Monday, July 20, 2009

The Vacation 2009: Wrap-up

We're back at the regular life after a wonderful vacation through Central Texas last week. My boy wanted to recreate the Waco/Central Texas vacation we did in 2005. He remembers it but mainly via photos. This being an off-year, vacation-wise (i.e., no journey on a plane), my wife and I agreed.

One of the coolest things we repeated was visiting Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. I have to tell you: feeding wild animals by hand never, ever gets old. Yeah, there's a certain "Madagascar" aspect to it (that is, you can make up your own dialogue that the animals speak at night when the dumb humans leave) but it's still cool. We went on Wednesday which is the cheapest day of the week for tickets. The good: cheap tickets. The bad: lots of people. It took us about three to three-and-a-half hours to get through the entire park. That does include a stop at the hilltop visitors center/gift shop/human feed store. Still, the view is grand. Yeah, it was hot but it's summer. It's supposed to be hot.

Fossil Rim is just a few miles away from Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, TX. Let me say this: seeing dinosaur tracks, in person and out in the wild is tres cool. But, once you've seen them, well, you've seen them. Of all the things we repeated, this was the one that wasn't as fun as last time. Still, it's friggin' dinosaur tracks!

Waco's Cameron Park Zoo is a very nice zoo. This from someone who lives in Houston and loves our zoo and has been to San Diego's Wild Animal Park. Cameron Park's Zoo is smaller, to be sure, but it's almost the perfect size. You can see everything, on pathways that are mostly shaded (for the summers), and not get too tired. The cages are built in such a way that the animals are Right There, be it tigers or swimming grizzly bears. I mean Right There. Plus, you can feed the turtles and Big catfish in the ponds surrounding the monkey exhibits.

The Mayborn Museum of Natural History is another excellent thing to see in Waco. On a tip from a fellow parent, we went back there mainly to see the Leonardo Da Vinci's Machines in Motion exhibit (no pictures at the link; too bad). A group of Da Vinci enthusiasts have built scale models of some of Leo's ingenious inventions. It'll blow you away just realizing that the man only used his brain to come up with all these inventions. The rest of the museum is, like the zoo, just the right size for a morning or afternoon trip. Without a doubt, the coolest exhibits at the Mayborn is the mammoths. At the entrance, there's a full-size skull and tusks of a mammoth. I never realized how friggin HUGE they were. Later, there's a recreation of the mammoth fossil site discovered just outside Waco. In the museum, you walk on a plexiglass floor, literally walking 'over' the fossils. Here's a picture of it. The Mayborn Museum is easily a place I'd return to for a day trip.

Even though I'm a freak for Dr. Pepper, we didn't visit the Dr. Pepper Museum. Too bad. I'd have liked to get some more swag. I'd have liked to pick up a bottle of DP BBQ sauce.

This time out, we decided to stay not at hotels but bed and breakfast places. Just outside of Hillsboro, we stayed a night at the Windmill Bed and Breakfast. We stayed in the Country Garden Suite, an upstairs, three-room suite we had all to ourselves. The smaller bedroom is situated at the apex of the roof so the ceiling is like a tent. Over the interior ceiling, there is fabric, giving the entire room a tent-like feel. The master bedroom has a skylight facing east. Not only do you get to fall asleep to the stars, you get to wake up with the soft light of dawn. Serene place and wonderful hospitality. Oh, and the breakfast was fantastic.

For the other nights, we stayed at White Rock Creek Bed and Breakfast, just outside Waco. If the Windmill B&B was the epitome of rustic living, White Rock Creek is the opposite. It's brand-new and the rooms have all been built by the owners, Dana and Reetha Strickland. We stayed in the Plantation Suite and it was more than enough for us. The B&B is far enough away from Waco (and in amidst a small, private neighborhood) that you can forget a metropolitan center is mere minutes away. Our hosts were very gracious. Our only regret is that we didn't get to chill and take in the atmosphere.

Needless to say, we'll be returning to both B&B's in the future.

The Loot: Whenever I travel, we like to go to antique stores. I like those but I also like used bookstores. I hit pay dirt on this trip. At Brazos Street Market in Whitney, TX, I made three discoveries. One, another A. A. Fair/Erle Stanley Gardner book, Gold Comes in Bricks. The A. A. Fair books are on my constant search list and I keep a list of books I have/need in my wallet. Check. Only later did I realize that the first few pages were missing. Shucks! When I got back to Houston, I contacted two trusted sources to see if either of them had the book. Almost at the same time, both said yes and both sent me scans of the missing pages. Thanks guys!

I found a Gregory Quist western (by William Colt MacDonald) but it was one I already had. (BTW, this Friday's Forgotten Book will be a MacDonald/Quist entry.)

Lastly, I happened in a stall that had a bunch of romance books. I can tell, just by a glance, if a stack of books contains anything I'd be interested in. I gave a glance at the romance stack...and then stopped. There, amid the bodice rippers was a Longarm book. Hey, it's a western. I gave the title a look: Longarm and the Voodoo Queen. Something in the back of my head triggered. I picked it up and thought to myself "I've heard of this one, out of all of them. I wonder if this is one of the ones James Reasoner wrote?" For $1.50, I could take the chance. At the very least, I'd have my first Longarm to read. Lo and behold, it *is* one that Reasoner wrote. Viola!

Later in the week, at a used bookstore in Waco, I found Owls Don't Blink, also by A. A. Fair/ESG. Cha-ching!

That's about it for the wrap-up. Had a good time, enjoyed my native state, found some books, and 'discovered' three story ideas. Already written half of the first one. I'll post a preview tomorrow for Two Sentence Tuesday.


Leah J. Utas said...

Sounds like a wonderful time. I haven't cracked an Erle Stanley Gardner since ... since... a very long time. Brought back good memories. They're vague, but they're there.

David Cranmer said...

Welcome back and damn it sounds like you went everywhere and had a great time. Congrats. But where are the pics of you and the Mrs?

Barbara Martin said...

A fellow zoo and museum lover! Bonus on finding second hand books. Now that you've had a great vacation and experiences, I'm sure your prose will delight your readers.

Charles Gramlich said...

I would have loved seeing those fossils.

Scott Parker said...

Leah - Try him again. You can re-discover just how good a writer he was.

David - Yup, had a grand time. Alas, I probably won't be posting pics. That's the paranoid inside of me.

Barbara - I'm getting to really love zoos. Now, I want to travel up to Ft. Worth and check out theirs.

Charles - Seeing those fossils--both the size and the age--really brings home the smallness of humans. However, we use our brains the best so that's why we're at the top of the food chain.