Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Texarcana and Tyler, Texas (mile 3,040)

June 21, 2009

We hit the road again, traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to College Station, Texas today, a distance of about 450 miles.

Our first stop along the way was Texarcana,
"Where life is so large it takes two states," according to the Chamber of Commerce billboard. Texarcana's post office is the only Federal Building in the country that straddles two states. It sits on an island the middle of State Line Avenue, with a big sign and a line painted on the pavement out front to make it easy for tourists to stand with one foot in Arkansas and one foot in Texas and to document the moment with a photo.

We then drove by the "Ace of Clubs House," so named because it is built in the shape of a Club, with three octagonal wings and a rectangular one. The story goes that one very lucky poker player won a hand with the Ace of Clubs, and used his winnings to build the house in 1885.

Nearby was a parking lot for the Sheriff's Department vehicles, and one of the busses was labeled "Department of Community Punishment." I think this might be what other places call "Department of Corrections," but they don't mince words around here.

By now we were hungry, so we stopped at the place where everyone in town goes after church, Bryce's Cafeteria, family owned since 1931. A long line snaked back and forth through dividers, and as people moved through the maze they greeted friends across the dividers and chatted a bit until the line moved again, sending them in opposite directions. The owner behind the serving counter was busy telling customers he had their favorite item today, he had missed them the last few weeks and was glad to see them back, and telling all the pie lovers that the fresh peaches were in, so be sure not to miss the peach pie. We entered planning to eat a light meal,
and we knew before we even got to the serving stations that they don't do light meals here. Without going into details, I will say that fried green beans are even better than fried onion rings, and the peach pie was every bit as good as the owner claimed it was.

Soon after lunch we discovered that Texas has two lane roads with a 70 mph speed limit—YIKES!

We found our next irresistible photo stop just south of Mount Pleasant. This is what may well be the world's largest Pilgrim head picnic shelter, found in front of the Pilgrim's Pride packing plant.

Our favorite stop of the day was the Municipal Rose Garden in Tyler, which claims to be the largest rose showcase in the country. It has 38,000 bushes, and over 500 different varieties of roses. The smell of roses baking in the 98 degree sun was splendid, and the beauty of the garden lured us to wander for nearly an hour in the merciless sun.

Even more interesting, or at least unusual, was the museum that we found inside when we escaped the heat of the garden. The Tyler Rose Museum claims to have exhibits on the rose industry (Tyler is a commercial rose growing hub, shipping hundreds of thousands of bushes to nurseries worldwide), but mostly it is a celebration of the town's annual Rose Festival, and the Rose Festival queens and their courts throughout history.

We were drawn into the museum by a display of a recent queen's ceremonial gown (really, it is more like a costume), with a 17 foot velvet train so encrusted with beads and jewels, satin appliqu├ęd figures, and faux ermine trim that we couldn't figure out how anyone could walk with it. Visiting the museum, we learned that the trains of the queens are a big deal—one queen had hers made in New York by the designer who did Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown, another had hers designed by the preeminent costume designer for MGM back in the day.

The queens wear their gown and train to a big coronation ceremony on a Friday night, and then again in the town's rose parade the next day, which features over 100 entries, including lots of floats.

The queens also have very fancy tiaras, or outright crowns, and fancy scepters, which were sparkling in a most blinding fashion in two large display cases. Lining the walls next to the cases were a series of scrapbook style posters for each queen throughout history, featuring photos of the queen in her gown with her train artfully draped to show its full glory, tickets to her coronation and tea, the program from her morning prayer service, photos of her court and train bearers and so on. (Other festival activities include a Ladies' Brunch, a Men's Lunch, a Rose Show, Rose Garden Tour, and Rose Nursery Tours.)

I get the feeling that there is a lot of society back story to this Rose Queen activity (there is also a queen's court and a Rose Duchess to spread the royal titles around), but the secrets of selection were not divulged at the museum or on the internet. And, I am wondering just how much these queen costumes cost, and if the first requirement to being chosen as queen is having parents willing to pay in excess of $10,000 for your wardrobe (far more? I haven't priced out designer formal wear and tiaras lately).

1 comment:

  1. As a good southerner I have to point out that TEXARKANA is spelled with at "K". (From ARKANSAS that comes from KANSAS) I know it is a minor point, but I never thought I would be able to make any language/grammar/English related correction to my sis!