Monthly Archives: January 2020

Estrella Warbirds and Autos

While in Paso Robles, Ruth & I looked for other sights to visit besides winery tasting rooms.  It was Monday, not the best day for tourism.  Two attractions we hoped to see, Sensorio and the Pioneer Museum, were not available.  Sensorio’s Field of Light has been so popular that it has been extended until the end of June 2020.  Perhaps it will be continued beyond then.  In any event, it can only be seen in the evenings from Thursday through Sunday.   The Pioneer Museum was closed on  Mondays.  Too bad since Paso Robles has a curious and interesting past.  It was once known as a mineral bath and cowboy town, but wine-making has taken over.

We went to the Estrella Warbirds Museum but it was closed too.  However, a delightful couple who volunteer their time there, just happened to be leaving as we were arriving.  Judy and Gary offered to show us around.  They even invited us back the next morning to learn  more.  Thanks to them and other directors there for a meeting, we got a thorough tour and lots of personal information about this attraction’s mission.  Judy and Gary have a 30 year history with the place.  Estrella is an expanding operation and a must for those who like airplanes and cars.  The upside is below: the downside is that Estrella is the kind of place that puts everything it’s given on display.  Ruth and I heard some great stories but would not have been as entertained if not for our accommodating hosts.

For example, we got to see the restored C-47 that a contingent of locals was able to take to the 75th D-Day Commemoration in Normandy last year.  A bottle of red from the Paso Robles Eberle winery that was on the plane, “Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber”, was on display.  Gary found the excursion to France memorable.  I learned from him that Estrella is expanding by building a new hangar.  Ruth bristled when Gary and Judy told her about the treatment of Air Force Women during World War II as we looked at a display honoring WASPs.  There were more than a thousand females in the Women Airforce Service Pilots wing of the U.S. Air Force back then.  Civilian volunteers, these women learned to fly and test planes but many were killed in the process.   They not only received no pay, they had to buy their own uniforms.


The Estrella Warbirds Museum is located near the Paso Robles Municipal Airport that was an Army Air Corps P-38 base during World War II.  I enjoyed looking at the being-restored and fully-restored planes in the Warbirds collection.  I also really derived considerable pleasure in seeing the Woodland Auto Display in its own building.  This is an impressive and comprehensive collection of classic cars like the 1931 Packard above, but its specialty is street rods and sprint and sports cars that have more meaning since the recent success of Ford v Ferrari.  Dating myself, I must admit that seeing one of veteran actor Steve McQueen’s motorcycles was a thrill.   There were only 6 of the “All Weather Sport Sedan” Packards built, and it’s assumed that only 3 of them survive, including this beauty on display in Paso Robles.



England’s Broadway Entertains

Passenger service on the British railway system came to Broadway in the Cotswolds in 1904 but abandoned it in 1960.  Now the only way to go there by land is to travel by car or take Brit Rail to Cheltenham and then a Marchants bus to Broadway.  Should visitors to Great Britain do this?  Indeed, they should.   I was told to avoid Broadway in the summer because the streets are crowded with Brits and tourists.   There is no bus service on Sunday so the only way to see Broadway on Sunday is by car.  Broadway was listed in my January 9 blog named  “2019 and 2020 Destinations” as one of Ruth & my favorites.  It certainly was.

Broadway is a place of shops, tea parlors, period homes and limestone cottages.  Simply strolling about town is what I most enjoyed doing.  High Street, its main thoroughfare, is lined with horse chestnut trees and beautiful homes.  I saw resplendent gardens and many quaint dwellings both on High Street and beyond.  In very gentle British hill country in the 787 square miles of The Cotswolds, Broadway is 17 miles from Cheltenham, one of its largest communities, and close to many desirable destinations like Oxford, Gloucester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Winchcombe and Bath.  At one point on my Broadway walk I was mistaken for a professional photographer who was there to photograph a special place.  Both Ruth and I especially enjoyed our time in Tisanes Tea Room.

Broadway has a diverse history.  It began as a stagecoach stop with lots of inns and developed into a wool trading capital.  Just above is a Cotswold Lion, its traditional sheep breed.  Its ancestors were Longwool sheep introduced by occupying Romans.  In 1683 many locals gave their curiosity cabinets to Oxford to create England’s 1st public museum now known around the world as The Ashmolean.  Some remain in the Broadway Museum on High Street.  In the 19th century Broadway was discovered by many artists like John Singer Sargent and writers like Arthur Conan Doyle.  They visited often, partied here, and gave Broadway a national reputation.  After that the Arts and Craft movement became important locally because of Gordon Russell.

While there, it’s a good idea to spend time in the Gordon Russell Design Museum, the Broadway Tourist Information Centre, and especially the Ashmolean Museum (blogged under the title “Accessible Broadway on August 8, 2019).  Also, walk or ride to the curious Broadway Tower built by Capability Brown in 1798, which is not exactly in town.  Frank Millet, who was born in Massachusetts but lived in Broadway, and his wife Lily started an artists’ colony to engage and entertain many writers and artists in the 19th century more than a hundred years after The Tower was built.  Frank later died on the Titanic when it sank in 1912.  The Tower is a genuine oddity.






An escarpment is a steep slope or long cliff resulting from erosion or faulting.  There are 22 escarpments in the United States.  The first one I saw was the Mogollon Rim near Payson, AZ.  The 2nd one was Caprock.  When I saw it, I was in Caprock Canyon State Park south of Palo Duro Canyon surrounded by bison.  At the time I did not know that Caprock was part of an escarpment.  The 3rd was the Balcones that can be seen in both Austin and Waco, TX.  Escarpments result in high cliffs and dramatic canyons. They are also called beastledges.

The Mogollon Rim is a geological oddity that crosses Arizona for 200 miles starting in Yavapai County and going east to the New Mexico border. This is pronounced “muggy on” and is basically a massive wall of rock often topped by pine forest.  There is a narrow, unpaved forest road (F.R. 300) on top of the Mogollon that someone made a video of and posted on YouTube if you want to experience it.  I was able to stand about half of it.  The truck is red, few cars are passed, and there is no commentary.  Another YouTube video gives aerial views of Mogollon and is far more beautiful and interesting.

In Texas the Balcones Escarpment caused The Hill Country to happen.  It extends from south of Waco to Del Rio, where it’s about 1,000 feet high.  The best place to see it in Waco is Cameron Park.  Emmons Cliff there above the Brazos River is part of the Austin Chalk Escarpment that joins the Balcones. This is sometimes called the Balcones Fault because it once was the scene of major earthquakes, but not any more.

My favorite escarpment is now Caprock and the state park called Caprock Canyon, while remote, has a very fine visitor center where the staff loves to talk about bison.  The herd can often be seen in the park, and its members are descendants of the Goodnight herd that formed when this animal faced extinction.

The 2 photos here are of Caprock, but they were not taken in the state park.



At The Getty Center

It was so close to the mountainside museum complex that it was called The Getty Fire.   It was caused by a tree branch landing near power lines.   Closed from October 28 to November 2, 2019, the Getty Center itself was never at risk although the fire came close to the tram up to it.  This was a serious conflagration: 656 acres burned.  It could have been an art world disaster if it had impacted the Getty directly.   These monumental museums contain a priceless art collection and the world’s largest art library.

The Getty’s next major exhibit, Michelangelo:  Mind of the Master, will run from February 15 to June 7, 2020.  It is destined to be a blockbuster.  This exhibit explores the full range of Michelangelo’s work with more than 20 of his drawings for the Sistene Chapel’s ceiling.  They are owned by the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands oldest art museum, which has never let them travel to the United States before.  The Getty organized this show with the Cleveland Museum of Art.  It has now closed in Cleveland.  Its stay at The Getty Center will end its visit to this country.  The Teylers opened in 1784 and will be renovated while its Michelangelo’s are away.

The Getty is a marvel like its JMW Turner ship painting above called “Van Tromp, Going About to Please… Getting a Good Wetting”.  It’s free but it costs $20 to park in its structure down by the entrance before taking the tram up to the complex that contains several buildings.  Some walk the 3/4 mile path up to it.  The buildings in the complex with gardens on the mountain contain the Getty’s collection of antiques, paintings, drawings, and sculptures.  I spent a lot of time this time looking at its extensive photograph collection, but the Museum’s Acquisitions in just 2019 in the North Pavilion was the star of my day.  The Getty opens at 10 am.  Plan to spend an entire day here while experiencing museum burnout and tired feet if you come to see the Michelangelo show.  If you decide to take a Collection Highlights or another tour that will be on the schedule you’ll be handed, be advised that they fill-up fast, and only those who have waited by the information desk in the entrance hall get on them.  I recommend being there at least ½ hour before its scheduled time if you really want a tour.  Ruth & I tried to get on 2 and failed both times.  Sunday is a really busy day.

The acquisitions made up for it.  I could not believe that this museum had acquired so much pottery, glittering objects, furniture, and art works in just one year.  I asked a curator if this was truly one year’s purchases, and he assured me that it was and spoke of the Getty fortune that makes such abundance possible each calendar year.  The German display cabinet below sometimes called a cabinet of curiosities is just an example.  They were popular in the 17th century when scientific discoveries were common but museums were not.



San Angelo’s Fort Concho

In preparation for a trip to Texas, I’ve been reading an old book about its history called Lone Star.  First published about 50 years ago, it’s a real lap filler of more than 700 pages and not especially politically correct.  It does fill in some of the colorful and astonishing details about the formation of this oversized state that’s like no other.  Texas has had far more history than most others states.  I was surprised when I came across a reference to a Texas landmark that Ruth and I visited early in 2019.  In a few sentences, Lone Star captures the importance of Fort Concho.   When I was there, I saw what remains of a frontier fort like so many others in the Plains States, but I don’t think I realized exactly how important it was.  Fort Concho was in the middle of a line of cavalry forts built after the Civil War from Mexico to Canada between 2 warring groups.  To the west  were the vast plains and plateaus where Native Americans, especially Comanches and Kiowas, roamed free and chased buffalo.  To the east were the farms and homesteads of settlers from the states east of the Mississippi River and many European countries.  The inevitable clashes were to be controlled by the soldiers at Fort Concho and others up and down central Texas.

Right in the middle of this state, San Angelo was a big surprise.  Despite an excellent visitor center, it seemed to be resisting  the tourism that has brought hordes of outsiders and the trouble they bring with them.  Its attractions were modest, not  Disneyesque.   Fort Concho was its biggest tourist lure, but I was one of only 2 exploring it on a comfortable and sunny winter afternoon.  There were many others there, but they were locals having meetings and setting up what appeared to be a gala event for other Fort Angelians.  More than one person who enjoyed Christmas at Old Fort Concho told me that the best thing to do in town was walk along the Concho River.

Fort Concho was established 2 years after the Civil War ended and lasted for only 22 years.  The buildings constructed of native limestone were typical of frontier forts.  There were once 40 buildings here housing calvary, infantry, officers and support personnel.  Fort Concho’s function deemed fulfilled, it was deactivated in 1889 and became residences and commercial ventures that preserved 23 of its original buildings.   Others, like the hospital that was struck by lightning and partially burned have been restored.  African American Buffalo Soldiers were stationed here.  Most fort personnel were a mobile police force of about 350 men and 35 to 50 officers trying to control trouble on the frontier.  Barracks One has become a visitors’ center.  Tours can include its temporary and permanent exhibits, 2 other barracks, the stables, headquarters, and some officers quarters.  Some of its ordinary frontier buildings have been furnished in period decor to show what Concho must have been like, or they contain museums like the R. H. Danner Museum of Telephony, which is more interesting than it sounds, and a museum of frontier medicine.

Despite having shrunk to 40 acres, seeing Fort Concho requires a lot of walking.   It was worth seeing,  but once was enough.