Texas: “Gig ‘Em, Aggies!”

We’re heading to Florida. Finally! We’ve been RV’ing for 10 years, and up to now, still haven’t make it to the big, sunny thumb of the nation. But first, we gotta get there! We left gorgeous, 70-degree Arizona, and the first day … this.

Yup, that’s snow out the RV bedroom window. In southern New Mexico. Where it rarely snow! The first five days of journeying were just that … bone-chilling cold … wet … windy. Ugh! And boring. West Texas is a drag … endless miles of nothing. Except trucks. Lots and lots of trucks. We’re the tiny kids on this block!

Beyond truck stops and roadside overnights and the overwhelming tedium of West Texas, we found a little slice of nature and some hiking in South Llano State Park, where one of many resident armadillos didn’t seem to mind the cold one bit.

Our first “real” stop, besides overnights, was College Station, Texas, an entire town basically built around the enormous Texas A & M campus.

Many illustrious and wealthy members of society have graduated from Texas A&M. Rich ones like Bill Haynes, class of 1946, who was rich enough to buy a campus plaza named after himself, with a giant replica of his class ring. There’s also a time capsule inside, to be opened in 2046.

Why did we stop in Aggieland? To visit the the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, located on campus.

This is our 6th of the 13 official Presidential Libraries managed by the National Archives, though there are many other smaller, independent ones, too. This one, of course, was dedicated to the 41st President, who was one of only two father/son duos to both serve as President. Can you guess the other? (Hint: it starts with “A”.)

This museum is on the smaller side, but houses some cool things like a World War II Avenger Torpedo Bomber (which he crashed into the ocean during the the War), a 1947 Studebaker (which he drove to Texas after leaving Yale University), and precise replicas of Camp David, the Situation Room, and the Oval Office.

Outside, a gorgeous statue memorializes the fall of the Berlin Wall, which occurred during Bush’s tenancy. The graffiti beneath the horses is an exact replication of graffiti on the real wall. The “sister” casting is on permanent display at the Allied Museum in Berlin.

The museum grounds are also the final resting place of George Sr., wife Barbara, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia when she was 3-1/2 years old.

But back to Aggieland. The “A & M” in Texas A&M stands for “Agricultural and Mechanical,” but a visit to Bottle Cap Alley might have you thinking it stands for “Alcohol and Mess.” Here, hundreds of thousands of weathered bottle caps, dumped into an alley amongst the downtown bars, mark the existence of generations of thirsty students.

The rallying cry of the college (because what is a college really, without a rallying cry) came when the team was playing the TCU Horned Frogs in 1930. They started shouting, “Gig ’em, Aggies,” holding up their hands with the thumb up as if holding a spear used in the great tradition of Texas frog hunting (yes, a thing). And thus, the “first hand sign in the history of the Southwest Conference” was born. And you thought it just meant “yeah!” or “ok!”

Leaving Texas, our last stop was in Beaumont, for another addition to my ongoing nationwide Muffler Man scavenger hunt. Behold, the “Happy Half-Wit!” (Note to the PC Police: not my term.) He’s one of very few half-wit variations still to be found.

25 feet tall and clearly inspired by MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, this guy is one of surprisingly few (of the remaining 180 or so Muffler Men) to actually be holding a muffler. His attire is also muffler-inspired, with a tool-adorned belt, and a muffler exhaust clamp earring.

And thus he joins our so-far collection, which includes cowboys, baseball players, lumberjacks, and more! Because … goals. 5 down, 175 to go! Wheee!

We’re leaving Texas and headed to Lake Charles, LA, for the second-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state! Parades, king cake, purple and green outfits, krewe floats, party beads, and Fat Tuesday, here we come!

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