Saturday, April 22, 2017

Wichita Falls, Texas

April 16 - 18, 2017:

It was 160 some miles today of somewhat rough secondary roads following the most direct path form Abilene to Wichita Falls.  Since there is really no direct path this involved taking routes 89-83-322-20-351-180-283-79-1954 which was a challenge for my orienting skills.  My Garmin GPS didn’t want to cooperate so I had to fall back on the iPhone maps program.  We traveled through mostly ranch and oil land and then closer to Wichita beautiful lush green farm country.  We also went through a giant wind Farm with hundreds of turbines.  I made a couple of stops along the route for sights, in Albany and Archer City, Texas

The Shackleford County Courthouse in Albany, Texas

Archer cities Royal Theater is just a front now, but in the rear
is a open lot with seating with a stage for performing Arts.

It was made famous by the 1971 Academy award winning film,
"The last picture show" based on a book by Larry McMurtry.

Great mural on a gas station in Archer City

Our destination, Lake Arrowhead State Park, is the third Texas State Park in a row for us and is another vast park on a large Lake about 15 miles form downtown Wichita Falls.  Arriving on Sunday, we found the park to be mostly empty, we had our own campground loop.  Everyone had left earlier in the day, but the campground had been full on Saturday, timing is everything ! 

Alice still hides while the RV is in motion, actually I just need to start the engine, but when we set up in a campsite she is coming out after a couple of minutes now, it used to be hours.  I believe she will eventually get used to this routine.

This is still huge oil country and there is even a pump jack (seems to be the common terminology) operating right in the campground.  It runs constantly, we can hear it from the campsite and has been there since1950’s before this was a State Park.

Don't get a campsite close by, it will keep you up at night

We explored the downtown Depot Square Antique District finding the historic Holt Hotel, the Hamilton building, the Littlest Skyscraper, the Railroad Museum and the Wichita Theater.  There are many antique shops in this area and I came away with a classic book found in a box on the sidewalk, “The last of the Mohicans”. It has a 1947 publishing date which is also my birth year, an early birthday present. 

Great cover and all the wonderful illustrations
are intact and in good condition

We then had an excellent lunch at the “Gypsy Kit Cafe’ which appears to be a local favorite.
The Hamilton building was a favorite with its very impressive, colorful tile work and indian head details at the roofline.  
Unfortunately the Railroad museum was closed, is only open on Saturdays so I couldn’t visit it, could only see a few car from outside the gate.  The Wichita Theater is another gem.
The city is trying to resurrect this historic area which still has many old interesting buildings, of which many are vacant.

The Wichita Theater 

The Hamilton Building from a distance

The upper floor up close to see the detail

In Texas they like to put the big Texas star in the
center of the roadway

Lots of interesting antique shops

The World's Littlest Skyscraper was a con, the builder
sold the building to investors who didn't read the drawing details
only to learn later that the building was to a smaller scale

Wichita Falls is another railroad town

Old steam Locomotive outside the Museum

Can it be true ?

On the way to Wichita Falls is a amazing old car salvage yard, nothing but old cars, it doesn’t get any better than this.  The owner happened to be there and allowed me to wander around for a while and take photos, it was a sensory overload !  A place like this should be a museum, would be so much better than the typical auto museum where the cars are mostly perfect.  The trick would be to pick this yard up and move it to an inner city lot and landscape it with the weeds, wild flowers, oily dirt, assorted trash and broken glass, metal parts just like in the photos. 

A number of former stock racing cars

A beautiful rusty line up

It goes on and on

Next is the the weirdest attraction of all, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, as in the WWF.  The walls are covered with photos of Wrestling stars, show bills, costumes and assorted memorabilia.  Many years ago, I remember going to a few of these matches at the Moose Hall in Trenton, New Jersey.  These matches were like a circus side show, really bizarre, so obviously fake, but also with amazing athleticism and showmanship.  I saw a number of names that I can still remember such as Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski, Andre the Giant and others.  There was a even photo of President Trump, years ago, participating in a outside the ring wrestling stunt, attacking WWF founder Vince McMahon knocking him down and throwing fake punches for publicity. 

Bruno Sammartino was the champion for years 

Andre the Giant

Skull Murphy, what a brute !

They have a wrestling ring inside the museum

Moolah was a legendary women champion, also went
by the name, The fabulous Moolah 

Mr. Wonderful's robe

That’s all for Texas, next stop is Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, Oklahoma;

Twinkles and Slick 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Abilene, Texas

April 11 - 15, 2017:

It’s 84 miles north on route 277 from San Angelo to Abilene, Texas.  It’s mostly ranch country except for a huge Goodyear Tire Test Track facility that was unexpected and seemingly out of place.  The other noteworthy sight was a huge wind farm, with hundreds of huge turbines going far into the distance.  As we came to within about 20 miles of Abilene the landscape started getting greener with more farms and trees.  We then exit onto route 89 to the Abilene State Park.

Riding into the Buffalo Gap Wind Farm

Abilene State Park was built by the CCC in the 1930’s and has a beautiful pool house, a unique water tower and a large swimming pool surrounded by athletic fields and picnic areas.  It is adjacent to Abilene Lake which has boating, fishing, lots of wildlife and a 3 1/2 mile loop hiking trail.

CCC built Water Tower

Beautiful pool house building, unfortunately the pool was
not yet open for the season

We bought the Texas State Park annual pass for $70 back at San Angelo State Park and have saved over $100 after only 12 camping days.  It’s a really great deal and so far we feeling good about the Texas park system.

There are several short hiking trails in the park which are heavily wooded.  Twinkles had a surprise run in with a wild pig and her young ones on a trail, but no problem, she scared them off.  We then saw another pig a couple of days later at the Lake from a distance.  We also did part of a loop trail at the Lake, good lake views, but otherwise flat and boring.

These pigs are large

Abilene Lake is almost filled to capacity

The Lake has a red muddy color to it

Lots of Turkey Buzzards here, this one flew right over us

Abilene is another city with a struggling downtown attempting to reinvent itself with museums, history, arts, specialty shops, antique stores and government offices.  I see the beauty in these places, love the artistry of the old buildings, even the ones that soon may be demolished.

The restored Texas & Pacific Train Depot

The Windsor Hotel

Post Office and Federal Building

Old passenger train platform with a message
A better message 

A colorful mural

Texas Long Horn with a bird ?

Could this be a long lost family member?

Nice grain elevator view

Some days I feel like this

Nice bird details over window

Abilene has a series of storybook sculptures in the downtown around the Train Depot.  They are all well done, but I can't remember them

That's old St. Nick

I have no idea ?

Twinkles with the Grinch who _____?

Frontier Texas is one of the most highly rated attractions in Abilene.  It has very creative historical exhibits with “hologram” figures from the pioneer days talking about their times.  They also show a movie in a circular room with 360 degree sound, light and audio projected on the walls.  We happened to be in there with a grade school class, the kids sat there in awe during the show.

The exterior of Frontier Texas

One of the Indian hologram figures

Comanche buffalo hide painting

Comanche tent interior

Another “must see” attraction is the Paramount Theater which has been fully restored. It remains open for movies, concerts and other events.  I went on Saturday afternoon when it was open and they allow you to wander around inside.  They did an incredible job of restoring it back to the original condition.

Beautiful Paramount Theater

Interior is totally restored

Looking down into the lobby

The ticket booth

Twinkles was particularly interested in going to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.  It has a rotating exhibit that tours nationally on a featured artist of children books.  This particular exhibit was on the art of James Ransome who has illustrated many books, many of which were written by his wife.  He is an excellent black artist and many of the books were geared for black children, but they were mostly ageless, inspirational stories.  They had the books available to read along with a few of the original framed art works used in the each book hanging on the wall.  I enjoyed them so much, I read about half of them from cover to cover. 

Upcoming festival banner out front

We stopped for lunch at the highly rated Hickory Street Grille where I had the house specialty chicken salad with grapes and cashews. It is located in a house converted into a cafe and is very popular, there was a short wait for a table, but it was well worth the wait.

Very nice cafe

It’s virtually impossible for me to avoid a Bakery and an excellent one is McKay’s Bakery where I struggled to leave with only one small bag of treats.  I did return again on another day for more and a potato soup with two tasty corn muffins.

Not to be missed !

The historic town of Buffalo Gap is situated between the State Park and Abilene.  In the early days it was as prominent as Abilene and the two were vying to be the County seat.  Abilene eventually won the County seat when the railroad bypassed Buffalo Gap and instead went through Abilene.  As a result Abilene grew into a major Texas city with a population of 113,000 while Buffalo Gap remains a quaint small town with a population 423.  A number of old historic buildings have been saved and moved to the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, it's well worth a visit. 

The Buffalo Gap Mercantile

Jail cell

The Court House with jail cell upstairs

Old wagon falling apart, wondering why these places
don't do something to stabilize the deterioration

Old Gas Station had good stuff inside

Good exhibits about the dust bowl

The Buffalo Gap flea market is an unique event held on one weekend each month that draws a big crowd.  We happened to be here for it and it was quite interesting, but more like something you would expect in a third world country.   The weirdest part was the caged chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs and goats for sale. Also lots of guns, knives and tools of all kind, not so much for Twinkles to appreciate.

This iron work was very nice

The chickens in the crates were different

I ventured into downtown Abilene on Saturday night to the Neon Parrot Lounge to hear the live music.  The night life in downtown Abilene is about non-existent with the streets dark and mostly deserted.  I was liking the musicians, but the place was sort of weird and boring.  Pouring your beer into a plastic cup is just wrong !   Around the corner was Fat Bosses Pub with a DJ and a bigger crowd if you like that sort of thing and there was another more upscale looking club with girls outside in their party dresses. 

In front of Fat Bosses Pub

I’m really tiring of the friendly people waving and asking “How y’all doing”.  Time to move on, the next stop is Wichata Falls, Texas;

Twinkles and Slick