Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lured to Fish

Tawnya and I were invited out to fish Cedar Creek Lake from a beautiful lake front property, belonging to the family of a friend. It had been a while since we last got away for a night without work or kids or bills or, or, or you get the idea. My parents agreed to watch the boys so the ride was on. Early Saturday morning when we were packing up for the overnight I decided why not try to hit the ground on this county project that I was dying to begin. A quick look at the map and I decided I could do a few before meeting up in Gun Barrel City at 1800 with our friends.

2 Kids, 2 dogs, and a ferret were deployed on my parents home as a blitzkrieg and I stuffed our gear into the boxes on the Concours, strapped 2 fishing rods on the back and we were off, with no sign of our intent save for the poles on the back giving us the air of shortwave radio operators.

We made quick time rolling into our first stop, Rockwall of Rockwall county. We were greeted with the sweet smell of roasted corn and the unmistakable aroma of swine over charcoal being massaged with sinful mixtures of Texas barbecue sauce. Rounding the corner and approaching the town square revealed some kind of carnival event complete with vendor booths, food, and cowboys in broad straw hats, starched jeans, and pressed white shirts. You could see a bit of the courthouse but I will have to return to collect a good picture, and a great reason to return to a cool little county, the smallest in Texas in fact covering only 147 square miles.

Fun Fact: Quoted from the counties website
The Rock Wall - In the early 1850s, farmers were digging a well and discovered a rock wall that crossed the county and at some places appeared above ground level. Scientists have determined that this is a natural formation, but folk tales continue to say that it was built by prehistoric natives. When the town of Rockwall was formed, it was named for the rock formation. 

Next we trekked into Kaufman of Kaufman county. The night prior to our ride had seen a fairly decent size storm pass through the areas moving east along the route we were taking and left behind in its wake damage that looked to be primarily downed trees and ripped billboards, people's homes seemed to be in good condition and road crews beat us out and left the roads in very good condition. We found the square to be the first of many that would prove quiet and mostly vacant. The smell of fresh cut grass is what I enjoyed as I sat in the shade on a brick step taking in the peace.

Fun Fact: Find out more at http://www.kaufmancounty.net/
Kaufman is home to the Vietnam Memorial Wall Of Texas

Canton of Van Zandt county was up next with a very straight road into downtown. Canton is home to a very active open air market and there was enough traffic to make me think twice about lingering. I took a picture and we continued on.

Fun Fact: 
In 1845 William H. McBee established a gristmill and a sawmill three miles west of Loller's bridge at the site of Hamburg, established in 1850 by James Colthorp. This mill is said to have cut the logs that were used in the first courthouse in Dallas.

In Rains county we visited the county seat of Emory pursued by a large pack of Harleys and their cheery riders in leather vests and bandannas, not a one wave could be pried from them as they rumbled passed. I will definitely be returning one of these days to eat at a burger joint on the town square with a sign sporting a burger with about twenty patties on it. I am not sure they serve this artist's representation but I am willing to find out.

Fun Fact: 
Upon entering the county a sign declares Rains county as the eagle capitol of Texas.

The road from Emory to Quitman of Wood county was the best we encountered with sweeping turns and shaded by mature trees passing some very impressive properties. Traffic remained light and the air crisp under a blue sky made clear by the passing of the nights storm.

Fun Fact: 
In a county of 696 square miles there are 1,521 miles of paved roads.

Up next was a visit to Upshur county with a visit to Gilmer. The courthouse lawn was home to a very large cannon that looked really cool, I wonder what kind of fuel mileage I would get towing that beast home.

Fun Fact:
On February 28, 1844 he [Able Park Upshur] was killed in an explosion of the "Peacemaker", a new cannon on the Battleship Princeton, so when the legislature organized this county they requested that it be named Upshur.

We stopped for lunch after visiting the Gregg county courthouse in Longview. The last time I was at this courthouse I was researching genealogical information and received a parking ticket, we were hungry anyway so no worries about over staying the 2-hr limit this time. Tawnya's father lives in Longview so we frequent the area. Our all time favorite Tex-Mex can be had at Papacita's located on the loop.

Fun Fact: 
Late in 1930, Gregg County was rescued from the Great Depression by the largest pool of petroleum ever discovered in the United States.  

Smith County, home to Tyler is another area Tawnya and I had frequented with family members living in and around the county. We rode past a very cool, old train station turned museum and some very old cobblestone roads just north of downtown. The day was growing old so I took my picture in front of a crowded courthouse and we moved on.

Fun Fact: 
The County was established in 1846 by the new Texas State Legislature and was named for General James Smith who fought for Texas' independence and served during the Indian Wars. Boundaries were established at that time and have not changed to this day.

Our last stop on our impromptu county collection trip was Athens of Henderson county, with park benches sporting slogans like 'Home of the friendliest people', well the attendant of a cafe on the square wouldn't let Tawnya use the bathroom so we hit a Taco Bell and bee lined to Gun Barrel City. We met up with our friends and spent the rest of the night and most of Sunday doing exactly what we came for, but that is a different story all together.

Fun Fact: 
The Saturday that we were there was the only weekend in April with no event scheduled at the large fair park complex. Making light traffic for us :)

All in all we got 9 counties done, or 3.5% of all counties in Texas! Not bad for a spur of the moment trip. Stay tuned for more and watch for bikes out there folks.