Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shreveport/Bossier City to Arcadia, Louisiana

Tue, March 22nd - Sun, March 27th

Shreveport and Bossier City are sister cities joined by the Red River.

And they're off! We spent the next four nights at Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana.

We spent the first two afternoons watching the quarter horse races there. They had 10 races each day, about one every 24 minutes.

Down the stretch, heading for the finish line. Each race took between 15 and 20 seconds, hardly giving a person a chance to jump out of their seat to cheer before it's over.

And the winner is..... There were several photo finishes as we watched.

Followed by photos in the winner's circle.

The staging area, getting ready for the next race.

Each horse (and jockey) has a companion horse and rider to keep it calm, while they are led out to the track and paraded around before they are led to the starting gate.

As each race is run, the ambulance follows right behind the horses, in case of any emergencies. After most races, two water trucks came out to wet down the track followed by these four 7730 John Deere tractors to groom the track.

There seems to be a lot of manpower and expense involved in putting on these races. I don't think there were over 50 people there either day to watch. However, the next day when there were no races going on, there was a pretty good crowd inside watching and betting on the races all over the country.

Louisiana State Exhibit Museum has the most marvelous dioramas made out of beeswax by the same man over twenty some years. It is a round building with a courtyard in the center where they used to keep an alligator in the pond.

Sugar cane is grown in the fertile delta lands of the Mississippi. 20% of the nation's sugar supply comes from Lousiana. South central Louisiana is known as the "sugar bowl".

Poultry is big business here. Egg production is so automated the egg is not touched until it reaches the consumer. Beef production has proven to be one of the soundest of all farm activities.

Ounce for ounce Louisiana yams contain more of the food nutrients needed for normal body development than any other root crops in the U.S.
They are first in the nation in production of early spring strawberries. Their citrus crop is small, but high quality.

In 1839 Louisiana became the leading rice state. Crowley is known as the "Rice City of America". And of course, there is the oil, natural gas, salt, shrimp, crawfish, oysters, etc.

This is the Caddo Parish Courthouse in Shreveport with a statue of the Confederate heroes and their flag out front.

In front of the statue, the marker says, "46th Confederate Veteran's Reunion June 9-12, 1936. Louisiana and Shreveport's tribute of honor and respect memorializing the deeds and valor of the men who so gallantly, nobly and conscientiously defended the cause of 1861-65.

Just a couple blocks to the west stands this huge Methodist church dominating the view for many blocks as you come down the street. It was built in 1913 with a building added in 1940, two buildings in 1964, a TV and performing arts center in 1983 and another in 2010. I think it's the hugest church complex I have ever seen besides the vatican. It covers about three city blocks.

Just behind the church complex is the original city cemetery with graves dating back to the 1830s. In 1905 it became the Oakland Cemetery. It is a beautiful old cemetery in very sad condition with leaning and broken headstones, broken and sunken foundations and wrought iron fences with missing and mutilated sections. There are 1,000 Confederate veterans and soldiers buried here, 800 people in an unmarked mass grave who died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1873 and at least six mayors. It was used in the "Mr. Brooks" movie starring Kevin Costner and Dane Cook. From this cemetery on, the old downtown businesses appear to be totally abandoned and the residential area is sadly delapidated. The homes look as if they have been abandoned since the 1940s, but people are still living in them. A very sad and large, poverty stricken area.

Just across the street from the cemetery is the old City Municipal Building. It was here in October 1954 on the Louisiana Hayride Radio Program that Elvis first performed. The announcer said, "Ladies and gentlemen, you've never heard of this young man before, but one day you'll be able to tell your children and grandchildren that you heard musical history made tonight". The statues are Elvis and James Burton, who played guitar with him that night and again toward the end of Elvis' career and with lots of other famous people in between. The building was used as the jail in the movie "Soul Men" starring Samuel Jackson, Bernie Mac & Isaac Hayes. It was the last film made by either Mac or Hayes.

This Scottish Rite Cathedral built in 1917 was used by Oliver Stone as the White House when filming "W" starring Josh Brolin and was also seen in "Mr. Brooks". Filming of "W" took only 46 days. Another similar building across the street was also seen in some movies.

Just a block or two east is this "Once in a Millenium" mural on two sides of the AT & T building. It was painted in 2001 for the new century. I have included a description below for those who are interested.

The Lousiana Boardwalk along the Red River on the Bossier City side is the largest shopping complex in the state. We went to the movie "Lincoln Lawyer" and liked it very much.

But it looked like Paul Blart, the mall cop, was shirking his duties.

This is a view after dark from the boardwalk. There are five riverboat casinos along here. On the Shreveport side is the Walk of Stars under the bridge including Elvis, Kix Brooks, Terry Bradshaw and many more.

At Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino there is $1 million on the wall in this hallway that is 11 feet high and 100 feet long. It is 10,000 $100 bills that were brought in an armored car from Little Rock in 1998. I wonder how much interest it could have earned in the last 13 years?

This picture was taken at the Centenary College where the flowers were blooming profusely. It was established in Jackson in 1825 and moved to Shreveport on 1908.

Saturday we stopped at Gibsland to go thru the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum run by the son of one of the police officers, Ted Hinton, who had been tracking them for 18 months and who was involved in the ambush. He wrote a book called "Ambush" by Ted Hinton that supposedly tells the real, true story. They have a three day Bonnie & Clyde Festival in May. This monument is at the spot where it happened just a few miles south of town.

We stayed at this campground near Arcadia where there is a big flea market one weekend every month, thankfully not while we were there.

It was very nice and peaceful here.

We drove south about 10 miles to hike up Driskill Mt., the tallest mountain in the state. It was midday in the 80s and very humid. But we were able to make it the whole .8 miles to the peak of 535 feet in about 20 minutes.

Our reward was a view of Jordan Mountain.

Have a great day,


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

George Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas

Monday - March 21st
On our last day in Austin John's cousin and her hubby took us to County Line restaurant for Texas BBQ. This cow was right above our booth and started to talk, telling all kinds of corny jokes. A little girl who came over with her Dad to watch seemed pretty skeptical.

On Sunday we left and spent the night at Caldwell in Burleson County. I took this picture in front of the courthouse on the square. Even the stepping stones are made in the shape of the state of Texas!

On Monday we spent the day at the George Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. This was some class art project and, of course, all the little flags have the Texas star on them.

It is a really nice museum in a beautiful setting. To the left of the building in the plaza is the horse sculpture with a likeness of the Berlin Wall in front. The Berlin Wall was 14 feet tall, 105 miles long and stood over 28 years. It was built by the communists to keep the East Germans from escaping to West Germany separating families and friends from each other. It suddenly and unexpectedly came down on Nov. 9, 1989. The sculpture, by Veryl Goodnight, symbolizes the moment of joy with the horses representing freedom of the human spirit, recognizing all who seek freedom from oppression. The graffiti is replicated from actual graffiti on the Wall. At Bush's request there are 15 names of those killed at the wall representing over 900 who were killed trying to escape. The monument weighs 7 tons and took 3 and a half years. A sister casting is on permanent display at the Allied Museum in Berlin.
There is an actual fullsize piece of the wall inside the museum about 4 feet wide.

When you walk inside the lobby, there is a fullsize replica of President Bush skydiving, hanging from the ceiling. He was one of the youngest pilots in WWII and the youngest to be shot down. In their rotating exhibit room they have an exhibit on women's heart health. It includes a celebrity red dress exhibit and these red dresses that belonged to the last 14 First Ladies including Michelle Obama.

John thought he would sit down and have a chat with old man Bush and maybe solve a few of the world's problems. In one of the rooms they had a TV program with Dana Carvey and Mr. and Mrs. Bush, making fun of how people no longer care what he thinks and don't ask for his advice anymore, since "W" became president. George Bush, Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams are supposed to have been the three best prepared to be president, based on their extensive past experiences. I wonder who was the least prepared?

The president received over 5,000 gifts from other countries and heads of state. The Gate of Kuwait was the most special to him. It is made of teak, studded with domed nails and elaborately carved like those once used to provide primary access to the walled homes of leading citzens. It is over 100 years old and framed with plates bearing the names of the American servicemen and women killed during the Gulf War. The inscription quotes an old Kuwaiti proverb, "When a man gives you the key to his home, it means you are the best and most valuable friend to him; when a man gives you the door to his home, it means that you are one of his family." It expresses the gratitude of the Kuwaiti people and honors the Americans who sacrificed their lives for their freedom.

This collection of porcelain dolls of the First Ladies in their inaugural gowns started out as a hobby for Mary Sue Harris of Liberty, Texas when she retired in 1979. Her husband poured the dolls. She painted and dressed them after extensive research into materials, colors, embroidery and beadwork. She enjoyed them for 22 years and gave them a permanent home here.

This beautiful catch and release fishing pond and walking path is behind the museum and classrooms. Engraved on the back side of the building is, "Let future generations understand the burden and blessings of freedom. Let them say we stood where duty required us to stand."
Pres. G. Bush Jan. 1991

This man-made river runs around the lake. The walls are made from rocks sort of baled inside a mesh fence. It is very pretty. If you follow the walkway around the lake and along the river thru the woods, you will come to the Bush's future grave site. Their daughter, Robin, who died of Leukemia at the age of four, is already interred here.

I'm not sure what kind of trees these are, but they were just starting to bud out. Most other trees have been out and blossoming for several weeks already. They said we are just a week or two early for the wildflower blooms, which they say are beautiful all along the highways in Texas.

As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed that the parking lots were numbered. Lot 41 with the four sections nearest to the museum had lots of nice shade trees.

Lot 43 with four sections furthest away and no trees said permit required. We couldn't help but wonder if it was somebody's sense of humor for the 41st and 43rd presidents.

Did you know that Air Force One has anti-aircraft missiles, electronic counter measures (ECMs), things to fire to decoy heat seeking missiles and other classified stuff on board? Every trip is considered a full-scale military operation with the Secret Service, F.B.I. and all five branches of the military involved in the complex logistical plans. It is a Boeing 747 with extensive modifications including medical facilities with fold out operating table, emergency medical supplies and pharmacy. There is a staff doctor on every flight and a full supply of the president's blood type.
That evening we drove on to Crockett, Texas and spent the night at the Walmart parking lot, before moving on toward Louisiana. I have found Texas to be very pretty with lots of hilly, winding roads and lots trees and woodsy areas. It sometimes reminds me of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Austin, Texas Capitol & Downtown

Wed, March 16th & Thur, March 17th

The Austin Capitol is huge, 14 and a half feet taller than the U.S. Capitol, the 7th largest building in the world at the time of it's completion. When it was built Texas had no money, so they traded 3 million acres of land in ten counties in the Texas Panhandle to the Capitol Freehold Land & Investment Company (Farwell brothers) in exchange for their promise to pay for the building of the Capitol estimated at $1.5 million. The land became known as the XIT Ranch, the largest fenced-in ranch in the world. The Capitol was built from 4,000 loads of Sunset Red Texas Granite and 11,000 loads of limestone transported by a specially built railroad and teams of oxen from 47 miles away at Marble Falls with an eventual cost of $3.7 million and completed in 6 years (1888). That is equal to $87.2 million in 2009. The Farwell brothers had planned to sell the land in parcels to farmers and small ranchers. However, land values had fallen dramatically, so they decided to raise cattle. To fence in their ranch they had 240 boxcars of barb wire shipped in to the nearest depot at Ft. Dodge, Ks. plus one boxcar full of staples to fasten the wire to the 100,000 posts that had to be brought in from federal land in N.M. The fence began in the northwest corner of Texas and ran 150 miles without a turn. They ran 150,000 cattle with 100 cowboys on staff. The price
of cattle began to decline just as they were getting started. The Farwell brothers never turned a profit and sold their last cow in 1912. Their descendants were eventually able to sell the land to farmers and small ranchers and the land is now a major producer of many different kinds of crops.
In the center of the rotunda is the Texas star. If you stand exactly in the center of it, you can hear a very loud echo of what you say and no one else can hear it.

The Texas star is everywhere you look, in the dome, on the floors, walls, doors, parking garages, and many homes, yards and businesses. There is a specially made fence around the entire 2.25 acre courtyard just like this front gate just covered with stars.

All the interior doors have these 14 inch engraved hinges with several stars in them. There is just no end to the portraits, sculptures and monuments to their heroes. In the above picture of the rotunda, you can see they have portraits of all their governors and presidents all the way back to the beginning on the first four stories of the building. Each time they have a new one, they rotate them all one to the left to make room for the new one.

There are two star-shaped chandeliers in the House of Representatives. The light bulbs in each point of the star spell out T-E-X-A-S.

This one is the Heroes of the Alamo. On each of the four columns are listed the names of all those that died under each of the leaders, Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and Bonham. There are lots of others, for the firemen, veterans of all the wars, cowboys, pioneers, children, you name, they got it.

We found the caption on this one quite interesting. Died for State Rights Guaranteed Under the Constitution. The people of the South, animated by the Spirit of 1776, to preserve their rights, withdrew from the Federal compact of 1861. The North resorted to coercion; the South against overwhelming numbers, fought until exhausted. During the War, there were 2,257 engagements: in 1,882 of these, at least one regiment took part. Number of men enlisted: Confederate Armies - 600,000, Federal Armies - 2,859,132. Losses from all causes: Confederate - 437,000, Federal - 485,216. On each side it listed the individual confederate states and their stats.

This is one of their newer monuments and lists all the peace officers killed in the line of duty.

There are several cannons on the grounds and the kids were having great fun climbing all over them.
It was like a big park with people sitting on benches having lunch or reading a book or just strolling around enjoying the afternoon.

They have many very old, majestic live oak trees on the grounds. There is some kind of disease going around that gets into their root system and kills them.

Just a few blocks away is the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. He was George W. Bush's lieutenant governor. The museum is very good with the Star of Destiny film in the Texas Spirit Theater and The Story of Texas in the Imax.

I took a picture of the UT Tower, but it didn't turn out. That is where the guy shot a whole bunch of students from the tower a number of years ago. I believe there was a movie made of it, maybe called The Deadly Tower. It was closed for a number of years, but is open to the public again. It was closed this week due to spring break and the huge SXSW Conference in town. This turtle pond was right across the street with red-eared sliders and Texas river cooters, both of which are common in central Texas.

I haven't figured this one out yet. This was also on campus. There must have been at least 50 trees here with hand knit sweaters sewn onto their trunks. The local knitting club having a bit of fun or perhaps an art project or just for fun for Easter?

It was in the 80s as we were walking around downtown. I was getting very warm and felt sorry for the guys and gals hauling people around in their pedi-cabs.

But they were definitely interesting to watch.

I even enjoyed the view when they were at rest.

This is a view of the porta potties and the crowd lining up for a concert about to begin in the park next to Ladybird Lake, named for Ladybird Johnson.

Another sunset view of the Austin skyline. We are heading eastward on Sunday. We have enjoyed our visit here very much. Thank you Connie and Daryl.
Trivia: The Texas State Fair has the largest ferris wheel in North America and claims to have invented corn dogs. 81% of Texans believe in heaven; 98% believe they are already there.