Friday night Pennie and I headed out of town after she got off work and drove to Austin. Austin – home of 6th street, the live music capital of the US, the seat of Texas government, the Congress avenue bats, heck, even the UT tower shooter. Austin – the most overrated Texas destination spot!

Early on Saturday morning, we headed up to Cedar Park to ride the Hill Country Flyer – a train the tours the scenic hill country. I have been wanting to take a train ride for quite some time. Okay, that is off the to-do list – NEXT. It was okay, but we were expecting more ‘touring’ and less riding alongside the highway. We saw more of the hill country Sunday on the drive to Fredericksburg. (And it didn’t cost us $30 for the priveledge of seeing it without air conditioning.)

Nice day for a train ride…

The conductor after turning the train around at the stopover…

After the train ride, we headed back to downtown Austin where we were staying and geared up to go touring the city on bicycle. THIS was fun stuff. We rode through a park right on the river and up to 6th street. Touring the street via bicycle is the way to go – it is a fun ride with losts of small hills and cool brick sidewalks that made lots of cool noises while we rode. We toured 6th street and after deciding we had seen everything worth seeing, headed back toward the river. On the way, Pennie spotted a little park area near the Radison and we walked down in the secluded and nicely shaded area to kick back a while… very cool.

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While she was in Hard Rock, I was playing around trying to get an artistic shot of myself…

We reached the river after the cool respite and discovered a network of hike/bike trails that are seemingly endless along both sides of the river. We rode down one side, over a very cool bike/hike bridge and back down the other side. Under the Congress avenue bridge, we could hear the hundreds of thousands of bats squeeking in the crevices.

Here we found hundreds of turtles under a bridge…

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We were pretty beat when we returned to the hotel so we chilled there a bit to wait for the bats. We were told to show up about a half hour before sunset to get the best view of them. Let’s just say that the bats were a total disappointment. Apparently, it was too windy and there were not enough mosquitos around for them bother coming out. We sat there for a couple hours and left underwhelmed.

It was very late by the time we gave up on the bats and most of the restaurants were closed so we had a hard time finding something open. Let me just say for the record right now – Austin has TERRIBLE highways. I get the impression that it is a small town that has outgrown its infrastucture and is struggle to piece together a working transportation system. (If you have ever played Sim City, you know exactly how this happens.) Their freeways were nice – it was a little odd that almost all of the freeways are set waaaaay up on columns, looming way above the roofs of all the businesses. The problem was they did not have exits. Really – you could drive for miles without an exit. If you saw a place ahead that you wanted to go to, it was tough luck, because by the time you found an exit, you were on another freeway and the side roads did not connect very well. It is the WORST city I have ever been in for driving. (And I have been in a ton)

We got to bed pretty darn late after finally finding our way to a restaurant and were up bright and early Sunday to head to Fredericksburg. Dave has been giving FBurg props for years as him and Laura like to go there. We figured, what they heck and headed there. On the way there we saw some great scenery… I am consistently amazed at the diverse land features across Texas – the hill country is indeed some of the most beatiful stuff in the state.

We stopped off at the LBJ State Park and found one of those rare gems that made the trip extraordinary. They have in the park and working farm circa 1800-something. Volunteer couples stay at the farm and work it as it was worked back then. We met a very cool guy named Walt who is a full-time RVer. He and his wife are volunteering at the park for a few months in exchange for a free campsite. We talked at length about what it takes to RV full time as we hope to be doing it in a couple years. He was a really nice person and we were able to glean a ton of useful information.

Here I am gleaning….

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Saying goodbye and thanking him for his help. I hope to hear more from him.

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We took some great shots of this excellent farm.

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After the park, we swung by Wildseed Farms – it was an awesome setup. We are talking acres and acres of flowers, a nice little gift and seed shop and a large commercial nursery. It was a lot of fun and we were able to check out a lot of cool plants. We then rolled into Frederickburg proper and were immediately smacked in the face with the commercialism of the area. Right away, I knew this was not my kind of area. There is nothing quant about the area – it is a strip of commerce, crowds, and drinking… not my idea of a good time. We had lunch at Wheeler’s on the strip and inquired about how to find the herb farm.

Butterflies having a buffet on the one of the many display plants at Wildseed Farms.

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The herb farm was excellent. I was expecting a much bigger place as we had the flower place for comparison, but it was pretty darn cool too. They had English lavender and as I have been trying to find some ever since mine died back about five years ago, I went ahead a bought a couple seedlings. As with every stop, we took a ton of pictures.

One of the cool things at the herb farm was this plaque… looks like a motto I can promote!

We left the herb farm and headed to Enchanted Rock… a huge dome of granite rising out of the valley about 20 miles north of Frederickburg. It was extremely cool. Okay, it wasn’t cool – actually, it was 90-something degrees and 4 in the afteroon when we decided to make the climb. You have to go there to understand just how big this thing is and just what a journey it is to hike to the top.

Here Pennie is about 1/4 of the way up and you can see the building we started at if you look up and to the left of her fist. The little red roof is a pagoda which marks the starting point of the climb.

Here I am a few yards ahead… we are talking over 400 feet of this type of climbing.

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At the top, it clouded up, cooled down and we got this great shot before heading back down. There is a depression in the rock at the top that must have collected enough dust and rainwater for this tiny ecosystem to grow. The camera is sitting on the rock in front of this nice circle of wild grasses. Everything else as far as you can see up top is just bald rock.

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See what I mean?

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