Thursday, October 23, 2008

Travels and Travails

A few favorite parts of the trip:

Glass-bottomed boat ride at Aquarena Center. The water is crystal clear, and you can see the sand at the bottom bubbling where the springs are coming up. Isn't there something kind of amazing and mysterious about springs? They come from nowhere - never mind if you have a basic academic understanding of how it works - and the water is so pure. They seem to symbolize everything good and unspoiled about nature.

They still shouldn't have gotten rid of Ralph the Swimming Pig.

Comal Springs, also, emerge pure and cold from crevices in the rocks. We can thank the Balcones Fault for the line of springs through Central Texas - ancient, long-stable, but responsible for many different wonders across the state. Innerspace Caverns was another high point of our trip, where we got to see the fault-lines from inside the earth.

Cows are pretty cool too. There was a big steer we got our picture taken with in front of the Bob Bullock Museum here in Austin, and the most adorable little silly baby cow-cow trying to face down the bus at LBJ Ranch (the darling, he hung his head and loped away when we honked at him; I was hoping perhaps he wouldn't move, and I would have to get out of the bus and scoop him up in my arms and carry him to safety, perhaps bestowing a kiss or two on his wee nosey along the way).

Bed-and-breakfasts, in whatever form they may take. I've never stayed in one before, though my parents often do when traveling. In Fredericksburg, many are not really B&Bs as I've always understood them; mine was actually a tiny little turn-of-the-century cottage on the creek whose owners live a mile or so away, and it had a trellis and porch with climbing roses, a living area, bath, bedroom, and well-stocked kitchen, and was comfortably furnished with a mix of antique furniture, cozy country decorations, and modern and popular art. A chatty note from the owners on the credenza explained what there is to see and do in town: shopping, for example, is one of the most popular activities there - though the owners remarked that they don't really understand the appeal, themselves. I liked them right away.

The LBJ ranch again - there's a cushion in his office, the only room currently open to the public, which reads, "It's my ranch and I'll do as I damn please." Or something like that. (I only know it didn't say "damn well please," which I would have liked better; but then these were the olden days.)

1950s department store mannequins dressed in pioneer-era clothing. You just can't get enough of that.

I could have done without all the last-minute emergency changes, or making mistakes and getting the bus lost. Our hosts left us early Tuesday, you see, because of a death in the family, so I had to sort of take over the tour. This was not unmanageable except that I didn't have all the directions and specific details, and I've discovered that - even though I usually seem very calm while panicking - I don't think very clearly under those circumstances.

We made it through nonetheless. Against my wishes, my boss came immediately to the rescue and joined us yesterday morning, so at the big closing dinner last night, when the whole entire city we were visiting, including the local newspaper and the mayor and the city council and God and all the livestock in the county, showed up to feast and celebrate us for all we do for the tourism industry, my hastily-arrived boss was introduced and applauded as the tour coordinator.

It's sort of like the first big fight with your new love. I guess how I handle it determines some of where we go from here. I've been honeymooning with my new job; but this is the moment of discovering that it sometimes drinks milk straight out of the carton and feels comfortable farting in front of me.

It was a wonderful experience overall, if sometimes very uncomfortable, and very educational. I'll try to get all the good things out of it.

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At October 23, 2008 11:43 PM, Blogger Billy Joe said...

Aw, that got me thinking of my favorite spots in Texas. I loved Ralph the Swimming pig! I saw him a couple of times when I was a kid. Of course Texas State University owns the park now so all the "entertainment" is gone. I like it better now because it's more peaceful, but the place has a sort of ghostly quality about it, like an empty house after a big family moves away. They do, however, still have the glass bottom boats which I rode the year before I left Texas. Just gorgeous, that water.

The springs of Central Texas really are awesome, and I couldn't agree more with your description of them. Still when I think of Texas I think of hot days and clear lazy rivers with limestone bottoms flowing between huge cypress trees.


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