The wildflowers persisted, on and off, until we got to Tyler's Rose Garden. Tyler is roughly 90 miles east of Dallas. . Its claim to fame is as a "rose capital". In the 1840s, fruit tree farmer moved there to grow peaches. They used roses as a secondary crop. But a scale insect came and claimed the peach trees, leaving roses as the primary crop.
In the 1930s, the town began hosting a Rose Festival. Now, the rose industry is one of Tyler's main industries. Our first stop in Tyler was to be the rose garden, which I had not visited in some 12 years or so. The garden is vastly improved. It has 39,000 rose bushes in roughly 14 acres, and the vast majority of the bushes were in their initial April bloom.
We saw yellow roses, made famous by the song, as well as virtually every color of rose imaginable. Many had the traditional names like "peace and love" or "Marilyn Monroe", but we laughed that one variety was named "lavaglut".
We walked around the garden, and I tried out my digital camera on the flowers.
I hope to post some pictures from this trip as soon as I figure out how to upload.
Then we toured the Rose Museum, which told some great information about history and
rose growing, but seemed mostly fixated on the gowns worn by the Rose Queens, all presented in elaborate detail. Each gown had a train roughly forty feet long with elaborate patterns, of roughly the thickness of a Christmas tree skirt. I wonder if they could use the gowns for tractor pulls when they are finished as rose ball gowns.
We headed to Bodacious Barbecue for sandwiches, which served barbecue living up to the cafe's name, after we waited a while for other customers to be served. We drove on up to Tyler State Park, a lovely wooded park surrounding a quaint lake. We
hiked the trail around the lake, tall loblolly pines alternating with little hardwoods. Then we watched kids swim off the little lake beach.
Back in Tyler, every street corner seemed to have a vendor selling roses. But instead of cut roses, it was always rose bushes, at 1, 2 or 3 dollars per pot.
Tyler is known for its many fine nursuries, but we have a nice Tropicana rose, and we are not really rose growers by first inclination. But it was charming to see all those roses.
We went on a long driveabout hunting our Ramada Inn, which Priceline had provided us for the evening. I was in charge of directions, and it took forever, and two calls to the inn, to find our bearings. Finally, though, we arrived and checked in.
Then we headed to the Tyler Market, a huge institionalized flea market. Unfortunately, it was more "giant but not well done" yard sale than Texas crafts market, and I felt badly for a few of the caged puppies on sale without adequate shade. We headed off to dinner.
We drove down to the town of Coffee City, where the Yellow Pages promised we would find the "Freshest Seafood in East Texas". As with every drive we took this weekend, the road was vivid with purple and red and yellow wildflowers. We passed through "Noonday", home, I believe of the "noonday onion", until we reached the seafood buffet. The buffet was at 15 dollars not cheap but still reasonably fairly priced, and had tons of variety on it. Unlike many similar buffets, it had some choices which were not fried.
We chose not to pay the extra ten dollars a person for the "Super Buffet", and due to this parsimony missed out on the "super entrees"--fried alligator, crab legs and all the crawdaddies one can eat. I did not suffer much for the missing seafood parts, but I did see one middle aged woman with a plastic plate stacked high with dancing king crab legs, and one 30ish man with what can only be described as a plastic oil can lid packed with crawdads (i.e., crayfish). We drove back into
Tyler, and turned in for the evening.
This morning we woke up and drove to Henderson, which boasted of "wildflower trails". When we arrived, nothing was open to guide us to the trails (it being Sunday morning in the Bible Belt), so we headed on to Rusk. We did see tons of wildflowers, along roadways and in the fields. Every business seemed to be a plant growing business, when it was not rending or corrugating or molding or some such. We went to the Rusk State Park, where we got to see the Texas State Railroad train pull out. The Texas State Railroad was constructed by inmates at nearby Rusk State Penitentiary, to haul iron ore 30 miles to nearby Palestine.
We hiked on the short nature trails, which had helpful signs identifying trees.
The little lake here was extremely pretty, with lily pads everywhere. We saw black swallowtail butterflies, and woodland flowers.
Then we headed back into Rusk, a town of 5,000, to see its famous footbridge, a 5,000 foot way for folks east of Rusk to try to avoid the rains while walking into Rusk in the 19th Century. The footbridge was not like a high suspension bridge, but was instead only a few feet off the ground. We saw lizards playing among the boards, and enjoyed the walk on the rebuilt bridge.
We then headed over to Jim Hogg State Park. Governor Hogg, famous as Texas' first native-born governor (and for the fact that either his wife or daughter, I cannot remember which, went by the grandliloquent sobrioquet "Ima Hogg"), who lived in the
late 19th Century and was known for being a "populist" of sorts.
The park, built on a modest tract of land called "Mountain Home", featured a replica of the modest cabin. Governor Hogg's father, a Civil War bridgadier killed in action in Meridian, Mississippi, had a memorial stone there. Fresh flowers, festooned with a Confederate flag and the Texas "Lone Star Flag", stood by the memorial stone.
The woods in that park were very nice, with deep shade and trumpet flowers, and a ghost story about a small dam that had been torn down when a young boy drowned in the resulting wading pool. The boy's ghost is said to haunt the place, but we saw only butterflies.
We drove on to Athens, where the Texas State Fisheries exhibit had exhibitions of Texas fish, such as a tank of stylish thin Guadulupe bass from the Texas hill country, as well as the many other denizens of Texan freshwater. The place was nice enough, but its five dollar and fifty cent admission seemed excessive in light of its roughly 2 dollars in value. After all, we had seen Governor Hogg for free.
We headed onto Highway 175, and drove on home, seeing Indian Paintbrush and susans, until, roughly fifty miles outside Dallas, we saw huge swaths of bluebonnets everywhere. I got good pictures of lots of flowers--or at least good for me--but
I did not get a single good bluebonnet picture. I had not appreciated before how
bluebonnets occur in such profusion in a narrow band in north Texas.
I'm exhausted, but I'm glad that my wife and my friend Gene are such game travellers, and after all that hiking, I'll be glad of a bit of sleep tonight.