Thursday, October 30, 2014

Canyon Lake - Fun with Chuck and Cindy (part one)

Roger here...  Another road trip!  Last week we met our Indiana camping buddies Chuck (unretired) and Cindy (retired) outside of San Antonio where they were at a business conference.  They had reserved a condo for a week at Canyon Lake, TX in the Hill Country just west of San Antonio and Austin and invited us to join them.  The first task was to cram all of our luggage and theirs into our Toyota for a one-hour drive.  Pretty cramped.

Our lodging for the week was at the Silverleaf Hill Country Resort at Canyon Lake. Our unit was on the first floor --- just behind the Toyota.  Unfortunately, our dogs remained in the Rio Grande Valley, but in a great kennel (Paws and Claws) where they were able to play with other dogs every day.  We convinced ourselves that we had sent them to summer camp.

The condo was great --- two bedrooms, two full baths, washer/dryer and a full kitchen.  Oh, and a nightly view of the friendly deer near the lake.

After settling in, we were hungry.  Chuck and Cindy were even more hungry, as they had skipped breakfast.  Cindy wanted Texas barbecue like she had enjoyed the last time they met us in Texas.  Luckily, a branch of Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Que was nearby in the town of New Braunfels.  We had been to the original restaurant in Llano during their previous trip to the Hill Country, so we knew it was good.

Hill Country Gastronomic Tour - first installment

Brisket (melt-in-your-mouth), pork ribs, Texas beans and Shiner beer served on butcher paper.  I am hungry all over again.  

Our hunger satisfied, we drove a couple of miles to the small town of Gruene (pronounced green), where a festival was in progress.  This picture and the next two were taken at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.  

Every town in this part of Texas seems to have a dance hall.  And yes, the Texas two-step is very much in vogue.

We occupied the wall-flower space at the edge of the dance floor while the band play a little ditty about chillin' at garage sales.  Fun.

Forcing our way away from the music and back into the daylight, we discovered a town full of shops, booths, and places to play.  It was a great start to our week.  

Back to the condo for pizza and our first (of many) games of Mexican train on the patio.  Chuck!!!!  You cannot be going out already!

Day two found us on the road to the LBJ Ranch and Fredericksburg on the first of many Chuck Tours.  Chuck is not a fan of following the main highways.  Sooo.... I let him tell me where to drive.  I must admit that his directions led us on far more scenic routes than mine would have taken us.

Our first stop, just west of Johnson City, was at the LBJ Ranch where Lyndon and Lady Bird are buried.  A leisurely drive through the ranch preceded a guided tour through the Texas White House.

I must admit that I was not a fan of LBJ while he was president and I was young, but my views now are much different.  Many of the privileges that we now enjoy that have helped to make our country great were a result of his vision.  The picture above shows the one-room school house where LBJ attended elementary school.  

As educators, this stop probably meant more to me and Cindy (also a retired teacher) than to many.  It was inspirational to be in the rustic building where a president developed a love for knowledge.

"I believe deeply that no law I have signed or ever will sign means more to the future of America."  He signed this law on the lawn of his former one-room school, with his first grade teacher sitting at his side.

Ok... enough of the stuff that is sentimental to me.  We drove through the ranch, saw the hereford cattle that are descendants of his herd, and got a good look at (Air Force 1/2) --- the plane that transported him back and forth from Washington to the Texas White House.  

At the airplane hanger Chuck found an opportunity to address the other tourists in the press room :-).  Such an inspiring message!

Pictures were not allowed in the Texas White House tour, so it is difficult to show how the residence (restored to the 1960s) allowed President Johnson to do his job in the place that he loved --- tvs and telephones in every room, special rooms for private conversations,  the live Oak tree under which cabinet meetings were held.  A pecan pie (replica) was displayed in the kitchen.  Jackie Kennedy was to have tasted her first pecan pie at the LBJ Ranch after a long day in Dallas (November 22, 1963).  Never happened.

Gastromical Tour - second installment

Fredericksburg was a short drive down the road.  We were again hungry.  We revisited our favorite German restaurant, Auslanders.  No pictures this time; however, imagine opa sausage, potato pancakes, reuben sandwiches and Spaten beer.  Yum.

Winery time.  Our favorite Texas wineries were on the way back to Canyon Lake.  We tasted wines at Torre de Pietra.  We bought wine at the Becker Winery.  We had a glass of wine on the terrace at Grape Creek Winery (Dianne's absolute favorite). 

  Serendipity?  Jeff Wood, a vocalist we enjoyed previously at Grape Creek, was performing during our visit.  We already had one of his CDs.  We now have another.  Listen up!

Stayed tuned for Fun with Chuck and Cindy - part two.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beach Time!

Roger here... We had not "exercised" our motor home for months.  It was time to crank up the engine and get away for a few days.  Where to go?  Where to go?  

Retama Village friends Greg and Barb were spending a week at South Padre Island and invited us to meet them for the weekend.  Alrighty then!

The short 60+ mile drive to South Padre was a non-event (that means good news, for those of you who are not rvers).

After we set up our campsite, I was taking a few pictures and found Greg enjoying a beverage next door.  Time for me to have some of that relaxing time.
 We were able to get a spot adjacent to Greg and Barb's at the Isla Blanca County Park on the south side of the island.  Dianne took a picture of us at happy hour time.  Barb fixed a tasty burrito casserole for us as well as delicious margaritas.  I consumed one (or two too many of the margaritas).  The last thing I remember well was Greg saying, "Refill, please."  What happens at South Padre, stays at South Padre.

Suffice it to say that the patron saint of the island was not pleased with my inability to maintain sure-footedness on the wet sand on the beach.

Dianne and I started our days walking with the dogs on the beach.  

A long way into one of the walks, while the dogs were have a great time frolicking in the surf, Dianne noticed a rainbow in the dark clouds to the west.  Uh Oh!  We were about a mile from our motor home.  

Needless to say, we were drenched by a sudden downpour.  Luckily there was no lightning and it was warm.  Kinda fun, really, after we got used to it.

I was truly comfortable walking in the warm, heavy rain;  however, Bandido had other opinions.  We were all relieved (for his sake) when the rains ended after about 15 minutes.  Our brave protector is easily distressed by rain, lightning and fireworks.

Dianne and I decided that this was the ideal time for our first selfie.  After all, we were drenched with water so anyone would forgive our appearance.

Almost back, but Tequila has had enough, and refuses to budge.  We gotta get this girl back into shape.

After a morning walk, Greg and Barb took us on a tour of the island. Our first stop was at the Sea Turtle Rescue Center.  Most of the turtles are rehabilitated to return to the sea.  Others, like this fella who is missing a fin, find a permanent home here.

The star of the show is Gerry --- formerly Geraldine (until he grew up and the biologists discovered he was a male).  Gerry has traveled around the country and has appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  He cannot be released back into the sea because he is so accustomed to people and to his daily feedings.  But where is he?

Oh, there he is!  What a ham.  He does seem to enjoy showing off for the people at his window.  Say hello to this gentle giant.

The second stop on the tour was actually a drive-by.  Driving north past the resorts, restaurants and condos --- the road wages a battle with the encroaching dunes.  Kind of reminds me of snow drifts that need to be plowed.  We need to head back south!

Our next stop was at Clayton's, the biggest beach bar in Texas.  If it is the biggest in Texas, it has to be big.   Notice... While I stand on tip toes and Greg slouches, he still towers over me.  I need to get me some of those elevator shoes like I had in the 70s.

We had a great lunch here... fish tacos and grilled fish salad along with a shipwreck for Dianne and a lemonade for me. 

The sand sculptures on the beach below Clayton's remained from a festival from the previous week.  They were amazing.  Timing is everything.  It was so pleasant to be able to see them without the crowds.

Here are a few of the best....

Greg and Barb took us shopping on the second day.... swim suits, beach mats, and beach towels.

Sunday evening found us at Pier 19, where we all had coconut shrimp, preceded by the the sweetest pina coladas in existence.  My blood sugar is still off the chart :-).  

Dolphins were frolicking in the waters near our table, but it was too dark for pictures.  It was not too dark to get a picture of this pirate ship that fired its cannons next to the pier:

After dinner we strolled to the end of the pier to enjoy the island lights.  

Dianne found a new friend.  Look at her eyes.  Can you tell that I made her do this?

Monday morning meant that it was time to head back to Retama Village, but not before I share a couple of pictures of the jaw-dropping sunsets from the island.

The pet picture of the day depicts Bandido playing with his new floating orange ball on the beach.  He really does love the water.