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March 20, 2008

The rest of 2008 Texas

P1020593_editedAustin, the Texas capital, is named for Stephen F Austin, who brought the first American settlement to Texas in the early 1880s.

The current capital building was completed in 1888 and is clad in Texas “sunset-red” granite.  It is set on 26 acres of landscaped land and is very impressive.  We took the guided tour and as we were the only ones on it, we had great opportunity to ask all kinds of questions.

Driskill Hotel_edited

At the corner of Brazos & Pecan sits the Driskill Hotel.  Built in 1886 this elegant “grande dame” of city hotels has aged beautifully.  It was the center of power brokering in Austin, at the turn of the century.

We toured the hotel and enjoyed a drink in the lobby bar.  The ceilings are the original pressed tin and the decor is very elegant.


We often try to take a city tour as you get so much local history and colour.  In Austin we went on the Duck Adventure – an amphibious military landing vehicle.  Not only did the narrated tour take us through the historic district, the U of Texas at Austin and around the Capitol, but we also had a cruise on Lake Austin.

We’ve never been on an amphibious vehicle before so it was strange to drive down the boat ramp right into the lake.

The final day we toured the Texas State History Museum. It’s a wonderful sprawling 3 floors of interactive exhibits that show the history of the state, from the earliest inhabitants and explorers right up to the contribution to space travel.

P1020604The owners and staff at campgrounds where we stay, have given us some of the best hints of things to do, sites to see and places to eat.  We took their suggestion for Texas BBQ and stopped in Lockhart on Sunday, March 9th, on our way from Austin to San Antonio.  

Many communities  in the U.S. are built around a center square with the Court House in the middle. Most of these buildings are quite impressive but Lockhart, with a population of  11,000+ took it to unprecedented levels.  It was magnificent!

Unfortunately the properties facing into the square did not live up to the grandeur of the Court but there were two that were picture worthy.


We thought perhaps the “World Finance” was a little overstated.

Oh yes!  The BBQ was fine – a pulled pork sandwich – and the restaurant was doing a bang up business, particularly with the take-out, after church lunch crowd.

IMG_6174This was our second visit (see Journal February 07) to San Antonio and we planned on seeing sites we had missed last time.

Back then we had visited the Riverwalk at night, so this time we spent an afternoon strolling along the waterway and walking through the historical part of town.  There weren’t a lot of people around and away from the river many businesses were not open, but it was a very pleasant time.

In 1718, a Franciscan mission, San Antonio de Valero (later renamed Pueblo del Alamo) was built on the  river. Over the next few years a line of missions were built along the river south of town toIMG_6159_edited populate and preserve Spain’s hold on the region.  By the late 1700’s and early 1800’s the mission era came to an end and the lands were redistributed among their inhabitants.  The Spanish missions helped form the foundation for the city of San Antonio.  Fortunately, the community has worked since the 1920’s to preserve them. 

We took the guided tour of Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.  It was a model of organization and a major social centre.  At its peak around 1768, when this building was being built, there were 350 Indians residing in the 84 two-room apartments built into the mission compound walls.  San Jose mission continues as an active church in the community.

We headed out to the north east, on Thursday March 14th, for the two day trip to Rusk, TX.  Our first night was spent near Brenham and on the advice of a variety store owner, we visited a small Mexican restaurant and had some very excellent food.  You never know what you will find where.

Rusk 002_editedWe needed to be in Rusk on Saturday so that we could take the early morning excursion train on Sunday.  We stayed at the campground right beside the railway yards at the Texas State Railroad State Park. 

This railroad was built  around 1881 by prisoners, to transport iron ore to the smelters at the East Texas State Penitentiary in Rusk. 

Rusk 004_editedWe travelled about 25 miles each way, through the local countryside and had lunch in the park at the halfway point.  The railway cars and engines have been restored and interestingly it was again prisoners who restored the actual rail line.

It was an interesting day and Ross certainly enjoyed his contact with the railway equipment and employees.

Texas and East 082

On Monday, March 17th, we continued our slow road home, travelling to Texarkana, which sits right on the Texas/Arkansas border.  The state line runs through the middle of the Post Office – apparently the only federal building situated in two states. Special legislation by both states created unique legal jurisdictions, applicable only in the building.
Texarkana theater Sometimes, we unexpectedly find absolute architectural gems.  The 1924 Saenger Theatre (now the Perot Theatre) appeared to be closed, but the box office staff (thanks Traci) were great and we were given a private tour of this marvel.  The building has been faithfully restored to its original appearance and is spectacular.  It is the center of the performing arts scene and brings classical music, ballet, jazz and Broadway productions to the region.

After our tour of the theater, we walked the short distance to the Regional Arts Center. It shows National touring art exhibitions and is housed in the renovated 1909 District Courthouse.  That day they were setting up a show about “hats”

Texas and East 091_editedThe next day we toured the “Ace of Clubs House”  which is a 22 sided house that was built with the winnings from a poker game.  It has 3 octagonal wings and one rectangular wing.  Looking down on it forms the distinct shape of a “club”.  Most of the furnishings are original and our guide was very knowledgeable about the house and family.  She had done a lot of her own research so we got excellent information.

Texarkana, which was home to Pulitzer Prize winning composer Scott Joplin, turned out to be a much more interesting stop than we had anticipated.

Arkansas is a state the we had spent little time in,  It was the next state on our way home so seemed the logical way to head.

Bernie & Ross



Posted by Bernice at March 20, 2008 12:29 PM


If only all world finance was so easy! Just slip your money under the door. Loved it. Love trains--envy you the ride you took. Found the "Ace of Clubs House" to be quite interesting. Wonder how much poker money it took to build it. Arkansas--the home of our best president for years--he was here on Mon but we didn't fight the crowds to hear him. Look forward to your next journal. Bette

Posted by: Bette Andrew at April 2, 2008 03:03 PM