It has been a wonderful 4 weeks here in Boerne, TX visiting with a long lost friend and playing tourist (well, as much as possible given this pandemic). As has been the case pretty much throughout my nomadic journey thus far, time seems to fly by while I’m having fun. But alas, my time here has ended and I must move on. Along those lines, I have decided to make some changes to my future full-time RV travels for the time being. More details on that later in this blog.
Visiting Friends – Playing Tourist
Though the pandemic has somewhat limited the places I can visit, I certainly have amassed a pretty good collection of sites that I’ve seen during my stay here. But most importantly, I got to enjoy many of them with a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in several decades. Back in the early 80s, when I went to Air Force computer school I met another Zoomie who not only was in my class, but was also going to be stationed at Fort Meade as soon as school was finished. We became good friends in tech school, and remained good friends once we both relocated to Maryland. I spent lots of time with him and his wife Brenda. After several years at Fort Meade, I left the Air Force, and they went to Germany for their next assignment. Sadly soon thereafter, they would get divorced, and Brenda would relocate back to her hometown in TX. She then met a new guy named Lee, and the two would later marry. They have since bought some land, built an absolutely beautiful home, and are now living happily ever after. Don’t be fooled by the picture at left – that is NOT their home. Rather, this is the 600+ sq/ft, 20′ x 32′ She-Sheer She Shed that Lee has built for Brenda in their back yard. This will become craft place central for Brenda and her family to pursue their love of crafts – most notably scrapbooking. It will be fully loaded with a bathroom, fridge, microwave, coffee pot, AC, big screen TV, and most recently Internet. Soon it will be filled wall-to-wall with craft supplies and tables. It’s gonna be quite the setup!
Besides several meals together and a fun game night, we also managed to catch several of the local attractions in the area. One was the Natural Bridge Caverns. Discovered in 1960, these are the largest caverns in the state of Texas. They go down to 180 feet deep, and maintain a roughly 70 degree temperature throughout most of the year. That was certainly refreshing given the 90-100 degree weather outside. These caverns had similar features that I’ve seen in many other caverns such as stalactites, stalagmites, fried eggs, bacon ribbon, and the like. It did however have a really cool feature that resembled a giant jelly fish, with a bunch of baby jelly fish below it. Something very unique and super interesting to see.
We also went on a trip to Old Tunnel State Park. It was once a railroad tunnel from the 1800s, but is now home to millions of bats. Brenda, her sister Judy, and I attended a bat mass exodus one early evening. When I was in Austin, I had just missed a similar event that occurs there from the Congress Avenue Bridge. I was there too late in the season, and the bats had already mostly relocated to the warmer climate in Mexico. But lucky for me, there was a similar event in nearby Fredericksburg. It was absolutely mesmerizing and incredible to watch. The park ranger led a roughly 30 min discussion about the history of the tunnel, and a bunch of fun bat facts. Then, seemingly right on queue, they began emerging about 10 minutes later. There were literally over a million bats that emerged, circled like a funnel vortex, then departed along the tree lines for destinations unknown to get their nightly feeding of bugs – mostly moths. Sort of like the Grand Canyon, pictures and video really don’t do justice to the splendor of what you are observing. Truly epic, and I was so thrilled that I was able to partake. Here’s a short video from the event.
Next, Brenda and I took a drive to Fredericksburg, TX to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, and the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Fredericksburg happens to be the boyhood home to Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz -who played a major role in the naval history of World War II as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, commanding Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II. The museum takes you through a comprehensive chronology of the entirety of World War II, as it related to areas of the Pacific. Lots of details and war history from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, thru the battles in the Pacific Ocean and its many small islands and larger countries. It was very well laid out, and presented lots of details of WWII in the Pacific region. We also visited the smaller, yet equally entertaining Admiral Nimitz Museum which takes you through the history of this great war hero. A very nice afternoon spent visiting these wonderful museums.
No trip to this part of Texas would be complete without a visit to the quaint little town of Luckenbach – population 3. The town was made famous in 1977 by the #1 country song of the same name by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Today, there is the original post office (no longer operational), a working saloon, a general store, and a dance hall. They regularly host live music there on either their indoor or outdoor stage. It’s a cool little town and worthy of a stop if you are in the area.
The other place we visited was the Buggy Barn Museum in Blanco, TX. Housing the largest collection of horse drawn buggies in Texas, this museum had them all. There are over 200 buggies from the 1800s and early 1900s – from your basic buggies to doctors wagons to the super fancy that were used by the rich and famous. They even had a fire buggy and a hurst buggy. We had the opportunity to chat with the owner for a while, and like many who start collecting, this one grew to an obsession. He never really thought of having a museum, but one day found himself with an empty building and a vast collection of buggies. So, he figured why not. Several of the buggies have been used in many movies, including the remake of True Grit, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, There Will Be Blood, The Redemption of Henry Myers, Deliverance Creek to name a few. In fact, they have just recently built a complete western town behind the museum – with a bank, saloon, general store, and a chapel. They are hoping this venue can be used for commercial and movie production. It was very cool!
This area proved to be a treasure trove of Roadside America places to visit. Some kinda quirky, while others were most impressive. At left, top left, is the “True to the Union” monument, and marks the mass grave of 58 German-American farmers from Comfort, TX. They were massacred by other Texans when they tried to join the Union Army in the Civil War. The pictures at left, top and middle right, are of a couple animals. The Armadillo can be found at Bussey’s Flea Market in Schertz, TX. Sadly, the excessive heat and ongoing pandemic kept the market significantly smaller than it otherwise could have been. The Bull sits in front of a winery and Yee Haw Ranch Outfitters in Fredericksburg, TX. Lastly, along a back road in Comfort, TX you will find the Cartoon Saloon. It’s not a real saloon, but rather a recreation and a simple photo op location. What made it even more interesting is that despite it very rustic look, it was actually built in 2018.
Then there was this stop – a general store in Comfort, TX that houses a mini museum of items from the now defunct Apelt Armadillo Company. From the 1890s thru early 1970s, the Apelt company specialized in creating sewing baskets, lamps, and other curios made out of armadillos. Definitely a strange collection of curios.
Next up are these roadside gems. First up is The Coming King Scripture Prayer Garden, all sitting on a 24-acre hilltop along I-10 just outside of Kerrville, TX. At its center is a 77-foot high empty cross, and a series of bronze statues including Mary, Fisher of Men, the Devine Servant, and an 18-foot Coming King. This was a very peaceful and reflective garden, with spectacular views of the surrounding area. Not far away in Ingram, TX is a roughly three-quarter-size replica of Stonehenge. It started out as an amusing art project in the late 1980s. It includes two Easter Island heads, each standing on either side of the Henge. Kinda cool to visit – especially if going to Wiltshire England to see the original is not in your future.
Last up, no trip to Texas is complete without visiting Buc-ee’s – known for its super-sized highway stores. In fact, this particular Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels, TX is the biggest of them all. It has 60 gas pumps, 84 toilets, 80 soda dispensers, and a vast and wide, longer than a football field, 68,000 sq/ft convenience and souvenir store, sporting 35 cashier registers to quickly get you in and out. As I walked in, the first cashier I ran into saw me ooing and awing and taking pictures of this incredible place, and decided to have a bit of fun with me and shoot me with his scanner gun. Too funny!
Well, as the title suggests, I have decided to cancel all my future RV stops out here in the west, and instead make a bee-line to my newly purchased RV lot in Lake Wales, FL. I’ll spend the rest of the summer, winter, and into the spring there, then decide where and how to proceed. This was a difficult decision for me to make as I really have been enjoying my touring around the country, and was looking forward to more sight seeing and visiting with friends in the coming months. However, the spike in the virus infection rate, and more states imposing various lockdown protocols, has just made ongoing travel not prudent at this time. Since my last blog, I have completed the closing on the RV lot, and am now the proud owner of a wonderful Home Base in central Florida (pictured left). I’m anxious to get there and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle that is prevalent in the community. I’ve also got a few project ideas that will allow me to put my personal stamp on the property, and make it more like home. I’ll also have to spend some time at the DMV getting my Florida address updated, drivers license, etc. I also look forward to spending time with brothers and other friends and relatives who live in the area. Come next spring, I’ll evaluate where things stand, then make a decision on what to do next. I may either resume my travels and head west to pick up where I left off, or I may simply wait it out another year, and spend some long overdue time with my daughters, grands, and other family up in Maryland. So, my next blog will be from my new Home Base in Lake Wales. I’m leaving tomorrow (Jul 29) and will take about two weeks to get there, traveling from Texas, with a planned arrival around Aug 10th. So, until next time, be well and safe travels!