Today I went on a mystery tour by SJO-PRO Tours. They have been providing custom group tours since 1987 – both domestic and foreign. We met at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church on Anderson Lane. We left at 9:00 a.m. and were back about 4:00 p.m. My seatmate on the bus was Helene, of Georgetown. She and her husband have been on several tours with this company. It is named for the owner, Bill Sjoblum (pronounced show’ blum). The name is Swedish for “sea flower”. Before setting the itineraries, he visits all the sites that he is considering to make sure that they are appropriate.
Our first stop was at Circuit of the Americas, where an employee showed us around the complex. She gave us a lot of interesting information about it. She said that nothing was changed in the natural terrain except the race tracks themselves. They had to dig down ten feet to stabilize them. First, we went to the Paddock Area, where we stopped at Turn 1 (the signature turn) which is 133 feet to the top of the apex.
Next, we went to the tower, which has 419 steps to the top and is made of re-cycled steel. The tower is 251 feet tall (equivalent to 25 storeys). Confession: We took the elevator to the top; they wouldn’t let anyone take the stairs because they hadn’t had time to clear off any ice from our recent wet weather. Imagine our disappointment. :>) It was a bit too cold and windy at the top so we didn't stay up there very long.
From there we headed for Red Rock, where we had a wonderful lunch at the Rose Garden Village. It is in a historic house where the current owners’ family had lived since the 1800s. We had herbed grilled chicken breast, green beans with bacon, Cole slaw, mashed potatoes and buttermilk pie. Next door to the Rose Garden Village is a lovely bed and breakfast, Buckner Manor. They gave us long-stemmed roses and a little bag with candy and a pen on a string. We had time to see it before going to our next destination.
Next on the itinerary was Rochne, a German Catholic community which traces its roots back to 1846. It was named by school children. The priest had presented two options for names and asked the children to vote on them; they chose Knute Rochne. He was the head football coach of Notre Dame from 1918 to 1931.
We visited the lovely Sacred Heart Catholic Church. It was built almost entirely with volunteer labor. Docents spoke to us about the history of the church. We learned that the original church was burned down by arsonists, who pinned a note to a tree saying that German Catholics were not welcome in their community. But, as the docent said, Germans can be hard headed! They rebuilt in 1892.
Next door to the church is Hilbig Park, which was named for the Hilbig Park School, 1894-1900. The complex includes the Lehman cabin (c. 1858), the Goertz log cabin (c. 1860), the Lee smoke house, the Hoffman corn crib and the Rockne Museum, which was dedicated on June 14, 2003. It contains the alter and other furnishings from the Sacred Heart Church, which had been renovated. It also contains many items donated by local citizens. One of the men in the tour group saw a school yearbook with his picture. In front of the museum is a bronze bust of Knute Rockne, dedicated in 2006. Before leaving the museum, we were treated to ice cream and homemade cookies.
Then it was time to head back to Austin. On the way, Bill had us put our name tags into a bag for a drawing. Two lucky ladies won $25 gift certificates. Back in Austin, Bill gave us a little Valentine box filled with Lammes' candies.
ROUTE: US 183 S => D G Collins Road / FM 812 E to Circuit of the Americas => FM 812 E to Red Rock => FM20 N / FM 535 E to Rochne => FM 535 W -> 71 W =. US 183 W back to Austin