The year in review, "Day Trips" style
The year 2003 seemed to pass quicker than most. Around this time, we look back on the past 12 months and almost always wonder where the time went. In the biannual cycle of pecan trees, this was a good harvest year. We didn't have a lot of days over 100 degrees, but the rainfall was below normal across the state. UT won the Cotton Bowl and the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Finals. It was a good year.
One of the neatest additions to the arts and travel scene in Texas was the opening of the Nasher Sculpture Center on the edge of downtown Dallas. Raymond Nasher made his fortune in shopping malls, many that had the added touch of public art. Nasher built his own museum and sculpture garden at 2001 Flora St. (214/242-5100, www.nashersculpturecenter.org) adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art.
A little less highbrow, but still a great addition to the day-tripping landscape was the opening of the New Braunfels Museum of Music and Art. The museum in the Gruene historic district (830/625-5636, www.nbmuseum.org) began as the Hummel Museum showcasing figurines but has transformed itself into a museum exhibiting different aspects of the Texas music scene.
Two new statues honor Texas pioneers on the national music scene. In March, Del Rio unveiled a likeness of Wolfman Jack that will be installed in the city. Harlingen native son and rocker Bill Haley was honored with a statue on Jackson Street on Bill Haley Day, Oct. 11.
Museums across the state landed some impressive traveling exhibits this year, but none as unique as the Museum of Modern Art Masterpieces on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Sept. 21 through Jan. 4. The Houston museum (713/639-7300, www.mfah.org) was allowed unfettered access to MoMA's collection and chose 200 paintings and sculptures that have never before been exhibited at the same time.
The opening of Houston's Downtown Aquarium (866/418-3474, www.downtownaquarium.com) adds a new fun destination in the Space City that might just have some educational value. Owned by the Landry's restaurant company, the giant fish bowl gives an up-close look underwater in a carnival atmosphere.
Down in Corpus Christi, the Texas State Aquarium (800/477-4853, www.texasstateaquarium.org) has opened a new, state-of-the-art fish tank in their already fascinating facility. Dolphin Bay is the largest addition to the aquarium, which focuses on Gulf of Mexico species, since it opened in 1990. It'll provide a home for dolphins that can't survive in the wild and will allow visitors to view the dolphins above and below the water.
Beginning Labor Day weekend, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began allowing fishing in state parks without worrying about getting one of those pesky fishing licenses. The free fishing holiday runs for a year and applies only to state-owned facilities. The license waiver is also good at fishing piers operated by the state, but not in the state's 50 Wildlife Management Areas.
A large chunk of Langtry, Texas, went on the auction block last spring. Hoping for a transformation from a cluster of worn-out houses into a Lajitas-style resort, the Old West village in West Texas was listed on eBay; so far there haven't been any serious offers on the 228 acres owned by the Dodd family. Famous as the site of Judge Roy Bean's saloon and courthouse, it is now the site of a Texas Department of Transportation visitor center.
After 33 years, the burners went out under the Chilympaid Chili Cookoff in San Marcos, once the largest and most successful chili cook-off in the state. Expenses and debts crushed the annual event; organizers are going to try to revive the event in Johnson City on March 27, 2004.
In 2003, we lost: Doug Michels, noted architect, co-founder of Ant Farm design group, and the brains behind the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo; Sam Lewis of San Angelo, the Texas character who made the armadillo and jalapeño lollipops Texas icons; John Milloy, a former Travis County commissioner who was instrumental in increasing the acreage of county parks such as Hippie Hollow and Pace Bend; and Barry White, the velvet-voiced crooner from Galveston.
656th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.