The Butler's I 20 Tour
What sort of madness would entice 6 people, most of whom are not related, to crowd into a minivan for a week and travel one thousand miles along Interstate 20 in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana?
One word is all that is necessary, bell ringers.
Bruce and Eileen Butler are famous for their annual bell ringing tours abroad. Usually a group of 10 or more ringers follow the couple around in England for a few weeks. Some years, though, trips have happened in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Last summer the Butlers and the Philadelphia Guild of Change ringers went to the Boston area over a weekend concurrent with the Groton meeting and rang in five towers. After that trip many of us thought where should we go in 2011? Well needless to say that Bruce and Eileen had an idea to do a trip of some of the bell towers in the South and the I-20 tour was born.
Bell tours with the Butlers include ringing, of course. Then there is sightseeing, eating and eating and the tradition of the evening imbibing of the elixir of life, which is enjoyed by most.
We started out four ringers from Philadelphia, Bruce, Eileen, Terry Glab and myself. We left earlier in the morning than many of us would have chosen, on a flight to Dallas. There we met up with Dr. Jim Snyder and Beverly Faber. After securing our rental van off we drove from Dallas to Abilene, a short 3 hour ride. At some point in the afternoon we pulled off in the middle of nowhere to get something to eat. It was slim pickins. There was a Subway attached to a Shell station and that was about it. Some of us had taken food with us on the plane and weren't so hungry, so we went instead to investigate a pecan shop next door and they had all sorts of pecans and free samples. After tasting quite a variety, we bought a bit too. Yum Yum!
We got to Abilene and stowed our luggage in the hotel. No time to waste and we were off to find Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. We didn't really see much of the town of Abilene, but the church was an incredible site in that flat land. What a beautiful structure. Both in and out.
We were met by their director of music Wesley Gomer. There were also a lot of people around apparently word was out that we were in town. The bells at The Church of the Heavenly Rest hadn't been rung much lately. So we were going to give a bell demonstration. There are 6 bells that are part of a carillon that was installed in the 1982.
A reporter was on hand from the Abilene Reporter-News and a photographer/videographer. To read the newspaper story and hear some ringing click on the link.
Abilene tower also has very cool windows in the belfry. All the windows depict the ringers of the tower who rang the first quarter peal there.
Unfortunately the ringing didn't go on too long. There were problems with two or three of the bells. I couldn't stand the tenor for love of money. Bruce said the # 2 had slider issues and Beverly said that the treble rope got hung up on something. Bruce took a walk upstairs to inspect and said there were some things amiss in the tower, so we had to ring the bells down.
After ringing Wesley Gomer and a friend took us to Lytel and Land Cattle Company Steakhouse. Where we all had Texas sized portions of steak which were very great.
Most of us retired for the night on returning to the hotel Beverly and I opted for the hot tub soak and a dip in the pool. Bruce and Eileen ventured out of the hotel a few steps to Oscar's Roadhouse. Oscar's provided a little local color and they met a husband and wife trucker team who told them stories of truck driving and life on the road.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and early. We luckily had a breakfast buffet included in the cost of the room, so most of us enjoyed a little bite to eat before the six hour drive to Texarkana.
We stopped for lunch in the little town of Royce City, TX. Eileen had found a place in her AAA book that looked promising. Unfortunately, it was no longer in business. So the best rated place in town according to Yelp on Brian's I-phone was Luigi's Italian Cafe. We were lucky to have their $6.95 Lunch special which included a salad and was a generous portion of food. Back into the car and making our way to Texarkana.
After stowing our luggage in the hotel, in Arkansas, we made a quick trip to the Liquor store for some evening libations since there was no bar or place to party at the hotel. Not sure what people in Arkansas are used to, but I never had in my life seen a liquor store with a drive up window. That is something in Pennsylvania, you just don't see. We were lucky, because it was Wine Wednesday and there was 20% off on all wines.
After stowing the goods for the party, we were off to The First Presbyterian Church in Texarkana, AR. We were met at the church by Remica Gray. We had some nice ringing there and were joined by a few other ringers including their pastor and a few young people one of whom just learned to put both strokes together. He rang the tenor nicely. We got quite a lot of ringing on these bells, the lightest 8 in North America.
After the ringing concluded we retired to Zapata's Mexican Grill. While Mexican food was not to everyone's taste in our group, most of us had a great meal there. Their salsa I recommend as numero uno! They also had Tecate in bottles, in Philly, you only can get it in cans.
Terry ordered dessert and somehow ended up with a double portion. I guess she appealed to the waiter somehow. Or maybe he just liked the Phillies (they were on the TV and winning)
Back at the hotel for a little party in Bruce and Eileen's room where Jim Snyder brought out his Butler tour report from the tour in England in April for review and embellishment by the Butlers. After many rounds (not ringing either) we made a dent in our wine Wednesday purchases and off to bed.
Thursday we were up and on our way early to make our trek to Shreveport, LA. Compared to our other drives, this was a piece of cake and we were at the hotel by 11 am. We again stowed our baggage and were off to explore. Beverly wasn't feeling like exploring so she remained at the hotel whilst the rest of us were off to see the sights. We went to the Louisiana State Exhibition Museum. It was a really neat place with lots of miniature dioramas to examine and artifacts from Louisiana's past. After an exploration of the museum it was time for lunch. Bruce and Eileen took us to another place of local color, Herby K's. It was really a front porch attached to a bar. The front porch had a long picnic table. We sat with the locals. We ordered some delicious Louisiana type food for lunch and it was not a disappointment.
We then went into town and walked along the waterfront and went to a few museums and explored the botanical garden.
We dropped Terry off at an art museum and then picked up Beverly and went to the Practice at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport. We joined them for practice from 3:30 to 5 on their sic stimulator (simulator) which was quite nice. Then at 5 o'clock the bells were opened and we got to ring on them. What nice bells. They sound so beautiful and ring so nicely.
The ringers of Saint Mark's Cathedral are a really great bunch of ringers and even though we rang from 3:30 till 8:00, it didn't seem that long and it was a lot of fun. We had a great time of fellow ship with Shreveport ringers Candace and Edwin Higginbotham, Lennis Elston, Carol and Bob Rhoads, Lindsey and Jim Fletcher and Rosemary and Hardy Cole not to mention others. It was fun to ring with such enthusiastic newer ringers.
After ringing we were taken to eat at Ristorante Giuseppe by the locals. Living in Philadelphia, we think we know Italian cuisine, but my selection at this restaurant was without a doubt one of the best meals I had ever had in a restaurant anywhere.
Back to the hotel and we spent another night trying to finish off the wines from wine Wednesday at Bruce and Eileen's room.
Friday we were off to Dallas. But we didn't have to be there till late in the day, so we had some time to do more exploration in Shreveport. We spent several hours at the Shreveport Water Work's museum which showed how they used steam power to pump water from the bayous and filter it for drinking purposes for many decades.
Then we were off on a our three hour drive to Dallas.
We arrived at Dallas in the early afternoon. Our accommodation was at the Le Meridian Hotel. It was beautiful. Somehow Eileen had gotten us all booked into suites. The rooms were incredible. Most everyone went to the tower on Friday evening, but I opted to stay at the hotel to enjoy the suite and take a dip in the pool.
Saturday we were up and out early to St. James Episcopal Church. They very nicely provided a continental breakfast. Then it was off to the tower. I had never had the pleasure of ringing at St. James before. They had just finished their new stairs into the tower. I had heard of the ladder before. Looking at the website for St. James ringers shows what a huge improvement the new stairs are from what was there before. Eileen and Beverly were referring to it as a 100,000 times improvement. The new stairs make the tower much more accesable and should hopefully lead to more people visiting the ringing room and recruitment for new ringers.
We were happy to see some of our friends from earlier in the week come and join us ringing in Dallas. Remica Gray was there from Texarkana and Carol, Rosemary, Lindsey and Jim from Shreveport as well as Dallas ringers Jan Eppinette, Linda Rankin, Carol and Mandy Burris, and Sophia and Richard Elam
After ringing all day we went off to try the food at a microbrewery restaurant called, “The Meddlesome Moth.” The food and the brews were interesting.
On Sunday we spent more time ringing before and after the service and were all participants in the 10:00 service at which the new stairs to the ringing room were dedicated. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of their service. After eating lunch and ringing at bit. We bid our adieus to the Dallas ringers as we headed off to do some sight seeing. Bruce Eileen, Beverly and Terry went to an art museum downtown, while Jim and I headed to the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas Book Depository. After heading back to the hotel for a change of clothes, we headed to Kenny's Steakhouse for a great last dinner in Dallas.
Monday we all had a late afternoon flight, so Terry directed us to the Fort Worth Stockyards. It is the place where cattle used to be driven to go to the meat slaughtering house. Today they have some of the places recreated and twice a day they drive a small heard of cattle down the main street of old Fort Worth.
Well that is about all for this chapter of the 2011 Butler tour. We rang a lot and were tired after a week of riding, ringing, drinking and much too much eating. The question is where will next years” tour be? There is more I-20 and more towers to ring in on the way...so till next time, lets see what adventures ensue.