Lone Star Adventures

A News and Views Blog of Texas Travel by Ryan Elms

Real adventure is still alive. I plan on proving that by traveling across Texas in just eight short days. I plan on visiting eight different cities in four regions. That's a lot of miles in just 192 hours. I'm not sure if I'll get to sleep much but I plan on having fun. I hope you'll follow me down to the Gulf Coastal Plains, up to the North Central Plains, over to the Great Plains and finally to far West Texas to the Mountains and Basins.

The Gulf Coastal Plains

The first region I will visit is the Gulf Coastal Plains. In this region there is more rain, violent storms, tornados, and hurricanes than in any other region of Texas. Plant and animal life include fish, alligators, and pine trees. Some of the natural resources here are people, rain, rivers, trees, paper mills, chemical plants, ports, and oil. Main agriculture is timber, cattle, fish, and hay. Just so you know the plan I plan on visiting Houston first. Once I am there I plan on visiting The Sam Houston National Park, Battleship Texas, and the Holocaust Museum. Then it's on to Corpus Christi where I will visit the USS Lexington, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, and Cole Park.

Destination: Houston

Sam Houston National Park

My first stop in Houston is Sam Houston National Forest. This is one of four national forests in Texas. It is located 50 miles north of Houston. In the summer it is hot and humid. The winters are short and mild. The average rainfall each year is about 44 inches. Hunting is common in this forest. Some wildlife that is hunted here is deer, squirrel, quail, duck, fish, and dove. Today was a bit hot so I fished for about two hours but came up with only one fish. I then took a short hike. I think hiking is a good way to explore the forest and see nature. Did you know that a huge hiking trail winds it's way around the forest? The Lone Star Hiking Trail is 128 miles long. I went about 5 miles until I had to turn around so that I could do more before the day was over. I thought this was a great place to relax and I recommend a stop here if you are in the area.

Battleship Texas

It is just after lunch on day one of my trip and I just arrived here at Battleship Texas. I can't believe that this 100 year old ship is so huge. Did you know Battleship Texas was one of the last battleships to participate in World War I and II ? This battleship also became the 1st battleship memorial in the U.S. in 1948. She was launched on May 12, 1914 from Newport News, Virginia and became a flagship in the U.S. Navy. When she was commissioned she was the most powerful weapon in the world, the most complex product of an industrial nation just beginning to become a force in global events. In 1916 Texas became the 1st U.S. battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns and in 1919 it was the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft. One more interesting fact is that Battleship Texas served in D-Day off the coast of Normandy, France. While here I was able to explore the engine room and turrets. I also got to rotate the turrets up and down and side to side. That was the coolest part. I explored the ship from top to bottom even visited the main deck. It really gave me a good idea of what Navy life was like aboard the ship. If I had time I would have spent the night here and slept in a real bunk. I really do wish I could explore more but the day is almost over and I still have one more place to visit. I'll be back to visit for sure.
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Houston Holocaust Museum

My last stop in the Houston area will be the Houston Holocaust Museum. This museum is all about the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. I don't really want to visit this museum but I know I have to. I have seen pictures of concentration camps and they are so bad and make me really sad. The first exhibit I saw was authentic film footage from that time. There was also artifacts, photographs, and documents that showed life during that time including the Nazi move to the "Final Solution" and life after the Holocaust. While it was hard to see and read about the Holocaust it was also interesting. The second exhibit was the most interesting. It was a rare World War II Holocaust railcar. It is 25.7 feet long and weighs 10.5 metric tons. This railcar actually carried Jews to their death at prison camps. I can't imagine how someone felt when they boarded this railcar. The last exhibit I saw was a Danish Rescue Boat. For a three-week period in 1943 a group of Christians in Denmark risked their lives to save over 7,200 Jews from execution at the hands of Nazi Germans. I'm glad I saw this exhibit last. I didn't realize that good things happened during the Holocaust. I've got to go for now. It's getting late and my time here in Houston has run out. I'm off to Corpus Christi. Check back tomorrow for my second day of travel.
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Destination: Corpus Christi

USS Lexington

It's the morning of Day 2. I arrived here in Corpus Christi late last night and noticed something interesting in the water as we drove in. It looked like an aircraft carrier and it was glowing. It also looked like a ghost to me. I thought, oh wait, I bet that's my next destination site. The ship is called the USS Lexington and is nicknamed the "Blue Ghost". It is an aircraft carrier built during World War II for the U.S. Navy. It served in the Pacific Ocean. The USS Lexington was originally built as a battle cruiser. A battle cruiser has less armor and is faster than a battleship. The ship was supposed to be named "Cabot" but was renamed USS Lexington after another ship lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea. She destroyed 18 of the 19 aircrafts that attacked her. The most interesting fact I discovered about the USS Lexington was that she was suppose to be at Pearl Harbor the day of the surprise attack by Japan in 1941 but was away on a delivery call. She was attacked in January 1942 but was able to fend of the Japanese. The ship is currently classified as a Museum Ship. It still has the guns that you can rotate and an interesting engine room. It has a barbershop and a doctors office. I was able to explore the top deck which had old warplanes from World War II and modern day helicopters. My favorite was the Cobra helicopter. I spent lots of time on the top deck even though it was very windy, hot and humid. The view was great and I could see everything in Corpus Christi and miles of the Gulf of Mexico. Next, I went down to the captain's quarters and barracks. What I thought was the most fun was exploring all the hatches that lead up and around the ship. I climbed so many steep stairs. I was afraid I was going to fall. Also the stairwells were very narrow and I could barely fit in some. This is one of the best sites I have visited so far. I loved the USS Lexington. Maybe even more than Battleship Texas. Time for lunch and a visit to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.
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Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History

I just got to the museum and wow it has so many sections to visit. There are ten to be exact. I'm looking for an exhibit about the culture of Corpus Christi so which one should I go to? I think I'll go to the Cultural Encounters exhibit. This exhibit tells the story of the famous explorer Sieur de La Salle and the Karankawa Indians of South Texas. Here I can see and learn about artifacts from La Salle's ship La Belle, which wreaked in Matagorda Bay in 1686. La Salle was looking for the mouth of the Mississippi when he hit a sand bar during a violent storm in Matagorda Bay. La Belle is one of the most important shipwrecks ever discovered in North America. The excavation in 1996-1997produced valuable artifacts, including the hull of the ship, three bronze cannons, thousands of glass beads, bronze hawk bells, pottery and even the skeleton of a crew member. There were nearly two million artifacts recovered that gave us an idea of the supplies used in a 17th-century European colony in the New World. In this museum you can see some of those artifacts recovered from the wreck, including pieces of the ship and even personal items of the sailors. This exhibit also has artifacts recovered from local Native American settlements which shows how the cultures mixed in South Texas. There is more cultural exhibits to see but I'm out of time. I'm going to end the day at the park, Cole Park.
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Cole Park

Cole Park, my last stop for Day 2. I was told that if I head to Corpus Christie I must visit Cole Park. The minute I got here I noticed the great views of Corpus Christie Bay. There are children playing everywhere. This park has an outdoor amphitheater that hosts free concerts from time to time. The park is 43 acres big and has a lighted fishing pier. It also has a small beach. This looks like a very popular place to hangout. I see many tourist taking pictures and many others that look like they might live here. This is a great place to bring a blanket and take a rest. This is where I will spend the rest of my day. I'm going to close my eyes for just a few minutes. I'll see you in Whichita Falls!

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Cole Park Pier

North Central Plains

Located in the central part of Texas this region has very fertile soil. It is known as Hill Country in the southern part of the region. It has rolling plains, grasslands, caves, and mesas. This region has the hottest temperatures in the state during the summer but they have very cold winters. The main agriculture includes cattle, goats, cotton, corn and, my favorite, peaches. Animals you might see include white tailed deer, armadillos, horned lizards and even a Bald Eagle. During the Spring you will see Bluebonnets, our state flower.

In this region, I will visit Wichita Falls on day three of my trip and Mineral Wells on day four. In Wichita Falls I will tour the Jaunita Harvey Art Gallery, the Kell House Museum, and walk along the Little Witchita River. In Mineral Wells I will stop by the Baker Hotel, the Famous Mineral Water Company, and Lake Mineral Wells State Park.

Destination: Wichita Falls

The Juanita Harvey Art Gallery

I'm here at the Juanita Harvey Art Gallery. This art gallery is located at the Midwestern State University Fain Fine Arts Center. I saw many super cool exhibits created by MSU students including sculptures, paintings, and graphic arts. My favorite exhibit was a rug made out of plastic bags. It looked like the rug was made from different colored plastic bags that were woven together. I learned how to do this one summer at vacation bible school. I remember it being really hard. There was also a tree that was made out of old plastic water and soda bottles. This exhibit is all about art that is made out of recycled items. I really enjoyed this exhibit but it's getting late. Time to go. See you at the next site!
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Kell House Museum

I'm here at the Kell House Museum. The history of this house is pretty cool. This house was occupied from 1909 until 1980 by members of the family of Frank Kell. Frank Kell, a native Texan, made a fortune in railroads, flour milling, and oil. He was partially responsible for making Witchita Falls the economic center of the region. Did you know that the Kell House is one of the historically and architecturally significant buildings in Whichita Falls. It has huge white columns at the very front and a large porch. It looks like a mansion. On my tour I saw furniture that belonged to the Kell family and even some of the clothes that they wore. Two interesting things about this house is that it has a winding stair case that leads to the second floor and a library. I thought this was an interesting place but old houses are not really my thing. I'm going to move on to the next place on my list, the Little Witchita River.
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Little Wichita River

It is a warm day in mid-September when I visit the Little Witchita River. I can't believe it's only 89 degrees today. I read that this region has the highest summer tempertures in the United States. While I walk along the river I discover that a battle was fought here a long time ago. It was in July 1870 when the Battle of the Little Wichita River was fought. It was a battle between the United States Calvary and Kiowa Indians. The battle was between 100 Kiowa Indians led by Kicking Bird and 55 US Calvary led by Captain McLellan. It started because the Indians crossed the Red River and terrorized the white settlements. In the end the Indians won because they had more men and better weapons.

The river banks are very clean with lots of green grass and a walking trail. There are so many shade trees to stop and sit under. I wish I had a canoe so that I could explore further down the river.

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Destination: Mineral Wells

Baker Hotel

I'm stopping by Baker Hotel on my way into Mineral Wells. I did a little research on this place because it isn't a hotel anymore and it is not a museum. I knew I couldn't go inside and look around. I found out that this hotel took three years to build. It took from 1926 until 1929 to complete. It was owned by local shareholders. Designed by the famous T.B. Baker, it was the 1st skyscraper to be built outside a major metropolitan area. It had 14 stories, 450 rooms and air conditioning. It had the first swimming pool built for a hotel in Texas. Baker hotel was very popular until the 1950's. After the army base Fort Wolters closed and modern medicine became more popular less people came to Mineral Wells.

When we arrived the first thing I noticed was three huge archways where there once was an entrance. There is a big bell tower at the top too. There is a lot of detail on this hotel. There are archways along the walkways and scroll work above the doors. Sadly, the hotel is in really bad condition today. It closed for good in 1972 and hasn't been taken care of. I see broken windows and lots of spray paint along the outside. People have tried to clean it up and restore it but they have had no luck. I hope someday somebody does reopen it. I think it would be a really cool place to stay.

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Famous Mineral Water Company

This is a place I couldn't wait to visit. The Famous Mineral Water Company was started in 1904 by Ed Dismuke. The water in Mineral Wells is also called Crazy Water. In 1880 the first well in Mineral Wells was drilled but people didn't like the taste of the water so they wouldn't drink it. The Lynch family started drinking that water and discovered that they became more healthy. Soon everyone wanted some of that water and Ed Dismuke sold quarts of water for 5 cents a quart. In 1881, the crazy well was drilled. Water from this well helped heal an old lady that had dementia after she drank it. Since then people have come from all over to Mineral Wells to try the water. Ed Dismuke drinks that water all his life and finally dies at the age of 97. Starting in 2012 the water is sold nationally.

I don't feel bad but I do want to stay healthy for my trip so I am going to try some of the water. I am headed to the Famous Mineral Water Company now to purchase several bottles. I wonder if it's still five cents a quart? We'll see what happens.

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Lake Mineral Wells State Park

I read that Lake Mineral Wells State Park was a Texas favorite so I had to come and see it. The park surrounds Lake Mineral Wells which is a 646 acre lake. The lake was built in the 1930's by Civilian Conservation Corp. When we drive through the entrance I see lots of rocks and cliffs for climbing. There are hiking and biking trails and I can even do some horseback riding. There are campsites along the lake where I can fish for catfish, crappie, bass, and perch. I can see a movie at the amphitheater or hear a Park Ranger talk about the wildflowers. If I had my swim suit I could even go for a swim at the man made beach along the lake. I think I could have some real fun here if I had a few days to spend here but I only have a few hours. I think I'll spend it climbing a few rocks and cliffs. I think this place could be a favorite of mine.
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The Great Plains

This region is located in the Texas Panhandle. Here in this region it's very windy and dry. It is usually very hot in the summer but very cold in the winter. Did you know that the Great Plains is the coldest region in all of Texas during the winter? Also in this region there are violent sand, snow, and rainstorms. One of the main plants you find here are sunflowers. Some of the common wildlife include prairie dogs and coyotes. The main agriculture here is wheat, cotton, hay, and cattle. Some other resources are oil, petroleum, and farms.

While here I will visit the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, the Don Herrington Discovery Center, and Global-News Center for the Performing. All of these are in Amarillo. Then I will head to Plainview to see The Llano Estcado Museum, Running Water Draw Park, and Plainview Point Monument.

Desination: Armarillo

Amarillo Botanical Gardens

My first stop here in Amarillo is the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. In reviews online the average was 4.5 stars out of 5 so I knew I had to see this for myself. There is an interesting story about how this garden began. It started back in 1929 with the first garden club. This was only a few women who loved to garden and saw the growing of plants in Amarillo as a challenge. By 1945 the group had grown to over 100 women and they helped create this garden center. The Amarillo Botanical Gardens wasn't always called the Botanical Garden or located at it's current location. It originally was called the Garden Center. It wasn't until 1968 that volunteers prepared the soil in a new location and even brought plants from their homes to help start what is now known as the Amarillo Botanical gardens.

After walking through all the gardens, I think my favorite garden is the Wagner Japanese Garden. This garden was designed using ideas from gardens of emperors and Buddhist temples. It is really quite with blooming flowers and lots of trees. At night the garden is bright with lights hung from trees. Too bad I'm not here later because I'd love to see this place at night. Below you will see two pictures I snapped of the gardens so I can look back to my trip here.

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Don Harrington Discovery Center

Here I am at the Don Harrington Discovery Center. There are several exhibits here but I will have time for only one or two. There is so much to choose from. It looks like there is something for everyone. I think my little brother would like this place and my parents too. The Space Theater looks cool so I have to see what time the shows are. Maybe I will spend a little extra time here to visit the theater. The first exhibit I see is the Ice Age Mammals Museum. At this exhibit I learn about animal habitats in the Ice Age and what Earth was like covered in snow and ice. Whoa! I can also see that this exhibit has a model of a seven foot tall wholly mammoth. A wholly mammoth is a giant prehistoric elephant that lived in the Ice Age. Remember the movie Ice Age? There was one in that movie and his name was Manny. I really liked that movie so it is cool to see a wholly mammoth in real life. Next I go to the Planetary Landscapes exhibit. I see in this exhibit models of how some landscapes have changed over time. There are also models of the things that change the Earth. Some of these things are glaciers, wind, water, and continental rifts.
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Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts

I am here at my last stop in Amarillo and that is the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. I think I am going to really like this stop. I play the trombone and really like to listen to other instruments. The building was built in 2006 and houses the Amarillo Opera, Symphony, Lone Star Ballet, and many other events. I am very surprised at how colorful the inside of the center is. Around the round stage there are lots of square tiles that remind me of a sunflower. This place looks like people might need to dress up when they visit here. Today I am here to see a symphony. It is called Simple Gifts. There are four movements which are called Four Shaker Songs, Dance, Here Take This Lovely Flower and finally Simple Gifts. My favorite was Dance. Dance is a fast movement and the others are slow. I did think all of the movements sounded really good. After the symphony I start my journey to the next city. See you in Plainview.

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Destination: Plainview

Llano Estcado Museum

This museum is located at Wayland Baptist University and is all about culture. When I walked into the museum it smelled like old wood. Maybe that's because there are a lot of old things here. I decided to visit three different exhibits. The first exhibit I am going to is all about cattle drives. Did you know that barbed wire and windmills made cattle drives possible? At this museum there is a ranching tack room, windmill, blacksmith shop, spring house, and watering tank. There is also a rail car that carried some cows to their designations. Other rooms include a kitchen, parlor, bedroom, and drawing room. In the next exhibit, I learned about ancient Indian tribes and I saw a model of Indians living in a full scale teepee. The last exhibit I went to before I left was an exhibit that displays a school setting, doctor's office, jailhouse, and gambling scene.
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Running Water Draw Park

I'm here at the park and I can see that there are many things to do. There are athletic fields, a golf course, a playground, a fountain, and some kind of memorial. There isn't too many people around here at this time of the day. It isn't too hot. It's only about 85 degrees. What should I do? I've never tried golf so I think I will try a game. First, I will stop by the fountain and wish for good luck. After that i might take a short walk to stretch my legs before getting back on the bus and heading to Plainview Point Monument.
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Plainview Point Monument

I just got here at Plainview Point Monument Park. This site is a National Historic Marker. I really expected more but all there is a plaque about extinct bison. This monument marks the place where unique spear points were discovered. The plaque says those spear heads are believed to be over 8,000 years old. These spearheads have since been used to name an entire culture. Plainview Youth and some members of the local Boy Scout troop are the ones who made the discovery in 1941. I think that is really cool. I used to be in boy scouts be we never discovered anything.
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Mountains and Basins

This region is the driest part of the state. There is only between 0 and 16 inches of rainfall each year. As you have probably guessed it is warm most of the time and it doesn't stay cold for long. Did you know that there are 450 types of birds in this region? There are also snakes, spiders, and scorpions. Also, since it is so hot here there are a lot of cactus. Some of the main agriculture here is cattle, dairy, and cotton. Some other resources are beef, cattle ranches, and trade with Mexico. In this last region I will Stop first in El Paso to visit Franklin Mountain State Park, EL Paso Museum of History, and the Magoffin Home. Then I will head to Pecos to see Balmorhea State Park, West of the Pecos Rodeo, and West of the Pecos Museum.

Destination: El Paso

Franklin Mountain State Park

I am in Franklin Mountain State Park which opened in 1987. The state took the mountains in 1979 to protect them from development. Did you know that the Franklins are the largest sustained mountain range in Texas? This is also America's largest urban park with 24, 247 acres. The summit of North Franklin Peak is 7,192 feet which means this peak is about 3,000 feet above the city below.

I can't believe how huge the mountains are. You can do all kinds of things here like hike , bike, camp and even explore a cave. I was hiking on the East side when I saw the site of our nation's only tin mining, milling, and smelting operation. It isn't working today. It was only active from 1910 through 1915. I saw an old mining entrance from the tin mining.

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El Paso Museum of History

I am now here at the El Paso Museum of History. The first exhibit is how El Paso changed from a small village to a railroad center. After the city changed they realized the chance for disastrous fires had increased. So they set up volunteer fire stations with city funded equipment around the city in case of fire. I saw a 1901 El Paso Fire Department Steamer, Engine No.2, and other early fire engines. It was super cool. Below is a picture of the No.2 Fire Engine in the museum. Anyway I must go to my next stop. See you there!
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Magoffin Home

I just arrive here at my last site of the city and wow this building is majorly different from other Texas houses I visited. This house is important for two reasons. It has unique Territorial style architecture and because the Magoffin family lived here for over 100 years. It is one of the oldest adobe structures in the area. This home is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and is in the National Register of Historic Places. It also is a Texas Historical Commission property.
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Destination: Pecos

Balmorhea State Park

I'm here at Balmorhea State Park in Pecos, Texas and it is huge. Did you know that this crystal clear water pool is the largest spring fed swimming pool in the world? It's true. Here at this pool you can swim, scuba dive, or relax under the trees. This pool goes down to 25 feet deep and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. Nearly 15 million gallons of water flows through the pool each day since it is connected to the San Solomon Springs. Since the pool is connected to the San Solomon Springs plenty of fish swim through the pool each day. There are two kinds of endangered fish in the spring and they are the Comanche Springs Pupfish and the Pecos Gambusia. There is a wetland here in this park. This wetland was constructed in 1995 to ensure the safety of these endangered fish. This was a really interesting spot. Now I must head to West of the Pecos Rodeo.
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West of the Pecos Rodeo

I'm here at the rodeo and its about to start. I guess while I'm waiting I'll tell you about the history of this sport. Just the word rodeo can bring excitement to people. Everyone was excited in Pecos in 1883 when some cowboys got together to find out who was best at riding and roping. From the beginning of time men have always competed against each other. It was the same with the men that made a living doing chores around the ranch or trailing a herd of cattle. As these men crossed paths such as Pecos, there always came the question, " Who is the best?". As you can see rodeos are a big part of the culture here in Pecos. Anyway, the rodeo has started and so far there is bull riding, horse riding, and cattle roping. I'm going to watch the rodeo and then I will see you at my final stop on my Lone Star Adventure.
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West of the Pecos Museum

I'm here at the West of the Pecos Museum . This is my last stop in the last city on my trip. This museum is a recognized Texas landmark and opened in 1963. I start out on the first floor of three floors I want to visit. This museum is located in an old hotel and saloon from the turn of the century. The furnishings in the lobby are from the 1904 Oriental Hotel and the original 1896 saloon. In the saloon there are bullet holes from a "disagreement" that left two gunfighters dead. The saloon also contains its original stairway to the upper bedroom. The next room is called the Railroad Room. This room contains "Texas and Pacific Railroad" artifacts from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Done!
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The End of the Trail

Well I've just proven that you can travel across Texas in eight short days and survive. Right now I am tired, tired, and really tired. Would I do it again? Yes because it was fun and interesting. I loved the whole trip but if I could return and visit two places those two places would be Balmorhea State Park and the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. Thanks for following my blog.