June Road Trip In the Hill Country

The Daughter Unit and I, with Wee Jamie the Grandson Unit, made a road trip last Saturday – a completely enjoyable outing, even with the necessity of stopping several times to change Wee Jamie’s diapers on the hour-and a half drive to Kingsland on the Llano and Colorado Rivers. He slept for the most part, and excited the admiration of many, who noted the Overwhelming Cuteness of Wee Jamie. His eyes actually opened once or twice during these occasions.

We had an appointment for a presentation ceremony at the American Legion post in Kingsland for me to be presented with a quilt; the ladies of this organization have been working for several years on a project to present a patriotic-themed quilt to every military veteran who can be identified and nominated for one. The Daughter Unit was given one, shortly after finding out that she was pregnant, and so it was only fitting that we do another trip to show him off. The Legion post members were cheerfully foregoing up masks nine months ago – and this weekend, the matter was not even raised, nor was there any evidence.

It was a beautiful day, Saturday: blue, blue skies with a touch of cloud, a nice breeze, warm for June but not scorching, as August in Texas is guaranteed to be. It has been a rainy spring, after the deep cold snap and snow in February, so much of the Hill Country is still deeply, richly green. The bluebonnets and pink primroses are pretty much gone, but the yellow Indian Blanket, sunflower shrubs and tickseed coreopsis blooms were still going strong in the ditches and meadows, and many fence lines and scrub thickets were swamped by tangles of mustang grape vines. It must be a banner year for mustang grapes, this year, and for peaches, as there were any number of vendors selling fresh Fredericksburg peaches by the roadside. The rivers – the Blanco, Pedernales and Llano were all running deep, full and green, as I saw, going over various bridges.

We drove up 281, which devolves into a two-lane country highway, with maybe a wide shoulder, or an occasional passing lane on the upslopes. 281 bypasses the town of Bulverde, mostly – but goes straight through Blanco, where there was a huge open-air market event going on around the Old Courthouse, there. It was their yearly Lavender Festival, a celebration of all things lavender, and the lawn around the Old Courthouse was packed solid with pavilions and tables. Now and again, the Daughter Unit and I have considered doing the Lavender Festival, but it’s a solid three days long, the booth space is a little out of our comfort zone, and we would likely have to stay two nights – and the chances of making back more than the expense involved would be more than we would be willing to risk. It looked like the Lavender Festival was going very well; lots of traffic, lots of people, and booths and tables overflowing the Square, and spilling into the streets on either side.

We thought that on the way back after the quilt presentation we might stop at one of the riverside parks in Johnson City and take some riverside pictures with Wee Jamie on the way back, and have lunch at a roadside burger place nearby, Fat Boy Burgers, which had a certain attractive funky ambiance, and tables set out under the trees by the side of the main building. Alas for us, it was lunchtime on a Saturday by the time we came back. We stood in line to order and reviewed the menu as Jamie fussed in a minor key, and then the cashier told us that it would be a forty-minute wait … well, another time then. We’d be almost home in the time our order would take. We did sit in the outdoor area to feed Jamie a bottle, promising ourselves that we’d be back on another day when it wasn’t a weekend. Other peoples’ burgers and fries looked amazing.

And no one was wearing a mask. Not a single one, not inside, or out; at the American Legion Post, at Fat Boy Burgers, or anyone crowding the streets in Blanco around the Lavender Festival. The only people we spotted that whole day with them on, were some Army personnel, who were gassing up their vehicles at a truck stop in Round Mountain, part of a small convoy going from Fort Sam to Fort Hood for a two-week deployment.

It was an amazingly freeing kind of day; the sunshine, the green hills, meadows and wildflowers, the road unspooling before us; LBJ Lake at Kingsland where the country road crosses over into town was full of boats and water scooters. There were houseboats and pontoon boats moored up at the docks at the backs of houses lining the lake, where green lawns ran down to the shore. People everywhere seemed to be enjoying the fresh air, warm sunshine, being out and about on the water, along the streets, sitting outside under the trees, or shopping for lavender themed stuff around the Old Courthouse, picnicking with their families on the green verge by the Blanco River. It all seemed so fresh, and new, and valuable, after this last year.

11 thoughts on “June Road Trip In the Hill Country”

  1. That’s a lovely drive, Sgt. Mom. Blanco and Johnson City are our favorites for short day trips. I’m glad to hear that life has returned to mask-free normality there…and that Wee Jamie is doing well and already learning how to be a good traveler.

    On the mask front, in one week the crowd at our local HEB went from 90% masked to 90% unmasked. No idea why. The city in which it has located has been 75% vaccinated for some time and there’s no difference in local policies that would account for it. I think the beautiful promise of summer (even a Texas blast-furnace-style one) somehow flipped a switch in people’s minds. I think it’s a hopeful sign for the future, although I’m not exactly sure what it means, if anything.

  2. We drove over to the People’s Republic of CAZ for the weekend. My DIL’s 50th and SIL’s 35th. The hotel has a sign on every door. “Masks required.” Almost the only masks were on employees. This is Orange County. We did venture to LA County and more masks were seen there. Home today to 111 degree Tucson.

  3. TM, I noted the same thing in our preferred HEB late last week: it had gone from a mere handful eschewing masks, to nearly half, including a few staff members. I asked our cashier (who was maskless) and apparently HEB management has made masking an option. The signs on the door at Sprouts suggested a mask, but didn’t insist on it. I think the preference cascade is already well underway, at least here in Texas.

    It was such a lovely, normal day – and so nice to see everyone going about weekend pleasures: picnicking in the parks, going out on the river and messing about in boats on the lake, the crowds in Blanco at the Lavender festival. After this last year, the very ordinariness was so appreciated!

  4. Our local HEB win from masks required, with a guard at the door but no in-store enforcement, to mask required sign with no guard and still no enforcement, to masks for those Shoppers who are vaccinated, honor System, over the past three weeks.

  5. Don’t kid yourself that you were in conservative country, masks or not. Opportunistic white Johnson Democrats. Living the dream, pissing on yours.

  6. DFW to Southern Colorado mountains for a wedding last week. No masks, except tourists or a few employees halfheartedly conforming to some corporate mandate. Masks are over in the sane precincts of the country.

    The almost too abundant moisture in North Texas didn’t make it to the Low Rolling Plains or the Panhandle. It’ll be another bad year for dry land cotton and grazing will be sparse.

    Colorado restaurants are having a hard time getting help.

  7. Sentinel, all the political signs that we saw along the road – tacked to fences, or out in front of houses – were for Trump. Nary a one for anyone else, unless old ones for a local race.

  8. Just returned from a road trip for my mom – Central Texas to Mt. Rushmore. Nary a mask to be found on the entire way (other than our niece, who’s a)had the covid, and b)had the vaccine, but wanted to “protect” us. Even she quit wearing it somewhere around Iowa…).

    Of course, we were driving through the very definition of flyover country.

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