2017 Year in Review – Part I

I was sitting around thinking today about the places that I was fortunate enough to see this year, a sort of 2017 year in review. I was fortunate enough to see some great places this year with the hopes of seeing even more in the coming years.

So let’s look back through some of the images of 2017. The first one is the barn you see, better known as the Aggie Barn. It is out east of where I live sitting just off highway 6. Let me start by saying I am not an Aggie fan. In fact, I root for their arch enemy the University of Texas. But besides that, I love the barn. I love the passion to keep it going year after year; it was even moved once.

One of the coolest places I got to see this summer was former President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Ranch in central Texas. This is a cool place and one I recommend anyone in the area to tour. You get to see the whole ranch including old guest houses, the Johnson’s grave site, his old hanger with airplane and old cars, plus his old house which they call the Texas White House (seen in the picture).

Touring the house was the best part. You can’t go in every room and you can’t touch anything (it is a museum after all), but it was worth the drive. To see some of the old technology built into the house was really neat, especially all of the different phones around strategically placed. His wife, Lady Bird, outlived him by decades and some of the things she did and where she lived is still in place as well. Our tour guide was wonderful and it is a beautiful ranch.

There were a few spots in Austin that I hit up this year as well. Several times I went to the state capitol and while it was not my first time there, it was my first time to photograph it. I love the capitol. It is a beautiful building with gorgeous grounds that surround it. I tried a few times at sunrise but only wound up with a couple decent photos. You never know what you are going to get, and I know I will be back again to try more.

Texas State Capitol

Back of the Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

Front of the Texas State Capitol

Also in Austin is the 360 Bridge or the Pennybacker Bridge. There is a trial that leads up to an overlook of the bridge that I went up one day. My photos did not come out as good as I had hoped, so I plan on going back one day in the near future, but it is a gorgeous spot with some great views of the Colorado River and downtown Austin.


Turns out I had a spot on my lens or sensor, and not having really checked my camera since it was a long day it is visible in my photos. That is why I want to go back. Plus it is just a really good view of the city.

Pennybacker Bridge - Austin, Texas

Pennybacker Bridge – Austin, Texas

The last place I will cover in part I of our 2017 Year in Review is The Grove, Texas. This is the local “museum ghost town”. While the town has fallen on hard times over the years with stores closing and people moving away, it is still a strong small town in Texas with a wonderful church and a near little “ghost town” to visit.

The Grove, TexasI loved going and stepping back in time for a moment. Seeing the old Saloon and Sheriff’s office was quite interesting. I could almost feel myself walking down the dirt road as horses pass by and people stumble out of the saloon. I, like many, are fascinated with the old west. And to have a chance so close to home to step back in time, even if for just a moment, is a pretty cool thing to be able to do.

Eiffel Tower – Paris, Texas

Eiffel Tower - Paris, TexasI’ve always dreamed of going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe. While my first planned trip to Europe is next summer, I will not be making my way to Paris, just yet.

So to fend of my urge to just say screw it and go to Paris, I had the chance to see another Eiffel Tower over the Thanksgiving holiday. On my way back from Tennessee I decided to go about an hour out of my way to Paris, Texas that is.

Located northeast of Dallas, Paris is a small town that in 1993 built its second Eiffel Tower. The first was made of wood and destroyed by a tornado. So the town commissioned the second. This time it would be 20m (65 ft) tall and a 1/16th scale of the one in France.

In 1998, the town added some Texas flair. That year the tower in Tennessee was moved to Paris, Tennessee and the height was raised to 70 feet, outdoing the one in Texas. So in response, Texas added a red cowboy hat giving it a height greater than that of the replica in Tennessee.

The structure in it self was quite interesting, even if it sat in a sleepy little northeast Texas town. The cowboy hat really makes it unique to Texas. But it makes me really want to see more of them. There are quite a few replicas all over the world. However, none of them will quite make up for seeing the real one, which I hope to do one day soon.

I’ve recently found out that there is a replica in Austin and even in North Carolina. Austin is a short drive for me and I hope to make it soon to see it. The one in Tennessee is not too far out of the way for me when visiting family, so that will be on the to-do list as well. I’ve seen the one in Vegas, but for some reason I do not find the ones at amusement parks as interesting.

Here are a few shots of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas.

The Grove, Texas – a “Museum Ghost Town”

Not far from my home is a little “ghost town” called The Grove, Texas. It gets its name from a grove of live oak trees that sit nearby. The town was once a bustling small country town that had two general stores, a mill, and a cotton gin. However, as the years went by, the small town’s population slowly declined.

The Grove, Texas

The Grove, Texas

At its height there were about 400 people living in The Grove.  A post office was established in 1874, but eventually closed. As the town slowly got bypassed by a new highway (Hwy 36) and the construction of Fort Hood, the public school was closed (1948) and the population fell to around 65.

The construction of Fort Hood (1942) and the the building of Belton dam in 1953 forced farmers to move as they lost their land. Today a church is the main part of the town, but many of the buildings were redone in their former glory. And today it sits more as a museum than anything else.

Bought in 1972 by Moody Anderson, the town was turned into a museum of sorts with many antiques. Anderson, an antiques dealer, filled the town with antiques. He even loaned many of them to production companies for use in films, including Lonesome Dove. But don’t be fooled, Lonesome Dove was not filmed here like many of my friends believe. There have been a few short films and a drama filmed in part here in 2014.

The town was sold again in 2010 to a family from San Jose, California. The new owner has no plans for the town, except to preserve it. It has been designated a historical town by the Smithsonian Institute and is a really cool little slice of live in the late 1800s.

I took a trip out to the town not long ago and brought my camera. This is what I wound up with.

The Grove, Texas

Europe: Summer Trip for 2018

Part of what I will focus on here at Down That Dusty Trail will be my travels. And with that being said, I am announcing my plans for the summer of 2018. As a teacher, I have a few months off each summer. Two years ago I moved and drove from Alaska to Texas stopping at several National Parks along the way. Last year, other than a few short trips, my main trip was a week in Washington D.C. However, next summer I will be headed to Europe for the first time.

Last June I bought a one-way ticket to Berlin for just $255. I knew I wanted to go but didn’t know when I wanted to come back. Germany has been a place I’ve always wanted to travel to, and next year I am going.

About a week ago I finally found a return flight. I had earned over 50,000 points via American Express with most of those coming from a sign up bonus. I don’t use the card any longer and will be canceling before my first year is up so I don’t have to pay the yearly fee. Using those points and an additional $200 (half of which was buying the last needed points I needed) I booked a one-way flight back to the US from Munich – business class.

I am very excited about the trip. I plan on seeing Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Krakow, and Wroclaw but not necessarily in that order. I might mix in another stop as well since I will be there for a month.

I have never been to Europe but lived in South Korea for three years. So international travel is not something new. There are many places I want to see both historically and sports wise (baseball mainly). Yes they play baseball in all of those countries.

I begin my trip in Boston since that is where I am flying to Berlin from. On my way back I will make a stopover in NYC, another place I have never been. I do not know the exact route I will take just yet, but over the coming months I will definitely be working on that. As we get closer I will share my plans a bit further.

If you have any suggestions on places to see, things to do, or food/drink I should try, please feel free to share.

Let’s Go to Luckenbach, Texas

With some time off from work, I took off and headed down to the hill country. After taking in one of Texas best BBQ joints in Llano, I headed down to Fredericksburg. The goal was to hit Luckenbach in the morning as the sun came up to take some photos and try a new technique I learned last week.

The new technique I learned about was multiplicity. That is where you take multiple pictures of someone in different poses/spots and then combine them. The results were good for a first attempt. I’m still playing around with some of the photos I took in Photoshop to see if I can come up with a few more, but this is the one that I liked the most so far.

I love shooting in Luckenbach. I even had a nice conversation with one of the workers today. He was an old man who was telling me some good tips on taking photos here, and said he took a lot of them of people in front of the building. He was kind and it was nice talking to him.

I took a few other photos there as well that turned out okay. It is easily one of my favorite places in Texas. The drive is nice as well as you head through the hill country.

There are still a few places I want to see in the area, including a few more BBQ places. Speaking of BBQ places, on this trip I tried out Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ in Llano, Texas. It was rated as one of the top 50 BBQ places in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine.

In short, this place was awesome. I had some brisket and some jalepeno sausage. Both were amazing, but the brisket was melt in your mouth good. I also took in some blackberry cobbler which wasn’t bad.

The brisket was by far the best. They sell everything by the pound, and it is definitely worth the drive. The BBQ sauce was okay. It could have been better but overall it was decent. They have a big thing of beans near the soda machines and onions that you can fill up on, and they were pretty good. On the table is bread and pickles.

You can find out more about Cooper’s at https://www.coopersbbq.com/. Give it a try. Later this week or next I plan on heading out to another of Texas Monthly’s favorite BBQ places.

Until then.

I am Hooked on Teardrops

I’m hooked. Since I was a kid I have loved RVs. When I was young my parents had a bumper pull camper that we would take out on weekends and vacations. It was so much fun. We also did a lot of tent camping.

Last summer I moved from Alaska back home to Texas and drove back. Part of the way I camped in a tent at or near National Parks, and it was one of the best experience of my life. I love to camp and love to be out in the parks, and so I have gotten hooked on the idea of purchasing a teardrop trailer.

What is a teardrop trailer?

You would be surprised at how many people do not know what one is. No worries. Basically it is a small, streamlined, and lightweight camper. It gets its name from its shape.

hooked teardrops

That is just an example of a teardrop taken from Wikipedia. There are so many designs and models now. They range from rather simple and cheap (couple thousand dollars) to rather elaborate and fully decked out (over $20,000).

I’m not looking for one of the high end ones but would rather have a lower end one that is lightweight. Right now I drive a Toyota Camry, which I love, but it cannot pull much of anything. I don’t think I would have a problem puling a smaller teardrop (many of them are around 600 lbs). But eventually I want to upgrade my vehicle and get a small SUV.

There are a lot of different manufacturers out there. I have a few things that I want on my teardrop including:

  • Air conditioning – I currently live in Texas and don’t see myself moving anytime soon. And if you have missed it – it gets hot here.
  • Rear hitch receiver – This will basically allow me to put a bike rack on the back of the trailer.
  • TV – I know many of you are saying that it defeats the purpose of camping, but I want to do some long-term camping in the summer in the future. And without it there will be no baseball and that is not good in my book.

I think that’s about it. There are other things I am torn on like a rear galley. I think I could live without it, but I’d really like to have one.

Possible Future Teardrop?

My favorite so far is the Koa Simple Galley model from the Tiny Camper Company. It is inexpensive, lightweight, and I’ve read good reviews of their workmanship.

Lately I have been sucked down the vortex of YouTube. I’ve seen so many videos on RVing, teardrops, and just about anything else camping related. So I will not do anything rash, but I’m really looking at and pricing various teardrops with the hopes of having one at the latest by next summer. Ideally I’d love to have one made and ready to pick up somewhere by spring break

Keep checking back for more posts on teardrops. I hope to bring you some of the blogs/vlogs that I’ve been following and learning from.

United States Capitol Building

United States Capitol Building

One of the things I was most excited about on my recent trip to Washington D.C. was the change to see the Capital. For me what that building represents is far greater than the things that actually go on inside it. Sure there are many people that despise politics, and at times I am one of them. But this is not meant to be a political post and I do not want it to turn into one.

Instead, I want to look at the beauty that is our nation’s capitol. The U.S. Capitol building has gone through many changes over the years. George Washington laid the cornerstone in 1793 and since then it has only grown in both size and importance. It would be years until the entire complex was complete, and even included a fire which we will get to in a minute.

During the War of 1812 it is famously known that the British burned the White House, but they also burned the Capitol. Luckily a rainstorm prevented the complete destruction of the building.

The building was not complete until 1826, but even at that time it was not the same as you know it today. It continued to grow. This is what it looked like in 1846:

US Capitol 1846

Now that looks very close to the original intentions of the building, but as the United States grew the Capitol needed to grow too. By 1850 the number of states in the Union had more than doubled and thus required more space for the government in Washington.

I find it interesting that a future president, of a rouge nation anyway, that introduced the appropriation bill to expand the Capitol, Jefferson Davis. This was in 1850. And by 1868 the building had been expanded including a new and larger dome to match the new larger building.

But many people do not know that the Capitol grounds includes more than just the main building that everyone has grown to know. It also includes six House and Senate buildings, the Supreme Court Building, the US Botanic Gardens, and other structures as well. It is not well known that the Supreme Court actually worked out of the Capitol for years.

The US Capitol website has put out a great video that shows the evolution of the buildings from the Capitol to the Supreme Court building. Check it out here:

As you may have learned in school, and coming from a high school history teacher I hope you did, the Capitol has great influence from both Greek and Roman architecture. It is a beautiful building inside and out. You can tour the building if you are in Washington, and I recommend walking around the grounds. It truly is a beautiful building and one I was really glad to photograph. However, due to time constraints I was not able to see it all. I can’t wait to get back to see more. Here are a few of my shots as I walked around the outside of the building.

For more information on tours, history, or what goes on in the Capitol, go to VisitTheCapitol.gov

Images of the US Capitol (most are available on Etsy)

Lincoln Memorial – Washington D.C.


Lincoln MemorialRecently I had the chance to spend nearly a week in Washington D.C. and it was awesome. Regardless of what you think about the politics that go on there, the city is full of amazing architecture and history.

One thing that I was very anxious to see was the Lincoln Memorial.

The memorial was built between 1914-1922 where it sits on the west end of the National Mall. It is a beautiful structure that echoes the great Greek temples of ancient times. The pillars are magnificent, but one of the interesting things about it that I never realized it until visiting was the names of the states inscribed on the monument. There are 36 of them around the memorial representing the states that were in the Union upon Lincoln’s death and the date that they joined the Union.

Inside the memorial you see the magnificent statue of Lincoln sitting down. The statue is a famous one having been seen in many different movies, magazines, and images. But did you know to the left of the statue etched in the wall is the Gettysburg Address? Perhaps Lincoln’s most famous speech, the address goes from ceiling to floor and is quite the site.

The memorial is one of the most popular spots in D.C. and thus it is almost always busy. It makes for great people watching which is what I did one evening after walking many miles around the city. I watched group after group reach the memorial and you could see the awesomeness of the monument in their faces. But on the other hand it attracts others as well. While I sat and enjoyed some much needed water there were two young boys riding bicycles and doing wheelies. They were weaving in and out of the crowds narrowly missing people, until they didn’t. One of the reckless boys took down two people after they walked in front of him as he raced across the front of the memorial. He ran into one girl and then fell and knocked over another man walking. Luckily neither was hurt badly, and the boy took off not returning.

With the crowds it can be difficult to get good clean photos without many people. I tried to get some photos of it at night, but with so many people they came out with too many ghost images.


Purchase prints here on Etsy

Etsy Travel Photography & New Blog Direction

Etsy Travel Photography

I have decided to take this blog into a new direction and will be turning this into an Etsy travel photography blog. I plan on sharing my travel experiences and hopefully selling a print or two on Etsy to help fund future travels.

I have some stories in the works already from my recent trip t

o Washington D.C. I will be showcasing some of the photos that I took and some of the places that I went. D.C. is an amazing city with so much to do and see and I hope to share a little of that with you in the coming days.

In addition to changing directions with the blog, I have also set up an Etsy store. I hope there I can share some of the my prints with you at a decent price. You can check it out by clicking the link below. I will not be here to simply pimp my photos, but will mention it from time to time. The money made will go toward funding future travels and equipment.

I already have my next trip planned which will be mentioned in a future blog post coming probably early next week. I am also in the process of planning a huge trip for next summer. I know what you are thinking. It is a year away, but I have found some good prices on flights and some other things to help me out, like rewards points. So I will be talking about all of that as soon as I get my plans more set in stone.

I also hope to bring some background to some of the places I visit. I am a history teacher and while I hope not to beat you over the head with the history of places, I do hope to bring a little extra insight on some of the places I visited to add to the story.

I am open to suggestions and feedback at any time. Feel free to contact me and let me know what you think.

Etsy Store

Stonehenge II – Ingram, Texas

Texas is known for a lot of things, but many people who live here do not know there is a replica of Stonehenge in their own state. It is located in the hill country just outside of Kerrville, Texas in a little town called Ingram.

It is not a full size replica, but it is about 2/3 the size of the original. According to the Hill County Arts Foundation it is 90% of the height and 60% of the width of the original in England. And not all of the stones are actual stones. Some are plaster covering a mix of steel and metal.

Originally it set on creator Al Sheppard’s land in Hunt, Texas. Years after he passed and the family land was sold, the entire thing was going to be knocked down, until the town of Ingram came along and partnered with the Hill County Arts Foundation to move the exhibit to Ingram.

In addition to the replica of Stonehenge, there are two Moai statutes like that found on Easter Island which stand 13 feet high.

You can see all of my Stonehenge II photos by going to the Galleries Page.

Petrified Forest National Park

One of the national parks I got to see this summer was the Petrified Forest National Park. Located in Arizona, the Petrified Forest makes for a great day trip. I made mine on my way to the Grand Canyon. It includes an easy road to drive through the park.

The park itself is beautiful. In addition to the petrified forest there is the painted desert to see. The park straddles Interstate 40 and it is definitely worth the stop. There are plenty of places to stop, walk around, hike, or even picnic if you like. I took my time seeing the scenery in order to take photos and it was just a nice afternoon.

There are other activities you can enjoy if you so choose as well including hiking, backpacking, and guided programs with park rangers. Be sure to check out the different things going on while you are there at the visitor’s center. There is one at both entrances to the park.

Be sure to check out all of my photos from the Petrified Forest National Park in the Galleries section.

Harvard Offering Free Photography Course

I am always looking for new ways to improve my photography. When I was learning it was trial and error at first. Then I was fortunate to learn from a guy I met while living in South Korea. He gave three friends and I lessons one year. I learned a lot, but still do not consider myself quite a professional. There is still so much I want to learn. Then I saw this:

Harvard Is Putting Its Photography Classes Online For Free

What a better place to learn than from one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And it is free. There are 12 modules that teach you everything from light, exposure, to software tools. There is a lot to learn here for anyone I think, and as soon as I am finished writing my master’s thesis, I plan on taking the course to see what I can learn.

If anyone decides to take the course in the near future, please let me know what you think of it. I’m really interested in taking it but will not be able to get to it till at least this summer.

Fort Pickens – Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

Before Christmas I had the chance to visit Fort Pickens on the Gulf Shores National Seashore near Pensacola, Florida. I have been to Pensacola and the beach there too many times to count, but I had never ventured down to the end of the beach where Fort Pickens has sat since the 1800s. I am glad I finally did.

Fort Pickens is a historic fort on Santa Rosa Island named after a Revolutionary War hero, Andrew Pickens. The fort was completed in 1834 and was used for over a hundred years until 1947.

The fort served with two others, Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas, that served to protect the entry to Pensacola Bay. Between the three forts the entire entry to the bay was protected. The area has another interesting fact in that some historians argue that this is where the first shots of the Civil War occurred.

On the night of January 8, 1861 Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer, who was in charge of Fort Barrancas, repelled a few local men intent on taking over the fort. Two days later Florida seceded from the Union and Slemmer left Fort Barrancas. Before he did, he spiked the guns and destroyed the gunpowder at Fort McRee moving his troops and arms to Fort Pickens because he felt it was the easiest to defend. After reinforcements, Fort Pickens remained in the hands of the Union throughout the war being one of the few military forts in the south to stay with the Union.

As time moved on, captives from the Indian Wars were sent here including Geronimo, and Apache war chief, who spent nearly a year here in captivity. Along with a few of his warriors, Geronimo’s family was brought to the fort as well. Eventually the military would move him and his warriors back west.

With new advancements in military science and weapons, Fort Pickens was turned into a more modern defense installation. Several batteries were built including the eventual Battery Pensacola which was built in the middle of Fort Pickens.

Here you can see the back of Battery Pensacola, the black section, built in the middle of Fort Pickens (the brick walls).

One if the interesting parts, or missing parts perhaps, of Fort Pickens is the huge hole in the outer wall. On June 20, 1899 a fire reached a magazine containing 8,000 pounds of black powder exploding and destroying Bastion D. An entire corner of the fort was blown away sending debris over 1.5 miles away. Surprisingly there was only a single fatality.

This is a view looking down on where Bastion D would have once stood. Instead there is a huge hole in the fort from the explosion.

The fort became apart of the National Parks Service in 1971 when it was added to Gulf Islands National Seashore. You can find out more information about visiting, camping, and fees from the National Parks Service website at – https://www.nps.gov/guis/index.htm

To see more of my photography of the fort and the surrounding area or to purchase a print, visit my gallery by clicking on the Galleries button above.

Happy New Year!!

Sunset along the Mississippi River in New Orleans

Happy New Year!

While many people look at 2016 as the year that took so many celebrities, I would rather look at it as a year in which I was fortunate to travel to two new states, drive the Alcan Highway, and see 10 new national parks (2 in Canada) over the course of the summer.

The new year brings us new opportunity. No matter how you feel 2016 was, it is over now and it is time to move on with a positive outlook on 2017. So whether you want to lose weight, travel more, save money, or start a new job go into it with a positive attitude and make the best of what is to come. Life is too short to worry about the small stuff.

While I am not good with resolutions for the new year, well not good at keeping them anyway. I am going to make it a point to do a few things during this trip around the sun. First of all, I want to get outside more. Being outside relieves stress and is definitely something I’d like to do more of. Besides, I tend to have my camera more when I am out. Secondly, I want to try and find the joy in something small every day. Whether that is taking time to just enjoy my coffee, or enjoy somebody’s company with a nice conversation. We do not need huge big moments in our lives to find joy in our lives.

So Happy New Year! Go out, explore, create, and be happy.

Welcome to Down that Dusty Trail

Welcome to my photography blog. I love getting out with my camera and taking photos. It is therapy for me to get outside and work to try and create shots. Most of what I do is either landscape or photographing some sort of building somewhere. I also love skylines and hope to get out in the coming months to get a few new cities under my belt.

Here on the blog you will also find where I am headed and where I have been. I plan on writing about my trips including my recent trips to Florida and Tennessee. I am also planning a few weekend trips to Austin and Dallas to shoot a few skylines and other landmarks including the Texas state capital building.

Please comment or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

So welcome and ’till next time.