In an episode of “King of the Hill”, Peggy Hill is trying to glom a vacation to Japan about which Hank responds:
“We already have a vacation planned and it’s in the United States of America. In Texas. In Denton. And I don’t care what those cops did to that cyclist, it’s still a great town.”
When he said that I just about split my sides laughing. I’m very familiar with Denton, since it’s 45 minutes north of where I live and my daughter attends college there. It’s kind of a cool little town. I don’t know if it merits a vacation though.
But this brings up an interesting point. Texas is a huge state. There’s a lot to see here. I’ve been to nearly all the bigger cities and they are all different in their own way. But I’ve barely scratched the small towns where you get a much better sense of the state. For instance, there’s West. Not “west texas” which is El Paso, but West (the town). Best known for it’s Czech bakery on I-35, and WestFest. The bakery is a must hit if you are heading south from Dallas.
Of all the cities in Texas, Austin is the outlier. The capitol of the state, anyone here will tell you that this is where we keep our hippies. Our own little blue city in a red, red state. It’s home to lots of big high tech giants, like Dell as well as the thousands of remora fish companies that serve them. It’s also the mother-ship of the University of Texas. Many many refugees from California seek refuge there.
Nestled southwest of Austin is the tiny town of Wimberly, home to many things such as Market Days, one of the mothers of all yard sales. How in the world did I wind up in Wimberly? Short answer; My wife made me.
Actually, she was looking for an easy to reach weekend vacation for just us, and found the Serenity Farmhouse Inn on Groupon. Turns out it was a very cool place. If you are looking to get away to absolute quiet and seclusion, this is it. The staff was super nice. The rooms, which are small duplex houses all over the property, are very comfortable. A nice breakfast was brought out each morning. Very cool. One word of warning though, You better like cats; because they are everywhere. There’s apparently a feral cat issue on the property so it’s inundated with cats. I actually like cats, and found the small pack around our house to be kind of fun and friendly. They look well cared for in any event. Every day we saw deer meandering around as well.
|Kittens in the yard at the Inn|
So now we’re there, what to do? Well, Check out the town I guess. On the way we hit “prayer rock”, or old baldy as the locals called it. It’s basically a huge hill with a staircase cut into it, and rock leveled off on the top. Looking up from the base it reminded me of the stairs in front of Mordor where Frodo and Sam had to climb up to get around the black gates. I survived the climb, needless to say. Not quite the Blue Ridge, like where I grew up, but still a cool view.
|The stairs to Mt Doom|
In town there were more arts and craft stores than I could shake a stick at. I had to wonder how all these folks make money. It must have been stupid cheap to grab these old houses downtown. The big word was “sustainable”. A sustainable Brazilian oak table, a mere $4K. Hate to say it folks, Wood is by it’s nature sustainable. You can grow it like corn. Duh. Lots of overpriced crafts, some of them really amateur examples of art. The more I saw the more I figured my art major daughter could clean up there. Big time. Either there are a lot of hobbyists with stores, or there’s a large population of monied dimwits lapping that stuff up keeping these guys in business.
There were a handful of really decent, well priced, restaurants in and around town. Fits with the artsy nature of the place. There were a few cool foodie type stores with Texas goodies. Big mistake settling for the one diner in town for dinner one night. All the others had better food. I won’t dime them out. But their sign says “Diner”.
|Funny sign at a bar|
Around Wimberly, and in the hill country in general, there appears to be more than a few wineries. Texas wine? Who knew? Realizing this, we decided to venture to the easiest one to find which turned out to be the Bella Vista Ranch, Run by a California transplant no less. We thought we’d hit the tour, but wound up joining a tasting in progress. The wine was OK. A little rougher than I like, but it was decent enough. The bottle we bought didn’t give me a headache or make my stomach seize like some wines. One of the cooler things about the place is they also have Olive trees. Apparently the dry climate and rocky soil are conducive to olives as well as grapes. The olive oils they make are fantastic, especially the flavored ones. Stunningly good, as is the aged balsamic vinegar.
Our last day, on the way out of town we hit the Market Days, also known as the “mother of all yard sales” that the Rotary club runs every month. We couldn’t hit half of the stalls, it was that huge. Didn’t eat there either, although they had beer gardens and what smelled like awesome street food. There were some cool stalls, with interesting product with many of the artisans in attendance. But mostly there were stalls full of yard sale stuff.
A few years ago I was helping at a charity event by collecting furniture and whatnot. One of my friends, an older guy with a cigarette hanging out his mouth, sized up the donations and declared, “I know crap when I see it. And this is crap”. That line played over and over in my head as I went from stall to stall looking at what I would call “Rejects from the pickers show”. For instance, I found a rusty 12″ cast iron pan made by the Lodge company for the bargain price of $50. A brand new one, pre-seasoned, is hanging in the hardware store near me for $19.95. Don’t know what they’re thinking. Still, There was cool stuff to see, and like any event like that, it’s a people watching extravaganza.
So if you’re up for a quiet weekend, looking at crafts, and soaking up the hill country culture, head to Wimberly on a first Saturday and watch the show.