Toad Suck - Dos

Models made of mahogany - Visa/MasterCard 
accepted here.
A major part of Toad Suck Daze in Conway, Arkansas is, of course, all of the arts and crafts booths with everything from wooden roses to jewelry to mahogany models to homemade jams, jellies, and sauces for sale. I didn't know I needed a jar of Bill's Homemade Texas Caviar, but I got one and it's pretty darn good! Don't know about Texas Caviar? Hang around to the end and in a first for this blog, I'll throw in a recipe.
 
There was one thing I did know I really needed and I snagged one - a Toad Suck Harley Davidson t-shirt to go along with my Harley Davidson key chain. I'm now well on my way to becoming the bad boy outlaw biker all the men want to be like and all the girls want to be with - just as soon as I save enough to buy the motorcycle. I probably need to buy a Harley Davidson cap too. For sure. I can't wait to buy that cap next year! 
 
Some are good, some not so good, but 
all are applauded!

No small-town festival would be a festival without featuring entertainment from the local dance troupes, karate clubs, and school bands, choirs, and baton twirlers. They don't get the headlines like the "big names" who come to perform, but it's a big deal for the kids and their parents for all who are chosen to perform for the Toad Suck masses!
 
Magic for the little people.

 






Carnival rides are always popular.









Once the Tricycle Race and Baby Crawl are out of the way, the big attraction for kids of all ages is the World Championship Toad Races, presided over by the Toad Master under the Toad Dome. On the Monday before the festival opens, all the kids in kindergarten through elementary school grades are given cardboard Toad Houses - a folding box with handles and breathing holes decorated like a house with pictures and sponsor logo's painted on the sides. During this week it's open season on area toads as kids drive daddy's crazy until a toad is captured from the ponds, creeks, or the back porch (leave the back porch light on after dark and you are almost guaranteed to have a toad or two come up just begging to be grabbed).

Toad Master asking, "And what's your
toad's name?"
Beginning Friday evening, the toads are brought to the race track and the run for the trophy is on! Don't worry if you don't have your own toad; you can borrow a veteran race runner toad from the holding pen beside the track. The key to winning your race is to warm the toad in your hands for a while before the race (cold toads just squat down and don't jump) and give it a race worthy name. The Toad Master always asks your toad's name and no toad named "Toad" or "Frog" or "No Name" has ever won while "Lightning" and "Speedy" and "Blaze" are almost sure to win. A toad named "Toadily Awesome" won the championship last year.
 

All of those folks who love old cars, new cars, modified cars, or funky cars will certainly enjoy the car show. The first time I came to the festival, there were 2 good sized parking lots where you walked among the autos on display. This year, there were 3 large lots with many more cars parked in the blocked off streets. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane ogling the '55 Chevy's, the '67 Mustangs, the '69 Camaro's and Vette's from every year they've been made. I'm not a huge car buff, but I did spend a lot of quality time here!


But with all of the activities and fun stuff going on, in my opinion, the most important people to the success of the annual Toad Suck Daze Festival are the unknown, the unrewarded, the unpublicized - the Porta-potty cleaners. For you unsung heroes, here's a big "Salute!"








Remember the recipe for Texas Caviar I promised? Here it is. Experiment with it a bit - make it spicier, hotter, milder, add corn. Serve it with Tostitos Scoop chips or Triscuits. Yummy!

Ingredients
  • 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 or 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together onion, green bell pepper, green onions, jalapeno peppers, garlic, cherry tomatoes, zesty Italian dressing, black beans, black-eyed peas and coriander. Cover and chill in the refrigerator approximately 4 hours or overnight. Toss with desired amount of fresh cilantro to serve.        

Toad Suck - Uno

Once upon a time, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river right outside Conway, Arkansas. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at a local tavern, much to the disgust of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on when Conway celebrates Toad Suck Daze the first weekend every May.

The part of the parade when the women 
hope for a stiff breeze.
Toad Suck Daze is a free admission 3-day small town festival of food, family and fun. There's something for the entire family: arts and crafts, ‘Toadal Kids Zone’, a carnival, local and national entertainment (like Jerry Jeff Walker and Kris Allen), food, rock wall, petting zoo, ‘Stuck on a Truck’, 5K/10K race, golf tournament, a 3 on 3 basketball tournament, magicians, classic car show, and much more. Toad Suck Daze is also home to ‘The World Championship Toad Races’. The festival is run by volunteers from Conway and Faulkner County, including the local police and fire departments. Proceeds go to support higher education in the county. Since the start of the festival 30 years ago, over $1 million has been given in over 200 scholarships to students attending local colleges.

The Toad Suck Queens - always a big hit!

The festival actually starts on Friday with the start of Stuck-On-A-Truck, the opening of booths and the carnival rides, but Saturday morning really kicks things off with the Toad Suck Daze Parade. A bit of bagpipe music and guys in dresses seems like a good way to begin a weekend toadily devoted to hopping amphibians!

Making the local residents so proud!





The Toad Master has arrived. Let the 
festivities begin!

Turkey legs, cotton candy, candied apples, Belgian waffles, Nachos, chicken on a stick, Fried Green Tomatoes, Nutty ice cream bars - all of the standard festival food plus a few more oh so tasty heart attack daring foods are available. Gator on a stick or deep fried Hershey Kisses anyone?
 
Yummy fair food!
A couple of years ago, some evil-doer stole a bunch of the proceeds from the booths selling t-shirts, hats, coffee cups and water bottles. That's pretty darn low to steal money raised by volunteers so kids can get financial help for college. Personally I think he should be hung by his...well, use your imagination. So now almost everything is purchased with Toad Buck$. I never have exact Toad Buck$ change left to get a coke or for Youngest-daughter to ride another ride or something at the end of the day. I don't know how it happens every year. If the cheapest thing is 6 Toad Buck$, I have 5; if I see something for 5 Toad Buck$ that I wouldn't mind taking home or eating, I'll have 4. Rather than finding a Toad Buck$ booth and buying that one missing Toad Buck, I usually just pick out some little kid walking around with their parents as I'm walking out and get the parent's permission to give my leftover Buck$ to the kid. I like seeing the smile on their faces.
 
If you want to buy food or ride the rides, 
you gotta have Toad Bucks.
"Stuck-on-a-Truck" is always interesting. A brand new truck is placed under a tent and contestants must keep at least one hand on the truck at all time. There are a few breaks for snacks, water, and potty, but it is definitely a matter of endurance. Take your hand off the truck and one of the many "Pit Bosses" will see and you're outta there! The last one left standing gets to pass out in their new truck. There are some people that really, really want that truck. Over the years, as contestants lasted longer and longer (4 or 5 days several times), various forms of "torture" have been introduced to make people quit - not letting contestants sit down and playing heavy metal music at a loud volume has become a favorite. Personally, I've been to Disneyland and think all they have to do is play "It's A Small World After All" over and over. That would crack even the members of Seal Team 6. Sleep deprivation often results in some weird hallucinations and occasionally the on-hand medical personnel are called into action. And a good time is had by all! 

Usually a young skinny dude wins, but
this year a girl won!

The Toadal Kids Zone is a great place for adults to sit for a while and let the younger ones enjoy themselves in the sand pile. Buckets and shovels provided!
 
Toadal Kids Zone
Come on back tomorrow for Toad Suck Dos! You wouldn't want to miss the toad races now, would you? (Toad Suck Dos)


The car show is always popular.











Lots of fun and laughs watching the kids
race their toads.



Souvenirs to buy at the Toad Store

A vendor selling beautiful wooden flowers is just
one of the dozens of booths with hand-made
arts and crafts and other cool stuff on display. 
The local Harley dealer showing off the
latest Hog.

Plenty of entertainment night and day featuring
both local and nationally famous talent.
 

Postcard from San Antonio

After arriving back at my penthouse suite at Hampton Inn, I took a shower, made some coffee with the in-room super-dooper 4-cup coffee maker and settled down to read the USA Today and USA yesterday papers. After getting caught up on all the news that was the news, I went down to clean the bugs from my pickup's windshield. A bunch of Harley riders pulled in and parked their bikes in the spaces around me. They were all pretty big fella's, but no, they weren't Hell's Angels or anything and they were all of a more mature age like me. I admired their bikes, they admired my truck and we spent the next hour having a good time talking about road trips we'd taken and things we encountered while on them.

The next morning, my buds Kim and Christi stopped by the hotel to snatch me up and off we went to San Antonio. They are not native Texans, but are in the process of becoming legalized Texans. The problem was that Kim had never been to the Alamo or San Antonio and I don't think you can even be a make-believe Texan without having been to the Alamo shrine, the most iconic symbol of Texas freedom there is. You simply have to know the story and you must have visited the Alamo, where Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis and 182 other heroes made the ultimate sacrifice for duty, honor, and freedom. I ensured Kim overcame this shortcoming and, to his credit, he was properly reverent and awed.  OK, Kim, you may now apply to be a legalized Texan. Always and forever remember, there are only two kinds of people; Texans and those who wish they were.

Cenotaph honoring the Alamo heroes. It is
located on the spot where the bodies of the
defenders were burned by Mexican troops.
Of course we had to stroll along the famous Riverwalk to take in the sites. A boat ride assured we saw the river from end to end and worked up an appetite. OK, so maybe we didn't "work" up an appetite, but with the wonderful smells from all of the restaurants, it wasn't hard to get one.

After checking out a couple of offerings, we decided on the Iron Cactus, a Tex-Mex eatery which had good looking food, outside seating, and decent prices. I got some kind of vegetarian dish with some kind of foo-foo cheeze, spinach, black beans, and corn which sounded like it would be decently healthy. I hoped it would be good, but it was delicious! Maybe it's a good thing I don't live in this area because according to the food sampling I've had on this trip, I'd probably weigh about 300 pounds in short order.

San Antonio Riverwalk
After a good portion of the day was spent in San Antonio, we left the city behind and gradually left the traffic behind as we made our way to Ranch Road 337 in Medina. One of the famous "Three Twisted Sisters" motorcycle rides (along with RR-335 & RR-336) , the 60 miles of the east-west road from Medina through Vanderpool, Leakey, and Camp Wood is a scenic route not to be missed.

The road was built in 1945 between Camp Wood and Leakey and was gradually extended eastward until in 1968 it reached Vanderpool. An additional 9.7 miles were added going east in 1976 to reach Medina. RR-337 is famous for its hairpin switchbacks and natural beauty. Texas monthly magazine named it number 18 on its list of "75 Things We Love About Texas" in its April, 2006 issue.

Texas along RR-337
Along with the million-dollar vista's, if you look closely, you'll likely see camels, zebras, Axis deer, Texas Dall Sheep, and all kinds of other exotic animals. This is because there are a number of big game ranches all along the route. Christi was pretty confused when she saw a zebra grazing by the road!

All in all, it was a great day and a good way to bring another road trip to a close. Another night in the hotel and its time for me to head home and back to work. But I had one more stop to make. Just so I can truthfully say, "I went to Texas and found Utopia!"

Entering the town of Utopia, Texas

(Please click here to read the first post of this series.)


Postcard from Fredericksburg, TX


Scrappy
On the way back to my hotel room, I passed something that made me turn around and go back for a closer inspection. I had found Scrappy. Scrappy is the name of the mascot for a local high school, Kerrville Tivy, whose nickname is the Antlers. The Scrappy statue was created by Brett & Tammy Prang of Incredible Metal in Kadoka, South Dakota out of car parts, motorcycle gas tanks, barbed wire, and chains. The figure of a full antlered deer, Scrappy is 16 feet tall and stands on a smashed car body. It took 18 months to make and is mounted on concrete pillars behind a limestone fa├žade, making it 25 feet tall overall. Placed beside Hwy-16 between Fredericksburg and Kerrville and dedicated in July, 2010, its kind of hard to miss.

Sunset in Buckhorn RV Park
Late that afternoon, I spent some very enjoyable time visiting with a few old RVing friends I hadn't seen in over 10 years and meeting some new friends. Two couples and myself went to a Mexican food place for dinner and good conversation. The food was pretty good, but the conversation was better. Later, they needed to visit Wally Mart for some essentials and I went back to the hotel to catch up on email and write a blog entry.

The next morning, my friend Kim, who was going to visit Fredericksburg with me & some other friends, found himself with a work fire on his hands so he couldn't get away. His nice wife Christi decided she still wanted to go even if he couldn't so we jumped in my truck and off we went.

Originally a hotel, now the Nimitz Museum
Our first stop was the Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War. Housed in what was originally the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel and restored to its 1890 appearance on the outside, the museum follows the history of the WWII Pacific War campaign through murals, movie clips containing actual historical footage, dioramas, photographs, and artifacts. The mission statement reads: Provide the resources and support to preserve, interpret, and advance the understanding and education of current and future generations about the historical significance and factual record of World War II in the Pacific Area of Operations within the broader context of American military history; to inspire the virtues of honor and patriotism; to preserve the memory and achievements of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz; and to honor the men and women, including their families, who have served in the armed services of the United States and its Allies; in order to promote the learning about American military heritage and affairs.

One of several crashed WWII war planes
 recovered and put on display in the museum.
It took 2 1/2 hours to tour just the main exhibits and part of the courtyard with its 2,000 commemorative plaques honoring individuals, units and ships that served in the Pacific Theater. By then we were hungry so we left the newest portion, the George H. W. Bush Gallery, for later exploration.

After walking along the main drag for a couple of blocks waiting for an eating establishment to strike our fancy, Wheelers looked pretty good and there were a lot of people inside so we joined them for lunch. We were promptly escorted to a table right by a front window where we could see folks walking along. Since I enjoy people watching, the place scored points right up front. There were a number of good looking items on the menu, none of them exactly real heart healthy except for a salad and I wasn't in the mood for another salad just then. I took a rather safe route and ordered a hamburger, no cheese with just water to drink. One of the items that really tempted me was cornbread and beans, a traditional southern meal and one I like a lot, but it came covered with cheese and jalapenos and I wasn't sure whether it would be healthy for me, not too bad for me, or, as my dear wife refers to certain food items, absolutely not! So I passed. Christi ordered the Beans and Cornbread. Aarg! That's what I really wanted! Well, when they brought out our food, I wasn't sure if I wanted that beans and cornbread meal even more or not. It was huge! As it turned out, my burger was excellent and Christi couldn't finish all of her cornbread so I helped her out with a couple of bites. Oh my yes, scrumptious! And with the very reasonable prices, Wheelers received 2 thumbs up.

After paying for lunch, we began walking and window shopping around downtown to wear off some of the food we had over-imbibed. From our somewhat limited excursion I can tell you, if you don't find something in Fredericksburg you just can't live without, then you are either flat broke or walking around with your eyes tightly closed. Although mightily tempted several times, Christi and I were both doing a good job of hanging onto our money until we wondered into Rustlin Rob's Texas Gourmet Foods. It's a food sampler's heaven. Salsa, Queso, hot sauces, jams, jellies, dips and dozens of different butters; hundreds of jars of stuff and all of them with an open sample jar with chips and crackers nearby for dipping. I was still full from Wheeler's, but I managed to find a little corner in my belly that could hold a few more bites. After jumping up and down a couple of times to pack it down and make room for just another sample or two, I chose a jar of Fredericksburg Farms' all natural and gluten free Rio Grande Black Bean Corn Salsa to bring back home to share with the Momma-woman. And a jar of Rustlin Rob's strawberry preserves. OK, yes, I also bought a jar of Green Chili Dip, but don't tell the wife cause there probably won't be any left by the time I get back home. So much yummy stuff! I also grabbed a circular with their web site advertised. I have a feeling I'll be doing a little online shopping.

Just one corner in Rustlin Rob's.
Waddling back toward the museum, I already knew I would not be joining the crowd for supper that night. I had enough food in me to last several days and was in great danger of exploding right then and there. But oh what a happy waddle! Every day of the trip, I did good on my eating healthy goal; every day except this one. It was a well deserved splurge. I'll be good tomorrow.

Along the way, we passed the house where Chester Nimitz was born on 24 February, 1885. He grew up in Fredericksburg and eventually obtained the rank of 5 Star Admiral and Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II. He graduated with honors from the Naval Academy in 1905. For the first 2 years of World War I, he served on several ships until becoming an Aid to Admiral Robison who was the commander of the Atlantic submarine forces. On September 2, 1945 Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  He then served as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) from 1945 until 1947. Nimitz suffered a stroke, complicated by pneumonia, in late 1965 and died the evening of February 20, 1966. He was the United States' last surviving Fleet Admiral.

We eventually made it back to the museum and took in the part which we had not gone through earlier in the day. It was just as interesting as the morning's tour. By the time we made it back out to the outdoor courtyard and started looking at the plaques we had skipped earlier, it was getting really hot and about time to head home so off we went back to Kerrville.

Shopping in Fredericksburg, Texas
Chester Nimitz was born here.
Fredericksburg is definitely worth 2 or 3 days of visiting. Nice, clean, friendly folks, and lots of things to see and do.




(Please click here to read the first post of this series.)