Round ’em up in Fort Worth

stockyardsWe had lunch with a good friend in Fort Worth and asked for a recommendation of somewhere to visit. Everyone goes to the Stockyards, was his reply. I asked when the last time he had been there was, he hemmed and hawed. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The Fort Worth Stockyards has been converted to a tourist area. It once was a huge area for driving cattle to slaughter. All the slaughter houses and the railroad came together there. Cattle prices were determined in Fort Worth, so it was the money center.

We had just had a fabulous lunch, so weren’t in the market for the food and drink offered in the area, so we went to the Live Stock Exchange Building. The building itself was built in 1902, once known as the Wall Street of the West, it’s where livestock commissioners presided over an industry that affected many.

There are still many offices and businesses that are headquartered in the Live Stock Exchange Building at 131 E. Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas, there is also a small museum curated by the North Fort Worth Historical Society. The curators have stuffed it with old relics of the west, including the docents. Each one wants to tell you a story for your $2 donation. There is the cursed wedding dress in the case; an old Victrola with no volume control, lots of memorabilia of the times. To find the real treasures, go slow and look in every nook and cranny. The room is not very big, but filled with trinkets from another era.

When you leave, go out the back door to see the longhorn cattle, they do a roundup twice a day moving them from arena to pen for you, but if you happen to miss it, at least walk up the catwalk and look over the pen area. It isn’t all still used today, but you can imagine what it once looked like as the cattle came off the railroad cars and in to the area to be sorted. The area is still pretty open, you can see how it might have looked 100 years ago. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

Dallas…not on a Saturday, please

IMG_20150509_141130892 (1)I really try hard to tourist on a day other than Saturday in my life.  I’d much rather be somewhere on an off day, or even an off season.  So a Saturday in May in downtown Dallas is not really recommended.  But I needed to do something!  So we set off for the Dallas World Aquarium, 1801 North Griffen, Dallas, Texas for our first stop.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Aquarium, more for the design than the aquatics.  They apparently took a lesson from Disney and have learned how to move people.  When you enter the Aquarium at ground level, you make your way to the top before you even enter the displays.  The foyer winds and twists to the top among trees and branches, as you enter, the pathway then spirals down again among the animal displays.  It is open and interesting.  You can look over railings to the ponds below, in addition to the many aquariums set in the outside of the spiral path.

There are big animals like turtles, alligators and flamingos.  An aviary throughout, plus lots of fish from all over the world.  The narrow path keeps everyone moving along and the colors are vibrant.  I never felt rushed, but enjoyed the continued walk through.

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was our next stop.  Just under the freeway, a quick ten minute walk away, the Perot is a beautiful modern building.  But, remember what I said about touristing on a Saturday.  Yeah, it was too much for me.  There is no great path through the museum like there is through the Aquarium, people were roaming in all directions.  Being a museum of nature and science, there is a lot of reading to do at all the displays, that really isn’t conducive to a busy Saturday.  Perhaps if it had been quieter we would have enjoyed it more, but as it was, we felt rushed to get out of the crowd.  I’m sure the Perot has a lot to offer if you have all day and not a lot of people.  For us, it wasn’t a great experience.  Pick a Tuesday outside of the school year and at least enjoy the architecture.

The Land of Chocolate

HersheyA cold, April day found us in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Everybody knows Hershey’s Chocolate.  We had just a few hours to spend, so we took in The Hershey Story.  It’s a beautifully built building that hosts the history of Hershey Chocolates.  From the start in the late 1800’s to it’s rise during the depression, Hershey wanted to be the chocolate company for everyone.  They altered their production methods to be able to provide candy at a low cost for all.

The displays are well curated, providing an opportunity to see actual equipment that was used in the early years.  An interactive display provides you the opportunity to apply for employment at Hershey in the early 1920’s.  I got a job in the Wrapping Department at $0.10 per 5 pound box of wrapped Kisses; my husband was able to procure a job in the Roasting Department at $0.15/hr.  That’s a far cry from union wages.

But really, all was fun and games, all the advertisements Hershey was famous for was on display, as well as lots of information about the family and how the community grew up around the Hershey factory.  It’s worth a stop as you are driving through, but probably not a destination location unless you are taking in all the eastern Pennsylvania has to offer, or a trip to the Amusement Park is on the agenda.

Shiloh Military Park

shilohShiloh, almost six square miles in Tennessee that once housed families and farms, a peach orchard, a couple of ponds, smiles and laughter, over 70 buildings of one sort or another..  One hundred and fifty years ago, the Blue and the Gray clashed in a bloody battle, over 111,000 men met in this small space; over 7,000 died, more than 30,000 others were wounded.  One of the first battles of the bloodiest war in the history of America in the War Between the States, took place in April 1862 at Shiloh.

It has become known as the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, over 10,000 battles raged across the country – as far west as New Mexico, but concentrated in along the borders states between the Union and Confederate states.  There are many monuments to both throughout the country, this was our first all out tour of a military battlefield.  The Shiloh National Military Park is well put together, the museum holds artifacts from the time period, the movie is well worth every minute, but the battlefield is what will impress you most.

Each space is filled with markers that relate the troop movements, relate the battles won and lost, the sheer number of participants.  There is a nine mile loop that takes you through the various spaces to give you an idea of what it must have been like, but we were there with probably 100 other people, not 100,000.  I can’t even imagine the crush of people, all carrying weapons, the damages were staggering to both the North and the South.

The National Park Service does an awesome job preserving this military park.  I recommend this one at Shiloh to anyone, we also stopped at Brices Crossing, not as much to see, but still interesting.  The one in Tupelo, not so much – we made the trip because we didn’t know what to expect.  It was a city park, 1 acre square, aside from the two confederate tombstones, there wasn’t anything to see.

2012 Rose Parade Day One

The Rose Parade is a great experience, especially if you show up early in the week.  You can see the floats at their naked best and watch them progress from day to day.  The last day when the flowers are added just changes everything.  We are at the Rose Palace all this week, there are nine floats in residence.  Many of them so completely elaborate you have to applaud the designers.  The Lion’s Club float is an architectural wonder, it represents everything from the Sydney Opera House to the Eiffel Tower.  The Nurse’s Float (a new one this year) is beautiful with animals of all forms on it.  The mama deer is my favorite, although Haley was partial to the turtles, big surprise there.  And there is a “Love Float” that includes a wedding to happen, we can’t wait to see the dress rehearsal and how the bride gets up and down the ladder.

There are thousands of tasks to do, all of a small nature, every little task adds to the bigger picture.  At the Rose Palace, there are no small tasks, just small people.  We spent the first half of our night making 2” diameter curlicues from dried corn silk.  These curlicues were then added to a giant size teddy bear to form his face.  I’ve added photos so you can see the progression.  That’s kind of how everything works around here.  You start with a simple material, and then you chop it, or trim it, or cut it or twirl it.  Then you glue it to a part of the float.  Every part of the float that is visible must be covered with a natural material.  It’s really very impressive, I can’t wait to go back today.

All is not lost, and I’m not either

So the season – racing season that is, has been so busy, that to find time to visit places and write about them too seemed a little daunting.  We did trip to some great places over the last few months and I hope to catch up and talk about them soon.  In the meantime, you can find me on my birthday blog at www.FiftyIn365.com  I will be writing there daily as a celebration of my 50th year.  Be sure to read the What’s It All About part and to follow that blog too.  Thanks everyone, I’m having a great year and would love for you to come along on the journey.

The Squares of Texas

Our current parking spot is Bridgeport, Texas, a small town marked by white trucks and blue collar workers.  A few excellent restaurants, most of which close early, they only need to accommodate the lunch crowd.  My recommendations are Rock City, Casilla’s and Brandee’s Country Kitchen.

Another thing I like about Texas, and truly most places in the South, is that most small towns are built around the square.  Almost every town has one, a central square that is surrounded by shops and cool buildings.  In Decatur and Jacksboro, there is a court house in the central square, in Chico – not much of anything anymore, but the concept is still there.  The square is the center of the city.  Decatur has a beautiful square, the courthouse for Wise County is there, and the buildings all around the square are historic with their histories shared for all to see.  One of my favorite steakhouses is on the southeast corner, Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes – fantastic chicken fried steak there.  Continuing on the Southeast side were three antique stores and a music store.  Another turn to the west and along the north side was a gift store and a thrift store; going south and then back east were dotted with clothing and furniture stores, but the main theme was food.  Half a dozen restaurants filled in the square.  The best part – no empty buildings.  I love shopping local, too bad, I really don’t need stuff, there was plenty to be had.

I intend to keep exploring the little towns of Texas, I haven’t found my favorite yet, but there are several on the list.

Books books and more books

I am a big fan of reading, whether it’s the cereal box on the table, a billboard or a book, if it has words on it, I will read it repeatedly until I can find something else to do.

Each year I set a goal to read 52 books, for the last six years I’ve even written down every book and every author I’ve read to see if I make my goal.  Each year I’ve fallen short, not by much, but still, I have failed.  Today marked the half way point of this great year, the first year of my “retirement”, and I’m pleased to announced I’ve read 35 books already.

Some were new authors I haven’t read before, others were authors given to me or books picked up secondhand.  Some of those even from a laundrymat in Arizona.  All have been worth reading, but I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion has been my favorite, a novel along the lines of Sarah Addison Allen, highly recommended.  The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan was a pleasant surprise, a must read for anyone who has been touched by cancer.  I laughed out loud with Marian Keyes The Other Side of the Story  and cried with Kris Radish Tuesday Night Miracles. 

There are obviously more on the list, I caught up with some of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde, Steve Martin, and Charlaine Harris, and met new ones, Harlan Coben and C.J. Box.  I am looking forward to another six months of great reading, if you have anything to recommend, send it my way.

Remember the Alamo!

Not very original, I know, but that is the overwhelming message that comes out of visiting the Alamo in San Antonio,Texas.  I spent my formative years in San Antonio, my dad was career Air Force and was often stationed at Kelly Air Force base before it’s closure.  So from age, less than a year, to age five, I lived on Seacomber street.  When we returned again when I was in fifth grade, we moved to Connie Mack.  The streets of San Antone have changed a lot since then, but my favorite part of the city remains.

The Riverwalk and the Alamo are still as I remember from each of my many visits.  The Alamo is a shrine dedicated to the heroes of Texas and preserved and maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  It is sacred ground for all Texans and to read the inscriptions you would believe that Texas would not exist without the Battle having been fought.  It is well documented that the heroes of the Alamo fought against impossible odds.  Facing thousands in the Mexican Army of Santa Anna, the less than 200 soldiers fought hard and held off the army for 13 days. James Bowie and Davy Crockett are two of the many that died by the morning of March 6, 1836, those names live on in history.

One of the things I love about the Alamo is all the quotes that are said to have stemmed from the battle and siege leading up to the battle.  We remember Davy Crockett saying to his former peers in Congress, “You may all go to Hell, but for me, I shall go toTexas!”

It is a shrine to be sure, a pleasure to spend time in a place so well preserved.

Across from the Alamo is the famed Riverwalk,  the Paseo del Rio, designed by famed architect Robert Hugman to preserve the flavor of the economic and commercial section to be solidified and preserved in it’s current form back in 1929.  It’s full of restaurants and tourist shops, but is worth the trip every time.

I love San Antone and am thankful to have dropped by one more time, and hopefully not for the last.