I wrote this in 2009, but felt like it deserved reposting. Today marks 19 years since my great-uncle Earl passed away.
Since this was written in 2009, some of the information has become outdated. We’ve lost a few of Grandma’s siblings since then. My parents are no longer in Navasota, my mother is no longer with us either. I need to go through and do a separate piece on each of the aunts and uncles that I spent a decent amount of time with, which was most of them. Most of them made big impressions on me, the ones who didn’t, I just wasn’t around enough. I’m sure if I had been, they would have. I went through and added pictures I could find of each one. I wasn’t able to find one of Aunt Lois.
Grandma Briggs came from a family of 16 kids. 13 lived to be adults, 5 are still living, most of the ones that passed lived full lives into their 70’s and 80’s.
I was very fortunate to be able to get to know most of Grandma’s siblings. There is only a couple that I don’t have distinct memories of. Here’s a brief rundown of what I remember from each of those thirteen.
Lloyd Jones (Deceased)
Uncle Lloyd & Uncle Earl
I remember my Dad preaching at Uncle Lloyd’s church and him playing the fiddle. Also staying at their house in Locust Grove, OK and how nice Aunt Winnebel was.
Emmett Jones (Deceased)
Uncle Bill Jones, Uncle Emmett Jones, Grandad and Grandma
I don’t remember meeting him until I was a teenager and he came to visit Grandma at her house. He seemed like a nice man, I just wasn’t around him very much.
Ruth Marrs (Deceased)
Uncle Houston, Aunt Ruth, Grandma Briggs
Aunt Ruth and Grandma went to the same hairdresser once a week and I remember her and Grandma being the best of friends. When I was a teenager, I would stay with her husband, Uncle Houston who had suffered a stroke while they went to the hair appointment.
Orpha Briggs (Deceased)
Grandad at Grandma Briggs
Grandma Briggs, I’ve written a lot about her (and Grandad) in the past.
Johnny Jones (Deceased)
Uncle Johnny and I at Camp Lutherhoma in 2007 for the annual Jones Reunion
Uncle Johnny was always a staple at the Sperry Post Office sitting on a bench out front talking to other men from the town. He was usually in a pair of overalls.
Wes Jones (Deceased)
Uncle Wes, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Frank
Dad preached for Uncle Wes in Beggs, OK when I was pretty young. He had a mangled hand from a childhood farm accident, but still managed to be a first-class carpenter and mason. He also came to Pittsburg and preached for my Dad once or twice. The same could probably be said about grandma’s entire family, but I remember him always being very jovial and humorous.
Madeline Howard (Deceased)
Seated at the table, Uncle Earl Howard, Aunt Madeline Howard Seated in the lawn chairs, Uncle Henry Martens, Aunt Rachel Martens
I did not get to spend a lot of time with Aunt Madeline, but she was very nice to me. And I remember her as being one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
Juanita Cook (Living)
Aunt Rachel, Aunt Juanita, Grandma, Aunt Ruth
Aunt Juanita lives in Illinois. She has come to Oklahoma for several reunions and once during the summer and stayed for several weeks, including a few days with Grandma and Grandad. When she stayed with Grandma, she and Grandma had been canning some jelly. We took a little road trip that day to go visit Uncle Lloyd in Locust Grove. On the way there we stopped at a café and something triggered Grandma and Aunt Juanita’s memory. They both looked at each other and at the same time exclaimed, “The stove!”
They had forgotten about some fruit they had left cooking for the canning they were doing. Grandad called Bob Stidham who had a station next door. Bob went over and checked on the stove using the house key that was on the front porch under a rock. The fruit had boiled over and put the fire out on the stove. Fortunately Bob was able to turn the stove off and nothing was harmed except some burnt fruit and a mess when we returned. I remember Aunt Juanita and Grandma laughing nonstop about it afterwards.
Rachel Martens (Deceased)
Aunt Rachel and Uncle Henry Martens
Aunt Rachel and Uncle Henry moved from Sperry to Indiana with their daughter Ruth a few years ago. They could always be seen around Sperry walking to Hominy Creek Bridge. It was like clockwork. She and Grandma Briggs shared a very striking resemblance to each other.
Earl Jones (Deceased)
Uncle Earl Jones, Grandad Briggs, Uncle Johnny
I will write in depth about him later.
Frank Jones (Living)
Uncle Frank Jones
Uncle Frank still lives in Sperry, and you can often find him at the local café every morning. I remember him always fishing the Illinois River in a fishing tube. He’s always been very nice to me.
Lois Thulin (Deceased)
She passed when I was about five. I don’t remember much about her except that she was sick. Her son Hovey and I are close to the same age, and I remember playing in the pastures around their house. Hovey and I shared several classes in seventh grade. Lois’ daughter Reetha stayed with Grandma and Grandad for bit during her teenage years.
Bill Jones (Living)
Dad and Uncle Bill
When I think of Uncle Bill I think of a big grin. His daughter Stephanie and I are close to the same age. I would go over to their house a lot during my summers in OK. He and Aunt Dorothy probably came out to Grandad and Grandma’s house more than her other siblings. I remember them being around for jam sessions, and Fourth of July cookouts. They are also a staple every year at the reunions.
I didn’t feel I could write this without at least acknowledging all of Grandma Brigg’s siblings. While I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with all of them, I had/have a connection with all of them. It’s really hard to say I liked one more than another, just like any person in your life. They all played different roles for me. A lot of time just their mere presence gave me a sense of comfort knowing I was among some resemblance of “home”.
Uncle Earl Jones
With all that said, the one that I probably had the strongest connection with was Uncle Earl. This is my attempt to explain what he meant to me. I’m sure I could write the same thing about each of the people mentioned above had I spent enough time with them. While this is about Uncle Earl, I think of him almost in a symbolic way of representing all of his siblings.
Four of Grandma’s brothers ended up being preachers, including Uncle Earl who officiated the wedding of my parents in 1969. He had a very funny side. The night of the wedding, he left my parents a message telling them in their haste to start their lives together, they had forgotten to sign the wedding license. My parents drove to Haskell, OK where Earl and his family lived at the time. Dad remembers that as soon as Uncle Earl opened the door and saw the newlyweds on his front porch, he started laughing. He had been joking and didn’t think they had taken him seriously. Dad and Mom both came from a strict religious upbringing, so I’m sure they had worried they’d spent their first night married “in sin” due to a complication.
I guess the earliest memory I have of Uncle Earl is probably from church when I was four or five. By then he had become the pastor of the Pentecostal church in Sperry, OK. I remember him singing and preaching. The church was anchored with a lot of family members including my grandparents, several great aunts, great uncles, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins, and people not blood related but claimed as family. I don’t know all the specifics, but he had taken the church after some turmoil and helped put everything back together.
Though he was a preacher, he was a man’s man. He worked with his hands. One-time Grandad and Grandma were replacing the field line at their house. Uncle Earl was right there in overalls getting dirty, crawling under the house and helping dig the trench for the line.
Of course, I remember him being at the Jones Reunion in Tahlequah every August. He and several of the men would go fishing, and Uncle Earl often brought a small boat with him in the back of his truck. A Saturday morning tradition at the reunion was for the men to go into town and look around at the flea markets and pawn shops. Grandad, Uncle Earl, Uncle Bill, Uncle Frank, Uncle Henry, Uncle Larry, Uncle James, Cousins Steve, Ronnie, Rick, Milton, my brother Brad, our Dad, and a few others were regulars on those trips into town. I started tagging along when I a teenager. I was always torn on whether I should stay or go, I didn’t want to miss anything at the camp, but all the men were going into town. Some of my best memories are from those Saturday morning trips. One-year Uncle Earl bought a saddle out at the flea market.
There was not a lot I did not like about Uncle Earl. Honestly a lot of that has to do with how nice he was to me. Uncle Earl was very supportive of my Dad’s ministry, even when Dad’s religious organization had turned their back and other family members from the same organization for that matter. Uncle Earl did not. He treated my Dad and our family the same. He always made us feel welcome at his church, or in person.
I couldn’t list all of the times he exercised generosity to not only us, but to people in his church, and in the community. If he knew a family was without groceries, gas money, needed new tires for a vehicle, he would see to it that they had what they needed.
He would occasionally come up and slip me money too. One year I was going with Grandad and Grandma to a family reunion on Grandad’s mother’s side in Tennessee. Uncle Earl slipped me twenty bucks so I would “have some spending money for the trip.” When you’re a teenager, twenty bucks seems like its one hundred. At least it did for me.
The generosity aside, he took an interest in me. During my teen years, he would invite me to ride with him to Oklahoma City to pick up kids from youth camp in the church van. Maybe he just didn’t want to ride by himself, but he probably could have asked a lot of people to go along, yet he asked me. I look back on those drives from Sperry to Oklahoma City with great fondness. I loved staying with my grandparents during the summers, but they also didn’t go a lot of places. So it was nice to get out every once in a while. One year, Uncle Earl entrusted me to water his garden and feed his beloved Beagle hounds while he was on vacation. He paid me to do it, but I would have done it for free, I was just honored he thought I was responsible enough to handle the task. If you had seen his garden, it might make a little more sense. It was huge!
I guess I have to say overall what impressed me about him, was how he treated others. No he wasn’t perfect, but along with a host of other family members provided a good example to myself.
About a year before he died, I was sitting in the church my Dad pastors in Navasota, TX. What I am about to write here is nothing my parents don’t already know. Almost every time I went to church in Navasota, I couldn’t help but be sad. I would think of my grandparents and all the family members who were in a Sunday morning service in Sperry, OK while I was in service in Navasota with a bunch of people who weren’t very kind to my parents.
One Sunday I left the auditorium and went to my Dad’s office and wrote letters to Grandad and Grandma, and one to Uncle Earl. I was 21 or 22 at the time and didn’t really feel like I had ever said “Thank you” to them for the roles they played in my upbringing. Honestly, I thought Uncle Earl would outlive both Grandad and Grandma by several years. Grandma survived him by a couple of years, and Grandad survived him by six.
The following Christmas we were in OK and went to church while we were in Sperry. Brad and I were sitting on the back pew like good preacher’s kids do. Uncle Earl came out of his office which was close by and slapped me on the back. I looked around and he had a big smile on his face. And that is how I remember him. Uncle Earl passed away on September 1, 1999.
He never talked to me about the letter, but I know he received it because his wife Aunt Frankie told me it meant a lot to him.
This past reunion, my dad, my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband, her girls, and I went to that same flea market. I had skipped it for the last few years, and honestly the flea market wasn’t anything special this year. Guess that’s a big surprise about a flea market? Maybe it never has been, and it was just being out there a lot of my favorite people. While walking around out there, I had one of those flashback moments you see so often in the movies and on TV. I looked around for Uncle Earl to see if he found a new saddle.
My apologies for the non-creative title. It sounded better than “A road trip with my sister’s family from Tulsa to Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Crazy Horse, Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, Garden of the Gods, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Roswell, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park”.
The good news is if I have bored you already, you have the Cliff’s Notes and synopsis of the trip.
Usually when I mention a place I want to go to friends or family, they patronize me by giving me a “that would be cool” response. That’s not to say they don’t want to go, it’s just not at the top of their list of things to do. I used to just hope it would work out to go do some of these things, now I try to plan and go. My brother Brad really lit the travel fuse in me over ten years ago. He’s had the fortune to travel all over the world for business and leisure. Instead of talking about how unreasonable a trip to somewhere cool is, he showed me if you planned it, you can take the trip. The trip with he and his wife Angela to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe (and Reno if I am being honest) in 2008 was the first time I saw California, as well as Nevada. I know it’s cliché to say, but I came back different from that trip and every trip since. I don’t know that I am more passionate about anything else now than getting out and seeing new places or revisiting favorites.
Ever since I found out there was a Red Rocks Amphitheatre, I have wanted to go there. This may surprise you, but I think the first I became aware of its existence was watching Bill Gaither and Friends at Red Rocks. Some of my favorite memories are watching the Gaither Gospel series with my parents and paternal grandparents. Along the way I have picked up various cd’s of live recordings at Red Rocks. For several years, I have said “I want to go see a show there.” I have mentioned the Avett Brothers in previous posts, but I’ve been enamored with them for a couple of years. Their lyrics and songs have connected with me a lot over the last couple of years. They usually play Red Rocks during the summer and when they confirmed they were playing there June 29, 30, and July 1, I thought this was the year to see a show at Red Rocks, specifically the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks. When I asked my sister Gaylyna if she would be interested, she jumped on board. Once I secured a couple of tickets back in January for Friday June 29, 2018, a massive road trip started being planned. Her and I would go to the show at Red Rocks, but her whole family would be with us for the road trip. This is the story of our Red Rocks and Beyond road trip with Gaylyna, her husband Jonathan, and their kids Brynleigh, Addisyn, and Caleb. For the sake of space, when I reference “my family” on this trip, it is they I am referring to.
Friday, June 22, 2018
I put in a full day of working for “The Man” now known as “De Fuhrer” since the company was acquired March 1, 2018. My sister in law Angela brought my brother to the lair, so my brother could take me to Hobby airport, and then he would drive my car to his house in Smithville, TX so my car would be waiting there at the end of the trip. We stopped for dinner at the Smoke’n Honey House on the way. It was a forgettable dining experience. I arrived at Hobby about 6:30 and had a very thorough pat down in the TSA line. It is par for the course for my airport experiences. This one was probably the most intrusive. My legs were sore, if I had handed the TSA guy some ICY HOT, he could have rubbed it in as long as he took checking me for contraband. After the hand swap explosives residue test, I was finally cleared to fly.
The flight left on time at 10:15 pm and arrived in Tulsa on time about 11:30 pm. My sister Gaylyna picked me up and we went to her house for the night.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
My sister’s family and I met our uncle James and Uncle Larry, along with Larry’s family (Aunt Terry, cousins Heather & Kristian, and Heather’s kid), in Sperry, OK for breakfast. It was a quick visit, but nice to see all of them. Uncle James and Larry have had some health challenges as of late, but they both seem to be on the mend, which is obviously great news!
After breakfast, we (Gaylyna’s family and I) stopped by the cemetery in Sperry to pay respects to Mom, Grandad, Grandma, and Aunt Judy. My sister does a great job of looking after the graves of Mom, Grandad and Grandma, and our brothers Dustin, and Jerod. After a few minutes we left to go pack our bags at Gaylyna’s hose, wishing those that have gone before us were going with us.
We left Gaylyna’s house a little after noon and started our 11 day journey through eight states.
We arrived in Kearney, Nebraska at our lodging for the night about 8 pm. It was an older property and they still use room keys and do everything on paper. Although no computer was present in the office, they somehow had our information on paper slips. I found this curious since I had reserved the rooms on Hotels.com. For most of the trip, we had two rooms, one for the boys, and one for the girls.
After a nutritious breakfast at the Kearney McDonald’s we headed for Badlands National Park. Along the way we stopped in the Nebraska National Forest. While Nebraska’s corn fields can be a pretty sight to see, the forest was a nice change. After the forest was a drive through the Nebraska Sandhills. This was all along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.
We crossed into South Dakota around 4pm mountain time; we crossed time zones somewhere in northwest Nebraska.
We arrived in The Badlands close to 6 pm. We stopped at a visitor center and Gaylyna went in and received recommendations on what we should do. We drove to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and spent some time, and then went to the Door Trail where we did a little hiking. The family hiked further while I took pictures on the boardwalk of the Door Trail.
Then we (Jonathan) drove through the park and stopped a few more times. We saw some bighorn sheep, and lots of prairie dogs. We made it to Wall, South Dakota, and our stop for the night about 8:30 pm. We had a family suite at the Best Western. It seemed like a good cost cutting idea when I booked it. It had two bedrooms, but only one bathroom. We managed though.
We were going to have breakfast at the Best Western, but it was overrun with fellow guests. Thus we headed to the famous Wall Drug store to try our luck there for breakfast. The Wall Drug store became famous in the 1940’s for advertising free ice water, what started as a small shop now consumes a whole city block with multiple gift shops and eating options. The breakfast buffet seemed a little high at $15 a person, so we opted for trying their donuts. The donuts are all cake donuts with a few different flavor options. However, I was a little miffed they didn’t have hot donuts available. The register at “The Donut Factory” was closed, and you had to go to the restaurant for donuts, which were good, but room temperature.
From Wall, we drove to Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota. Along the way we picked up picnic supplies for lunch in the park. Custer State Park is one I missed on my solo trip last year. I drove up to the entrance, but ran out of time. This trip we spent a good four hours or so in the park, seeing lots of bison, Pronghorn sheep, prairie dogs, and few different types of deer. We ended the drive in the park on the Needles Highway, which takes you by Cathedral Spires, and several one car width rock tunnels.
From there we checked in at the Ramada Inn in Keystone, South Dakota. We had dinner in Keystone at Grizzly Creek Restaurant, and were served by a young lady from Thailand. She was very friendly and spoke really good English. Keystone has a lot of foreign workers using work visas I am assuming.
After dinner, we headed to Mount Rushmore which is only a couple of miles away from where all the hotels and shops are in Keystone. We arrived in time to get a good seat in the amphitheater for the nightly lighting ceremony. I had attended this last September when I visited, but was glad to share it again with family. They play patriotic music over the speakers (Amazing grace is also mixed in). A ranger comes out and gives a short talk, on this night it was a lady ranger. Then a 20 minute video about Mount Rushmore, and the four presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Then the ranger comes out and talks a little more. At some point she asked people to clap for their favorite president. I wish I had captured the excitement as my nephew Caleb clapped for Abraham Lincoln with a huge smile on his face. It is one of my favorite moments from the trip.
While the national anthem is played (and the audience sings along) the four presidents are lit up. After that they call all of the veterans in attendance down to the stage, then a group of them take the flag down, and the audience is given the chance to applaud the veterans. I think I mentioned the same when I witnessed this back in September, but it’s hard to describe the patriotism that is exhibited. I’m glad I have now been able to witness it twice.
We arrived back at the hotel close to 11 pm after a full day of excursions.
We arrived early enough to get on the first Garden of Eden Tour of the day. From the park website description:
“This 1-hour tour is our least strenuous tour. It is a wonderful sample of Wind Cave. Small amounts of all of the beautiful cave formations – boxwork, cave popcorn, and flowstone – are seen along this 1/3 mile tour. The tour is designed for people with limited time or abilities. It enters and leaves the cave by elevator with 150 steps along the tour route.”
The ranger who led the tour was nice, but did take a wrong turn at one point and asked the group to hang out a few minutes in the cave while she verified the way we needed to go. She led us on the rest of the tour and back to the elevator with no incident.
On the way back from Wind Cave NP, we stopped by the Crazy Horse Memorial.
The family went inside the visitor center for a bit, I stayed outside and took pictures from the parking lot. They give away rocks that have been blasted from the site; my sister picked one up for me. We all have a piece of Crazy Horse.
From there we went back to the hotel in Keystone and had lunch at the nearby Ruby House Restaurant. It’s setup like an old saloon, the food was decent.
We spent the rest of the day swimming at the hotel and went for ice cream at Turtle Town, a sweets shop on the main road in Keystone. Some of the family went looking around the shops in town for a bit; Brynleigh and I went back to the hotel and relaxed for the evening.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Most of this day was spent driving from Keystone through Wyoming to Estes Park, CO. We arrived at the Saddle and Surrey Motel in Estes Park about 5pm. The people at the motel were really friendly, and the motel is older, but kept up pretty nice.
Gaylyna found a hike for us to go on that wasn’t too far away from the motel, Copeland Falls. The drive there was nice and literally over the mountains and through the woods. It’s a 0.6 mile hike from the parking lot. Even though it wasn’t that far I was sucking wind due to the elevation (and being way out of shape). While we were out there, thunder started rolling pretty good, I started hoofing it back ahead of the family as I figured it would take me longer to get back.
I was almost all the way back before the rain set in. I took a few minutes to record audio of a stream and the rain/thunder which I plan to add to my sleep soundtrack (which includes Yosemite Falls, rain in Yellowstone, and crashing waves in Galveston).
Brynleigh and Addisyn came running down the trail with the keys to the car ahead of Jonathan, Gaylyna, and Caleb. We only had to wait a few minutes before they arrived.
From there we drove back into Estes Park and toured the streets a little while looking for a place to eat dinner. We spotted a couple of elk out and about. For dinner, we ended up at a place called “You Need Pie”. We walked in at 8:45 pm, not realizing the closed at 9. The staff was all friendly despite us crashing in right before closing. Our waitress was really nice and said as long as we placed our order by 9, we were ok. I had a Philly cheese steak; the rest of the family had burgers and sandwiches. We took a Key Lime Pie to go for Thursday’s breakfast.
Then we stopped at the nearby grocery store where Gaylyna picked up picnic stuff for Thursday’s drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
The Key Lime pie from You Need Pie made for a great breakfast!
We left the motel about 8 am and started making our way through Rocky Mountain National Park. The first stop was a great view of Long’s Peak. Then we proceeded up Trail Ridge Road, making several stops along the way.
We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center for a bit to check out the views and gift shop. It is 11,796 feet above sea level. The gift shop had a lot of items with “Got Oxygen?” available for sale, which is very appropriate with the thinner air. Jonathan and Addisyn showed us all up and went up to the summit which is 12,005 feet, and a whole lot of steps. The rest of us sat and waited while they made the trek.
From there we continued west on Trail Ridge Road and stopped for lunch at a picnic area.
After lunch, we headed south and made our way out of the park and towards Denver.
We stayed at Lakewood Hotel in Lakewood, CO. It used to be a Hampton Inn and probably at one time was a pretty nice hotel. It is not in terrible shape now, but the room us guys were in was pretty warm, and the common areas in general were warm. Of course, I never count on AC working in any hotel I am in, I just get used to trying to sleep very warm.
Friday, June 29, 2018
Originally, I had planned for us to have a leisure day around Denver as this was the day of the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks. However, I came across an article about the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation (https://www.rmwf.org/) where they rescue wolves and wolfdogs. I sent the link to my nieces to see if they would be interested in visiting, and they were excited about it, so I set out to get us a tour. I was hoping to get something for Saturday morning to work out better for our trip schedule, but all they had was openings on Friday morning. After a quick look at the map, I figured it would be a tight but doable squeeze to get it in and be back in time for Gaylyna and I to make it to Red Rocks.
The RMWF is located in Guffey, CO, and the two hour drive south of Denver to get there is very pretty, although you could say that for most of Colorado. We arrived a little bit early before our 11 AM slot and were quickly seated in a shaded area where two female volunteers told us about the history of the foundation and the wolves. Shortly after we arrived, another group showed up that was supposed to be there at 9. One of the volunteers moved over to that group. I did not get the name of the volunteers, but they were both really nice, the one that took us on our tour is a recent college graduate from New Jersey and had a few weeks left on her six week commitment.
Mark Johnson is the founder of RMWF and he came over for a minute before our tour began. He didn’t think it would be safe for my nephew Caleb to go into a couple of the pens that the rest of us could go in. I think there were a total of four pens we visited. Some of the wolves were very passive, some were very friendly and made repeated pleas for petting and belly rubs. My nieces really enjoyed it and had big smiles the whole time. My nephew enjoyed it too after being briefly excluded from a couple of the pens. Jonathan and I stayed out with him so he wouldn’t feel alone. It was a really cool experience, the kids picked up some souvenirs including wolf fur.
The tour is officially free, but we did give a donation. They are trying to raise money to buy a permanent property. The current property is being provided free of charge for Mark’s lifetime, but he wants to get something setup that will be around after he is gone. If you are out that way, I recommend looking them up and setting up a tour.
On the way back we stopped for lunch at River Bend Market & Eatery, an Italian restaurant that sits on the North Fork South Platte River a tributary of the Colorado River. We sat by open windows with the river flowing right outside. The views were great and the lasagna was really good! Everyone else seemed to like their food too.
We made it back to Lakewood a little after 4pm. Gaylyna and I took 15 minutes to freshen up before driving to Red Rocks. Jonathan and the kids relaxed at the hotel for the night.
We arrived a little after 5, and parked in the Upper South Parking Lot at Red Rocks, which still sits below the amphitheater. A long line of people were already camped out waiting for the doors to open at 6:30 PM. We could have gotten in 30 minutes early; I am a member of the Avett Guild (their fan club) which I had signed up for in January in hopes of getting great seats in the presale for Red Rocks. I didn’t end up getting tickets in the presale, but members of the Avett Guild are typically let into the venue 30 minutes early. It would have been a lot of effort to get to the Upper North Parking lot where that line was, so I we just stayed put and sit in Gaylyna’s vehicle. There was a lot of tailgating going on. Sometime after 6, the line started moving up the huge ramp. We made our way over and since the line was stopped on the ramp, it gave me a chance to catch my breath.
At 6:30pm the gates opened and we made it in about 6:45. Once inside there are several flights of stairs to get to the seating area. Slowly but surely we made it to row 31, seats 111 & 112.
David Crosby was the opener and started at 7:30pm. I guess since I wasn’t partaking in the local product, his music didn’t do a lot for me. He let his political activism show and kept talking about “the state of things” and letting “they hear you in Washington”. Groovy, Man.
Everything about seeing a show at Red Rocks lived up to what I thought it would be, the acoustics are great. Even in row 31, everything sounded clear, but not overpowering.
Since they were playing three nights at Red Rocks and we were there for the first night of the run, I knew we wouldn’t get every song we wanted, but it was a great set! I was happy to hear several for the first time live including Through My Prayers, The Fall, November Blue, Salvation Song, and No Hard Feelings. November Blue was probably the one I wanted to hear most.
They have played Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise at each of the three shows I have been at, and I hope they play it any shows in the future I am at.
“Decide what to be and go be it.”
I think they finished the encore around 11:30.
The show was great and hopefully Gaylyna enjoyed it as much as I did. I wish we could have been there for all three nights, but time and money did not permit.
We waited for the crowd to thin out a bit before making the trek down the stairs, stopped at the merchandise stand where Gaylyna bought a shirt; I bought a hat, then on down the ramp.
I think we ended up back at the hotel about 12:30 AM.
There are also annoyances at Red Rocks that exist in other venues, and that is the people that don’t seem to go to shows to go to the shows. There seemed to be a constant parade of people going to and from the bathroom, to the beverage cart, to smoke pot. You also have the people that wait for quiet songs to start having conversations. Two guys next to me carried on for about five minutes about random things. My ticket cost $80 or so with fees, I am assuming it cost them the same. They really couldn’t chat some other time? It was mostly a well-mannered crowd through.
Saturday, June 30 2018
We left Lakewood about 8 AM (a common trend on this trip) and headed for Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. By the time we arrived there about 10, it was already very crowded with no parking spaces to spare.
We were at Royal Gorge from Noon to about 4PM. We took the Gondola to the other side. After Red Rocks the night before, I was pretty sore, so while the family went to the kids play area I made my way back over the bridge via one of the shuttles. I found a spot on the observation deck and enjoyed the view for a few hours.
We left there and headed for our stop for the night Pueblo, CO.
Most of the day was spent driving. We stopped in Roswell, NM to say we had. I stopped too soon at a place called Alien World, the official UFO Museum was a half a block down the road. Alien World cost $13 for all of us to see some kind of Alien themed haunted house that looks like it was put together in the 60’s, and never updated or dusted since. We spent about 15 minutes in there, laughing at how ridiculous the place was. At this point we decided we just wanted to continue the journey than pay more money to go in the UFO museum. Now we can say we have been to Roswell.
We stayed in Whites City, NM which is right outside the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn which has a decent sized slide and kids play area next to the pool, but they turned it off soon after we arrived. My nephew was a little bummed, but he enjoyed swimming in the pool along with the rest of us.
We beat the crowds to Carlsbad Cavern National Park; on the way in we saw some barbary sheep. At the visitor center, the family decided to take the natural bridge entrance which is an hour long hike down. I made it down in about three minutes via the elevator with time to peruse the exhibits up top before taking the 750 foot descent. Once they made it down, we proceeded to take the Big Room Self-Guided Tour. It really is spectacular! I’d recommend anyone who has the chance to go see it.
After the tour, we had lunch at the restaurant in the visitor center, and then headed toward Texas, which was only about ten minutes away from the park.
The Natural Entrance
It was supposed to take us three hours to get to Fort Stockton, Texas for the night. We were stuck behind a wreck on a road in the middle of desert oil patch for over an hour. We finally arrived in Fort Stockton a little after 7PM.
All that was left of the trip now was the trip back across the state to my brother’s house in Smithville, Texas. We arrived there after 3 PM where we commenced visiting with my brother and his wife. We also took advantage of their pool.
We saw a lot, drove a lot, saw a lot, and drove a lot more. My guess is we probably hit close to 4000 miles for the trip, and my sister’s family still has a drive back to Oklahoma next week.
I love visiting the national parks, even though I’ve really only started seeing them in the last few years. If I had the money, I would load all the family that wanted to go on a bus and we set off seeing as many as we could. It was nice taking this trip with family as the last couple have been solo trips. Hopefully they weren’t too overwhelmed with all we saw and how far we went. This all started because I wanted to see The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks. Music is a powerful force.
My cousin Michella lit up any room she came into. I was closer to her in age (one month older) than any one else I am related to. I say was because she passed away this afternoon. Throughout our adult lives we’ve only seen each other a few times a year, but the strong bond from childhood made any time apart feel like mere seconds as we could joke with each other instantly upon seeing the other.
Our grandparent’s house on Short Street in Patton Village (Splendora, TX) was usually the scene of our shenanigans growing up. Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my cousins “Shelly” and Wendell in our grandparent’s yard, as the adults would usually give us the boot outside. In later years, my sisters Gaylyna and Amber would join the tribe, along with our cousin Travis on occasion. My older brother Brad was around in the early years too, but you would probably find him somewhere curled up with a book or working on a tree house way behind Papa and Grandma’s yard rather than hanging with us youngsters. While being heavy runs in the Murphy family, we didn’t get that way from sitting inside watching TV, though we did enjoy watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” on Friday nights. We were usually outside playing or plotting. We’d make obstacle courses with lawn furniture, build forts, help our Papa burn leaves, tunnel through piles of dirt Papa had brought in, and just about anything else to entertain ourselves.
The first five Murphy cousins
Shelly had no fear and was probably the toughest out of all of us. One time we walked down to the Splendora Food Center at the end of Tram Road. We noticed an old shopping cart on a burn pile out back. I think it was Shelly that went in and asked if we could have it. So, we started pushing it down Tram Road, wobbly, half melted wheels and all. My Mom was at my grandparent’s house and became worried that we were gone so long. Mom came driving down Tram Road in our family’s brown Chevy van with a recently broken out windshield (that’s a story in itself). We loaded the shopping cart into the van and took it back to Papa and Grandma’s house. What do you do with a shopping cart with half melted wheels? We dared each other to get pushed into the steepest part of the ditch in it. Shelly had no problem going over in the steepest parts. That’s just who she was, nothing scared her, and she found most things funny, even in serious situations.
When our family moved from Kansas to Splendora in the fall of 1985, I had already been to several different schools between Texas and Kansas. When I started school in Splendora in the middle of 4th grade, Shelly was the only person I knew. We were in the same grade, but different classes. She looked out for me though. If she thought someone was messing with me, she would get in their face and tell them to back off. We moved a few more times and I attended school in 6th and 7th grade in other places, but when I came back to Splendora in 8th grade, she was quickly on the prowl if she caught wind of someone giving me problems. She was fiercely loyal. During our freshman or sophomore year of high school, the World Geography teacher, Ms. Audrey sat everyone in alphabetical order. Somehow Shelly and I ended up in the same class. I think it was the only class we were ever in together. We had a good time as we cut up a lot! I guess too good of a time for a week or so anyway. Within a week, Ms. Audrey had Shelly moved out of the class. Two Murphys in the same class was too much for her.
As I sit here writing this out, I can’t even comprehend how much I am going to miss my dear cousin. She lost her Mom, Aunt Evelyn a few years before I lost my Mom. When my Mom passed, Shelly was good about checking on me and seeing how I was doing. I realized I hadn’t done the same for her when she lost her Mom. Even though she had a mischievous stripe that was assigned to us at birth, she was also a very caring person. I don’t know if someone who didn’t know her that well would know that about her. Thank you, Shelly, for always having my back! I hope you could count on me like I could you.
While I am heartbroken, I will always remember the laughter shared with Shelly. The same laughter as recently as last Saturday, as from our childhood running around our grandparent’s house and yard. Though the laughter ended too soon today.
For several years my Dad has been wanting to locate his grandfather’s grave in Waco, Texas. He was there as a boy but had not been there since. Until last week.
We had put off taking the trip for several years. I scheduled vacation days for this trip back in January. I hoped that we would have good weather since it would be the beginning of spring. The weather ended up being very nice and taking the days off was well needed from work as the company I work for was acquired by another company as of March 1. Several people have been let go in the last three weeks (out of ten people). You might surmise that taking vacation days when the people are being let go is foolish. Everyone else that is left has been taking their days, the days were take it or lose it days (before April 1), and there is never going to be a good time to take vacation now with the staff reductions. Besides that, I have little confidence that the new owner’s will keep me more than a year (if that), but for now I do have leverage as they need me right now. That’s just until they can move my duties to someone in Indiana though. Foolish or not I took my days and am glad I did.
Dad and his wife picked me up on Wednesday morning and we made the drive to Waco. There was a stop at Buccee’s in Madisonville. I am good with stops there for about five years. I know it is unpopular to not be in love with the place, but I am just a fan of the crowds and constantly bumping into people.
We arrived at Rosemound Cemetery in Waco about 12:30 pm. With the help of https://www.findagrave.comwe already knew which section my great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Murphy is buried in. Whoever had listed the grave on the site had also looked up the obituary too.
Name: Thomas J. Murphy Death date: 03 May 1937 Death place: Waco, McLennan, Texas Gender: Male Race or color (on document): White Age at death: 59 years 1 month 2 days Estimated birth year: Birth date: 01 Apr 1878 Birthplace: Coryell Co., Texas Marital status: Married Spouse’s name: Lula P. Murphy Father’s name: Jim Murphy Father’s birthplace: Texas Mother’s name: Victoria Manning Mother’s birthplace: Texas Occupation: Laborer, City Health Department Residence: Cemetery name: Rosemound Cemetery Burial place: Burial date: 04 May 1937 Additional relatives: X Film number: 2117277 Digital GS number: 4166743 Image number: 655 Reference number: cn 27630 Collection: Texas Deaths, 1890-1976
Source – Waco News Tribune 5-4-1937
Thomas Jefferson Murphy, 59, died at 10:55 a.m. Monday at his home, 1709 Clark Street, after a short illness. Funeral services will be held from Compton’s chapel at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, interment in Rosemound cemetery, Rev. J. D. Everett officiating. Mr. Murphy is survived by his widow, one son, three daughters, a brother and a sister. He had lived in Waco since 1918 and was connected with the health department of the city of Waco.
Dad was the first one to spot the grave. We think it was repaired at some point. Dad thinks that someone had given his father a piece of granite that was used to make the stone. The T in TJ looks like a J, so at first glance it looks like JJ Murphy, but closer upon closer inspection you can tell it is supposed to be a T and the maybe a scoring mark has eroded to make it look more like a J.
TJ Murphy’s grave
Thomas Jefferson Murphy passed away when my grandfather was 16. TJ’s wife, my great grandmother was 37 by our calculations. TJ passed 14 years before my Dad was born. Dad sadly didn’t know either of his grandfathers as they were both gone before his time.
The house on the lot now was built after 1937 but was still neat to get an idea of the street my grandfather lived on and imagine what it looked like when he lived there. I am glad we did this, it’s always great to learn more about your family roots.
From there we visited Homestead Heritage which is just outside of Waco. Joan had been before.
They have a café, blacksmith, pottery, craft, market and general store on the property. They make a lot of cool stuff among all of the shops. We had a nice lunch at the café. Joan did a little shopping. All of the people there are very friendly. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the Waco area.
From there we ended up at the Best Western in Bellmead for the night.
Morning view from the Best Western
On Thursday morning we headed to Fort Worth and arrived at the Fort Worth Stockyards with a little time to spare before the first cattle drive of the day.
This was my second time there. My brother Brad and I made a quick stop there in August 2011.
Fort Worth Stockyards
Dad and a new friend
The Cattle Drive
Dad and Joan waiting for the cattle drive
New stickers for the laptop
John Wayne Toilet Paper
“IT’S ROUGH!-IT’S TOUGH!
AND IT DOESN’T TAKE CRAP OFF ANYONE”
From there we drove to downtown Dallas to see Dealey Plaza, sadly known as the place President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. We didn’t stop and visit the museum as downtown was very busy and Dealey Plaza was full of other tourists. I had just always wanted to get an in-person perspective of where such a tragic but monumental event happened.
We then had lunch and ended up at a La Quinta in Fort Worth for the night.
Friday morning, we drove out to Grapevine and visited Lake Grapevine, and took at look at historic downtown Grapevine. There are a lot of neat shops there.
This place is setup nice to watch planes land and take off at DFW airport. A speaker also broadcasts air traffic control communications from the FAA tower. If I lived in the DFW area this is probably a place I would visit a lot. Since Houston seems to have an inferiority complex to Dallas, they could take a lesson and setup something like this at IAH or Hobby.
DFW Airport Founder’s Plaza
I will say though that as much as I hate Houston traffic, the Dallas metroplex seems to be worse. I only thought Houston had a lot of road construction going on.
We made a quick stop at the Burlington Coat Factory at Grapevine Mills Mall, then met my cousin Rick, his wife Kendra, and Uncle James who is down visiting them from Oklahoma, for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Grapevine. It was very nice to have a meal and quick visit with them. I enjoyed it immensely!
From there we made our way to our hotel in Richardson for the night. Originally, we had planned to visit South Fork Ranch, known from the TV show Dallas, on Saturday morning. We decided to get on the road back to The Woodlands (and then Beaumont for Dad and Joan).
People who read most of my travel journals are probably thinking this one lacked the prestige of visiting a premier national park or driving down the PCH in California. Sometimes a low-key trip with family and no agenda is nice. It was nice to get away from work for a few days and do something that was really important to my Dad, which in turn became important to me.