Late Spring in South-Central Texas
Nature happening in the back yard, or the more terrestrial side of …things I LOVE!!
All images: Alex Autin
After leaving Enchanted Rock and returning to Fredericksburg, and with the Funyuns seriously wearing off, Lucero and I were ready for some hardy eats. Luckily in F-burg there is no shortage of dining options. Lucero expressed a wish for ‘German food’ and within minutes we encountered the Altdorf Biergarten….
The town of Fredericksburg was established in 1846 and has a population of roughly 10,000 — all of whom apparently avoid the Main Street area on a Saturday evening. The Altdorf Biergarten is housed in a landmark limestone building dating to back 1847, so without question, one of the oldest structures in F-Burg. The German community here boasts F-burg as being one of the oldest settlements in Texas, someone should inform those crazy Spanish as they were establishing missions south of here about 140 years prior. (San Francisco de la Espada, 1689) This does not, in any way, negate the food at Altdorf! Lucero, being much more continental than myself, understood the menu, while I mainly focused on the selection of beer! (In fairness, she was driving.) Finding Shiner Bock on the menu, I was happy! Extremely HAPPY!
Shiner, Texas and the Spoetzl Brewery — a whole ‘nother road trip!
After a wonderful meal of German meats, which we started with some Tex-Mex nachos (of course!), we spent some time strolling up and down Fredericksburg’s main street. It was somewhere around this time we encountered the 4 drunk girls — who were, in fact, so drunk they had been thrown out of one restaurant and were hard-pressed to find another who would serve them. Yes, there are few things sadder (and funnier!) than drunk AND hungry Texas girls. After a much-too-long time hanging on Main Street with the girls, I was ready to exit Fredericksburg, and luckily so was Lucero. But not before a cruise around town looking for an open liquor store — for more Shiner Bock, of course! Finding the liquor shop, I also found Enchanted Rock Vodka! (I shit you not!) Apparently, the folks up at E-Rock are making vodka and putting it into clever tourist-eye-catching bottles. And of course, I bought one! But, you know, just the trial-size.
Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War, established in the old Nimitz Hotel, Fredericksburg, 1852. There were NO drunk girls in here.
Lucero and I headed out of Fredericksburg in the direction of Kerrville along the banks of The Guadalupe River. The river runs from Kerr County southeasterly before emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. The town itself boasts a population of 20k, and was named after Texas Revolution major James Kerr. However, before arriving in Kerrville, we pulled off the highway onto some long and deserted Texas back-road to engage in a bit of star-gazing. And, indeed the stars at night ARE big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.
IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!
Arriving in Kerrville, where we planned to stay the night, our attention was immediately caught by the lights of a Ferris Wheel! Apparently, we’d stumbled upon a small-town Texas carnival, and there was NO WAY IN HELL we weren’t going!
Folks in Kerrville, Texas enjoying a very pleasant Saturday evening.
After a night’s stay at the lovely Kerville Motel 6, where Lucero was finally able to do a bit of drinking, and we talked till about 3am, we woke to a very CHILLY Texas Hill Country morning. (Ok, it was more like noon.)
After a breakfast/lunch at the local Cracker Barrel, and much coffee, we headed to the town’s visitor center to find out what was going on in Kerrville. It was then we found….Stonehenge! Or rather — Stonehenge II. It seems in the nearby town of Ingram, Texas, population 1,740, a local farmer, Al Shepperd, with the help of his neighbor, Doug Hill, had constructed a near-replica of the original Stonehenge located in Wiltshire, England. This being the stuff of road-trip glory, we were off and heading towards Ingram! We were SO not disappointed!
Realizing that with our encounter with Stonehenge II we’d pretty much hit ‘road-trip nirvana’, Lucero and I headed back to Kerrville to chill out with a hike along the banks of the blue-green waters of the Guadalupe River.
Scenes of the Kerrville Dam of the Guadalupe River.
After a nice hike, and a HUGE brownie, we were off and back on the road — this time heading for the town of Boerne, population 10k or so.
In Boerne, after cruising up and down the nearly deserted main street, we found out about the Boerne City Park Lake, and decided to head on over.
After leaving the lake it was time to head back towards San Antonio, and towards more food! Lucero was craving Puerto Rican food, and that was sounding pretty damn good to me! But before reaching SA we encountered more road-side wild flowers and we just had to stop!
All Photographs: Alex Autin
On Saturday morning my friend Lucero and I headed out for a little Texas road trip. We had no REAL destination, as any good road trip should NOT, and only a general idea of wanting to hit The Hill Country.
The Texas Hill Country pretty much applies to a region of Central Texas consisting of tall rugged hills which feature thin layers of soil atop limestone or granite. It includes the Llano Uplift and Enchanted Rock. (More on E Rock in a bit!!) The Hill Country reaches into portions of San Antonio’s northern suburbs, the western half of Travis County, and ends just west of Austin. The terrain’s large number of limestone or granite rocks and boulders plus its thin layer of topsoil makes the region very dry and prone to flash flooding. The Hill Country is also home to a host of cool native Southwestern vegetation including yucca, prickly pear cactus, cedar scrub, and the Texas live oak. And in the early spring — Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower!
Since this was a road trip, and since I’m pretty sure that trips of such nature are meant to be started late, we tried our best to get a late start. And we succeeded wonderfully! Even before leaving San Antonio, in fact less than a mile from my house, we had already made our first stop of the trip for roadside eats. In our defense it was nearly noon…. and who can resist Texas Brisket!!
I had the brisket taco with jalapenos (on the right), Lucero had the brisket sandwich on Texas toast. (And no, I will not be documenting every meal we ate with photos. But only because I forget to take them! I remembered to take these — so I was damn sure gonna use them!)
It’s my thought that any proper road trip should include lots and lots of really crappy photos taken along the way from inside a moving vehicle. If you share this thought, this post WILL SO NOT disappoint! Here we are moving leisurely along I-10, and we’re fairly certain we’re moving in the right direction.
Me: It’s starting to look all hilly!
Lucero: Damn, did I miss my turn? (I heard this A LOT, and loved it each time!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #3 – Fredericksburg! Our first ‘official’ destination. Fredericksburg is a very cool town in Gillespie County, known as the home of ‘Texas German’, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English. It’s a lovely place, very German-ish-y, and not nearly as out-of-focus as this exit sign would imply.
We checked out Fredericksburg for a bit, and realizing that Lucero’s a shopper and I’m a hiker — we then knew that compromises would need to be made. And quick!
In F-burg, taking part in the strange activity referred to as ‘Antiquing’. Interesting…. Lucero has Olympic-quality antiquing skills! I mostly walked around texting anyone and everyone I know. In fairness we spent very little time here, and were soon back on the road and heading for ENCHANTED ROCK! The locals at The Red Baron Antique Mall, extremely nice people who showed no signs of refusing to speak English, gave us directions to The Rock, and also a very valuable heads-up — If the road sign on Ranch Road 965 was ‘flashing’ this meant the park was full and no more visitors would be allowed in. Oh no! We now were re-thinking that whole ‘leaving late’ thing. But in true road-trip fashion we decided to give it a shot and headed out to Ranch Road 965 — after a quick stop for water and Funyuns. Hell yeah! (If you don’t have Funyuns — it’s not a road trip!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #4 — IT’S NOT FLASHING!!!! WOOHOO for us!
Enchanted Rock is one of those ‘must do’ places I learned of when first coming to Texas. So far, I had not been, and this was all about to change! (Thank you, Lucero!) According to Wiki — The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area includes Enchanted Rock, an enormous pink granite pluton rock formation, and 640 acres of surrounding land. E-Rock rises approximately 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. It’s the largest such pink granite monadnock in the United States, and was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. According to me — 100% pure awesomeness!
Enchanted Rock’s prominent granite dome is visible for many miles in the surrounding Llano Uplift basin. The weathered dome is actually the visible above-ground part of a segmented ridge, the surface expression of a large igneous batholith of middle Precambrian material that intruded into the earlier Packsaddle Schist. The intrusive granite of the rock mass was exposed by extensive erosion of the surrounding sedimentary rock, primarily the Cretaceous Edwards limestone, which is exposed a few miles to the south of Enchanted Rock.
There are more than 500 species of plants inhabiting the rock, such as this White Lace Cactus. Vernal pools on the rock– ecologically threatened depressions of flora and fauna adapted to harsh environments — are said to contain fragile invertebrate fairy shrimp. I saw no evidence of fairy shrimp!
I did, however, see Bluebonnets! : )
Since this post is growing to monster proportions — and with Enchanted Rock how could it not?! — I’ve decided to break it up into 2 posts. Be sure to catch the next installment where Lucero and I return to Fredericksburg for some fine German dining including Shiner Bock (!!!), encounter the ‘drunk girls’, make a last-minute run to a liquor store (more Shiner Bock!), head out for some jaw-dropping middle-of-nowhere star-gazing, stumble upon coolness in another small Texas town, hike along the banks of the Guadalupe River, argue over freedom of expression, and find Stonehenge….
On the way back to F-burg, goats…who were completely unimpressed with E-Rock….
All photographs – Alex Autin
…on a rainy afternoon in San Antonio, Texas.
All photographs: Alex Autin
I went out for a long walk a couple of days ago. I was on a mission. I was searching for signs of Autumn. I set out very early in the morning, and indeed the morning did ‘feel’ a few degrees cooler than recent mornings, the sky was overcast and there was a definite breeze. However before I returned from my walk the sun had burnt off the cloud cover, and the heat of the day once again took hold. Summer, at least in San Antonio de Tejas, is clearly not ready to concede.
All Photography: Alex Autin, …things I LOVE!
All Photographs – Alex Autin
In a recent post titled Frame of Mind, the ever charismatic El Guapo of Guapola, The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! expressed a somewhat dire, yet basic and simple, need. The need of a Palm Tree.
As it so happens, palm trees fall squarely into the category of …things I love. This should not be surprising. Palms are, after all, a primary necessity of existence. In fact, aside from oxygen …which is HIGHLY over-rated and can be quite lethal, and water…which the development of tequila has all but eliminated the need for and which can also be lethal…palm tress are, without question, our most primary need.
Despite the somewhat dubious estimations that more people die annually from palm trees than from shark attacks (or was it lightning strikes?), palm trees alone can not be held responsible for these deaths. Palm trees do not kill people, falling kills people. It’s a gravity issue. This also should not be confused with the rather alarming statistics of people being killed by falling coconuts. Since not all palm trees have coconuts it would be faulty logic to link coconut induced death to palm trees, the tree is simply a delivery device aided by a combination of gravity (again!) and one’s desire to hang around under a coconut laden palm.
Since a single palm exists in a near state of perfection, the only thing more perfect would be two palms strategically located the precise distance apart from which to suspend a hammock. The amalgamation of palm and hammock is unprecedented in it’s ability to simultaneously induce relaxation as well as cause it’s user to appear amazingly ‘laid back’. Anyone requiring evidence of this please see my December, 2011 post titled Hammocks.
And now, for El Guapo, as well as anyone else who’s bothered to read this far:
The Palm And A Few Of Its Many Moods
would someone dim the lights please…..
All photography – Alex Autin
Images may be clicked for a larger view…yes, even the ones which are already ridiculously large.
All photographs: Alex Autin
This series of photographs featuring ships and boats were taken in and around Dili, Timor Leste.
The Vernal Equinox may still be a little over a week away, but don’t try telling that to the Pear tree out in the backyard. After two days of cold and rain, south Texas woke this morning to sunshine, 70 degrees, and a sky so blue there’s no mistaken….you’re in Texas…and apparently an extra hour of daylight this evening to enjoy it! I hope it’s just as lovely where ever you are. ; )
Not feeling well over the past several days (a mid case of flu), and being indoors for what seems like forever, I found myself getting a bit stir-crazy earlier this afternoon…and I decided on a walk. My room-mate had warned me that this neighborhood was a bit like a black hole…meaning once in, it’s nearly impossible to find one’s way back out. He, I learned, is correct. I did manage to get a bit lost….luckily I had my camera with me!
Me – “It doesn’t look venomous to me, gonna get a picture.”
Aussie Bloke – “Oi…I wouldn’t get too close!”
Me – “Why? Do you know what kind it is?”
Aussie Bloke – “Yeah, mate, its my least favorite kind.”
Me – “Really? What kind is that?”
Aussie Bloke – “The not-dead kind.”
* * * *
Yep, the words…‘it doesn’t look venomous to me’ actually came out of my mouth and, no, it wasn’t in reference to The Wallaby, but rather in reference to a snake I had just suddenly come across in a car park. And just as with anything else I ‘suddenly’ come across…I am ‘suddenly’ an expert…THE Snake Specialist! I am not only fearless, I am also an authority on all things venomous. I am Venom Woman and I was having my very first Australian snake encounter! (Please see Photographic Evidence #2 – The Snake) I actually very nearly stepped on this snake, but it wasn’t my fault! The snake was hanging out in a very non-snake-like location; the car park behind the Rock Pool. (A car park is a ‘parking lot’ to us American types.)
I managed to whip out my Nikon camera in time to snap a pic before the snake slithered away. (At this point I think it important to make clear that I ADORE Nikon cameras, always carry a Nikon camera with me in my travels and would swear on my mother’s collection of whimsical ceramic hummingbird figurines that Nikon cameras are the best in the world!)
Checking the photo I was instantly delighted by the out-of-focus, fuzzy quality to it. As Mitch Hedberg pointed out, ALL photos of fantastical creatures are in fact blurry and out-of-focus. See any picture of Big Foot, Sasquatch, The Loch Ness Monster, or The Abominable Snowman if you have any doubt. These creatures are, in actuality, fuzzy. It is not the photographer’s fault (and certainly not the fault of Nikon cameras!). If you’re ever in the woods and come across a fuzzy creature….RUN!
Though I AM a snake specialist, I did feel the need to get a second opinion on my car park snake. So I shared the photo with my friend Ben, down in Melbourne, because he’s awfully hot…I mean nice, he’s awfully NICE…and yep, he’s also really fun to share with. No, he’s not an ophiologist or a herpetologist, but he IS a photographer and a bartender, and damn good at both from what I understand. Furthermore, he’s been to the Out Back….more than once, so yeah…snake expert. I also imagine he would sound really Australian saying the word ‘herpetologist’! (I should, in addition, point out that I’m fairly certain Ben also uses Nikon cameras.)
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm, might be a taipan.”
Me – “So, taipan it is then.”
Melbourne Ben – “…….maybe. I’m not sure. Kinda looks like one.”
Me – “So, yeah……taipan.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hard to say, the pic’s a lil bit fuzzy.”
Me – “Well, yeah!”
Melbourne Ben – “Were you using a Nikon camera?”
Me – “……..of course.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm.”
Now for you Steve Erwin fans, the taipan is what he referred to as the Fierce Snake.
The Taipan : (It helps to read the following description using an Aussie accent, preferably Victorian.) Australia has 30 different kinds of venomous snakes. The largest and most poisonous of them is the taipan. Taipans eat rats and hang in car parks.
CRIKEY!!!! Now with that rather unpleasant, though not completely uncool, taste in our mouths, I think I should quickly direct our attention to Photographic Evidence No. 3 – The Possum.
While the sight of the (possible) taipan caused me to (naturally!!) draw nearer to it, the initial sighting of the possum caused me to – well – scream, and not at all un-little-girl-like. I’m sure, given the time of night, most neighbors were thinking the sound to be that of a Bush-stone Curlew. (See Photographic Evidence No. 4 – The Bush-stone Curlew, aka The Screaming Woman Bird.)
It was nearly 10 pm and I was in the home of the wonderful and awesomely cool North Queensland family I was staying with. The boys, Jack(10) and Dillon(7), and I were playing video games and Jessica (13) was in her room being a 13 year old girl and having no interest what so ever in video games. Dillon, being more of a morning gamer, had fallen asleep, while Jack, being damn hardcore, was killing everything in sight. I, being a somewhat responsible adult, was remembering washing which needed to be hung out on the line. And, yes, before you ask, any time it is NOT raining in North Queensland during the ‘Wet’ is a good time to put clothes on the line. I was nearly finished and reaching down for the last piece to hang……….when there at my feet……and I mean RIGHT AT MY FEET…….was this large furry ‘thing’! (Please note, the ‘thing’ was furry, but not fuzzy, so I know immediately it is non life-threatening. This, however, does not stop me from screaming.)
Ok, where am I? Oh yep……screaming…….
I’m screaming and I jump back. In my defense I did not immediately identify this thing to be a possum. I seriously thought it to be a rat. A very, VERY, large rat. (Though I had never seen a rat there, apparently they are found in car parks else taipans would not be hanging there.) This ‘thing’ was not small, it was easily the size of a cat, a good size cat!
To make complete my freaked-out-ness…..as I backed away…….it advanced! It seemed to be sniffing my feet – closely, intently. This, I’ll admit, was making me very nervous. I then realized it was backing me further and further away from the house. Then with agility previously unbeknown to me, with the grace and swiftness of a gazelle (one that’s been targeted, separated from the herd, and facing certain death) I leapt over the furry creature and race towards the open back door. The possum followed – quickly. I shot across the utility area and into the boys bedroom, “Jack, come see this!”
“Whoa!” Jack stepped out of the back door. “It’s a possum!”
Me, looking cool – “Yeah…I…..I know that.”
Jack – “Back away! That thing will bite you and…..and scratch you.”
Me – “Nah, it’s alright. Ummm, it doesn’t look venomous to me.”
This made absolutely no sense, however it HAD worked for me once before. I was extremely cool at this point as the possum, having found a much more preferable target, was now following Jack.
Jack – “It’s after my feet!”
Me – “Oh wow, it’s so cute!”
Jack – “What do we do?”
Me – “Lets feed it!”
Jack – “Hell, yeah!”
Jack raced around to open the kitchen door and we were thinking……now, what would a possum like to eat…..
Me and Jack – “Chocolate cake!!”
Three pieces of chocolate cake later and the possum was still into it. Jack and I, at this point, felt certain we’d hit on it’s natural and proper nutritional diet! If not for the lateness of the hour we could have rang Ben in Melbourne to verify this, but the cake felt right and we went with it. At some point Jess, hearing the ruckus, came from her room and joined in the fun. We tried to wake Dillon but not even a marsupial hopped up on chocolate cake was match for the child’s X Box induced coma.
By this time the possum had climbed it’s way up to the top of the clothes line post, and was in no hurry to leave. It held out it’s little paws as if pleading (or jonesing)….
The Possum – “Oi, what else ya got?” (The possum was obviously a Queenslander, and possibly sporting a mullet.)
It’s big shiny eyes were now on nearly the same level as ours, only a bit higher. If it were planning to launch into an aerial attack, it was now in perfect position. It was then Jess who thought of feeding it an orange. I’m sure given the time Jack and I would have come up with that, but in the excitement of the moment the chocolate cake definitely seemed the go. Once rendered passive by the combination of highly refined table sugar and carbohydrates the possum agreed to be photographed. Don’t be put off by the pic, the possum is actually MUCH cuter than it appears. (The poor quality of the photo is to be blamed entire upon the photographer and not at all the fault of Nikon cameras….)
Thanks to Mitch Hedberg and Steve Erwin for their posthumous assistance in writing this piece, and also thanks to Ben in Melbourne for being extremely cool and stuff!
‘If you boat a lot, you’re known as a ‘boating enthusiast’. I like to boat, but I just don’t want to ever be referred to as a ‘boating enthusiast’. I hope they call me ‘a guy who likes to boat.’ ~Mitch Hedberg
I LOVE…Cycling! I feel the same as Mitch, but in reference to cycling…not boating. I don’t, in any way, consider myself a cyclist…but I do like to ‘cycle’, if that’s the correct term. If I WERE a cyclist I would probably have some really cool cycling clothes, cool cycling gear…oh, yeah….I would probably have a bike as well.
I had bikes when I lived in Australia and Timor, but since I’ve been back in the States…no bike. In those places riding a bike seemed natural. It was also fun and a great way to get around. Here, though San Antonio claims to be ‘bike friendly’ and in many ways I suppose it is, I’m just not seeing a bike as a practical means of getting around. I’ve friends who tell me there are some great mountain bike trails nearby, and I completely believe them, I just haven’t made the investment necessary to enjoy them.
The 3 things I enjoy most about cycling are:
1 – It greatly reduces the travel time of getting from point A to point B as opposed to walking.
2 – The way my thighs look when I’m cycling a lot. (Any activity which causes me to look at certain parts of my body and think… ‘Wow, that looks kinda hot! Are those MINE?!’ …is a good activity!)
3 – You get to name your bike!
Naming a bike is much more fun than naming a boat, though I’ve seen some very clever boat names. The bike I had in Australia was named ‘Silver’….but she was actually red. Silver was fearless and a trusted companion! She and I had many really cool adventures together. I bought her from a German woman for 75$AU….which was a steal! Silver’s accessories alone were worth much more than that. The woman was leaving Australia and wanted to make sure Silver went to a good home. Her boyfriend was definitely a CYCLIST, when I went to pick up Silver he spent over an hour with me going over her proper maintenance. At that point I knew I was getting a good bike. I, in turn, when I left Australia also sold Silver for 75$ and made sure she went to someone who would appreciate and take care of her.
In Timor I was fortunate enough to have the use of one of my friend Q’s bikes. This bike was named ‘Fury!’. (The exclamation mark is mine.) Fury! is probably the best bike I’ve ever ridden. I shit you not….Fury! was awesome. One of the coolest things about riding in Timor, I mean other than not getting hit and arriving home alive, was getting the bike serviced. In Timor the trails and roads are rough, and we rode often and hard ….so riding down to Loja Ma Li-Lait bike shop for servicing (or getting more tire patches!) was something I did about twice a week, and it was always an experience!
Another really cool thing about cycling in Timor is the Tour de Timor. Tour de Timor is a 5 day, 450 km, international Mountain Bike race which attracts over 300 cyclists from around the world. The race covers 9 of the country’s 13 districts and is one of the biggest events in Timor. Before you can ask….no, I did not participate! Are you on crack? I’m not fond of the expression…’life is too short’, because it’s usually followed by something very cliché. However, in my opinion….life IS too short to ride a bike uphill. I mean, for fuck’s sakes! Surely there is a better way to get up that hill. I’ve a couple of friends who are participants though, and who are part of Team Timor. These guys truly ARE cyclists, as opposed to my pseudo-cycling. I was lucky enough to ride with them every now and then when I’d run into them here and there around Dili.
These photographs were taken on a day out to the market in Dili, Timor Leste. It was my first time in this particular market. It was also a market which is not regularly shopped by malaes (foreigners). These are usually the kind of places I LOVE! Maybe the reason foreigners don’t frequent this market is because reaching it requires crossing four lanes of heavy traffic on Comoro Road, waking through puddles of who knows what, and fighting off the occasion rooster or pig…..but as they say…..getting there is half the fun!