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Places Visited:

Bridgeport, Mineral Wells, Lake Georgetown, Georgetown, Southwestern University, Lois Perkins Chapel, San Gabriel River, Sun City

2004 Travelogue #6 Bridgeport and Georgetown
Thousand Trails Bay Landing
Bridgeport, TX

4/7 Today started peacefully and very quiet with an early walk at dawn. As I walked, I heard turkeys back in the mesquite trees hackling; several Tom's let out some resounding, "gobbles".

Later that morning our neighbor, Bob Hawkins, knocked on our door, bearing a gift of a Ruby Red grapefruit, with a request. He and his wife, Phyllis, plus another couple were going to color Easter eggs and "Would we help them?" Agreeing to help, we started dying the eggs at 10 am and finished at 4 pm. We boiled and dyed150 dozen X 12 eggs… that's 1,800 eggs! Have you ever boiled that many eggs? The smell in the kitchen was like standing around Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park… stinky sulfur! Bay Landing will open its Park Saturday morning to families from the surrounding communities for an Easter egg hunt; we were pleased we could help.

After a short rest, we moved our lawn chairs to Troy and Sandra Bratcher's, neighbors on the other side, to enjoy their "bluegrass" music, as Sandra popped a CD in the recorder. They are avid concert attendees and Sandra compiled a stack of literature regarding upcoming "bluegrass picking sessions" in the areas where we would be traveling.

Meanwhile, Troy fired up the BBQ grill to cook their pork ribs; I brought over our propane grill to cook the bass fillets I had caught at Lake Tawakoni…basting them in olive oil, sprinkled with dill, salt, and pepper until they were crisp and golden.

We finished the day with a short walk by the lake at twilight, as a few last rays of sunlight were setting amid a spattering of clouds.

4/8 We had a delightful sunny drive this morning, via Farm to Market roads, through the ranchland countryside covered in a profusion of spring wildflowers. We were heading to Mineral Wells for a "tourist day" and to do some shopping. This area of the state, classified as Prairies and Lakes, is known for its wildflowers and we saw scores of Blue Bonnets, Indian Blanket, Indian Paintbrush, and Verbena.

The town of Mineral Wells, a booming resort town in the 20's, 30's, and 40's, was noted for its hot mineral water baths. The spa business, built around the wells, brought two multi-storied hotels into town. Today the largest, the Baker Hotel, is boarded up with broken windows throughout the structure. While the other, the Crazy Hotel is also closed, but it has been reclaimed for apartment living. Seeing these two multi-storied buildings in the center of town, abandoned and boarded up, was a haunting sign of the past when the railroads brought tourists to a bustling and flourishing downtown area.

Returning home, we put on our walking shoes for a long hike through some of the rougher countryside of the Park. Turning onto a dirt road, we observed many fresh tracks in the red clay, soft from the recent rains. We identified deer, coyote, and turkey tracks in the ruts of the road while on our left, about 20 feet away, a skunk lazily meandered through the underbrush and mesquite trees.

We returned to the coach, got the lawn chairs, fixed a "toddy", and joined our neighbors, Bob and Phyllis Hawkins, and daughter Nancy, the Park's Activity Director, for some lively conversation until dark. As twilight approached and a full moon rose in the east, we could hear coyotes howling in the distance, while two Cottontail rabbits provided additional entertainment by rapidly jumping up and down, in their courting ritual.

4/9 Oh my! Did we ever have a "norther" blow in around 5 this morning! The clouds were low, shedding a fine mist while the wind gusted to 30 mph. The temperature dropped from 80 degrees yesterday to 48 this morning...not what you would call good Easter egg hunting weather. But as they say, "The show must go on". So, we were up and out in our jackets by 9:30 hiding eggs.

Carloads of parents and kids started arriving at 10:30. I helped direct traffic and parking while Peg helped the 1 to 3-year-olds line up for the hunt. Eggs were hidden in designated areas according to age groups, so the older kids did not trample the little ones. It was a good thing too, because when Lynn, the Park Manager, told the older kids, ages 7 to 10, to "get ready, get set, go"; it was a stampede. There were several golden eggs in each age category for which the finder received a stuffed Easter bunny.

Not many lingered after the hunt…they were back in their vehicles getting warm. We hid 1800 eggs, and scattered several large bags of wrapped candies, but when I policed the area for trash, I did not find one egg. The kids picked the place clean. It was fun to see all the little smiling faces and happy parents…a big turnout even on this cold, windy and misty day.

Our unexpected reward for helping prepare the Easter egg hunt were two free passes to the buffet served that evening in the Family Center. We joined our recruiters, Bob and Phyllis, walking to the Center where we dined on mesquite smoked ham and chickens, sweet potato casserole with all the other "fixins".

4/11 Easter morning...we are blessed to be here and sharing in God's great creation and to know that there is another place awaiting us when we leave this world. "Thanks be to God."

Here it is the middle of April, overcast, with the wind blowing out of the north, down right cold. The temp is in the mid 40's with a chill factor in the high 30's, a 100-year low record for this date. We talked to Scott and Cristina and they said they awoke to snow on the ground in Pagosa Springs and we saw on the news that it had also snowed in Denver.

4/13 Leaving Lake Bridgeport this morning we headed south on US 281, noted to be one of the most scenic highways in Texas. We drove through patches of solid blue, red, yellow, pink and orange. The Bluebonnets, Texas Stars, Primroses, Indian Paintbrushes and Indian Blankets were in full bloom against the fresh shades of green of the rugged countryside. With the wind at our back, how could it get better than this?

We arrived at Lake Georgetown, a few miles west of the city of Georgetown and drove FM 2338 to the Jim Hogg Campground C.O.E. Selecting a campsite on a point amid Live Oak trees, we overlooked the lake with its limestone cliffs and shoreline.

After setting up camp, we pulled out our chairs and soaked up the view. An Osprey was working the water in front of us. This was a magnificent bird with its snow-white plumage and black specks glistening in the sun, silhouetted against the deep blue sky. As it extended its wings to catch a thermal updraft, it fanned its tail and back stroked with its mighty wings, hovering for a few seconds to double check below for fish, before deciding to dive or move on. It was interesting watching it hunt but fishing wasn't too good today, at least while we observed. It finally decided to "check it to it" and head to the house. We did the same but first went for a walk

4/14 Wow! What a view! I opened the blinds this morning to a sunny day with steam coming off the lake, since the water temperature was warmer than the air. The water vapor gave it the appearance of the spray at the base of Niagara Falls.

Tourist day in Georgetown was the main event today. This city, more than 150 years old, started on the banks of the San Gabriel River as a major crossing along the cattle trail known as the Chisholm Trail. Here, thousands of cattle quenched their thirst on their way to Abilene.

As we crossed the San Gabriel River on the old Austin Road, we saw a City Park beneath us with walking paths along the River. Thinking we'd explore this later, we continued to the historic downtown square surrounding the Williamson County Court House. We stopped at the Convention & Visitors Bureau located on one of the corners for information, including a walking tour brochure of the old buildings around the square.

The first stop, after getting our literature, was Laurie's Too Dining Room (a tea room) for lunch. We dined on such wonderful things as mango fluff, broccoli and white raisin salad, chicken salad, fresh fruit compote, Texas onion soup (without toast and cheese), quiche with black olives and mushrooms, and topped that all with peach tea…yum, yum…my kind of meal and it wasn't cheap. <g>

The town square is considered to have one of the finest collections of high Victorian commercial architecture in the state today. Limestone, quarried near Georgetown as early as 1860, became the building material of choice but we also noticed that cast iron and pressed metal were used extensively for trim.

Leaving the square, we walked several blocks to the Public Library, to use their computers for some Internet research. Then, returned home for a peaceful evening, sitting under the trees overlooking the lake, reading, watching the birds and an occasional boater scooting by.

4/15 We returned to Georgetown this afternoon, to the campus of Southwestern University. Southwestern, chartered in 1840, is Texas' oldest institution of higher learning. We walked part of the campus, observing the elegant Gothic Revival style buildings. A most unique structure was the Lois Perkins Chapel, which was no chapel in the traditional sense, with its high interior ceiling and walls lined with 4' X 20' stained glass windows. The windows depicted men in the early life of the church including early Methodist leaders, such as, John Wesley. In the center, behind the pulpit, were several large stained glass windows showing Christ in various settings. The sanctuary was beautiful, serene, and peaceful.

Outside, in front of the chapel on the concrete entrance landing, was a large round inlay of engraved granite commemorating the benefactors of the University and this thing was huge. It appears that one of their benefactors and alumnus was CBS news correspondent, Dan Rather.

From there, we walked to the Jones Student Center, where the cafeteria, snack bar and meeting rooms were located. Upon entering the center, we noticed a program being given by the Coastal Bend Council of Native Americans for students and whoever else wanted to listen. The Lipan Apache Medicine Man was dressed in native attire, with a bone breastplate, and a roach headdress, with a long needle holding the feathers in his hair. His long black hair was braided into two large braids. A third long, thin braid was in the middle front part of his scalp and used to wrap around the roach, securing it in place. He also wore rawhide breach cloths, moccasins and leggings. Unfortunately, we were a little late and missed his example of native Apache dance but we did hear the discussion of tribal traditional values compared with today's urban individual values. Here are just a couple of the comparison values: Native American…group emphasis, age, and cooperation versus Urban Individual…individualism, youth, and competition.

Departing the campus, we drove through an older section of town to see some of the restored turn-of-the-century homes. Noted for their red poppies, Georgetown will have its annual Red Poppy Festival next week and the red poppies were in full bloom. They were growing in the middle of yards, not necessarily in designated beds. The grass was left un-mowed so as not to disturbed the bluebonnets and poppies. In some places, they were even blooming in the cracks of the street, next to the gutters.

Leaving town, we made one more detour before returning home by way of FM 2338. Here, a short distance from our Park, The Del Webb Company built a large retirement community known as Sun City, similar to their facilities in Arizona. We took a short look-around, stopping at the Activities, Crafts, and Fitness Centers. It is a very nice community with Austin and limestone homes, all with manicured Bermuda lawns…looked like a lot of work to me.

We closed out the evening in our lawn chairs on our rocky bluff overlooking the water. The sun was setting and fishermen were working the waters below as the gulls worked high above.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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