Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dallas, Texas

National Meeting and a little Sightseeing
Texas School Book Depository
I spent the week in Dallas, Texas for an annual national sales meeting, and as much as it pains a Philadelphia Eagles fan to say this, it's a nice city. The meeting was great, the hotel was very nice (the Hilton Anatole), the food was terrific, and I had a chance to see a few historic sites (however briefly). And I also managed to squeeze in 5 geocaches, making Texas a new state for me, my 19th.

Over the course of the week, we ate very well. The food at the hotel was terrific, and we had a couple dinners out at places that I really enjoyed. One was at an upscale Mexican restaurant named Javier's, and another was at a place called Gilley's (after Mickey Gilley, country music star of days gone by). Javier's was fantastic Mexican cuisine (not TexMex tacos and the like), while Gilley's was a touristy Texas roadhouse place complete with line dancing lessons, calf roping (from a fake horse, on a fake calf) and mechanical bull riding. It was pretty hokey, but had a certain charm I guess, and the barbecue was pretty good.

View down Elm Street (Grassy Knoll on right)
The business trip was a Tuesday through Friday meeting that required a flight down on Monday afternoon due to available flight scheduling. The meeting didn't actually start until Tuesday around lunchtime, so that left Tuesday morning mostly free. As any good geocacher would, I had figured out where my hotel was located and what was nearby, and was happy to find that there were a number of geocaches within reasonable walking distance of my hotel. Additionally, the historic district of the city was less than two miles away, and was an easy $10 cab ride away.

I got up at a reasonable hour on Tuesday morning and got a cab to Pioneer Plaza in the historic district. There were two virtual caches there within a couple hundred yards of each other, and virtuals are rare enough that they are worth seeking out. The first one, Rush Hour, was a giant group statue of a cattle drive,  complete with separate life sized statues of a trail boss, his herd, and other cowboys. It was a cool thing to see, and was my first Texas cache. On the other side of the Plaza, beyond a very old cemetery, was Men in the Gray Flannel Suits, a virtual that brought me to a very nice Confederate monument. Being a history buff in general, and a Civil War history buff in specific, I always love it when a cache brings me to a place like this.

Fence corner on the Grassy Knoll
After spending some time looking at the old graves and marveling at the history laid to rest here, I began the three or four tenths of a mile walk to Dealey Plaza. My third and final virtual cache was to be The Grassy Knoll, a monument at the site of the John F Kennedy assassination. I intentionally saved this as the last of the three virtuals I was trying to get in this area because I was afraid (and rightly so) that if I went to this one first I might well just spend all my time wandering around... looking... thinking... taking pictures. I am glad that I went in the order that I did, or that may well have been true.

As a history buff, there are certain places that evoke a very strong feeling, and despite the fact that the JFK assassination happened before I was born, this location was very powerful.

Kill Shot?
Approaching from the southeast, I had great views of the current County Administration building that was the Texas School Book Repository at the time, with the 6th floor windows in plain view. Elm Street itself bends in an "S" curve down the slope from the intersection below the building, passes beneath the slight rise of the Grassy Knoll, and passes under a train bridge before merging into the highway on-ramps on the other side. At the top of the Grassy Knoll is the famous fence corner at the edge of the parking lot behind, the spot from which conspiracy theorists say the actual kill shot on JFK was fired. In the picture I have included as a view from the fence corner, I tried to capture a single vehicle at the exact spot the presidential limo would have been when the obvious shot in the Zapruder film struck. I did a pretty good job, as there is a white "X" painted at that spot on the road, and you can see it just behind the shadow of the SUV in the picture.

I spent about a half hour wandering around, taking pictures, and just soaking in the feeling of the place. It was odd that a place I had never been to before could in some ways seem familiar. I can honestly say that this was one of the coolest places that geocaching has ever brought me to. I would have liked to see this no matter what, but if I were not looking for caches in Dallas while I was here, I probably would not have gone out of my way to come here with only a little time to spend. I am glad I did.

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