Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

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    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


On November 11, 1926 Route 66 was established. Route 66 ran 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illions, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before it ended in Santa Monica, California. It would become on of the most famous highways not only in the US but in the world!

Route 66 became the major westward route for thousands of families that moved to the west during the Great Depression. After World War II hundred of thousands returning GIs traveled Route 66 moving their families to the west in search for a better life – it became a modern day gold rush.

This highway was immortalized by the entertainment industry. The song Route 66 was written by Bobby Troup in 1946. It was recored that year by Nat King Cole and has been covered by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, A Sleep at the Wheel, John Mayer, Glenn Frey and many others. Beginning on October 7, 1960 CBS began airing Route 66 – a weekly TV series in which two young men traveled across America in a Red Corvette. The adventure continued until March 20, 1964. In 2006 Pixar Studios released the movie Cars. Cars was inspired by the historic Route 66. The movie stared a RED CORVETTE named Lighting McQueen. It is the story of how Lighting McQueen discovers the Life on the Highway not on the interstate.

Driving Route 66 is on my bucket list – I dream of traveling each of the 2,448 miles eating cheese burgers and drinking malts to whole way.

During a recent trip to Oklahoma I visited Arcadia, Oklahoma. Arcadia was established in 1889 during the Oklahoma Land Rush. The original settlers were cotton farmers. Arcadia is a greek word meaning: Any real or imaginary place offering peace and simplicity. It now is has a population of 279 and is famous for an old red barn and POPS! What can be more peaceful than that?

POPS is the newest landmark on Route 66. It is a must stop for all Route 66 travelers. There is a 66 foot soda bottle out front that provides a fantastic light show at night. Inside you can dine on burgers, fries, and your choice of 10 different flavored milkshakes. NOW FOR THE GOOD PART. POPS has over 600 different flavors of soda – ice cold and ready to enjoy. They have over 80 different root beers and 50 different cream sodas (who drinks cream soda). In addition you can fill up with gas so you can continue you Route 66 adventure and they have SUPER CLEAN RESTROOMS!

The Route 66 experience can be summed up in a famous quote by our fiend Lighting Mcqueen: KA BOOM!

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS – Texas Wildflowers

Every state has something that it can boast about – California has beaches, Colorado has mountains, New Mexico has amazing sunsets and in TEXAS we have wildflowers. Every April wild flowers start appearing along the highways and backroads of the state. At the first sighting, parents grab their children dressed them in colorful outfits, to take the annual “sit the kids in the bluebonnet” photo. If you were born and raised in Texas you have at least one of these pictures stuffed somewhere in an old shoe box.

The most famous of these is the official flower of Texas: The Bluebonnet. In 1901 there was debate in the Texas Legislature: would the cotton boll or the cactus be adopted as the official flower of the state. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas lobbied for the Lupinus subcarnosus – know as buffalo clover or bluebonnet. On March 7, 1901 it was passed into law that the bluebonnet was officially the State Flower of Texas. There are five species of bluebonnets – so we Texans can boast that we HAVE FIVE STATE FLOWERS (take that California).

There are many other flowers that explode from the ground during the Wildflower season turning the roadsides and pastures into seas of color – so pack up the kids and your camera – an oh yeah don’t forget to smile big for the photo.

there are so many colors in the rainbow, so many colors in the morning sun, so many color in the flowers and I see everyone. ……Harry Chapin/Flowers are Red

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The only two things in life that make it worth liven’….Is guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women…..Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys –  these lyrics written in 1977 written by Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman were recorded by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson.  Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics) became a world wide hit and propelled  tourist from around the world to visit Texas town with a population of 3.
In 1849,  a Trading Post, was established in Gillespie County,  that provided goods to local settlers and indians.  In 1879 a steam-powered cotton gin was built on Grape Creak, it operated until 1929.  Within 10 years the town also had a blacksmith shop and a consolidated school.  In 1886 the Post Office/General Store/Tavern was opened by August Engel, a preacher from Germany.  Engel’s daughter chose the name Luckenback in honor of her fiancé’ Albert Luckenbach.  Years later they found another small town not far away and called Albert.
Where was the world’s first airplane flown?  (you are wrong)…In 1865 Jacob Brodbeck, a Luckenbach teacher and inventor made the flight.  Brodbeck was born in Wuerttemberg, Germany.  He graduated from the University of Esslingen having studied scientific teachings.  Brodbeck invented the first watch that would run without winding.  He decided to leave for American after the King of Wuerttemberg offered him one cow for his invention. Jacob flew his airplane over the treetops of Luckenbach but could not rewind the coils quick enough to stay in the air.  Fifteen years later the Wright Brothers got their aircraft off the ground, for about the same period of time that Jocob Brodbeck was in flight.
In the late 1800’s  the community center and DANCE HALL was built at Luckenbach. Like all settlements of this time the Dance Halls were used as a meeting place to handle business  and also a place to enjoy good company, good music and a good beer!
In 1970 – Luckenbach, still owned at the time by decedents  of August Engel, was put up for sale when an ad was run in a local paper stating – TOWN FOR SALE – lock, stock and dancehall”.  The Luckenbach we know today began when group of “Texas Characters” led by Hondo Crouch bought it.  Hondo declared himself Mayor.  Hondo,  and fellow investors Gulch Koock and Kathy Morgan immediately bagan planning events including, “Hug-ins”,  The Luckenbach Worlds Fair, Ladies State Chili Bust, the Dauber Festival, and the now famous daily sessions of song-picking, domino playing and beer drinking all center under the 500 year old oak trees.  
In the 70’s Luckenbach became known worldwide – because of Hondo’s promotional savvy and “crazy” personality thousands of people began traveling to the Luckenback to experience the town “where everyone is someone”.   Also many Texas musicians became regulars  at the town with a population of 3.  In 1973,  Jerry Jeff Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band took over the dancehall.  They stacked bales of hay to serve as sound buffles.  They wrote, recorded, and drank beer day and night.  The result was Jerry Jeff Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band….VIVA TERLINQUA  album.  The album went gold and made Luckenback a must destination for everyone that heard it – not to mention a side road trip to Terlinqua, Texas an amazing  ghost town in the Big Bend area of  West Texas.  In 1977, Luckenback, Texas (Back to the Basics) was released by Waylon and Willie –  which resulted in folks worldwide visiting where  – Out in Luckenbach, Texas Ain’t nobody feeling not pain. Through out the years many of the best know Texas musicians have played at the Luckenbach Dancehall  – not just Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walk and the other Texas Country Outlaw.  These include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Bill Joe Shaver, Gary Nunn, Pat Green and many other.  Tens of thousands other Texas singer songwriters have shared their song and stories on the outdoor stage while folks rest under the big oaks enjoying a cold beer, soda, and burger.
A VIST TO LUCKENBACH IS A MUST……….even if it is just to experience a place where everybody is somebody”>

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During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries German and Czech immigrants built numerous dance halls throughout Texas. These halls served as community centers, providing folks a place to meet with others who shared the same language, customs, and interest. These halls were meeting places where the community conducted business. More importantly the halls were a place to relax and socialize usually including music and dancing. Over the years as communities became more culturally diverse and more mainstream American culture. The traditional German and Czech Polka and folk music suddenly blended with honky tonk and Tejano music resulting into the birth of Texas Swing. Many Texas music legends such as Bob Wills, Milton Brown, Lefty Frizzell, Ernest Tubbs and other began to perform at many of these Halls.

Anhalt Hall was built in 1879, additions were added in 1898 and 1908. Anhalt, Texas was settled by German immigrants in 1855. It was originally known as Krause Settlement and was located halfway between New Braunfels and Boerne. The name was changed to Anhalt in 1879 when the post office was opened. That same year Anhalt Hall was completed and was used as a meeting place for the German Farmer Association. In 1887 the Association began construction of a larger meeting hall connected to the original hall, it was completed in 1989. This area now serves as seating area for the dance hall.
In 1908 a 6,000 square foot dance floor was added and later the bandstand.

One of the first bands to play at the Anhalt Hall was William Specht Spring Branch Band, a six piece brass band, in 1880. Since then many Texas country western singers have climb on the Anhalt stage including George Strait, Johnny Rodriguez, Geronimo Trevino, Chris Wall, Jerry Jeff Walker, and others. The Anhalt Hall has been included in many movies including All the Pretty Horses in 2000, which starred Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz – directed by another Texan Billy Bob Thornton.

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at The Anhalt Dance Hall benefiting The Texas Dance Hall Preservation Organization. This event featured Asleep at the Wheel and was on heck of a good time! Texas Dance Hall Preservation is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and preserve historical Texas Dance Halls – in other words to preserve a very important part of Texas History….please visit their website at

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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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