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
How do you enjoy your tequila? If you’re anything like me you enjoy it with triple sec, lime juice, and a little salt. (A glass in the shape of a cactus is COMPLETELY optional!) However, if you’re anything like the folks at BevShots you enjoy your tequila crystallized on a slide and photographed under a Polarized Light Microscope. And what would that mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice (traditionally referred to as a margarita!) look like through a microscope? It looks something like this:
BevShots was founded by research scientist Michael Davidson who, while looking for novel ways to fund his Florida State University lab, decided to take his micro-photographs to businesses for possible commercial opportunities. BevShots is licensed from Florida State University and Michael Davidson, but apparently the main party man is Lester Hutt, president of BevShots MicroArt, LLC. Hutt, while working on his graduate degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley, according to the Bevshot website, also worked on NASA’s Mars probes searching for evidence of past life on our neighboring planet. And that’s just damn cool!
A BevShot Vodka and Tonic! This, and other equally amazing micro-photograped beverages, alcoholic and non, are available on giclee canvas or metallic prints at the BevShot site (where hours can be lost just going through their vast catalog of completely interesting images). Check them out!
Postcards to Tassie
A recent call out was issued to excite the life of one particular post office worker in Australia. Apparently, Kelly in Woodbridge, Tasmania (population 271) is trying to fill the walls of her office with postcards from around the world. And how COOL is that?!
I became aware of this Postal Project via a post by Heather (aka Kanerva) of A Taswegian in Finland in her Feb, 26 post titled Let’s Get Postal! And apparently Heather was made aware of the project by a post by Jennifer of Coffee, Camera & Kids in her post of the same day titled Postcards for Kelly. Exciting? No doubt! I love how these projects spread like wildfire!
If you’d like to get involved, and I know that you do, just pickup a postcard from your hometown, or when you’re on your Spring Break road trip, or during your summer travels, or preferably all of the above, and post them over to Kelly!
C/- Woodbridge Post Office
Woodbridge, Tas, 7162
Also, it’ll be really cool if you jot a few words to Kelly, not mandatory, but I’m sure she’d love to hear about you in addition to the places you live and visit! My postcard from ole San Antone is sitting on my desk right now waiting for me to make the trek down to the post office….which I’ll do, right after my 3rd cup of coffee. It’s only a couple of blocks away, but — you know — it’s TEXAS sized blocks so caffeine is required. I’ll probably need my hiking boots too….
Has The Future Arrived?
with Neil deGrasse Tyson
…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!
Has it really been 3 months? Wow!
Though in my last post (of 3 months ago!) I expressed interest in leaving south Texas for the summer…it’s now late July and I’m very much still here.
And it’s HOT! Texas hot!
Also, as the weather heats up so does the race towards the general election in November. The campaign I was working with during the primary resulted in a loss, and as tough as that was, life goes on. I was correct, however, that the final 30 days leading into the primary were extremely intense, especially the last two weeks of early voting. There is nothing quite as poignant as being in the back room as an election night party rages on the the main hall, and sitting with 3 or 4 guys all of us constantly hitting ‘refresh’ on our computers as the real numbers come in. And realizing, that for all our work, for the weeks of 12 hours days and living on a diet consisting of nothing but coffee, cheap south-side San Antonio tacos, and bar-b-que fund-raisers, and the 10 additional pounds resulting from this diet, we were going to lose. The numbers don’t lie, and we knew the results within minutes of the polls closing…though we still kept hitting refresh and hoping for a shift, all the while cursing that 3rd candidate who threw in his hat at the last minute and yet still managed to swing 8%…the 8% we needed. I will say however, that our candidate held up well. She faced her defeat, as well as her supporters, like a true trooper. Much admiration to her for that. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep…for like a week. And, I’ve still yet to eat another taco.
I’ve just, in the past few days, signed on to work with the re-election campaign of a Democrat Texas State Representative. As I made my way, once again, to the south-side of the city, passing the taco places along streets littered with political signs, I suddenly felt the urge not only for the excitement of another campaign, but also for a taco. Carne asada!
I also felt the urge to return here, to …things I love. It’s been too long!
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!
I LOVE…Moving! Moving is always exciting….leaving one place and going someplace new with new experiences, new neighbors, new options. Moving, for some, can also be a pain involving boxes, hiring a truck, and having to bribe a few friends with promises of beer if they come over and help you place said boxes into the back of said truck. This is usually not too bad. It’s when you ask them to also move a refrigerator, heavy furniture, and a washer and dryer that things get a little tricky. This usually requires LOTS of beer….especially if this move is taking place in the hottest part of the summer or the coldest part of the winter.
Yesterday was moving day for me. It was not a major long distance move, just from one part of San Antonio to across town, from one room-mate to another. Goodbye Deco District, hello Northeast Side! For me a move is not all that traumatic or stressful. I not only ‘travel light’, I also ‘live light’. All that was required was to throw my things into my pack, slip my laptop into it’s shoulder bag…and I was ready to go. No beer necessary….though its ALWAYS optional! I did have a bit of shock when loading my back pack….way too much stuff. It’s amazing how in just a few months of being in one location I can manage to collect things….little things like a few extra clothes, a new pair of flip-flops, extra-large industrial sized bottle of shampoo. (Really?! Does it need to be that freaking large?!) Not to mention 6 library books. No matter….somehow it ALL HAS TO FIT IN THE BACKPACK!
My friend BJ offered to help me move. In my case ‘helping me move’ pretty much involves only giving me a ride from point A to point B. While waiting for BJ to arrive I received a text from him….. ‘Feel like a hike?’ Now, most people would not even consider an impromptu hike right in the middle of ‘moving day’. To me, however, it sounded like fun. I should also mention that BJ has been known to take me to some pretty incredible locations….places I would never find without him…and I NEVER ask him where we’re going…I just jump in and go knowing it’ll be awesome. I also know that anytime when out with BJ there will be a moment when something ‘extreme’ will take place and I’ll be required to do something physically challenging. I tease him about this, and when that inevitable moment arrives and I’m forced to jump something, or climb over something, or crawl through something….I usually say to him….. ‘And THIS is why I don’t trust you!’
Yesterday was no exception, and I should have known right away. After receiving his text and replying that yes a hike would be awesome, he replied…. ‘It’ll be muddy…’ We’ve been getting an unusual amount of rain here in San Antonio. So I asked how muddy? His reply…. ‘Mucho muddy!’
We got to the location about 4 in the afternoon, and as he promised it was muddy….MUCHO! But as usual with BJ, it was awesome. He had been telling me about this place and how cool it is, so I was happy to be finally checking it out. As we hiked further and further in, and as the mud got heavier and heavier, he began to point out the places up on the top of the rock wall to our right where climbers had sunk their anchors for rock climbing. Very cool!
Then it happened, the ‘this is why I don’t trust you!’ moment. He stops and without saying anything starts to climb the wall. Next thing I know he’s at the top looking down at me. My only thought was ‘You’re shitting me, right?’ No, he wasn’t shitting me. He fully expected me to climb up after him…and it didn’t help that he made it look so freaking easy! But here’s the thing….I actually felt fear. I was afraid to climb the damn wall. In my defense my boots were incredibly muddy and the rock was wet and slippery. But, damn, that fear was not sitting well with me. I made my first attempt, and failed. I knew I only failed because of the fear….I’ve climbed before, and can climb, and I am 100% physically capable of climbing that wall. It was all about the fear of slipping and falling. And it was also about the fucking boots, I didn’t trust them. Finally I made a decision….I took off the damn boots. In my socks I then faced the wall and climbed it with no problem, no fear, no hesitation. My only regret was reaching the top and realizing that my camera was in my pack in the back of BJ’s vehicle…..so I’ve no photographic evidence of this!
Oh, yeah….as for my Moving Day…I arrived at my new home around 8pm, covered in mud, scratched and bruised, but happy. I found my new room-mate out back grilling sausages by the pool. He said nothing at all about my appearance, all he DID say was… ‘Hey Alex! Hope you’re hungry!’
I think I’m gonna like it here….