Saturday, December 01, 2007

Adventures in “The Hill Country” and beyond

Welcome the unexpected!
rarely comes in neat, predictable packages.

I read the above somewhere and it certainly applies to traveling. Many of my adventures have been unexpected. I’ve had some delightful surprise encounters in all my travels.

SPECIAL NOTE: You’ll notice that instead of just my name and my profile on my personal blog, it now lists the four Winnies. I’ve tried to fix this, but so far no luck.

Del Rio to Fredericksburg

On Nov. 23, we got an early start – today would be our longest travel day: about 200 miles. Our drive took us east on Highway 90, through major deer hunting areas during hunting season. Somewhere along the way I saw a business with a sign that said, “Creative Taxidermy” – perhaps they put the head of one animal on the body of another? Why must the taxidermist be “creative”?

At the town of Hondo, we turned north of Highway 83. We went through the country-western town of Bandera. Everything there was ‘cowboy’ themed and the town was packed with tourists. Had there been a place to park three motorhomes, we might have stopped and explored. Instead we continued north to Kerrville to State Road 16 that took us into Fredericksburg.

We (the 3 Winnies: Carol R, Elizabeth, and I) would be camping at the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park for the next four nights. We parked under mature, bearing pecan trees. (the Friends of the Park sell shelled pecans in the office). Besides RV parking with hookups, the large city park includes a golf course, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and a stream flowing through. Elizabeth and Carol R will be staying longer.

Just when I thought I had brought turtleneck sweaters, long underwear, wool scarves and a heavy winter coat for nothing – a cold front with rain came through Texas on our first couple days in Fredericksburg. Night temps got down to 32 degrees for two nights. Then on Day 3 we woke to sunshine in the morning and went to sleep with the stars and moon.

Fredericksburg was established in the mid-1800s by German immigrants sent by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. There’s more descriptive information on our “Four Winnies” blog:

On the rainy and cold days, we drove around and shopped some of the tourist-oriented stores. And one night we had dinner in one of the German restaurants. We also discovered the Rather Sweet Bakery for lunch one day.

When we got a nice, sunny day, we drove to Johnson City for a guided tour of LBJ’s childhood home and visitor center, and then went several miles out of town for a guided tour of the LBJ complex. Here is the home where he was born, the LBJ ranch property (still a working ranch), his Western White House, the Johnson family cemetery, and a combination Texas State Park and National Park visitor center and gift shop.

Afterwards we went to the famous “town” of Luckenbach.This quaint wide spot in the road was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in their country hit “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”. Actually it is privately owned and now only a bar, gift shop, dance hall, and a few out buildings. But what a step back in time! A local couple was sitting at the end of the small bar playing guitar and singing, locals were hanging out there. It was a great place for our daily happy hour.

Off to San Antonio

It was time for our trio to split up. Carol R and Elizabeth stayed two more nights in Fredericksburg.

On Nov. 27 I took Jeremiah to San Antonio to visit with my friend Maria Negri. I know what they mean by calling the Fredericksburg area “Hill Country.” It seemed like I could coast all the way to San Antonio!

I originally met Maria when she and I lived in Rio Rancho at the Islands. We have an interesting history. She and I had homes there in the late 90s, then she moved to Utah and I moved back to California, then she moved back to the Islands: at #512 Eastlake Drive. When I moved back to Rio Rancho I bought #512 from her. She now lives in San Antonio, and says her ‘moving days’ are over.

I had three super days with her. Jeremiah parked easily on the street, letting me become Maria’s “house guest” without staying in the house. She and I visited and laughed nearly non-stop. She lives in a lovely home in a tree-shaded neighborhood.

Nov. 30
All too soon it was time to leave Maria’s and reconnect with my traveling friends at Goliad State Park. My route mainly took me on my favorite type of road – 2 lanes mostly in the country. I’m not sure where or what the “Buc-eez” is (I assume it is a restaurant) but I enjoyed their billboards that were scattered along the way. One said: “Fabulous Restroom or Your Money Back”. Two others I remember were “Your Throne is Waiting” and “Don’t Make Dad Pull Over Until You Get to Buc-eez”.

Even though my destination was Goliad, I had arranged to meet my traveling buddies in the town of Shiner – home of Shiner Beer. The brewery offers two tours a day and free beer. Turns out Carol R stayed in Goliad nursing a case of flu, so the only ones that came were Winnie 4, Roberta, (who had arrived in Goliad the day before) and Elizabeth. The brewery is a 24-hour operation and very clean. In the gift shop, they passed out generous samples of their various were "limited" to four glasses! They also had lots of goodies to purchase. I limited myself to half a sample since I still had to drive Jeremiah the rest of the way to Goliad. We did stop at the local market and bought some for future happy hours in camp.

Historic Goliad

The four Winnies were finally together at Goliad State Park. Here’s a photo of our motorhomes and tow cars.

The entire Goliad has numerous historic sites. It is the third oldest municipality in Texas. Goliad State Park, just a short bike ride from town, encompasses the Mission Espiritu Santo, and is quite near the famed Presidio La Bahia. The presidio is the only fully restored Spanish Presidio in the Western Hemisphere. It was at this presidio that General Santa Anna ordered the execution of Colonel Fannin and 341 men under his command.

Our timing in Goliad proved to be fortuitous – Saturday evening was the annual Christmas in Goliad light parade around the square. And the next morning before we left for Fulton, watched the annual Pony Express event. Riders, riding relay style, were actually carrying mail.

In fact, the riders had to be sworn in as temporary US postal workers to do this. One of mail exchanges between riders occurred at the entrance to the park. With the bribery of having a hearty country breakfast after the mail exchange about 7:30 a.m., we donned our matching t-shirts and headed to town. (I had bought the t-shirts at the gift shop in Langtry.)

I’ve already added a return trip to Goliad when I head back to New Mexico in February. We’ve found the Texas residents to be extremely friendly and helpful. Course they talk funny!

The last leg of the Winnie trip

The four of us left Goliad after the Pony Express and breakfast, driving about 80 miles to Fulton and our “Winter Texan Home”. I’ll be here at Driftwood RV Haven until February 1.

My parting words today are from T. S. Eliot. I'm delighted that I decided to buy a motorhome and travel!

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."