Hard Road to Travel

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

I set out in February of 2013, after a Christmas present from my then wife Kim, of enough cash to start a Travel Blog. I have loved to travel for over forty years and began as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the early 70’s. I would spend two months a year in SE Asia and dealt with family manufactures, in many countries. Our days were usually long (over 12 hours) and we really only took one day off our first trip. We hit fourteen cities in nine countries and I was hooked. In addition, my Father was a journalist (a real one not the pre-fab attention getting farces of today). I am sure he is rolling over in his grave at the ridiculous charade called journalism today. I learned to write through his guidance.

 

I was surfing the Internet in regard to somewhere I might be able to afford to retire, as there have been a couple of financial fiascoes in my life and I wound up with no Golden parachute or nest egg after 50 years of laboring away. One day I came across a video from Barbara Weibel of “Hole in The Donut Cultural Travels“, in regard to Ecuador and I instantly thought “I could do that”! I became mesmerized and started making contact with travel bloggers and two stood out as Texas friendly and were amiable to this old man. They actually responded to me, when I posed a question and both became my mentors in design, name and advice about my Travel Blog to be. I cannot thank these two enough for giving me the courage and aid needed to launch the Nomadic Texan. Thank you kindly Lauren DiMarco and Leah Walker Puckett from the bottom of my heart! Of course it didn’t hurt they both were from Texas.

 

Lauren DiMarco of "Where in The World is Lola"?

Lauren DiMarco of “Where in The World is Lola“?

 

 

Leah Walker Puckett of "Leah Travels"!

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!

 

 

After setting up my Blog I cam across a very intelligent young man, with a big heart and a great mind! In addition, he always tells it like it is, regardless of your position or if it might slight your opinion or feelings. My type of man. He graduated from The University of Texas, served in our country’s Air Force and has started a charity for inner city kids that he asked me to help with. Does this young man really know me (I know you are asking that)? I of course said yes immediately and will help Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad walk through fire if I have to. He has become a true friend and confidante, ever since I was an hour late to eat Thai food with him in Austin and conduct my first interview. I was highly embarrassed and he just laughed it off. One of my closest friends in social media for sure! Hook ’em Horns Prince!

 

 

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

 

Let me tell you, I’m all alone, this lonesome road, I roam
I’ve got no love to call my very own
Oh, the river gets deeper, the hills get steeper
And the pain gets deeper every day, yeah

 

After two weeks in Cuenca Ecuador and a three day weekend in Tijuana building a house for an indigent Mexican family in Tijuana last year, I headed off to my first Travel Blogger Conference in Toronto and was completely blown away from the networking and Speed Dating processes. Because of my Panama Hat and apparently my overall brand, created in just under two months. A multitude of bloggers introduced themselves and strolled across the room at parties and functions just because they recognized my hat. Of course at my age I was only able to identify a few and tried valiantly to observe their name tags, without alerting the bloggers to the fact I had no idea what their name was. I recognized faces, as I have always been able to do, but names escaped me in many cases. At the conference I also made contact with a man who was destined to help me enormously and fast became a confidante and mentor, Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. I can’t thank Stephen enough for his help, his mentoring and his friendship. He is a class act!

 

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

 

As I left the first night’s event I had to use the facilities and was accosted by Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted from Chicago. He was one of those people whose face I immediately recognized, but I struggled to recall his name. I had no alcohol either! We hit it off immediately as we both have a sick sense of humor and love the outdoors. I more so in my younger days! At one of my Speed Dates in Toronto, SATW had asked to meet with me. They told me I had to have 10, 000 followers on Twitter to qualify. I had around 2, 000 at that time and I asked why the appointment. They told me with 2,000 I could qualify as a photographer. I just laughed and thanked them. I did make it a personal goal to attain this number as soon as humanly possible, but I wanted to do it legitimately and not “purchase” followers, which some people do.

 

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

The months rolled by and I was asked to visit Palestine Texas for a weekend and produce a post that covered the city’s attributes. I wound up writing eight posts in total and fell in love with this charming small community. I still broadcast on social media for the town and this has led me into a couple more visits next spring of Tyler and Nacogdoches, both historic and beautiful Texas Towns. I can’t wait to visit each and cover their sites, via my Nomadic Texan blog.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess

 

One more thing, I dream of a home, far beyond the sea
Where there is love and peace and joy for me
Oh, in my eyes, I see troubles and danger for me
But destiny where it leads me, I must go, hey

 

One day about a month after I finished my obligations with Palestine, a post went up in a Facebook travel group, announcing a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I was drooling and couldn’t submit my application fast enough. It was to be a 12 day adventure aimed at 5-star hotels, restaurants and spa activities. Anyone that reeally knows me understands this was my cup of tea and I hit the send button within seconds after finishing my application. It was announced that there was going to be a quick turnaround and they were going to choose the travel bloggers quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

 

The stars must have been aligned and God was in my corner. Bingo I was very fortunate and became one of three travel bloggers chosen along with three freelance writers. I had died and gone to heaven! I have loved SE Asia every since my youth and the first time I set foot on this continent’s soil way back in 1973, as a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks. In addition this trip established friendships that I cherish to this day, not to mention the social media benefits I received from starting my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, which have become fantastic platforms for my blog. Had no idea what I was missing.

 

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

Upon my return I went to work and produced somewhere between 25 to 30 posts even though a significant less amount was all that was required. I genuinely cared for the sponsors representatives and made what I what I hope to be lifelong friends. These four individuals are some of the funniest people I have ever traveled with and were a joy to be around on a daily basis. Can’t wait to travel with them again! Thank you kindly #Tourism Authority of Thailand, #Thai Airways and #Tourism Malaysia USA. You are all wonderful human beings!

 

Help me somebody, somebody please

 

I returned generated my posts and my life unraveled. After 36 years of marriage my wife and I decided that we could no longer live in a toxic situation and it would be better for the both of us to divorce. I was devastated and still am. I can find no way to unravel the mental anguish I go through on a daily basis. It is like a fog that surrounds my body and never disappears. Thank God that I have social media and my blog, or I am fairly certain I would not be here. Of special note is a Facebook and Travel friend Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid who through the divorce and through my growth as a travel blogger, has always been there and helped this old man immensely. I finally had the opportunity to meet him in person recently in Austin prior to moving to Dallas. I was thrilled to say the least!

 

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid

 

Through it all I have struggled and worked to attain that magic number! I can remember a little less than a year ago how elated I felt when I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I knew with a little help and perseverance, eventually I would hit that magic number and qualify for the SATW! It has not been easy and I have worked until the middle of the early morning more times than I can count, but my efforts finally paid off and on November 24, 2014, @VacaRentalz of Vacation Bargains became my 10,000 follower on Twitter! Thank you kindly, to all the young women and young men who follow this old man on Twitter!

 

CLIFF, JIMMY

*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from 

 

Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Photo of The Day #52, The Polar Express

There is still time to take advantage of a fabulous piece of Texas history this year. It is especially fascinating, if you have young children and  are familiar with the Polar Express story. The Texas State Railroad is running December 11-23 and December 26-29 in Palestine Texas. I recently experienced this wonderful little town on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and fell head over hills in love with it. Santa Claus will be on board and your kids can interact with him. Don’t hesitate. Buy your tickets now!

 

Polar Express 2012

Polar Express 2012

Article #8, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro”

As we drove down the country lane, through the Piney Woods of East Texas, I reflected on the weekend and all that had transpired. We had several experiences that surpassed my expectations and the culinary treats were superb. Little did I know that my taste buds would soon be exploding with delight again. We drove out of Palestine to a local bed and breakfast named Sabor a Pasion. It is located on Anderson County Road #406, about four miles outside of town. It is easily identified by this sign at the property’s edge.

 

Sabor a Pasion

Sabor a Pasion

 

As we entered the property and approached the main portion of the ‘Country House and Bistro” I pondered if we would have another meal, which exceeded my culinary assumptions of this small Texas town. I quickly glanced around the premises and immediately felt a warm and welcoming feeling. If my first glance was any indication, I would feel at home here.

 

Exterior of Event Room

Exterior of Event Room

 

The property is large enough to handle weddings, retreats and other personal or business obligations. It is 25 acres in total, including the vineyard. It is owned and run by Chef Simon Webster. As was the case, Simon had a wedding and catered the event on his grounds the night before we visited. As we drove in there were decorations pinned to the fence posts and I wasn’t entirely sure if they were permanent or not, until we chatted. I learned that he can handle up to 200 people for events.

 

Interior of Event Room

Interior of Event Room

 

Simon is a very easy going fellow and I immediately gravitated to his personality. He told us about himself and that he was born in England and at the age of four his father moved his family to New Zealand, where he became interested in cooking. He has trained with some of the best chefs in the world and at the New Zealand Culinary Institute. More of his background is available on this link for Chef Simon Webster. I asked him how he relaxes, as he is a very busy man. I learned he maintains and pilots an older airplane, which he takes up every chance he gets,  just to get away.

 

Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Wood Burning Pizza Oven with the Vineyard in the Background

 

In our conversation I inquired about this magnificent wood burning pizza oven and he stated it was built so as to replicate the Italian tradition. He stated it gives a little personality to his grounds. He often holds pizza events and continually uses it along with this outside seating arrangement, that made me think of Tuscany Italy right away.

 

Tuscany Table

Tuscany Table

 

Obviously no visit would be complete with out my selfie photo and Chef Simon was gracious enough to accommodate. He inquired if we were hungry for breakfast yet and I stated I was very ready, especially given his background, to sample his cooking and see if my expectations would be met.

 

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

 

We went inside and I contemplated what he would serve. Little did I know that the menu would include a crab offering. I am a confessed “crabaholic” and I am sure Chef Simon wasn’t aware of this, but the dish was more than tasty and I really wanted to ask him for more crab! Along with the delectable shellfish, was a potato cake with a very savory flavor and eggs that were cooked just perfectly. The fresh mozzarella cheese was excellent. Bacon was included and I gave it to an unnamed breakfast partner! A good sampling of fruit bordered the entrees and I was in heaven. I literally inhaled the crab and could not manage to finish my meal. I will tell you, I will be back for a lunch or dinner and expand my experience at the Sabor a Pasion.

 

Breakfast to Die For

Breakfast to Die For

 

After breakfast we strolled into his vineyard and he showed us his arbor. It is a central wedding photo site. I asked about the vineyard and he told me he produces 900 bottle each year and is happy with this quantity. He works the vines daily and ensures that his product is as high a caliber, as he can influence.

 

Vineyard Arbor

Vineyard Arbor

 

I was enamored with Chef Simon and he talked about Kim and I staying there on our next visit. It has a delightful and a very relaxed atmosphere and you can bet we will be back. We will spend the entire weekend with him on our next visit. I can’t imagine eating three meals a day, over an entire weekend with him. I might not leave! We talked about his harvest and how the locals and friends turn out to help pick the grapes. I volunteered, in exchange for his great cooking! I think I got the better half of that deal!

 

Chef Simon Webster

Chef Simon Webster

 

If you need to get away and have a relaxing weekend, with a very high quality of food and wine, I recommend you stay at the Sabor a Pasion. Enjoy Chef Simon’s excellent cooking and his warm and gracious attitude. In addition, you will discover he has a wonderful sense of humor. That is, if you can tear your mind away from thoughts of the fantastic food he serves. It is truly worth a long trip, just to experience his country house and bistro. Kim and I will be back!

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #7, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Red Fire Grille”

The original pretense of Kim and my visit to Palestine Texas for the weekend, was to share in the culinary attributes, of this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods. Of course my first thought was chicken fried steak or maybe a huge helping of fried catfish. I was, to be totally honest, a little suspicious that there would be anything of a positive nature offered on our visit. So Saturday night was the first experience, in a higher quality and more palatable cuisine at the Red Fire Grille.

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

 

We entered the Redlands Hotel and the restaurant is off to the side on the ground floor. Thank goodness I wore a nice dress shirt and slacks, as any type of casual apparel would have been totally out of place. It turns out this really is a nice place and I couldn’t wait to get started. After the long day I was famished. We were joined at dinner by a marvelous local personality, Martelle Moronko. Marty kept me in stitches all night long and I loved her outgoing personality and sense of humor.

 

Red Fire Grille

Red Fire Grille

 

The Red Fire Grille is owned and run by Dawn and Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. Chef Christian has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, a 386-page coffee table book.  I have included a link illustrating his experience and how he came to be categorized as such a prestigious chef. Dawn was a very gracious hostess and ensured our service was impeccable all night long.

 

Dawn and Chef Christian

Dawn and Chef Christian

 

It appeared that this was the real deal and I couldn’t wait to sample his cooking. I looked over the menu and was delighted to find several favorites that I knew I had to order. We ordered both pan fried Calamari and Flatbread for appetizers and I have admit that both were of a superior quality and taste. The Calamari was very flavorful and had a wonderful breading. The Flatbread was even better than anticipated and I ate more than my share of this appetizer! I particularly loved the thin crisp crust. I highly recommend either when you dine at the Red Fire Grille.

 

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

 

 

I love Bleu Cheese Dressing when it is made correctly and has an ample supply of actual cheese in it. If it is served with a wedge of lettuce, there is no finer salad option in my book. I am not a Caesar’s salad man. So obviously you know what I started with. There was a huge supply of genuine Bleu cheese in the dressing and its flavor was supreme.  My apologies to Chef Christian, but I do love my pepper. Kim had the Caesar’s salad.

 

 

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

 

I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb and I must confess it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaser courses, but they could not compare with this dish. I almost could cut the lamb with my fork. The rack was served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and spinach. The potatoes had an extravagant flavor, which really made my mouth water. I have had many a dish of lamb, over the course of my life and some have been significantly more succulent than others. This was by far, the best Rack of Lamb I have ever had! Imagine it is being served in Palestine Texas. I would have never guessed the quality this restaurant serves.

 

Colorado Rack of Lamb

Colorado Rack of Lamb

 

Kim chose and I knew when I looked at the menu, this would be her choice, the Mahi Mahi. We constantly debate which fish is more tasty and I assume it depends on one’s palate. She always loves Mahi Mahi and this was no exception. It was cooked to her liking, which is tough to do. I like my fish a little under cooked and flaky. Kim likes her a little more robust and solid. The portion was extremely sufficient and I believe for the first time I can remember, Kim could not finish her entree of Mahi Mahi. Marty also opted for the Mahi Mahi.

 

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

 

Breezy ordered the Butternut Lasagna and couldn’t finish it either. Portions are more than ample at the Red Fire Grille and one does not walk away hungry. This is what her dish looked like. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna

 

So anyone have room for dessert? I wavered for at least a second or two and decided on the Creme Brulee. I am sure anyone that knows me, will tell you that would be my option. Marty had the same. I have to say that it was my least favorite course. Maybe I was full, or the other courses jaded my taste buds, but it lacked something. Kim had a taste and really liked the subtle hint of Lavender, in the bite of Creme Brulee she had.

 

Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Creme Brulee

 

Kim had the Mini Coconut Creme dessert and had issues with the pineapple ring. She could not cut it. The other products in the concoction were very good and had wonderful blend of flavors. Kim especially loved the Margarita ice cream in her dessert.

 

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

 

Breezy had the Chocolate dessert and if memory serves me correctly finished it off. I was going to try it, but the opted instead for the Creme Brulee.

 

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

 

After dinner Chef Christian came out of the kitchen and we shook hands. It was nice to put a face with the food. It is very easy to see why he has been identified as such a reputable chef and I can understand his accolades and high honor. His food is worthy of a side or day trip and the restaurant had immaculate service. I highly recommend if you are within 100 miles of Palestine, that you venture to the Redlands Hotel and undertake an award winning dinner at the Red Fire Grille. You will not be sorry!

 

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #51 “Calling All Hippies at Sweet Dreams”

Hippies

Hippies

 

One of Mike Pell’s signs that I loved at Sweet Dreams Winery, was this one. It got my attention as soon as I walked up and met him. I used to be one of these folks, as my longtime friends well know and now that I am a retired business executive, posing as a travel and food blogger, I get to use the front door!

 

 

Again I want to thank Palestine Texas for hosting Kim and I and for showing us the “Pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods”! Psst. Please don’t tell my readers about my past! Y’all be kind to each other and have a great day. Peace!

Article #5, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sweet Dreams Winery”

 

Honestly, I was in the mood for a nap, after eating all that pie at the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to experience a winery with such a full stomach. I tried valiantly to keep my eyelids open and view the gorgeous tall pines, that are more prevalent on the east side of Palestine Texas and especially here on ACR #441.

 

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

 

Then we made a right turn down a country road and the winery materialized. It’s name is “Sweet Dreams” Winery and that was just about where I went after completing the wine tasting at this great winery. If you surf Facebook you can check out the Sweet Dreams Facebook page at this link. If you need directions, this Sweet Dreams link has a map.

 

Sweet Dreams Winery

Sweet Dreams Winery

 

I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as we arrived I knew I liked Mike Pell, the owner. The minute we stepped out of the car, he greeted us. He had a very outgoing personality and just a tad sarcastic, which I like. I think he was a little on edge at first, but relaxed rapidly. Plus you can’t really miss the mustache! I have always called these Fu Manchu mustaches, but technically its name is a horseshoe mustache, for obvious reason. I showed Mike a wedding photo when mine was similar and we bonded instantly.

 

Mike     Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

Mike Pell, Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

 

 

Mike showed us the exterior grounds and attractions. He can handle a party of around 250 people I am guessing and has seating for about half of that, with a covered patio, large covered porch and many picnic tables near the covered porch. The exterior is decorated with a plethora of funny signs and decorations. I can tell this man likes to have a good time and more than likely ensures his guest have a great time.

 

Pay Up Front

Pay Up Front

 

We entered the tasting room and Mike relayed the fact that a majority of his wines are made from a vast array of fruit products and his collection is not conventional. I wasn’t aware of this, but he has to be doing something right as his awards are proudly displayed around the tasting room. He is the proud owner of over 20 International awards. My curiosity was peaked, as Kim has always talked about her Grandmother Bordeaux’s fabulous Rhubarb Wine and couldn’t help but think about this, as a comparison.

 

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

 

Mike also branched out and has created his own line of BBQ sauce. I was going to purchase and try his BBQ sauce, but we got “involved” in the tasting of several wines and I completely forgot. I really like BBQing and wanted to get his sauce and try it. Next time I will buy it when I walk in the door! Mike also carries a vast assortment of other products like fruit jams and butters, mostly made in Texas.

 

Associated Retail Products

Associated Retail Products

 

You know how when you visit a vineyard you taste three to five various wines? Well, that was what I expected, but as it turns out we ran the gamut tasting everything from Pear, Plum, Peach, Watermelon to a Jalapeno infused wine that had a serious bite. My favorites were the Honey Pear, Bumble Bee Kiss and Midnight in Texas wines. He gave us a score card to take notes on thank God or I might not have remembered the names.

 

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

 

Mike then took us on a tour of his operation and explained how the process works. In the photo above you can see a sample of the fermentation tanks, with their spigots. He constantly tastes the various wines he is processing and filters out the sulfites, as he transfers the wines from tank to tank. When they are ready to be bottled, the wine is transferred to the final tank above, with a wooden platform inserted underneath. This makes it the perfect height for Mike to sit in his chair and fill the bottles. Afterwards he corks each bottle with the manual aquamarine colored press above.

 

A Retired Fire Cheif

A Retired Fire Chief

 

Mike is a retired Battalion Chief for the Palestine Fire department and spent many a year risking his life and fighting fires, for the good folks of this town. His men gave him this collection of patches, axe, helmet shield and I think it reflects a great deal of respect that his men had for him. He must have been a great leader and firefighter. The magazine “Sweet Heat” is about his Jalapeno wine, so make sure you remove any impure thoughts from the proverbial gutter!

 

Inventory of Various Wines

Inventory of Various Wines and Tasting Area

 

Mike buys his fruit products as locally as possible and really supports his community. The freeze this year had a major impact on buying peaches and he normally goes to Fairfield Texas. This year he had to make his search extend a little farther away to buy his peaches. He has a phenomenal array of wines and if you are a fan of fine wine I think you owe it to yourself to stop in and give this winery a try and sample his great wine. I guarantee you will be surprised at the quality and taste of his product.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #2, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “All Aboard”

As I mentioned in my first article in the series about Palestine Texas, our first event was a ride on the “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. Breezy Lake-Wolfe, Marketing Manager for the city of Palestine Texas, picked us at the Hampton Inn and we arrived at the station at around 6:00 PM, as the train was scheduled to depart at 6:30 PM. I immediately recognized that this was a larger operation than I anticipated and asked Breezy to take Kim and my photo for posterity!

 

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

 

We headed into this wonderful piece of history for the state of Texas and started looking around. As a foodie I first noticed that they had a very decent spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit and champagne. It was a nice transition, as some passengers were not dining on the ride, like we were. We refrained and it was a good thing, as the line was at least 50 people deep! Must have been great snacks! Kim did manage to obtain a glass of champagne!

 

Reception with Appetizers

Reception with Appetizers

 

Music was played by a gentleman named Paul, on what I thought was a banjo. After he finished a tune I approached him and asked him how long he had been playing the banjo. He quickly corrected me and stated it was a Banjolin (It had 4 strings and a shorter neck than a banjo). It still was a great way to sit and wait for the train to leave and his music was excellent.

 

Paul the Banjolin Player

Paul the Banjolin Player

 

There are magnificent areas inside of the station, that reflect the train history and depict several annual trips. I was in love with several of the photos, awards and plaques from over the years. I even found a copy of an old ticket for my hometown of Austin, St. Louis and a ticket for a Mr J.W. Boyce and wife from Texarkana Texas to Longview Texas, purchased in 1950 about the time I was born! They had photos of Palestine from circa 1920, past employees and one for the “Polar Express” which runs from November 22 to December 28 this year. It is a magnificent trip for families with children.

 

Polar Express

Polar Express

 

We decided to leave the waiting area and venture out to where the locomotive was located and I wanted photos of this wonderful steam engine, originally built in 1901. You can obtain the history and all pertinent facts at the Texas State Railroad web site. In 1972, the railroad constructed in 1881, was turned over to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the first public rides began in 1976. The railroad was privatized in 2007 and American Heritage Railways operated the line until 2012 when Iowa Pacific Holdings assumed operations. I am not sure if I can accurately describe the feeling one gets appropriately, when you see the steam engine emitting its strong waves of steam. Its almost an emotional experience or at least it was for me.

 

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

 

I was allowed in the engine compartment and started asking questions immediately about the train. Both gentlemen were more than open and eager to share their stories and answer my questions about the age of the engine, where it as made, by what company, etc. I discovered it was originally assembled in Patterson New Jersey, by Cooke Works and was Identified as Engine #316. I inquired if it was the oldest and they told me it was second oldest behind a steam engine in Grapevine Texas, built in 1886 that used to run on this line. The Fireman was Kenneth McCarty and this is the Engineer Scott Rohal. If you get the opportunity to ride this wonderful train make sure you stop and talk to these two employees. They are very friendly, courteous, and highly informed on the history of the train!

 

Scott Rohal--Engineer

Scott Rohal–Engineer

 

As the departure time neared Kim and I gravitated to what appeared to be the loading dock and as other passengers were lining up, we assumed we were following procedure. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, a loud speaker bellowed out “All Aboard”, “All Aboard for the Maiden Voyage of the Moonlight Special Train Ride”, “All Aboard”! I was taken back, as I wasn’t prepared for this melodramatic sounding and I wasn’t aware this was a “maiden voyage”. Kim and I entered the train and immediately fell in love with all its grandeur and enhanced decorations. Each and every passenger was greeted and treated like royalty. Perhaps I had slipped back in time.

 

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

 

As the steam bellowed from the locomotive and the whistle blasted through the pines, I felt shimmers run down my spine and reminisced how it must have been at the turn of the last century.  The train continued to announce our exodus from the terminal, with loud blasts of the whistle and Kim and I settled in. There are three types of seating available on the excursion “Premium Lone Star Seating” (which we opted for, as it had a complete dinner–note it is a BYOB, if you are so inclined), “Standard Coach” with upholstered seating and enclosed car and the “Open Air” with bench style seating in an open car (Probably more authentic, but we are spoiled)!

 

Premium Lone Star Seating

Premium Lone Star Seating

 

The staff were great at attending to our needs and immediately started dinner service with beverages and a salad. Rolls were set on the table but to my displeasure, not refilled after the first consumption. Not that I really need the calories, but I wanted one with my meal. I never needed water, as my glass was continually topped off and the salad was a good healthy course with a spinach base.

 

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion andVvinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion and Vinaigrette

 

 

The main course consisted of be pork medallions with brown gravy. Side dishes included a special recipe mashed potatoes and veggie bundles of asparagus, zucchini and carrots.  I must confess I started the main course and had to take a photo after a couple of bites. I have to improve on this function, but sometimes it looks so good that I can’t help but dive in! Dessert was individual mini-cheesecakes with strawberry and raspberry toppings. My apologies again. The desserts looked so good I forgot to take photos at all. The mini cheesecakes were fabulous and very tasty!

 

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

 

 

After dinner I left the dining car we were in and traveled up to the “Open Air” car with the wooden bench seating. It was a cloudy night and I hoped I would be able to capture the full moon. I took many photos and used my zoom, but the clouds wouldn’t lift. Alas, it was not to be and this photo displays the best moon picture I was able to get.

 

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

 

As we entered Maydelle the train came to a complete stop. I noticed we passed a fire engine with lights aglow and I feared there had been an accident at the crossing. Lo and behold the engine disconnected and traveled to a turntable right outside our window. It took the locomotive approximately 25 minutes to turn 180 degrees and prepare to hook up and take us back to Palestine. The engine started and then stopped right beside the fire engine. I realized at that moment that the fire engine was reloading the locomotive’s water supply, to provide for the steam. It was a “Duh” moment for sure.

 

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

 

We flew back home to Palestine, at around 25 MPH I am guessing and returned a few minutes after schedule. Kim and I enjoyed the ride and learning all about the steam engine and the Texas State Railroad’s history. It was a delightful evening and we were were ready to hit the hay. We needed our rest for Saturday, the big day with several events including tours of historical sites and homes, a couple of culinary events and a few vineyards. Not too full of a schedule!  Stay tuned for Article #3 in regard to the homes and historical district! #palestinetx!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #1, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101

My travel blogging has been fairly well of the International perspective, until I received a comment on my blog around September 11th, the day after I returned from a five week trip to Cuenca Ecuador. As everyone knows, I have a passion for this city that is unmatched. This comment was entitled “Taste What Lies Behind the Pine Curtain”.

 

At first I thought it was spam and came very close to deleting it. I receive myriads of spam from all over the world and have to make very quick decisions whether comments are real or spam generated. As I read the comment I deduced it was actually a real post and an invitation to try the “culinary attributes” of Palestine Texas, on their nickel.

 

I made inquiries about my blogging and if they knew that my reputation is associated with my posts. I made sure they understood I consequently do not write favorable material, if it is not deserved. My feedback was that I would attend, but there could be no handcuffs or demands on my writing. They wrote back that they would expect nothing less.

 

Dogwood Blossom on  Our Card

Dogwood Blossom on Our Card

 

I knew very little about Palestine and “Googled” it to see what it offered. I was intrigued as it was on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and growing up in Texas one learns where the beauty lies. As a child my parents, my brothers and I made the day trip to ride “The Dogwood Trail”. I can still remember the beauty of the white flowering trees.

 

I talked it over with Kim and we decided that we would try this new approach and look into a more local genre. I have written a few posts about Austin and a couple of its attractions, but this was a completely new category for me to cover. Obviously my passion for food made the offer distinctly attractive. We decided to take the city up on its offer.

 

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

 

 

As we drove into town the main highway was a typical small town with construction on the highway that was surrounded by run down buildings and generations of decayed equipment. Kim and I started to question whether we had made the correct decision. We turned at the loop and arrived at the Hampton Inn.

 

As I entered with our bags, Kim parked the car. Kimberly, the front desk clerk greeted me with a “Good afternoon Mr. Hinshaw”. I asked how she knew who I was and she stated Breezy-Lake Wolfe (the city’s marketing manager) told her to “Google” me, so she could recognize me when I arrived (of course I had my hat on). I was fairly surprised and broke out laughing.

 

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

 

Kim joined me after I checked in and we went to our room. It was a very clean, large suite with everything a blogger needs (Wi-Fi, direct Internet. Digital TV. a multitude of wall plugs to charge all my equipment and a coffee maker). Kim noticed we had an arrangement of flowers on the desk.

 

About 5 minutes after we arrived Kimberly called and and inquired if everything was acceptable in the room. I asked her if all the suites were like this and she replied “Yes, but they all don’t have fresh flowers like yours”. I couldn’t help but laugh again and started to feel like we were going to have a good weekend.

 

 

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

 

Our schedule was set up for us to meet Breezy in the lobby at 5:30 to attend the first event, a ride on the Texas State Railroad’s “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. We had a few minutes and I caught up on social media and Kim and got ready for the evening. We went downstairs at 5:25 PM and Breezy was already waiting to take us to the train ride. Instantly, I recognized this young lady was a whirlwind.

 

She conveyed every detail and fact available, in regard to each and every part of the weekend’s schedule between the hotel and the train. It was about a 20 minute ride. I knew she was nervous, but her East Texas charm won Kim and I over very quickly and we questioned whether we would be able to keep up with this bundle of energy over the next couple of days. We were delighted with our hostess and felt comfortable with Breezy immediately.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

 

We had such  great time that I have decided to capture our visit in several blogs and hopefully connect you with this hidden pearl, in the East Texas Piney Woods.  Next in my #PalestineTx series is the “All Aboard” post,  describing our train ride. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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