Friday, April 30, 2010

The Oldest Town in Texas

Nacogdoches is known as the oldest town in Texas. There is evidence of settlement on this same site that dates back to 10,000 years ago. It is near or on the site of the primary village of the Nacogdoche tribe of Caddo Indians. One story we heard was that an Indian chief sent his two sons, Nacogdoche and Natchitoches, out to establish villages. One ended up in what would become Texas and the other in what would be Natchitoches, Louisiana. True or not,they are both really fun and interesting places to visit.

Highway 21 becomes brick paved Main Street just after crossing Banita Creek. Our first stop was the very excellent Visitor's Center in the heart of the Historical District.

Here is a copy of a photograph of Main Street then.....

...and here is Main Street now....

The downtown area was great for walking and exploring with planters filled with colorful spring flowers along the sidewalk.

Over looking the whole town is the Lone Star Feeds plant. This is a really long shot so you can gauge how big it is!

Not just historical, this is a thriving business district, no empty store fronts. The dry goods store was sadly closed.

Here is one of many Victorian houses in town.

So much gingerbread and all of it in perfect with shiny white paint.

Still walking, we found the Land Office from 1897.

The Main Street Theater is from a much later period, but sadly the windows are boarded. I hope someone has a plan for it to be restored.

It was looking like time for our usual early dinner. A trio of local gals sent us to their favorite restaurant.......

.....The Clear Spring Cafe located next to the tracks in an old train station building. The food was really good but the kids (local University students) who worked there were the best. We had a fun evening visiting with them and getting to know their city.
If you read carefully, this historical monument will give you a good idea of the fun atmosphere of the Clear Spring Cafe.

Next door is the Depot in a state of restoration. The sun was low in the sky behind so not good for snaps.

After dinner we went to the most outstanding Mize Azalea Garden. This is so beautiful I had to post snaps of it the very night we visited so you will need to visit the previous post to see them.

My friend, Amanda, in Austin is from Nacogdoches. She is very proud of her hometown and now I know why. It's way cool and I can't wait to visit again!

East Texas

East Texas was all new to me so I was very excited to get started on our road trip. We picked up 290 east out of Austin in a light rain and arrived in Crockett in time to find a place to stay and have dinner before dark. So far not much change in the country. That would all change very soon.

On the way into town we had our first hint of the azaleas that grow wildly huge in this part of the country.

First thing in the morning we set off to find out why Crockett was named after Tennesee native, David Crockett. We knew from the night before that the Visitor's Center in the old train station was closed. The big locked gate prevented a close look at this great old building!

The 'Davey Crockett' Memorial Park was very nice with people taking advantage of the long walking path. There was a great example of why interpretive signs don't have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Still looking a connection to Davey, Sandi remembered a mural she had seen on the other side of town. It marks the site of a spring where Davey is said to have camped on his way to the Alamo. Now there is a fountain to tempt thirsty visitors.

Also in this area is a log cabin that had a very curious structure on the end and up to the roof. At one point the cabin had been used to store hay. Our best imagination could not come up with a use for this, maybe you can?

Downtown Crockett was a great walk to see the old and current business district. The streets were very quiet and strangers were unusual. An engineer with his blueprints spread out on the hood of his truck asked where I was from as the start to a nice visit. All the people we met on our trip were really, really friendly.

The Houston County Courthouse was bustling on Monday morning. Houston County reminded me that we were not so far from the coast.

Cute blue and white building had a curio shop downstairs that wasn't open.

The most popular place in town was the Moosehead Cafe. Lots of locals sitting around drinking coffee and reading the paper. Very inexpensive antiques in the back. The armours still had keys in their locks!
While Sandi did some more antiquing I ventured a couple blocks off Main and ran into Lightning Hopkins. Cool! he and I have the same birthday! (except his was in 1912)

We left Crockett heading a bit north on 21. The wildflowers continued to be spectacular. I read on a couple website that track the bloom that this year is 'the biggest in generations' and 'the best in the last 50 years'! I was beginning to believe it!

Rats! Even though I had forgotten my Texas State Parks pass, rangers are very kind about allowing people to drive through for a brief overview. Mission San Francisco de los Tejas was established by the Spanish in the Nabedache Indian settlement to 'protect' it from the French. This was in the 1600s, lots of history here. The mission, cabins, and trails were all restored by CCC crews before WW II.

The campground is lovely (with hook-ups), pines, oaks and dogwoods. I'll be back here in the fall to see the colors!

Near-by are the Caddo Mounds. We had been looking forward to these for days and saved this stop for our picnic lunch. NOT! It was Monday and the park was closed. This may have been the only real disappointment of our whole trip. The Caddo Indians (several different groups are included in this general term) lived here in the lush woods for more than 2500 years....more than 1200 years ago! One of three mounds in this park, I snapped this from the highway, kinda fuzzy.

Down the road was Alto. Old and new side by side. We ate our lunch sitting on a high sidewalk. Not so many people around town as in Crockett. I'm guess this building housed the local paper at some time in the distant past.

No sign of a windmill or any way the water might get into this tank.

Fresh green grass, wildflowers, new leaves on the oaks, even a few log trucks on the highway. It was a beautiful drive into Nacogdoches.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Swamp Thing

On Saturday we went to 'The Swamp Thing' to get into the spirit with Louisiana food and music for our fast approaching road trip.

There were many vendor with fun clothes, jewelry, hats, and food.

There were 'alligator bites' and Texas Taters, but the most incredible was....

Included in the ticket price was a crayfish lunch. People lined up four deep all around the event to wait for their serving. The folks cooking and serving were GOOD. The line moved amazingly fast.

I didn't get to see the boiling water vat that this cage came from, but I did see the steam rising off it as the crayfish were dumped into the 'serving' bowl.

In California I think these are called crawdads. I remember them in the Tuolumne River down at the 'fig trees' where we would feed them chicken bones.

They are kinda like lobster with the most meat in the tail.

To protect the innocent I will never tell who ate this funnel cake!

Not sure if these are masks or fans, but very pretty against the sky scraper.

They had two stages set up side by side so there was continuous music. When one band was playing another was setting up on the a joining stage. This is the Jimi Berg Band.

Remember the hats from the beginning?

The fun was just getting started when we left after a couple hours. It was time to get packed for the road trip!

Happy Birthday Logan!

Matt and Lynsey's new baby boy Logan arrived in Modesto at 1230 am this morning!!!! YAY!!!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Back to the Beginning

Way back on a sunny day in February, my friend Sandi and I were walking at Melones when we hatched the plan to do a road trip through east Texas, west Louisiana, along the Gulf coast, and complete the loop back through San Antonio to Austin.

We built in a couple days in Austin to see the local sights. First on our list was the Capital. This wood carving is in a committee room just off the Senate chambers.

And the Senate chambers from the gallery.

A couple blocks north is the Bob Bullock Museum. Right now they are running an exhibit of Latin influence on American music. It was great. (Last time I was there, it was a quilt show). This is the big star out front.

We couldn't leave downtown without stopping at Whole Food's flag ship store here in Austin. I don't do much real shopping there, but it sure is fun to browse!

After all that culture we shifted gears and headed to the Broken Spoke after dinner. It's one of the last of the old time dance halls in Texas and happily celebrating a big birthday this year.

The next morning we walked at Lady Bird Lake and I showed Sandi my favorite street.

It was sad to miss the Salt Lick, but we went to Rudy's with Bernie and friends for barbecue at lunch instead. Don't believe the sign, the barbecue was great. A big hit with the whole gang was the old fashioned Banana Pudding with Vanilla wafers.

Time for another walk so we hit South Congress and found a car show in full swing.

This old VW pick-up wasn't part of the show, but was drawing all most as much interest as the fancy cars parked on Congress.

Not sure just what the real purpose of the cow catcher might have been.

The car that went with this door handle was gorgeous too.

Here's a nod to memory lane for those who might remember the 1959 Chevy we had for many years.
After all that walking it was time for another fuel stop at an Austin institution, Amy's, for ice cream!

I had to drag Sandi into Allens to look at boots. Sadly, these were not my size and surely not in my budget!

It's early in the year for the bats who live in the South Congress bridge, but the boat tours were running and we booked one for the sunset ride.

There actually were many bats to see take flight for their evening insect hunt. And almost as many people watching them!

Because the days are still kinda short we were out on the water until well after dark. It was a beautiful view of the skyline. While walking back to the van we happened on a 'bridge party' and asked someone what they were celebrating. One of the girls said "It's an I LOVE AUSTIN party" and invited us to stay. Welcome to Texas, Sandi!