Saturday, December 24, 2016

Whirlygig Mayhem #3

The axeman cometh!  Chop-chop.  This guy is warming himself twice and is eyeing the photinia.


Whirlygig Mayhem #2

Long ago in far away Sweden, a young princess innocently ice fishes while a dashing young hockey player chases the puck, all under the watchful eye of an all-knowing cat...

Whirlygig Mayhem # 1

The first creation.  A duck.  Not just any duck.  A mallard drake, hell bent on escaping winter and seeking warmer climes and maybe a future Mrs. Duck.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 4: Turkey

Ah Turkey.  The country that conjures up images of East meeting West, the silk road, haggling with traders in old world bazaars, quality hash, late night arrests, stolen passports, dark prisons with slop buckets and daily beatings, forgotten for years in a solitary pit...

Ah Turkey.  The tiny little Texas town (pop. 494) in the panhandle, where the prairie meets the plains giving new meaning to flat.  Stand on a phone book and you can see Kansas, maybe even Canada on a clear day.

Our drive to Turkey in July was uneventful.  It was hot of course and the A/C in the Mercury was not at its best unless we kept the speed over 75, so I duly obliged.  Our actual destination was Caprock Canyons State Park, a jewel in the high plains that is not as well known as its cousin Palo Duro, but no less impressive, albeit on a smaller scale.

The nearest town to Caprock Canyon is the lovely named Quitaque ("Kitty Kay") but the nearest accommodations is the Hotel Turkey in... you guessed it.  The Hotel Turkey is wonderful.  It has about 15 rooms and has not changed its decor since 1920.  We were the only guests and when we arrived the place was deserted save for the cook who could not check us in.  He called the owner (a local rancher) who advised us to pick any room we wanted and would settle up later.  So we basically did the Goldilocks thing until we found a bed we liked.  Clearly Turkey still believes in the honor system and a mans word is his bond.
"I remember you well, in the Turkey Hotel"
We dumped our bags and toured the town on foot which took all of five minutes.  The dust storm that had greeted us on the way in had dissipated and the day was giving way from blast furnace heat to regular old stifling oven heat.  We enjoyed an excellent Tex-Mex dinner at Galvan's (was there even another choice of venue?) and walked it off with a stroll about the quiet streets.

View from our room.  The wagon clearly was abandoned in 1894 and has not moved since.

Another view of the Hotel Turkey

Turkey's main claim to fame is that it where Bob Wills spent his formative years and learned to sing and play the fiddle.  Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys popularized a genre of country music called Western Swing in the 1940's and has proved to be hugely influential (not that you would know it based on the crap that comes out of Nashville these days).  His music survives today, primarily through Asleep at the Wheel and it is the type of sound that gets you foot tapping and puts you in a good mood.

Mr. Wills old tour bus is parked in downtown Turkey, unprotected from the elements.  Every April the town has weekend celebrating its favorite son and thousands descend for the music and festivities.
Bob Wills tour bus

Not much else to say about Turkey, TX.  It is tiny, quaint and unchanged since the 1950's.  It is right out of the pages of a Larry McMurtry novel.  We stayed one night and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast at the hotel.  Caprock Canyon was terrific.  I am still a bit uncertain about why there is a canyon in the middle of the prairie but it something to do with the Llano Estacado (staked plains) meeting the high plains, wind erosion, torrential spring rains, etc.  I will have another entry dedicated to the park.

So as expected Turkey, TX has nothing in common with the country thousands of miles to the east. There was not even a street named after Istanbul (or Constantinople).  And here is a little secret, Turkey, TX is named after the bird.  But it is fun to tell people you have been to Turkey and see their quizzical expression when you tell them you drove... and it was hot and desolate and there wasn't any spices or traders.  But the Tex-Mex was great...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 3: Dublin

It is fully my intention when in retirement to write a book about Texas towns that are named after other (and usually better known) parts of the globe.  I have had the idea since we first moved to Texas in 1997 and discovered that Paris, Italy, Athens and Palestine could all be viewed without leaving the Lone Star State.  The plan is to visit the less famous Texas town, take in the sights and pen a summary with maybe a humorous attempt to see how it compares to its better known cousin.

Last spring while en route to Fredericksburg, we spent a few pleasant hours in Dublin, TX.  It is renowned in soda pop circles as being the home to Dublin Dr. Pepper (with real cane sugar!), that is until the muckety-mucks at corporate HQ decided to rescind the bottling rights.  The plant lives on though as Dublin Bottling Works (originally established in 1891), producing such fizzy delights as Sweet Peach, Vanilla Cream and a Black Cherry that is said to bear an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Pepper.

Before we guzzled the soda, we ate a very filling lunch at Granny's Clarks, a low frills, no nonsense greasy spoon.  I can recommend the chicken fried steak without hesitation.

There is not consensus on how Dublin, TX got its name.  Per the oracle of all things Texan, The Texas Almanac,  "It was founded in 1854 by A. H. Dobkins and named in 1860, probably for the warning cry at Indian raids, "Double In," for the capital of Ireland, or for the double-log cabins used by early settlers".

Nothing like choices but the local population of almost four thousand would seem to be leaning towards Ireland based on their St. Patrick's Day festivities and street names: Grafton, Shannon and Shamrock.  Wonder if there is a Comanche and a Mesquite Street in Baile Átha Cliath?

Dublin mural - check out the cattle brands

Bill Kloster, who made Dublin Bottling Works what it is today

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Beautiful October weather can bring out the bravado in us all.  I had long wished to put in a 50 mile ride (a half century in biking parlance) and today seemed as good a day as any to give it a go.  The bike had a recent mini-overhaul, sporting a new chain, bottom bracket and cassette and a new rear tire and was about as road ready as possible.

I left about 10am just as the day was warming up and there was little wind as I started out.  My route took me through Keller, Westlake, Roanoke, Trophy Club and back to Southlake.  The first 40 miles went easy enough and I was averaging over 15 MPH.  The last ten were tough.  The wind from the south had picked up and my legs got very heavy and tight.  The last mile or so was ridden in our neighborhood just so I could make the goal.

Based on how my legs feel now after 50.073 miles, I think I can cross the "Hotter than Hell 100" off my bucket list.  Putting in 100 miles in the July heat in Texas seems like torture.

I am in this for the long haul, 50 today brings me within striking distance of 6,000 - which will be my next cycling update.

There are of course the stories of men from Roscommon cycling to Dublin when the Rossies were in the All Ireland Final in 1943 and 1944.  No mean feat on a High Nellie!

As an aside, the late Robin Williams was an avid cyclist and collector and 87 of his bikes are currently up for auction with the proceeds going to charity.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dennis Byrd, RIP

On Jan 8th 2012, I wrote a review on this blog of Dennis Byrd's inspirational book "Rise and Walk".  This morning I was saddened to hear that Dennis was killed yesterday in a car accident in Oklahoma.  He was only 50.

Per ESPN:  "Byrd, who was driving a 2004 Hummer H2, was struck by a vehicle traveling northbound on Oklahoma Highway 88 that veered into his lane. The other car, a 2000 Ford Explorer, was driven by a 17-year-old Claremore youth.
The 17-year-old driver and a 12-year-old passenger in Byrd's car, both in critical condition, were transported to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa."
His courage and determination to fight back after his horrific on field collision in 1992 put him high on the list of Jets greats and he was admired well beyond football circles.
May he rest in peace and I hope the other two involved in the accident recover from their injuries.
Photo Credit:  Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports