Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

Focus on the Backroads bio picture

    There is approximately 50,000 miles of Interstate Highway in the United States.....filled with cars traveling at an average of 75 miles an hour. Several years ago I began driving the BACKROADS throughout Texas and the surrounding states - discover many fascinating places and people. While traveling "off the beaten path" I have tried to capture the spirit of these forgotten roads in photographs.

    After sharing some of these journeys with folks I have met I've been encouraged to document my travels.........I invite you to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS!

    "To often......I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen"
    Louis L'Amour


In 1968 my family lived in Hazel Dell, Washington. One evening my Mom and Dad sat down with my two brothers and I to let us know that we were going to be moving to Marshall, Texas. Being that all my hero were TV and Movie cowboys I was EXCITED. I knew that soon I would be living in surrounding similar what I saw while watching Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and other popular shows of the times. Imagine the shock to discover that they had indoor plumbing and electricity and the they drove cars, well mainly trucks, instead of saddling up on their horses. Well 1968 was a great year because it was the year that Texas became my “adopted home state”

Shortly after moving to East Texas we discovered Jefferson and Caddo Lake. My mom became the Director of Nursing at a private hospital in Jefferson and my family spent many hours water skiing at Caddo.

Jefferson was founded around 1841, located on land ceded from the Caddo Indians. At that time a log jam more than 100 miles long existed on the Red River near Natchitoches, Louisiana, known as the Great Red River Raft. This Raft acted as a dam and raised the level of Caddo Lake and the Red River several feet creating the Big Cypress Bayou at Jefferson. This event permitted commercial riverboat travel to Jefferson from ports such as St Louis and New Orleans. During the Civil War Jefferson was one of the most important ports in Texas. A few years after the war the population of Jefferson exceeded 30,000 making it the sixth largest city in Texas at the time. In 1873, the Army Corps of Engineers were able to clear the raft from the Red River, this cause the water levels to drop to a levels that resulted in the end of riverboat traffic to Jefferson to cease. A few years later the population dropped to about 3,000.

What remains today is a town with a population of a little over 2,000 people. Jefferson is a town full of history – almost every commercial building and house on the main roads in Jefferson have a Texas historical marker. A visit to Jefferson is like stepping back in History.

Caddo Lake is one of the only natural lakes in Texas. Caddo covers over 26,000 acres making it the largest natural lake in the south. The lake begins in Karnack, Texas on its western edge and empties into the Afchafalaya River, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the lake is located in Texas and half in Louisiana. Caddo Lake is the home of one of the largest cypress forest in the world. This area is a must for fisherman, nature lovers, and photographers.

Points of Interest:
Caddo State Park
Caddo Lake Tours
Uncertain, Texas
Marshall, Texas – Marshall Pottery – Wonderland of Lights – Fire Ant Festival
Jonesville, Texas – TC Lindsey General Store – has been in operation since 1847
Jefferson, Texas – Jefferson Railway – Jefferson Ghost Walk – House of Seasons Tour – Excelsior House Hotel – Jay Gould’s Railcar tour – Paddlewheel Steamboat – numerous antique/gift shops

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CRITTER: (noun) a living creature or animal

In the book of Genesis 1 we read how God created the Earth. After the earth was created he made the animals of the oceans, the air and land. To paraphrase Genesis 1:25 And God made the Critters of the earth…….and God saw that if was good.

Critters come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are scary and dangerous while others we allow into our home and they become family. Some critters are so small we can not see them while others are as large as a small building. No matter of what they look like or what size they are all of God’s critters live together on Earth. We sometimes run and hide from these critters while other time we stomp on them to hear them crunch.

Below are some fun CRITTER FACTS:

Hummingbirds have so much control that they can fly backwards
Horses and cows sleep while standing up
Rats breed so quickly that in 18 months 2 rats could have created over 1 million offspring (did not need to know that)
The houseflies life span is for only 3 weeks (unless they meet a flyswatter)
The female mosquito is the only one that actually bites humans
Sharks lay the biggest eggs in the world
The Blue Whale can produce the loudest sound of any animals
The Tasmanian Devil is a real animal that lives in Tasmania, Australia.

In the backroads of Texas we have many critters. Some we love such as the roadrunner, the armadillo, and the Longhorn; while others we are not so fond of such as skunks. As you travel the backroads please remember the famous words of Ellie May Clampett, “I love Critters”, and enjoy all these
interesting creatures.

In all things in nature there is something marvelous…….Aristoltle

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FOCUS ON THE BACK ROADS: Remember the Alamo – however do not forget MISSIONS NATIONAL PARK

In the 1600 Spain laid claims on much of the land that is now Texas. With very few settlers and soldiers to protect this area of encroachment by France and England they need to established missions to help win the loyalty of the native people of the area.
Beginning in 1690 six missions were established in an area which is now East Texas. During the early 1700 four of these missions were relocated to locations along the San Antonio River. During the 1780 walls were built around the missions due to attacks from the Apache and Comanche Indians. living quarters were built inside the walls while farms and ranches were outside.
Life in these communities was centered around the church. Mission efforts were carried out by the Franciscans – their task was to spread Christianity and to increase Spanish influence throughout the area.

The MISSIONS NATIONAL PARK is made up of four Spanish frontier missions:
Mission Espada established in 1690
Mission Concepcion established in 1716
Mission San Jose established in 1720
Mission San Jaun Capistrano established in 1731
These four missions are operated by the National Park Service and run along 7.7 mile stretch, along the San Antonio River, known as The Mission Parkway. The Archdiocese of San Antonio own portions of these four missions and still are run as active parishes.

In additions to these there is a fifth mission established in 1718. This mission was named Mission San Antonio de Vellero and later became know as The Alamo. The Alamo is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The Alamo was the site in 1836 where during the Texas War of Independence 180 defenders fought off over 2,000 Mexican soldiers, lead by General San Anna, for 13 days before finally being defeated. The Alamo became the American symbol of patriotic sacrifice. For Texans it became the symbol of our pride in The Lone Star State.

You may go to Hell, and I will go to Texas……… Davy Crockett

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012514 County Side-1CROSSROAD (noun) a place where two or more roads meet.
At the Crossroads – At a point of decision or a critical juncture. This phrase, based on the importance put on the intersection of two road since ancient times, has been used figuratively for a long time. First documented use of this phrase was in 600 B.C. by Greek poet Theognis’s Elegies “I stand at the crossroads”

Everyday of every week of every month of every year we come upon crossroads. At each of these moments a decision has to be made… I go straight ahead, turn left, turn right, go back, or just stay where I am at. Every road is a new adventure and opportunity. All these decisions make us who we are.

TO DEEP…..I like to drive into the country in search of crossroads
When I find the right one I decide which direction to go……in search of things to photograph. Sometimes the results are total failure and other the results are magic.

So when you reach the perfect crossroad look all four directions before you decide which to take. It is simple you can go straight ahead, turn left, turn right, go back, or just stay at the Crossroads Cafe and eat Chicken Fried Steak and PIE!

Don McClean (of American Pie fame) wrote in his song Crossroads

But there’s no need for turning back
‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned

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Focus on the Backroads: MAGIC BUS: The Volkswagen Bus

The Volkswagen Bus is the Grandfather of the 80’s most popular “family” vehicle – The mini van.

Ben Pon drew the original sketches of the VW Van in 1947.  Pon owned the first Volkswagen dealership outside of Germany.  On March 8, 1959 the first production models left the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.  It was a big box place on the Beetle chassis and called the Transporter.

In 1952 the first VW Bus was sold in the US and soon could be seen traveling the back roads of  America.  A few years later it became a part of the Hippie culture.  The Bus made it’s way across country to music festivals from Monterey, CA;  Newport, RI; Lewisville, TX; and Max Yasgur’s farm (Woodstock) in Bethel, NY.

The Volkswagen Bus became associated with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.  Deadheads would faithfully follow the band, many in their hand painted, shag carpeted VW Buses.  When Jerry Garcia died in 1995 Volkswagen ran an ad in a special additional of Rolling Stone magazine that has become one of the most famous printed ads ever.  It is a sketch of the bus with a tear coming down from one of it’s headlights.  The only copy is Jerry Garcia 1942 – 1995.

For over 60 years the VW Bus has captured the hearts and imagination of travelers through out the United States.   Many singing the following lyrics as they tour the Back roads of America  

Every day you’ll see my dust…as I drive my baby in my Magic Bus  –  Pete Townsend (The Who)                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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