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April 30, 2017

WANDERING THROUGH WACO, TEXAS

It never occurred to me that a city such as Waco would keep me occupied for a few days. I think of larger Texas cities such as Dallas and Houston to keep me busy. Waco, as it turns out, is about an hour plane ride from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, although that may not be the actual air time, if you know what I mean.

That Dallas airport is huge and just getting to the next plane to Waco was a trip in itself. Arriving, I checked into the Hilton Waco that looked out upon the Brazos River. I had use of the VIP lounge that gave me access to breakfast, snacks, refreshments and a spread of some pretty good food during the early evening.

Rather than "dine" there, I opted to eat at Diamond Back's restaurant, located within walking distance from the hotel. In fact there was a shopping center of restaurants and the River Square Center's Spice Village on the second floor of what was previously a set of warehouses.

A tower of tuna was the opening to my meal. Chopped raw tuna atop rice and guacamole with seaweed salad. Needless to say, I had to have a steak for my entree. Steak stuffed with crab meat and a few large shrimp. After several years of not drinking carbonated beverages, I tasted Dr. Pepper knowing that I would later visit the museum.

The next morning I was off to Uncle Dan's BBQ to see how they make both their delicious smoked meats as well as their famous potato salads. They have two of which they are most known for their "White Potato Salad". I not only watched them make six batches but hand tossed one of them. The Idaho potatoes are cooked, pealed and then sit for a bit to cool before the process. Rather than sliced, they are put into a machine that sort of chops it. Placed into large pans, the ingredients are added in a particular order. If I remember correctly, it included chopped onions, garlic powder, salt, celery salt, mayonnaise, parsley and one special ingredient that really adds to the flavor.

As for the meats, the secret to the taste and juiciness lies in the oven, which looks more like a huge rotisserie. The meat is placed on the rack and as it goes around, the juices fall upon the other meats. BBQ sauce is added afterward.

I later returned for lunch to taste test all. It was truly the best BBQ I've encountered anywhere and as for the potato salad, it was addicting-ly scrumptious. I dare to find a restaurant to top this one. There was also a yellow potato salad which basically differed in that mustard, relish and some other ingredients were added.

There is this wonderful park in Waco called Cameron Park. Along with lots of areas for playing the park has a zoo. I had the opportunity to do a behind-the-scenes tour here and loved it. So did Esther and Eunice. After seeing this beautifully marked tiger, we got to watch an orangutan being trained and not necessarily to do tricks. It was more for the trainers to be able to inspect the health of the animal. Onto some unusual dragons. This one was small compared to the size that they grow to.

Next came these cute meerkats, a lion and then onto my feeding and petting a giraffe. From there it was a leopard and tortoise. There are loads of king vultures all around that even mingle with the bears. Also an island of lemurs. Wouldn't you know that my camera's battery went low when I got to Homestead Heritage, which I wrote about in a previous article.

It was an early start the next day as I got a tour of the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum located in the campus of Baylor University in Waco. It's renowned for its Robert Browning and Elizabeth Browning collections. The biggies are the great bronze door depicting themes from both Elizabeth and Robert Browning's poetry, 62 stained glass windows and antique furniture that reflects the lives of the two poets. You can view some of the poetry on the stained glass windows and view the Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon as one of the rooms. Don’t miss the Meditation room where there is a cast of Robert and Elizabeth’s hand holding each other and a verse of Elizabeth’s famous, “How do I love thee” sonnet.

Esther, Eunice and I went to the Waco Mammoth Site. Here is the full story and information about the site (taken from their website) "On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to the Strecker Museum at Baylor University for examination.

The bone was identified as Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). Museum staff members quickly organized a team of volunteers and excavation began at the site.

Using hand tools such as brushes and bamboo scrapers, crews slowly excavated a lost world. Between 1978 and 1990, the fossil remains of 16 Columbian mammoths were discovered.

The Waco Mammoth Site now includes a breathtaking dig shelter that creates an atmosphere of an art gallery. Natural light floods into the shelter from all directions and a suspended walkway provides a stunning overhead view of the mammoths.

The site also features a scenic trailway complete with benches and rest areas where visitors can reflect on what life was like during the age of the mammoths.

As you enter the Waco Mammoth Site, you will see the Welcome Center that is located next to the parking lot. The Welcome Center includes a gift shop and a ticket counter.”

Afterward we went to the Dr. Pepper Museum, which is all about the soft drink. The museum is in Waco but if you want the Dr. Pepper drink that uses sugar vs corn syrup, that location is in Dublin, Tx.

Outside the entrance are old trucks used to transport the soda. Aside from hearing about how the soft drink got started, how it's prepared and lots of things to see in the collection, I was able to create my own soft drink using seltzer and choosing three flavors. My favorite was one that I called "Tropical Chicken" consisting of mostly cherry, lime and lemon. Then there was one that I didn't name using banana, mango and pineapple.

They also have a café with a soda fountain as well as a gift shop. One interesting thing that we looked at were products using Dr. Pepper such as a syrup and BBQ sauce. Hmmm….Dr. Pepper syrup atop ice cream. Dr. Pepper cheesecake…endless thoughts. Back to New York. For further information on Waco go to www.wacocvb.com

March 10, 2011 - Queens Times

 


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