Sunday, March 30, 2014

./` You've Got to Go Thru Hail Before You Get to Haven ./`

Nope, no 'big ole jet airliners' for this trip- though, we did see a few Airstreams, do they count?  RDB and I took off for Bastrop State Park for the weekend - for a *much needed* weekend after traveling to Dallas two weekends in a row to visit with my Big Brother and his wife, and then finally, finally sitting for the CFP Board exam that I've been working on for a little over a year (which, five weeks later I now know, I PASSED!!).  Such a needed break and I'm so glad that RDB decided to take the day off on Friday so we could lazily make our way over to the park.

We didn't leave town till a little after 1pm (or was it 2?) because RDB installed our new Husky 4500 electric tongue jack - are you drooling yet?  I'll post a video of the process when he's done editing it Done! Video posted here! I'm grateful that we have the technology, not only for the way to make lifting the camper tongue easier, but also that RDB has a desire to share that knowledge online via videos.

Thinking of videos - we got into the park and the Rangers suggested site 71 - really wide, completely paved and nice & level.  Backing in was a pain, though, and we were both hoping that we'd have it done by the time the very severe looking squall line of clouds broke open.  Unfortunately, we didn't get quiet that far before the camp hostess trotted over and warned us of the golf ball sized hail that was coming our way.

So, it started to rain. Cold rain. Cold hard rain.  Frozen cold hard rain.  By that time, we abandoned the set up and made haste for the truck.  

(Can I just say, Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner" is really good writing music.  Pardon me, need a dance break! Oh!)

We were hoping the hail wasn't as bad as it sounded as it pounded the top of the truck and our beloved camper.  I remember being grateful for a few things - 1) we weren't in a tent, 2) it didn't last very long, and 3) Diesel slept thru the whole thing.  It was over in about 15 minutes and we dealt with a bit of a flooded site, but all in all, it could have been much worse!

The rest of the trip? Totally a blast. I honestly think Saturday was the longest day of my life - in a really good way - we did a whole bunch around the park *and* I even got to start reading a fiction book (a sweet pleasure I've neglected for the past year with my studies).  We kicked the morning off with a cup of Hawaiian coffee - thanks to that Big Brother of mine bringing us a few bags of Kona blend from the island - he's been in the Navy for almost two decades, 12 of which he's been stationed in Hawaii.  Breakfast shortly after that - I made Cinnamon Banana Pecan Quonia again. 

We played outside with Diesel for a while - we realized that we didn't have his bark collar and when an Airstream pulled in with several kids and two dogs, we were concerned it would be an issue.  Diesel did great - too bad we couldn't say the same for the healer across the way that barked. all. day. long.

We took our bikes out for a spin.  RDB had bought a mountain bike back in Raleigh, but I hadn't gotten into it before we left.  This past year I kept saying, I'm going to buy a bike, I'm gonna buy a bike, I wanna bike! And finally, we bought one using our tax return this year.  The guys at Northwest Cycle Shop were great - made it a point to find us just what we needed and not oversell us on stuff that was useless.  We'll be going back there for all our bike needs.

Beautiful Biker Babe!

Probably should have saved the maiden voyage of our camping-biking-saga for a different park, though.  Bastrop is hilly.  I mean, really hilly.  We were impressed with the cyclists we saw that morning zooming past the campsite - they were going down the big hill.  Crazy us, we turned and went up the big hill.  (There's a pretty funny photo of us resting at the top, in our Flikr set if you wanna check it out - link at the bottom of this post).  First of many rides thru the parks, but like they say - the view was totally worth it!

This hill is off the chain!!  Ok, really, the chain is off the bike.  Sorry, bad corny humor!

(Oh! another really good song - Ram Jam's 'Black Betty' - dance break again! Oh yeah!)

We hung out at the campsite for a while after that - and no joke, sometimes you see the weirdest things whilst camping.  Remember when we saw Zebras?  Well, this one just might take the cake.  Check this out:

Yes.  Yes, the lady two sites down was walking her cat.  

Um, yeah.  I got nothing.

While Lady and the Cat took their afternoon walk, RDB and I enjoyed a few of our favorite pastimes: resting and reading.

Mom gave me a book a while back that her book club had been working thru: Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral.  It's been surprisingly good.  Yes, it's going to make you cry - maybe.  And yes, it's an odd book to pick up after having lost three grandparents in the space of a year.  But when, in the first two pages the author so eloquently writes the very thoughts you've heard your own mind utter (about a bra, no less) then, even with as odd as the subject may be, you tie on your red high-tops and have yourself a traveling funeral. (Much to discuss Mom, as I know you're 'traveling with us, camping via the blog.'  Much to discuss.)  ;-)

We had lunch at The Roadhouse, which I've driven past about a thousand times on my way to and from Houston and Austin.  The reviews on Yelp, as well as the constantly busting-at-the-seams parking lot had us prepped for a really good time.  The seating, however, was a bit chaotic - we were seated on the patio and it took so long for a waiter to approach us that we wondered if we were supposed to go inside to order.  Nope, eventually we were given menus, then finally got our drink order in, then what seemed like forever-long later, we got to order.  The Roadhouse Layer (appetizer - queso and black beans, with fresh pico and homemade chips) was excellent - I'd be back for that in a heartbeat.  RDB had the jalapeno cream cheese burger that was bragged about in Texas Monthly.  I had the same, but switched out the meat for a black bean patty.  Bad choice.  The patty was flavored well, but didn't hold together at all.  RDB said his was good - not the best he's ever had, but good.  BTW - don't let the thick fresh jalapeno slices scare you off - the cream cheese acts like a fire retardant and the overall taste is pretty fine.

Needless to say, we needed to work off those now infamous jalapeno cream cheese burgers, so we spent a bit of time around sunset playing corn hole.  Diesel had to be taught that the bags were not squirrels and did not need to be chased.

The squirrels had been Diesel's nemesis for most of the day.  One finally got brave enough to march down the side of the tree, not but 3 feet from where RDB was sitting, and then dart across in front of Diesel and dash over to the opposing tree for safety.  Diesel spent the rest of the night trying to climb the tree (and had he claws, I have a feeling he would have!)  The next morning he made a bee-line for that same tree to see if the squirrel was still up there.  Who says dogs have short memories?

The Sunday morning saw us enjoying another carafe of Kona coffee (Thanks, Bro!) and an attempt at strawberry banana peanut butter 'dillas.  Not every recipe turns out the best, but my RDB will eat just about anything I cook.  Love that man!

We took off for a geocaching hike after breakfast - Bastrop participates in the Texas GeoCaching Challenge as well, and there were a number of caches around the area that we went after, too.  Had a few we couldn't find for the first time, though, and that was a bummer, but overall, its still something we really enjoy doing. I mean, come on, when was the last time you went on a 3 mile hike for the fun of it the morning you had to pack up and head home?

Bastop State Park is still recovering from the wildfire of 2011, and you can see it in a lot of the background of our photos.  Its a sobering thing to see how must destruction can be caused by fire; total and complete annihilation of areas that it touches.  There is hope, however, in the small fragile growth of saplings, and the care and devotion of those who loved this park, and continue to support it thru the gift of time and attention.  I know we greatly appreciate the efforts of the park Rangers and Friends of the Lost Pines for keeping this park alive.  We look forward to what the next few decades hold for this place.  Because, like I say all the time - we'll be back to this one.

So, we started the trip of with hail, let's end it with a bit of Heaven - the bluebonnets are out in full force.  I tried to explain to RDB the ritual of people pulling over along the highway and taking family photos, but I'm not sure I did a good enough job: we pulled around a bend in the road on 290 heading back home and RDB gasped "Oh, wow!" at the number of cars that had pulled to the side and all the people out in their Sunday finest.  I took a few shots of my own while we were geocaching.  There's something very Texan about the spring and our roadsides filled with our delicate state flower.  Sure do love this State.

We were in Site #71 at Bastrop State Park.  It was level, fully paved, and wide enough we could almost fit the camper and the truck side-by-side.  I'm pretty sure it was the ADA site for the camp, but the Rangers at HQ thought it would be the best one for us.  We loved it - it was one of the few that actually had dabbled shade most of the day (remember, the wildfire took out about 95% of the park's trees, so shade is a premium.)  The only downside to Bastrop is the road noise - hopefully as the trees and underbrush grow back, they'll dampen some of that.

(Yowzer, what a good song to end on: ZZ Top 'La Grange'  Hmm, we've stayed there once before - but we were singing a much different tune!)

For more camping photos, go here.

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