- Where We Started: Austin, Tex.
- Where We Ended: San Antonio, Tex.
- Miles Driven: 163 (5,207 total)
- New States: None
- Total States: 13 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The day began with bold visions of making it most the way across Texas and putting ourselves within striking distance of remote Big Bend National Park. But, realizing that we didn't have it in us from a physical or mental standpoint, we ended the day about two hours from where we started. But not before seeing some beautiful scenery in Texas Hill Country.
The original plan was to eat lunch, and then drive all day. But we'd done a lot of driving the previous few days, and after lunch, we decided that -- despite needing to be in Phoenix by the evening of April 1 -- we could afford to chill for a day. Now, on a trip like this, "chilling" means you only spend 3 to 4 hours in the car. So we did decide to see the Hill Country before settling down for evening.
The first stop was Lyndon B. Johnson's boyhood home in Johnson City, Tex. Surprisingly, the town is actually not named after LBJ, but after his family, which started the first settlement in the area.
The boyhood home is part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, which -- in two different locations, about 15 miles apart -- also includes the original Johnson settlement, the LBJ Ranch and Johnson's grave site. I did the ranch tour on the 2003 trip, so we chose to pass on doing it again.
Heading west, we next stopped in Fredericksburg, Tex., which National Geographic lists as one of American's great small towns. Founded by a German baron, the town maintains a huge German influence. Fredericksburg also maintained a strong pro-Union resistance during the Civil War. It's got a cute downtown area, and the German influence makes it look very different architecturally than most Texas towns.
Fredericksburg is also the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II. That's why the town is also the location of the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum, located in what used to be the Nimitz Hotel, is supposedly a wonderful museum. We wouldn't know, since we got there eight minutes after it closed. I was able to walk through The Plaza of Presidents outside the museum, which notes that every president from Roosevelt to the elder Bush served the country in an official military capacity in World War II. I hadn't known that.
The last FHMA stop of the day was Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which features -- according to the park site, because i know as much about rock formations as I do car axles -- "a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States." Geological explanations aside, it was a cool area, featuring lots of hikers walking to the top of the rock. We even hiked for a while. Yes, we hiked. Really.
Fred poses regally on top of another large boulder. I am the one behind the rock, holding the leash, lest he make any attempt to jump. We have not budgeted any more money for the Fred Medical Fund.
Hank and Jim at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, north of Fredericksburg, Tex.
After hiking a little way up the big rock, we called it quits. The hike to the top of the rock takes two hours, and frankly, we didn't have it in us. We decided to make a beeline for San Antonio and put down for the night.
Oh, since we're shameless -- and because a bunch of people asked -- here are three more shots of the beagles at play at Galveston Island State Park on Thursday.
- About two miles from our hotel, and 10 minutes away from a comfortable bed, we made a detour. For a few days, Joan had been looking for an Old Navy to buy some new jeans, and about a mile from the hotel, I spotted one. Although every fiber of my being told me not to mention it, I did anyway, and Joan happily asked if we could stop. "Sure," I said. So Joan went in. And I waited. And waited. And waited. I started to wonder if I'd misread the sign and dropped her off at The Navy, and they'd shipped her off to the Middle East. After a mere 45 minutes, she emerged, and said the same thing she always says in situations like that: "See, I told you it wouldn't take long." My response: "Yeah, that didn't take long at all. By the way, Obama got re-elected."
- We've been pretty lucky so far with public restrooms. But, yesterday, at Shell station in Fredericksburg, Tex., I walked into a restroom that was so bad, I reflexively uttered, "Oh, God!" Now, men can pretty much get in and out of a bathroom without touching much of anything native to the bathroom itself, but even I almost turned on my heel and walked out. But nature was calling, and nature doesn't much care if you've entered a room that would have made a former prisoner of war flinch. Had I remembered to get the address, I would have filed a report on Sit or Squat, a site that lists and rates public bathrooms. This proves once again that you can find anything on the Web. And while it's a funny idea for a site, it seems useless without a mobile component. I mean, who plans ahead for roadside bathroom stops?
- Lovely scene as we were leaving Enchanted Rock: While their parents were packing up the car, two boys started throwing rocks at their sister. I mean throwing them hard. The girl kept ducking the rocks and yelling at the boys, and they just kept throwing more. None of them seemed to hit her or do any damage, but I can't say I've seen that before.
A few quick questions and answers from the comments area:
From Alan Spoll: OK, so I am right there with you in Dweeb-land, as I am in a lot of fantasy leagues...but why would you need to fly across the country for a draft? They have this funny thing called the internet. You may have heard of it.
Jim Responds: Yes, the Internets are excellent, but -- and this is even worse than just being a fantasy baseball geek -- I run two of the leagues I'm in. Plus, one league goes back 21 years and we traditionally get most of the league to Washington for the draft every year. So I don't want to miss that. Not to mention you have a better chance of winning if you don't do drafts by the phone.
By the way, if you have not seen "Knocked Up," it has a great scene where Paul Rudd's wife thinks he's having an affair, so she follows him one night and sees him enter a strange home. She breaks into the house, hears voices and bursts into a room, only to find he's at a fantasy baseball draft. She then admits she thought he was having an affair, then adds, "This is worse." Hilarious.
From Linda Way-Smith: ZZ Top is singing about a brothel in that song? Really?
Jim responds: Indeed. I was going to say that you should read the lyrics closely. Then I realized you didn't have to read them too closely.
Rumour spreadin a-round in that texas town
bout that shack outside la grange
And you know what Im talkin about.
Just let me know if you wanna go
To that home out on the range.
They gotta lotta nice girls.
From Mary Lou White: WHY no Janis sites???
Jim responds: Well, two reasons: 1) I have to admit, I'm not a huge Janis Joplin fan. I like some of her stuff, but I rarely seek out her work. 2) Having said that, I'm a huge music fan, so was interested in going to Port Arthur, Tex., and seeing the tribute to her at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, which is located there. However, I was surprised to find out that Port Arthur was more than two hours from Galveston, so we determined that didn't have time to make the detour.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Allentown," by Billy Joel. This was immediately followed by Joan saying, "Oh God, do we have to play this song?" Joan = not a Billy Joel fan. I am not a huge fan either, but like him well enough. But it's his older stuff -- like "Piano Man," "Captain Jack" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" -- that I really like.
- Lunch: The Salt Lick, Driftwood, Tex.: We were torn between going to The Salt Lick, one of our all-time favorite restaurants, and Kreuz Market, which was highly recommended by our friend Melissa Illig. Because we originally planned to be in the car all day, we decided that eating with our hands -- a Kreuz tradition -- was not the best idea. So we met another friend, Casey Taylor, for lunch at the great Salt Lick, about 20 miles southwest of Austin. The drive there takes you through some rural terrain, and by the time you arrive for the first time, you're starting to wondering where you made a wrong turn. But, suddenly, there it is, an oasis alongside the road. The restaurant itself isn't big, but there's a separate building where diners can hang during what tends to be a long wait for a table. The parking lot is slightly smaller than the one at Yankee Stadium. The restaurant is in a dry county, but they have no issue if you bring your own alcohol (which we didn't on this day). As always, we loved our meal. We got the combo BBQ plate of pork, brisket and sausage. The brisket and sausage were perfect, and the pork ribs were good but not amazing. Still, we'd give this place our highest recommendation. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Uh, not so good. I even had dessert, since The Salt Lick has amazing pecan pie. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Pappasito's, San Antonio, Tex.: Again, we found ourselves trying to decide between a handful of recommended places, but after Joan's marathon Old Navy visit, I decided we should go wherever would be the fastest, and Pappasito's was a mile from our hotel. Upon our arrival, we found out there was an hour wait, so we opted for take-out, and had 30 minutes to sit and watch the well-oiled machine that is Pappasito's. The restaurant seats a few hundred, and while bustling, the staff was very calm and had it all under control. And the woman working the take-out counter could not have been nicer. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Chips and salsa. Beef fajitas with cheese. There's really nothing else to say. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5). My beef was tender and tasty. Joan enjoyed her guacamole and small salad, and in fact, is trying to convince me to go back to Pappasito's for lunch. I'm resisting, if only because I like to go to new places and can't afford another terribly unhealthy meal.
- Does anyone else notice the restaurant rating and my nutrition rating seem never to match up?
- Anyway, without further ado... My weight as of Saturday morning is 249.5!!! That means I put on three pounds last week, and have gone from being down 1.5 pounds to being up 1.5 pounds. And that's probably a good thing. Maybe I'll get serious now.
- Baymont Inn & Suites San Antonio - Wurzbach, San Antonio, Tex.: Another Baymont, another home run. We backed into our parking space, putting the trunk precisely 24 inches away from the door of our room, allowing us to unload more than usual and try to repack for more convenient access to our clothes. The room was big, had fast wireless and the front-desk person was, as always at Baymonts, lovely. Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- OK, we have a simple morning routine. I wake up, write, and when I'm done, I send to Joan to read and edit. While she reads, I hop in the shower. I have decided to remove one star from the La Quinta Inn in Austin, since I could have waited the entire day and still not gotten a hot shower. We're not exactly staying in top-tier hotels here, but there are some basics that all hotel room require: a hot shower, wireless and ESPN.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: A long drive to Alpine, Tex., to get set for Big Bend National Park.
- Tomorrow: Big Bend National Park.
- The Day After Tomorrow: El Paso, Tex., and White Sands National Monument.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO