Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One more visit to Texas...Floors, Family & Fort Worth

This visit was going to be a different one, in that it was to have our much anticipated new floors installed in our coach.  Ernie Ekberg has a year waiting list to get floors installed, so when he got a cancellation for October 1st, a full nine months before our scheduled apt. date, I grabbed it with glee!  We were in Michigan at the time, but as I told Ernie, "our coach knows how to make U Turns!" So, with excitement, we headed back to Texas!

I've been wanting new flooring for almost two years.  "Who", I've wondered, "ever came up with the idea of putting cream colored carpeting inside RVs?"  It's crazy! RV'ers camp in campgrounds (or boondock) in places with gravel, dirt and grass - all of which gets brought into the coach all day on our sneakers and sandals.  Keeping carpeting clean was a full-time job, and I gave that up when I retired!



So, I started researching "who & where" to go.  Found some blogs, and found out that Ernie Ekberg out of Weatherford TX was "the best".  He only does wood, carpeting and some limited vinyl tile.  When I hesitated because the wait was a year, I got dozens of e mails from his "fans" that said to "just throw down some rugs and wait, he's worth it!"  That convinced me, so I did, and I'm glad! With all the changes in the coach this year...it brings new meaning to the phrase "happy camper"!



Weatherford, it turned out, is less than two hours from where my son lives (outside of the Dallas area), so when we had a couple of free days (days we weren't working with Ernie, making decisions, getting supplies, etc) we took off and made a dash over to their place to visit with them and see our newest grandson, now just four months old.  I was there when he was born, but this was Jack's first introduction.  Four months makes a big difference when they are that tiny, and what a wonderful difference!  Nothing like seeing a happy, healthy, chubby, cooing baby; especially when he had such a difficult beginning.


There were a couple of other times - a day or half a day where Ernie would tell us to "get lost", well, he probably said it a little nicer, like "go have some fun, you can't really do anything today while I'm working on this section..."  So, with phone in hand (in case he needed us) off we went - to Fort Worth!

Looking for something a little different to visit, we chose to start off with a visit to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility.  This is one of only two currency printing facilities in the US and the home of the new $100 bills.  As you can imagine, they didn't want anyone "taking pictures", so, alas, no cameras, phones, etc. allowed.  Darn.  So, I don't have any pictures, but I can share that it was an interesting tour that has you walking overhead, looking down on billions of dollars being printed, cut, banded, stacked and packed up to be loaded into the vault.  Afterward you go into a fun area that shows you the history of money, the changes over the years, counterfeiting, a sample of what the new bills are going to look like and what goes into all of it.  All in all, an interesting and fun place to visit!


I really wasn't up for any more museums, per se, but the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame caught my eye.  It sounded a bit different from anything we'd seen so far, so we gave it a try.  I no sooner snapped a couple of pictures at the entrance when they said "no pictures inside", darn.  Beautiful place, and really impressive.  Nice to see a museum dedicated to honoring the achievements that women in the American West, in this case, make.  It honored everyone from Sacajawea, Annie Oakley to Sandra Day O'Connor.  Women are nominated in five categories:  Artists & Writers; Champions & Competitive Performers; Entertainers; Ranchers & Stewards of the Land; and Trailblazers & Pioneers.

Sacagawea & Jean Baptiste by Glenna Goodacre
They had fun displays showcasing each of these areas highlighting the successful women in that area.  They even had a mechanical bull you could ride yourself!  I thought it was particularly interesting how they showed the evolution of the cowgirl in the rodeo doing stunts dressed in skirts & fancy outfits, even sitting side-saddle sometimes! 

They also had various videos of women ranchers talking about their daily lives.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week lives...loving it.  They have my respect, but I sure don't know how they do it...and I sure do know it's not a life I could ever do.  I left there feeling proud to be a woman, and a little humble in comparison.

High Desert Princess (c2003) by Mehl Lawson,
 From there we drove over to what Fort Worth calls their "Stockyards".  We missed the twice daily cattle drive of longhorns down the street, which is the big draw, really.  About the only thing truly left of the real Stockyards are the pens.  It doesn't seem like they are used anymore at all, so no cattle in them any longer.  All we saw was a tourist town of shops and restaurants and a couple of statues and murals.  We were so happy that we saw the real Stockyards in Oklahoma City!  We did manage to get a good burger and listen to some fun live music before we left and headed back to our coach.



With the coach completed, family hugged we are on our way again!  Time to hit the road again and start heading back to see family in Washington...


...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Further adventures in Oklahoma City...

With so much to still see and do in Oklahoma City, we started out early.  Our first stop of the day was to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  Both Jack and I like western heritage, so we were really looking forward to this particular museum.  In our travels, we have been to quite a few throughout the various states, but I have to say, this is one of the very best!  I'm sure that the fact that Oklahoma City's heritage is uniquely western, starting out with the Land Run of 1889 has a lot to do with it.  This museum does an outstanding job of showcasing it with more that 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts.

Beyond that, I loved how they had different, fun galleries - Native American: representing American Indian life in western North America;  American Rodeo: a lifelike 1950s era rodeo arena that showcased rodeo history, including champions, clothing and various memorabilia;  Western Performers: a really fun gallery that was a tribute to the shaping of the movie cowboy, including Western stars such as John Wayne;  and Prosperity Junction: a replica frontier town complete with the sights and sounds of the settlement at dusk. 

The End of the Trail (c1894) by James Earle Fraser
James Arness & Roy Rogers in the Western Performers Gallery
Jim Shoulders, Bucking Broncs in the American Rodeo Gallery
It took us all morning to visit this place, it was so fascinating!  We ended up staying and having lunch in their on site restaurant, that was also a delight.  Jack got to talking to one of the guards while we were there that makes knives as a hobby (and sells some in the gift shop).  They enjoyed sharing stories about blacksmithing techniques etc.

Once fortified, we headed over to the Oklahoma History Center for some more insight into this interesting state.  They too took great pride in the stars and people in the film industry that have come from Oklahoma, such as Joan Crawford & Brad Pitt (who still comes to visit his grandmother here), and movies that have been filmed here, like "Grapes of Wrath" and "Twister".  But one of the most unusual things inside the museum, I thought, was The Century Chest.  It was a chest that had been sealed into the basement of The First English Lutheran Church back on April 22, 1913, then opened a century later by that same church.  Inside were documents, a quilt, photos, newspapers, paintings, clothing, recordings, books, poetry, and messages from individuals and organizations in 1913 to the people of 2013.  The project had been embraced by the entire state as citizens, tribes, businesses, community organizations and legislators all participated.  All was on display and very cool.  So many times we see things go into one of these chests, but this is the first time I've ever seen anything that has come out of one!


Outside was another cool display, it was Devon Oil & Gas Exploration Park, of all the really early oil rigs and various equipment.


We ended the day with a last stop at the beautiful Centennial Land Run Monument.  What a magnificent multi-piece sculpture.  Bigger than life, but so realistic you feel caught up in it, part of it.  The energy is incredible, hard to describe.  It's placed among Prairie Grass, as it would have been then, in a park along a creek, that takes up at least a block.  Truly something to spend time at.



We saved Monday for the famous Cattle Auctions in Stockyards City!  I had heard about it for years and really wanted to check it out.  After all, how many places are left that have real stockyards where you can see, hear & smell thousands of cattle being herded into pens, then brought into auction?  Here, and Texas, as far as I know.  So, off we went!  Jack was a little dubious at first, but like the willing husband that he is, he went along with me.  Camera in hand, I was ready and anxious!  We barely got out of the truck before I was grinning from ear to ear, I could hardly wait to get up on the catwalk to see them!  What fun!  After about 10 min. up there, we got to talk to one of the cowboys working below who answered some of our questions for us (a really nice guy who was equally curious about us) and he explained that this time of year they tend to have a lot less cattle (about 6,000, back in the 70's it would have been around 11,000).
After shooting outside for awhile, we went inside to catch some of the auction.  There were about 25-35 or so men in a theater style room with an auctioneer and his two assistants in a front booth with TV monitors overhead giving the audience the stats.  The individual cattle brokers would come in and stand in a front pen and present the information about the cattle that were being herded through for the auctioneer, then the auctioneer would do his thing and the customers would wave a finger or nod or what ever subtle thing they had a habit of doing, and away they would go, on to the next group!  You could tell the auctioneer knew his customers, and their ways of bidding...I had fun trying to figure out who was doing the bidding and who wasn't half the time!  Fun!















Later that night we came back to the famous Cattlemen's Steakhouse for dinner.  I had to try their signature steak, the 20oz T Bone!  Of course I took half of it home, but boy was it great, and what a wonderful way to end our stay in this terrific city!


...on the road to Texas!  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oklahoma City!

Oklahoma City, so much to see and do here!  We almost didn't know where to begin.  Spreading out the armload of brochures, we decided to tackle the Downtown area first.  First stop was the Oklahoma National Memorial, which was a beautiful, touching place.  To see the fence along the street still being covered in mementos was heartwarming.  I hadn't realized that the two gates at each end had two different times on them: "These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing."  They make a powerful statement when you enter the area.  As you walk around, you can climb some stairs and look down on the reflecting pool and the field of empty chairs and there is a large American Elm Tree up there, they call it the Survivor Tree because it was there before the bombing and withstood the bomb blast.  It's a beautiful old tree that brings such a sense of peace and hope to this place.  We didn't go into the museum itself, I couldn't bring myself to do it, to much sadness...I said some prayers and we walked on...


Just down the street is the Oklahoma State Capitol building...now how many Capitol buildings do you know of that have an oil rig in front of them?  This one does!  What a hoot!  It even has a name, it's "Petunia No. 1", the retired Capitol Site No 1 oil well, because drilling began in November 1941 in a flower bed.  The building is said to be the only Capitol in the world with an oil well beneath it! 


Now it was time to see some real art!  So off we went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.  Well, the first thing you are greeted with is their 55-foot Chihuly glass tower in the front atrium!   It was a beautiful sunny day so the sun just glistened right on it too.  They have one of the largest collections of Dale Chihuly's art we've ever seen, and we've been to his studios in Tacoma, so this was an extra treat.  Additionally, they had some lovely European and American art that we enjoyed.  Their Museum Cafe served a great lunch, and once we were fortified, we were ready to continue our trek to see more of the city!

Chihuly Exhibit
"Chado (c2010) by Karen LaMonte
Close by was the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum which didn't look to large, so we thought we could just fit it in before our energy gave up on us for the day.  I loved the "his & hers" fire hydrants outside before you entered, cute.  Inside they had a nice collection of antique fire apparatuses, tools and machinery used since 1736.  The coolest thing was the reconstruction of the first fire station in Oklahoma, first built back in 1869.


Phew, that was one full day, and still so much to see in this great city!

...kicking back in Oklahoma City,  Marie


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Movies & Music, what a great exit to Kansas!


 While driving around Wichita, Jack and I noticed the Starlite Drive-In movie theater that still was in operation.  Hardly believing our eyes, we drove in and happen to run into the owner, who verified that yes, it opened at 7pm, showing three screens beginning a 8pm with two movies on two screens and three movies on one screen, each screen, $12 per car!  “Wow!”  We said, “We’d be back on Saturday night!”  What a hoot!  We started reminiscing, trying to remember the last time either one of us had been to a drive-in.  It certainly hadn’t been together…and for me, it hadn’t been since my own kids were little!  For Jack, probably the same amount of years…so, we were talking about almost 30 years ago maybe?  Now that's nostalgia!   We decided we would “do it up right” - pick up some food & snacks, wear comfy cloths, bring pillows, the whole nine yards…and he had to promise to kiss me at least one time during the movie!  I could hardly wait until Saturday night! 

Saturday came, Jack cleaned the truck windows and we loaded up.  We chose the first screen.  It came with the three movies, but there was no way we would make it all the way…we are way to old for that!  Luckily the one we were interested in was the first movie, so that was the important thing.  The “new thing” is you can use the speaker (so glad they kept those!) and/or you can turn your radio to a certain channel and get the sound.  The speaker only had “on or off”, no other volume control, so I could see the reason for the radio - we just kept the speaker outside (it was a hot night, and that seemed to work just fine.  Others around us had trucks as well, and “came prepared” - they backed in and piled bean bags, blankets and pillows all around and got real comfy!   Once the snack bar commercials started we had to really laugh, because after all these years…those hadn’t changed!  About the only thing different that we could see was the addition of “Chilly Willy” which is a pickle.  I think it’s a regional thing here, because I see pickles advertised in a lot of quickie stops around the mid-west. 




A few sprinkles showed up, which brought some of the outsiders into their trucks for a little while, but then it cleared right back up again, so not a big deal.  The first movie was good.  The second got really weird, and by the second half it had reached midnight and we’d had enough, so called it a night.  I got my kiss, it was a great evening!








We had to stick around Wichita extra days to have some work done on our awning, and since we were going to be there over the weekend anyway, I told Jack that I heard that there was a Bluegrass Festival going on nearby we should attend.  We had to depend on the service guys each day to let us know when they were going to do the work on the awning, so we never quite knew what our day was going to be like.  We had hoped to go to the festival on Saturday, but that turned out to be the day they ended up doing the work - smack dab in the middle of the day, so no use making the drive over to Winfield.  We chose Sunday, which was the last day.

Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas is evidently a very BIG deal, especially for “National Flat-Picking Championships”.  We missed the guitar competition on Saturday, but was able to see the banjo competition on Sunday, and was so glad we did!  What a delight it was too!  Wow!   20 superb players in all.  After that we were able to catch a couple of fun Bluegrass acts, one called the Boxcars that were especially good.  It was equally entertaining to walk through the vendor areas as they were filled with all the various instruments, straps, picks, jewelry, music, etc that musicians and people in this field or followers would be interested in, plus the usual assortment of western wear and “stuff”.   


















We’re told that almost more music is played in the adjoining campgrounds as that at the festival.  It sure would be a fun adventure to plan on attending some year!













    














































Wichita itself wasn’t a big draw for us, and we only stayed as long as we did because of the work that we were having done, but because of that work delay, it afforded us the opportunity to experience a couple of things we wouldn’t normally have been able to do…so for that, thank you  Wichita, we had fun!

...on the road to Oklahoma, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Friday, September 19, 2014

Whiling away our days in Wichita...

We thought we would go to Wichita for awhile...after all, it was the largest city in Kansas, and we'd never been to Kansas before, so, off we went!  382,368 people live here according to the AAA book, which usually means "there's plenty to keep us busy for 3 or 4 days!"  So, we booked ourselves into the nicest campground we could find and settled ourselves in.  We had some maintenance work that needed to be tended to on the rig, and it turned out that a great service place was just across the street, so that worked in our favor as well.

Once settled, we went in search of the "almighty tourist brochures & info center" as we missed one coming in on a different highway than it was located on.  Perusing the magazine, brochures, booklets, etc we soon discovered that Wichita has a couple of museums and a Garden that seemed interesting...but not a whole lot more.  Hmmm

We started with the most important thing...the RV Service Center, to make sure they could fix our awning.  They could, but would need to order the parts.  Done. 

Next, we decided to drive through "downtown/old town Wichita".  We like finding the "old" parts of towns, where they have been revitalized and usually turned into fun shops and restaurants.  We love to see the old buildings; so that's where we headed.  It was Sunday, so the streets were pretty empty - which can be a good thing when you don't know where you are going and find a lot of one way streets!  We did find their "old town", and stopped for a nice lunch in a fun place, but the rest of the area hadn't done much else but a few more pubs.  We couldn't really find any shops to speak of, nothing to go "browsing along".  Kind of disappointing.  They do have a couple of fun areas we did happen along tho - one is on their Douglas Ave - it's a whole bunch of bronze sculptures, scattered here and there - no names, no rhymes or reasons.  I had to Google them to find out about them!  It seems that back in 1991 the city used a grant and commissioned artist Georgia Gerber to design about 30 whimsical sculpture.  Some are a bit more "serious" like the one called "Woolworth"s Lunch Counter" depicting the '60s Civil Rights sit in, but most are just fun.  


Another interesting area they have is the "Keeper of the Plains Plaza".  It's a point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together in downtown Wichita. This land between the two rivers is sacred ground to the Native American people and is also home to the All-American Indian Center.  Standing at this point is a 44-foot tall steel sculpture.  Pretty impressive.  You can see him from just about anywhere. 


We tried going to the Cowtown Museum, it was closed for a private party.  We went to the Botanica Gardens instead.  Glad we did.  Lovely gardens.  There were more birds and butterflies flying around in this garden than I had seen in any garden ever!  It was kind of funny, they had a "special bird garden", but none was there, they were all out in the rest of the garden (having a grand ole time)!



The following day we ventured over to the Coleman Factory Outlet & Museum.  What a hoot to see all the old, original lanterns and stoves!  It brought back some fond memories for both Jack and I as we had both "gone camping" as youngsters.  He with the scouts and me with my family.  My how things have changed...and yet not so much.  An interesting history, the origin of Coleman lamps!  Coleman's "Efficient Lamp" has been produced in Wichita since the beginning, 1902, and the factory is still here today.   While we were there, we met the nicest lady who asked us if we had stopped in at the "nut house" yet?  No... "Oh, you must!  It's just down the street, has every kind of old fashioned candy & chocolate, it's great!"  "Great!" Jack said, so off we go!  Nifty Nut House, wow, what a place!  You could get lost there, well...we almost did!  At least I thought I lost Jack there!  OMG, not only every kind of nut there is in this world, but just about every kind of candy too!  Oh, and dried fruit, and a whole lot of other stuff.  Just, WOW! 


...kicking back in Wichita Kansas,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/