Abilene, Texas

We had originally planned on only one night in Abilene but decided to spend an extra day exploring. After paring our list of 10 adventures down to three, we started off by driving south 15 miles to the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, stopped at the Abilene State Park for a picnic lunch, and finished up the day at the 12th Armored ‘Hellcats’ Division Memorial Museum.

Buffalo Gap Historic Village

Buffalo Gap Historic Village

Buffalo Gap Historic Village, a stop within the Texas Forts Trail Region, contains a grouping of 15 structures that depict life from the 1800s to the 1920s. The village began taking shape when Ernie Wilson purchased the original 1879 Taylor County Courthouse in 1956 to display his collection of artifacts and called it the “Ernie Wilson Museum of the Wild West.”

1879 Brick Courthouse and Knight-Sayles Cabin

After adding other structures to the property over several decades, a couple of ownership changes, and a new name, Taylor County took ownership of the village grounds, buildings, and artifacts in February 2017, and the Taylor County History Center was formed to operate the museum and continue its mission.

Entrance to the 1879 Taylor County Courthouse and Jail

The 1879 Taylor County Courthouse and Jail, opened in March 1880, to serve as the county seat of Taylor County. The brick construction includes cannonballs between the bricks to increase stability. Once Abilene became the county seat, the county sold the courthouse to a private party who turned it into a two-story home.

Come Inside the 1879 Courthouse
Recreated Courtroom

The Hill House is one of the first structures we entered on our tour through the decades. Tom Hill, Abilene’s first marshal at the age of 27, built the house in 1882 for $400. He and his wife Mollie lived there with their two children.

Front Entrance to the Hill House

It seems there is a dispute about the details surrounding Hill’s death. Abilenescene.com describes a scuffle with an intoxicated saloon owner that caused the accidental shooting of Hill’s foot. They also report that Hill’s daughter told them he died of lockjaw a day later after the amputation of his big toe. An article in the Abilene Reporter-News on 08 April 1956 says Hill died in 1886 of gangrene after he was accidentally shot in the foot while on a hunting trip.

Caution: Slanted Wall May Cause Dizziness

The village conducts ghost tours in October and the Hill House is reported to generate the most paranormal activity.

The Hill House Kitchen
Back Entrance to the Hill House

Knight-Sayles Cabin – Wilson reconstructed the cabin in 1964. James Malcolm Callaway Knight and his wife Susannah built the original cabin in 1875 where Lake Abilene is today. They raised six of their fifteen children in the cabin, cooking on an open fire outdoors. The fireplace and stove were used for warming the cabin.

Inside the Knight-Sayles Cabin
Construction Details of the Knight-Sayles Cabin

Buffalo Gap Post Office – built in 1950 by postmaster Charlie McDonald in his front yard when the postal service required post offices to be located in a freestanding building.

First Free-Standing Buffalo Gap Post Office
Inside First Free-Standing Buffalo Gap Post Office
Postal Boxes in First Free-Standing Buffalo Gap Post Office

Clyde Train Depot, built in Clyde, Texas, cost $40,000 in 1905. The train shortened travel to another town from months to days. The ticket and waiting room portion of the original depot is in one location on the property while the baggage compartment portion is now the general store where the tour begins.

Clyde Train Depot
Ticket Counter Inside the Clyde Train Depot
Segregated Waiting Rooms Inside the Clyde Train Depot

Cottonwood Flat School, originally located in Scurry County, cost $900 in 1930. Grades one through seven attended the school, while older students transferred to the high school in Snyder. After 1938, its use as a school terminated and the community used it to hold office elections and events. Moved to the cemetery for funerals in the 1950s, the building found its way to the village when it was donated in January 1989.

Cottonwood Flat Two Room School Building

Buffalo Gap Chapel The Nazarene Church, built in 1906, is the oldest church in Taylor County that is still used today. After bees used the back wall as their home, parishioners named it The Sweet Church.

Buffalo Gap Chapel
Inside the Buffalo Gap Chapel
Stain Glass Window Inside the Buffalo Gap Chapel
Buffalo Gap Chapel Bell

Besides the Bourn Texaco Service Station (originally constructed in Winters), other buildings include a doctor’s office, barbershop, a wagon barn filled with historic vehicles, a bank, print shop, an art gallery, and a blacksmith shop.

Dr. Pepper is Everywhere in Texas

With picnic tables, restrooms and a playground for children available, visitors have plenty to see and do as they experience life through the decades at Buffalo Gap Historic Village.

Abilene State Park

Having emerged from the 1920s to present day, we headed to the Abilene State Park to find a nice picnic spot. The 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps project includes a stone water tower and a swimming pool complex. Under a shady tree with a view of the complex was a great place to eat our lunch.

Civilian Conservation Corp Swimming Pool Complex

With shore and boat ramp access to Lake Abilene, anglers can fish for catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie. Campers can find space for their tents or RVs and during the summer, visitors can splash around in the pool.

Civilian Conservation Corp Swimming Pool Complex
Detail of Brick Construction on the Civilian Conservation Corp Swimming Pool Complex

12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

The 12th Armored ‘Hellcats’ Division Memorial Museum, located at 1289 N. 2nd Street in Abilene, includes World War II artifacts, photos, weapons, uniforms, vehicles, dioramas, and a Holocaust memorial.

12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

Much of the museum honors the soldiers attached to the 12th Armored ‘Hellcats’ Division who trained at Camp Barkeley, Texas, which was located 11 miles from Abilene. Construction on the training installation began in December 1940 and completed seven months later. Approximately 840 German prisoners of war were held at the location during 1944 and 1945. The base was then closed and the land reverted to the original landowners.

One of the Armored Vehicles at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
Jeeps are but One Type of Vehicle at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
Track Road Wheels Waiting for Restoration
One of the Exhibits at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
Field Office Tent and Radio Operator Exhibit
One of the Model Depictions of a WW II Battle
Model Depiction of a Battle Aftermath

We enjoyed our day exploring the outskirts of Abilene and the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum in town. If we ever make our way through Abilene again, we’ll stay awhile, maybe find a spot at the State Park, scout around the historic buildings in town, and stop in at a restaurant or two. I’m sure we can find enough to keep us busy for a couple of days, or three, or four.

Safe Travels


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.

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.

Bosque County Courthouse

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dublin Public Library

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

W. M. Wright Historical Park
Log Cabin Built by Early Settlers
William T. Miller Gristmill Originally Built in 1882
Rear of Gristmill Originally Powered by Steam then Converted by Crude Oil Engine
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.

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 III

This is the continuation and final post of our stay in Waco, Texas, during March 2018.

George W. Bush Presidential Center

George W. Bush Presidential Museum and Library

An hour and a half drive from Waco brought us to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. At the Southern Methodist University, the Center houses the 43rd president’s library and museum, the George W. Bush Policy Institute, and the G. W. Bush Foundation offices on a 23-acre site of the Southern Methodist University near Dallas.

Included in the 23 acres is a 15- acre park and gardens that are open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. The park consists of native prairie grasses, seasonal wildflowers, and native habitats for butterflies, birds, and other species. Had we not been anxious to beat the commuter rush, we would have spent time wandering around the park.

Quote from George W. Bush’s Inaugural Address

One of the first exhibits visitors encounter inside the building is the 360-degree, 20-foot-tall high definition video wall in Freedom Hall. The video blends art, history, and entertainment through a variety of scenes that morph from one to the other. Some people might get dizzy from looking up at the videos too long. Railings to hang on to are not available like they had at Disneyland’s America the Beautiful theater in Tomorrow Land.

While gazing up at the video I noticed this geometric wood paneled skylight.

Skylight inside George W. Bush Library and Museum

The first stop, once we entered the museum, was the introductory video in the theater that was already in process. We decided to go back later to view it and continued along the path. We walked around a corner and in the middle of a circular area two twisted steel beams—remnants from the twin towers—rose from the floor and held in place by cables attached to the ceiling. A half circle of monitors ran film clips of planes flying into the towers, explosions and fire, the collapse of the towers, people running through the debris that fell, news reporters trying to make sense of what was happening.

Remnants from the Twin Towers

All the emotions I felt the morning of September 11, 2001, while I watched the events unfold on my television came flooding back. For weeks after that date, nothing else mattered to me except being close to my family. Work became insignificant and had no meaning. Tears welled up anytime I saw a flag hanging from an overpass, posted to the sides of houses, or flying from the back of a fire truck. My heart still ached for the men, women, and children that died and for the family and friends left behind without their mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers. I averted my eyes the best I could and headed for other exhibits.

Education Reform Exhibit

Displays on George Bush’s significant legislation turned out to be less threatening to my mental state. No Child Left Behind, the passage of Medicare Part D, Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act reminded me of all the good Bush did during his presidency. While Tax relief and the Iraq war made me long for the surplus Bill Clinton handed Bush before his inauguration and which blossomed out of control by the end of his two terms.

Economic Growth and Tax Relief Exhibit
Social Programs Exhibit
In Pursuit of Liberty and Hope for All Humanity
Importance of Volunteerism

After peeking in at the full-size replica of the oval office and the exhibit featuring Laura Bush, Jon and I returned to watch the video. What was the first image plastered on the screen? The horrible event of 9/11. With no escape, I let my emotions wash over me until the film switched to other topics.

One of the Exhibits in the Laura Bush Section of the Museum

We took a break and ate lunch at Café 43 (named for the 43rd President) where they offered a wide selection of soups and salads, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts. Then we visited the First Ladies: Style of Influence exhibit running from March 1 to October 1, 2018. Each of the country’s first ladies was featured with photos and biographies.

I zeroed in on the Lou Hoover display because of her connection to the Girl Scouts, a group I participated in for a number of years as a young girl. She helped Juliette Gordon Low establish the national organization and served in many capacities between 1917 and 1929. Her duties even included troop leader in both Washington D.C. and Palo Alto, California, the locations of both of her residences.

Lou Hoover Active in Girl Scouts Organization

Early scouts had more to do besides taking cookie orders and delivering them. They even had to bake them. I wonder if they earned a badge for demonstrating their baking and selling skills. Edith Wilson became the first first lady to serve as the honorary president of the Girl Scouts in 1917, and each first lady since has been invited to serve in that capacity.

How Many Boxes of Cookies Would You Like?

Waco, Texas Wrap Up

And now it’s time to conclude our time in Waco, Texas. We kept busy while there and look forward to returning someday. It will be fun to see what new renovations the city will undergo in this down-home western town that treasures its history, where people are friendly, and restaurants are plentiful.

Speaking of restaurants, we had the pleasure of visiting three while in Waco. At Buzzard Billy’s, I enjoyed the red beans and rice while Jon dug into his andouille sausage. The food was tasty, but the best part was the view of the Brazos River and suspension bridge from our table.

We also ate Bon Mi sandwiches at The Clay Pot, a Vietnamese restaurant on Franklin Avenue in downtown and Taqueria El Mexicano Grill served up good Mexican food for lunch.

In case I didn’t include enough photos, here are a few of the buildings in downtown that are representative of the architecture in the historic district.

McClennan County Courthouse Listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Built in 1901 in the Neoclassic Style.
A Bank of America Branch once Occupied 514 Austin Avenue Located within the Waco Downtown Historic District
Magnolia is not the Only Design Firm in Town
The Poles and Wires Ruin the View of the Beautiful First Baptist Church of Waco at 500 Webster
Love the Architectural Detail of the First Baptist Church of Waco
It Seemed as Though all the Windows Contained Stained Glass

Next up we start our trek back to California making stops along the way in Texas and New Mexico.

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.

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.

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.

Jon Checking out the Bottling Equipment
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Homestead Gristmill at the Craft Village
Inside the Working Gristmill
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.

Windmill and Sheep
Tri-colored Sheep
The Basket Store
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Silos Play Area. No Dogs Allowed on the Artificial Grass.
Snag a Beanbag and Rest Awhile
Play a Game of Cornhole
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.

Magnolia Seed & Supply


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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/




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.

IMG_6429 - Copy
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
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