Saturday, October 13, 2012

Austin TX

When we arrived back in Dallas we both had a bad cough; Adele had it for most of the time we were away then coughed and spluttered all over Tom on the journey back…and Tom caught it. So, we decided to take life easy for a few days and recover. When we got back to the hotel where the car was parked we were faced with a soft rear tire, but lucky for us there was a Gas station across the road so we limped over there and got air. Today, we had to purchase two new tires for Bluebug.

Our RV Park in Austin was buzzing with when we arrived – University of Texas and West Virginia were playing and there were flags and banners fluttering for both teams. We watched the first quarter as we were in a sports bar having dinner, both teams looked good, West Virginia won.
We are now in what’s known as the hill country of Texas and yes there are a few hills but these people have never been to San Francisco where the hills are serious. Austin is the political Capitol of Texas and they boast that the Capitol building is the biggest Capitol building outside of Washington. They sure like to boast that everything is bigger in Texas but we haven't noticed, except for the men's hats. We took an official tour of the Capitol; the rotunda has a lone star on the floor mirrored by another lone star on the dome ceiling 683ft above. We were heartened to learn that Texans acknowledge that the Spanish and the French also have a history in Texas. In the Senate Chamber there are two very large paintings “the battle of San Jacinto” and “Santa Anna’s surrender to Houston” by an Irish immigrant Henry Arthur McArdle. McArdle made it his life’s work to research the history and work on the paintings which took him over 25 years to complete. Afterwards, we walked the park in a lovely setting at the top of Congress Road which surrounds the building; bronze statues tell the history of Texas and right in front of the building there are statues acknowledging the Confederate troops; Adele walked around it twice to make sure. Then we walked down 6th Street which is full of Bars; as this was in broad daylight somehow it did not make for a good pub atmosphere. We had a nice Mexican meal on 6th in a restaurant which met our criteria - if it’s busy then the food must be good.

The next day we drove west through the Hill Country to Fredericksburg for lunch. Settled by German immigrants in 1846 it is a cute little town with, as expected, many German names on businesses; we had a delicious German lunch in Bierhaus on the main street. Fredericksburg’s most famous son is WW 11 hero Admiral Nimitz who is memorialized in a museum; the town also has a museum to the war in the Pacific. There are a number of wineries in the area yet it is celebrated as the biggest peach growing area in Texas. The original Germans, mostly professionals and city dwellers, sailed to the Gulf and then had to walk through swamp and forest to get to Fredericksburg as all transport was taken for the Mexican American war. Comanche Indians attacked the immigrants and stole their children. The immigrants persisted and ultimately agreed a peace treaty with the Indians which is confirmed in history as the only peace treaty (with the Indians) that has never broken. Other Texans invited all the Indian Chiefs to peace talks, not allowing them any weapons, then when they could not agree to the their terms the Texans pulled out their guns and shot every one of the Indians.

A Duck tour of Austin occupied our time the following day; a great idea! We had a wonderful guide who had a great sense of humor, starting off by giving each passenger a duck quacking beak, we had fun blowing at everyone and anything. We had the usual tour full of local history, color and information on celebrities. Particular mention was made of O Henry whom we had heard of but had never read any of his work, now we must. A local code is that no building may be taller than the top of the Capitol which is cleverly observed by developers of some very nice modern downtown skyscrapers – the building height is mere inches lower than the very top of the statue on the dome of the Capitol. Another nice feature are the old lighting towers that are in continuous use since the 19th century. Afterwards we had our dinner in the beautiful Driskill Hotel built in 1886 by Colonel Jesse Driskill a cattle baron. The hotel has kept all its character including cut glass doors, stained glass domed ceilings, beaten tin ceiling tiles, and a spectacular staircase. The exterior is Romanesque with a bust of Colonel Driskill above the roof, the story is that he lost the hotel in a game of poker and now his ghost haunts the hotel looking for the fellow who won the hotel. Another ghost story is of a little girl who was bouncing a ball and fell down the stairs and died she now haunts the 2nd floor Ladies powder room and the stairs.
LBJ kept a suite in the Driskill when he was in Congress. Texans are real proud of LBJ as he is the only home grown Texan President of the US; they consider the Bush family as “blow ins“ - we were quite tickled by that. We had hoped to tour the University of Texas but as parking was by permit only we had to settle for a car tour; what can we say is its big, vibrant with lots of students and is a very nice campus. One other thing we’ve noticed in this part of Texas is that almost all buildings are either built of or faced with a local stone, private houses included, the stone is a pink sandstone and makes for very pretty buildings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wedding in Ireland & Birthdays in England

Magnificent Seven...the Horgan siblings

Adding a splash of color

Fiona the newest Mrs Horgan and her flower girl

Hannah's birthday party

Hannah - hooray I'm a teenager!

With our great friends Muriel and Gerry

Molly's celebrating her birthday with her friends 
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back in the USA

As the song goes “we are back in the US of A”! And, as Churchill famously said “two great nations divided by a common language”. Having spent over a month away in Ireland and the UK after having turned on the TV and its advertising it’s interesting to notice some other significant (cultural?) differences: watch out guys…if you encounter Alice (Cialis) you could have a four hour problem; sign up for our meals… eat all you want and lose weight; strap on our nifty electronic device and exercise without moving a muscle; everyone will suffer from high blood pressure yet never get old and, if by chance we do, we will live in a place called Valhalla zoom around in golf carts and have lots of friends. We love it, nothing as good on the other side of the pond where the advertising of pharmaceutical drugs is illegal and most of the advertising is for sunny holidays (vacations). Gas here is Petrol there and Propane is called Gas. Mixed up yet? We do, and of course gas (petrol) in the US is half the price of the UK but you need to convert liters to gallons or you will not enjoy the discount. Here men on TV with facelifts and dyed hair sell real estate in Heaven…why so worried about appearances? The body is not going to Heaven, right? Having been away for a month makes the contradictions and contrast better.

Missed it all and, yes we’re glad to be back in the land of diversity ready to explore the 45th state on our two year Odyssey – the states we’ve missed are Montana, North Dakota and Delaware. We have learned so much on our travels; the history of this amazing country by researching places, visiting big and small towns, battle fields, Churches, Presidential Museums and National Parks and Monuments. Yet we have learned even more about this earth we live on; we have gone up mountains and down into caves, seen all five Great Lakes and thunderous rivers, walked the trails of fur trappers and explorers. We have been to towns where the Native Peoples still live after 2000 years; to the ruins of ancient Native People cities and to the skyscrapers of our modern cities.

This is not the end however and you will see further blogs in the coming weeks.

We intend to settle in a town house in Saint Augustine, FL for the winter and spring of 2013, then in the summer head north in RamblingRover to Delaware, the Cape, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Labrador; then enjoy the Fall Colors as we migrate south again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

West Texas, Odessa, Midland and Abilene

Travel interfered with our travels…and as promised, now that we’re back here’s our blog posting to bring you all up to date to September 3rd.

On August 30th in the continuing blistering heat of 100F (40C) we crossed into Texas looking very much forward to the cooler weather in Ireland and England; although Tom promised all and sundry over there that once we arrived the weather would improve. It did! For the months of July and August Ireland and England had record amounts of rain and cold while the USA had record heat and drought…we know - we endured it.
Immediately one crosses the Texas border there’s a feeling of prosperity. West Texas is booming thanks to the oil industry; there are derricks working all over pumping oil and trucks crisscrossing the roads transporting the oil. Our first stop was in a little town called Midessa, aptly named as it’s located halfway between the towns of Odessa and Midland. This part of Texas is called the Permian Basin and is where most of the oil is found. While there we visited the Permian Oil Museum in Midland, not exactly what one would call exciting but very interesting and educational. The exhibits included numerous photos of the early days of the oil industry, a reconstructed old oil town, an explanation of how oil rigs work, how blow outs happen and how fires are controlled. The museum also had an art gallery with paintings by Tom Lovell which had been commissioned by the museum founders; an interesting collection of formula one race cars showing the evolution of racing cars and how car shapes changed over the years. Outdoor exhibits included a large collection of defunct oil equipment which, as we would have needed an engineer interpreter to explain, we just drove around and had a quick look.

From there we drove to Abilene believe it or not Abilene, Kansas where Eisenhower was raised is called after this town in Texas…the connection being the cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. We just stopped for one night as there is nothing to see in this Abilene. The following day we drove to Dallas but, once again it was too hot to do anything outdoors so we took Adele’s friend Barbara's advice and headed to the Galleria Shopping Center where we parked our car under cover and entered the center on the third floor from where we looked over the balcony to discover an ice rink on the first floor (ground floor), what a surprise! It was over 100F outside and people are ice skating. We bought coffees then sat and watched the skaters including women in burkas skate round on the ice. We think we have seen everything now! The Zamboni cleaned the ice every hour, imagine that job description! We spent the day walking round the shops and checked the ice rink from every level.
Next day we packed for our month long trip which for Adele was not easy as, although she hoped for good weather, expected it not to be good. We moved the RV into storage at the RV Park and headed to an airport hotel for the night where we parked our car for the month…Park/Sleep/Fly is a great service!