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The Hill Country

Besides food and live music, Austin is known for being an exercise conscious city. Early Thursday morning I took a little walk on the trail that runs alongside the Colorado River. At one point, a family came along and this little girl was just too cute. In spite of her parents instructions to keep going, she insisted on staring at me. I told them perhaps she was waiting to have her picture taken, and apparently that was correct because after I did so, she pedaled back to them.
I can't for the life of me remember any of my children wearing sunglasses when they were little. Perhaps they should have? In addition to the little rider, I saw this man who perfectly exemplifies the notion of multi-tasking.
Yes he is walking the dog, his child, himself, and lifting weights while he is at it!

If you've ever spent any time in West Texas, you know that it is a mighty dreary place. Mile after mile of nothing. Even after all these years I can still remember how long it took us to get across Texas when we moved to California in 1977. Brown, flat, and just plain ugly to a Floridian accustomed to green. The hill country outside of Austin, on the other hand, is lovely, with rolling hills (duh), trees, and beautiful wildflowers decorating the roadways.
Leaving the hipsters behind, we headed to Longhorn Caverns State Park in Burnett, Texas, about 60 miles from Austin. The ride was smooth and the scenery wonderful.
Honestly, I could not get enough of those wildflowers! I never dreamed we would have such a treat and some years I might not have, however, recent rains have made them pop.

Now, you may have been in a cavern before, but I had not and was anxious to do so. I have no idea how I found the website on the morning of our departure, but I'm glad I did. The structure below was built by the CCC beginning in 1937. An exhibit inside told us more about the CCC camp and the hard work they did.
As well, there was this as part of the exhibit:
Things don't change very much, do they?

Do you know the difference between a cavern, and a cave? I didn't either so I asked our guide who told me that a cave has only one opening, whereas a cavern can have several. The history of the caverns is so darn fascinating, having been used by all sorts of folks through the years. I suspect you won't click on the link, so I'll just tell you that at one of it's many uses was a speakeasy! Our guide was excellent, explaining at some points more than I wanted to know. As such, I'm trying to show you only a couple of photos because I could very well be accused of the same! Our group heading in:
There were several types of rock inside that I won't bore you with, but what I will do is show you what I mean:
Above are the bumpy rocks, and below are the fantastic smooth stuff:
It was pretty much incredible to me to think that we were, at the deepest part, 85 feet underground!! There were very few stalactites and stalagmites, but we did see some,
as well as one area where the walls were nearly covered in quartz. We walked 3/4 mile in, turning around, heading back to daylight. I mention that because at one point the guide turned off the lights, plunging us into the darkest dark I've ever been in. The workmanship by the CCC using rudimentary tools is pretty remarkable.
I can now check seeing a cavern off my list of things I've never done before. Seriously, go see one if you get the opportunity. Thinking about all the life under our feet sort of freaks me out.

By now it was nearly 2 in the afternoon and we toyed with the idea of heading down to San Antonio, however we decided it was probably too far to make it back to Austin before dark. Instead we stopped in the town of Burnet for lunch, followed by a little wandering through some shops, and their town square. One thing I was so happy to see along the Texas highways was the town populations on the signage. I need to know these things.
The folks in this store were so nice--the woman's name was Gayle. I wandered around while Bruce did a wee bit of work on his laptop in the MINI.
One thing I discovered while making my way through about six rooms filled to the brim is that the color yellow was not very popular despite the above shelf. Believe me, this was the extent of it. One thing that I cut off on the right hand side is a Tommy Tippee cup which was so popular when my children were young. The older I get, the more I recognize the stuff in these "antique" shops!

The town square was super cute with more antique shops and a few restaurants, one of which I went into. It's a long story, but in a nutshell, the woman who collected all these bottles was bored when she was around 80 and took a job as a Sonic Restaurant car hop for about three years!
I won't surprise you to learn that according to the man I was chatting with, she was the oldest car hop in the nation! 

Back on the road again, the next place we stopped was Bertram, a town about a quarter of the size of Burnet ,which is pretty darn small itself! This was quite the surprise:
What the heck, let's look at the profile shot:
Not something one sees everyday. Nor do I see this term everyday, or make that, never in my lifetime:
Washateria. I wonder if they made that up back when washing a load of clothes only cost 20 cents? I just checked, and it is in the dictionary, but I bet I'm not the only one who has never seen it.

The rest of way back to Austin was mildly eventful because Mrs. Peck got behind the wheel. Mrs. Peck does not like flyovers of which there are a number in Austin. Mrs. Peck decided to take what they call the "farm road" which runs parallel with the interstate. Mrs. Peck does not like to drive on roads that are  way up in the air.
Although it took longer, Mrs. Peck was happier. Alissa told us about the Rainey Street Historic District which was only a few blocks from our hotel. Since J & A were busy Thursday night, we went there ourselves, dining at El Naranjo, which in Spanish, according to the chef who stopped by our table, means The Orange Tree. Well now.
Our first taste of a mole, this one made with 17 ingredients. Despite the empty dining room, we were assured that it was a fluke. Very, very delicious. As it turns out, most of the places on Rainey Street are bars, which we learned by going inside and asking. Hipsterdom:
If I were any good at scanning I'd show you a photograph of myself when I was less than a year old, sitting in the same kind of chair. Is this what it means to be hip? Quite a number of the other places have long picnic tables out back where people eat and drink almost cafeteria style. After our meal, we stopped into Bangers, just down the street, to listen to a little music.
I'm pretty sure we weren't the oldest folks there, but I can't swear to it.

All in all, it was quite the day. To be continued....

p.s. I stand corrected--Judy says she's seen the "Sound of Music" at least 3,000 times!

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