Archive for December, 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011—The Last Day of the Year of New Beginnings

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Our blogs posts are going to come in spurts for at least the next week. The internet here is the worst we’ve had yet. Barry will have to go to McDonald’s to work every morning. We may have to post 2 or 3 days worth of blogs at a time.

We didn’t do much today. It was in the 70s but very humid.

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Friday, December 31, 2011–From Lake Superior to The Gulf of Mexico

Friday, December 30th, 2011

2011-12-30-Galveston (37)The thought struck me today as we were walking on the beach at the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas, that just a few months ago we were walking along the shoreline of Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan. I couldn’t help but remember some of the places we have visited on our way from the top of the country to the bottom. We’ve only been in 7 states so far on our trip and yet we’ve seen so many different areas. There really isn’t a work to describe how amazing and beautiful our country is! 

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A Change of Plans That Worked Out Quite Nicely

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

2011-12-30-Galveston (3)This morning we left Willis, Texas. We headed to a new RV Park that is closer to Houston. We drove through a very different and interesting area. It was very flat with a lot of scrubby vegetation but it was beautiful. Because of all the rain, the grass here looks like new spring grass. We enjoyed seeing more Texas Longhorns than we’ve seen since we’ve been in Texas.

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George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, TX

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

12-28-2011-george-bush-library (7)Another sunny day! This is two in a row. Can we go for three? I think we will!

Today we drove north to College Station, TX. The Houston area still has quite a few brightly colored trees. The farther north we drove today, we saw less and less color. Still it was a nice drive. It seemed to be a country of wide open spaces.

One of our goals is to visit all 12 of the Presidential Libraries. In 2013 there will be 13 when George W. Bush’s library will be completed. Guess we’ll just have to make another trip back to this great state! Today we visited George Bush Presidential Library and Museum (#41). It’s our third library behind William J. Clinton Library and Museum and Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

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December 27, 2011—After Christmas Catch-Up

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

We haven’t blogged very faithfully because we’ve been busy with Christmas. Things have finally settled down a bit so I’ll hit a few of the high-lights.

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December 22, 2011: San Antonio—Part 2

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

San Antonio National Historic Park

DSC00508On Monday, December 19, we woke up to rain (Surprise! Surprise!) so Barry spent the morning working while the girls finished school. After lunch, we headed to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Fortunately, it quit raining.

DSC00570The Missions are a very different park in that you have to visit each of the four missions separately, driving to each one. The missions are a set of four Catholic missions (The Alamo is technically the fifth one but is not a part of the National Park Service) that were established in the early 1700s by Franciscans and Spanish representatives with the purpose to acculturate and Christianize the native population and make them citizens of Spain.

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Thursday, December 21, 2001—San Antonio…What a City!!—Part 1

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I haven’t blogged because we have put all our energy into two areas: school and the sights in and around San Antonio.

DSC00546I don’t know where to begin. We fell in love with San Antonio. We arrived at our campground in Schertz, TX, in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, December 18. We set-up camp and headed right to the Alamo. I think I mentioned in one of the previous posts that we had just studied the Spanish Missions, The Alamo, and The Texas Revolution in U.S. History, so this was perfect timing. The Alamo and the grounds around it are beautiful and very interesting. An informative movie by the History Channel and various displays helped explain all that happened at this historic site. You couldn’t help but feel a great sadness for those brave men, women, and children, sense their desperation, but also admire their grit and courage.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011—Austin, Texas

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

DSC00479I know that I’ve mentioned clean cities, universities, and attractions in other blogs. This may seem strange but we have been to a few places where cleanliness has stood out so much that it was the first thing we noticed. Of these places, Austin, Texas, wins the award for the cleanest of the clean!

We enjoyed everything about Austin. What started out as a somewhat cloudy day turned out to be a beautiful, spring-like day in the 50s. Every now and then we would see a tree still in full color to remind us that it is technically fall. We spent as much time outside as we could.

DSC00482We know that we won’t be able to see everything we would like as we travel the United States. We’ve been in seven states and feel like while we’ve seen some amazing things, we are only scratching the surface. Our goals for each state help us choose which places to visit. The state capitals, National Parks, Presidential Libraries, and major historical highlights of each state top the list.

The Texas State Capitol is amazing! It is very big and is somewhat different that other capitol buildings we’ve visited. Our first stop was the very well done Capitol Visitor Center. It has exhibits on different aspects of the capitol building and Texas history. I was very pleased when we saw exhibits on the very sections of history we had read about last week in school. 

Self-guided tours of the grounds and capitol building are offered but we chose to take a guided tour that gave highlights of the origins of some Texan Christmas traditions. I was a little skeptical about the Christmas part. I wondered what could be so special about Texas Christmas traditions over any other state. It turned out to be very interesting. When we think of Texas, we think of a strong Mexican influence. Our guide and exhibits along the way, pointed out that Texas also had a strong European influence as well. It was interesting to learn how each group had a part in framing Texas Christmas traditions.

Our tour also included a tour of the Senate Chamber, The House Chamber, Rotunda, and Foyer. It was neat to find out that the capitol was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers from Michigan who also designed the State Capitol in Lansing. His original design included skylights in both chambers. The Texas sun made it impossible for the politicians to meet so a roof had to be put over the skylights. We could have taken elevators up to the beautiful Chambers but we choose to take the stairs with their old fashioned banisters. Texans are proud of their history and they show it through the many paintings, statutes, and décor that are found throughout the capitol.

DSC00493The grounds around the building are worth a visit in and of themselves. There are several government buildings that border the manicured lawns and gardens. Statues tell of the bravery and grit of several aspects of Texan history. We were delighted to see Santa ride up to the Capitol on a horse and a wedding party using the beautiful grounds as a backdrop to their special day. None of us wanted to leave so we took the long way to the parking garage.

DSC00503We drove by the University of Texas and Memorial Stadium on the way to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. I highly recommend touring this very fascinating place. Presidential libraries and museums are not only about that particular president but about life in the White House and a history of the time in which that president served. They deal with a very small period of American history in great detail. You not only learn about what that man did as president but get a glimpse into his personal life as well. We found the exhibits that dealt with Lady Bird Johnson, the Kennedy assassination, and a very 60ish oval office to be especially interesting. There is also an actual moon rock and presidential portraits of every president and first lady from Washington to Clinton. If you visit, make sure you leave time to watch the movie on LBJ’s life. 

Before leaving Austin, we drove by the Governor’s Mansion which is under construction due to a very extensive fire in 2008. We couldn’t see very much of it but we did learn quite a bit about it at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Austin, Texas, is worth a visit. There’s so much history and beauty to this great city. We’ve loved Texas and feel like Austin was the icing on the cake!


December 16, 2011—Moving Deeper Into Ranch Country

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Today we left Whitney, Texas. We were all glad to leave as we spent our entire time there, sick. It also rained most of the time. As we drove away, we saw a lot of neat areas that we missed. The rocky banks of Lake Whitney were so beautiful and filled us with regret that we weren’t able to explore the area.

We realized on the drive to our new destination that fall is finally over. It’s hard to believe that we’ve enjoyed the colorful leaves through the middle of December. Most of today’s drive was on county highways through the back country of Texas. We passed more ranches today—a lot more ranches. None of us have tired of them, however. Most of them are huge, with big gates at each entrance and long drive-ways leading up to incredibly beautiful and large homes. Some of them were so elaborate that we wondered if movie stars lived in them!

The deeper into Texas we drove we saw more palm trees, different varieties of cacti, and (finally!) more Texas Longhorns and Brahmas. The varieties of birds just keep getting more beautiful and more unique. What we didn’t have for color on the leaves, we made up for it with very green grass. It almost looked like spring. With all the rain we’ve had, it wasn’t very surprising.

We drove through several little towns that made us feel as if we stepped back into the time of gun-slingers, saloons, and wagon trains. The store fronts looked to be very old and were very Western. As we were about to approach one very small town Barry noticed a sign that said, “Crawford, Home of President George W. Bush.” It’s a good thing he didn’t blink or we would have missed the entire town. We also drove through a couple of smaller cities with very beautiful and western architecture. The detail on the buildings is amazing and everything is so…well…BIG!

When we got to our new park we finished up school for the week. As it happens, we are studying The Mexican War, Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, The Spanish Missions, the events leading up to the statehood of Texas, the Alamo, etc. Perfect timing as we will be visiting the very places where these people lived and the events happened.

Our cats have seen all kinds of wildlife on this trip. They are curious and seem to enjoy looking out at the different animals. When they see another cat, however, it is horrible! They go crazy. Our male cat starts screaming like a demon and goes after his sister kitty, not realizing who she is. She then starts howling like something from a horror movie. The park we are at has a lot of feral cats. Today has been interesting to say the least. I’m wondering if we will get any sleep tonight. Tomorrow, someone will have to be locked in the bathroom while we sight-see!


December 15, 2011—A Very Historically Diverse Day

Friday, December 16th, 2011

DSC00441With all the sickness and crummy weather we’ve had lately, we decided to take a break and visit the city of Waco, Texas.

The drive to Waco was really quite beautiful. For much of the trip, trees that still had not lost their leaves lined both sides of the road. The leaves were a kind of orange/pink/yellowish color. It was very welcome against the tan colored brush and the gray skies.

Our first stop was the Dr. Pepper Museum. I’m not a huge fan of soda but I have to admit that while it was a bit overpriced, it was interesting. The girls laughed at the tabs that were once used to open pop cans but laughed even harder when they found out that Barry and I remembered using them. They also loved the advertising posters that were from the 80s. All I cold say was, “Yes, I used to dress just like that!” Eva got a bit confused when Barry told her that Dr. Pepper was a fountain drink. She thought there was a bubbler (drinking fountain for those of you not from Wisconsin) somewhere in the museum with soda instead of water! Before we left, we stopped by the real Soda Fountain for small Dr. Pepper floats. We wondered if Dr. Pepper from a fountain would taste different than it does from a can. It does!

DSC00458 Next, we went to the Waco Mammoth Site where the bones of several Columbian Mammoths have been found. Some bones have been taken to Baylor University to be studied and preserved but many are left exposed at the excavation site for visitors to see. Our guide was very knowledgeable and patiently answered the many questions we had. The terrain around the site is very interesting. Thankfully, she pointed out a lot of things to us that we would have missed. We really enjoyed this stop! It was the perfect compliment to the time we spent at Dinosaur Valley State Park about a week ago and to the paleontology badge Eva is working on through the National Parks Service. The site is currently pending approval to become a National Monument.

We drove by Baylor University and were very impressed by it’s beautiful, well kept campus. We all agreed that it is one of the most beautiful college campuses that we’ve ever seen. If it had been a nicer day, we may have walked around a bit.

Barry and I well remember all the media coverage of the Waco Massacre (The Branch Davidians, David Koresh) that took place nearly 20 years ago. He found the coordinates somewhere on Google so we drove by the site. There isn’t much there but it sparked enough curiosity amongst us that I turned on the computer and read some articles aloud on the way back to our campground.

DSC00472 DSC00471

It was certainly a very diverse day as we covered different time periods and very different aspects of history. We learned a lot, got away from the camper, saw more of beautiful Texas, and even got in a full day of school when we returned home.

 

Dr. Pepper Museum: http://www.drpeppermuseum.com/

Waco Mammoth Site: http://www.wacomammoth.org/