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Published: April 29th 2018
With my seasonal rate based on a month by month calendar, my departure date from Countryside RV Resort in Apache Junction AZ came on Sunday, April 8, 2018 instead of my normal Wednesday travel day. After some looking, thinking and tweaking, I decided that wouldn’t be a problem. Since my first bona fide tourist destination would be New Orleans LA, a drive of about 1500 miles, and since I had two stops in Texas that I wanted to make (but, indeed, stops than could not justify a full week-long visit), I set my arrival date in New Orleans for Wednesday, April 18, 2018 and worked my way backwards to my “eviction” date. So, on a superb, sunny Sunday morning with highs forecast for the upper 90s, I departed for Van Horn TX. Since Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time, I lost an hour on the clock as I crossed the New Mexico state line and entered the Mountain Daylight Time zone. About two miles from Van Horn, I lost another hour when I entered the Central Daylight Time zone. When coupled with my ten-hour “less than the speed limit” drive, I had a long but totally uneventful drive to
Southern Star RV Park in Van Horn for a three-night stay. I was assigned a long space that would be perfect for those passing through who don’t want to unhook the travel trailer, fifth-wheel or towed.
I had made fuel stops in Van Horn on multiple occasions, and what I had seen had been mildly intriguing. As is the case with many communities bypassed by the Interstate Highway System, once thriving businesses have long since been abandoned; however, in Van Horn, many of the businesses I had seen during my fuel stops remained open and viable. Not interested in cooking after a long day, I headed for the main drag to see what eatery might catch my attention. The parking lot at Chuy's Restaurant was quite popular, and that is usually either a) a good thing, or b) indicative of the only option in town. Since I had seen that “b” was not the case, I pulled in. The chili rellenos came naked – without any salsa or cheese topping. I have had them served naked on a couple of occasions and was reminded that Mexican food, like American food, has regional variations. What is customary in the northern
state of Sonora might not be prepared as it would be in the southern state of Yucatan. When one adds in Tex-Mex cuisine and the Americanization of traditional Mexican dishes, dining becomes an adventure.
With my papilas gustativas (Spanish for “taste buds” – yes, I had to have it translated) pining for more Mexican food, Thursday morning found me headed out for breakfast, and I found a great breakfast burrito at Lindsey's Café. I also struck up a conversation with an Hispanic man a little younger than me as we were waiting for our food. He had lived in Van Horn his entire life and had some interesting stories about what high school kids did for entertainment “out in the middle of nowhere.” When it was time for the tourist in me to leap into action, I made my way to Hotel El Capitan
in downtown Van Horn. Built in 1930, Hotel El Capitan was one of the five upscale inns built by Gateway Hotels in eastern New Mexico and western Texas in an attempt to encourage tourism within 200 miles of El Paso. That area includes three national parks – Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe and Big Bend. The luxuriant hotel was
converted into the Van Horn State Bank in 1973, soon after I-10 opened and a majority of the traffic had bypassed the once popular landmark. In 2007, new owners purchased the building from the bank with a goal of converting it back into a hotel. The landmark is worthy of a fifteen-minute visit while in Van Horn to refuel the vehicle, the body or both. I also made a stop at the Clark Hotel Museum
kitty corner across the street. Although the hotel has an interesting history, I found the museum overcrowded, poorly documented and horribly disorganized. It might be interesting to those with half a day and a willingness to sift through the mayhem to find the treasures.
Wednesday, April 11. 2018 found me heading for Live Oak Ridge Park in Belton TX. The park is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) facility on Lake Belton. Since most governmentally owned facilities charge a daily fee and offer no discounts for weekly stays, this would be a perfect place for me to stay for “x” days to get back on my Wednesday travel routine – that ended up being a six-night stop. I chose the park because of its relative
proximity to Fort Hood TX, where my great, great nephew, Jayke, is stationed and where a member of the “Louisiana connection,” Miranda, is stationed with her family. I called Jayke after I had completed set-up. He told me the base was involved in some kind of an exercise, and he was unsure of exactly when he would get off work, so we agreed he would call when he got off work on Thursday so we could determine a rendezvous location.
Sooo, on Thursday afternoon, I made my way to the Fort Hood visitor center, got my three-day visitor pass and made my way to The 1st Cavalry Division Museum
. Those who know me well might remember that I use my old smart phone for a camera so I don’t exhaust the battery in my real phone; however, on this day, I walked out without the “camera” and had to shoot pictures with my new phone. While touring the museum, my phone displayed a message indicating it was going to shut down because it was overheating. It didn’t feel warm, and I wasn’t sure of exactly what that was all about. I went to the truck and connected the phone to my mobile charger
for over an hour but couldn’t get the unresponsive contraption to return to life. Using the truck GPS, I headed for a Verizon store for help as Jayke had no way to contact me, and I would have to return to the RV park, dig into the laptop for his number and return to Verizon to use someone else’s phone to call him. The agent removed and reinserted the battery to no apparent avail. About 2-3 minutes after the fruitless battery attempt and while he was researching other troubleshooting options, wa-lah, the phone came on and appeared to be operating flawlessly. I called Jayke, he drove to the Verizon store and we headed out for a sandwich.
Miranda had texted that she was involved in (apparently) the same exercise as Jayke, so we agreed she would text me with a location and time when her work day had ended on Friday afternoon. Sooo, (this time with my “camera” and my phone in tow) I returned to The 1st Cavalry Division Museum to continue my interrupted photographic session and then headed to The 3rd Cavalry Division Museum
. Both museums trace their histories from the 18th
Century to contemporary engagements, and both have extensive outdoor
displays of military vehicles. Being a mere casual observer of things military, I am confident there is a lot of duplication in the vehicle displays. The interior displays are interesting overall, and each has interesting snippets and narratives about their respective unit’s history; however, The 3rd Cavalry Division Museum focuses more on Texas issues and engagements; whereas The 1st Cavalry Division Museum has more of an overview of its involvement in various global military actions.
After the museums had closed and I had made a stop for some cash, I headed to Menos Mexican Grill
in Killeen TX. I (actually, the GPS) found the restaurant effortlessly, and I was quite early. The staff, undeterred by the time lag, seated me anyway at a table for six whereupon I devoured an entire bowl of chips and delicious salsa! Miranda, her husband, two daughters and her mother, Rudy’s niece Wanda (who was in town from elsewhere in Texas for a several-day visit), arrived. The last time I had seen Wanda or Miranda was in 2006 during my first face-to-face contact with Rudy’s family, and Miranda had just graduated from basic training. Twelve years, wow how time flies! I had developed a close friendship
with three of Rudy’s siblings after that 2006 meeting. Now that two of those three have died, my reasons for making a “catching up” stop in Louisiana are becoming fewer and fewer. We had a nice conversation and did some major catching up IN TEXAS, go figure.
Jayke had expressed interest in going to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Museum
in College Station TX, about a 1 ½-hour drive east. Since the RV park was on the way to the museum, Jayke met me at a nearby convenience store, and we headed out on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Outside the museum stands “The Day the Wall Came Down: A Monument to Freedom.” The statue depicts a crumbled Berlin Wall being hurdled by five horses, symbolic of the escape of a freed human spirit that was released with the downfall of the ensnaring, oppressive edifice and the fall of Soviet Union. Inside the museum, the first room we encountered was a temporary exhibit (3/1/2018-1/6/2019), “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion,” dedicated to physics. A couple dozen wooden “toys” explained pulleys, gears and levers but was quite interesting to the young at heart as well the children. I still have no inkling of how this
relates to the Bush Presidency, but it was interesting nonetheless.
George Herbert Walker Bush was born to Prescott Sheldon Bush Sr., a Wall Street investment banker and politician, and Dorothy (Walker) Bush on June 12, 1924. Little is offered about the youth of the 41st
President but quickly moves to a detailed outline of his military service and his meeting of Barbara Pierce whom he met at a dance in Greenwich CT when she was 16 and he was 17. They became engaged after 18 months, just before he went off to World War II. The museum presents love letters he wrote to her and other expressions of his affection. To say George was smitten might be a gross understatement – he named three of his planes Barbara, Barbara II and Barbara III. One significant section of the museum chronicles his ill-fated mission during World War II where his TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bomber was shot down. Bush bailed out and safely parachuted into the Pacific Ocean near Chichi Jima (Bonin Islands), but his two crewmen died. Bush was rescued by a submarine. Two weeks after he returned from the war on leave (and shortly before entering Yale University), George
and Barbara were married.
The George H.W. Bush Presidential Museum continues with a summary of Bush’s service as an elected representative and as an appointed diplomat; however, at the end of the day, I walked away with two observations. First, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Museum is, in my opinion, less of an institution about a man and more of a shrine to his relationships with his wife and his family. Its theme continues the lesson I first learned at the George W. Bush Childhood Home
in Midland TX as reported in my 2016 blog What's in the (Presidential) Water in Midland TX?
Second, and as expected, I continually had to remind myself that I was accompanied by an impatient 18-year-old. We spent more time at the World War II section, something which interested him enormously, and spent less time with the “time spent in governmental service” area, which he found of less interest. My lopsided time allocation (and, thus, my photographic opportunities) might have skewed this blog. I hope to return (which I fully anticipated when I offered to bring Jayke on this adventure) and might do so as I return for another visit to Austin TX. After all, it’s a long drive across Texas, and I’ll need to
stop somewhere! After the museum, I took Jayke to Hullabaloo Diner
for a sandwich. Pretty interesting, quite tasty and very popular.
PS During our drive, Jayke and I discussed the health of the aging Bush couple and agreed that Barbara would probably outlive George. Neither of us anticipated that Barbara’s funeral would be held exactly a week after our visit to the museum honoring her husband. Learning a little bit about her just before her death made the eulogies and specials I watched following her death just a little bit more relevant. RIP Remarkable Lady
I can’t really say I had a stellar time in Texas. Driving across Texas is long and boring for the most part, particularly for those of us who have made the trip on many previous occasions. I managed to do some catching up on some routine work (most notably my blogs) and am glad the calendar gods were smiling on me so I could visit with my great, great nephew and some of the Louisiana folks; however, neither Van Horn nor Killeen are worthy tourist destinations. If you do have occasion to be in either town, Hotel El Capitan in downtown Van Horn is
I Had the Roman Sausage Poorboy
Hullabaloo Diner - College Station, TX
a short but interesting stop, and either cavalry museum on Fort Hood provides an interesting hour or two diversion.
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