Round America

Tag: Houston Texas

Oranges and Beer Cans – Round America

by admin on Apr.14, 2003, under Corpus Christi, Edna, Egypt, El Campo, Houston, Inez, Places to Go, Refugio, Texas, Victoria, Wharton

Round America travels from Houston, Texas to Corpus Christi, Texas. In Houston, we visited The Orange Show and the Beer Can House. As we drove south, we were surprised to find a Tee Pee Motel in Wharton. We enjoyed Wharton, Egypt, El Campo, Edna, Inez, Victoria, and Refugio.

I love Texas, especially small-town Texas. So, I decided to change the itinerary. I added a few days between Houston and San Diego. I split today’s itinerary in two; I planned to go to Corpus Christi tonight and then on to McAllen on Tuesday. This was done to 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 was scheduled to 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 had 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 planned to read and see the photos on the web site.

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 little white 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 really 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 it was 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 it) that fills a residential lot. It was constructed from 1954 to 1979 by Jeff McKissack, a retired postal worker. He built it to encourage people to eat oranges, drink oranges, and be highly amused. Jeff felt The Orange Show would become a bigger tourist attraction than the Grand Canyon or Disneyland. He was sadly disappointed when the crowds he predicted never materialized. He died at age 78, just eight short months after his 25 year project opened to the public. The Orange Show is now seen by over 30,000 visitors annually. Even more significant, The Orange Show is the focal point for a foundation that produces a variety of folk art events in the city. The Orange Show is maintained by The Orange Show Foundation. See www.orangeshow.org.

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 decor. 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 mothe, 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 had identified two or three tee pee motels that we planned 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 was a horrible thought.

I made my way into Wharton. I stopped at the For All Seasons Antique Shop on the square in Wharton and met Victoria. I asked about the Tee Pee Motel, and she told me all about it (and was then kind enough to email me with more information and offers of help). The Tee Pee Motel outside Richmond was originally developed in 1946. I was delighted to learn that someone bought the motel and plans to restore it! As I walked around the town square, I met Angie McCrae of Blue Moon Antiques, and she directed me to the Chamber of Commerce office. Ron Sanders of the Wharton Journal-Spectator newspaper was kind enough to give me a copy of the March 15, 2003 edition of the paper with a front page story about Wortham Smith and his plans to move the tee pees to Highway 59 and restore them. Hooray for Wortham!

When I did a Yahoo search tonight, I learned that Wortham is trying to raise money for the project. See http://www.thevillagesofwhartoncounty.com/investor.htm. I sure hope he can pull it off. Here are more details about his development project — http://www.thevillagesofwhartoncounty.com/project_review.htm.

Wharton is a lovely little town that was 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 had 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 felt I might have to add more days to the trip as the map would enable me to find even more little spots in the road.

Glen Fora was next. A little spot, but they had a cute cafe 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 Cafe. 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 has been 12 days 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 wasn’t much in Inez. All I could find were a school and a neat little baseball diamond, Duncan Park, that reminded me of years of playing baseball on little fields like that as a grade schooler in Texarkana, Texas. We played baseball at Spring Lake Park. I hardly remember doing anything else during the summers. We practiced, played in league games, played pick-up games, and spent every cent we could scrounge on baseball cards at the little store near our grade school or on snow cones at the Spring Lake Park field concession stand. 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.

When the sun starts going down, the focus shifts to the horizon to try to get a good sunset picture. This sunset was incredible. I was not able to capture it on film because I only managed occasional glimpses through the trees. The horizon looked like it was on fire. There were wispy-bottomed clouds with the orange glow of the sunset underneath them, and it looked like the shining of fire through smoke.

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 called it a day was how lucky I am to have such a special wife. I had a great time today, but it just wasn’t the same alone.

Random Comments:

Weatherwise, it was another great day — sunny with blue skies and a degree or two over 80. We had been on the road for 14 days, and we 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 received a number of emails from newspapers and radio stations about interviews. I needed to devote some time to getting back to these people. I also planned to send out a news release with some highlights thus far.

Huge thanks to my baby sister, Marty Windsor, who came up with a way for me to process my photos every night that would save at least an hour a night. Thanks Murt!

We drove over 3,500 miles in the first two weeks. Tomorrow marks the start of Week 3.

Bill Windsor

Here are all the photos from Day 14 of the Round America 50-State Trip:

View photos at SmugMug

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Realistic Expectations – Round America

by admin on Apr.13, 2003, under Franklin, Galveston, Garden City, Houston, Jeanerette, Lake Arthur, Louisiana, Morgan City, New Iberia, New Orleans, Paradis, Patterson, Places to Go, Texas, Verdunville

We had absolutely nothing planned for today except to drive from New Orleans to Houston and do the wash. Other than one nature trail scenic drive area in Louisiana, the page was clean.

We got some rest while in New Orleans, and I was able to get the web site work brought up to date.

We both wanted beignets, but we didn’t want to walk back through The Quarter to stand in line at Cafe DuMond (THE place for beignets), so we were pleased to learn that the Fairmont Hotel had beignets. Kathy was our waitress. We split an order of four (three for me and one for Boz), and they were very good. The coffee was strong. The little straps that I am now using on my sunglasses are great, but I haven’t mastered eating with them hanging around my neck. The inside of the lenses were filled with powdered sugar from the beignets this morning…and assorted other items over the last few days.

As we carried our bags to the front of the hotel to wait for the valet to bring our car, we overheard one of the bellmen, Michael, say that Richard Pryor was checking out. I had my camera poised and ready. We introduced ourselves, but he turned out to be a white guy named Richard Pryor. I took a photo of Richard and Michael.

We met a nice couple in the elevator, Norton and Summer, from Walker, Louisiana. We discussed how more people should speak to each other in elevators. And we met two University of Texas students, Liz and Bryan, while waiting for our car.

We were on I-10 looking for Highway 90, and Bozzie was scanning the horizon and saw half a lobster coming over a building. Unfortunately, it was a construction zone, and we were on the wrong side of the highway, and there was no way to get a photo of it. So if someone in New Orleans could send us a photo of the lobster, we would appreciate it.

We got lost while trying to find our two-lane road as we left New Orleans. I’m convinced it was a signage deficiency that should be charged to either the State of Louisiana or the City of New Orleans…certainly not an error to be charged to Ace Navigator Bozzie Jane.

Once we found Highway 90, it turned out to be a four-lane divided highway. We drove on it for a while, but we were seeing nothing, so we made a mid-course correction and headed for a nearby two-lane road. The scenery improved dramatically.

Southern Louisiana isn’t very pretty, and there wasn’t a lot to see, but today was more like the “Pie Trip” as we originally envisioned it. We just drove from small town to small town, so we enjoyed the heck out of it. We saw towns with little or nothing in them. We saw some industrial towns. We saw a sugar town and a hot sauce town. We saw a lot of snow cone stands. In the town of Paradis, we saw a number of old parade floats stored in yards along the highway. In Morgan City, we saw a monument to the first offshore oil well in Louisiana (completed November 14, 1947 — 43 miles to the south), and we stopped to get donuts from Amber and Sarah. Then we came across an area with beautiful antebellum mansions and real honest-to-goodness pre-Civil War plantations. I didn’t realize bears inhabited southern Louisiana, but we saw a bear crossing warning sign, though the only bear we saw was 200 miles down the road in front of a casino on the Louisiana-Texas border. During the day, we happened upon what must be the world’s largest spark plug as well as the world’s largest crawfish.

Barbara commented that she found it very interesting that you can pull into these little towns, scruffy or not, and they’ll have basically a gas station, probably some sort of a postal facility, and an adult paraphernalia store. How sad is that.

When I bought donuts at The Donut Shop, I asked Sarah and Amber what life was like in Morgan City. “Boring.” Sarah and Amber looked like they were 16 or 17 years old. Amber appeared to be a trainee; she was wearing a hair net. I asked what they did for fun, and they couldn’t come up with much. I told them a little about the trip and the book, and it seemed exciting to them. They seemed pleased that their names would be in the book. I told them I would take a photo of the shop as well. Barbara noted that Amber quickly removed her hair net as I stepped back 50 feet or so to snap the photo. I regret that I didn’t get a good close-up of them.

Patterson was the winner of the 2002 competition for the state’s cleanest city. A sign proudly proclaimed this.

Near Verdunville, we realized we were in a plantation area. We were obviously driving along where the slaves lived, not the plantation owners. A few miles later, we saw beautiful plantations. We stopped to take a picture of a gorgeous plantation home, Bocage, circa 1845.

The next home we saw was the Frances Plantation, circa 1810. This was just outside Garden City. We saw the Arlington Plantation, circa 1861, as we entered Franklin. While we were stopped looking at one of the plantation homes, a gentlemen walked by, turned around and said “hey, have you seen the governor’s house?” He gave us special directions to turn off the road and see it.

The Franklin Historic District is nice. There are gorgeous trees and a bed-and-breakfast called Handsome House. This town was named after Benjamin Franklin.

Snow cone stands are a big deal in this part of the world. We took a picture of the snow cone stand in Baldwin. Baldwin was a very patriotic city with flags flying from every light pole.

I regret that we didn’t stop to buy snow cones for every youngster we saw on a bicycle at or near a snow cone stand. We can and will fix these mistakes as we travel on!

Once again, the sights, sounds, and smells reminded us of vacations and trips we took as children. The look of a bridge or a small town; the sound of a train whistle that, in Barbara’s family, meant you got an ice cream cone; the smell of freshly-cut grass and food being cooked. Neither of us are sure why so many memories of our childhood are being brought to mind, but we are mighty glad they are.

We saw a big antebellum home near Jeanerette. It was hidden by all types of vines and trees and bushes. This spooky house would make a great movie set.

Every little town of some size seems to have a number of lodges — Elk, Moose, Society of Woodmen. What do these groups do?

We noticed Movie Magic in Jeanerette. Little towns like this just don’t have Blockbuster. They have a local place with a sign that looks like it was hand painted by the child of the owner.

In New Iberia, we took a photo of what could be the world’s largest spark plug, and Barbara said the gorilla hanging from it was a bonus. The city has a great row of lovely century type homes and has a nice feel to it. We especially liked the Evangeline Theater in downtown New Iberia. We stopped at a Mobil station in New Iberia after we got lost. Mary hand wrote out on a sheet of notebook paper the directions for us to get back to where we needed to be. Now how sweet was that. That would not happen in many big city gas stations.

We saw the world’s largest crawfish outside Knox Corner Seafood and Deli in Lake Arthur.

I received an email from my Dad (84 years young), and here were his thoughts: “Okay, so I’ve finally gotten caught up on the Journal. A wonderful account of your unique adventure. Makes me recall the trips we took when you were a kid, through many of the same areas, but paying no attention along the way, only interested in the destination. Are we there yet?”

We have paid attention, though we could have spent far more time in each area. Life is full of trade offs, and it was hard to justify spending more time as the trip was to be so long as it was.

The smell of freshly cut grass in the country is definitely an old-time family vacation smell. We enjoyed that smell a number of times this day.

The sun set before we crossed from Louisiana into Texas. I wished we could get our hands on some of those night vision goggles that the military has as we hate the thought of what we missed alongside the road as we drove after dark. I decided to extend the trip by a few days to break up some of the longer days to give us more time to see the sights and explore.

There was no “Welcome to Texas” sign on the highway — so much for the plan to have 50 of those signs in our photo portfolio. :-(

“Few regrets” is now our approach.

We stopped in Beaumont at the Crockett Street Entertainment District. We had a very good Mexican dinner at Rio Rita’s. We rolled into Houston about 10:30.

The lesson we took from today is the value of realistic expectations. We didn’t have any particular expectations about today; we viewed it as basically a travel day. Not a lot happened, but we really enjoyed what we saw and experienced. If we had psyched ourselves up to be expecting more, today would have been a disappointment.

Random Comments:

Boz and I were having a lot of fun. We were really relaxed. Since we weren’t looking at a calendar or watching TV, we were sometimes confused about what day of the week it was. As we drove, we talked and reminisced and laughed a lot; we just enjoyed each other and everything about the trip.

We’re saving a shampoo from every hotel/motel. We think we’ll sell them on eBay.

Bill Windsor

Here are all the photos from Day 13 of the Round America 50-State Trip:

View photos at SmugMug

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