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Texas: Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, LBJ Presidential Library, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Canyon Lake

2004 Travelogue # 7 Austin and Georgetown
Thousand Trails Bay Landing
Bridgeport, TX

4/16 "Wildflowers and native plants are as much a part of out national heritage as Old Faithful or the Capitol Building, but the world in which they once flourished is now disappearing."
Lady Bird Johnson

Springtime in Texas is a treasure chest of wildflowers. We have not seen all the states in the spring but, with over 5000 flowering plants native to Texas, we believe we have a springtime bloom that's hard to beat, which brings me to our destination today, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (www.wildflower.org) in Austin, TX. What a wonderful and lasting contribution Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes made when they founded this Center in 1982.

The Center is located in the Texas Hill Country, on the southeastern edge of the Edwards Plateau containing the Edwards Aquifer. This is an interesting area of the state because here the Midwestern Prairies, the Chihuahuan Desert, Tamaulipan Thorn Scrub, and the Southeastern Woodlands all converge, resulting in plant diversity few regions in North America can match.

From our Park on Lake Georgetown, we drove 50 miles south on I-35 to the south side of Austin toward the Center. Since it was nearly lunchtime, we decided eating first would provide nourishment for the outdoor tour and chose a restaurant close to the Center near the corner of Slaughter and Brodie Lane. It was in a new shopping center amid four eateries in a row. We parked and chose the one that wasn't Mexican, pizza, or Subway; it was called the Galaxy Café. Looking over the menu, we had several questions. The young man helping us said he knew all 27 recipes on the menu and could recommend all of them, since he was one of the owners. Peggy chose chicken salad on a bed of mixed greens and I ordered the pesto mixed with bow-tie pasta, and grilled chicken, served over a bed of mixed greens.

The young man, named Kelly Chappell and his Greek partner, Chris Courtney, opened this family restaurant recently and chose a motif based on a "space theme" from the period of 1957 to 1963. The recipes, of Greek origin, contained only fresh ingredients, healthy and delicious. The restaurant was open and airy with 20' ceilings from which round planet-type lighting fixtures hung suspended giving an allusion of outer space. The walls were painted a reddish orange color and were decorated with 12" round mirrors randomly placed at various levels. Simple black/stainless steel tables and chairs of the 50's era completed the decor. The place was whimsical and appealed to children of all ages. Looking at the cliental it was already a success and would only become more popular because the food and service were excellent.

After lunch, we drove a few miles to the Wildflower Center. It was our luck that today was their annual Gardening Festival and Spring Plant Sale for members in which they received a 10% discount on bedding wildflower plants. Approaching the Center, we could see there would be no close up parking... just what we could find on the street. Turning around at the entrance, we happened to see a lady leaving and returning to her car. We asked if she would like a ride, in exchange for her parking place and she accepted our offer.

Paying the admission fee of $5.50 per person, we walked through the limestone entry and followed a walkway of native stone into a large open area amidst Live Oak trees with an old cistern off to the side. The cistern was there to remind us how the early Texans collected every drop of their rainwater. We couldn't have picked a better time to walk through the different gardens since all types of Texas wildflowers were blooming. The Courtyard Garden, made of native rock, had shady tree canopies, with a sprinkling of Evening Primroses, Texas Yellow Star and Wine cups.

One of our favorite trails at the Center was the Savanna Meadow Trail. The Savanna was planted to resemble the land, which the early Europeans found when they settled in the Hill Country of Central Texas. These were softly rolling expanses of grassy meadows doted with oaks and junipers. Not too many are found today because of fire suppression and overgrazing. Walking the trail through the savanna, we found explosions of spring wildflower colors: Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Mexican Hat, Texas Lantana, and others.

How could we come to a garden paradise like this and not spend some time in their store, which is called Wild Ideas. In fact, we spent almost as much time in the store as we did walking the gardens; at least I found a bench with a view, while Peggy did her thing.

Returning to Georgetown we drove past Lake Austin and through the University of Texas campus, noting the LBJ Presidential Library and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, for future visits. We stopped in Round Rock for dinner at Johnny Carino's Country Italian. As we returned to the motorhome we both commented on what a great day it had been. Not too many days do we see as many wildflower varieties as we saw today.

4/17 After yesterday's fling we decided to cool our jets and stick around the motorhome today and do some reading and writing. The wind is starting to blow again. Looking at the weather we saw an interesting configuration, with a high pressure in the Gulf and a low stationary pressure in New Mexico leaving a corridor through the central part of Texas as a wind tunnel for these two circulating pressure zones. We are camped on a point overlooking the lake, the wind is coming straight toward us, producing large waves sounding like the ocean's pounding surf.

Late this afternoon I took a walk, while Peggy took a nap after her 3-hour grocery store outing. I found major activity in the adjacent campground and upon investigation discovered the area teeming with little boys, moms, dads, tents, and vehicles. A Pack of Cub Scouts had arrived for a campout. Gosh! Were these kids hyper? Actually, I enjoyed strolling through the camping area, watching them erect their tents, and chase one another.

After returning to the coach and having dinner, I wanted to show Peggy all the activity so we returned to their campsites but all was quiet, no little boys, it was like a deserted village. I told Peg, "They must be having a bonfire somewhere and some sort of program". Walking further, we heard them in the distance and found them around the campfire, singing songs and telling stories. I asked one mother how many boys were there and she said over a 100. We stayed until the end of the program, then returned with all the cubs around us making their way to their campsites. I would imagine many were too excited to sleep this windy night as they heard strange noises coming from the woods surrounding them.

4/18 The big event today was having my nephew, David Cherry, his wife Lynn, and their sons Michael (6) and Daniel (3) out for the afternoon. We were planning to eat outside at the picnic table and cook hotdogs on the grill but the wind was the worst it had been all week, blowing between 20 and 30 mph continuously. I walked both campgrounds thinking there might be another site offering more wind protection but could not find a suitable place. Besides, Aunt Peggy bought so much stuff for the boys that it would be a major undertaking to transport it all to another site so; just decided to stay where we were and make the best of a bad situation.

They arrived around 1:30 and the motorhome was a first experience for the boys; their eyes were big with wonderment. They were full of questions, like," Where do you sleep? Where do you go to the bathroom? What's this? What's that? Can I get in the pilot seat and drive? Can you see movies on this big TV set?" You get the flavor; it was a whole new world to them. Peggy had fresh veggies with a spinach dip, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, with miniature bananas that the boys really enjoyed.

I used a standing grill with a lid in the next campsite facing the back of it into the wind and placed my propane grill inside. With the big grill's protection I could light the propane and grill the wieners while David and the boys walked down the slope to explore the lake. The ground was very rocky with white shell and limestone rocks, the perfect size for rock throwing. I watched high on the slope while down below dad and sons threw rocks into the lake. There has always been something magical for boys, at whatever age, to throw rocks into the water.

Since it was too windy to eat outside we all converged into the motorhome for our hotdogs, baked beans, and chips. It was cozy but fun. After lunch we went for a walk around the camping area and down by the fishing pier. We returned for Aunt Peggy's Blue Bell ice cream in little cups and pound cake.

After dessert we sat outside, around the picnic table and visited as the boys found spear grass to throw at one another and us. They also found small muscle shells and doodlebugs to hide under the shells for guessing games… just being boys.

4/20 We moved today to Potter's Creek Campground at Canyon Lake making our way to Boerne as we await the arrival of our new coach. We chose the route of US 281 rather than I-35 because it is more scenic with less truck traffic.

The drive was just as we thought and the wildflowers were abundant. Driving through these small towns is always fun and we made notes of things we would like to come back and try, food, shops, and just curiosity spots. As we drove into the town of Burnet we thought it interesting nestled in the confines of the surrounding hills.

We arrived at Potter's Creek around 2:15 after battling a strong south wind and off and on rainsqualls. We selected a campsite facing the lake, so when I opened the curtains each morning we looked onto Canyon Lake.

Later that evening, we sat in our chairs under the picnic table awning, with feet propped up and enjoyed just looking at the lake. I retrieved my binoculars to watch passing boats and observe the beautiful homes across the lake. These homes, sitting high along the white rock shoreline, have magnificent views. s

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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