The Four Winds Renaissance Faire is small by big city standards but had enough activities to keep us entertained for about ten hours.
Sunday through Wednesday were planned to be filled with potpourri and relaxation. On Sunday, April 25, 2010 we went to Rose Rudman Park for a walk and discovered the Tyler Cancer Bell. The bell was cast in 1856 and was placed along the walking path in 2002 so citizens could pay homage to cancer victims, survivors and caregivers. A former coworker of mine and a member of the last EMT class I taught for the fire department lost her battle with breast cancer on April 12, 2010. The bell was sounded in her memory. Tyler prides itself on its flowers so, after our walk, we drove around one of the older neighborhoods to see the last hoorah of the azaleas and the early blossoms of the roses. Festivals in spring and fall revolve around these two flowers. We stopped by the central plaza where memorials pay tribute to fallen
A Mother Is A Mother Is A Mother
Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store - Tyler TX
veterans of Korea and Vietnam and to local peace officers killed in the line of duty. Monday we stopped at the visitors bureau, took a look at the model train collection in the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot and drove through a different historic neighborhood. Then came haircuts for us and an oil change for the truck.
When we awoke, we had no concept of how busy Tuesday would become. The first stop was the Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store. Brookshire's, a Tyler-based regional grocery store chain that has grown to 156 stores in TX, AR and LA since it was founded in the 1930’s, hosts the free museum as a community service. Mounted specimens in the wildlife museum were amassed by the company’s founder initially and various individuals have since donated additions to the collection. The country store recaptures the aura of the 1920’s with merchandise, equipment and advertisements of the era. There is a large playground with a fire truck, a caboose and a tractor as well as traditional playground equipment for the children and benches and picnic tables for the adults. Definitely worth a minimum one-hour visit.
Our next two stops were sites
Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store - Tyler TX
of former military bases - one from the Civil War and one from WWII. Camp Ford was the largest Confederate POW camp west of the Mississippi River. At its peak, over 5,300 Union soldiers were detained there between 1863 and 1865. Although none of the original structures remain, one prisoner cabin has been recreated and kiosks detailing the history of the camp and the daily life of detainees and guards provide very interesting insight. One of the more interesting accounts was that of a major desertion of Confederate guards because of the long hours, the poor food and housing and the monotonous duty. Several of the guards sent to capture the deserters also deserted! The information itself is worth a 30-60 minute stop.
Camp Fannin served as a U.S. Army Infantry Replacement Training Center for 200,000 soldiers from 1943 to 1945 and then served as a Separation Center until deactivated in 1946. In 1948, the U.S. Government deeded 500 acres to the State of Texas to open a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Camp Fannin Station Hospital. Now, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler encompasses the only remaining vestige of Camp Fannin. A memorial erected on the
campus is dedicated to all trainees who passed through Camp Fannin but also honors all veterans who served during WWII. Markers identify the location of regimental encampments and various training sites in a self-guided tour, but construction obstacles made exploration of the grounds impractical. Worth a short stop for a moment of tribute.
Our fourth stop was at Harrold’s Model Train Museum which is located next to a residence on US 271. The interior door was opened so we entered. All the lights were off. We shouted out as we wandered around the proximal part of the museum. No response. We looked outside the door. There was a doorbell button we rang but didn’t hear. We left. Based on the brief glimpse we got in the dim light spewing through the storm door, I would suggest this is a lifetime collection of almost everything from old license plates (one from the first year TX issued tags) to children’s’ toys (probably those of the collector himself), vacation souvenirs and fine china. The part of the collection we saw is focused on model trains, but trains are only about half of the collection. Harrold’s is on the same highway as the
Pretty As A Rose
Tyler Municipal Rose Garden - Tyler - TX
Camp Ford and Camp Fannin sites and might be worth a visit only if you have time to burn or are interested in a variety of artifacts.
Even though roses are at their floral peak from May through November, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and Museum was our final stop on Tuesday. The free garden is the nation’s largest with over 38,000 bushes of over 500 varieties distributed on 22 acres. Awesome … and smells pretty too. We bypassed the museum, which highlights the rose-growing industry and displays memorabilia from previous Rose Festivals. The planned potpourri had been realized, but somehow the relaxation portion of our plans for Sunday through Wednesday had thus far been overlooked. All was not lost for Wednesday remained and evolved into a blog day with some time set aside for planning. There is a grand plan for Thursday in nearby Athens TX which requires the cooperation of the weather. Stay tuned. Our relocation from Tyler to Marshall TX will be on Friday and a Civil War re-enactment will be over the weekend - if the weather cooperates. Tyler is a clean, friendly, small city (just over 100,000) and the wide variety of available activities
The Good Old Days
Dr Pepper Museum - Waco TX
should put it on the “short stop” list for virtually everyone.
There are more photos below