Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Texas Hill Country Redux

At Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas...

We've enjoyed this short romp with friends here in the hill country. We love the diversity of climate and topography of my native state, and it is so vast that I'm sure we will never be able to see it all, but the hill country is a favorite. Here's something I wrote about it in this blog ten years ago when we first started RVing:

The Texas hill country has its own unique identity that's not easy to describe because part of its charm is in the feeling one has about it, especially among native Texans, I think. Not to diminish the connection that non-natives can develop for the state, but most Texans by birth seem to exhibit a love for this immense state that is not unlike a love of country or love of the family farm. 

The hill country is like a bauble on a grand dame, joining other jewels like the piney woods of east Texas, the sawgrass of the gulf coast and the rugged crags of Big Bend to make up her whole persona. It's as much of an air, or feeling, as it is an appealing landscape. 

Traveling through these rocky hills reveals not the majestic grandeur of the Rockies but the almost audible heartbeat of a land of legend and mystique, both wild and winsome at the same time. The undulating change in dimension between land and sky creates a different visual treat with the rounding of a curve or the crossing of a crystal stream. Surveyed from the top of a ridge, the hills seem to stretch without end, passing under cottonlike clouds at the edge of an impossibly blue sky. At day's end, the sun brushes gilded clouds onto a pink and purple canvas as it reluctantly leaves to shine on lesser lands. Marveling at God's handiwork, I can't help but get a lump in my throat and think that it is all so very Texan.

Now while it may be a bit self-serving to quote myself, the passage above portrays not only a pride in my state, but a love of the One who created it and an appreciation for the lifestyle through which I continue to discover and enjoy it. I don't think I could describe it any better now than I did then. 

"Surveyed from the top of a ridge, the hills seem to stretch without end..."

"At days end, the sun brushes gilded clouds onto a pink and purple canvas..."
Okay, enough reminiscing. Let's talk about the next day's adventure: Our next stop with our friends (stops almost always include a meal, by the way) was in nearby Camp Verde, Texas. This is the home of the Camp Verde General Store and Restaurant, our lunch target for that day. The store was founded as a result of the building of Fort Verde, the site of an unusual experiment championed by U. S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in 1854. Davis, who later became president of the Confederacy, purchased camels and dromedaries from the middle east to determine if they would perform better than horses and mules for the transport of military equipment over long distances in dry climates. 

Davis's experiment was a success, as the animals proved significantly better suited for the demands placed upon them than the horses and mules. However, Fort Verde was captured by Confederate soldiers in 1861 and, at the end of the war in 1865, the herd of camels was sold by the U. S. to help provide needed funds for the Reconstruction. The fort was decommissioned in 1869, and by that time, the herd had grown from 73 camels to 100. Thus ended the great camel experiment, never to be resurrected again.

The general store and critically-acclaimed restaurant now in place is a beautifully designed example of the German-inspired ranch architecture of the 1800s, with its use of white limestone and wooden accents.  

Eddie, Jan, Ed, Marilyn and Sandy at the Camp Verde Restaurant
 The restaurant was very crowded--surprising, given its location in the middle of nowhere--but the food was very good. Most of us had salads or designer sandwiches along with some killer pie.

The next day brought about a short trip to Comfort, Texas to have lunch at the Alamo Springs Cafe. This ramshackle restaurant, also in the middle of nowhere, has been named by Texas Highways magazine as having the best hamburger in Texas--I kid you not.

I scored a green chile cheeseburger and onion rings that would send any cardiologist into apoplexy, but I tried to pay no attention to my hardening arteries. Was it good? Do you have to ask? Take a look:

Tummies full, we headed for Fredericksburg, where the ladies would do some shopping and the guys would do some tasting. Yes, tasting: Our first stop was Rustlin' Rob's, a place that turned out to be utter nirvana for a foodie like me:

This was a rather large store, containing many little nooks in which literally hundreds of jams, jellies, pickles, olives, sauces, salsas, spreads, spices, rubs and the like were displayed, all of which had samples open for the tasting, along with little crackers and pretzels for dipping:

Frankly, I had never before seen anything like this, but I liked it so much that I think I would like to be buried here when I finally croak. (This will surely be hastened if I visit Alamo Springs Cafe very often.)

Frankly, I defy you to get out of Rustlin' Rob's without buying something. I probably tasted 50 different samples of really good stuff, including a rub that Marian (a friend from Mission, Texas) recommended. After tasting it, I bought some, too. Sandy came in and discovered a fudge tasting nook at the back of the store, to which she dragged me (a lie, of course; I think I got there before she did). We sampled a few varieties and came away with slices of pecan praline fudge along with some salted caramel. And yes, it was just as good and sinful as it sounds:

Sandy and I have visited Fredericksburg a few times over the years, but the place seems always to be growing. Certainly a shopping mecca with perhaps a hundred quaint stores and restaurants along the main drag, it is also home to the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War. This museum has become quite impressive as it has expanded over the years, and I will have to visit it another time in order to include it in a blog post. We didn't have enough time on this day to begin to see everything along the main shopping drag, so we did what every husband would do in such a circumstance: We drove back to the RV park for a nap and left the ladies to have their way with their credit cards, God help us. 

Tomorrow is departure day, this time to Austin. Stay tuned!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough each day.

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