Thursday, December 29, 2005

Stupid, stupid adventurer.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I had my GPS, I had my map, I had a day off and the weather was beautiful.

Now I have no knees.
The hips aren't so good either.

My plan was to hike from our house to the west fork of the San Jacinto river. The space between here and there appeared to be woods and an occasional swamp, with a distance of maybe ten miles or so as the crow flies. I set off at 9am with two liters of water, a package of raman noodles, some trail mix, and assorted other gear (walking stick, flashlight, whistle, four knives, etc...). Even though I planned to cook the raman noodles I didn't bring a lighter. I had my flint and steel firestarter kit and a Blastmatch as backup. Adventurers think matches and lighters are for sissies.

Rather than head directly east for the San Jacinto through the Spring Creek borderlands I decided to do some exploring to the north first along some railroad tracks. It was virgin territory for me. Adventurers love vi... uh, nevermind.

This is a busy set of tracks but I was still suprised by the numer of bones strewn along it. Big dog-sized bones. Little bird-sized bones. Evolution in action, I guess. If a creature is too dumb to get off the tracks when a train is coming then maybe it's just a little too dumb to live...

Eventually I got bored with the railroad tracks. The loose rocks made walking hard so I turned east towards my goal. Crossing a large open area led to the discovery of a small lake with a little island in its center. Around the lake where were a few Chinese Tallow trees and some maples showing their bright fall colors (December is still "Fall" in Texas, "Spring" starts in January). Very pretty. I was over an hour behind my original schedule, but life was good so what the hey. Schedules are for desk-bound paper pushers not aventurers. As long as I was at my desk the next day this day was mine to spend freely.

I love the borderlands along Spring Creek. You never know what you'll find. One on trip you might drag home a big peice of petrified wood. On another you might end up shooting the breeze with some rejects from a "Mad Max" movie. This time I rounded a bend to find a burned out boat an the beach. Correction, it wasn't burned out. It was STILL BURNING!

I'm guessing pirates might be involved, but I could be wrong.

I wandered. I roamed. I found paths and left paths. I bushwacked. I climbed steep gullies. I pulled thorns out of my hands and cheeks. My compass guided me east, my gps let me know where I was, my map let me know what was coming.

I wasn't getting very far. Bushwacking is fun and exciting, but it doesn't get you anywhere fast. Especially when you need to stop every five minutes to pull 1/2" thorns out of you skin. My shirt was ripped, my hands were torn. My boots were soaked from repeated stream crossings.

It was heaven.

According to my map there was a high voltage powerline that ran parallel between Spring Creek and the San Jacinto river. I figured if I could make it to these lines then I could follow the empty space beneath them to a point where they came within four miles of my goal, then start bushwacking again.

I made it to the powerlines with only minor amounts of damage and started walking through the tall grass under them. Thick woods rose up on either side of me, blue sky, vultures, and 100,000 volts filled the air above me. The going was smooth and actually a little dull.

Then something moved in the woods near me. Earlier, when I had just got to the powerlines I heard a coyote yipping in the distance. I figured a lone coyote wouldn't bother a human.

Of course, it wasn't a lone coyote. I froze as TWO creatures bounded out of the woods fifty feet in front of me. Pointy teeth, beady eyes, sharp claws, armored bodies... two armadillos were tumbling through the grass, wrestling like kittens.

I, uh, put my walking stick down and got out of my "pig-scarer" battle stance. They rolled apart and started pawing at the grass, giving me no notice. So of course I had to sneak up and poke them with my walking stick.
Ten feet away.
Five feet away.
Two feet away.
Nothing. Either they were incredibly fearless or incredibly dense. They were also really, really cute. I didn't have the heart to poke them with a stick. I watched for a while, took some pictures, then decided to continue my journey. As I walked away one finally stood up and looked at me. Cute little bugger. I wonder if Misseswether would let me keep one as a pet?

Farther along I came across a series of deer blinds and deer feeders. They are out in the middle of nowhere (GPS UTM coordinates E 271485, N 3330672) and I suspect they might be set up by some poachers. However, the were identical in design and construction to the deer-blinds over in the Lake Houston State Park so who knows? They were close to where I planned on cutting away from the powerlines and heading towards the San Jacinto, so I kept my eyes open for any promising game trails that might lead east. I found several, but each brought me to impassible walls of thornbushes. I managed to startle several squirrels, rabbits, and even more armadillos, but I wasn't making any headway towards my goal. It was about 1pm at that point, I was still miles from the river and without my machete there was no chance of getting there from here. Major disappointment!

From my position it was somewhat farther to where Spring Creek meets Cypress Creek than to the San Jacinto river, but there were trails and and sandy riverbanks leading to the junction of the creeks. I decided that would be my new goal.

I walked. I trudged. I zigged. I zagged. The paths and creekbanks meandered like a democrat's train of thought. I staggered through knee deep water and sand dunes. I was thirsty, but stopping to drink seemed like it'd waste too much time. Most of my path was along the deep sand beaches of Spring Creek and let me tell you, walking in loose sand with wet boots is tough! At 2pm I decided to cut east one last time. I have no idea why. My legs were tired, my pack was heavy, my eyes were sunburned. Sometimes being an adventurer means being, well, stupid.

I didn't get much farther east this time than any of my previous attempts. I gave up, carved my glyph in a tree to mark my turning point (UTM coordinates E 274234, N 3329009), and headed back to Spring Creek. I was 5.39 miles from home as the crow flies. It was 2:30pm. The sun was setting at 5:29pm. I was tired, hungry, and a little worried. I cooked up my raman noodles (note to self: starting a fire with a flint and steel is a neat skill, but slow. Next time bring matches!) but only ate half the package. It was after 3pm when I shouldered my pack and started home wondering if I'd still be out here in the dark. According to my GPS I was averaging about 3mph, but in some places that dropped down to under 1mph in deep sand. My thighs were burning, my hips were grinding. The closest thing to a straight path involved cutting back and forth across Spring Creek which kept my feet constantly soaked.

The sun kept getting lower and lower.

I was starting to get nervous. If dark fell would I camp out or push on? I had the equipment for both choices and if camping was necessary I could call Misseswether on my cell phone to keep her from worrying. On the other hand I had to be at work the next day. I kept moving as fast as I could. At one spot the creek made an oxbow so I cut cross-country there in hopes that it'd save me time. Luckily it did and I also came across two nice deer. Unlike the armadillos, they immediately bolted. Other shortcuts turned out to be deadends forcing me to waste precious time. Finally around 4:30pm I made it to the Riley-Fuzzel bridge. My water was gone but it was just another hour to home. I'd make it!

The sun was down and in the twilight a worn, bleeding, muddy adventurer staggered up the street to his house. A neighbor was out finishing up some yard work. She looked up and started laughing. "Another adventure?" she asked.

"No, a marathon." I responded after looking at my gps. Since 9am that morning I covered just short of twenty miles. She seemed shocked by this and told me I was nuts.

I really couldn't argue with that.

Misseswether had pizza waiting for me, but first I had to shower off the grime. I'm not sure how I made it up the stairs to the bathroom. Miniwether was playing with the chunks of petrified wood I had brought back. (Note to self, I don't need to fill my pockets with every peice of petrified wood I find, especially on a twenty-mile hike!).

After nibbling a little pizza I had to lay down. Bad, bad idea. When I tried to get up every muscle in my legs cramped up. The pain was so bad I actually thought I was going to puke. Stupid, stupid adventurer.

It's now been three days since the hike. My hips aren't grinding too badly anymore but the tendons in the backs of my knees are still screaming. I can see two thorns stuck under the skin of my left hand. My boots are trashed.

I want to try again this weekend.

Adventure! Excitement! Stupidity!

Sunday, December 25, 2005



Twas' the morning of Christmas and the house disarryed.
Wrappings and plastic and sugar, hooray!!
Opening a gift and what did I spy?
A book on whip-making, oh wonderous guy!
My brother did send it and joy did it bring.
Now on to the next present, what shiney new thing?
Ah, flashlights! Glowing tubes of mirth
from the bestest most wonderful wife on this earth!
Another gift to me she did hand,
a GPS unit, how navigationally grand!!
And finally from from Miniwether came tunes for my Apple
and a crayon drawing of me, her and something that, uh probably rhymed with "Apple".

Tonight I'll sleep, comforted and joyous.
Visions of adventure and excitement, oh boyish!
But down first I go, on knees that are bent.
And give thanks to the Son, to bring peace was He sent.

And now a wish for you all, readers, family, and friend.
May great joy be with you and may never it end.

Christmas elf


Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I seem to have a reputation...

Well, that was interesting. One of my co-workers just asked me to retrieve the head of Pancho Villa from a restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. This coworker is a huge Texas-history buff and through years of research has concluded that the skull of Pancho Villa is encased in a shrine located in the basement of one of the oldest continuously-operated restaurants in San Antonio. He knew I was an adventurer and figured recovering this relic this would be right up my alley. Hmmm, sneaking into a 24-hour Mexican restaurant run by Santeria worshippers to find the skull of Pancho Villa. Sounds fun. My question is is stealing something which had been stolen still stealing? I'm thinking it probably is, isn't it?

Interetsing, but I think I'll pass.

At least for now...

Adventure! Excitement! Trespassing and Blasphemy!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

And now, the pictures!

Wherein Merriwether shows you photos of the trip and tries to make them interesting:

Kansas! Hmm, what can one say to make miles of rolling nothing entertaining? Not a whole lot really. Sorry.

Okay, how about a cute girl in the snow?

Or maybe another cutie in the snow?

And now both cuties together!

I spent most of the time being a sled dog. A sled dog's life is cold and wet, but at least I was the lead dog. Note the puffy coat on my brother.

This is where I spent the some of the best parts of my youth. It is where the creek (it never had a name) joined the Crow River. It probably doesn't mean anything to anyone other than me but I think if everyone spent time at a place like this the world would be a better place. Mainly because a number of people drowned there over the years...

The drive home was exciting. We saw several big rigs off the road but this was the only one on its side. We lost track of how many cars had spun out into the ditch.

Back in Kansas. Still not very interesting.

Back home and coated in salt. I spent two hours scrubbing every inch of the Honda Pilot to get the salt off, then I took him to a car wash. It would have taken less than two hours, but Miniwether helped me.

Adventure! Cuties! Snow!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Correction: A shout out to Dwight Silverman!!

Dude, you made me feel like a STAR!!!

Sorry about giving credit to Mr. Campbell. His name was above the list of blogs so I assumed he was the one that tapped me.

Adventure! Excitement! Credit where credit is due!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Houston doesn't have a winter.

We're back from the Land of Puffy Coats. Poppawether keeps asking why we won't move back to Minnesota. Simple: One doesn't have to shovel sunshine!!!

While up in the Modest White North the temperature averaged in the low teens and it snowed just about every other day. Miniwether loved to play in the snow but it was a ten-minute ordeal getting her dressed everytime to go outside. She seemed to have a hard time grasping the concept of one hand-finger per glove-finger, the importance of boots, and how to steer a sled.

The drive up from Texas was pretty awesome, though Misseswether strongly disagrees with that statement. Granted, I was up front watching our beautiful country sail by while jamming to my favorite songs on a new iPod. meanwhile she was stuck in back trying to keep a two-year-old Cinderella junkie (portable dvd players are both a blessing and a curse!) happy and relatively clean. The joyous faire music of The Brobdingnagian Bards covered the sounds of the storm brewing in the back seat. The storm crashed down upon me with thunder, lightening, and screeching winds in Witchita, Kansas. Learn from this: base your travel on the capabilities of the worst traveller in your group, not the best. Apparently ten hours in the car is about three hours too many for Misseswether.

Live, bandage, learn.

Minnesota is very, very different from Texas. Not just the over-abundence of fluffy, white, hell-spawned snow, but also in architecture, attitudes, and food-preparation. Minnesota has the biggest modest houses I've ever seen. We drove by some four-story mansions that actually looked like they were embarassed and were trying to look smaller. Pretty neat trick for a house. I just felt like everything in Minnesota was designed to not draw attention to itself. One night my sister-in-law made some chili and it actually had flavor! Then I remembered she was from Milwaukee.

Texas? Well, Texans have, ah, well, let's just call it backbone. I'm not suprised that the real world's answer to Aragorn is from here! I love it. Sure, the summers are hot, but that just means the ladies wear less for longer. In Minnesota it's hard to tell if someone is a man or a woman four and a half months out of the year!

The drive back to Texas was pretty exciting. Wind-blown snow, road salt, faulty windshield wipers, and suicidal deer turned the first day back on the road into a 12-hour, white-knuckled, 30-mph crawl across Minnesota and Iowa. The ditches were filled with cars, SUV's, and trucks less able to handle the situation. Our Honda Pilot held the road like a champ, whether the manouver was avoiding donuting* fellow drivers, dancing around depressed deer, or creeping up next to an 18-wheeler to use his tire spray to clean the salt off my windows. Kudo's to Honda engineering. Jeers to Honda's chemistry. The dealer-filled windshield washer fluid froze up in Minnesota and didn't thaw out again until half-way through Oklahoma.

We had planned to spend three days driving back to Texas, especially after the slow going of the first day. Misseswether suggested that we stop for the night somewhere after Dallas then do the final four hours on the third day. This was a very smart suggestion backed with all sorts of logic and past experiences. Luckily, I was able to drown out her voice by sticking my fingers in my ears and going, "La la la!" really loudly. We made it 858.9 miles from from Bethany, Missuori to Houston, Texas in just over 14 hours. Being an adventurer means pushing beyond the limits of endurance, wisdom, or even sanity.

I have to admit, even with the assorted storms and near-crashes driving across America is AWESOME and I loved just about every second of it. The United States of America is unbelievablely beautiful. I had been warned that Kansas was dull dull dull, but it took my breathe away. We passed through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. Each was a feast for the eyes. I'll have pictures up soon. Until then you'll just have to take my word for it. Or better yet, hop into your car and drive...

Adventure! Excitement! 2480 miles!

*donuting: a car spinning around in circles on a slippery surface.

A shout out to James Campbell!

Dude, you made me feel like a star!

Adventure! Excitement! Publicity!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Vacationing in the Land of Puffy Coats

Note: The post "Into the Borderlands Part 2" follows this post even though this post is older.

Sorry I haven't continued the story of hunting
ghosttowns but we are currently on vacation up in
Minnesota. No broadband. :-(

The day after we got here four inches of snow fell.
It's cold, only in the 20'sF and everyone here is
wearing big, puffy coats. They look like very warm

We are wearing several layers of Texas clothing, but
it's not really working. Staying inside helps, but I'm
getting some serious cabin fever. I can only stay
inside for so long before I have to go for a walk in
the woods behind my parents house. It's a nice woods,
but much smaller than in used to be.

Miniwether got to go sleding. She thought it was great
fun up until she ran into the fencepost. She ended up
with a big lump on her head.

It's raining out right now and then it's supposed to
turn to ice tonight. We'll probably be stuck inside
for the next few days. Most likely while everyone else
will be inside playing cards and drinking hot
chocolate I'll be wandering back in the woods. I
brought my camping stove with me so I can make my own
hot chocolate out amongst the silent trees.

Adventure! Excitment! Snow!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Into the Borderlands, Part 2

Wherein Merriwether tells of the do-it-yourself cemetery, a search for a grist mill, another abandoned farmhouse, and the ashes of Magnola.

Down the road from Steward's Mill general store one finds the Steward Mill cemetery. Apparently people have been using this burial ground without proper authorization and so the cemetery owners have posted a sign to the right of the gate requesting people call before they dig.

The actual grist mill Steward's Mill formed around was supposed to be along the creek next to this cemetery. We followed the stream for quite some distance but could find no remains of the mill. A couple of spots along the creek looked promising but time had done a thorough job of wiping away man's work. I was hoping to see a millstone again. Once while snorkling in the Poestenkill Gorge in Troy, New York I found a large mill stone. As I poked at it a large eel swam out from under it and scared me half to death. According to my friends I shot straight up out of the water yelling "Eel! Eel!". There were no signs of eels (or copperheads) here.

Dissappointed we headed off down more Texas backroads in Jade Hawk. Less than a mile down the road we spotted another abandoned farm house.
We poked around and took some pictures. The floor looked pretty rotten so we didn't enter it.

It was time to try and find Magnolia, Texas. This town had been a shipping port along the Trinity River in the mid-1800's. Later it became a iron-mining town, then it just rusted away. There's a new town in Texas called Magnolia, but it's not the same place.

Clark had deduced Magnolia's location from assorted old maps and documents and had loaded this info into his GPS unit. We parked at an old slave's cemetery and headed into the woods. We followed a small stream to the Trinity River while keeping sharp eyes out for any foundations, odd clearings, old garbage, or out-of-place plants.

We found a few unnatural mounds and holes on our trek to the Trinity River, but we couldn't confirm that they were of Magnolian-origin. We searched the woods for quite a while, then focus on the bank of the Trinity River. It was an absolutely perfect day along a beautiful river.

We did spot an odd pile of rocks sticking out into the river. Could it be a jetty for loading/unloading the river boats making their way up to Dallas? It did not look like a natural structure with the straight edges and squared-off pond.

Using this 'jetty" as a a starting point, Clark and I headed back into the woods. This time we were somewhat more lucky. We came across a large area with much smaller trees than the surrounding forest. More interestingly (if you are an adventurer) were the scattered piles of ashes we found still scarring the forest floor. At fairly regular 40' intervals we'd find a pile of old ashes and cinder.

Some more pokings uncovered a few old bottles and even a square-hewn log. At this point Clark and I agreed we had quite likely found the remains of Magnolia, Texas and it was nothing but some ashes.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.

At that point we decided to return to the river. We made another interesting discovery there, thousands of fossils! The river was quite low and a layer of rock was exposed that was filled with fossilized shells. I'm not sure of the type or period from which they came.

Probably another lesson could be gained from the fossils. In some ways, this trip turned out to have a much greater effect on us than we originally expected. When we first set out we were just two guys looking to get away from civilization for a day. Eating lunch on the edge of a town dead for 50-70 years overlooking the remains of creatures dead 35-75 million years has a way of making your PBJ sandwich taste kind of funny. Abandoned farms, lost towns, ancient clams...what a wonderful trip.

After several hours we finally left the Trinity River and it's ghosts. Clark's gps unit lead up back to the slave's cemetery where we had parked. We wandered aimlessly around there a bit more reading gravestones from before the Civil War. Neither of us were quite ready to return to our lives in the air-conditioned, electronically enhanced, perfectly manicured suburbs. A dirt road beckoned and we answered with a flick of the wheel and a cloud of dust.

What the dust had once been I do not know...

Adventure! Excitement! Exploration!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Into the Borderlands, Part 1

Wherein Merriwether begins the tale of his and Clark's adventure in the borderlands and how they went looking for was lost.

Magnolia, Steward's Mill, Larissa, and many others. These are the ghost towns of Texas.

Borderlands are usually defined by space. But they can also be defined by time, especially in a place like Texas. Places that once thrived have passed on, fading away over time. In most cases nothing is left but some ramshackle buildings and a name on an outdated map. Sometimes even the buildings are gone, yet the land contains signs of what was once there. You just need to know what to look for, then suddenly a ghost town springs up around you, appearing like a shadow from a passing cloud.

We were off to spend the day exploring these borderlands created by time, by entropy, by abandonment rather than by physical boundries. Earlier searches on the web turned up many lost towns. Some still had a building or two left standing to mark their location, others existed only as a name in an old record book, their exact locations no longer known. Clark had scoured the web digging up information on several towns, even downloading satellite photos of likely spots.

The adventure started as most do, 6am in front of Clark's house.
My RAV4 (aka Jade Hawk) was loaded up with rope, flashlights, GPS, first aid kit, cameras, maps and photos to explore any abandoned buildings/towns we might find. We left our comfey little suburb and headed north into the misty, pre-dawn darkness.

Forty-five minutes later I turned on to Highway 75, a road all but forgotten by the citizens of Texas. This highway is the Texas equivalent of US Route 66. It was the main path north-south across Texas before Interstates 35 and 45 appeared. Now it's a ghost road.

The borderlands are the areas where civilization fades away to meet...something else. The "something else" is usually either a complete wilderness or the ragged edge of another civilization. Complete wildernesses are awe-inspiring, humbling, harsh and stunning. Borderlands are weird and dangerous, sometimes foul. Both are beautiful.

The sun had just risen as we spotted our first carcass.

When I-45 appeared Hwy 75 faded, dooming many businesses with its passing. This gas station looked to have been abandoned years ago. Outside and inside were trashed and torn. It was a borderland. It is a place where rules fade and outcasts, adventurers, and criminals gather.
It was beautiful. It was the first of many forsaken buildings we explored that day.

A few miles further down the road we came across what was once a huge, rambling farmhouse. Now it is decayed, empty, even its ghosts have passed away.

More desolate miles, more deserted building, no other people. We headed farther north, farther east in to the Piney Woods region of Texas. The town of Steward's Mill had began in 1850 and had lasted one hundred years. Now all that was left was its general store and a cemetary. According to the records, they had a thriving grist mill along a creek on the edge of town. We easily found the store.

It is now a place of Historical Significance, and so nothing could be removed from the site. The front door was locked but through the windows we could see scales, and shelves stocked with old tools and cans. A display case held an inkwell and what looked like some schoolbooks. Harnesses and buckets hung from the rafters.

Through another window was a room empty but for a biscut display case and a double-headed axe.

This store stands along near a crossroads. It was only about 9am on a Sunday morning. There was no one around. Stairs lead down to the store's open basement door. We went down, we went in.
The basement had many doors but even with our big flashlights we couldn't bring ourselves to explore farther. Some things need not be, well, disturbed.

Here fades Part 1.

Adventure! Excitement! Entropy!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Into the Borderlands

In this world of change naught which comes stays and naught which goes is lost.

It was time to return to the borderlands.

This life had gotten cushy, soft, empty. Here the roads are paved and all is convience.

I was forgetting. I was forgetting the borderlands.

I was forgetting the edge, the fallen, the lost.

It was time to remember.

It was time to go back.


I will tell you what happened...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Let's do the time warp again...

Reader of this blog may have noticed two reoccurring themes to my adventures: poking things with sticks and eating. Well, this weekend we combined these two favorite pasttimes with a grand adventure back to the 16th century.

Ah, the 1500's. The Dark Ages had ended, swords could still be worn in public, the idea of "bathing" was just catching on, and being smart no longer resulted in a bonfire death at the hands of superstitous peasants. Better yet, all the food of that period was offered on sticks! Ah, the hedonistic, 16th century pleasures of poking and eating. It just doesn't get any better than that. Chicken on a stick! Corn on a stick! Pickles on a pole! Pineapples on a pike! Bratwurst on a branch! Ice cream on a bar! Steak on a stake!

At least, that's how the 16th century is portrayed at The Texas Renaissance Festival. This is one of my most favorite things to do every year. I've been a Faire-goer for twenty years now, starting back with the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

We drove up to the Faire campgrounds on Friday night and set up the tent in the dark. The night was cool and the moon set early to reveal a sky filled with undiminished stars. It was a bit of a struggle to get Miniwether to sleep as she loves tents and was really excited. She eventually fell asleep, followed quickly by Misseswether. Unfortunately I did not follow them into that peaceful good-night. The family-friendly camping area is rather near a very busy set of train tracks and just when I'd start to drift off a train whistle peirced my head. Oh well.

Morning came foggy and smelling of bacon, campfires, and pine. An excellent way to start a day! We packed up the tent, got dressed (which, in retrospect, perhaps these two things should have been done in the opposite order), and munched on fruit and muffins. Five minutes later we were standing by the front gate waiting for it to open.

Oh what a beautiful place! Ribbons! Musicians! Dancing! Statues! Swords! Chainmail bikinis! A whole fantasy world tucked just one hour and five hundred years away from Houston. We wandered the shops, listened to the musicians, watched the performers and the joust, oogled the costumes, admired the shiney-pointy things, and generally had the usual wonderful time. This was Miniwether's third Ren Fest and she was all over it. From flirting with Spanish knights to riding the elephant, she wanted to do everything, see everything, and taste everything (which caused some problems in the petting zoo).

The day ended all to soon. By four-thirty Miniwether had fallen asleep in my arms, though she was wide awake a little after five to partake in a wonderful ice cream treat while mutely staring at a flame juggler. The dark rose up quickly after that and the royal fireworks signaled the end of the day. After that it was a short walk back to the Honda (benefit of getting there early!) followed by a long, long wait as 30,000+ people tried to exit down the single country road leading back to Houston. We learned after our first year to avoid this gridlock by partying in the parking lot. This year we tossed "Cinderella" into the portable DVD player and watched Miniwether continue to glow with delight as she was entertained by the antics of that fairhaired lady and her mouse friends.

The movie ended as the last taillights disappeared down the road. With a wave to the other smart tailgating partiers, we headed off for home. It was a very, very good day.

And now the pictures:

Miniwether on patrol!

At the gate. Yes, it is a very big hat.

Starting it of with dancing gypsies.

Their Highnesses.

A very, very big hat.

Miniwether and Misseswether loved riding the elephant!

Riding the Centuar wasn't quite as wonderful...

Ah, riding a frog. much better!

Miniwether wins the heart of a Spanish knight, but there was still a horse-issue...

Apparently in the 16th century launching oneself into the air with a bunch of rubber bands was commonplace.

Holy crap this hurts the crotch.

The traditional family shot.

Did we mention that Miniwether is very, very smart? Misseswether still beat her two out of three games though... :-)


Adventure! Excitement! Food poked with sticks!