Saturday, May 26, 2018

Little Rock and Capitol Sites

Our original plan was to spend a week in Little Rock to tour the capitol and check out the area, but it turned out we could not get a reservation for that long. That meant we had to spend two days rather than one at another RV park between Waco and Little Rock.
We stayed at Ramblin Fever in Mount Pleasant. It turned out to be a great stop because we found Anvil Brewing in nearby Pittsburg. The building was originally a feed store and it was really neat!
The food was good, the beer was good and they had music. This duo played a great variety of music. The rock tunes with the fiddle where very cool. If you are in the area make sure you check out Anvil Brewing.
We stayed at Downtown Riverfront Park in North Little Rock on the banks of the Arkansas River with a nice view of the city. The park is a great deal and with Passport America it is by far the least expensive urban camping we have done in our years on the road.
Right by the park is the old Rock Island Railroad bridge that is now part of a walking and biking trail along the river. A real bonus was the light show on the bridge ever evening. The last night we were there it was a red, white and blue tribute to America.
The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library is right on the other side of the bridge making it well within walking distance from the park. We toured the Clinton Library on an earlier visit to Little Rock so it was not on our to do list this time.
The Arkansas capitol is the 33rd we have toured. It was built in the early 1900's on the site of the old state prison. The prisoners were used to construct the building which started in 1899 and was not completed until 1915, even though they started using it in 1911. The building is of neo-classic design with the dome rising 213 feet above the ground. Like many capitols, it ended up costing double the $1.1 million that had been budgeted. Arkansas limestone was used for the exterior walls while softer Indiana limestone was used for the dome.  
In the rotunda they have the official portraits of four former governors including Mike Huckabee who served from 1996 to 2007.  Another portrait we recognized is a very young looking Bill Clinton who, at 32,was elected governor in 1979 and was the youngest in the nation at that time. He lost his bid for reelection but came back in 1983 and won the first of five more terms before becoming president in 1993.   
The Senate chamber. There are thirty-five senators who are allowed to serve up to 16 years in the General Assembly. The lieutenant governor, who is the presiding officer of the senate, sits at the marble desk.
The skylight in the Senate was originally crystal glass that resulted in to much glare from the sun. In 1914 it was changed to stained glass. About the same time the drapes were added to give the chamber better acoustics. Unfortunately, the House Chamber was undergoing a major renovation so we did not get to see it. There are 100 members in the House that serve under the same rules as the Senate which allow only a total of 16 years in the General Assembly.
The interior walls and floor are of marble from Vermont. 
The fluted columns are of marble that was quarried in Colorado and the grand staircase was carved from Alabama marble.
The only works of public art in the capitol are these which are located in the grand halls leading to the legislative chambers. The first two are Education and Justice in the Senate hall. The other two are War and Religion in the House hall. This capitol has the fewest pieces of art work of any of the capitols we have toured.
The Governor's Reception Room is used for staff meetings, press conferences, bill signings and other public events. There is a fireplace at each end of the room with marble sculptures. One honoring Native Americans and the other honoring European explorers and settlers. Without a doubt, this was the most ornate room in the capitol.
The old Supreme Court Chamber was used by the court from 1912 until 1958 when a new Justice building was built. While the design is rather simple, the shields around the ceiling are symbolic of the principles of justice and law. The green shield is for defense and watchfulness, the gray shield for safety, truth, intelligence, amity and purity and the terracotta shield for wisdom and enlightenment.
If you tour the Arkansas capitol don't miss the tour of the Treasurer's Office. The vault door weighs 11 tons but moves easily on the huge hinges. A safe by the same company survived the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.  This is Terry, our guide, who really, really loved his job. 
Here is why you need to tour the vault. Terry took us into the vault and let Nanc hold this stack of money. That is five bundles with one thousand $100 bills each. Do the math, she is holding a half million dollars. That is A LOT OF MOOLA!!!!!!
And when I asked to hold some money look what he gave me, a roll of quarters. Do the math, that is a lousy $10.00. No wonder Nanc is all smiles. Of course there were no free samples but we did get a commemorative coin. 
We always love seeing people expressing their right to petition the government. They were protesting for more services for the forgotten poor. We later saw on the news that several were arrested for acts of non-violent civil disobedience modeled after Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  
There are several monuments of the grounds of the capitol. This statue honors the Little Rock Nine, the first group of African Americans who defied the Arkansas governor and integrated Central High School in 1957. We toured the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site on an earlier visit.  Here is the link to the park service web page about those events.
This monument honors the fallen firefighters from Arkansas. There is also one honoring fallen police officers.
While this is not one of the fancier capitols we have toured, as always, it is an interesting experience learning about the state's history.
The Old State House was the original capitol building in Arkansas. It is a Greek Revival building that was already under construction when Arkansas became a state in 1836. It is now a museum that celebrates Arkansas history from the time it became a state. This building was used by Bill Clinton on election nights in 1992 and 1996 to celebrate his election as president.
One of the special exhibits was A Piece of My Soul – Quilts by Black Americans. I thought these two were very interesting. The one on the left is called the Broken Dishes Quilt and on the right is the Center Medallion Quilt. We are always amazed at the time people put into quilts and how they are such works of art.
The 1836 House of Representatives Chamber has been restored to its original appearance. A larger house chamber was added to the back of the building in 1885 to accommodate the growing size of the government. That room now has displays of Arkansas political figures.
 One of the exhibits has the gowns of the first ladies. Since Clinton served six terms, there were six gowns worn by Hillary.  
While we did not get to stay in Little Rock as long as we had planned, we had a great visit and we may have to return someday.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Waco - Who Knew?

We had no set plan as we headed to Sedalia, Missouri for the Escapade. Looking at a friend's Facebook page we learned there is a new national park site in Waco, so we decided to check it out. When we arrived I posted where we were and got several responses about what to do while there. Who knew this East Texas city had so much going on?
We stayed at Airport Park, a Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Waco. This was our view for our stay.
The Waco Mammoth National Monument site just became part of the national park service in 2015. It has been run by the city of Waco and a foundation since the original discovery of the bones was made by two young boys in 1978. The dig has been conducted by scientists from Baylor University. 
The Columbian Mammoth were the largest of the megafauna of the Pleistocene Epoch. These mammoth grew to 14 feet tall and weighed up to 10 tons. Their tusks could be 16 feet long and weigh 200 pounds. I think Nanc may be standing at the wrong end of this beast. 
Here is a comparison of the size of the Columbian Mammoth, its distant relative the Woolly Mammoth found in colder climates and modern day African and Asian elephants. 
Since 1978 24 mammoths have been unearthed at the site. It is believed that they died about 68,000 years ago, possibly being trapped in a flood.
The dig shelter is built over the the fossils of six mammoths and an ancient camel. These are the remains of a large male. 
The mural shows how a flood may have caught the mammoths. The adults are trying to save a young mammoth and a camel is caught in the raging water. 
These are the remains of a female. The sex can be determined by the shape of the pelvic bones.
You can see the teeth of this female. A mammoth would have had as many as four sets of teeth in its lifetime. This helps to determine their age. 
The remains of a camel. These camels are different than modern ones as they had no hump. They did not need one because they lived in an area with plenty of water so they did not need to store water.
These are the tusks of a young female. The dirt is what was dug to expose these remains. They know there is at least one more mammoth buried here. As more money is put into the site, the dig will continue. 
Left is the size of a human femur, middle is the femur of a Columbian Mammoth compared to the size of a modern human on the right. The Waco Mammoth site is a very interesting stop for anyone with any interest in prehistoric times.
With our limited time in Waco we had to choose between touring the Texas Ranger Museum or the Dr. Pepper Museum. As you can see we chose Dr, Pepper, not the best choice. For the cost of $8.00 each for seniors, it was way over priced.
This is the drug store where Dr. Pepper was invented. 
The animation of Dr. Alderton tells the story of the invention.
The biggest part of the tour was all about the brands that the Snapple company sells in addition to Dr. Pepper. At this point I was feeling thirsty, but not one little sip was included in the admission.
An old truck, 1924 Ford, used for delivery.
An old bottle washing machine. Remember when you were a kid and would collect pop bottles and return them for two cents each so you could buy candy?
The old bottling machine.
The well was an interesting tale. It was once used for the water to wash bottles and make the soda. After the city banned the use of the urban well, the workers began to throw broken bottles in the well. It was then covered up and forgotten until they renovated the building. An archeologist from Baylor did a dig and of course found many old broken bottles.    
The office of W.W. "Foots" Clements, a salesman who is given credit for increasing sales of the soft drink. 
In another building they have the old Holt Beverage Company 7UP bottling line. I guess I am not a Pepper because, overall, I did not think this was a tour that was worth the cost. They do have a soda fountain where, of course, you could purchase a taste of the company's many products.  
As I said, my Waco education continued when I put on Facebook where we were. Several people said we had to go to the Silos. Apparently it is a business run by a couple who are on HGTV.
We were told to try the bakery but the line was too long so we checked out the store Magnolia. This is as close as I got. This is not a place for someone who lives in a house on wheels.
Magnolia has all the STUFF anyone could possibly want for home decorating. To my surprise they do not even use the silos but plans are in the offing. This is now one of those been there done that places. Nanc did say her shopping buddies would have loved it.
We did find an interesting place to eat, Twisted Root Burgers. The food was good, veggie burger for Nanc and the beer was great, but no wine for Nanc.
Overall, we enjoyed our short stay in Waco with an interesting park service site and a great COE RV park. It is a much neater city than I expected.