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Archive for March, 2012

The amount of room Dick and I share on board the Navion, seems downright luxurious and spacious in comparison to the living conditions on Battleship Texas.  We climb up and down the steep, steel ladders to different decks, and explore the ship and its exhibits for an hour or so, learning about the lives of the men who served aboard.  It’s basically a small, floating city, and the logistics of sleeping, eating, showering, etc. in addition to the actual military components are amazing to contemplate.  Despite her peeling paint and obvious need for further restoration, she’s an imposing presence along the Houston Ship Channel with a long and proud history, having participated in both WWI and WWII.

We take the Lynchburg Ferry to the Monument Inn, near the towering San Jacinto Monument,  for dinner two nights in a row.  It’s right on the Houston Ship Channel, so there’s a steady parade of gigantic, international barges, which the ferries have to dodge for the short passage back and forth.  It’s kind of a bizarre industrial landscape, looming storage tanks and blazing oil  refineries along the convuluted shorelines.  It’s a strangely beautiful, otherworldly sight at night, like some infernal science fiction world.  We go back and forth on the ferry so many times, we make friends with one of the guys who works on it,  and bring him a bag of cinnamon rolls from the restaurant on our final “voyage”.

Infinity Pool at San Jacinto Campground

And, finally, our San Jacinto Campground is also on the water, which our infinity pool overlooks.

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Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum

We enjoyed our stay at Coushatta last year, so decided to pull in for a few days to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary with some swimming and lazing by the pool, and a steak dinner at their premiere restaurant.  Scratch that.  Torrential rain, restaurant closed on Mondays. We also decided to just send each other e-cards this year, which in retrospect, seemed a bit paltry.  But, we’re still happily married.  🙂

After a few days of waiting for the rain to stop – and a quick dip in the pool, we leave for new adventures in Texas.  I haven’t been there since I was a 9 year old kid, sitting way back in the tiny storage compartment of the family VW bug, reading,  because I thought the scenery was boring.  Though, I evidently read my way through the Rockies too, my Mom used to remind me.  I’m hoping to be more open to what  Texas has to offer this time around.  We head to Houston via Beaumont, so we can stop at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, near the site of the gigantic Lucas Gusher that ushered in the petroleum age. The resident energy expert onboard remembers being totally fascinated by this whole chapter in energy history when he was a kid.  It certainly introduced a crazy era.  With the discovery that oil could be gotten in this manner, Beaumont was transformed from a village of several hundred to a city of nearly 30,000 in a matter of weeks. Not all savory.  The museum recreates the town with about 15 clapboard building replicas from the oil-boom era, and there’s a life-sized, water-spewing gusher that obliged us by going off while we were eating lunch.

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Here’s a few pictures of film locations.  This blog site is driving me nuts with picture placement so I’m not going to write anything about the charming town of Natchitoches (I practiced saying that before we went to the Visitor Center and found out it’s nothing like what it looks!).  I’ll just try to post a few pics.

The Steel Magnolias House

Ouiser's House

Truvy's Place

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I just jumped into that Graceland  entry previous to this, without announcing that we’ve started a new trip. From the entry before that (Rendez-Vous Des Cajuns), it might look like we were hanging around down south for almost a year, waiting for tornados to pass. In reality , we’re nowhere near that patient.  We traveled  home (sadly, through floods and devastation) to Wisconsin and spent months there, before coming south again. Just want to make sure I don’t confuse Dick and I as we look over this travel diary in our golden years.

The next stop on this Spring 2012 trip, was Little Rock.  We came to see the the Clinton Presidential Library – we’re trying to see all the presidential libraries we can.  The building is huge and impressive, but I’d have to say the museum itself, inside, was a little underwhelming.   It’s the most  expensive Presidential Library built so far (165 million compared to his predecessor, George H.W. Bush at 80 million)  but we found it less engaging and more partisan (in attacking the motives of the opposition) than we expected.  Most of it was arranged in small policy alcoves, with a lot of text and small video  presentations, which could be difficult to see if there were more than a couple of people in the area.  Aside from the introductory film, there was also very little family history  compared to other presidential museums.  I would have liked to have learned more about Clinton’s background, childhood and early life.

We did learn a lot about the historic downtown district by visiting the Historic Arkansas Museum.  Their costumed interpreters were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and shared a lot of interesting local history.  We also refreshed our recollection that a bar was where the booze was kept, behind bars – and that a silver piece could be split into quarters, literally – and then two bits, etc.  And we saw a fascinating Gone with the Wind exhibit – Reel to Real (I wanted to yell to Mom in heaven – Hey!  Here’s the  bonnet Scarlet wore, Rhett’s suits, all kinds of costumes, video screen tests, memorabilia!) contrasted with the reality of what was going on in the south at the time. I guess I’ll always love the movie in spite of  the lamentable characterizations.

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Through our audio headsets, Elvis croons “Welcome to My World” as our little shuttle bus winds its way up the driveway to his mansion. I’m shocked as we pull up to the front door – not by the relatively small size of the house, I was expecting that.  But, where are the lines?  Where are the crowds?!  We basically walk right into Graceland, and after a few minutes of milling about and looking at the first few rooms, the rest of our group has disappeared into another part of the house. The tour is self-guided, so we take our time and basically are alone in every room. Except for the ghosts.  Our audio tour doesn’t pick them up, but the imagination does.

Living Room at Graceland

Graceland Dining Room

Nothing is quite as tacky/kitchy/outlandish as I’ve been led to expect.  Heightened expectations, I suppose.  The kitchen looks so, I don’t know, ordinary? I feel like it could be my grandmother’s, only bigger.

Graceland Kitchen

The TV room in the lower level has a bit more zowie going for it in the color scheme.  Evidently Elvis heard that President LBJ watched three TV sets at a time, so there are three of them here.

TV Room at Graceland

The billiards room across the hall is covered in 400 yards of pleated fabric.  For a windowless room, I actually find it exotically pleasant.

Billiards Room at Graceland

Going up another set of stairs, we encounter the Jungle Room.  It’s probably the most far-out room in the house, with green shag carpeting covering the floor and ceiling, a stone wall waterfall at one end and oversized African motif furniture – lots of animal fur and carved wood. Man-room on overdrive.

Jungle Room at Graceland

We head onto the grounds, where horses still graze, and tour Vernon’s office, the Trophy Building and the Raquetball building.   There is an amazing amount of things to see here – and across the street we’ll go aboard his airplanes, including the Lisa Marie, see a large collection of his automobiles, including the pink Cadillac, view costumes, videos and all kinds of memorabilia.  But, for now, we’ll say goodbye to the king of rock and roll in the Meditation Garden where he’s laid to rest, alongside his parents and grandmother. And remember him as he was in the early videos,  charismatic, irrepressible and exuberant, and clearly one of a kind.

Elvis Presley's Grave, Graceland

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