Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GUEST COLUMN: A mammoth visit to Waco

Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Monday, September 27, 2010
JENNIFER HUFFMAN Guest columnist

What’s a California family of five to do on a road trip between Dallas and San Antonio?

That was my question when we visitors to Texas found ourselves heading between two sets of relatives on a mini-family reunion this past summer.

After spending most of our vacation budget just getting to Texas, we realized it would be faster and cheaper to rent a car and drive.

I got out my AAA map. Look, I told my husband. We can take Interstate 35. It goes right between Dallas and Boerne, our other Texas destination.

Upon sharing our plan with our Texas family, I immediately got an earful.

I hate I- 35, one aunt said. Too many cars.

Watch out for speed traps, wrote a colleague.

But we were on a deadline. We had seven days and six nights to see more than a dozen relatives in four Texas cities.

We’ll need to stop somewhere for lunch and a potty break, I told my husband, as we planned our descent down the middle of the state.


You should stop at the Dr Pepper museum. The girls would love it, Grandma said.

I e-mailed a Waco friend for a second opinion. Try the Waco Mammoth Site, he said.

Mammoths? In Texas?

He wasn’t kidding. As you Wacoans are quite aware, about 68,000 years ago a bunch of Columbian Mammoths died in some kind of flood or other disaster only to be discovered thousands of years later.

Bones? Digging? As the daughter of a science teacher, this got my attention.

This could be good, I said. The girls could check out real bones. This was no Disney version of pre-historic times.

Arriving in Waco, and quickly finding the Mammoth site, I could tell immediately I was going to like this place.

New landscaping surrounded a clean, large parking lot. This was a good sign.

It likely meant everything else is equally clean and large, including bathrooms.

Nothing makes a mom happier than easy parking and plentiful air conditioning.

Indeed, everything at the site looked new.

Besides the bones, I mean.

I discovered that was because it is new.

The mammoth site opened to the public at the end of 2009. Nearby was a visitor’s center, and much-anticipated clean bathrooms.

Friendly staff wearing mammoth T-shirts handed us a map and offered us a free tour. This is a city park? I asked incredulously.

The California state park is an endangered species these days. A number have been closed. Many have reduced or eliminated staff. We do not have fresh sod or clean and sparkling bathrooms. We do not have newly paved walkways and helpful tour guides.

This Waco city park put our California state parks to shame.

Arriving inside the air conditioned building, we gazed down at the large site with excavated bones. There were baby mammoth bones. Mamma mammoth bones. Brother mammoth bones. Even camel bones.

And possibly some kind of ancient tiger tooth.

I could have stayed for another hour or two but after corralling three somewhat uncooperative daughters for a group photo, it was time to hit the infamous I-35 again.

Outside it was a typically hot and humid July day in Texas. The girls might have liked to get a Dr Pepper, but it was too late. We had to hit the road or we’d never make it to Boerne on time. Catch you next time, Dr Pepper.

Jennifer Huffman is a reporter and columnist for the Napa Valley Register in Napa, Calif.

(c) 2010 Robinson Media Co. LLC - Waco Tribune-Herald

1 comment:

CM said...

Nice writing, really vivid and funny. Thanks for sharing.