The Space between Waco and Abilene, Texas

The Space between Waco and Abilene, Texas

A gothic building rose out of the landscape as we headed northwest from Waco to Abilene on Highway 6. Was it someone’s mansion? A government building? Or the façade of a movie set? We had to investigate.

Bosque County Courthouse

We wound our way through the streets of Meridian, Texas, to the building’s location. It wasn’t hard. No other buildings were close to its height. The downtown area was quiet and offered plenty of parking on Monday, March 12, 2018.

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Bosque County Courthouse

Not satisfied with clicking one photo of the building and moving on, I had to walk around the structure to catch its image from as many sides as possible given the position of the sun.

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Bosque County Courthouse

Oh, and I couldn’t forget to pick up the detail in the clocktower.

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Bosque County Courthouse Clock Tower

Now, we had to see the inside. We entered the Bosque County Courthouse from a back door expecting to see bailiffs staffing a security checkpoint complete with a scanning machine, the usual protocol for government buildings since 9/11.

Creeping along the dark hallway was like entering the early 1900s. The ceiling towered above us, wainscot the color of chocolate milk covered the lower part of the walls, pumpkin-colored paint on the upper portion. An ornate iron staircase loomed ahead. We turned a corner and finally arrived at a desk in the middle of the first floor.

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Staircase Original to the Building

“May I help you?” the bailiff asked. After explaining what we were doing there, the uniformed man proceeded to tell us the history of the building, told us to go see the courtroom upstairs, and gave us a little tour downstairs.

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Stairs to the Courtroom

I commented on the security difference from what we were used to seeing. He pointed to the four monitors at his desk where he watches people coming and going. He had seen us enter the back door. “It’s usually pretty quiet around here, not like in the larger counties,” he said.

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Hinges on the Doors

The town of Meridian has a population of less than 1,500 and less than 20,000 people call the agricultural county home.

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Once a Vault, Now a Restroom

Bosque County would be a great place to get away from congestion and crowds. Visitors can roam around the little country towns exploring museums, galleries, and historic buildings, or enjoy the fishing and other water activities at the Bosque or Brazos rivers, or Lake Whitney.

 Building Facts

Source: The Texas Historic Commission

  • Designed by Ft. Worth architect J.J. Kane
  • Oldest Texas courthouse building in continuous use
  • Three-story limestone in the Victorian Gothic Revival style
  • Two major renovations:
    • The 1934 WPA project replaced the entire roof structure with a flat concrete roof. The clock tower was removed replaced with a single clock face, and steel windows replaced the wood ones. Within the forty years after the WPA project, additional work had lowered ceilings to hide mechanical and electrical installations.
    • The rededication of the building on September 22, 2007, showcased the 2005-2007 restoration, which included reconstruction of the original clock tower and the four corner roof turrets, replacement of windows and doors with historic wood reproductions, restoring the ceilings to their original height in the courtroom, halls, and public spaces, and the reconstruction of wood wainscot paneling.

Dublin, Texas

It’s always serendipitous when we find a town with the same name as one in California. It turned out that our stomachs were growling when we arrived at the city limits of Dublin, Texas. We live near Dublin, California. Finding a spot to park posed no problem. The library was closed on Mondays.

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Dublin Public Library

The W.M. Wright Historical Park across the street provided a place to take a walk after lunch.

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W. M. Wright Historical Park
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Log Cabin Built by Early Settlers
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William T. Miller Gristmill Originally Built in 1882
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Rear of Gristmill Originally Powered by Steam then Converted by Crude Oil Engine
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Grass Always Tastes Better on the Other Side of the Fence

Spring break must have cleared most everyone out of town. There wasn’t much activity in the business district during the hour we were there.

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Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum and Dublin Historical Museum

I wish we hadn’t been anxious to continue on to the  RV park in Abilene. It would have been nice to visit the Dublin Bottling Works that has been in business since 1891. They still bottle sodas made with pure cane sugar. No high fructose corn syrup for them. Poking around in the three museums—Ben Hogan (the golfer), Dublin Historical, and Dublin Rodeo Heritage—also would have been interesting.

RV Trouble

We arrived in Abilene around 4:00 p.m. and commenced our set up routine. After Jon had hooked up the sewer, water, and electricity, it was time to extend the living area slide. I heard a whirring sound, but the slide did not move. Uh-oh!

The good folks in the Whistle Stop RV Park office gave me a card for Young’s RV and Trailer Repair. Jon called at about 4:50 p.m. Yes, Rick could come out in about an hour. “Tomorrow morning would be okay.” “No, I’ll be there,” Rick said. Fortunately, it was a quick fix. A bolt had wiggled loose, which prevented the gear from engaging. Rick found the bolt, put it back in with some bailing wire so it wouldn’t back out again, and we had a freshly lubed and working slide. Thanks go out to Young’s RV and Trailer Repair in Abilene, Texas, for the best service ever. Find them on Facebook at Young’s RV Repair.

Next up we visit Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Abilene State Park, and the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum.

Safe Travels

Waco, Texas – Part II

Dr Pepper Museum

We are always ready to take a behind the scenes tour and the Dr Pepper Museum did not disappoint.

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View of the Silos and Roof of First Baptist Church of Waco (above Dr Pepper sign) From Dr Pepper Building

Dr Pepper, created, manufactured, and sold in Waco, Texas, beginning in 1885, is considered the oldest soft drink of all America major brands. The soda flavor originated at Morrison’s Old Corner Drugstore.

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Mockup of Old Corner Drug Store

Unfortunately, the name Dr Pepper is lost to history, although the museum does have a collection of over a dozen different origin stories. Demand for the drink grew until in 1891 the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company was formed in Waco. The company later became the Dr Pepper Company and moved to Dallas in 1923.

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Jon Checking out the Bottling Equipment
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Artesian Well Once Used in Bottling Dr Pepper

The museum includes collections of the soft drink industry as well as Dr Pepper memorabilia, giving visitors a more complete history of the industry.

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Larger Scale Bottling Equipment

We stopped in the theater expecting an informational movie. Instead, we found a montage of historic television ads running on a loop. It was still fun to recall the various campaigns and slogans through the years. Remember, “I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?” Sorry, for the earworm. I couldn’t resist.

 

I don’t drink much soda now, but visiting the museum brought back memories of drinking hot Dr Pepper and eating popcorn while watching scary movies on late night television. The cold war may have been looming outdoors, but I was warm and safe in my house.

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Dr Pepper Delivery Truck

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and military personnel, $6.00 for students and children over 5 years.

Homestead Heritage

Homestead Heritage, an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community, was located a short distance from the RV park where we stayed in Waco.

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Water Tower with Homestead Heritage Logo

Visitors won’t want to miss the Craft Village where gifts and handcrafted items are available to purchase along with heirloom furniture; organic grains, flour and baking mixes; groceries, meat and produce; and gardening and homesteading supplies.

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Homestead Organic Market and General Store

Take a self-guided tour through the various buildings and watch a basket maker or potter at work, a loom in operation, the gristmill grinding, and feel the heat from the forge. The smell of fresh sawdust in the woodworking building reminded me of my grandfather’s carpentry workshop.

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Homestead Gristmill at the Craft Village
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Inside the Working Gristmill
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Water Wheel that Runs the Gristmill

Walk through the gardens, rest in the shade, and get up close to the sheep grazing in the pasture.

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Gardens
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Windmill and Sheep
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Tri-colored Sheep
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The Basket Store
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The Forge

Interested in learning the skills to create traditional crafts? Visit The Ploughshare website for hands-on workshops, classes, and DVD courses. There are also free video courses.

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Red Bud in Bloom

It was a good thing the storage in our fifth wheel is limited. Otherwise, I would have broken our budget by buying up pottery, baskets, and a few scarves. We did buy a package of Cowboy Cookie Mix from the Gristmill and they were delicious.

Magnolia Market at the Silos

Fans of the Fixer Upper show on HGTV flock to Magnolia Market at the Silos on foot and by trolley, bike, and vehicle. We parked the truck near a trolley stop and hopped aboard. The trolley takes passengers on a 15-minute route through downtown Waco picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. Our driver pointed out popular restaurants, historical sites, and of course places to shop.

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Magnolia Silos Courtyard

We got off at Magnolia Market just because we had to see what all the fuss was about. A line wrapped around the corner bakery with hopeful guests dreaming of the fresh pastries, breads, and sweets that waited inside for them to buy.

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Long Waits for Pastries at the Bakery

We didn’t stand in line to see if it was worth the wait. Instead, we headed into the market, squeezing past customers gawking at the products for sale. Many of the items looked like props used to decorate the homes renovated on the Fixer Upper television show. Don’t expect antique, reclaimed, or locally handcrafted items. Made in India or China tags reveal an item’s origin.

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Magnolia Market Building

The store was filled with decorator items such as greenery and flowers for arrangements in vases and pots, table items including centerpieces, placemats, table runners, chargers, flatware, and dishware. Clocks and other wall hangings decorate the walls. Chip’s Corner includes T-shirts, baseball caps, hammers, and other tools and books. Prices appeared reasonable when compared to other home décor stores.

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One Section of the Building

Outside visitors will find a large sitting and play area complete with lawn games to play on the artificial grass, picnic tables under shade structures, planters, and food trucks in case the munchies attack.

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The Silos Play Area. No Dogs Allowed on the Artificial Grass.
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Snag a Beanbag and Rest Awhile
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Play a Game of Cornhole
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Grab Lunch and a Drink at the Food Trucks

In a back corner is the Magnolia Seed & Supply with raised gardens filled with herbs and leafy greens. I wish our garden looked like this. Of course, that would mean we would have to stay home and tend to it. Maybe when we’re done traveling.

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Magnolia Seed & Supply

 

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Leafy Greens Grown in Raised Beds

 

Magnolia Market at the Silos is a great place for couples or families looking for a place to relax, grab a bite to eat, play a few rounds of cornhole, or watch the people walk by. Oh, and don’t forget the shopping. Storage constraints saved my pocketbook again. I could have easily spent a hundred dollars or more.

It looks like the Dr Pepper Museum, traditional handicrafts, and home décor is all I can fit into this post. Next week I’ll finish up our time in Waco by featuring a couple of restaurants we tried in town and our visit to the George W. Bush Library and Museum in Dallas.

Safe Travels

Waco, Texas – Part I

Waco, Texas, Home of Baylor University, had more to see than what we thought at first. Tourists can gawk at a preserved mammoth dig, learn about the Texas Rangers, watch artisans at work, shop for decorative household items, grab a soda at the Dr. Pepper Museum, and enjoy one of the restaurants in town.

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Waco Suspension Bridge Originally Built in 1870

We kept busy during our five-night stay at Post Oak RV Park and Cabins in Waco, Texas. We even managed to fit in a drive to Dallas to see the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

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American-Amicable Life Insurance Company (ALICO) 22-story Steel and Concrete Building Completed in 1911 – Waco Landmark

All of these locations are too much for one post, so this week we’ll take a look at the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum and the Waco Mammoth National Park and leave the rest for next week.

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Baylor University McLane Stadium Seen From Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is located across the parking lot from the Waco Visitor Center where tourists will find friendly helpful staff who possess a wealth of information and are eager to assist travelers.

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Texas Ranger Statue in Front of Hall of Fame and Museum

Although the Texas Rangers weren’t officially recognized in legislation until 1874, several iterations of rangers date back to 1823 when Stephen F. Austin formed a militia to protect settlements against Indian raids. Early rangers were required to supply their own horses and equipment and often worked as volunteers because the government did not always pay them for their services.

We started our tour of the museum by watching the movie that told of the ranger history. The movie didn’t shy away from dishing out stories about the bad rangers along with the stories of the men who are regarded as heroes.

The museum is filled with displays of guns, hats, and boots. What impressed me the most about the museum was the workmanship that went into engraving the barrels and handgrips on the weapons. Unfortunately, the lighting was not ideal for taking photos.

As I walked around reading the various bios of the rangers, one of them caught my attention when I noticed a connection to the San Francisco Bay Area and Apache Pass. The San Francisco Bay Area is where we call home and we had recently hiked at Apache Pass to get to the Fort Bowie National Park in Arizona. I had to learn more.

John Coffee Hays began work as an assistant to a land surveyor at the age of 15 after his parents died. Drawn to Texas in 1836 after the territory declared independence from Mexico, he joined the Texas Rangers and continued working as a surveyor for the next 13 years. During that time, Texas became a state (December 29, 1845), war with Mexico broke out (April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848), and John Hays was elected as the county surveyor and promoted to the rank of major. He encountered many skirmishes with Mexicans and Native Americans alike while conducting surveys or working with the Rangers.

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John Coffee Hays*

Like many men throughout the United States during 1849, gold fever attracted Mr. Hays to California. Appointed as US Indian Agent for the Gila River country in New Mexico and Arizona, he led a wagon train of forty-niners to California from Texas, blazing a shortcut between Tucson and Mesilla by traveling through Apache Pass. When he arrived in San Francisco, his reputation had preceded him and residents drafted Hays to run for the newly authorized sheriff position. He won the election handily, but his term as sheriff was not without difficulty. He had to contend with a group of vigilantes and hold prisoners in a makeshift jail. He resigned shortly after his second term began and, with his deputy, purchased real estate across the bay, eventually becoming one of the founders of the City of Oakland.

Some of the stories of Ranger Hays’s exploits read more like a dime novel than a fact-based portrayal. Was it possible for 12 rangers to fight off an attack by 200 Mexican guerillas with no loss of life? Or, was the report of the incident riddled with hyperbole? Either way, John Coffee Hays impressed me with all he accomplished during his life. It seems he earned and deserved all the respect people had for him.

Visit the museum any day from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Entrance fee is $8.00 for adults with a $1.00 discount for seniors 60 or over and military with an ID. The fee for children 6 – 12 is $4.00.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Now let’s travel back in time 65,000 to 100,000 years ago to the Ice Age when Columbian mammoths roamed North America as far south as Costa Rica. The beasts, standing 13 feet (4 m) at the shoulders and weighing 22,000 pounds (10 tonnes), would barely fit under a typical freeway overpass of today, which stands at 17 feet.

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Trail from Visitor Center to Mammoth Dig Site

It is hard to imagine that a flash flood could be responsible for the demise of a group of female and juvenile mammoths, but that is what archaeologists believe could have caused their deaths. Did the water rush in undercutting the soil where the mammoths stood and then they sank? Was the water more powerful than the 22,000-pound Columbian mammoths? I wonder if it felt like when I stand at the edge of the beach and let the sand give way under my feet when waves rush in and out.

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Inside the Climate-Controlled Shelter

Back to modern times, imagine stomping around the banks of the Bosque River and stumbling over a mammoth bone. That’s what happened when two men searching for arrowheads and fossils discovered a large bone at the location in 1978.

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Tusks and Bones Lay  in Place Where Unearthed by Archeologists

From 1978 to 1990 the Strecker Museum at Baylor University discovered 16 mammoths (a nursery herd that died together in a single event). Between 1990 and 1997 where a large male, two female, two juveniles and a camel were located.

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Female Mammoth Remains

The site was opened to the public in 2009 when a climate-controlled shelter was erected to protect the bones and allow the general public to view the site.

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Ancient Camel Found Near the Mammoths

When President Obama designated the site as a National Monument in 2015, the city deeded the 5-acre dig site to the federal government but retained 100 acres around it for future park-related development.

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A depiction of a Columbia Mammoth Noted by its Top Knot

The City of Waco, Baylor University, and the National Park Service operate the site in partnership, which is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except major federal holidays. The guided tour fee ranges from free to $5.00 depending on grade level, age, or use of available discounts.

That concludes the first installment of Waco, Texas. We’ll be back next week with more sights to see.

Safe Travels

*Permission for photo use granted by Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum Source: http://www.texasranger.org/texas-ranger-museum/hall-of-fame/john-coffee-jack-hays/

 

 

 

The Hill Country and Spicewood, Texas

On Thursday, February 28, 2018, we set the GPS to route our drive to Hill Country Lakes RV Resort in Briarcliff, Texas. I was sad to leave behind the waddling Muscovy ducks, but more so the grackle blackbirds. I got used to the bird’s whistles and how they sounded like they were playing scales on an otamatone, and of course, their grackles, which brought to mind a toy machine gun. I never knew a bird could have so many different sounds.

As we started to pull out of our site, the lady from the office came up to Jon and handed him $85.00. Apparently, she had charged us the summer rate rather than the winter rate. They could have easily kept our extra payment without us knowing the difference. I’m so glad they were honest and refunded our money.

With all the construction on the major highways, we didn’t relish our drive through Houston. We lucked out, though, breezing along without too much traffic to navigate.

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Partial Houston Skyline

East of Houston, we saw this new Amazon fulfillment center nearing completion, which will house more than 400 employees.

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Gigantic Amazon Fulfillment Building

We stopped in La Grange, Texas, for lunch at the Back Porch BBQ & Grill. I’m a sucker for a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and an Arnold Palmer was the perfect drink to wash it down.

 

Walking back to the truck, however, Jon noticed something weird with the sewer connection. On further inspection, he realized the cap was missing and the piece of double elbow pipe was barely hanging on, yanked from its connection. Darn, Jon rolled over that old alligator (tire tread) after all. Thank goodness, the damage did not extend to or beyond the valve.

 

We settled in at Hill Country Lakes RV in Spicewood, Texas, with the sewer repair the first task on our agenda.

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Hill Country Lakes RV Resort Office
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RV Spots at Hill Country Lakes RV are Tucked in Among the Trees

RV Sewer Repair

The park hosts directed us to Hill Country RV, Inc. in Marble Falls for the parts needed to fix the sewer. We drove there early the next day and ordered a reducer to go from 3” to 1-1/2” pipe. They promised it would arrive around 2:00 p.m. the next day. Jon picked up a 3” double elbow from a plumbing supply warehouse. At Home Depot, he bought ABS cement, lengths of 3” and 1-1/2” PVC pipe, and a hacksaw. Jon fixed what he could without the missing piece, then waited until the next day to complete the repair. After letting it sit overnight, the repair passed the tests with no leaks. Hooray, we had our sewer back.

 

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Repaired Sewer Connection

 

Population Growth

Driving north out of Austin on our way to Spicewood, we had noticed a mass of growth from houses to townhouses, condos, and apartments and shopping centers where all the national restaurant and retail chains had set up shop. Our drive to Lakeway to visit with our friends was more of the same.

World Population Review lists Austin as the 11th largest city in the United States and the 3rd largest state capital. Austin’s metropolitan area’s population is forecasted to reach 3.2 million by 2030. No wonder it felt like the city was taking the country out of The Hill Country. The hills, once graced with greenery are now taken over with housing and shopping centers with more construction on the way. I guess that’s the price of progress and growth, but in some respects, it makes me sad. Where will people go to get their nature fix?

Pace Bend County Park

A drive through Pace Bend County Park brought us back to nature. The park has 20 improved and 400 primitive campsites. All of the 20 water and electric sites were reserved for the weekend, but it looked like they might have been open during the week.

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Campsite or Picnic Area Near the Lake

Launch a boat and fish, take a hike, or sit under a tree and read a book. This little slice of nature is going to become more precious as the growth continues.

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A Couple of Anglers Trying Their Luck

Reimers Ranch County Park

Reimers Ranch County Park was another place to get back to nature. We packed a lunch and drove out to the park. The four-mile hike along the river and through the bluff in the warm humid weather made me thankful that property like this has been set aside for future generations to experience the outdoors.

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Which Way Do We Go?
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Rain Drops Appear to Float Above the Ground
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River Wasn’t Deep Enough to Put in a Kayak
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Large Trees Along the Trail
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Signs of Spring
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Comfort Station

Family Business Beer Company

We had seen Family Business Beer Company on our way to Reimers Ranch and decided to check it out on our way back. This was a nice place to enjoy a cold flight of beers and bag of chips after our hike.

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Family Business Owner’s Residence

The grounds are set up for bean bag toss games to keep patrons busy, and a children’s playground to conquer the little one’s boredom while parents taste the beer. Plenty of seating is provided, or bring your own.

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Picnic Tables and Bean Bag Toss Games For Guests
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Playground for the Kiddos

For a bite to eat a food trailer serves a variety of treats.

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Inside, larger groups will find the long bistro tables accommodating.

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Inside Family Business Beer Company
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Wide Porches with Plenty of Seating

Of our flight, only one suited our taste, the Haulin Oats. Jon and I prefer amber and wheat beer over IPAs, which are more popular here.

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From Left to Right: Fox, King Biscuit, Haulin Oats, and Grackle

Mansfield Dam

Along the Texas Colorado River stands Mansfield Dam. Completed in 1941, the dam rises 278 feet high, is 7,089 feet long, and 213 feet thick at the base. Named for U.S. Representative J.J. Mansfield, Lake Travis can store up to 369 billion US gallons of water.

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This Used to be the Road Across the Mansfield Hydroelectric Dam

The hydroelectric power plant generates up to 108 megawatts of electricity.

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A Four Lane Highway Replaced the Dam Road
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View of Dam Near Boat Launch

A Couple More Restaurants

We had the occasion to visit a couple of restaurants during our visit. While in Marble Falls, we stopped in at Blue Bonnet Café for their “pie happy hour.” The meringue on the lemon pie was the fluffiest we’d ever seen and not overly sweet.

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Sevens Out BBQ, the restaurant next to our RV park, invited the guests to a BBQ giveaway to celebrate their grand opening. We managed to get a sample tray with brisket, sausage and ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and what I think was bread pudding. Everything was delicious, even the bread pudding, which usually is not my favorite.

I wouldn’t mind coming back to Spicewood someday for the peace and quiet away from the city growth and the great BBQ.

Next up we head to Waco, Texas.

 

 

Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

What to See on Bolivar Peninsula

Bolivar Peninsula is a good place to get away from crowds, relax, and maybe catch a big fish. We enjoyed the bucolic setting of farms and ranches and lack of tourist traps.

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View of Galveston from Fort Travis

Although the peninsula had a country feel, it did not lack shopping or restaurants. The Big Store and Ace Hardware had everything on our shopping list. We passed a surf shop that advertised clothing, sandals, and novelties. We ate at Stingaree Landing Restaurant, which served up fresh seafood and steaks. Other restaurants range from BBQ, Mexican fare, burgers and beer, and comfort food.

The beaches on Bolivar Peninsula are unique, at least from a California perspective, in that drivers can drive their vehicles on the sand. It would have been fun to cruise up to the seashore, but our truck is set up for asphalt or concrete roads, not deep sand. Having to call AAA for a tow would have spoiled any pleasure from the ride.

Fort Travis Seashore Park

Always looking for a bit of history wherever we go, Bolivar Peninsula did not disappoint. Fort Travis Seashore Park consists of sweeping green lawns, picnic areas, a playground, seawall, along with bunkers and gun battlements that once protected Galveston Harbor.

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Fort Travis Restrooms and Offices

An interpretive trail includes information signs that give the historical perspective of the fort’s remains as well as facts about the populations of Blue Crab, Brown Pelican, and other wildlife.

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Playground at Fort Travis

Point Bolivar’s history of protection begins in 1816 when Frances Xavier Mina constructed an earthen levee to ward off attacks from the Karankawa Indians who occupied the area. Dr. James Long brought 300 troops, his wife Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long, and daughter to Texas to fight for independence from Spain in 1818. In 1820, Dr. Long selected Port Bolivar as his base of operations, establishing Fort La Casas.

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Let me in! Let me in!
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One of the Bunkers at Fort Travis

In 1821, leaving his pregnant wife and young daughter with a servant and a few soldiers to defend the fort, Dr. Long left the peninsula for La Bahía to gain support for his fight against Spain. A bitterly cold winter and dwindling supplies chased the men away. With only a twelve-year-old servant and her six-year-old daughter, Jane delivered her daughter Mary James Long on December 21. Determined to stay at Bolivar Point until her husband returned, it was not until early 1822 that Jane left with her family after learning of her husband’s death.

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Closed Off Area

Other uses of Bolivar Point and the fort include:

  • The 1836 establishment of Fort Travis to protect the Galveston harbor entrance. Built in 1898, Battery Davis contained two eight-inch guns, and Battery Ernst contained three small caliber pedestal guns and ammunition magazines.
  • After the 1900 hurricane, a 17-foot seawall was installed to prevent the pounding surf during violent storms from damaging the fort.
  • Soldiers occupied the fort during both World Wars, and it operated as an internment camp for German prisoners during World War II.
  • Battery Kimble, built in 1922, contained twelve-inch guns.
  • Battery 236, built in 1941, defended the Galveston harbor from submarines.
  • Residents settled in the fort with their cattle and other animals in 1961 when Hurricane Carla ravaged the peninsula.
  • Galveston County commissioners purchased the fort in 1973 for use as a public park.

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Remnant of Gun Emplacement

 Mother of Texas

A Texas Historical Marker pays tribute to Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long just outside of the entrance to the park.

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Jane Herbert Wilkinson Memorial and Historic Markers

The pioneer woman known as the Mother of Texas returned with her family in 1825 as part of Stephen F. Austin’s First Colony and received land, settling in San Felipe De Austin. She also was instrumental during the war for independence by gathering information from Mexican officers and storing arms and munitions in her boarding house.

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During the runaway scrape in 1836, Jane fled the Mexican army along with others. She finally settled in Fort Bend County operating a boarding house and plantation. I was impressed with Jane’s devotion to her family and the risks she took to aide Texas gain its independence from Spain.

Port Bolivar Light

We were disappointed to learn that a private party currently owns Port Bolivar Light. I was hoping for a tour and up-close look the lighthouse. The first cast-iron lighthouse was built in 1852 and operated until the Civil War when it was dismantled to provide scrap iron during the war.

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View of Bolivar Light From Fort Travis Park

The replacement lighthouse began operation on January 19, 1872. The lighthouse sheltered over 120 people during the Great Hurricane of 1900, which destroyed much of Galveston and killed nearly 6,000 people. In August of 1915, sixty people huddled on the spiral staircase during another storm. The light was turned off on May 29, 1933, and the property transferred to the war department in 1935. In 1947, Rancher Elmer V. Boyt purchased the lighthouse and property, which his family still owns, from the war department for $5,500.

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Bolivar Light

Rollover Fish Pass

 Advertised as a great place for fishing, we headed out to Rollover Fish Pass. The 1,600-foot long and 200-foot wide pass allows fish to travel to and from East Galveston Bay and Gulf of Mexico. Large cement walls frame the Gulf side and steel bulkheads contain the sides of the rollover bay side northwest of the highway.

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View of Southeast Quadrant of Rollover Fish Pass

When we arrived, the four quadrants were empty except for a few anglers. Either the day before was a good fish day with lots of anglers vying for position, or someone hadn’t been around to empty the trash barrels in a while.

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Seen at Southwest Quadrant of Rollover Fish Pass

Amid protests from anglers and local residents, the county voted in 2016 to use eminent domain to acquire the property and close the pass. Studies had revealed that it causes erosion. The Gilchrist association and the gun club cited a study that showed significant economic harm would result to the East Bay if the Rollover Pass closed.

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View of Rollover Fish Pass from Southwest Quadrant

In 2017, the gun club agreed to a settlement for sale of the property. However, the Gilchrist Community vowed to take the case to the federal courts, and perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court. A search for more current information regarding the status of the settlement and court case did not reveal any new information. So for now, the pass is still a good place to fish.

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View West from Southwest Quadrant of Rollover Fish Pass

Bolivar Peninsula Events

 If visitors prefer more of a party atmosphere on their travels and vacations, Bolivar Peninsula also holds several annual festivals and events. Can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? The island has one of their own. I hear the Texas Crab Festival, a three-day event in May, is not to be missed. For foodies, try the BBQ or Cajun Chef’s cook-off competitions. And in October, join the party at Fort Travis for the Jane Long Festival. Oh, and don’t forget. Galveston Island is only a ferry ride away.

Next up we head to the Texas Hill Country to visit with friends, then on to Waco, Texas.

Safe Travels

Crystal Beach and Galveston, Texas

Yikes! It’s a Rain Forest in Here

After a wild night of thunder, wind gusts that rocked the trailer, and rain pounding the roof and windows, we woke to cloudy skies and calmer winds. Leaving Bryan, Texas, behind on February 21, 2018, we headed toward Crystal Beach, Texas, to attend our niece’s wedding on Saturday.

The rain started up again and the temperature rose from 40 to 70 degrees. A few miles outside of Houston, we stopped at a rest area for a break. When I opened the door the odor and feel of a rain forest smacked me in the face. The walls, cabinets, and all the surfaces inside the trailer dripped with moisture. Condensation obliterated the view through the windows. The fabric furniture, towels, and jackets were all damp. What the heck, did we spring a leak? If so, there wasn’t anything we could do about it while on the road. We had to get to our next location fast before too much damage occurred.

Thank goodness, the clouds had cleared and the sky was sunny when we arrived at Lazy D & D RV Resort.

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Lazy D & D RV Resort Office with Restrooms and Laundry Upstairs

I latched the door open and cranked out the air vents and windows. Beach towels soaked up the moisture on the walls, cabinets, and windows. On hands and knees, I ran my hands on the carpeting in the closet, under the bed, along the bedroom floor, around the mattress and bedding. Nothing found to indicate a leak.

“Hey, I found condensation on all the tools in the toolbox in the bed of the pickup. Maybe there is no leak,” Jon said. “No, there’s got to be a leak?” I said. The only thing we could figure out is that the humidity had been so high, moisture built up inside the fifth wheel. This was something we had never experienced before and don’t care to face again. Another hour or so and damage to the interior would have been severe. For the next few days, I still searched for the nonexistent leak, just in case.

While I searched for the leak and Jon set up the trailer, muscovy ducks waddled and grackles strutted around the trailer. Grackles are my new favorite bird for their whistles, squeaks, and croaks, but especially the guttural crackle noise they make and also for the way they make their tails stick out sideways as the walk. I should have recorded their songs because now I miss their serenade.

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Muscovy Ducks Walked Around the RV Park Like Security Guards
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Grackles Woke us up in the Morning and Serenaded us All Day (photo used under CC0 from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/grackle-with-long-tail-tropic-bird-3066964) 

Don’t Let Your Anger Show

 Word to the wise when taking the Galveston-Bolivar Port ferry across SH 87: Don’t show anger while waiting your turn for the ferry. A dump truck pulled up behind us. He talked to himself and waved his arms about, appearing agitated. When he saw other vehicles boarding before our lane, the driver yelled, cussed, and honked his horn. After a few minutes, the loader directed the vehicles in our lane to the ferry. She waved us through but signaled the dump truck driver to pull over into another lane.

As the ferry pulled away from the port, we saw the dump truck waiting on shore. Take that, dump truck driver.

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Ferry to Galveston from Bolivar Port

The State Department of Transportation operates the ferry and there is no fee. The ride took about twenty minutes and we only had to wait about ten minutes for it to arrive. On our way back, we drove right on without any wait at all.

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Seagulls Waiting for Handout
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Seawolf Park on Galveston’s Pelican Island Where a Submarine, Merchant Ship, and Destroyer Can be Seen
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Texas Flag on Ferry

The Wedding

We attended the fastest wedding and reception ever on Saturday, February 24, 2018. After three days of fog, we woke up to puffy clouds and bright sky along with a slight breeze, a perfect day for a wedding on the beach. We arrived at the beach house around 9:15 a.m. noting travel bags packed and lined up in front of the house for the 30 people who would board a cruise ship later in the day. The ceremony began at 9:45 a.m., formal photography session at 10:15 a.m., catered lunch at 10:45 a.m., champagne and toasts at 11:15, cake cutting at 11:30, and at 12:00 p.m., we waved at the bus as it whisked the wedding party and guests off to the cruise ship. Wham. Bam. The deed was done. I suspect, though, the merriment continued on board the ship.

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Our Niece Jessi Blackwell and her Father Chris Blackwell
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Best Man and Maid of Honor Tracy Blackwell Oversee the Ceremony and Vows

We hopped in our truck and headed for Galveston. A plate of fried calamari and a couple of Mai Tais at Olympia Grill on Pier 21 kept us busy while we waited for the Coast Guard to escort the ship out to sea.

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Olympia the Grill at Pier 21 on the Harborfront
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U.S. Coast Guard Escort for Cruise Ship
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Carnival Freedom Heading out to Sea

We stopped in at The Great Storm Theater, which tells the story of the September 8, 1900, Galveston Hurricane through the personal stories of some of the survivors and the recovery required to rebuild the city.

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Great Storm Theater

A few more sites near Pier 21.

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Statue of Boy and Seagulls
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Juxtaposition of Old and New Is Around Every Corner in Galveston Harbor and Strand Districts
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She’ll be Coming Around the Corner When She Comes

More photos and information about sites on Bolivar Peninsula coming up in next post.

Safe Travels

 

 

George H. W. Bush Library and Museum in Bryan, Texas

We left Fort Stockton on Sunday, February 18, 2018, under sunny skies and 70-degree weather. As we made our way east on Interstate 10, the skies darkened, temperatures dropped to 60 degrees, and mist mingled with the burning of methane gas from the oil rigs. The smell was overpowering and a headache soon developed. Hopefully, eating a bite of lunch will ease the pain.

The colorful paint on El Chatos Mexican Restaurant in Ozona enticed us to sample their menu. The parking lot full of vehicles (there were plenty more than the two in the photo) signaled that it was a popular local draw.

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The inside was painted as bright as the outside and, sure enough, it seemed everyone who walked in the door knew someone sitting at a table.

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Diners expressed greetings to their neighbors as a wave across the dining room or through the exchange of a few words while walking to and from the buffet. A hot cup of tea and a delicious plate of food soothed my aching head.

We found Junction North Llano River RV park a perfect place to stop for the night. The Llano River flowed a few feet from our site as roosters crowed, doves cooed, and other birds chattered high up in the pecan trees.

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Clouds with occasional drops of rain and high humidity followed us to the Galloping Snail in Bryan, Texas, our stop for two nights. The next day we headed out to the George H. W. Bush Library & Museum near the Texas A & M University campus in Bryan, Texas. Clouds threatened to let loose buckets of rain.

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George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush 41) served one term as president from January 20, 1989, to January 20, 1993, after serving as vice president from 1981 to 1989.

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Interesting how George Earned his Name

Some of the key events that occurred during George Bush’s presidency include the bailout of troubled savings and loans banks, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the capture and conviction of Manuel Antonio Noriega on drug trafficking charges.

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1989 Lincoln Towncar Presidential Limousine

Exhibits include photos, narratives, and artifacts that detail the president’s life and career.

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Bush’s Military Career
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Photos and Equipment Similar to What George Might Have Used

This exhibit detailed the lives of George and Barbara and their family’s lives.

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Type of Car Owned by the Bush’s Early During Their Marriage
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Exhibit on Bush’s Time as Congressman

This president’s library displays a replica of the oval office while he was in office, which is available for taking personal photos behind the desk.

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Take a Selfie Behind the President’s Oval Office Desk

I liked this story about Barbara and her mismatched tennis shoes. One day she mentioned that she preferred the old-fashioned Ked tennis shoes. George contacted the company president who sent George 24 pairs of Keds in different colors and patterns. George then gave the shoes to Barbara for her birthday. To tease her husband, she divided the shoes into three piles, one pile to use while at the White House, one pile to use at Camp David, and the third pile to use at Kennebunkport. None of the piles contained two shoes that matched.

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The Keds Story Shows the Family’s Humor
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Sit Down, Relax, and View a Video About the Bush’s
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Camp David Office

The replica of the White House Situation Room gives visitors an idea of the setting where the president receives intelligence briefings by the U.S. National Security Adviser and members of the National Security Council.

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White House Situation Room

The Persian Gulf War conducted under the code name Operation Desert Storm was one of the defining moments of George’s presidency. Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and on January 17, 1991, the war began with air strikes. Ground troops deployed on February 24, 1991, liberating Kuwait with little resistance from Iraqi troops. President Bush called off the ground offensive since the war’s objectives had been met, sparking criticism for not taking out Saddam Hussein.

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Exhibit on Desert Storm
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Millie Greets Children in Each Exhibit. Inside the Cupboard is a Lesson.

I liked looking at all the gifts that are presented to the president while in office, including jewelry, vases, dishware, baskets, quilts, and various art pieces from around the world. The Gate of Kuwait is the most special piece in this collection. Kuwait’s leading citizens once used similar doors as the primary access to their walled homes. The gate, over 100 years old, represents the gratitude of the people of Kuwait. The plates framing the door bears the names of the 149 American servicemen and women who were killed during the Gulf War.

 

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Gate of Kuwait

 

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Various Gifts Given to the American People During Bush’s Presidency

 

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The Painted Rock was a Gift From Nicaragua

 

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JT Sits Down for a Chat with George

It is fitting that the statue below found a home at the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum. A sister casting, a gift of friendship from the American people to the people of Germany, was unveiled by President Bush on July 2, 1998, in Berlin on the 50th anniversary of the Berlin airlift.

 

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The Day the Wall Came Down by Veryl Goodnight

 

 

 

 

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Bronze Statue of Bush

Since visiting Lyndon Johnson’s library and museum and now George Bush’s, we have enjoyed reliving the history we lived through, learning a little more about the men and their families, and trying to understand the stress that each man must have gone through during their time in office. There’s one more presidential library and museum in Texas and we plan on visiting the two in California on our way back home.

Safe Travels