Friday, August 10, 2007

Lone Star State. Finally!

Arrived in Texas on Wednesday 8th Aug.

JH and I parted ways in Dallas; JH heading to the Dallas Fort Worth Airport and back to California, and I heading to VJ's place. I wanted to visit Texas as I wanted to meet up with my friends, while JH wasn't really keen on spending time in Texas. The only attraction he wanted to see in Texas was the Alamo in San Antonio, which we could not include in the schedule.

It was really nice to have had JH's company during the four weeks' drive around the country. In fact, I couldn't get myself to go sight-seeing on my own in his absence in Dallas! No fun in walking around alone even if the place is as wonderful as Yellowstone or Yosemite, leave alone a much less important and hardly a beautiful place like Dallas, TX.

The best thing about Dallas and Texas is that I have friends there; and that is the only reason Texas got onto my travel plan. Staying at JH's place for two nights, having dinner with NP and RM at Nicola's in Plano, TX and a short stop at ASK's place on the way out of Dallas made it for a memorable visit in spite of the heat and the lonely wanderings in and around the City.

The visit to the Frontiers of Flight Museum at the Dallas Love Airfield was worth it; quite informative and inspiring. As with many of the museums I visited on this trip, this one too was well organized; starting with the early dreamers and moving on in time with the various successful and not so successful but very important experimentations and the experimenters who made Air Flight possible. It is just 103+ years since the Wright brothers became the first men to fly a powered aircraft; the progress in Aeronautics ever since has been phenomenal.

Got to know quite a bit of historical tidbits about the Zeppelins over here in the Museum. Found it interesting these huge 'balloons' were actually passenger airships, and that they were used for Trans-Atlantic travel till the Hindenburg disaster, which curiously happend in Lakehurst, NJ - close to where I live!

Another interesting tidbit was that the material used to hold hydrogen in the Zeppelins - called Goldbeaters' skin - was made of cows' intestines. And a airship like Hinderburg required the intestines from a few thousand cows. No wonder the Zeppelin was neither invented nor built in the country of the holy cow - India, but in the we-eat-everything-that-moves country of Germany!

The prime tourist attraction in Dallas, TX of course is The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza , a memorial to the slain President John F. Kennedy at the place from where his alleged assasin - Lee Harvey Oswald - fired the fatal shot. The various display items in the Museum details the events leading up to Kennedy being on a Motorcade through the streets of Dallas, the route of the motorcade being well-publicised beforehand to ensure huge public turnout along the way (which did happen) and sadly also gave enough opportunity for a determined Oswald to follow through with his crazy plan to kill the President. The motorcade was passing right next to the School Textbook Depository Building on Dealey Plaza in which Oswald was employed. It was also expected to stop at the signal - right in front of Oswald who was ready with his gun on the sixth floor of the building - and then proceed slowly away after taking a sharp hair-pin turn. What more could Oswald ask for? He shot three times, hitting the President twice.

Knowing more details about the assassination - that one shot JFK took in the head was almost similar to the shot that killed Abraham Lincoln, that Oswald killed a Police Officer before being apprehended just 80 minutes after the assassination, that Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby two days later on National TV, that JFK's assassination affected people all over the world and that there is still heated debates going on about who actually killed JFK - does not lessen the sadness that comes over for any visitor to this place. The John F Kennedy Memorial Plaza - a few blocks from the Museum - is a very simple monument to remember JFK.

India and US have had their share of heart-breaking assassinations : Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi... Hope these kind of cowardly acts will become a rarity in the future. While these assassinations have hardly achieved what the perpetrators of the crime intended to achieve, it has elevated the slain to an even higher status of Martyrs and have made them heroes for future generations.

Between the visit to the Flight Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum, I stopped at Roti Grill for lunch - nice Indian restaurant with the feel of an upscale Diner, with decent food.

On the way from Dallas to Houston, stopped at The Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, TX, which is conveniently located across the highway. The 67 foot tall statue is visible for miles from the south, and is supposed to be the tallest statue of any American leaders.

Though I knew Houston was named after some person, never really knew about Sam Houston; got to know a bit of his biography during the visit. Quite an impressive man with some notable achievements:
  • The only man to ever be Governor of two states in US (Tennessee and Texas),
  • A champion of Native Americans' way of living, formally anointed by the Cherokee tribe as one of their own.
  • A soldier of excellent record, with a decisive victory over the Mexican army to attain Freedom for Texas.
  • A silent supporter of the Union while being a Governor of Texas, a state filled with Southern Confederates and hell bent on secession from the Union.
Sam Houston's advice to the folks in the Government : "Govern Wisely, and as little as possible"

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