new MoHo in New Braunfels and San Antonio

Today Moana took the day after Christmas shopping to a new level. We left Austin early Christmas morning to travel the great distance to New Braunfels, all of 60 miles. The weather was still clear and lovely in spite of the winds. The campsite we had chosen for this adventure was on the Guadalupe River, a place my sister also talked about and she was right, it is lovely. The campground was about 20 miles off the interstate at a place called Canyon Lake on the Guadalupe River. The place was called the Lazy L and L and for no reason I could figure out, it was very nearly empty. We found a spot among more than 100 with no one there except for 3 or 4 rigs way down at the opposite end. It was a perfect place for our scheduled work of the day which was getting the MoHo all tricked out and ready for a trade in.

When Mo bought the Lexus last year she traded in her Blazer and we had been traveling in it with the dog who had licked all the windows and everything was all musty and she probably lost some dollars on the trade in as a result. We were making sure that didn’t happen this time, so spent the entire afternoon clearing out the MoHo, cleaning faucets with a toothbrush and q-tips and by the time we were finished there was barely time to eat the reheated supper and watch the river a bit before crashing.

This morning we made sure we were at the dealer when he opened at 9 and he already had the new Dynamax out in the back waiting for us. The negotiations were straightforward and not as long as might be expected and by noon Mo was the owner of a new Dynamax Coach. It’s just a hair over 25 feet long, only 4 feet more than the MoHo, but boy such a difference that makes. It’s like a Lexus version of a motor home, truly lovely and convenient and with all the bells and whistles. I have loved the baby MoHo, but this is like a dream thing, and yet still small and sweet, short enough to get into the parks, but just a bit bigger than the baby house, just enough that we don’t have to quite do the juggle of moving things around every day when we park. There is a slide-out with a leather sofa, and a kitchen that I can actually cook in, and a shower that doesn’t have a toilet in it. That’s pretty nice. We drove it this morning on the freeway in high winds and it rides like a dream, and doesn’t feel much different than the MoHo in that way either.

It was supposed to be ready by 4 so we took the baby house to San Antonio and did the River Walk, ate lunch in the Mercado at the oldest restaurant around that was an experience in itself, and then walked to the Alamo. Place where Davy Crockett fought and died.
San Antonio is filled with really old historic buildings and churches amidst all the new ones, and isn’t nearly as glitzy as Austin, but somehow it felt much better to me. I am not sure why there were no homeless people around, except perhaps they are elsewhere, since the people in most of San Antonio seemed to be a bit poorer so maybe everyone was in the same boat. There were some empty buildings here and there, closed up storefronts, but there still was good energy about the place that I enjoyed. The town itself also felt much more historic than Austin, and much more Hispanic in a different way. Maybe it was combination of the Mercado and the Alamo, and the fact that I didn’t see endless hills covered with huge houses. The area around San Antonio can be pretty boring, but the valleys along the Guadalupe River are lovely and there are bluffs and canyons in the limestone and sandstone that are dramatic.

Back through traffic and an accident that slowed us down a bit, but in the end it didn’t matter because the new MoHo wasn’t quite ready. Did the walkthrough and learned about all the goodies and finally the dealer offered to put us up in a really nice park so we wouldn’t have to do the move from MoHo 1 to MoHo2 in the dark. Both of us were pretty tired by then and the cats and dog were tired of being in the Geo all day while we did the dealing, so we took the offer and headed for one more RV Park. This one is called Hill Country RV and for some completely unknown reason it is full to the brim. Full to the point that the site they gave us was already filled and there weren’t any others until someone went driving around to find something for us. Saw a flier that said the rent was 285 a month so that explained why the place will filled with full-timers. Who knows how much a month would cost on the Guadalupe River, but I would much rather have been there than here by the interstate in New Braunfels. Who knows, when you are retired and full timing in the winter, maybe having MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart close by are a plus instead of a wild river.

So, so far, no photos of the new home, but tomorrow that will change. It will be ready by 10 or so and we can drive it and get used to it in the daylight rather than in the dark. I am looking forward to the new home a lot, but of course there is a bit of nostalgia tonight as we go to sleep for the last time in the Baby MoHo. It’s been a lot of fun for more than 3 years and has taken us a lot of places. I know the new house will be fun as well, and in the end, I am just feeling really lucky and blessed to have the chance to do this traveling thing. I dreamed of it for many years, but never could quite figure out how I was going to do it. Magic does happen, I guess

Cats and people thoughts

There are some things that I have been thinking about that just never seem to end up in the story of our trip. Cats and helpful people. Traveling for a month in a very small motor home with a dog and two cats might sound like a recipe for some kind of disaster, or at least a tense moment or two. Instead it has been simple and fun. The cats both have taken to the routine as if they were born to it. I have their small cat cages with me, and whenever it is time to hook up, or if we are gassing up or doing anything that requires open doors I pop them in the cages. They seem to like it actually, and during the day if the cages are open as we are driving they go in them to sleep and feel comfortable in a safe space.

During the days on the road, they are free to roam around the motor home and Jeremy will come and sit in my lap or perch on the dashboard to watch the passing scenery. Teddy usually hangs out in his cage or in the dog bed for the daytime and then happily jumps on the bed for nights. He loves to be by the open window and smell the outdoors and watch whatever magical things are running around in the moonlight. I also brought their bigger crate that I can set up outside on a picnic table when we are doing something outside and they love to sit in there and watch all the birds and whatever else is going on. Funny thing is that they also love to jump back into the safe motor home whenever they have been outside a bit. Every once in awhile, Jeremy especially will keep checking the doors to see if he can make an escape, but is easily discouraged if I speak strongly to him.

The cat box of course is the other thing that seems as though it could be a real pain, but I bought a special one that is deep and has a lid with a circular hole in the top. Someone uses it and I clean it, so things are always clean and nice, and the design of the box keeps litter from scattering as well. Cat people will understand this one for sure. I can’t believe just how easy it has been to travel with them. The other part that has been fun is that I have had more time to spend with them than I do when I am home working and I think that may be what they like about the whole thing as well.

People. I have experienced some really interesting people on this trip, especially in the south. Everyone seems really kind and really talkative. If I ask directions or for some kind of information, every one is willing to help, usually with long and complicated and very explicit directions, and then with some more conversation until I wonder if I will manage to get on my way. At the Laundromat where I walked in to read my maps, I was approached by an old guy in beat up clothes and a friendly smile who said, “Can I help? I used to be a cab driver around here” He then proceeded to give me careful directions as to how to get back to my campground without missing a step. He shook my had and patted my shoulder and it didn’t feel the least bit threatening. Today in San Antonio, several people offered helpful directions, and the one thing that is constant, is the length of time everyone is willing to take to explain and converse and talk at length after the simple directions are given. Friendly people are what I will remember of this trip I believe.

Christmas Eve in Austin

Christmas Eve dawned crisp and clear, warm enough for capris. Headed for the att phone company downtown which turned out to be across from the Market and Seattle’s Best Coffee. Was treated to a really superior salesman who handled everything related to my phone with style and grace and went over to have a coffee and pastry while waiting. Looked over our list of the 10 best things to do in Austin and tried to plan the day accordingly. First on the list, after getting a phone of course, was to check out Town Lake, or Austin Lake, which is part of the Colorado River that flows through town. This part of Austin is truly delightful, with greenbelts, and I think the entire city was out running or walking or rowing or biking along this beautiful parkway. Next on the agenda was the State Capitol, but since it was a state holiday we only got to see the grounds and exterior, which were lovely, and didn’t have to pay parking to boot. Drove south on Congress Street to the SoCo area which is eclectic and filled with shops. One thing about Texans, they love to shop, and many of the “best things to do in Austin” are related to shopping. SoCo was quiet on Christmas Eve however, so we just drove by and looked as we continued on to Barton Springs and Zilcher Park. This truly is a best thing to do in Austin, the location of the fall Austin City Limits festival and more than 300 acres of paths, trails, picnic areas, an arboretum, sculpture gardens, and the river flowing through the middle. Barton Springs is a natural limestone spring in the middle of Barton Creek that has a long pool, 1/8 mile long, 68 degree water and crystal clear blue colors. People were actually swimming! Down below the pool was a natural area of the creek where there was shallow water and a gentle current where Abby played in the water and swam for a long time while I tried to catch up all my phone calls since I finally had a phone again. Christmas Eve. We had a park hot dog there and continued on reluctantly to our next adventure on the 10 things to do in Austin.

Next adventure was to drive out to Lake Travis. This wasn’t anything like I had imagined the Austin area to be like. It was huge and developed, and the houses were bigger than anything I have seen in California and covered the hills all around the city for miles and miles. The hills were covered with ugly oaks and junipers with very little open space and the lake itself was a huge but very long narrow body of water that was basically invisible because of all the development. We drove many miles through this ugly stuff, all generic, and it felt a lot like it feels to drive through suburbs of LA. We were in the Geo and the roads in spite of the development were rough and bumpy, the sun was glaring and the driving gave Mo a headache. A rare thing. Couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Once back in downtown Austin, we tried to find a place to relax and have a pizza before we went downtown again for some music and then later to a Christmas Eve service. But don’t ever try to find a local pizza on Christmas Eve, we drove and drove up and down the main streets of Austin, north on Guadalupe and Congress, back to South Congress, back and forth on 5th and 6th and nothing. Finally, at the far end of town up beyond 37th street there was a Chili’s, so we gave in to generic and had a great supper there and a celebratory glass of wine. At 7 we drove downtown to the bar that was supposed to have some live music, but once more internet advertising proved to be wrong and the bar was dark. So we drove back over to the St David’s Church where the 6pm service was ending and the 7:30 pm service that was advertised wasn’t happening and we had to wait until 8 to go to the later service.

This was a part off Austin that is the central gathering area for the homeless, there is a large distribution point just 1 block east of the church and lots of people milled about asking for handouts. It was a bit scary in the dark, and we parked on 6th street and tried to be sure we were careful around the alleys. I know better than carrying anything when in the city in the dark, but stupidly I had that huge cat lady bag and didn’t want to leave it in the Geo either since it had my phone, my money, everything.

So off I wandered through the dark streets, watching the alleys furtively with my big old lady Laurel Birch cat bag held tightly under my arm. We walked up 6th a ways to find the Driskell Hotel, a truly magnificent building that was decorated beautifully complementing the many stained glass skylights and huge pillars in the lobby. The hotel was an historic one, and had the distinction of being a favorite hangout of LBJ, and was the place where he and Ladybird had their first date.

The church was an old one, an Episcopal church, and really quite lovely in it’s simplicity. There were also many stained glass windows but at night you couldn’t see the colors, just the images that were there. When the service started there was some great music, a soprano soloist that was sweet as something celestial, and a big pipe organ. The Episcopal service was much like what I remembered from my days going to Catholic Midnight Masses with my grandmother, except that it was all in English instead of Latin. The procession was beautiful with the choir members walking the aisles holding candles and singing. Even the sermon was delightful with the woman who was the presiding bishop speaking in tones that were calm and poetic. I told Mo that if church had been like that when I was a kid I might have really loved it. No guilt, just lovely music and soft kind words. I didn’t feel one bit of the negativity that sometimes overwhelms me in the presence of patriarchal organized religion. It just felt ritualistic in a good way, remembering somehow the good parts of it all.

Left the church and wound our way home back through the Hispanic neighborhoods, enjoying the lights and sounds and especially happy to return to the little house waiting at the HWY 71 RV Park.

To Austin

December 23 on the road again heading for Austin to spend a couple of days exploring that famously eclectic city. Found the campground along HWY 71 after a few fumbles early enough that there was still time to go into town and begin to see what all the hoopla is about when people talk of Austin.

The HWY 71 RV park is on the southeast side of town, which is the older part of Austin and there were a lot of Hispanic neighborhoods as we drove through this older part to get to downtown. Again, a big advertised visitor center for the city, supposedly open till 6 had a note on the door that they had closed at 3pm. Another big sigh until I managed to get the attention of a woman inside who grudgingly handed me a map of the city through the old door.

The visitor center is right on 6th Street, what is know as the bourbon Street of Austin. This time of year and this time of day though was less than exciting except for the many homeless people all around. There were several bars and some older looking buildings but with the University of Texas on break and most families home for Christmas, it was pretty quiet. Found a neat old Irish Pub in an historic building that had an original bar that had been assembled and disassembled in Dublin before being brought here and rebuilt here in Austin. Had Irish Coffee’s and bar food while three footballs games broadcasted at once on the big screens, while checking out the Austin map and planning where to go next.

One of the things I had read that was not to be missed in Austin was the Whole Foods Market, the main headquarters for the famous food chain. Downtown Austin is pretty easy to navigate with numbered streets following sensible block patterns unless they run into a river or the capitol or something like that, so finding the store was easy. And what a store it was. I walked in while Mo tried to park and was awed and overwhelmed. It was every food lover’s delight, with acres of wine, miles of cheeses, walls of olive oil, and rows and rows of bins of nuts, seeds, and grains. The store was as big as a Wal-Mart but seriously high end. The people were filling the aisles and overheard conversations were fun, especially the woman counting on her fingers as she eyed a huge ham. The meat section was every cooks dream, with tenderloin filet roasts that were 25 bucks a pound and about 2 feet long and huge crown roasts of pork with all the cute little hats on the end bones. By the time I made it to the salad bars, I was completely overwhelmed with choices, and there were several separate little food bars where people were eating different varieties of food. I have never seen a place like this. The final topping to the extreme nature of the market was the ice skating rink on the roof, where people from Austin came to ice skate as a part of their shopping Christmas experience. Amazing.

After that it was late so traveled back through town watching the moon rise over the Capitol and then across the river to our little park back 20 miles south in Bastrop.

37th Street Austin Christmas

There are no words for 37th Street in Austin at Christmas. It’s just a small short street in an ordinary neighborhood with an amazing history of people coming together to do something special. Mo and I read about it in the 10 best things to do in Austin, and decided to go find it. It really is the BEST thing to do in Austin at Christmas. Don’t miss it. Pictures can’t catch it and words fail me. Tacky, crazy, glitzy, and completely out of control and completely wonderful, we walked 37th street with hundreds of people and were delighted as children by the lights and colors and laughter.