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.

South Dakoda – Part III – BLACK HILLS & BADLANDS

We arrived in Keystone at about 4:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), to meet up with our friend and her three grandchildren (Isabelle 15, Collin 13 and Hamilton 11).

Keystone reminded me of a small Pigeon Forge, TN town with a western flair the moment we drove in.  We stayed three nights at the Econolodge.  It is an older, but clean and comfortable motel, with the necessary INDOOR pool/hot tub.  Keystone is definitely the best location to see all the incredible and splendid sites of this area.  You could easily spend a week here.

First night we all gathered at The Ruby House Saloon, fashioned after a Victorian era, Wild West bar.  After we drove up to Mount Rushmore for the evening light show.  The show started at 9:00 p.m., we arrived at 8 with still plenty of daylight to see this masterpiece.  Just so you know, it gets refreshingly cool here at night in late May.

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The next day we drove to Wind Cave National Park.  The drive, for me, was the best part.  It was a thirty mile drive through mountains and prairie, which hosted Buffalo, White-tail Deer, Prairie Dogs, Prong Horn Antelope, Black & Grizzly Bears, Rattle Snakes, Elk and Chipmunks.  We saw all but the bear and the snakes.  The Prairie Dogs were the biggest hit because we just pulled off the road and the pasture was full of them – barking and alerting the tribe of us “dangerous predators”.  I chose not to go into the cave because I’m still have a bout of vertigo and sweet husband stayed back with me.  Our friend took all four teens into the cave for an hour and half tour…brave and kind woman.

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Our plan was to drive back to Keystone to let the four teens take the alpine coaster, ropes course and zip line (an approximate 2 hour adventure), but thunderstorms moved in and the whole event had to be canceled.  We promised (weather permitting) we would try again in the morning.  They were greatly bummed, but settled for pizza at the pool/hot tub.

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Next morning was 46 degrees and rain.  We took them to an indoor fun house that promised extreme optical illusions.  Sweet husband stayed back and did laundry.  From there we drove past Mt. Rushmore to the Crazy Horse Monument.  This is enormous and ambitus and privately funded.  It was started in 1948 and will not be finished in our grandchildren’s life time.  They also have a wonderful film and museum.  I and the two 15 year olds were invited to dance with the Lakota Indian who was demonstrating several of his native Lakota dances.

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On our way home, we drove through Custer State Park on the Needles Highway.  This road, which in my opinion did not qualify as a highway, goes through the most incredible, massive, magnificent, vertical needles of granite.  It is only a few miles long, but took us well over an hour.  Prepare to be amazed.

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Arriving back at the motel, we hit to pool/hot tub again and had a picnic on the beds in one of our rooms.

In Downtown Rapid City are bronze statues of ALL of our Presidents.  Yes, they literally have them all.  It is called, “Presidents Walk”.  This is just a sampling.

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Next stop:  Cody, Wyoming…they have painted Buffalo on the downtown streets (way cool).