New digs

After two weeks north of Austin in the same little RV park….with almost daily trips SOMEwhere….we were looking for a peaceful, restful, change.

We got it.

A federal campground on Canyon Lake, between Austin and San Antonio, west of I-35 in the midst of hill country, half the sites closed for the winter (winter? it was 75 today!) and half the remaining sites empty…..

Our neighbor three sites over looked familiar….YES, we met them and talked at length with them last March at Defeated Creek, Tennessee! What a small world of fulltimers…

We rested up today, to prepare for a monster run into San Antonio tomorrow. Good grief, we plan to cover the second largest city in Texas in one day! (Seventh largest in the nation.) Not really, but we’ll see what we can see, eat something, shoot some photos (supposed to be overcast, though), walk some and gaze in wide wonder, and drive home in the dark. More time for San Antone next year.

Round Rock history

We sure appreciate your observations and suggestions!

A very faithful follower of the blog and frequent commenter….and friend to both of us from looong ago in high school….Judi Doty, observed that we were parked just outside Round Rock, Texas, and noted a couple points about its history.

Turns out the town’s main history is located a literal stone’s throw from I-35 along a stretch we had already traveled a dozen times!

It’s namesake, a large round rock, sits in a river at a point where early settlers, cattle drovers, and other travelers found a good place to cross at low water. The rock was such a distinctive marker for such an important purpose, that it became the focal point of local history. Jesse Chisholm was a cattle drover who established a commonly used trail (the Chisholm Trail) from south Texas to the cattle yards in Abilene, Kansas that used this crossing.

So many wagons used this site that their wheels carved ruts in the stone leading to the water!


We toured out into the Texas heartland to visit the LBJ Ranch.

Lyndon Johnson was an interesting president. The contrast of his method of operation (domineering, crush the powerful opposition) with that of his charistmatic predecessor, JFK. The striking difference between his strong support for education (he championed the formation of Head Start) and his powerful and effective efforts to increase the US involvement in Vietnam.

He also was proud of his heritage as a Texan. He lived on the property where he was born, christened it the Texas Whitehouse and thereby became the first President to use his residence as a functioning White House away from Washington, and is buried on the property.

The grass airstrip on the property was upgraded when he became President so it could handle small jets, which enabled him to spend nearly 25% of his days in office at the property.

Today, the property includes an operating ranch, a living history farm, pastures for American bison, Texas Longhorn cattle, antelope, and deer, LBJ’s childhood school house, the homes of several relatives, and the family cemetery. They are all contained in a joint state park and national historical park.

We had also been told that a small town 15 miles beyond the ranch would be worth a visit. A dear friend from 8th grade (isn’t Facebook amazing?) said Fredericksburg, settled by German immigrants, could provide some good food and fun Christmas lights. Right you were, Brenda! A bakery that has been continuously operating since 1917 (fabulous apple strudel). Food to die for around the corner, eaten on the patio due to the 76 degree evening.

A final highlight in town: Christmas lights in the square that included a pyramid with carousels on multiple levels. This one was carved and built in Germany, and brought here. Very distinctive.

On our way home in the darkness, we came through Johnson City where the county electric company has its headquarters. The same company whose branch office featured the incredibly lighted tree we showed you a week ago. Ahhh, but this was the headquarters….

I can see for miles

We’ve been parked for nearly two weeks on the eastern edge of Georgetown, TX. It seems to be the upper and eastern edge of the hill country.

Our view out the front window of the coach is pointed almost perfectly away from the hills….but it serves to remind us that this state is BIG and with its dry air you can see for MILES.

No traveling today, we rested up from last night’s big adventure (guess who got home after 2am?)!!

We expect to visit LBJ State Park tomorrow. History, longhorn cattle, and bison. And after dark on the way home, a million lights in the trees….

This is a great country.

Whoa, he’s a bigun

We’ve been looking for Texas Longhorn cattle since we crossed the border.

Who knew the first one we saw would be pastured alongside the interstate in the front yard of the TECO-Westinghouse world headquarters!

The breed is said to be noteworthy for its gentle disposition. If so, this one was having a really bad day, because he came charging at the fence when I walked up! I’m grateful he was unaware how easily he could have taken down the fence and really made me move.

We had fun connecting with some dear friends from Robyn’s distant past, and she is attending a concert tonight where their daughter will perform. It’ll be guys night at the coach. If we’re all lucky, the boys will sleep!

We’re becoming hill country converts

What a great part of this great state of Texas!

We spent all day in an area just a few miles west of Austin, partly around Lake Travis, and partly south from there just “out in the hills.”

Check out the first two photos: the hillsides that surround the lake, dotted with houses….some of the houses are pretty substantial, and they display obvious personalities. Notice the water slide down the hillside from the top house?

This lake was downstream on the Colorado River from the two lakes we visited yesterday. We were told this one has simply been suffering from too little rainfall over the past several years. We saw numerous marinas, restaurants, bed & breakfasts, and even a city park, all closed because close proximity to the water’s edge was their claim to fame.

We finished our tour with a swing through downtown Austin. The structure and lighting of the Frost Bank Tower caught our attention. However, the city is designed to focus attention on the Texas State Capitol building, and we spent most of our time there. It was constructed in 1888, and was the seventh-largest building in the world at that time. In 2008, a poll of American Institute of Architects members ranked it the number one state capitol.

Grinding gears a little: yesterday’s post triggered a question from Carol, one of our faithful companions on the blog. She asked “What do you notice in Ross and Ryan’s development with all your travels and extensive stimuli?”

It’s a good question whose answer we thought you might like to see:

The boys really don’t interact with their environment much beyond the walking surface! On the other hand, they are more peaceful and cooperative with us in the coach and outside when the environment is quiet and the sounds are simple. But we occasionally take them to music concerts, and they seem to enjoy the sound and vibrations of even extremely loud music….if we bring them in gradually. Ross has a dance he will perform on his own for 20 minutes if he really gets into the music!

Ross and Ryan demonstrate real contentment and sometimes real joy about being in the small environment of the coach. They are much less comfortable in a space that they must traverse in order to touch the other side. They each have a sofa in the coach, and the sofa is a very important part of their stability and security when parked and when traveling.

Traveling in the coach provides Robyn and me with pleasure due to the variety. Living in the coach provides Ross and Ryan with pleasure and comfort due to the familiarity.

Hill country hype

We’ve been hearing stuff about the Texas hill country around Austin since we first mentioned coming here.

“It’s the jewel of Texas.” “It’s SOOO beautiful you’ll fall in love and never leave.” “It’s a much more wonderful place to spend winter than Florida!”

We finally did a loop today to the west of Georgetown, TX. Covered about 150 miles over to Buchanan Lake and Inks Lake, and down to the town of Marble Falls.

Ooooooooo, we’re sold!

The introductory miles into Texas are mostly impressive for their vastness….the road rolls and rolls, you’ve covered 100 miles, and you’ve got another 100 to go. When you arrive, it looks the same as when you first hit the border! And you’ve got hundreds more you can travel in any direction!

Ahh, but the temp today was 75 degrees, the humidity was low (but you’ll notice a slight haze in some photos and plenty of clouds, so humidity was up a bit), there was a slight breeze, and you just wanted to BREATHE the air!

And hill country finally brings some immediacy to the horizon! Yessir, there were some real humps and dips in the road, and sharp curves as it climbed the hillside.

The second photo today is Inks Lake; it appears to provide loads of fun for the residents whose homes surround it and the campers who fill the state park beside it. And it’s nice for photos.

Although it is quite small, the lake was filled to the brim. That’s interesting, because it is fed by Buchanan Lake, which is much, much larger. And very nearly dry.

The photo of water just barely reaching the boat launch, and backyard docks jutting into thin air (and Ross sitting on a rock that should be 15 feet under water): that’s Buchanan Lake.

Apparently it has a key point or two where sediment has accumulated so much that it blocks the Colorado River from completely filling the lake! One victim of the disappearing lake was a fabulous residential development on a peninsula that pokes way out into the lake. The lighthouse where Ross and Ryan sit was near the end of land, with over 40 lots all marked and ready for building. There were three houses built but only one is occupied.

We had to tear ourselves away from the beautiful countryside as dusk fell. We routed ourselves through Marble Falls to get home, because we heard they had lit an extensive display of holiday lights last weekend. Righto! Ross and Ryan enjoyed the Christmas music as Robyn walked the complete path through the lovely display.

As we passed through another small town, we just had to stop and admire an amazing display of lights around this very large tree. It really was stunning! Notice the name of the company where it’s located?

We go racing

Our excuse to head to Texas as cold weather set in was the inaugural US Grand Prix race of Formula 1 cars at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Jared flew into town, and is attending three days of practice, qualifying, and racing with me.

Here’s one example of the 978 frames I shot today:

Our interlude

We left the bayous of Louisiana Sunday morning for a long day’s run into Texas.

And we left the interstate behind because a diagonal run cross-country on a four-lane state route would save us a lot of miles getting to Austin.

We ended up in a lovely, and large, campground on a lake that was near….nothing. This is Texas, it has room for everything, with room to spare. We had a campsite that was almost the closest to the lake, but we could just barely see water because there’s so much land.

I’m describing it, because we took no pictures. Took until nearly dark to get there. And shortly after arriving, Ryan had another seizure.

We had enough signal for 911, the squad arrived within minutes, and took him to a hospital 20 miles away.

Ross and I were able to take the Lil Taxi late that night and pick up Robyn and Ryan from the hospital, so we could all spend the night at home….

We spent Monday recovering. Ryan’s fine, and so are we.

Which meant today was a great opportunity to move on and see new stuff. And be near civilization again….outside Waco, TX.

Heyyyy, I can handle civilization like this! Robyn and Ross got in a nice walk before sundown (Ryan was still sleeping…..).

And the wildlife wasn’t waiting until dark to get moving! Robyn spotted a little red fox and three bald eagles!

Our campground is called Airport Park, because it lies along the edge of a small airport. A couple jets took off this evening before dark, but that will be all.

It’s lovely! We have a 180 degree view of water from our site:

My kingdom for a cell signal!

Oh my goodness, we’ve been having such a riot but haven’t been able to share it with you!

Some people really relish the lack of technology when they go camping….because they’re on vacation. But we’re NOT….we’re doing life! These campgrounds out in the woods that we frequent are often too distant from a Verizon tower to upload photos.

The post on Nov 9 was actually uploaded from my cell phone as I walked the campground looking for enough signal. The pictures were from Friday evening as we landed there.

Couldn’t resist the nuts and seed pods still on the colorful trees outside the coach the next morning!

But look what we found on our Saturday tour!

Lake Bistineau, just south of our lake, offered some fascinating views. At first we were perplexed by the obviously low level of water. While it offered unusual views of the cypress trees and their root clusters that usually bulge at water level [knees], it seemed strange to be low in an area that appeared to be well-watered.

Indeed, we finally found an informed person at the state park who said they had intentionally dropped the water level this past August. The reason? Giant salvinia, an aquatic fern native to Brazil, that had been taking over the lake.

They hope to accomplish some major eradication while the plant is high and dry, and plan to bring the water level back in January.

Pockets of the stuff still flourish. Check out the picture of Robyn and the boys. They’re walking up the boat ramp, and the green carpet behind them is actually a deep channel for boat launching that is choked with the salvinia. It clears for some reason where the channel opens into the lake behind Robyn.

The main boat launch ramps for the lake are located in the state park….but check out the scene. Vegetation has exploded across the exposed land of the lake bottom! To us, it looked like the lake had been dry for years, not just weeks.

You can see on the pillars of the bridge to the left, the dark marks where the water level usually reaches. Still, the odd exposed tree knees make the scene most memorable!