Wildflowers of Fredericksburg, TX

When we visited the Texas Hill Country last year, just prior to the start of the pandemic, we fell in love with the area. The time was February, so it was still chilly and things weren’t blooming. We’d heard wildflower season was a good time to visit, so we put it on our 2021 schedule. Those flowers did not disappoint!

We spent a week based in Fredericksburg at the Oakwood RV Resort. The central location allowed us to explore this cute German town, as well as a variety of sights that were new to us. 

One day we visited the National Museum of the Pacific War which featured an in-depth treatment of the events leading to the U.S. involvement in the Pacific theater through the end of WWII.  Admiral Nimitz, the leader of the Pacific fleet, was born in Fredericksburg and the museum sits in and around his family property. Since Dad was a Navy man in the Pacific, in Leyte Gulf, we were particularly interested in those details.  

Over several days we explored Fredericksburg’s cute downtown area and enjoyed the fabulous German pastries which abound in this town.

We also had fun poking around the many varied shops that line Main Street in Fredericksburg. We bought a few t-shirts, hats, and Bob even tried a few things on!

There are more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms located in and around Fredericksburg — not to mention dozens more wineries located within an hour or two drive of Fredericksburg. We visited just one but it was a good one. 

Das Peach Haus sits on a large orchard and features seating around a beautiful lake. It was a nice place to relax with a glass of wine and finish up a busy day of shopping.

A highlight of our return visit to the Hill Country was the Burnet Bluebonnet Festival. The cute little town of Burnet really turns out to celebrate the iconic flowers which dot the roadsides. We wandered the large vendor area, listened to some real Texas music, and soaked in the festivities. 

For some reason, bluebonnets make everyone want to have a photo shoot. We saw people pulled to the side of the road everywhere to get an iconic shot with the blooms. We had to join in on the fun!

One of our favorite activities in the Hill Country is to drop in to Luckenbach for a Lone Star. The old west ghost town was made famous by Waylon Jennings in his song, “Luckenbach, Texas – Back to the Basics of Love.” Every afternoon at 5:00 p.m. local artists gather with their guitars for a picker’s circle. The unplugged, acoustic, informal concert is always different and always fun. 

While we were in Fredericksburg we were able to snag appointments to get our COVID-19 vaccine. We opted for the one shot Johnson & Johnson shot and we are both feeling fine.

The big draw to this area was, of course, the flowers. Several times we drove the Willow City Loop, one of the famous country roads that feature abundant wildflowers. Each trip around the 13-mile loop was different, depending on what was blooming most that day. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Primrose, Daisy, and so many more could be found in the meadows and roadsides throughout the countryside. 

We also visited the nation’s largest working wildflower farm, Wildseed Farms, which is right outside of Fredericksburg. The poppy fields were stunning, planted to commemorate World War I and to honor the service and sacrifices of our military. 

Just across the street from Wildseed is the Jenschke Orchards, which features u-pick fruit throughout the year. We were lucky to be here at peak strawberry season and took advantage of the ruby red berries that were growing in abundance. 

A week is not nearly enough time to fully explore the Texas Hill Country, and we still have a list of things to do on our next visit. For now, we are heading west towards Arizona and are looking forward to a warm reunion with family and friend

Austin amidst COVID-19

On this spring road trip our ultimate goal was to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin. We were looking forward to attending thought-provoking presentations by world leaders, perusing the wellness expo for new fitness approaches, and listening to music from artists around the world. A week before the conference was set to begin, and days before we were to arrive in Austin, the event was cancelled. What a let down!IMG_7737Of course, when you are traveling you have to be flexible. You never know what’s on the road ahead, but none of us had this on our radar. We decided to continue on to Austin and use this as an opportunity to just be Austinites. Little did we know that Austin, and the rest of the world, was going to change dramatically during our time here.IMG_7755In the first few days here we biked around the popular Lady Bird Lake, which has a 13 mile trail that encircles the lake at the center of the city.  Taking us through downtown, Zilker Park, a lengthy boardwalk, and other highlights, we biked the trail several times. We did a little city exploring, too.IMG_7730Like most people, we’ve spent quite a bit of time following the developments of the pandemic and with each day our game plan has changed.  The signs of the times are all over Austin, just as they are across the world.  Shelves emptied, events cancelled, and even the gym at our RV Resort has been closed until further notice.  Today the bars and restaurants were shut down and we stood in line to get into the grocery store. We are grateful to be feeling fine with the ability to practice social distancing in our little home away from home.

One day we got out of the city and headed to Pedernales Falls State Park to enjoy the nice weather and have a picnic.  We bought a Texas Parks annual pass way back in west Texas, and it’s definitely paid off and encouraged us to visit places we might not have otherwise checked out.

After visiting the falls we stopped in Johnson City to check out LBJ’s family home and more interesting Park Service displays. Johnson left an indelible mark on this part of the world and it’s commemorated in many ways.

Of course, this was at the time when the bars were still open, so we stopped at another of the Hill Country’s great breweries.  Mia enjoyed another patio adventure.IMG_7767We’ve been looking for opportunities to practice social distancing while still making the most of our time here.  One day we visited an area called the Veloway, a city-managed, bike only path. IMG_7775The three mile loop had plenty of hills and curves challenged us for awhile.  We were able to get some exercise, see a new place, and not be in contact with other people. Another day we hit McKinney Falls State Park with the bikes.

The hike/bike trail there took us right up to the meager falls but also gave us a chance to see the start of the Texas wildflower season.  We are a few weeks from the peak but it was still nice to see the colors and imagine what it will be like in full bloom.

Originally we had planned to stay in Austin for another week but the world has changed.  We have a choice in where we hunker down and outside of a busy, congested city sounds like a good idea.  Tomorrow we’ll hit the road back toward a more rural area.  So far the State Parks are still open and provide an opportunity for us to keep our distance while still enjoying the outdoors.  For now, that’s our plan.

We hope you are feeling well and are making the most of these difficult times.  Let’s stay in touch.

New Braunfels and a Winner at the Alamo

Our Texas tour continued in the Hill Country town of New Braunfels. Just 30 miles north of San Antonio, New Braunfels allowed us to further explore the Hill Country while also putting us close enough to San Antonio for Steve’s next marathon.  It was a fun few days.

New Braunfels is at the confluence of the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, and activities like fishing and tubing are very popular. It was too chilly for us to get in the water, but we did enjoy a visit to nearby Canyon Lake and the eye-popping River Road. IMG_7687Lined with camps, parks, and homes, the road looked like the place to be when the weather turns warmer. We’d love to come back.

We also loved this area because of the variety of bars, breweries, and live music.  We visited the Phoenix Saloon.

Established in 1871, it was the first bar in Texas to serve women, and they claim it’s where chili powder was invented. The noontime live show was really great and Steve loved the chili! The Phoenix Saloon was just one of several establishments we visited while in New Braunfels.  At Guadalupe Brewing we enjoyed a brew beside a fire and met new friends. At the Grapevine we listened to some authentic Texas music while watching children play behind the stage.

New Braunfels is super family-friendly, vibrant, and rapidly growing. There’s new construction everywhere, reminding us of the rapid growth we saw in Gilbert AZ in the past few years.

When you’re in New Braunfels, you can’t miss the historic district of Gruene (pronounced “Green”).  Established in the 1840s, Gruene, which means “Green” in German, fell into disrepair during the Great Depression. In the 1970s Gruene was resurrected and today is a bustling shopping, dining, and drinking destination. In fact, we visited the area three times and loved listening to the live music and watching the Texas Swing dancers at Greune Hall, Texas’ oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall.

Over the weekend Steve completed his first marathon of 2020 in San Antonio. We spent Saturday checking out a few of San Antonio’s highlights, including the Riverwalk,  the Alamo, and the Pearl Farmer’s Market.

IMG_7697 3

Steve and I had been here ten years ago when we did the San Antonio Rock and Roll race.  Steve ended up in an ambulance at mile 25 in that race and the DNF (Did Not Finish) result has haunted him ever since. Here’s the photo from that race many years ago:IMG_0090He was set on redemption and the Run the Alamo race was his opportunity. After a few months of no races, lots of training, rest, and my pasta dinner the night before, he was well prepared. And HE WON!!

Steve came in first place in his age group and 24th overall! How encouraging it was to know that preparation and focus leads to success!

We celebrated with another visit to New Braunfel’s music and drinking establishments and Mia was happy about that.IMG_7707 4.jpgWe’re now in Austin for what was supposed to be the big event: South by Southwest (SXSW).  The event has been cancelled, along with the Chris Stapleton concert for which we had purchased tickets.  We’ll post another blog related to this craziness.