In West Texas the story goes there are 3 types of people: Those who know Judge Roy Bean from a 1970s movie, those who know Judge Roy Bean from their Texas schoolbooks, and those who are ignorant to the most important person in the history of West Texas. I come from the first group.
Roy Bean was born in Kentucky in 1825, and lived an adventuresome life that eventually lead him to a small Texas town which he renamed after his favorite actress, Lily Langtry – and became the Justice of the Peace for the ‘Law West of the Pecos’
Today there isn’t much in Langtry except a visitor center with a fantastic cactus garden, as well as the original buildings the Judge built in the 1800s.
The cactus garden is very cool with numerous different types of cacti.
The Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center & Museum, and Cactus Garden was a very unexpectedly nice stop in the desolation of West Texas.
One of Houston’s most famous annual events is the Art Car Parade. For more than 30 years people have decorated their vehicles and paraded them in the streets of Houston. Today there are more than 200 cars that participate in the parade. This knowledge gave me high hopes of finding interesting sights at the Art Car Museum.
After multiple attempts we were able to find a legal parking space, we arrived and were greeted by this 1960 era Ford Station Wagon, decorated like Carmen Miranda.
To our surprise when we entered we found.. an art museum.
To be fair the art was interestingly quirky, but it appears to be more of a museum with a couple of art cars, rather than an art car museum.
In addition to the one car outside, there were 3 cars inside.
There is a video wall running a video of the history of the parade. This only made the small number of cars more frustrating.
In the end it was an interesting little museum with a few art cars. After our success that day with Smithers Park and Lucky Land it was disappointing.
Deep in the bayou country of Louisiana is the town of Morgan City.
Located on the Atchafalaya River, it is located less than 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. With the offshore oil industry centered off of Louisiana and Texas, Morgan City is an important industrial town of support companies.
One of the highlights of Morgan City is The Rig Museum. This museum has a nice collection of diving and submersibles that has been used in the industry since it’s inception.
While outside are some retired items.
The highlight though is located outside in the river. It is the world’s first offshore oil drilling platform.
The rig is named Mr Charlie, after the financial backer of the venture when they started up in the 1950s.
While it might be dwarfed by today’s platforms, the main deck is still an impressive 50’+ above the water, offering a great view of the bridges and docks of the river.
Our guide, industry veteran Bryce, was very thorough in explaining the design, and use of the rig. Here he shows us a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used in the construction of platforms.
Everything is supersized in this industry, including this massive hook.
The drills bits aren’t available at the local Home Depot.
The pipes come in 30′ lengths.
The drill itself – with all of the large equipment, all of it in movement in the ocean, an oil platform is a loud, dirty, dangerous place for the crew to work.
Drilling requires pressure and water.
Drilling mud is also used to carry rock cuttings to the surface, as well as lubricate the drill bit. There is a massive storage for this that at times requires somebody to descend this long ladder into the mud hold.
Oil platform workers work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. If the weather is poor and a boat can’t come pick you up, or the helicopter can’t land on the helipad atop the rig, you throw your stuff and you into this cage and hang on as they hoist you into the air.
Our time with Bryce at the Rig Museum was insightful. The next time I stopped to fill the car up with gasoline, I thought more about the work that went into getting that product to market.
The Barber Motorsports Museum is located in suburban Birmingham in the town of Leeds. It is hands down one of the very best Motorsports museums in the world.
With over 1600 motorcycles from over 200 manufacturers it is the preeminent collection. Over 900 are displayed in the 200,000+ square foot museum, along with 100 cars. Oh yeah, a world class road course race track is on the grounds as well that Porsche uses for their racing school.
Please note with that many options for photos this posting is quite long, with over 40 photos. But words don’t do the venue justice so the photos will speak for themselves.
The city of Huntsville, Alabama is located in the northern Alabama hills. For many years it was a cotton producing town like many others nearby. All that changed in the 1940s when the military started using a nearby arsenal for rocket development.
After the war many German engineers were relocated here and together with American engineers began developing rockets. The most famous of these engineers was Werner von Braun. This effort has lead to Huntsville’s nickname – The Rocket City.
Fortunately not all of the efforts in rocket development was for the military. This technology has allowed man to explore space.
As you approach the museum you can’t help but notice the massive Saturn V rocket.
Inside the museum there is a plethora of space related artifacts including Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s space suit.
The museum showcases the development of the equipment used in space flight including these early prototypes for gloves and boots.
One of the few items you can touch, a replica of the Apollo Lunar Rover is on display for inspection. The seats felt like cheap lawn chairs but served their purpose for the astronauts in their bulky space suits.
Apollo 13’s challenges have been made famous by Hollywood, but Huntsville has a couple of the components from the real space craft.
The museum has a couple of the early EVA (Extravehicular Activity) units.
Another large display has mock ups of the International Space Station.
When the space shuttle program was decommissioned there was a fierce competition amongst museums for the remaining shuttles. Huntsville did not get one of the four that actually flew in space, but they did get Pathfinder’.
This full scale simulator was built here in Huntsville and was used in the development of the facilities required for shuttle launches.
While the shuttle itself is a mock up, the fuel tanks and boosters are very much real.
A closer view of the Saturn V shows it’s massive size, with a height of 363′.
This mock up of the lunar lander on the moon’s surface is located outside near a couple of amusement rides. The rides are there to entertain the thousands of tweens and teens who come every year for Space Camp.
The outdoor exhibits are showing the wear of being in northern Alabama weather for the last 30-40 years.
The second major building on the campus is the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. It was designed to house a horizontal Saturn V rocket, as well as numerous other larger items, including other engines.
Skylab was the first space station used, having been launched in the 1970s. After just 6 years it was discontinued and eventually fell back to earth. While most of it was destroyed during re-entry, this large piece was recovered in the desert in Western Australia.
The Davidson Center has more examples of space suits.
Their prized possession is the Apollo 16 command module. This view shows the damage from re-entry that the space capsules incur.
The NASA program has had 3 major accidents with loss of life. The first of these was during the development of Apollo 1. A cabin fire during launch rehearsal killed the three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee.
A memorial and tribute is on display in the Davidson Center to the three.
Outside the Davidson Center are large concrete pieces that commemorate each of the Apollo flights.
In addition the wall that surrounds the courtyard have plaques describing each of the flights.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has a great collection of space related items. While it is very busy with ‘Space Campers’, it is a must see for any space travel or history fan.