"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Walk through the Woods

Image from Amazon see link
but don't click until you get there. :)

Recently John and I both read a book that was recommended to us by our friends, Jim and Wendy in Houston. The book A Walk through the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail written by Bill Bryson. Jim said he thought this guy wrote a lot like John (when we get him to write) and interestingly enough to us, he grew up in Iowa. Bryson was actually a travel writer for many years in England and traveled all throughout Europe and has written columns and books about some of those adventures. This book was written after he had returned to the US and was living in New Hampshire, not far from the Appalachian trail.
I know many of my fellow RVers and bloggers like to hike and for that reason I think you will enjoy this book. Bryson decides to start at the southern end of the trail and hike it north. He starts early in the spring as the trail is approximately 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine. If you want to hike the whole trail it takes until fall and the snow is falling again. 
One of the interesting things in reading this book is learning all the history of the trail and all its unique traits and changes over the years. I learned about the demise of the chestnut trees, the workings (or not workings) of the park service, and a lot of mountains that I had no idea about. I think, like Mr. Bryson, I find the idea of doing a hike like this a romantic idea and part of me sees doing something like this as a challenge. However, after reading the book I think hiking parts of it would be enough for me.
Mr. Bryson is a somewhat irreverent fella and I did enjoy some of his observations. Here is one that actually appeals to me about a long journey:
“Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful really.”
One observation that really made me laugh was a result of his research on bears before he left and a story he’d read of a group of bears coming into a camp. 
“What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties - I daresay it would even give a merry toot - and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.” As you can see, he has a gift for description that can be both crass and funny at the same time. I found myself laughing out loud several times as I read.
So for those of you who enjoy a good hike and like a good book, you may find this a good read. I plan on reading a few of his other books as well. And to Jim and Wendy, thanks, Bill Bryson definitely has John’s sense of humor and his way with words too. :)
A beautiful Texas sunset

Happy Trails.......................

Sunday, February 26, 2012

San Antonio and Luckenbach

The Alamo

 It has been a good week here in the Hill Country. The weather has been a little up and down. Hot for a couple days and then the last few have been cool and breezy. On one of those warm days (Wednesday) we decided to drive down to San Antonio for the day. I tried to get us to a place that our friend Gayle recommended for breakfast but between the traffic and a train we had to wait for, we decided to just take off walking on the on the River Walk. We have been to San Antonio twice before, once with kids and then on John’s 50th birthday. He turns 60 in a couple months so that means it’s been almost 10 years. 
Zuni's cafe patio on the River Walk
We started looking for a place for lunch when we noticed one restaurant was still serving breakfast, John’s favorite, so we ate at the Zuni cafe. It is so wonderful to be able to sit outside and enjoy our meal. Their breakfast is excellent; they have wonderful pancakes with cinnamon. We continued our walk and headed up to Alamo Plaza. We’ve been inside the Alamo both times on our previous visits so this time we just walked around. We went back and finished up a nice long walk along the River Walk and then headed back. I know there are other things we could have done but knowing we had to drive back made us want to head out before rush hour. 
We did get one more warm day on Thursday so we spent most of it outside getting our workouts in and just relaxing. We’ve gotten to know a few of the people here in the park so we invited two of the couples down for happy hour. It was fun to just sit around and talk. Both couples are from the Midwest, one from Missouri the other from Michigan. The couple from Michigan are snowbirds that have been coming to Texas for many years and have stayed many different areas. It was fun to hear about all the things they’ve done in the area over the years.
Alamo Plaza
Friday was a cold windy day so we used it to just catch up around the rig. Saturday started out looking the same but then the wind calmed down and we decided it would be a good day to check out Luckenbach and do a few errands on our way through Kerrville, so off we went. 
Luckenbach was made famous by Willie Nelson and is still a place for great music. It really isn’t a town, just a bar, gift shop and dance hall. It was still a little cool so we looked for a nice spot in the sun to listen to the music. This is a big spot for bikers to stop. There were lots of great Harley’s and other assorted bikes in the lot and later a group of vintage muscle cars showed up. The music was hosted by Jimmy Lee Jones and it really is whoever shows up and joins in and it really was a group of talented country musicians.
We found a table out in the sun across from a very fun couple, Karen and John. They are retired and living in San Miguel, Mexico. John is from Texas so he is showing Karen Texas and then they are headed towards Taos to hopefully find a place there for the summer. It was fun talking about the different ways we’ve chosen to live. They gave us some sites to check into coming to Mexico for awhile. You never know, we just may.
Intersesting bike,how do like that trunk?

Luckenbach Dance Hall

Another great bike

the classic muscle cars

While the four of us were chatting, a family joined us at the table. What a small world, the father/grandfather in the group grew up on Iowa and the son Rick was a fraternity brother of John’s (same fraternity, different colleges).  It all made for very lively conversation and kept us there until almost dinner time. Karen and John were staying in Fredericksburg so they asked us to join them at The Brewery for dinner. It was a fun meal with new friends and it just supports my belief that the best part of this life are the people you meet along the way.
Karen and John
Our time in the Hill Country is coming to a close; we still have this week but will be leaving on Friday or Saturday morning. We have enjoyed our time in Texas but I’m ready to head to areas that offer a little more in the way of hiking so our next stop will be   New Mexico (with an overnight in Fort Stockton). I think we have decided on staying at Elephant Butte state park for a week. We were there last spring and it’s a beautiful park.

Happy Trails......................

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bandera, Texas

Downtown Bandera, Texas

We had a couple days of heavy rains but Sunday it cleared up and the blue Texas sky returned. Can’t let a day like this go by so after our workouts, we cleaned up (necessary for any outing in public) and headed to Bandera. We talked to a few folks and they said there wasn’t a whole lot in Bandera so we figured and afternoon was plenty.
Bandera is about 20 miles south of us and is considered the cowboy capital of the world. I think that is a proper description. As we got to the downtown area there was a little bit of a back up as a group on horseback was going down the road. Leading the group was something I am sure you only see in Texas. I’ll let the photo do the talking.
Only in Texas!

After perusing the shops,not all were open, we decided to stop at the Chickin’ Coop for a beer as they had an outdoor area and it would be a shame to be inside on a day like today. Interestingly enough they had a big screen TV out on the porch area and as a special treat it was turned to hockey! We rarely get to see hockey anymore so we settled in to watch the Bruins and the Wild. We were so comfortable here we grabbed a menu and decided to order lunch. The waitress was great and explained that all there burgers were fresh meat from the butcher shop next door and that they make their own onion rings too so of course we ordered a burger and rings (just one as we are trying to cut down, so now we share). I have to say it was one of the best burgers we have had and the onion rings were also great.  This bar also has live music and so we did get to listen to some local music too and it was pretty good. We’ve decided we may have to make another trip to Bandera for a burger before we leave.
I like this sign inside the Chickin Coop
Besides cowboys, there is another group that seems to congregate here and that is bikers, lots and lots of bikers. There were several bars that look like they cater to that crowd so if you have a bike this may be the place for you. John being a former biker (Harley guy) was enjoying checking out all the bikes.
So in spite of the fact there isn’t a lot to do in Bandera we really enjoyed our afternoon here. We definitely think it is worth the drive and maybe a weekend is the best when there is a little more going on. Tomorrow we are headed to San Antonio for the day. We have visited this city a couple times before in our pre-RV days. We’ve always enjoyed the Riverwalk and our friend Gayle has suggested another spot to check out so off we go. We will actually have to get a little earlier than usual (if you know us you  know we are not morning people) but I think we can handle it.
Beautiful end to a beautiful day!

Happy Trails..........................................

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fun with New Friends

Pretty sky over the Triple T Resort

Wednesday night we got together with the Brights. The lodge here is actually nicer than I first thought. The day I was up there I really didn’t explore enough but Sheryl showed me that there was also a library and kitchen area along with the pool table, ping pong table and big screen TV. We met up at the lodge for games. Now John and I don’t know a lot of card games but we are always open to learning. I know that seems odd to a lot of people but we didn’t grow up in card playing families and with our kids we played more board games than cards. So now we are learning.
John at the pool table in the lodge

Jeff and Sheryl are a lot of fun. The guys played some pool while Sheryl and I played an interesting game of ping pong. Out went the rules; we figured if we could just keep the ball on the table and going back and forth that was good enough for us. I mean who really cares how many times it bounces on the way there?!  The we sat down to learn a few games. First up we played a game called golf, simple and fun. Next up we learned to play Skip Bo, I really enjoyed that one. Last up we played Left-Right-Center which is a dice game and great for winning (or losing) some laundry money. Luckily they took pity on us beginners and we just used chips instead of money. It was a good night for making new friends and lots of laughs. Laughing, I think, is one of the best and healthiest activities in life! 
Thursday morning it was time for the Brights to move on so wished them well and safe travels. The truly best part of this lifestyle are the people you meet. Thanks Sheryl and Jeff!
Jeff and Sheryl, we actually were having more fun than it looks like in this photo.
Thursday was cloudy but decent weather, they keep forecasting rain but we’ve only had a little until today (Friday) and it looks like we will have scattered showers throughout the day. That’s ok as we need to do a few errands and I really need to do laundry. Yep, even in this lifestyle we have to do the chores. 
We have about 2 weeks left here and we still want to go to Luckenbach, Bandera, and San Antonio. There also a few more wineries to check out. One of the nice things about staying a month is being able to spread the sightseeing out a little more, nice slow pace. The bad thing is at about 2 weeks I start getting hitch itch. I have tried to combat that by planning out our spring and fall trips. I did make reservations at the Grand Canyon Trailer Village for the last week of March and one for Custer State Park in South Dakota next August. I usually don’t make reservations that far ahead but these are both places that fill up early. I waited a little too long to do the Grand Canyon and instead of April I had to go with March. I went ahead and booked Custer, knowing that August is prime family vacation time and it gives us a time frame to leave Iowa and head to Washington State. I have both trips, spring and fall, loosely mapped out and I am still doing the research for campgrounds. I always know that these plans will probably change and evolve as we go but I like having a loose framework for our travels.
Happy Trails...........................

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day

Hope y’all (I’ve been in the south now for months so the language is wearing off on me) had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and were able to spend it with someone you love. Our day was excellent! The sun was shining, the temperature perfect, I don’t know if it gets much better than that.
The patio at Grape Juice
We got up and got our workouts in so we could spend Valentine’s Day having a late lunch in Kerrville. I had checked out a restaurant/bar/wine shop called the Grape Juice online and it looked like an interesting place for our lunch. I checked the menu online and one of the things that intrigued me were the selection of antelope burgers and quail that was local to Texas. I really like to patronize places that strive to use local products. We’ve been to other restaurants that use local produce, cheeses and local grass feed beef. I truly believe that keeping it local makes for fresher better tasting food and helps local economies. So off we went to the Grape Juice.

Jordan, our server.
We arrived around 2:30 so there were only a couple folks there and they serve lunch until 3. The other draw for John is they have about 20 unique beers on tap. As you may have figured out John is a beer guy and loves to try different crafted brews. An extra treat for both of us is the patio seating. On a beautiful day like today eating on the patio is the best. We each had a couple different beers and excellent meals. John tried the antelope sliders and I had a Mediterranean pasta. For wine lovers out there they also have a great wine list. Our server Jordan was a wealth of information and a very nice young man. We also chatted with the owner on the way out. I’m so glad we found this place.

So if you find yourself  in Kerrville and want a slightly more upscale meal I would highly recommend Grape Juice. Finding these gems as we travel makes life a treat.
Happy Trails.....................

Monday, February 13, 2012

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday it was high in the 40s with rain and sleet. Today sunny and high 60s. Wow is it beautiful. Got our workouts in, went grocery shopping and then stopped by to meet the Brights who are now in our park. So much fun to meet other full timers and fellow bloggers. Tomorrow is Valentine's day, hope you all get to spend it with the one you love!

Happy trails......................

Sunday, February 12, 2012

LBJ Ranch and "Texas White House"

Longhorn on the LBJ Ranch, these fellas are huge!

Yesterday turned out to be a very blustery day. Our original plan was to go to Luckenbach to listen to some music but it was just too cold for that so we changed it up and headed to the LBJ Ranch and historic site. We had heard it was mainly a car tour so we could stay nice and warm.
This park is both a State Park and a National Park and the amazing thing is the only charge is $2 for the ranger led tour of the Johnson Texas White House. When he donated the house and land, President Johnson felt it belonged to the people and wanted to make it affordable for all. What a great concept.
John with statue of President Johnson
LBJ is really the first US president I remember much about. I was 8 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated and I remember that event but not much else. LBJ in my memory was a bigger than life character. When I would see him on TV or hear him talk he would remind me of my grandfather, but Texan style. Until going through this exhibit, I didn’t realize what a difficult hand he was dealt as president. He inherited a war he didn’t want but felt compelled to finish, and a civil rights movement in full swing that he felt passionate about. He also had a compassion for the plight of the poor and a compelling desire to improve education. Did you know he was a teacher before he became a politician? I was also impressed with the amount he accomplished in his presidency. I think he is remembered more for all that happened in Vietnam and forgotten are the strides made in civil rights and education.

Many books now have been written about what a difficult man he could be. He was known as the Great Persuader. The ranger on our tour was great about presenting both sides of the story and I appreciate that. Perhaps it was the powerful and stubborn will that led to him to accomplish so much in such a short time as president. I also didn’t remember that he was only 64 when he died. He died the day after then President Nixon called to tell him we had signed a peace accord with North Vietnam.
Our welcoming committee. :)

The farmhouse
Back to the tour, at the state park visitor center they give you a cd that will narrate your car tour and explain the places you can stop and visit. There is a living history farm that is part of the tour and you can drive to it or walk a trail to it. We decided we needed to get a little exercise in so even though it was chilly we walked over to the Saur-Beckman Living History farm. You are greeted in the farm yard with colorful chickens pecking the ground. This is a working farm and they use volunteers and work campers who dress in period costumes. We talked to several who were recruiting and they actually help tend the animals, milk the cows and demonstrate many activities on the farm. I was impressed with how well kept up the farm was. After enjoying the farm life we headed back to the truck, put the cd in and listened to the narration as we drove around. We did stop at the house where LBJ was born and the cemetery where he and Lady Bird are buried. Then it was on to the house and the tour. 
The Texas White House

Air Force One at the hanger
House for the Secret Service detail
Adjacent to the house, there is a runway and hangar where a  medium size jet was parked that acted as Air Force One back in the day to bring him to the ranch as they couldn’t land a larger jet here (any plane the president is on becomes Air Force One). I found the house to be very surprising. It was known as the “Texas white house” because LBJ used it for much more than just as a retreat. Though there is lots of land, the house is surprisingly modest in size. The interior has been restored to a 60s decor like it would have been during his presidency. I think many of us would remember some of that furniture and the color schemes; it really made me smile. You also get a sense of Lady Bird’s influence in the house too. It really has only been a few years since her passing (2007) and she lived here until that time. They don’t allow photos inside the house so I only have a few outside. This tour is well worth the $2 and I am so glad I visited this site.  Thanks to everyone who recommended this tour to us.
Hi from the farm porch!
Well, today has turned cold and it has been sleeting on and off but they say it will be short lived and Valentine’s day is predicted to be sunny and in the 70s. This is a good excuse to cuddle up inside and spend a relaxing day.
Happy Trails..............................

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fredericksburg Texas

Downtown Fredericksburg
On Monday we took our first foray into the Hill Country and headed to Fredericksburg. It was not the nicest of days, raining on and off. We wandered down the east end of the main street wandering through the various shops. I’ve been looking for a new purse which would be my Valentine’s gift. I found one I liked but when I checked the price tag I about had a heart attack -$228, yowza! I know some women might not have a problem with that but I couldn’t get myself to pay that even on my most extravagant day. 

Down the street a ways we came to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company. I had read about this microbrewery so we were ready to have lunch and try one of their local brews. Fredericksburg, you may gather from the name was founded by German immigrants and embraces its German heritage. The brews here are also German type brews; John had their Porter and I tried their brown ale and we were happy with both selections. This is a very nice brew pub and the food was great. We noticed here as on Strand Street in Galveston that they allow you to take your drink outside to the sidewalk area. By the time we finished and worked our way back to the truck we decided to head back to the rig and leave the west half of main street for another day.
Today the sun was finally shinning and we decided to combine visiting the west side of main street Fredericksburg along with a couple of wine tastings. On our last visit I picked up the literature and map of the US 290 Wine Trail. There are 10 wineries along US 290 here in the Hill Country. One is west of the city, the Chisholm Trail Winery and the Fredericksburg Winery is on the west end of main street so these two were a good fit for today.

First up before tasting any wine was lunch. We found the German Bakery and Restaurant just down the street from our first winery. It was lunch time but we were pleased that they serve a breakfast menu all day and that is John’s favorite meal out. We have to give this place a nice recommendation. I had a huge omelette that came with homemade biscuits that were amazing and the server was very friendly. You can tell a lot of locals eat here which to us is always a good sign.
Fredericksburg Winery

Next up was the Fredericksburg Winery. We were the only ones there at the time and a very friendly and talkative fella greeted us. The only problem was he talked so much and so fast he was hard to understand at times  (ed:which was any time he was talking). We tried three of the wines and really did not find anything to our liking (ed: they all sucked). This fella was kind of irritating in that when I told him my preference was dry red wines, he proceeded to tell me that I really didn’t know much and the fruit and sweet wines would be better (ed: this guy was pegging my BS meter on every topic, which can be entertaining). I actually think this was because they were sold out of both their Cab and Pinot Noir and most of what he had left were the sweeter fruity wines. The wines he had us try were all $30 a bottle, which in our estimate was way overpriced for the quality of the wine so for the first time that I can remember we left a winery without a purchase (ed: the samples were free and, fortunately, very small). Usually at these small wineries we always find at least one wine worth taking home. (by the way all the “ed:” comments are my editor’s comments, that would be John)
My new purse!
So we finished up our shopping and guess what I found? A purse that I really like and for a fraction of the price of the one the other day. So Happy Valentines Day to me! :)
Now it was time to find the Chisholm Trail Winery. The map and the GPS agreed and had us taking 290 west for about 9 miles and then south about 3 miles on a road that I think was very fitting for a winery named after the Chisholm trail. The road is only about one, maybe one and a half lanes wide along scrubby grazing land with cattle, goats and horses. It was a nice winding road and I tried to take a photo for you through the window. There in the middle of this wild Texas country side where I could easily picture cowboys riding along on their horses is a nice little winery. 
Chisholm Trail winery
The tasting room was quite large and again we were the only ones there for quite awhile. We tried five dry reds and their port and I have to say it was much better than the one in town. The woman helping us was very knowledgeable about their wines and we found three to bring home. This was altogether a better experience. What made it even a better experience were the prices. Much more reasonable and when you bought 3 bottles you received a 10% discount (in Fredericksburg the discount for multiple bottles was only 5% for 6-11 bottles and 10% for over 12 bottles). 
Fitting there would be horses by the Chisholm Trail Winery

The weather today was so pleasant too. It was such a joy to be out discovering new places when the sun is shining; it makes for a great day.
Happy Trails........................

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Triple T Resort, Kerrville TX

Our site
We arrived safely at the Triple T Resort in Kerrville where we will be staying for a month. This winter I have been making us month stays to save a little money which was good since we just spent a bundle to get the transmission replaced. That worked well coming here and I think John is almost in the mood to blog about that whole project. He actually got under the truck today to take photos of it. This resort is ok so far. There are two areas of sites and we are in an area with longer term rentals but all pretty nice rigs. There is also ann area for larger rigs with pull throughs that will fit your big rigs. There aren’t a lot of rigs here but unlike Port O’Connor the rigs that are here actually have people in them. We even sat and had a beer with a couple of folks who have the two rigs across from us. Both are from the Galveston area and now are full time residents here. They said they are tired of running from the hurricanes so sold their property bought trailers and moved them here. Terry and her husband who is a trucker live in one and her husbands best friend Donny owns the other trailer, he works off shore a month on and a month off working with the barges. Nice people.
The lodge

The Office

Pool to the left, fitness center & laundry behind
The “resort”, I’ll use that loosely does have a few amenities. There is a pool and hot tub but it is locked up even though it still has water in it. There is a lodge that has a pool table, ping pong table and big screen tv. This area also has rooms it looks like they rent out. It is ok but not great. Next to the pool is another building that has an exercise room with minimal  weight equipment and several ellipticals and steppers. There will be no excuses for not getting my aerobics in. This building also houses the laundry room which appears adequate. One of the interesting things is that the office even though the sign says open, no one is there and the shelves for what looks like a small shop are empty. Someone came from a trailer next to it (permanent mobile home) to check us in but they don’t seem to keep regular hours. I found this out when I went to the office to ask a couple questions and no one was there.   I may have to call to get my questions answered. So there is good and bad but this is about an hour from almost everywhere we want to visit maybe a little longer to a few. This middle ground will be a good base for discovering the hill country.
Newer area of pull throughs big enough for the bigger rigs
We will probably wait until Monday to start exploring the area but I am looking forward to it.  I know some of you know this area. If you have any suggestions on things to do please share it. 

Happy Trails................................

Friday, February 3, 2012

Good-bye Port O'Connor

View from RV site at Port Lavaca Park

The truck has a new transmission and so today we are headed to Kerrville TX.  John was excited to get his truck back and feels confident now that the transmission he has worried about for months is a rebuilt high performance one.

We had a really nice and relaxing stay in Port O’Connor but we are both ready to move on. It was a great place to regroup and get back to the way we want to live. Our vacation to Galveston and Houston was a refreshing break and we are ready for a move to a new area. The Hill Country of Texas is an area I’ve been looking at for along time and I am looking forward to discovering all it has to offer.
Another view of wildlife viewing area from RV sites, these are the sites we would choose.

While we were waiting for the truck to be finished we went to the Port Lavaca park and bird sanctuary. The park is right on the bay and they do have an RV park which we checked out.  The sites are right on the bay and all have a very nice view but we found the park to be a little run down and there is a need for someone to pick up trash along the marshes. Most of the sites are a little tight. The ones on the beach have a shelter next to each and backing in and making sure you were in so your slides would open looked like a challenge. The hillside sites were very close together and then there were a few pull thru’s near the recreation center that were a little further away from the water but had a nice unobstructed view of the bay. These are the ones we would choose but not sure we would stay here. 

We also went our on the boardwalk to view the birds and did see many among the marshes here. It costs $3 to get into this park and I’m not sure it is really worth it unless you were staying here but it was a nice little walk while we waited for the truck. I’ll share some photos of the birds we saw, not sure the names but fun to see and photograph.

On our way back to Port O’Connor I made John stop for me to take a photo of a sign that greets you to the town. This sign says it all, it is where TX 185 ends and to leave you must leave by the same route. We bid a fond farewell to a little out of the way place that refreshed us and renewed us. So good-bye Port O’Connor and hello Texas Hill Country!
Happy Trails.............................................