Friday, October 30, 2015

The Other Arlington, the One in Texas

Eons ago the big thrill in my young life was to get to go to Arlington, Texas for dinner, or shopping. A bit later this was the place to go on Friday or Saturday night to see and be seen on the University drag, and even later still it was the location of the first home I owned. While traffic is still a headache, the town has changed, growing larger and enticing businesses, tourist attractions, and sports venues to the central part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to the Smokeys

Grove Park Inn Grounds
Once again a group of us made the trek to Black Mountain, North Carolina for a week of laughs, hugs, creativity, and togetherness (See Mountains of Art for more information about this wonderful area). For the last 21 years a bunch of imaginative people have come together to fashion beaded jewelry. This year wasn’t any different, except that now we are tapping the teaching prowess of the members of our group to generate a variety of pieces.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feed, Seed and Beer to Go

Thurber Smokestack
For years Dave has been visiting Thurber and Mingus to celebrate the beginning of the deer hunting season. What he enjoyed, more than the hunting, was the food that was available. Mingus, with its small downtown not only has a post office, but a convenience store called the Feed, Seed and Beer to Go. The area is full of West Texas whimsy. Thurber is now a tiny unincorporated community in Erath County about 75 miles west of Fort Worth. However, between 1888 and 1921 it was one of the largest producers of bituminous coal in Texas and the largest company town in the state. Thurber’s coal-mining operations began in 1886 and peaked in the 1920s. The mining attracted workers from Italy, Poland and Mexico to this company town that was owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company (through their subsidiary the Texas Pacific Mercantile and Manufacturing Company). This company served the Texas and Pacific Railway to whom it provided fuel until 1920 when the locomotives converted from coal to oil. The other industry booming in Thurber at this time was the production of vitrified paving bricks; these bricks are still in use in Texas and in the southern half of the US. Next door to Thurber is Mingus. Even though it’s smaller than Thurber, it has a post office. Named for William Mingus, it was the location of the 1881 construction of the Texas and Pacific Railway. The community served local farmers and ranchers, as well as a place for truckers and hunters to stop for supplies and/or refreshments.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone

Bears at Elk Antlers Inn
This was really a ‘trip down memory lane’ because we visited many of the same places I had visited as a graduate student then later as an instructor in field ecology. This trip, however, was different because on previous visits we had camped, and cooked our own food. We stayed in some nice places and ate some really remarkable meals. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Towns along the Road

Top L to R: Bridge at Gardiner, 45th Parallel
Bottom L to R: Moon at Gardiner, Elk
Since we could not get a place to stay in Yellowstone National Park for more than two consecutive days at a time, and because we really didn’t want to pack and unpack that frequently, we stayed outside the park in the small town (pop. 875 in 2014) of Gardiner, Montana. For the tiny population, there are an amazing number of very good places to eat dinner, but a dearth of places for breakfast. While we were there, the main road was being re-paved; the rest of the streets in town are gravel. This is a busy place for travelers all year round because of Gardiner’s proximity to hunting and fishing, as well as several areas for camping and hiking and the north entrance to Yellowstone. On our morning and evening travels out of and back into town, we got to see a herd of antelope grazing next to the main drive; one evening the traffic in town was a pair of elk wandering along one of the city streets. The town of Gardiner was founded in 1880, but has been the main entrance to Yellowstone National Park since its creation in 1872. The original arch still stands and a new road will route visitors through this historic gate in another year or two. One of the oldest businesses in town is Parks' Fly Shop, begun in 1953 by Merton Parks,
Laundry Sign
it’s just down the road from one of the newest firms, the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center. And of course, there’s the Fluff and Fold where you can get a shower, wash your clothes, and go online all at the same time. Gardiner was named for Johnson Gardner, a fur trapper who worked in the area in about 1830. He named river and the valley after himself, but a later expedition misspelled the town’s name and that name stuck. J.C. McCartney and H. R. Horr claimed land that eventually became part of Yellowstone, building a rudimentary hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs. In the late 1800s a territorial post office was established, giving an air of respectability to Gardiner and attracting the railroads. Railroad service lasted until about 1948, and work in Gardiner has focused on tourism ever since.

Original North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park