Sunday, June 22, 2008

Texas is like a whole 'nuther country ... and you can see it without emptying your pockets

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Don’t cancel the family road trip just yet.
Yes, gas prices are high, but if the destination charges no admission, then a vacation could still be affordable.
In Texas alone, there are at least 120 price-free tourist attractions. That’s how many Tab Lloyd of Nolanville discusses in her book, “Free Texas: Free Things to See and Do in the Lone Star State.”
“It’s good timing that I wrote the book when I did,” Mrs. Lloyd said. “I wrote it as I traveled Texas last summer. That let the book be out now, when gas is so much.”
Her hope is that families will visit the historic Texan sites she’s described, so that little ones can learn about their state’s heritage while spending quality time with siblings and parents.
Helping others learn is important to the author, for Mrs. Lloyd’s primary passion is teaching. She’s a third-grade teacher at Sparta Elementary in Belton.
“Writing the book last summer was a challenge,”
she said. “It was due to the publisher (Xavier House Publishing) by Aug. 15, so I had a limited number of weeks to get it done between then and the last day of school.”
The writing effort launched what would become a 3½-month vacation for Mrs. Lloyd, her husband, Stuart, and their two sons.
“It cost more than a regular vacation,” Mrs. Lloyd said. “But, as a family, we were committed to see all these places and to get the book done.”
Mrs. Lloyd wrote each evening after a day of vacationing while Mr. Lloyd served as co-editor and photographer. The boys contributed comments, entertainment and enthusiasm.
As the Lloyds roamed the roads of Texas, they saw some interesting things.
One was the 45,000 pound, 24 foot fire hydrant at the Texas Fire Museum parking lot in Beaumont.
“It was created in 1999 to promote the video of “101 Dalmatians,” Mrs. Lloyd wrote in her book. “While it’s not the world’s largest hydrant, it is the world’s largest working hydrant.” (The largest is a four-story hydrant sculpture in a parking lot on Taylor Street in Columbia, S.C.)
Not surprising, the Fire Museum of Texas is geared for children. Its attractions are hands-on, including a model fire truck that kids can explore and a house where children can practice fire drills.
The museum’s got a lot to offer to history scholars as well. It houses fire-rescue artifacts from the 1937 New London School Explosion and the 1947 Texas City Disaster. And it has a horse-drawn fire wagon from 1865 and a hand pump that was used to fight fires in 1779 China. (More information is available at www.firemuseumoftexas.org and 409-880-3927.)
The Lloyds also stopped at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farmstead at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park in Stonewall.
“It’s a working farm, and the people working it dress like early Texas farmers,” Mrs. Lloyd said. “They also speak like people did then, stepping out of character only to explain a term.”
The Lloyd family learned that life on a German Texan farm 1915-1918 wasn’t easy. As visitors, the Lloyds were asked to help with the daily chores. There were cows to be milked, chickens to be fed, eggs to collect and sheep to tend.
“Visitors will find (the visit) enjoyable as they learn about that way of life,” Mrs. Lloyd said. (More information is available at http://communication.utexas.edu/sauerbeckmann and 830-644-2252.)
The Val Verde Winery in Del Rio gets a thumbs-up from the Lloyd crew too, even though the youngsters didn’t get to taste the wine. To do so, visitors must be 21 or older.
“It’s the only winery in Texas to have received the 100-year Land Heritage Award from the Department of Agriculture,” Mrs. Lloyd said.
The winery was established in 1883 by Frank Qualia, an Italian immigrant. His great-grandson, Thomas, now runs the business. (More information is available at www.valverdewinery.com or 830-775-9714.)
The Lloyds got to see a lot of places, but the fun they had as a family is the true treasure of their book-writing venture. The travelling time gave them memories that will last forever.
“Time on a road trip is time you never have. It’s so valuable,” Mrs. Lloyd said. “Sure, you see the kids in the evenings, but that’s the time for supper and homework. Vacation time is time to just learn, be and play.”

To get a copy
Visit a Barnes & Noble Bookstore or www.xavier-house.com/books.html. The cost is $14.95, and there's no shipping charge from the Xavier site. To buy a signed copy from author Tab Lloyd, email tablloyd@gmail.com.

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