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Amarillo TX / Oklahoma City, OK: Day 4: June 18, 2016

Louise Speaks:  We had one last stop in Amarillo, TX before 100_9385continuing east.  As you are traveling on I-40, along the frontage road is one artist interpretation of a “Stoner Patriot Peace Garden of All Faiths.”  Story is that an artist had a statement to make and he asked some close 100_9380friends to help.  It looks like the attraction is meant to convey that no matter what your lifestyle , there’s support and love.  There s a large “peace” symbol from the hippie days and a large cross.  There are benches where you can 100_9382sit and pray or just think.  Random signs are placed throughout the area saying “Support Our Troops”, “POW and MIA” signs, as well as quotes and life date ranges.  All these signs are done in metal.  The garden was very clean with freshly mowed grass and no debris of any kind.  A quirky stop, but one with lots of meaning.  Once again as we were leaving…another car was pulling up to take pictures as well.

100_9388We then proceeded east.  I had a list, by state of all the quirky things to see by city.  Once we crossed into Oklahoma we came to the town of El Reno, home of the Squawk-N-Skoot Chicken...yep you heard me right.  Turns out there a several quirky things to see in El Reno, but there was a street festival going on so many of the streets were closed off.

100_9389El Reno does have a very special place in town honoring those that have served.  It is called “Hero’s Plaza”.  The Plaza is one of those heartfelt memorials to veterans which one finds throughout small town America.  The arched gate in the front  is made of memorial bricks  depicting service men and women from all our major wars starting with the Civil War. The Native American on the piece is in honor of the Code Talkers and the many who fought in the Civil War. The plaza also contains free-standing monuments dedicated to each of America’s wars and conflicts, starting with World War I.  The names of locals lost during each war are inscribed.  Perhaps the saddest are the monuments to current conflicts where you wonder how many names will be added before it is done.

100_9391From El Reno, it was off to Oklahoma City.  Once again this is, OK,  not our first time stopping in OKC, but there are many quirky things we have missed.  The first on are list, is yet another form of art.  It appears that an architectural firm, Fitzsimmons Architects decided to place a piece of his art work out where everyone could see.  One of the architects took the original spiral staircase fire escape from the historic 1909 Marion Hotel and hung it across a street.  The spiral staircase is suspended in mid-air between two buildings, and resembles a DNA strand, hence the name “Architectural DNA”.

100_9392Along with many other famous country singers like Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill is from Oklahoma City.   In front of the high school auditorium, of NW Classen High School where Vince Gill attended school and graduated, stands a 9 1/2 foot tall bronze statue of Vince Gill.  On Oct. 29, 2014 Vince Gill won his 20th Grammy Award.  Sculptor Jack Nortz created the statue along with Vince Gills 1952 Fender Telecaster guitar, to honor his accomplishments.

100_9396Our last stop for Oklahoma City is in front of the Brick town Ballpark.  Mickey Mantle, the famous New York Yankee switch-hitter, really had no connection to Oklahoma City.  But he was from Oklahoma, so he merited a statue outside of the states triple-A minor league ballpark.  The Mickey Mantle larger than life statue is across from the Mickey Mantle Steakhouse and is surrounded by other bronze busts of famous baseball players.

Our plan was to stay overnight here in Oklahoma City, but since my brother, who lives here is out of town, we decided to drive to our next stop of Bartlesville OK. tonight to give us a head start in reaching Thelma’s cousin in Springfield, MO.

So today was a very long day.  446 miles and 5 stops, but stops that took us through down town OKC…good thing it’s Saturday.  We made it to the Riverside RV Resort in Bartlesville while it was still day light, but barely.  So far our 4 day total is 1,398 miles and  26 stops, through 4 states.  There are 21 stops that we had planned to see, but either ran out of time or just couldn’t find them…oh well, I’m sure another trip through these 4 states will be in our future.

So now it’s time to hit the sack, and get ready for another adventurous day tomorrow.

 


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Amarillo, TX. Day 3. June 17, 2016

Louise Speaks:  This trip has been nothing but fun.  We are traveling roads that we have been on before.  Previous times we were trying so hard to do what we could from Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die.”  This time it is just quirky things along the way and things we found from Roadside America.  Some sights are worth the stop, others we just shook our head…but keep in mind this is all about the adventure.

100_9350Before reaching Amarillo, we went through the small town of Vega, TX.  It is on Route 66 so we have been here before.  But on our previous trip we missed the Metal Rooster.  I just wonder sometime how these quirky things even get on a list in the first place.

100_9351We have made it a point to stop and see these “shoe trees” that seem to be popping up all over the country.  However, we knew Texas was going to be different.  So also in Vega, is a “Boot Tree”.  Some little old lady has turned her front yard into a museum, complete with a sign that says “Dot’s Mini Museum”.  What’s even funnier was that we couldn’t find it.  So we asked some man coming out of the post office where was this museum, and he knew exactly where it was.  Now that’s what you call a small town.

100_9355Our first stop once arriving in Amarillo was the Floating Mesa.  This was very difficult to spot, but once we found it we could tell what it was.  We were rather far away so pictures really don’t give it justice.  The Floating Mesa is one of several unusual sculptures in the Amarillo area.  Stanley Marsh intended the illusion of the top of the mesa to be floating.  Certain times of the day when the sky is behind the mountain, there appears to be a section that is a shade of white, making it look like the top of the mountain is floating.  You may have to use your imagination on this one.  Just our luck, the sun hit the mountain perfect, and we saw the mesa float.

100_9361Outside the Harrington Discovery Center are four 66 foot tall steel Helium Time Columns.    Each leg of the sculpture is a time capsule with artifacts, letters, and other items from 1968.  These time capsules were set to be opened 25, 50, 100 and 1000 years after the statue dedication in 1968.  The first capsule was opened in 1993 and the last one will be opened in 2968.

100_9360But wait there’s more.  Attached under the sculpture is a model of a helium atom.  The sculpture is also a sundial, marking the time on the dais that houses the sculpture.

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100_9364In downtown Amarillo in the Civic Plaza is a Giant Granite Sphere.  We were told the sphere isn’t always working, but it’s worth a stop just in case you get lucky.  This sphere is a 1,500 kg of granite marble that floats on a film of 10 pounds per square inch of recycled water.  Because it floats, it can be spun in any direction with very little effort.  The ball weights approximately 3,300 pounds but there are some Kugel Balls that weigh over 10,000 pounds.  We were very fortunate that the ball was floating today and we were able to spin it round and round getting all surfaces wet.

100_9363In front of the Kugel Ball is an interactive fountain that is the source of water to the ball allowing it to spin.  These balls and fountains have been installed in many places as an alternative to traditional water features.  It was very cool to be able to spin the giant granite sphere, and we were so glad that it was working today.

100_9370Not that big of a deal, but cute in a quirky sort of way, was the Castle Inn Hotel.  Just like the name it is a hotel made to look like a castle.  The corner rooms actually had round balconies fit for a princess.  I guess if you want to pretend you’re a princess and sleep in a castle, this would do the trick.  Rooms were only $29.99 a night so not sure how much royalty is on the inside.

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100_9374All along the freeway from Albuquerque to Amarillo you see signs for a free 72 oz steak.  This is an advertisement for the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  They are willing to give you a 72 oz steak for free, IF you can eat the whole thing.  That is 4 1/2 pounds of steak.  The parking lot was so full they have you use vacant lots up and down the street to park.  Out front is a huge steer and there are many displays of cowboys eating  steak, wooden signs with holes cut out so you can stick your head in the hole for a picture and even the Route 66 Ti-Rex dinosaur.

100_9372In the same parking lot is a motel that is painted to look like different shops…each one being a different color.  Inside there is a huge rocking chair as well as a big stuffed bear and many other items.  This would be a great stop for kids, but the wait to eat has got to be hours.  The motel does have one unusual attraction that I had to climb upstairs to get a picture of.  Their swimming pool is in the shape of the state of Texas.  Keep in mind this is the same state that had the waffle iron making waffles in the shape of the state of Texas, and that’s not an easy shape.

Like I said earlier, this trip is going to be filled with more quirky things than things you would want to jump into your car and get to.  But since we are passing through, it gives us a reason to stop, stretch our legs, take some pictures, and it gives me something to blog about.

Our total miles today were 334, making a total of 3 days, 3 states and 952 miles. Tonight we are sleeping in Amarillo anticipating what tomorrow will bring.


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Becker Vineyards, Stonewall, Texas

Louise Speaks:  Just outside of Fredericksburg are many many vineyards.  However, in Patricia’s book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die”  she mentions Becker Vineyards.  This couldn’t have been the best time to tour this vineyard because this weekend is their Grape Stomp.  They have tours going on, there is grape stomping and there is even a “Lucy the Italian Woman Costume Contest”.

100_7643We arrived at the vineyard and things were already hopping.  There was music and dancing and grape stomping and of course wine tasting.  The grape stomping was free. What they had were metal tubs of grapes and you just slip off your shoes and step in the tubs and start stomping.   Now if you want a memory of this event you can buy a T-shirt, go stomp in the tub and as you step out, you step onto your T-shirt so you always have a memory of this event.  So of course we had to participate in this event.  It was awesome.  The grapes squashing between your toes all the way up past your ankles.  They do warn you that grapes do stain so you may have purple feet and ankles for a few weeks to come.  We were willing to take the chance.

100_7644After making our T-shirts, they have you hang the shirts on a line to dry so you are free to do other things.  We were able to walk around the grounds, see the gardens, visit the shops and enjoy the music.  We also took the time to tour the vineyard and find out about this busy place.  The tour took us through the process of picking the grapes, sorting the grapes, making the wine, and shipping it out to distributors.  We were also able to go into the wine cellar which is where they store the wine but also hold small special events like meetings and small weddings or parties.  Upstairs there is a great gift shop where they have scented soaps, candles, and of course a wide variety of wines.

100_7632The owners Richard and Bunny were successful gardeners in their own right.  Richard is still a practicing physician in San Antonio and enjoys his wine.  He has toured many vineyards all over Texas and the USA as well as in Europe.  Bunny has always planted flowers and their home has a huge backyard garden.  So they wanted to find a project where they could combine their two loves.  The Beckers began searching for a log cabin to renovate in order to create a hill country getaway from their home in San Antonio.  The cabin was discovered in Stonewall in 1990 and along with it, 46 acres of raw land, fallow fields of deep sand, and Precambrian granitic soils 1500 feet above sea level.  The site was rich with native Mustang grapes, a time-honored and essential component of the local German Heritage.  In 1992 the first plantings were lovingly placed in the ground by friends and family, including the Becker’s two sons, Will and Joe.  The first harvest  in 1995, laid the foundation for what is now just over a 100,000-case per year winery.

grape-stomping-festival-annual-august-event-21702468After our tour and exploring the grounds it was time for the Lucy Costume Contest.  Thelma and I wore bandannas but we didn’t try to be Lucy and Ethel today although many had.  It was fun to watch everyone participating in these events and what a fun day it was.  I never thought of Texas as wine country but there are winery’s everywhere.  There were tour vans going in and out of every vineyard we passed and the Becker Vineyard today was packed.  There are also fruit orchards all along the highway so fruit wines are very popular.  Fruit stands line the highway as well so we were able to buy fruit, especially peaches, from the local farmers.

This was a very fun day and a great vineyard.  The activities, the staff, and especially the grape stomping made this a great part of our day.  I rate Beckers Vineyard an A.  I will check their website the next time I drive through Texas to see what fun activities they have going on, and I will plan my trip around it.

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Thelma Speaks: