Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Llano Tx., Blue Bonnets and Cooper's Pit BBQ

March 31, 2010.
What a beautiful day, temps overnight were in the upper 50's. It slowly warmed to 83. We had plans with the Cottonwood Creek RV Park owners, Les and Sherry and some of the park guests to go to Cooper's Pit BBQ in Llano, Texas.  Cooper's BBQ is located in the Texas Hill Country, the BBQ capital of the world. Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is honored to be the best of the best in the barbecue business and home of the original World Famous "Big Chop."

The plan was to caravan the hour drive to Llano. We rode with Dale and Betty in their Dodge truck. As we got on highway 281 we began noticing the shoulders of the roads were full of beautiful wild flowers dominated by Blue Bonnets.

After an hour on the road, we arrived in Llano a small rural town on the Llano River just north of Fredericksburg.

Below is the parking lot of Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Que. Pretty crowded for 11:40 on a Wednesday! We all parked across the street. It seems to be a local favorite.

The BBQ is prepared in these rectangular grills. Before entering the building, you pick out the pieces of cooked meat that you want. They offered huge pork chops, beef and pork ribs, brisket, goat, steak and chicken. Once you select your cooked pieces they dip it in sause if you like before they put it on a red plastic tray. Then you go inside and the cooked meat is weighed and wrapped in paper.  You then pay the cashier. 

After paying for the meat and a drink, you find a seat at the picnic tables inside.  Then help yourself to beans and sauce for the BBQ. You don't get a plate, instead you are provided with what looks like white butcher paper to use as a plate for your meat that you unwrap at your table. None of us finished off the meat we purchased and apparently most people don't as plenty of tin foil was available along with paper sacks for the left overs! Believe me, the meat was excellent. We had a pork chop, some pork ribs and brisket. The company was even better, Dale and Betty Vaughn are sitting across from us in the picture below.  If you're in the Texas Hill Country, Cooper's Pit BBQ is worth the visit.

Afterwards, we took a ride back towards town and stopped at the Llano River to take a look at the falls and the bridge. Llano is Spanish for "plains,"  and the double L is pronounced as a Y. However the common pronunciation of Llano by the locals is LAN-OH. The river's north and south forks join near Junction, and from there it flows a hundred miles southeast until draining into the Colorado River

We checked out a few historic buildings with antique shops and a small Llano museum. As you can see, it was a windy day!

Behind the museum was an authentic cabin.

 A couple of shots of the historic down town district.

Back on the road, we took a scenic route known as the Willow City Loop off Highway 16. What a beautiful drive up and down hills and across creeks. The views of the hills and wildflowers were incredible.

The road was steep, narrow and winding. I was fortunate not to have to drive as I really got to enjoy the views.

Many segments of the loop have these fences and cattle guards in the road. Apparently, cattle won't walk across these large metal pole grates in the road.

It looks like the road disappears in the photo below.

Truly, beautiful rugged country. The Willow City Loop is worth a drive especially when the wild flowers are blooming.

On the way back home, we made a couple of stops, including a stop at Dairy Queen in Johnson City! I'm sure Dale drove over a hundred miles today. We certainly appreciated that they offered to drive. We got back home close to 5pm. All that driving around and eating made us sleepy! We enjoyed a quiet evening of American Idol.

Driftwood Estate Winery

March 30, 2010.
We awoke to another beautiful sunny day in the Texas Hill Country.  Although cool at night in the upper 40's it quickly warmed to the low 80's. In the morning we did our usual walking regime with Maggie and Rico. Joyce had discovered a few wineries in the Driftwood area and made plans to visit at least one. We got going by noon and were out the door before 1:00. 

Our first stop was the Tractor Supply Company in Dripping Springs. Joyce had seen a bird feeder that Betty had bought at the Tractor Supply. So she wanted to stop and see what else they had. It was an interesting store and we both enjoyed shopping there. We ended up with a Bird Feeder and bird seed. The nice thing about the feeder is that it collapses flat like a pancake.

We drove to the Driftwood Estate Winery. They've only been in business a few years having produced their first bottle of wine in 2003.

The wine tasting building and event grounds are on top of a high hill overlooking the vineyard. Access to the top of the hill is via a steep and narrow dirt/gravel road.

Joyce quickly found the entrance to the wine tasting room. Joyce likes her wine. I don't drink alcoholic beverages, never developed a taste for them. So this was really Joyce's excursion.

After taking a quick look inside, I decided to explore the grounds outside of the wine tasting building. Below is what appears to be a venue for hosting some of their musical events.

The views from on top of the hill were worth exploring.

Not sure what this building and pergola is used for. However it appeared to have grapes growing on it?

I soon found a spot to sit and enjoy the sights, while Joyce was inside sampling 6 wines for $5. I figured I might as well get comfortable as I was gonna be here for a while!

Did I mention the views! A little windy, but beautiful outside.

Below is a shot of the vineyard. Not what I expected. I was expecting acres and acres of vineyards on the sides of the hills. But hey, what do I know... I've never been to an American vineyard.  I've seen plenty of European vineyards up close and personal as a kid.

This section of the hilltop close to where I was sitting overlooks this field of goats.

A few of the goats had kids. Little goats some of which may have only been a few days old. Hard to tell from my vantage point as I had to zoom in with the camera to make them out.

Before long, Joyce emerged from the wine tasting with of course, a bottle of wine.  We sat for a little while longer. She said she enjoyed the wine tasting and I'll take her word for it. It's worth a visit.

We had been told that Lance Armstrong has a ranch outside of Dripping Springs in Deadman's Hole. We were also told it was off a road that we frequently pass on the way to and from Dripping Springs. So on the way back home, we decided to take a side trip and maybe stumble across his home. (Yea right, as if there would be signs proclaiming his house on the left!).  Needless to say we didn't find it but, we came across some exceptionally steep hills. 

Also, we drove upon this creek crossing the road. As a former road cyclist I look at the hills in this Texas Hill Country and try to envision climbing them. They would certainly be challenging.

The creek was about 6 inches deep. Now I'm sure many of you reading this may think these hills, valleys and creeks are common place. But, to us Florida flat landers, this type of terrain is awesome!

Back home we chilled and hung the new bird feeder that Joyce had purchased. We made tacos for dinner and settled in for American Idol.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Buda, Texas

March 29, 2010.
A beautiful day with temps in the upper 70's after lows in the upper 40's. The sun was shining bright and unobstructed as there wasn't a cloud in sight.  I cooked breakfast outside on the grill and we visited with park guests and of course took Maggie and Rico for their walks.

We wanted to check out the Cabelas in Buda, Texas as we had heard it's an interesting store with outdoor supplies. We got on the road sometime around noon. We drove the truck as it had sat for a week. It was a 32 mile drive to the store, but it was a nice scenic drive along Farm to Market roads. 
The City of Buda is located 17 miles south of Austin along the I-35 corridor in beautiful Hays County. Though one of the fastest growing communities in Texas, a stroll downtown on Main Street reveals Buda’s prevalent small town charm.

The Cabelas store was very large.  Inside it was very similar to Bass Pro Shops

They had a section of freshwater aquariums, sections for outdoor clothing, hunting, fishing, boating, etc. We shopped the clothing racks but were turned off by the prices.

After touring the store we left and headed to the largest Walmart we've ever seen.  The Buda Walmart was about 1/4 mile away so we walked over. We felt more comfortable with Wally World prices and made a few purchases.

In this same area is a large RV dealer, Crestview RV with a campsite attached to it. We also spied a H-E-B grocery store so we did some grocery shopping before heading home.

We got home put things away and visited with Dale and Betty till it was time to call it a night.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nutty Brown Cafe and Amphitheater

March 28, 2010.
Yet another beautiful day in the Texas Hill Country.  We woke to temps in the upper 40's but it quickly warmed with the sun shining brightly.  We had plans to go to to a late lunch with some new friends here in the Cottonwood Creek RV Park, Dale and Betty Vaughn. They are farmers from the town of Alliance in the panhandle of Nebraska. They have been coming to this park for the past three years and are very familiar with the area.  

We had time to kill before our excursion, so we took advantage of the warm sun and gave Maggie and Rico a bath (shower) from the service compartment of our rig.  Our rig (fifth wheel) has a service compartment that contains a hose, with a hot and cold spicket.  Our water hookups and cable/ satellite are also in the compartment. Anyway, it makes it nice to be able to adjust the temperature of the water when giving the dogs a bath.

Dale and Betty were ready to go sometime after about 12:30.  To be honest in this lifestyle, I loose all track of time and rarely look at my watch. Heck, I'm lucky if I remember what day of the week it is. But I know it's not just me. I was talking to another park guest the other day whom thought it was Saturday when it was actually Thursday!

Anyway, we decided to go to Nutty Brown Cafe and Amphitheater just out side of Dripping Springs.  It was recommended by a friend of Dale and Betty's.

They serve country style cuisine.  I had the chicken fried chicken and it was excellent. I'm sure we all enjoyed our meals. The restaurant hosts country music artists from time to time. There is an outside amphitheater in the back of the restaurant and lots of outdoor seating. We checked it out and then we were ready to leave having satisfied our appetites.

On the way back home we took a side road, Creek Road which runs along the Onion Creek.  It has running water this year but in the recent years past it was dry from draught. 

We see a lot of these little concrete dams in the creeks and rivers around here.  In fact there are small little dams in the Cottonwood Creek here in the park.

Along Creek Road are a number of farms. We enjoy stopping to take a look at the Longhorns along the side of the roads. We got out to get closer and take pictures of the few that were against the fence but, they proved to be shy and trotted away from us.

Back home, we sat outside for a while with Dale and Betty and just enjoyed their company till it was time to call it a night.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Austin, Texas

March 27, 2010.
We awoke to another beautiful sunny day in the Texas Hill Country.  Lows overnight were in the upper 40's but it warmed today to 80. However, we have yet to feel the need to turn on the air conditioner. I woke with a sinus headache and Joyce complained of the same. The Bluebonnets and other wild flowers can be seen blooming on the hill sides.

We traveled to downtown Austin about 30 miles away.  We stopped to explore the historic land management building, now the Capital Vistors Center and the Texas Capital BuildingThe Texas Capitol is an extraordinary example of late 19th century public architecture and is widely recognized as one of the nation's most distinguished state capitols. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986 for its "significant contribution to American history."
Sited on one of Austin's highest points, the Capitol anchors the northern periphery of the downtown commercial district and commands a sweeping view towards the Colorado River from its southern fa├žade. The main campus of The University of Texas at Austin is situated four blocks to the north. Wonderful views of the Capitol's dome from many vantage points throughout the Austin area are protected from obscuration by state law.
Completed in 1888 as the winning design from a national competition, the Capitol's style is Renaissance Revival, based on the architecture of 15th-century Italy and characterized by classical orders, round arches and symmetrical composition. The structural exterior is "sunset red" granite, quarried just 50 miles from the site. Additional structural support is provided by masonry walls and cast iron columns and beams. The foundation is limestone. Texas paid for the construction not in dollars, but in land: some three million acres in the Texas Panhandle that would later become the famous XIT Ranch.
An extraordinary edifice by any measure, the 1888 Texas Capitol is the largest in gross square footage of all state capitols and is second in total size only to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. Like several other state capitols, the 1888 Texas Capitol surpasses the National Capitol in height, rising almost 15 feet above its Washington counterpart. 

After leaving the Capital Visitor Center, I was beginning to feel nauseous from my headache so I rested for a while on a bench on the capital grounds. Joyce continued on inside the capital and explored.

By the time Joyce returned from visiting the Capital, I was feeling better and we continued walking and came upon The Cathedral of Saint Mary.  The church was built in 1872 after Austin became the permanent capital for the state of Texas

We then explored the popular 6th Street District. Likely Texas' best known street, the seven block's of 6th Street between Congress and IH 35 are certainly Austin's entertainment center. With a little help from it's many like-minded sister streets, 6th Street is the heart of Austin's live entertainment scene and the capital of third coast music.

We stopped in one of the bars for a late lunch. A waitress was ready to get and serve our alcoholic beverage order, but we had to walk to the counter, order and pick-up our soft drink and food order. It seems alcohol is the priority! Although a legendary hot spot for music and entertainment, my view of 6th Street was that it was a row of historic buildings converted to bars and pubs. In my view, a mix of New Orleans Bourbon Street and Key West. There were plenty of colorful characters around. I'm sure the area is hopping at night.

After about 4 hours, we were ready to head back home.  We both agreed the Texas Capital of Austin is easy to navigate and appeared to be very clean. 

On the way home we took a back road along a creek and photographed some Texas Longhorn Cattle, including the one at the top of this page. Back home we relaxed and spent some time talking with our RV park neighbors. The owners, Sherry and Les  stopped by. They've been so accomodating and we love the park and the area. So we've decided to pay for an additional two weeks giving us three weeks total. So unless we get "hitch itch" we won't be leaving until April 11th. There is still plenty to see around here in the Texas Hill Country. I think Joyce's list of things to see and do is growing when it should be shrinking!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Taking a Break

March 26, 2010.
Another beautiful day in the Texas Hill Country,  it was cool overnight and warmed to the mid 70's.

We (Joyce) initially had plans to go to Austin and see the sights. I convinced her to slow down and take a "day off".  After all, we aren't on vacation, we don't have to go..go..go!  We are going to be here at least another week if not more.  So we relaxed around the rig and I made some awesome breakfast burritos with some chorizo we had purchased at HEB. 

In the afternoon, we went into Dripping Springs, as I wanted to use the car wash in town and Joyce wanted to check out a small shopping plaza she had seen.  So while I washed the car she shopped at a cute little plaza.

Back at the rig, I worked on updating our blog.  Today I was able to load some pictures and catch-up.  I also added a review to the Campground Review Page.  

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and suffering through our sinus allergies.  With all the pollen in the air, we are both affected and afflicted with sinus headaches.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pedernales Falls State Park

March 25, 2010.
We awoke to a beautiful but, windy day here in the Texas Hill Country.  It quickly warmed to the low 70's but was still cool with the stiff winds. Around noon, we took a short trip out to Pedernales Falls State Park.  The drive out was beautiful with steep rolling hills along the two lane road.

Inside the park at the ranger station, we paid the entrance fee of $5 for each person.  Apparently each park can set their own admission rate.  As you may recall the entrance fee for Blanco State Park was only $3 per person.  Just outside the ranger station is a scenic overlook. 

This is a shot of the main road within the park from the overlook.

We drove to the campground in the park and took a quick look around. There were very few occupied sites. The fee for camping was $20 plus the daily entrance fee of $5 each per day. The sites were paved but were short. Many of the sites were sloped. We would not have fit in most of the sites. There are no sewer hook-ups just a dump station. There was however, some privacy between the sites and if the sites weren't so short it would be a nice campground.

We traveled to the end of the main road to the trail that leads to the namesake, Pedernales Falls. Apparently flash floods are a major concern on the river and falls area. Take a look at their website for some flash flood footage. There were plenty of signs around warning visitors to leave the area if the water started rising.

We took the hike down to the Pedernales Falls scenic overlook. The trail dropped sharply down from this point towards the Pedernales River.  

The scenic overlook provided a spectacular vantage point to see the Pedernales River and the falls. The sound of the falls was incredible.

Perhaps not so much a falls in the traditional sense as most of the water seemed to slide down the rocks as opposed to dropping from several feet. However, there is a small traditional falls in the upper portion of the picture. I was told that through much of last year there wasn't any water flowing due to the severe drought they experienced.

Down stream from the picture above.

Further down stream from the picture above.

These pictures barely capture the beauty of the area.


We walked out on the rocks in the river above the falls. Of course that was the area most susceptible to flash flooding.

The climb back up to the parking lot was steep and we were feeling it. Joyce stopped to take a break!

We traveled down the main road to the Swimming Area of the River. It also had an even steeper descent and climb from the parking lot to the river! You sure wouldn't want to forget anything and have to hike back to the car! The river was moving pretty fast through this area but it's probably only 4-5 ft. deep with lots of rocks and boulders. The water was so clear and cold at about 65 degrees.  It's not like the leaf stained tea colored water we see in Florida and southeast rivers.

We got back home and cleaned up the rig and rested before grilling out for supper. We had some long enjoyable curbside chats with some of the other folks staying in the park. Everyone is very friendly. Most have been here before and plan to keep coming back. A few of the couples really enjoy traveling as much as an hour or two away to see different sights and view the beautiful hill country. We keep getting new ideas of places to go and things to see!