I’m a died in the wool Houstonian and can’t think of any reason why I would ever want to leave the city where I was born, but as I sit in a wonderful campground in Blanco, Texas I do have to admit that there is something seriously tempting about staying in the Hill Country forever. The wildflowers are glorious this time of year. The fields are filled with daisies and poppies. They would bring a smile to Lady Bird Johnson’s face. We are only about twenty or so miles from her ranch on the Pedernales River and it feels as though I have stumbled upon a bit of heaven. It’s easy to understand why she and her husband, the President, so loved coming here to escape from the stresses of Washington D.C. Somehow this place feels thousands of miles removed from anything remotely associated with reality.
The Blanco River that runs through the state park where we are camping is full right now and there are already intrepid souls braving the cold waters to take a spring time dip. The river appears to be quite calm today but the siren at the ranger station and the flood gauges along the roads tell a story of potential danger. If heavy rains come too quickly anyone nearby will need to head to higher ground. The bridge leading into the campgrounds is level with the water and will be impassible rather quickly if it rains. In fact it was still drying out from the storms of last week when we first arrived. There is an alternative exit in the back of the park that leads to the main highway for use on occasions when a quick departure is required. The atmosphere is so serene now that it’s easy to forget that nature can be harsh around here.
Lately there has been a long drought in this area of Texas with some cities and towns enforcing strict water rationing, but at the start of last summer there were suddenly dangerous floods reminding everyone to exercise caution in settling here. It’s beautiful country but not for those who lack respect for the land or who are faint of heart. Just as the earliest settlers had to be tough to withstand the vagaries of nature in this rugged and rocky country, so too must those who think themselves up to the task of taming the land today.
Within easy driving distance from Blanco are a number of wonderful places to visit. San Antonio is just down the road. New Braunfels is only about forty five minutes away. Austin can be reached with a leisurely fifty mile drive. Towns like Kerrville, Fredericksburg and Boerne beckon with their quaint shops and unique dining experiences. The Texas wine country is rooted here. There are beautiful vineyards stretching all the way to Llano and Inks Lake. This is a veritable paradise for those who love to just kick back and explore the local sights.
Texas may have won its independence down my way at San Jacinto but somehow this is where the heart of the state beats. We visited the James Avery factory yesterday and I was drawn to a silver charm in the image of Texas that seemed the perfect memento for our trip. The headquarters of the famed jewelry maker sit on a sloping hill in a setting as lovely as the stunning pieces that the artisans create. It was fun learning the history of that iconic company. Mr. Avery began his work in the 1950s in a single car garage and drove around the countryside with samples of his creations neatly stored in a wooden case inside the trunk of his car. By the end of his first year in business he had sold over five thousand dollars worth of jewelry which was rather remarkable for the times. Now James Avery jewelry is treasured by generations of women and each piece becomes a beloved heirloom.
It’s difficult to decide which of the many vineyards to visit when on a quest to sample the wares. I have to admit that my two favorite wineries are Becker’s and Perissos. They have wonderful products and the ambience in both places is enchanting. Unfortunately I am not supposed to consume any alcohol until I finish taking the injections for my osteoporosis, which means that I will be a tee totaler for the next one and a half years. Nonetheless I snuck in a few sips yesterday and learned rather quickly why I am supposed to abstain. For whatever reason the wine went directly to my head without even taking time to course through my digestive system. It didn’t really matter because the scenery was so wonderful that I already had a buzz from sheer delight.
I find myself feeling a bit jealous of my youngest daughter who lives just a short hop down the highway in San Antonio. There are so many incredible places not far from her doorstep. I sometimes wish that I had purchased the house next door to her when it came up for sale just as she urged me to do, but I suspect that the siren call of Houston would always lure me back home. Soon enough the Hill Country lifestyle would become routine and I would find myself longing for the flatlands of Houston once again.
It’s difficult to explain why I love my hometown so much. It has no scenery even close to what the Hill Country has to offer. It’s hot and humid and too often filled with pesky mosquitoes. I suppose that it’s charm has to do with the people there. It’s where I get to see my friends and relations. It’s where people will give you the shirt off of their backs if needed. It’s close to the ocean and it is the repository of my history. I know its streets and its stories. I have watched it grow and change from the sleepy parochial city that I knew as a child. Somehow I love it in spite of its potholes and flaws. I will always defend it when the naysayers attempt to bring it down. They only exhibit their ignorance of the secret essence of the place.
Houston is a friendly city. People who live there are mostly good. We tend to be independent and nonjudgemental and we always take care of each other. There is no better representative of Houstonians than J.J. Watt. He might just as well have grown up in one of the city’s neighborhoods. He has the natural Houston vibe. I guess that’s what makes him such a celebrity in our town. We like our heroes to be honest and kind. We don’t have much patience with flashy shows of materialism. Houston is real.
I love that I now have the time and the means to travel. I enjoy leaving my nest once in a while as long as I always get to return home. The real beauty of the Hill Country is that it is only a few hours away from my driveway, making it a destination that I plan to repeat again and again. Have trailer, will travel.
Each afternoon when the sun sets in our campsite the ancient oak tree outside our window casts a long shadow over the warm fire around which we encircle our chairs for the night. We spend an evening gazing at the magnificent Texas sky, laughing and telling stories until the logs become embers. Then we retire to our cozy quarters where I never fail to sleep like a contented baby. I don’t have bouts of insomnia in a place as peaceful and lovely as this. Instead I say prayers of blissful thanksgiving and dream of the fields of flowers and newly shorn sheep that I saw as we enjoyed a day of adventure. Life is good and nobody can steal my joy.