But Don't Try the Rattler
Ron does not like roller coasters, so if it was up to him, he probably would have found excuses not to go. Barb found an ally in her cousin Mary who also loves this thrill ride. Mary's husband Bill doesn't like them either, so the girls planned a day when all four could go; the guys could wait together while Barb and Mary rode the coaster.
Both couples were at the park when it opened Sunday, April 18, and were amazed that the park was not at all crowded. It was a near-perfect day, weather-wise and Barb could hardly contain herself as she hurried them to get on the Rattler. The first thing the girls did is read the warnings---Don't ride if you have back or neck problems etc. Barb said that they always say that just to make you think the ride is worse than it is or for insurance things. She ignored it and charged onto the ride. The anticipation mounted as they waited in the short line and when it was their turn both Barb and Mary were excited. But the ride was horrible. It was very jerky---right from the beginning. It was so jerky that there were no butterflies on that first steep drop---only pain. And at every turn, it was like whiplash. "I guess the wooden coasters are rough and I've learned my lesson," said Barb. Mary agreed. The guys had a great time while the girls were in the torture ride. They watched a country music show at the Sundance Theater which was right across from the Rattler. Barb and Mary got to watch the last part of the show and agreed; the guys got the better deal.
The theme park which celebrates the "Spirit of Texas," is divided into five parts: Los Festivales, Spassburg, Rockville, Crackaxle Canyon, and the Ole Waterin' Hole. Once the admission is paid, entrance to all the shows is free. The entrance of the park is at Los Festivales which has a Mexican theme; strolling musicians added a festive touch, and the snack bars and restaurants offer Mexican food. Barb and Ron especially enjoyed the Festival Folklorico show which was an elaborate production celebrating the musical traditions of Mexico.
Spassburg, is typical of the German areas in other theme parks. You will find lots of German food and biergartens. The couples did not see the show in the Sangerfest Halle. The Sauerkrauts boast of being "more than just an oompah band." The German culture is very much a part of Texas' history---especially in the Hill Country.
All four agreed that Rockville was the best part of the park. There are few rides in this park, but Rockville had a great one. The Power Surge is a water ride. Yes, the kind you get really wet on, but both couples didn't mind since it was a hot day. "We needed a good cooling off just about then," said Ron. "In fact, it felt so good, we went twice." In Rockville, one can visit the High School and see the show that was rated the #1 theme park show in America in 1992. The 45 minute show included a pep rally, a sock hop and a TV top 40 dance show. The other two shows in Rockville are "Rockin' Blue Rhythm" and "Shake, Rattle & Rock."
Crackaxle Canyon was typical Western fare. The Rattler was there along with three great shows; "Music Country Music" was the show Ron and Bill watched; "Texas Standard Time" was 45 minutes of top country hits; "Head for the Hills" is billed as a look at Texas cowboys and farmers, dance hall girls and bar room brawls. It wasn't open yet. Although there were plenty of shows, at least one in every group was not scheduled to open until June. As you might guess, "The Ole Waterin' Hole" is a water park---bathing suits required. Everyone agreed that it looked like fun.
Because the shows run from 30 to 45 minutes, it took much of the day
just to see them all. Barb & Mary were kept busy trying to organize
the day so they wouldn't miss a thing. Barb said, "The park was great,
and we had a lot of fun. Ron and I needed this break and it was even more
fun because we enjoy being with Mary and Bill so much."
By RonMy last editorial brought in quite a few comments. All, except one, were very positive. The new superintendent at the LBJ National Historic Park, Randy Jones, was not happy and pointed out several errors. This reporter erred in not checking out several assumptions, and I will attempt to set the record straight.
The Ways and Means Committee was on a one week "tax retreat" paid for by donations to the Library of Congress. Further, they were invited to the ranch by Mrs. Johnson. They get together once a year.
Randy further says, that the people assigned to the Denver Service Center are actually stationed at points around the U.S. to inspect and oversee the large capital outlay projects of the U.S. government. Their purpose in Austin was to get training on roof construction in light of recent hurricane experience.
Having reported that, I will venture to get myself in further trouble and offer this humble taxpayer's view. It is my feeling that the Ways and Means Committee (66, counting staff members) would have served us better by staying in Washington. It's a shame that the Library of Congress has nothing better to do with it's money (tax deductible donations). I can understand why Congressman Jake Pickle (from Austin), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, wanted to take his committee members to his home area. And I'm beginning to understand why $8.5 million was appropriated for a visitor center that handles relatively few visitors. The park superintendent thought the expenditure for the new visitor center was well spent and disagreed with us on that.
Speaking of visitors, the LBJ Ranch and the Johnson City Visitor Center, together handle 250,000 visitors a year (Randy's figures). Since there are no park fees (per LBJ's stipulation), that means that based on their $2 million annual budget, it costs taxpayer's $8 dollars for every man, women and child (they even count the babies) who visit the park. If a visitor happens to visit both Johnson City and the Ranch, they are counted twice. With this type of visitation, do you think that they need a new $8.5 million visitor center?
By the way, the park service has requested another $1 million to furnish the new visitor center and a budget increase will be necessary to maintain it. Money well spent....come on, Randy....gimme a break!
Ordinarily, I would not make such an issue of this, but the Associated
Press on May 27 reported that the national parks are facing severe cutbacks
due to a $40 million budget shortfall. Several campgrounds will be closed
all summer and many other services will be cut including visitor centers,
campground programs, security patrols, educational activities, trail maintenance
and wildlife projects. They can't even afford to staff collection
booths at those parks that do charge fees and lose money in the process.
Speaking of campgrounds, we have enjoyed the "extended stay" arrangement that the Resort Ranch of Spicewood (CCC) offers. Coast to Coast members can extend for $10 a day after they get through with their regular week at $1 per day. Additional discounts apply depending on how long one stays.
In 1908, Lyndon Johnson's father, Sam Ealy Johnson Jr., cut hair part-time in Johnson City. Eighty-five years later, Johnson City still has only one part-time barber. Some things never change.
It seemed fitting that on my last bus tour at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, May 1, Ladybird Johnson was sitting in the yard and waved to my bus as we went by. It was probably only a coincidence that she was entertaining members of the National Wildflower Association.
As you get this, we will be in transit, moving north. The first day of travel will find Barb folding newsletters. I like it when she keeps busy while we travel, as long as she points me in the right direction.
It's been months since we've played golf. When back in Michigan,
son Karl will have to give me at least a stroke a hole. Someday,
I think I'm going to retire.
The Hill Country of Texas
The Comfort Common
Ray wrote us up right away, checked to see that all the ordered parts were in, and Tracy began work on our unit. They confirmed our thoughts that we would be there for a few days. We were prepared for that and had examined a map of the area; there was plenty to investigate.
Right away we took off for the village of Boerne. We had been there for three days in January (again for warranty work) so knew the town. Situated just north of San Antonio, Boerne is fast becoming a big community. Besides being beautiful, it still has small town charm which many are worried might vanish as more move into the area.
We went browsing into several shops that were open, but it was Monday so many were closed. We are not into antiques, but like to look. The only problem with that is I see things that I remember as a child. That's scary. We did find a shop that had just the Texas tee shirt I had been looking for. On the front is an outline of the state of Texas which is filled in with their most popular wildflowers. Also found a cute, little, handmade curio cabinet which I know will fit in this motorhome somewhere. I like to collect tiny, little things.
As it got close to lunch time, Ron suggested we drive six miles north to Welfare and eat lunch at the Po-Po Family Restaurant we had heard so much about. Their claim to fame is "all you can eat shrimp" for $10.95; it is served Monday---Thursday evenings. Po-Po has a unique history which is detailed on the place mat. The structure started as a dance hall in 1929. It gained the most fame when Luther and Marie Burgon took over the Po-Po business which began under Ned Houston in 1932. The walls are covered with over 1,200 plates from Marie's collection.
The Pioneer House
I wandered for a bit; Ron was outside reading the paper on a park bench. As I was ready to leave, I struck up a conversation with Susie. The Common is a bed and breakfast and Susie showed me pictures of the rooms. They are charming and so tastefully decorated. Built in 1880 as an eight-room hotel for Peter Ingenhuett, it was doubled with an discovered that she owned the first little place we looked in---the Pioneer House. She loves and collects antiques. But as we got into the conversation, she said that she is not into "things" anymore. I told her how we live and her excitement rose. She had seen the article in the paper about us. We talked more. Originally from Houston she now lives in Boerne. I learned a little more about that area. It almost didn't matter that the shops were closed, because I got to meet Susie; I think we talked for an hour.
We had nothing better to do Tuesday since Tracy was still working on the motorhome so we drove back to Comfort. Peter Ingenhuett's Fancy Groceries, Hardware and Implements was open. When we first entered, we were in a small grocery store, much like the Quick Pick stores of today, but venturing on into the hardware portion was like going back in time. I picked up a pair of slacks that were folded on a counter; they were plaid like the plaids I remember from the 70's; I unfolded them and discovered they were bell bottoms. When I looked at the price, it was a price from the 70's. A rack of greeting cards caught my eye. They were a brand name, in perfect shape, neatly displayed and the price on the back was 75 cents. Do you remember those days? I needed to buy a birthday card for a friend, and I did, but I felt guilty paying such a low price. I swore I had just walked back in time a full 20 years. It was fun to look at all the things and better yet to examine the prices.
Before we left town we found the only railroad tunnel to have been built in Texas. It is now a bat cave. Comfort also has the distinction of having the only monument to the Union is south of the Mason-Dixon line. This monument to the Nueces River Massacre is one of six sites around the nation that may fly the American flag at half mast in perpetuity.
If you ever get to the Hill Country of Texas do search out Boerne, and
Comfort along with Fredricksburg, Kerrville and Gruene (pronounced Green).
I don't think I ever told you about the great little stores there. There's
a wooden floored general store where you can get penny candy (for 30 cents)
or sit at the soda fountain and order a sundae. There's also a dance hall
there. The oldest one in Texas and again this year, I didn't get to go
there for dancing. They serve beer in long neck bottles. There's a pot
bellied stove to warm you on cool days and the dance floor has been shined
by thousands of dance steps. This is great country and we will be back.
Hope you too can visit the Hill Country someday.
This 'N That
Did you notice something new? We have a new printer and isn't it nice? It is a Hewlett Packard LaserJet IIP Plus and it is a dream to work with. The laser jets are not as big as they once were so it fits in our house even better than the dot matrix that we had. And I love not having to deal with track fed paper. Technology is wonderful!
Have you searched all over this issue looking for the Branson, Missouri story? We had to cancel. We just hated to miss being with all the Bounder people there, but I had to have some medical tests done. Since we had to stay in the area anyway, we decided that we would work solid on the book revision.
Way back in January, when we first arrived in the Austin area, I looked in the phone book and found a pair of doctors who specialize in the treatment of asthma. Drs James and David Pohl (brothers) have been wonderful and I can breathe easier. I just wanted to print my "thank you" to them and their staff so the whole world could see it. They seemed to understand our lifestyle and always fit us in when we were able to come to the city.
We are still in the Hill Country. After we left the ranch the May 3, we only moved a few miles down the road and have been sitting ever since. We will finally leave Texas June 3, and that is not a bit too soon. It has been in the 90's and humid. Gotta get out of here.
This month has been a work month. Ron and I have been on both computers, day and night. We simply had to hibernate and concentrate on writing and rewriting. Just this week, we finished up on the new edition of An Alternative Lifestyle---Living and Traveling Full-time in a Recreational Vehicle. We are anxious for you to see it. The cover is in full color and we've added 52 pages, but it won't be available until about the 1st of August. We will cover all the wonderful details in the August issue.
Ron was a perfect helpmate while I was glued to the computer. Since I had to do all of the picky stuff like page formatting, typesetting and so on, Ron took care of household chores. He did all the shopping and laundry etc. which I really appreciated.
We were really lucky that both the Austin American-Statesman and the San Antonio Express News took an interest in our lifestyle. They both sent out reporters and photographers to do stories on us. Although the reporters came weeks apart from each other, the stories appeared in their respective papers on the same day---April 25. We were the feature Lifestyle story in both papers, appearing on the front page of that section. It was wonderful and you should have seen our mail bag. It took us a whole day to record and send out the books. It nearly depleted our stock of books.
I wish we could share the articles with you. Especially the one from The Austin American- Statesman. They did a remarkable job. Reporter Julie Bonnan and photographer Rebecca Mc Entee made us look and feel special.
The amazing thing about those who ordered from the articles is that they did more than just send a check. They wrote letters. The letters were full of excitement---like they just found a new dream. It made us feel good.
One couple who had read the story, drove right out to the ranch to see us, but we happened to be gone for the day. Several others asked if they could visit us in person, but we were only able to set up one visit. That was the one with Darlene and Ron Johannis.
Saying "goodby" is a difficult part of this lifestyle, and it was sadness and tears when we had to say "goodby" to Liz and Don Ryding—our neighbors at LBJ. But we know we will see them again. Tentative plans are for us to explore Calgary and Glacier National Parks together in the summer of 1994.
While working on the book here at The Resort Ranch of Lake Travis CCC in Spicewood, we purposely did not strike up any conversations with other campers. We were disciplining ourselves to get the work done. But one day a Bounder motorhome pulled in across from us. The next morning, we had just finished our walk when the couple from the Bounder came out. The "hi" we started with turned into a nice half hour conversation with Bette and Clyde Salter. The outcome was most amazing. Fate, I call it. We mentioned our struggles editing the book; Bette, a retired school teacher offered to do it for us. Over the next three days, she read everything we had ready and did a super job. It makes a big difference when someone else looks over the material.
When we finish the newsletter, deliver the book, leave here, drive to Michigan, and after I fly to Florida to see my new grandson, and have the garage sale, I am not going to make one more commitment. I don't want to schedule another thing. When I see a road that I want to travel, I want to have the time to do it.
So when you get this, know that we will have left Texas. It is
going to be heaven to be moving again. We will be in Missouri for
three or four days then on to Michigan, slowly. We will have lots
of fresh things to report on when next we meet. Take care and Happy
Of course we did not even come close to sampling all the wonderful eating spots in the Hill Country, but we wanted to review some of our favorites.
Bluebonnet Cafe, Marble Falls. You will not find gourmet food here, but it is good home cooking and the portions are generous. Do save room for pie. They are homemade and there is always a large variety to choose from. The coconut cream is a good three inches high and. . . this is making me hungry so I'll quit.
Friedhelm's Bavarian Inn and Bar, Fredricksburg. This is the place to go if you want authentic German food. Our favorites are the sauerbrauten or schnitzel dinners which come with red cabbage and potatoes. Typically German food is heavy so we like to go for lunch when the portions are a little smaller.
Mamacita's, Fredricksburg and Kerrville. Great mexican food in a pleasant dining experience. Several nights a week, strolling musicians play Mexican music to add to the atmosphere. Their fajitas are super, but their specialty is Queso Flameado which looks exciting. We did not try that.
PO-PO, Welfare. The specialty is "all you care to eat shrimp" for $10.95 which is served Monday through Thursday evenings. Since we went in the afternoon, we coouldn't try the shrimp special. We enjoyed their chicken and catfish. Everything was tasty and the service was good. Meals come with a nice crisp salad and hot biscuits.
Double D Cafe, Comfort. If you are looking for the greatest hamburg this is the place to go. It is not a fancy place, but it is clean and friendly. All the locals eat here. They advertise a breakfast buffet and fruit bar on Saturday and Sunday for only $4.95. The afternoon we ate there, we noticed the regulars were enjoying the buffet lunch which was only $4.75 and looked good. You won't go hungry there and the price is right.
The Backyard, Bee Caves (Hwy 71 west of Austin). This is a new place that just opened in April. They have concerts in the backyard occasionally and were getting ready for a jazz concert the evening we choose to eat there. The place was busy but the service was good. They have delicious BBQ sauce and most of their entrees are BBQ something or other. We did notice rattlesnake on the list of appetizers, but were not adventuresome enough to try. The table next to us ordered it and no one died. I had the BBQ chicken salad which promised to be spicy and it was. Lots of fresh crisp lettuce and extra spicy orange BBQ sauce. Yummy! Ron enjoyed a combination plate of sausage and beef. Good eating and we were too full to even look at a dessert menu.
Jason's Deli, Austin. Whenever
we go into Austin to get the newsletter printed at Kinko's, we enjoy lunch
or dinner at Jason's. It is located in the same shopping center as
Kinkos---Walsh Tarlton and Bee Caves Road. The sandwiches are thick
and fresh, the soups are thick and hot, and the salad bar is plentiful
and varied. With reasonable prices and lots of healthy food to eat,
it's a bargain both for your pocket- book and your body.
1. How many railroad tunnels are there in the state of Texas?
2. Commercially what is the most important tree in Texas?
3. What Texas Zoo was the first in the nation to
4. What Texas wildflower is also called by such names as
5. The Los Ebanos Ferry crosses the Rio Grande by what
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