Texas


Fall Color

Our fall color this year in the Austin and central Texas area hasn’t been spectacular. I still hold out some hope we’ll see some bright trees between now and Christmas. The season change happens very slowly here and you might see some bit of color change as early Oct but more often now, around Thanksgiving, and up till Christmas.

It’s been pretty wet and cloudy on a regular basis here this fall. Great for filling up the lakes and creeks but doesn’t seem to do much for bright colors.

I happened by this little cluster of leaves last weekend out on the trail in my neighborhood. You take what you can get. You can find a few other pics of recent color if you paw through the Instagram photos in the righthand sidebar.

I was returning to Austin from Las Vegas and a work event, and happy to be home. Only one day of what was otherwise a few days conference.

Meanwhile, I had an errand to run upon arrival in the south end of Austin later but that meant I had time on my hands for a just bit – and for a change, my flight was on time – and all I’d had earlier in the day was some breakfast around 7 in Las Vegas. So… I was also hungry. Two hour time change and all.

It’s been a [very long] while since I’ve made my way to Winebelly on Oltorf just off south 1st street but for someone returning from the airport it wasn’t far off the beaten path and I’ve been meaning to try the place again. I pulled in around 5 and not surprisingly I had my choice of places to sit. It was a welcome respite from dealing with rush hour.

A few things:

First, the choices by the glass at Winebelly are excellent. I’ll be back to try again. I found Prieto Pricudo by the glass and it’s surprising I found it at all in my opinion. It was a ‘wine find’ during my summer visit to northern Spain this year and I’d never heard of it before that.

Snacks at that hour included Truffle Fries… come on… gotta have some of those fries. And I did.

The other pics here are of Ryan Fulmer, General Manager (based only on my reading) about Winebelly.

In the course of chatting, Ryan recounted a harrowing story of his son in the military recently in Afghanistan. While I won’t elaborate based on the personal accounting, it was a riveting story and no doubt he’s [still] breathing a sigh of relief that fate worked in his favor.

With spring weather comes great cycling in Texas. Two of my favorite organized bike tours are the LBJ 100 and the Easter Hill Country tour.

Finishing the LBJ 100

Both of the rides have come and gone at this point but I thought I’d jot a few notes and a couple photos.

LBJ 100 Ride

This will be my 5th LBJ ride if I’m counting right. The ride starts at the LBJ ranch. I’ve written before about the logistics of this ride and this year things were just as well organized. There was once again a bit of speechifying at the beginning but not much and we were soon on our way.

Price for registration was again $50 ($55 last min) though this year they didn’t even include the shirt for that. At least not at the packet pickup I did at REI. Thankfully there’s good support on this ride and good food/beer after but I’ll note once again it seems like an expensive ride despite the charity nature of it.

Ride attendance was very good. I don’t know the count but it seemed like a thousand people were at the start. Maybe it was only hundreds but sure seemed like a lot. You can see a photo here of the group at the start.

You can also see in that photo at the start that the weather was picture perfect. Temp was also great. I was cool enough to be wearing leggings and a long sleeve but that wouldn’t last long. It was going to warm up.

It didn’t take more than 5 miles from the start to also realize that wind was going to be a factor. Wind was stiff coming out of the southwest. That meant you were either going into it or had it as a cross wind for much of the ride. There was of course a few miles near the apex of the loop ride where you got a tail wind and that was fantastic. But the last 20 miles was into the wind. I counted ourselves lucky the temp was so good and it was otherwise a beautiful day.

The photo at the very top was at the end of the ride heading back into the LBJ ranch. The Live Oaks there on the drive in are beautiful and their shade covers the road.

Post ride there were tacos this year – and some tasty beer. Can’t recall what the beer was but it hit the spot as you can see by my goofy grin in the pic here. It was refreshing.

Easter Hill Country Tour

I’ve been doing the EHCT on and off since the 90’s. The bike tour has been around a long time. It’s still based out of Kerrville and for whatever reason, this year it seemed to have a bigger crowd than last year, at least judging by the number of cars in the parking lots. It’s otherwise hard to tell how many people are doing the ride because there is no mass start. There are 3 days of riding – though I generally do just the Fri and Sat rides – and people take off whenever they’re ready.

On both days I chose to alter our routes a bit from the published ones. The problem with cycling in the Kerrville area in my opinion is the roads have more traffic than the remote roads up around Fredericksburg. So the Friday ride in particular had a long stretch on the return leg of the loop ride on RR 783. Not my favorite. It’s heavily traveled. So instead, we got the same amount of mileage in by simply making the ride an out and back. By contrast, Zenner-Ahrens Rd is a quiet country road with¬†loose livestock and lots of cattle guards. Almost no traffic – ‘cept bikes and cows.

On Saturday Peter and Bryan joined Tony and me for a longer 55 miler. It too was a hybrid route because I refuse to ride on Hwy 27 for anything but a short distance. Way too much traffic going 70+ mph. Instead, we took Wilson Creek. The photo of the three guys below was taken on Wilson Creek. Obviously you can see you don’t have to worry about traffic on that road. It’s a great road to bike.

The other photo is of me and Tony coming into the little town of Comfort. As you can see the weather was still cool enough we had plenty of gear on. And obviously Tony noticed that Bryan was taking the photo and I was oblivious. Or, I knew the rest stop was just ahead and was making a bee line for the snacks.

Wind was a factor on that Saturday ride. We slogged against it all morning to Comfort and then a good portion of the ride back from Comfort. Winds were out of the NE so it wasn’t until we were well¬†past the apex of the ride and practically 10-15 miles out that we picked up some of the tailwind. That last section of the route from Comfort back to Kerrville is quite hilly though so the tail wind was only so valuable.

All in all, good rides both Fri and Sat. And we lucked out with no rain. Just some drizzle on Fri.

This one last photo of the wagon was taken on the drive back to Austin from Kerrville. Actually, on the road – Ranch Road 473 – between Comfort and Blanco.

Wagon in the Texas Bluebonnets

The Easter weekend’s coming to a close and before it does I thought I’d share a bit of the colorful wildflowers we’re getting at this time of year. We’ve got a bumper crop of wildflowers this year. So much better than last year when we were deep in the midst of a drought. All kinds have started to bloom but the Bluebonnets are particularly plentiful this year and always a favorite. About the only time of the year you’ll see people stopped by the side of the roads – middle of nowhere – taking pictures of their kids in some random ditch that’s suddenly become a garden.

If I get a chance I’ll look for some Indian Paintbrush and some others and get a photo or two of them too. I snagged this shot on a school yard in Williamson Cty. The place was loaded with ’em.

Texas Bluebonnet

Here on the last day of fall I got out and about the neighborhood and snapped a shot of a couple showy Pear trees. This is about as good as fall color gets around here. This is probably either Bradford pear trees or Aristocrat pear trees. It probably won’t last long and we get so little of it that I can’t help take a picture or two.

I think we had better color a couple years ago, but it was nice to see these.

Texas Fall Color

On one of my recent weekend rides near Emma Long park I spotted this Turky Vulture sunning itself. These are big birds so when one of them just sits there at the top of a tree with its wings spread it will easily catch your eye. Wing spans of these birds are somewhere in the 5 to 6 feet range.

It had been a chilly morning and the sun had just come out. I think this bird decided to take advantage of that, turn its back to the sun and catch a few rays to warm up. It’s not something I typically see so I pulled off to the side and snapped this picture. Was glad I had a camera with me and the bird was in no hurry to move on. I think he turned a little to see what I was up to though.

Turkey Vulture

Welfare Cafe

I meant to post this picture and these notes ages ago. October brought with it some weekends of stunning weather. I figured what better time to actually take advantage of having a convertible and drop the top, enjoy the weather and head out into the hill country? There are a lot of interesting destinations out in the hill country west of Austin but sometimes half the fun is just the drive out there. The back roads have little traffic and the hill country offers some excellent vistas.

I was also hankering for some German food. Something about the arrival of fall always brings on a quest for some good German food. Fredericksburg is a good choice for that, but this time I opted to head for Welfare TX. Welfare is really nothing more than a spot in the road and way off the beaten path. Years ago someone had recommended a place called the Welfare Cafe there. I loved the food then and have always wanted to go back. They make a great schnitzel!

The drive out that way also takes you through a tiny little crossroads named Sisterdale. Sisterdale is home of Sister Creek Vineyards. The winery and tasting room are in a restored cotton gin (built in 1885). We pulled in there and checked it out before heading on to Welfare.

The food at the Cafe didn’t disappoint. We got a great spot out on the back patio because the weather was so great. The building was originally an old general store and post office. We took several pictures, but I liked this one at dusk the best:

Welfare Cafe

Casa Rio

Kem and I did a short road trip recently down to San Antonio. It made for a nice change of pace. While it’s relatively close by, San Antonio always seems to deliver a little bit of feeling a world away too. We whiled away the time wandering through the King William District and ogling the restored old homes.

Right next door – or maybe it’s considered part of – the King William District was the Blue Star Arts complex. Most of the shops/galleries featured contemporary art. Some I might qualify as a little on the edgier side. The Bettie Ward exhibit of embroidery (entitled “Optimism and Horror”) at the Blue Star Contemporary Art center would certainly qualify.

Later we poked around the galleries and shops of La Villita. La Villita is just up the stairs and right off the River Walk so is a tad bit more touristy than the Blue Star complex. Some really nice stuff though. We found a little watercolor there at a placed called “The River Art Group” that we both liked by a woman named Joyce Sweet. Kem got it for me – what a nice gift!

The picture here is my own snapshot rendition of the painting done by Joyce Sweet. It’s of a place on the River Walk called Casa Rio. I over saturated the colors a bit on purpose to give it a similar sort of feel to the painting. You’ll just have to come visit to the see the actual painting.

Once again it’s intermittent downpours here this morning. It’s been extremely tropical here lately. In fact, one of the wettest springs I can remember in some time. So the ride that was planned this morning has been scuttled.

The picture here was actually taken a few weeks ago along the route from Dripping Springs to Johnson City. That’s me – in blue of course. We might have been able to bike through the water here because it wasn’t really that deep, but the water was moving pretty good and it’s surprising sometimes how slippery the pavement is on some low water crossings. I’ve seen people take spills with half as much water.

I’m sure if we attempted that ride this weekend we’d find the same thing over on River Road.

With as hot as it’s been, some rain would probably feel good on the bike. Still though, I hate riding in the rain. I carry rain gear only because if I didn’t, it’d be bound to rain.

Inks Lake State Park, Texas

This past weekend was the MS 150 from Houston to Austin. In years past I might have gotten involved. But I have a kind of “been there, done that” attitude toward the MS 150. It’s really a great ride, but it’s also gotten huge and the logistics involved are always a lot to work out. Oh, and then there’s raising the money. Anyway, been there, done that. Maybe I’ll do it again in the future some time.

Instead, my parents were in town through the weekend. Consequently, not much bicycling got done. Just a little bit on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, the weather wouldn’t cooperate and I only managed a short and what turned out to be, a very wet ride.

We did manage to make it out to Inks Lake over the weekend though. Given my recent flower picture posts, I couldn’t help including yet another one of flowers on display in the park. Inks Lake is a pretty small lake in the Highland Lakes chain. The park is a great little spot for a picnic or camping. For hiking, there’s not much there. They do have at least one nice trail that leads up into some craggy rocks and overlooks a little creek. You can see a couple more pics here.

« Previous Page