Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Texas 2008

We started taking these trips while Melvin was in graduate school.  This meant the earliest we could hit the road was mid-May, although June was more typical.  One lesson learned on our June 2004 trip to Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma was 95° was plenty warm enough.  An April trip to a part of the country that gets seriously hot became a possibility once Melvin finished his degrees.  In 2008 we set our sights on the two major league and five minor league teams in Texas.

We started with five one-sided games where the winners, usually the visiting team as it so happened, collectively scored five times as many runs as the losers.  The pattern changed in the last two matches, which were both won in the bottom of the tenth by the home team.  We visited the entire Southern Division of the Texas League so we saw a couple of teams, the Midland Rockhounds and the San Antonio Missions, multiple times.

We also saw a wide range of fine art, folk art, Americana and kitsch.  We dined well, mostly barbecue but not exclusively so.  There was way too much driving but that just reflects the size of Texas.  Neither of us regretted that the El Paso Diablos had relocated to Springfield, Missouri three years earlier.  I think the trip scheduled to begin in two days will be very similar but first, the recollection of Texas.

2400 Martin Luther King Boulevard East, Austin

Tuesday, April 15

We both flew into Dallas-Forth Worth, or "dee-eff-DUByuh" as the locals say.  The clerk at the car rental seemed to think that since he had to stay there all day, it was not unreasonable to force us to do so too, but we eventually hit the road.  Our first destination was Midland, home of the Rockhounds, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A's.  It's about five hours from DFW to Midland, and even longer from breakfast to dinner, and we stopped for lunch at Joe Allen’s Pit Bar-B-Que in Abilene.  It's a great big barn of a place, but it was almost empty when we arrived.  The food was good and I bet they pack 'em in some times.

Between the car rental clerk and lunch, we got to the 6:30 game against the Springfield Cardinals late.  The Rockhounds committed four errors early, costing them a couple runs.  However, it was Redbird hitting that won the game for them.  Their 12 hits included three doubles and a home run, while the Hounds only managed four hits total in the 9-1 loss.

Wednesday, April 16

Melvin didn't take to the idea immediately, or even what comes after immediately, but I eventually convinced him if we were going to get as close to Marfa as Midland, we needed to make a pilgrimage to sculptor Donald Judd's compound.  Melvin's opposition is understandable.  Already hours away from the next closest baseball team, a side trip to Marfa would take us even further in the wrong direction.  The Marfa tour scheduled required us to fill Wednesday with sight-seeing, starting in Midland.

Our first stop was the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame, which was a more varied and thoughtful historical and geological record than the industry cheerleading we expected.  Also in Midland is the American Airpower Heritage Museum.  On the 2009 cross-country trip we saw scores of restored aircraft somewhere—we'll remember where eventually—but they seem much more vital when guys are actively restoring them.  Pretty cool collection of "nose art," the paintings on the fuselages of military airplanes.

We zipped up I-20 to Odessa, just to the east.  Our plan was to have lunch at Manuel's Crispy Tacos but a family emergency closed the restaurant we had read "might be the one, true, must-go place in town."  There was a quick photo-op at the "World's Largest Jackrabbit."  Unplanned, we drove past the Ector Theater, built in 1951 and restored in 2001.  (You might have thought these performers were dead but no, just hiding out in Odessa.)

We ended up having lunch at Sam's Bar-B-Que, but only after I accidentally set off the car alarm in the parking lot and couldn't figure out how (simple it was) to turn it off.  Melvin did.  The food was nothing special but it was satisfying to eat with the locals.  Patron's enter through a small grocery and the kitchen and tables are off to one side.

It was time to head to Marfa, with a couple quick tourist stops en route.   Alley Oop Land, outside of an RV park in Iraan, commemorates the syndicated-cartoon caveman.  Oop was also the subject of a number one pop song so clearly he was a bigger cultural phenomena than I have ever understood.  We also got to see a wind turbine blade up close.  Lots of wind turbines in this part of Texas but it is hard to tell how large they are (very) from a distance.

"Paisano Pete," in Fort Stockton, may or may not be the "World's Largest Roadrunner" but at 11-feet, he's three feet taller than the "World's Largest Jackrabbit."  Somewhere between Alley Oop and Paisano Pete, Melvin got popped by the state highway patrol.  Dusk was falling by the time we got to Alpine and we had dinner in the now closed Edelweiss Brewery, in the Holland Hotel.  We got to the Riata Inn in Marfa after dark but doubled back after check-in to the official state-maintained viewing platform for the Marfa "ghost lights."

The explanations that seek to demystify the phenomena seem to me even less plausible than those that attribute the paranormal.  From first hand experience I can say the way the lights suddenly and gradually appear and disappear, coalesce and separate, move horizontally, vertically or not at all bears no relationship to anything I have ever seen car lights do.  Would the State of Texas really build such a large visitors center if the whole thing was explicable?

Thursday, April 17

Art in the desert.  Morning (Donald Judd, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, David Rabinowitch, John Chamberlain) and afternoon (Dan Flavin, John Wesley, Ingólfer Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Carl Andre) tours of The Chinati Foundation, founded by Judd.  (100 untitled works in mill aluminum, 1982-1986, top.)  The museum is in the former Fort D.A. Russell, which served as a German internment camp during World War II.  On a wall was stenciled, "DEN KOPF BENUTZEN IST BESSER ALS IHN VERLIEREN."  (Loosely, it's better to use your head than to lose it.)  In between, we had lunch at the Food Shark food truck (yelp).  Afterwards, we went on a third tour, of Judd’s residence in Marfa (above).

All very interesting, but pretty sedate, which only made Hello Meth Lab in the Sun, an installation at Ballroom Marfa that much more unsettling.  (I would think of this art piece when I was being questioned in Idaho in 2009.)  We had dinner at Pancho Borunda's Bar & Grill and a night-cap at The Hotel Paisano.  The Spanish Revival hotel, opened in 1930 and restored in 2001, is where the middle-aged set stays.  Hipsters camp out at the Thunderbird Hotel, "a classic mid-century roadside motor court updated to reflect a comfortably minimal aesthetic."  We retired to our simple room at the Riata Inn, where we woke up the next morning to the wind blowing shingles off the roof.

Friday, April 18

The original plan for Friday was yet another tour, this time of Judd's studio.  But Melvin had had enough of Judd and suggested the morning would be better spent getting an earlier start on driving.  The completist in me hesitated before accepting he was right.

By lunch we had gotten as far as Ozona and we were in Fredericksburg in the middle of the afternoon.  The National Museum of the Pacific War is earnest and informative.  (I'm not the first to remark, but "pacific war" is an oxymoron.)  Perhaps I only shame Melvin and myself if I admit the draw for us was a reported "walk-through airfield on an anonymous Pacific atoll populated by animatronic dummies and rats."  The closest we got to animatronics was some manikins.

Fredericksburg did provide the opportunity to have dinner on the back deck of the Ausländer Biergarten and Restaurant.  After supper we continued on to our hotel in Kerrvile and checked in early enough to see a replica of Stonehenge, with some replica Easter Island statues thrown in for good measure, in Hunt.

Saturday, April 19

We had breakfast at the Ost Restaurant, in Bandera.  Saddles for stools at the bar, a John Wayne Room, lots of bikers making a stop on their runs through the winding roads of the Hill Country.

काशी विश्‍वनाथ मंदिर
Bandera is also home to the Frontier Times Museum, a wonderful hodge-podge of miscellany.  Although most of the artifacts are of questionable provenance or vintage or both, they generally make some loose thematic sense.  This however could not be said of the large (reportedly) copper, silver and gold platter (reportedly) from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, or the Golden Temple to Krishna, Benares, India.

We continued on to San Antonio where we saw Mission Concepción (above) and Mission San José, two of the four Spanish colonial churches maintained by the National Park Service.  (The Alamo, a fifth mission and the only one no longer actively used for religious services, is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.)

I give up.  There isn't any graceful segue from Spanish missions to our next stop, Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum.  Painted, engraved, collaged, découpaged, there are over a thousand decorative seats (or more accurately, seat covers) in a wide variety of media.  Snicker if you must, but the man has been on the Today show, The View and Montell Williams.  Melvin and I added our names to the New York State seat, which also has a license plate, an outline of the state, and the state bird, flag and flower.  If you go, leave plenty of time, for Barney can chat for hours.  In fact, Melvin and I theorized Mrs. Smith indulges the hobby to get Barney out of the house so she can enjoy some quiet.  And although Barney is clearly obsessed, he is in no way delusional, unlike some of the folks we have met on our travels.

When we finally attended our second ball game, we saw the Midland Rockhounds again, this time as the visitors.  The score was tied at one-apiece at the end of seven innings.  San Antonio reliever Gabe DeHoyos came on in relief in the eighth inning and got the lead-off batter to fly out.  He struck out Michael Massaro but the third strike got past catcher Matt Stocco and Massaro took first.  He went to second on another passed ball, ended up at third on a soft grounder, and scored on a line drive single.  DeHoyos then caught a line drive and threw out the man at first for an inning-ending double-play, limiting the potential damage.  DeHoyos' fortune turned sour in the ninth.  Three singles, two walks, two wild pitches and the Rockhounds plated four to win the once close game 6-1.

One curious footnote: Massaro, who also hit a double and played center field, was the losing pitcher four nights earlier.  This would, however, be his last season in affiliated baseball.

The highlight of the game took place off field when Melvin and I were serenaded by Montage, "a quartet in the barbershop style!"  The Sweet Adelines had sung the National Anthem and then watched the game with their spouses from seats behind us.  Having learned about our trip, they sang
"Hi Neighbor! Hi Neighbor!
What do you know and what do you say?
Hi Neighbor! Hi Neighbor!
Throw all your worries away.
Come on and shake my hand and let a grin do the rest.
It makes you feel so grand to get your chin off your chest.
I’m shouting; 'Hi Neighbor! My Neighbor!
Time to play and say Hi!'"
We met lots of friendly people on this trip, several of whom asked after a half-hour of gabbing if we were ready to move to Texas, but these gals won the prize for most congenial.

Sunday, April 20

Up early, we went downtown to check out the Paseo del Rio, or the San Antonio Riverwalk if you prefer, which was quiet at that hour on a Sunday.  The Riverwalk is an innovative flood control project that also created intimate public urban spaces.  Cynics will be reminded of the numerous derivative retail and leisure environments, especially when they arrive at the large mall that anchors the walkways.

We didn't have a plan for lunch and pulled off in Flatonia when we just couldn't go any further.  Donna's Cozy Cafe sounded promising and even looked so at first.  Small—I guess that is the "cozy" part—and family run, we waited forever for very easily prepared food that was borderline inedible when it did arrive.  People sometimes remark on how much planning Melvin and I do in advance of our trips.  To avoid disasters like this is exactly why we do.

The 40-acre Forbidden Gardens reportedly cost $20 million to construct, paid for by a Hong Kong real estate mogul.  According to NPR, local teenage boys would ignorantly telephone to ask the minimum age for admission.  The major features were a 1:20 replica of China's Forbidden City, almost an acre in size, and a one-third scale reproduction of the 6,000-man terracotta army buried with Qin Shihauangdi, unified China's first emperor, in 210 BC and unearthed in 1974.  I write "were" because Forbidden Gardens closed so "Segment E" of State Highway 99—planned as the third, most distant beltway around Houston—could be constructed.  The last of the attraction was sold off on February 19 and 20, 2011, with the one-third scale terracotta soldiers priced at $85-100 and $250 for the six-foot tall models.

Our first stop in Houston was The Orange Show, a folk environment on a corner in an otherwise unassuming subdivision.  As much a maze as a building, The Orange Show is Jeff McKissack's monument to the keys to health and longevity: hard work and eating oranges.  The structure is now maintained by The Orange Show for Visionary Art (OSCVA), which is also the steward for The Beer Can House, our next stop.  At the latter, John Milkovisch covered the entire exterior of his bungalow with flattened beer cans, which also form other ornamentation around the property.

Melvin and I have seen a fair number of folk environments and few are in as good shape as The Orange Show.  OSCVA claims, "The Orange Show is one of the most important folk art environments in the United States." I cannot help but think there is a chicken-and-egg relationship here.  When folk environments are allowed to fall into disrepair, they lose their appeal and deterioration is allowed to continue.  However, when a folk environment is maintained and made known, it has the opportunity to develop its acclaim.

More barbecue for dinner, this time at Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q, which operates three locations in Houston.  Folks line up and tell the carvers what they want.  I had brisket, beans, cole slaw, pecan pie and Lone Star, eaten at a long picnic table under a large metal awning just off the parking lot.  The lack of pretense is the decor.  Afterwards, Melvin and I went to the Houston Ginger Man, the oldest of this family of pubs.  Sixty taps!  We're both well acquainted with the Ginger Man in Manhattan and there was some discussion of trying to hit all the other branches in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.  Ultimately we would not.

Monday, April 21

Having seen some of Houston, Melvin and I took a day-trip out of town, so to speak.  Our first stop was the National Museum of Funeral History.  Among other features, there are several hearses.  It's says something about America that so many of the museums we visit turn out to be, to greater or lesser extent, car museums.  The most unique display is the dozen figurative Ghanaian caskets. "Each of the coffins is designed to capture the essence of the departed," which is so different from the somber boxes in which we inter our family and friends.

Further north of Houston is the Texas Prison Museum, in Huntsville.  The Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary houses the states execution chamber.  The museum is the current home of "Old Sparky," which caused the death of 361 men from 1924-1964.  Texas has the most active execution chamber in the United States, having put to death 466 people between December 7, 1982—the date of the first lethal injection—and today.  Cary Kerr, a 47-year old white male convicted of sexually assaulting and then killing a woman by pushing her from a moving vehicle, is scheduled to be was executed next, on May 3, 2011, after eight years on death row.  Michael Perry (above), found guilty of killing three with a shotgun when he was 19, was the last prisoner [before Kerr] to make a final statement:
"Yes, I want to start off by saying to everyone [I] know that's involved in this atrocity that they are all forgiven by me. Mom, I love you.....(crying) I am ready to go Warden. Coming home dad, coming home dad."
[Michael Perry is one of the subjects of Werner Herzog's 2011 film, Into the Abyss.]

I'm sorry; where was I?  Right; the museum.  There are artifacts and ephemera associateable with most human experience, including incarceration and execution.  Perhaps I lacked the proper sense of detachment.  You can buy in the gift shop a belt buckle, leather wallet or set of dominoes hand-made by a prisoner.

Not too far from the Texas Prison Museum is the tallest statue in the country of a real, as opposed to allegorical, person.  Sam Houston stands tall in Texas history and his figure now stands 67-feet tall on the east side of Interstate 45.  West of I-45, about 30 miles north of Houston, is the master planned community of The Woodlands.

When The Woodlands was taught to me in school, the emphasis was on its ecological design.  In person, it just seemed to me to be an upscale suburb.  In fact, the 2000 census states the community was 92.36 percent white and the median household income was $85,253.  I'm sure it's very nice, if you go in for that sort of thing, which many people apparently do since the population (no other data yet available) increased 68.6 percent in the 2010 census.

Back in town, we spent some time in the Rothko Chapel, a contemplative space opened in 1971 by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil.  The sanctuary features large painted canvases specifically commissioned by the de Menils from the Russian-born, American painter Mark Rothko.  Melvin was better able to appreciate the subtlety of the paintings but I found the experience restorative nonetheless.

We had dinner at Kim Son, which I had read good things about before the trip.  Melvin wanted to go to another Vietnamese restaurant, in a small shopping center, judging (I think) both books by their covers.  However, a docent at the Beer Can House the day before had also recommended Kim Son and I used that persuasively.  The place makes Joe Allen's, the barbecue barn from the first day, seem like a hole in the wall.  In the end we agreed the food was very fresh tasting, especially the noodles.  Since we were close, we also stopped by the home of Cleveland Turner, the "Flower Man."  Six months after we were there, the Flower Man's house was badly damaged by Hurricane Ike.

Our seventh day on the road and only our third baseball game; the San Diego Padres at Houston Astros.  The home team came out swinging, sending ten men to the plate in the first inning and scoring five runs, including a three-run homer by Lance Berkman, then in his tenth year as an Astro.  In the top of the second, Jim Edmonds hit his first home run as a Padre, a solo shot.  The Astros added a couple more runs in the bottom of the frame, making it 7-1 after only two.  The visiting team scored a second run in the third, only to see the Astros tack on three in the fourth.  Adrian Gonzalez hit another solo shot for the Padres in the sixth and that is were the scoring ended, 10-3 Houston, who were only 7-12 going into the game.

Photograph by SBoyd used
through Creative Commons license
Miguel Tejada had four hits, including the three-run homer that really put the game out of reach and a double.  He also stole second in the second.  However, as a Mets fan, it was Kaz Matsui that caught my eye.  Error-prone and often injured, Kaz was unable to live up to his hype in New York and the Mets unloaded him on the Colorado Rockies, where he would go on to be part of the 2007 World Series Champions.  Now here he was going 2 for 5, the only Astro hitting over .300.

Tuesday, April 22

We started our day at The Breakfast Klub, where we both had catfish (with a "k") and grits (with a "g").  We weren't pressed for time and decided to avoid the Interstate in favor of US 59 and US 90.  Melvin had to mail something—or was it me?—and we stopped in some little town.  There were some abandoned greenhouses under an unsettled sky.  I liked the composition and mood.  A guy in a pick-up truck pulled up, friend of the owner he said.  But unlike our previous year's trip where suspicion lead to outright hostility, the local asked what I was doing and satisfied by the answer, drove off.

We stopped in at Jerry Mikeska's Bar-B-Q but not yet hungry for lunch, settled for photographs.  The hexagonal building is wall-to-wall (to-wall, etc.) hunting trophies.

In La Grange, we stumbled upon the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites.  I don't remember what caught our eye, although "Brewery" would do the trick.  The sun had come out again and the historic sites were a fine excuse for a stroll.  The monument commemorates "two separate events in the 1840s: the Dawson Massacre and the infamous Black Bean Death Lottery." That last phrase has a ring of absurdity but in reality refers to the legume equivalent to drawing the short straw.  The brewery is a ruin but the house has a simple but handsome grandeur, perhaps reflective of the self-made wealth of the German brewer.

Our only Austin attraction was the Cathedral of Junk, which is wonderful.  Don't take my word for it—four-and-a-half stars on yelp.  I could try to explain it but to quote Vince Hanneman, who built it behind his little yellow house, "Kids, when they come through, they know what it is."

That evening we saw the only Triple-A game of the trip, Memphis Redbirds at Round Rock Express.  Both starting pitchers were sharp for four innings.  Fernando Nieve limited the visitors to a couple line drives; Redbird Mitchell Boggs walked one and allowed a single.  But in the fifth, Colby Rasmus hit a three-run home off Nieve, who then gave up four singles in the sixth.  However, a double-play and a 9-2 put out to end the inning left Memphis with nothing to show for it.  Nonetheless, Nieve was done.  In the home sixth, a single, walk and a triple drove Boggs from the game without getting an out.

Starting with the unfinished sixth and the Express ahead, 4-3, four Redbird relievers pitched a scoreless inning apiece, one hit between them.  The Express relievers also pitched one inning each.  Jared Gothreaux got three straight fly outs in the seventh only to return in the eighth and give up three straight hits.  Nick Regilio came in, let the three runners score, then got out of the inning.  Ryan Houston pitched the ninth: a single and a home run by David Freese made it 10-4 in favor of the Redbirds.

Wednesday, April 23

We did something this day that Melvin and I have never done on any other trip.  We drove 3.5 hours to see a game, in Corpus Christi as it so happened, and then afterwards drove another couple hours back the way we came.  We started the trip south on Ranch Road 12,
which some guide book stated was “easily a contender for the state’s most scenic drive.”   It was nice but we preferred the desert.  However, the route did give us the chance to stop at the Wimberly Pie Company.  That also underwhelmed Melvin and me, although a smattering of yelpsters are generally enthusiastic.

We didn't have a long list of Corpus Christi attractions and didn't feel strongly about any of them either.  We could not find the statue of the murdered Tejano star, Selena (Quintanilla-Pérez). It was not hard to find the USS Lexington but for some reason we did not tour the big boat.  Melvin vaguely recalls that tours were timed and our timing was off.

We decided instead to have a leisurely dinner at Pier 99.  They have the "Largest Patio on the Water In the Coastal Bend!" and I bet the place is rockin' when the weather is nice.  On a Wednesday afternoon in April, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  I had the Seafood Medley, "A costa rican (sic) recipe with a sauteed blend of shrimp, fish, calamari, bell peppers, & rice," and Shiner Bock.

We still had some time to kill before the game so we drove along County Road 55B (Navigation Boulevard and Carbon Plant Road ), which runs along a peninsula created, it appears, by channelizing some formerly natural water feature.  Heavy industry, petroleum primarily, lines the south shore of the channel and as the sun got lower the sky turned an other-world shade of lavender that was one of the most beautiful sights I had seen on the whole trip.  Granted, the color was probably created by chemicals and particulate matter but this two-lane strip of land, seemingly floating in Nueces Bay, freight cars idle on the Port Corpus Terminal railroad tracks—it had such an incredible sense of place.

We saw the Rockhounds lose at home, 9-1, on the first night of the trip.  They won 6-1 in San Antonio four nights later.  Another four days had passed and here they were again, in town to contest the Corpus Christi Hooks.  It wasn't much of a contest, however.  James Simmons started for the Hounds and held the Hooks to four hits, none of which advanced beyond second.  Andy Shipman got the three-inning save, in which he gave up a ground ball for a single and hit a batter.

Whataburger Field, with the Harbor Bridge beyond the outfield

The visiting team dominated at the plate as well.  Every player got a hit.  Jesus Guzman went four for six with a triple on his way to being the Texas League player of the week.  Guzman came home three times and every player but one scored a run in the 11-0 shut-out.  Chance Douglass took the loss but only because he started.  Four runs (two earned) scored during his five innings of work but Evan Englebrook allowed three in just an inning and the last four runs came during Jose Oyervidez's inning and two-thirds.

Thursday, April 24

A long drive, broken up by several stops, none of which was very stimulating.  But first, breakfast at Taco Taco in San Antonio, which one of us found touted on the "online home of Details magazine."  (That doesn't really seem like Melvin or me but there it is.  Hey, they listed five breakfast places in all of America; how could we not go?)  When we got there a banner proclaimed "Best Tacos in America," attributing the appraisal to Bon Appetit and the Food Network.  A short wait for a table, a short wait for our food, a mix of tourists and workin' guys in pick-up trucks.  The tortillas were very fresh.

Our next stop was the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, in Waco.  Melvin and I drifted separately through galleries, both only mildly interested but not wanting to rush the other.  I think we were just exhausted.  We saw more guns and other stuff before each realized the other would be happy to leave.

The Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose proved only that non-conventional theories, and the explanation thereof, do not need to be coherent or even explanatory.  (Of course, that was before we met Nick Pahys.)  Equally underwhelming was the Jesse James Plot and the related bakery called The Nutshell with its painted murals of John Wilkes Booth tending bar and Jesse James about to shoot a bear.  Both are in Granbury, a pretty town with a very nice town square.

We skipped the touristy Czech Shop and Little Czech Bakery, right off I-35 at Exit 353, and drove another eight blocks up Oak to the Village Bakery at 113 East Oak Street—trust me on the address, no matter what you read elsewhere—in the town of West.  People who generally do not eat in chain fast-food restaurants can, on going to one, some times experience staff incredulity that the menu is a mystery and you do not already know what to order.  The women working at the Village Bakery were a bit like that.  Very charming in that been-there-forever kind of way.

When we did get to Dallas-Fort Worth, we had to leave almost immediately for suburban Frisco.  We had been warned by Hertz not to drive on the tollway because the tolls would be charged to the company, not us.  Each alternate route proved to be worse than the last and explained why there was an expensive toll road.  We did get to Dr (sic) Pepper Ballpark in time for the game however.  The stadium is one of the strangest we had seen to that point and even since.  Aesthetically (as opposed to the larger planning sense), it was New Urbanist, more at home it seemed to us in Celebration, Florida than the outskirts of DFW.  The offices and luxury suites are housed in a rambling 19th-century wood-frame beachfront hotel, or at least something that looked like one.

Dr Pepper Ballpark was designed by David M Schwarz and HKS Sports and Entertainment and named best new ballpark in 2003 by baseballparks.com.  Five years later, ballparkdigest.com cited the Rough Riders for "Best Ballpark Improvements" for continued excellence.  In 2009, Baseball America named Dr Pepper Ballpark the fifth-best ballpark in Minor League Baseball and second among Double-A clubs.

The game was one of those see-saw affairs.  The lead changed five times, for the last time on the Chris Davis home run in the bottom of the tenth that made it 7-6.  The Missions and Rough Riders each ran five pitchers out to the mound.  Both teams had ten hits, but Frisco included four home runs, a triple and a double in their tally, not that all that power let them run away with the game.
Game Recap

After learning more about the toll road from local residents, we took it back into Dallas.  Every few miles we would hand a dollar to una abuela in a toll booth who, with her other hand, would toss four quarters into the toll basket.

Friday, April 25

Melvin and I saw so much in Dallas-Fort Worth on the last day of our vacation; it really points out how much time and energy was lost some days to driving.  We poked around Fort Worth a bit on our way to the Amon Carter Museum, where we saw an excellent show, "The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978: From the Collection of Robert E. Jackson."  Originally mounted by the National Gallery, I am surprised only one other museum exhibited it.  We wanted to visit the Kimball Museum next but had some time to kill.  The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame may in fact be interesting but all the other visitors were little girls and their mommies and we just had to leave.  Not a total loss: I took a photograph (above) that I like a lot.

We doubled back to the Kimball and after spending some time in the galleries, had lunch (yum, yum; canned green beans) at The Smoke Pit (yelp).  After lunch, we
drove in circles looking for the "Chromosaurs," dinosaurs built of chrome automobile bumpers, something that has gone the way of the dinosaurs.  We eventually found the beasts between a Ripley's Believe It or Not and I-30.

I am sure Dallas has mixed feelings that Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository are popular tourist destinations.  Privatized, the later is now known as The Sixth Floor Museum.  There is a great deal of information here but it is so well organized, so creatively presented, the visitor is captivated, even if they cannot picture exactly where they were on November 22, 1963.

[A school administrator entering the classroom, quiet words with the teacher, who tried to continue her lesson plan but was clearly shaken; being led in solemn lines to school buses once the drivers were rounded up, adults not saying anything to the students, although their facial expressions and body language told us it was something horrible—nuclear attack?; arriving home to our hysterical mothers, left to tell us the news, or compounding the mystery by making us wait until our fathers returned from work.]

Even off-season the civic grandeur of the Texas Hall of State (East Texas Room mural above) and state fairgrounds were interesting to to Melvin and me.  The grounds are home in the fall to one of the largest state fairs in America.

The last game of our trip was a match-up between two struggling teams, the Minnesota Twins (10-12) and the Texas Rangers (7-16).  Although Melvin and I would probably root for any team playing against the former club of the man history (not me) will judge as one of the worst presidents of all time, our affection for the Twins is genuine, as has been documented elsewhere here.  We were therefore happy when Justin Morneau hit an RBI single in the first and a grand slam in the third, putting the visitors up 5-0.  The Rangers tied it up in the bottom of the inning, which might have been far worse for the Twins but for an exciting 9-6-2-5 double play.

We then sat—on the Lexus Club Level, with new cars on the concourse and in-seat ordering—through six painfully scoreless innings.  The Twins' lead-off hitter got on four times but the runner reached third only once.  The Twins left 24 men on base, but the Rangers experienced their own frustration, stranding 15.  David Murphy hit a two-out RBI single off Juan Rincon to end it all in the bottom of the tenth.

Returning to our motel after the game, we noticed we had driven 2,970 miles, not quite the round number generally associated with driving across the country, yet we hadn't left this one big state.  Although we wouldn't start blogging our trips for another fifteen months, the evening still ended with Melvin on his laptop.

The Texas Rangers ask, "DO YOU KNOW YOUR MLB GEOGRAPHY?"  Oh yes, and we know our minor league geography as well, not to mention having these impressions of The Lone Star State.

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