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

Focus on the Backroads: DEEP ELLUM

Established in 1873, Deep Ellum is located east of downtown Dallas. Then it was also know as Central Track because of it’s proximity to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad.

Deep Ellum was one of Dallas first commercial areas for African-Americans and European immigrants. The Continental Gin Company opened in 1888 and became the largest manufacturer of cotton processing equipment in the United States. Ford Motor Company built one of its earliest plants, in 1914, building Model Ts in Deep Ellum. Adams Hats moved into the building in 1954.

In the 1920’s the area became a center of the music scene in Dallas. Many of the early jazz and blue artist of the day performed there including, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Texas Bill Day, Alex Moore, Bessie Smith, Willie Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and many more.

After World War 2 many of the businesses in the area closed and folks began moving to the suburbs. The music all but died. In the 1980, the area began to be revived and the music returned with the help of local bands like The Old 97s, Toadies, the New Bohemians, The Dixie Chicks, Tripping Daisy and others. Soon national touring bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam began performing in Deep Ellum.

Many of the business in Deep Ellum began to commission local artist to paint murals on their buildings. These many wall murals have turned the area into a walking outdoor art gallery. Almost every wall has become an artist’s canvas.

In 2012 the 42 Murals Project was started – local and international artist were able to show their talent by painting 42 murals on some of the historic building in Deep Ellum.

Deep Ellum is once again one of the cultural centers of Dallas. The area continues to be a music and art center. There are numerous restaurants Deep Ellum. Great area to visit to see not only the wonderful murals but to also to visit an important historical area of Dallas.

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ROAD: a thoroughfare, route, or way by land between two places that has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by foot or some form of conveyance , including a motor vehicle, cart, bicycle, or horse.

The first roads (pathways) originated from man following animal trails. Many believe that humans and animals both chose to use the same natural line. The oldest paved road was constructed in Egypt around 2200 BC. Most roads had been built out of wood and brick. During the 8th century AD in Baghdad tar was first used to pave roadways.

Guadalupe Mountains

The early roads in Texas were developed from Indian trails and the trails of the early Spanish explorers. The first know Texas roads were built because of a necessity for travel from Mexico to San Antonio, Goliad, and East Texas missions. The oldest highway was the Old San Antonio Road. Two of the other earlier roads were the La Bahia Road, and in East Texas Trammel’s Trace. Early Texas law called for the establishment of roads between county seats. These roads were forty foot cleared paths. Stumps that were less than eight inches in diameter were cut off at the ground, stumps any larger were rounded off so that wagon wheels could roll over them. Secondary roads were thirty feet wide and third-class roads were twenty feet wide. All able body men between the age of eighteen to forty-five were required to volunteer several days a year to work on the roads.

With the increase popularity of the automobile in the early Twentieth century the need for improved roads was obvious. Texas citizens began organizing “good road” associations throughout the state to promote better roads. By 1903 there were calls to establish a bureau of highways in Texas. The State Highway Department was established in 1917 by the Thirty-fifth Legislature. The Departments responsibility was granting financial aid to counties for highway construction and maintenance. At the time there were 194,720 automobiles registered. In 1921 the Federal Aid Road Act was amended to offer matching federal funds to states.

Early Ford

Today Texas has over 80,000 miles of of roads made up of over 29,000 miles of U.S and state highways, 3,400 miles of interstate, over 7,000 miles of frontage road, over 350 miles of park roads, and over 42,000 miles of farm-to-market and ranch-to-ranch roads (which we prefer to call the (LONESTAR BACKROADS).

Present day there are many miles of Texas Backroads that have long been forgotten by most. These roads are used by landowners, families out enjoying a casual country drive, and guys like me with camera equipment stowed in their trunks looking for a reason to stop and capture a special moment or visit a special small Texas town. Not to forget to view a spectacular sunrise or sunset.

On the Backroads of Texas:

Discover Texas and visit a backroad. See y’all there!

“I did stories about unexpected encounters, back roads, small towns and ordinary folk, sometimes doing something a little extraordinary” Charles Kuralt

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Fort Wolters is located four miles out side of Mineral Wells, Texas. The fort was an official Army camp for 21 years, from 1925 to 1946. During World War II it was the largest infantry replacement training center. It also served as a German POW camp. Audie Murphy underwent basic training at the base. Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II receiving the Medal of Honor at the age of 19. At the end of World War II, Camp Wolters was deactivated and was abandoned until it was reopened in 1951 by the US Airforce. At it’s peak, the camp held close to 25,000 infantrymen.

In 1953, a U.S. Nike Guided Missile Site was set up at the site to protect the Dallas- Fort Worth area in case of an enemy attack.

In 1956, Camp Wolters reverted back to the US Army and became the headquarters to the United States Primary Helicopter School. In 1963 it was designated a permanent military base and renamed Fort Wolters. At it’s peak the base had three heliports and twenty-five stage fields, These stage fields were named after facilities in Vietnam and were located in the same relation to each other as actual locations in Vietnam. During the Vietnam all helecopter aviators received basic and primary flight training at Camp Wolters – not just Army pilots but also Marine and Airforce. Over 1200 helicopters were located here. By January 1, 1973, 40,000 pilots had been trained at Camp Wolters exceeding over 5.6 million flying hours.

Fort Wolters was officially closed for military service on February 1, 1973.

This site is now used as an industrial park, includes a branch of Weatherford College, and a training center for the Texas Army National Guard.

There is still plenty of evidence remaining of For Wolters‘ past. There is still an opportunity to visit this historical site that was once a major training base for our military. While visiting Mineral Wells and Fort Wolters include time to visit the The National Vietnam War Museum which is located one mile from the Camp. Time to salute the brave soldiers and pilots that passed through Camp Wolters……..

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return” Leonardo da Vinci

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In 1950, Dallas millionaire O.L. Nelson built a venue know as Bob Will’s Ranch House for Texas country music legend Bob Will’s and His Texas Playboys. Bob Wills was the host of the venue. In 1958 Dewey Groom took over and renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom. Dewey had played the Longhorn with his band, Dewey Groom and the Texas Longhorns.

The Longhorn Ballroom became one of the best known country western destination in the United States. Country legends that performed included Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and Ray Price.

One night a week, the Longhorn would feature different music styles such as, jazz, blues, and R&B. Artist such as B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Al Green took that stage. On January 10, 1978 the Longhorn made national news when the punk rock band, The Sex Pistols, took the stage. The band got upset and began to taunt the crowd – leading to a woman from the audience head-butting band leader Sid Vicious. The band broke up a week later and Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose shortly afterwards.


Dewey Groom sold the Longhorn Ballroom in 1986 to Ira Zack. Owners began to book arts from many different musical genres. In 1989 Aerosmith shot the video for their song, “What It Takes” at the Longhorn. In 1990, a riot broke out when 2 Live Crew refused to take the stage until they were paid. Over 50 of Dallas’ finest showed up in full riot gear.

In 2017, the Longhorn Ballroom was purchased by Dallas entrepreneur Jay LaFrance, his son Jayson and his daughter Amber. Their vision was to restore this venue and preserve this important Texas landmark. Today the Longhorn Ballroom is coming back to life, hosting events ands concerts.

Visit for more information.

“To me, country music has always been the home for a great song” Zac Brown

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: Focus on Memorial Day

Once a year families and communities across the US take time to honor the men and women who died while serving our country. Many will gather at local memorials to give their thanks to these brave men and women.

Known as Decoration Day, the tradition was to decorate graves in remembrance of those people that died serving the country. This day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers during the Civil War. In 1873, New York was the first state to official observe the day as Memorial Day. Several states followed and declared it an legal holiday. By the end of World War I it became a day to honor all those who had died in all of America’s wars and became a national holiday.

At the first national commemoration, Jame Garfield, a former Union General, sitting Ohio Congressman, and the future 20th President of the United States, mad a speech at Arlington National Cemetery said:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

Over the years, to some, this day has become just another “3-day weekend”. A time to get together, hit the lake, tip a few, and grill. Nothing wrong with that – if we take a some time to remember and honor the brave folks that have lost their lives while serving our country – while serving you. Even though most of their names are unknown to us these men and women are heroes that should be held in high honor:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men (and women) who died. Rather we should thank God such men (and women) lived” George S. Patton

This morning I visited the National Cemetery in Grand Prairie, Texas. There were a large number of people paying tribute to fiends, love ones, and others that have been laid to rest at this beautiful site. There were smiles, tears, fellowship, and prayers.

There are two Medal of Honor recipients at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery; Colonel James Lamar and Sargent Candelario Garcia both Viet Nam veterans.

Take a moment to remember all the unselfish American who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our great country. Through out our history these exceptional individuals and others who have service our country, both during war time and periods peace, have walked amongst us.

“Without Memory, there is no future. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” Elie Wiesel

Happy Memorial Day and God Bless America

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