Monday, November 20, 2017

New Braunfels

As I said in my previous post, Donna and I spent a couple of nights in New Braunfels after visiting her aunt in Crockett. I've always liked New Braunfels. For one, I've always been intrigued by the German experience in Texas. I can't imagine the culture shock these intrepid souls must have experienced when they arrived here in the mid-19th century. Not only did they persevere, they created some wonderful frontier settlements. They had a true eye for land, too, as they settled some of the more beautiful country in the state. New Braunfels straddles not only the Guadalupe River but also the Comal River. It is truly a beautiful natural setting.

There are numerous old buildings throughout the historic town, many reflecting the craftsmanship of the Germans who settled here. The downtown area is very vibrant, with many shops, restaurants, and pubs/biergartens that attract visitors. Our favorite watering holes are the Phoenix Saloon and Krause's Café and Biergarten. We sampled many brews at both places, and enjoyed a bowl of Texas chile at the Phoenix. All was quite good.

The Phoenix Saloon in downtown New Braunfels. This is the main stage.

This is a medium bowl of the "double shot" chile at the Phoenix. Those are habanero peppers on top. There are several nice chunks of sirloin tucked away in the bowl. 

The biergarten at Krause's. The bottom row behind the bar are beer taps. Yep, they have quite a selection. I think Donna sampled them all.

Donna working on her first brew at Krause's. I won't show the picture of her taken later.
We spent one morning at the outlet malls in nearby San Marcos. I enjoy the outlet malls because they usually have a clothing shop where I can buy pants in odd sizes. I find the best length for me is 31, and few retail clothing stores stock pants in odd number sizes. So when I'm near an outlet mall, I stop at a Haggar store to purchase a few pairs. I got lucky this time and found a good sale with slacks at $24.99 each. Donna has her items she always looks for at outlet malls as well, so we both came home with some goodies.

The Main Plaza in downtown New Braunfels at night.

Seguin Avenue, just off the Main Plaza. There is an oyster bar, a Mexican restaurant, and some other eateries along here.
We stopped in at Rudy's Bar-B-Q for lunch one day. We had never eaten at a Rudy's before, so we were anxious to try their meats. We sampled their brisket, sausage, and baby back ribs. We found the sausage to be too dry. The ribs were fine, but nothing special. We did enjoy the brisket, though. Next time we visit a Rudy's, we'll stick with the brisket; it was quite good.

We enjoyed our time in New Braunfels. To be honest, though, the place is just too busy. It's an ant bed of activity. That whole country is like that, though. Too many people live in that area. The natural beauty of the area is being overtaxed and destroyed. We left early Friday morning to come home. We headed west on Texas 46 to Boerne. It was heavy traffic the entire way. Why are so many cars on the road? Doesn't anyone work where they live or live where they work anymore?

From Boerne, we continued west on Texas 46 towards Lost Maples State Park, which I'll write about in my next entry. For now, I just want to say that the heavy traffic continued to Bandera. West of Bandera, traffic began to ease. The entire distance from New Braunfels to Bandera, I always had at least one car in front of me and at least one car behind me -- usually many, many more. This old West Texas boy is not used to that kind of traffic. I'm used to open spaces.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Putting on the Miles

We continue to put the miles on our worn out old bodies.

I took the RAV4 in for its 10,000 mile service this past Monday. We bought the car in April. So we're putting about 1,400 miles a month on it. That's not bad considering we've made 2 trips to Colorado, 1 to Shreveport, and several to East Texas. I think the long trips are over now; at least, I hope they are. I prefer shorter trips and shorter stays. I hope we begin concentrating on trips closer to home to interesting places.

On Tuesday, we loaded up and headed to East Texas once again. The purpose of our trip this time was to visit the only surviving sibling of Donna's birth-mother. She resides in an assisted living facility in Crockett.

On Tuesday, we took our time. Our plan was to spend the night in Fairfield (my home town), then make the short drive to Crockett the next morning. Along the way to Fairfield, we stopped at Shanks Cemetery near where my mother was born and raised. My great grandfather rests in that cemetery. I wanted to get a picture of his marker. Next to him lies one of his 3 sons. It's a nice, quiet little cemetery away from towns and major highways, the kind of place to spend eternity.

We rose early Wednesday and made our way to Crockett. We spent nearly 3 hours with Donna's aunt, looking at old family pictures and discussing family. It was nearly noon when Donna and I left. We had decided to return by way of New Braunfels, where we would spend 2 nights. I'll tell more about that part of the trip in another post.

I continue to work in genealogy fields. I related previously about my failed attempt to locate some graves in Fairmont Cemetery. I wasn't ready to give up. I went to Find a Grave and got a list of requests from people looking for pictures of grave markers for Belvedere Memorial Park Cemetery, which is only 3 or 4 miles from our home. 6 requests were listed, and Donna and I were able to locate 4 of the markers. We felt pretty good about our efforts. We'll continue to do this. I find this to be a pretty rewarding undertaking. Not only does it help someone, it gives Donna and me the chance to get some fresh air and exercise. And we find cemeteries to be interesting places.

The weather has continued to be warm in San Angelo and over much of Texas. I believe the our local weatherman said that we have set 7 new high temperature readings in the last 17 days. That's not good. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to take walks in my shorts during November, but I worry about our local water situation. Warm weather means greater evaporation from area lakes. Combined with the fact that we are just not getting the rain we need, we could be seeing some difficult times next summer.

It's nice to be home again. Donna has started her preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. The kids are all coming down, so this will be a lively place. I may have to leave. And Donna doesn't do anything half way. We'll have way more food than an army could devour. I always try to get Donna to do less, but she just doesn't have the ability. I won't complain, though, cause the old girl can cook. I love her dressing; I've never had better. I look forward to my chess pie. No one else is allowed to eat any of my chess pie. It's my chess pie, and I don't share food. Those little monsters better stay away from my chess pie.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Night at the Theater: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Donna and I attended a performance at Angelo Civic Theater Friday night. I was a bit cautious about this particular play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. Not everyone likes Shakespeare. I enjoy reading the tragedies and histories of Shakespeare, but watching a performance is yet another thing.

But we truly enjoyed the play. It parodies 37 plays by Shakespeare in 97 minutes, and uses only 3 actors, who play themselves rather than single characters in the plays. They often talk directly to the audience, and there is some audience participation as well. Numerous references to modern culture appear throughout the play, and the characters often discuss how to best present a play. For example, they stumble at first as to how to deal with Othello, whose central character is a Moor. Since all three actors are Caucasian, they finally decide to rap the play.

The performance begins with a lengthy presentation of Romeo and Juliet. They then quickly rush through numerous plays and end the performance with an equally lengthy presentation of Hamlet. They close the play by repeating their interpretation of Hamlet much more quickly. To top things off, they close by repeating their quick interpretation of Hamlet in reverse.

All three actors did a very good job. This is a physically challenging play for an actor. I'm sure all three of them were exhausted by the end of their performance. I thought the play itself was clever and witty. It's as if the actors were making the play up as they progressed through the evening.

The only flaw of the night was the loud-mouthed audience member behind us who had exceedingly loud, exaggerated laughs. I recognized the "gentleman" as one of the regular performers in many Civic Theater plays. At first I thought he might be a "plant" in the audience to help along any audience participation. After a while, I realized that he was simply obnoxious.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Unusual Pictures for San Angelo

It's been an unusual day for San Angelo. We have had more than an inch of rain at our house. Some areas in the north part of the city have received as much as 1.5 inches of rain. That is so great.

To go along with the rain, we've had another unusual event -- cold weather. After setting high temps the past 3 out of 4 days, it was nice to get a change. The temp has dropped throughout the day, and as I write this at sundown, the temp is 41 and still dropping. We expect it to get down to the mid to low 30s tonight.

I snapped this just a short time before writing this entry. You can see that there is just over 1 inch.
Here's a sight we haven't seen in a while -- water coming out of the rain spout.

Most of the rain today was just slow and steady, though we did have two brief, rather heavy downpours. Regardless, right now any rain is good rain.

This is taken from our front patio looking north. The system moved from the west to the east. The light drizzle at this time put a light veil over the hill at the center of the picture, making it barely visible.

The entire day looked more or less like this. This picture looks southeast. The deer we see nightly usually come out of the tall light-colored grass just to the right of the stop sign and move left through our back lawn.

This picture looks almost due south. When the deer get this far, they usually cross the street and work their way down the draw in the center of the picture, then move around the club house, which is the large building in the center-left of the picture.

Overall, it was a dreary day, as this picture of the side entrance to the club house shows. But we loved it!
Any time I start thinking I'd like to full-time in an RV again, I remember what it is like when you have weather like this. Now, most of the time, you try to travel to places where the weather is good, but you are always going to run into cold, wet days like this. And that is when I'm so glad I have a nice, dry, warm house with a garage.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hot Time in the Old Town

What an unusual autumn we are having here in San Angelo. In the past week, we have set several new records for high temperatures. Each day, we seem to creep over that 90 degree mark, and our nights are only getting down to the upper 60s. But a cool front will start working its way through tomorrow, and we should enjoy more seasonal weather soon.

I've mentioned before that I'm something of a genealogist. Back in June 2013, I wrote an entry called "Digging Up Bones" in which I detailed some of my favorite online tools. I recently submitted a DNA test, which led to my making contact with a before-unknown cousin on my mother's side of the family. This lady has even written a wonderful book on our families. I've been reading through it lately.

I've used Family Search and Find a Grave extensively over the years, so I've been trying to give back lately. In recent months, I've volunteered for transcription projects with Family Search, and this week I've started trying to help folks who have requested pictures of tombstones of family members through Find a Grave. I printed a list of photo requests for our largest local cemetery -- Fairmont -- and then printed a map showing the blocks of the large cemetery. Donna and I went out this afternoon and could not find a single grave listed on the requests. I guess the locations on Find a Grave did not match the map. Well, perhaps I need to start with something smaller. I'm looking at some of the smaller cemeteries in the area, and I'll try one of those later this week or in the near future.

We have really enjoyed the wildlife in our neighborhood lately. We see turkeys everyday that we drive through the neighborhood. Each night, we set out just before dark and watch a parade of deer wander through our back yard. When I woke this morning, 2 does were bedded down just beyond our back patio. On my walk this morning, I encountered deer on at least 3 occasions. We do enjoy watching the wildlife out here.

We have a new H.E.B. store less than a mile from our home. We really like H.E.B. We had hoped this would be one of their super stores, but it isn't. It is a very nice store, but not that much different from the old store that has been here for years. Still, it's nice to have an H.E.B. so close. In an age when there are very few locally owned grocery stores, we try to shop as much as possible at H.E.B. since it is at least a Texas-owned company.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chicken Farm Art Center

On the first Saturday of each month, the Chicken Farm Art Center is an interesting place to visit. Vendors set up around the grounds, musicians play throughout the day, and there is usually a place to get a good burger or some other interesting food. Donna and I do not go out here often simply because we don't need to buy the things that are on sale our there, but we still think it is a pretty neat place to visit from time to time.

I won't attempt to tell you what the Chicken Farm is -- the website does a much better job of that. But I will share some pictures I snapped on our visit earlier today. And I need to make clear that the Chicken Farm is open throughout the year, not just on first Saturdays of each month. If you get a chance, stop by this little community of free spirits.

Here's Donna standing just inside the entrance. You can see a few of the vendor tents located direction ahead. To the left is a row of shops where local artists make pottery and other goods. 
Here are a couple of ladies doing a bit of weaving.
This is a fun place, as evidenced by the potter above.
A couple of musicians were playing some old folk songs for the crowd.
The Chicken Farm has grown over the years. Since there doesn't appear to be any master plan, walkways and new shops just pop up where there is room. The open door on the right leads to a soap shop. 
Here's Donna again. She's always trying to get in the pictures. 
Interesting corner of the Chicken Farm.
Since this is the Chicken Farm, I expected to see chickens.
Interior of a stone ware shop.
Another section of the Chicken Farm near the front. I'm not sure what the lady on the right of the picture is dressed for.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lake Levels

We're about halfway through autumn, and we've not had the good rains we sometimes get this time of year. I look forward to such rains to help replenish our lakes, but that just isn't happening this year. As a result, our lake levels are on the decline.

Below is a snapshot from our local paper, the San Angelo Standard Times. On the last page of the first section of the paper, they publish these and other stats daily. I watch them religiously. The first half of the picture shows lake levels of area lakes. San Angelo gets most of its water from Lake O. H. Ivie, which is about 60 miles east of here. It also uses water in some way from Nasworthy, O.C. Fisher, and Twin Buttes, all on the west side of the city. Spence is north of here and does not contribute to San Angelo, and Amistad is on the Rio Grande near Del Rio. It also does not contribute to our local water supply.

When O. H. Ivie's level reaches 20%, I start getting concerned, especially this time of year. The lake level will continue to decline into the spring, for our chances of getting sustained rains now are diminishing until then. If we do not get the good rains in the spring, then the high temperatures and not winds next summer will quickly cause our lake levels to lower. The "Month to date" precipitation above is for the moth of October. No, we did not get much rain at all this past month.

Below is a map showing our lakes. The serpent-shaped lake on the far right is O. H. Ivie. I wrote about this lake in August in "Back Roads Tour: Lake O. H. Ivie". O. H. Ivie is formed by the Colorado River, fed largely by Elm Creek just south of Ballinger, and the Concho River, which comes in from the west.

The lake on the upper-left side of San Angelo is O. C. Fisher, which is part of San Angle State Park. The larger lake to the lower-left of San Angelo is Twin Buttes, while the smaller one just to its right is Nasworthy. O. C. Fisher is formed by the North Concho River, while Twin Buttes is formed by the Middle Concho, Spring Creek, Dove Creek, and the South Concho River. All of these streams come together to form Nasworthy. In fact, water is pumped from Twin Buttes to maintain a steady level in Nasworthy, where boat races and other activities are regularly held. The Middle Concho and South Concho Rivers merge in Nasworthy, and then this combined stream merges with the North Concho just east of downtown San Angelo.

Hopefully, we'll get some good rains this winter or in the spring. If not, we'll be looking at a long, hot summer in 2018.