Sunday, November 14, 2010

LOCAL COLOUR/COLOR (No astro today)

Back in the saddle again after a gentle motorized waltz around East Texas. We looked for whatever autumn/fall colour there was, nosed around a few Texas towns, and some antique and junk stores, of which the Lone Star State has many thousands.

Autumn colour is trickier to pin down than antique stores. So much depends on unpredictable variables of local climate, timing of cold snaps, how much moisture the summer months offered, etc. Texas isn't known for large expanses of fall colour, but there's opportunity for splashes of it, especially in the lusher eastern section of such a vast state. Texas is, actually, much like a country unto itself, and many of its natives tend to see it as such.

I picked Nacogdoches as being a likely farthest point we'd aim for. It's said to be the oldest town in Texas, sits on the site of a 10,000 year old settlement of the Nacogdoche tribe of Caddo Indians. The route we took is marked on the map below.

Autumn colour wasn't especially prominent on the route, but there were hints that it was about to burst forth during the next day or two in the densely wooded areas all around the East Texas countryside, and in the heavily wooded margins of some very pretty highways. This part of Texas is known for its pine woods, but scattered among them are trees which will "turn".

It was Sunday, so little was open en route by way of distraction. Himself (my husband) drove for 7 hours straight, with one pee stop. We arrived in Nacogdoches just as darkness fell and checked in for two nights at the first motel we encountered.

Exploring the well-preserved old downtown area next day, we had our attention drawn to one of the town's claims to fame, apart from its history(recorded around the town square via informative plaques), and its fine architecture largely designed by German architect and immigrant Diedrich Rulfs. That extra claim to fame involves The Marx Brothers who came to town in 1912 with their (then) singing act to perform at the old Opera House.
The story goes, according to The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia by Glenn Mitchell, that their performance was interrupted by a man who came inside shouting, “Runaway mule!” Most of the audience left the building, apparently thinking a runaway mule would provide better entertainment. When they filed back in, Julius (later known as Groucho) began insulting them, saying “Nacogdoches is full of roaches!” and “The jackass is the flower of Tex-ass!” Instead of becoming angry, audience members laughed. Soon afterward, Julius and his brothers decided to try their hand at comedy instead of singing, at which they had barely managed to scrape together a living. So, in Nacogdoches, Texas their singing act became what is now a legendary comedy act. A historic plaque commemorating the event is posted in the downtown area.

After a second night in Nacogdoches, where we'd enjoyed some perfect glisteningly sunny, but not too hot, weather we were in two minds whether to drive east into Louisiana. There was a very nice "feel" to Nacogdoches. The people we came across in stores and cafes were so sweet, even more friendly and kindly than Oklahomans and other Texans. I liked it a lot - my husband reminded me that we were close there to "the real south", where people truly do have lots of "southern charm". A short hop into Louisiana was a great temptation, but on balance we decided to keep that pleasure for another time.

We moseyed on down 20 miles south of Nacogdoches to take a quick look at Lufkin. Traffic congestion there soon had us heading back north. We got as far as Sulphur Springs, through the Davy Crockett National Forest. Leaf colour was still in early-turning stages there. Onward through small towns called Palestine and Athens (tiny burgs, nothing like their namesakes), to Sulphur Springs.

(Above: the pink granite and red sandstone Hopkins County Court House in Sulphur Springs)

I remember little about Sulphur Springs other than its ornate court house, nice town square, and.... the diner, aptly called The Pitt, where we ate breakfast on Wednesday morning (our car is under the sign). It must be one of the few eating places in the USA where smoking is still allowed. Normally we'd have hightailed it out as soon as the smell of smoke enraged our nostrils. Breakfast was hard to find in Sulphur Springs, however, and a bit of local colour adds to the fun. Our waitress, early 20s, 5 foot nothing and under 100 lbs of pure energy, after only two words from me, with rapid fire delivery demanded:

"Where's your accent from?"


"Ahhh! Do you know Jack Haley? He's from England - I used to work for him "

Somewhat taken aback, and probably still half-asleep I asked, "Who?" (As though I might possibly have known the guy!) Aware that Himself was trying unsuccessfully not to giggle, I managed to splutter, "No, sorry, don't know him", whilst trying not to rudely burst into laughter myself before she whizzed off on her way.

Next overnight stop: Greenville, with some very heavy Interstate traffic, but once in the quiet of "historic downtown" we found a few junk shops and antiques stores. One item I saw there has remained in memory: a framed photograph of the town square during some kind of festival, back in the 1950s, or perhaps early 1960s. A big black and white banner strung across the main street proclaimed "Greenville - The land is all black - The people are all white!" Himself glanced at it and sighed. "We've come a long way since then", he said and moved along. In stage whisper I responded, "Some of you have; others not far enough".

In the motel in Greenville I managed to somehow pull our laptop off a table. On its rapid downward trajectory a corner of it jabbed the un-shoed toes of my left foot, causing some fairly serious pain which was to dog me for the next couple of days. I confirm, though, that no serious harm was done to laptop or toes during the making of this trip.

Thursday, 11 November: Veteran's Day. We left Greenville folk busy adding rows of flags to an already plentiful supply around town. Headed north for a look at the dual city of Sherman-Denison, then decided to carry on westward to Gainesville, leaving our last homeward leg on Friday short enough to allow for some further antiquey stop-offs.

We booked in to a motel just as the sun had set, then went looking for food. It was almost dark. The good people of Gainsville were gathering for a fireworks display in the park, in honor of Veterans' day. (NOTE ~ Fireworks? Really?

In England 11 November is marked by 2 minutes of silence at 11 am, and sombrely dressed dignitaries laying poppy wreaths on Cenotaphs in cities throughout the land to honour the dead of two world wars. Fireworks? No way! They'd remind Brits too much of the real flashes, crashes and destruction of World War 2 with its deadly blitzes on British cities.)

Fireworks though? Very odd. Is it something to do with those lines in the US National anthem "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there"?

Anyway - I digress.

Sections of Gainesville highways and Interstate access routes had been closed off due to the fireworks display, with traffic diverted. On the Interstate through town, always busy anyway, it became well nigh impossible to negotiate a route to reach the town's eateries. It took us more than an hour, and goodness knows how many miles of driving in ever decreasing circles, to reach an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) which lay a very short distance from the motel. Only the fireworks lighting the sky kept us semi-oriented on our laughable but frustrating hour long not-so-merry-go-round. If I never see Gainesville again it'll be soon enough!

Friday's last leg of the trip brought us home via Muenster, a Germanic little town, then tiny St. Jo, and Nocona, once famous for its boot factory. Autumn colour, all the way back from Nacogdoches northward had developed rather nicely in the few days since our journey south. The best of the colour, roadside, happened to be in places where we couldn't safely stop and take photographs, so the gorgeous golds, mustards, oranges and occasional reds we spotted will have to remain undocumented, but in memory.

We arrived home with a goodly pile of used VCR tapes, old photographs for the collection of Himself, some odds and ends for me, and from our last stop, at a Nocona antique/junk store, a well-framed print. This last item, found on the floor in a very grubby state, glass coated with thick dirt and what looked like dried beer splashes. What I could see underneath the dirt intrigued me. I showed it to Himself who said, "That looks like a......." (a name unknown to me). I bought it anyway, for $15. More on this item on Arty Farty Friday.....she wrote, trying one of those annoying cliff-hangery things.

Photos by Himself (apart from the Marx Bros - he's old - but not that old), poppies and firework from Google Image


Wisewebwoman said...

You write of all this so well, my dear.

Just one of these days I'd like to ride in the back of your car and tag along in and out of these antique stores and diners.

I'd be really quiet. Honest.


Kaleymorris said...

Glad you are home safe and sound, although a tad bruised. Sounds like you had a lot of fun in spite of the computer mishap.
I am noticing some color starting to burst out around here. The drive north from Elk Avenue on Country Club Road is usually pretty this time of year.

Fabienne Lopez said...

It seems like you had a nice trip. What I enjoyed most was the waitress question. For some reason, foreigners who live in the US get that question a lot. Each time, Americans seem so surprised that you do not know such and such.
I can't wrap my head around and I do not know who is more surprised: the person who asked if I known so and so, or me that they would think I would know them.

Twilight said...

Fabienne (Astrology Unboxed)~~

LOL! I know! I'd heard/read about this kind of thing, but it was the first time it had actually happened to me - probably because I don't talk a lot or mix with a wide variety of people in the US. ;-)

It is a strange and laughable phenomenon, for which I can find no sensible explanation. ;-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Thank you kindly!
You'd be a very welcome passenger, but we'd not require quietness - we'd need to enjoy that lovely accent I bet you still retain. :-)

Twilight said...

Kaleymorris ~~~ Yes, we had a lovely trip - always enjoy our outings and adventures - already looking forward to the next. :-)

Yes, the color is looking good around here now....even our rather sickly Crepe Myrtle in the back yard has turned this year. That drive on CC Road has been disappointing for the last year or two, but I remember it being lovely the first Fall I was here. We'll go take a peek today.

Vanilla Rose said...

In the UK, we have the fireworks on 5th November (or nearest weekend) and the 2 minute silence seems to have gone from just being on the nearest Sunday to 11/11 (easy date because it is the same in American!) to being on the 11th AND on the nearest Sunday afterwards, in this case 14th.

Twilight said...

Valilla Rose` Hi! ah yes, 5 November, I remember it well. ;-)
Those fireworks represent the attempt to destroy Britain's Houses of Parliament by old Guy Fawkes though, not to "honour" veterans of wars. Still, it's almost as silly celebrating Guy Fawkes as it is celebrating anything about war.
It's la-la land on both sides of the Atlantic I guess.

11/11: (From Wiki)
to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918, as the major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

"Lest we forget". :-)

Twilight said...

Sorry typoed your name VR - should read
Vanilla Rose.

anyjazz said...

This page is coming up in Google for Sulphur Springs Town Square searches.

A good accounting of our travels and adventures.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Thanks. It must be well down the list of thousands though. ;-)

Your photo of the Pitt Grill comes up on Google Image though, via this page.