Look at the Lone-Star State
by Norma Crosby
From the Editor: Norma Crosby is one of the leaders of the NFB of Texas. She is also unabashedly proud of her native state. In the following article she suggests some of the reasons why you just might want to spend a few extra days in Texas before or after the 1998 convention. This is what Norma says:
Texans talk about Texas a lot. In fact, I've been told that folks from other states occasionally become weary of our ramblings, though I don't know why. It seems perfectly natural to all of us to tell everyone all about the glories of living in this big, wonderful, diverse state, which has something special to offer everyone. Why, I'll bet if you visit Texas for a few days you'll begin to feel finer than cream gravy. After all, we have the coldest long necks, the biggest margaritas, the best barbeque, the hottest jalapenos, the richest oil wells, the tastiest cattle, the wildest horses, the friendliest people, and the most beautiful scenery in the world. Oops! There I go again. Now that I have most of the bragging out of the way, let me give you a few facts about the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Texas in general, which will make you want to come early and do a little sightseeing or stay over and enjoy more of our beautiful state.
Texas is the second largest state in the Union in land mass. Its area is approximately 367,000 square miles. So it is not possible to see all of Texas in a day, a week, or even a month. Let me explain a little further. Houston is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from our convention hotel. Austin is a similar distance, though not in the same direction. It would take about six hours to drive to San Antonio and perhaps nine hours to reach Corpus Christi. If you wanted to visit Brownsville, which is on our southern border with Mexico, you would need to drive for about eleven hours. El Paso is our westernmost city, and if you plan a driving trip from the Hyatt to El Paso, you might have to stop halfway and buy a new car to complete the 665-mile trip. Of course, if you fly, most of these destinations can be reached in one to three hours, depending on whether or not you are able to get a direct flight. You should definitely consider a visit to at least one of the cities I have mentioned. They each have much to offer.
Austin is the home of our beautiful state capital, Barton Springs (a natural spring which is used for swimming throughout the summer months), miles of hike and bike trails, the famous Sixth Street entertainment district, and much more. Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, and on any night you can find some of this country's finest musicians playing throughout the city.
San Antonio is probably the most visited city in Texas. It is home to Fiesta Texas and the world-famous Riverwalk. Of course the Alamo sits in the middle of downtown San Antonio, and you can visit historic missions throughout the area. Market Square houses shops, restaurants, bars, and souvenir vendors. Many of the shops specialize in merchandise relating to Texas or Mexico.
Houston is Texas's boomtown. It is brash, bold, and beautiful. It is home to NASA, the Galleria, the Houston Rockets, and oil. Oil and space made Houston what it is today, and high-tech businesses are making it what it will be in the future.
Houston experienced some minor setbacks in the 1980's, but today it is back and better than ever. I often refer to it as a big country town. It is friendly, and although it can't claim to be as beautiful as Austin or as sophisticated as Dallas, it can lay claim to variety. There is enough variety throughout its 600 square miles to tantalize and stimulate any interests. Besides that, it has its own playground. We call it Galveston Island.
Galveston boasts thirty-two miles of beaches and was once the playground of the rich and famous. Today visitors can tour wonderfully restored historic homes or swim all day. The Strand Historic District is a shopper's paradise, and if you get tired of shopping, you can make a trip to the Railroad Museum located at Strand and 25th Streets. Waterskiing, fishing, boating, and lounging in the sun are big attractions on Galveston Bay, and there are plenty of first-class restaurants and clubs to complete the Galveston experience.
Corpus Christi is located in the southern part of the state and is another city by the sea. Just walking along its seawall is a pleasant and relaxing experience. The entire city seems to be located on the shoreline, and, although refineries and other industrial plants are located in Corpus, which has the deepest port on the Texas coast, they are mostly hidden from view. So the beauty of the city is not spoiled. Corpus is the home port for the USS Lexington and the USS Wisconsin, and early in this decade the city opened the Texas State Aquarium in a six-acre park across the ship channel from Bayfront Plaza, the city's cultural center. Then there is Padre Island. Only the northernmost part and the southern tip of this 113-mile barrier island are commercially developed. The eighty miles between are part of the Padre Island National Seashore, which many consider the most beautiful stretch of natural beach in the country.
At the southern tip of Texas sits Brownsville. Some say that it could also be called "Bargainsville" because it presents the opportunity for a fun and inexpensive vacation. Brownsville has a population of only about 100,000, but it sits just across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, which has a population of about 350,000. Many of the locals think of the two cities as one, and people cross the two bridges that connect the cities freely every day. Brownsville's downtown shopping district can present a challenge to those of us who speak only English because Spanish is the predominant language spoken there. If you want to visit Mexico during your vacation, Brownsville would be an excellent base of operations.
Another Texas city which leads to Mexico is El Paso, which is Texas's westernmost city. El Paso is the fourth largest city in the state, and while most of Texas is on Central Time, this part of the state is on Mountain Time. Like Brownsville and Matamoros, El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, are sister cities, and the cultures blend into one. Travel between the two cities is so free that there are more than three million crossings at this part of the border each month. For many years there was a good deal of friction over which country owned certain lands in this area because the Rio Grande River was the official border, and it had a habit of shifting its course and moving land that had once been on the Mexican side to our side and vice-versa. This problem was resolved by a treaty in 1968, and things have been much more peaceful in the years since. You should visit El Paso for its historic beauty, but remember that it is also a large and modern city with plenty of good hotels, restaurants, and night life.
Finally, we should talk a little about the two major cities nearest our convention headquarters. Dallas is considered by many to be Texas's most cultured and sophisticated city. Contrary to the image portrayed on the television show named after the city, Dallas did not become a large city because of its own oil money. Rather, Dallas is in the business of business. In the book All About Texas, Lewis Nordyke said: "Dallas has found a successful way to let other Texans and the residents of some other states milk the cows and haul the manure, and Dallas gets the cream." Dallas's major growth took place after World War II, and it developed an economy based on high tech, insurance, finance, fashion, and film. It is the third largest fashion market in the country and the third largest film industry. It is also a major convention city, which greets more than two million conventioneers each year.
Dallas has diverse neighborhoods ranging from the Park Cities to Deep Ellum and the Arts District; a variety of museums and galleries, from the outstanding Dallas Museum of Art to the emotion-evoking Memorial Center for Holocaust Studies; cuisine of all kinds, from Southwestern and Continental to traditional Tex- Mex and barbecue; plus a wide variety of entertainment, activities, and side trips.
While in Dallas you should consider a visit to Science Place I, which houses large-scale exhibits that change periodically;
Science Place II, a great place for children, with hands-on exhibits and other exhibits which educate in an entertaining way;
Sixth Floor Kennedy Exhibit, housed in the building where the shots that killed John Kennedy were fired (but the exhibits depict life during that time and not the assassination); and the Telephone Pioneer Museum of Texas, with hands-on exhibits and activities that children will enjoy, which traces the history and future of the telephone.
Visiting Fort Worth is definitely different from making a trip to Dallas. Fort Worth is called "Cowtown." It began as an outpost to protect residents of Dallas and other Texans from Indian raids. Then a city grew up around the fort because Fort Worth sat along the Chisholm Trail. It was the last stop cowboys could make before entering the Oklahoma Indian Territory when driving cattle to Kansas. So it became a major supply outpost for the trail riders. Today many still consider it a country kind of town, but you might be surprised at all that Fort Worth has to offer. Yes, Fort Worth is home to cowboys, the Chisholm Trail, and the Stockyards, where steaks come bigger than platters. It is also home to great opera, world-class art museums, excellent jazz, a zoo, a planetarium, and the largest science and history museum in the Southwest. Fort Worth is eclectic, and once you visit it, you'll want to come back.
As you can see, Texas has something to offer every visitor, and the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas hope that we will have the opportunity to offer you some of our world-famous hospitality this summer. Take a plane, a boat, a bus, or walk if you have to, but remember that you'll be sorry if you miss this convention, and so will we.
Make your hotel reservations as soon as possible. Our hotel rates are singles, $41; doubles and twins, $43; triples, $45; and quads, $47. There will be no charge for children rooming with their parents as long as no additional beds are required. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12 percent.
To make your reservation, write directly to Hyatt-Regency DFW, Post Office Box 619014, International Parkway, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Texas 75261, or call (972) 453-1234. Hyatt has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize not) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the hotel. The hotel will want a deposit of $50 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $50 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 15, 1998, $25 of the $50 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.