June 24, 2017

ON THE "WINDY PLAINS" NEAR AMARILLO

“Manage the sail; the wind will take care of itself.”  Unknown Author

Carol writes:  After spending the last 6 weeks traveling across the very large state of Texas, we gained an appreciation for why Texas can be so windy!  The Lone Star State is known for its wide open spaces, with few geographic contours for hundreds of miles to stop the wind once it gets started.  This results in a windy tunnel effect which is all the more magnified in the Texas Panhandle.  At the southernmost region of Tornado Alley, we paused for a week in Amarillo, Texas,  


for an opportunity to get together with our daughter over the Memorial Day weekend before our final push into Colorado Springs for our annual medley of medical checkups. 

For the casual tourist there isn’t a whole lot to do in Amarillo.  Maybe that’s the reason why on many a road trip we had always passed through Amarillo but had never taken the opportunity to spend the night.  However, our feeling has always been that the full-time lifestyle is all about embracing the detours…

It turned out that the greater Amarillo locale around Lake Meredith National Recreation Area was indeed worth a second look at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, one of our lesser known and more sparsely visited national monuments


The only means of seeing the flint sites was by means of what turned out to be a very informative ranger-led hike to the bluff above.  Some 13,000 years ago, Paleo Indians quarried exquisite, beautifully banded, very hard Alibates flint





which breaks into predictable patterns when struck, making it ideal for fashioning superior spear points that were used to hunt big game, such as prehistoric mammoths and bison.  On a bluff above the monument there were remains of masonry structures of the Antelope Creek people, who lived in this area along the Canadian River 


from 1200 and 1450 and traded their prized flint with other peoples.



Hands down, the crown of the greater Amarillo area would be Palo Duro Canyon, a jewel of a canyon which at 120 miles long claims to be the second largest canyon in the country, second only to the Grand Canyon.  Our plan was to spend the day hiking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with our daughter, who had frequently hiked its trails and had a good recommendation for the trail she thought we would like. 




The past week, a spring heat wave had settled over the Panhandle and so we knew to anticipate high heat that was sure to be radiating through the canyon.  We took dire warnings seriously—slathered on sunscreen, wore hats, and hiked with plenty of food and lots of water.


Oh, it was so thrilling to be back out West where the  Lighthouse Trail scenery was spectacular


and hiking was nourishing for the soul.


Our trail led to the iconic Lighthouse rock formation, 


a backdrop perfectly created for great pictures!












Our 6-mile roundtrip hike in nearly 100-degree heat, with the sun nearly directly overhead, probably stretched the limits of my ability, but it was well worth it to me for precious family time.


One of the fluffier things Amarillo is best known for is the quirky “Cadillac Ranch,” a 1974 work of art consisting of a collection of old Cadillacs buried nose-down on Route 66 west of Amarillo.




It was obvious that visitors were highly encouraged to bring lots of spray paint which they could use to “graffiti-away” to their heart’s content!  I didn’t quite understand the appeal, and I especially didn’t appreciate the accumulating trash dump of empty spray cans on an unlucky farmer’s field.


We rounded out our stay in Amarillo with a day trip to Clovis, New Mexico, for one more visit with daughter Megan.  







Mother/daughter pedicures









and Mexican food at a local restaurant made for a very special family day together.  To round out our day on the windy plains, a blinding dust storm, preceding a violent thunderstorm that sent the cows stampeding in the pasture along the deserted Texas road back to Amarillo, topped out our authentic Panhandle experience. 




“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Robert Brault



May 28, 2017

BIG-CITY SCENE IN DALLAS—FORT WORTH

Carol writes:  All its life, according to TexasMonthly magazine, the city of Fort Worth has received second billing to Dallas even though Dallas has “fewer museums, no Bass brothers, and no sense of place.” 

Not taking any sides in the debate, we chose a campground on the outskirts of the historic little city of Grapevine, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth.  


The metroplex of Dallas—Fort Worth has a population of over 7 million, so it wasn’t surprising that no matter the time of day, traffic was atrocious and drivers were extremely aggressive!  We learned to use surface roads and to minimize freeways whenever possible, because we quickly discovered that there is no mercy on visitors with non-Texas plates.

GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

We were excited to visit our 13th and last presidential library in the Presidential Library System comprised of 13 libraries!  The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum


has the distinction of being the newest of the presidential libraries.  Although the building site was controversial at the time, the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) was chosen.  President and Mrs. Bush stipulated that they wanted the library’s outdoor space to reflect the native Texas landscape that both have loved and admired.


Inside, the library museum showcased state-of-the-art technology with modern features like a towering video wall and interactive exhibits.  One of the entry exhibits gave a nod to President Bush’s love of baseball, with an interesting display of his baseball collection.  Some of the most outstanding included signed baseballs from Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, and Sandy Koufax.


In the Global War on Terror section there was a fascinating exhibit on the capture of Saddam Hussein.  Saddam’s pistol, which was framed as a gift to President Bush, and the “Iraqi Most Wanted” playing cards were stark reminders of the war and its aftermath.



The Oval Office replica gave visitors a chance to sit in the hot seat…


The re-creation of the Rose Garden was well done.


One of my personal favorites was the designer dresses worn by the First Lady at public events.






















Hands down, the best exhibit in the entire library was the “Portraits of Courage” collection of paintings done by President Bush over a 14-month period.  



Each portrait depicted a wounded warrior.  Such a project must have pulled at the artist in a deeply emotional way that is so evident in their artistry.  The President has shared a side of himself that the public never saw coming…




 


















FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS

Fort Worth founding godfather Amon Carter once gave the edge to Fort Worth over Dallas when he said “Dallas is where the East peters out” and “Fort Worth is where the West begins.”  What better way to showcase that distinction than by having twice-a-day downtown cattle drives in the streets of the historic Fort Worth Stockyards on the old Chisholm Trail!





Afterwards, these magnificent longhorns provided incredible photography opportunities as they rested in their corrals.




The locals were dressed up in their ‘cowboy finest’ and were almost as picturesque as the cattle themselves.




URBAN STROLL IN FORT WORTH

One of the employees at the Visitors Center at the Stockyards recommended a walk around downtown Fort Worth.  She pointed out several venues that she held most dear, such as…


the Fort Worth Water Gardens that had three giant water features that were quite unique.  One of the scenes in the movie Logan’s Run was filmed at this futuristic beauty.












With a little climbing, the water gardens also offered premium views of many downtown buildings.








“Molly the Trolley” enabled us to cover a lot of city blocks efficiently and head straight toward locations that had been recommended to us.  What we didn’t expect was the free performance by one of the local community orchestras at Bass Hall, 







Bass Hall

with 40-foot concrete angels blowing their horns on the facade.

The acoustics of Dvořák Symphony No. 8 were heavenly!


We closed out our day of music and art culture in downtown Fort Worth at the free Sid Richardson Museum where we saw a remarkable collection of Frederick Remington and Charles Marion Russell paintings that were gifted to the city by Richardson’s heirs.  



























For the lover of western art, it doesn’t get any better than this!

COWBOYS STADIUM



After all the history, art and music culture of the big city, we turned our sights on the world of sports, and no sport seemed to get more attention in this area than professional football—Dallas Cowboys style, that is!


AT&T Stadium is the colossal multiuse stadium conceived by and brought to reality by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  The VIP tour pointed out more superlatives about this stadium than I would have ever thought possible, but all seemed to be true…

a world-class art collection, many works supersize for maximum effect,


Italian floor tile, hand chosen by Mr. Jones and his wife because it had reflective properties that produced “authentic Cowboy-blue” highlights.

True Cowboy-blue reflections in stadium tile

Behind-the-scenes peeks lived up to expectations:




the 'man cave' space, reserved solely for Jerry Jones and his sons, where they can watch the game undisturbed,








Cowboys cheerleaders locker room,














the team locker room,












and the iconic hallway down the middle of the exclusive sports club where the home team enters the field.


As for getting to go down on field itself… simply an amazing experience.  I was surprised that the artificial turf was so spongy!


Al looked pretty relaxed on that sideline bench, 

and I took all the opportunities I could get for my vanity shots…



Some would argue:  it’s just a sports team, and a sports team certainly does not rank highest on the scale of what is most important in our world; however, gotta hand it to Jerry Jones—the 2016 Dallas Cowboys were the world’s most valuable sports team.

SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM

The day John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald was one of the most memorable events in recent history.  Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, when news broke that our young president had just been killed by an assassin.  For me, that moment was high school sophomore English class.

The Sixth Floor Museum is devoted to chronicling the political times, death, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.  We arrived for our 11:00 tour of the museum an hour early, which gave us plenty of time to wander around Dealey Plaza, formerly noted as the birthplace of the city of Dallas but forever-after known as the assassination site where our young president was slain by Lee Harvey Oswald.  


While the skyline of Dallas had changed much in the intervening 50 years, 


at Dealey Plaza we found all the unique landmarks, trees, even the lamp posts exactly as they appeared in photographs taken the day Oswald shot Kennedy from his sniper’s perch out of the sixth floor corner window of what was then the Texas School Book Depository.

Although it has been replaced twice, the wooden stockade fence at the rear of the “grassy knoll” retained historical accuracy.








I never knew where Abraham Zapruder stood when he filmed the assassination, but I learned that fact at our visit to Dealey Plaza.  The concrete platform he stood on was front and center in this picture.





Fifth-plus years later, a poignant faint “X” marks the spot on Elm Street where the fatal shot hit the President, as seen in this view from the 7th floor of the former Book Depository.

I have circled faint "X" in photo
What surprised us was how crowded the museum tours were over five decades after the event.  Fortunately timed entries spaced half an hour apart, in addition to individual hand-held audio guides, allowed for quality time in what was an excellent museum.

The most haunting aspect of the tour was the opportunity to visit the corner window one floor above the one from which Oswald shot the president.  Painfully, one could understand just how horribly exposed the four occupants of the presidential limousine were, and how cruelly the shining days of Camelot were snuffed out in an instant.



“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  President John F. Kennedy