Is the American Southwest Edward Abbey's land? Lawrence Clark Powell might disagree with his extensive study of those who embraced the area decades and centuries before Abbey.
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Piles of your yesterdays are growing higher as I walk this road alone. I kick through what we both don’t understand but to what we relate. Piles of successes, suffocating god. I exist within the most significant day ever – my day. Piles of you exist around me – some blocking my path. If you are the present, can you be the past? I trample you, not out of malice – I have nowhere else to step- I exist during the most congested time ever – Piles of you exist all around me – Through denouncement, you have become the rule. You are what you never wanted to be – hats are removed to you. You are a burden to the soil and soul – reexamination to the meter and rhyme. You impede my travel. Piles of you, tangible and spiritual, bring praise and despise. I gently scape you from my boot – I leave you to the soil – I teach you. Piles of you will continue to build, In future generation minds, Along the pathways of tomorrow. Piles of romance – of your written day, Piles that bury the beauty of candor.
My pupils, the size of a pinhead, take in the hustle of the valet attendants whose hurried motions cause nausea in my belly and pain in my head. Early morning in Las Vegas.
Some coming. Others are going. Many are looking to find Thompson’s American Dream.
Each day and night in this city becomes a bender, what starts as innocent toe-dipping in the pond of debauchery, can easily become a full dunk baptism in this city of sin.
“Where you headed?”, asks the perky young man, who can hail a cab, open a door, and complement one’s attire with a condescending tone that makes one feel obligated to tip. An individual whose rank on the ladder of success could never be aligned with his status of mind. An individual who can balance position, responsibility, and obligatory compliments with a suave and arrogant certainty of self.
“1712 W Charleston Blvd”, a state with certainty and pass my door attendant a well-deserved fiver for being a better man than me.
Rays of the morning sun, now well over the surrounding Mojave mountains, are quickly warming the dry desert air. Our cab turns to the west. The glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip fall behind. We are entering into the area of the Las Vegas locals.
Neighborhood bars and casinos cater to the everyday man. Transient individuals and down on their luck groups live their days here. In the shadow of wealth is want. Caught in the undertow of the ebb and flow of the powers that be. People wander, damned to serve a life sentence in a world they were born into without council, insertion without representation.
A quick lefthand turn and we have arrived.
Nestled between strip malls and gas stations, hospitals and homeless shelters is our destination. Frankies Tiki Room.
Exiting the car we make our way towards the door. The sun right above our heads. Blistering rays. Blinding light. We open the door.
Darkness. Pitch black. Like someone has placed a shroud over our eyes.
Our other senses heighten. Cool air and sound of conversation, unfamiliar music pulsates pleasantly within our ears.
We stand still, mesmerized by our surroundings. Naive and innocent. Expecting the worse but willing to experience any trauma and terror we have wandered into.
Our pupils dilate. We begin to see. Warm reds and cool blues shine like celestial bodies across the ceiling. The flaming cherries of cigarettes hung in the darkness, aloft, seeming to float.
Each ember intensifies and brightens with the inhale of the darkened individual escaping the realities of the outside world.
With a new sense of sight, we find our way to the bar and soon discover a world unlike none other.
The world of Tiki.
A variety of textures begin to grab the attention of our senses. Our eyes strained to view deep into the dark corners, where the glow of tobacco fire pulsated like beacons in the dark night. Our tounges confused by the multi ingredients of the drinks strained to find a hint of liquor, carefully disguised in the cocktails. Thick dark woods, burnt and scarred all around, nothing soft or smooth, but all inviting.
Then confusion set in. A product of the pours. Then numbness and peace. In this strange new wonderful world. We allowed ourselves to be enveloped into the embrace of the out of the way establishment on Charleston Blvd.
We did not want to leave.
So we decided to bring Tiki to our home.
There was a room in our home that really did not have a purpose. A computer and a couple of guitars called it home. The room felt cold and uninviting just wasted floor space. Today, it is our paradise. Our portal to ultimate escapism deep in the heart of Texas.
We had a lot of Tiki – ish items around the house. Our bar is actually an old workbench that my daughter and I made years ago. New top, some stain, little bit of carving, some light, and wallah.
The room really started taking shape once we got the bamboo in.
Scouring the local resale shops for vintage or new. Some homemade like this lamp thing.
The obligatory netted ceiling with random flotsam and jetsam was a must.
Thatch made a huge difference.
Mixing Frankies drinks right at home.
If the thought of creating a space like this has ever entered the mind – do it.
Your source for Bankhead Highway news and information – Texas’ section.
What is inside this month…
TabacrossTexas just completed the entire Texas’ Bankhead Highway Route. In eight days, we covered over 900 miles slow and easy, taking in as much as we could, while we stayed as true to the original century-old alignment as we could.
This month’s newsletter is dedicated to some of the unique stops and individuals we discovered while we Crossed the State in Eight.
Bankhead Highway People.
Rosenda – Sierra Blanca, Texas.
An opened door in a dead town.
Sierra Blanca is, less of a town, more of a collection of decay.
Random relicts, soon to be rubble, front the old Bankhead town’s Mainstreet.
The Sister Gift Shop and Rocks sit between long abandoned and forgotten theatres and gas stations.
Wistful Warm West Wind carries tumbleweeds through forgotten streets. Dry air has mummified the stone and steel, prolonging the deterioration process. Terracotta colored streets flow into warm stucco-covered buildings whose facade is cracked, exposing the masonry beneath.
Inside the opened narrow entry, I meet Rosenda.
We talk like long lost friends.
Two individuals in a lonely place. Removed, temporarily, from time.
Two individuals exchanging personal information. Sharing as if we were the last two souls on earth.
We could be the last to souls in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
The shop is full of random rocks and jewelry, trinkets and novelties, dusty odds and broken ends.
We chat about where we are going and where we have been. In only minutes I learn about her life, children, challenges, and successes. We ponder the changes that are inevitable and what lies ahead.
I wander out into the afternoon heat and stand in the middle of the road. Overwhelmed with the insignificance of things thought as important, realizing those things that are precious. Things miles away but still as close as a thought.
Bob Stogsdill – Strawn, Texas.
Bob Stogsdill repainted Strawn’s Bankhead Hotel sign. His time and patience brought the old hotel back to its former glory. Well, at least the hotel’s sign. One can find Bob in the Strawn community museum.
Bob is a great guy that will enjoy discussing the history of Strawn and the Bankhead with any ear that will listen.
Eastland Texas – Keeping the Bankhead Highway alive.
Eastland, Texas, has taken the initiative to support the Bankhead Highway by placing BH banners around the courthouse square.
I, for one, hope the signage and discourse about the Bankhead Highway push more heritage tourists, and adventurers, out of their homes and onto the old road.
Within the walls of that Eastland County courthouse, one will find Old Rip. A resurrection story of a Phrynosoma.
Epicurian Exelence in Brashear, Texas
No menu – just tell Betty what you like.
Located only a couple of miles beyond Sulphur Springs city limits is Brashear, Texas. Brashear was founded in 1868 and its population has declined ever since.
Recently, a California transplant has opened shop in the old Brashear Country Store. Betty is the chief chef and pot scrubber of the most relaxed restaurant in all of Texas.
Betty is not shy in her presentation of self or food. She creates larger than life plates that impress.
What does Rockwall, Texas, offer a Bankhead Highway tourist?
Some great old submerged bridges and an incredible 1922 railroad bridge and a great microbrewery on Mainstreet.
Mineral Wells, Texas.
The Laumdronat – Washing Machine Museum.
How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.
It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.
Next month we will highlight more places we discovered on our Across the State in Eight trip.
Thanks for following along.
Want to learn more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas?
If you are interested in learning more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas, be sure to get a copy of Dan SMith’s book
Next month we will continue to focus on the people and places that make a Bankhead journey special.
We also are working on a trip itinerary for the Bankhead Highway. Our intention is to create a guide that will help the traveler discover some incredible people, places, and things along the Bankhead route.Please follow tabacrosstexas.com to stay up on Bankhead Highway News. Links below.
The following is a collection of information obtained from the internet. Reviews were collected from the public domain and are not intended to draw any conclusion of guilt or accusations of illegal or malicious intent. This is written solely as a response to online information and will hopefully allow individuals to make better more informed decisions.
Part one of this series of blogs will focus on Google reviews and OYO. Later parts will investigate how false reviews could impact a company’s fortunes as-well-as look closer at the requirements and obligations of the mom and pop motels to OYO.
I hope you enjoy and find the information useful in making your travel and overnight accommodation plans.
What is OYO?
According to OYO website, OYO Rooms is the world’s fastest-growing hotel chain, in over 800 cities with 23,000 exclusive hotels, and 330,000 exclusive rooms.
What is the value of a Google review?
To a business, online or brick and mortar, a great deal. According to vendasta.com, 92% of consumers now read online reviews. Searchenginewatch.com writes that 83% of buyers claim they don’t trust advertising. Searchengineland claims that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from real people.
These percentages demonstrate that the consumer really trusts online reviews and will use them in decision making.
To a business the importance is SEO. SEO, search engine optimization, is a free way that businesses can get online traffic. According to rocketdigital.ca, “the quality and quantity of reviews on Google is one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO.” Podium.com describes Google Reviews as, “a big credibility boost without having to spend a dime.” The site also determines that “Google reviews have an impact on Google local search.”
Google reviews are important to a business and to the consumer.
What happens when the Google Reviews are blatantly fake?
The following will examine three locations in the United States. These non-chain hotels only link with be in their association with the OYO Rooms brand. Using fair and unbiased words an attempt will be made to demonstrate to the reader the importance of investigation into Google Reviews.
The first location, Hotel Breckenridge TX Hubbard Creek Lake.
As the screenshot shows, this small mom and pop motel has a 4.6 Google star rating. This rating was compiled from a total of 121 total reviews.
On closer investigation, one will find many discrepancies. The limitations of this blog will allow for only a small sample of the reviews.
The following review praises the location and the reviewer is happy about the proximity to the “Dolby Theatre”.
This is just one of many reviews about the wonderful Dolby Theatre and walk of fame at the Hubbard Creek.
There is not a Dolby Theatre within 150 miles or more of Breckenridge, Texas.
I especially enjoyed Brettly’s review, The best in the United States.
How about Ms. Harry’s delightful review about the tapas bars that surround the property. All due respect to the wonderful people in Breckenridge, Texas, but they probably don’t even know what a tapas bar is.
While the second review is solely the opinion of the traveler, the other reviews are blatant in the irregularities and false information.
The next location will be found using a Google account of a reviewer of the Hubbard Creek Lake. Very strange but each reviewer seems to stay at the same OYO hotels across the county and have the same experience.
Hotel Jackson North I-55
Wow, 4.8 stars based on 105 reviews! That is a great google review.
Let’s see what Ms. Harry, who happened to review Hubbard Creek Lake, has to say about Hotel Jackson North.
So Ms. Harry was pleased again with her stay. What do other online sites think about the Hotel Jackson North I-55?
Taken from TripAdvisor where nine reviews produce a one-star rating for one of Ms. Harry’s favorites.
Well, something does not add up here. Remember the 4.8 stars based on 105 Google reviews?
Ave Oliviave must have been staying at a different Jackson North to receive the following services, or perhaps the Tripadvisor travelers did not have the right connections.
Clearly, one can begin to see the pattern emerging from this information. Again, the purpose of this blog is to allow the reader to make the connections. Let’s look at another property.
The next review is from Honey Bee, a Google account that has eighteen contributions with the majority being OYO Room hotels. A mysterious coincidence is all these OYO reviews from a variety of Google accounts posted one month ago.
Let’s find out how Honey Bee’s stay was at Hotel Valdosta GA Downtown.
May 2019 Google Street view of Hotel Valdosta.
Strange that the Tripadvisor had zero reviews of the hotel.
Hotels.com did offer some reviews.
I wonder if this guest was offered the birthday card and cake like Honey Bee?
What is happening here?
The following are my own thoughts, please don’t allow them to influence.
It seems as though OYO has taken over the Google Reviews and not just exaggerated the positives of the properties but have fabricated the properties amenities and local attractions. Also, one should note that TripAdvisor seems to be taken over with the same type of reviews.
The next part of this blog will investigate the OYO business plan and how OYO is becoming the fastest growing hotel chain in the world.