San Antonio, Penny and a Return to Luckenbach
Apr 21, 2007
Our excitement was starting to grow as we left San Angelo for San Antonio, mostly because we were going to see Penny tomorrow but also we would be setting down some roots for a week in our rental condo. Our chosen route took us mainly down smaller highways through the Hill Country, which dazzled us with its rolling topography and green hillsides. Every turn seemed to bring up a more interesting entrance gate to a ranch property.
We had lunch at a Subway in Fredericksburg, an old German town with a beautifully restored Main Street (Hauptsrasse) with, get this, James, a restaurant called "Auslanders". We carried on to see some wineries and, after one stop, decided that pretty much all Texas wineries need about 20 more years to mature.
This was a bit of a side trip from our planned route but it took us serendipitously by Ranch Road 1376, which runs through Luckenbach...how could we not take it. Luckenbach has an estimated population of 25 and is basically a hiccup on the road. As we drove by, however, we noticed a bunch of motorcycle traffic down a side road and thought that maybe we'd come back and explore a little further during the week.
Ranch Road 1376 was one of the most beautiful, winding stretches of road we've seen on our trip and, with Luckenbach thrown in, we knew we had to bring Penny back here. 30 or so miles later we were back on the Interstate and approaching the outskirts of San Antonio, which is the 7th largest metro area in the US with a population of 1.3 million. We were arriving at 4:00 pm on the opening Friday of their annual Fiesta so we thought it might be fun to stay closer to downtown...WRONG!
We ended up circling the downtown market area as civic workers were putting up barricades, usually ahead of us rather than behind us. As the party volume increased and young Hispanic guys strolled by us with a beer in each hand, we made a quick decision to get out of Dodge. About an hour later we worked our way out of the maze and headed for the suburbs. About this point, Brenda reminded me that she hadn't been to the bathroom since Fredericksburg...oooops!
We found a Baymount Suites Hotel alongside I-10 and got a room for the night. We had stayed in a nice Baymount in Amarillo but this was an exception. Not only were we right next door to the side entrance, which banged shut throughout the night ("no tell motel"?) but also Brenda quickly noticed that the bathroom was not cleaned, as were several other surfaces. Oh well, we got someone in to touch it up and settled in for the night.
We were getting excited, as this was Penny day. We anxiously listened for a cell phone call to tell us whether she made it on the plane without her "delayed-in-processing" passport. No news being good news, we moved on to our condo, which is quite large and in a quiet, convenient neighbourhood. We had a nice chat with the owner, Harry Hallows and his new wife, Janet (a beautiful story that Brenda got while I found out where things were and how they worked) and we moved our stuff in.
Brenda got started on our accumulated laundry and I went to get the 2 weeks worth of bug guts and tumbleweed residue washed off Big Blue; she looked almost good as new afterward. We had a quick bite to eat and headed for the airport and Penny's 4:15 pm arrival...she made it! After a teary reunion greeting and a quick stop at a liquor store (surprise!), we got to the condo and got caught up on news from home.
The girls chatted while I scooted out to get some dinner groceries. We had a great spaghetti feed (our first real home cooked meal since Palm Springs!) and some copious amounts of wine. It was a fabulous start to our week!
Sunday dawned with murky weather as forecasted. We looked at our options and chose to take a small loop tour of about 150 miles through the Hill Country north of San Antonio. We started in the old German settlement of New Braunfels, which turned out to be very quiet, we assumed because this is church country and Sunday after all.
We found the river road along the Guadalupe River that had been mentioned in our literature; another beautiful winding road that didn't lose anything in the Scotch mist in which we found ourselves. The river is famous for tubing (spelled "toobing" in these here parts) and rafting. It has many resorts and campsites along its banks dedicated to these activities as well as several areas of private, upscale riverfront homes.
We connected with another state road, which took us higher into the hills where we ended up in Johnson City, the ancestral home of Lyndon Baines Johnson and very near his LBJ Ranch. We had lunch here in a funky restored gristmill, which featured a bunch of eclectic antiques and photos of famous and near-famous clientele (guess where we fit in that spectrum).
We moved along the road toward Fredericksburg and encountered Fredericksburg Trade Days, a bunch of booths and tin barns set up for a market very similar to the weekend Street Fair at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert. This one, however, has a decidedly Texas flavour to it with lots of ranch/cowboy stuff, chilli and BBQ stalls and, best of all, a beer garden with a great little old time western band. It just doesn't get any better (or so we thought!). Unfortunately, we arrived just an hour before they closed and, coincidentally, just before another storm cloud came through, so we had time for one long-necked beer before the rain started.
We took a short drive through downtown Fredericksburg to show Penny and then swung around to go back down to Ranch Road 1376 and Luckenbach. This time we took the rough, narrow side road into "downtown" Luckenbach and what a treat. It was like a set out of a western movie, except there were lots of Harleys parked around along with the ubiquitous crew cab F350's and the occasional city slicker along with Big Blue.
The old wooden structures really give the place character. The largest one is a new/old tin roofed barn in which all the side panels lift up to give it a feeling of an open air barn dance venue, which is exactly what it is. Another western swing band was playing old time music, long-neck beer was flowing freely (we'd had enough with the one at Trade Days) and everyone was having a fabulous time. You can only experience this on the occasional Sunday, apparently, and, once again, we turned out to be the luckiest people in the world because we caught one.
We decided to head down the road, before the fleet of inebriated Harley riders, for our own safety and sadly pulled out of Luckenbach, "where everybody is a somebody". A quick dinner shopping side trip and we were home in time for cocktail hour and relaxation...another great day under our belt.