Texas Hill Country – December 2014

On our route through Texas in December, 2014, we stopped and spend a week with Leonard’s Brother and Sister. Ken Long and wife, Tomoko (a transplant from Japan) and Anna Martin. We both wish they lived or we lived closer. They live in the Wimberley/Austin area of the great (country) of Texas.

(L to R) Ken, Anna & Leonard

(L to R) Ken, Anna & Leonard

When we left, I had notes of all we saw and did, but lost them in transit. I had to ask Ken to reconstruct this for me, so I am finally getting it down to share with you all.

From our visit with them we stopped off at Big Bend National Park on our way to meet Leonard’s other Sister, Martha Harriman (w/husband Del) for Christmas in California.

I actually did a couple of blogs, which you can find in the archives dated December, 2014 about our visit in Texas to The Harry Ransom Center in Austin. They have the largest collection of memorabilia from the movie, Gone With The Wind and our visit to Dick’s Classic Car Museum.

 

Dick’s Classic Car Museum in San Marcos, TX is another of those acres and acres, but under roof. He has cars I have never seen before, cars I have never heard of and some that are probably the last in existence. I took pictures of the hood ornaments while Sweet Husband captured digital pictures of the actual cars.

Our days were filled with warm visits, long walks, a gourmet meal prepared by Anna in Austin and a few uniquely Texas activities. I will do my best to do the visit and the area justice with just a few words and pictures.

Leonard and Ken played both Duplicate Bridge and Poker, coming in second in the first event and poorly in the second. Tomoko took me to her Texas Line Dancing Class. I actually used to be able to do that kind of thing – someone stole my balance, coordination and breath in the last few years.

Lind Dancing

Tomoko treated us to a traditional Shabu Sahbu dinner. It is like fondue, only different. It is cooked on the table in a ceramic hibachi. Tomoko is an award winning cook, fun to watch, impossible to compete with.

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We drove to the little town of Fredericksburg, TX to eat at Hondo’s famous, “Boot Skootin’ Bar”. I felt like we were in a John Belushi movie. As it happened it was the same evening as their Christmas Parade.

On our way home we drove through Johnson City, TX to see their famous Christmas Light display – literally every tree and building is covered in lights – millions.

Wimberley has a monthly Market Day where you can buy handmade items, junk, crafts, food, clothing and probably live critters…acres and acres. It would take two full days to see it all. We purchased a piece of needle work from a booth who sells items made by children in an orphanage in Viet Nam. All the proceeds go to support the orphanage.

Then the piece de resistance was our liquor tour. This was an all day, totally unforgettable adventure.

First stop was a small micro-brewery called Real Ale Brewery. One simply drives up, pays one small fee and gets to stand there and “taste” their ale for as long as you like. We tasted one of each they had available, but knowing we had a full day of tasting we limited our time with these kind folks (BTW: everyone, but us, wore cowboy boots and Stetsons.) Their ale was quite good.

To clean our palate, we stopped at Golden Orchards (Peach orchard) and enjoyed some homemade peach ice cream – yum! Somewhere in this route we passed the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch and Presidential Library – we didn’t stop – just saying.

Peach Icecream

Stop three was Garrison Brothers Bourbon Distillery. In theory I understood that one cannot call their product “Bourbon” unless it is actually made in Kentucky. Texas, I believe thinks they can trump Kentucky, so they call it BOURBON. Don’t mess with Texas, as the saying goes.

We took a short and interesting tour of the distillery and were given a “taste” and our very own glass to keep at the end of the tour (I gave mine to my son, Tony, for his shot glass collection).

The distillery is so small that when they are ready to bottle their product (after ageing) they invite locals to come in to “volunteer” to help. They take home a bottle for their trouble. While there Ken signed up for the next event. He thought it would look good on his resume.

Final stop was at a vineyard and winery called Pedernales Cellars for a “tasting”. Here we also walked away with our very own glass to keep for sentimental reasons. The wine was excellent. I was surprised at the number of vineyards in the hill country of Texas, but they all make a fine wine according my Ken.

Pedernales Cellars 1

I highly recommend a tour of this part of true Texas, I wish I could recommend Ken and Tomoko as personal tour guides, but not everyone rates this degree of grace.

Fifty Shades of Green

Friday we left Richmond driving west on I-64 across the Appalachian Mountains across West Virginia into Kentucky. We spent the night at a motel on an interstate exit east of Lexington. Saturday our destination goal was St. Louis via a stop in Louisville to see Churchill Downs and a couple of other side trips off the beaten path. However, in Lexington the interstate was closed and giving us no alternative but to ask our trusty GPS for an alternate route. What a stroke of luck. I will tell you about it, but first I must back up to Friday and that portion of our trek.

Friday we crossed into The Shenandoah portion of the Appalachian Mountains. Shenandoah is a Cherokee name, which means Bright Daughter of The Stars. She is. I love these mountains from Maine to Georgia. They have many names, but it is one continuous range and is ancient.

Spring has come and gone in the lower portions of the southern states, but is breaking forth with great passion in the area we are driving through. Wild flowers of every color and every shade of green only God could paint. Locust Trees in full bloom from one side of the state to the other and ooooooh the fragrance! We had mild temperatures and a constant breeze all the way from Richmond to Iowa…

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West Virginia and Kentucky will take your heart forever. I am told by our media that there is death and some environmental destruction from the coal mining. Even our Mississippi John Grisholm preached on it in his latest book…I did not see any of that…perhaps it is there (?). I did, however, see a train with cars filled to the brim with coal at one point near The New River.

The New River Gorge

The New River Gorge

The New River and rail road

The New River and rail road

We spent the night at a small town motel in Farmers, Kentucky and met a nice couple from Norfolk, VA on their way to Santa Fe, NM (They will love it!).  God lets us meet the neastest people!

We were rerouted in Lexington due to interstate closure and saw some of the most beautiful horse farms in the entire world. Farms walled substantially in stone, white or black wood with vast fields of grain and miles of pastures. There were barns, oh my the barns, nicer than most homes. We passed a sign directing us to Woodford Reserve Distillery and whipped in. As you know, Kentucky makes Bourbon, everyone else makes whisky and they are quick to tell you. They are the OFFICAL Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.  Unfortunately, there was a 90 minute wait to take a 70 minute tour…NOT…and didn’t happen for us. We just went back to enjoying the beautiful drive and headed on to St. Louis for a good nights rest and the rendezvous with sweet granddaughter the next morning.

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St. Louis is impressive. Forest Park is where the art museum is located.  It is shared by the zoo, the history museum, sculptured acres of fountains and blue grass and manicured gardens. The art museum houses a large, varied collection of art from all around the world and from many periods.

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Afterward we drove downtown by the river where sweet granddaughter could see the Arch and view the same beautiful river that flows right by her home of Baton Rouge.

We skirted through the lower hem of Indiana and Illinois.  Mostly farm land.  Thank God for our farmers.

Next: Iowa