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.


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.

Big Bend National Park

Because it is off season, but (trust me) the weather is still nice in south Texas in the winter, we were able to get a room in the park on short notice.  We were in the same park, in the same lodge at the same time as Matthew McConaughey…so there.  He went hiking/camping with a group, we stayed on the driving route.

It took us the better part of the day to drive from Wimberley, TX to the National Park.  We stopped in Langtry, TX where Judge Roy Bean was the law west of the Pecos.  His actual bar room/court house is still standing.

It (the park) is 60 miles off the two-lane highway.  Gasoline is cheaper IN the park, they have a small grocery store, a nice restaurant, no cell service and poor Wi-Fi, but the views and environment is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL.  I’m going to give you lots of pictures, but they do not do justice to the beauty and grace of this park.  You must see it and you must take children and you must tell everyone.

Before the area became a National Park it was a private resort.  Some of the buildings and the hot springs tub still stands and are in use.


Paces River


Hot Springs on the bank of the Rio Grand in Big Bend National Park.


Horses on the Mexican side of the Rio Grand

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Entering Texas: First stop HOUSTON

We left sweet daughter’s after a wonderful Thanksgiving (way too much good food and my first fried turkey) on December 1st heading west.  Our first stop, for two nights is Houston by way of San Jacinto Monument because sweet husband visited it when he was a little boy and wanted to see it again…actually our goal for the museum of art, but it is closed on Monday.

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The column (taller than the Washington Monument [of course]) is an octagonal shaft faced with Texas Cordova shellstone (many millions of years old – formed when Texas was under water – mined in the Austin area – impressive), topped with a 34-foot Texas Lone Star. Sweet husband took the elevator to the top – the monument’s observation deck for a view of Houston and the WWI Battleship Texas. Really the most impressive part of this is learning that a hand full of brave Texans defeated Santa Ana and his whole Mexican army to gain their independence from Mexico.  They were plenty angry after the Alamo.  This victory gained enough land to make what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Impressive, very impressive!

Next we visited Glenwood Cemetery where sweet husband’s mother is resting.  It was a beautiful day for the visit.  I paid my respects, then left sweet husband to his private time with her.  I filled the time taking pictures of the remarkable memorials in this beautiful, sacred garden.

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The next day we visited the Houston Museum of Art.  I am so impressed with the beautiful art owned by the United States of America.  We have been to a dozen (at least) art museums, none of them disappointing.  A couple of examples below…ENJOY!

From Houston we headed to Austin and the Texas “Hill Country” for another good visit with family.  However, We made a quick stop for lunch with my sweet son-in-law at the River Walk in San Antonio.  He was there at the convention center for a business meeting.

Riverwalk20 IMG_0070River Walk, San Antonio

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