A Grand Weekend in Granbury, Texas: 2,000 Mile Round Trip Well Worth It!

Whichever way you look at it, or whatever path you take, it’s a helluva long way from Aspen, Colorado, to Granbury, Texas.

Please click on maps and photos to enlarge

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Two thousand miles is admittedly an insane distance to drive over a period of four days: two there, and two back, with a night in Amarillo in between. But this past weekend this is what Kris and I did, and now is my chance to show you just what that means in real terms, and precisely why we set ourselves with such a monumental ordeal.

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The vehicle charged with the task of getting us there and back, safe and sound, was none other than the ill-fated Aspen Detour Bus. Yes, the Detour was a bust. Neither the hotels or the good people of Aspen were having any of it, and so they watched as it floundered and died, but that’s another story. A week ago our big black beautiful Detour bus was about to set off on the journey of her life! As a former corporate fleet vehicle I doubt if she had ever cause to drive more than a few miles at a time, along dull suburban roads at that. Since she has been with us however she has taken us handsomely to such far off places as Grand Lake and Boulder, for art festivals that proved pivotal in our decision to strike out to far, far away Granbury, Texas, and the art festival that was to prove so very worthwhile in return for all the effort, all things considered.

With her big F-350 engine, and manual six-gear override transmission, this baby cruises like the proverbial limousine. And I should know. As a former A-list celebrity and corporate chauffeur I know all about powering large, heavy passenger vehicles at, shall we say, enhanced speeds?

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We’ll get to the vehicle’s superb road handling later, as I trace our route back from Granbury in the final section of this post, but what made this trip different from those previous two art fairs was the sensational difference that boxing the Collection Series Marble Sculpture made. Phew, what a relief. I hated carting the marble around with only bubble wrap to guard and protect them. Never again will I drive in fear of destroying my hard work with one slammed-on break, or vicious blind curve.

As I imagined they would, as I systematically constructed each box, they worked spectacularly well in not only delivering the carvings to such a far off market, but also allowed customers to simply walk away carrying a strong, sturdy box, as opposed to me walking a delicate sculpture to their cars… if you see what I mean. At the very least I could stack them and deliver by hand cart if necessary. In short, these boxes proved worth their weight in gold.

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I will admit though that by the end of the week I was seeing boxes when I closed my eyes!  But one-by-one (14 in all) I had them all sized up and packed well ahead of our departure, and by the time we hit the road we had the bus neatly packed with all we needed to take our Unique Marble Company road show further than we had previously ever been. Way further.

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We even found room to bring along Pilgrim, who although he didn’t sell proved a hit with the crowd, representing as he did, the larger work in the form of my pivotal Standing Stones.

When I say Pivotal, sure they form a vital aspect of my signature Curvilinear Marble Sculpture, but they also pivot. That’s right. Each one of them is braced by, and revolves around, a single three inch hole upon the underside of their base. Not that he needs much in the way of securing because he is really very bottom-heavy. But when left for long periods of time outdoor it is just as well to pivot him on his fail-safe anchor.

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Eventually the time came to climb aboard and begin our epic journey.

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Ahead of us stretched out a vast landscape – one of deserts, farmland, mountains, and everything in between. In fact, it is hard to imagine any landscape not traversed by this thousand mile each way journey.

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First order of the day – cross the continental divide at one of its highest points in North America.

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Although a storm had blown through with a few inches of snow a day or two earlier, conditions were nigh on perfect as we pulled over for a few pictures by which to document the occasion. But while dented guard rails and unguarded edges gave me pause for thought, it was matters far greater than scary edges that occupied my mind. The driving I could easily deal with. It was people, and the greater issue of the failed Aspen Marble Detour that I had on my mind. Was this going to be just another bust idea? Or would this turn the corner and pull us away from the malaise of Aspen rejection? Time would tell. And indeed it did, and it all came out brilliant. So don’t worry – this is a happy ending story – but at the time these photographs were taken, everything was up in the air. And so were we. Way up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The place we love and call home.

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Driving the twisty, winding mountain roads soon becomes an absorbing activity akin to a video game. On and on the road goes, forever weaving this way and that, epic views at practically every turn, and yet we never have need to stop. It just goes on, and on, for miles and miles and miles. Only when we come to the occasional town are we force to slow down, somewhat, for a mile or so. And then we are off again. Sixty-five. Seventy, and yet seventy-five to eighty. People fly down these roads like runways. Whooooosh.

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After crossing the unguarded eastern side of Independence Pass, we swiftly swished down through Twin Lakes and popped out of the Rockies, pouring out onto the mid western plain like a leaf on flood water, but we’ll deal with the account of our extensive travels later in the post; for now we will cut to our arrival in the cheery old town of Granbury, Texas, where our outbound journey would end, and our introduction to, and immersion into the local culture and customs would begin. For there is nothing like getting to know a region and its people like setting up a booth and talking to all-comers. In fact, it is an experience I strongly recommend for those with a people-person personality. But I digress.

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So, the 2,000 mile journey, in all its magnificent glory, we will deal with later, after the show, as it were, but for now let us turn our attention to Granbury, Texas, and the wonderful art fair these good people put together on the weekend of October 19th and 20th, 2019.

In fact, such was the success of the fair, and so well attended was the Saturday, that the pictures you are about to see were taken rather late on the Sunday afternoon. All day Kris and I had been way too busy to take time out for photographs, or anything of the sort, as the fair all day Saturday, right from the off to the very end, was very well attended. I just thought, in fairness, I would mention that. 

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As you can see, we were allotted a wonderful spot with great visuals and a wide-openness that allowed for a healthy throng of curious fair-goers to gather around our busy booth.

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Having purchased a double plot, in order for pilgrim to wander around, and to facilitate a comfortable little seating area – which proved a popular perch as the days went on, as the temperature rose – we soon settled into our spot like a proverbial second home.

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In fact, we could not have dreamed for better weather. A little hot, yes, but with a lovely cooling breeze that flipped and flapped our display walls as a active sign of its comforting effect. No one was sweating under the hot sun, it wasn’t like that. Ninety degrees for sure, but coming down from the mountains, I can only speak for myself, and of course Kris, the heat sure felt good.

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Another invention, along with the standardized purpose built boxes, since our appearance at the previous two art fairs at Grand Lake and Boulder, was the introduction of those two huge ten foot by three foot informative banners, and what an amazing assist they were in portraying our message.

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Now, instead of having to lead people through the whole involved Colorado Yule Marble story via bits and bobs here and there, with clipboards, laminated photographs and the like, here it is, the entire story of not only the quarry and the miracle of its resurrection and new found status and ‘one of the finest marble’s ever to be quarried’. But also they told of my own story, and the story of our Unique Marble Company, and how I came to discover and develop my revolutionary Curvilinear Marble Sculpture.

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Gently leading people down and along a three foot wide panel of photographs greatly improves the learning experience for both parties as the amazing story of Colorado Yule Marble slowly transfers in relevance from what they witness on the two large walls of information and onto the strange white sculptures they can see, touch and fondle… right before their eyes.

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As always, once the public get their hands on Curvilinear Marble Sculpture the ooohs and the aahhhs ring out in unison as they gently run their palms and fingers along the seductively smooooth surface of my work – especially the bowls. This in turn attracts others to follow suit, and so on and so on. But what was especially brilliant about this fair, as opposed to the previous two, was that with the 20 foot wall of information, the circular path through the tent that allowed for full inspection of each and every piece, along with the double-wide plot that allowed for people to sit and chat, was the fact that I could address and respond to way more people with the same amount of effort on my part.

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And yes, the show was a success both financially and personally. The Maiden, for instance, shown below, sold, along with several others. But more than that. The people of Granbury proved especially nice and friendly, to the point that it will be a pleasure to do business with in the years to come.

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Kris and I really enjoyed our time in Granbury. The old town is beautifully preserved, with a great many quality retail shops and galleries. There are also many restaurants, pubs, cafes, ice cream shops, and pretty much anything you can think of – all packed within a few downtown blocks. And if that isn’t enough, wait until you experience their real, genuine Southern hospitality! These people really know how to make strangers welcome. Conversation flows easily and unhindered by many of today’s strained talking points and blatantly fake narratives. They talk about what they know, and they know a lot. They know they live in a beautiful place and they love it for what it is: a little piece of paradise, deep in the heart of Texas.

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But before we get too sentimental at our imminent departure, and embark upon our thousand mile return journey, let us set our minds as to just what that means in terms of rubber on the road. For it is a long, long road at that; a never-ending road at times, or so it often seems.

As the dashboard indicates, the actual mileage accrued by the journey amounts to 1,932, with some of that tooing and frowing in and about the town of Granbury itself. But all told we spent a total of 28 hours and 41 minutes in the vehicle, and all but 15 or 20 minutes  or so completely unhindered by traffic snarls of any sort – simply an odd occasional hold up due to road repairs were all that we had to contend with.

With gas prices varying between $2.50 and $2.80 a gallon for mid grade blend the Detour bus’s dash showed 15.7 miles per gallon, and so I’ll let you do the math. Personally I was delighted with the vehicle’s performance and grateful for such wide open and enjoyable roads on which to drive. And although this particular journey amounted to something of a dart to and from, as the months and years pass Kris and I have vowed to slow the boat down quite considerably to the point whereby we will stop at all wayside views, small interesting towns and featured attractions that we wish to explore. In the meantime something tells me this sort of epic overland dash is going to prove something of  a par for the course.

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I was fairly surprised to discover that the immediate area surrounding Granbury and the Dallas/Fort Worth area is quite profusely green – similar in many ways to that of Austin, where I delivered and installed a marble fireplace some years back. Large shrubs, rather than trees, dot and at times blanket the landscape, providing shelter for all forms of wildlife. The landscape itself is composed of gently swooping valleys, with extremely well tended farms and small holdings forming a patchwork of busy agricultural commerce.

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Pretty soon however the land dries out drastically as we leave the patchwork of small holdings and enter the Big County.

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At this point humans are outnumbered by cattle at a rate of hundreds to one. Few are the towns, and many are the cows. Ranches the size of counties in lesser states rule the landscape; and a more empty, barren, desolate picture it would be hard to paint. This is harsh country alright. The more important crossroads spawn a gas station or two, while the regional commercial centers boast proud high school football teams, beautiful little downtown areas and much more. But the stark reality facing anyone who wants to live here is that the landscape always wins, and so better to account for that when you build your house – no trophy homes round here, that’s for sure.

In fact, the people who chose to live out here strike me as remarkably hardy and extremely capable in many aspects, now sadly long lost on much of the wider society today. No one cries wolf out here, or expects anyone to take care of them, as evidenced by the canny way they organize their various spreads.

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But when all said and done, this is most certainly cow country, and as I have and always will hold a major soft spot for these most docile and pleasant animals, after watching herd after herd roll by as we shot along these glorious Texan back roads, I eventually spotted a group poised seemingly waiting, expectantly it must be said, for their rancher to come around with a load of silage.

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Personally I don’t choose to eat a lot of meat, and Kris eats even less. Yes, I am comfortable with the fact that humans eat meat – it is only natural. But I do feel for the animals, and cows in particular. We fatten them up and eat them, and perhaps they even know it, for most things get eaten in the wild, but we should never forget that they are living beings, and therefore deserve our kindness and empathy. Which makes me think that these particular cows, these big beefy Texan cows, can count themselves particularly lucky. With acre after acre – miles and miles really – in which to freely wander and roam, with regular top ups of juicy silage for good measure, I ask you, what else could such beautiful and well adapted animals possibly desire?

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With nightfall descending, and hundreds of miles of farmland laying in wait ahead, Kris and I decided to take the same overnight accommodation option that we had on the journey out by booking a room in Amarillo – a veritably city of motels and accompanying fast food restaurants. Remarkably however a tip at the Day’s Inn front desk lead us to quite the best Thai food I have eaten in many a year, and so something tells me Amarillo will loom large in our travels the years ahead.

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And now we come to the mysterious lands clustered around the town of Delhart, Texas. Colossal grain silos dominate most intersections across the region and in each and every one of the smaller crossroad towns; with snow-white windmills, amassed by the dozens, crowd seemingly every rise, ridge and exposed point along the way.

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Great circular fields stretch out for as far as the eye can see. I imagine that just about every kind of serial is grown here, though at this time of the year, late October, much of it was gathered in and so a little difficult to gauge just what had been grown. Further south there were clear signs of cotton farming, but by the sheer size of the grain silos I would say that most of the land would be put to main crops such as corn, wheat and soy.

I will however admit being somewhat surprised at the amount of ‘wildness’ that exists in between the cookie cutter circles – valid wild land that seemed to support an impressive array of bird and animal life, not to mention flora quite natural to the area. So that’s something to think about the next time you lean over and peer out of that airplane window to stare down at this weird circuit formation landscape from way above.

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For me there is nothing dull about such scenes as these. Coming from England I find rural America absorbing as any foreign land: we even speak a similar language. But having been born and raised in a very wet and often cold Preston, Lancashire, England, I can tell you, this is about as different as our two cultures, America and the UK, can be.

Yes indeed, the road may well be long, but with a 75 mile speed limit, and rarely a cop to be seen, the miles sweep by at an impressive rate of knots.

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Things, it must be said, at this point, were going pretty well, and so we had no reason to fear the worst about Independence Pass and the snow that was predicted to fall anytime soon. We felt (quite rightly as it proved) that our luck would hold and that we would get through, and so We had sold several pieces of the Collection Series Marble Sculpture. We had established very promising business contacts within the townspeople of Granbury, and even acquired representation with a prominent and successful gallery, AND aroused promising talk of an outlet for our impending Jagged Mountain range of kitchen marble along the lines of plate stands and anti pasta dishes.

And so, as we headed back along the plains towards our familiar Rocky Mountains we took a little time out to enjoy the glorious tranquil scenes presented by the epic and endless plains of the great American prairie. Soon enough we would be back amongst the foothills, pulling our way up miles and miles of roadway in our approach to the formidable Independence Pass – newly dusted with powder and ready for a fight, by all accounts.

Closed to traffic for a period of days Independence Pass had just been reopened the day before, and by the time we were scheduled to cross her gate circumstances conspired to have us winding her twisty path right at sun down. And so, with that in mind I made sure to keep an healthy clip to the engine as we swept our way up and up and towards our date with destiny along roads almost too beautiful and perfect to look at. For there really wasn’t a moment to lose. That pass would begin to freeze the moment the sun went down, whether we were there or not. Luckily at this time of the year the roadbed remains pretty warm, and so the freezing would take a little time. But still, no way did I wish to navigate the Detour Bus over Independence Pass after dark, and so the race was now well and truly on.

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Luckily the gods were with us, and the weather too. And boy, we flew!

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Glorious it was to drive those roads. Our Big Black Detour Bus ate up the road with ease. Assisted by my manual 6-gear override transmission I was able to coax, steer and push the big F350 Ford Transit engine to move with grace and ease along these terrific American Wild Western roads. With the rev counter dictating the gear I was able to maneuver the bus with consummate ease, and she responded with a great deal of satisfaction as corners were rounded, and steep hills climbed, with barely a whisper from the engine.

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Ahead however, as I contemplated the joys of cruising some of America’s finest mountain scenery from such a comfortable and quite vehicle (well done Ford), I was all the time well aware of the stark challenge that lay ahead. And as the legendary Independence Pass loomed ominously into view I knew instinctively that we had timed our arrival with not a moment to lose. We could cross the pass ok, for sure, as long as nothing goes wrong, and there are no obstacles to block or hinder our way.

With manual control of the six gear transmission I never doubted that the Detour Bus could make it. That wasn’t the point. Neither was the matter of my navigation. I have driven this road many, many times during the 17 years I have called the Roaring Fork Valley my home. What bothered me was the chance of hitting black ice, or coming across a giant fallen rock blocking the roadway – these things terrified me frankly. But as I said to Kris as we pulled onto the road leading up to our date with destiny; “I’m back on home turf now. This road I know really well”, and so I do.

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Carefully and gingerly I picked my way up and over the now steadily freezing pass, and not a soul did we meet; not at the top, nor along the way. Night was falling fast by now – a compelling reason to clear the mountains, but never could I advance at barely more than a crawl, at low gear, and with no need whatsoever to go near the break pedal.

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Ominously enough, just as we were exiting the mountainous part of the road we passed a car being towed out, prompting a host of nightmare scenarios (that never happened) to flash through my mind’s eye. But I never felt compromised or in any way alarmed by our experience. Focus, road awareness, basic intelligence and a keen understanding of the conditions, combined with the exquisite handling of the Ford F-350 Transit Passenger Bus, left me in no doubt that we could make it, and make it with ease as it proved in the end.

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Before long we were picking up groceries and supplies in Aspen.

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And in no time we were pulling into the gallery. 1,932 miles under our belt, 28 hours and 41 minutes in the hot seat, and now we have ourselves a very definite connection with the good people of Granbury, Texas, without whom, and without their glorious and well organized and executed Art Fair, this epic journey would not have transpired. Neither would this post for that matter. And so, if anyone from Granbury happens to be reading this please accept and pass around my grateful thanks for the kindness and hospitality you showered upon Kris and I during our recent visit.

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If and when you next find yourself flying in or out of Aspen please come and visit us at our KMJ COONEY STUDIO GALLERY. Let us explain, and entertain, our way through the creation and development of our signature Collection Series Curvilinear Marble Sculpture, and just what ownership of truly light, portable and carved for full immersion in the real world Curvilinear Marble Sculpture will bring to your life. It will be our pleasure.

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The KMJ COONEY STUDIO SCULPTURE GALLERY

is located at

111 ASPEN AIRPORT BUSINESS CENTER, SUITE D, ASPEN 81611

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A Grand Weekend in Granbury, Texas: 2,000 Mile Round Trip Well Worth It!

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thanks for visiting martincooney.com

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