MILE MARKER 1
YOU ARE INVITED
…to travel with me across some of the 268,820 square miles of TX over the next few months. The contrasting topography with its wide-open spaces, mountains, hills and valleys, river boundaries, and shorelines (longer than either SC or NC) defines the State of Texas. Its unique “shape” marked by jagged edges, curves and straight lines is internationally recognized.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Multiple incursions and battles between Native Americans, settlers, frontiersmen, soldiers and conquerors established, refined and changed Texas. Long after half of the United States was settled with stable growth, Texas fought for and won its independence from Mexico in 1836. Known for its “independent” attitude and spirit, Texas cannot help but be a product of its upbringing.
Texas history doesn’t fit easily into a timeline or narrative because Texas has had many frontiers and a collection of settlers broader than most states. The story of Texas was still in its formation and infancy when missionaries, explorers, ranchers, immigrants, tradesmen and families pushed into the regions of the canyons along the Rio Grande River, the bayous along the Gulf of Mexico, East to the Sabine River and Piney Woods, and North to the Red River ultimately harnessing the vast arid land of the Panhandle Plains.
ONE TEXAS TRAVELER
Traveling back roads and lesser known towns often provide the untold story or long-forgotten history. These posted segments are NOT intended to be an official Travelogue or History record. I’m simply a TEXAS TRAVELER who is intrigued by the geography of Texas and compelled to peek in on some of the dusty old corners of Texas courthouses and buildings. Through the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse Preservation Program and Main Street Cities, travelers have available to the them revitalized downtown areas offering restaurants, businesses, shops, museums, and historic buildings and architecture.
Left: Chisholm Trail sign, Decatur, TX; Middle: Majestic Theatre, Eastland TX; Right: Main Street, Junction TX
Hopefully you’ll discover something new about Texas or find a place you’d like to visit. Come back soon for new information and photos. I will be posting various sources and references for travel to or within the State of Texas. Some travel tips will direct you to a specific historic site, an Interstate road or multiple paths to get you from here to there. But just as intriguing are the off-road experiences when you leave the bypass and head to the “historic downtown.” You never know who you’ll meet in the city square with a monument to their memory.
Maybe you’ll find your own reason to travel~
Perhaps you share the same wandering spirit I possess.
Don’t need a map to get there—
you can get there from anywhere
when you’re going in your head.
DISCOVERING THE STORY
Whose name is on that building? And is the year scripted in stone when it was built? What exactly is in a name? Proprietors once had their name proudly displayed on the building’s façade, or in other cases, they had it set in tile at the building’s entrance. That street has an unusual name. Why is the street sign in German? A lot of the names are Hispanic. Was that an old depot? There’s always a story.
Here is part of mine.
- I was born in a small town in West Texas called Eastland (see how that works?)
- I even grew up in a small town in South Texas – Clute.
- I recently revisited Abilene (medium-sized town in West Texas where I lived in 60s-70s)
- After years of living in Ft. Worth, I found another small town in which to retire.
Small towns have a uniqueness that can be either loved or loathed. You know there’s no Starbucks™ and the chain restaurants are limited or nonexistent. The high school sports and activities bring out the entire community limiting when the town’s businesses close down on Friday nights. You’ll see monuments to veterans of various wars. You may arrive just as the parade begins (and you don’t even know why there is a parade!) There is probably more than one festival or celebration each year. In the county seats of government, you’ll find the “old courthouse” either serving as current business for the county or maybe standing only as a museum or historic site now. It’s not uncommon to see US flags staked and waving in the wind or booths set up around the square.
Left to Right: Jackson County, Edna; Hood County, Granbury; next 3 Wharton County, Wharton
Don’t be surprised if there are antique cars parked around the courthouse square. If you love small-town living, you’ve found your paradise because those town squares still exist. If you want to be amid the hustle and bustle of business, trade and entertainment, you’re probably happier in the city.
I enjoy trading the comforts of a city for the local café with its mismatched dishes. I feel comfortable in small towns so that is where I began and continue my story of adventure. More than a year ago, I set out on a mission of traveling old roads as part of my conceptualized blog –
NEW JOURNEYS ON OLD ROADS
Those words described the revolution within myself. I was moving from some health issues to a more normal and peaceful place. Blessed beyond my expectations, I was able to retire, and found I could return to traveling and discovering. I became much more confident so I set out to mark my new journeys. I didn’t know how many miles that idea would include. If you’ve traveled here with me before, you know Music is my Second Language; therefore many of my travels are woven into and scheduled around concerts, live performances, bands and oprys.
Many of the towns I put on my list to visit were remembered from my Daddy’s stories—he had traveled EVERYWHERE! My mother gave me insight into some of the little farm towns or the oilfield towns of the 30s, 40s, 50s. My grandparents were travelers, too. They often traveled to CA. How far was that? I wondered.
As a second thought – but maybe because I’m a lover of history – I started looking at courthouses. Those old buildings, with both new and innovative architectural designs, seem to be standing not so much as a beacon of activity and business but more as a starting point to see how the Texas residents, settlers, landowners and government representatives designed the past to shape its future.
Texas was settled with immigrants from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, South American countries and Baltic States as well as the African-Americans here as slaves and the Native Americans (estimated around 50 tribes in the region.
These original immigrant founders constructed what they had seen in the Classical Revival, the Romanesque or imagined other architectural styles. I find all architecture design intriguing (even if some of these historic sites are a bit ugly). The blending of many cultures is evident in the architecture, town names, or artwork in Texas.
Hood County, Granbury Texas, Second Empire with Romanesque.
Burleson County Courthouse, Caldwell, Classical Revival
THE TRAIL’S END
The State found itself looking for methods to rebuild war-torn Texas after the Civil War. Other than crops (impossible to grow in some regions of Texas), stock trade became the primary means of trade and livelihood bringing about the well-known history of the “cowboy” life style. Brahman cattle were imported from India, and the Longhorn breed was specific to Spanish settlement. Early cattle drives were initiated by Nelson Story and Charles Goodnight. Cattle were driven across the Chisholm and other trails to railheads (i.e., Abilene KS/Dodge City KS/Ft. Worth TX).
Life on the open range changed forever with the invention of barbed wire. Fences, combined with the back to back killer winters of 1886 and 1887, changed the cattle industry.
The need for water for stock and way stations for people/goods traveling the stagecoach and pony express routes created stopovers and towns simply for the need of water. I’ll introduce you to some of these towns in later segments. Many of the original routes are preserved today as a testament to the harshness of Texas and the strength of those who shaped it. Once Texas roads served to provide wealth and distribution of product. Now some roads lead you through towns in major decline. These roads have witnessed the new highways and interstates and re-routed railroads all whispering the cycles of boom and bust telling the story through generations of the land and its people.
Not only the geography and climate of TX reflects the differences, but the ways in which towns grew to cities and rural turned to urban.
A traveler to Texas should never make an assumption that all of Texas has oil wells, cattle, gun-toting citizens or cowboy hats. Yes, you will absolutely find those, but you’ll find the folks in business suits handling the business of oil/gas production, real estate and financial services. You will definitely see the workers in the oil/gas fields wearing flame resistant coveralls and covered in dirt and mud. But you’ll also witness advanced technology utilized by oilfield crews.
You’ll see many Texans devoted to the fine arts with world-class music, art and design displayed in the performance halls and museums, community theatres and town centers across the state. Hundreds of universities and colleges with various concentration (i.e., Technical, Liberal Arts, Science & Health, Agricultural & Energy) are preparing tomorrow’s workers, owners and educators for an ever-growing Texas which should be able to rise & develop future energy systems as well as advancements in science health and product development.
Left: WagnerNoël PAC Midland/Odessa TX; Right: Bass Hall, Ft. Worth TX
 http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h306.html  Texas Historical Commission www.texastimetravel.com the.state.tx.us (512) 463-6100 c. 2014.  Lyrics to Ozark Mountain Jubilee recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys; Songwriters: SCOTT ANDERS, ROGER MURRAH © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group; Release 1983.
To begin your Texas travel journey, visit:
Texas State Travel Guide is a comprehensive directory for all the elements of your Texas adventure. www.TravelTex.com
Today is the first anniversary of this blog, so I wanted to let you know I appreciate your spending time here.
If you’ve been traveling with me for the last year, THANK YOU for hopping on board.
If you are reading this post and visiting this blog for the first time, WELCOME to my journey.
If I could write a blueprint for living, I would wrap it in love, tie it with ribbons of hugs & present it to you anytime you need to be reminded you are God’s child.”
I hope my message has been clear, both to my children & grandchildren. I believe in treasuring the wonderful times & even the troubled days…for how can you know you are blessed if you haven’t seen the other side.
To say that I’m in my second “life” would be an understatement…I’m living again and maybe fully for the first time…but I can clearly see it’s right for this time.
When I retired, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. I thought my purpose was over. Now I’m finally understanding that I am here EVERY DAY for a purpose. It has amazed me the people who have followed my blog or tweets who connect because of a comparable belief, thought or interest. I never imagined some of those casual contacts would become true friends across the miles – but that’s what has happened. I didn’t imagine either that old acquaintances would re-visit me emerging from this new tool.
I’m honored to hear from my readers with comments such as:
- “I needed your thought today”
- “Thank you for caring”
- “ Welcome to my world”
- “Hope to meet you”
- “Good to see your post”
With a dream in my heart, I knew it was time to live it! Nothing fades faster than an opportunity not explored. Writing has been my passion, so I began this journey one year ago. It is here on these blank pages I can pour out my thoughts, beliefs, ideas & words. It has become my peaceful place to offer a word of encouragement or a lesson learned in my life.
Having come through some health issues, daily I’m grateful I’m still standing upright & even standing! I’m really careful about where I step, walk & things I do…but for the most part…I’m trekking down paths I never thought I would be able to explore.
New Journeys on Old Roads has become more than just a title for my blog; it has come to describe my life more than I ever imagined.
- Sometimes the roads are rough, so I slow down and approach with caution.
- Sometimes they have detours, so I look for an alternate route.
- Sometimes they are brand new black-topped roads over what used to be dirt, so I speed up a bit.
- Sometimes I get lost…but I get out my map, connect to my GPS, and try again…a lot like what happens when you fall down or fail.
If something I’ve presented here has been helpful, I invite you to post a comment or contact me in other methods listed here on this blog.
THANK YOU FOR TRAVELING WITH ME ON MY
NEW JOURNEYS ON OLD ROADS!
INSTALLMENT #1 TRAVELOGUE OF 2 SISTERS ROAD TRIP
Have you ever made so many U-turns you’re not sure if you are headed back to the beginning or on a completely different route?
That recently happened to me on a road trip. Best laid plans and all that! Had maps marked, turn-by-turn directions, GPS, and many other devices that should have made the traveling a little easier. But, you know, when you pass up that exit and you’re in the wrong lane, things fall apart right then.
And it doesn’t even have to be on a multi-lane interstate. It can be a highway junction in a small town that throws you off. Seems more and more junctions are being laid out to give an “easier” way around the town. Large or small, roads can get you mis-routed in an instant.
So after you try a couple of new perspectives on it and you’ve still not found your connection, you do the unthinkable: ASK FOR DIRECTIONS FROM A LOCAL. That doesn’t often turn out well even from the first statement when they begin:
You know where the old post office was? Well, you go down four or five or maybe six blocks and you turn by the old gas station. ‘course it’s closed down now and they’ve bulldozed it all down and widened the street there. I think it’s a flea market now or something.”
If I knew things like that and if I was from ‘round these parts’ I probably wouldn’t be asking for directions. Just then another voice chimes in:
“You know where old man Smith’s place is? It’s past that a bit…can’t miss it”
Oh, my, hasn’t that been helpful? You smile and return to the car and try to readjust your antennae…and, with a renewed spirit you start toward the old post office.
But I’ve learned in traveling (as in life) if you have to turn around and try again, something different will happen. It won’t be the same journey [even if you do see old man Smith’s place]…and you may still be lost. Why didn’t you ask them to draw you a map? But then why would their map be any better than all the ones you got from the travel agent, the state or the one you pulled up on your smart phone?
Oh, gosh, do you think that place we just passed was old man Smith’s!! I know the guy said ‘can’t miss it’ but I think we just did.
On one dreary afternoon when my sister and I realized we weren’t anywhere close to being able to tackle the up-coming city (because of an “alternate” road we’d taken in our approach), we made a major decision. We just threw all caution to the wind, tossed the state & city map into the back seat and braved the city one street at a time.
My comment was: You know our parents and grandparents traveled across this great United States in the 30s,40s & 50s with no map. Surely we can do it.
And we did. We found more things in that city than they’ve ever put on a tourist guide. We found beautiful scenery, expensive homes in a well-to-do suburb (even a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house). We located and identified six various kinds of art deco architecture within a 4-block area of downtown. We tasted that city’s grit to grime believing our new route through the run-down section would connect to another road. It did…just not the right road. When we photographed our last shot in the dying sunset, we found the right highway connect. At that moment we felt we had enjoyed that city more than any that could be on our trip.
If you missed the turns in your life, you’ve got some options:
- You can make a u-turn and head back looking at it from the other side
- You can analyze that if you “square it off” you’ll get right back where you were before (but remember…you were lost then, too)
- You can take the new directions from the locals and get a chance to see that old post office
- You can throw up your hands, toss the map out the window and wing it from there and see something else that wasn’t even on your list.
You can do any of these things…and none are really wrong decisions.
But, failing to try again can be the most unpleasant of all. You’ll never get on the right road if you don’t turn around; you’ll never get to see the old post office and you’ll miss the entire journey.
Be brave! U-turn now…go back and see where you missed that turn…go back and try it again! Remember the last time you missed a turn and you just kept going? Yes, you do remember how that turned out, don’t you? Make some decision…because indecision is the same as standing still.
You’ll never know what you’ll discover on “alternate” roads. Here’s a few things I would have missed if I’d followed the exact directions.
Solitary road found during a U-turn in TX
Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Tulsa
Gates swinging open at Graceland
Monument to school desegregation in Little Rock
Rock of Ages Farm Barn Route 66 OK
Smallest portion of Route 66 (13 miles) in KS
Town of Santa Claus IN – decorated 365 days a year and lights turned on each night
Quiet road found during U-turn in TN
Metal from World Trade Center sculpture (ORNL)
Oak Ridge TN
Cumberland River in downtown Nashville
Directions are easier to see once you turn around!
I can’t guarantee you’ll find exactly what you are looking for with a U-turn or change in direction. I can guarantee that it’s different–and isn’t that what we are hoping when we’ve realized we made the wrong turn?
I looked into the sun, squinting to make out the road sign; As I U-turned to look from the other side, it was clear. Not clear that I ‘d found what I needed but clear I was lost. Sometimes, discovering you are lost is as good as knowing where you are. Make the journey; start the adventure; map it out; But when best laid plans come up short, make a new plan. Never too late to start a new journey on an old road.
Over the next 30 days I’ll be posting pictures of America at her best…from the Arbuckle Mountains to the Ozarks; the Smokies to the Appalachians…crossing rivers, skirting lakes…walking Beale Street and Main Street…crossing 11 state lines and driving some of the remaining original segments of the Mother Road (Route 66).
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a ROAD TRIP through some of the country’s historical landmarks, roads and byways, maybe you’ll remember some of your past travels or get the map out and plan your next one.
Because it’s springtime, roadsides and highways should be teeming with wildflowers. We will stop to capture as many as we can.
Some of the best places are off the main road.
It’s the moments you take the time to explore an old road, a quaint bridge, a field of flowers, or Small Town, USA that will fill your heart with joy and your photo albums with memories.
…and doing it all with your best friend & sister…priceless!
Hold on! Here We Go!
Click to hear “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash
Have you been there?Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re enjoying the drive. Let’s share America with everyone.
It was just a spur of the moment trip. I really had not planned to go anywhere last Friday, but there I was, driving west and headed to an old familiar place. I’d taken this road many times—back and forth to my dad’s place over the last 30 years. The road felt like an old friend. I knew where each turn was, where the speed traps were, and how far it was to the next bathroom. I knew where you had to stop and fill up with gas because THAT gas station was always the cheapest. And I would stop there again–just because. I knew I could make the trip in less than 4 hours.
You start off heading west on Interstate 20 as if you were going to California—because, if you don’t stop for several days, that’s where you’ll be—or at least El Paso for an overnight stop! In El Paso, you can catch Interstate 10 and then scoot across the edge of New Mexico around Las Cruces and Lordsburg. From there it’s just hours on to Tucson. That’s where your compass might become confused because you come to a crossroads.Crossroads can sometimes be confusing if you don’t have a clear idea of what your final destination is. But I didn’t need a map today…I knew the road and my destination.
From Tucson, you can continue to California by taking a hard northwest on to Phoenix and then set your sites on The Los Angeles area. Of course, don’t get me wrong…that’s more than the 4 hour trip that I’m making to west Texas…but if the music on the CD is right and the gasoline card and credit card have enough available balance, I just might keep on those west-bound roads and be sipping a cool drink on the pier in Santa Monica. Tempting!
But I’ve overshot my daydreaming just a bit. I’ve just arrived near the small town of Cisco TX so this is one place I have to make a decision. Do I make that south turn and go on to my dad’s place—or do I set out on a 5-day trip that takes me all the way to California.
I know deep down he would think the trip west was a good idea. He traveled all of those roads for many years and told great stories of traveling across the US during the depression and WWII years working when they could.
I would love nothing more than to sit with him again and hear all those great stories. But a few years ago, his life, well-lived, came to a close. I’ve gone back only a couple of times since then…and maybe that’s enough…to see if everything is still the same in the town’s rock-road cemetery. What do I expect will change about it? I don’t know, but it feels as if I ought to watch over his place like he always watched over me.
…could do anything—and I mean ANYTHING! A carpenter by trade, that didn’t stop him from fixing my dainty jewelry, helping with homework, building a house for us, or making sure that we had enough to survive.Seems it didn’t take as much in those days to get through—something about our greedy desires have increased since the 50s & 60s. What we didn’t know about, we didn’t need.
A town of about 5,500 located in the geographic heart of Texas, Brady had been a place I had looked forward to visiting every summer when I was a little girl. My mother and dad would go for a visit to my Mama’s & Papa’s house there, and I’d get to stay for a couple of weeks.
That was just great—especially when I was the last of the cousins (and the youngest of a dozen) to still think it was cool to be gone for a couple of weeks in the summertime staying with some old people. My Papa grew vegetables and they had chickens. I didn’t like that at all so I’d just stand at the wire and watch my Mama feed the chickens from the pockets of her always-present apron.
My Papa would pick and dig up vegetables and put them on the big picnic table under the tree to ripen. I could already imagine those juicy tomatoes, that warm yellow watermelon, and those snap peas cooked in a big pot with potatoes!
Yes, my grandparents were old, but I didn’t mind because I was alone with them and my thoughts. They had lessons to teach if I would just listen.
The town hasn’t changed too much from those days. The roads are still made of shale rock and unpaved in most of the town. Many of the old houses still look like they did when we would drive slowly (because everything in that town was/is slow) to the town square.
The square, built around an old county courthouse constructed in 1878, never changed. There were maybe 40 stores around that square. As I drive in today, some are still closed up and some have transitioned from a theater to a hardware store, to a boutique, to a coffee shop, to another empty store in a dying commerce of downtown shops.
My destination is just a little off the square northwest on Highway 87 There, in the constantly blowing wind of west Texas, is the old cemetery. My dad’s place is looking sleek and clean—because nothing can stay long under that incessant wind. I tell him how much I love him, think to myself of how hard he worked, how much he liked Country Music & TV, how much he loved me from the time I could remember to those recent few years ago. Many times he rode his white horse (really a brown Ford pickup truck) to save me from a bad decision I had made or a situation that surprisingly turned bad.
I put some yellow roses in the vase near his name with birth and death dates. Then I blow him a kiss and let the wind clear my eyes. The skies look clear out here because the wind just blows the clouds out of those west Texas skies. I look up and I feel the power of God in that wind and I know my daddy is resting in His arms.
I’ll get another cherry coke and start that ride back. It’s less than 4 hours. When I get to the crossroad again, I’ll turn east back into central Texas. El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix and Santa Monica will have to wait for another time.
Driving away from the setting sun with the road humming along and my music set to old country music–the kind my daddy loved. I start to sing along, like my daddy always did. I felt sad but comforted by the trip to my daddy’s place.
In some ways, today I carved out a new journey down this old road. Traveling never looks the same when your purpose changes.
It’s good to know God will help you if you develop a new vision
or if you need to take a new journey
even if it is down an old road.
You are Traveling with Van Hess via New Journeys on Old Roads
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