2015-Texas-Trip Research Archives

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Day 53-54 – Jun. 3rd-4th: The Journey Home

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<– Day 52 – Tue. Jun. 2nd: Navigating the Book Cliffs | TRIP OVERVIEW –>

We spent Wednesday with my kids to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday June 5th.


June 3rd Dinner at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

Like all good things, this amazing Texas tour had to come to an end. So, thursday morning we left Salt Lake at 2:30am. In a funny coincidence, while driving through Boise at 7am, my cousin passed us on I-84 on his way to work. Ann was driving at the time, while I was napping, when he sped quickly by us. He recognized us as he passed, so he sent me a text, telling us ‘good morning’ and apologizing that he was ‘late for work’. Then off he went.

Small world.

We arrived in Pasco six hours later, ending our54-day trip after 10,113 miles of driving. Thanks to everyone who made it a fun, interesting, education, and entertaining time!


Friday is my 50th birthday. I’ve got posts scheduled for the next couple days, so I’ll be able to take some time off and get a massage :-). That’s a good way to start the second half of my century.

<– Day 52 – Tue. Jun. 2nd: Navigating the Book Cliffs | TRIP OVERVIEW –>

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Day 52 – Tue. Jun. 2nd: Navigating the Book Cliffs

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<– Day 51 – Mon. Jun. 1st: Black Canyon of the Gunnison | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 53-54 – June 3rd-4th: The Journey Home –>


Intrepid photographer at work.

There’s an area of eastern Utah just north of I-70 called the Book Cliffs that has remained pretty remote. On Tuesday, I decided to go from I-70, north along dirt roads through the Book Cliffs, in hopes of reaching State Highway 40, which crosses Utah from Salt Lake City to Vernal. The biggest problem I had was that my 50-page Utah map marked non-paved roads with dashes and the dashes, as they intersected at odd angles, made the map’s roads tough to read. In addition, the roads weren’t marked well on the map. So, I expected it might be a challenge.


Overall route.


Closeup of our route across the remote planes and up the book cliffs.

On Tuesday we left later than planned, due to my sleeping in. We traveled west on I-70 from Grand Junction until we reached the exit for Mack, Colorado. From there, we followed State Highway 6 hoping to find a road called the Book Cliffs Ridge Road, which we never found because Colorado didn’t mark the road that way. Instead, they used some number that didn’t appear on any of the maps we had. Still, by process of elimination, we figured out which road was the Book Cliffs Ridge road.


Entering the cliffs.

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Day 51 – Mon. Jun. 1st: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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<– Day 49-50 – May 30th-31st: Last Dollar & Madonna | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 52 – Tue. Jun. 2nd: Navigating the Book Cliffs –>


A photo of the diligent photographer at rim’s edge fixing the camera (for me) at Warner Point.

Our destination today was Grand Junction, Colorado.


Today we drove from Gunnison, Colorado, to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Driving out of Gunnison this morning we spotted two jeeps right away, a CJ-3A in poor condition and a CJ-3B in drivable condition.

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After the photos, we drove for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a place I’ve been wanting to go for ever since I lived in Utah (more than a decade ago).


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Day 49-50 – May 30th-31st: Last Dollar & Madonna

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<– Day 48 – Fri. May 29th: Pikes Peak International Raceway | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 51 – Mon. Jun. 1st: Black Canyon of the Gunnison –>


Saturday May 30th we spent in Colorado Springs. On Sunday, May 31st, we began our trek westward. My goal for the day was to get a better sense of the family mines so that I can write the imagery correctly for my upcoming book.


Today we drove from Colorado Springs to Gunnison.

Our first quest of the day was for fudge. Not just any fudge mind you, but salted carmel fudge. My wife has been pining for some well-made salted carmel fudge ever since we bought some from the Alamo in San Antonio. I thought it was time to find some for her, so the first stop of the day was at Goldminers Nuts and Candy in Manitou Springs. Their fudge turned out to be pretty good, but the salted carmel wasn’t quite as good as the Alamo’s. Still, we’ve been enjoying it :-).

After the fudge stop, we began our climb into the mountains. Colorado Springs is around 6500 feet, while the small mining town of Victor is around 10,000ft. So, up, up, up we drove. The one problem we encountered on the climb was that the closer we got to Victor the more threatening the rain clouds became.

As we approached Victor from the north, we came upon the entrance to the American Eagles Overlook and Historic Mine. The entrance isn’t obvious, but if you look for the entrance in the photo below you’ll be at the right place.


This rock marks the entrance to the American Eagle Mine overlook.


Follow this road to the very end. There, you will find a guard and a small shack. Give them your name and you can drive up to the overlook.

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Day 48 – Fri. May 29th: Pikes Peak International Raceway

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<– Day 47 – Thu. May 28th: Back to the Springs | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 49-50 – May 30th-31st: Last Dollar & Madonna –>


I’m checking out a McLaren and an Indy race car.

On Friday Guy Kathe invited us to visit Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) and meet president of the raceway Bob Boileau.


PPIR began life as a horse racing track. In 1996, the facilities were transformed from hosting horses to hosting automobiles. The track subsequently closed in 2005, but reopened in 2008 when Guy and some partners purchased it. Eventually they brought aboard Bob as president.


Bob’s to the left. His collection of cars in is the background. He owned a Willys wagon until recently.

We arrived at the track at 1pm. We found Bob busily racing around on his golf cart. Almost the instance we jumped aboard his cart for a ride around the facilities it started to rain. The average rainfall in Colorado Springs in May is 2″. This year it has rain 10″!

Despite some intermittent drops, we got a quick tour. Bob pointed out some racing semi-trucks and explained that a new semi-truck racing circuit had formed in the US as a result of the success similar truck racing was enjoying in Europe. For some reason, more Europeans are showing up for truck races than for Formula One or other races. So, Bob and other track owners in the US hope to attract a similar following.

I asked Bob how he got started in racing. Bob’s told me his father was a racer who was involved in bringing Honda dealerships to the United States. Along the way he became the first to build and race a Honda car. That 1974 Honda is now in this Honda Museum. Bob began racing in 1982 and has enjoyed a successful career. You can see his eyes light up when he talks about cars. He loves them. Bob’s sons have followed in his path, becoming good racers themselves.


Overview of PPIR track that I found on the internet. the stands are on the left. I believe the photos is a few years old.

About this time during our visit the rain became pouring rain, so Bob wisked us to his office to show us an overview of the property. They have areas north and south of the track that they may use for off road racing or other group events. Then he showed us the race car that will likely win the Pikes Peak Climb this year. In 2014, it won all the practice runs. However, on the day of the race they discovered the frame was cracked, so they couldn’t race.


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Day 47 – Thu. May 28th: Back to the Springs

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<– Day 46 – Wed. May 27th: Georgetown Loop Train | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 48 – Fri. May 29th: Pikes Peak International Raceway –>


We decided to take the scenic route back to Colorado Springs from Dilon/Frisco, Colorado. Nothing too interesting happened, but here’s a recap anyway.


Today we drove from Dillon, Colorado, to Colorado Springs.

I should interject at this point that the Frisco area had some great food. There were many highly rated (in Yelp) places to eat. The first evening we tried Pho soup at Pho Bay. Ann’s seafood soup had more seafood than we’d ever seen in a seafood pho. Mine was equally large and tasty.

The next day we ate at Prost, a German-oriented beer and brat pub. They don’t serve a wide variety of food, but what they do (german sausages), they do really well. Since Ann can’t do beef, we tried four different sausages: a bison, an elk, a chicken, and a wild boar sausage. All were great! Their cucumber and potato salads were also delicious. There seem to be multiple Prost locations around the West, with one opening soon in Boise, Idaho.

Back on to Thursday’s adventure. After my burrito breakfast, we headed south out of Frisco, rising to 11,542 feet at Hoosier Pass, named for some enterprising placer miners from Indiana.


As we snapped our selfie, it suddenly began to snow. So, we jumped into the jeep and headed north toward Alma, the highest incorporated city in the United States (at 10,578 ft). There we spotted this CJ-3B, which might be the highest 3B in the US.

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From there we drove through some beautiful high mountain valleys.


Eventually we reached Hartsel, where we found this CJ-5.


The remainder of the trip took us around Pikes Peak until we landed in Colorado Springs. We will be here a few days and then drive to Utah (route to be determined).

<– Day 46 – Wed. May 27th: Georgetown Loop Train | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 48 – Fri. May 29th: Pikes Peak International Raceway –>

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Day 46 – Wed. May 27th: Georgetown Loop Train

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<– Day 45 – Tue. May 26th: South Park | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 47 – Thu. May 28th: Back to the Springs –>


Today my only objective was to ride the Georgetown Loop train and explore the Lebanon Mine in Colorado.


Today I completed a short drive to Georgetown, where I boarded a train for the Lebanon Mine.

It wasn’t altogether clear to me at first, but after I boarded the train I learned that the Georgetown Loop train didn’t run in a loop. Instead, it runs between Silver Plume, the western terminus of the ride, and the Devil’s Gate Station, the eastern terminus. Essentially, it runs up the canyon and then back down. Technically, there is a loop, as the train does cross under its own track, but to me that distinction wasn’t clear in the name.


Silver Plume station


The ‘crowd’ waiting to board.

I boarded the train at Silver Plume and we headed south for a couple miles. At that point we disembarked for a guided tour of the Lebanon Tunnel. Our guide was a friendly young lady who was more interested in being funny than providing interesting information. But, I was after more technical information than the average visitor. Near the end of the tour, I ended up answering some participant questions and explaining that smelting lead was an important financial component of the silver-lead mining and smelting process.


After our half hour tour, we boarded the train for a trip down to the Devil’s Gate station, before heading back up the mountain to the Silver Plume Station. I was surprised we never reached Georgetown. 2015-05-27-mine6If you’ve never ridden the train, or want to share the experience with your kids, you’ll probably enjoy this ride and the mine tour. However, I would have preferred to skip the train and get a more thorough mine experience.

On thursday we have nothing planned, except to drive to Colorado Springs, where we will stay a few days.

<– Day 45 – Tue. May 26th: South Park | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 47 – Thu. May 28th: Back to the Springs –>

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Day 44 – Mon. May 25th: Pioneer Village

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<– Day 41-43 – May 22nd-24th: Omaha-Bound  | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 45 – Tue. May 26th: South Park –>

2015-05-25-pioneervillage1Ann in trouble, again.

After spending the weekend celebrating Ann’s son’s high school graduation, we left Omaha on Monday bound for Colorado. However, we decided to make one stop on the way at a place called Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska.


Today we drove from Omaha, Nebraska, to Golden, Colorado, with a stop at the Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska.

If you have ever driven through the middle of Nebraska on I-80 you’ve probably seen worn signs in dire need of paint advertising the Pioneer Village. The signage is unimpressive and left us with the impression that they might be relics of a place that no longer exists. However, after seeing a couple signs, we looked up the place and discovered that, indeed, it still exists. Even better, the reviews were generally positive.2015-05-25-pioneervillage-sign

We arrived to find a dated brick building. In the front windows paper letters ‘welcomed’ us. There weren’t many vehicles parked nearby, so we parked right in front of the entrance door. There wasn’t much to give us confidence. However, once we paid the entry fee and walked into the first large space, we could tell it would be a cool experience. There were cars and planes everywhere.


When we exited the first building, we walked into a large outdoor area with buildings set up around a circle. The represented the ‘old village’ part of Pioneer Village.


Some of the old buildings moved to the village.

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Day 45 – Tue. May 26th: South Park

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<– Day 44 – Mon. May 25th: Pioneer Village | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 46 – Wed. May 27th: Georgetown Loop Train –>


Is it wrong to be taking a selfie of our selfie?

On Tuesday, we headed into the Rocky Mountains. We were barely in the jeep a few minutes before spotting a M-677 and an FC cab being towed westward from Denver on I-70. I guess it means that this M-677 is sold! During the subsequent hour of driving toward Fairplay, Colorado, we saw a CJ-5, a truck, a CJ-3B, a CJ-2A, and others. It was a good day for jeep-sight seeing!


Today we drove from Golden, Colorado, to Dillon, Colorado.

Our first destination today was South Park City in Fairplay, Colorado. It’s a recreated 1880s mining town with more than 30 antique buildings. We pretty much had the run of the place to ourselves, with a cat as a guide through much of it. He seemed to enjoy the company. If you like old towns, then you will enjoy this one, too.


There were two long boardwalks on each side of Main street.


David at the Assay office; holding some rocks seemed like the thing to do.


Inside of the Assay office. There was lots of stuff to examine!

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Day 41-43 – May 22nd-24th: Omaha-Bound

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<– Day 37-40 – May 18th-21st: Research | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 44 – Mon. May 25th: Pioneer Village –>

Abnormally cold drizzle. That defines the last few days in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It generally hits the 70s this time of year; instead temperatures didn’t get much higher than 45 degrees. Needless to say, about the only ‘sight-seeing’ I did this week was my trip to pickup Ann from the Denver airport. She was happy to see me and  return to our home (the jeep). So, other than that, I didn’t have much to report this week.


Today we drive from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Omaha, Nebraska.

On Friday May 22nd, we broke free of the cold weather and drove through a series of rain storms toward Omaha, Nebraska. We saw a couple jeeps along the way, but the rain made photos impractical.

We are heading to Omaha Ann’s son is graduating from high school in Omaha. We’ll be here about three days and then work our way back to Colorado. Hopefully, the weather will warm up and dry up as there are several things I want to complete upon our return that ought to be fun to share.

<– Day 37-40 – May 18th-21st: Research | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 44 – Mon. May 25th: Pioneer Village –>

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Day 36 – Sun. May 17th: Tracking the Ore

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<– Day 35 – Sat. May 16th: The End of Texas | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 37-40 – May 18th-21st: Research  –>


Three of the nine jeeps in Sagauche, Colorado. These are sitting at the edge of town. This is downtown!

Today was supposed to be about doing some family research, but I was in for a surprise!


Today I traveled from Alamosa to Pueblo.

I started the morning with a scraper in my right hand and my left plunged into my pocket. After weeks of warm weather, emerging into 32 degree temperatures shocked my being. With my window partially scraped, I could see just enough to drive myself to the local Campus Cafe, which served some good eggs and hash browns (a Yelp find).

My first stop of the trip was to see a very unique motel called Movie Manor. Run by Best Western, the motel plays movies on two drive-in screens. The speakers are hooked into the motel rooms. I priced it at $89, but figured I was too busy to watch the movies, so I found a cheaper place. Still, I wouldn’t mind returning with Ann sometime. They were playing two recently released movies, Avengers and Mad Max. Not bad!

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Following movie manor I expected an uneventful drive to Monarch Pass. Instead, as I was driving through the sleepy town of Saguache (not even sure how to pronounce it) that is nearly small enough to have “Welcome to Saguache” on both sides of the same sign, I spotted a flat fender. As I approached more closely, I spotted a second. Then I spotted a couple more. By this time my foot was on the brake and my hand was on a camera. I had find out why these jeeps were sitting in the Gillette’s Trading Post parking lot in a middle-of-a-nowhere town like Saguache.

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Day 37-40 – May 18th-21st: Research

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<– Day 36 – Sun. May 17th: Tracking the Ore | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 41-43 – May 22nd-24th: Omaha-Bound –>

On May 18th and May 19th I spent time in Pueblo to do some research. The only semi-interesting photo is this one showing under a sign on Eilers street, named for the Eilers Smelter, aka The Colorado Smelting Company.


The next update with be on May 22nd, which marks the day Ann returns to Colorado and we head to Omaha for her son’s graduation.

<– Day 36 – Sun. May 17th: Tracking the Ore | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 41-43 – May 22nd-24th: Omaha-Bound –>

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Day 35 – Sat. May 16th: The End of Texas

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<– Day 34 – Fri. May 15th: High Plains Drifter | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 36 – Sun. May 17th: Tracking the Ore –>

2015-06-16-leaving-texas2Today was my last day in Texas. Both Ann and I feel satisfied that we did enough and went enough places to get a taste of Texas regions. We appreciate Lee, Sam, Brian and Jason for taking time to meet and talk with us. Also, as always, we appreciate everyone’s suggestions!!


Today I drove from Amarillo, Texas, to Alamosa, Colorado.

To bid me a memorable goodbye, Amarillo threw me a thundershower party. There was thunder, lightening and plenty of rain. The worst of it came just as I stepped out of the motel with my arms loaded with stuff for the Jeep. So, I ran for the jeep and unlocked it as quickly as I could, but I still got pretty drenched!! I hopped in the jeep and drove to the covered area by the reception desk and snapped this photo.


Rather than try to photograph the Cadillac Ranch area in the rain, I headed north hoping to escape the storm. The plan actually worked. Within an hour I was cruising along under clear blue skies.

2015-06-16-north-texasI even got a chance to see one last jeep before leaving Texas:


I wanted to drive to Oklahoma to see Boise City, a place heavily affected by the Dust Storms of the 1930s. The museum wasn’t open when I drove through the city, but I did find this tribute to a bomb dropped by a B-17 during 1943. My wife reminded me that this is why bombs are not armed until ready to drop. There are a surprising number of accidental bomb droppings I’m told, but safety procedures and good luck have kept us safe.

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Day 34 – Fri. May 15th: High Plains Drifter

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<– Day 33 – Thu. May 14th: Leaving On a Jet Plane | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 35 – Sat. May 16th: The End of Texas –>


This was my view for much of today. The Grass covered prairies of the Texas panhandle stretch for miles and the roads are straight and fast.

Today was the first day of the Midwest Willys Reunion, so I hope every has a good time there! I do have a few books and t-shirts available through Bob Christy. If you see him and can slow him down for a minute, he’ll help you.


Today’s drive to Amarillo, Texas.

I began today knowing I’d be on the road longer for a longer span of time than I had since the early part of our trip. (Yes honey, read long lonely roads!). Fortunately, there were a few stops and surprises along the way.


Only in Texas would you find a Texas-shaped waffle maker. We saw these at several motels.

The first surprise was west of Wichita Falls. When I saw this CJ-3A, I braked immediately. I *think* it is for sale. It’s got rust. It also has some allstate front hubs.

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Not much longer after I saw this 3A, a truck pulling a trailer with an M-38 whizzed past me. I couldn’t pull out my camera in time to capture that one.

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Day 33 -Thu. May 14th: Leaving On a Jet Plane

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<– Day 32 – Wed. May 13th: No Raining on Murphy’s Parade | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 34 – Fri. May 15th: High Plains Drifter –>


The owner of this BBQ restaurant in Grapevine was a retired cop who had never worked in a restaurant before launching his BBQ restaurant. Last fall he had someone build a custom smoker that looks like a train. Here he is explaining how it works. Despite it being the hardest job he’s ever had, he loves running the restaurant.

Ann’s grandfather took a turn for the worse. After I watched her stress eat two bags (small bags) of M&Ms I knew it was time to send her back home for a few days. So, she arrived in Pasco Thursday evening.


After dropping Ann at the airport I left for Bowie, TX.

Prior to her departure, we attempted to accomplish one thing. We wanted to see the cowboy glockspiel in the town of Grapevine. The cowboy glockspiel is a clock tower. At certain times of the day, two automatronic cowboys appear on the tower and engage in a gunfight. I’m told one always dies, but never the same one. The death is chosen at random by a computer.


We arrived in Grapevine at 11:30am, all ready to watch the gunfight unfold. It turned out we arrived as the town was readying itself for their annual beer celebration. So, there was a great deal of hustle and some bustle all through town.


Yes, lots of hustle and bustle in town, but not evident at all in this photo of downtown.

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Day 32 – Wed. May 13th: No Raining on Murphy’s Parade

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<– Day 31 – Tue. May 12th: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 33 – Thu. May 14th: Leaving On a Jet Plane –>


Audi Murphy looks taller in person . . .

Today we began our trek northwestward. We got going later than planned, as usual, so I passed up my opportunity to be manscaped at the local barber, Milford’s, that Jason recommended. We really needed to get going so we could beat the rain that was heading our direction from Dallas. So, I remain longhaired.


Our first objective was Whitehouse, Texas, to locate a big hat. Along the way we passed two towns Jason mentioned during our history lesson: Sacul and Reklaw. These two adjacent towns faced the same problem when they applied for a post office. Both original names were taken. So, the town brain trusts decided to spell the names backwards. Thus, Lucas became Sacul and Walker became Reklaw.

When we finally reached Whitehouse it didn’t take long to locate the hat. It’s a big white hat that sits atop a coffee shop. It just might be the largest cowboy hat in Texas! Of course, I had to buy a drink.

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Day 31 – Tue. May 12th: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

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<– Day 30 – Mon. May 11th: Three-nap Kind of Day | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 32 – Wed. May 13th: No Raining on Murphy’s Parade –>


Jason Monday and I next to his M-677.

Our goal for Tuesday was to stay dry. It wasn’t easy to achieve, because it rained hard at times!


As planned, we began the day with Tacos at Titas Taco House in Humble. Once again, they were awesome. This time I got to watch them make the corn tortillas. Their dough station sat just behind their serving station. They were pretty much rolling and cooking them as they served them. You can’t get any fresher than that!


Front doors of the Texas Prison Museum.

With breakfast finished, we headed for the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. Apparently, Huntsville is the prison city and for more than a half century hosted the prison rodeo. It was a big hit for the city economically and people from all over came to spectate. Even some stars arrived to participate. One of the more odd events was the Monday Grab. A bag of cash was strapped to the neck of a bull. The prisoner who could grab the money and hand it to an official won the money. We saw some video and it was a wild event! The rodeo ended in 1986.


Inside the museum.


Ann seemed to enjoy seeing me inside a cell.

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Day 30 – Mon. May 11th: Three-nap Kind of Day

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<– Day 29 – Sun. May 10th: Breaking up the Beatles?? Not again!! | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 31 – Tue. May 12th: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall –>


Titas Taco House in Humble, Texas

Apparently, we needed some rest. We woke up early, checked emails, Facebook, etc, then fell back asleep for a nap. I blame the rain (seems as good excuse as any and it rained all day).

When we awoke, I was hungry. I found a place I wanted to try called Titas Taco House that had a five start YELP rating with 145 reviews. So off we went.


It was 11am when we arrived at the Humble, Texas, location to find a house converted into a small restaurant. We could see much of the dirt parking lot because it was already filled with cars. This bode well for our food adventure.

Inside the restaurant there was no list of prices and no menu. There was a series of poles and ropes, suggesting that long lines were not unusual.


Poles to help direct customer traffic.

However, we must have timed it right, because we walked right up to the order station. In front of us were about 20 different options for filling our tacos.


Lots of taco filling options

Again, no names on anything. We had to ask what was what. Ann decided on three corn tortillas filled with egg & sausage, potatoes and polish sausage, and poblanos and cheese. To make the tortillas, the server laid a thin layer of refried beans onto the tortilla and then added a small amount of filling.

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Day 29 – Sun. May 10th: Breaking up the Beatles?? Not again!!

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<– Day 28 – Sat. May 9th: A Big Boat (Ship) | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 30 – Mon. May 11th: Three-nap Kind of Day –>


New friends of ours. Brian is on the left, Melodie is in the middle, and Lauren (Melodie’s mother) is on the right. Melodie and Brian are a very happily engaged couple. It seems Lauren approves, for she was all smiles, too. Ann told them I’d be publishing their photo here. We wish you all the best of luck!!

We thought Sunday morning would be a good time to explore Houston, due to the lack of traffic.


Since I’d had my eye on a French bakery & Cafe just around the corner from the hotel, we didn’t drive far Sunday morning before we stopped at La Madeleine’s for a pastry. Well, one of us stopped for a pasty, because  Ann can’t enjoy flour based pastries any more. So, I ran inside and ordered an apple turnover and a mini chocolate croissant (both crunchy and excellent). I also found a fresh fruit tart that Ann could eat. So, I gave it to her as a Mother’s Day surprise.


After we consumed our respective breakfasts, we drove towards the Art Car Museum. Along the way, fate intervened. As we exited the freeway near downtown, we looked off to our right and spotted three people posing in front of a Love Houston sign. Naturally, we knew that spot was made for us to photograph, so we spun around the block and found a place to park.

We arrived at the sign and met Brian Kozel, Melodie Smith, and Melodie’s mother Lauren Moore, who were just finishing up with their photos. Ann quickly volunteered to take the photo of all three, but the iPhone camera couldn’t capture the whole scene. So, Ann handed it to me. I bravely leaped (okay meekly backed) into the three lane road to get a better shot, but dodging oncoming cars racing at 55mph was a stretch for my poor camera skills. Of course, there was no way I was sending Ann into traffic. With her bum knee, she doesn’t play live Frogger so well.

It was at this point that my wise wife spared me from certain doom and volunteered to use our Nikon to take the photo and send them the resulting image via text. For some reason, they agreed to have a couple of crazy Washingtonian’s send them a text, which is how we got to know them. We also learned that Brian and Melodie are getting married, so congrats to them!

We did eventually get our own photo:


The building behind us was just built. I suspect this sign was much cooler when the building was there.

With our love for Houston documented, we jetted on down the road for our next destination.

I’m pretty sure I’d first learned about Houston’s Art Car Parades from a Smithsonian Magazine article, probably in the 1990s. The event is held annually on the second Saturday in April and has become a big deal. One of the spinoffs of the parade is the free Art Car Museum.

We pulled up to the museum. Expectedly, it was not your average building. What really surprised us was to see a vehicle parked under the front carport that we’d seen before. It took us a little while, but we finally figured out it had been on loan to the Studebaker Museum in 2013 when we stopped in there. Small world!


Art Car Museum entrance


This is the art car we saw at the Studebaker Museum. The eyes in the front light up blue.

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Day 28 – Sat. May 9th: A Big Boat (Ship)

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<– Day 27 – Fri. May 8th: The King Ranch | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 29 – Sun. May 10th: Breaking up the Beatles?? Not again!! –>


The clouds looked menacing, but it was a fine day for touring the USS Lexington — though the wind was a pain on the Flight deck.

On Friday night in Corpus Christy I was hungry, so after searching through YELP, I finally found a place to go eat some food that was highly rated AND open after 9pm (best hidden food gem in Corpus Christi was one review). It was a small ‘Asian Street Food (my description)’ place called Z Counter. The reviews were great and the photos of the food made me feel optimistic. So, off we went.


Click on the photo and you’ll be able to see the whole menu. They also had photos of all the items on a separate wall.


They only have this one location. I wish they had one near us in Pasco! I don’t quite get the name, but I sure like the food.

I’ll just cut to the chase and say the reviews were right on the money. I had a simple pork bowl, yet they turned that into delicious contrast of fresh, sweet, hot, and smokey (from the charbroiled pork) that made it delightful. We also had some Spam Musubi, which was also surprisingly good. In fact, I only had one problem with the Z Counter: I was too full to order and try some of their other dishes. So, Ann and I agreed that on Friday we’d return for lunch.


On Friday morning, we tackled our biggest planned event of the day, a trip to the USS Lexington (CV-16) Museum. The USS Lexington is an Aircraft Carrier ‘parked’ just off the shore in Corpus Christi. One of the things I learned is that some folks call the Carrier a ship (I’m told that is correct Navy-speak for a vessel of that size), while other folks gleefully call them boats (I’m told that was one way certain Air Force personnel would needle Navy personnel). So, call it what you want, but for me it was my first opportunity to explore an aircraft carrier.


The carrier is nearly moored on the beach. There’s a ramp to walk up to the museum entrance or visitors can wait for the shuttle.

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Day 27 – Fri. May 8th: The King Ranch

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<– Day 26 – Thu. May 7th: Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 28 – Sat. May 9th: A Big Boat (Ship) –>


Of course, we had to take this photo. Had we shot it last night, the sun would have been perfect. As it was this morning, we had to play with the light quite to make this work.

We woke up early Friday morning with plans to drive north.


But, before we left South Padre, Ann wanted to walk in the surf. So, we drove to the beach. Despite the red-flag-beware-of-the-water warning, we walked into the water. I had to deliver a reminder to my wife that she shouldn’t be playing in the surf at all, because I didn’t want to have to carry her back to the car. So, despite her inner-child, she behaved.


2015-05-08-southpadreisland-beachAs we left the beach we encountered the South Padre Convention Center and these large upside down head sculptures.

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Day 26 – Thu. May 7th: Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns

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<– Day 25 – Wed. May 6th: Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 27 – Fri. May 8th: The King Ranch –>


Oh NO! Attack of the killer bee!!

Today was a long day of driving, our longest day in a month. We drove 400 miles, which isn’t that far in terms of distance. However, our need to document the trip and take photos can turn quick stops into hour-long affairs. So, we tend to need lots of time, which we had because we both woke up at 7am on Thursday wondering why we were awake (we are late risers). We quickly figured out that our early rise was in part due to the air conditioner’s inability to cool our room. So, rather than fight the air conditioner, we decided to pack and get going.


Our first stop of the morning was Lackland Air Force Base (aka new name: Joint Base San Antonio), the home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility. It was there that Ann went through basic training. Apparently, she had some fond memories of her time there. Unlike other recruits, she found her experience much less stressful than growing up with her mother. Even better, she got to eat three times a day and as much as she wanted! The only downfall, besides the marching, was a set of golden arches that she’d see everyday just outside the training grounds. She yearned, but never got, a chance to eat there.

Well, today was her lucky day, but first we had to find the training ground. Having ditched Siri’s navigation, I’ve turned to Google Maps. That app took us to the main base. Of course, I didn’t know any different, but as we drove around, Ann said she didn’t recognize anything, because the Air Force ‘never let us mingle with real military people’.

It took us a while to realize that the training grounds were on the other side of the highway. So, over the highway we went. That’s when things started to look familiar to her. She pointed out the airmen dressed in their blues marching on the parade grounds. Then she pointed to some newer recruits having to go through inspections. Finally she giggled at the sight of the Rainbow Flight group, the newbies who had not been issued their military clothes, so they had to dress in their street clothes (which were a myriad of colors).


Airmen in their blues close to graduation.


Ann’s basic barracks. In the morning she and her co-airmen had to go down the stairs with both hands on the rails chanting. At the bottom the had to line up under the covered area as shown.


The Rainbow Flight Group. They are the newbies. The don’t receive their equipment until their entire group arrives. Ann had to stay in her street clothes for two weeks before all of her group arrived.

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Day 25 – Wed. May 6th: Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk

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<– Day 24 – Tue. May 5th: San Antonio’s Riverwalk | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 26 – Thu. May 7th: Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns –>


Guinness Book of World Records deems this the largest wooden nickel in the world.

Yesterday we spent time in downtown San Antonio. Today we explored areas outside that central area.

First, we walked a couple blocks to Market Square, a three-block area that has been home to the city’s open market roots since the 1890s. At that time, San Antonio was Texas’ largest city.  The area was a multi-cultural area due to Mexican, European, and Asian immigrants. However, these days the area has primarily a Mexican flavor.

In fact, we walked to the market specifically to taste the flavors of Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The restaurant was first opened in 1941. It now seats up to 500 people and, according to their own marketing, “Never closes”. It’s a twenty-four hour a day, every day, restaurant. There’s a party atmosphere inside with christmas lights wound around posts, colorful Mexican banners hanging from the ceiling, and reflective pinatas hanging overhead in the lobby.


The lobby of the Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The baked looks looked really good!

I chose to go there, not just because of its history, but because they serve a roasted goat dish, something I don’t get often enough. When it arrived, I was very pleased; plenty of goat, along with a tasty cheese enchilada, made for a good meal. The rice and beans were pretty standard tex mex.


Yum. Goat is good!

After our lunch (we had a late start on Wednesday), we wandered Market Square. We even found a couple gifts for our mothers, though said gifts shall remain unmentioned since my mother peeks in on my trip reports from time to time.


Market Square’s ‘Produce Street’, though hard to find much produce here any more. Just minutes later bus loads of people flooded this area.

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Day 24 – Tue. May 5th: San Antonio’s Riverwalk

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<– Day 23 – Mon. May 4th: Keeping Austin Weird | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 25 – Wed. May 6th: Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk –>


Ann and I at the Alamo

We left Austin today bound for San Antonio. We tried detouring into the historic old town of Gruene, but found it more tourist trap than historic site, so we continued on to San Antonio.


We arrived in San Antonio so early that we had plenty of time to head down to the Alamo and play tourist. The last time Ann was in town was during her basic training. She didn’t remember the Alamo grounds as being so lush nor could she remember seeing so much tourist -based entertainment (wax museums, Ripleys, etc). I was expecting the Alamo to have a much more sacred feel, but it’s set up to run LOTS of people through it.


As you can see there were no lines while we were there, but it is clear they are ready to handle large crowds.


The back side of the Alamo.


The surprisingly lush gardens within walls. I was expecting a more desert-like area.

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Day 23 – Mon. May 4th: Keeping Austin Weird

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<– Day 22 – Sun. May 3rd: Buc’s, Boats, Bats & a Batmobile | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 24 – Tue. May 5th: San Antonio’s Riverwalk –>


Ann riding a Jackalope with a drink in her hand.

Our only plans this day were to explore Austin and test out some of the best BBQ Austin had to offer. We started by heading downtown to get some photos of the Texas capitol building.


A whole street blocked off at the capitol for motorcycle parking.

That plan didn’t quite work out. Apparently, the city was memorializing police officers who died while serving. The capitol grounds were full of officers and people and there were no open parking spaces to be found. One side street was packed with motorcycles. We decided to abandon that plan and head for another option: Museum of Weird.


Austin has built a reputation from the city’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird“. As ‘weird’ as that slogan is, it seems it was not an organic marketing effort, but rather formed and promoted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance. Whatever its beginnings, the city seems to have embraced that mentality, proudly. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Austin ought to be very flattered by Santa Cruz and Portland‘s ‘borrowing’ of the concept.

Of the weirder things in Austin is the Museum of Weird. A tribute to the time honored freak shows of yesteryear, the owner of the museum has assembled some odd items. I couldn’t say for sure if they are real or not, but the whole thing was pretty humorous. After paying our money, we walked through a couple short halls full of memorabilia, objects, and assorted freakish things. We were alone, as we usually seem to be whenever visiting museums. This part we expected.


The fur bearing trout

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