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Love is in the Air

10 years….10 years last August since our first date with Brandy, meaning 10 years of Christmases, New Years, Halloweens and Thanksgivings, and now, Valentine’s Day.  We’ve never made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day before, but this year, something has changed that makes it particularly special.  This year is the first year that we’ve had Val.

 

A tragedy at the beginning of the year has led to a personal triumph, as we now have a new member of our household, and in celebration, we’re taking the opportunity to demonstrate one of the ways that we express our love, with a road trip of randomness, of course!

 

Up at 6am, showers all around.  We packed the coolers with what would be a spectacular picnic spread for later.  Miraculously, we got moving just after 8, as planned.  For this trip, I had requested we point in the general direction of the hill country, since we’d mainly been gravitating toward Caddo Mounds and Mission Tejas lately.  The favored direction to head first therefore is to take a very curvy 157 south into Venus, then onto 67 toward Alvarado.

 

We have not had proper breakfast tacos in far, far too long, and since this was also a trip showing off some favorite haunts to Val for the first time, our first stop was a taqueria in Alvarado, which looks to have been a bit renovated since our last visit – it was much brighter and a little bigger than before.  Angela just wanted 1 barbacoa taco, 2 for Brandy, 2 more for Val, so I opted to be the odd one out, with a pork al pastor, a nopalitos with egg, and okay, a barbacoa for me, too.  I also got a couple of mexican candy treats to try, and then on to QuikTrip for drinks.

 

It was a bit windy and cool to do a picnic breakfast, so we went ahead and inhaled it in the QT parking lot before moving on.  Oh man, it’s been far too long since we’ve had a good taqueria breakfast….cilantro and onion and true barbacoa….mmm-mmmmm!  The pork al pastor was interesting, but sadly, nothing to write home about.  The nopalitos, though, were fantastic!  Brandy also discovered her new favorite mexican candy…that I of course can’t remember the name of now.  It was coconut and raisins, and pecans….like an amped-up Mounds without the chocolate.

 

On down the road, and we’re just chattering and reading bits from a favorite comedy book, Fixin’ to be Texan, when Brandy takes a turn in Glen Rose to point us towards Meridian.  Val’s camped there before with us, but it’s still a favorite stop regardless.

 

We pull into Meridian state park, and at last give the dogs (and ourselves) a break.  Brandy was taking pictures of wisteria blooms (I think), Val and I walked the pups, waded through a bit of mud and saw the falls were running, then up the hill, across the dam and back to rejoin the others.  Huyana was under excellent voice control as usual, and I was teaching Val to command Vaquita the same way, especially when crossing a very slick divider that’s just below the level of the lake.

 

Brandy was exploring the little hill right by the parking lot, picking up various fossils (it’s the northern tip of the Hill Country – pretty much every rock is a fossil), and she found a cylindrical one that was pretty clearly a former bone.

 

After clambering back into the van, we poked around the back campsites, with many hammock sightings, mostly ENOs just hung up to nap, but we found one couple that was genuinely camping in theirs, and we stopped to chatter a while.  Since they were relatively new to it, we offered a bit of advice and resources to learn more.  Oh yeah, they’d seen Shug’s videos already.  Whooooo, buddy!

On to Hamilton, and an hour or so poking around the Dutchman while I hung out in the van with the pups.

 

South toward the Hill Country, distracted by a sign for Aussie Meat Pies.  While buying them (and Dublin soft drinks), we teased the owner about how Australia is Texas with a whole continent.  But the real fun was when we offered to show her an American Dingo.  You’re pulling my leg.  She’s not really native, etc.  Open the car, yep, that’s a dingo!

 

Whee, park road 4!  Look, a castle!  There’s longhorn caverns…ooh, someday.  And finally, Inks Lake, to start our picnic lunch around 4pm.  Pickles, lunchmeat, eggs, muffulettas, stuffed peppers, olives, and more!  Finally saying happy Valentine’s Day.  Playing on the granite at sunset.

 

Sadly, it’s a worknight…time to go home.  But one last stop at the side of the road near Meridian, just to see the stars, sharing one more special moment with our new love.

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Foreword

Wow…you know you haven’t written for your blog in way too long when you get to the login screen and realize you have no idea what to type. I had to go through the password help, which sent the link to a gmail account I also hadn’t logged into in a while, the password help for which sent a link to yet another email address I haven’t used in months. Thankfully, the login recovery for that one went to an address I at least check occasionally, so after following link after link after link and setting new passwords I’ve already forgotten, I’m finally here again. Makes me wonder how I still manage to get spam, with all those unused email addresses to fill out forms. Ah well. I’m returned, and it is time to take the stage again.

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An afterword.

I’m sorry that took so long to finish up. As any author knows, sometimes you have times when you sit down and a story just flows off your fingertips…. and sometimes there are dry spells. I have so many other things to write about. The trip tubing down the Comal River in New Braunfels, last weekend’s jaunt through the hill country and back to Lukenbach. Fording a river in the chrysler. I could sit here and go on and on, just mentioning the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been… and still never do it justice. I’m going to leave the next post to Jacob to describe.
I still want to hear his interpretation of my “Hey fellers! Watch this!” moment, or running into a little trouble attempting to get out of the Comal, when I found out that I really have lost that much weight, and trying to swim against the current in water well above my head with my innertube in one hand, my cap in the other, and my shorts having fallen around my knees. … Yes, even at the time it was funny.

So, Jacob. Its your turn to take the floor.

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Curves.
Sensual, alluring, compelling, calling for a gentle nudge here, a strong swift stroke there, up, down.

Moonlight.
Soft, creating mystery, cool light, speaking – calling to the inner wanderer.

Night wind.
Cool, fresh, all the smells of the day, the drying grains and grasses in the field, water over the next ridge, skunk a half mile back, playing with the moon and clouds. The smell of the gulf a hundred miles away, the pine forests, the prairies, all wrapped into one being. Feel the joy of the wind… of being free. To toss the wisps of clouds skittering across the moon. Calling to come play… to tell you the stories of the places its been.

All of these things together creates magic. A late spring evening finding me lost way out on some back road…. well, not exactly lost.. I was somewhere on a red squiggly line on a map, roughly between Hye and Blanco. The song of the wanderer filling my ears as the pavement sped beneath me. Stars filling the night sky, with moonlight so bright you could go on forever. Why do some of us have this need? Need to be free, to fly, to see the unknown. Its so rare… so many look at us with this wayward glance when they ask me what I did all weekend. How, in god’s green earth, did it take you 12 hours to get to Dallas from San Antonio???

I wanted to see what was between here and there.

Oh, I’ve made the trip many times. I’ve gone the “conventional” way, the back way, the round about way, but they’re all the old way. Lets find the new way. Plot a new course. Something with lots of curves, some really neat terrain, a lot of water, and open sky. Reflections of the weekend flashing through my mind. Tubing down the Comal river, an old fiddler in Kerrville sending up the most beautiful piece to the stars above… and a luscious little blonde with a glorious Texan twang walking up to my husband in Lukenbach and without hesitation or asking for a name, “Are you wearing a thong?” to which his prompt reply was “Are you?” which led to a rather interesting and amusing conversation.

Why do we do it? Why do we need it. When so many are comfortable in this digital age to sit at home and see the world from the comfort of their couch or computer chair. It would be cheaper and safer to just stay home. With the prayer that was the old fiddler’s song still ringing in my ears, I knew the answer.

Life.

But what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What purpose is it?

Simply to be alive. We are creatures born of pleasure and pain. Strife, passion, blood, sweat, rage, jubilation. A creature of pure energy, made of flesh from star stuff, here to wander.

But why do look at me so askance when they hear my answer? Why, even among those special people in my life, are those who cannot understand? Who cannot share that same passion… that same drive?

Not all are the same. No, there are no better or worse, but there is a difference of spirit. Some are here here to teach others, or to learn themselves.. others here to fight, to heal, to mend… And then there are some here to watch. Oh, we’ve been around this world a time or two.. played all the roles. Each of us has that special role we love playing, that one that feels so comfortable, but with one key difference. There is that passion… that lust for knowledge, for the new, for the unexplored. Not a thirst for danger, exactly. We are the pioneers that settled this great country. We are the adventurers who find what was lost. The records of our lives are kept not as a record of one person who tilled his fields, kept his sheep, and died old and happy… but as the one who brought back knowledge of what was beyond the great waters.

Speeding on through the night, the wind speaking of cactus blossoms, cool springs, and hidden glens.

Life is short.

Time is fleeting.

Change is forever.

Come see.

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Time to Go

Sunday morning, I stepped outside, and do you know what I smelled?

Spring.

The scent of growing things: green grass, the leaves on the trees returning, even the weeds quickly trying to take over my lawn.  I smelled freshly-turned dirt, from the garden that we began planting the day before.  The chill wasn’t in the wind anymore – it was nice to be outside.

Oh, we were tempted to take off right then and there, but we knew that we still had more planting to do if we wanted to enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables over the summer, so we remained at home and dug in the dirt some more.

This week, we’ve been working, depriving ourselves of sleep because we can’t seem to stop thinking about what we want to do now that the long winter is finally going away.

With spring comes good fishing weather, as it’s time to spawn as the water temperature rises.  We already know of one lake where we’d seen the fish getting into the really shallow water right next to the shoreline, practically beaching themselves among the reeds.  Last year, when we discovered this, we tried to catch them with our bare hands, and when that failed, we wasted the whole day tossing baited hooks in that direction, but with no luck.  This year, we simply have a net — we’re looking forward to seeing if we can actually catch the limit on anything, even if it’s simply carp.  We looked it up, by the way — it’s one of the most-consumed freshwater fish, some 100+ thousand tons eaten each year around the world.  We figure we’ll try it — why not, if it’s free?

Another plan for this weekend is to dig the tents out of storage, set them up in the backyard to air out, and sweep the inside and out thoroughly.  There’s also the travel bag, packed with many of the small items we don’t want to forget when we’re out camping (firestarters, cooking utensils, cards & dominoes, MAX DEET, sunscreen, spare bandannas, stuff like that).  We had bought a couple ponchos for our big canoemping trip last year, and I think we still need to rinse the sand out of those…  We have utility shelves in the garage, where we try to keep all the camping gear together, but it gradually migrates to wherever we set it down when we last unpacked the car, usually at about 2am while feeling like a zombie from the drive home.  So that needs to be sorted back out.

We’re gradually putting together a wishlist of travelling/camping/fishing gear we’d like to acquire or upgrade — a nicer digital camera to take high-quality, poster-size-printable pictures of the places we’ve been and things we’ve seen, so that we can put them up around the house; a two-burner camp stove for the occasions that there’s a burn ban where we end up; a canoe with a hookup for a small outboard motor, good for paddling in the shallows or fishing in the deep water; more lures and books as we continue educating ourselves in fishing, and so much more.

Spring is a time of new beginnings, when the world reawakens, and the spirit of adventure can take hold of you, telling you it’s time to explore those dreams you’ve been having while hibernating through the winter.

And I, for one, can’t wait to go.

Don’t look back
A new day is breaking
It’s been too long since I felt this way.
I don’t mind where I get taken
The road is calling
Today is the day.
— Boston, “Don’t Look Back”

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Come see.

Come fly with me.
come spread your wings.
Wander the forgotten paths with me.
Explore the lost trails.

Experience what life is about with me.
Experience what makes us human.
Feel the joys of freedom
as your soul takes flight with mine.

Feel the sun on your face
hear the avian chorus above.
Dip your toes in the crystal clear waters,
as your eyes gaze on an infinity of stars.

Welcome the cool morning dew
and the scents carried on the morning breeze
of places nearby that have been lost
and of memories buried long deep.

Drink of the fountain of youth with me
of the splendor and glory which is life.
Pain and sorrow and joy and strife
and the laughter that frees us all.

Come fly the paths less travelled with me
See the wonders that are there.
Live life as it was meant to be lived,
with the universe whispering.. “Come, See!”

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Returning thoughts…

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Another incredible weekend. Amazing vistas of rolling hills, tree covered mountains, Lush green valleys, sparkling bluegreen pools with waterfalls and moss covered limestone. Granite hills, quartz beaches sparkling next to crystal clear rivers.

I’m still recovering from this latest outing. Blisters on my feet from falling in the Colorado River and getting about 6 cups of water in each boot. Wrenched knee and bruised leg from having a very dear friend jump on my back going “Carry me!” while on the rocks in the river… and stepping on an unstable mossy stone and taking a very cold dip. Twisted ankle from running up the trail to Hamilton Pool … and the Perdenales river. Looking up that steep trail to go back to the parking lot, knowing that nobody can help me, and laughing at the situation and attacking it wholeheartedly. Miles and miles and miles of back country twisties. Deer, armadillos, coyotes, raccoons, more deer, MORE DEER, goats and llamas and sheep and horses and more cows than you want to try to comprehend. Prickly pear everywhere.

So many folks get so damn squeamish about food. What’s wrong with new experiences? It can irritate me to no end how folks think that food means it comes prepackages in some styrofoam container, lacking all resemblance from what it actually was. Screw that. Meat is meat. It irritates the **** out of me how people will hear about something other than beef or chicken or pork and go EEEEWWWWW! What the hell?! .. Let me give a for instance….

One of our favourite places to stop when we’re out on the road and want breakfast is Taquerias. Good, CHEAP, filling breakfasts. To the tune of 18$ (including tip) for 3 people… with plenty left over! There’s many excellent dishes on the menu, and we had a new friend with us out for the first time. She’d never been in a place like this before, and needed a translator as she spoke NO spanish whatsoever. Barbacoa.. cow cheek meat.. very flavorful and tender. Cabritos = barbecued goat. Lengua = beef tongue. Chicharrones = similar to pork rinds, but much much better. During this description, she turned various colours of green, white, and other less than savory shades. Finally we all got our orders and she was of the opinion that she didn’t want to hear any more of the menu or what it was that we ordered. At work, talking about various things and the subject of food comes up. A comment on duck eggs brought on the reaction of EEEWWW! and it went downhill from there.

People always hear of my travels and want to come with me. They hear of the glorious scenery, the wonderful people I meet, the new friends in far away places, and want to experience it… but they don’t want to experience the whole thing. They balk at the idea of a goat bbq cookoff, or tamales on the side of the road, or of lengua breakfast tacos, but this is the essense of the places we find ourselves. When experiencing life, you make a choice. Styrofoam contained “all american beef” preformed patties… the same food you would get in New York City or New Orleans, or you can experience the life the people there lead. Jambalaya from our lovely coast, fresh fish and shrimp caught just earlier that morning in the gulf. Barbecue from a falling down tin shack on the side of the road. Tamales made by a grandmother according to a generations old family recipe. Make new friends in far away places. Find a family you never knew you had.

The writeup of this latest trip will come later. I have so many things I need to write up as is, but time constraints get in the way. I would rather be out doing it. Experiencing life at its fullest. More posts will follow soon… until then remember to live the life you’ve got now.

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