Saturday, April 20, 2013

Texas Hill Country

As I sit here tonight in Fredericksburg, TX, it's hard to believe that yesterday morning we were still in Rockport.  It was with mixed emotions that we pulled out of there--in just a short time we'd really come to love that little town.  Met so many incredible people there and had so many wonderful, deeply moving and meaningful experiences, that we were a bit sad to head out.  But, we knew there were other places we wanted to see, and we know we'll come back there sometime in the future.

Anyway, it was windy and overcast as we drove out; had to make a couple of quick stops in town before heading to Corpus Christi.  We had apparently picked up a nail in one of the tires, though I couldn't find the leak, just knew we kept losing air in that tire.  Since Corpus is only about 30 miles from Rockport, we found a dealership that could work us in to change the oil in the afternoon, along with taking care of the tire.  So got to Corpus early and just hung out in their waiting room until they got us back on the road late in the afternoon.  Though this was quite minor, it was the first test of what our good friend and RV veteran Wendell Fox told us before we left:  just be patient, no matter what happens!  Good advice Wendell!  The folks at the dealership were very nice and it really didn't take as long as I had anticipated, and I was glad we got it taken care of before we made the long trek across this huge state to Big Bend.

So, late yesterday afternoon we left the Gulf Coast for the first time since we started our adventure, driving through San Antonio right when we feared it would be horrible rush hour traffic, but it wasn't bad at all.  And, fortunately we found a Costco right on our route, so we stocked up on some goodies for the pantry there.  By the way, in this part of Texas we've discovered H-E-B grocery stores, and I must say that their produce department is light years ahead of any of the stores we're used to in Georgia.  I know this is Texas where everything is big, but I mean to tell you, the large array of fresh fruits and veggies, and a super large organic section, is very impressive.  So we've been really enjoying that!

After San Antonio we drove into the sunset, beginning our tour of the Texas Hill Country--what a dramatic change.  Mountains it's not, but after spending so much time driving on straight, flat roads with seemingly little more than 6" of elevation change, it was nice to suddenly be going uphill some!  We had been told that this is wildflower country, and we were told right.  Even though several locals in different places have apologetically told us that the wild flowers are not very good this year, we've been blown away nonetheless.  All along the highways there are just tons and tons of beautiful, brilliantly colored varieties of wildflowers--due in no small part to the efforts of Lady Bird Johnson lo those many years ago when she set out to make the highways and byways more beautiful.  Anyway, it was a lovely drive, even though we did get to our campground just as dusk was turning to darkness.  We had been warned by some of the Texans we had met at previous campgrounds to avoid driving at night if at all possible due to the high volume of wildlife traffic crossing the roads, so we were glad we had no encounters with deer or anything else before we got settled in.

We spent the night in Kerrville, and it got down to 31 overnight, so Santa and Mrs. Claus enjoyed snuggling under our nice warm blankets in our cozy little carhouse while the heater kept us toasty warm all night!  And this morning we were rewarded with a glorious sunrise!  So gorgeous!  We knew our first destination today was Mo Ranch, a Presbyterian Conference Center near Hunt, about 30 miles or so from where we were staying.  As we were pulling out, Trisha saw the campground manager and walked over to get some directions, and this woman who's staying here came walking up with this large, multicolored tropical parrot or similar species sitting on her arm, just as nonchalantly as can be, nothing out of the ordinary to see here folks, move along, move along!  How random is that??!!  When she heard Trisha say we wanted to go to Mo Ranch, she said she and her husband had ridden past it on their motorcycle many times, but she never knew what it was.  So she and Trisha walked over to their big 5th wheel so she could get her husband to give us some directions, and Trisha told me when she got back to the RV that the parrot was kissing the lady over and over while she was standing there--what a hoot!  I guess she was just taking her pet out for a walk like other people walk their dogs.

Anyway, we got to spend some wonderful time at Mo Ranch.  Trisha had seen pictures of this place and had heard about it for years, being that she's a Presbyterian minister and all, and was so excited to actually see it, particularly because they have a labyrinth on the property.  She had a couple of seminary classmates from Texas who had gone on and on about how nice it was, and they were not exaggerating.  The drive was just stunningly beautiful, with all the wild flowers, huge ranches with unique fencing and our first sighting of longhorn cattle, hugging the banks of the Guadalupe River, and crossing it many times.  It's so interesting, you see signs that warn "Dip" right before you see another sign that says, for example "Guadalupe River, Mo Ranch Crossing," where the road dips down to just about the level of the water, there are concrete spillways on either side and other signs warn you to watch for water on the road.  At the first one of these we saw a vertical sign, marked off in 1 foot lines with the heading "Flood Guage."  We were confused at first, and then put it all together--this was to let you know how high the water was above the roadway, so you could, I guess, turn around if your vehicle didn't have enough clearance, since we saw many places where it looked like it wouldn't take too much water to make it pretty deep in the dip.

Anyway, when we got to Mo Ranch we stopped into the registration lobby to get directions to the labyrinth and met the nicest staff folks there.  When one of the women learned that Trisha is a pastor, she took us to see the private Pastor's Library, which is open to any minister who comes there to study, use their extensive collection of books, or just to be quiet and reflect.  Then we headed off to see the labyrinth, passing many groups their for retreats, workshops and just glorying in the beauty of the place, lots of young folks were there, and they were setting up for a wedding later in the day outside under this beautiful canopy of shady river oaks.  We parked the van and walked across this little footbridge crossing the river, and it was just so beautiful.  It was quite shallow, though obviously at times it rises significantly.  But there were very pretty grasses below the surface of contrasting shades of brilliant green, and the water was crystal clear.  Across the bridge, up a rocky path, we found the mulch covered  path to the labyrinth.  It is set in a small clearing, gravel paths, with white bricks set into the gravel to mark the circuits, and big rocks in each of the labyrs.  We had it to ourselves, the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, beautiful birds singing songs we're not used to hearing from the birds back home, and it was just wonderful.

We had planned to have lunch where we had parked the RV under some trees, but when we returned, we realized we were adjacent to the place where they were setting up tables and chairs for the wedding and reception, and we didn't want to be in the way as folks started to arrive.  So we headed back out on the highway and found a lovely spot by the river where we could hear the river flowing and feel cool breezes blowing through the windows as we had lunch.  Then we came to Fredericksburg, one of the towns settled by German immigrants in the 1800's, and which still carries on much of its German heritage and tradition--for folks back in Georgia, think Helen.  We went to the Vereins Kirche--the Society Church--on Main Street, which is actually a replica of what was originally built in the 1840's and used by all denominations, plus for school and social gatherings.  As public education became the norm, school houses were built, and different denominations began building their own churches, so the original building fell into such disrepair that cows were coming in and tearing it up so they destroyed it, but the city decided to build a replica in 1935, which is now a museum.  The man there showed us the trunk his great grandparents used when they came over--each family was allowed only one trunk!  We walked around town, filled with lots of folks out having fun on a Saturday afternoon, but since they were having a comunity fish fry downtown to raise money for the local volunteer fire department, it began to get a little crowded, so we found a campground and came on out here.

Tomorrow will be a great day in the Hill Country, as we'll do a bit of exploring to see if we can find some remnants of some of my ancestral history, and then head to Canyon Lake, where we've seen pictures on the internet of a beautiful labyrinth hanging out over a cliff above the lake.  It's on private land, but we contacted the owner and, while she's out of town for an extended stay, she has someone house sitting and said we were welcome to come.  When Trisha called and left a message, the house sitter called back and Trisha was confused, when she recognized the Tennessee area code--turns out the house sitter is from Tennessee too!  When she gave Trisha directions she said "Now read back to me what you wrote down before we hang up, 'cause I've got this heavy Tennessee accent and no one out here can understand me."  Trisha laughed and said "Honey, I've got the same accent as you and I understood every word!!"  So I'll sign off with today's pics:
Well, something is going on with Picassa and I can't find the album I uploaded earlier this evening with today's pics, and I'm too tired to keep looking, so I'll either find them or redo the album tomorrow and post then.   Sleep tight my pretties!


  1. I highly recommend Ruslin Robs store. They have some great samples and all kinds of good stuff:)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation Chuck; saw that store as we were walking downtown yesterday.