Friday, January 20, 2017

Magnolias, Mammoths and Memories

January 16-19, 2017
Waco, Texas

For many years I have been a big fan of HGTV shows - the lovely escapism of home buying and decorating with someone else's money. Bill would rather eat glass.

Until we discovered Fixer Upper with the talented and silly Chip and Joanna Gaines. He enjoys it every bit as much as I do. The show is set in Waco, Texas, and when they first bought the Silos near downtown we agreed we had to make a stop when we got to Texas.

Our Monday drive is one of the nicest we've had in a while. The sun is shining, there's no wind, the truck traffic is minimal, Interstate 35 is in great condition. 

We're heading to an RV park east of town, set on a small road in the trees. About eight miles north of Waco we see the I-35 RV Park along the highway and immediately change our plans. With more rain in the forecast, and plans to be away from home while we're here, this looks better for our needs. The park has level gravel pads with a little grass, no picnic tables or fire pits, FHUs with 50 amp, laundry and showers, and a very nice swimming pool. A real surprise is free, hot, to-order breakfast each morning from 7-9 AM. What a treat!

After set-up, we take a quick drive into town. It's so nice to have sunshine, we check out the older parts of town and drive by the Silos. At 3 PM the place is packed, with a line out the door at the little bakery, and a full courtyard. Cars line the street for six blocks, and the church parking lot who is getting $10 per car is nearly full. I'm not surprised, I've read the store is already in the top ten stops in Texas!

The tall Alico building is a landmark

Old churches and big oaks

Love this old Gulf filling station, complete with a Citron at the pump.

Clint is the special carpenter on the show, we stop by to see his shop.
Waco is still rough with a lot of blighted areas. But it is also undergoing a lot of re-gentrification. It is much bigger than we thought.

Monday the clouds and fog are back. We enjoy a little breakfast at the park's cafe and get to the Silos before 10 AM. Much better - no crowds!

Remembering what it looked like when they bought it, it's lovely to see their dream realized.

The huge silos frame the multi-use stage

In addition to the stage and food trucks and picnic area and courtyard, the outdoor area includes a large turf play area surrounded by bean bag chairs - brilliant!

As expected, big and beautiful. They employ over 300 staff. All that we meet are friendly and fun. I fail to get a pic of Tessa's new best friend, Lane.


Everything is displayed with Joanna's flair - and ship lap and subway tile, of course.

Family references are found throughout. Here, a blanket with Duke's name - the youngest son.

Morning is definitely the time to visit. 
Lemon-lavender and Vanilla with cream chocolate
It is a wonderful stop, the place just feels so good. We pick up a couple requested items and of course a couple delicious cupcakes from the little bakery.

For something completely different in the afternoon, we opt for the nearby Waco Mammoth National Monument. One of the many places protected by President Barack Obama, this dig site entered the national park system in 2015. Rain is threatening and the temps have dropped to 45 degrees as we join a small tour of the grounds. With our America the Beautiful pass, the tour is just $4 each.

You can visit the site without the tour, but there are very few information signs, and I'm glad we joined the group.

In 1978, two teenagers found what turned out to be the femur of a Columbia Mammoth. Related to the Whooly, these huge animals lived in the area during the ice age. We learn that south of Kansas, the ice age looked more like the savanna than the arctic. 

The original site produced the remains of numerous juvenile skeletons, a nursery herd. Archeologists determined that mudslides trapped them here during massive flooding. The skeletons are all preserved at Baylor University.  

Years later there was a second find just yards away. This site was covered with a large tent for years until the Mammoth Site Foundation raised $4M to construct the climate-control dig building where the bones remain in situ. Our park ranger guide explains each of the skeletons, the environmental facts of their lives, and the probability of their deaths. We find all of it fascinating.

Bones are found at different layers

"Quinn" is the large male - 11 foot tusks

What they think Quinn looked like with creative license on coloring and fur layers. 
Found with the mammoths, of the same age, is a camel. Seems like a weird herd-mate, but they speculate that with better eye sight than their big buddies, the camels acted as early warning sentries. Love it!
Replicas of early man femur and mammoth femur found here - if man could bring down just one animal, they would have food, shelter, clothes and tools for dozens.
As the tour comes to an end we hear the rain has arrived. A quick dash back to Piper, and then back home. Where it rains non-stop all night.

Wednesday morning we're out before 8:30 for the drive to see friends in the little town of Goldsthwaite. Actually they don't live in town. 

We find their pretty stone house (which I can't believe I didn't get a photo of) on 60 acres with just their cattle for neighbors. Oak trees and low hills, it is a slice of heaven. Kathy and her family lived in Iron Mountain where I lived, and we both rode the bus 50 miles to Eagle Mountain where she and I and Bill all went to school. She and I were best friends my senior year, and it's great fun remembering all the craziness we shared as teenagers. Until last year's reunion, we hadn't seen each other in 40 years, but it immediately feels like no time has passed at all. Her husband Billy is a great guy, and the four of us have a good time over lunch at the local diner, then perusing the local pecan growers' shop, and vintage general store.

Billy and Kathy
Part of their herd. They were very interested in Tessa and vice versa.

Pecans are a big deal in this little town.

Some of the original buildings have recently been restored, including the old jail on the left.
Back home we make ready for our drive to Austin in the morning. Still more Texas to see!


  1. What a fun stop! I would so love the stop at Magnolia. I never realized Waco had so much to offer...Waco Mammoth NM is a great find and the town is lovely.

    I think you and Bill have friends in every state!

    1. Or we only go to the states where we do :-) We're surprised to find that Waco is our favorite city in Texas - even more than Austin!

  2. Great looking cupcakes! I agree that we get so much more from the tours than reading the signs. Hope it dries out for you.

    1. We're very happy to have not had rain in a few days! Oh those cupcakes were amazing :-))

  3. Cupcakes, giant elephants and friends. What could be better?!

  4. I love that show! It always makes me want to do home projects. :-)) How fun that you went to the Silos. I want to go there (would love one of those cupcakes right about now...). Never would have thought of Waco as a destination, but between the Silos and the Mammoth Monument it looks interesting!

    1. With several things to do and no traffic it's a pretty sweet spot - especially with the cupcakes :-)))

  5. We love Waco. There's so much to see and do there. Is the original Dr. Pepper store still open? I heard it was going to close.

    1. Didn't know about the store :-( That would have been another cool stop!

  6. I didn't understand the significance of the Silos when you posted photos on fb. Now I get it! What a very cool place! Clever idea!

    Waco Mammoth NM looks like a place I would really enjoy. What a find! Imagine what might be under our feet as we walk along at any given time. Reminds me of Dinosaur NM on the flat. Get find:)

    How sweet to catch up with friends again. It would have been fun to watch Tessa and the cattle:)

    1. The NM is getting ready to continue digging, both in the shelter and on the additional 100 acres they have along the riverbed. It will be exciting to see what else they uncover. For a small site there is a ton of information.

  7. Can you imagine what those two teenagers must've thought when they discovered that femur in 1978? I'll bet they are pretty proud of that monument now!

    1. We said the same thing!! That they took it to Baylor University instead of hanging it in their garage is great :-)))) They came back for the dedication of the dig shelter.

  8. I used to love "Trading Spaces." Those were some crazy ideas. My favorite was plastering straw to the walls for the couple with toddlers. Crazy.

    1. That was one of the vanguards of the genre - some of them were Nuts!!