Friday, February 15, 2019

#LeapFrogs: From the Old West to the German Influence

I had work waiting for me after all our play time in Stonewall, Blanco, and Wimberly, so when we got to Fredricksburg, our first stop was the public library.

The minute I walked in the door, I wanted to move in there! When we asked the librarian the best place for us to work for a few hours, she told us to head upstairs where it was quiet. Upstairs, we found large work tables with charging stations and a quiet nook with two armchairs, two ottomans, and electrical outlets - just want we needed. I set up shop in one of the chairs while Tim napped in the other. He said at one point all we needed was a fireplace, but I was perfectly content.



Fredericksburg turned out to be a touristy town, but it took us a couple of days to discover that fact. The town held a lot of contrasts - young and old (people and culture), new and old (architecture and attractions), Old West and German, past and present. 

We are still car camping, so one night, we decided to go hang out at the local Whataburger and discovered that this particular location served as the town's diner. Locals of many generations hung out there, and apparently, our presence created quite a stir.

First, the woman who brought us coffee asked where we were from. (Tim's Bama hat still giving us away.) When she learned we were from Georgia and Alabama, she told us about her relatives who lived back east. She went back to work, but soon, we heard her tell someone else that we were from Alabama. Another employee came over and said her brother was from Huntsville. She talked for a while, then brought us a really great map of Fredericksburg that we hadn't found elsewhere. We sat studying the map after she went back to work, but soon, a couple came up and asked where we were from. They said they'd noticed we were looking at the map and wanted to give us a few pointers about town. We invited them to sit down with us, and the wife perched beside me, but the husband remained standing.

We learned all about the National Museum of the Pacific War and about LBJ's power and influence in the area (and how he got it). The conversation was lively, although a bit one-sided, but we learned a lot. His wife was precious (although she never uttered a word.)

The downtown area is lively on Saturdays, with shops and many restaurants. Our Whataburger friend told us to try the ice cream shop downtown, so that's how we ended up there the next night. 

My favorite part of Fredericksburg was the Lady Bird Johnson city park. We spent a few hours there (over a couple of days) because it was peaceful and spacious - and greeted us with this fun surprise on our first visit.








Fredericksburg is a nice town that proved much more interesting than I expected.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive

The first stop after we left the LBJ State Park facility was at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, and what a delight it was!

From the minute we walked through the gate, we knew we were on some very special property. Volunteers and employees are dressed in period costumes, and the farm is in full operation - an operation set in 1915, said one of the docents.

Animals roam freely around the property - some are in pens, others not. This day, the sheep were roaming, and the ram caught my eye - and apparently, I caught his, too.



As we walked around, we smelled food cooking, and soon found a lovely lady cooking onions on a wood stove. She told us about the three houses sitting side by side on the property - one the original, then an add-on (the one we were in), and then the new one, built in 1915 from materials bought through the Sears catalog. It was fun to compare the differences.

We asked about the milk sitting around in bowls, and she explained the cheese making process - all of it quite fascinating. 





Ranch hands popped in and out for coffee and invited us to come watch the butchering of a steer that would take place shortly. 



The garden was beautiful too - the cabbages were near perfection, along with broccoli, carrots, turnips, and more.


This was a great stop, and one I was reluctant to leave. As sappy as this sounds, all felt right in the world as we stepped back in time. 

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch

I was never much of a history student in my early school years. Then I began homeschooling my kids, and I determined to make history come alive for them, and then, when I took history as I sought my bachelor's degree, my professor made history come alive for us, too. But through it all, we never studied Lyndon Baines Johnson or Lady Bird Johnson, except in passing. When I saw we were going to be near their ranch, I knew I wanted to visit and get acquainted with their legacy.

We arrived in Johnson City late in the day, after our visits at Pioneer Town and The Buggy Barn Museum, so we sought out our overnight stop first - the Gillespie County Rest Stop right in front of the LBJ ranch. It was beautiful, and reminded me of travel during my childhood.



As you can see, our dreary weather continues!

This beautiful church sits behind the welcome center and can be seen across the river from the Johnson family cemetery.



The next morning, we went to the historic site, just a mile down the road. Visitors are sent first to the state park site, where we picked up a free permit to drive the self-guided seven-mile route through the ranch. Before we left the building, we were invited to view a short film (25 minutes) about LBJ. It was a TV special by NBC that aired while Johnson was President - he gave a tour of the ranch. He came across so laid-back and more like a farm hand than leader of the free world. (And nothing like politicians of today, although I learned from a local a few days later that the TV persona did not reflect who he was to the locals. More on that in a later post.)



Unfortunately, the Texas White House (the Johnson's home on their ranch) is closed to the public indefinitely, so we were unable to see it. Building surrounded it, including the hangar that is now the National Park Visitor's Center and gift shop, and the communication buildings that I found interesting.


My favorite part of the LBJ Ranch was another farm within the property. I'll write a separate post about it tomorrow.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

From one Pioneer Town to the Next

From Pioneer Town in Wimberly, Texas, we drove to The Buggy Barn Museum in Blanco. I'd read online that they had some wagons used in John Wayne movies, so I knew Tim would love that. But, like so many things on the internet, that wasn't quite true. They did have several wagons and buggies that were used in the new version of True Grit (2010, with Jeff Bridges), but only one of them was marked.

The "barn keeper" was friendly, and turned us loose to look through the buildings on our own, but kept popping up here and there to give us different facts about some of the artifacts. After we'd been all over the barn looking at the wagons, buggies, stage coaches, and more, he told us to keep walking toward the back, where they had their own pioneer town set up.




  






From Pioneer Town and The Buggy Barn Museum of the 1800s, we leaped forward to the 1960s with our next stop.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West

Yes, we've been going west since we left Georgia on January 8, but it seems we've been more north and south for a while. From San Marcos, we now head west, and I'm excited about what we'll discover.

While hanging out at the San Marcos library, I did some research on RoadsideAmerica, TripAdvisor, and other sites, and discovered a couple of nearby fun spots I decided to surprise Tim with as we got back on the road, heading toward Johnson City, Texas.

Our first stop was in Wimberly, where we found Pioneer Town. Based on what I'd read, I thought it was a small replica of a pioneer town, but was pleasantly surprised to discover it was so much more!




But Pioneer Town isn't just a replica. It's also a laid-back resort. They have cabins for rent, and lodges for big groups, with 10 bedrooms in each lodge. They have a resort-style swimming pool, and in warm weather, the Blanco River is available for play, too. The Boarding House in the pioneer town actually provides hotel-style rooms for rent, too. I've already told my family we should have a gathering at the 7A Resort - such fun!


Tim was sold when he heard the ice cream parlor is actually operational during summer months so that made the place even sweeter. Ha!

I hear there's a rough one on the loose though, so beware!



Pioneer Town was only our first stop that day. Tomorrow, our next adventure!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

San Marcos and Lonesome Dove

We continued south from Austin and returned to San Marcos. We were drawn to this town, too, although I'm not sure exactly why. (While we were there, Forbes Magazine named San Marcos the best city to retire in Texas, so I guess others are drawn here, too.) One thing we noticed - everywhere we wanted to go in town was only a mile or two away, regardless of where we were at the time. We found that pretty funny.

I'd never heard of San Marcos before we got into Texas and I started researching anything connected to one of Tim's favorite westerns, Lonesome Dove. He's watched the mini-
series several times (including with me, for my first time viewing it). I bought the book for him on Kindle, and he's let Kindle read the book to him twice already. (Tim has a learning disability and didn't learn to read until he was 22 - and he's still a reluctant reader. Kindle reading to him has opened up the world of books to him!)

We learned that the screenwriter of the Lonesome Dove series, Bill Witliff, had assembled, acquired, and donated a collection of Lonesome Dove artifacts and memorabilia to Texas State University in San Marcos, so that went to the top of our "must see" list in Texas.

The exhibit is only available Monday - Friday, and only by request. They unlocked a special room and let us browse at our leisure. The first draft of the first script was on display, as was the cover page for the final script of the series - signed by the cast and crew. Witliff supplied illustrations of set designs, maps, and costumes, and actual costumes and props were on display, too.

The characters are so alive to us that numerous times since we've been in Texas, Tim has made some comment about Augustus McCrae or Woodrow F. Call - about trails they took or towns they visited. He was determined to see where Gus was buried, even after I tried to explain that Gus was fictional so there would be no burial place. Thankfully, Gus's "remains" were on display in the museum, so we could finally stop grave hunting.

The Witliff Collections include other areas of interest, too, focusing primarily on southwestern writers. Well worth the visit. Employees told us that Witliff had acquired more artifacts, so the Lonesome Dove collection would more than double by mid-summer. I'm sure we'll return at some point.

San Marcos was a cute town with some quirky fun on display. The town held a mermaid contest, so there are brightly colored mermaid sculptures on display all over town. This is one of the more sedate ones.



One day, as we drove down a neighborhood street, we discovered this fun art. The first time we drove past, this conversation took place:

"Hey, what was that?"

"Looks like junk to me."

"Tim, that was art."

"Hey, don't get mad at me. I don't know what art is."

I kept driving, but we ended up on that street again, so I turned the corner and jumped out to snap photos. I laughed when I saw that we were both right - junk and art!





San Marcos has a convenient library, but it was rather noisy until we discovered the quiet room. 

They also have an active activity center that welcomes day use visitors, and we took advantage of that for showers. 

Spending time at the library, I realized that we needed to slow down. We'd been speeding along on this journey, trying to take in as much as possible as fast as possible, and we missed things we should have seen (like the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco.) Taking the time to research each area before we get there has already proven useful, and sent us to our next two fun surprises. And yes, I was able to keep them as a surprise for Tim until we got there!


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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas

We left Waco late afternoon and car camped at the awesome rest area on I-35 between Waco and Austin. The rest areas welcome travelers, and provide a safe haven with restrooms 24/7.

We had a special reason for wanting to visit Austin - Tim has family there! One of his first cousins lives there, and one of her sons and daughter-in-love own a really cool business that I've wanted to visit since they opened - Stouthaus Coffee Pub. We stopped in for a coffee (and an addictive mocha!) Sunday morning, but knew we wouldn't see the family until the next day, so we played tourist and visited the Texas State Capitol. (The best time to visit any big city downtown area is on Sunday - mostly deserted, except for a few tourists, so there's minimal traffic.)


The state capitol building was beautiful. Downtown parking is free on Sundays, and the sun was shining bright and warm during our visit.






Then we drove to Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin. We asked some folks just leaving the hiking area how difficult it was to manage, because Tim wasn't sure he could do it, but they assured us it was relatively easy, and they were right. A gravel path led to the right down a little to a picnic table, and to the left, and gradual climb upward. 



We still haven't acquired the pop-up camper, so we car camped at Walmart. The next morning, I had a conference call with a client, and then we went back to Stouthaus, where we got to see Tim's cousin Sandy. 

We had a great visit, and loved seeing her. We missed seeing Cecelia, but she was busy helping her daughter's family as they welcomed a new little one to the family!



While we were in town, we had to try some Austin bbq, and to fit our budget, we landed at Slab BBQ (we later learned they're friends of Stouthaus!)

Their specialty sandwich is called The Donk, and it's a pound of meat, so we decided to split it. When we ordered, we told them we were going to share, so they asked if we wanted it deconstructed, and we did! They brought it to us like this:


Such fun. The pound of meat included chopped pork (our least favorite), rib meat that had been pulled from the bone and shredded (Tim's favorite), chopped beef (my favorite), a few slices of smoked sausage, and three thick slices of chicken breast. The sandwich came with one side - we chose the twice baked potato casserole - and a bunch of condiments, which included mustard slaw (had never had this before - it was good), pickles, onions, queso, fritos, and several different bbq sauces. I loved playing with the food, and mixing and matching different flavors. Tim ate the bun, but I never missed it. 

We drove around the town quite a bit and discovered why people come to visit and never leave. It's a town I could move to quite easily.

Another town I'll look forward to visiting again in the future.

Next up: San Marcos.


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