Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day Trip To Galveston, TX

We decided, since we would be in the area,to check out some of the sites.  It was a nice sunny day and we decided on taking a drive to the beach.  The traffic was heavy but it moved along fairly fast and we made the drive in an hour.

 There were a number of brightly painted homes and this one stuck out more than the others.  There was a dummy sitting on a chair 2nd floor balcony.


The fog was so heavy that we couldn't see the end of the pier and in some places heavier than that.  

Pleasure pier

The waves were a little rough today.

The upper floors of the high rise were covered in fog most of the day.

The house below was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine, with whom he had nine children. An attorney and entrepreneur, Gresham came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War. He was a founder of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad, eventually working to bring about the merger of the Santa Fe with the Atchison and Topeka Railroad. He also served in the Texas Legislature.

Nicholas Clayton designed the house. The small lot and oversized house make it an anomaly among similar houses of its period and architectural style. It is Victorian; however, it is more specifically described as Chateausque given the intricate combination of materials, cast iron galleries and complex roof system. Chateausque is a derivative of the French Revival popularized in the latter part of the 19th century by Richard Morris Hunt. Nicholas Clayton, however, expanded on the style by using varicolored and irregularly shaped stone, round Romanesque and depressed Tudor arches with heavily articulated carvings of vegetation, animals, people, and imaginary creatures. Constructed of steel and stone (it survived the Great Storm of 1900 virtually unscathed), the Bishop’s Palace soars three stories over a raised basement level, with steep roofs and long sculptural chimneys. Typical of Clayton, he used a combination of simple geometric forms in bold massing to create an additional dramatic effect. In Galveston’s great period of mansion building – the 1870s, 80s and 90s – Gresham’s commission of Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier architect, resulted in Clayton’s most spectacular residential design and arguably the finest of the “Broadway beauties.”

The interior spaces are grand with exotic materials such as a pair of Sienna marble columns flanking the entrance hall. The first floor rooms have fourteen foot ceilings that are coved and coffered. An octagonal mahogany stairwell is forty feet tall with stained glass on five sides. The stair is lit by a large octagonal skylight. A massive fireplace in the front parlor is made of Santo Domingo mahogany. The house includes abundant stained glass, wood carvings, and decorative plaster ceilings and walls.

Bishop's House

 We drove down to Wharf Street and looked it over.  At the south end of the street were a number of fish & shrimp houses selling fresh seafood.  It would have been a good time to have our cooler and buy some fish and shrimp.

 There were also some deep sea fishing boats tied up to the docks.  I didn't check into the prices for chartering one of the boats.  If we were going to stay in the area for a while it would be fun to go fishing.

Strand Historic District.  
The original plat of Galveston, drawn in the late 1830s, includes Avenue B. The name 'strand' for Ave. B was coined by a German immigrant named Michael William Shaw who opened a jewelry store on the corner of 23rd and Ave. B. Shaw, not liking the name "Ave. B", changed the name of the street on his stationery to "Strand", thinking that the name (named after a street in London) would have higher-class connotations for his jewelry store. He later convinced other owners on the street to change the names they used for the street as well, and the name stuck. (The word strand comes from the Old English word for "shore" or "river bank"; in German, Swedish and Dutch, the word means "beach".)
Strand Historic District

Carriage rides are very popular in Galveston
 There are a number of cruises that leave from Galveston and hit ports in the Caribbean.  The day we were there two ships were at the dock and one was unloading passengers from their cruise.

It was a very foggy day and difficult to see more than 50 or 60 yards out into the ocean.  There were a number of people at the beach enjoy the day and lots of cars driving along the beach near the seawall.

We stopped for lunch at Benno's, a small restaurant and I had a fish poboy while Gerry had the shrimp poboy.   There was more food than we could eat and we left there stuffed and ready for the long drive back to Baytown.  


That was our first trip to Galveston and were impressed by what was there.  It looked like a very busy place and I imagine it is super crowded during the summer.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tampa to Houston in 3 Days

December 20, 2016

Well, our time was up in Florida and we headed out for our next stop around 11am.  We aren't early risers and were only going about 300 miles today.  It was an easy 325 mile drive to the East Bank COE park just north of  Chattahoochee, Fl.  The campground is on Lake Seminole and is one of the better COE parks we've stayed in.  

We missed the turn to get to the campground and had to drive about 5 miles to get to a point where we could turn around.  Then we missed it coming back and drove about a mile out of our way to catch the campground road.  Just a little bump along the way.

Pull through site with a view of the lake.

We would have loved to spend more time at the campground and just hang out for a while, but we were trying to get to Fredericksburg, TX for the Christmas holiday weekend.  It was a get up early and hit the road kind of day for us.

December 21, 2016

See ya Florida.

 It didn't take long to cruise through Mobile Alabama and through the rest of AL.  Traffic was a little heavy but moving along pretty well and we made good time.

 Gerry managed to capture a nice shot of the Battleship Alabama in the Mobile harbor.  We have been past it a couple times but never have stopped to check it out.  Hopefully the next time we are in the area we can make time to see it.

Gerry took advantage of the easy drive to contact a couple campgrounds in Fredericksburg, TX but it didn't work out for us.  Evidently it is a favorite destination for Texans and the campgrounds were full.  We've been there a couple times before and decided to take another route to Tucson.

It was a short drive through Mississippi and we were through there in a flash.  The roads were good and traffic was moving pretty well which made it nice. 

Our destination for the night was the Elks Lodge in Slidell, LA.  We had called ahead and they had a couple sites so we decided to stop there for a night or two.  

Once again we had a little problem with the entrance road to the Lodge.  There were two lanes within 5 ft of each other and a church was at the end of the first lane.  The other lane was rock and very narrow.  I pulled into the rock lane and quickly decided it was the wrong road.  We unhooked the car and Gerry drove to the correct lane and helped me back up a hundred yards or so onto a busy highway.  She had a flashlight and stopped the traffic in both directions.  Did I tell you she is very brave??

We finally arrived at the Lodge and parked the motor home for the night.  There was a small lake there with a bubbling water fall behind the motor home, so it was nice and peaceful.

Since we couldn't get a site in Fredericksburg, we decided to spend two nights at the Elks Lodge.  They have a nice lodge, picnic grounds, pool, campground and very few members so it is only open on the weekend.  It's a shame that the nice facilities aren't used more fully.  We were allowed to wash the salt and dirt off the motor home and car so that was a big bonus.  They were advertising wash and wax for $7.00 a foot in Tampa. 

December 23, 2016

I-12 is the bypass road around New Orleans and it is very heavily traveled.  There had been rain showers the past couple days and there was a lot of standing water along side of the road and in the median strip.  The truck below probably appreciated all the mud since he drove through the cables and down into the ditch.  It must have happened a few minutes before we got there since the traffic hadn't backed up much when we went by him.  I am sure he is facing a huge extraction bill to get out of there.  At least it looked like everyone was uninjured. 

 We had to cross the numerous swamps and lake on the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway.  The freeway is built on pilings and stretches for many miles.  We followed the tanker truck for a long time and he kept going off the main part of the road and driving in the left lane. I was going to pass him but the traffic was heavy and I didn't want to take a chance on him sideswiping us.  Then I thought if he jackknifed the truck we would be stuck there for hours.  He managed to keep it under control and we made it out of there.

 I don't mind steep and high bridges but the one in Lake Charles, LA is a very steep one.  I left a lot of room in front of me and hit the fuel pedal and climbed over the top.  Then it was hit the brakes and slow down on the equally steep downhill side.  We seem to have a lot of these high bridges this trip!

 We entered Texas and noted the mile marker was about 880 across the state on I-10.  Once you get past San Antonio the drive is very boring and has wide open spaces.  Hopefully the weather will hold up and we don't have strong winds to hinder us.

We pulled into the Houston East RV Resort and decided to stay for the weekend since most campgrounds were closing the offices for the holiday weekend.  It turned out to be a good move on our part since about an hour after we setup the motor home, we heard a loud bang and went out side to see if Santa had hit the motor home.  No, it wasn't him but we had a broken leveling jack spring.  Oh Oh!

All the repair shops and places to have the spring replaced were closed until Tuesday morning.  Of course the Tiffin factory was closed also.  This is the third time we've had a problem at a major holiday and Tiffin has been closed each time.  The last time was the July 4, 2015 holiday and we were stuck in Montana for the holiday.  A great Tiffin parts person did go the extra mile and made sure the part was shipped before he left for the day.

 December 25, 2016

We found a local Catholic church and attended the 11am mass.  The priest was a little surprised that there were so many people in attendance and commented on it.  It was a very friendly group of people and we enjoyed the church service.

Later Gerry prepared a nice dinner of ham, candied yams, corn, pumpkin pie and a couple other sides.  We had planned on going to Cracker Barrel, however they we closed for Christmas, the only day of the year they are closed.  As a matter of fact, only the Jack In The Box and Waffle House were the only restaurants open.  We stopped by the Waffle House and there were about 15 people waiting to be seated in the limited seating restaurant.  So, Jack In The Box was the winner for a quick lunch before that dinner.

We scouted out the area for a while and then went back to the motorhome and relaxed in our air conditioned unit.  It was 86 degrees outside with humidity of 90%.  Yuk.  Give me the dry desert anytime.

We had a number of phone calls from our children and others and managed to wear our phone batteries down.  It was nice talking to everyone and hearing about their Christmas celebrations.  

That was our last few days.  The nice part is that we were "home" and it just happened to be in Baytown, TX.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Gerry and I are spending this Christmas in Baytown, TX.  We wound up spending more time in Florida than planned and only made it to the Houston East RV Resort.  It's a nice park with grass, shade trees and long sites and it's nice and warm outside.

We wish all our family and friends a very 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ca' d'Zan - John Ringling Mansion

Cà d'Zan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cà d'Zan, a Mediterranean Revival residence in Sarasota, Florida, was the winter home of the American circus owner, developer and art collector John Ringling and his wife Mable. Lovers of the Venetian aesthetic, the Ringlings chose the site overlooking Sarasota Bay for its vista, which reminded them of the lagoon of their favorite city. The name of the residence is Venetian for House of John.[3] The Ringlings had been renting the residence of Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson on their extensive Shell Beach parcel, and decided to purchase some of the land to build a permanent winter headquarters that would include a residence on the bay and a museum for their extensive art and artifact collection. An art school was planned to abut the museum, but it never was built. Mable's rose garden was the first completed portion of the complex.

Architectural details of the house reflect influences ranging from the Venetian Doge's Palace[5] to the tower of the first Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Items collected by the couple during their international travels were featured in the residence.

The design of the residence was commissioned from New York architect Dwight James Baum in 1924 and it was built by the Sarasota developer, Owen Burns. The work was completed in 1926, as the Florida boom collapsed and the bank failures that would lead to the crash of 1929 began. The original cost to build the home was $1.6 million.[6] Adjusting for inflation, that converts to approximately $21 million in 2013 dollars.

In 1982, the residence was listed as a contributing property to the Caples'-Ringlings' Estates Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.[2] Other contributing properties in the district include the Ellen and Ralph Caples residence, the John and Mable Ringling Museum, the Hester Ringling Lancaster Sandford residence and the Edith and Charles Ringling residence.
The 1998 film Great Expectations, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, had portions filmed at Cà d'Zan, which served as Ms. Dinsmoor's house, Paradiso Perduto.

The residence was restored in 2002 under the direction of Bill Puig. Most details of the original construction and decoration were restored faithfully except some of the interior color schemes.

Rather than duplicate what has been written I picked the explanation what Ca' D'Zan is all about.  We toured the museum and Ca'D'Zan in one afternoon and didn't get to see it all.  The home is very impressive and interesting.

Entrance path to the house

Gerry, me & Larry jr

Larry jr & Jane

Tap Room

 The photo below is from the front of the Art Museum on the property.  It was the meeting place for everyone after checking out the other buildings and gardens.  It was getting close to sunset and the clouds and the color of the building made for an interesting shot.

We had a great time and wished we had arrived sooner to more fully explore the different buildings.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Florida Gulf Coast, Ringling Bros Museum

We settled in at the LazyDays RV Resort and took it easy for the first night.  Friday we drove over to Carolyn & Mann's home in Redington Shores, FL.  They live 34 miles from the campground and it took us over an hour to drive there before rush hour.  We were on Interstates for most of the way and then local streets for about 10 miles or so.  Lots and lots of traffic in the area.

Carolyn gave us the grand tour of their new home and then we sat around catching up on what's been going on since we last saw them.  Later on we went to Conch Republic restaurant along the Gulf shore.  It was quite large and very busy but we were seated quickly.  I ordered a catfish dinner and enjoyed it very much.  Gerry said her coconut shrimp was a better choice but I can't eat shrimp. (Gerry did add that she thinks the coconut shrimp at Kelly Magillis' restaurant in Key West is still the best.) We all enjoyed our meals and sat around chatting until we left before they ran us out.

Mann took us on a ride around the neighborhood to see the beautiful Christmas decorations and then it was time to head back to the campground.  It was a short visit but we never stopped talking and had a good time.

Saturday our son and his family along with friends of theirs drove over from Kissimmee, FL and we joined them in a journey down to Sarasota to see the Ca' d' Zan mansion and the Ringling Bros. museum.  We spent all afternoon there and could easily have stayed longer except they closed the place down.  Since we took so many photos, I will write about the mansion in another post.

We took advantage of this huge mural at the entrance to the museum to get a family photo of Larry Jr., Jane and Grant.  Grant is getting taller and it looks like he may pass Larry Jr who is 6' 3 1/2", very soon.

 The "Big Top" circus traveled by train in the beginning and it was  a huge operation.  They had specially designed rail cars to transport the camels, elephants, hundreds of horses and exotic animals.  The entrance to the Big Top museum area had a very long model train exhibit.

Unloading a wagon from the train

Wide angle shot of the large tent.

Entrance to the big show.

Guess what this is.

 The "Big Tent" had seating for 15,000 patrons and was huge with multiple acts going on at the same time.  It would have been a grand sight to see.  We used to have smaller circus groups stop for a day when we were very young and I remember sneaking into a tent one day.  If they caught you they would make you regret even trying to avoid paying.

Multiple acts going on in the big tent.

Caring and feed some of the hundreds of horses that travel with the circus.

 The band would come into the tent playing music, hence getting on the band wagon.  The one here was over 100 years old and looked to be in great shape.

 We found one of the would be circus clowns trying to drive this little car.  He barely fit in and had trouble getting out of the car. 

 There was an actual high wire on the floor for the kids to walk on.  I think they each made it across once out of multiple tries.

We ran out of time in the museum and had a ticket to tour the Mansion at 4pm so we didn't see all of it.  I would plan on spending a day at least to see the Mansion, Museum and Art building.  It isn't cheap, but it was worth it.

It was very hot and humid walking around the grounds and I was soaking wet.  The gardens were well manicured and taken care of and had benches all over.  I think I sat in every one of them.

History of the Circus Museum

It was thought to be ostentatious for a man of John Ringling’s generation to bring attention to the source of his wealth. As a result, the idea of a Museum celebrating the history of the American Circus was not Ringling’s but A. Everett “Chick” Austin Jr.’s, The Ringlings’ first Director and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Established in 1948, the Ringling Museum of the American Circus was the first to document the rich history of this phenomenally popular entertainment. And because in 1927 John Ringling had made Sarasota the Winter Quarters of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey® Circus, many of the performers moved to the immediate area. As a result of their generosity, the Museum’s collection of wardrobes and circus memorabilia quickly grew.

Today, the Circus Museum is home to the newly restored Wisconsin. Worthy of the man called the “King of the Circus”, the Wisconsin is the railroad car on which John and Mable Ringling traveled across the country looking for feature acts that would keep audiences filling the seats of the big top.
Visitors to the museum will find performers’ wardrobes, performing props, as well as all types of equipment, including beautifully carved parade wagons, sturdy utility wagons, tent poles, massive bail rings that suspended the tent canvas and even a cannon that shot fearless performers across the big top. There is also an incredible wealth of 19th and early 20th century posters and props used by famous performers as well as a large collection of circus history and literature that includes newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816. A must-see in the Museum is the film The Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling, narrated by Hal Holbrook. It features the lives of John and Mable Ringling, the history of Ringling Bros. circus, the building of the Ca' d’Zan and the Museum of Art, as well as John’s influence in the development of Sarasota.

In January of 2006, the Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center opened to house posters, special exhibitions and its centerpiece – the 3,800 square foot Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus combined shows from 1919-1938.
The Tibbals Learning Center also houses The Greatest Show on Earth, a 924-square-foot mural depicting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® show of the 1970s and 80s. Donated by the Feld family and Feld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, this colossal work salutes such feature acts as aerialist Dolly Jacobs, her father, master clown Lou Jacobs, and the celebrated animal presenter Gunther Gebel-Williams.

In 2012, a west wing was added to the Tibbals Learning Center. Here, visitors to these interactive galleries can walk the wire, squeeze into a clown car and have their picture take with a faux tiger.
The 12,000-square-foot second floor houses the Archives that houses one of the country’s most important collections of rare handbills and art prints, circus papers, business records, heralds and photos.

So much of this has been made possible by the generosity of Howard Tibbals and his wife Janice. Tibbals fell in love with the circus as a boy and devoted his life to creating the miniature circus and lending his family name to the Learning Center.