West Baden Springs Indiana

West Baden Springs Indiana
Inside of the AMAZING West Baden Springs Resort in Indiana.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Smokies Stadium in Kodak Tennessee

I have mentioned the Tennessee Smokies baseball team a number of times on my now dormant blog on baseball.  Go here, here, here, here, and here if you want to check out my old entries on this team and park.

This is one of my all time favorite locations to catch a game.  I love the team, the area, the park, and the general vibe at the games played here.  You have the AA Cubs on their way up, playing near the Great Smoky Mountains.  Seeing a game here after enjoying the park or the sites in Gatlinburg makes for a perfect day.

I love their team shop.  Other minor league teams could learn a lot from this team.  Have a nice, organized and clean shop.  AND, exploit the heck out of a cool logo!

We were here on their special Star Wars night.  This attracted a lot of fans (we found out later that they broke their attendance record on this particular night).  We loved the Star Wars goofiness, but the crowd was a bit out of hand.  The vibe on this night was much more comparable to a AAA or major league game.  We were going to try to have dinner at the park this night, but we changed those plans.  The concession lines were long and slow!

We enjoyed the heck out of the Star Wars themed night.  Players wore jerseys with Han in carbonite on them.  Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and other characters mingled with fans.  Players from the other team appeared as Star Wars characters as they were announced on the scoreboard!

A tree hugging friend jokingly scolded me when I got back to Kentucky since I took time out from my trip to the National Park to visit a ballpark.  I get that.  There are some areas where going to a ballgame really takes away from your time to do historic and nature related things in an area.  There are some minor league ballparks not worth your valuable vacation time- but that isn't the case here.  The Tennessee Smokies baseball team and park are meshed in with the local history.  That relaxed Smoky Mountains green vibe is felt while you enjoy the play on this AA diamond.  Part of the experience of going to see this region of Tennessee is catching a game at this ballpark.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville

Claudia Sanders Dinner House is in Shelbyville, and I have passed by it several times.  I FINALLY got the chance to stop by not too long ago!

It is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.  We liked the place and the atmosphere.  There was a wedding reception event going on while we were there (in a separate area).

It is impossible to avoid comparisons to its fast food sibling, but the Claudia Sanders restaurant is more of a sit down classy kind of place.  The food was very good and we had plenty to take home.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Randolph Field- San Antonio Texas

We did not visit Randolph Air Force Base, but I did find this great older postcard showing it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Post Office and Court House, Texarkana, Ark., Texas

Sent from Texarkana in 1940, the post mark includes Tex., and Ark.!

Friday, May 27, 2016

State Line Ave. Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas

This undated but older postcard shows-

 "State Line Avenue, Texarkana, the famed street which divides Arkansas from Texas in this thriving hub of a prosperous tri-state (Ark.-La.-Tex.) trading area.  Texarkana is also the home of the great Red River Arsenal."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Travis Park Methodist Church- San Antonio Texas

This old postcard shows a very attractive church in San Antonio Texas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

University Tower at Night, Austin Texas

This postcard was sent in 1952.  On the back it mention's the University's new library, built at a cost of over a million dollars.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"A Sniper in the Tower" by Gary M. Lavergne

I know Texas is big and all, but when we first thought about a trip to the state, I really didn't know a lot about it.  Sure, there is the Alamo, JFK in Dallas, and the LBJ sites.  There is a lot of baseball there too.  Other than that, I did remember hearing about the sniper who shot people from the top of the school tower.

This story is haunting.  I knew the very basics, but I thought I might want to follow up on this horrible bit of information tucked in the back of my mind.

Author Gary M. Lavergne published this complete book on the shootings in 1997.  I think he gave a fair and factual account of all we know about the incident.  I read this nearly 400 page book easily over a couple of days.  The story does draw you in.

A few things really jumped out at me as I read "A Sniper in the Tower".  First- this was a different time.  The murderer was able to pretty effortlessly get to the top of the tower in Austin with a ton of weapons and ammunition.

He had a military and hunting background.  He wasn't shooting random shots here and there.  He was an excellent shot and utilized that.

Lavergne thoroughly covers all of the info about the shooter's relationship to his family... but this is where the reader scratches his head in a bit of confusion.  A demanding, abusive at times father is in the picture, but so are supportive relatives and friends.

AND, very sadly, the shooter's mother and wife are tragic characters in the story.  Both sound like caring and sweet people.

Gary Lavergne gives a very straight telling of this story.  He gives a lot of sources, and takes the time to interview those who stopped the terror, friends and family (including an odd interview with the shooter's father who tries to discuss compensation for his time).  I felt the author did not have any sort of agenda in his writing, stating the facts and adding little unnecessary commentary.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Airports in Texas

Through timing issues and layovers, we ended up spending a lot of time in Texas airports.  I was hesitant to fly for a while, mostly from my own paranoia relating to x-ray scans, but there have been some changes, and I feel better about things now.  I do enjoy the whole travel vibe at the airport, and as long as I have a book, I can read in a nice environment.  AND, TSA isn't so bad.  In fact, I appreciate the fact that they are keeping the place secure.

We had some nice burgers in a little sit down restaurant that was cozy at the San Antonio airport.  I already mentioned the story about the lady with her Chihuahua at the airport.  VERY sweet.

Well, after a short flight back to Dallas, we again had several hours to kill at the airport before getting back home to Kentucky.  I got a green tea at a Starbucks that was terrible.  It tasted like grass.  I really liked the Tazo teas, but they have switched to something really bad.  I still drank it though because I am that cheap.

We had a good time exploring the shops in Dallas.  Its funny though, the DFW airport is huge, and they use a rail system to get people around.  San Antonio's airport is very small.  A local told us we really didn't need to get to the San Antonio airport more than an hour before our flight.  I like being VERY early over cutting it close.  That's just me.

I had time to reflect on the trip as we relaxing in the airport in Dallas, as the sun was going down.  We agreed that San Antonio was a great city, and we would like to get back sometime.  We would do Austin again, if we could hang out at the Driskill the whole time, or maybe if we did a bus tour.  I do want to do a Dallas trip at some point, and a west Texas trip somewhere down the road.

Driving through the Hill Country, and seeing the occasional cactus here and there made me think about our previous trips to Arizona, driving from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, stopping by Sedona.  I am really craving a trip out somewhere in the desert.

I had my Ipod with me, and I made a Texas playlist for the trip.  It was pleasant listening to "Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man" and "Tomorrow Wendy" by Concrete Blonde, 10,000 Maniacs "Dallas", and various songs by Darden Smith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and others that make me think of Texas.

I BARELY missed being able to catch Alejandro Escovedo and Mavis Staples while we were in Texas.  It would have been cool seeing one of those acts, but their tour schedules were a little off of ours.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we cut our time in Austin a bit short because of the President!  While we drove to Austin, I was listening to a local radio station that announced President Obama would be coming in on Friday (our last planned day in town).  They suggested that locals should avoid being on road.  We decided to leave Austin early that morning to avoid travel issues.

Hey Texas, we will see ya again, somewhere down the road!

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Meadows Center Glass Bottom Boat Tour- San Marcos Texas

Doing a glass bottom boat ride in San Marcos was one of those unplanned experiences that just kind of happened on our trip.

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is a really exciting place to visit and spend several hours.  For less than $20, the two of us were able to ride on one of their glass bottom boats with a great guide, and we were able to visit their aquarium center.

We ended up having some extra time on this trip that we had not planned, and we found a brochure about this educational center!  It was conveniently located between Austin and San Antonio, so it ended up being a perfect unplanned stop.

Our guide knew everything about the area!  It seems that the former owners of the property were inspired after some visits to Florida.  They started doing the glass bottom boat tour just like Silver Springs.  Those boats still go out today!

BUT, they also did a thing similar to Weeki Wachee with underwater shows!  In fact, here is a thorough article I found while searching around about the place from Collectors Weekly.  Underwater clowns and mermaids performed, along with performing pigs and chickens.These shows have stopped, but this San Marcos site is still exciting.

The place was still going as an amusement park up until the 90s.  Southwest Texas State University took it over in 1994 and made it the place it is now.  Our guide told us that, when they removed the old underwater theater, they had hoped to preserve it, but it would have been impossible.  It was too old and damaged from its time in the water.

We learned about rare creatures that live in the springs which has earned the place the designation of "critical habitat".

Our boat guide suggested that we visit the aquarium building (a repurposed former hotel).  There were some nice displays on the rare species in the springs.

You can also go out on an open area on top of the building for a better look at the springs.  From here, we were able to see some of the old paths used during the sites amusement park days.  There are walking trails too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Torchy's Tacos- San Marcos Texas

For some reason, I have a LOT of friends who have lived in Texas at some point.  My buddy Bill actually lived in Austin for some time, and he said that he would not forgive me if I left the area without trying Torchy's Tacos.

I am so glad that Bill was forceful in his demands that I go to Torchy's.  This place is great.  The only thing I am upset about is the fact that Torchy's is so amazing..... but it is only in Texas!

Torchy's reminded me some of Chipotle or Qdoba, but they had more variety.  I ended up having fried chicken on a taco and it was so good!  We also had some of the best queso dip ever.  They had a soda fountain dispensing the very non-mainstream but sweet and delicious Maine Root beverages!

Speaking of Maine Root, here is ANOTHER great product out of one of my favorite towns anywhere, Portland Maine. 

But back to Torchy's in Texas.  I don't want to go on and on with descriptions that you have heard before, but I really liked the quality, quantity, flavor and freshness of the food.  AND I really loved the value here.  My taco, which was a satisfying, complete meal, was three dollars and change.

Plus, they use a little devil in their logo.

Anyway, I would LOVE to see this franchise explode, because I would eat at Torchy's all the time if one was in my neighborhood.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown Texas

Texas is actually a very nice area for cave fans.  There are some really interesting and historic show caves to explore.

Inner Space Cavern was at the top of my list of caves I hoped to visit on our Texas trip because of its uniqueness in the way it was discovered.  In 1963, the Texas highway Department was doing work constructing Interstate 35 when they made this discovery!  Tools were being sucked into the ground as they worked, and they finally realized that there was a huge cave right underneath of their construction area!  Three short years later, this newly discovered cave was open for visitors!

Since the cave was found so recently, it is exceptionally well preserved.  People didn't rush in immediately and paint their names on the walls.  No one came in and broke off formations to take home with them.

It looks like those lucky discoverers in 1963 were likely the first humans in the cave, though animal remains were plentiful.  It seems that in some areas, animals fell through sinkholes, and could not get back to the surface.  Luckily for the animals in the area, all natural entrances closed up 14,000 years ago.

We arrived early in the morning, and explored the gift shop area as we waited for our tour to begin.  One thing that I found to be very unique in their gift shop was a gumball machine that sold rocks gems.  For a whopping fifty cents, I ended up getting a piece of a dinosaur bone found in Utah!  I was pretty happy!

The gift shop here is well stocked and attractive.  I did find a nice book on the cave for a few dollars.  I was impressed with the fact that a cat hangs out in the gift shop.

After our time inside, our guide (I think her name was Elinor) lead us to the cave!

The entrance is right under the gift shop (see photo).  They do take photos once inside of the cave that they sell for $12 back inside after the tour.  Yes, for $12 I will always buy the souvenir photo- and I let them know that I was impressed by the fact that they did not use green screen.

And the cave itself is very nice.  Our guide pointed out several formations, and told us stories involving the ones that resembled fairytale characters.  The cave had the usual features (bacon, water drops hitting your head, lights out, etc.).  We were shown areas where tools had fallen during the discovery of the cave.

Check out my photos!