Sunday, February 24, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0043 – Luckenbach, Texas

Unless you are a Country & Western music fan, Luckenbach, Texas probably doesn’t mean much to you.

Luckenbach’s association with country music began in the summer of 1973 when Jerry Jeff Walker (backed by the Lost Gonzo Band) recorded a live album called Viva Terlingua at the Luckenbach Dancehall. Four years later Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson memorialized Luckenbach with the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).” Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock later did the Jennings/Nelson song as a duet and the song was also recorded by Christian Kane.

On August 23, 2009, the Guinness Book of World Record was broken at Luckenbach for the most guitar pickers to play at one time. The official count was 1,868.

Luckenbach now hosts a wide range of visitors and musicians each weekend. If you decided to visit Luckenbach, be certain to have a good map or a GPS unit because the signs leading to the town are often stolen as souvenirs.




Friday, February 15, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0042 – Nimitz Hotel & George H.W. Bush Gallery, Fredericksburg, Texas

Some say it looks like a steamboat, others say it looks like an aircraft carrier; in any event, the old Nimitz hotel certainly has an unusual facade. This is Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s hometown and the location of three very interesting museums.

The old Nimitz Hotel is now the Admiral Nimitz Museum, dedicated to telling the life story of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded more than 2 million men and women in the Pacific area during the height of World War II.

The George H.W. Bush Gallery is the next building and it focuses on the entire story of WWII in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war. The displays in this museum use a lot of high-tech multimedia and interactive exhibits to explain the chain of events as they occurred. You could spend all day in this museum.

The Pacific Combat Zone is kind of a guy thing, but interesting for everyone. This museum is available by guided tour only and houses a TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber and a restored PT Boat (PT 309). President George H Bush flew 58 missions in an Avenger and a little known fact is that Paul Newman (the movie actor) was an Avenger radio operator (he didn’t ever fly in the same plane with George Bush). Although we were there at the wrong time of year to see a beach landing reenactment, just to tour the Hollywood-type battleground was interesting. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see all three museums in any detail if you only have one day to spend in Fredericksburg! Maybe this will be a do-again.
Old Nimitz Hotel
George H.W. Bush Gallery
Pacific Combat Zone Facility
TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber
PT Boat 309
Reenactment Area

Saturday, February 9, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0041 – The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

No trip to Texas would be complete without a trip to The Alamo in San Antonio.

Although most people think of “The Alamo” as the old Mission church building, "The Alamo" is actually a complex of buildings courtyards, and gardens that was a self-sustaining community in 1836.

Construction on Mission San Antonio de Valero began in 1724 to house missionaries and their converts, but ended up playing an important role in the Texas Revolution. On February 23, 1836, General Travis, Jim Bowie, Davie Crockett, and about 200 other volunteers were at The Alamo when Antonio de Padua Maria Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (aka Santa Anna) showed up with about 5,000 troops to chase the rebels out of Mexico. For thirteen days the rebels held The Alamo, then on March 6 the Mexican soldiers captured the compound.

However, the thirteen days that it took Santa Anna to capture The Alamo gave General Sam Houston and the Texas Forces time to regroup and on April 21 (46 days later) Santa Anna was defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto and was captured hiding in a marsh wearing a dragoon private’s uniform.

In exchange for his life, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco acknowledging “the full, entire, and perfect Independence of the Re[public of Texas;” but back in Mexico City, a new government declared that Santa Anna was no longer president and that the treaty with Texas was null and void.

After some time in exile in the United States, and after meeting with U.S. President Andrew Jackson in 1837, Santa Anna was allowed to return to Mexico to retire to his hacienda in Veracruz. However, that didn’t last long and Santa Anna soon regained his status of General to fight the French Army, and then went on to become president of Mexico for 5th time.

However, as in the past, the presidency did not last long and once again Santa Anna was exiled to the United States. While living in Staten Island, New York, in 1869 Santa Anna was trying to raise money for an army to return and take over Mexico City, so he started importing chicle. With the help of his secretary, Thomas Adams, they wanted to replace the rubber in carriage tires with chicle, but it was an unsuccessful venture and did not ever work.

While working as secretary, Thomas Adams noted that Santa Anna always chewed chicle; so he decided to add some sugar to the chicle and market the product as “Chiclets Chewing Gum.” Thomas Adams is now known as the founder of the chewing gum industry. He eventually joined with well-known chewing gum maker William Wrigley, Jr. to market his product, which is still sold in stores today. So, every time we purchase a pack of chewing gum, we can thank Santa Anna!  

After touring The Alamo, we strolled along the River Walk and had lunch at, of course, a Mexican restaurant.
The Alamo Mission Building
Alamo Exterior Wall
Alamo Exterior Wall
Alamo Courtyard
Canon Used in Alamo Battle With Santa Anna
San Antonio River Walk
San Antonio River Walk
River Walk Canal

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0040 – The Salt Lick BBQ, Hayes County, Texas

After traveling all around the Johnson City area in Texas, we were hungry; so we asked a local cowboy for a recommendation on a good place to eat. Without even pausing, he said: “Salt Lick’s only place to eat in Texas.” We looked at a map and The Salt Lick didn’t appear to be too far from Johnson City, so we decided to take his advice.

After driving for about an hour we still hadn’t found The Salt Lick, so we decided to break the masculine rule and ask someone for directions.

Fortunately, the next cowboy we found was also very helpful. When asked how to find The Sale Lick, he whipped out his GPS, gave us specific directions, and explained that we still had about 20 mile to go. I told him that I was surprised at the distance because it didn’t look that far on the map. He chuckled and said: “Son, ya gatta realize that Rand McNally feller must be from New York City because in his book he puts Rhode Island on one full page and Texas only gets two pages. Why, we have counties in Texas that are larger than the entire state of Rhode Island! Those eastern folks just don’t realize that I can get in my pickup in the morning, drive all day, and still be in Texas.” I knew exactly what he was talking about because I also owned a pickup like that once.

When we arrived at The Salt Lick, we were surprised to find police directing traffic and tour buses lined up to find a place to park. We were tempted to leave because we thought it would take hours to get anything to eat, but then we considered the fact that the next restaurant was in Austin, so we decided to get in line and take our chances.

The receptionist at the main entrance gave us an electronic numbering device and much to our surprise, within about 15 minutes our number came up. We were assigned to Building B, which was a long dining hall that was packed with people sitting at wooden picnic tables. We were seated in an enclosed patio at the far end of the building.

I decided to try the short ribs, which were excellent, the beans were good, but I can’t say too much for the coleslaw and potato salad. It was really cold that night, so after dinner we didn’t walk around the complex or listen to the live country band that was playing in the courtyard.  Anyway, we can now say that we experienced The Salt Lick!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0039 – Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch, Blanco County, Texas

As we were driving east on Highway 290 just outside of Johnson City, I couldn’t help but notice a strange looking bull by the side of the road. At first I thought it was just a stray animal from the LBJ Ranch, but upon further investigation it turned out to be a sculpture made from scrap automotive parts. (I think I recognized a bumper that was similar to one that I had on one of my old pickups.) A sign indicated that the bull was from the Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch, which was open to the public and located about five miles down a small side road. Time for a RonnieAdventure!

The small, narrow road followed the Texas Hill Country topography as we traveled up and down and around a lot of hills at maximum speed of about 35 mph, eventually arriving at a gate with a visitor’s welcome sign. As we traveled to the galleries, both sides of the entry road were lined with works of art by various artist.

Arriving at the galleries, we were amazed to find such a nice facility, and an internationally known artist, located in this remote part of Texas (Johnson City has a population of 1,191 people). The people at the gallery were very friendly and invited us to come in for a tour.

We found that the Benini facilities included a 14,000 square foot studio building with a fine arts library and exhibit galleries featuring 40 years of Benini’s and other artists’ works. Also available is a driving tour of the ranch with sculptures located along the roads. The driving area of the ranch is a place for national and international artists to exhibit large-scale, contemporary sculptures. Many of the sculptures are for sale and a price list is available at the gallery.

As an added bonus, while we were driving around the ranch, we saw a Texas Armadillo walking across the road and a beautiful sunset on the way back to Johnson City.