From Sea to Shining Sea, Day 17:  Dallas, TX

Two U.S. Presidents have had strong ties to Dallas.  Both were children of privilege from political dynasties.  Their fathers were in government service, as were their brothers.  Both attended New England prep schools, earned degrees from Harvard, and served in the military.  One came to Dallas to retire after eight years in office; the other met his death in the city before the end of his first term.

Our exploration of the city today centered around these two Presidents.  First stop was Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Just a couple of blocks walk from our hotel took us to this public square honoring George Bannerman Dealey, a 19th century newspaper publisher and civic leader.
BEFORE 1963, DEALY PLAZA WAS ALL ABOUT GEORGE DEALY.
Situated in the historic West End of downtown Dallas, Dealey Plaza was established as a Dallas city park with fountain and other structures completed in 1940 as part of a post-Depression Works Project Administration undertaking to employ local citizens while improving the city's infrastructure.
DEALEY PLAZA
This otherwise benign park would have continued in anonymity had it not been for the actions of an assassin, who killed President Kennedy as his motorcade moved through the square in 1963 and seared the name of this place in collective memory.  To learn more about this story, we visited the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas County Administration Building—formerly the Texas School Book Depository—overlooking the plaza.
FORMER TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY AT THE CORNER OF ELM & HOUSTON STREETS
Outside the building a Texas historic marker announces the significance of the location and the building.  Conspiracy theorists still abound, including one who was hawking brochures and period newspapers outside the museum.  Visitors have scratched around the word 'allegedly' to emphasize their doubt about the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president.
After so many years of hearing of this site and the tragedy that occurred here, being at the location was almost overpowering in its gravitas.  Operated by an independent non-profit organization unaffiliated with any government entity, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza presents a picture of the social and political landscape of the early 1960s and chronicles the assassination and its aftermath.
THE AREA WHERE OSWALD TOOK AIM AT THE PRESIDENT IS GLASSED IN.
According to interpretive signs, Oswald, an employee of the book depository, had strategically stacked cases of books in front of a corner window of the sixth floor overlooking the plaza to conceal his sniper's perch from other employees walking past.  Though visitors are not permitted in this corner, one can approach the corner window directly above on the seventh floor.
FROM THE 7TH FLOOR, DIRECTLY ABOVE OSWALD'S VANTAGE POINT
One of the many exhibits relating to the investigation of the assassination is a ten- by ten-foot model of Dealey Plaza created by the FBI to assist in the Warren Commission's investigation.
STRINGS SHOW THE TRAJECTORY OF THE SHOTS FROM THE BUILDING TO THE MOTORCADE.
At street level, we visited the grassy knoll where local citizen Abraham Zapruder recorded perhaps the most famous piece of home movie film in history.  News media cameras were concentrated along the parts of the motorcade's route with the largest crowds.  No professional videographers were in the sparsely occupied plaza, so the amateur 8mm footage was the only film record of the assassination.  Though the street has been paved over a number of times since 1963, painted X's always reappear to show the approximate locations where the film showed the President being struck with bullets.
THE GRASSY KNOLL WHERE ZAPRUDER STOOD ON WHITE PEDESTAL AT FAR LEFT TO FILM.
Just a block east of the Dealey park is Kennedy Memorial Plaza, set aside to honor the memory of our 35th president.  American architect Philip Johnson was tapped for the project, and created an open tomb (cenotaph) to symbolize Kennedy's free spirit.
KENNEDY MEMORIAL PLAZA
Another piece of city history across the street from the Kennedy Memorial is Founders Plaza, celebrating the log cabin pioneers who founded Dallas County and the town of Dallas in 1841.  On exhibit in the plaza is an authentic pre-1850 cabin moved to the park in 1971.
TYPICAL OF THE ORIGINAL CABINS BUILT ON THIS SPOT WHEN DALLAS WAS FOUNDED IN 1841.
After exploring these historic landmarks, we returned to the hotel and picked up our car to drive to Southern Methodist University (SMU) for a visit to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  Hoping we'd find a place for lunch near the campus, we were delighted to see a local outlet of La Madeleine Cafe when we arrived.  After a tasty repast, we took a post-meal walk around the campus area near a couple of sports stadiums before moving on to the Bush facility.
GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
As is no doubt typical, the competition to host the Bush Presidential Library and Museum began shortly after he assumed office.  Initially six other Texas institutions also submitted proposals to the selection committee, but SMU, alma mater of Laura Bush, was selected.  Both Mrs. Bush and former VP Dick Cheney have served on the SMU board of trustees.
NO, THE GRASS DOESN'T NEED MOWING.
One of the most controversial aspects of the Bush Center, which also houses the non-profit Bush Institute, is its landscaping.  According to volunteer docents, visitors regularly ask when the landscaping will be installed, or why the grass hasn't been cut.  These knowledgeable volunteers will tell you "right quick," as they say in Texas, that the grasses are overgrown by design.  The classically formal building is encircled with totally informal ranch-style prairie grasses and landscape.  We appreciate the natural native landscape concept, but thought it would have played better with a more casual style building.  Why not make it look like an oversized ranch house?  (Because the rest of the SMU campus architecture is so formal, we were told.)
VARIOUS SECTIONS OF THE GALLERY EXHIBIT ARTIFACTS EMPHASIZING BUSH VALUES.
Inside, exhibits were designed to highlight the guiding principles that influenced the decisions Bush made in office.  Artifacts, documents and interactive elements illustrate the key events and accomplishments of the Bush presidency.
REMEMBERING VIVIDLY THE EVENTS OF 9/11, WE FOUND THE DISPLAY PARTICULARLY POIGNANT.
Especially moving were the exhibits related to the events of 9/11/2001.  We're in an age group that can tell you unequivocally what we were doing when we heard about Kennedy's assassination and where we were when terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11.  Visiting sites related to both on the same day formed a powerful experience.

Like the Carter Library we've visited in Atlanta, the Bush Center houses a full-size replica of the Oval Office in the White House.  Today it was crowded with visitors waiting their turn to be photographed sitting at the Presidential desk.
VARIOUS TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS SONGS DOMINATED THE HOLIDAY EXHIBITS.
In a temporary exhibit space, the center was celebrating "White House Christmas of 2004" featuring artifacts and decorations used on that occasion.  The walls of the exhibit hall were papered with a two-dimensional backdrop replicating elements of White House decor, including portraits of the First Ladies.

Upon our departure from the Bush center, we drove to the Dallas Arboretum and Gardens, the city's top attraction.  With only an hour to explore the extensive gardens before closing time and having already walked 4.5 miles today, we backed off and decided to pass this time and return to the hotel.  Before calling it a day, however, we walked five blocks from the hotel to Pioneer Plaza to check out another favorite spot of Dallas visitors.
THE $9 MILLION PROJECT WAS FUNDED PRIMARILY BY PRIVATE SOURCES.
A 4.2-acre public park near the city's Convention Center, Pioneer Plaza is home to an enormous sculpture commemorating 19th century cattle drives through the state.  Three oversized cowboys herd some fifty 6-feet tall cattle down a man-made ridge, through a stream and past an artificial limestone bluff in the city center.  Created in 1994, the work has been criticized as irrelevant to the city's history.  Dallas made its fortunes in banking; Fort Worth was the cattle town.  But efforts to prevent the installation failed, though funding ran out before the intended 70 cattle were in place.

After marveling at this monstrous work of art, we trudged back to the hotel to the sound of thousands, of great-tailed grackles perched in the upper reaches of trees and atop utility poles and power lines along our route, squawking out their evening serenades.

Tomorrow we'll head south from Dallas toward Austin and eventually San Antonio before turning back west.

TUESDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2016

    •  Started in:  Dallas, TX
    •  Ended in:  Dallas, TX
    •  Miles driven:  26   (trip:  2,406)
    •  Weather:  54° to 73°, clear
    •  Letterboxes:  Found 3, Planted 0   (trip:  F44, P8)
    •  Walked:  5.3 miles   (trip:  40)
    •  States:  TX  (trip:  5)
    •  Counties:  1
    •  Towns:  1
    •  Cackling grackles:  17,158
    •  SMU students wearing shorts in late November:  87%
    •  Volunteer docents at Bush Center:  63
    •  Goats keeping grass trimmed at Bush Center:  0 (Our guess was wrong.)
    •  Indications Bush landscaping will change:  0

Loved:  Experiencing the sense of history emanating from sites like Dealey Plaza whose names are so familiar

Lacking:  Communication between the building architect and the landscape designer at the Bush center?

Learned:  It was interesting to learn in the exhibits what President Bush saw as the legacy of his presidency and the guiding principles that inspired his decisions in office—opportunity, freedom, responsibility and compassion.  We also had been unaware of the work of the Bush Institute in ongoing programs to promote women's issues, leadership training, veterans transitions and other matters important to George and Laura Bush.

More Photos from Today
X PAINTED ON STREET MARKS JFK'S LOCATION WHEN FATALLY SHOT.
A SHAFT OF LIGHT FROM THE KENNEDY MEMORIAL 
SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM GIFT SHOP SELLS MANY TYPES OF KENNEDY MEMORABILIA.
GRATEFUL PIGEONS CLEAN UP AFTER AN OUTDOOR DINER AT LA MADELEINE. 
THE BEAUTIFUL SMU CAMPUS 
ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL BUSH LEGACIES 
A CONCEPT MORE UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED 
SOME OF THE MANY GIFTS PRESENTED TO THE BUSHES WHILE IN OFFICE.

From Sea to Shining Sea, Day 16:  Bossier City, LA to Dallas, TX

Heavy gray clouds loomed overhead when we left our hotel in Bossier City this morning.  Misty rain fell as we drove the final twenty Louisiana miles on US-80.  By 8:30, we were in Texas, and the cow counting began in earnest.  Within 20 minutes, I had accumulated 200 on my side (all of whom I lost shortly when we passed a cemetery, of course).

The first city of any size that we reached was Marshall (pop. 23, 523).  Home to two historically black education institutions—Wiley and Bishop Colleges—Marshall was a center of activity in the Civil Rights Movement, staging peaceful sit-ins even before the well-known event in Greensboro, NC, launched the sit-in movement in 1960.
COURTHOUSE DECORATED FOR WONDERLAND OF LIGHTS (photo from Marshall News Messenger)
The city's biggest claim to fame today is its Wonderland of Lights, an annual festival that transforms this East Texas burg into a winter holiday utopia with millions of lights illuminating the buildings and landscape downtown.  An ice skating rink springs up in front of the Harrison County Courthouse, along with a carousel and miniature train.  Horse-drawn carriage rides are offered as well as an outdoor Christmas market and live entertainment.  It seemed a waste to be driving through this time of year in the light of day.
GREAT TEXAS BALLOON RACE  (photo from Longview News Journal)
Our next stop was in Longview (pop. 80,455), home of the annual Texas Balloon Festival.  The city is also the location of LeTourneau University, founded in 1946 by an inventor of earthmoving equipment.  We visited the campus this morning to search for four letterboxes hidden there.  As we were sitting inside our car stamping into the first box, what had been a sprinkling rain turned into a torrential downpour.  Within ten minutes, the parking lot was transformed into a lake with several inches of water accumulating faster than storm drains could remove it.  Wind buffeted our car and sent waves rippling across the parking lot sea.  Relentless, the storm pounded the area for another 20 minutes.
WE KNEW THE FORECAST CALLED FOR STRONG STORMS; WE JUST DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT.
When the deluge finally abated, we ventured to leave.  With the hiding spot for the letterbox we were holding now underwater from storm runoff, we left it safely under a light pole escutcheon nearby and emailed the owner the location of its temporary refuge.

Early on during the storm, we shifted the car's position away from a couple of trees adjacent to the parking lot when we realized how strong the winds were becoming.  Leaving campus we saw a pine nearby that had snapped and crashed during the storm.  Such was the strength of the rain and wind that we didn't even hear the crash a hundred yards from our location.
VARIOUS SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN THE AREA BOOK THEIR CLASSES FOR FIELD TRIPS HERE.
On our way out of town, we stopped for another letterbox in the public library and saw the town's Safety City across the street.  The miniature city was built in 1991 as an instructional tool to teach school children the rules of bicycle, pedestrian and auto safety.  With 16 small buildings and child-scale streets, the village is equipped with working traffic signals and a railroad crossing.  Lessons are targeted at two age groups.  Fourth graders drive miniature cars powered by lawnmower engines, while kindergarten students ride the streets on bicycles or big wheels.  Safety City appears to be an example of hands-on learning that's engaging and just plain fun.

We found some adult-size fun further west in the town of Grand Saline (pop. 3,136).  Though it's pronounced suh-LEEN, the town's name does reference the 250 million year old massive lode of natural salt left by an ancient sea.  Estimated at 16,000 feet deep, the deposit is mined by Morton Salt, the town's largest employer.  It's one of three rock salt mines the company operates in the U.S.
ROOMS IN THE SALT MINE CAN BE AS HIGH AS 85 FEET. (photo from Dallas News)
Though safety regulations shut down mine tours in 1960,we were able to visit the town's Salt Palace situated on US-80 in downtown.  It's a small one-story building housing a museum and gift shop with two exterior walls made of local salt blocks.  Dust and highway grime have given the white salt the color and appearance of granite.  Every visitor is given a souvenir crystal of rock salt as well as a warm welcome from the knowledgeable docent of the day.  And yet some visitors will actually lick the building to make sure it's made of salt.
Ten miles west of the salt palace, we stopped in Edgewood (pop. 1,439) to check out their Heritage Park outdoor museum and look for a letterbox hidden there.   Founded in 1976, the park continues to evolve and now covers parts of three city blocks.  The local historical society operates the park, which preserves 20 authentically restored and furnished structures depicting rural life in East Texas around 1900.  Supplementing the originals are replicas of period buildings.
BONNIE & CLYDE ONCE ATE AT TOM'S CAFE(R), IN ITS ORIGINAL LOCATION.
A picket fence surrounds the park, which we learned is open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings.  As we wandered around looking at the buildings from the outside—trying to figure out if we could gain entrance to obtain the letterbox—volunteer handyman Johnny was assessing recent storm damage on the park's vintage church building.  He kindly unlocked a gate and allowed us to wander around to take photos, which we did.  Fortunately, the letterbox was tucked out of sight between two buildings, and we were able to find it and log in unobserved.
SO LONG, 80!
By the time we left Edgewood, the clock was pushing 4 p.m. and we wanted to reach our hotel in downtown Dallas before darkness fell, so we decided to skip the letterboxes on our list ahead and drive the remaining 60 miles without stopping.  Eight miles before we arrived, just after we passed Dallas's I-635 perimeter highway, US-80 officially ended as it merged with I-30 going into the city.
WE'RE IN THE CITY NOW.
Over the years, the remainder of old-timer US-80 going west was first dual marked with interstate highways that took over its route and later retired completely west of Dallas.  As we continue toward San Diego, we'll definitely try to spend time on local highways but they won't be our old friend US-80.

Tomorrow we plan to spend the day seeing some of the sights in Dallas, a city we've never visited, though we've been through it and around it numerous times.

MONDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2016

    •  Started in:  Bossier City, LA
    •  Ended in:  Dallas, TX
    •  Miles driven:  239   (trip:  2,380)
    •  Weather:  67° to 70°, cloudy to strong storms to clear
    •  Letterboxes:  Found 10, Planted 0   (trip:  F41, P8)
    •  Walked:  2.2 miles   (trip:  34.7)
    •  States:  2   (trip:  5)
    •  Counties:  9  (trip:  75)
    •  Towns:  24     (trip:  154)

More Photos from Today
THE SALT PALACE WALLS HAVE BEEN RE-BUILT SEVERAL TIMES; THESE DATE FROM 1993. 
EDGEWOOD HERITAGE VILLAGE
EDGEWOOD HERITAGE VILLAGE
ONE OF THE FINAL US-80 SIGNS GOING WEST

From Sea to Shining Sea, Day 14:  Monroe, LA, to Bossier City, LA

BONNIE PARKER WAS
AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER.
In May, 1934, a pair of small-time bank robbers—Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker—were ambushed by Texas Rangers and Louisiana state troopers on a road outside Gibsland, Louisiana.  In a 16-second hail of 187 automatic rifle and shotgun rounds fired at their Ford V8 sedan, Clyde, 25, and Bonnie, 23, were both hit dozens of times and died at the scene.

Though not particularly effective as robbers, Bonnie and Clyde had famously been on the run for two years, dodging law enforcement officials and becoming folk heroes to a populace discouraged by the Great Depression and in desperate need of distraction.  The allure of these two poor kids from the slums of west Dallas continues unabated, and the small Louisiana towns central to their deaths have capitalized on their appeal.

With little else of interest along our route on US-80 through Louisiana, we decided to check out a few Bonnie and Clyde sights today.  Our first stop was in Arcadia (pop. 2,912), county seat of Bienville Parish where the pair met their demise.

The bullet-riddled corpses of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were still in their death car when it was towed eight miles from the ambush site south of Gibsland to the town of Arcadia, where the parish coroner operated out of Conger's Furniture Store and Funeral Parlor. While he labored to autopsy and embalm the couple, a crowd of relic-seekers ripped the car apart for souvenirs. According to some reports, mobs of people broke the store's plate glass windows, ruining the furniture inventory in an attempt to get near the legendary outlaws and obtain a souvenir lock of hair or shred of blood-stained clothing.
THE DEPOT MUSEUM IN ARCADIA
Unlike neighboring Gibsland (pop. 958), the closest town to the ambush spot, the town of Arcadia for many years wanted nothing to do with its role in the story of Bonnie and Clyde.  The mortuary/furniture store eventually became a pizzeria and then was bulldozed into a vacant lot. In 2010, the town gave in to its destiny and turned the vacant lot into the Sheriff Henderson Jordan Park, named for a local lawman who was part of the posse that ambushed the car.  A bronze plaque praises him and other members of the posse.  This proximity was all the prompting we needed to plant a letterbox across the street near the depot museum that now includes a small B & C exhibit.
THE AMBUSH MUSEUM WAS OWNED UNTIL RECENTLY BY THE SON OF A MEMBER OF THE POSSE.
Having already visited the ambush site in 2008 in search of a couple of letterboxes there, we focused our time today on the two Bonnie and Clyde museums in Gibsland.  We started at the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum, a for-profit enterprise housed in a low-key storefront that was once home to Ma Canfield's Cafe, where the fated duo dined for the last time.
LOTS OF ITEMS ON EXHIBIT; HOW MANY ARE AUTHENTIC IS DEBATABLE.
The museum has a large collection of Bonnie and Clyde artifacts, notwithstanding the fact that most appear to have a questionable provenance.  The "curators"—and we use that term very loosely—are not afraid to incorporate a bit of graphic violence in their exhibits, though some are so crudely executed they induce more humor than horror.
LOTS OF RED PAINT WENT INTO THE MAKING OF THIS DISPLAY.
One of the more interesting items on exhibit was a letter purported to have been written by Clyde Barrow to Henry Ford just a month before the ambush.  The original is currently on display at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, though its authenticity has often been questioned.
Two doors over in a city owned building, we visited the Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Museum, staffed by a volunteer and offering free admission.  Their exhibits were limited to newspaper articles, photos, and posters from the annual Bonnie and Clyde Festival, which that museum has sponsored since 1993.
A recent newsletter invited would-be attendees to "a festival loaded with fun."  Among the events promised were:  "five factual reenactments of mock bank robberies and shoot-outs in the streets!" and "re-creating the ambush at the site!"  Participants were encouraged to "come early Saturday morning and enjoy the pancake breakfast at the Lion's Club."  Of course, no Bonnie and Clyde Festival would be complete without a B & C look-alike contest with separate categories for adults and children.
NOT MUCH HERE, BUT IT'S FREE.
After getting our fill of Bonnie and Clyde, we continued west on US-80 to Bossier City, just across the Red River from Shreveport, our destination for the day and our TIME OUT spot for Sunday.  If anything, our second experience with this new policy served to confirm our instincts that taking a day off each week of travel is a sound policy.

On Monday, we will most definitely make our way to Texas, hoping to take in some sights around Dallas.  Maybe we'll even visit the grave sites of Bonnie and Clyde.

SATURDAY, 26 NOVEMBER, & SUNDAY, 27 NOVEMBER, 2016

    •  Started in:  Monroe, LA
    •  Ended in:  Bossier City, LA
    •  Miles driven:  128   (trip:  2,141)
    •  Weather:  47° to 50°, overcast
    •  Letterboxes:  Found 6, Planted 1   (trip:  F31, P8)
    •  Walked:  5.1   (trip:  32.5)
    •  States:  LA  (trip:  4)
    •  Counties:  4   (trip:  67)
    •  Towns:   13   (trip:  132)
    •  Gas:   $2.279 (premium), Monroe, LA
    •  Bonnie and Clyde sites:  5
Loved:  Meeting the other Bonnie and Clyde, a couple of donkeys we befriended along the way.

Lacking:  Authenticity in the Bonnie and Clyde artifacts and stories

Learned:  That BonQuiQui is alive and well and training employees at the McDonald's in Ruston, LA.  Just to see how far it would go, we stood in line for 7 minutes being ignored by multiple idle employees on duty before one decided to take our order.
With All Due Respect:  In Minden, LA, we saw an historic ash tree which formerly grew next to the old city hall.  Planted in 1905 by a sheriff's deputy seeking relief from the afternoon sun streaming into his office window, the tree was saved by popular demand in 1971 when the old city hall was demolished.  Recently a fence was installed to protect this venerable elder.
RISEN FROM THE ASH
Before leaving Louisiana, we had to release one of our ducks.  On Sunday, Quack the Knife left us on the Red River between Shreveport and Bossier City.  From there, we hope he'll make it to the Mississippi River and thence to the Gulf of Mexico.
More Photos from Today
ONE OF MANY VACANT COMMERCIAL BLOCKS IN SMALL TOWNS IN THE SOUTH.
BLUE HERON SCULPTURE APPEARS TO SIT ATOP OUR CAR IN WEST MONROE, LA. 
MAIN ENTRANCE TO GRAMBLING STATE UNIVERSITY, GRAMBLING, LA. 
CLYDE AND BONNIE, THE DONKEYS WE MET NEAR A WEYERHAEUSER PLANT IN ARCADIA. 
HUGE CRANE AT THE WEYERHAEUSER PLANT.