Thursday, December 18, 2014

San Jacinto Museum of History & Battlefield

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  In 1821, after years of Spanish rule, Mexico, which included the land that is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Utah, became an independent country.  Few Mexicans wanted to settle in the northern territories so the Mexican government encouraged immigration from the US. Thousands of people settled in Texas but by 1836 they were in open rebellion against the dictatorial government of Mexican president Santa Anna.

  To put down the rebellion Santa Anna led a force of about 6,000 Mexican troops into Texas, winning battles at the Alamo and Goliad and executing all prisoners. Meanwhile Sam Houston’s 1st Regiment Volunteer Army of Texas was retreating towards the Gulf coast. The two armies met at San Jacinto. Houston’s army caught the Mexicans off guard during siesta. Eighteen minutes later the battle was over with a victory for Texas and the capture of Santa Anna, paving the way for the formation of the independent Republic of Texas.
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The site includes the monument with a small museum and a theater in the base, and an elevator to an observation floor at the top. A boardwalk and dirt trail travels through wetlands and loops back along the roads to the battleground. Parts of it may be closed. Access to the battleground and the museum is free. The movie, the elevator ride to the observation floor and an additional room of displays all have separate fees. The movie, which gives a short account of the early history of Texas and the revolution, is worth seeing. We peeked into the additional museum room but didn’t see much of interest. The free part has a lot of artifacts and information.
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  A long ramp accesses the museum. The entry door is heavy. The museum and theater are accessible. We didn’t go up to the observation level but the website indicates that viewing is not good for people in wheelchairs. The boardwalk portion of the trail is accessible. The dirt portion is rough, narrow and muddy at spots – not very accessible.

  RVs can parallel park along the monument circle road. The easiest way to get to the battlefield is to take the free Lynchburg Ferry across the Houston Ship Channel. There’s a 20,000 lb per vehicle weight limit.  Museum
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant

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The fire hydrant, built for the 1999 re-release of the movie 101 Dalmatians, was originally displayed at Disney Land in Anaheim, CA. It’s 24 feet tall and stands in a little memorial park dedicated to fallen fire fighters. The free Fire Museum of Texas ( which we didn’t visit) is located across the street.

  A paved path leads to the hydrant.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV.

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Art Museum of Southeast Texas

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   This tiny museum has a couple of changing exhibit galleries and a permanent exhibit of metal towers by folk artist Felix “Fox” Harris who used discarded pieces of machinery and scrap metal to build his creations. Harris installed 120 pieces in his yard. When he died the sculptures were donated to the museum.

  The museum is accessible.

   RVs will fit in the lot on the opposite side of Main Street. Watch for low hanging branches.  Museum

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Texas Energy Museum

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  As should be expected this is actually a Texas OIL museum. The museum does a good job of explaining (with a bit of a pro-business slant) the origin of all that oil buried under Texas, the discovery of it, the ways to find more of it and the methods of processing it.

The entrance doors are very heavy. The interior of the museum is accessible.

RVs will fit in the lot on the opposite side of Main Street. Watch for low hanging branches.  Museum

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Stark Museum of Art

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   H.J. Lutcher Stark began collecting art  by Texas artists when he was in college. After he married Nita Hill the couple added American Indian objects from New Mexico to the collection. Nelda Childers, his third wife, was also an avid art lover and the collection expanded to include Santa Fe and Taos artists, porcelain birds and flowers by Dorothy Doughty and Edward M. Boehm, Steuben Glass and rare manuscripts and books. What is shown in the museum is just a small part of an impressive collection. When H.J. died Nelda inherited his vast fortune and all of the artwork causing a bit of a scandal because H.J.’s adopted twin sons received nothing. Everything was transferred to the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation when Nelda died.

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  The museum is accessible. A few of the display cases are a little too high to easily view the contents from a seated position.

  The parking lot located on the opposite side of 7th Street is large enough for any RV.   Museum

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shangri La Gardens

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  Shangri La Gardens was a personal retreat for H. J. Lutcher Stark, a wealthy lumber, oil and real estate businessman from Orange, Texas. After collecting and planting azaleas and camellias for four years he opened gardens to the public in 1946. Unfortunately neither Stark or the public got to enjoy the gardens for long. A hard freeze in the 1950s killed many of the plants and the gardens were closed until 2008. The reopened gardens focus on nature and environmental awareness.

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  Admission to the gardens includes a small visitor center and film, a children's’ garden, six themed gardens, greenhouses and a bird blind. An addition fee is charged for the boat tour through the wetlands. 

The visitor center and film are accessible. The main garden path is paved and level – very accessible. Other paths are hard packed dirt, covered with a layer of small stones, and are fairly easy to push along. The visitor center and movie are accessible. The bird blind has hinged boards which can be moved out of the way to get a better view but many of them are too high to use from a seated position. We didn’t go on the boat tour but we were told that it is wheelchair accessible.

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  RVs will fit in the lot parked lengthwise across the spaces. It’s a bit of a walk to the gardens from the main lot but if you have a car or van there are a few accessible parking spaces close to the entrance.  Garden

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Brimstone Museum

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  The history of sulfur mining and the city of Sulphur  is told in this tiny museum located in a renovated train depot. This is the first place in the world where sulfur was extracted by pumping super heated water through pipes, a method developed by Herman Frasch.

The museum is accessible but the door at the ramped entrance may be locked so you might want to call ahead of time.

The parking lot is large enough for RVs.  Museum

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Delta Downs Casino

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  Follow the signs for RV/truck parking. We parked in a closer lot because it was empty and didn’t seem to get much use.

  The sidewalk has a fairly steep uphill to the main entrance. The chairs are a little heavy. Most of the card and money slots are easy to reach.  Casino

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Gator Chateau

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  The Louisiana Oil & Gas Park rest area is a great place to take a short break. The park has restrooms, tourist information, a playground, small fishing lake and a paved walking trail plus the chance to hold a baby alligator!  Gator Chateau, an organization that rescues alligators and releases them back into the wild, is housed a small building with a large enclosure for big alligators and terrariums for the babies.

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  The information center, Gator Chateau, restrooms and trail are accessible.

  RVs can park lengthwise across the spaces.   Chateau

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rip Van Winkle Gardens

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  Jefferson Island, where Rip Van Winkle Gardens is located, was the home of 19th century stage actor Joseph Jefferson who became famous playing the character Rip Van Winkle. He acted in the play for 40 years. The gardens and his home, built in 1870, are open for tours. We thought the admission price ($10.00 no pass discount) was a bit high for the size of the gardens. We didn’t tour the house.
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  Jefferson Island is not an actual island but a dome of  land pushed up by ancient salt deposits. The domes are an indication of oil deposits. In 1980 an oil rig out in the middle of  Lake Peigneur punched through the roof of a salt mine which was located under the lake. All of the water rushed into the mine, pulling barges, the oil rig, land and buildings into a whirlpool. Fortunately no one was killed or even injured. We were hoping for exhibits about this event but it’s just touched on in the introductory film. A chimney and telephone poles are visible in the lake near the shoreline.
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   The gardens are not accessible due to hilly terrain and paths surfaced with small, loose stones.

   Drive through the paved parking lot to the gravel area for RV parking.  Garden
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