I love Texas, especially small-town Texas. So, I decided to change the itinerary. I am adding a few days between now and when we reach San Diego. I am splitting today’s itinerary in two; I will go to Corpus Christi tonight and then on to McAllen on Tuesday. This will allow the time to drive to small towns and really see them rather than just breezing past them on the road through town.
The world’s best wife/mother/grandmother/navigator flew back to Atlanta for a week as scheduled, so I am alone on the road. I had a great time today, but it would have been twice as good with Bozzie Jane. She’ll meet up with me in San Diego in a little over a week. As happy as she will be to see our daughter, granddaughter, and cat, Boz has really gotten into the trip, so I know she was sad to get on the plane.
The day began in Houston. Big place. Lots of big, busy roads. Big cities like Houston are not the focus of our trip, but it was on the route from Louisiana to South Texas. Having lived in Texas for many years, I have been to Houston a number of times. It’s always hot, and because of the very high humidity, it always seems hotter than anywhere else. Nothing has changed.
We stayed at the Candlewood Suites – great place especially when you need to do the wash as they have nice (free) washers and dryers. We told the three ladies at the front desk a little about the trip, and none of them had been to the two places that I chose to see in Houston, so they will be reading and seeing the photos on this page.
Boz provided the directions to Houston Hobby Airport and then on to my two Houston stops, so she was navigating even after she was on the plane.
I stopped at Mary Lee Donuts for breakfast. As I was taking a picture, a man came running out. It seemed like he felt I was trying to steal trade secrets or something. I gave a two sentence explanation of the trip, and he relaxed. Once inside, all of the customers were talking; they all thought I had come to buy him out or something. I guess convertibles can have that effect on some people; they see money. The donuts were very good.
The Orange Show is one of the quirky attractions that I have most wanted to see on this trip. I read a lot about it during my research. The Orange Show used to be a home in a residential neighborhood. It is shocking to drive down a street with homes to the left and to the right, and then see The Orange Show towering above the homes all around it. Nina was kind enough to let me in The Orange Show, even though they were not open. I also met Christine, the Marketing Coordinator, and she provided me with extensive information.
The Orange Show is a giant sculpture garden (for lack of better words to describe what it is) that fills a residential lot. It was constructed from 1954 to 1979 by Jeff McKissack, a retired postal worker. He built it to encourage people to eat oranges, drink oranges, and be highly amused. Jeff felt The Orange Show would become a bigger tourist attraction than the Grand Canyon or Disneyland. He was sadly disappointed when the crowds he predicted never materialized. He died at age 78, just eight short months after his 25 year project opened to the public. The Orange Show is now seen by over 30,000 visitors annually. Even more significant, The Orange Show is the focal point for a foundation that produces a variety of folk art events in the city
The Orange Show is maintained by The Orange Show Foundation. See www.orangeshow.org. We will write much more about The Orange Show in our book.
I took a picture of the home next door to The Orange Show. I wondered what in the world they must think about living right next door to this massive orange development.
My next Houston stop was at the Beer Can House. Like The Orange Show, the Beer Can House was a man’s home right smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood. John Milkovisch began decorating his home in 1968, and he stayed at it for 18 years, incorporating a six-pack a day into the décor. The property is covered with beer cans, metal beer labels, pull tops, beer bottles – everything beer can-related. He flattened beer cans and used them as aluminum siding. He linked pull-tabs into long streamers to make curtains. He used cans and bottles to build fences.
As I looked at the homes all around the Beer Can House, I again wondered what in the world these folks must think of having this in their neighborhood. The odd shape of the apartments on one side told their story; the apartments don’t face the street – but in the opposite direction from the Beer Can House. On the other side of the house, I noticed some folks on the front porch, so I walked over to ask a few questions. I met Leticia and her mother Maria Hernandez. Leticia was very nice, and she said the house has been no problem to them. She related a story about Hurricane Alicia. Everyone was wondering when the hurricane would hit Houston, but she says they knew early as all the beer tabs and beer stuff dangling from the house let them know. Everything was all hanging horizontally rather than vertically and making quite a noise. The house and visitors may not bother her, but I did notice they have a loud dog and a Beware of Dog sign….
When I was at Texas Tech, Arne Ray, Mike Tate, and some other fraternity brothers lived in a home at 29th and Flint in Lubbock where they developed a huge “Beer Garden” by throwing all of the beer cans from innumerable parties into a big pile in the backyard. They had rodeo banners hanging from the eaves of the house and a rubber chicken decorated the picture window. The neighbors were less than thrilled. If only Arne had thought of the beer can motif, he could have turned 29th and Flint into a real beer palace, and it wouldn’t have taken 18 years.
Highway 59 was my route out of Houston, but after seeing a sign that said I was leaving Sugar Land and then passing Richmond (where I know they have some nice historic homes) and I hadn’t seen a thing but cement, I realized that I needed to get off this four-lane divided highway. I couldn’t identify a two-lane route from the map provided by the State of Texas, so I began exiting to take the Business 59 route; the business routes go through the hearts of the towns, and that’s the route we prefer.
So down Business 59 I went to Hungerford. I hoped to find a place to eat as I thought it would be fun to eat in HUNGERford. I didn’t find any place with food, but just a few miles down Business 59 just outside Wharton, I came across the fabulous Tee Pee Motel. This is exciting to me, as the few remaining tee pee motels are prized sights by folks who enjoy roadside history and architecture. I have identified two or three tee pee motels that we plan to see, but I had never heard of this one. Abandoned and out in the middle of nowhere with nothing near it. The exterior of the tee pees appeared to be in very good shape. The thought that these amazing pieces of Americana might get torn down is a horrible thought.
I made my way into Wharton. I stopped in the For All Seasons Antique Shop on the square in Wharton and met Victoria. I asked about the Tee Pee Motel, and she told me all about it (and was then kind enough to email me with more information and offers of help). The Tee Pee Motel outside Richmond was originally developed in 1946. I was delighted to learn that someone bought the motel and plans to restore it! As I walked around the town square, I met Angie McCrae of Blue Moon Antiques, and she directed me to the Chamber of Commerce office. Ron Sanders of the Wharton Journal-Spectator newspaper was kind enough to give me a copy of the March 15, 2003 edition of the paper with a front page story about Wortham Smith and his plans to move the tee pees to Highway 59 and restore them. Hooray for Wortham!
When I did a Yahoo search tonight, I learned that Wortham is trying to raise money for the project. See http://www.thevillagesofwhartoncounty.com/investor.htm. I sure hope he can pull it off. Here are more details about his development project — http://www.thevillagesofwhartoncounty.com/project_review.htm.
Wharton is a lovely little town that is very actively working to restore the county courthouse and train depot. There are classic-looking old buildings on all sides of the town square. As I headed out of town, I slammed on the brakes to take a picture of a dinosaur – not sure the story on that. They also have a great-looking bridge over the picturesque Colorado River. I can’t believe I have never heard of Wharton, Texas.
While at the Wharton newspaper office, I bought a huge map that shows all the little roads in Texas. I may have to add more days to the trip as now I can find even more little spots in the road.
Glen Fora was next. A little spot, but they had a cute café and post office. I was in Glen Fora for one specific reason; it is the town you have to pass through to go to Egypt. That’s right, Egypt, Texas. It’s entertainment to just read a list of the names of cities in Texas. When I spotted Egypt on the map when planning the trip, I immediately added it to the itinerary.
My goal was to take a photo of the Egypt City Limits sign, but when I got there, I found a historic plantation and some great old architecture, including slave houses, the plantation house, and the Northington Saloon (built in 1874). I liked Egypt.
El Campo calls itself the “Pearl of the Prairie.” The town features 20 historic murals painted on buildings all around town. I stopped at the place where the locals eat, The Duson Café. I had a delicious piece of Chocolate Pecan Pie – good old southern pecan pie with a chocolate pudding on top. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and it was very good. My waitress, Elizabeth, was a really sweet young girl. I asked her what was special about El Campo, and when she learned that I had photographed some of the murals, she directed me to the best mural in town. It was painted by the mother of one of her friends. She told me the mural has train tracks on it, and when you drive by – from either direction – it appears that the train tracks are pointing in your direction. It’s like you are seeing two different paintings depending upon which end of the street you are on. I walked back and forth past it several times trying to figure out how it does what it does, but I couldn’t figure it out. It is truly something special to see!
I saw Edna, Inez, and Victoria today, but I didn’t see Louise. I exited, but when I came off the highway, I came to a road that went in two directions, but no indication of which way to go for the town of Louise. I figure not many people go to Louise, but those who do must know where they are going. I decided to get back on the highway and try the next town…but then I wondered if Louise was just hiding something good from tourists like me. I’ll never know.
Edna was next. Then Inez…on the way to Victoria. Barbara and I have talked at length about who it is that names things – towns, parks, bridges, etc. Someone who liked women must have named all of these towns.
Edna was a great stop. Since I am in search of good patriotic photo opportunities each day, Edna was a real find since it is the “Flag City.” The city has permanent poles all over town, and each pole has an American flag in it. An Edna police car passed me, and it was painted with an American flag design.
I was pleased to see the police car pass me; it is now Day 12 on the DWAT Meter (Days Without A Ticket). I never speed, and the driving in the right hand lane has been a big help, though I have to keep my eyes peeled all the time as the speed limits change so quickly as we go in and out of little towns.
There isn’t much in Inez. All I could find were a school and a neat little baseball diamond that reminded me of years of playing baseball on little fields like that as a grade schooler in Texarkana, Texas. My brother and I played baseball for six years with Frank Sterle. Frank lives in Houston now and was kind enough to call and try to meet Barbara and me last night, but we got into Houston too late to get together.
Victoria is a good-sized small town, and I really enjoyed seeing the wide variety of homes in the historic district. I also drove through Riverfront Park and took some photos of the meandering Guadalupe River. There are a lot of rivers in this part of the state.
I landed in Refugio when the sun was about gone. Refugio is old — founded in 1795.
When I hit the outskirts of Corpus Christi, I stopped at the Roadhouse. I was attracted by a parking lot full of cars and a great classic car on the side of the building. I can’t figure out where all the cars came from as there weren’t many people eating – perhaps a clever marketing ploy by the owner to fill the lot with cars so folks would think it was busy. Vanessa was an excellent waitress.
There is a lot of oil and gas activity in Corpus Christi – the equipment fills the skyline.
Sonja took good care of me when I reached the Embassy Suites.
I learned a few things today, but my main thought as I call it a day is how lucky I am to have such a special wife. I had a great time today, but it just wasn’t the same alone.
Weatherwise, it was another great day — sunny with blue skies and a degree or two over 80. We have now been on the road for 14 days, and we’ve had less than 30 minutes of light rainfall in 376 hours – fantastic weather! It was a little cool for two days, but 12 of 14 days of sun tan weather is mighty nice in April.
I’ve received a number of emails from newspapers and radio stations about interviews. I need to devote some time to getting back to these people. I also need to send out a news release with some highlights thus far.
Huge thanks to my baby sister, Marty, who has come up with a way for me to process my photos every night that will save at least an hour a night. Thanks Murt!
We’ve driven over 3,500 miles in the first two weeks. Tomorrow marks the start of Week 3.
April 14th 31303 10:33am We’re leaving The Candlewood. We talked to Shawna and the ladies at the front desk. We sent a Fed Ex to Harry Perkins, and we have directions so we’re rolling. There is blue skies, scattered cumulus clouds. 72 degrees
31319 11:00 I just left Bozzie Jane off at the airport at Hobby. It’s really sad to see her leave for a while.
At 11:40 I stopped at Mary Lee Donuts and took a picture of the place. An Indian man came running out wanting to know what I was doing. I told him I was driving around the country. He was the owner and thought I was coming to buy him out. The donuts were very good too.
I couldn’t find Munger Street so I stopped at a gas station and they had no idea. The same went for the people in the restaurant.
I made it to The Beer Can House; it was a fascinating place. I met Nina and the lady in charge of marketing who gave me her card. It took this man 25 years to build it, and I have a bunch of information on it. I took a picture of the house next door because I think that is equally amazing. This is built right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. You just have to wonder what these folks think.
I met the nextdoor neighbors to the Beer Can House, Latisha and Maria Hernandez. Maria let me take her picture; Latisha just had a baby so she didn’t want her picture taken. They were really sweet ladies and said they had lived here for a long time as has almost everybody on this street. They told me a great story that everybody was wondering when Hurricane Alicia was going to hit. They had all these things dangling on the house which let them know when it was time.
31338 1:04 I’m leaving the area of the Beer Can House and I miss my navigator.
It’s 83 degrees in Houston, and of course because of the humidity it feels hotter than anywhere we’ve been.
Brazos River 31368 1:31pm
George Ranch Historical Park
I just saw a sign that said “leaving Sugarland City Limits” 31370 1:33pm This 59 has a four lane divided highway so I can tell I’m going to be looking for another road though the map doesn’t seem to indicate I will have that option for a while.
I’m exiting at Hwy 762 for Richmond because Richmond has supposedly some historic homes.
Richmond population 11,081 31375 1:37pm
Rosenberg 31378 1:46pm
Most of Texas is flat and this is certainly one of the flat parts. You can take a picture of a field here and it would look just like a field in West Texas or anywhere else.
I just left Beasley 31390 1:57pm
Latisha Hernandez did have a loud dog and a “beware of dog” sign, so I wonder if they would have had that if they didn’t live nextdoor to the Beer Can House.
Kindleton 31394 2:02pm
Crossing the Sand Bernard River 31397 2:04pm
Exiting on Business 59 for Hungerford
Hungerford 31401 2:08pm
There are a lot of farm and county roads in Texas, but unfortunately they’re not on the map we have so we couldn’t figure out how to follow them. I’ll have to see if I can get another map.
I took a picture of an old black man’s shack between Hungerford and Horton.
I was hoping to eat in Hungerford but I didn’t find any restaurants.
31406 Between Hungerford and Horton I came across the fabulous Teepee Motel
I’m in Horton 31407 2:23pm
I took a picture of a mural in Horton and I’m trying to get into downtown but it’s one way in the wrong direction.
I met Victoria at the Four All Seasons Antique Shop in the Square of Horton. She told me there was information I could get about the Teepee Village. Then I stopped at the Blue Moons Antiques where Angie McCray was very helpful and told me how to get to the Chamber of Commerce, and then I happened to spot the local newspaper, went in and met Ron Sanders. He was kind enough to give me a copy of the newspaper that had a story about it. I have very good information on the Teepee Motel. It was a cute little town; they’re restoring things. They have a Horton Plaza Theater (www.hortonplazatheater.org). Horton County Courthouse is being restored, and also the train depot. Horton even has a dinosaur and a great bridge going over the Colorado River.
Mackay 31414 3:06pm
I stopped to take a picture of the Mackay sign for Melinda Mackay.
I need to always travel on the business routes; if there’s a 59 and a 59 Business, I need to take the 59 Business.
I’m on Farmroad 102 in Glen Flora. I took a picture of the post office and the Fina’s Tex Mex Café.
I saw a real old shack, just run down as could be but it had a dish on the side of it. When you think about it, I guess they don’t have cable TV in places like Glen Flora.
Egypt 31431 3:30pm
Egypt apparently has or was or does has or did have a plantation. You see homes along the road that have clearly looking slave homes.
I’m going back to 59 now because the only reason to come to Egypt was to be able to say “I was here.”
Northington Saloon 1874 It’s really cool.
I had to back track on 59 to get to 102 after seeing beautiful downtown Horton. The trip over to Egypt was well worth it.
I’m leaving Egypt at 31436 3:48pm
I took a mailbox just outside Egypt. I took a picture of the Disco 9000 in Glen Flora.
This looks like it’s a peach growing area.
Horton 31445 4:00pm
I’m passing through the outskirts of Pierce 31454 4:08pm
I’m back on 59 to Business 59 to go to El Campo to see the murals.
El Campo is called “pearl of the prairie.” Or at least that’s what they call themselves.
I’m at the Zduson Diner and had a delicious chocolate pecan pie. It was pecan pie with chocolate pudding on top; it was very tasty. Elizabeth was the waitress. She was a real sweet young girl, and she told me the best mural to take a picture of. She told me the mural just down the street was painted by her friend’s mother. She said when you look at it in one direction, the train tracks go one way; when you look at it in the other direction, the train tracks go in the exact opposite way. I walked down the street and had no earthly idea how it was done that way, but that’s exactly the way it is.
Still in El Campo 31461 4:45pm 80 degrees
I’m passing by Hillje on the highway 31466 4:50pm
I exited the highway to go to the town of Louise. I came off the off-ramp, come to a road which goes in two different directions with no indication of where Louise might be. I guess a lot of people don’t go to Louise, and those that do know where they’re going.
Navidad River 31487 5:15pm
One of the cities I pulled into is Edna. It turns out Edna is the flag city; they had poles all over town, and every pole has an American flag. I also saw some folks who went crazy over the car. I turned back around. They were a group of nice young people who had never seen a Porsche in their life I guess and thought I was a movie star.
La Vaca River 31501 5:36pm
I got off at Inez but I found was a school.
Inez 31509 5:45pm
I took a picture of Duncan’s Park in Inez; it’s a little baseball field.
I passed by Telferner 31519 5:57pm
Victoria 31521 5:59pm It’s 77 degrees
Riverside Park in Victoria. I took pictures of the Guadalupe River 31528 6:38pm
I just toured the beautiful Victoria historical district which had gorgeous homes with a real variety of colonial, Spanish, Victorian style.
I’m passing over the Guadalupe River 31530 6:54pm
Crossing the San Antonio River 31551 7:24pm
I’ve seen two trains today so that puts us up to 5 ice cream cones. When the sun starts going down, the focus shifts to the horizon to try to get a good sunset picture.
I don’t believe there’s anyway I can capture it on film because it’s only occasionally that I get glimpses of it through the trees, but the horizon looks like it is on fire. There are these wispy bottomed clouds with the orange glow of the sunset underneath them, and it looks like the shining of fire through smoke.
Refugio is an historic town that has existed since 1795.
Refugio 31572 7:44 The sun is almost gone.
I’m going over the Michen River 31574 7:53pm
I saw another train, I think that’s 6.
Woodsborough 31579 7:57pm
I’m crossing the Oranzes River 31589 8:06pm
Welder Wildlife Refuge—Welder is the name of the interlocked WW brand on the home that I saw back in Victoria.
Sinton 31596 8:11pm
Odem 31606 8:20pm
Nueces 31611 8:26pm I just connected where 77 and highway interstate 37 run on the same road. I’m going to head to Corpus Christi.
I’m in the city limits of Corpus Christi 31611 8:27pm
Corpus Christi is the home town of What-a-Burger
As I was driving down the highway, I saw on the opposite side of the road a restaurant with a cool looking classic car coming off the side of the building. It’s called a Roadhouse. It didn’t sound like a chain, so I exited and cut back. The parking lot was full of cars, but when I came in there was hardly anybody in there. They were all in the bar. I had a red snapper; Vanessa was the waitress and was very sweet. It certainly wasn’t anything great, but it was a cute little place. They have done a decent job of decorating it on a local level.
9:22pm 31618 I am looking for my hotel.
There’s lots of oil and gas activity in Corpus Christi. You see these big refineries with lights up and down them all along the skyline.
Corpus Christi has a Greyhound Racetrack.
I stopped at the Embassy Suites and got a room. There was a very nice receptionist; she asked about Round America. We had a nice chat, her name was Sonya.