Tuesday, January 1, 2013

March 2009-Spring Break

My son and I are perfecting our traveling-what can you do in a short period of time and a short amount of money-go out there and explore, until you have enough money and enough time to really explore. I have a growing bucket list that includes everything from the Polar bears in Churchill bay to the great white sharks in Australia and everything in between. We have just in the last four years started doing trips where the main focus is whatever is available at the time to explore-go, explore, find-the memories we have been collecting is worth every bit of time and money we have invested.

My first trip, what I call a circle trip was from Dallas to San Diego and back-one of my main focuses was probably Yosemite but learned if you go on a vacation-enjoy everything as much as you can but don't sweat the small stuff and don't spend too much or expect too much in any one place. Three years ago we were supposed to go on a vacation to Wisconsin as a family trip with his cousins but a stomach bug changed our plans. I promised if he was feeling better we would still do a trip-just not quite as spectacular as Wisconsin but we would make it fun. Recently I had been searching the web about places to go that would suit our interests-fishing, hiking, zoos, art, ghosts, caverns-okay really anything-we have pretty diverse interests.

The first opportunity that I had found was a ranch near the hill country-a place to pan for topaz-it seemed an interesting idea to try so that was on my mind in beginning the trip-the rest was up to chance and to what we would find on the road. My first task, while my son nursed his stomach-I gave him ginger ale and a great place to rest and I began planning the trip. I tend to be a narcoleptic on the road so the idea of going on a long distance drive where I was in complete charge of driving was a bit nerve racking but I didn't let him know how uncomfortable I was with the situation. I found several caverns and a few zoos to go and explore and in the next two days-just as I felt a bit of the same bug he had-it was time to go and explore. I almost felt like he had called my bluff-let's go and I was as nervous as I was excited.

The first destination was to be Inner Space Caverns on I35 in Georgetown, Texas- it would be the furthest and first on our tour. I remember getting there in the afternoon and we had to wait for the next tour-it was such a relaxing feeling as we had no plans and five days to get back to Dallas. I had never felt so liberated-we were open to whatever options came our way and we were ready to explore whatever we could find. Inner Space Caverns was as amazing as they said it was-beautiful displays of stalactites and stalagmites, bats, lots to learn and explore. We talked to people along the way and they seemed impressed with our idea of just exploring for five days without any concrete plans to hamper our freedom.

Next place we visited was the Austin Zoo- a small zoo in Austin that had as much personality as it did animals-okay maybe a bit more personality-it was fun and cozy, very family oriented. We enjoyed the cougars and it was an easy zoo to just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. The people that tended the zoo were very friendly and could tell their animals were their passion.

I visited a few plant places along the way as I was in the process of building a wildlife garden and the garden areas had unique stuff that I didn't see in Dallas. I also got to enjoy some of the local color and personalities, my son just hung out in the car and didn't support my passion for gardening-can't share everything I guess. Next on our trip was Pedernales Falls-a wonderful place that we explored-deep blue green water and cliffs and rocks-we were amazed and I plan on one day painting from the sketches I brought home. They even have a bird blind which was very cool, my son put up with me but I think he liked it to-again, you can't share everything I guess.

Next we went to Boerne, we were surrounded by a landscape that seemed as if it were getting ready to go up in flames, there were road side fires as it was a very dry time of year. In between naps-he let me know that the ride was a bit unnerving. We arrived at Cave Without A Name-too late for the last tour.
One of the guides was gracious enough to take us out solo. It turned out to be the best and still is the best, at the time of this writing, we had ever gone to. It starts with a giant drop to the bottom with amazing columns and stalactites, at the bottom of the cave you are in a huge room that is just filled with wonder.

In the rest of the day we visited areas like Inks Lake-would like to go back and actually explore it-more like a drive by and drove through all different familiar towns that I have heard about in various country songs. We stayed in Fredericksburg, I splurged on an upstairs suite that was meant for a family-we were both impressed with the more than adequate amenities. We got to walk the streets at night, I bought a bottle of wine from a local winery and ate at a touristy dining establishment that offered local brewed beers and served wonderful German food.

The next day, it was off to Mason-we panned for topaz on a local ranch. The owner of the ranch was quite a character, right out of Texas Folklore-a tall gaunt gentlemen with quite a bit of stories to tell and very interesting to talk with. I found nothing-in my youth I was very patient and could get down and dirty and find rocks but now I watched my son. He was the only one that got any  topaz and they were pretty nice pieces, we were both very excited about finding even worthless topaz-it was worth much to us.

Another cavern in the hill country really worth seeing is the longhorn caverns. It's a different look than Innerspace-it's rock is chalky white and the rooms are long and a tight squeeze, its a river formed cavern and you can see where the river carved through the walls creating very unique shapes and features. It is rumored that it is haunted, our experience, the lights went out in the cavern, no one noticed but the guide said it often happens and we all laughed about the possibility that we experienced a bit of the ghostly activity.

On the way back to Dallas, we stopped near some roadside fossil place and asked where we could find our own. It was near Dinosaur Valley-we also visited the gift shop but didn't actually go in the park. We walked in a stream looking for the fossils and found few but what we did find were bass, we got our fishing rods out and my son caught his first large mouth and I caught one as well-it was a great end to a wonderful trip and it inspired me to start planning for the next trip, we were both hooked.

Next trip-San Antonio and down to the coast-the trip gets bigger and more detailed as our confidence grows and I get better at planning for more places to go in a short period of time. Stay tuned-if you liked the story, please let me know. If you didn't like it or have any comments, suggestions or criticisms-please let me know-this is a work in progress.

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