Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wimberly, TX and the Salt Lick BBQ

Old Baldy Mountain or Prayer Mountain, depending on who you are talking to.  One of the highest peaks in the Hill Country, stands just outside Wimberly, TX.  Even though it was over 200 concrete steps to the top, it really wasn't much of a climb when you have hiked most of the mountains around Phoenix.

Max and I standing on top of Old Baldy.  It does have a great view of the surrounding area.

We spotted this Veterans Memorial Park from the top of Old Baldy. 

On our way to the Veterans Park, we came across the EmilyAnn Theater.  This is the smaller of the two theaters.

This is the larger theater.  It's a little early for the summer theater season, but they are the Shakespeare under the Stars for the Hill Country.

While you are waiting for the play to begin, you can wander through the gardens or even have a picnic.

I don't know who Mary Nelle is, but the gardens were dedicated to her with this lovely poem.

You could even play a lawn sized game of chess while you are waiting.

Notice the sculpture is made of farm and garden implements.

Too bad there were no plays going on yet.  I would have definitely come back for a Shakespeare under the Stars show.

On Wimberly square was this house, built in the 1930s, is notable for its "giraffe rock" exterior.  Built of native rock and poured concrete, embellished with smaller decorations such as petrified wood, decorative rock and fossils.

I've never seen a casserole to go food venue.  But there is one in Wimberly, just off the square.

Visiting with the owner, she gave us samples of the carrot souffle and it was scrumptious.  Too bad I don't live around here to order some for Easter.  They also have a complete menu of casseroles you can purchase, such as Chicken Pot Pie, Tuna Noodle and Shepherd's Pie.  If you live in the area, go check it out.

Cypress Creek runs thru the middle of town.  This is taken from the bridge.  Off to the right side is a little park with picnic tables.  All along the river are also lots of little shops selling everything from high priced jewelry to western wear, to shoes and household knick knacks.

Coming back from Austin the other evening we spotted a lot of cars and this sign.  Looking it up on the internet, I found out it was a famous BBQ restaurant.  So Saturday evening we headed to Driftwood, TX, to try it out.

There is music outside with picnic tables all around.  You can even go order your food to go and eat outside if you wish.  They have no liquor license, so it is a BYOA (bring your own alcohol).  Everyone arrives carrying ice chests, both large and small depending on the size of the party and how long you planned on staying.

This is one of the two large public inside dining areas.  Close by there are at least 2 other dining area which are used exclusively for private parties and special events.

As we were seated, since they use large picnic style tables, we were seated with this wonderful couple from California.  This was their second time to come here, so they could give us the skinny on what to order.  We had an enjoyable time visiting with them during dinner and then outside later listening to music.

This is one of their open pit BBQs.  They can serve over 3000 on any given day and will go thru 10,000-20,000 pounds of meat over a weekend.   

After dinner we went back outside to listen to a different band.  We sipped our suds, listened to the music outdoors for a while before heading back to Canyon Lake.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Brenham, TX and then on to Canyon Lake, TX

Driving around Lake Somerville, we spotted so many wildflowers.  This patch had those gorgeous, deep red flowers (Wild Phlox) along with the Bluebonnets.

A large patch of Indian Paintbrush.  Even with all the rain, this area is still considered to be in a drought condition.
I guess the tree was too big or too pretty to move, so they just built the road around it.  
Downtown Brenham, at the old fire station, they have this steam powered fire pumper.  After the town burnt in the 1880s, the people decided to purchase this fire pumper for $3000 in 1889.  It could pump 600 gallons a minute from any water source.  This steam pumper was used until 1922.

I love the towns who paint murals on the walls of downtown buildings.  This one is so lifelike, that from a distance it looks almost real.
The big rainstorm which moved through the midwest hit on the night before we planned on moving down the road.  We were parked in a grassy lot at the Brenham Elks.  There was 3-4 inches of standing water around my motorhome when I woke up the next morning.  Luckily the area was solid and I had no trouble getting out to the pavement, but I have to say I was a little panicky when I first saw the lake I was parked in.  Driving over to Canyon Lake I saw many side roads which were completely underwater, and many creeks and ponds which had overflowed and turned into raging torrents.  But the storm was moving east and we were driving west, and after about an hour we left the rain behind.

Austin is about 40 miles north of where we were camped.  We made a day trip to visit the capital of Texas.

The famous picture of the surrender of Santa Anna following the Battle of San Jacinto.  I have been to so many historical places in Texas, I feel as if I know Texas history better than any other state.

The original capital building burnt and the current building was built in I believe 1889.  This is the legislative chamber and the desks are original, making them over 100 years old.  The 3 chairs in front are also original chairs, but the chairs the current legislators use are not.

The Driskill Hotel, opened in 1886.  It was built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattle king who moved to Austin in 1869.  When it opened at Christmas of 1886, it was the finest hotel in Texas.  It is still a fine hotel today.

Sixth Street, in the downtown area, is considered one of the premier music spots of Austin.  Blocks and blocks of bars and clubs line the streets with live music nightly.  Every type of music is available, jazz, country, rock and punk.   The University of Texas is located just north of the capital, (where 6th street is south of the capital) and Austin City Limits (on PBS) is filmed at the University of Texas.  It is the longest running series on PBS, and some attribute the series to making Austin the music capital that it is. 

We dropped by the Broken Spoke, which is celebrating its 47th Birthday this year.  Several well known artists have performed here, and some say, got their start here, including Willie Nelson.

There is music during the dinner hour in the restaurant area of The Broken Spoke.  The bands which play later in the evening play in the back room on stage in front of a large ballroom for dancing.  We are always going through Austin in the early evening and I have never gone to one of their later dances.  I guess that is something to put on my list for next time.  We didn't stay to long this evening, I've heard better music at jam sessions.  This band was pretty bad.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brenham, TX

The plan was originally to head to Canyon Lake, but forgot about spring break.  Since we did not make reservations, going there for the weekend was out.  So we stopped in Brenham instead.  And I'm glad we did.  It is a small town of about 5000 and we are staying at the Elks Lodge, which is within walking distance from downtown.  They have revitalized the downtown area and it is filled with sidewalk cafe, gift shops and mostly antique stores.

I am standing at the birthplace of Texas.  Here at the town of Washington-on-the-Brazos is where the Declaration of Independence for the Republic of Texas was born and signed in 1836.  Texas is the only state to have been a separate republic prior to joining the U.S. (which it did in 1845).

The town of Washington was once a thriving port on the Brazos River.  There was a ferry and much cotton and other goods were transported down river to New Orleans.  The town was platted out in 1834,  and was a thriving metropolis of around 3000 in its heyday.  But after the Civil War, the town refused to bring in the railroad, believing the river would continue to be a major transportation source.  The town started its decline and is no longer recognized as a town, but is only a rural community. 

Last year Texas had a drought and the wild flowers just did not bloom.  But that is not the case this year.  The rains came and the wild flowers are abundant.  I am standing in a small field of Texas Bluebonnets.

Brenham is also the home to Blue Bell Ice Cream.  Started in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery  Company, it was formed to purchase excess milk and cream from local farmers.  Their primary product at that time was butter.  But in 1911, E.F. Krause started making ice cream, 2 gallons per day.  E.F. Krause managed the creamery until 1951, changed its name to Blue Bell in 1930.  This statue is E.F. Krause along with his sons.  His sons managed the creamery until 2004.  It was not until the 1960s that Blue Bell could be found outside Brenham.  At that time it could be purchased in Waco and Houston, but not Austin.  In the 1980s they started shipping ice cream out of state via Continental Airlines.  There are now plants in Broken Arrow, OK, and Alabama, as well as 2 more plants in Texas.

This painting was created in honor of the companies 100th birthday.
We could not get on a tour last Friday, but do have tickets for tomorrow.  Blue Bell has always been my favorite ice cream.  I like it better even than Ben and Jerry's.

Huntsville, TX

After leaving Louisiana, Max and I headed to Rainbow's End at Livingston, TX.  Although I am a lifetime member of Escapees, I had only been to Rainbow's End, the headquarters for the club, once before.  I had a chance to line dance every morning and that was fun.  Hadn't done that in a while.  Went on a tour of the park and the mail room.  Escapees provides the largest mail forwarding service for RVers of all the clubs with over 9500 clients.  We also went dancing at the VFW and drove out to Lake Livingston, but the highlight of our visit to the area was visiting our friend, Nancy, over in Huntsville.

On the way I spotted this house which has been overgrown by the wisteria.  Although wisteria has a pretty flower, it is an invasive plant and many people don't like it.

This is the Steamboat House, built in 1858 by the president of Austin College for his son.  But his son refused to live in it because people made fun of it and called it the Steamboat House because of its design. In 1862 Sam Houston rented this house and died here a year later.  The house is only one room wide and the lower rooms all have separate doors to the outside as well as adjoining doors.
The house is now located at a city park where Sam Houston's farmhouse has also been relocated.  There is very good museum too.  I would recommend it if you ever go to Huntsville.  

Nancy took us on a tour of Huntsville.  Not only is it the home of Sam Houston, but it is also known as the prison city.  There are over 9 prisons located either in the town or in close proximity.  The town claims a population of 39,400, but sadly, about half of this population is inmates.

The Huntsville "Walls" unit, was the first Texas prison, built in 1849.  It was so named because the entire facility is surrounded by a wall.  For many years there was a prison rodeo on rodeo grounds located inside the prison.  Those rodeo grounds have now been torn down, but they were the location for the rodeo scenes from the film Rhinestone Cowboy.

We eventually made it back to Nancy's log cabin in the woods, where we sat on her front porch and enjoyed the outdoors.

This woodpecker kept us entertained.  He did not seem to mind that we were less than 20 feet away and watching him.

Cypress Wood and the Louisiana Bayou

Our last day before leaving Betty's RV in Abbeville, she took the group out to see the Woodman, or Gerald Judice.  He is known around the area for his artistic work with cypress wood.  Although it is now illegal to cut cypress wood in the bayou, you can go scavage all the cypress driftwood you can pick up.  He spends several weeks each year gathering driftwood.  The driftwood is leftover from the logging industry which has not been active for many years.  Once Gerald gathers the wood, it takes about 2 years for it to dry before he can work with it.   
Whenever people come and visit (he also sells some of his driftwood too), Gerald usually puts on a demonstration of how he makes a bowl.  Starting with a square piece of cypress, he puts it on his lathe.

Using the lather and hand tools, he whittles it down and shapes it to his desire.

When he is done, he sands it before removing it from the lathe.
Gerald also gives the bowl to someone in the crowd.  Guess who got the bowl this day?  Yeah, you got it, ME!

He even signed it.   Since getting home, I have put a sealer on it and now I have a beautiful bowl which he would sell at one of his shows for $15.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rainbow's End

Saw these on facebook and decided I had to have one.  I'm sure Toby Keith is laughing all the way to the bank with his new hit "Red Solo Cup".  You can buy these online for anywhere from $6.99-$14.99, but I made these for less than $2.
We left Betty's RV park headed towards Livingston, TX.  The plan was to take the backroads of Louisiana and Texas, spending the night somewhere around Jasper, TX.  But the rain started and it stormed most of the trip.  We got to Jasper and it was still early in the day.  Decided to keep going and arrived at Rainbow's End (the headquarters of the Escapees) about 4:30 pm.  Rain was forecast for the next 4-5 days, so hookups were welcomed.

Friday morning found us having breakfast at the CARE center.  The CARE center is a non-profit convalescent and adult day care set up especially for RVers.   It was started by Joe and Kay Peterson, founders of the Escapees.  RVers who need convalescing or medical care can apply for admittance.  You stay in your RV, but take your meals in the CARE center.  They have nurses to provide a certain level of care, you can get help with bathing, cleaning for your RV and laundry.

After breakfast I joined in the line dancing going on at the clubhouse.  Later we headed to town for some shopping.  Planned on going out Friday night, but it was raining hard and we stayed in instead.  Saturday morning was biscuits and gravy at the activity center.  Visited some with Marge Smith, who is recouping after hip replacement surgery.  Saturday afternoon we drove over to Lake Livingston State Park.  Even in the rain there were many people, mostly families, camping.  Found out later this is the start of spring break.  I guess people weren't going to let a little rain ruin their vacation.

The VFW had Johnny Riley and his band playing in the evening.  We did a little dancing and then headed home.  The band will play again at the VFW on Thursday evening and they are having a Red Beans, Rice and Sausage potluck too.

Changed all my clocks this morning and now I'm just watching it rain and listening to a country legends radio station.  No tv reception here, so I need to find someplace to watch NASCAR this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Touchet's Bar is home to the French Jam Sessions.  We headed over there Saturday afternoon.

The music is French Cajun.  We stayed for several hours, watching several changes in players.  Had a chance to do some dancing too.

Everyone liked Touchet's slogan.

We left the jam session early to head north about 40 miles to Eunice, LA, home of the Liberty Theater and a live Cajun radio show.  The Liberty Theater opened in 1924.  The National Park Service sponsers the live radio show on Saturday nights.

Every week highlights a different local band.

Many of the bands are family oriented.  Notice the new drummer.  He is the 10 year old grandson of the leader of the band (the guitar player in the white hat).  He not only played the drums, but sang his songs in French too.  Keeping the culture alive is very important here.  Even the schools now require all children to learn French as part of their heritage.

After it was over we came out and found another band (folk music, not cajun) playing down at the other end of the street in front of a local coffeehouse.  The music had started at 4pm with a list of about half a dozen bands.

The town of Abbeville was founded in 1944 by a Catholic Priest, Pere Antoine Desire Megret, who was from Abbeville, France.  The original name of the town was La Chapelle.

Megret designed the town around 2 squares.  This town square is a park with this large live oak tree.

Steen's Pure Cane Syrup is one of the larger employers in town.  No tours though.  

The old depot is now a local cafe.

The Vermillion Parish Courthouse dominates the 2nd town square.