Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Hamilton Pool is another Texas treasure!!!  This natural wonder is located just outside of Austin to the West.   You have to make reservations to go and there is no guarantee that you will be able to swim because of bacteria levels which are tested daily.  Reservations are from 9-1PM and 2PM-6PM.  This is my own opinion, but I think there are bats in the “grotto” and I would think that the unsafe bacteria specifically ecoli might have something to do with their poop.  That’s just a guess.   It’s worth the risk to make the 3 hour drive because you can still enjoy the view of this beauty which is quite spectacular.   And there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Determined to go, I made the reservations months ago.  Even if I had to go by myself. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, son, daughter and friend went with! Your reservation is by the carload and since we have smaller vehicles, it was worth it to rent a minivan.  I looked at this day trip as a mini vacation and treated it as such!  We were comfortable!

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We began the 1/4 mile rough terrain to the water.  It really is steep in some places and rocky, the rocks aren’t even.  There isn’t anything to hang on to.  People lug their coolers, chairs and floats regardless!  There is no wheelchair access, which makes me sad because for people with disabilities this would be a huge challenge to go see and some would never go.

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The vegetation kept the hot Texas sun away.  There are lots of mesquite trees and cypress as you get towards the water.  I’m standing on the “beach”  here taking my first picture. This is where we laid out some towels and I called it our base camp.  The beach is rocky crushed rock with good size stones.  Outside of the stunning beauty of the cave like curved roof with water gently falling into a clear green massive pool, I noticed these three very large catfish at the water’s edge.  They hung out there the entire time!  First things first, I wanted to explore!  You can walk in the cave all along it to the other side.

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I thought bats were coming out of the swallow nests, but they aren’t.  If you look closely, you can see the muddy nests with a hole in the middle on the ceiling.

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Here is a view of the beach from the other side…

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Sometimes the water that falls is quite massive, on a day like today, it was picture perfect for standing under.

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Under the waterfall is the rock where people jump in.  I swam around the pool.  At first I thought it was going to be freezing because the water temperatures are in the 60s year round.  It was cold at first, you quickly get used to it.  Even though the water looks clear along the edges, it isn’t as it gets deeper.  Still it’s a very pretty green.  Looking up at the water falling is pretty cool as you see the droplets take the plunge.  I could have spent the day here, however my crew is not the chilling type.  At least not here.  I’m guessing it’s because there is no cellular service.

The idea was to eat here, bringing in food.  However, for this group it was a better idea to go out to lunch/dinner.  We ended up going to Canyon Grill which is on lake Travis.  We had another amazing view and great food!  Fantastic day ! ❤

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Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

FINISHER Day Two

Day two of the MS150 starts early!  We get up at 5:00 AM. What-a-Burger delivered at 4:30 am breakfast.  I’m a breakfast person, I don’t think I ate enough the night before and was starving.  So I get up, pack my cot and sleeping bag and go eat.  Our ride marshall said to put your bike at the start so you can be as close to the start as possible.  I did.  Our start was delayed to 8:00am.  After a breakfast taco and some coffee, I put my luggage on the team truck and chatted with the team.  Around 7:30 I went to the start and talked with the people around me.  It was cold and it rained a little, 50 degrees and I had my rash guard on that was keeping me warm.  They finally let us go, I was in the third wave. Leaving LaGrange we began on Hwy 71.  There were two options the challenge route which normally goes through state parks or the express route.  Being that it is my first time, I opted for the express route.

The hills were challenging.  The head wind rough!  It made for a slow ride.  Day two is 66 miles with a lot of hills.  Lunch was in Bastrop where my in-laws live.  I rolled into the stop and enjoyed a turkey tortilla roll up and had lunch with a few team mates.  I took off with one of the guys and stayed with him for a while. The road was familiar because I’ve been on it so many times with my family.  After lunch their were two rest stops that were at least 1/4 mile off the road which was not worth it!  Most rest stops are right off the road. After riding for so long, my thought is that there is no way I’m doing more.  I needed to stop to stretch.   So stretching I did.

At the last rest stop I knew I needed water, but it was only 15 more miles.  I’m like, yeah I can do that.  As I approached the finish, our team ride marshal was with me.  He is an amazing guy, so positive, uplifting.  I’m like please tell me this is the last hill, he says well maybe there is one more, but it’s a baby hill.   Any hill at this point is too big.  I admire his positivity.  As we round a corner I see the city and the capital.  At this point it was a couple of miles and my heart was like, yeah this is it!  We turned many times and finally hit the finish.  There is a bubble bistro at the finish and it horse shoes around to dismount.  The biggest deal is the picture of you and your bike in front of the capital.  I had to work for this picture.  My team tent wasn’t in front of the capital, but I took my bike there anyway and got a pic thanks to a stranger willing to take it with my phone.

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I went to the bubble bistro and met Jeff.  His story was amazing . He was diagnosed in 2008. Wheelchair bound and at the time all of the 4 available medicines didn’t work for him . Now one of the fourteen meds work.
He is not only out of his wheelchair , he did the ms150 full for the first time ! He said he was so inspired by the cyclists ! He told me that they are working on meds to repair nerve damage , this will help others as well. Ms is the number one neurological disease that receives fund raising and that benefit can help other neurological issues ! That is my hope for people like my mom!!!  I encourage you to never give up!

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FINISHER Day Two

FINISHER – Day One

What a weekend!  What an experience!   At sunrise my team began the MS150 start at the Wood Group.  The biggest concern was the weather later in the day.  We had a ride marshall on our team who said we would have a tail wind the entire first day.   The sky was overcast and the temperature comfortable in the 70s.

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I cycled with one of the ladies for most of the approximate 9 miles it takes to get to less traffic congestion.  As we started to get out of town, which was really suburbia and near my house, the scenery around the two lane road is pretty.  It’s lush and green and there are still many beautiful wild flowers out.  The cycle traffic merged in from Rhodes stadium.  We were on the Tully stadium route, and must have been slightly in front of most of that group. Along the side of the road and into the small towns like Fayetteville, people were on the side of the road cheering, ringing cow bells and playing music.  The first rest stop was about 20 miles in and then stops were spaced 8 to 12 miles apart. Lunch was in Bellville at 47 miles, by the time you reach Bellville, it’s more like brunch time.  The wind wasn’t really a tail wind, it was more like a cross wind.  Houston is pretty flat, however as soon as you get outside, there are some rolling hills.  I clinched and held on tightly going down the hills because the cross wind was powerful and it would blow in short swift bursts.  It was nice meeting up with the team and chatting at the lunch stop and with them at rest stops as well as meeting other people.  That coconut water from Goya is the best.  It’s the one in a small can with bits of coconut in it.

After lunch the wind really picked up and the sun came out, temperature and humidity rose and the hills were a little more steep.  The last two rest stops were tough getting out of, my toes were numb.  I’m pretty sure because of the tightening to hold on for the wicked cross wind.  As I rolled into La Grange I couldn’t feel my toes.  As soon as I got off it was better.  I looked at the mileage…94 miles for day one!

I found our tent and they had my bedding setup.  I went to the shower trucks.  The women’s line was much shorter than the men’s.  After a short wait, I went into a steaming hot truck where there are lines of individual showers with curtains.  There is a hook on the outside where I hooked my plastic bag and towel.

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After the shower, I went back to be with the team, eat, drink and rest.  The Wood Group had the best bathrooms ever!  They were portable, flushed, had a sink and were even air conditioned.  We had a band right in front of us that was playing great music.  I would have loved to dance, however I had no more energy.   The storm rolled in around 9-10PM.  We had an emergency plan, but didn’t need it.  The wind really blew in and cooled the temperatures 30 degrees.  The sleeping bag was perfect!  I turned down ear plugs only to regret it later.  I had “the motor” behind me snoring all night!

No neighbors behind us!

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FINISHER – Day One

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

I am so excited!  Tomorrow is the highly anticipated 2-day ride 150 miles bike ride from Houston to Austin with 10,500 people!  Part of the excitement is the weather.  This whole week everyone is watching the weather.  And it looks like we are going to have strong storms come through Saturday night.  Not a big deal unless you are in a TENT!  Some of my team are like well, we might call it a no go for camping over night and you’ll have to figure out what you are going to do. And one guy is like, no problem, it’s gonna rain and we’ll handle it.  After all of this training and fund raising, I’m like, we better freaking do this.  I put the family on standby, in case I have to be picked up.  The MS society says that they have some shelter in a nearby school, I’m guessing we’ll figure it out, so this is it.  I have not a clue how this is going to work out.

Forget about the concern about packing.  A note on that, I am allowed 2 bags.  My cot is one.  The other bag which is like a duffel bag has in it my sleeping bag and a full size pillow.  Squeezed in the pockets are shower shoes (one change of clothes), a towel, shower gel, tooth brush, tooth paste and a brush.  That is it!  I plan to carry on me my water, a rash guard in case it gets cold, sunscreen and lip balm.

Today I had a tennis match, I thought it best to sit myself out, but instead played for someone who couldn’t make it.  I’m thinking, no problem no one is going to get injured, and then my opponent had to retire because of some kind of calf muscle pull/sprain.  She had to be wheel chaired off the court.  I am so lucky this didn’t happen to me.

I’m ready, I don’t know anyone on my team.  I’ve tried three times, still no real connection.  It’s ok, I would have done this by myself.  Instead, there are a bunch of strangers to me in the same suit.  I will eat with them and sleep with them and endure whatever night adventure comes my way.

When I was twenty I talked about doing my own adventures.  Now twice that age, I’m doing it.  I’m pretty sure I was capable back then, and am thrilled that at an older age not only am I physically able, the mental part is 100% there.   The mental component is the one part that I was missing in my youth that is so strong now.   It’s funny because, mentally we might be there and then are body gives out!  Hopefully not this time.

I’m going to bed.  I will be up at 5AM and start my bike journey at 6:55AM.  Whoo Hoo!!!!luggage2.jpg

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

Texas Adventure Awaits

I want to go to Big Bend so bad!  This is my west Texas dream, to explore the Chisos mountains and the Rio Grande. My problem, I can’t find anyone who will go!  Why?  It’s such an amazing place!   Last Sunday it was cold, in an effort to pass the time I decided to plan an adventure.   It would be great if the family would go, and just the mention of this trip doesn’t spark interest to any of them.  To sell the idea, I thought I would put together a Power Point presentation complete with pictures of where we would stay, what we would do, eating options and a sample itinerary.  Considering my company, I picked easy options at the park.  You can hike, swim, ride horses, raft, etc.  Big Bend is 9 hours from Houston (640 miles), this is my first hurdle.  No one wants to be in the car for that long.  To me driving is a mind vacation in itself.  You can listen to music and not have to do any critical thinking.  You can fly 1/2 way there, but you still need to drive 4 more hours.  (and the plane ride is 1 and 1/2 hours).  Adding in driving and waiting at the airport, you might as well drive. Never mind the expense of flying!!bigbend

My plan is to go for 4 days.  In spending the time to actually plan this out, I learned a lot! First, where to stay.  If you are a real adventurist, camping is ideal.  When the kids were young, I could get a way with camping and they would think that is fun!  Now not so much. Terlingua is a ghost town that is 8 miles from the park entrance.

It’s noterlinguat like you are going to find your chain hotels there, so I would call places to stay there boutique hotels.  On our California adventure, I learned that unique hotel options can be a hit or miss.  Fortunately with the internet, you can read the reviews, good and bad and at least have some decision making criteria.  There is a lodge inside the park, but I really wasn’t interested in staying there.  The ghost town has some restaurants and shops.  And I mean, it’s ghost town…how cool is that?!

 

Next, what to do.  Big Bend is 1,252 square miles.  The Rio Grande is in the park and separates Texas from Mexico.   I actually found more information about distances on Google maps than the park website so that I can plan a day.  I read that there is a waterfall in the park, hot springs and found some information on trails, their distances and degree of difficulty.

Noting the options, their locations and the distance between them, I think the Window is a must see.  It’s located near the lodge which is a great starting point.  They also have a trail to the balanced rock that looked pretty cool too.  It does say it’s a 6 mile rough road driving to get to the trail head.the window

To get to the waterfall and the spring is a little more time consuming, something I would definitely do if my party was up for it.  I picked trails that were easy to do and less than 1 mile round trip!  They say to go when the weather is cool, in Texas ? Really?  That can be hard to hit, because it can be hot and cold in one day!  Summers are very hot, so I understand that planning a trip in the desert during the hottest months is probably not a good idea.  You really have to be acclimated and be diligent about hydration and if you are not used to that you can get really sick.  Another must see is the Rio Grande.  Santa Elena Canyon is the trail for that.riogrande

I think two days at the park would be good.  Then we could make our way back to a couple of towns that I’ve heard are interesting.  We could stay in Alpine and then go to Marfa. These towns are really in the middle of no where.  I love the history of these little towns, established by railroad workers, cattle drivers and past home to some miners.  It is a cool reminder of different times with different challenges.  Love the history!    Being that these places are in the middle of nowhere, the skies are really dark!  And there are these Marfa ghost lights that I want to check out.  So my goal is to make this happen!

 

 

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Texas Adventure Awaits

Jacob’s Well – A Texas Treasure

The time is finally here!  A reserved swim at Jacob’s well.  If you are going to make the journey from Houston to Wimberly, Texas you might as well plan on a few stops!   We could not believe the traffic on I10 between Houston and San Antonio, there were no accidents  and no construction, however the traffic was stop and go, which was very strange…maybe fourth of July weekend?  I was worried that we wouldn’t get to swim because we had a 12PM reservation and we were late! Hmmm, it is nice that they say swiming is for reservation only because it’s such a small place, there isn’t room for a large crowd, however I was completely shocked that there is no one policing it.  They don’t tell you, time to go.  And there is no lifeguard on duty which is also shocking.  You could jump from way up high, then mid way then pretty close and you are on limestone rocks that are slippy when wet.   They say no diving…um says who? jacobs well It is a 10 minute walk to one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.  Being that it’s a state park I can’t believe there are no park personnel.   This is the beginning of Cypress Creek.  Which is murky in Houston, and CRYSTAL clear in Wimberly.  The water temp is about 68 degrees.  Here it’s a spring and it’s at least 120 feet down!  It’s like you are jumping into the abyss!

I talked to an adjacent property owner that walked by, he was an older man and said that in the 40s his grandfather built what appears to be a walk way around the well.  It definitely looks like it was made, and he told me it was because the well filled up with silt from flooding, they dug it out and took the material they dug out and built the platform that protects the well from filling up with material during flooding.  (It diverts the water around it).

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This is an amazing experience.  I could have stayed here longer, however my adult teen and her boyfriend were ready to move on.   Which is fine…I wanted to go to an Olive oil “vineyard”…you can’t not go, it’s only 3 miles from here.  So we went to Bella Vista.  A lot of their oils and vinegars are made in California.  I made it a point to get the one made here.  I tasted it and it was good.  They also make wine, however I didn’t try any.  Another gorgeous place.  (They have a tour, which I didn’t even look into considering my company).

We then went to lunch at a place called the Leaning Pear that my daughter picked out…which was really great!  The restaurant is on Cypress Creek.  I got an amazing pic…

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My crew was up for one more adventure. And I was happy to hear that my daughter’s friend had never been tubing down the river.  Wow!  What an experience!  The river today is a little faster with all of the recent rains, apparently the Army Corp of Engineers are going to let out more water after the July 4th weekend which means the river will close! However today tubing on the Comal river was nice!   They allow for people to drink beer or whatever on the river (police were definitely here today) and when you get out that’s it. We spent about $20/per person for a couple of hours and got a ride back to the car.  tubingcomal

I am the luckiest person on earth to be able to have a day like this!  ❤

Jacob’s Well – A Texas Treasure

Weekend Getaway

 

I’ve always wanted to visit Fredericksburg, Texas.  There have been a few failed plan attempts and then my wedding anniversary came up.  What a perfect place to celebrate!  On the agenda, wine tasting, outdoor hiking, dinner plans, exploring shops, visiting the pacific war museum and staying at one of those quaint bed and breakfasts.

Fredericksburg is an old German settlement, so I pictured stepping into Europe here in Texas. It’s not quite that.  For sure there are German influences, names of places, the food, and maybe some living styles.  However, it’s definitely an old Texas town settlement.  In fact, there are structures that date back to the pioneer days and there is even a pioneer museum.

On the way into town we stopped at a vineyard and then onto the cutest bed and breakfast ever!!! Sugarberry Inn is newer and it is a series of small individual structures that are arguably Texas style architecture.  There were rocking chairs on the porch and the room had a big king size bed with an Iron frame.  The ceilings were 12 feet high with 8 windows that streamed in so much light!  The bottom part of the windows had wood shutters and the floor was stained concrete.  And there was a stone fireplace.  The bathroom was huge and included a jetted tub and large rain shower.  We didn’t think it would be necessary to use the gas fire place, however it turned cold and it was so nice to have it on.  Just flip the switch and even though the fire is behind glass, it heated up the room to a comfortable temperature.  There was an outdoor fire place too where guests can enjoy getting together and they even had heat lamps.

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The plan was for our anniversary dinner at Vaudeville which required a reservation.  A friend asked me is Vaudeville a show?  I looked up the word and indeed it was a popular type of show in the 1920s, I can say that the show is the food!  The menu is preset, and the chef constructed 5 courses that were amazing to me.  Why so intriguing?  Because we had to ask how did the chef do that?  They had a dish in this pear shape container that you opened and a puff of smoke came out and inside was a smoked fish.  They fried an entire soft shell crab and it was on a bed of noodles (you eat the whole crab, I guess shell and all).  And the lamb was in these individual cylinder shapes that were rolled.  And finally desert, filo dough with brownie, cream and strawberries and pears.  They had to use PVC pipe to bake the dough and then everything was inside (I asked how they got the shape). The chef had an Italian heritage and lived in Louisiana and is 35 years old!  It was a pricey (worth it) and fun experience!  The building is really old and they have a home goods store and bistro as well.

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Within walking distance is Main Street and the National Museum of the Pacific War.  The museum is a really good one and being that it is in an off the beaten path town, it makes you wonder why is it here of all places?  It’s because Admiral Chester Nimitz is from Fredericksburg and he was a major leader in the military during World War II.  What a fantastic place… my husband really enjoyed it!  There is SO much information that we took it in pieces, you can come and go over a 2 day period without repaying the $14/per adult and you can see much of the memorial outside for free.

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On the next day, we started out with the breakfast that the owners provided in the cellar part of the facilities.  The owners Joe and his wife are super friendly and genuinely care about their guests comfort.   We shared stories about our stay and they shared stories about their place.  We scooted off to Enchanted Rock (detailed in another post).

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We spent the rest of the time checking out the many shops that line Main Street and could have gone deeper into shopping at “Trade Days” which happens once a month a little further away.  We didn’t see it all, however the shops we did see were great!  There were clothing stores, food stores, general stores, furnishing stores and of course wine tasting places.

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The final night we wanted to try German food so we went to this place called the Ratheskeller.  It’s a restaurant that is in the basement of a store on Main Street.  There was a lady playing the harp and she was really talented.  She played anything from Stairway to Heaven, Oh! Danny Boy and popular songs that are on the radio.   We enjoyed the German food and had a great time together!

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Weekend Getaway