Stanley Marsh 3 – Day 37

Stanley Marsh 3

Day 37 – May 7, 2003 – Wednesday

As much as we liked Rugby and Cedric at the Marriott Residence Inn, our room was next to the highway, and $129 to hear cars all night long was no bargain.  Our directions to the travel agent should now include quiet room as well as non-smoking King guaranteed for late arrival.


Our day began at B&W Mailing Center where we shipped 44 pounds of accumulated brochures and books back to the Intergalactic Headquarters for the Round America Tour in Atlanta, Georgia.  When we walked in, April and Jamie were in admittedly rotten moods.  Before long, we were telling stories, and they were rolling on the floor laughing.  It’s so nice to be able to brighten someone else’s day!


We mentioned going to see the sawed-off giant’s legs, and April and Jamie piled on with more tips.  They told us how to get to the residence of local helium tycoon Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric who did Cadillac Ranch and the sawed-off giant’s legs.  They also told us to be on the lookout for diamond-shaped official-looking highway signs, but they will say any of a variety of things.  Stanley Marsh 3 will provide them to anyone who will put them up on their property.

Our first stop on the Stanley Marsh 3 Tour was Cadillac Ranch.  It’s at Exit 60 off I-40 on the south side of the highway.  Cadillac Ranch is ten Cadillacs planted in a field owned by Stanley Marsh 3 with their tail fins pointing up.  Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by the Ant Farm, comprised of three experimental artists, Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels.  The cars range from a 1949 Cadillac Club Coupe to a 1963 sedan.  Here’s an article that has photos of the Cadillac Ranch when it was first built —


There always seems to be a steady stream of people stopping.  Cadillac Ranch is definitely something quirky to see, and I took a lot of photos.  The thing to do is take spray paint, and paint whatever you like on the Cadillacs.  There are always a number of empty paint cans littering the ground, but someone obviously cleans the place up regularly, or there would be thousands.  You’d have to know what goes on in the mind of Stanley Marsh 3 to even guess at what prompted him to do this.  But as we soon realized, just about anything could be going on in Stanley Marsh 3’s head.


Our next stop was Toad Hall.  Yep, that’s the name of Stanley Marsh 3’s home – a big ranch hidden from view on the outskirts of town.  We took a picture of the sign and saw a hubcap painted red with a heart cut out of the center, but nothing more bizarre at the entrance.  We drove around the south side of the property on the city road, and we spotted his windmill – sporting a bright red bowtie.  Just down the ways from it, on Stanley Marsh 3’s property, but facing the passing traffic, was a big yellow diamond-shaped official-looking highway sign that said “Road Does Not End.”  Now wouldn’t you like to know what Stanley Marsh 3 means by that, if anything!


The third stop on the Stanley Marsh 3 Tour was to see various signs he has erected on property around town.  Everything from a sign that says “Mysterious Catastrophe” to one that claimed on this spot a pack of wild Chihuahuas attacked conquistadors and ate them for snacks.  We learned that Stanley Marsh 3 has placed more than 5,000 of these signs in the Amarillo area (population 250,000)!  The signs vary from simple messages to reproductions of famous paintings.  The “Road Does Not End” sign on Marsh’s property was the first.  A sign with a picture of Marilyn Monroe was then placed on Monroe Street.  There are some really funny signs and some that make little sense at all.  We’d be like the guy driving around Texas with the map and the yellow marker if we tried to see them all, especially since there is no map to them, so we just saw four or five and went on to the next part of the Stanley Marsh 3 Tour.


The last stop on the Tour was at two sawed off giant’s legs planted in a field south of town.  There’s an extremely official-looking plaque with a Texas seal similar to those found on real historic markers, but there is a confusing story about a giant named Ozymandias.  Wacko sense of humor for sure.


We loved seeing the giant’s legs, Toad Hall, the windmill, and all the signs.  We’d have never seen them or known about them if we hadn’t asked simple questions to Rugby, April and Jamie.  I just wonder what all Stanley Marsh 3 has done that we didn’t know about.  We did hear that he has a yet to be realized scheme to create “rainbow towers” using water vapor.


In a recent vote conducted by the Amarillo Globe newspaper after Stanley Marsh 3 ran an advertisement looking for acrobats, jugglers, unicyclists, and other circus-related performers, 43% said Marsh 3 is a genius who gives Amarillo personality while 38% said he is a ridiculously foolish eccentric who is an embarrassment to Amarillo, while 19% say they haven’t figured him out yet.  I think Stanley Marsh 3 is great!  He gives Amarillo personality!  Here are the poll results and some great comments —


Next to Cadillac Ranch, the best-known spot in Amarillo is the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  The restaurant opened in the 50’s, and they have always advertised a Free 72 72-ounce steak, if you can eat their meal (which includes shrimp cocktail, salad, baked potato, and bread) in one hour or less.  6,000 people have succeeded, and their names are carefully logged in a book.  It’s a classic Texas place with great Texas décor, what may be the world’s largest rocking chair, with fun stuff to see inside and out.  Our food was great.  I had a delicious barbeque plate – huge servings.  Bozzie had a vegetable plate.  We had no room for dessert.


While the place and the food were great, the highlight was meeting and getting to know our waiter, Lesley.  Lesley is from Brenham, Texas.  He is in school at West Texas A&M.  He is studying to be a music teacher, and he plays the trombone.  Unknown to his girlfriend, Miss Katy, he has bought a ring, and he plans to ask her to marry him.  Unfortunately, Katy’s Dad doesn’t approve of Lesley, and he pulled Katy out of school to get her away from him.  We talked to Lesley for a half hour or more, and if Katy were our daughter, we’d be mighty proud to have Lesley seek her hand in marriage!  We have Lesley’s email address, so we will be checking in to see how the proposal went.  He gave Bozzie Jane a big hug when we said goodbye after lunch.  How could anyone not like a fine young man who gives you a big bear hug the first time you meet him?!


Down to Lubbock we went.  This is a planned detour off Route 66 as both Boz and I went to school at Texas Tech University.  We met and fell in love in “the Hub City,” and we were married soon after my graduation on June 19, 1971.  We’ve both driven that route many times, but it always seems longer than you remember it to be.  Bozzie noted that it is, however, still flat, still windy, and still dusty.


We took a few photos in Happy, Texas.  We got several Happy signs, a photo of the Happy Center, the Happy Fire Department, and more.  It’s a Happy place.


We passed through the little West Texas towns of Canyon, Tulia, Kress, Plainview, Hale Center, Abernathy and New Deal.  We had college friends from all of those places.  We loved seeing the smaller version of the Statue of Liberty in front of a motel in Kress.  We were ripped off at a Texaco station in New Deal.  Their Coke machine ate my dollar but gave nothing in return, and the Texaco station refused to give me a dollar.  With 500 gallons behind me and perhaps 900 gallons yet to come (on this trip alone), Texaco will not see another penny of my money.  I was not Happy.


Lubbockites are called Lucky Me’s by those of us who attended college there in the 60’s and looked forward to graduating and seeing Lubbock in our rearview mirrors.  The tag came from a 1960’s advertising campaign and bumper sticker that used the slogan “Lucky Me, I Live in Lubbock.”


When we reached Lubbock, we stopped at one of the unique spots in Lubbock – Prairie Dog Town.  It’s a dirt field in Mackenzie Park where a large number of prairie dogs live.  It used to be a favorite of high school and college kids on dates as there are no lights and lots of room to park and mess around.  Mr. and Mrs. K. N. Clapp originated the town in 1932.  Lubbock should get a new sign for the place, as it looks like it was made by the folks at Sponge-O-Rama.


We then drove to the home of our two favorite Lucky Me’s, Steve (aka Archibald Barasol) and Melinda (aka Berlinda) Shanklin.  I met Steve and Melinda in high school, and Steve and I were pledge brothers in Delta Tau Delta fraternity.  Steve was also my partner in my first business venture, a business selling fraternity and sorority clothing, party favors, jewelry, etc.  I sold my 75% of the business to Steve when I graduated, and he and his parents operated the business very successfully for 20 years before they sold it.  (His buyer screwed it up and went out of business shortly thereafter.  Watch out Blue Swallow.)  Steve was the Best Man in our wedding, and we have always considered Steve and Berlinda to be among our closest friends.


Steve is the best storyteller I have ever met.  He is extremely funny, and Berlinda is extremely smart and has an incredible wit.  Berlinda would be a great Erma Bombeck-like writer.  We always love getting together with the Shanklins as the stories will be flying.  Our all-time favorite is Steve’s story of the toe-tap drain.  I won’t try to tell it here, but I will have to put it in the book.  It’s a story about going to stay at a friend’s beautiful new home.  Before we retired for the evening, Steve took me in the bathroom to show me the ins and outs of the bathtub and shower we would be using.  After the toe-tap drain, we figured this is mandatory for any and all house guests at the Shanklin home.


We are the most unlikely of friends in some ways.  Steve and Berlinda have lived in the same house their entire married life.  Steve’s parents lived in only one house for all of their married lives.  Steve has had the same job and same secretary for 28 years.  Barbara and I, on the other hand, have lived in 18 places (soon to be 19) in 10 cities in 32 years of marriage.  I’ve never been involved in any one business for over five years.  It was major news when Steve and Berlinda announced that they were thinking of buying a new home, and even bigger news to learn a few days later that they have actually signed a contract.  I just hope Steve can handle the stress.


Actually, Daisy has been a bigger concern than Steve.  Daisy is the Shanklin’s dog.  She’s deaf and blind.  She gets around in their home as she knows where everything is.  Moving may be traumatic, but their vet has given them a plan for how to deal with it.


Steve enjoyed a colonoscopy this morning, so we weren’t sure he would be up for dinner, but he rallied.  We went to Flatlanders, a place in an alley right near where Steve and I had our first store at 2420 13th Street.  We dropped by the old place and took a photo.  I can remember when I rented the store in 1970.  It was $75 a month.  I had no money, so I actually became a real estate person before I opened the store, as I went around to other student entrepreneurs and subleased walls and parts of the store so I would be there rent-free.  In addition to selling fraternity and sorority sportswear, party favors, jewelry, and mugs, I started a bail bond service for students, was the campus representative for Humble Oil (now Exxon), Playboy Magazine, and assorted others, and I got a deal selling factory outlet doubleknit slacks provided by Bozzie Jane’s sister Judy.  I subleased space to Joe Little, a guy who did fraternity and sorority paddles, and to another guy, Delray Lefevre, who did party pictures.  The place had more names than we had product lines.  But it was profitable, a great learning experience, and our success with that little business probably kept both Steve and me from miserable lives as attorneys.


Back to the present.  We had dinner at Flatlanders, and we toured the Texas Tech campus.  We saw a number of fabulous new buildings, the very impressive United Spirit Arena where Bobby Knight runs the men’s basketball show, and we saw the major construction underway at the football stadium.  If you can forget that Lubbock is as flat as a pancake, lacks water, and the dust often fills the sky, we believe the Texas Tech campus is very beautiful.  The school has made consistent use of the same style of Spanish architecture, and it’s a huge campus – largest campus in terms of size in the USA. We made sure to get a photo of the Will Rogers statue.  Rumor always had it that Will would get off his horse whenever a virgin graduated from Tech.  He’s still up there.


We went by the Hi-D-Ho before we returned to the Shanklins’ home.  Lubbock had three fantastic drive-in restaurants when we were in high school and college – the Char King, the White Pig, and the Hi-D-Ho.  As high schoolers, we would cruise through the Char-King and park and hope someone of the opposite sex might have the courage to speak to us.  A common date was a “Coke Date,” where you would pick up a girl and go to Char King and get a Coke and talk.


The White Pig was near Tech and was a college hangout with very good burgers and fries.  The Hi-D-Ho was also near Texas Tech, and it was known as a wilder place.  To go Ho-ing was to cruise through the Hi-D-Ho looking for a date or two.  The Char King and White Pig have gone the way of the wrecking ball.  As has the Hi-D-Ho, but someone built a new place and is calling it the Hi-D-Ho.  It’s not the same, but it’s better than the long-forgotten Char King and White Pig.


The Shanklin kids, Whitney and Chris, came by to see us.  Really fine young people.  Whitney has been doing missionary work, and Chris is in medical school at Texas Tech.


We had a great time visiting all the Shanklins!


As we’ve said before, little is as much fun as getting together with old friends.



May 7, 2003

We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in a room right next to the highway. We heard cars all night. For $129 it was not a bargain, but we were able to get a good internet connection and do quite a bit of updating to the website. I got about 4 days worth of pictures and one day worth of story up.

37336 We’re leaving the hotel at about 11:30. We’re leaving this late because we are just headed down to Lubbock today and Steve is having his colonoscopy this morning. Bozzie Jane’s here and her dad has perhaps had a little mini-stroke so we may have a little change in plans.

We had a great time at the mailing place, B and W. April and Jamie who shipped 44 pounds of accumulated brochures and other stuff. They were in a bad mood when we arrived and after we were there they were just so happy and smiley. It was really nice to be able to brighten someone’s day. They told us several interesting things relative to Stanley Marsh. We are going to have to do at least one of those. We’re on the way now pulling up to Cadillac Ranch which is at about exit 60 off of I-40 on Route 66. It’s on the south side of the road and there’s a little walkway so you’re able to walk out there and see the artwork which is painted on the cadillacs.

36353 12:43 We’re leaving the Cadillac Ranch.

36736 12:56 We’re at Toad Hall, the residence of Stanley Marsh III. He was one of the most eccentric men around.

As we were getting ready to leave Stanley’s Toad Hall, we spotted his windmill. It has a bowtie and then there’s a simple little sign along the highway that says “road does not end.”

We just had a really good meal at the Big Texas Steakranch in Amarillo. Bill had a really good BBQ plate, and Barbara had a vegetable plate with wonderful yeast rolls. Our waiter was Lesley, a really nice young man from Brenam, Texas. He plays the trombone and goes to school here. He’s getting a teaching degree and hopefully getting engaged tomorrow night. He has a ring for his soon-to-be fiancé and she doesn’t know it; her name is Katy. We took his picture and he was a really special young man. We wish him the best. He has a problem in that his soon-to-be father-in law does not like him but we’re hoping and praying that everything will work out for him.

We’re getting ready to leave at 2:15 and head to Lubock.

37374 2:15 Leaving the Big Texan Steakranch

37396 2:53 We’re leaving the ruins of the Ozzimandus? Legs.

We’re in Canyon. There’s a huge tumbleweed blowing down the highway at us. 37403 3:00pm

Canyon is the home of West Texas A&M University where Lesley goes to school. Barbara just noted that West Texas is still flat, still windy, still dusty.

37423 3:27 We’re leaving Happy, Texas. 647 people live in Happy.

We’re in Tulia 37435 3:40pm

We’re taking a picture of the Statue of Liberty in Tulia. They’re probably trying to follow along on the same theme as Sioux City.

Crest 37455 4:02pm

Plain View 37466 4:12pm

37481 Hail Center 4:25pm

Abernathy 37498 4:41pm

New Deal 37512 4:47pm

Lubock 37512 5:08pm

Prairie Dog Town 37516 5:15pm

It’s 88 degrees in Lubbock. By far the hottest in many many miles.

There’s a train.


Marfa and the Worlds Largest Horseshoe – Day 19

Day 18 — April 18, 2003 — Friday

Marfa and the Worlds Largest Horseshoe

 Badlands Hotel was B-A-D.  As I reported yesterday, the hotel was cheaply built.  For $195 a night, I expect top quality, but there was NO quality in the room.  In fact, there wasn’t even electricity, running water, or telephone service – though all were supposed to be provided.  The service was poor from the time I dropped in to book the room, to the time I checked in later that night, to checkout.


The only thing worse than the lack of speed with which the checkout guy handled checking me out was his complete void of personality.  When he handed me my bill, not only was there no adjustment for the lack of electricity, water, or telephone service in a room with the windows caulked shut, they had tacked on a $15 “resort fee.”  Words cannot express….


Let me just say to Steve Smith, the “Austin billionaire who has bought Lajitas and has turned it into a resort” as I was told is the case.  If the rest of Lajitas is like the BADlands Hotel, you should have stuck with whatever made you rich.  I felt completely, totally ripped off by the BADlands.  And to take a lovely, old town that dates back to an ancient Rio Grande River crossing first recorded by Spanish explorers in 1588 and completely convert it to a modern-day tourist trap resort should be a crime punishable by extended imprisonment in room 216.


You have to blow off steam every once in a while; I’m glad I got that off my chest.


Despite my eye injury, I got up and out before the sun came up as I wanted to see the sunrise at Big Bend.  I hiked a ways off the road to an area that Yvette, the bartender / waitress from last night, told me would be the best spot.  I sat on a rock in the cool morning air and saw a beautiful sunrise out of my right eye.  I got several excellent photos, even though I am now having to modify my photographic efforts as I have always been a left eye shooter.  I’ll be doing right eye work for a few days.


I started meeting interesting people bright and early with “Dr. Kathy” and “Dr. Doug Blackburn” of the Phillips 66 station in Study Butte.  I picked up a Visine product, but when I told Kathy, the Phillips 66 store manager, about my eye problem, she knew I had the wrong stuff, so she became Dr. Kathy as I was directed to get something that was not limited on the amount of daily use.  Visine Tears was the right product for me, and it gave me some relief, though my eye hurt badly throughout the day.  I felt bad about complaining during the first few days of the trip about having to take my glasses off to be able to take photographs and not seeing as well as I used to.  It could be worse.


Dr. Doug Blackburn is a real character.  He came up and knocked on my window as I was organizing myself for the day’s drive.  He was wearing hospital scrubs with an impressive-looking hospital-like photo ID pinned to his blue scrub top.  But he had on a “Study Butte Store” baseball cap, and when I looked closer at the ID, it said “Doctor of Boarderline Psychology.”  We talked about the trip, Terlingua, Study Butte, and Lajitas…and some of the characters who lived around there.  I asked: “May I take your photo, Dr. Blackburn?”  He said: “Oh, I’m not a real doctor; I’m just one of the clerks at the Study Butte Phillips 66 gas station and store.”  I didn’t want to tell him that I had long since figured that out.  He proudly pulled back his jacket so his ID would be clearly visible in the photo.   Nice guy and obviously a lot of fun!  The Round America sign on the car is very effective as it pulls people to me, and I meet far more people as a result.


The Study Butte Mall aka Phillips 66 station has a stoplight in the front of it.  It’s the only stoplight in the town.  It’s on their property – not on the road.  Pretty cute.


Since I drove back and forth between Big Bend and Lajitas several times, and Terlingua is the town in between, it will probably be the town that was most visited on the trip.  I went to or through Terlingua five times.


Driving back and forth in Big Bend and at a few other points during the trip, I realized that you see a different view just by traveling in the opposite direction.  Maybe we’ll take this trip “backwards” someday – do the same route, but head north from Savannah rather than south, and just travel “backwards.”  Better see if we can finish this trip first and try to make some money with the book to cover these costs.


Blue sky today, so I was tempted to stay and repeat all the photos I took on overcast yesterday.  But at 8:15, I pulled away from Study Butte and drove to Presidio, which may be an even more beautiful drive than the drives I took through Big Bend yesterday.  The sky was blue, so the pictures are pretty good, though I didn’t stop as much as I would have because my eye was just killing me.


I saw a lot of faces in rocks today.  I swear I saw Bob Hope’s face in a rock.  I may have gone too long driving alone in the car.  Come back Bozzie Jane!  On another trip, I’d like to try photographing the faces that I see and then using PhotoShop to alter the images so others can see what I see.


Right outside Lajitas, the Big Bend Ranch State Park begins.  Gorgeous views.  Many more “oh ****’s” today.  I stopped at the Contrabando movie set.  At several points, I stopped for a photo, and then turned around to see another stunning view.  Sometimes we never turn around and miss the good stuff.


Because of the eye problem, I skipped a few things today that I otherwise would have done.

Presidio is a small town, but bigger than most I have seen lately.  I stopped briefly at the ghost town of Shafter.  Fort Shafter was a defense against the Apaches.  Someone there has a sense of humor as there was a makeshift “roadside park” set up there — at least I think it was to be funny…maybe just a way for the one or two folks living there to meet the occasional tourist who stops by for a photo.


I landed in the delightful little town of Marfa at noon, and I spent much longer there than planned as it proved to be a very special place.  It seems that a wealthy artist and/or art lover, the late Don Judd, was originally the person responsible for restoring Marfa’s buildings.  Then along came Tim Crowley to continue the process.  The result is that virtually all of the great old buildings in the center of the town have been restored.  Marfa has a significant artist’s community, and judging by the number of airplanes at the airport in this small town of 2400 people, there are a lot of folks with some money in and around Marfa.


The largely non-commercial restoration of the buildings in Marfa has made it a really special place.  Undoubtedly a place that the artists would love to keep a secret.  I thought of all the small decaying towns that we’ve seen.  Every town needs a wealthy art lover, but few have one.  Marfa is so fortunate to have had two.


The old military base was turned into a HUGE art museum by Mr. Crowley.  It encompasses many of the military buildings, and there are a lot of them.  I found out about the Chinati Foundation and museum from skateboarders  Erik, Jerek, and Anthony.  I asked where I could find the world’s largest horseshoe, and Erik said it was at the Chinati Foundation, and he directed me there.


The Chinati Foundation looked like it might be some kind of cult place, and when the two nice young men inside, Tim and Jason, said I could not come in, I really started to wonder.  But they told me it was an art museum, and two Austin artists outside, Scout and John, confirmed it.  Tim and Jason said they did not have the authority to let me in to photograph the horseshoe, so I headed to town for lunch.


I turned down a side street looking for a restaurant with pickup trucks.  That’s a great way to find a good restaurant in Texas.  Another great way is to look closely at the civic club signs at the city limits as many will say where the club meets for lunch.  Chances are, they meet at the good places. On this street, I saw two great 50’s-era motels, the Capri Inn and the Thunderbird Inn.  I had an excellent T-Bird Club Sandwich at the Thunderbird Restaurant.  The waitress, Rose, is definitely in the running for best waitress on the trip.  She has a great smile, and we had a delightful conversation.  She also was an invaluable resource about Marfa.  She told me several sights to see; told me about the Marfa Lights; and explained how I could take a photograph of the horseshoe without permission.  I loved that part.


I put on my shades and my secret undercover mission began!  I followed Rose’s directions and drove down the road and took a left just past the Laundromat.  Then I drove for a mile and a half and began looking to the left for the museum buildings at the old base.  Once I saw the buildings, I was to turn into the area with several homes and go in the backyard of the one closest to the horseshoe.  I found the closest house, and I pulled the car around a barn on the side.  I got out, tiptoed through the horse pasture, zoomed the camera in as far as it would go, and snapped one photo.  Then I ran back to the car and started to pull out when the lady of the house caught me.  She asked: “what in the world are you doing in my yard?”  I replied: “Just taking a picture of the horse shoe.”  She said, “the horse sh**?”  I said “no ma’am, SHOE.  Sorry to have troubled you,” and I sped off as I had when I spotted Fast Freddy with the giant hedge clippers.  I mentally thanked Rose, and enjoyed a nice sense of accomplishment from having managed to get a photo of the forbidden horseshoe (even if it was from 100 yards or more away).


Back into the center of Marfa, I began to see that Marfa has quite an artist’s community.  There’s a great flag sculpture next to the courthouse, and there are a number of galleries.  I understand there is a lot more hidden from view.  Kind of like those rattlesnakes Dr. Dan told me about in Lajitas.  I met and spoke with Belinda and Kim — two Marfa artists.  I learned a lot more about the art activity in the town.


The Marfa Lights are an unexplained phenomenon that causes lights to appear in the sky.  According to Rose (who I would trust with my life), it’s no hoax.  A number of scientists have been in to try to figure it out.  There are several theories, but no explanation.  I was sorry I couldn’t stick around to see if the lights came out that night.  But Boz and I will absolutely come back to Marfa and spend a day or two.  If one wanted to live in a town of 2,400 people, Marfa looked like it would be a dandy.  It’s hard to believe that we lived most of our life in Texas and had never really heard much about Big Bend and had heard nothing about Marfa except the spooky lights.


I stopped briefly in Fort Davis.  It has a lot of tourists.  After seeing Big Bend, I saw no reason to take the scenic drive through the Fort Davis Mountains.  That would have been like going to the carnival after having just been to Disney World.  If Barbara had been with me, we would have seen the doll museum there.  I can’t figure out how Fort Davis had so many more tourists than a lot of other great places I have been.  Perhaps because it is easier to get to.


Not far out of Fort Davis, the land flattened, and I began seeing terrain similar to what I grew up with in West Texas – flat and dusty.  There was a good old West Texas dust storm blowing, and that was the last thing my eye needed.  Then a lot of oil wells appeared, so it was flat and dusty with oil wells.


I was taking this route so I could hit Wink, Texas to see the Roy Orbison Museum.  He had such great songs – Pretty Woman, Only the Lonely, and others.  A very unique voice.  Roy is Wink’s claim to fame.  There actually is one other claim to fame there – the Wink Sink – a giant sinkhole.  They do have a red water tower and formerly had a Pink Panther Bar.


I snapped a few classic small town photos in Kermit, and then I boogied for the New Mexico line.  The time changed there, so it was just before 5:30 Mountain Daylight Time.  The scenery changed almost immediately as well – greener, some hills, and mountains in the distance.  New Mexico, “the Land of Enchantment,” is a very beautiful state, but you gotta like mountains.

I passed through Loving, and I was hoping to get some love-oriented pictures, but I didn’t see any businesses to speak of, and nothing was love-related.  We’ve seen way too many adult businesses in tiny towns; if there had been one there, I would have photographed it.  Loving.

What I did find is that a great salesperson once visited Loving.  Might be the same guy who made such a big sale in the country of Belgium where all the highways have street lights every 50 feet or so.  Same deal in Loving.  There were street lights every 50 feet from one city limits sign to the other.  I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else.


I pulled up to Carlsbad Caverns about 6 pm.  I saw a sign that said “Eat 750 feet underground.”  Not me.  Both Boz and I are quite claustrophobic.  So, I took a picture of the sign, and called it a Carlsbad’s Caverns.


I was much more excited to see White’s City.  White’s City uses Burma Shave-like billboards to advertise for many miles.  It’s an OLD souvenir shop tourist trap (and I say that in a good way).  I wanted to see their Million Dollar Museum.  I paid my $3 and went in.  I’m sorry to report that it was a little better than Sponge-O-Rama, but not much.  Then again, Sponge-O-Rama was free.  The Million Dollar Museum was 11 rooms in the basement filled with old displays of “antiques,” some of which were in poor condition.  I’m afraid White’s City was a disappointment – not what it used to be.  If I hadn’t been so tired of driving and my eye hadn’t hurt so badly, I probably would have found it entertaining in a camp sort of way.  Attitude is an amazing thing.


As I drove back to Carlsbad (Carlsbad Caverns is about 20 miles outside the city of Carlsbad), Gutter of the Brotherhood of 74 motorcycle gang waved for me to pull over.  Three weeks ago, this would have scared the dickens out of me, but it was a busy street, and he looked nice.  Big on that big bike, but nice.  He was no weekend biker (and we’ve seen a whole lot of them); his jacket and doo-rag were the real stuff.  We had a nice talk, and he agreed to let me take his picture.  He wanted to be sure I told everyone that the Brotherhood of 74 does a lot for charity.  I overheard him speaking to someone on his cell phone as I drove off; he told them he was going to be in a book.  Folks really like that!


I chased the sun once again, but I was smack dab in the middle of Carlsbad.  I tried to get to the outskirts of town, but I had to settle for sunset at a temporary storage facility.  Not every sunset can be a Big Bend masterpiece.  Gotta take ’em as you find ’em and learn to enjoy what you got.

The restaurant on my list for Carlsbad was Casa de Cortez.  I found it on the highway.  The place was filled with older locals, so I knew it would be great, and it was.  If their hot sauce had been more to my taste, I probably would say their Mexican was the best yet…but I’m sticking with Rosita’s as best so far.  I never got the name of the waitress.  She was busy.  I was tired.


I spotted the No Whiner Diner just before Casa de Cortez, so I backtracked for dessert.  Alyssa recommended the apple pie with ice cream, and it was very good.  In the parking lot, I met an interesting young woman named Alma — from Wisconsin.  She said she was trying to get away from the guy she had come to Carlsbad with and was trying to get home, but AAA was not answering the phone…or something like that.  I asked if I could do anything to help, and she said “pray for me.”  I asked permission (as I always do) and took her picture.  I asked if she had any money, and she said no.  I gave her $20.  If she was a hustler, she had the best approach I have ever seen as I never felt hustled.  I hope she was just a young girl who needed to get home to Wisconsin.  It’s so much more gratifying to look at things positively.


I met Cody and Erica at a Chevron station.  Cody was born here, and Erica got stuck here.  From what little I saw, Carlsbad certainly wouldn’t go on my list of favorite cities.


Just outside of Artesia, I had my first truly scary experience on the trip.  I watched as a car pulled out of a parking lot, and I thought for a split second that I had gotten confused and was somehow on a one way road going in the wrong direction as the car came straight at me.  No, I was in the right place; the car had turned into the wrong lane and was heading straight for me.  Fortunately, I saw it all happen and had the time to maneuver off onto the shoulder and out of harm’s way.

I was relieved to reach Roswell.  I had never planned to stay at the far south end of Big Bend, so I was on the road for 100 miles more than planned today.  Too much.  Then I spent several hours in Marfa (which will be in the running for Best Small Town).  I was tired, but Roswell appeared to be a very thriving city of 47,000, and I was anxious to see all the UFO stuff.


I met Becky, Bill, and Fletcher as I checked into the Comfort Inn.  They each confirmed that they felt UFO’s exist and are real.  Bill had seen lights.  I was delighted to fall asleep with this important issue put to bed.


The lesson for today is that history is good and important and to be treasured.  I wish things could be more like Marfa and less like Lajitas.  Restored rather than overly commercialized.  I never even thought about being a “preservationist” before this trip, but I am one.  I also learned to enunciate more clearly the next time I get caught with my camera in someone’s horse pasture.




One of the most asked questions is “where are you from?”  I started the trip saying “Atlanta.”  Now, I say I am from the town I last slept in, but tonight I will be from the town I will next sleep in.  This usually starts an interesting conversation.


For the last two weeks, I have rarely known what day of the week it is.



The Floating Neutrinos – Day 18

Day 18 — April 18, 2003 — Friday

The Floating Neutrinos

Day 18 was PHENOMENAL!  Best day yet for me; my only regret is that Boz was in Atlanta and missed it.  It’s interesting that I can consider it the best though I had three significant problems and one big travel disappointment: (1)  I found the BADlands Hotel to be BAD and the top nominee for worst use of money on the trip. (2)  There was neither electricity, nor water, nor telephone service at the BADlands Hotel.  (3)  I seriously injured my left eye.   (4)  It was an overcast day (only thing worse is rain when you are going to see beautiful natural sights).

The power failure was in the town of Lajitas where I found a hotel room.  No electricity, no water, no telephones.  Even if all the utilities had been working, my Internet service didn’t work there.  (I will not have Internet at several points along the way, so please don’t worry if a day or two goes by without a website update, and if you are really worried, call me at 404-606-1885, but recognize that the area I have been in for the last three or four days has been essentially without cell phone service.)  I injured my left eye on a hike in the middle of a sand dune in Big Bend when the wind hit and knocked out the power in Lajitas.  My left eye was scratched so badly that I couldn’t even open it, and it was very painful.

Big Bend is incredibly beautiful (even on an overcast day), and it is the ultimate sunset spot, as you can drive from location to location while the sun is setting and see a variety of spectacular sights from heights that provide the ideal view.

I met some really interesting people on Day 18, including a Jehovah’s Witness at a gas pump (Ricky Bowman); a Border Patrol officer (Officer Hart); five fine young missionaries (Katy, Pete, Claire, Chris, and Katie) who I met at a gas station and then saw down the road when they had a blowout; two delightful ladies running a gas station in Sanderson Texas (Gennie Merrifield and Deanna Seager); a man who went to Texas Tech the same years I did, and his wife (Dalton and Pearl Hobbs); five park rangers (Ranger Rob, Katrina, Ranger Don, Casey, and Anita); the Tulane University tennis coach and her husband (Mary Lee and Brian); a former missionary and his wife – a Harvard-educated attorney (Ruben and Karen); a nurse/pilot and her doctor husband (Britton and Dan); Mike the night manager at the Study Butte “Mall;” a great bartender/waitress (Yvette); a couple who are in the unconventional lapidary business (Cindy and James); the Floating Neutrinos (Papa and Aurelia); and several others (including tourists Carol, Duane, Stan, and Roma as well as Jeannie and Steve).  While I enjoyed meeting all of these folks and learning a little about most of them, the Floating Neutrinos may be the most interesting people I have ever met.

The day began in Del Rio at 8:30 am.  69-degrees and dusty.  I met Ricky Bowman at a gas pump.  Ricky’s a big barrel-chested 100% Texan-looking man.  He saw the sign on the car and asked what I was up to.  He is fairly new in Del Rio – moved there so they could be near their grandchild.  We figure that’s about the best reason to live anywhere!  He told me the sky isn’t always gray there.  We talked for quite a while before he said he would like to give me something.  He went to his pickup and brought me two magazines – “The Watchtower” and “Awakenings.”  Ricky is a Jehovah’s Witness.  I’ve never had a real conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness, so I asked about how and why he chose that religion, and I asked what his view is of the war in Iraq.  He chose the religion because of the warmth and sincerity he felt from the members of the group.  That sounded like a good reason to me.  As to the war, he informed me that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe we are “at the end of our days.”  (I don’t believe I will join up as I would much prefer to look on the bright side.)  We talked a little more about this, and Ricky admitted that the “end of our days” could be a period of a million years or some such huge number.  Ricky asked if I was going to Hawaii, and I told him it would be the 50th state to visit.  He said the first Kingdom Hall (aka church) was in Hawaii, so I promised to go see it and get a photo for him.  I wished Ricky the best for his grandchild and for our own and for their grandchildren and their grandchildren and….

I ran into Officer Hart of the Border Patrol at the mini-mart,  He confirmed that the Border Patrol needs more people.

Not far outside Del Rio is the Amistad Dam and reservoir.  The terrain became pretty — going from flat white desert to brown to green with some hills and gullies (Is that the right term for a small canyon?).  There wasn’t a safe place to pull off for a good photo.

26 miles from Del Rio was another Border Patrol Checkpoint.  I guess I don’t look like I’m smuggling any illegals in my little car as they just waved me through.

Not much in the little town of Comstock.  I did see a Deer Storage place.  The terrain is so flat and barren in this area that it just doesn’t seem fair to the deer.

When I reached the Pecos River, I realized I missed a bet when I didn’t pull off at a “roadside park” that wasn’t billed on the highway as one of the best scenic overlooks in the state.  U-Turn (what the car now does best), and I found myself at the top of a little mountain meeting Dalton Hobbs and his wife Pearl.  Dalton had a double T on his shirt, so I assumed he went to my alma mater, Texas Tech.  He did.  And we were there the same 4’ish years.  He was in advertising, and I was in marketing, so we probably had classes together.  I’m counting it as the second meeting  of “an old friend” in two days!  The Pecos River Bridge is the highest in Texas, and it is really an impressive sight, especially after several days of choking on the dust in the border towns.

Mountains appeared on the horizon as I took Loop 25 off the highway and headed for Langtry.  Langtry was the home of Judge Roy Bean, and his courtroom, saloon, and pool hall have been maintained by the state.  Judge Bean is well-known to Texans and anyone interested in the Old West as he was a notorious judge who dispensed his own brand of justice and profited from his position.  In addition to the building, there is a very interesting Cactus Museum on the grounds.  I never stopped to realize there are so many different varieties.

I wrote two days ago that I was in the wide open spaces.  I wrote yesterday that it was wider and opener.  Today it is the widest and openest.  It will be 265 miles from Del Rio to the entrance to the one million acres that are Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, and there are only four towns on that route.  The four towns are tiny, and only two had anything that I could see (Sanderson and Marathon).  Look on your Road Atlas, and you’ll see a huge area in Texas with not much in the way of dots.

Outside of Langtry, the speed limit increased to 75, and so did I.  There just isn’t anything to see alongside the road.  I did pass an RV at one point.

I reached Sanderson at 11:30.  The sign said “Cactus Capital of the Southwest.”  I didn’t see any increase in the amount of cactus that had been for as far as the eye could see for 125 miles, but I mentally applauded Sanderson for “celebrating what they got” – something we have noted numerous times on the trip.  Inside the gas station, I met Gennie Merrifield and Deanna Seager, two delightful ladies.  We had a nice talk about the trip, and Gennie suggested that I go see their train depot.  She thought showing it in the book might help them raise money to restore it as the city was having trouble getting money.  I enjoyed it and a few other things I saw due to that detour, and I hope I might help them raise some money as great old buildings like this need to be preserved!

My lunch consisted of a Goodarts Peanut Patty.  These babies are good!  If you’ve never had a peanut patty, you’ve been missing a great Texas treat.  A high school and college friend, Robert Taylor, used to own Goodarts.

As I started to pull away from the gas station in Sanderson, I noticed a group of young college-age-looking folks.  I asked which way they were headed, and they said Big Bend.  I walked over and met Katy, Pete, Claire, Chris, and Katie.  They are all missionaries working in the McAllen area.  These are really fine young people, and it was so great to hear about the good they were doing.  It struck me that there is a lot we can all do to help others, and it doesn’t have to be with money.

In this part of the country, there are all kinds of things that you don’t see elsewhere.  For example, I drove over “Three Mile Draw,” as well as places called gulch, arroyo, bend, creek, and many others.  Not many rivers, but a lot of gulches.  You see windmills from time to time; these are kind of like lighthouses in that both are a sign of life.  In the desert, the windmills provide the energy to pull the water out of the ground, and where there’s water, there’s usually life.

I was just doing my thing at 11:45 am.  In this area, I’d go for long stretches without even seeing another car.  My thing consists of driving as my eyes scan 180-degrees ahead enjoying the view and looking for anything that my mind considers especially interesting at that point.  I came across a car that was moving slowly on the two-lane road, so I spent pass #8 to get around them.  As I drove by, I saw a long web address painted on the side of the car.  I thought to myself that this was very interesting to see on a passenger car, and I wanted to know what it said.  So, I pulled off the road to take a photo just so I could read the web address when they passed me.  They passed, but there was no web address.  Uh oh, 18 days on the road and I’m beginning to hallucinate.  I knew I saw a web address, so I spent pass #9 to go around them again.  It said “,” and there was some other writing on the car that I couldn’t make out.  Floating Neutrinos???  I wonder what in the world a Floating Neutrino is!  I was anxious to get to a hotel so I could check out the website.

I motored on, and it was several miles before I saw something that I wanted to photograph.  So, off the side of the road I went, and out of the car with the camera.  A few minutes later, I saw the Floating Neutrinos car approach and pass.  As the car drove by, I was able to see an Ernest Hemingway-looking driver, with a woman riding shotgun, and a dog in the back seat.  They drove slowly past, and the woman’s arm was sticking out of the passenger side window gently waving Mardi Gras beads.  They stopped 50 feet ahead of me, and I walked up to the car; and I met Papa and Aurelia and Buckaroo the dog.  They gave me the beads as a gift.  How special was this.  I knew from looking into their eyes that this was going to be interesting.  I can’t remember everything that was discussed as I kind of felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  Buckaroo kept barking, and Aurelia told me to avoid eye contact, as he would not bite me unless I looked him in the eyes.

I donned my new beads, and we began to talk as I tried to remember to avoid making eye contact with Buckaroo.  As I recall, they were especially enthusiastic about my odyssey, but we very quickly began talking about them.  I learned, among other things, that Papa Neutrino and Aurelia (aka Captain Betsy) took a trip from New York City across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland and then down to Spain.  Many people have taken a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but Papa and Aurelia did it floating on a RAFT!  Papa opened the trunk of his car, and he pulled out a yellowed laminated newspaper story from the New York Times with their picture and a picture of the raft (that looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie).  What an amazing adventure, and what stories they have to tell.  I tried to remain focused, but I just kept thinking how incredible to be on my unique journey by land …to bump into on the highway literally in the middle of nowhere…two incredibly interesting people who risked their lives while making an incredible journey by sea.  Going to the river with Fast Freddy paled in comparison.

Papa said he wanted to give me a song that he had written.  I noticed a guitar case in the trunk.  (And after Fast Freddy and the giant hedge trimmers, I’m sorry to say that the thought of there being a machine gun inside rather than a guitar did skate through my mind.)  Papa gave me a photocopy of the words and music to “Thanks to the Yanks of the USA.”  He asked if I would like to hear him sing it, and I said absolutely!  Papa played the guitar and sang; Aurelia smiled; Buckaroo barked; and I thought how sweet and what a truly unique experience…and scrambled to get a photo of this as no one would ever believe it.

When the serenade ended, I had to ask Papa his views of the Iraqi War.  I anticipated that Papa and Aurelia would be anti-war.  His response was fascinating.  Papa and Aurelia are not “meat eaters” and would not even kill a mosquito…and though President Bush “is a hunter” and eats meat and hunts and kills, they both support the President, voted for him, and believe his actions will dramatically change the world for the better.  I didn’t expect to hear that.  Papa talked about a lot of things that I didn’t fully comprehend there on the side of the road, but I am anxious to explore the website.  The back of their car has this painted on it: “Let those who know tell those who don’t know.”  The front of the car has a symbol about the “seven levels” that I believe conveys their philosophy of life.

Before we parted, Papa and Captain Betsy gave me a videotape of their raft trip across the ocean and a CD of great jazz music by their children, the Flying Neutrinos!  The CD is excellent; I’ve played it several times since, and we will continue to enjoy it.  Boz and I watched the video, and it is better than many of the movies we have seen.  I could have stood there for hours, but I had a long way to go and no hotel reservation, so I said goodbye.  I just kept thinking about what an amazing encounter this had been.  To see and learn more about Papa, Captain Betsy, and Buckaroo, see

I’ve worn my green, purple, and white beads ever since I met the Floating Neutrinos.  The Floating Neutrinos have to be really lucky to have survived their float across the ocean on a raft, so I consider the beads a good luck charm.  The beads have added a whole new dimension to the trip.  Women smile and many men look at me with a “can you believe that ‘weirdo’ look.”  Kids stare.  I’m meeting far more people with the beads.  I need a gift for people I meet, though I will say that most of the people I meet seem surprisingly excited about having their name in the book.  While the business card and a little fame may be gift enough, I am ordering a case of beads.  Those of you who know me know how conservative I am, so the beads are a walk on the wild side.

15 miles further down the road, and I saw a car with a blown-out tire.  I put the car in U-Turn mode, and there were my five missionary friends.  All they had was a little donut spare, and it was 25 miles to a town.  I had learned that the three young ladies were on a year-long program that paid them $60 a month, so I felt good about giving them the money for a new tire.  After I reached the next town and saw how small it was, I hoped the money was enough.  I can see how they might not have been able to find a tire for 150 miles.  But they are all good people, so I figure the big guy was watching over them and Marathon would have a tire to fit their little car.

If this book does well, perhaps I’ill follow it up by just returning to this stretch of road and write another.  I’ll just get a couple of lawn chairs and put up a sign that says “Writing a Book – Stop to Chat.”

Marathon is a neat little place with a very impressive restored hotel, The Gage Hotel.  I met Carol, Duane, Stan, and Roma out front.  Roma frowned and asked where my car was from.  I told her I was sorry to say it was a German car with French tires.  Both will be my last!

At this point, the scenery is great.  Flat land on both sides of the road with mountains surrounding me miles back from the road.  When I saw a sign that said the entrance to Big Bend National Park was 72 miles, you could have knocked me over with a feather.  Talk about the middle of nowhere!  The scenery was wonderful.  I passed a ranch entrance with nothing but three stars on the entrance gate; I figure a general must live there, or maybe someone who rates movies, hotels, or restaurants.

Most days, I will see roadside memorials.  I saw one on this really remote stretch of road, so I hooked a U.  It said Aguilar.  There were flowers and beer bottles and money and a stuffed animal and more.  I had no gift to add, but I took a photo.

At 2:30, I reached the entrance to Big Bend.  I was greeted by Ranger Rob.  He looked like an actor – tall, tan, big smile, enthusiastic greeting.  I told him that I was thoroughly enjoying Big Bend…that the scenery was fabulous.  He informed me that I was just entering Big Bend and that all the really good stuff was inside.  Was he ever right!

I later met four funny Big Bend ranger-like folks at one of the few visitor centers in the park.  Katrina, Ranger Don, Casey, and Anita.

Photographs simply cannot do justice to Big Bend.  The views are 360-degrees.  I’d get out of the car to take a picture of a beautiful sight, and as I tuned to get back in the car, I’d be knocked over by something equally beautiful.  It was an “oh ****” day.  I don’t cuss much, but when I topped a hill to see one breathtaking sight after another, I realized I was saying “oh ****” out loud again and again.  I drove for hundreds of miles in Big Bend.  I have not yet been to a place that I have found to have scenery as spectacular as Big Bend.  Since volcanic activity is responsible for much of the landscape, the diversity is what really got my attention.  You can look in four directions and see four totally different types of terrain.  I think Big Bend is probably the best-kept secret in the United States.

I drove to Study Butte and Terlingua but I didn’t see a motel that appealed to me, so I drove on to Lajitas.  Lajitas, I later learned, is being developed as a “resort town.”  I stopped at the first place that appeared to be a resort hotel, the Badlands.  There was one room left.  I was relieved to know I would have a room for the night, and it was 4:45, and I had just three hours of time to see more of Big Bend, so I took the room even though I was shocked to hear $195 for a room in this dusty middle of nowhere spot.

I did meet a very nice young lady while waiting for service at the Badlands.  (And you can wait a looong time for service there.)  Britton is a nurse/pilot, and she introduced me to her husband, Dr. Dan.  Britton told me a number of places to go, and Dan said the area was filled with great characters.  He said they are like rattlesnakes; you may not see them, but they are out there.  Britton told me a great story about a man who moved to Lajitas from Chicago.  When he moved to town, someone asked his name, and he said “Jake.”  They said “Jake what?” and he replied “Just Jake.”  He died after 20 years or so there, and when they buried him, no one knew his name, so the gravestone says “Just Jake.”

I asked everyone I came in contact with where was the best place to see the sunset.  I was surprised that no one had a particular spot.  Most said to just walk outside, and Mike at the Study Butte “Mall” (gas station and convenience store with a gift shop) put it best: “To see the best sunset, walk straight out this door…and sit down.”

I raced back to Big Bend and took the drive down to the very end of the park at the border of Mexico.  Just fantastic.  When I got to the end of the road, the wind was really blowing.  When I began hiking down to the canyon and river, I was in the middle of a sand dune when my eyes became absolutely filled with sand.  My left eye was badly scratched, and tears were streaming down my cheek, but the sun was starting to set, and I pushed on.

On the climb up the side of the mountain, I met Ruben (a former missionary) and Karen (his Harvard-educated attorney wife) as my prized one-of-a-kind Round America cap blew off and disappeared down the side of the mountain.  That made me unhappy, but the sun was starting to set, and I pushed on.

A little further up the mountain and I met Mary Lee, the coach of the Tulane University tennis team, and her husband, Brian.  Very nice folks, and I had a chance to chat with them for a while after I came back down the mountain.

I got some pictures, but the wind was blowing so hard that it was impossible to hold the camera still.  There wasn’t as much water at that spot as I had pictured in my mind’s eye.  Had I known that and that there would be a gale-force wind in the middle of a sand dune, I wouldn’t have gone.  But ya pay your money and take your chances.  Sometimes ya win, sometimes ya lose, and sometimes ya get rained out.

When I returned to my car, my cap was under the windshield wiper.  I know Ruben was my good samaritan!  It’s so refreshing to meet so many nice, kind people.

I spent the next hour chasing the sun.  I couldn’t believe that none of the people I had asked about the best place to see a sunset had suggested that I go to Big Bend and drive from point to point to see 50 different sunsets.  I cannot envision a better place to see the sunset than here, due to the ever-changing terrain.  The beauty of sunsets is the combination of the color in the sky and what it is framed against on the ground.  Big Bend just can’t be topped in the sunset department!  The wind continued to blow hard, and I was disappointed to later see that many of my photos were too blurry to use from the wind making it impossible to hold the camera still.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the sights I was able to see with my right eye!  My last sunset for the day was at 8:36.

Big Bend is humongous.  Over one million acres!  It was at least an hour’s drive out of Big Bend and back to Terlingua where I had my heart set on a big bowl of chili.  I began to panic as I was running low on gas; I wasn’t sure I could make it out, but there were no options.

I made it.  I met Jeannie from Arkansas and Steve from Austin as I stopped at the Study Butte Mall for gas and several soda pops.  I should have asked whether they had anything for my eye!

Terlingua is the home to the mother of all chili cookoffs.  I went to the Starlight Theater Bar and Restaurant.  The chili was good, and the Dos Equis beer was too, though I drank about five glasses of water since I failed to do as I knew I should and had no water heading into Big Bend and no place to stop to get any).  I tried Dessert Nachos – nacho chips covered with dessert sauce and a big scoop of ice cream in the middle.  Different, but I bet the homemade cobbler would have been better.  Yvette was my bartender/waitress, and she was one of the best yet.  She told me several places to go for great sights, and she has the vision!  She educated me to the beauty of both the sunrise and moonrise in Big Bend, and said, “You know, the great thing about Big Bend is that you can see so many different views at the sun and moon look different depending on where you are at on the ground.”  She knew what I had just learned and that so many others apparently never stopped for a minute to consider.  Yvette told me exactly where to go the next morning to see a great sunrise near Lajitas.

At the Starlight Theater, I sat next to two couples.  The first couple didn’t say boo, and the man overtly turned his back to me when I was exchanging stories with Yvette as if to say, “get out of my life buddy.”  Perhaps he is anti-bead.  The second couple was delightful.  Cindy and James are “unconventional lapidarists.”  I learned this means they create unusual cuts of various rocks and gemstones.  Nice people, and we had a great time talking.  They enjoyed a chance meeting that day with a world-renowned lapidarist, and they were overjoyed that he invited them to join him on a dig at a ranch near Terlingua that is known to have incredible gemstones.  This was to them like finding and seeing the Perky Bat Tower, meeting Fast Freddy and going to the river, bumping into the Floating Neutrinos, or happening upon Harry and the Natives is to me.  Cindy and James gave me a beautiful polished gemstone to have made into a ring for Bozzie Jane.  It was an imported stone, not something they found on the side of the road.  I again wished I had a gift other than my business card and camera lens, but I arranged with Yvette to pay for their margaritas without them knowing.

I finally pulled into the parking lot in Lajitas around midnight.  Man it’s dark in this part of the world.  When I say black, I mean black.  When I managed to stumble up the stairs to the front desk at the Badlands to get my key, I learned that the electricity, water, and phones were all off.  It took four people with zero personality forever to figure out what room I was in, etc., as I stood there with my eye hurting much worse than it had at the Starlight.  I was escorted to my room by flashlight.

The hotel was cheaply built.  For $195 a night, I expect top quality, but the room had hollow-core doors with dents and veneer peeling off.  The shower was a prefab tub/shower like you would find in a very inexpensive apartment.  The chairs were poorly made western-looking reproductions that felt like they would break as I sat down.  There was no AC, no water, and no phone service, but this place probably would have seemed worse if there had been power.  The lobby was nice – always a good trick.  The window was caulked shut, so it was hotter and stuffier than necessary.  I could go on.  I cried out of my left eye and tried to sleep.  I couldn’t set an alarm since we lost our battery-operated model, but I hoped I would even fall asleep and hoped I might somehow awaken before sunrise so I could go see what Yvette had promised – a fabulous sunrise.

The lesson for the day.  Man that’s a tough one as there are so many options.  I guess the lesson is that it’s not all about money, at least it shouldn’t be.  I will explain this when we write the book.


Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro – Day 15

Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro in Elsa Texas - Round America 2003.
Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro in Elsa Texas – Round America 2003.

Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro

Day 15 – April 15, 2003 – Tuesday

Week 3 begins; excited to see the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  31,650 miles on the odometer.  We started at 28,036, so, 3,614 miles are in the rearview mirror.

I bought a map produced by Texas A&M that shows ALL the state and county roads in Texas.  While I must admit some concern about using anything produced by Aggies, it’s bigger than a Rand McNally Road Atlas and very detailed.  It also includes some interesting statistics.  Texas is massive.  There is one ranch in Texas that is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.  The distance from Houston to El Paso is greater than the distance from El Paso to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  There are at least 294,833 miles of roads in Texas!  A little quick math indicates at my current pace, one could drive all 294,833 miles in 1,140 days.  But we’ve learned that there has to be some back tracking to get to the next road or town, so figure four years — 1,460 days.  You’d have to budget about $219,000 for gas (18,000 gallons), food, and motels…plus the cost of a couple of cars.

After seeing houses turned into shrines to the orange and to beer, you have to wonder if someone isn’t out there on the roads with this A&M map and a yellow highlighter… coloring in each segment as he or she drives on.  Now that I have hit the least populated areas of the state, I will see more road and fewer sights.

I’ve taken 1,195 photos so far.  Digital cameras are great, as all I have to do each night is dump the photos from the camera into my PC, and then I’m ready to go for another batch the next day.

Corpus Christi is a lot bigger than I thought it would be.  I’ve been to virtually all of the bigger cities in Texas, but never to Corpus until now.  The day began very overcast with strong winds, so I passed on a trip down to the Corpus beach.  Much of the skyline of Corpus is filled with oil refineries.  Downtown has a lot of big buildings.

In Driscoll (population 648), a “Fine Furniture” store caught my eye.  “Fine Furniture” was painted on the side of a small covered wagon suspended high above the building.  You’ve just gotta love the differences in perception from small towns to big cities.  I love the way folks in small towns advertise and do their signs.  Most just grab a paintbrush and do it themselves.  No pretenses.  Nothing fancy.  Just the basics.

Pops Jerky Store in Bishop Texas.  Round America. Day 15. 2003-04-15
Pops Jerky Store in Bishop Texas.  Round America. Day 15. 2003-04-15

A sign caught my eye a little further down the road – Pop’s Beef Jerky Store.  They advertise the best beef jerky in Texas.  Sorry, but dried meat just doesn’t have any appeal to me.

Bishop is a sad town.  The city limits sign says 3,305 people live here, but main street is a complete ghost town – maybe 20 buildings, and not a sign of life or business in any of them.  One or two had their roofs and walls caving in.  Just outside of Bishop is a huge refinery that is bigger than most of the towns I have driven through.  I guess all the people who work there do their shopping and business in Kingsville rather than Bishop.

Kingsville is the home of the King Ranch, the recognized birthplace of the American ranching industry.  I drove all around the town and visited the ranch, museum, and saddle shop.  I saw a very informative video at the visitor’s center at the ranch.  Captain Richard King founded King Ranch in 1853.  Today, King Ranch covers over one million acres!  The Texas ranch property is bigger than Rhode Island.  They have 60,000 cattle and a lot of horses, but King Ranch has significant citrus and sugar holdings in Florida as well.  It’s a HUGE business.  Deanna was very nice and helpful at the ranch, and then I met Sybil as I bought two books about interesting places to go in Texas.  I’ll do more research tonight so I can avoid missing any worthwhile sights when I get to the really wide open spaces in South Texas.

When folks learn about the trip, they usually ask questions.  We’ve gotten a lot of questions, but one of the most common is “How far along are you?”  Both Boz and I have noted that the people who ask this question have unanimously responded the same way – “Oh, well, you haven’t made it very far.”  It’s like they immediately discount what you are doing.  It seems to be a question asked only by pessimists.  Sybil was a pessimist.

My mind was set on eating barbeque in Kingsville.  I figured that beef had to be the specialty in a town that grew up around the largest ranch in the USA.  I saw a fancy western theme restaurant in downtown Kingsville, but I was concerned as there are places that have a particular look naturally and then there are themed places made to look a certain way.  This was the latter.  I opened the door to the Wild Horse Desert Cafe to see a huge place with music playing and themed décor everywhere, but not a person to be found.  Just down the street, I found where the locals eat – Linda’s Main Street cafe — a little storefront with folks standing in line.  The specialty wasn’t barbeque, so I moved on.  I stopped four times to ask folks where the best barbeque restaurant in town was, and no one could come up with one, so I left town.

Barn Door Restaurant in Riviera Texas. Day 15. 2003-04-15
Barn Door Restaurant in Riviera Texas. Day 15. 2003-04-15

A little further down the road, I spotted a restaurant with a bunch of cars, and when I saw bar-b-que written on the side of the building, I decided to stop.  It certainly wasn’t a tourist-oriented place; this was a real, honest-to-goodness small town restaurant — The Barn Door.

Nothing fancy about it; it’s just real.


The barbeque was fantastic!  They mesquite smoke it, and the ribs and beef brisket had a wonderful flavor and were as tender as could be.  Two nice ladies served me, and I’m sorry to say that I was so excited to record how good the food was that I forgot to get their names on my tape before my short-term memory lapsed.  I believe Janie was one of them; my apologies ladies.

The Barn Door is in Riviera.  The founder of the town named it Riviera because it reminded him of the Riviera in Europe.  I guess I missed whatever he saw, because it looked like every other small South Texas town to me.  But if it seems like the Riviera to them, that’s great, because we should all make the best of what we have and love where we live.

There is a looong stretch of road from Riviera to Raymondville with essentially nothing but dirt and trees and sky in between.  I did see some Border Patrol SUV’s and flowering cactus (cacti?).  It reached 85 degrees today — the warmest on the trip so far.

Raymondville has a nice smiley-face water tower.  I saw several trains today.  Bozzie Jane could have had a lot of ice cream cones.

Ernesto Gonzales and his flag-draped horse in Lyford Texas. Round America trip. Day 15. 2003-04-15.
Ernesto Gonzales and his flag-draped horse in Lyford Texas. Round America trip. Day 15. 2003-04-15.

Cruising through Lyford, I spotted a cowboy on horseback, so I pulled over to take a photo.  As I got closer, I saw that the horse was wearing an American flag “costume,” and the rider was holding a sign promoting his favorite candidate in the town’s election.  I met Ernesto Gonzales, “full-time attorney, part-time cowboy, part-time campaigner for his cousin.”  I also met his horse, Junior.  Ernesto was great.  I took his picture; he took my picture; we both took Junior’s picture.  I’ll follow up with Ernesto to see if Mr. Valdez wins.  I should have looked more closely at his attorney business card before I drove on; it has a bird on it wearing sunglasses.

There must be a story behind that.


Now the search began for the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  I read about this in the book I bought at King Ranch, and it appeared to be only a few miles off my planned route in the town of Elsa, so off I went.  True to form, it was a little farther and took a little longer than I planned, but I was excited when I got there.  After all, how often does one get the opportunity to see a Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a panel behind the left rear tire of a Camaro!  With $3,000 in donations, Dario Mendoza and Santiago Quintero built a shrine around the car in their cinder block garage – red carpet, a ceiling fan, fifty or so folding chairs, and a little altar covered with flowers.  I figured this had to be a big deal in such a small town, but I drove from one end of the town to the other and I saw neither a sign nor a crowd.  I stopped where most men are unwilling to stop to ask for directions – a gas station.  The man there looked at me like I was a serial killer or something; he’d lived in Elsa his entire life and had never heard of any Shrine to the Virgin Mary, much less one on a Camaro.  As I drove back through town, I scanned the horizon for any clue.  The only crowds were at the Post Office.  So, like any good reporter, I stopped at the Post Office to find out what was going on and to get directions to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  Once inside, I realized the crowd was due to the income tax filing deadline, not the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  I asked several people for directions to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro, and they gave me that “this guy is nuttier than a fruitcake” look.  I noticed a sign for the Justice of the Peace next door, so I drove there, and I asked two people for directions to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary (left out the “on a Camaro” part in hopes the “you’re crazy” stares would stop).  I was delighted when one of them gave me the directions.  I drove a few blocks, but I knew she was wrong when I pulled up in front of the local Catholic church.  My next stop was City Hall where I asked five different people how to get to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zip.  At this point, I figured I had spoken with at least 1% of the population of Elsa.  I guess I’ll never see the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.  At least I have a picture of it in the book.  None of the folks in Elsa were nice; no one even laughed.  Maybe they will laugh with their friends when they tell the story about the crazy guy going all over town looking for the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro.

As I drove out of town, I remembered our Rules of the Road.  One of them is when you get disappointed or things get boring, look again.  I saw flashing red lights ahead, so I drove SLOWLY out of town past the policemen working a speed trap.  Looked to be one of the biggest businesses in town.

I was disappointed that I didn’t see many flags today, but then I reached Santa Rosa.  Flags and yellow ribbons everywhere.  I saw a group of people holding signs and waving and cars were honking.  I pulled over to meet a nice group of folks with a big sign with the photographs of all the young people from the town who are currently on active duty in the military.  1,800 people in the town, and 40 are in the armed forces!  I met the father of one young Marine, and a number of others proudly showed me which of the pictured folks were their relatives.  It was very uplifting to be around these proud, patriotic Americans!  And I would have never seen it or met them if I hadn’t gone in search of the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro!

Next stop: Graceland!  Well, “Little Graceland,” to be precise.  Simon Vega loves Elvis, and he has turned his home in Los Fresnos on Highway 100 between Harlingen and South Padre Island into a shrine to Elvis.  (I guess I should have asked Mr. Vega how to get to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro, because I suspect he would have the address.)  Mr. Vega’s house has signs all over his house and in his yard.  He has a doghouse-sized replica of the Tupelo, Mississippi home Elvis was born in.  He is especially proud of the gates to his driveway.  He has lighted display cases in the room above his garage with decorative Elvis plates, an Elvis doll in an Army uniform, Elvis sunglasses, and his Army good conduct medal.  My favorite was a sign next to the garage that indicates Simon Vega’s home is the sixth most-visited famous person’s home in America – just behind Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin.

South Padre Island was next – the best beach in Texas.  I was surprised to see how much the area has developed since we were last there with our children maybe 20 years ago.  It’s a big tourist attraction.  I took a picture of the Causeway Bridge, the longest bridge in Texas, and I got a nice photo of the Port Isabel Lighthouse.

Down to Brownsville where I took a picture of the border crossing station at Matamoros, Mexico.  From there, I drove 60 miles or so to McAllen to rest for the night.  I pulled out my list of hotel reservations.  One problem.  It seems my reservation was in Brownsville. Ooops.  I would have driven back, but our first road detour of any consequence was midway in Donna, Texas, and I didn’t want to endure that twice again, so I was pleased when Lizbett gave me the last room (even though a yucky smoking room) at the Residence Inn in McAllen.

I guess I learned a few lessons today.  I’m not sure which one is most important, though always making sure you know where you are going should be high on the list.  I was also reminded today to follow my instincts and always ask a lot of questions.  Most important, however, is to always try to find the best from each experience.  When possible, try to turn lemons into lemonade.  My trip to Elsa was a bust, though I suspect my search for the Shrine to the Virgin Mary on a Camaro could be one of the stories most told after the trip is over.  But that detour to Elsa took me to Santa Rosa, and it was really uplifting to see those nice folks celebrating in support of our troops and the 40 brave young men and women from their little town who are being brave so we can all be free.  It gave me that great feeling that we get inside when we our hearts are warmed by something that’s important to us.

Houston Highlights – Day 14

Day 14 — April 14, 2003 — Monday

Houston Highlights

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  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  I sure hope he can pull it off.  Here are more details about his development project —


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

BrazosBendState Park

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 ( 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.

Glen Flora

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.