Monday, January 21, 2008
Traveling Around Texas
It's a dreary and drizzly day today - a good time to catch up on our travels. We've been here in San Marcos for almost two months now, and have enjoyed fairly warm weather, made new friends, and of course, sampled almost every restaurant in the area. One of our day trips was to the town of Fredricksburg, a quaint town settled by German immigrants in 1846. The main street is filled with shops, many specializing in German antiques and gifts (lots of nutcrackers!), and a number of German restaurants and brew pubs. While there, we visited the National Museum of the Pacific War, a surprisingly extensive facility focused on Admiral Chester Nimitz, who grew up in the family hotel which now houses the museum entrance. It was especially meaningful for us because in the early 80's while stationed in Washington state, we visited the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the then-mothballed Battleship Missouri , and with Brendas' WWII Pacific war veteran Dad, stood on the spot where Admiral Nimitz signed the Japanese surrender documents. The town and museum are well worth the trip if you are in the area, especially during the Christmas season when the streets are decorated and the shops are filled with holiday gifts. On the way, we stopped at one of Texas' most famous country-western locations, Luckenbach, the subject of the Waylon Jennings hit song. It's not easy to find, since the signs for the town disappear as fast as they put them up, but eventually we pulled up in front of the combination post office/general store/bar. While it may be a rockin' place during the summer, on this weekday afternoon it was quiet, with only a few visitors. Brenda immediately charmed the bar patrons (both of them) and within a few minutes was being serenaded with a guitar solo by her new-found friend, singing a song about the ghost of Waylon visiting the bar and inspiring new songs. It was a truly friendly group, & we enjoyed our brief stay at this landmark location. Less memorable was a two-day trip to the Rio Grande Valley, where we visited to scout possible volunteer sites for next winter. The valley or "RGV" as it's known, is a popular location for "Winter Texans", those who journey from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other northern states and Canada to escape the winter. The east-west highway along the border from Brownsville to Mission is filled with literally hundreds of RV parks, from huge upscale resorts to small mom & pop trailer parks. We visited two National Wildlife Refuges, Santa Ana, on the border in the central valley, and Laguna Atacosa on the gulf coast. Both were busy with visitors and had great facilities. Many of the the winter Texans are avid bird-watchers and provide a huge visitor base for the refuges; surprisingly to us an entrance fee is charged (hence the great facilities). At Laguna Atacosa, we watched this Green Jay, a beautiful bird found only in this southernmost area. Although both the refuges have facilities for volunteers, we're not sure we'd be comfortable in the area, it's a long way to get here and doesn't offer anything special. A day trip to Corpus Christi was a more positive experience. We toured the waterfront, looked at RV parks, and enjoyed a Sunday brunch at a terrific waterfront restaurant. We liked the downtown waterfront and large-city facilities, and plan to return to the area and visit Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. On the way back, we stopped in the little town of Panna Maria, which amazed us in being the first Polish settlement in the U.S. There's not much left of the original settlement, just the church, a small store, and an even smaller museum. Still, it's an interesting story how the immigrants landed in Galveston and settled here - we would never have guessed that the first Polish settlement was in Texas! Finally, big news! Those of you that have followed our travels know that Brenda has long yearned to see a moose in the wild; you may remember that she was "Mooseless in Montana" in spite of over 3000 miles (or so) of back-country exploring. Well, thanks to our friends Dennis and Ann, she is NO LONGER MOOSELESS! As you can see by the picture, she has a Christmoose, complete with little bells and a fashionable satin finish. There is now much joy here as Brenda and the moose jingle their way through the coach, much to the confusion and dismay of the cat. Another item on our "bucket list" has been completed. Who knows what's next? Come back and see!