Friday, September 29, 2017

The Alamo: most sacred ground in Texas


The Alamo
There is no more sacred ground in Texas than the site of an early Spanish mission, Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as The Alamo. Texans today consider it a shrine. It is an icon for the Lone Star state.

 The mission might have ended its days in peaceful obscurity except for a bloody battle that took place there in 1836 during the Texas Revolution for independence from Mexico. It was the turning point in the revolution. While the Texans may have lost the battle of the Alamo, a few months later they won their war for independence.

 Located in what today is the heart of San Antonio and surrounded by modern skyscrapers, the Alamo was built by the Franciscans in 1718. It was a combination of mission, hospital and fortress on the banks of the San Antonio River.  

A tour guide points out bullet holess
The battle for the Alamo began on February 23, 1836, when Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna amassed 6,000 troops outside the mission. With Texas defenders numbering only around 200, the conclusion was foregone from the start. Still, the Texans held on for 13 days before being overrun and massacred by the Mexican Army.

 Mexican troops had been stationed at the mission since the early 1800s, but were routed from their post by Texans in December 1835. Getting the mission back was revenge for them. 
Davy Crockett
National Archives photo

Among the Texas dead were William Travis, fort commander; Jim Bowie, 40, frontiersman and inventor of the famous Bowie knife, and Davy Crockett, 49, former Congressman and famed frontiersman. You can read about how the trio ended up in Texas, far room their homes, in Three Roads to The Alamo by  William C. Davis. A list of the defenders who died during the battle can be found on the Alamo's official wesite.

 If you visit the Alamo today, you’d be hard pressed to imagine the bloody conflict that took place there. The setting is an oasis filled with lush vegetation and a slow moving canal filled with vibrant orange fish. Since Texans consider the Alamo a shrine, visitors are cautioned to dress and behave respectfully while they’re on the grounds.

 The Alamo is open daily, except for Christmas Day, at 300 Alamo Plaza. Admission is free.

 More photos of the Alamo can be found on my YouTube slideshow, Remember the Alamo!.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stunnning chapel in Arizona's stunning red rock country



It’s not often a church is a city’s major tourist attraction. A few that come to mind are St. Peter’s in Rome, Westminster Abbey in London and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  You probably wouldn’t put a tiny church in Sedona, Arizona, on the list.



Side view of the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Yet the Chapel of the Holy Cross is the most visited and photographed place in Sedona, an upscale community in north central Arizona. Sedona is very scenic, surrounded by gorgeous red rock where off-road vehicle tours of the area are popular.




The view from the altar
It is this very setting, however, that makes the chapel so spectacular.  It is built on red rocks with more red rocks and brilliant blue skies as a backdrop.



The chapel is stunningly simple; there is elegance in its demeanor. It is a place that brings peace to the soul. This is just what its founder, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, intended.



A student of the visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, she designed the chapel to be inspirational in memory of her mother.  She paid for the chapel herself. It is now administered by the Catholic church, but is considered to be non-denominational, inviting all faiths to pray here.



A small shrine along the walkway

The design was ahead of its time, featuring a large cross that spans the width and  of the small chapel andlenghtwise extends down to the red rock below.. Plain glass windows behind the cross allow worshippers to look to the heavens for inspiration. The chapel’s interior has no Stations of the Cross found in Catholic churches, but rather four colored panels – two on each wall. Simple benches provide seating.



Parking and walkway to the chapel
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is located at 780 Chapel Road; take the Chapel Road exit off Highway 179 to the end. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. A few handicapped parking spaces are available at the entrance ramp, but otherwise you’ll have to park alongside the road and walk up the hill.  The walkway to the chapel is another uphill climb, but it’s paved and is wheelchair accessible. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

Sab Antonio River Walk: a Texas oasis


Like any big city, San Antonio, Texas, is a bustling place, filled with tall buildings and heavily trafficked streets.

Escaping this busy concrete jungle is easier than you might then.  Why drive miles out into the country when you can find an oasis in downtown San Antonio? Just head for River Walk.

River Walk is a series of waterways that runs several miles through San Antonio’s city center. It is second only to the Alamo in the hierarchy of the city’s top tourist attractions. As well it should be.

Wide sidewalks line both sides of the canal. There is lush greenery everywhere, plus fountains and islands used by tour boats to reverse their course. This isn’t Venice, but it’s easy to imagine a gondolier singing "Santa Lucia” as he glides his craft through the water.

Also lining the canal’s banks are shops, galleries, restaurants and bars, and major hotels. River Walk is indeed a world class entertainment center.

There are several public staircases linking the street to River Walk. You can also access it, as we did, from the lobby of a hotel. On-street parking can be difficult to find at times, so you may want to use a hotel’s parking lot.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Desert plants shine in West Texas garden


Desert garden at Langtry, Texas

Whether  you have a green thumb or are just need a break from driving through West Texas, a stop at the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center at Langtry might be just what you need. 

The center is home to the original saloon/courtroom where the judge dispensed both booze and justice. The building stands in an oasis of more than 100 plants native to the Desert Southwest.  

This xeriscape garden features a variety of cacti, from yucca to prickly pear to ocotillo, as well as dozens of trees and shrubs.  The garden is particularly pretty when the cacti and other plants are in bloom. Plants are labeled, so they’ easily identifiable. The visitor center also has a brochure with a detailed listing of the garden’s offerings.

There’s a wide paved walkway leading though the garden. It only takes a few minutes to walk, plus the trail is wheelchair accessible.

The garden is available during visitor center open hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial through Labor days, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year.


If you want to see more pictures of Cactus of the Desert Southwest, check out my YouTube slideshow.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Meet the Old West at Wickenburg, Arizona


A "prospector" roams Wickenburg's main street.


Wiclenburg, Arizona, is a pretty town, with old buildings that tell the story of its historic past. It’s located on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, along the Hassayampa River. 

It was founded in 1863 by Henry Wickenburg, a German immigrant who was prospecting for gold, though fur trappers roamed the area as early as the 1830s. Before that, it was home to the Yavapai Indian tribe, who didn’t much tale to the intruders. Bloody battles between the Indians and white man ensued, and the tribe was not subdued until late in 1872.

Wickenburg is peaceful today. Life appears slow placed, unlike its neighbor to the southeast, Phoenix, with its five million residents. 
Wickenburg is located on Highway 93. It’s well worth a detour, if only to see the statuary on the city streets. All pay homage to the city’s past. 

But there are plenty of other things to do here. If you’re around on Saturday morning, take a tour of the Vulture Mine, which gave up $30 million in gold. You can visit the
“jail tree” which served as the town jail for almost 30 years; prisoners weren’t locked up, but instead were chained to the tree. And if you make an appointment in advance, you can also tour Henry Wickenburg’s home. 
 

The chamber of commerce can offer more ideas on things to see and do in this pleasant small town.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Judge Roy Bean: the law west of the Pecos


Judge Roy Bean's saloon and "courthouse"

If Roy Bean were a judge today, he’d probably be kicked off the bench faster than you could say “the law west of the Pecos.”

He held court in his saloon, the Jersey Lilly, or outside the porch. He would interrupt court sessions to serve customers drinks.  His decisions were often quirky, such as fining an offender $30 and a round of drinks for the house, with the admonition to pay for the drinks first.

 

Judge Roy Bean

He had one book of Texas statutes in his law library, but rarely consulted it. Instead he made up law as he went along. He nicknamed himself “the law west of the Pecos,” and became a legend in his own time.

After his death, he was nicknamed “the hanging judge,” though he only sentenced two men to hang.  Perhaps the moniker is due more to his almost having been hanged

Lilly Langtry

himself. Prior to landing in west Texas, Bean wasn’t the most law abiding citizen.  Once friends of a man he killed strung him up and then left. The horse didn’t bolt and the bride of the man Bean killed  cut him down.

But Roy Bean also had a softer side. For years he corresponded with the British actress and femme fatale, Lilly Langtry. He named his saloon, Jersey Lilly, after her, He also claimed to have named the town where he lived, Langtry, after her, though other accounts suggest it was named for a railroad employee with the same last name.  He was always inviting her to visit “her” town, but she never made it until a few months after he died.

Bean was born in 1826 in Kentucky and died in 1903 in Texas.

The saloon where he held court can be visited in Langtry. It’s located behind a Texas tourism office and shares space with a garden devoted to Southwest desert plants.  A small museum about Bean shares space with tourism information. The site is open daily; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The bar where Roy Bean dispensed booze and justice



Photos by Cheryl Probst and Jon Teal

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Magnificent sculptures showcase Artesia,New Mexico, history


Artesia's Vaquero
Artesia is a town in New Mexico that might better be spelled ARTesia because of its impressive collection of street art. 

 Just driving round the downtown area you’ll see a series of bronze sculptures that depict the history of the city. Murals and other art enhance Artesia’s likeability. 

But it is the bronze sculptures that are the most impressive. They include oil rig workers, a school teacher, a cattle drive boss, rustlers and, my favorite, the Vaquero.  

Vaqueros or Spanish cowboys loomed large in Artesia’s heritage. This magnificent sculpture is the second of three statues in the Cattle Drive series that depicts cattle ranching in the 1880s in the Pecos Valley. The others are the Trail Boss and the Rustler. The Vaquero is located at Second and Main.

Part of the Vaquero sculpture


 The Vaquero was sculpted by Michael Hamby and unveiled in 2008.

Just a short distance away at Second and Texas, the Cattle Rustler plies his trade in a roundabout.It is the final sculpture in the Cattle Drive series.

The Rustler