2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 5-6

Athens, Texas. Thursday April 6

Fewer words, more pictures, and one surprise for you. One of our hopes for this trip was to see various flowers throughout Texas. We had some success and some failures. Wildflowers like bluebonnets and Indian paint brush were plentiful. Azaleas and Dogwood were long gone, victim of an early spring. Roses are blooming but some were just a bit past prime.

Along Texas Highway 31 between Waco and Ennis

By Ennis Texas

Wednesday morning we left Waco for our lodging in Athens Texas, just south of Tyler Texas. We left behind one Evergreen Club host for a new Evergreen couple in Athens. In both cities, our hosts have been delightful people, going out of their way to accomodate us. Once again, meeting with Evergreeners provides a welcome opportunity to discuss travel and interesting life experiences.

Ennis Texas was an intermediate stop. This day was hopefully our Texas bluebonnet day. As we drove Texas highway 31 from Waco to Ennis, the medians were overrun with colorful wildflowers. It was not feasible to take plentiful pictures but we did shoot a few. The flowers were nice but I was hoping for something with a greater impact. Ennis TX is a designated bluebonnet trail by the State of Texas. Would the bluebonnets still be out??

By Ennis Texas

Well, Ennis was a hit. First off, the town is organized with weekly maps printed of the current hotspots. Trails are marked. Printed directions of the route are also available. There is an iPhone app. Two hours were not enough time to see all of the locations on the current map. Massive fields of blue or pink or intermingled colors were visible. After a while, if the view was only great, we passed it by. We just wanted stupendous. Ennis by itself was worth the trip.

By Ennis Texas

Palestine Texas has a three-week dogwood festival, combined with azaleas, so it was our next stop after Ennis. Internet research was inconclusive whether the dogwood and azalea would be blooming. We went to Davey Dogwood park, supposedly the center of the Dogwood Trail. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Green trees but not a scrap of colored leaves. That was two hours of driving to just view more of Texas countryside. Which, by the way, is somewhat hilly here. I will be curious to see if the Texas “Hill Country” is any hillier.

Video of bluebonnets

Thursday, April 6

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden

Up in Tyler Texas, the city maintains a municipal rose garden. Smith county, in which Tyler is located, ships most of the U.S. grown roses. Rose growing started here before the Civil War but it was problems with peach diseases around 1900 that pushed local farmers to switch from fruit trees to growing roses.

Roses at Tyler

The Tyler Rose Garden encompasses 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes. Roses were blooming and visitors were light. Chris and I spent an hour walking the paths, looking at flowers, and enjoying the day (72 degrees, sunny, light wind). I took way too many pictures. After the gardens, we walked through the Rose Garden Museum. The museum is dedicated to the Rose Fest, held each October in Tyler.

Tyler Rose Garden

The Rose Fest started in 1933 with queens, parades, and balls. It is still functioning. It appears, though the museum itself did not state this, that the royalty must come from family with wealth to be able to afford the gowns and balls. Tyler is a town of 90,000 people and the community seems to survive economically on oil and roses at a minimum. The museum exhibits numerous ball gowns and a picture and biography of each of the Queens since 1933.

The process to grow rose bushes is another feature of the museum. We had no idea it takes two years to grow rose bushes. The hand planting, grafting, harvesting, etc is time-consuming.

After Tyler, our destination was Kilgore Texas, home to the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College. AAA rates the museum as a gem. It turns out that East Texas was, and is, home to one of the major oil fields in the world. It is the second largest oil field in the U.S. outside of Alaska. The museum does an excellent job explaining the oil discovery and drilling process.

One exhibit discusses how saltwater is brought to the surface along with oil. The oil and saltwater have to be separated and then the saltwater is returned deep into the earth under strict EPA regulations. Another exhibit explains the earth’s geology; how the central portion of the U.S. was ancient seas and over millenia the advancing and retreating of the sea deposited various sediments and organic matter that is today’s source of petroleum and gas.

Replica oil derricks in Kilgore demonstrating how close derricks were to each other-similar to Spindletop.

Kilgore as a town went from 800 to 8,000 people in almost 24 hours when the first gusher was drilled in 1930. The resulting boom kept the Depression at bay for this part of Texas, although prices skyrocketed. Gas was selling for 18 cents a gallon, water was selling for $1.10 for a gallon.

On our way home, we thought we would stop at the Athens Arboretum for some hiking. But curiosity trumped good intentions. We drove by the Henderson County Livestock Show and spent an hour watching the judging of the barrows and gilts brought in by the surrounding FFA and 4H clubs. An interesting and different way to end our day.

A video of the Livestock judging of barrows and gilts

Ed and Chris. April 6

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