Brazos River Ribfest

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The Baylor University Campus is very beautiful. Much of it is along the Brazos river that meanders through Waco. As we drove through the campus admiring the beauty, we discovered that the Brazos River Ribfest was happening at the Baylor Bears Mcclane Stadium pictured above. Smoked pig, live music, and bouncy house dreams beckoned us like the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey and we were unable to resist the call.

For $10 you could buy a ticket that let you sample ribs from each of the five competitors. After sampling the porky goodness, we were then able to vote on our favorite ribs for the People’s Choice award. It was really fun for our family to try them all. THese were the best ribs we have ever sampled.rib taste test.jpg

They were all really good. After trying all of the offerings five of us voted for Porky Chicks BBQ. Mason voted for Lightning BBQ.

After eating the ribs, we were able to listen to some good ‘ol’ country music and a few of us were daring enough to hop in a bouncy house. The siren call of smoked meat lulled us into the ribfest and we almost didn’t have the ability to leave. Luckily the meat festival closed up at 10 PM or we might still be there, laying on the ground with our rotund bellies full, a look of simple satisfaction on our faces, forgetting about our quest to travel further through the good old US of A.



Dr. Pepper Museum

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There was a time in my life when I might have been obsessed with Dr. Pepper. When I thought of Heaven I didn’t think of streets paved with gold, I thought of Dr. Pepper soda fountains in every home. Even though I now prefer water it was fun to pay a visit to the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco. Most of the museum was closed the day we went but we were able to look around at a few things while we were there.

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We were able to go to an old fashioned fountain in the museum that had syrup and then added seltzer water like in the olden days. We were pretty excited to try the soda. For out of the four Johnson children thought the soda was OK. After a long talk about it we decided that the fountain Dr. Pepper tastes just like a can of Dr. Pepper, except with less flavor, and less carbonation.

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The Museum is close to Magnolia Market so you could hit up both if you wanted to.


Magnolia Market

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I had never heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines until a few months ago when our friend Megan told us to watch their show Fixer Upper on Netflix. For our date nights Marisa and I started watching the show and we really liked it. We saw the prices of the homes they worked on and we said to ourselves, “We are going to havve to move to Waco, Texas.”

Luckily our travels took us near Waco so we could determine first hand if it contained the home of our dreams. We camped about 40 minutes away from Waco on Lake Whitney. It was one of the prettier and more secluded places we have camped.

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The drive to Waco was beautiful. There were some rolling hills and it was extremely green with lots of farmland. The locals tell me that spring is the best time to visit. The first place we went to in Waco was Magnolia Market or what is also known as The Silos due to 2 huge grain silos on site. There is a main building with lots of home decorating items. It was crowded!

waco magnolia market.jpgIn addition to the store, there is a garden area with raised beds and a petting zoo that you can walk through.

wac raised beds.jpgAlong the outer perimeter of the property there are a bunch of food trucks lined up and in the middle there was a huge plot of astroturf where you can play catch, soccer, frisbee and cornhole. It gave me the opportunity to teach my boys the proper cornhole form.

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After visiting Magnolia Market we drove around the downtown and visited a few of the suburbs. The city itself doesn’t seem extremely nice. The suburbs we visited were very well taken care of but we were on Zillow and didn’t see many at the prices shown on TV.

Unfortunately we didn’t find our dream house. We would consider living there. The people were really nice and the area was pretty but they do a great job of making Waco look better than it might be on Fixer Upper so it’s much less likely that we will live here now that we have visited.


World’s Littlest Skyscraper

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When we read about the “World’s Littlest Skyscraper” in Wichita Falls we knew wehad to visit. I’m not sure why the Coehn Brothers haven’t made the story into a movie but they need to. Here is the story.

Around 1912 there were large petroleum reserves found around Wichita Falls. A lot of people in the town got rich and there was a demand for growth in the town. A con man named J.D. Mcmahon decided to scam the town.

Per Wikipedia, “According to local legend, when McMahon announced in 1919 that he would build a highrise annex to the Newby Building as a solution to the newly wealthy city’s urgent need for office space, investors were eager to invest in the project. McMahon collected $200,000 (US$ 2,730,000 in 2016) in investment capital from this group of naive investors, promising to construct a highrise office building across the street from the St. James Hotel.

The key to McMahon’s swindle, and his successful defense in the ensuing lawsuit, was that he never verbally stated that the actual height of the building would be 480 feet (150 m); the proposed skyscraper depicted in the blueprints that he distributed (and which were approved by the investors) was clearly labelled as consisting of four floors and 480 inches (12 m).wf skyscraper landmark


McMahon used his own construction crews to build the McMahon Building on the small, unused piece of property next to the Newby Building, without obtaining prior consent from the owner of the property, who lived in Oklahoma. As the building began to take shape, the investors realized they had been swindled into purchasing a four-story edifice that was only 40 ft (12 m) tall, rather than the 480 ft (150 m) structure they were expecting.

They brought a lawsuit against McMahon but, to their dismay, the real estate and construction deal was declared legally binding by a local judge – as McMahon had built exactly according to the blueprints they had approved, there was to be no legal remedy for the deceived investors.[5] They did recover a small portion of their investment from the elevator company, which refused to honor the contract after they learned of the confidence trick. There was no stairway installed in the building upon its initial completion, as none was included in the original blueprints. Rather, a ladder was employed to gain access to the upper three floors. By the time construction was complete, McMahon had left Wichita Falls and perhaps even Texas, taking with him the balance of the investors’ money.”

I wouldn’t drive to Wichita Falls to see it but if you are passing through check it out.


Cottonwood Madonna

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This is another article in a series of letters that I am writing to my children about some of the things I hope they can learn about life from my observations.

Dear Children,

This is a carving that we saw in old town Albuquerque. It is a carving of the Virgin Mary that was done in an old cottonwood tree and I haven’t been able to get the story that we were told about it out of my head. I haven’t been able to confirm it’s veracity online but I choose to tell it to you because of how it inspires me.

According to a tour guide, this carving and painting was done by a parishioner of the San Felipe church in 1970. He lovingly carved the virgin from the interior of a cottonwood that was behind the church. The story is that the parishioner died immediately after completing the painting. Since he had to reach inside the tree to paint, his hands were still blue when he died. The embalmer couldn’t get all of the paint off of his hands so he was buried with blue hands.

Originally the painting was hidden behind the church and few people saw it. Then the cottonwood tree blew over an the carving remained undamaged so they moved it to the front of the church so more people could see it.

This story touched me a lot. First, like the parishioner, how many times do people do things for others, or for our Heavenly Father, and it remains unseen. They continue on through life doing good deed after good deed and remain in anonymity much like this painting remained in anonymity behind the church. Then they pass on and meet their maker. I imagine that like the blue paint on the artists hands, God will be able to see what our hands have done. He will be able to see our hearts. He will see what we did to help others, and make the world a better place.

Like the paint on the artists hands, our good deeds and bad deeds leave a mark on us. We will take these marks with us. I believe that we can always repent and change our path for the better. We can erase the bad stains. However, I think of this artist and I know that he had no idea that he would be buried with blue hands that showed his devotion.He didn’t know that he would take the physical evidence of what he had done with him.

I hope that when I die, when I am gone, I return to Heavenly Father with blue paint on my hands. I hope that the last few things I did will show my devotion to him, to my family, and to making the world better. I am far from perfect and I make a lot of mistakes. I am constantly trying to overcome my weaknesses and sins, but I also always hope that my next decision will be a good one.

It is hard to do the right thing. It is hard to always follow our faith. I hope that this story can make it easier for you, like it has for me. I hope that when you have difficult decisions to make, or hard things to do, that you will remember this story and think to yourself, “if these are my last moments, will I return to my Heavenly Father with blue paint on my hands?”



So You Want to Be a Pecan Farmer?


You might remember our friends pictured above,  Mary and Tommy from when we met up with them in Crescent City and they took us on a great hike in the Redwoods. They were living on the road like us and we really connected with them. In the time since we met up with them in California they have settled down on a Pecan Farm in Texas and so we made sure to stop and visit them while we were passing through. It was a good chance to have a career day with the kids and deep in my heart, I want to be a farmer.

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It was amazing for us to spend time with them on their farmstead. Its was so peaceful and there is a special spirit in their home. It was such a joy to see them so happy and content with how God has blessed them.

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They had just planted over 500 pecan trees while we were there. There was a huge rain storm so we went out and helped by hoeing (is that a word) around the new trees and filling in any dirt that had washed away from the roots.

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Even though it was hard work, it was so satisfying to work the soil. I really think that my farming ancestors left a gene in my body that relaxes when I smell freshly turned soil.

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The trees we worked on won’t bear fruit for 7 to 10 years. That’s a lot of time but I am excited to come back then and see the fruits of Tommy and Mary’s labor. It will be exciting to know that we saw it when it was just starting.

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The Don Harrington Discovery Museum was another fun science museum. Our kids had a good time and we stayed until it closed. The best part was what they called a Grossology exhibit. It was a whole wing dedicated to teaching about the digestive system, mucus, vomit, gas, and all other gross things our bodies do. I actually learned a lot and it was set up really well. I didn’t get a lot of pictures but here is a picture of the digestive system playground.

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Here I am exiting the digestive system playground slide. I don’t get in a lot of the pictures since I take most of them but for some reason Marisa thought this would be a good one.

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There were other good sections of the museum. I am starting to like Science Museums more and more. We were able to get in free because of our  ASTC  Travel Passport Membership.

Outside the museum you will find the Amarillo Helium Monument that pays tribute to the Helium deposits that are found in the area. Erected in 1968, the four arms of the monument contain time capsules that were to be opened separately 25, 50, 100, and 1000 years after it’s construction.






Palo Duro Canyon

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It’s pretty flat near Amarillo. When I heard that the second largest canyon in the US (their claim not mine) was nearby I wanted to see it. We took a little drive and found the state park. It may be the second largest but in my opinion it certainly isn’t as dynamic or beautiful as Canyonlands or Bryce Canyon in Utah. It does seem like a nice place to camp and hike if you are in the area.

We had a funny experience while we were there. There was a sign on a hike for a wildlife viewing blind. We haven’t done any bird watching on our trip so we decided to take a look.

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The blind was a nice little structure and they had various bird feeders on the other side. There meadow was teeming with birds.

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There were a bunch of signs there with the different animals and birds we might see. I joked with my kids and told them if you push on a picture, the animal or bird will appear. I then proceeded to push on the picture of the Red Cardinal.

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Immediately after I pressed on the picture, a cardinal flew up to one of the feeders. My kids looked at me in amazement. It was the law of attraction at work ladies and gentlemen.

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Of course we decided to press our luck and push on the picture of the mountain lion. Luckily that button was out of order.



Career Day for Taggers


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One of the most interesting things about traveling full time are the surprise of what we find fun and what we don’t. There are times when I can predict what our family will enjoy but then there are those days when I am surprised by how much we enjoy certain things.

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We visited the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and it ended up being one of the funnest things we have done. Per Wikipedia:

Cadillac Ranch is not a ranch but a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, USA. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm. It consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs: the tailfins) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.[1]

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We brought spray paint and we ended up having a great time. I guess our family are all taggers at heart because we ended up spray painting for a couple of hours. The cars are pretty cool and I like that they are always changing according to the whims of there visitors. There are parts where you can seriously see 4 or 5 inches thick of spray paint.

I liked so many of the pictures I took that I couldn’t leave any out. I hope you enjoy them.

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