Monday, May 30, 2016

The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum

Every once in a while I like to step out of my normal and do something completely out of character. I would say The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum would be one of those experiences. I don't drink nor am I a big fan of trophy hunting. I saw this place the night before and it looked interesting from the outside but just a quick peek through the door and I said Nope! Not for me.


That's when the old time barker at the front door got my attention. Now I'm no push over and probably a bit confrontational so he had some work to do. Actually he was so slick (I mean professional) he convinced me to give it a try. First I made the point that if I didn't enjoy the place he would give me my money back. I just got a big smile and "tickets are this way sir".


He was pretty sure of himself. The first thing I took note of was it's not just an old fashioned bar. It's a restaurant. It was lunch time and there was a discount if you bought a museum ticket so why not. Well about two bites in, it was pretty obvious I was not going to be asking for a refund. Not with a clear conscience anyway. The food was simple but great tasting. 


I may not be a big fan of dead critters but I am a fan of law enforcement. A ticket to the Buckhorn Museum gets you into the Texas Ranger Museum as well. I really had no idea of the history of the Texas Rangers or how they operated. Truly an exceptional group of individuals enforcing the law in under the most difficult of conditions and doing it famously. 


Ok - critter time. The entire second floor is the most amazing collection of taxidermied animals imaginable. Some are over 100 years old. They have been collected from all over the world and beautifully displayed. I was able to set aside my feeling on how they got there to enjoy the magnificence of the nature on display.


I spent quite a bit of time in the museum. I would never have a chance to be this close to most if not all these phenomenal creatures. There were other interesting exhibits as well. Enough for me to spend several hours. I would of course prefer they were not all hanging out on the walls but since they were, I thought it only right to show some respect and appreciation.


On the way out, the barker asked if I gotten my moneys worth - with a knowing smile. So I took his picture. If not for him I would have completely bypassed this unique opportunity. I appreciate the reminder that my life is constantly improved by never missing a chance to explore the world.

I took many more photos [click here] to see them.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Alamo - Small Space with a Huge History

One of the first things on my to do list in San Antonio was to visit The Alamo. More of a heard about it a lot and what the heck kind of thing rather than a must do. Most of us know a little about the Alamo. The name Davy Crockett comes to mind. I think I saw a John Wayne movie. Yeah - That's all I knew.


For some reason I pictured the Alamo way out in a desolate field somewhere. When I went to book a bus tour, they just pointed out the door and there it was- right across the street, right in the middle of town. Except for a vintage hotel, it's surrounded by a modern and bustling city.


The Alamo is a 300 year old Spanish mission that has been witness to some of the most important battles and epic historical events of this county. It is like no other historical monument I have been to except possibly a cathedral or historic cemetery. No cameras, hat's off, hush tones, then the exhibits.


Within moments you get the feeling you are walking on hallowed ground. The sacrifice of the men who would not give up and perished to the last man. The battle cry "Remember The Alamo" which woke up a sleeping country and brought the full force of the people of a new and growing nation to push back forever an invading force. The birth of Texas. All happened at this one point.


There are documents, weapons, models of the battle. Everything you need to make a milestone moment in American history come alive in your mind. I was even fortunate enough to sit in on a tour as the guide filled in the remaining blanks. I will certainly remember the Alamo. It pays to visit places such as this in person to really understand them.

For a few more photos [click here]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Dallas Arboretum

So far, up to and including my visit to the Dallas Arboretum, my trip to Dallas has been one of rain, clouds and hail. Even so the weather could not dampen my spirit. Only my cameras. Even though my photos seem a bit dull to me, they are bright and lively to those I've shown them to. I'll let you be the judge.


I was there for the annual Dallas Blooms event. Hard to believe that just a day or two before there was a non-scheduled, Texas sized thunder storm and hail event. There was the occasion flattened flower but most were photo ready.


I suppose a tripod would have been a help but considering I walked about 5 miles, more of an annoyance. I really wanted to capture the amazing beauty of this show on the only day I had to visit. My eye was more on the sky I'm afraid and my flash I broke in Florida.


There was so much to see. It was raining when we got there. Just a sprinkle to freshen everything up. We were there the whole day, had lunch at the cafe, and just before closing the sky opened up. Just a misting in between now and again. A very lucky day indeed.


Below is one of my favorite photos of the day. The sun poked out and I got down on my knees in thanks - then said - Oh this would make a great photo. Or something like that.


I love the sign below - I'm not sure if someone was really proud of their work or they just move that sign around all day. The entire place is a photo op from end to end. I think the fact that they laid out thousands and thousands of tulips just for this show was simply amazing.


I don't remember seeing other signs like it so for the rest of my totally unscripted photos
  [click here]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Southwest Dairy Museum - Sulphur Springs, TX

If you think you know a lot about dairy products I can tell you that you pretty much don't. That's how I felt at the Southwest Dairy Museum. To say I went a little out of the way to visit this place is an understatement.


If there is one thing I learned about Texas - It's really big. That's nothing compared to all I learned about milk in just a few hours. There are so many displays so well constructed with so much information. It took me a while to drink it all in.


I have not really looked at milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt the same since I've gotten home. Nor did I realize I used so many dairy products each week.


The museum was free which was great but since I was there I thought I would would at least eat at the vintage cafe. Of course I had to try a chocolate malted. I'm not sure I have had a better one. Maybe way back at the Woolworth lunch counter in Philly. But I was a kid then and everything was delicious.


I could not go without watching the skeleton ride a bike. After you are done watching [click here] for the rest of my photos.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tyler Rose Museum - Tyler TX

One of those little things I forget living in South Florida for 35 years is cold and spring time. Ok - that's two things but they went hand in hand. When going the Tyler Rose Museum it's best to go when there are roses in bloom


When I first stepped out into the garden I realized I was just a bit early. I was very thankful that several of the well trimmed and manicured rose bushes had anticipated my early arrival in the season and popped out a few flowers for me to enjoy.


It certainly was peaceful being the only visitor most of the day. There were only a few grounds keepers around. Even the grass was not quite ready to grow. I think I shot every single rose in bloom and a few other spring blossoms as well. In my effort to do everything in this area of Texas I drove ninety miles. It seemed like that may have been a mistake.

On the way out the door I just happened to notice there was a tiny museum with what looked like Las Vegas show girls. The roses were free but the museum cost $5.00. Since I was there I sprung for it.


After watching a 45 minute movie on the history of the rose industry in Tyler I was ready to take a look around. I'm not one for fancy outfits but a lot of my friends are so I took plenty of photos.


They take their roses pretty serious around these parts. The Tyler Rose Festival has been a tradition since 1933 and one I never heard of before. It probably should get a little more attention. It is hard to find anything more American than an old fashioned beauty pageant and this one is top notch.


The one thing that got my attention amongst all the crowns and pageantry was a McCormick Farmall tractor in mint condition. I drove a 1960's cousin of one of these for several years and those years showed. To see a much older version, showroom new was quite a treat.


[click here] for more photos of flowers and dresses or just stay right here and admire this beautiful tractor.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Visiting with Friends at Scarborough Faire - TX

Not every faire day is perfect for photos. Sometimes it's rainy and cold. Such was my experience at the opening of Scarborough Faire. I only had one day to visit and the luck of the sky was not with me.


That is not to say I did not get a warm welcome. Over the years I have gotten to know many of the performers. It would appear they have gotten to know me as well. Show after show I was met with a hug or handshake. The size of this faire is mind boggling and yet for my first visit I felt very much at home.


Even though I mentioned I would make it out this way, it was still nice to be treated like a long lost relative. I wish I had more time but with so many other fans I was so happy to be noticed at all. There were a few people I knew at the vendor booths or on the street that recognized me as well. I did not manage to get photos or at least usable photos.


Even though this is the home show of Iris and Rose and they were surrounded by throngs of local fans, they still took the time to talk to me. Sure I just saw them a few weeks ago in Florida but the vibe here is completely different.


I've seen all of these performers dozens of times. There is something about this place that fully energized each and every one. Seeing them performing at their best while sitting in a cold rain made it even more memorable. The fact that my cameras survived was just another miracle of the day.


I finished my day with a knockout show by Arthur Greenleaf Holmes, dripping wet, and teeth chattering, laughing till I hurt. Then dashed to the car hoping I had any photos worth posting. [click here] to see them all and the new friends I have yet to make. We shall have to try again next year.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Lions and Tigers and More Tigers

I did not really know what to expect when I decided to visit In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue. Maybe a better look at the website might have helped. I mean really, how many wild cats need rescue in Texas.


The answer - far more than I ever imagined. There are dozens of big cats who are living out their final days from circus or pets, abused, and neglected. They even have a wall with dozens of cats who were well taken care of till their last day.


Taking photos was a bit of a challenge as there was a double chain link between me and the cats. I managed to shoot through it a few times but mostly you can see it. These photos are more a reminder of this amazing place rather than big cat fine art.

There was a slight admission fee but I felt it more important to donate more. I'm sure the feeding and maintenance of this facility is astronomical and without it these cats would have a much shorter existence. All of them have been humanized and would never survive in the wild. To say this place is their last hope is no exaggeration.

[click here] for the rest of my photos 

[click here] If you can help. There are a lot of places you may donate and never know where the money goes. This is one of those places that saves lives directly with every donation. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Plano TX - Worth the Visit

Plano TX is just a short drive from my sister's house so we decided to have lunch and check it out. Relying on the GPS was a mistake as we wanted the very historic and quaint downtown and wound up in the very large and modern new downtown. A quick web search and we found the Interurban Railway Museum which was right where we wanted to be.


Plano like every city I visited in Texas is going through a major expansion. Quite the contrast to the era this train came from. Although the museum is small the staff very enthusiastically gave us a tour. This 100 year old electric trolley has seen some big changes in it's lifetime


There are some interactive exhibits in the museum as well. After we got done playing with them, we decided to see if we could find a lunch spot.


Downtown is only a few blocks - but that's for now. There is construction in every direction. Housing, shopping, and restaurants are all in the works.


We managed to get a nice meal at a pub then after found more choices in a different direction. We went the first days of my visit and decided to go back before I left. Well - we forgot. Next year for sure.


[click here] for more photos.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Space Center Houston - My First Stop in Texas

I drove from the very end of Florida to Houston in one day. I managed to pass into Texas on the day I-10 was reopened from the flooding. I saw plenty of water and a river that was just about to wash over the highway. Well actually one that had just finished washing over the highway so I could pass. I didn't want to delay so sorry all you states in between. I got nothing.


 I grabbed a hotel right across the street on priceline. Not the best, but the closest. The next day I paid a visit to Space Center Houston. The visitors door to the Johnson Space Center. To say I was excited may be a bit of an understatement. I was the first one and the only one in the parking lot for about a half hour. The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft was recently installed right at the front gate so it was my own personal photo op. I didn't realize till later in the day you can tour both the mockup shuttle and the real 747 that carried them. There is a video inside explaining the hows and the whys. Even a person such as myself who is pretty knowledgeable about the program could learn plenty from this display.


Many kids in school say they want to be an astronaut when they grew up. I'm way too tall for that. I would have to be folded like luggage to fit in any of the early space vehicles. Even Skylab as large as it was would just be an exercise in head trauma. When you get all the way down to the Apollo capsule, they would have to search me for a can opener as I would surely try and cut my way out half way to the moon.


I would be much more suited for a desk job at mission control. I actually applied to several space companies like Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin)  and TRW as a programmer way back when. Anything to be part of the space program. My chances then were as likely as me touching a moon rock.
Well guess what. I TOUCHED A MOON ROCK!!!. I touched a rock that was on the moon and now it is not. It's in Texas!! The first thing I did when I got home was to see if Space X was hiring. Just for fun, click on the link and go to their careers page. They are hiring for EVERYTHING. If I were starting my career right now I am sure I would have found a way to make the grade, I'm not 100% sure I wont try in the next year. Who needs to be retired when space is calling.

P1030459Visiting Space Center Houston is an amazing trip through the past. There are plenty of interactive displays, movies, mockups, and astronauts to show you the present, and the shuttle craft from the original Star Trek TV show to keep you dreaming of the future. There is a lot to not like in this world of ours so my answer to that is always - Space.

[click here] for more photos of my visit.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Fort Pickens - So many Bricks

I have such a fascination with the brick fortresses of Florida and Georgia I sometimes wonder if I'm channeling feelings from a past life. More likely I'm just astounded by the beauty and incredible waste of these structures. They were built so strong yet rendered useless in such a short time. Fort Pickens is one of many I've toured with my daughter. Even though this fort has a longer history than most, it is still a relic never to be more in the future than a tourist attraction.


The bricks fired to create it could have been churches, warehouses, bridges, restaurants, skyscrapers, apartments, or even homes. But no, they were created to defend a political agenda then destroyed or abandoned by a sudden advance in technology.


What is left behind is a footnote in history that barely registers the tremendous human effort and sacrifice to create them. I stayed at a beautiful beach hotel then drove my car right up to the fort and walked in through the gaping hole in the wall, completely mosquito free. When you look at the history of these structures, the remoteness of these places, no towns of any size, no roads, the obstacles and hardships to build them, it staggers the imagination.


And all to advance a way of life where we complain if the WiFi is slow at the local coffee shop. Maybe we all should be required to lay a ton of bricks in a collective local monument. A place where we can bring our children and grandchildren to and say - "look - Those bricks there - I laid those" Something that will stand when we are long gone. A monument of peace added to year after year.


I can't visit this place without taking a photo across the river of the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. I worked with someone for many years who's father grew up there as his father worked there as a light keeper. More importantly my daughter worked there as a museum tour guide. A much better use of bricks if you ask me.


[click here] for more photos of Fort Pickens.