Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #4
In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration
Saturday, January 19 through Wednesday, January 23, 2013-Kyle, Texas: This is the first of three “must stops” on our annual winter excursions. Kit’s sister, Charlotte and her husband Donald are, like us, California ex-patriots. They relocated to this nice little East Texas town a few miles south of Austin five years ago. And lucky for us they don’t mind if we block their driveway for a few days of dooryard surfing.
Now, don’t tell the rest of the family, but Char is Kit’s absolute favorite sister of them all. And Donald is not bad as well.
The girls spent their days doing sister things…..catching up on each other lives and accusing each other of childhood misdeeds.
Donald introduced me to the wild world of horse betting at the local track…..an interesting experience. There were folks in a large darkened room and it appeared they placed bets based on a variety of strateegery (Hey, it’s a Texas word….just ask Dubya) and basic horse sense (pun intended). Then they all crowded around video screens and whooped and hollered while encouraging their selected horse to win, place or show. The yelling was so loud I bet the gamblers were horse (yea, you guessed it, pun intended). Anyway, Donald, after studying the racing form made a few well placed bets…..and won a whole bunch of money!
If you happen to encounter Charlotte, please do not breathe a word of his huge win…..thanks.
Kit’s sister is an excellent cook, and while we were visiting she created a number of home cooked feasts. One of the most unique and one of my favorites were the California BLT’s.
In addition to the traditional BLT ingredients she added some A and a few O’s topped off by some C! They were incredible!
A local attraction that somehow I overlooked in previous visits is Dick’s Classic Garage. This is indeed a garage…..not a museum. Every car is roadworthy and some even have fuel and oil in case the owner, a local business owner by the name of Dick Burdick, wants to drive them or loan one out for special occasions. The focus of this incredible collection is American cars from the years 1929 through 1959. Unfortunately, some manufactures of the cars in this collection have since gone out of business. Like this beauty…..one of my personal all-time favorite automobiles.
That’s a 1948 Tucker Torpedo, one of only fifty-one built by the Tucker Automobile Company of Chicago, Illinois. The Tucker was way ahead of its time and had a promising future before being run out of business by the “Big Three” and a few crooked politicians. This particular Tucker is number 50, it is totally original and only has ½ mile on the odometer, yep…..one half of a mile. The car was completed by volunteer workers after the factory was closed and then protected as an historical artifact ever since. The value of this one car is in the multi-millions!
Other cars of note in Dick’s garage are a 1930 Duisenberg:
A 1959 Cadillac:
And, much to my delight, there is a vehicle in this world class collection that I actually own, albeit mine is in unrestored condition. This four wheel, caster steered, independent suspended and environmentally conscience mode of early transportation is a 1952 perambulator.
Yep…..got one in my cellar upta home! Ours is pretty rough, but totally original…..a true “barn find” survivor! We purchased the stroller a number of years ago at an estate sale because it reminded me of an old Tucker family story. We were living in San Francisco, California in the early 50’s while my father went to a school on Treasure Island. My mom used to wheel me about the neighborhood in this contraption. Well, one day, as she was coming down a steep hill, the handle broke and the stroller with me aboard careened down the slope with mom in hot pursuit…..still grasping the handle. Not sure what happened next, or actually what has happened since, but this story might explain a lot to folks I have known over the ensuing years.
There was also a unique convertible, a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500, Retractable Hardtop.
The engineering in the retractable top mechanism was so complex and fraught with design flaws that very few were sold.
A 1938 Hudson Terraplane pickup,
A 1939 Auburn Boat-tail Speedster,
And even a 1919 Lone Star:
This car has an unusual pedigree. It was advertised as being built in San Antonio, Texas, but was actually built by a small company in Virginia. The Piedmont Motor Company built generic car bodies and then mounted them on a variety of different rolling chassis. They then “badge engineered” them to represent whatever brand the purchaser wanted. This sole remaining example is badged as a Texas built Lone Star 4-30 but the entire vehicle, including the emblems was manufactured in Virginia. Ah, the stuff one could get away with before the internet!
This place has an incredible collection of rolling American art. Check out their website at http://www.dicksclassicgarage.com/. If ever in southeast Texas, Dick’s Classic Garage is worth a visit.
While I was out goofing off, Kit and Char were enjoying their visit the high tech way.
They would spend hours texting and e-mailing each other and video chatting via Face Time! It was during these times that I would escape, um make that give them some quiet time, and go in search of a diversion. Just a few miles from their home, I happened upon a large recreational sports complex with a nice open area for kite flying. To the west was an unobstructed path for the prevailing winds to provide consistent velocity. Had a great time and even cycled through a few of my seldom used kites! A win-win for all!
As is customary, we treated Donald and Char to a meal out at one of their favorite local steak houses.
The muzzle flash outside the window of this upscale restaurant is from a Colt 45 revolver…..this is Texas after all! Kinda goes with the theme of the Colt 45 Malt Beverages and local beer that was consumed in massive quantities. Well, all except Donald…..that cup in front of him contained coffee…..Donald is an avowed teetotaler. Oh, and don’t ask what that is that Kit is about to consume.
We also know another couple in the area. Well…..actually Rey and Darlene are friends of other friends that we have befriended due to the fact they are so friendly. Rey spends the summer in his home state of Maine, but spends the winter south Texas. They are homeless, having recently sold their place in Kyle, bought a nice large fifth wheel trailer and a nice new GMC pickup and are hitting the road full time!
While visiting Rey and Darlene upta Maine last summer, I mentioned that I was getting our trailer ready for another 4 months on the road and a prime need is a new trailer hitch, since I’d worn mine out. As luck would have it, he had a nearly new heavy duty hitch that he didn’t need and made me a gift of it. This new hitch has been efficiently yanking our trailer around over the past three weeks and works better than the OEM hitch. As a belated thank you, we took them to their favorite Tex-Mex restaurant for food and drink…..a great time was had by all.
Char and Donald’s neighborhood is well laid out for taking walks. As I was out for a morning stroll, I noticed a cactus that had taken root in the crotch of a big old Cedar (pronounced sea-dar) Tree.
Kinda odd, but there it was about 15 feet of the ground and about 300 miles too far to the East!?!?
There was another day that Kit and Char told me to get lost so I decided to enjoy a new activity of mine…..Geocaching! My buddy Randy back home introduced me to the sport a few months ago, and from my very first geocache find I was hooked! For the uninitiated, Geocaching is the art of finding caches hidden in various places around the world by fellow participants who then publish the GPS coordinates. The hides are cataloged online in a massive two million cache database. The hobby is fun, entertaining and addictive. A lot of the caches are cleverly hidden in locations that one would not think to explore unless drawn there by the promise of discovery. It’s a great way to get some exercise in the great outdoors and walkabout with a purpose…..besides it is a heck of a lot of fun. Interested…..check it out at www.geocaching.com!
This particular cache was in a suburban setting and one that I had unknowingly walked by a few times in the past. It was titled J’s House, and when I first started following the GPS App on my Smart Phone, I thought I may be looking for someone named Jay, at his house. As I got to the designated coordinates, I found some yard-art in the form of decorative birdhouses hanging on the public side of a neighborhood backyard fence.
Upon closer examination, I noticed one of the birdhouses featured a plastic Jaybird sitting on a movable perch…..pulling the perch out released a hinged bottom and out came the cache…..pretty clever! After signing the log, and entering the find on geocaching.com, I reset the trapdoor for the next Geocacher to discover. There are also trinkets in most caches that can be traded and/or moved to other caches…..a real enjoyable activity for youngsters as most of these trinkets are toys of some sort.
A point of irony…..as I was walking away from the Geocache, I noticed an actual bird sitting up in a nearby tree.
Having a number of friends that are avid bird watchers and photographers, I’m trying hard to learn the names of some of the more common animals that I may encounter…..I believe this particular bird is called Fred.
Walking quietly toward his perch while snapping photos I tried to get as close as possible before Fred took flight. However, he didn’t budge, just glared at me with an agitated scowl on his face. Finally, Fred squawked, flipped me the human, and flew off. It was only then that I realized he was on babysitting duty as this small nest was just a few feet below him.
Felt kinda bad about the whole thing…..but not as bad as his wife Betty is going to make poor old Fred feel when she returns with the groceries!
Thursday, January 24, 2013: After a very enjoyable visit in Kyle, Texas, it’s once again time to head west. However, having full holding tanks and empty pantry’s we decided to head south and stop by Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, and overnight at their campground.
We were on the road at 1027 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 64 degrees. We jumped on I-35 heading south and just a few miles from Kyle we happened upon a Texas sized convenience store called Buc-ee’s.
Needing fuel and just plain curious, we pulled in. Now, Buc-ee’s is huge…..it features 82,000 square feet of indoor retail space and it has 60 gas pumps on 20 islands.
The fuel is sold at a volume discount so the pumps get a lot of activity. So much so that there is a continuous cycle of gas tankers that rotate through the place every hour or so round the clock! The store’s inventory is typical 7-11 type stuff just a much larger variety and a whole lot more in quantity…..who knew that Pork Rinds came in so many different flavors and sizes!?
Pulling into Fort Sam Houston, we made our way to the sparsely populated campground and set up in a full hook-up spot.
Since it was relatively early in the day, I disconnected the truck from the trailer so we could poke about the base more easily. While Kit explored the Post Exchange and Commissary, I drove about looking for something that might peak my interest. I discovered an area with a lot of military hardware on display…..here you see me standing beside a US Army BAG (Big A** Gun).
There are two nice museums on base and a historic district where many military heroes from the past lived and worked. For example, General Eisenhower was assigned at the post very early in his career and is where he met and married Mamie Dowd. Also Brigadier General Billy Mitchel was posted at the base after being demoted to colonel for disobeying orders.
Fort Sam Houston is a huge training facility and is known as the Home of Army Medicine and the Combat Medic. Since the BRAC decimation of 2005, medical training for all branches of the US Military, as well as many allies, were consolidated here…..a one billion dollar building boom for the local economy.
It is unusual to see so many servicemen and women walking about a single base sporting the many different uniforms of their affiliation.
This place is huge with a population of 27,000 and once through the security gates, looks like any other small town in Texas…..it even has its own school district!
Returning to the Post Exchange complex to retrieve Kit, I noticed this solemn parking spot.
It’s unfortunate that there is a need for such an honor, but it’s nice the base provides the support.
Back in 1976, we traveled across country with our three children in a 1967 Excel Travel Trailer. (More on that trip, and other early Tucker RV Adventures, in an upcoming journal). We stayed at this same Army Post for a few days to enjoy San Antonio, The Alamo, and other interesting sights of the area.
Fort Sam Houston has the largest collection of historic structures of any US Military base…..some 900 sites that are officially recognized as such. One feature on base that we visited 37 years ago was the Quadrangle, the oldest structure on post. It was originally built as a supply depot, but was later used as a prisoner of war camp and at one time housed the Apache war Chief Geronimo and his warriors.
The grounds are enclosed on all four sides by tall stone buildings and entrance is through a single opening called a “Sally Port”. Within the courtyard are a number of resident birds and animals that prance about as if they owned the place……not unlike some military folks I have served with.
Here is General Peacock trying to impress an uninterested local lady.
He was putting on such a show, I captured The General on video…..check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QgmycHc0GA&feature=youtu.be
Well, tomorrow we hitch up and head further west……see you around!
Kit’s Corner: We thoroughly enjoyed staying with Donald and Char in TX. It’s rare that she and I get to spend time together so, fortunately, Billy has his favorite activities to spend time on while Donald is at work. We had a little fun teasing him about his new hobby (as if he needs yet another hobby), calling it Geezer Hide and Seek. However, both she and I actually think it would be fun to try it. One of these days, when I have a little extra time, I will check it out, or accompany him on his search.