January 19, 2008: Watching Joe Nichols at Billy Bob's Texas
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January 6, 2008
A Visit to McKinney's Heard Museum



Mario Tarradell and Steve Friedman


If you've been through the last album pages from 2007, you've already met Mario Tarradell and Steve Friedman. If you haven't, then you should know that Mario (who is a music critic at the Dallas Morning News) and Steve (who is a respiratory therapist) are two friends that we met last fall and who we have found to be very compatible in what they like to do. While Ron and Jay are very close with us, they tend not to want to go out much- to movies or for other outings- and so we usually only see them when we are at their house on a Saturday night. Mario and Steve, on the other hand, are always anxious to get out whenever they are not working. So, as it turns out, we have tended to do quite a bit with them these last few months, and it is good to have some close friends who live physically close as well.

From the illustrative map at left, you can see where Mario and Steve live, relative to us and to the city itself. I have also marked one of the common routes to get from my house to theirs. They live in northeast Dallas, in an area known as Lake Highlands, because it occupies the high ground northeast of White Rock Lake. They are in a very nice neighborhood just east of Audelia Road and just south of Walnut Hill Lane.

If we focus in a bit closer on the area of North Dallas that encompasses both my house and that of Mario and Steve, you can see a bit more clearly just where they are. I have also marked out an alternate route that we often take to get to their house.

The route I marked above, the one that uses Northwest Highway, is fine in the evening, but, during the day, Northwest Highway carries a lot of traffic, since there are three major shopping areas along it. It can take quite a while to cross town on Northwest Highway at these peak traffic times.

At those times, it is better to go another mile north on Inwood and use Walnut Hill Lane. Walnut Hill has no shopping along it, and the only congestion is encountered when it goes underneath Central Expressway. But for the rest of its distance, it is just a four-lane arterial street (and there is only one school zone from Inwood to Audelia).

Finally, to complete the route, let's take a look at a map of the few block radius surrounding Mario and Steve's house. As you can see, when you come from Northwest Highway, you are coming up Audelia, so it is a right turn onto Parkford, a left turn onto Crestlake and a final right turn onto Crestwick.

Coming from Walnut Hill Lane means you are coming down Audelia, so it's a left turn onto Broken Bow, a right turn onto Crestlake and a final left turn onto Crestwick.

So, getting to their house is pretty easy either way you go; it is about a twenty-minute trip.

Mario and Steve live about halfway down their block on the north side of Crestwick. It's a very nice split-level house with a large back yard that Steve likes to work in. (Or, rather, Steve likes to plan and hire someone else to work in.)

This is one of the many Dallas neighborhoods where there are alleys behind the houses running through the middle of each block. Some houses have their garage access off the alley, but just a few of them of garage access from the street, and Mario and Steve's house is one such. From their back porch, the yard slopes downward to that alley and the houses on the next street, so they have nice views from the back of their house, particularly from the upstairs bedrooms.


Courtesy of Google Street View, here is Mario and Steve's house. (Google has even relieved me of the necessity of taking my own picture of their house, although I may take some at a later date.)

As you can see, the two-car garage is underneath the bedrooms at the top level of the split level layout. The intermediate level has the dining area, kitchen and living room. Up the half stairs there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Steve has one bedroom, Mario another and the third is used as an office/library.

Down the stairs from the intermediate level you reach a room that is "behind" the garage as you are looking at this picture, and this room has the garage access from inside the house. It is a very small room with a little powder room at the back. Mario uses it for his huge collection of CDs.

Anyway, that will about describe Mario and Steve's house for you.

Getting to the Heard Museum in McKinney


I left to go see my Mother at lunchtime and to drop off the check for January, leaving the house about eleven. Fred left the house about an hour later to go pick up Mario and Steve. Actually, Steve drove his car, as it turned out.

Our plan was to meet up somewhere so we could ride together up to the Museum. Since we were also going to a movie after our museum visit, and since the movie was going to be at the Regal Cinema near the interchange between US-75 and I-635, I drove down there when I was done at my Mom's and parked my car in the theatre parking lot.

The other guys showed up a few minutes later, picked me up, and we got back on US-75 going north. Just south of McKinney, we left the expressway to find the Heard Museum.

Fred had already mapped out the route to get to the museum by taking instructions from their website. The instructed route took us off US-75 onto Texas 399, past the McKinney Medical Center and then south again on Texas Route 5.

A mile or so south of the 399/5 intersection we came to FM 1378, which we took east past the country club to Nature Place and onto the museum grounds.

Looking at this aerial view now, I can see that there is a good shortcut to get to the museum from Dallas which involves getting off US-75 on the service road (avoiding any traffic tie-ups at the 121 interchange, and then going south of the medical center on Frisco Road. This would have been a lot better way to go.

But, be that as it may, we got to the Heard Museum about one-thirty in the afternoon.


Our Visit to the Heard Museum


History of the Heard Museum

I retrieved some information about the Heard from their website, and I thought I might copy it into this album, but instead let me just show you the history clipping directly from the Heard website:


Dinosaurs Alive!

The first thing we wanted to do, of course, was to walk the trail for the "Dinosaurs Alive!" exhibit. This attraction, which has been here for two months and will last through the beginning of February, is a set of life-size animatronic dinosaurs of all types. There is a company here in the United States that makes the animatronic dinosaurs for museums and other venues all around the world. Fred did some investigation of them on the Internet and found that they are kept busy with all the work they can handle making these animatronic animals. I understand that these animatronics are very expensive, and that only a few locations have them permanently on display. The exhibit here at the Heard is a traveling one, and so we wanted to see it before it left. Below is an aerial view of the part of the Heard grounds that was given over to this exhibit. I have marked the trail and the location of the various dinosaurs on this aerial view:

What I want to do is organize all the pictures that Fred and I took of the trail and the dinosaurs and key them to the trail map above. That way, you can get a good idea of what the exhibit was like. I also took pictures of each of the informational signs for each dinosaur, and I will include them in the section for that dinosaur.

So, we began our "dinosaur encounter" by leaving the main building, walking down the ramps and heading out to the start of the "Dinosaurs Alive!" trail.


     Triceratops and Baby (1)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The Triceratops and Baby were our first stop on the trail. One of the interesting things about this exhibit, as opposed to other dinosaur models one might see is that these are animatronic. That is, they move and make sounds. They are controlled by an air pump (that was not always so well hidden) and have a speaker and recorded sounds. The only way to appreciate this aspect of these dinosaur models is to watch a movie.

My Movie of Triceratops and Baby
Fred's Movie of Triceratops and Baby

We took some other pictures here at Triceratops. In one picture, you can see the Triceratops and baby as viewed from the side and in another picture you can see a close-up view of the Triceratops' head. Finally, in true tourist fashion, here are myself, Mario and Steve standing in front of the Triceratops.


     Parasaurolophus (2) and Baby (2a)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

I had actually never heard of a Parasaurolophus before, but it was the second stop on the trail. This dinosaur roamed Western North America beginning 145 million years ago, but died out with the rest of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Although they were large (about 6000 pounds each), they were herbivores. But I still wouldn't want to come across either an adult or a baby without a clear escape route.


     Pachycephalosaurus (3)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The Pachycephalosaurus was the third stop on the trail and, once again, I encounterd a dinosaur whose name I had not heard before. The name means "thick-headed lizard," and that certainly applied here as the skull of this dinosaur was almost a foot thick- much like today's sheep. This was a small dinosaur, only about 4000 pounds, and it also roamed the Western North American continent.

Fred got a very good picture of the Pachycephalosaurus and I, and I got a picture of Fred, Steve and Mario standing in front of it.


     Stegosaurus (4)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The Stegosaurus as our fourth stop on the trail, and is one of the dinosaurs that is familiar to most people, probably due to the upstanding plates along its spine. It's actually hard to understand what purpose the plates might have served, except to make the animal look larger or more well-protected. This dinosaur appeared earlier (205 million years ago) and also died out earlier (about 145 million years ago). The primary roaming area of this 2-ton dinosaur was the Western North American Continent.

Here are Steve, Mario and I in front of the Stegosaurus.


     Apatosaurus and Baby (5)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The fifth stop on our dinosaur trail tour was the Apatosaurus. Actually, the adult dinosaur was on one side of the path while its baby was on the other side.

For some reason, the name of this dinosaur means "deceptive lizard," but why that is the case I don't know. This was the largest of the dinosaurs we've encountered so far on the trail, coming in at 75 feet tall and 60,000 pounds in weight. This dinosaur also roamed Western North America, feeding on plants. This dinosaur, like some of the other plant eaters, had a very long neck, and that's why it had a long tail as well- as a counterbalance.

I took one other picture you might want to look at- one of the baby Apatosaurus.

Apatosaurus and Baby


     Brachiosaurus (6)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The sixth stop on our dinosaur trail tour was the Brachiosaurus. This dinosaur was the largest of those along the dinosaur trail; when fully grown, it reached 85 feet in length, 26 feet in height and weighted over 35 tons. It was one of the earlier dinosaurs, roaming most of the world during the Jurassic Period, between 205 and 145 million years ago. It was a plant eater, and with its long neck and forelimbs longer than its hind limbs, could reach the tops of most trees. Here is an excellent side view of the Brachiosaurus.

While that picture was a good one, we got an even better view as we walked a ways along the path. Looking back, we could easily imagine we were watching a live dinosaur feeding on the treetops.


     Metricanthosaurus (7)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The seventh dinosaur along the "Dinosaurs Alive!" trail was the Metricanthosaurus. This dinosaur, which roamed Europe during the Jurassic Period was only moderately large- about 30 feet long and about 2000 pounds in weight. It was a carnivore, easy to imagine looking at its teeth.

Both Fred and I took pictures of the rest of the group in front of the Metricanthosaurus. You can see the picture that Fred took here, and you can see my picture here.


     Tyrannosaurus Rex (8)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The next-to-last stop on our dinosaur trail tour was the most impressive example of them all- the Tyrannosaurus Rex. This is the dinosaur that has had the most PR, and is probably known to almost everyone by name. The name, incidentally, means "tyrant lizard," undoubtedly because of its occupying the top of the food chain. It wasn't the biggest dinosaur by any means- just 50 feet long and only 7 tons- but it was certainly among the most ferocious.

Tyrannosaurus roamed Northern North America and Central Asia, based on fossils that have been found, and it ruled the Late Cretaceous Period, up until the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago. You can't exactly tell from the model or from the photographs, but the actual dinosaur had curved, serrated teeth that were longer than a human hand! The way the dinosaur was sculpted and posed along the trail led me inevitably to try to compose a picture that would capture what it might have been like had humans run into one of these creatures in the Cretaceous forest. I think the result turned out well, and is actually pretty funny; you can look at the picture here.

Fred took a number of other pictures of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and I think all of them are quite good and present different views of the animal model. I hope you will click on the thumbnails below to look at these full-size pictures.


     Dilophosaurus (9)

To read the informational sign, please click here.

The last stop on our dinosaur trail tour was the Dilophosaurus. This was one of the dinosaurs that had some animatronics built into it, but the extent of the animation was to cause the dinosaur to "spit" a cloud of steam at unsuspecting visitors (mostly kids). Fred did take a movie to try to capture this dinosaur in action, but was unsuccessful in capturing the movement.

This dinosaur also roamed Western North America, but was relatively small- about 20 feet long, the height of a human being and weighing about 1000 pounds. It existed during the Jurassic Period, dying out some 145 million years ago.

This was the end of the dinosaur trail, and so we walked up the end of the trail to the main building. Just before we re-entered the museum, Fred looked back to get one more view of Dilophosaurus.




The Bluestem Trail

The other thing we wanted to do this afternoon was to walk as many of the trails as we could. Even though we didn't expect to see many flowers at this time of year, we knew there were wetlands and a prairie and we wanted to see those.

Our first trail was the Bluestem Trail, and I have marked this portion of our walk on the Heard Nature Preserve trail map at the left with a yellow line paralleling the section of the trail we were on.

Just a short ways from the museum buildings, right after the trail began, we passed the Raptors of Texas exhibit, which turned out to be closed. The sign said that the Heard had "applied for the permits to re-open the raptor houses," but I have no idea why they might have lost their "permit" or why they might need one. In any event, all the aviaries were empty.

The Bluestem Trail was about a half-mile, but there was not much to see along it. Fred did look back and get a picture of me talking to Mario.



The Wood Duck Trail

At the end of the Bluestem Trail, we intersected with the Wood Duck Trail. This was the part of the walk that we thought would be interesting, as much of it would be out over the water. The trail began in the woods near the pavilion (more later) where a small stream paralleled the trail for a ways. At one point, I noticed a log bridge (actually, just a fallen log) over the stream and just had to walk out onto it. The other end of the tree ended in swampy land, so I didn't see much point in trying to cross it.

A short distance later, the boardwalk trail began, and Fred stopped us to take a picture. From here, the trail led along the raised boardwalk that went maybe a hundred feet out into the lake and then turned to basically parallel the shore. There were lots of twists and turns, making the raised boardwalk fun to walk along. A lot of effort must have gone into building it.

There were two or three places where we would come to an intersection, with one path of the boardwalk heading maybe another forty or fifty feet out into the lake where it just came to an end. I wasn't quite sure why these spurs had been constructed, but, when we could, we walked out to the end of them to have a look. Here is Fred at the end of a spur trail along the Wood Duck Trail boardwalk.

Between the boardwalk and the shore the water was not very deep, and there were lots of fallen logs and such, and on many of them Steve and Fred spied lots of turtles that were resting on top of the larger logs.

Walking along the boardwalk was enjoyable, even if there wasn't much sun. Fred and I took quite a few pictures, and I have put thumbnails for some of them below. Just click on the thumbnails to view the full-sized pictures:

Eventually, the boardwalk came back to shore and turned into an improved path again as we traversed a meadow back to the starting point at the pavilion. When we got there, we went up into the pavilion, which was reminiscent of the tower at Gumbo Limbo in Boca Raton except not so high. Here aree Steve, Mario and Fred on the second floor of the pavilion. The pavilion is right beside another small lake, and there was a dock leading out into the lake, so I took a walk out on it, turning back to see the guys and the pavilion back on shore.

Well, that was about it for the Heard Museum and Nature Center. We walked back to main building where Fred and I toured the museum portion of the build while Steve and Mario waited for us outside. The museum was quite interesting- lots of live animals (snakes and stuff like that) and lots and lots of fossils. I enjoyed the walk through the museum and our time here at the Heard.


We Visit Downtown McKinney


We had some time before our movie, so Fred directed Steve the short distance from the Heard to old downtown McKinney and The Square. Like many Texas towns, the center of the main square is where the courthouse is located. We walked around for a while, but only got a chance to stop into a couple of stores as everything was closing for the day.

Then it was back down to Dallas for a movie and dinner.


January 19, 2008: Watching Joe Nichols at Billy Bob's Texas
Return to Index for 2008