Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Little Texas Road Trip

I am still at home with my family; a full week of my time back home was spent on what has become an annual road trip to Texas. On our way to Austin where one of my sisters lives, we stopped at an enormous service station/store/rest stop with "world famous restrooms": Buccees. (The "world famous" designation may be exaggerated, but it is deserved!) I understand that a new location is under construction in Louisiana.

A few highlights of our time together included a visit to the "Living Caverns" near Georgetown, Waco Mammoth National Park (might be the nation's newest National Park, just added to the roster last year) and the charming town of Fredericksburg (in many ways, an architectural time capsule). We visited all these sites with my sister's seven-year-old granddaughter, who was especially fascinated by the caverns--discovered only 50 years ago during the construction of I-35.

I was most excited by the fossils "in situ" at Mammoth National Park. This is also a fairly recent discovery, and significant because it is the first known site of a mammoth "nursery community" where a number of juvenile mammoth bones were found in a creekbed. Those first-discovered bones were relocated, but a few yards away another site was excavated and surrounded with a climate-controlled building so that visitors can see the actual excavation, with mammoth bones and other fossils still embedded in their original resting place. Since paleontology was my first great scientific interest, this was a real thrill. I was surprised to learn that not only the Columbian mammoths (not the "woolly" kind) grazed in the ancient jungles of Texas, but that there were also native camels whose bones were found on the same stratum, indicating a possible symbiotic relationship between the two species. There was also a random saber tooth cat tooth on a different stratum, and near the exit, a woman was at work carefully cleaning (and reconstructing?) an ancient bone.

Fredericksburg is an old German town, especially noted for its peaches and wine. This was my second visit to Fredericksburg; we had come hear four or five years ago with Mom. That is when we discovered one of Texas' famous "painted churches." Fredericksburg's St Mary's is on the National Register of Historic Places and well worth the visit.

After a week at my sister's, we hit the road again, heading back to New Orleans. Along the way we stopped to see an aunt in Houston and a sister in Lafayette, all the while making plans for our last few days together back on our home turf.

Tomorrow we hope to meet a number of cousins in the French Quarter for a guided tour with New Orleans' writer Chris Rose. I return to Boston on Thursday.

As I write this, the news from Orlando is constantly on TV. While it is not helpful to hear the case-by-case medical details, it is a reminder to pray for all those who were impacted by the horrific shooting: the dead, the injured, the families of them all, as well as the medical personnel who are working so hard to meet the needs of survivors and the emergency crews who were first on the scene.

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