A look back at 2004
Looking back at 2004, it was a crazy year with snow falling along the coast and pagan rock calendars being built in West Texas. You had to be quick to ski the slopes of South Texas. The snowstorm on Christmas Eve dumped a record 13 inches in Brazoria County. The residents of Victoria who dreamed of a white Christmas woke up to 11 inches of the stuff. For much of the area it was the first measurable snow since 1895, but it didn't last long as temperatures during the day rose into the 40s.
Meteorologists like to say, "Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get." Whether or not there has been a change in the climate, it was an unusual year for weather in Texas. We saw fewer days than normal with the temperature above the century mark. Record amounts of rainfall across the state kept the rivers and creeks running.
The increase in mosquitoes need not be an image problem for Houston. A local marketing firm designed a campaign to promote the Bayou City as it is. "The flying cockroaches. The mosquitoes. The construction," reads the Web site (www.houstonitsworthit.com) and concludes that its worth it in spite of the inconveniences. Houston got to show off its better side when the Super Bowl came to the new football stadium in February.
Odessa has suffered from an image problem for years, especially since the oil wells began to dry up. Now the University of Texas of the Permian Basin has installed a replica of Stonehenge on campus. The limestone astronomical calendar is the exact horizontal dimensions and is 70% of the height of the British original. On the university's Web site, a supporter of the project said, "The replica would be a classroom tool for teachers ... [and] give students the opportunity to see an extraordinary creation by an ancient culture."
The town of Golden, about 80 miles east of Dallas, didn't have any trouble with their image after Oprah Winfrey included the town's sweet potatoes on her "Best of Everything" list. The town of 150 hosts the Golden Sweet Potato Festival every October. The World Birding Center at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park opened in October outside of Mission. A joint project of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the center is the headquarters for a 120-mile-long network of birding sites and wildlife management areas along the Rio Grande. Two major bird-migration routes funnel through the region, making it one of the top birding destinations in the U.S.
Also in October, the Museum of the Coastal Bend opened at Victoria College in Victoria. The museum is part of a collaborative effort to display artifacts from Belle, a 17th-century ship belonging to French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, which was found at the bottom of Matagorda Bay in 1996. Eight museums around the bay and the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin tell different aspects of the story of the French occupation of Texas. For a complete list of participating museums, go to www.museumofthecoastalbend.org/lasalle.html.
Milestones reached this year include the Elite Circle Grille in Waco celebrating 85 years of serving Southern comfort food. Texas Highways magazine turned 30 years old this year. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, along the Rio Grande just south of the Alamo, entered its 60th year.
This year we lost "Sheriff" Marge Mueller, 69, the face of Luckenbach to many. Mueller served cold beer to a loyal clientele for nearly three decades. The Turkey Shop cafeteria off I-35 in Abbott, Willie Nelson's hometown, closed after more than 20 years of service. New owners say it will reopen, but no word on a schedule.
From the "Who left the gate unlocked?" department: According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, guitar thrasher and hunting activist Ted Nugent purchased a ranch northwest of Waco near Crawford. The Michigan native and President Bush neighbor says he plans to get a Texas driver's license and maybe even run for office in his adopted state. No word on when the Bushes will have him over for tea.
708th 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.