Today is tourist day. Breakfast out, and then a leisurely ¾ day of touring New Braunfels and Gruene. I need to head North around 2:00 as I have dinner plans with the best man from my wedding, Randy Graybill and his wife Christi.
Breakfast was good and we came to the conclusion that an orange is not the same as a seasonal fruit cup which was supposed to accompany Stacey’s breakfast. This was the second time the fruit on the plate did not reconcile with the listing on the menu. Should we feel slighted? Stacey and her partner own three toy stores in the area named “Got Toys”. They were started long after I left the Lone Star State so I had never seen them. I left very impressed with the breadth of their selection and the cool vibe they give off. Check out their website or their stores if you are in New Braunfels, Gruene or Wimberley.
After cruising around and stopping at the park, I realize that New Braunfels is a really nice little town. And as a bonus just so happens to host a really cool waterpark, The Schlitterbahn, that has expanded to immensity after we left. Back in the Air Force days, a bunch of us would come down for the water park or to tube on the river. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon before heading to 6th Street. Gruene is where Sheri and I honeymooned and has a more laid-back feel. It was quiet today as the kids are back to school and it wasn’t the weekend, so no tourists.
Continuing our tourist theme, we head over to Natural Bridge Caverns to descend into the bowels of the earth. I was last there in 1986, newly assigned to Bergstrom AFB and clueless on just about everything. I did a lot of growing up at Bergstrom, it was good for me. Some Tech School friends, both married brought me along, maybe they realized I needed to get out. Funny how you gravitate to the known when in new situations. We only had Tech School in common and soon drifted our own ways realizing that’s all we had in common. Today we would be touring a cave that wasn’t found until after my first visit, more changes. Kayla, our tour guide did an excellent job explaining the cavern and its formations. She even showed us absolute darkness if you can show nothingness. We later found out she has been doing this for two years and is going to school for something in the medical field. Stacey and I left impressed and I don’t think it was because of the beers we had before the tour.
It was time to leave, Stacey spotting me as I backed out of her driveway, my journey taking me North on IH 35 until I turned off at HWY 21. There is a KOA in Bastrop, which I thought was only a few miles from the Airport that used to be the old Air Force Base. But I soon found out I was wrong. The KOA wasn’t bad, very nice hosts and facilities but mostly an open field. They had just put their trailers back after evacuating because of the rising river. The pool wasn’t operational but small potatoes when I think of the devastation down in Houston.
Dinner time was set and I planned thinking I was closer than I really was. When the GPS said 35 minutes after punching in Randy’s address 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet them, I kind of panicked. Mabel was set in the air conditioning and I navigated Ben White to their home with Randy calling just as I turned in. It was great to see them and it must be almost 8 years since we last visited. Randy was my best man and Christi worked with Sheri at Chuy’s; it was at our wedding that they met. Kind of a cool story. We were headed to the Salt Lick for BBQ and the restaurant turned out to be in what I consider Texas Chainsaw Massacre country. I was hoping for no hard-shell peppercorns in my food. It is a really cool place, the interior very rustic in a non-corporate way, true Texas BBQ and its bring your own bottle! I had the sausage platter which was magnificent, probably the best I ever had. The conversation was great, we slipped back into that familiarity like I had never left. We went back to the house, talked for a while and I met both their children and the dogs. The late hour and Mabel in the camper dictated it was time for me to leave. Randy and I agreed we should get together with our old Bergstrom friends tomorrow night on 6th Street.
On my trip to Randy’s, I heard a front-end clunking from the car that was reminiscent of the brake issue I had on day one of the trip. That sinking feeling invaded the pit of my stomach as it became more pronounced on the way home. No way I could ignore this and I ran through the options as I traveled the 30 odd miles back to Bastrop. My thoughts were interrupted on HWY 71 when I saw flashing lights and thought it was a DWI check that turned out to be just road work. The detour had us travelling through some rough road and I winced over each bump. Soon I was back at the KOA looking up Ford dealers on the WEB. Thankfully there is one four miles up the road and I set my alarm for “early.”
Thankful tonight for the familiarity of good friends.