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Enchanted, Off The Grid In Texas Hill Country

May 5th, 2015 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Coffee Shops · Wi-Fi

AUS15 Hipster GPS sized

 

A weekend trip to Austin took the PingWi-Fi guy off the grid and back to nature … at times.  Perhaps the highlight — witnessing a pretty acrobatic birds-n-bees thing at Zilker Park.  No. Not hippies nor hipsters.  Not what you think.  I was cruising through the park on the  Triumph Thunderbird when I spied something naughty in the air in front of me.  Two birds, checking each other out, mid air, right in front of me.

 

Ha … I let out a country boy “HHHyawwhhh,” (translation – “get a room”) to voice my disapproval with their lack of discretion.  That must have startled them because they de-copulated so to speak.  One bird flew off on its merry way, a gleam in its beady little eye.  The other … perhaps the more satisfied of the two … came crashing down toward earth … and me.  I had to reach out with a gloved hand (thank goodness … ewwww) to bat away the jilted lover … so that it didn’t hit me in the face.  What a sad sound it made when it bounced off my windshield.  I wasn’t going very fast, but I have to guess that was one rude awakening.  Not the ending that had been imagined.  I assume the bird lived to tweet another day … I can imagine Austin “smart cars” running over each other and other humans to rescue and adopt the feathery friend.

Seems things were falling from the skies all around me, this trip.

At the climax of one night ride, I was headed west on 290 toward Dripping Springs when I sighted a fiery white light just to my right, kind of over my shoulder, north of the highway. It was a “shooting star” or meteorite … or some extraterrestrial arriving to keep Austin Weird.  I have seen quite a few shooting stars in my travels … but not like this one.  It was more like a riding companion flanking me out to the side.  I swear it must have been visible for a couple of seconds before it burned up in our atmosphere. It looked very close and very low … Anyone in Dripping Springs take a direct hit the other night?  Whoever’s responsible for the light show — Thank You!  It was very exciting.

 

AUS15 Enchanted Flower sized

Part of my traveling off the grid was the failure of the batteries in both of iPhones.  They seemed to burn out faster than the various objects falling from the sky.  Perhaps all the roaming, as I crisscrossed and doubled back on the Texas roads between Austin, Blanco, Spring Branch, San Antonio, Fredericksburg, Llano, Stonewall, Goldwaite, Hamilton, Comanche, etc., … and the huge monolithic Enchanted Rock.  (I think the ride between Blanco and Stonewall on 1623 was the highlight, as the twisty road, teeming with wild flowers, followed closely along the winding Blanco River, Cottonwood Creek and Blasingame Creek.  On a Monday morning, I pretty much had the road to myself … Don’t let the secret out …)

Note to self: If I had taken the backroad from Goldwaite to Hamilton, rather than going to Evant, I would have missed a horrible road construction delay … But, I must admit, I LOVE the old flagstone gymnasium on the side of the road in Evant and always look for it.

But the biggest attraction … Finally! I have heard so much about Enchanted Rock and have passed it by so many times. It is pretty fantastic although no match for my climbing skills … LOL.   Enchanted Rock … so cool …  an excellent diversion to complement all the Indian paintbrushes and other wild flowers that must have been at their peak this week in Texas.

 

AUS15 Hat sized

Alas, no Wi-Fi on the big rock.  I didn’t even check, because the rangers said “Hotspots? There are NO spots.”  They also told me not to worry about a little rain, “It never rains here.” Well … something is feeding all those wildflowers.  I have no doubt what the wildflowers feed … Hundreds of bright yellow splotches on my windshield as I zoomed around the curves and up and down the hills … Juicy!  Ha … I felt a sting as one bug hit my shin … and the explosion splashed all the way up to my face. Nice mental picture, right?  And you wonder why we love to ride … I digress.

In a slightly related note … I had a conversation with a gentleman farmer elsewhere in The Hill Country, and he told me that if his chickens eat the bugs that eat the yellow flowers … that the yokes will be incredibly much more yellow.  So that is the story of the “Little Yellow Pigment Who Could.”

Anywho, the park rangers were right, at least during my time up and down – no precip.  (Only got rained on a little as I first pulled into Fredericksburg, before the rock.)

 

AUS15 Buzzard sized

High atop the rock, I might have felt a bit enchanted … or certainly conversational and despite my shy nature … actually engaged strangers.  I met a nice couple from Lubbock.  Enchanted Rock — yet one more place I have met Texas Tech fans who still talk about the insane decision to fire football coach Mike Leach … although the three of us agreed on our support for Coach Kliff Kingsbury … a Hill Country native, btw.

 

AUS15 Enchanted Couple sized

In Fredericksburg, I had a nice strudel and a cup of joe … and Wi-Fi at Java Cowboy.  Quaint.

There was no Blue Bell ice cream to be found.  Sadness.  And I swear to you that I stopped at several backroads cafes … including the Exxon/pizza place where I enjoyed an old corndog in Goldwaite … and heard the locals all discussing the no-Blue Bell dilemma.

But the thing that first caught my eye among all the touristy places and vineyards and wineries around F-Burg was a bright red flag flying over one new, impressive Austin stone structure – The Texas Tech University at Fredericksburg.  I had no idea Tech was so entrenched in The Hill Country, but it makes sense since Lubbock was early on the scene for Texas wines.  I sampled the Wi-Fi, but not the vintage … and had a great visit with an instructor of enology (the study of winemaking and all things wine).

 

AUS15 Tech Fredericksburg

How cool is that?

Around Austin … I hung out several times at the newest SquareRüt Kava Bar … shunned guys in capes leaving the comic book festival … had late night fried ice cream at El Mercado on Lavaca across from my hotel … a nice, but slightly older, Hampton Inn … breezed through the Pecan Street Festival … left Austin on MLK and returned to town on Cesar Chavez avoiding several near misses as drivers seemed to take turns trying to collide with my bike … heard a guitar recital from musicians of varying skill sets at Strange Brew (under the tutelage of Austin treasure Van Wilks) and sampled the pies at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, off Fitzhugh out near Dripping Springs.  The pies were built to please.  The restaurant?  Kind of reminded me of Salt Lick (best name ever), with pasta.  Cool, cool outdoor bench seating under an open “haybarn-like” shelter.  Nice use of technology at Farmhouse Pizza, despite the rustic setting.  Rather than requiring me to carry a restaurant pager around, the staff simply texted me when my pie was ready.  I am sure other restaurants do this.  But, so why are some making me carry around a pager? … You know, the pager that makes me jump out of this skin when it goes off?  I would think more restaurants would also do this for the “dark side” potential — Stanley can now text market to me 24/7 on my phone.  Hope they exercise discretion there.

Friendly people at Farmhouse Pizza … but they fell just short of perfection.  I instructed them to pull some strings and get me some Blue Bell for dessert when I finished my pie.  I thought they had connections …

For the brief period the battery had juice, and my iPhone served as GPS … I couldn’t believe it.  The voice on the GPS pronounced Manchaca  (Austin street) “man-chak” the same way Austinites say it … which is totally whack as the rules of Latin-rooted pronunciations go.  I mean … out of the hundreds of “Jones Streets” and roundabouts and all the other things my GPS cannot pronounce around the country … It gets the Manchaca local pronunciation correct.  That is weird, Austin.

Know what I sayin?