Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day Trip: Fort Chadbourne

Fort Chadbourne had been on my bucket list for quite some time. Now that things had settled down a bit and we had some free time, Donna and I made the short drive to view the old fort earlier this week.

Fort Chadbourne is located along US 277 about halfway between Abilene and San Angelo. It is about 2 miles north of the US 277/Texas 70 split. It's hard to miss because a big spur marks the entrance to this treasure of Texas history, which was established in 1852. I won't bore you with the history of the fort, as I cannot relate it's history better than the website does. For more history, go to http://www.fortchadbourne.org/index.html.

Drive through the spur to get to the fort
Upon entering the Visitor Center, we were greeted by Ann Pate, a walking encyclopedia of the fort. And well-versed she should be as she is the author of Fort Chadbourne: A Military Post, A Family Heritage. She promptly escorted us into the Visitor Center Theater where we watched the Emmy award winning film The Lost Fort narrated by Barry Corbin. The film is well-done and helps bring Fort Chadbourne to life for the remainder of the tour.

Seating options for the theater.
After exiting the theater, we toured the exhibits in the Visitor Center. Many of the items were actually found on the grounds of the post, but many were also donated to the Fort Chadbourne Foundation. It is worth noting that the fort is a labor of love. No government funds have been used to restore the old post; instead, private donations and volunteer labor are responsible for all restoration work. Even entrance to the post is free, but a donation of $8 per person is suggested.

The exhibit area is dominated by an antique firearm display. If you like guns, this is the place for you. But there are other items of interest as well. The refurnished bar is a thing of beauty and should not be missed.

We then left the Visitor Center and Ms. Pate drove us around the post compound, stopping at the various buildings, including the unrestored hospital ruins, restored officer's quarters, restored double officer's quarters, and the Butterfield Stage Station, the only restored such stage station in Texas.

Ruins of the post hospital

Restored officer's quarters contains 2 rooms. Walls in the front room are covered in graffiti, mostly from soldiers stationed there during the 1850s and 1860s.

The double officer's quarters contain living space on either side of the dog run. Each living area contains 2 rooms.

In addition to being used as a root cellar by both the military and the private owners of the ranch, this building also served as a post office for several years. It is located directly behind the double officer's quarters.

The Butterfield Stage Station contains numerous items, such as buggies and this old three-seat stagecoach.

Enlisted men's barracks. The barracks on the left (west) have been left as found as a point of comparison for the restored barracks on the right (east). The roof of the Visitor Center is visible in the left background.
I snapped numerous other pictures on our trip, including several of the interiors of the officer's quarters as well as various pictures of the displays in the Visitor Center. However, the Fort Chadbourne website is quite well done, and it's pictures are far superior to mine, so I encourage you to visit their spot on the web. I especially like the "before and after" pictures of the post buildings. You can also visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fort-Chadbourne/160155930664620?fref=ts.

If you find yourself in this part of West Texas during your travels, stop in and visit the past for a couple of hours.








Monday, August 18, 2014

Monsters, Inc.

In 2001, a computer-animated movie appeared entitled Monsters, Inc. Well, I've just survived my own Monsters, Inc. in the way of grandsons Xander, Camden, and Jensen.

I joke with the boys and their mother a lot about being monsters. Actually, Xander is a well-behaved, well-meaning young man, and he is rather easy to get along with. He is very easy going and is always ready to help with his little brothers. Baby Jensen, the new born, spends most of his time sleeping. He is a sweetie at this time. But Camden, aka The Sheriff, aka King Camden, is another story. He is a handful. I call him Grandpa's revenge, for he is the one of the three boys who will give his mother exactly what she deserves for all the gray hairs she put on my head.

Little Camden is all boy, and he expects to have his way. He is into everything, and he is loud. If you don't pay attention to him, he gets louder. He carries a lot of war wounds, too, from diving off couches, sliding down rockers, and so on. 

The boys and their mother arrived Tuesday and left yesterday (Sunday). That's 6 days and 5 nights of nothing but boys, boys, boys. I reckon it will take the old woman and me a few days to recover. To be honest, I really don't do much, just sort of referee things and try to corral Camden from time to time. Donna carries most of the load, but she likes her role of grandma.

We had a difficult time getting Camden to settle down each night. Putting him with big brother was a big help.

We celebrated Xander's 12th birthday while he was with us. The lad is almost a nasty old teenager.

Camden found a basket and claimed it for his own. I'm surprised he could get that fat lower lip in that basket.
Monsters, Inc., otherwise known as the Trio of Doom.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So Sad . . . So Very, Very Sad

I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Robin Williams yesterday.

First off, let me say that I was NOT Robin Williams' greatest fan -- I must admit that there are other numerous other entertainers I favor. But I liked Mr. Williams a great deal, especially in his dramatic movies, such as Good Morning, Vietnam, The Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting. I was really a bigger fan of Jonathan Winters, from whom I would guess Mr. Williams learned a great deal of his improvisational techniques.

At this time, all indications are that Mr. Williams took his own life. That is what affects me the most. On the outside, he seemed so upbeat and so carefree. Of course, his numerous battles with depression, alcohol, and drugs are well-documented, but he masterfully hid the darker side of his life from his public.

It is difficult for me to understand how life can be so unbearable that one resorts to suicide. I wake up each day, happy to be alive, and I look forward to an even better tomorrow. I cannot imagine what it must be like to feel that life is so terrible, and that tomorrow will be even worse -- so bad, in fact, that you must kill yourself. It is especially depressing when that person is young. And the pain that loved ones endure following such acts must be great.

Mr. Williams was no longer young, but he still had many years ahead of him, and his talent was immeasurable. He was so quick and witty and clever, that anytime you saw him, you expected something special to happen. How much of his acting -- even in scripted roles -- was actually improvised on the spot?




Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Family Wedding

Ahh, back home. There really is no place like home.

Donna and I just returned from a trip to East Texas. One of Donna's nephews was getting married, and she wanted to attend. It was a lovely service, and we had the opportunity to visit with Donna's family, some of whom we had not seen in years.

It's funny to watch the progression of a family over the years. When Donna and I married way back in 1977, we were so young, like the young couple we watched take their vows yesterday. Over the years, we've grown from the youngsters, to the middle-aged folks, and finally to the grandparent stage. At the wedding yesterday, our generation -- Donna and I and her siblings -- was the old guard. We sat with a niece and her high-school aged son. Another niece had a daughter serving as a bride's maid in the ceremony. A gathering like this really makes you reflect on the passage of time.

Before going to the wedding, we made a side-trip through Shreveport and Bossier City for a little gaming. Lady Luck wasn't with us this time, but we didn't lose everything. At least our room and meals were comped, so we came out feeling as though we got our money's worth.

We took a leisurely drive through deep East Texas from Shreveport to Conroe (site of the wedding). That part of the country has really had good rain, it seems. Everything was so lush and green, and tanks and lakes looked healthy. We took a route new to us and were able to see places we are not that familiar with, like San Augustine and Woodville. We found a nice little city RV park in San Augustine we put on our list should we ever RV again (Mission Delores Visitor Center and RV Park). We crossed Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Broaddus. What a beautiful lake that is! Just west of Woodville, we detoured off the road for a short side trip through the Alabama-Coushatta Indian reservation there.

At Livingston, we met Donna's half-sister and her husband for lunch. This is the second time we have eaten at Pueblo Viejo just west of Livingston, and I've really enjoyed my meal both times. It was good to see Anita and Keith and spend a little time with them.

From Livingston, we traveled west on US 190, crossing Lake Livingston, another beautiful East Texas lake. The area has really built up since the last time we crossed this part of the lake nearly 40 years ago. It's now a pretty busy area.

After the wedding, there was food and a bit of dancing. After the young couple had cut their cake and danced their first dance, Donna and I slipped away. Although we had originally planned to spend a second night in Conroe, we decided to return home yesterday. It was a long drive, but we arrived home last night and slept in our own bed. It was so nice to wake up in our home this morning.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good Eats: 3 Parrots Taco Shop, San Angelo, Texas

This afternoon was our third time to try 3 Parrots Taco Shop, which describes itself as part of the "Baja taco market." According to the website, the restaurant is built around a ""surf/beach theme environment with great art and music to instill the ideas of summer year round." Currently there are locations only in San Angelo and Benbrook.

On our first two trips to 3 Parrots, we really weren't impressed. The food was decent enough, but there was nothing there that left us craving to return. I believe I had enchiladas once, and perhaps fajitas the other time. I don't recall what Donna had.

This time, however, I really enjoyed my meal. We had a coupon to buy a Baja Taco Platter (see menu) and get a second free. It's hard for 2 cheapskates like us to pass up such a deal. Also, since the Baja Taco Platter was the lunch special on our visit, it was even cheaper. With our 2 drinks, we ended up only spending $8.96 for our meals.

Each plate came with 2 tacos and 2 sides. Both of us got one taco with grilled shrimp. For her second taco, Donna got chipotle chicken while I ordered smoked brisket. My favorite of the two was the grilled shrimp. The flavor of the shrimp blended beautifully with the mixed cheese and cilantro. The brisket was also good, but not as good as the shrimp.

For my sides, I ordered Baja chile and grilled potatoes while Donna also had the potatoes along with rice. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to chile; that means, I want my chile to have good quality meat and NO BEANS. If you insist on putting beans, tofu, and other things in chile, that is fine; I just ask that you change the name, as 3 Parrots has done. The Baja chile served at 3 Parrots has ground meat, beans, and I believe there was some ham in there. It had a very strong chile powder taste which I enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed it -- not as much as authentic, traditional chile mind you, but I'd certainly order it again.

All in all, I enjoyed my meal and I'd like to try more of their tacos, such as the tempura shrimp. I'm certainly glad we gave this place another try.