Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, USA !

Posting on Three States Plus One will be sporadic, at best, for the next week. I will be out of town with my family visiting my wife's clan for the 4th of July Weekend. I'll take my laptop with me, but time online will be limited because of the many holiday activities going on in Eastport. I wish you all a happy and safe Independence Day. Thanks for such a successful launch to the blog. I am humbled and grateful. God bless you and may God continue to bless America.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Texas Tidbits : City of Anna

I am doing this post today in honor of 28 year old Son, Toby. You may be asking yourself, "what does Young Toby have to do with Anna, Texas?" I answer because he lives there. Here's the scoop : Today Toby the Younger passed his test to get his Class A CDL. He's gonna be a trucker, like his Grandpa. I figured that if a town like Anna was home to such an enterprising young (not mention handsome, funny, suave and debonaire like his Dad) man, then a post about said town was warranted, nay, demanded. To put it simply, I found a way to spotlight an achievement of no small magnitude to tell my Son that I love him. OK? And damned if I didn't do it. :)
Back to Anna...the area (northeast of McKinney in Collin County) that is now Anna was settled as early as the 1840's, but it wasn't until 1867 that storekeeper John L. Greer built the first house and established the first business there.The Houston and Texas Central railroad arrived in 1873, but it was ten years later when "Anna" actually became a town. With a population of under 600 in the 1920's, according to the website for the City of Anna, there are today over 8000 residents. At this point, I'll turn the history of Anna over Anna-born-and-bred-Town Historian Chester A. Howell.
Toby, I am very proud of you, Son. Give 'em Hell (in a good way) on the highways of Texas. Your Grandpa is counting on it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : Central City

I just happen to know a little about Central City, Colorado. I have lived there on several occasions and I have family ( Hi Mom and Mark!) living there right now. Plus !, my dear friend Doreen Bob and her husband, Josh, live there as well. The photo above is of "downtown" Central City, which is made up of a few small casinos, assorted shops and Annie Oakley's Grocery and Liquor Store. As you look at the photo, I lived less than a half mile to right of the shot. Central City has a very interesting history. President Teddy Roosevelt visited CC more than once and stayed at the historic Teller House and attended performances at the Opera House just next door. The house my Mom lives in now was once owned by Daniel Boone's grandson. Early on, mining played a pivotal in the development in Central City and neighboring Black Hawk. Reclaimed and closed-down mines still dot the country side in the area. Today, mining of a different kind is the staple of the local economy...casinos. Needless to say, I contributed mightily to the Central City and Black Hawk gaming coffers. However, one day comes to mind when I woke up very early and a 7AM went down to Red Dolly's Casino in Black Hawk with $20 dollars in my pocket. By the end of the day I had over $4000 in my pocket. It was fun. Central City is close enough to I-70 to make a trip to Metro Denver for any other wants (read : shopping,etc.) you may have. There are also many opportunities for outdoor activities within driving distance - fishin', hiking, skiing, sight seeing and the Coors Brewery in Golden. Central City, a good place to call home.

Maine Minutiae: Maine Declares War on England !

In 1839, there was an on-going border dispute between Maine and the Canadian Province of New Brunswick. Things got so heated that Governor John Fairfield declared war on England ! (NOTE: Canada was till a part of the British Empire at this time) Thankfully, no blood was actually shed as the conflict was resolved before an actual war broke out.  From the Miller Center of Public Affairs : The situation grew more serious in 1838, when both the British and the Americans began surveying roads through the Maine lands. Additionally, lumberjacks from both countries traversed the Maine backcountry at will, angering both sides. William Harvey, the governor of New Brunswick, arrested a Maine census taker who was surveying the settlements along the Madawaska River. Finally, in January 1839, Governor Fairfield of Maine mobilized a militia and sent it to the Aroostook River Valley to expel timber cutters from New Brunswick. In response, Governor Harvey claimed that the Maine men were in New Brunswick territory and that he had the right to expel them by force." There's more to the story. Long version. Short version. It's an interesting story and I recommend at least a cursory perusal of it.

Texas Tidbits : July Festivals

As Texans, we seldom need a reason to celebrate something - "Hey, Jim Bob just ate a chili cheeseburger ! Let's have a party ! " The month of July offers Texans myriad reasons to socialize. From the Great Mosquito Festival  July 29 - 31 in Clute to the What A Melon Festival July 9 & 10 in Center. Here's a partial list of  Independence Day activities in the DFW Metroplex. If you'd like to take a road trip to an event you've never before been to, this list may hold something of interest to you.
If I'm not mistaken, my friend Ana lives in Granbury where they've got their annual 4th of July shindig. Houston, San Antonio, Colorado City and Luckenbach are all having big to-do's this week. Find out more about them.
I could write a post a mile long and still not even scratch the surface of all the things going on this Independence Day Weekend and throughout the month of July in the Lone Star State. I hope that some of the information I provided here today will be useful to you. If not, make up a reason to celebrate ! After all, we are Texans and we don't need a helluva lot of incentive to throw a party. Have a safe and fun 4th of July Weekend, y'all !

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : Dude Ranches

As I was using my Google-Fu to get stuff for this post, I came across the website for Colorado Dude Ranch Association. Click the link and they will inform you way better than I can about the feeling of freedom and the appreciation of the beauty of  Mother Nature one gets when visiting a Dude Ranch.
I can think few places I'd rather be than 9 or 10 thousand feet up in the Rockies, on horseback looking for a secluded, hidden even, trout pond. After a  hard day's fishin', frying up the catch then sitting around a campfire telling stories until it was sack time.
Colorado boasts an impressive resume of Dude (or Guest, if you prefer) Ranches. From Grandby to Loveland to Yampa, a Colorado Rocky Mountain High is to be had at many locations throughout the state. Y'all come, podnuh. Or something like that.

The Official State Vacation Guide for Colorado is FREE  here.

Maine Minutiae: Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks have been a part of Maine history since the 1600's, when English explorers began harvesting the trees on Monhegan Island. The first sawmill in Maine was a water-powered job built in Berwick in 1634. Four hundred years later, the loggers of today, formerly known as lumberjacks ( I like "lumberjacks" better), continue this tradition, with some loggers even getting their own TV Shows. The most famous of these TV Lumberjacks are the American Loggers, the seven Pelletier brothers and four of their sons. The show is filmed in Northeastern Maine. I wonder what the men of the 1600's would think about such a thing? I am sure that as you flipped through channels on your cable or satellite system, you've happened upon some of the logging games programs on one of the ESPN channels. Timber Tina's Great Lumberjack Show
has been featured on ESPN, The Discovery Channel and ABC Sports plus several other networks.
The most famous lumberjack of all is Paul Bunyan. The statue of Bunyan on the right is in Bangor, one of the many cities to claim the mythological Ax Man as a Native Son.
The next time you sit on a park bench, see a baseball bat or use a toothpick (remember 90% of them come from Maine), you can thank the men from the 1600's, the Pelletier brothers and Paul Bunyan for it. is the place to order your FREE Maine Travel Guide.

Texas Tidbits : Lake Texoma

Lake Texoma. 89,000 acres of some of the best fishin' anywhere. If you're on the lookout for largemouth, white, striped or smallmouth bass, there are some real wall-hangers awaiting you at Texoma. Let's not forget crappie, catfish and the 70 other species of fish that inhabit these waters. Allow me to put you some knowledge with the water body records for the Big T. Fish fry, anyone? At, we find this: "The lake area includes two wildlife refuges, two state parks, fifty four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed parks, twenty-six resorts, hundreds of campgrounds and a variety of excellent golf courses". What the hell am I doing in Maine? (just kiddin', honey.....kinda) If you've got a boat, a secluded fishin'/camping trip is as close as one of the many islands located throughout the lake. The fishing license regulations at Lake Texoma are a little goofy, but as Wikipedia tells us " Historically, Texas and Oklahoma have not had a reciprocal fishing license agreement, which has posed a problem for anglers. Recent boundary resolutions have given Oklahoma jurisdiction over most of the fishing in Lake Texoma. An Oklahoma fishing license allows fishing most of the lake, up to within 400 yards (370 m) of Denison Dam. To fish the entire lake, a Lake Texoma fishing license is also available." Be sure to check with Texas or Oklahoma wildlife officers to get the right info for you. As at any major lake in Texas, the weekends at Texoma are, shall we say, busy? Although with 89,000 acres of fishin' available, you could probably find some place to hang out without too much of a crowd.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : The Ancient Ones

Some of the most stunning vistas in the world are in Colorado - Pike's Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park....wait! Did I say Mesa Verde? Why, yes I did. Those stunning vistas I mentioned a few words back are truly astounding...villages built into the sides of sheer cliffs, indicating, for the times, an advanced civilization. Rock engravings, or petroglyphs,  and pictographs (rock drawings) on the stone walls of the village give us insights regarding the daily lives of these early Americans such as how they saw the world around them and what they hunted for food.

The story of the Ancient Ones is believed to have begun around 1200 B.C. They flourished for many years, then all of the sudden (or so it seems), disappeared. How and why the Anasazi suddenly vanished is a mystery still in need of a solution today. Although the Spanish explored the area in and around Mesa Verde (Spanish for "green table") in the 1700's, it appears that the first outsiders to see the cliff dwellings did so in the last half of the 19th Century. These magnificent structures were regularly vandalized, therefore in order to help protect them from such destruction, President Teddy Roosevelt declared Mesa Verde to become a National Park in 1906.

What an incredible, if not spiritual, place Mesa Verde is and it stands as a Monument to the ingenuity and engineering skills of The Ancient Ones.

Maine Minutiae : Independence Day in Maine

It's the time of year again when Americans gather to celebrate our Nation's independence with cookouts, parades, the flying of Old Glory and the freedoms that are unique to America and Americans. I will be attending the largest 4th of July Festival in the state again this year. It takes place in one of Maine's smallest cities, Eastport. The wife, kids and I will be visiting my in-laws and spending many hours in downtown Eastport eating fried dough, greasy-ass pizza and Rose's Hot Dogs! It's always a hoot and I expect this year to be no different.
The whole state will be lit up with fireworks and other festivities during the holiday weekend. From Bath to Bangor and Ogunquit to Old Orchard Beach,The Pine Tree State is loaded with Patriotic Americans of all shapes, sizes and colors. Maine holds the prestige of having more military personnel (currently serving/have served) per capita than any other state in the Union. Something to truly be proud of. Here's  a big list of 4th of July stuff going on all over Maine. If you Mainers have no plans or just haven't decided what to do on the 4th, I'm certain something on the list will be right up your alley.

Texas Tidbits : Waco and Its Mammoths

Waco, a city of 121,000 fine folks, is located on the Brazos River about 100 miles south of Fort Worth on I-35. It's home to the oldest institution of higher learning in the State of Texas - Baylor University. Waco is also the home to one of the country's most popular soft drinks. Dr Pepper was invented by Charles Alderton at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in Waco in the 1880's. Another soft drink, Big Red, also calls Waco home.  Sadly, Waco is probably best-remembered by many young people as the location of the Branch Davidian tragedy in the 1990's.

I was somewhat surprised as I was looking for info on Waco this morning when I came across this story about a mammoth discovery on the Bosque River. I was already familiar with the dinosaur tracks near Glen Rose, but this was new to me. As someone who finds things like the discovery of the 10,000 year old remains of a 40,000 pound behemoth interesting, this finding has given me a real good reason to visit the Waco area again. If you'd like to see much more of the Colombian Mammoths of Waco, contact The Waco Mammoth Site so you can plan your trip back in time to prehistoric Texas.


                                           Get your FREE Texas Travel Guide at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : The Gold Belt Tour

150 years or so ago, many Colorado mountain towns were besieged by miners. Yup, those four magic letters brought in prospectors by the thousands. Those letters? G-O-L-D. To this day, re-claimed mines dot the Colorado landscape. There are several of them up the hill behind my Mom's house in Central City. People still stop by one of many roadside "pan for gold" places in the mountains while vacationing in Colorado. I have a much better idea if you are eager to find gold in them thar hills. The Colorado Gold Belt Tour.

This 131 mile tour one of the better vacation ideas I've heard in quite some time. The tour takes you through Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Victor Town, Canon City and Cripple Creek (think casinos !!!). The scenery on your quest for gold will be some of the most beautiful in Colorado. Click here to see some of the sights that await you on the Gold Belt Tour. When you click the link above, be sure to navigate the page you land on and the provided links. You'll be glad you did.
Upon the completion of your day-long journey, you'll be the next one to yell, "Eureka!!!!"

Get your FREE Colorado Travel Guide here.

Maine Minutiae : Lewiston - Auburn

Lewiston, Maine, on the banks of the Androscoggin River, is about 20 miles down I-95 from where I am in Augusta. Across the river from Lewiston is the city of Auburn. The  two cities are invariably linked together and are often referred to as L-A or L/A, much like DFW.  About 38,000 people call Lewiston home and another 27,000 or so live in Auburn.
The L-A area doesn't seem like much of a place to locate a professional sports franchise or to hold a major athletic event. However, the only non-American team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the Lewiston Maineiacs. In 1965, Lewiston played host to the famous (infamous?) Heavyweight Championship fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston.
Auburn, pictured just above, is the home of several notable Americans. One of the more well-known is US Senator Olympia Snowe. Visiting Auburn is a regular routine for many Mainers in South Central Maine. The city is loaded with good places to eat and a mall with a nice selection of shopping options. In summary, Maine's "Twin Cities" are a great place to visit, live or raise a family.

Free Maine Travel Guide :

Texas Tidbits : Rockwall

Sitting on the shores of 22,000 acre+ Lake Ray Hubbard, Rockwall is a city located just east of Dallas on I-30. As I was looking up information for this post, I was a bit surprised at just much the area has changed since the last time I was at the lake. For one thing, there is The Harbors. Looks like a nice place to have a good lunch, shop a little and sit with old friends and catch up with each other. (Kim Skeene Henning, I read your Facebook  post this morning) The Texas Queen is a 105-foot double decker paddle wheel boat that offers dinner cruises, reservations required.
Lake Ray Hubbard was an almost daily stop for me for a long time. The lake is/was the location of two "crappie houses" (literally a house anchored on the water with most of the floor cut out for access to the water) that feature some fine crappie angling. If these crappie houses are still open, by all means go! White perch are some damn good eatin'.
While in Rockwall, you might wanna stop by the Rockwall County Historical Museum. Rockwall County may be the smallest county in Texas, but it offers big fun for the whole family.

Be sure to order your FREE Texas Travel Guide at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : The Highest City in North America

10,152 feet high in the Rockies lies the highest incorporated city in North America - Leadville, Colorado. A little more than 2700 people call this former mining boomtown and the-almost-capital-city of Colorado home. Today it seems odd that a town far-removed from the population center of Denver-Suburbs-Boulder could have been named the State Capital, but in the end The Mile High City won out as the seat of government in Colorado. With its Alpine altitude, Leadville has a very moderate, if not chilly climate. The average high temperature in July is a comfy 71 degrees, with the night time lows around 38. The coldest month, on average, in Leadville, not surprisingly, is January. The first month of the year offers up a median daytime high of 31 with the mercury plummeting to a nightly average of 3 above zero. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Leadville is home to the National Mining Museum , Ski Cooper ski area and is also designated as part of a National Historic Landmark District. As of this writing, there are over 50 buildings in town that date back as far as 1870. Speaking of relics of yesteryear, while in the area why not catch a ride on the Colorado, Leadville & Southern Railroad excursion?
Leadville, Colorado, the Highest Incorporated City in North America and a true small-town American West kind of place.

Maine Minutiae : Honeymoon Destinations for Glen and Mary

Earlier today my buddy Glen Chase posted on Facebook asking for suggestions for a nice place to have a wedding. He's getting lots of helpful ideas from many of his friends. As a public service (and because it gives me something to post), I am going to take Glen's request one step further and offer some potential honeymoon places for Glen and his betrothed, Mary. That's just how I roll, romantic fool that I am.

I will take into consideration locations that offer good food, shopping and lodging that don't cost an arm and a leg. Such as Bar Harbor. The Portland area has a variety of places for newlyweds. Glen and Mary would certainly enjoy the natural beauty and away-from-the-city location of Bear Mountain Inn. A simple Bing search turns up hundreds of places where the Happy Couple can enjoy the first days of their lives together.
I worked with Glen at Best Buy and can say that he is a fine young man, great co-worker and all-around nice guy (except for being a Celtics fan...haha). I wish Glen and Mary a long, happy and healthy future together.
With great admiration,
Toby, Three States Plus One

Texas Tidbits : Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is an $18 million facility located in Athens dedicated to the conservation and education about fish and fisheries in the State of Texas. Although TFFC is operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it was built without State Funds ( that alone is reason enough to love the place). From the TFFC website : "TFFC houses a hatchery, laboratory, aquarium, and education center focusing on underwater wildlife in the state’s freshwater streams, ponds and lakes. It serves as home base for the ShareLunker program, which invites anglers to donate trophy-sized largemouth bass for research and breeding purposes. Annual visitation is more than 60,000. A third of our visitors attend with school and youth groups".

See that photo up there  ^^^? That's a 26,000 gallon aquarium in the theatre at TFFC. As you can see, that's a full-grown man in scuba gear in there feeding the fish. He's wired for sound and is able to take questions from visitors about the aquarium in particular or TFFC in general. I have seen this on several occasions and it's a very informative program. This huge fish tank is home to several species of piscatorial species, including (at the time I was there) a large mouth bass estimated to weigh 24+ pounds and a blue catfish at an estimated 44 pounds ! To top that off, this catfish was blind as a bat due to cataracts (true, but pun intended). Also on the property are a snack bar, gift shop and a pond that is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter and year-round with catfish. Rod and reels and bait are provided free of charge. The on-site museum is an awesome part of the facility with interactive displays and fishin' gear from days gone by. For more info, you can contact TFFC here.
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is a must see not only for fishermen, but for the education they provide about fish habitat, etc, and how to conserve and protect these beautiful assets for all Texans.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Plus One : Louisiana

What would $15 million buy today? A mansion in Beverly Hills? Stud Rights to a few Champion Thoroughbred horses? In 1803, $15 million bought almost 900,000 square miles of land that was known as something called the Louisiana Purchase. Put in perspective, 900,000 square miles is approximately three and 1/4 Texases. Pretty big stuff. With a rich and varied history, Louisiana is a gem to behold. What's not to like about a state that boasts New Orleans as one of its own? NOLA has world -renowned food (and chefs, see Paul Prudhomme), Mardi Gras, voodoo, above-ground cemeteries and The World Champion (who dat!) New Orleans Saints.
Louisiana is blessed with some of the best fishin" and hunting anywhere, freshwater or saltwater fishin', deer hunting and, of course, alligators,hence the nickname, The Sportsman's Paradise. I love the warm, friendly people, great food (mudbugs!!) and outdoors opportunities of  this magical place called Louisiana. C'est bon !

Order a free Louisiana Travel Guide here.

Colorado Chronicles : Estes Park

I have posted about Estes Park before on my Facebook page, but I couldn't really do it justice due to space limitations. So, I'll give it a go here. If you've got a few minutes, spend them watching this video about Estes Park. EP is located at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park in one of the most beautiful parts of Colorado. I have been there several times, and each time I am simply astounded at the natural splendor of the place. Downtown Estes Park is a hodgepodge of shops and restaurants with something sure to please everyone in your family. Just east of downtown is Estes Lake where trout fishin' is pretty darn good. 
For over a century, the historic Stanley Hotel has been a landmark in Estes Park. Besides the luxurious digs, The Stanley offers Ghost Tours. Yes, ghost tours where you can, for a fee, learn about ghost sightings and hear spooky stories about paranormal activity at the hotel. Surely, you have at least heard of The Shining by Stephen King. Room 217 at The Stanley Hotel is where that story was born.
As I mentioned above, Rocky Mountain National Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Estes Park. All in all, EP is on My Top 10 Best Places I Have Been List.

Hint for the Guys: Estes Park would be a GREAT place for a second honeymoon. Just sayin'.

UPDATE: FREE Colorado Travel Guide 

Maine Minutiae : Jackman

Jackman, Maine is in Somerset County in northwest Maine only 111 miles from Quebec City, Quebec Province, Canada. Its location alone is reason enough to visit Jackman. It's very rural, remote and pristine. The area offers year-round outdoors activities ranging from fishin', hiking, kayaking and camping in the spring and summer to snowshoeing, snowmobiling (very popular) and ice fishin'. Another very popular activity, especially for tourists is moose watching. While my home state of Texas has many "Cattle Crossing" road signs, here in Maine, particularly areas like Jackman, the road sign of necessity is a "Watch For Moose" sign. I guess moose are just the Maine version of Texas cattle. The list of outstanding places in Maine to visit just grew by one- add Jackman to it.

FREE :  Maine Travel Guide

Texas Tidbits : Toledo Bend

If I were to tell you the following facts about a body of water, what would you think it was? Facts: 181,600 surface acres of water; over 1200 miles of shoreline; 65 miles long; holds over 1 trillion gallons of water. One of the Great Lakes. Nope? The Great Salt Lake? Negatory. How about Toledo Bend Reservoir in East Texas? That's the place.

 Toledo Bend is so large that is unofficially categorized as three lakes - Upper Lake, Mid Lake and the Lower Lake. Now that's BIG. My Dad was from Troup, Texas (near Tyler), so we always got the latest news in East Texas  from family. That's how we learned of Toledo Bend being built in '60s. From the family grapevine in East Texas. I remember it very well. TB is one of the best fishin'lakes in the country, regularly yielding huge Largemouth bass, stripers and catfish, as well as crappie and panfish.

Toledo Bend is a landlocked ocean, it seems. It's a beautiful place to spend time with friends and family. While you're there, be sure to round up about 20 lbs of mudbags, some small red taters and corn on the cob and have a Cajun Style Crawdad Boil. Oh.....and don't forget the cold beer.

Get your FREE Texas Travel Guide

Monday, June 21, 2010

Maine Minutiae : Bar Harbor

100 miles from where I sit is Bar Harbor, Maine. Located on Mount Desert Island, Bah Hahbuh (a little Maine accent there) was originally occupied by the Wabanaki Indians. In the early 1600's, French explorer Samuel De Champlain ran aground on a rock ledge and promptly named the place Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning island of barren mountains. The island is the largest in Maine at a bit over 70 square miles. Add this to the Shoemaker Family Tour '10 as a summer destination.

Stuff I Read Additions !

In the right Sidebar, under "Stuff I Read", you'll see two new additions - Nuke Gingrich and Urban Grounds. If you enjoy reading about current events and some pithy commentary, check these guys out. And while you're there, click on one of the ads. It helps my buddy, a fellow Texan, No2Liberals pay the bills. Thanks  !

Texas Tidbits : Audie Murphy - Hero

Hero:remarkably brave person: somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown an admirable quality such as  great courage or strength of character . See: Audie Murphy.

Audie Leon Murphy was born in Kingston, Texas, June 20, 1925. Many of you will recognize him as an actor. Murphy starred in over 30 movies, including "To Hell and Back". Murphy was, however, was much more than an actor. He was the most decorated soldier of World War II. In short, a true American hero. Click on this link and if you read nothing else, look on the right side of the page to see the honors that this man received in service to his country. Simply amazing. As a Texan, I am honored to call this man my Brother.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers' Day 2010 : A Tribute to Dad

My Dad died June 5, 2004, just before Fathers' Day that year. At age 47, I became a man. Suddenly realizing that I was the Patriarch of the Family. Talk about being hit with a clue by four! Needless to say, it was a tough Fathers' Day that first year without Dad there. Subsequent Fathers' Days have been a mixture of celebrating my role as a Dad and missing the man who was my "Dad Role Model". Cecil Earl Shoemaker, Sr. was a truck driver for over 40 years and he fit the bill perfectly - 5'10", 200+ pounds (due mainly to a watermelon-sized belly), short hair and a Country Boy from Troup, Texas. Like most, if not all, truckers of the day, Dad was not an educated man, but he damn sure wasn't stupid. He may have sucked at algebra, but the man could build a small block Chevy engine blindfolded, in his sleep with one hand tied behind his back. I've seen him do it and it was amazing - well..not the blindfolded, one hand stuff, but the man could put some serious hurt on a car motor. The Old Man loved hot rods and customized older cars, especially '57 Chevys. To this day I can not see an old car that's all gussied up without cracking a big smile and thinking of Dad. It's warm feeling. Come to think of it, the world would be a much better place if it was populated by guys like my Dad who loved old cars. I believe we'd have more warm memories and much less conflict - except on the quarter mile drag strip.
As I have mentioned in other forums, my Dad started a new family as he entered his 50's. First came Adam in 1989. Sara, the new apple of Dad's eye, followed  five years later. Think about it. Here's a man who, after literally millions of miles in an 18 wheeler, should've been thinking about buying a lake lot somewhere and fishin' til the Good Lord called him Home. Not surprisingly, Dad cherished a second family and the chance to become a better Man and Dad. And he did. The lake lot would have to wait. Sadly, it never came.
I'll never forget the morning I found out that he'd died. I was getting ready for work when I saw my sister Cheryl pull up in my driveway. At first glance that doesn't seem so odd. But. It. Was. She was coming in from Arlington. Unannounced. The alarms in my head went off like a World War II air raid siren and I instinctively knew that he was gone. Dad had been in the hospital for a few days for some routine tests. But when Cheryl pulled up and I saw the look on her face, my worst fears were confirmed...before we ever spoke a word to each other. Dad was gone. Not like we had planned just the day before he went in for the tests. The Fishin' Trip That Never Was. If the dude didn't want to go fishin', he could've just called ! (See what I did there, Dad?)
Six Fathers' Days without my Dad and I still feel like the little boy he took fishin' or showed how to precisely put head gaskets on a 300 horse 327 on this day. That, in short, is how I remember my father. I thank God every day that I carry his name, passed it on to his first Grand son and only hope to be half the man Cecil Earl Shoemaker, Sr. was. I'm tryin', Dad. I think you'd be proud. I love you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : Telluride

Telluride, Colorado is located in the Four Corners area (where Colorado, Utah, Arizona & New Mexico meet) in San Miguel County in the San Juan Mountains. Considering its location and 8750 ft altitude, it comes as no surprise that for much of its history, Telluride was a mining town. Gold was discovered there in 1858. Oddly enough, the ski industry didn't come to Telluride until 1972 when Joseph Zoline installed the first ski lift for the Telluride Ski Resort. The scenery around the area is stunningly beautiful. Witness Bridal Veil Falls. It just so happens that this is weekend for the 37th Telluride Bluegrass Festival as well. I don't mine for gold or ski,  and bluegrass ain't my gig, but I damn sure fish, and the Telluride area offers some pretty dang good fishin'. All in all, Telluride seems like a great place to be this or any other weekend.

Maine Minutiae : Weekend Festivities !

If anyone ever said that Mainers don't know how to put on a heavy duty weekend party, they have obviously never attended Harry's Hoedown in the town of Starks. Nor have they even thought about the Whatever Family Festival in Gardiner. But wait there's more ! A whole lot more ! Seriously now. These local get-togethers are a blast and, as you can imagine, not all that different from any other small-town celebrations throughout the country. The reason for celebration might not be the same, but the spirit and camaraderie of the attendees is no less festive than any other gatherings of the kind. the Whatever Festival is the closest one to us, as Gardiner is a "suburb" of Augusta. So all you Mainers pack up the youguns and head on out to Starks,  Old Town, Deer Isle or Whatever. It's a great New England Weekend to celebrate!

Texas Tidbits : Juneteenth

Juneteenth, ( a combination of the words "June" and "nineteenth"...go figger) is a day that celebrates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read "General Order, No.3" at the Ashton Villa in Galveston stating that slavery was now illegal and slaves were to be treated as freedmen. That's something that I did not know. Juneteenth began in Texas. I used to know many black folks (I REFUSE to use "- American"...either you are American or you ain't) who had large family gatherings on Juneteenth to celebrate the emancipation of their ancestors. Please note that when many of us were kids in the '60s, historically speaking, 1865 was not that long ago to many black people. Older black people at that time had heard stories from their grand parents about the Civil War, slavery and such, so Juneteenth was a big deal to them. Rightfully so. Today I'd love to be at Grandma Brown's place outside Tyler, having a huge feast with my buddy Ira Isaih Brown, Jr, his sons and the rest of the Brown Family celebrating Juneteeth and being grateful for the end of that most inhumane of institutions. Hey, Ira ! Eat, drink, puff puff and pass it to the left, then eat some more! And please tell Grandma "the white kid" said hello.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Plus One : Virginia

    I was "chatting" with a Facebook friend, Susan S., the other day when she reminded me of just how much history the Commonwealth of Virginia lays claim to. I had forgotten, I am ashamed to say, until looking up info for this post, just how much history has taken place there and the number and magnitude of the names we sometimes take for granted. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, 5 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.  Not to mention World Class athletes like Moses Malone, Arthur Ashe and a litany of others. Let's not forget legendary Military leaders like Robert E. Lee or the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown in 1607, fully 13 years prior to the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts and VA's status as one of the Original 13 States. What about the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetary?  I could go on, and will in a future post about this remarkable place we call Virginia.

 (hat tip : Susan S. on Facebook)

Colorado Chronicles : Longs Peak

   In the mid 90's when I lived south of Beaver Creek (Rollinsville), this was my view at sunset every night : 14,255 ft. Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park about 40 miles away. The flat top of Longs Peak sticks out like a sore thumb as it towers over the Rockies. The peak is one of 54 "Fourteeners" ( mountains of at least 14,000 ft elevation) in Colorado. I have a long-time friend in Irving, Texas who's an avid hiker and climber. I'm looking at you, Vince Heimann ! Make plans now, amigo. Longs Peak in all its sky-scraping glory beckons.

Maine Minutiae : 50 Fast Facts About Maine

   Last night you had BBQ for supper and, without fail, a sliver of brisket becomes wedged in your teeth. What to do? Jackhammer? Nope. to the rescue toothpick ! On top of that, that toothpick that saves the day (and your sanity) was  probably made in Maine. Over 90% of the toothpicks in the USA come from Maine. Makes me proud to live here.   That fact and 49 of its closest friends await you in Maine Minutiae! You'll be amazed! You'll be astonished! But mostly, you'll ask yourself, "why did I click this link?!". Enjoy.

Texas Tidbits : Pedernales Falls State Park

   I am a Texan. I love all that is Texas - all 267,000 square miles of, as John Wayne said, "The damnedest lady you ever saw". Having said that, over time you'll notice through my posts that I am particularly fond of the Hill Country and East Texas. Why? Two words : Trees. Water. Today, it's the Hill Country.
   Texas offers unlimited vacation destinations and choosing just one is often quite a chore. On the other hand, with so many places to choose from, it's extremely hard to go wrong. Case in point, Pedernales Falls State Park. Trust me on this. You'll want to take 3 1/2 minutes to view this video. Score one for "the damnedest lady you ever saw".

UPDATE : If you haven't done so yet, get your FREE Texas Travel Guide here. I have been getting them since 1990. They're outstanding. And FREE.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plus One : Pennsylvania

I love History. I soak it up like a sponge. One place that is swimming in memorable historic events is Pennsylvania. From Valley Forge to Philadelphia, to the hallowed fields of Gettysburg, where 51,000 Americans died during the famous Batlle of the Civil War, Pennsylvania offers guys like me a buffet of The Past that is forever full.. Having traveled  the 283 mile East-West trip from the Ohio state line to New Jersey, Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, with Pittsburgh in particular catching my eye, nestled at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. A beautiful place indeed.

Colorado Chronicles : Nederland and The Frozen Dead Guy

What's not to like about a town that is famous for, amongst other things, a frozen dead guy ? I used to live in Nederland and it's one of my favorite places ever. It's located 15 miles up Boulder Canyon from the city of Boulder. Ned, as the locals call it, is a very small town where everything is within walking distance of home. There's no Wal Mart there, but there is a supermarket, restaurants/pubs, Eldora Ski Area, South Boulder Creek (which was about 7 feet out my backdoor!), Barker Reservoir (pictured above) for trout fishin' and a liquor store. What else could you want? If I could convince my wife to move there, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I still have lots of friends in and very fond memories of Nederland, Colorado.

Maine Minutiae : S L Wadsworth

On any given day, you can turn on the TV and hear the announcer on a commercial say something like, "serving the people of Hooterville for 75 years!" "...100  years! "  I scoff at those newcomers! S L Wadsworth and Son has been serving the residents of my wife's hometown of Eastport since 1818! Put in perspective, that's since James Monroe was president and Abe Lincoln was 9 years old! 192 years of the same family running the business for SIX generations. Amazing. As a matter of fact, you can go to S L Wadsworth and Son today and instead of buying whale oil, you can get a house key made. This place has been around since McDonalds' signs said "Over 3 Served". That's a looooooooong time.

Texas Tidbits : McDonald Observatory

The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap) deep in the Heart of Texas!! It's hard to imagine a place where the stars would be brighter than atop the 6778 ft peak of Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas. There sits the University of Texas-McDonald Observatory. It's so dark at night that one can literally not see one's hand in the front of one's face. The seclusion of Mount Locke offers maximum star-gazing opportunities. The Observatory, despite its remote location (or maybe because of it) hosts more than 180,000 visitors a year. that's 350 per day. I have traveled about 4/5 of Texas' 267,000 square miles and have never been to the McDonald Observatory, despite it being a life-long dream. Maybe some day. Stars. Big and bright. Indeed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Plus One : New Hampshire

To those of us who live in Maine, New Hampshire is our neighbor to the immediate west. As a matter of fact, New Hampshire is the only state that Maine shares a border with. I have only been in New Hampshire one time and that was a quick pass through the S.E. corner of the state on my way to Maine. I do know, however, that it's a beautiful place with lots of  year-round outdoors activities, ranging from fishing and camping in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter. A quick look at the New Hampshire Travel Guide provides us with many options of things to do in the state. Navigate your way through the guide to discover what might be of interest to you.

Colorado Chronicles : Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge is one of the coolest places I have seen in Colorado. Take a look at these images and you'll see what I mean. The suspension bridge at Royal Gorge was at one time the highest suspension bridge in the world at 1053 feet above the Arkansas River. When I visited there many years ago, there was actually a sign that read "No Fishing From Bridge" ! I. Am. Not. Kidding. One of the neat things about Royal Gorge Park is the abundance of deer that are quite used to human contact, and I had a photo of me feeding a deer from a McDonald's cup that I held in my hand. Talk about a marketing opportunity ! I lost the picture. Oh well. I know many of my friends in Texas visit Colorado on a regular basis and I highly recommend Royal Gorge (take Canon City Exit off I-25) as a stopping point. The grandkids would love and you would, too.

Maine Minutiae : Calais

Calais is city of about 4000 in Washington County, located in the easternmost part of Maine. I have driven through Calais on several occasions, but never have spent significant time there. I can, however, tell you that Calais (pronouned kal-us, not kal-ay, as one would expect) is a neat little place on the banks of the St. Croix River across from the Canadian Province of New Brunswick. In 2009, the city celebrated its BiCentennial, though there have been permanent residents of the area since the 1600's. Calais is also home to the lighthouse at Whitlock's Mill. The Family and I will be headed to Calais during the 4th of July festivities being held at near-by Eastport, my wife's hometown.

Texas Tidbits : World's Richest Acre

I thought that with all the recent bad news about the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd post an oil story with a slightly better ending. On October 3, 1930 a guy named "Dad" tapped in to what was then the biggest pocket of oil in the world. It was located smack dab in the middle of Kilgore in East Texas. Thus, The World's Richest Acre was born. Soon Kilgore sported nearly as many oil derricks as people. Today there are still replicas of those 1930's derricks in downtown Kilgore. I have seen them and it's a weird sight to behold seeing all that oil field equipment in the middle of town. Kilgore is also home to the East Texas Oil Museum which has received visitors from over 120 countries.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : 50 Things You Didn't Know (Or Maybe You Did)

Before moving to Maine four years ago, I was living in Colorado. Central City to be exact. 8600 feet above sea level at my house. Lotsa casinos. Old Mining town. You probably didn't know most of things about Central City. Did you know Doc Holliday died in Colorado? Or that Denver once turned down a chance to host the Olympics? Those and 48 other things you may or may not know about The Centennial State are on this list. Amaze your friends and win bar bets with your near-encyclopedic knowledge of  completely useless, but darn cute, trivia about Colorado.

Maine Minuatie : Whales

Whales. Whales? In Maine? You better believe it, Orca Breath. There are about 85 species of whales and at least six of them can be seen in The Pine Tree State on a regular basis. You can do some great whale-watching along the coast of Maine, and there are thousands of miles of coastline in the state, and they are a ton of businesses that offer whale-watching trips. My family and I haven't done it yet, but checking out the largest mammals in the world in the Gulf of Maine this summer is definitely on the Shoemaker Family Summer Tour '10 agenda.

Texas Tidbits : Armadillos : Hillbilly Speed Bumps

Many things come to mind at the mention of the word "Texas"...Cowboys, Longhorns, oil, to mention a few. Another one is the armadillo. The armadillo has immortalized in print, folklore, TV commercials and even song (see "London Homesick Blues"). I know all my friends in Texas have seen an armadillo at one time or another. Most likely as a "hillbilly speed bump", or roadkill, laying on its back, arms out-stretched possibly with a longneck beer bottle in its grasp. There is even a Armadillo World Headquarters  in Austin ! So the next time you see an armadillo (Spanish for "little armored one"), grab a Lone Star Longneck and crank up some "London Homesick Blues" (I wanna go home with the armadillaaaaaaaaa") and salute our little 9-banded friend, the armadillo.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Texas Tidbits : Outlaw Sam Bass

Outlaws. Wild West. Texas. Hand meet glove. The bad guys, the times and and the state seemed to go together. One of the more recognizable names of that era is Sam Bass. Born in Indiana in 1851, Bass moved to Denton in 1871 after being raised by an abusive uncle. Then the "fun" began. Contrary to what many believe, Sam Bass was not some kind of murderous thug. He never shot anybody during his life of crime. Although on the wrong side of the law, he was a friendly, sandy-haired young man liked by the country folks, who just happened to be a thief by occupation. It's said that after robbing a Union Pacific train in Nebraska in 1878, he actually tipped the porters! Wikipedia continues. Outlaw Sam Bass. For a bad guy, he wasn't a bad guy.

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