Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zee or Zed -- Tues., Apr. 30

Zee or zed is the last letter of the English and French alphabets. Making this the last blog of the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge.

I enjoyed completing the challenge for the second year in a row. Thanks for coming along.

Today, we put in the slides, took the fifth wheel on the road for a half hour to get the tires in motion, and returned to a new site in Travelers World.

We are no longer packed in like sardines. Our new site has a larger concrete pad for the picnic table and lots of parking. Plus the RVs on either side are farther away with grass and trees in between. We love the "resort" feel of our new site. In fact when it pours rain here, we will have our own lake right under the RV. Hopefully they have the drains fixed!

Travel Bug out.

Y is for Yorta Yorta Aborigines - Mon., Apr.29

In my quest to keep you on your toes wondering what I might write about next, I bring you the Yorta Yorta Aborigines from Australia. In specific, singing sisters who went on to become The Sapphires singing sensation.

In Australia, many light-skinned aborigines were taken from their homes and given to white families to raise as their own someplace else. Those children are known as "The Stolen Generation." When we visited Melbourne, Australia, we saw monuments showcasing the practice with history written by family members. We could feel the pain and anguish of mothers and children who wrote. Apologies from the government were also highlighted in the outdoor exhibit. The practice of stealing children from their families didn't end until the 1970s. But I digress.

On Friday afternoon, we went to the local Bijou art cinema to see The Sapphires, a story about four young women who dreamed of singing for a living. One sister saw an ad for singers to entertain the troops in Vietnam and she made up her mind they would go there.

In The Sapphires, which is based on a true story circa 1968, the sisters sang country western music. For their very first audition, they went to the closest town which was very prejudiced against aborigines. [In fact aborigines were not considered human, they were considered part of the flora and fauna.] When it was their turn to perform, the white townspeople ignored them even though they were the best part of the show. The only person who clapped for them was a young boy. The talent competition prize was given to a young lady who couldn't sing worth beans.

Chris O'Dowd is Dave, an Irish, alcoholic, down-on-his-luck talent scout. He played the piano for the competition the girls were in. At the end of the competition, the girls showed Dave the ad for singers to go to Vietnam. He doesn't want to have anything to do with taking the girls to Vietnam, but the girls persuade him. He teaches them how to sing soul music, bust some dance moves, and off they go. By the way, the sound track is wonderful!

It all sounds simple here, but the plot is complex with discrimination issues, the personalities of the girls, how taking children from their families affected all involved, the family response to their quest, and relationships formed along the way.

Bob and I highly recommend this film. The story-telling uses elements of the real-life girls and how they grew up entertaining their families, but also has added elements that didn't really happen. All in all, the movie is outstanding. Five out of five stars.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Movie Review: The Company You Keep - Sun., Apr. 28

The movie matinee we saw was The Company You Keep. Top name actors help us re-live the consequences of their fictional characters' roles from the 1970s-era Vietnam War protests. We follow the lives of members of the Weather Underground Organization, also known as the Weathermen.

In 1969 the Weathermen first organized at the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, a faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The group declared war on the government of the United States and through the mid-1970s conducted bombings of banks and government buildings, most preceded by evacuation warnings. In the movie, the Weathermen rob a bank (in real life it was an armored car) and kill a guard.

Opening credits show real and made-up protest scenes from 1969 through 1981. With credits over, we visit the home of Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), 30 years after the heist. She lives in suburbia with her husband and two teen-agers. You can tell she is mentally wrestling with an issue in her life. After her kids head to school, she knowingly nods at her husband and heads out the door. When she gets to a gas station to fuel up, she makes the conscious decision to use a credit card with her real name. Within minutes, the FBI has her car surrounded and she is in custody. Her life as a fugitive hiding in plain sight is over.

Shia LaBeouf plays Ben, a reporter at a small newspaper who yearns to be an investigative reporter and "get the story." I must say, Shia certainly holds his own on screen with all the big-name movie stars he plays opposite.

So starts the story of a group of Weathermen who had been living normal lives for 30 years. Each of them has an alias and have blended into society with new careers.

Robert Redford plays Jim Grant, an attorney in New York, with an 11-year-old daughter (Jackie Evancho of America's Got Talent fame). We follow Jim Grant as he tries to find the one person who can help absolve him of the murder charge, hooking up with other former Weathermen along the way. The reporter and the FBI are hot on his tail.

The movie's pace and tone kept our interest. Chase scenes, subterfuge, and staying one step ahead of the law kept us riveted to the screen.

We wanted to find out what would happen to each of the people we met along the way. In some instances we learned the outcome and in other cases we did not. Did the lack of resolution of items detract from the movie? Somewhat. The movie was interesting and informative, it kept an air of mystery as to what would happen.

There was one unanswered question at the end. I guess as movie-goers our imagination or sense of ethics was called into play to figure out what happened to the characters concerned. It definitely led to conversation after the movie as to what we thought happened.

I give the movie 3-1/2 out of five stars.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

eXploring, Part 2 - Sat., Apr. 27

This post continues my Saturday post Xeriscapes and eXploring.

Saturday's drive west on U.S. 90 was all new territory for us. We passed through Hondo, D'Hanis, Sabinal, Knippa, Uvalde, and arrived in Brackettville around 3:45 p.m. Our friends Kit and Jerry live near Brackettville and we were curious about the area.

Brackettville originated as a stage stop on the "Lower Road" to California. Upon our arrival in town, we saw old buildings and checked them out. The largest and most well preserved was the Kinney County Courthouse below.
Kinney County Courthouse, Brackettville,Texas
But the best part of our exploration today, led us to Fort Clark (established in 1852) Historic District. Fort Clark was part of the U.S. Army's line of forts on the Military Road which went from San Antonio to El Paso, Texas. Click on the plaque below to read of this town's history, including the defense of frontier settlements, Seminole-Negro Indian scouts, Texas Rangers, and Confederate troops.

Empty Saddle statue

Ft. Clark guardhouse.

Blooming cacti.
Old U.S. mail wagon.
We walked part of Fort Clark, then hopped in the car and drove the rest. Many of the original buildings still stand. Information about the buildings comes from the Fort Clark Historic District Walking Tour brochure. The text and historical research of the brochure comes from William F. Haenn, LTC, Infantry, USA (Ret.) Copyright 2010 by the Kinney County Historical Commission.

Below is the Quartermaster Workshops building (1892). Inside were shops for wheelwrights, farriers (horseshoe repairers), wagon repairs, and early motor vehicle maintenance. Another use of the building by the 2nd Cavalry Division, from 1943-1944, was a four-lane bowling alley.

Quartermaster Workshops, 1892.

New Cavalry barracks (Seminole Hall), 1932

Quartermaster Storehouse, 1892. Largest building on post.
Officers' Club, Dickman Hall, 1939. See plaque below.

The spring-fed, 100x300 ft. pool was the largest on any post in the Army. Built by the WPA.

Los-Moras-Spring-fed swimming pool, 1939.
The Old Quarry Amphitheatre is still in use. The original purpose of the quarry was to provide limestone to construct stone buildings at the fort after 1880. "Glory Road" is performed here by the "Old Quarry Society."

After we finished driving past officer's quarters, former hospital and the old tennis courts, we headed toward a residential development where a number of Rvers have settled. Their property consists of a huge covered garage for their RV with room to park golf carts, additional vehicles or even provide covered space for a hot tub. Adjacent to the garage is a small home. The area looked very inviting in some places.

While driving past the homes, we saw deer and wild turkeys hanging out in this yard. There were probably ten turkeys and six deer. Wow, that was a great wildlife sighting!

Tom turkey struttin' for the ladies.
When we finished at Fort Davis, we hightailed it for home. Weather predictions called for severe thunderstorms and flooding. It was about two hours to San Antonio and we watched the thunderheads build up, not only on one side of us, but all around us. By the time we were almost in San Antonio, no more blue sky was left.

About 10:45 p.m., nature's show started. At first thunder rumbled in the distance. The thunder increased in volume until it boomed and cracked directly overhead.

I opened the rear blinds in the 5er (fifth wheel trailer) and watched the show, becoming increasingly alarmed. So much lightning streaked across the sky and for so long, it looked like daytime. As I watched, I saw a huge lightning bolt streak down across the street. I did not see where it hit. My concern grew because we have a very tall tree about one foot away from our living room slide. Luckily the lightning did not hit it! The thunderstorm raged for quite a while and torrential downpours accompanied the thunder and lightning. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking.

So ended another day. I leave you with two parting shots.

Is this the end?
Or is this?

Travel Bug out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Xeriscapes and eXploring - Sat., Apr. 27

Last April Bob and I did a Volksmarch in Kerrville, Texas, which took us through Riverside Nature Center. The nature center had some beautifully arranged xeriscapes with cacti, mesquite, and other plants that do not require a lot of water.

Xeriscaping is basically landscaping that is dry (Greek: xeros).

I bring this up because today we Volksmarched in Castroville, then drove out to Brackettville, Texas. Along the way, we saw many areas of xeriscaping and south Texas brush country.

Let's start in Castroville. The town is rife with history.

Our 10K (6.2 mile) walk started at Sammy's Restaurant and headed to the outskirts of town, down to Medina Creek, through Castroville Regional Park, past a large, old cemetery and through the historic part of town. Wildflowers, trees and cacti bloomed in red, purple, white and yellow along the way.

Castroville is an Alsatian town with roots in the Alsace region of France at the border with Germany. Many buildings reflect the architectural style brought over from Europe.

Castroville's early residents were mostly farmers. Our walk took 2-1/2 hours because of all the historic markers and photo ops.

Here are photos from our Castroville walk. The temperature was 76 degrees with 90% humidity.

Alsation Steinbach House Park, Castroville, Texas
Mexican hat wildflowers (Ratibida columnifera)
Walking in a neighborhood.
Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) blooming in someone's yard.
Medina River, Castroville, Texas.
Red sage.
Palo verde tree (Cercidium microphyllum)
The "Walking Trail" was a part of our Volksmarch.
Scissor-tailed flycatcher in Castroville Regional Park.

Castroville Regional Park
Castroville Regional Park has an RV campground with two park hosts. It's not a very big park and looks quite crowded. Bob  and I had thought about moving there at one time. It's outside the city and has a large pool. Before we saw it, we thought as a regional park the RV sites would be large. However, after seeing the sites, we don't think we'll be staying here. Rigs were packed in like sardines.

These look like overflow sites.
The main RV park in the trees. Very close quarters.
Little-leaf sage (Salvia microphylla "Hot Lips")
An interesting piece of Castroville history: Since 1847 the community has celebrated St. Louis Day (a Catholic observance of the feast of St. Louis) on the Sunday closest to August 25. Through the years a picnic became traditional on the church grounds following high mass. An evening dance ended the day-long celebration.

After the 1920s, the picnic and dance were held at Wernette's Garden, now known as Koenig Park. A dance pavilion was built in the park in 1953.
St. Louis Catholic Church
Susan and St. Louis statue
Purple orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata)
Beautiful wagon planter display in a yard.
Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio Confusus) with a skipper (?)
Bob in front of the original St. Louis Church (1846). In 1868 Sisters of Divine Providence opened their first permanent school in Texas in this building.

In the Dubuis House below, the two original rooms were erected in 1947 by Claude Dubuis from Lyons, France.  Father Dubuis, the first priest in Castro's colony, was captured not once, but twice, by Comanches in 1847. He escaped unharmed both times and went on to become a bishop of Texas. This house is the first example of Alsatian architecture in Castroville.

The Dubuis House
The building below is now City Hall, but it wasn't in the beginning. It started out as the Medina County Seat Courthouse. When the county seat was moved to Hondo, this building was converted to a school and now City Hall. Its walls are made of 18" thick native limestone.
First Courthouse of Medina County.

Geyer-Rihn House - it looks so inviting.
Fields of wildflowers still in blom.

 Koenig Park where the St. Louis Day celebration is held.

This year is the 131st annual St. Louis Day Celebration.
This festival has a long history in Castroville!
Freeze frame. "If I don't move, they can't see me."
Double click on the historic marker below to read about how Castroville started.

Medina River
We stopped in at Haby's Bakery for snacks.
The mural on Haby's Bakery (below) was done in February 2000 by Patrice Hoff, professor of visual arts at college Jean XXIII in Mulhouse, France. The wall is a tribute to Alsatian-Texan history. The mural includes a portrait of Henri Castro (founder of Castroville), the St. Louis Catholic Church, the town of Eguisheim, France and outlines of Texas and Alsace.

Mural on the side of Haby's Bakery.
At the end of our walk, we stopped for lunch at Sammy's Restaurant.

Fortified, we headed west on U.S. 90 to Uvalde and Brackettville. See part 2 of today's post for more.

Welcome to Spacerguy, who dropped in from a parallel universe, and One Texan's Travel's [sic].