Day Trips

No Texas schoolchild's elementary education is complete without a visit to the Battleship Texas and the adjacent San Jacinto Battle Grounds. The 1,000-acre park on the Houston Ship Channel is a history lesson that children of all ages will not soon forget. The battleship is one of the few things in a child's young life that remains as big as they remember it when they return with their own children.

The Battleship Texas is the last surviving member of the "dreadnought" class of warships designed at the turn of the century. The purpose of these ships was to take their big guns to the action. She is also the last surviving U.S. Naval vessel to have seen service in both World Wars.

When the U.S.S. Texas was commissioned in 1914, she was the most powerful weapon in the world. Twice during her naval career, the ship underwent major modifications to keep her an aging but powerful instrument in the American arsenal. Her 10 14" guns could hurl a 1,500-pound projectile 12 miles.

During World War I, she saw action patrolling the North Sea. In World War II, the Texas participated in the African invasion in 1942 and the invasion at Omaha beach on D-Day. From the European theatre, she moved to the Pacific theatre, where she supplied bombardment at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Battleship Texas never took a major hit from the enemy.

Like any good soldier, the Battleship Texas has now spent more than half of her existence in peaceful retirement. Since 1948, the 81-year-old warship has been moored off the Houston Ship Channel in southeast Houston as a monument to those who served in the U.S. Navy. A state park since 1983, the Texas underwent hull and deck restoration at a Galveston shipyard beginning in 1988. When she returned to her San Jacinto berth in September, 1990, she was sporting a new coat of camouflage blue paint. With the re-opening of the memorial, living and working spaces - some of which had never been opened to the public - had been refurbished to 1945 condition. The Battleship Texas was officially made the state ship of Texas by the 1995 session of the state Legislature.

Touring the main and second decks of the 573' battleship can be quite a workout, especially in the Houston heat and humidity. A tour path and displays guide visitors through the maze of narrow passages and steep ladders. But it is an awe-inspiring feeling to stand on the deck of the once-powerful warship and look out over the Texas coastal plains.

The Battleship Texas is open to the public for tours Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students. There is also a gift shop, restrooms, and snack bar at the entrance. Admission to San Jacinto Battle Ground Park is free and offers an impres-sive view of the battleship and other historic sites. For information call 713/479-2431, or 713/479-2411 for recorded directions.

Also in the park is the 570' San Jacinto Monument, the obelisk that commemorates the end of the Texas Revolution. The Texas history museum on the first floor of the monument is free and is open 9am-6pm. The observation deck costs $2.50 adults and $1 kids. For information call 713/479-2421.

Coming up this weekend...

Texas International Apple Festival in Median invites visitors to the apple orchards along the river for a fair that is an apple pie-lovers dream, July 29. 210/589-7224.

Walburg Restaurant & Biergarten north of Georgetown celebrates Summerfest with an all-you-can-eat German buffet, July 28-30. These buffets are held only four times a year and reservations are essential. 512/863-8440.

Castell VFD Bar-B-Q hopes day trippers driving FM152 following the Llano River west of Llano will stop by for lunch. 915/247-5354.

Harvest Evenings at Messina Hof Vineyards outside of Bryan has scheduled Shake Russell & Jack Saunders, July 29; '60s Rock 'n' Roll Revival, Aug. 5; Summer Love (musical revue), Aug. 12. The deli opens at 7pm, show at 8pm. Admission.


Coming up...

REI Seminars include: Useful Wild Plants of Texas, Aug. 17; Birds of Prey, Aug. 24; Bats...Everything You Wanted to Ask (includes a field trip to Congress Ave. bridge), Aug. 31. All seminars are free and begin at 7pm at the outdoor outfitters, 12th and Lamar. 474-2393.

Star Watch at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center outside of Glen Rose includes dinner, an astronomer, and the annual Perseid meteor shower, Aug.18. 817/897-2960.

- Gerald E. McLeod

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