"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RV Repairs, Lockhart and Wimberley, TX

We've been planning an RV repair day for awhile and the day finally came, but it turned out to be a  surprising one. There were three things we needed to get done: replace one small window pane that is fogged up, check out what seems to be a hydraulic fluid leak in one of the slides, and figure out why the propane water heater doesn't seem to heat up.  So we drove to Kyle, TX and dropped off the RV for the day at Explorer RV, and did a little local exploring ourselves.

First we did a bit of shopping for a few little things and found all we needed at a nearby H-E-B, the Texas super grocery store. Easy peasy.

Then we headed for Lockhart, "The BBQ Capitol of Texas" for some lunch. Of the four BBQ places in Lockhart, we chose Kreuz Market based on a very thorough, fun and scientific review I found online.

Kreuz is a German style BBQ with a small menu and very basic delivery.  As you can see on the menu board below; "No BBQ Sauce - No Forks - No Kidding." This is not your sweet sticky gloppy stuff. Just pure smoked meat. The review I read had identified the brisket as the best of all, so that's what we tried. 

To order, you enter right into the smoke house - a dark, warm, smokey, cavernous building where six huge wood fired ovens are smoking the meats.

The folks behind the counter and working the smokers take your order, carve off what you want, weigh it, and plop it on butcher paper. You pay and move on to the dining room.

Drinks and sides are purchased at the counter in the dining room, a basic family style place.

Two servings of brisket, four slices of white bread, two cole slaws, one side of German potatoes and two huge drinks cost us about $12.00.  What a deal!  The brisket was indeed great - juicy, with the predicted salty-smokey crust. The sides were just okay. 

We took a little spin around the town square and got a picture of the court house.  The downtown area was lively and functional - not touristy or trendy. 

About a thirty minute drive away is the town of Wimberley, recommended by my cousin's wife as a cute town to walk around. When we were almost in Wimberley, we crossed a river and were so struck with it's clarity that we had to track it down. So we found River Rd. on Google Maps (our constant companion on these adventures) and drove along the Blanco River as far as we could. There was absolutely no access to it, not even a pull over to take pictures, but the road did follow along river with private property on both sides. We got a good enough view to take a few drive by shootings.

Once in town, we parked by Cypress Creek, which feeds into the Blanco and is just as beautiful, but more heavily wooded with... you guessed it... cypress trees. I didn't realize we were already in cypress country. 

Walking through the little artsy town of Wimberley was kind of interesting, but not as much as walking along the creek.  The stores were mostly women's lacy clothing, home decor, Texas stuff of all sorts, and a little art.  You know, when you have no room for things in your home, it kind of changes your approach to shopping, but it gave us something to do. Some of the art on the street was cool. This is kind of a wheel chair crossed with something else, but what??? A race car? 

And this is a rusty Texas armadillo.

Rick took a little rest in the park while Kona and I explored the creek some more.  The needles were falling off the cypress trees and covering the creek so completely in places that it looked like a road rather than water. 

Kona did find a place to swim where we could see through the needles into the water. It was pretty deep and crystal clear. We could see big fish swimming down there. I think she was a little spooked by all the needles and didn't stay in too long. 

Behind the town, in the deep shade of the creek banks there were old stone walls providing private swimming and boating access to the deep, clear green water.  Geese, ducks and turtles were swimming around, but no people. We were the only ones there.  Oh, and the mosquitos.

At about 4:00 we finally got a call from Explorer RV to tell us our rig was done.  So what was the surprising upshot of the repairs?  No window repair, as they hadn't yet received the replacement pane. (We actually already knew that.) No hydraulic fluid leak. It seems that during construction there must have been a spill or a leak that the manufacturers sopped up with a pile of sawdust that was still there. The sawdust was saturated and slowly leaking fluid down through the basement ceiling. But there was no current leakage.  Now wouldn't you think the manufacturer would have cleaned up that pile of sawdust???? And finally, the propane water heater seemed to be working fine. Another mystery. So our bill was just for one hours worth of labor to diagnose the non-problems.  Could have been a lot worse.

Tomorrow I think we're driving west to Enchanted Rock State Park, and then I'll be going to the Alamo Drafthouse (an Austin original) in the evening with a friend to see Life of Pi in 3D!  OMG!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Austin: Zilker Park

We've taken a few adventures into Austin proper, braving the high speed roller coasters that are the highways around the western suburbs. Austin is on the eastern edge of the Texas hill country and the folks around here casually traverse those geographical contours at 65 mph, zipping in and out of strip malls, Walmarts, gas stations and roadside restaurants. Meanwhile we're just trying to find these local places and turn into them safely without causing a traffic jam.  Boy, do I sound old.

I've mentioned before that there are lots of butterflies in Texas, but the dang (that's a Texas swear word)  things don't hold still long enough to take any good pictures, unless they find their favorite nectar flowers. Then they settle in to feast.  I discovered that there is a butterfly garden in Zilker Park, downtown, so we headed there to spot some butterflies close up.  

The butterfly garden is modest, but does have enough native plantings to attract a variety of butterflies, some of which were willing to pose for us.  This Red Admiral* was sitting on a butterfly feeder.

*Let me just make a disclaimer at this point and say that I am new at identifying butterflies, so 
hope that readers who are experts will feel free to comment if they spot a misnomer. 

This Question Mark is considering solar options.

I don't know what this one is. It's one of the milkweed types, but the markings don't exactly fit any of the pictures I have of Monarchs, Queens, Soldiers or Viceroys.

I think this one might be a Queen.

The whole Garden is kind of sleepy right now, as it is fall, and dry too. But we wandered through the Japanese Garden...

the Rose Garden...

and the Prehistoric Garden...

and spotted more small wildlife near the water features.

This gorgeous wildlife motif gate to the Botanical Garden is unfortunately locked so doesn't seem to be used, or seen by many.

After the gardens we headed to Barton Springs Pool which is also in Zilker Park.  This is an incredible place. I can just imagine how packed it must be in the summer. Although this was a warm day by northerner's standards, it was not a big swimming day for Austiners.

It was too cold for Rick and me to swim, but Kona had no trouble plunging into the clear 68 degree water further downstream.

Come back soon for our BBQ adventure to Lockhart and a stroll through Wimberly.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still in Austin

Finally!  Our internet connectivity has been so bad I've been unable to post for awhile. Sorry for the delay. We are now using a Millenicom 4G MiFi Hotspot gizmo that seems to be working really well.  We had been using a WiFi Ranger that pooped out on us awhile ago, a Datastorm Satellite that is close to useless, and an older Millenicom air card that was serviceable. However, once we ordered the MiFi, Millenicom cancelled our old air card, so we were between services until the new gizmo arrived in our delayed mail system. But now we are hot!

Before I get on with Austin, let me reveal that the ducks or geese in Kerrville, TX, that I quizzed readers about a few weeks ago are called Egyptian Ducks, or Geese. They seem to be called both, depending on the source.  Here they are again:

Since my last post we have gotten to know the highways of Austin's western suburbs pretty well, and have seen some of the sights in the city.  There's a lot of driving to be done around here.

My friend Carol took us to SoCo, that's South Congress, an area that has evolved from funky to trendy in the last 5-10 years. Austin has a motto "Keep Austin Weird" and I'd say that as SoCo grows and changes, it still manages to resist mainstream normal.  This picture is looking north on Congress to downtown, and in the middle you can see the capitol, now surrounded by Austin's new skyscraper growth.

Carol, her dog Molly, Rick, Kona and I started our tour of SoCo by just walking the street and taking in the food trucks and store fronts. Kona did her usual harvesting affection routine with the passer's by, who obliged enthusiastically.

Austin has a thriving food truck business/culture. I love the cupcake Airstreams, through I haven't tried their cupcakes yet. 

 There were numerous street musicians:

The Mighty Cone and Amy's Ice Creams are two very popular spots.

I popped into Tesoros, a great Mexican imports store, and did a little Xmas shopping.

But the peak of the street for me was Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds.

Lucy in Disguise is an ENORMOUS store with everything you could ever want in the way of costumes and out of the ordinary clothing and accessories. 

It is a veritable cornucopia of wigs, sunglasses, crowns, boas...

costume jewelry, hats, size 13 women's shoes, masks....

Yes, and even pasties (just in case you've misplaced your own)...

and holiday paraphernalia.

I am not a costume person really, but I LOVED this place.  If I lived here I might start having costume parties.

As the sun went down we stopped for dinner at Home Slice Pizza http://www.homeslicepizza.com, another SoCo favorite, for a couple of slices of New York (really!) style pizza.  

The evening was the perfect temperature for sitting outside and it gave the dogs more opportunities to cash in on needy dog lovers walking by. 

Carol's been a great hostess here in Austin, welcoming us into her community of friends and family, and teaching me how to play dominoes. 

We also had a wonderful post-Thanksgiving visit with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his family who live nearby.  Although I missed posting on Thanksgiving, it's never to late to say how grateful I am for this  exciting life I'm living, the beauty of our country, abundant good health, brave and patient companions, long-time friendships and a loving family.  

This coming week we'll be getting ready to travel east for a quick and dirty haul to South Carolina. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Texas: Kerrville-Schreiner Park

We're still in Austin, but I thought I'd catch up a little on some of the places we ripped through on our way to get here. One was Kerrville, TX in the hill country just southwest of Austin. We stayed only one night in the Kerrville-Schreiner Park, which is owned and managed by the town of Kerrville.  It has typical state park facilities, because it used to be one.  All the sites in the full-hook up section, where we were the only campers, were large pull throughs.  One strange little glitch about them was the sewer connection on the opposite side of the site from the other utilities, so we had to run the sewer hose under the RV. It might have been smarter to pull in the other way and run our electric and water hose under instead, but we didn't think of that, and I'm not sure it would have even been possible. It's very hard to effectively drain and then unhook a sewer hose that is running under your RV without spilling, but we managed.

Because we were there only one night we didn't have a lot of time to explore, but we did drive around town a little and eat at the local Italian restaurant, Valentino's. We had lasagna and chicken piccata for supper and then we got a pizza to go for our freezer, which we later discovered was great.  Kerrville is a very nice town with all the services you could need, many restaurants and a lovely little downtown.  Lots of big banks gave me the sense that we were in an area with some money - in contrast to the territory we'd been in for the last week down on the border and in New Mexico.

Early the next morning Kona and I took a walk along the Guadalupe River at sunrise. 

There's an old river walk with some impressive masonry walls and stairs. 

This little guy harassed us loudly for much of the walk. I guess he wasn't too happy about our being in his territory. 

And we got a close up look at this flock of ducks or geese, the like of which I have never seen before. Have you? What do you think they are? 

They are not native to the US, or Mexico, but are exotics that have escaped from parks or game farms, or been blown in by hurricanes, and have made themselves at home here on the Guadalupe. It took me quite a bit of research to uncover their identity.  See my next post for the answer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

P.S. If this is Austin...

Then I have a crush on Blake Shelton. Nice that he won the Country Music Award's Entertainer of the Year. I'm not even going to touch on who won what just yesterday.

This morning I'm sitting in a cold living room because I can't figure out why the heat won't go on. We have two furnaces, thus two thermostat "zones" in the RV.  We also have two propane tanks, and when one runs out we have to manually switch over to the other. When I got up this morning I noticed it was cold inside, meaning that the propane had run out. So I switched over the tank and the heat won't come on in Zone 1, the living room.  Zone 2 is heating up fine, where Rick is still in bed. He stayed up late last night watching the election results and I don't want to wake him. When he gets up he'll probably figure this out.  Burrr....

We've been in Austin for 5 days now and we're getting ourselves caught up. Kona's been groomed, the laundry hamper's been emptied, Ms. Subaru had a major ($$$!) check up, local friends and relatives have been contacted, we've scoped out the local grocery stores, refilled the pantry, found yoga classes, and the carpet has even been steam cleaned. Boy, when eight feet walk around in the same 400 sq. ft. everyday, over the same three pathways, the carpet really takes a beating. We may replace it next year.

Driving around Austin is almost like being in southern CA, or suburban Chicago. The traffic can be pretty heavy if you accidentally find yourself driving at rush hour.  The roads go every which way because of the hills, canyons, rivers and reservoirs so if I didn't have Google maps I'd be pretty disoriented.

I have a friend here in Austin from over 30 (!) years ago when I worked at a small private school on Long Island (my first real job). We haven't seen each other since then. I can't believe it could have been so long ago. Carol was a student and I was just a little older than her, and a dance teacher/dorm parent. We got to know each other pretty well in that small, intense and closed system. So it was really great to catch up with her now after all this time.

We started our visit with a nice breakfast across the street at Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant. Then Carol, her dog Molly, Kona and I went out to Windy Point on Lake Travis for a walk. The dogs took a swim.  The water is very low, so it was a long walk down to the lakeside. This is the boat ramp and what's left of the lake.

After tiring the dogs out we drove nearby to a place called the Oasis on Lake Travis.  Looks like an MC Escher creation doesn't it?  We went into a nice artsy boutique/gallery called Blue Genie. 

Oasis kind of an over-the-top, postmodern outdoor mall with several huge restaurants with tremendous views of the lake, and I imagine the sunsets as well.  Some of the views are reminiscent of the Mediterranean.

I say it's postmodern because it combines many styles and materials without worrying about one consistent theme. The walkways and balconies go every which way. The developers have spent a mint on sculptures and placed them kind of willy nilly around the space.  Somehow they pull it off. 

Here's my favorite:

Rick's up now and informed me that you have to turn the furnace off and on again to reset it. We're warm and toasty now.  Soon it will be 80 degrees out and maybe we'll go swimming in the great pools they have here at La Hacienda RV Park. 

P.S. There are SO MANY butterflies here in Texas!