Posted by: glenswatman | November 2, 2008

200810-2-USA Texas

WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER – To avoid traffic Wayne
works flexi time and leaves early in the morning.  Being self-employed and “not a morning person” Sylvia heads in
later leaving us home alone.  We finish
working on Harry to enable us to do a photo shoot to put on the Internet to help
when we sell it.  In the afternoon we
get more heavy rain but at least it is still warm.  After our evening meal we finish of the Mexican Train game, which
I am lucky to win.

BROOKSHIRE 4

 

THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER – It’s a dull and drizzly
morning, much like England except that it isn’t cold at all.  Spend the day on the Internet making a
number of purchases to be sent to our host in San Antonio.  In the evening I cook a Chinese stir-fry.  I join Wayne in the hot tub whilst Steve
watches TV and Sylvia catches up on some work.

BROOKSHIRE 5

 

FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER – No drizzle but another
dull morning.  Sylvia stays home working
in her office, if she doesn’t have patients to see she doesn’t need to go into
her main office.  She recently had to
relocate office when her other one suffered storm damage and only last week was
in a car crash so she has lots of paperwork to do.  I cook up a huge curry to take to the party tomorrow.   Join Sylvia on an afternoon shopping trip
then return to pick up the lads for an evening meal out.  Sylvia has been told that both her insurance
claims are to be paid out soon and wants to treat us.  End up at the Red Lobster where we get some good seafood meals.  Once we get back I set about making Steve
and I some party outfits out of garbage bags and end up quite pleased with the
result.

BROOKSHIRE 6

 

SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER – Sylvia does most of the
party organisation and keeps props and decorations in her huge attic.  We load a lot of it into the motorhome then
head off in front of them.  Weimer is
about 1 hour away and we rendezvous at the motel where they are going to stay
overnight – they turned down an invite to stay in the motorhome as they both
snore a lot!  Out at Franz’s farm the
barn needs a good sweeping and during this Steve comes across a snake wrapped
up in a carpet he is unrolling.  Steve
performs his “jumping out of the way” snake dance then someone else helps him
to kill it, as it is a dangerous rattler. 
Once this is all done I join them to help put out some of the
decorations.  People begin arriving from
around 4pm and bearing in mind this is a Healthy Hides of Houston naturist
gathering names have been changed to protect the guilty!  Once everyone has had a chat we begin on the
variety of food dishes and I am pleasantly surprised to see a number of people
trying my curry.  The fancy dress
competition follows – Garry has cards stuck on his chest and casino chips made
into a G String so his character is Texas Hold Em (wishful thinking).  His wife Marjorie has a mousetrap hung on a necklace
and she is the “booby trap”.  Lila is a
witch, Jenny a sailor, Mickey has a plant painted on his back with the
flowerpot on his bottom, Tim has a ripped up shirt but I didn’t catch the name
of his character.  Darren is the
elephant man with a fat suit up top and a pair of tights with one leg filled
with toilet roll tubes and dangling, well you can guess where.  His wife Caroline is a naughty nurse whilst
Sharon comes as “I don’t do mornings” in a bathrobe with rags in her hair and
an eye mask.  Vince and his wife are
excellent as the blues brothers, Bob is the deer hunter and his wife is in
Egyptian belly dancing outfit.  Jimmy is
a hoot as he is an elderly guy who had a motorbike accident recently and is in a
wheelchair with his foot in plaster so he wears his crash helmet and poses as
Evil Knevil!  Sylvia looks great as
“Little Red Riding Hood” whilst I muddle through as Glen of the Garbo and Steve
is just a scary character.  Silvia has
enlisted my help in organising games so we play the potato croquet game that I
learnt on the Nile Cruise and have a good laugh.  Follow this up with a few dancing games then its time for dessert
after which a few people leave whilst others sit around chatting.  A great party with lots of interesting
characters.  As usual a small hard-core
group are left to clear up but we are lucky in only having a short walk home.

WEIMER

 

SUNDAY 19 OCTOBER – A small group return to
finish packing things up and I cook up the left over ham and make scrambled
eggs to go with it.  With breakfast over
it’s time to take our leave after a super week in Wayne & Sylvia’s
company.  Heading towards Austin the
landscape changes to rolling hills, and the wheat fields give way to hills with
trees.  A Globalfreeloaders host has put
us in touch with a friend who has parking outside her office.  Lynn’s parents visit in their motorhome and
she has set it up with water and electricity as well.  On the southern edge of the river within walking distance of the
city it would be perfect, were it not for the railway track just a few feet
away.  I’ve made contact with a couple
from the Hill Country Nudist group and Anne & John come over in the
afternoon to pick us up for a ride out. 
Anne is Scottish but lived in London for many years then came to America
and eventually to Austin where she met her husband John.  We have loads in common, Anne is a fellow
traveller and John has lived abroad, so it is non-stop chat as we drive us out
to Lake Travis.  Hippie Hollow is the
only official naturist beach in Texas and from the car park an excellent paved
path takes us along the edge of the lake high above the water.  In fact the water level is so low at the
moment you can see lots of islands appearing whereas there have been times in
the past when the path has been flooded. 
It’s a beautiful spot with lots of inlets and plenty of flattish large
ledges on the rocks below where you can sunbathe.  Settle down to relax and chat. 
It’s a bit of a scramble down to the water but once there it’s a
pleasure to swim in the lake.  We walk
to the end of the main path and see many areas where boats are anchored by the
shore.  It reminds us of Croatia and is
exceptionally pretty.  Many hours later
it’s is time to leave and Anne has invited us back for a meal so we can
continue our chats.  It was Anne who
suggested our detour to Austin because of the music and we make arrangements to
meet up tomorrow night to check it out.   

AUSTIN

 

MONDAY 20 OCTOBER – Well I counted 5 trains
and Steve only heard 2 and I’m not sure they were the same ones so it was a
pretty noisy night but I did manage a couple of good stretches of sleep.  Set off walking towards the city and find a
pedestrian bridge over the river then a nice walking track beside the river on
the north bank.  The bats that spend
summer under the Congress Bridge have left and there is no sign of them at
all.  Up on the main drag we go inside
the 1884 Driskill Hotel and find it really impressive.  Wander round some other streets and see a
skyscraper with a kind of church style building at the top level but no tourist
info about it.  A passer by stops and
tells us the top floor is where President Johnson’s wife “Lady Bird” lived
until she died just a few years ago. 
The passer by is actually a tour guide on her day off and walks a few
blocks with us giving us info and suggestion her top 5 attractions, of which we
had planned to do 3 anyway.  Following a
part of a walking tour we pass some interesting mansions and then see one of
the “moonlight towers”.  Back in 1895
these were the first street lights in Austin and from their 165’ towers 6 arc
lamps would cover a radius of 3000’.  
The impressive domed State Capitol is slightly taller than the one in
Washington because of the statue on top. 
We take the free-guided tour to admire the interior and are amazed when
we end up in the basement that leads onto a completely new wing.  The café is open to the public and makes a
suitable lunch stop.  The Bob Bullock
State History Museum, $6 (£3.60) is excellent as the story of Texas is
portrayed over 3 floors going right back to when the Native Indians were about
the only inhabitants.  Much of it is
realistic setting with a mock Alamo area and lots of movie clips.  The story leads us through to modern day and
the oil boom.  We ask about walking over
to the LBJ library and museum and get various responses initially beginning
with “you don’t have a car and want to walk there”?  Eventually learn we can walk through the
university campus.  We fit in
completely, not because we are so young but because for once everybody else is
also walking!  Our stroll takes us past
the “Longhorns” college football stadium and what a stadium it is.  It is being expanded but is already much
bigger than any of the stadiums we have in England including something like
Wembley and this is just for college games. 
The LBJ museum and library houses memorabilia from Linden Johnson’s time
as President, free admission.  It is
based on his personal timeline linked with world events and extremely
interesting.  A movie fills us in on his
life and it seems he was doing rather well as President until the country went
to war in Vietnam (now does this sound a bit familiar to you?).  On the top floor there is a replica Oval
office and another floor houses lots of NASA exhibits, as it was LBJ that was
initially challenged by Kennedy to get a man on the moon by the end of the
60’s.  I spot a nose cone of a jet named
“Glamorous Glennis” and after posing by it I read up that it was the one that
first broke the sound barrier – how appropriate!  We are enjoying it so much we get kicked out at 5pm closing
time.  You can get a 24-hour local bus
pass for $1.50 (90p) and with one connection the buses get us back home in
about 45 minutes.  After a nibble and a
quick change John & Anne pick us up. 
We go back into the city and along the famous 6th street but
being a Monday night there is not a lot of activity but it’s still good to
see.  Back on the south bank we end up
at Barons where the car park is full and music can be heard.  A $5 (£2.95) cover charge applies and we
soon settle into a booth with our drinks. 
Its country style music but the band have written many of their own
songs with ballads about Mexico.  It’s
pleasant enough but no one is dancing and Anne & John have work tomorrow so
after an hour or so we call it a day.

AUSTIN 2

 

TUESDAY 21 OCTOBER – Got up to 8 last night
with my train count and worse still many of them came to a halt and then
started off again a bit later. 
Definitely can’t handle another night here.  Walk over to the Zilker City Park and begin at the Botanical
Gardens.  There’s a butterfly section
that leads into an area with some prehistoric animal figures then through the
rose garden into the Oriental Garden. 
It’s all rather pleasant but not outstanding.  Walking back across the park we reach the famous Barton Springs
pool.  It’s a natural spring fed pool
and they have damned the stream to create a 975’ long swimming pool,  $3 (£1.80) admission, with a constant 68F
temperature.  Claire would love doing
her long distance training here.  We
meet up with Globalfreeloaders host Karen who put is in touch with Lynn where
we are parked up.  Unfortunately she is
really busy so can’t stay chatting for long. 
I attempt to do some serious swimming but the cool water combined with
the plants and fish make me uncomfortable. 
There’s an exhibit room behind the changing rooms that does a great job
of explaining how springs evolved over the history of time and how this one
works.  Return for lunch then head
south.  We are amazed to pick up the
cheapest gas since June 2007 at just $2.37 a gallon, with the present exchange
rate that equates to 36p a litre.  San
Marcos visitor centre is marginally better than useless in that they do have
some brochures from which we can gather information.  It seems that camping areas we wanted to visit around Canyon Lake
are closed for the season so we retire to Wal Mart to re plan.  I’m amazed to see a queue at the gun
department with dozens of rifles in the glass cabinet.  Hunting season starts on 1st
November and Wal Mart in the next town are not allowed to sell guns due to a
county by law so obviously people are coming here.  All they need to complete a purchase is a piece of paper to say
they have had a background check done. 
It’s a fairly quiet parking spot but the trains are still haunting us as
we hear them tooting in the distance even if we can’t hear the trains
themselves.  Steve makes a few phone
calls and finds that what bit of information the visitor centre lead us to is
duff and some of the campgrounds are still open.  Caesars Pizza are doing a customer appreciation special of $3.99
(£2.40) for a large pizza, too good to resist. 

SAN MARCOS, WAL MART

 

WEDNESDAY 22 OCTOBER – Head off on the “Devils
Backbone” road with fine views of the countryside. Ignore Purgatory road in
order to take in the more scenic part of the road before turning off to Canyon
Lake.  North Park is one of many COE
(Corps of Engineers) lakeside campgrounds. 
The guy at the kiosk tries to tell us we won’t want to stay here and
would be better with all the other RV’s at Potters Creek Park with electric and
an $18 price tag.  Assure him we would
rather be here in the quiet rustic surroundings at $8 (£4.80).  We are happier still when we find that the
National Parks pass gives us half price and he doesn’t notice that is out of
date!  With all the sites to choose from
we take and end one directly above the beautiful lake.  The water is low so we have a clamber about
15’ down over rocks to get into the water but it’s a pleasant temperature and
nice and clean.  There’s a picnic table
with canopy so we sit out for lunch just enjoying the view.   We can even get a wi-fi signal for a few
miles away across the lake using our Hawking dish so we are even happier
bunnies when Steve gets his football results! 
Late afternoon a real storm whips up and we only just manage to get the
awning away safely.

CANYON LAKE 1, NORTH PARK

 

THURSDAY 23 OCTOBER – A cool change has come
through with the winds and for the first time in months I dig out my ¾ trousers
and wear and T-shirt and jumper. 
There’s a very pleasant walk out over the dam giving us views in both
directions.  By the time we get back it
has warmed up and in fact becomes really hot in the afternoon.  The lake is super for swimming in and the
water clear enough for us to bring buckets back for washing.

CANYON LAKE 2, NORTH PARK

 

FRIDAY 24 OCTOBER – My goodness what a shock
to the system, the night temperature drops to 40F and I have to get up to find
another cover to put on the bed.  Just
not used to this so linger in bed until 9am when it is just about warm enough
to get up!  Walk the opposite way around
the lakeshore to the private marina and then inadvertently into the Army
one.  There are security fences
everywhere except along the beach so I guess they don’t expect anyone to
actually walk there!  Anyway they allow
us to buy a drink and we make our way back to camp along the main road.  By lunchtime lots of other campers are arriving
and boats are zipping around on the lake. 
It’s a glorious day so we sit on our terrace enjoying a pasta meal
washed down with lots of nice wine. 
Mums now home and I chat on the phone and find she is walking around
with just sticks for assistance but still very sore.  The campground gets busier with a number of tents setting up and
a large motorhome down near us.  Mike
& Patti leave just 4 miles from here up in the hills but like to come down
to the Lake at weekends to enjoy the view and give Mike a chance to fish.  Sit out playing Yahtzee in the
afternoon.  We get a lovely sunset over
the lake to round off a perfect day.

CANYON LAKE 3, NORTH PARK

 

SATURDAY 25 OCTOBER – Back to the warmer
nights.  The lake is dotted with small
yachts when we get up and they seem to have races throughout the day.  Instead of going for a walk I do a bit of
swimming.  Usual evening of cards and a
bit of TV viewing.

CANYON LAKE 4, NORTH PARK

 

SUNDAY 26 OCTOBER – Mike comes over and says
he is leaving this morning and would we like to follow him and park up at his
home.  It’s a bit of a cloudy morning so
we agree and follow him home.  He lives
on aptly names Skyline road with views over the valley.  We have a nice parking spot by the shed with
electricity and water.  Patti suffers
with ill health and sits around most of the time watching TV but Mile obviously
wants to socialise with us and makes a great host.  He cooks his evening meal on the BBQ and invites us to add our
joint of pork.  He throws on a couple of
enormous potatoes for us then serves it to us on the terrace.  Mike tries to stick to a special diet so
cooks his own food and a separate meal for Patti but keeps popping back to sit
with us and chat.

SATTLER

 

MONDAY 27 OCTOBER – Mike says to stay as long
as we want and we can certainly use a day on electric to do more travel
research on the Internet.  Take an
afternoon stroll up the hill but too many trees obscure the views.    In the evening he pops down for a chat and
brings some whole roasted garlic and smoked peanuts, he’s a bit of a chef on
the quiet and does a great job.  He
tells us about a TV programme where a chef 
“Curtis Stone” surprises people in the supermarket and offers to take
them home and cook a meal using the goods in their trolley, must look out for
it.

SATTLER 2

 

TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER – Another cold night and we
could do to be heading south a bit quicker but want to hang on for our Canadian
friends to catch up with us.  Mike tells
us the River Road to New Braunfels is scenic and it certainly is as it crosses
the Guadalupe River 4 times.  There are
numerous campgrounds on the banks but all are closed for the season.  Gruene began as a German settlement of
farmers and many of the original buildings still remain.  It has a very attractive main street with
lots of artisans and one of the oldest dance halls in Texas, often used in movies.  In New Braunfels we make a lunch stop in
Landa Park then take a walk up to Comal Springs.  The biggest springs in Texas pump water into the Comal River, the
shortest river in America at 2 ½ miles long. 
Within the park is an old oak tree planted by original settlers in 1700
but it needs a lot of support to stop it collapsing onto the ground as it is
now growing out at about 45 degree angle. 
On the edge of the park they are setting up for the big “Wurstfest” this
weekend and it looks like it’s going to be a big event with lots of halls and
roped off areas.  Try to get to the
centre of town but the turning we take leads us over a narrow bridge then
towards a railway bridge with only 11’5” headroom and we are 12’.  Stop in our tracks but trying to get the
cars to back up or wait for us to manoeuvre is impossible. In the end Steve
waits for a gap in the on coming traffic then pulls into that lane to reverse
beside all the cars that were backed up behind us.  One guy calls out that we are stupid idiots but doesn’t linger
long enough for us to explain that there were no warning signs from the
direction that we came.  Find a better
road into the centre then out to where we are planning on parking at
Couchsurfer Abel’s office.  It’s a
similar location to our spot in Austin, right at the side of the railway but we
reckon we can cope with anything for 1 night. 
After making introductions Abel says he needs to chop a few branches off
the trees and our arrival spurs him into action.  Once in place we are amazed at just how loud the train is and the
fact that it toots its horn continuously. 
All the road crossings have barriers across so we cannot understand the
need for the horn at all.  Abel joins us
for supper and tells us about some suspicious things that happened at the time
of 9/11 www.911truth.org sounds like an
interesting site that contradicts many of the official versions of events.  Abel is off to Guatemala next month for a
couple of weeks so we are hoping he will be able to get back to us with some
tips.

NEW BRAUNFELS   

 

WEDNESDAY 29 OCTOBER – We are lucky in that
there are only a couple of trains in the early hours of the morning so manage a
reasonable nights sleep.  It’s another
cold night and morning and I end up putting the central heating on to entice us
out of bed.  Drive to the centre of town
and park up to walk around.  A German
Prince from Braunfels founded this part of the city and much of the
architecture retains the German influence. 
Murals on the side of buildings tell the history of the first
settlers.  The courthouse is impressive
complete with bell tower.  A visit to
the German bakery is a treat except the black forest cake can only be bought as
a whole and is a huge one at $15.  Round
of our visit in the hardware store that retains the old pulley system for
transaction, sliding ladders and glass display cabinets.   Pick up the I35 heading to San Antonio, the
6th largest city in America. 
In our opinion the traffic is terrible even though we have missed rush
hour.  Our Couchsurfing hosts live in
the northwestern suburb of Balcones Heights and we easily find their home and
park on the second driveway.  At the end
of the street there are shops within walking distance and a frequent bus
service to the city centre.  Narlie pops
back mid afternoon to introduce herself and give us our mail.  Frank gets home around 4pm; he’s a lab
technician but has just learnt that due to cutbacks they will not be renewing
his contract.  Frank has been in the
military and spent lots of time abroad but isn’t travelling this moment so this
is why they have joined Couchsurfers. 
When Narlie gets home we find out she had put a rack of ribs in the oven
earlier and invites us to join them. 
She comes from the Philippines but is very happy living here.  They both go out early in the morning so
around 10pm we retire to the motorhome.

SAN ANTONIO, BALCONES HEIGHTS

 

THURSDAY 30 OCTOBER – Catch the bus from the
end of the road. The driver can’t sell us the $3.75 day-tripper pass but says
we can ride for free and buy one in the city later.  Just over ½ hour later we hop off and walk down Houston Street
pausing to admire the many attractive buildings.  Arrive in the centre of the city at “The Alamo” a stunning
location with the historic park being surrounded by impressive high-rise
buildings.  It’s free to go around and
we begin with the movie about the battle. 
It’s a really nice area with quite a few of the old buildings
remaining.  Outside the long barracks is
a modern cenotaph depicting heroes from the siege.  Along side Alamo Plaza a row of buildings house all manner of
modern attractions and we buy a 3-attraction ticket for $26.95 (£15).  Begin in the Guinness World Records Museum
with lots of interactive exhibits.  Next
we do the 3D Tomb Raiders ride that is much like the Toy Story ride at Disney,
in fact probably not as good.  Wind up
on Ripley’s Haunted Adventure.  You
ascend in a 45-degree lift to the upper floor of a building to be greeted by a
spooky person.  At this point we are the
only people in the attraction (as we were at all the other places) so he leads
us into the haunted chamber to tell us we must now make our way through the
various rooms to get out of the building. 
He tells us things will come at us but nothing will touch us and then
sends us on our way.  A combination of
animatronics, real live actors and special effects attempt to scare us as we
make our way through the corridors. 
It’s actually all rather tame and we end up laughing rather than being
scared.  So our one off splurge on
attractions turns out to be a bit of a waste of money.  Set out to hit the real attractions of the
city.  The main channel of the river was
straightened out but the bend retained to form a kind of canal that runs just
below street level.  It all sounds
rather strange but when we find the steps down to it this little oasis right in
the city centre enchants us.  You can
walk along both banks of the river with dozens of restaurants, all busy at
lunchtime.  Riverboats make the circular
trip but we opt to walk it and stop for our sandwiches on a park bench part way
round.  Having completed the circuit we
wander through the old area of Villita where the traditional adobe house now
house craft shops.  At the head of the
river bend another channel leads out in a T shape to the river centre mall at
one end and the Convention Centre at the other.  Through the Convention Centre we emerge into Hemisfair Park where
lots of old buildings were relocated for a world expo.  A few blocks further and we are in the King
William Historic District with street after street of magnificent and unusual
architectural gems of houses mainly from the late 1800’s.  The area walking tour leaflet describes many
of the features and gives a history of the original owners then leads us back
to the river, which we follow back to the bus stop.  Having walked all the areas we wanted to see we just pay the
single $1 (60p) fare to get us home by around 4pm.  So overall we are very impressed with our first look at San
Antonio but decidedly footsore after our big trek.  Narlie seems to be coming down with a cold and doesn’t feel too
good after work so we stay in the motorhome. 
Next door the Community Centre is a hive of activity with work going on
inside until 2am. 

SAN ANTONIO 2, BALCONES HEIGHTS

 

FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER – Notice that the windows
and door of the Community Centre are blacked out so suspect they were preparing
the room for a Halloween party tonight. 
Take a walk up to the nearby Crossroads Mall but it looks like it is dying
fast.  Apparently planners are forever
creating bigger and better malls then people no longer visit the old ones.  In the afternoon Frank says he would like to
take us out to a special place he knows and asks if there is anything else we
want to do.  Yesterday we saw a carpet
remnant place nearby so he takes us there and for $15 (£9) we get a nice piece
of shag pile for the motorhome.  The
lino is great in the summer or at the beach but carpet is much cosier in the
winter.  Brackenridge is the location of
the Japanese tea garden.  There is a
quirky story attached as after Pearl Harbour they were forced to rename it a
Chinese tea garden and had a Mexican create a wooden looking concrete entrance
in the shape of a Chinese entrance gate. 
Today it has reverted to being the Japanese sunken garden and what a
treasure it is.  There is a fantastic
huge stone pagoda with lots of fancy arches overlooking the sunken garden and
pool.  Numerous paths and bridges lead
you around the gardens and there is even a waterfall.  On the way back Frank calls in to Barnes & Noble bookstores
where we manage to buy the Central America map that we need.  In the evening Frank & Narlie are going
to a party that starts at 10pm so try to fit in a snooze before hand.  The disco begins next to us but it is nice
music and we are happy to watch the kids having fun there whilst others roam
the streets treat or treating. 
Couchsurfer Mary was unable to offer us motorhome parking but wants to
take us out to her favourite restaurant. 
La Fogata is a fantastic Tex Mex restaurant and looks enchanting from
outside with fairly lights everywhere. 
When we enter through some old Mexican wooden doors we hear the mariachi
band playing.  Mary is excellent company
and recommends certain items on the menu. 
The food is excellent as are their famous margaritas.  We are having such a good time that Mary
comes back to the motorhome and stays chatting until after midnight.

SAN ANTONIO 3, BALCONES HEIGHTS

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