Monday, May 27, 2013

Well...this is Texas, y'all!

BIG, flat, windy, and dusty - that's Texas!  At least the north/west Texas "panhandle" is!  Boy-howdy, it's been quite an experience visiting this state this time, I can say!  27 days of wind, rain, lightening, thunder, sun, some gorgeous sunsets, some black skies and a number of days of tornado "warnings",  phew, we've experienced them all.

Our trip began with a couple of "one nighters" through Pecos & Abilene to Plano where my son lives.  We booked ourselves into the only RV park there is in Plano - a mobile home park that has a number of extra spaces they keep for RVs.  It didn't look very safe or hospitable, but in the end, it really turned out to be an ok place.  It had a lot of shade and the folks around us were friendly.  It was really just a home-base while we spent most of our time with my son.

Three days after we arrived we got to go to the church he has joined and watch him and about 200 others baptized.  It was quite a sight!  Over a thousand folks singing, praising, and just being happy together.  The day turned out to be a beautiful one too, which was nice for the ones being baptized since they entered a special pool, full in!  Lots of food and fun.  It was great to see the friends he's made and what a great group he's connected with here.  Not having any family here, this is so important, and I'm happy he's found such a supportive loving church family.

After all that excitement, we spent the next few days seeing a bit of Dallas.  First up was the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  What a beautiful place!  It is 66 acres that includes a couple of estates and is one of the top 3 arboretums in the US.  It's broken out into separate themed gardens and pathways along the beautiful White Rock Lake.  We spent most of the day there and still didn't see everything.  My son and his fiance were considering an outdoor wedding, so we spend some time looking at various places in the park for potential sites.  Of course they do weddings there, and of course the prices are steep...but one can dream, can't one?  It's the kind of place that you want to wander slowly, sit and gaze, daydream, even bring a book and an apple.  We got the kids a yearly pass and said that this was the best "de-stresser" one could ever ask for, right in the heart of a big city!  Truly beautiful.

I then took a quick flight out to Silicone Valley for the week to celebrate Mother's Day with my daughter and family and see my grandson get baptised!  What a glorious week!  Fantastic weather, great fun, lots of laughter, got to visit with old friends, beautiful baptism (very different from the other one!) wonderful food, many, many hugs & kisses - who could ask for anything more?  His Catholic baptism was only with 3 others (babies) and quite "formal", so quite different from the other one - but true to his personality, he made it fun!  His godmother is a dear friend I hadn't seen in years, so it was a great time visiting with her, celebrating with champagne and wonderful food my daughter & son-in-law made.  Spent hours on the floor playing space ship, or castle or monsters or beanbag toss or whatever with my grandson, in between lots of hugs and kisses to keep me until next time.  I got two visits to Asian restaurants, my favorite!  ...and more hugs & kisses as we tried not to cry when saying goodbye, one more time.

Back in Texas it was load and go!  I had sent a grocery list to the guys and had them packed and ready to hit the road when I arrived.  We all were off to go camping!  We headed off to Lake Texoma, in Eisenhower State Park, the four of us and dog.  We got a great camping site with beautiful trees that shaded the whole area.  The RV sites don't get close enough to see the lake (only the tent sites do) but there are trails to it, or you can drive closer and walk down.  We did both on separate days.  Our site was more than ample to handle our rig, their tent, both trucks, the picnic table and plenty of play area for Sadie (their chocolate lab).  Jack wasted no time meeting our neighbors and Dwight and Fran joined us the first night with wine and even a taste of some "apricot moonshine" he picked up in Tennessee!  Fun evening!  The next day the kids and I went for a hike to the lake (Jack took the shortcut and went back to the rig for a nap!).  Phew, it was hot!  I cut back and made it back to the rig before I fainted from the heat.  I always get a scolding when my face turns bright tomato read and I'm about ready to fall over...
The next day, we drove close to the lake and walked the short distance in.  Sadie had a ball swimming to and fro as we all took turns throwing a stick into the water for her to fetch.  She sure slept well when we got back to the campsite!  That night the ranger came around and warned us of the bad weather situation.  The tornado had just hit Oklahoma and might be coming our way.  At the very least we were in for some extreme winds and possibly rain and hail.  If the tornado was coming, he would be driving around with his bull horn warning us to take shelter.  They didn't have one, and we shouldn't stay in the rig..."so just find the lowest spot you can and hunker down".  Jeez...some help he was!  We told the kids to pack up their stuff, bring everything in and sleep in the rig with us tonight.  Well, the good news was, nothing happened.  The bad news was, Jack discovered that he was allergic to the dog!  The kids ended up leaving for home later that afternoon, and I vacuumed and washed everything I could, loaded him up with allergy pills and he fared ok.  Oh well.  That night he read the weather report that the tornado was headed straight for Eisenhower State Park, so we pulled out early the next morning and headed to Wichita Falls TX

I'm here to tell you, there isn't a dang thing in Wichita Falls TX!  Nothing between the two cities, nothing but a couple of murals that I thought were pretty impressive,  a couple of signs that were funny and lots of flat, windy, dusty land.  Wow.

Amarillo tries.  They think BIG here.  Every 5 minutes along the Interstate (40) is a billboard advertising "FREE 72oz STEAK dinner if eaten in 1 hour"  They must have hundreds of these billboards!  Of course we had to have dinner there, someone has to help pay for all those billboards!  No, we didn't try the challenge, but we did order a steak (6oz) and I have to say, it was pretty darn good too.  What a place, my or my.  Just about what you would expect, big, flashy, loud, funny, outrageous, over the top, you get the!

The other thing Amarillo is big on is what they call the "other grand canyon" Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  A 120 mile long and 800 feet deep canyon that you drive around.  There are trails that you can walk, bike or horse ride along and most are several miles long.  Of course they have a Park Museum/Museum Store (such as it is), a campground and during the summer they add a Musical Drama and Interpretive Theater. that word much, and with good reason.  We've seen much better in Arizona, Nevada and, a bit underwhelmed, but maybe we are just spoiled.  We didn't tell them so...
We took the drive.  Well...Arizona, you don't have anything to worry about.  It may be "big" (Texas likes that word) but "pretty" it isn't.

 Amarillo also has a botanical garden, albeit a small one, but a sweet one none the less.  Amarillo Botanical Gardens is only 4 acres, but it is filled with beautiful themed gardens such as fragrance, Japanese, Palo Canyon and butterfly.  It has an enclosed tropical conservatory with a waterfall and tropical plantings.  Nice.

We finally got to try Texas Bar-B-Que before we left the state, and weren't disappointed.  Dyer's Bar-B-Que in Wellington Square was great!  I discovered that "Texas style" has a vinegar base to it, vs Kansas, say, has a molasses base.  Cool.  Interesting.  4 very large pork ribs came with (get this): Cowboy beans (no surprise, and very good), coleslaw (also no surprise, and also very good), potato salad (a bit on the mustard side), fried onion rings (yum!), Texas bread, and a little bowl of apricot jelly? jam? juice?...not to sure...had to ask what it was for, she said some people put it on their toast, some on their ribs (hm mm).  Oh well...All for less than $10. I needed a doggy bag.

A couple of afternoons of the obligatory antique shopping, mostly down the "Historic Route 66 District.  Of course I was able to find just a couple of treasure... Really wanted to see the private collection of old RVs of Jack Sismore.  He's got RVs dating back to 1921!  His little museum was closed for the holiday weekend (double darn), but maybe we can squeeze in a few minutes as we leave on Tuesday, maybe.  If so, I'll share it in the next blog.

We saved the "biggie" for last...the famous "Cadillac Ranch"!  Everyone's heard of this place, right?  I've wanted to see it for years! It was put up back in 1974 by 3 guys who were a part of an art group. There are about 10 mid-century Cadillacs half-buried nose-first in the ground, out in the middle of a wheat field, off of the I 40.  What I didn't know, was that people (are encouraged to) graffiti them!  I just thought they were painted and you just go see them. is an "active art" where people come with their spray cans and have at it!  How did I not know this?  I guess my head has been stuck in the dirt all this time too!  It was a busy place I tell you!  People, cans, action, sunshine, wind, picture taking, art happening, the whole thing!  What a hoot! Tomorrow we leave the great state of Texas, and hopefully the constant wind (and tornado warnings).

Here's a few pictures, loads more (of course) in my Flickr account, but for now...

...on the road en route to Colorado,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

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