Travel Thursday!

Travel Thursday!

The Golden Gate Bridge
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

December 2015, Scott and I were browsing the airline websites when he located an amazing deal. Two flights to San Francisco for under $200; that would be for both seats, not each. Normally these flights are over $200 each so there was an electricity in the air as we daydreamed about taking the flight out and visiting our friend Barbara while taking in the sights of the Bay area. Laughing, I said, “I dare you.” He did.  I have never been so stunned and excited before like I was at that moment.  We were definitely outside our comfort zone, our box.

Most of our travels had taken place within the Texas borders, but definitely never had we ventured far enough to need airline tickets. So much planning had to be done now that we had two, non-refundable tickets to California.  We called Barbara and commenced to making plans. So many opportunities, so many things to do and see. Of course, there would be a Yosemite trip, drive along the Coast Highway 1, and somehow a venture into San Francisco proper.  What would we do? What would we see? Did we have enough money? Was there going to be enough time?  So many questions. We decided we would spend 24 hours in the City by the Bay, but what would that entail?

Because we are trying to visit all the National Parks & other sites listed with the National Parks Service, this seemed like a good start.  In San Francisco alone, there are four locations: the San Francisco Alcatraz, the Golden Gate, the Presidio of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Maritime. We were there for a short time and money was tight so we opted to visit one of these. We would visit the Golden Gate Bridge because not only was it cheap, but it was one of the items on my bucket list.  I don’t think Scott has a “bucket list” per say, but it was one of the places he wanted to experience.

Because we decided to enjoy the public transportation (yes, it was cheaper than renting a car), we took the bus to the Golden Gate Visitor Center. It made it’s way slowly through the streets of San Francisco giving us a prime opportunity to see many of the places we would otherwise miss being on foot or in a private vehicle. If you ever decide to do the public transportation system within San Francisco, look into the MUNI system. They have 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day visitor passes that are not very expensive.  It would actually cost much more to pay per each ride. You will see so much more if you take one of the MUNI’s and it will enable you to meet some interesting people. We chose to go with a 3-day pass due to our need for the system being a bit more than 24 hours. We used one day of them and passed them on to some other visitors who were standing at the kiosk trying to make some decisions.

The bus we took did not actually drive across the bridge but went to the visitor center. We were able to experience the tunnel and see the massive line of cars waiting to pay the toll. This is definitely not one of the items on my bucket list.  Seeing how just driving across the bridge required payment, I began to worry that I would not be able to walk across the bridge.  My anxiety was high being so close and the possibility of failure so near.  We arrived at the Visitor Center and saw so many things that made the Golden Gate Bridge such an amazing piece of grand construction.  Here you could watch a short video on how the building crew was able to build the bridge, see models on the movement of the bridge and hear about the men who worked so diligently.  We were able to get a passport stamp for our NPS passport and a patch, the requirement we have for our travels.

Finally, it was time to cross the bridge of my dreams. We found out there was no charge for walking or biking over the bridge so we were ready to cross, but with my knee acting up, we decided to stop at the first archway.  As we started towards the bridge, people whizzed past us on bikes and cars drove alongside us heading to the other side. At first, it was extremely overwhelming, but once you saw there was no danger in the cars sideswiping you, the feeling subsided.

Construction on the Golden Gate Bridge began January 5, 1933, and was opened for people to start crossing on May 27, 1937; however, the concept of this bridge was thrown about before the 1900’s.  There were many ideas, but none took hold until approximately 1916 when an engineering student wrote an article asking bridge engineers if a bridge over the one-mile straight between the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Peninsula could be built for under $100 million.  Joseph Strauss responded with a drawing of a cantilevered suspension bridge.  This idea took hold and the process of planning this marvouls bridge began.

Once we approached the first tower which had a large observation type deck we were able to see Alcatraz in the distance. As we stood on the deck, large ships passed under the giant bridge.  It was a bit shocking to see these very large shipping vessels with shipping containers passing directly below us, but with 754 feet above the water, they had plenty of room to manoeuvre.

I must admit, I was becoming quite emotional as we stood under the first tower. This was truly the first time I had actually been able to mark off an item from my bucket list and the feeling was amazing.  It has caused me to realize that I can accomplish the things I thought I would never do.  I just have to dream a little more and be ready to dare Scott to do something.  That will get me out of my comfort zone rather quickly.

What has been your greatest adventure? Did you learn anything new about yourself? What realizations did you learn about other people and cultures?  Please tell us in the comments or head over to our Facebook page and tell us there.  Scott and I would love to hear about your favorite travel story.

Safe travels everyone.
Ren

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”  -Abraham Lincoln

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” -Abraham Lincoln

The Illinois state slogan is “The Land of Lincoln” and while we were in Southern Illinois in September, we found this to be true because we were confronted with a bit of his history completely by chance.  While heading up to Great Cities State Park in Makanda, we found one of the three sites for the Alexander County Courthouse where Lincoln practiced law.

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As you probably already know, I am obsessed with county courthouses and am determined to visit every county in the United States.  This can be an issue sometimes when we are on the road towards our destination, but I am lucky to have a husband who enjoys the thrill of a good travel hunt and, in this case, encouraged me to go find one.  On Illinois State Route 3 we found a roadside park with a large historical marker.  We do not often stop to read the historical markers, but thankfully we did in this case.

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We found the Alexandra County Courthouse once resided in Thebes, just a mile or two back from where we turned on to Route 3.  Since this was what I like to term “encouragement from serendipity,” we turned around and drove to the once bustling village to find a tiny community quietly living along the Mississippi River.  Driving up to the shoreline, we were pleasantly surprised with a view that was breathtaking.  Here we stood in the shadow of the Thebes Bridge crossing over the great river as it had done since it’s opening on April 18, 1905.

Thebes Bridge

The Thebes Bridge’s total length is 3,959 feet and is 104 feet above the Gathering Blue and was designed by Polish American engineer Ralph Modjeski in the continuous truss bridge style. The truss bridge is one of the oldest types of modern bridges and most commonly found in America.  However, many of these bridges are being demolished and replaced with new structures because of the time and wear on the metal making it unsafe for those using them. Thankfully this does not seem to be the case for this beautiful structure. (https://www.johnweeks.com/river_mississippi/pagesC/umissC14.html

As I am looking at this bridge and in awe of its presence, Scott points to a building high on the bluff behind us and says, “Now that house has one of the best views around here!”  I had to agree with him and found myself a bit jealous of whoever was lucky enough to own the building.  The views over the past 170 years have probably been extremely impressive and I couldn’t wait to get up there to see the view; at least I hoped we would be able to see a view from there.

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Having the GPS in front of him, Scott drove to where it showed the building and we were stunned to find an extremely steep road that was not one for the faint of heart. (Keep in mind I was not the one driving; also keep in mind, I am a terrible passenger.)  He made the turn into what we thought was going to be a drive way to a privately-owned home, only to find a public, historical building; we had found the former Alexander County Courthouse.

In the early 1830’s two brothers, the Sparhawk brothers from New Orleans, settled in what is now Thebes calling it Sparhawk Landing.  On October 15, 1835, this settlement was platted by Franklin G. Hughes and Joseph Chandler.  Later, in 1843 Sparhawk Landing was renamed Thebes and, finally, in 1844 the townsite was laid out to become the town we were visiting. (Thebes History http://genealogytrails.com/ill/alexander/thebeshist.html)

Alexander County which was created out of Union County in 1819; it was named after early settler and physician William Alexander of America, Illinois.  He became the Speaker of the House of Illinois Representatives in 1822, making this the county seat of the new county.  However, soon after, the village of America was found to be in the newer Pulaski County, causing the Alexander County Courthouse needing to be moved to Unity, Illinois, in 1833.  In 1842 the courthouse and county records were burned, therefore, moving the county seat to Thebes. 

An architect named Henry Ernst Barkhausen came to America in 1835 and settled near Thebes where he operated a woodyard and ferry across the Mississippi to Missouri.  In 1845 he was contracted to build the two-story structure out of local stone and trees from the area. The land, a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, was donated by George and Martha Sparhawk.  Completed in 1848, the total cost of the construction was $4,400.

As we wandered about the amazing building, we found there was actually a fantastic view both of the Mississippi River and the 170-year-old structure.  I was pleased to see the natural stone and that my hand embroidery piece portraying a stone wall looked much the same.  It always amazes me when art takes on a bit of nature, it helps to preserve the beauty we find around us daily.  

Sitting on the wooden stairs, looking out at the massive body of rushing water while the barges passed under the massive iron Thebes Bridge, I could envision the steamboats of the past making their way while transporting people and cargo to various ports along the Big Muddy.  These large ships were moved by large paddles powered by steam and it was the main source of travel along the river.  Here you would find people of many statuses from the Southern Belle to the gambler to the slaves and you would find the cargo hold to be full of cotton, grains, and everything a river settler might need to survive.  These machines revolutionized travel and life along the shores of the Mississippi River Basin.

The steamboat was the main source of travel in this area from the late 1700’s until around the 1880’s.  People used this mode of transportation for business, personal travel and for entertainment.  You could find a showboat paddling up and down the Mississippi River; these boats were floating palaces with every type of luxury found at popular resorts of the era.  It was a slow mode of travel and that was the cause of its demise.  With the railroad being unified so all of the rails from the North and South were the same, the speed of transport was much better for travel and the moving of items.  Granted the steamboats were still in use until the 1940’s, but they were not used like they had been.  It was the end of an era and culture.

Coming out of my time travel trance, Scott and I moved on towards our state park destination of Giant City State Park just north of Jonesboro, Illinois.  As we drove through the Trail of Tears State Forest (actually within the Shawnee National Forest), Scott realized we were going to be passing through the town where where a pivotal moment in Lincoln’s political career happened on September 15, 1958.  Before the Great Debate of 1958, Lincoln was just a regular man trying to get through life working as a boatman, store clerk, surveyor, militia soldier and lawyer, but in 1834 he was elected to be in the Illinois Legislature.  From there he moved through the political arena, as most do, and found himself in a political fight for a seat in the House of Representatives for Illinois.   Which brought him to the Great Debate of 1958, more importantly Jonesboro, Illinois, September 15.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1958 were a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in Illinois, a free state.  The main theme of these seven debates was the expansion of slavery in the new and future territories of the United States. Granted, Lincoln lost the seat he was trying for, but he later had the transcripts from these seven debates causing him to open a door of opportunity for him to receive the nomination as the Republican candidate for the 1860 presidency.

Eventually, we arrived at one of my favorite places, Great City State Park.  We had originally thought about using this site for our viewing of the total eclipse on our trip in August.  Makanda, the town just outside of the park, was the location where the eclipse would happen for the longest period of time.  However, because rain was predicted that day in that area, we chose to visit Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska instead.  Unfortunately, we were not able to see the eclipse due to rain, while Makanda, Illinois, was basking in the eclipse they counting on.

As we were driving down the road, passing the Jonesboro area, a thought came to mind, “Whatever happened to the Alexander County Courthouse?  Where did it go if it were not in Thebes?”  I, being in the passenger seat, began to hunt through the interwebs to find the answer.  It was relocated to Cairo, Illinois; just down river from Thebes.  With this information, Scott drove us to Cairo to find where the county seat had been moved.  There we found a city in shambles and an old downtown almost a ghost town.  

Cairo sits just North of the the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers confluence, a point called Fort Defiance State Park.  This city, once a bustling port town, was home to writers, generals and gods.  It is the location of Neil Gaiman’s award winning novel American Gods, the movie Cairo Time, and documentary Between Two Rivers.  No matter how “famous” these media outlets make the name of the city, it is a city in economic decline because the railroad impacting the barge traffic causing the loss of income, the interstate bypass causing people to go around the city, and people leaving the area to shop causing tax dollars to go elsewhere.  Because of this situation, the area has dilapidated buildings, loss of tourist money, and a community left frustrated. I cannot, however, leave you thinking this city is not worth visiting because this would not be truth.  

Your first impression of this place is a city that is dying; but if you will stop and speak to members of this community, you will find people who are doing their best to rebuild by cleaning up their communities, encouraging the arts, and helping each other out as much as possible.  I find myself rooting for this place and her people because there is such a determination.  Here will you not only find the determination, but you will find a people who know their history and are encouraging the use of it to bring in tourism.  They have the Victorian building such as the library, federal building, and private homes, but what about the Alexander County Courthouse?  

In 1859 the courthouse was moved to Cairo and it was housed in a beautiful building, after the completion in 1865. After contacting the county courthouse, I found that sometime before 1963 the building above was destroyed by fire and had to be demolished for safety issues.  The building of the new courthouse was started in 1964 in the same location as the first building.  This is one of the things Scott and I have found with many of the old county courthouse buildings that are now of a modern designed; rarely are they because the citizens wanted something modern.  However, has seemed to happen in a few cases.  Concerning this county, it was fire and so the citizens of Alexander County decided they needed to move forward.  

During my research to find out this moving county courthouse drama, I found the reason and it was Abraham Lincoln who explained it.  From the book More History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline we are given this story:

“In the early 1800s, when Illinois was still a young state, there was great debate about where the county seat of Alexander County should be.  Would it be Cairo or Thebes?  According to an old story told by Abraham Lincoln, it happened in this fashion…

Thebes was already the county seat, but Cairo was growing rapidly and thought it should be moved there.  Tempers were flaring and the Thebians said that Cairo was no more than a daub of mud on the tail of the state.  That statement did not set well with the fine citizens of Cairo.

Just before the election was held to decide the location of the county seat, a Cairo man came up with an inspired scheme.  He fetched a green animal hide and stuffed a large boulder inside.  He tied this bundle behind his mule and drug it around the countryside.  The next day he made sure that the townsfolk of Thebes made notice of the strange marks on the ground.  He suggested  that the marks were made by some species of large serpent.  Rumors were spread that dogs, cats and small farm animals were missing.

Greatly alarmed, the citizens of Thebes took up arms and went in search of the great serpent that was supposedly decimating the small animals of the farms.  So frenzied were the Thebians in their search for the mystery serpent, that many of them did not make it back to town in time to cast their votes for the county seat.  Cairo won the vote hands down.” {31-32}

On Top Of An Enchanted Rock

On Top Of An Enchanted Rock

In 2016 Scott and I were just over 20,000 miles in travel miles; this included a trip to San Francisco, Yosemite, and Athens, Georgia. We also visited Oklahoma and the Western edges of Arkansas using up about 9,000 miles for all of that, the left over miles were in Texas. We are actually focused on visiting all 95 of the Texas State Parks and have managed to visit 48 of those before the end of the year. This took us all over the plains areas of the state, the piney woods, and even into the Hill Country just north of the Austin area. Fortunately, we also were able to visit the far southwestern area of the Davis Mountains helping to give us many, many miles of travel in Texas.

Over the first three weeks of January 2017, we have worked hard at not traveling outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area; but instead, we are finding things locally to keep us entertained. However, we were not able to tame the travel bug much longer. Since I was having to attend the Texans for State Parks Board Meeting in Austin, Scott and I decided it would be the perfect jumping off point to visit a few new-to-us Texas State Parks west of Austin. He took off Thursday and Friday from work and we were set for a good amount of traveling on a four day weekend.

Thursday morning we left later than we had expected from our friends John and Faye’s, but it was worth spending a few more hours with good friends. They are always generous and happy to play host to us. They sent us on our way and we headed to our first of eight state parks, two of which were the only ones not new for us.  We needed to move quickly, but stopped to view a couple of the scenic overlooks on our way towards Inks Lake State Park.


We stayed at Inks Lake State Park for two nights because they had an available cabin. Unfortunately, weekends in Texas there are rarely campsites or cabins available, no matter the time of year. If you are expecting to stay within the Texas State Park system, especially on weekends, you must make reservations as soon as you know when you are planning to visit, even then you are not always able to get a cabin.


We arrived at Inks, obtained our cabin key, and dropped off bedding, clothing and other such things then immediately headed towards Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.  The is located just south of Llano off highway 16. Just before reaching the turn off (RM965), we noticed a sign that said, “Closed When Flashing – Enchanted Rock State Natural Area 9 miles.” It was not flashing, but according to Texas Hill Country website, the pack fills up fast on weekends and is closed due to lack of parking space and the insane amount of people.  Fortunately, we were there on a Thursday so it was not full, but there were a lot of people.

This location is the site of a huge pink granite rock that stands 1825 feet high and is one of only two such sites like this in the United States; the other location is Stone Mountain located just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. While the Texas batholith is much smaller than the one in Georgia, it is still impressive. Both of these granite rocks were once magma chambers for what was once volcanos.  Over time, the magma became granite and the soil around them was eroded away leaving these beautiful stones.


This giant rock welcomes all who wish to climb its seemingly smooth surface to enjoy a unique landscape called sky islands and vernal pools. Here we found what could be compared to tide pools only with cacti and lizards. These depressions shelter different types of plants and animals that have adapted to this hot/cold, windy, and barren environment. In fact, by studying these depressions, ecologists learn how plants and animals come together and live in this habitat; how they modify their environment and help develop soils where there is no soil; and, how plant and animal communities are created and change over time and situation.

In the stone, as we climbed we saw long lines of crystals which have been created by an intense pressure of earth movement and the heat from having been a magma chamber.  Unfortunately, I am not a geologist so I do not know all the right terms and explanations. I do know when the sun hits the granite just right, you can see the crystals within it shine and shimmer reflecting the rays of light.


Scott and I took our time to climb this giant rock, which is an estimated 45-minute climb. Unsurprisingly, it took us over an hour, but we were more concerned with my knee and our safety. Taking it slowly, we took many breaks so we could evaluate my pain level; they were definitely needed breaks for this, resting, and drinking water. Neither of us are use to the hiking, especially such a vertical path; however, we were both determined to reach the top to see the view and to find the survey marker we were positive would be there.

At one point, I almost gave up. I was two-thirds of the way up and I was just exhausted, of course, the knee was telling me off at this point. I told Scott to just continue and I would wait for him. He suggested we sit and drink some water and rest a bit. This was definitely good advice because about fifteen minutes later I was ready to attack the rest of the climb. He reminded me it was okay if I didn’t go, but asked me if I would regret not reaching the top. I would have regretted it very much. This was something I had on my personal “bucket list” and I decided I was just tired and not in much pain.  I was wearing my knee brace and using my trekking poles so the knee did not have as much pressure as it would have.  It always amazes me how using the correct equipment can make an activity so much more enjoyable.

Upon reaching the final five feet of the climb, the sky island made itself known and I was stunned at the beauty of vernal pools. There were small trees, cacti, pools of creatures and algae, I even found one of in the shape of a lopsided heart containing fern looking plants. I was amazed to see the life growing out of the large, round granite rock. Then I looked up and saw the surrounding landscape. My eyes tried to take it all in at once, only to find I was tearing up. I had made it to the top and was able to see the quick rising hills all around the country side full of cedars, scrub oaks and green winter grasses. Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed and thrilled at my success.


Suddenly, Scott says, “There has to be a geological survey marker somewhere on this rock!” He quickly walked towards the location he believed to be the highest spot on the rock and there it was; the US Geological Society had placed their mark on the hill to show that it was significant. For hikers today, it is a symbol that they have beaten nature and achieved a great height. For me, it was proof that if I had to stay focused and not give up; I could not have done that without my husband, he encouraged me and reminded me not to give up.


Eventually, we decided it was time to climb down the granite mountain and prepare to take some night sky photos, which was the true reason we had visited this park. The Milky Way was supposed to show itself near the center between the two granite domes and he was determined to get a very nice shot of it. Fortunately for us, I had packed hot chocolate and plenty of warm layers. It was so extremely cold and I hate being cold.

The nine figures at the top of the rock are people.

At one point, while he was taking photos, we heard the worst sound (link goes to TheCrotalusfreak‘s YouTube channel).  It sounded like a person in pain screaming in bursts of three. It sent chills up my spine for sure. I am very prone to my imagination running off with me and it had jumped out of my skin and was running around in fear. It didn’t help any that Scott says, “I sure hope that’s not a person hurt or worse.” I then began to think the worst. Come to find out from another couple who were also taking night sky photos, they had seen a bobcat approaching. They shined their flashlights at him and scared him off. I felt relief to know it was nothing more than a cat named Bob.


At one point the cold had convinced Scott it was time to pack up and return to our little cabin at Inks Lake State Park. We had an hours drive late in the evening, but it was sure to be an interesting one. Deer roam all over the area and often there are carcasses near the road showing the dangers for the wildlife among humans. We actually saw about three deer, but, fortunately for them and us, we had no ill-fated meeting.

This deer was hanging around at Inks Lake State Park when first arrived, he was one of at least a dozen we saw that day before the drive in the dark.

Upon arriving at our home for the next two days, we made beds and promptly went to sleep. The day seemed as if it had been 24 hours long between the driving, climbing, and adventuring. We were ready for a rest because the next morning we would be up and ready to adventure again at a new-to-us Texas State Park; Pedernales Falls State Park would be our 50th State Park and we ready to celebrate.

Come and Take It and Remember Goliad!

Come and Take It and Remember Goliad!

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Labor Day Weekend Scott and I traveled to the Austin-Bastrop area to visit our friends John and Faye, but also to mark off a few more Texas State Parks.  On Friday we had spent the day around the city of Bastrop and visited the two parks called the Lost Pines; Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park.  It was a wonderful time and really made me feel appreciative of the people who worked tirelessly to save them from total destruction of fire.

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Saturday morning we got up and made plans to visit two more parks.  Leaving before we ate, we decided to find a place to have breakfast on our way to one of the two planned parks.  A sign we passed said Gonzales was 22 miles ahead when Scott stated that he thought something historical happened in Gonzales, but wasn’t sure.  As we neared the city, he remembered it was where the first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred.  This caused a huge change in our plans; it had become a trip about Texas History.

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Texas History is something both Scott and I have been interested in for quite some time.  I think it is mostly because we are not originally from Texas and we did not actually learn this state’s history in school.  It was not shoved down our throats so we feel as if it is our choice to learn it.  What I love most is to find out what historical thing has happened that has impacted this country and why it matters to me as an American and now a Texas Transplant.

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While eating breakfast at the Rodeo Restaurant, an authentic Mexican restaurant, we made some decisions about what our sudden travel plans were. There was so much to see and learn about in Gonzales considering this was where the first Texas Revolution battle happened.  We decided to do as much as we could until noon and then we would travel down to Goliad for the rest of the day.  There we would visit Goliad State Park and Presidio la Bahia. This would give us a Texas State Park to mark off, many more counties to cross, and history to visit.

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Gonzales is one of those towns with the County Courthouse in the center of town and the downtown circling it on the four streets around it.  It is full of Texas Revolutionary history, pioneer history, and Civil War history.  You can see proof of all this by just walking around an eight block area of the courthouse. Here you will find a large statue dedicated to those who were the Old Gonzales 18 (the 18 men who stayed behind to battle Santa Anna’s men), the Immortal 32 (the 32 men who, after the Gonzales Battle, went to the Alamo to fight), as well as the wives and daughters (those who created the first battle flag of Texas).  This was the history we had come to see, to witness, to remember.

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We went from the the square to the Gonzales Memorial Museum where, we had been told, that the actual “Come and Take It” cannon was housed.  We drove to the other side of town with only forty-five minutes to spare before they closed for the weekend.

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This Cordova cream limestone building was built in 1936 for the Centennial of the Texas Revolution.  It was one of many, many, many buildings, statues, and monuments built with the Cordova cream limestone which was only used for this special date in Texas history.  Within the fossil covered stone walls you will find artifacts from the Texians who fought for Texas to be a free nation, but the most treasured by Gonzales people is the actual cannon Santa Anna tried to take from the town in 1835.

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No, it may not look like much, but for those 18 men who stood against the Mexican army it was a huge issue.  Four years prior to this instant in time, the Mexican government had given the town of Gonzales a cannon to protect them against the Comanche attacks.  Since that time, the Mexican government had begun to show their true colors and were doing what they could to push out the Texians.   Due to a government authority change there had been extremely high duties placed upon the colonists, an increase of military presence, and the seizing of a schooner loaded with supplies.  The Texas colonists were angry and with the order for Santa Anna’s men to take the cannon was the last straw.

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On October 1, 1835, the numbers grew from 18 men to 167.  Because of the efforts of the original 18 men, there was no ferry for the Mexican Army to use to cross the Guadalupe River.  There were comments made from one side of the river to other when, out from the Gonzales side a “Come and Take It” was shouted.  It was from that shout the first Texas Revolution battle flag was created.  The women of Gonzales took a silk wedding dress and made the flag with a cannon in the center with a Lone Star above it and the words “Come and Take It” below so the men would remember why they were fighting.  Early in the morning hours on October 2, the men quietly crossed the river and settled themselves for battle.

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Scott and I found the memorial commemorating this battle just outside of Cost, Texas.  It is five miles south of Gonzales and is about a mile from where that very first shot was taken by the Texians of Gonzales.  It too was put up during the centennial using the same Cordova limestone.  Scott got out and took photos while I worked on our next move.  That move was heading down to Goliad and finding some lunch.

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We made it to Goliad, had a quick lunch, then headed to get the county courthouse.  It, once again, was in the center of the downtown area with old buildings circling the courthouse.  It is amazing to see these very old courthouses and the work they were built.  There was so much true workmanship and care about it.

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I am not sure what I was expecting at Goliad State Park; whatever it was, this was not it.  There was a mission!  This was the Mission Espiritu Santo that was established in 1749 and became a secular church in the 1930’s.  It was just so strange to me to see this huge white mission sitting above the park headquarters.  Many of the camping sites at this site were closed due to the recent flooding, but there were still plenty of spaces and they were rather well kept.

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The park has worked very hard to keep the items in the mission and decorations painted on the walls to be what was actually found there or from the missions in the same time period. Not only have they been able to create a very good replica of what the mission sanctuary looked like, but they created a very nice museum with dioramas.

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As I was discussing this being a Texas Revolution History trip, we had decided to visit Goliad because of the battle that happened the following February after the battle in Gonzales.  The state park was not the actual location of the Goliad battle, it was about half a mile south of the park at the Presidio la Bahia.  At one point there had been a battle after the Alamo fell near Fannin, Texas.  The Texas men that were taken prisoner were force marched back to Presidio la Bahia and eventually massacred there.  I often wonder how many of those souls still wonder about the rebuilt ruins.

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Visiting the Presidio was such an amazing thing to me because for such a long time I had heard the cry, “Remember The Alamo!  Remember Goliad!” to spur on the men fighting the battle of San Jacinto.  We are all taught about the cry “Remember the Alamo!” but rarely are we taught about the massacre at Goliad.  Yes, the Alamo was a massacre as well, but we are all taught about it and taught to remember each of the heros.

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After visiting the the town of Goliad, Goliad State Park and the Presidio la Bahia, we headed back towards Bastrop. On the way we found we were only a couple of minutes from where the Battle of Fannin happened so we made a quick stop.  Here we found something very interesting; we found a Texas Historical Commission site called Fannin Battlegrounds.

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Photo credit: Texas Historical Commission

We found a found area with sidewalks from the north, south, east and west leading to the monument.  Unfortunately it was beginning to rain and we did not get out to walk towards the monument.  However, Scott was able to take a few photos of the grounds.  There was a pavilion built and a bandstand for the Centennial to help honor the men of the Fannin battle as well as those massacred in Goliad.

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This trip was something that had a bit of surprise for me.  While we were visiting the Presidio la Bahia we came across a plaque with the names of the 300 men who died there as a result of the prisoner massacre. On this plaque were two names that caught my attention because if is a family name; Ellis.

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Those names are James and Michael Ellis.  Unfortunately, these men are not direct descendants, but they are distant cousins on my mother’s father’s side.  This however, was not the only pleasant surprise for me on this trip.

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We had only spent a few moments at the Fannin Battleground Historic Site, but turns out there is a second connection to Fannin other than the Ellis Boys.  Even though it was many, many years later, my grandfather’s father was born in Fannin, Texas.  I was elated!  I have always wanted to be a true Texan, and here is link.  I will not be able to become a Daughter of the Texas Republic, but I am a TEXAN and that is important.

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Venturing Out Into the Lost Pines

Venturing Out Into the Lost Pines

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While we were on our Labor Day Weekend Trip to the Bastrop area, we were able to mark off five more Texas State Parks:  Bastrop State ParkBuescher State ParkGoliad State Park/State Historic Site (Zaragosa Birthplace State Historic Site), Monument Hill – Kreische Brewery State Historic Site, and Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.  We were not expecting to pick up Goliad, Monument Hill or Washington-on-the-Brazos, but something unexpected happened on Saturday, but that’s another post.

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Friday we went with our friends John and Faye Cobb to Bastrop and Buescher State Parks.  John and Faye are part of the Friends of the Lost Pines group and they LOVE these two parks.  True Bastrop has been through a lot of major changes over the past five years between a huge forest fire in 2011 and the loss of their CCC built dam in 2015, but it is a very, very nice park with so much history.  While we drove the along State Park Road 1A, B, and C, they told us stories about the building of the parks, visiting of the populous, and the violence of Mother Nature.

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When we drove through the CCC built entry way, I could see why John and Faye loved this park; it was beautiful.  The drive towards the headquarters building meandered lazily past loblolly pines and a mix of late summer wildflowers.  Before you arrive at the office, there is a large spring fed pond.  This pond is where many El Camino Real Travelers had stopped along their travels to San Antonio; portions of the historic road run through the park. Bastrop State Park is part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

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We stopped in to the park to get paid up and introduce me as a representative of Texans for State Parks and Stitchntravel.com.  It is always nice to go inside to check-in instead of just stopping at the gate.  Scott and I have found we love meeting the park staff and volunteers.  I honestly can’t say we have ever met anyone working for/volunteering for the parks that we don’t enjoy meeting.  When you visit one of the Texas State Parks, stop in to the office and visit with them.  You will also find, at many of the parks, a Park Store where you can pick up patches, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.  Most of the time these stores are run by the park’s Friends group.

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Once checked-in and all the “technical” stuff was finished, we hopped back in the truck and headed further into Bastrop.  John drove us to the rectory which is a CCC built building.  This building is definitely a work of art and craftsmanship.  Arthur Fehr was the architect for this part and he wanted to make sure that it did not distract from the rolling hills and pine forests that surrounded this building.  He required the use of native materials in the construction of the rectory, cabins, bridges, and dam.

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Because of the history of this park and the importance the CCC, there was a huge fear during the 2011 fire that these would be destroyed.  Looking to the north of this building you can see just how close the fire came.  Fortunately, the buildings escaped the danger, and it is here for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

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We continued to drive through the park and see the destructions of the 2011 fire.  I was just stunned at how much of a loss this park had and how so many of their beloved pines had been affected.  How often do we hear about forest fires but yet never truly think of the damaged landscape?  Scott and I were faced with this damaged sight and were completely speechless.

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Fortunately, Scott and I try very hard to find the beauty in all places, including places that have been ravaged by disaster.  Because Faye and John were giving us a tour, we learned about all the things the park, conservationists, and friends group were doing to help the park heal.  All throughout the park you could see signs of life and the land working at healing.  I will save the details for a future post, but know that the success of this park is due to the volunteers and staff working hard to care for this land by planting trees and disaster clean up.  Their efforts are definitely noticeable.

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We really loved the camp sites at this park.  Those sites that were were for RV use were nicely situated and had some amazing views.

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Since we are tent campers still, we seem to really take notice of the areas were tents can be placed so they are flat and in a good position.  Not only this but, since each site can have up to four tents, is there room for more than one and no crowding.  This camping area was very well set up for just this type of situation.

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And then of course the bathhouse is near and an area to camp under a sheltered area with plenty of space.  I do love the CCC era construction very pretty to look at.

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One thing Bastrop State Park is known for is her cabins.  These were all made by the CCC and are all unique from each other.  Each cabin has a sitting area and fire pit as well as bathroom and kitchen.  I so want to stay in one of them eventually.

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As we continued, John took us to the failed dam.  The water that rushed from the downed dam was said to be 40-feet in height and tore down trees and destroyed camping areas.  You can see here the damage from that failure.  Keep in mind this dam was built in the 1930’s and the area was receiving more rain than they had.  It didn’t fail because of the construction, it was just overwhelmed from the amount of rain over the past year.

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John wanted us to enjoy one of the best views of the park so he took us up to one of the overlooks that survived the fire. This is another CCC built building and it has so much character.  The cement used to make the foundation was made with the local pebbles, the stones to build the structure are from the area, and the wood used to create the interesting interior of the space was from the area as well.

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We neared the 1A road loop, we noticed we were heading out of Bastrop State Park.  The road we were on would connect us to the back of Buescher State Park.

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The road we would take to Buescher State Park was Park Road 1C.  It was an eleven mile drive and it would take us up hills, down into valleys, and through the original loblolly pine forest.  It was beautiful.  The road was only wide enough for two vehicles and was very twisty, turny.  With every turn we took, Scott wanted to stop and take photos while all I could say was, “Oh, wow…”

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We finally arrived through the back “door” of Buescher and were greeted by a small sign telling us we were entering the park.  There was a definite difference between these two parks.  While Bastrop was a park in the middle of a loblolly pine forest, Buescher had no loblolly pines that I could see.  Here the majority of trees I saw was Post Oaks with other varieties mixed about.

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Because we arrived through the back entry, our first encounter was the CCC built group pavilion. There is an outdoor fireplace and plenty of picnic tables inside.  Across the way you will find the bathrooms  and plenty of locations to enjoy a day outside.

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This park had another one of those twisty, turny roads that traveled through a canopy of moss covered trees and past a small waterfall of water coming off Buescher “lake”.

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As we turned one of the turns, we were completely surrounded by the trees on either side of the road.  It was literally a tunnel and I felt as if I were in a dream or story book.  I have always loved these types of drives, surrounded by trees and mysterious turns.  Because of the efforts of those who fought for the park system we are able to have a small glimpse into the world our ancestors traveled through.

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If you find yourself in the Austin, Texas, area, you really should go about 30 miles east to the city of Bastrop and visit these two state parks.  You will not regret your time there and you will view a world where nature has taken the destruction of a forest fire and use it to make something of even more beauty.

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All For Stew and Corncakes

All For Stew and Corncakes

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Often when Scott and I travel, we do not make solid plans.  This, I know now, is not normal for most people; however, I do not believe we are your normal travelers.  Most of the time we find a spot on the map and plan to be in that area for a specific amount of time and THAT is as close to planning as we get to normal.  With this thought in mind, it will help you understand what happened on our Labor Day Weekend trip to the Bastrop area.

When Scott made it home on Thursday, because everything was packed, we headed out by 3:30pm.  The puppies were kissed and loved on, the puppy sitter and good friend Peter would be in and out throughout the time to give walks, lovin’s, food, and many, many bacon treats. We stopped long enough to get drinks and travel treats for ourselves and we headed out to enjoy a work-cation with our friends John and Faye, leaders of the Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks.  We were looking at a three and a half-hour trip so we were looking forward to a delicious John stew and Faye’s corn cakes.

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When we were about thirty minutes from the town of West, Texas, you could see a huge, dark storm to the south with plenty of dramatic lightning and what looked to be sheets of heavy rain.  I looked up the weather radar for the area and there was a huge line of storms for miles along highway 35.  There was a rather large RED circle in the middle of this storm and we were headed right for it.  Scott, being the calm person he normally is, was soon to discover himself driving extremely slow through torrential rain where you could barely see the cars five feet in front of you.  The traffic had, unsurprisingly, slowed to a crawl and there were yellow hazard lights blinks for as far as we could see;  this was not more than five feet ahead of us, as I said before.  To be honest, I would not have been shocked to find the road ahead of us flooded and us sitting at a solid stop for hours and hours while the water rose and engulfed our little truck.  Luckily, we did not meet any flood waters and were soon south of the storm continuing on our way towards Waco.

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If you have been following us long, you will know that we tend to take roads we normally haven’t been on and don’t always have a sense of time when we do take new roads.  Highway 77 was not any different. One of our goals was to pick up two counties on the way down to Bastrop that evening; this was not a difficult thing, it was just driving along the road to get where we planned to end up eventually.

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Since we were past the rain, the drive seemed to be going nicely and we were making great time until we came across the city of Camron in Milam County, Texas.  This was one of the counties we needed to cross off our list and we recently decided to get as many photos of the county courthouses as we could.  Because of this I convinced Scott to drive a couple of blocks from highway 77 so we could get the photo of the Milam County Courthouse; we did not regret it at all.

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One of the things about the county courthouses in Texas is that there is usually a county jail near by if not directly next to it.   However, this jail building was across the street and it looked like a castle; it was built in 1895  by the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company of St. Louis.  There is just something about the design and workmanship of this generation.

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I know you really can’t tell how dark it had gotten when we were taking photos here, but it was near 8pm and we still had an fourty-five minutes to an hour to go.  You can see many more photos of this county courthouse and jail buildings on your Flickr page HERE.  On this trip we were able to cross off ten counties and we were able to get photos of nine of the courthouses.  We are still processing the photos so those should be on Flickr soon.

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We finally made it to our destination and John’s stew was fantastic and Faye’s corn cakes were amazing!  Such a very long trip, but it was nice to come in to a nice hot meal.  We were also greeted by their three wonderful furbabies and a really nice comfy bed.  We had a big day coming up and we were exhausted so it was time eat and rest.

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