Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Texas Hill Country

Guadalupe River State Park, in the Texas Hill Country

11:00 p.m.

My body's feeling run-down.

Left Austin about 10:00 a.m. for the one-hour ride down to New Braunfels. Pulled into a Texaco station to refuel. At least I thought it was Texaco. Same red star and everything. But the sign said Tetco. Did I miss something? We rendezvoused at the Wendy's restaurant across the street. Guy and his friend Susan drove up from Corpus Christi and Susan's son, Cory also drove in from Austin.

Our first stop was in Gruene, an historic town just outside New Braunfels. (This region apparently was settled by German immigrants.) The most interesting landmark is "Gruene Hall", Texas' oldest dance hall. Inside, the walls are covered with photos of country artists who have performed here. They filmed the dance scene from John Travolta's film Michael at Gruene Hall. In Gruene, we piled into Guy's car, leaving my motorcycle and Cory's car in a parking lot.

As a musician, Guy is quite familiar with the Hill Country, having played different venues around the area. He would be our guide today. He wanted to take us to lunch at the Cypress Creek Café in Wimberley, between New Braunfels and Austin. I had to try their chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, one of those southern dishes I rarely have a chance to enjoy. We passed around a tiramisu dessert.

Across the street, we visited Hill Country Guitars. Guy was looking for a particular guitar to add to his collection. I was just following along, fascinated at being an outsider looking in at this art. On display were guitars produced by Fender Custom Shop. Called "relics", these brand new "Stratocasters" have been artificially "aged", with dings, scratches and wear marks carefully added. Sounds crazy, but apparently there's a demand. The owner says some guitarists are afraid of damaging a pristine guitar. Buying a "relic" is one way to overcome that fear. It already looks beat-up! Locally-crafted Collings Guitars were also on display. Beautiful instruments, they sell for thousands of dollars.


Riding the country roads, we came to a ranch where old farm implements and other curiosities line the road. Susan wanted to have a closer look, so Guy pulled in. There we met rancher and chain saw sculptor Jerry Hendricks. Guy introduced me as the person who just rode around the Americas. It just so happened Jerry had a motorcycle for sale, and was eager to show us. Out back in a shed, not far from a row of old junker bikes heaped together, he proudly showed us a 1971 Honda CB750. In many ways it resembled the 1970 CB450 I had in college. We wouldn't however be taking it with us today.

Guy chats with chain saw sculptor Jerry Hendricks, in Blanco, Texas (Friendly bear in the background)

Encounter with a friendly bear, Blanco, Texas

Returning to Gruene via a different route, Guy wanted to take us one more place: Guadalupe River State Park. It was late in the afternoon, and we just wanted to take a look around the park, so the ranger at the gate gave us a 30-minute pass.

Drove to a parking lot overlooking the river. Down below, along its banks, families picnicked, people strolled and a photographer took photos of a young couple. The oaks and cypress, their branches barren, looked wintry in the gray afternoon. The subdued colors and stark landscape had a beauty I hadn't seen in a long time.

Guy and Susan

Susan and her son, Cory

Reunited with our vehicles, we all drove up to Austin, where Susan and Guy would be staying overnight at Cory's house. We decided to "dine in" with pizza from Cory's restaurant, Mangia. Out to select a wine for dinner, I was tempted to buy a bottle of Montes Alpha Malbec, from Chile (about $10), but opted for the 2002 Hanna Cabernet Sauvignon, one of my "old favorites" from Sonoma County, California.

This evening we all watched a movie that Cory had downloaded off the internet, Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man.

1 comment:

Drew Kampion said...

You look like you're enjoying getting out of town and off where you can ask new people the old questions, Guy!