Monday, January 05, 2015

Christmas


Christmas used to be my favorite time of the year. When I was growing up, it started on Thanksgiving Day. Mom simply refused to acknowledge that it existed until Santa made his entrance at the end of the Macy’s Day Parade. There were only two exceptions to that rule. One was buying presents. She did that all year long, only buying things that she knew were special to the recipientswhen she happened upon them on her travels. The other was the “Wishbook”. As soon as the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalogue got to the house, we were commanded to look through it, dog ear the pages of items we liked, and scribble our initials indicating which of us wanted it. Mom always claimed that Santa liked to get a head start with his gifts, and could magically see every child’s wishes. 


Once the parade was over, things would change. Mom put a stack of about ten Christmas albums (one would have to be Elvis’ Christmas Album, her favorite) on her stereo, and played them from the minute she woke up until she went to bed. I remember how disappointed she was with her eight-track player because she had to change cartridges at the end of each “album”. 


There were very few decorations in the house when I was a small child. It was Mom’s tradition that the tree, and all the trimmings, magically appeared on Christmas morning, brought by Santa himself. In later years, she went a little “Auntie Mame” on us, and decorated every nook and cranny with some kind of Christmas dust catcher. You were totally immersed in it all, whether you wanted to be or not.


Mom baked hundreds of different Christmas goodies every year. They were plated and covered with Saran wrap on her dining room table during the whole season. She covered it all with a Christmas table cloth, which she would whip off the minute the doorbell rang, since the entire holiday season was open house for her. If a treat ran out (She couldn’t keep her famous rum balls on the table!), she went back in the kitchen, and slaved over another batch. I still feel shame about the Christmas I broke her heart. My weight was out of control, so I told her I couldn’t stay at her house for the holidays, if she had goodies out. My coming was more important to her than the pleasure she got from baking. She held back on the goodies, but I think it broke her spirit. She didn’t do as much baking after that. In fact, she even bought some stuff, which to her, had always been about as close to sin as you could get.


When Mom died in 2008, I learned something I had been too stupid to notice. My mother was Christmas for our family. Without her, it lost all of its charm. Now, it seems like we are all just going through the motions, and my only true joy at Christmas, is on a religious and deeply personal level. We still have a tree. We still do gifts. We hit some parties. But, I would be lying, if I said any of that mattered to me. However, in that magic moment during the Christmas Eve service, when we sing Gloria In Excelsis DeoI get a rush of Christmas warmth. Mom’s name was Gloria, and, as a child, I thought we were singing about her. Now, I stand there in the church all teary-eyed, high on hidden memories, and feeling my Mom standing next to me. In that brief moment, everything is right with the world, and I can breathe again.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kerrville Schreiner Park 9/14


I decided it was time to come back to this park because there was a Volksmarch taking place in the park. I haven't participated in one for a while, but since it was in my favorite park, I figured it was time to. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my record book after weeks of searching everywhere in the house. I guess it will be one of those things I just happen upon some time in the future. No worries though, because there are insert cards with the credit stamps on them, which I can add to the record book when I find it.

Before I go any further, I want to say that this is the first post to this blog using my cell phone. I have a $12 bluetooth keyboard now, which makes typing longer things on the phone bearable. It actually works really well, even though I bought it for note taking on my iPad. It connects easily, and is actually a full sized keyboard.

So I got to the park yesterday, after rushing straight to hitch up from school. I unhitched, plugged in and turned the AC on. Then I hiked over to Brew Dawgs for a couple of beers and a great burger. When I got back, I finished the set up process and then just relaxed the night away with my friend Merlot. I set my alarm for 6:00 am and called it a night at about 11:00.

When the alarm went off, I wasn't sure why I had planned to be up so early. The Volksmarch was starting at 8:00, and you can start anytime you want to up to something like 11:00 am. I decided to go back to sleep until seven.

When I did finally wake up, I dressed and had my morning coffee. I looked outside, and it was obvious that we got some rain during the night. It was so muggy you breathed in air and breathed out water. I knew that was going to be a negative for the hike.

I hiked a little over a mile to get to the registration in the park dining hall. I was surprised to see that the fee was still only three dollars. I was also surprised that there weren't many people there other than the event hosts. I didn't see very many people on the trails either. 

I ended up hiking a little over 7 miles. The humidity was really bugging me. When I got back to the camper I did one of my sink baths and sat naked in the air conditioning until I felt dry. Haven't done much since, except read and eat a can of sardines. I think I'm going to nap a bit and then spend some more time reading. I'm not sure if I can add to this post with the app. If not, I will finish when I get home.

Well, there really isn't anything to add. I spent the rest of Saturday reading and watching Netflix movies. I also took a really long nap. Went to bed fairly early, slept through the night, and woke up at 8 o'clock. Packed up, hitched up, and hit the road. It was a nice getaway. Very quiet and laid-back.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Return to Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park
June 30 through July 3, 2014


Well I scheduled a bunch of camping trips throughout the summer. This is just one of them. I wanted to come back to Bastrop and see what changes have taken place in the forest's recovery. I also enjoyed the trails and local area. I always have.

When yesterday, June 30th finally came around, I got off to a bad start by oversleeping. Like the idiot I am, I set my alarm for 7:30 PM instead of AM. I decided it didn't matter all that much, and went ahead and got cleaned up and ready to go. My stuff was all packed, with the exception of a few things that were unchecked on my list just to be sure I didn't forget them: inhaler, dental guard, meds, hanging clothes, and ice chest.

Instead of getting gas at my usual place, I decided to head over to HEB and get it so I could get a few things for the trip. I wanted DEET. That's right- DEET! I was not planning on getting any more chigger bits this summer. I picked up some groceries and ice, too. I bought a $100 gift card to use for gas. For my non-local readers, we save 11 cents a gallon in the summer if we use a gift card at the grocery store. I think they hope you'll spend it on other stuff.

Anyway, I gassed up and went to get the Colby T. I was hitched and ready to hit the road by 10:00, which was my original plan to begin with. Skipping breakfast was a good idea. The ride up was totally uneventful, so why bother even mentioning it.

As I turned off the highway to go to the park, I saw that the Bastrop Buc-ee's was open. I forgot that they were building it the last time I was here. I made a mental note to go there at least once during this trip. I don't know why I like that place so much, but I do.

The park ranger let me pick my site. Number 11 was available, so I took it again. She tried to talk me out of it, saying that most people don't like it because it isn't level. I already new that. It is on an incline from front to back of the trailer, and I have to put the nose down as low as it will go. That doesn't bother me. I can see that it would be harder to do in a long trailer. The real perk of this site is that it sits right by the trail head and as far as you can get from the pool, bath house, and play ground.



I had the trailer basically set up pretty fast. I had two not so usual chores to do. One I was looking forward to. N2S gave me a poster-sized print of my dog Nicky for Father's Day. Rachel got a frame for it. I couldn't wait to see his smiling face hanging on the wall of the Colby T. It was really easy to hang with these new-fangled velcro picture hangers Rachel bought for me. I just hope it stays up. If not, it will fall on the bed, so it won't be a disaster. The second job was making up the bed. I can't stand doing that. It is a difficult task. I waited for the air conditioner to cool down the camper a bit before I even tried it.

Once everything was all set, I got dressed to go on my first hike. As I checked the battery in my Canon, I realized that I had left the memory card on a bookshelf at home. I got dressed for the road again and headed to town. There is a Walgreen's right by the park, so I took a chance on it having one. They did. I picked out a 16GB one that was on sale for $14. When I got to the register it rang up to $42. I told her I would go get the right one. Then I realized what happened. The sale had ended. She let me have it for $14 when I brought her the sale sticker from the shelf. That's Texas law.

Since I was out, and it was late afternoon, I went on over to Billy's Pit BBQ to buy some mutton. She had one little tiny piece, which I bought along with a big slice of brisket. I took it to go and came back to the Colby T. It was delicious.


After dinner, I took my first hike of the trip. I went down the trail by the trailer that goes to the lake. It is about a mile through the woods, and it actually takes about twice the time to walk it as it does the second mile on the road that I took to get back to camp. The forest was beautiful. There are little pine trees that the park servie planted all over the place. The burned trees are thinning out as they fall to the forest floor or branches are sheered off by the winds. It is totally different than two years ago. Almost all of the black charred bark has fallen off of the trees giving it a new lighter look. I'll tell you more about that later.

When I got back to the camper, I stripped down and gave myself a sink bath. Then I set up the TV and watched a few shows before getting in bed and reading for a few hours. I'm not sure when I fell asleep, but I slept well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I had planned to get up and walk the park road loop that goes around the park before the sun got too hot. My bowels had another plan. I “sat” around for awhile until I was “empty”, which delayed my hike by a little over an hour.

I started by hiking to the lake. It was breezy and cool for the first half of my trip. The hills going to the lake are going down. Then, you start hiking back up for about three quarters of a mile until you are at the highest part of the loop right were the road cuts off to Beuscher State Park. The coolest thing about that first part of the hike were all the little cotton mice that would scurry as I approached. They are the cutest little things. They look just like hamsters with long tails.[I just smelled smoke in the trailer. I went outside and saw that it was a neighbor starting a fire in his pit.]

From the lake I headed up to the scenic overlook. I was really shocked by how different the view was. Even after the fire, you couldn't see anything but burned forest two years ago. Now you can see the highway, the Walgreen's, and believe it or not, the trailers parked on the other side of the park. I shot a video in which I zoomed in close to the Colby T. It is really shaky when I get to the point that I seem to be standing about twenty feet from it, but it gives you a good sense of the perspective. On a good note, they rebuilt the roof on the old lookout pavilion.

The rest of the hike was literally down hill. When I got to the lowest point, it was starting to get really hot. The breezes didn't reach that part. It is sort of like a bowl. I walked over to the campsite I used with my popup two months before the fire which happened in 2011. I did it in 2012 also. I took pictures each time to compare the changes.

Then I came on back to the Colby T. It was about a 4.5 mile hike altogether. I stripped down and had another sink bath. Then I cooked poached some eggs in salsa for lunch and relaxed for awhile. Time just slipped away. I watched the end of the Argentina/Switzerland soccer match. Then I went outside for a while and realized it had gotten really hot. I had about an hour or so until the USA/Belgium game, so I went over to Buc-ee's to get a cold drink, some ice, and a few treats to nibble on. Then I came home and watched the soccer match. It was a bummer to see the USA team lose, but I still enjoyed watching it. I only got it on Univision. After a while, I forgot that it was in Spanish. I understood enough to follow it.

I messed around with Twitter for awhile after the game. I have been following the tweets about ISTE14. I couldn't get the ones I wanted to go back to later to go to myEN. Evidently, Evernote dropped that service in December. I haven't used Twitter much for awhile. Anyway, I set a new recipe in IFTTT which is supposed to do the job for me when I favorite a tweet. I'm not sure is is working. It will be easier than emailing them to myself.

Before I knew it, it was already 7:00 PM. I decided to repeat my hike of yesterday in reverse. I walked by road to the lake, then took the trail back to camp. Somewhere on the trail I heard a giant tree come crashing down. It wasn't near me, but it did make me a little nervous for the rest of the hike. The highlight of the hike was seeing a cane toad sitting on a log. Then I got to take a bunch of shots of a road runner that I tried to photograph yesterday.

Back at the camper, I had another sink bath. Then I settled down to write this while watching America's got Talent. That pretty much catches you up for tonight. Nothing left but TV, reading for awhile, and going to sleep.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Well, I pegged that right. Nothing else interesting happened last night. I read for awhile and went to bed. I woke up without an alarm at 8:00, which, compared to school days, is sleeping in. I made some coffee, poached some eggs in the microwave, ate my meal, checked my social networks, and hit the trail for my first hike of the day.

Just at the beginning of the trail, I heard some men talking off the trail. I went a little farther and saw a green truck parked in the middle of the forest where there didn't appear to be a trail. I kept going on the trail listening to the men behind me. Then I got to the point where one of the trails was closed the whole time I've been here and saw about ten people working on the trail bridge. The two men following me were rangers, either coming to work or check on the progress.

My goal was to hike to the lake on a trail and take a road back to the Colby T. I changed my mind because the trail was so pretty this morning. There was a cool breeze, and I saw lots of lizards and birds. I saw a lot of those cotton mice, too, but they scurry away so fast I could never even try to get a shot. I swear they look just like hamsters with longer tails.

The crew was still working when I passed on my return trip. One of them hollered, “Can you work a drill?” I shouted back, “Not in the middle of a forest!” Then I just kept going. There was one woman working with them. She seemed to be working harder than the men. I'm just saying. Most of them were watching the work- not doing it.

Back at the trailer, I took my usual sink bath. Then I sat in the cool for awhile before getting dressed for my trip into town. I used the bathroom, and decided to use a flashlight to see how full my b lack tank was getting down there. It looked pretty full. I don't conserve flushes as much when I have full hook ups. I told myself that I would need to dump the tanks when I got back from town. Unfortunately, when I washed my morning dishes, the water wouldn't drain. That meant that the grey tank was also full. I went out and hooked up my cheap blue sewer hose and drained both of them. I had read in my blog from two years ago that my deluxe Rhino hose won't work here.

Anyway, I got everything ready and went over to Billy's Pit BBQ. I wanted to get there early enough to be sure I got mutton ribs, since they only had a tiny bit left when I went on Monday. I was lucky. They had plenty. I brought them back to the camper and pigged out. I love mutton. It is so moist and greasy. Billy's is about the only place I know to get it. I think that Billy's has the best BBQ this side of I-35. The state may have declared Lockhart the BBQ capital of Texas, but Billy's puts all of four of the places there to shame. As a matter of fact, so does Coopers in Llano.

After lunch, I was ready to do something, but I didn't really want to go on another hot afternoon hike in the park. I decided to drive over to Beusher State Park. Unfortunately, when I went to do my daily paranoid “ants on the electric cord” check (read by Lockhart SP blog from last year!), I noticed that the Colby T's license plates expired in January! I tried to call the state DMV offices, but all I ever got was a busy signal. I decided to ask the rangers at headquarters if they knew where I could renew my license in Bastrop.

While I was at the headquarters, I asked a few other questions. I wanted to know if all of the baby pine trees were planted by the state, or if some where natural growth. They told me that a large percentage of them were natural. I also asked about the Houston Toad, and learned that they are the size of a quarter, so what I have seen on the trails was just a frog. Oh well. Anyway, the ranger gave me the number of the Tax Assessor’s office so I could call about the license.

The Tax office told me I could only renew my plates in my home county. I told her that I would have to take my chances getting home, and that if I got a ticket, it was my own fault. She told me I could pay $5 and get a “one trip permit”, so I went over there and got one. They give you a paper license plate to put on the trailer. They ask what route you will take, and give you fifteen days to make the trip. I would much rather pay that than a ticket. The office was in a new building. It was fully automated and very nicely run. I only waited about ten minutes for my number to be called, and I got to sit in a waiting room until then. I should be so lucky when I got to renew the license in San Antonio.


I left there and went to do a walking tour of the historic district. I love doing that in every town I visit. I shot tons of photos and even went to the museum to learn about the history of Bastrop. They had a really nice video that told the story. I was going to go into a coffee shop for an iced coffee, but it looked more like a lunch venue than a coffee house, so I opted out.

I drove over to Buc-ee's again before heading back to camp. I needed some bottled water and hoped they had it. They did. I also bought some smoked pork tenderloin for dinner (about 6 oz.) and a bag of chili lime pistachios. For those of you who don't know, I have been eating Paleo for a while now. Can't say I've lost any wait, but it stopped the gaining that was happening. It also cleared up by skin problems. Anyway, I am a little bummed with Buc-ee's now because of it. All of there jerkies and meat products but about two have sugar or soy products in them. Even there nuts are messed up. Paleo lets you eat all nuts but peanuts. So what does Buc-ee's roast their nuts in? Peanut oil. They also seem to put a lot of sugar in their nuts and dried fruits. Only the dried apples don't have extra sugar, and the chili lime pistachios are the only nuts without the peanut oil or sugar. Oh well. At least I can find something. I'm not one of those people who wants the world to change to suit me.

Back at the camper, I ate some pistachios, checked my social media, and made a big mistake. I laid on the bed to be a little more comfortable. I woke up two hours later! The bed in the Colby T is sooooooo comfortable. I have the standard four-inch mattress made of the seat cushions, a four-inch memory foam mattress, and a four-inch feather mattress top. The latter two were given to me by Stacey Stilly, my good friend. It was like a MAJOR upgrade in the sleeping department.

Anyway, I woke up from that nap with that weird disoriented feeling I get sometimes from an unplanned nap.[Just went outside to stretch my legs. It is really nice out there. There are about four new campers near me. They have lights all around their sites. They seem to be laying on the ground around the site perimeters. They are multi-colored. It almost looks like Christmas!] I decided to eat the pork tenderloin and some more pistachios for dinner. Then I decided to take another hike to the lake and back.

When I got to the bridge that the workers had repaired, I saw that the trail going that way was now open. I thought it was the trail that led to the scenic lookout, so I decided to honor their efforts and take it. I would just follow the road back to the Colby T after visiting the scenic lookout again. Well, it was the wrong trail. It took me way over to an overflow parking lot right near the other campground where I once camped in the pop-up. I figured I would go ahead and hike up to the scenic lookout by road, a long and arduous climb. As a result, my final hike at Bastrop SP ended up being a lot longer than I had counted on. Even though it was only about 3.5 miles, a lot of it was breathtakingly uphill. It was a good workout. I can always use the exercise, especially now when I am not having any problems with my plantar fasciitis. I ended the day with 16,698 steps, which ain't bad!

Back at the Colby T, I took another sink bath before settling in and writing this. I put the TV on, but nothing kept my attention. I just don't understand “Under the Dome”. It is such a disappointment to me after the book was so good. Then a show about a police woman who can't drive and teams up with a taxi driver came on. I had hopes of it being good, but it just didn't do it for me.

Now, I am drinking Merlot, probably more than I should since it is the last night of this trip, and settling into a comfortable and quiet night. I won't set an alarm. When I wake up on my last day of a trip, I start the departure prep as if I am compelled to do so. I can stay here until 2:00 PM, but I won't.

Anyway, I will finish this tomorrow when I am back at home.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Well I woke up at 8:05 this morning. I felt totally refreshed, so I got up and fixed breakfast before prepping for departure. I took my time at it this morning. It was already pretty hot outside by the time I got to doing outside stuff. I got everything done, but left the shore power connected and the AC running until the last minute. When I was just about ready to pull out of the park, I sat in the camper checking my socials while I cooled down a bit. Then I changed into my traveling clothes and hit the road.

Traffic was terrible the entire way. On highway 21, there was a driver going about 35 MPH. We would get a bunch of vehicles stacked up behind us, so I would pull over at safe spots and let them all pass me. Then I would get back on the road and drive for about a minute before getting behind all of them, slowed down by that slow driver. I could have just stayed in the queue, but I didn't want anyone who couldn't see around me to think I was the slowpoke.

San Antonio traffic was terrible, too. Even Bandera Road was bumper to bumper. Just the same, I was able to park the Colby T at Packrats and get into the house by 2:00 PM. Now, I'm going to catch up on all my electronic things that I couldn't do on my phone.


The next trip is to Palmetto State Park in two weeks. Until then, happy trails!

See all the photos from this trip here!


Monday, June 23, 2014

McKinney Falls, June 2014

Day 1, Thursday, June 19


(There's a link to all photos of this trip at the bottom.)
Well, it's been a long time since I have actually taken the time to blog about a camping trip. That's because I have been going to the same places recently, and haven't had anything new to say. This is the first time I've been somewhere new since last summer.

McKinney Falls State Park is about five miles off of I-35. I actually took the same exit I would use to go to the Lonestar RV resort. Now, I wish I had come here for TCEA all those years instead of paying $80 a night at the resort. The park is only $20 a night and is virtually the same distance from the convention center. You live and learn.

I have multiple reasons for coming here. First of all, I am going to attend the “TAS Summer of Love” reunion. It is a gathering of anyone who ever went to Taipei American School. I know some of the people by name, but actually only have one true friend going. That is my high school sweetheart, Beth Hughes Callison. Some of the others were in my classes, and I do know who a lot of them are, they just weren't really “friends of mine”. Another exciting thing is that tomorrow night will be my 100th night to camp in the Colby T. I kind of wish it didn't happen on the anniversary of Michelle's passing, but I will be celebrating it anyway.

Rachel's mom is going to be moving back to St. Louis, so I didn't register her for the reunion. She wouldn't know anyone but Beth either, so we decided that I would just make it a camping trip and let her dodge the whole affair.

Beth and her husband and son stopped in San Antonio last night on their way to the reunion. We met up with them at Tink A Tako for dinner. We had a great time catching up and just talking about whatever. Then I went home and packed for the trip.

I had a few worries about McKinney Falls. I misunderstood the difference between the “premium sites” and the regular. When I adjusted my time here to make it a longer camping trip, I couldn't get a premium site. I was dissappointed, because I thought that meant pull-through. I can back into a site, if I have to, but it is hard with nobody to help guide me in. Anyway, the premium sites just meant they had 50 amp power connections for the big rigs. I ended up in a very nice pull-through. My other worry was staying at camp for four days without full hook-ups. I am gonna deal with that, though. This may be too much information for some of you, but the secret is to not flush liquids, if you know what I mean. Save the flushing for the “big jobs”, and the tiny poop tank won't fill up too fast. The grey tank is my biggest problem. That's the one that handles kitchen water. To solve that, I am leaving a tub full of soapy water in the sink and only washing the dishes once a day. Time will tell how well that goes.

Anyway, I got up this morning and loaded up the truck. Then, I went and bought gasoline. I went through the carwash for the first time in months, also. The truck looks pretty good. I went straight from the gas station to Pack Rats to hitch up the Colby T. Everything went really well there. I back up and hitched up easily. The only glitch was the tires. One of them only had 49 pounds of air. I decided that would be okay, and went ahead and got on the road.

As I headed to Austin, all of those Texas Highway Department electronic signs were alternating between “1381 highway deaths in Texas so far this year” and “Be sure your tires are properly inflated.” It really rattled me after awhile, so I stopped in at Buc-ee's and pumped that tire up a bit more, just in case. No biggie. I don't need much of an arm twist to stop there. I went ahead and bought a dried sausage ring, some dried apple rings, and a really gigantic sweet potato.

The drive to Austin was totally uneventful until Kyle. A school bus was coming on the highway, and the driver had no clue how to merge. I slowed down for him since he had it floored, but he changed his mind about getting ahead of me. I had to put the medal to the floor myself because I had a huge truck to my left. It was a scary moment for me, but it ended okay.

When I got to the park, I was blown away by where it is. You literally drive about four miles down Ben White Boulevard. It's that close to downtown Austin. But, you would never know that from inside the park. It is lush and foresty (I know...that's not a word.). The camp sites are fairly private, and mine, number 74 is about the most level site I have ever had. I already mentioned that it's a pull-through. We are talking camping paradise from my perspective.

I got a text from a co-worker just as I arrived asking about some “school stuff”. I told her I would search emails for the information she wanted as soon as I got the Colby T set up. I dreaded doing that on my phone. It usually is pretty hard to do. Lucky for me a simple search on one man's name brought it all up quick.

Anyway, I got everything set up inside and out except the water. I'll do that tomorrow. I have enough in the fresh water tank to take care of most things. It is kind of stale, but I don't use it for anything but washing dishes and flushing the toilet. Everything else was completely in order within an hour.

I decided to take a hike to get my bearings set. I followed a four-mile loop. Just as I was leaving, I heard a loud explosion. It seemed louder than a gun shot. I decided to keep going anyway. I figured I would hear sirens, if it were something major.

The trail was beautiful. Mexican paintbrush was everywhere along with other varieties of Texas wildflowers. Everything was lush and green, too. All I heard on the trail was my own footsteps and the singing of hundreds of birds. As usual, I saw very few people on the trail. At one point, I passed two women walking with a teenage boy. I like it when the trails are private like that.

At one point in the trail, there is sign warning the bike riders to walk their bikes down the upcoming trail. It suddenly twisted to the right and dropped down about 50 feet to the creek bed which was lined by the biggest cypress trees I've ever seen. Suddenly, I heard loud noises that I could not identify. It actually frightened me pretty bad. I had visions of being eaten by that mythical Kerrville mountain lion I've worried about before. About fifty yards down the trail I learned what it was. There were about eight blue herons nesting in the trees across the creek. It was awesome. They were flying around like pterodactyls. I stood there taking pictures for a while and only got one good shot of one taking off in flight.

Just past the herons, I started hearing a lot of human voices. As I reached the picnic area, I understood why. There was some kind of summer camp for kids going on. There were at least fifty people there. Some of them were dressed like pirates! They seemed to be having great fun. I took some covert shots, but the teach in me doesn't feel comfortable taking photos of kids out in public.

Towards the end of the picnic area, I started following a camp counselor with about 6 tiny little kids walking down the trail. They had their back packs on and were late for something. She kept turning around and telling them not to stop. I decided to stop and look at the creek for a few minutes to put some distance between us. That's when I saw a HUGE creature swimming in the water. It was about two feet long and looked like a turtle of some kind. It didn't seem to have a shell, though. If it did, it was soft and flexible. Kind of like you would think a nekkid turtle would look. I took a picture, but it isn't the best quality. I was lucky to get it at all, because it went under water just as I was focusing on it.

I kept walking and ended up at the swimming hole at what they call the “lower falls”. It was pretty neat. You can see the photos for yourself. Immediately after that, I came up to the nature center. Unfortunately, it was flooded out in October and is under construction. I'll see it when they open it up again some day.

As I kept going on the trail, I ran into the same people I had passed before. They were taking the loop the opposite way. I asked them if I was still on the right loop, since it was kind of hard to follow after the construction site. They said it was, so I trudged on. After a couple hundred yards, I took a small dirt trail that segwayed to the park headquarters. I always enjoy stopping in and having all my questions answered. They told me that the herons always nest in that spot. They told me the pirates had shot a cannon earlier, which was the sound I heard. Then they looked at me like I was nuts when I mentioned the nekkid (I'm spelling it that way on purpose!) turtle. I showed the photo I had on my camera and one of them said it was a snapping turtle. I totally don't buy that. When I have better internet (AKA” not on a frapping cell phone”) I'll look it up. They also didn't know what the gorgeous green bug I saw was. I'll look that up later, too. Anyway, I gushed about how much I loved the park and got back on the trail

I was starting to get a little tired. I hadn't eaten anything all day but two of the dried apple rings. I was also thirsty, as my water bottle only lasted the first hour. Not to be whiney, but my plantar fasciitis wasn't exactly happy with me either. Just when I was about to cry, the trail ended and I followed the road for another half mile back to the Colby T.

It was actually cold in the trailer. I love this window AC. It is amazing. Of course, the Colby T is about the size of most people's bathroom, so it doesn't take much to cool it. I grabbed an ice-cold bottle of water and squirted some HEB Lime Margarita Liquid Flavor Enhancer (I love that stuff!) into it and chugged it down. Then I stripped out of my sweaty clothes, toweled off, put fresh cloths on, and read for awhile.

I watched the second half hour of Judge Judy as I cooked some chicharones in the microwave for dinner. I ate them as I watched the news and went ahead and nuked that sweet potato for later. I sat and watched my new neighbors set up their popup camper across the way. It has two slide outs and looks like a double-wide mobile home.

At around 5:30, I decided to go for another hike. I followed the same trail, but Map My Ride recorded it as 3 tenths shorter this time. The only thing I didn't do was go to the park headquarters. I walked really fast this time and only stopped at the swimming hole. This time I walked out onto the natural bridge that's there so I could take some photos. Just after I took one, I noticed that a woman in the area I was photographing was topless. I don't know if I caught it in the shot, but I felt horrible. I am not some perve taking shots of the ladies. Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice. I'll check later when I transfer the shots to the computer. Geesh! Austin... go figure.

When I got back to the Colby T, I was really tired this time. I've been vegging out every since. Every once in awhile, I go out and listen to the bugs. I posted a video on Facebook to show everyone how noisy it is here. I can't hear it inside the camper. But, it is no where near as loud as Buescher State Park was that time Jared and I went.

So here I am. I've had my snack. I've had some Merlot. I've watched some TV. I've written this. Now I'm waiting for Tony Parker to be on the Jimmy Fallon Tonight show. (NOTE: Tony wasn't on the show. Don't know where I saw that he would be. I must have read something wrong.) Then, I'm going to read for awhile and got to bed. There is another trail waiting for me in the morning.

Day Two, Friday, June 20, 2014

I woke up at 8:00 as planned. I glanced out the window and saw a cute little cotton tail bunny snooping around my site. I wanted to get his picture, but knew he would just disappear the minute I opened the door. I made some coffee and ate a light breakfast of bacon jerky and apple rings. Then I dressed and got ready for a hike. Unfortunately, I discovered that my camera battery had not recharged. Evidently, I hadn't snapped it in all the way. I fixed that and waited for it to charge. It is a back up battery, but I usually need it about ¾ of the way on a hike. I take a LOT of photographs!

The battery was finally ready by about 9:45, so I got everything ready and headed off for my hike. I followed the roads to the place where a trail cuts through to the lower falls. It was a nice walk to the falls. I looked around and took some photos. When I headed on to the trail, a couple was coming back with their grandson and told me that wasn't it. We walked over to the falls, and they managed to cross over by precariously hopping from rock to slippery rock. I just couldn't make myself do it. I looked at the map again, and it clearly said there was a pedestrian and bike trail. There was no way bikes could get across there. I called the park headquarters and the ranger said that was the way. He recommended crossing farther upstream.

I watched for awhile and saw some kids crossing at will by walking in the stream with their shoes off. I decided to do that and made it across without to much trouble. The rocks were super slick, but as long as one foot was steady, I was able to rub some of the slick away for my next step.

Once across the creek, I had a choice between the Homestead Trail and looking at the ruins of the old grist mill. I opted for the grist mill. After that, I saw a sign saying I was already on the Homestead Trail, so I kept going. After all, it is a loop. What did it matter where I started? I hiked for a long time on a twisting rocky trail that seemed to be climbing most of the way. At one point, I reached a fork that wasn't on the map. I wasn't sure what to do. Then I noticed a young woman doing some stretching exercises before her run. I asked if she was a local. She was, and she pointed me in the right direction before running of and vanishing in a wake of dust.

I got to the start of the Flint Rock Trail, another two mile loop, and decided to take it. I wanted to see all the trails while on this visit. Anyway, I got about halfway on that trail and had had enough. My legs were rubbery, and I was pretty exhausted. I had already walked 4 miles, and it was going to be at least one more to finish the loop before even getting back on the Homestead Trail. There was nothing to do but trudge on. At about that time, N1S texted me that he wanted to go to lunch. I told him it would be a while before I got back to the Colby T, but would call him when I did.

Fortunately, the remainder of the Homestead Trail was the shorter leg. I finally got to the ruins and took some shots, then walked about 100 yards to the falls. I sat down and took my shoes off again, before crossing back to the other side. All went well. But, I still had about a mile and a half to hike back to the camper. Luckily, there was a water fountain and restroom close to the falls. I finally got to pee, and I filled up my now empty water bottle and chugged it a few times.

Towards the end of the trail, I saw a young woman sitting on a stump on the side of the trail. I nearly fell when I noticed she was wearing clothes from the 1800's. After my ghostlike experience on my last trip to Kerrville Schreiner, it didn't take much for me to think this was another haunt. Damn my luck! I had to pass her to get back to the trailer. I was too frapping tired to just wait and hope she would leave. I started praying for protection and pressed on. When I was about ten feet away, she turned and looked at me. She was pale and had black smudges all over her face. My heart stopped. There was no mistaking that this was a ghost. That is, until she took out a cell phone and started talking into it. She was one of the pirate actors that were working with the camp kids. She was sitting there to tell hikers that they had strung a rope obstacle across the trail for the kids. I told her that she had scared the hell out of me. She giggled and apologized. I was still shaking for about the next quarter mile!

When I finally got back to the Colby T, I discovered that I had hiked 7.5 miles. Believe me, it felt like even more. It was so nice to be back in the air conditioning. I quickly mixed two bottles of Gatorade before stripping nekkid and sitting on a towel with the fan blowing on high until I felt like I was cooling down. After that, I heated a wet washcloth in the microwave and gave myself a sponge bath followed by a shave. Then, I got dressed and headed to pick up N1S.

OnStar took me a really strange way to N1S's apartment. Fortunately, for me, I knew how to get there once I was in the area. I only needed OnStar to get me from McKinney Falls to IH-35. He was ready when I got there. We headed to South Lamar and ate pizza and had a beer at the Austin Beer Garden and Brewery. The pizza was okay, but the beer sucked. I rated it a .5 out of 10 on the beer app. Oh... I forgot to tell you that we used OnStar to get us there. I told the lady who routed us that we wanted to go to “the Austin beer garden and brewery in Austin, Texas.” She actually asked, “Mr. Baker, could you spell the name of the city for me?”

We left the beer garden and drove out into the country to the Jester King brewery. We had a few beers there. They had mostly sours on tap. N1S doesn't like them much, so he drank bottle “guest” beer from a Scottish company. We sat at picnic tables under the trees. It was a nice place. It had the same feel to it as Random in Boerne.

Since I was pretty tired and didn't want to drive in the dark (I've turned into my parents!), we went ahead and headed back to his place. We picked him up some McDonalds, I gave him a fifty dollar bill, and dropped him off. Then I high-tailed it back to the Colby T.

There are a lot more people here than before. I am amazed at the number of tent campers. It is really hot and muggy here. I would hate sleeping in a tent.

Anyway, I am drinking some Merlot to celebrate the 100th night in the Colby T. Then I am going to drag my tired behind to bed. I am really exhausted. It kind of feels good.

Day 3, Saturday, June 21, 2014

I'm actually writing this on Sunday. I was too tired to write yesterday.

I woke up early, but decided not to take a hike. I am covered in chigger bites that I got either hiking or just standing around the campsite. They itch like crazy. I need to remember to always put some bug spray on my shoes and legs.

I spent the morning cleaning up the trailer. I vacuumed and mopped. Then I used Lemon Pledge on all the woodwork. I also hooked up the “city water” after first filling up the fresh water tank. I don't remember doing much else, except piddling around the camp site, reading, and watching part of World War Z on Netflix. It was a good action movie, but had nothing to do with the book.

At about 12:30, I cleaned up and got dressed to go. I stopped at the headquarters to use the WiFi and download my 7 Little Words puzzles for the past few days. Unfortunately, my Kindle Fire didn't turn off after the last use and was completely dead. I went ahead and went to WalMart to get a few things. I needed more water, more wine, and something for the chigger bites. I also found some new plastic coat racks to hang over the door. The metal ones I had were tearing up the door.

I went from WalMart to pick up N1S for lunch. We went to the Jackalope on 6th street for burgers. They were pretty good. N1S seemed really tired. I had to force conversation, which is unusual for us. When lunch was over, I dropped him off at his apartment and headed over to the Hyatt Regency for the reunion. I parked in the garage, which was supposed to cost $13 dollars, but they gave me a ticket for $7 off at the party.

I joined Beth and Randy in the bar area on the first floor. They were with some other TAS folks who I kind of knew. One is a Facebook friend who was in Godspell with me back in the day. I have to admit that I wasn't all that comfortable. Beth and I went up to the 15th floor to get T-shirts and hats. The guy who had them thought I was Jim Barker, another person I knew in Taiwan, but wasn't really friends with. We went down to the 14th floor and checked in at the hospitality room. It was full of people, some of whom I knew by name. I got my badge and went out in the hall and talked with Randy and some women who claimed to remember me, although I didn't have a clue who they were.

Beth invited me up to her room to wait for the party to start. I think it was on the 15th floor. The view of Austin was amazing. It faced the Congress Avenue bridge. She and I talked while Randy and their son, John, watched some movie on the TV. Time flew pretty quick and it was time to go to the party. I dreaded that. I knew that I wouldn't really know anyone. I had searched the list of registrants on Facebook and, even though I knew a lot of names, I didn't really have relationships with anyone but Beth. We were high school sweethearts. I told her and Randy that I was going to stick to them like glue, and I did.

There didn't seem to be any seats left when we got there. One table had all the seats tilted up, so it was obviously being saved. Another was empty, but had someone's bag on it. We stood around feeling awkward for a few minutes until Beth saw someone she knew and asked if the table was taken. She moved her bag and let us sit there. We were right next to the open bar, so we all got a drink. They had margaritas, John had a pepsi, and I had a Shiner Bock. Then we went to the food line and filled a plate. I ate a shrimp ceviche shooter, grilled mixed vegies, some brisket, and a pork carnitas taco. It was pretty good.

While we were eating, Bruce Bateman (another person I remembered, but wasn't friends with), got on the microphone and made some announcements. They gave some trophies to different people and honored a special guest, the manager of the Grass Mountain Teen Club. The theme of the party was all about the teen club. I only went to the teen club once the whole time I was in Taiwan. They just weren't my people. It seemed like most of the people at the reunion were teen clubbers. I did get to meet Paul Brown, who wrote the books Extreme Cruelty I and II. I enjoyed the books, but did not know him at all. I don't think he even went to TAS. I think he went to Morrison Academy down island.

I stayed until 9:00. I didn't want to get back to the park after the gates were locked. Besides, I was pretty much done. The music was too loud for any conversations, and it was not much fun watching a bunch of strangers boozing and dancing.

I stopped for gas on the way back to park and bought a bag of ice. When I got to the Colby T, it was really hot and muggy. I spent a few minutes taking photos of a spider that has been here almost every night, then watched the rest of World War Z, rubbed itch cream on all my bites, and went to bed.

The itch cream worked pretty well, so I did manage to get a good nights sleep. The ones near my toes were weeping a bit. Usually that is a sign that things will get better. I do have some kind of bite on the middle of my forearm that doesn't seem to want to stop itching no matter what I do. I think it might be a spider bite.

Day 4, Sunday, June 22, 2014

I had an alarm set for 9:00 am. I planned on getting up and taking a morning walk. However, I woke up at 7:00 and just decided to get an early start.

I think I was on the trail by 8:00. My alarm went off when I was down by the creek. I took the same loop I took the other day, but this time I did it in reverse. It made it all seem new. It was overcast which changed the lighting conditions, and I noticed that different flowers were blooming. There were tons of beautiful flowers everywhere. I am anxious to see if they will still be there on my next hike. I think some flowers like morning glories close up later in the day.

I saw more people on the trail today. There were a few bicyclers and several people with dogs. I walked by one picnic table and was disgusted. The people who used it yesterday left all their trash scattered all over the place. There was even a dirty diaper. I just don't get how anyone can think that is okay. It makes me wonder if that is where the term “trashy” comes from.

I saw some deer today. They look different than the ones at Kerrville Schreiner. I also saw a bumble bee. Other than that, it was just a pretty hike.


I've been sitting around the Colby T ever since the hike. I ate a quick lunch of Ecuadoran sardines in tomato sauce. Other than that, I've just been pretty lazy. I need to get motivated since I am going into town for lunch.

Later on Day 4

Well, I got myself cleaned up and headed into town to eat lunch at Fricano's Deli, where N1S works. I stopped by the park headquarters to down load my puzzels and to upload a post to the Colby T blog. Then I went straight to N1S's deli. I told him he didn't have to tell anyone I was his dad. He said that didn't matter to him. I ordered the Ainsworth. The description reads, “LEAVE IT TO US AND OUR INTUITIONS TO CREATE A MASTERFUL SANDWICH USING THE BEST INGREDIENTS OF THE DAY”. Mine, prepared by N1S was amazing. He used jalapeno bread, humus, caramelized onions, chicken breast, tomatoes, Monterrey jack cheese. It was pressed on the grill. It was a huge sandich- well worth the $8.95. It was nice to see N1S thriving at his job.

I decided to go to a Walgreen's to get more Benadryl on the way back to camp. I read on line that the treatment for chiggers was pretty much antihistamine orally and itch cream externally. The Walgreen's was in a side of town I had never seen out by the airport, but it looked like it would be easy to find the park from there. It turned out to be a lot closer than I expected.

As soon as I got into the Colby T, I took three Benadrlys and reapplied the itch cream. I also cut my fingernails really short so I would stop scratching in my sleep. I have pretty good self-control when I am awake, but I could tell I was scratching during the night.

Even though I felt a little woozy from the pills, I knew I had to take a hike. I decided to walk to each of the falls instead of taking the loop I usually took. It was a very nice hike. I looked for the blue flowers and there was not one to be seen. I couldn't even figure out what plants they could have been on. Interesting.

I watched Rising Star when it came on at 8:00. I know that I took a nap while waiting for that to start. I have no memory of doing anything else between the hike and the show. I think the mega doses of Benadryl are responsible for that. Anyway, I struggled to stay awake for the show and even voted for the different singers with the app. When I was over, I hit the hay and slept through the nigt.

Day 5, Monday, June 22, 2014

I didn't set an alarm for this morning. I woke up at about 9:15. I drank some coffee, ate some bacon, and started preparing for departure. I was completely ready to pull out of my site at about 11:15. There was just one last thing I needed to do- dump the tanks. I drove over to the dump station and took care of that.

As I was dumping the tanks, the sky darkened and a huge wind picked up. Fortunately for me, It didn't start to pour until I was just approaching IH 35. The first five miles of 35 were very stormy. The wind was whipping the camper, and the wipers could barely keep up with the rain. I just took it slow and steady. There was one other rainy spot closer to San Antonio. Other than that, there is nothing else I can say about the trip.

It is good to be home. My next camping trip will be next week at Bastrop State Park.