After saying good-bye to my sister and her family, we drove a short distance away to Fredericksburg, where we got some ice cream and took a short walk along the main street in their shopping district. Fredericksburg is clearly a town of German origin, and many signs, storefronts, and even their wineries bore German names. It was a lovely little town, and reminded me of little Fairhope, Alabama, near where we used to live.
After scarfing down our cones and taking a quick ride on the wagon wheel rocker, we climbed back into the car and drove on to Luckenbach – less a town, and more just a couple of weathered old buildings and a live music/dance hall venue. I’m going to liberally plagiarize wikipedia here, because after visiting Luckenbach I *needed* to know what it ever was, and it has a funny little history – it was never even really a town:
On December 15, 1847, a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. In 1848, the Texas Legislature formed Gillespie County from Bexar and Travis counties. While the signatories were overwhelmingly German immigrants, names also on the petition were Castillo, Peña, Muños, and a handful of non-German Anglo names. Its oldest building is a combination general store and saloon reputedly opened in 1849 (1886 is more likely, based on land improvement records of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) by Minna Engel, whose father was an itinerant minister from Germany. The community, first named Grape Creek (or more likely a poor transliteration in the records of ‘Gap Creek’, as Luckenbach comes from German ‘lucken’ = gap & ‘bach’ = stream), was later named after Engel’s husband, Carl Albert Luckenbach, who was then her fiancé. They would later move to another town which became Albert, Texas. Luckenbach was first established as a community trading post, one of a few that never broke a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, with whom they traded. Luckenbach’s population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s it was almost a ghost town. A newspaper advertisement offering “town — pop. 3 — for sale” led Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock. Crouch used the town’s rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit. Today Luckenbach maintains a ghost-town feel with its small population and strong western aesthetic. One of its two main buildings houses the remnants of a post office, a working saloon, and a general store. The other is the dance hall. The post office was closed on April 30, 1971 and its zip code (78647) was retired. The general store remains active as a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase a variety of items, including merchandise featuring the town’s motto “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach,” postcards, T-shirts, sarcastic and humorous signs, and the local newspaper, the 8-page monthly Luckenbach Moon.
We listened to a band for a few minutes, and Craig chased a rooster, but it was hot and the boys were worn and fratchy, so the Prof got himself a t-shirt and we were back on the road toward our resort. The Prof had booked us into a room at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, on LBJ Lake near Llano, Texas. The plan was to see some of the lake, lots of the pool, and enjoy hill country scenery. I’m pleased to say that we executed the plan with precision! We checked into the hotel and relaxed for a bit, exhausted from Krause Springs shenanigans. Then we headed downstairs for dinner al fresco in the hotel restaurant. I had a BBQ chicken pizza, which was just fine, and I’m pretty sure the boys had hamburgers again. I also had an excellent margarita – my drink of choice whenever treating myself!
After dinner, we wandered over to the free S’mores station. I showed the boys how to perfectly toast their marshmallows, which none of them had the patience for.
We then took a stroll along the grounds, the children running ahead.
We all went pretty quickly to bed thereafter – Krause Springs is better than an Ambien for getting two old folks and three young folks instantly to sleep. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well, because it stormed like mad all night – thunder, lightning, lashing rain. We woke the next morning to that orangey-yellow weird tropical storm kind of light outside, and more rain.
The rain didn’t last, though, and we ended up with a relatively cool, overcast day at the pool, which was just perfect. We still put on sunscreen and stayed under umbrellas, but it was still so nice to feel comfortable and not cooked under a sizzling sun. The resort had two pools – one just outside our window, and another at the yacht club on the lake itself (to which we had access as part of our hotel room rate). We caught a free shuttle bus to that one, and Craig charmed the bus driver as he bopped on and off dressed in his swimming gear (including ridiculous goggles that don’t stay tight, but he insists on wearing even though the water “fills up up up” as he says, miming a water level rising from the bottom of the goggles to the top.)
The Prof and I enjoyed pina coladas in the swim up bar while we watched the children splash in the pool nearby. We all spent some time in the hot tub, which looked nothing like a tub and was a giant, separate pool full of fake rocks and uplighting, which let you feel tucked away in your own nook even when there were dozens of people in it.
The pool was situated right on the lake, and a separate area was set up for swimming in the actual lake. A shallow section of lake was walled off with a small opening, and beach chairs and sand toys were littered about for the kids. We enjoyed a beer while the boys splashed and collected rocks, and then complained mightily when we made them throw the rocks back in.
We spent essentially the entire day at the pool/lake. We took turns swimming with the boys and relaxing with a book in a pool chair, ordered lunch delivered to us poolside, had a drink here or there. Due to the occasional sprinkle of rain and the overcast sky (plus the fact it was a Monday), the pool was not heavily attended, so it was perfect. And the pool didn’t have any deep areas – the big boys could stand everywhere, and Craig was in a lifejacket – so while we kept an eye on them, we didn’t have to stand and lifeguard.
From about 9am til about 4pm, we exhausted every inch of that yacht club pool. Then we went home, dressed in dry clothes, and headed out for Llano and a pit BBQ restaurant that the Prof had read about and wanted to try.
I highly recommend that if you are ever in the vicinity of Llano, you give Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ a try. It was pretty authentic, no frills, delicious stuff. You walk underneath a giant hanging menu to an open area under a corrugated plastic roof, right up to an above-ground pit that is being manned by a wiry tattooed dude who lifts the lid and patiently waits while you peruse the giant slabs and point him (and his giant carving knife) towards your selections. The meat is priced by the pound, and sort of like the deli counter in a grocery, you ask him for a half pound of brisket, or a pound of sausage, or a quarter chicken. He helped us get the right amount, and then he deftly sliced off giant hanks of seasoned meat and flopped it all straight onto a cafeteria tray, then handed it to the Prof. We then took our tray into the inside part of the restaurant, where you handed it to an aproned worker behind the counter to be sliced into edible portions, then handed back to you wrapped in paper. Your order includes all the pinto beans, white bread, and pickles you can eat. Giant containers of pickles and bagged sliced bread were laid out on long picnic tables inside, and the beans were in a giant cauldron in the back, next to a stack of small styrofoam bowls. Takeout containers were stacked at a self-serve station, including industrial rolls of aluminum foil and parchment paper – nothing fancy here.
We ate at a long communal picnic table under taxidermied deer heads, our food laid out on squares of wax paper (which is what they use instead of plates), cold Lone-Star longnecks for the adults and root beer for the boys. We ordered a side of mac and cheese, and three orders of cobbler – one peach, one apple, and one blackberry. The boys had a few slices of sausage and about six slices of white bread apiece, plus gallons of root beer and one or two reluctant, forced bites of beans. It was heaven.
After dinner, we once again waddled back to the car and drove along the lovely hill country, back to the hotel. At one point, I said aloud to the boys “the Texas landscape is neat because the desert vegetation coexists with the deciduous trees, and the contrast is startling.” Liam replied, “wow, there are cactus sprouting right next to beautiful trees in full bloom. It’s like jungle mixed with Wild West.” He won that contest of words. Both of us were right – New Orleans is very tropical, ridiculously giant blooms, riotous foliage, fast growing green everywhere the eye can see. Texas was very different – more scrubby, heading toward “desert” but not quite all the way there. The hills and buttes were delightful – we come from flat flat flat land, so the boys screamed like they were on a roller coaster as we went up and down the undulating Texas hills, heading back to our last night in the hotel.
The next morning, it was Pack Up and Go Home time. We managed to get everyone packed up and out the door without too much trouble, and stopped in Blanco on the way home to pick up some famous Texas lavender.
We went to a charming store in the tiny town, where we got the boys some cold waters and I bought some lavender soap, lavender lotion, and a lavender plant. The lovely proprietress gently and pleasantly pointed out all of the local goods she sells, and joked about the upcoming lavender festival – “Our thing here in Blanco, our only thing” – and told us to come back! Perhaps we will one day.
We headed out of town, saying good-bye to our vacation. We had Jack in the Box for lunch, and stopped at Waffle House in Morgan City, Louisiana for dinner.
We got home to an eager pup shortly before 9pm. I had to catch a flight to Atlanta for depositions the next morning, departing at 10:45, so we did Strike Force Unpacking, put the boys to bed, and then I re-packed my suitcase. Atlanta wasn’t bad – I stayed only one night and worked almost the entire time but still managed to work out twice, meditate twice, do yoga/stretches, take a hot bath, and enjoy a glass of chilled white wine while reading a mystery novel. I go back to Atlanta tomorrow, this time for two nights, and I’ll try to make the most of it – running many miles, stretching many stretches, and resting from my “Second Shift” job of momming, even as I double up on the job job. But I go away having been filled to the brim with good times with my boys – a great summer kick-off trip, perfect in every way!