Sunday, April 24, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 20 to 24, 2005, Natchez Trace, Spring Delights at Home

After our two wonderful days at Ruston, Louisana, we headed for Jackson, Mississippi and the Natchez Trace (its a old Indian trail). The Dogwoods and Redbuds were in full bloom. No words can describe the beauty. Here is a link you might like to look at, Explore the Nachez Trace , pay special attention to the photo section. We spent one night at a commerical campground just off the Trace. We would urge anyone coming north that can jump over to the Trace to do so, noting they do close the trail during weather events (like snow and ice storms). I'll bet it is beautiful beyond words during the fall color!

We did not have a lot of time to stop and take photos, due to a medical emergency in Michigan, but here is one photo we took at a rest stop. Photos don't do it justice!

The Natchez Trace ends on the north at Nashville Tennesse. From Nashville we drove through Louisville Kentucky and on home to Michigan. Another adventure under our belts!

When we arrived home we found the white and pink star magnolia bushes in full bloom. This is the white one. The pink one is such a pale pink that it looks the same in a photo.

The forsythia was also in full bloom. Actually almost past full bloom. The sunshine yellow of forsythia tells you that most of the gloom and snow of winter are past. Note the word "most".

April 24, 2005, 4 inches of snow. Seems like we started the Montana Tour of 2005 with a snowy Montana photo, and we will end it the same way! April snow melts quite fast tho. April 25, 2005 my bleeding hearts were in full bloom in the yard. The geese from the swamp nearby brought 2 baby gozlings into the yard, the gozlings were only about 4 inches tall, could not have been more than a day or so old. They sure were cute!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 10 to 15, 2005, Family Visitation Texas & Ruston Louisina

OK, to be quite honest here, after Fredericksburg, we got so busy and traveled so hard, I lost track of the days. This portion of the travel log is being written months later, so, forget the dates, here is a summary of the next several weeks on the road before we got home around mid April.

After Fredericksburg we spent a day driving to Arlington Texas. We took the back roads, slowed down for a lot of towns, enjoyed the scenery a LOT! Had a great lunch (bar-b-que of course). Arrived in Arlington, stayed in a very nice park, pretty, but had a very strong disagreement with the owners about their dog rules. They had encourgaged us to "come on in, we love dogs", only to arrive and discover that they refused to let us use our xpens on the lawn for the yorks. It was late in the day, we were very tired, we had already paid our fees, and we were in no mood to find another place to stay. So, we stayed, sadly, we probably will never go back there again. It was a pretty park, well kept, neat, but the owners did not care much when we said we won't be coming back. Ahhh, life with 4 yorks.

We spent Saturday with Al's cousin, Walter Gerth and his family. What a nice day we had. Sunday, we spent with my cousins, Marilyn and Connie (Darden relatives). We laughed and giggled and had a grand time. They presented me with a fabulous map of Isle of Wight County Virginia, which shows the ole Darden home. We also had major break through on our Darden lineage, and when I got home I spent several weeks of concentrated research proving what we had discovered. On Monday we had lunch with another of my cousins, Ray Remley and his lovely wife. All in all, we had 3 packed fun filled family days. Doesn't get much better than this!

Now, we start the treck home. We had heard of the Natchez Trail, from Jackson Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee. It is a 2 lane highway, top speed 55 MPH, no commerical trucks allowed, a drive through some of the most beautiful country!

But first we stopped in Louisiana at a county park for the night. One night turned to 2. We walked, we cleaned the rig, we fixed a few things, we enjoyed. This park, near Ruston, was very scenic, had a great lake (pond?) with a paved path around it. Park was not crowded, what a nice place to stay for a few days.

Ruston, Louisiana, Azeleas in bloom, they were breathtaking!

Not sure what this flower is, it looks like a form of clover. We saw fields of it along the highway between Arlington Texas and Ruston Louisiana. From afar it has the appearance of a dark maroon colored carpet.

Here they are, in all their glory. I had tied up all their hair so it did not drag in the dirt and sticky plant stuff, and still it took me about an hour to brush them all out after their jaunt around the lake. They sure enjoy those walks tho! From the left, Cappy, Abby, Tilly, and Gallagher (the silver one).

Again, not sure what these are, but they grew along the water, in the background is the lake at the park in Ruston Louisiana. The water in the front is a flooded sidewalk, but made for a pretty reflection.

Here sits Montana , all hooked up and ready to roll. Ruston Louisiana, taken on our walk around the lake.

Above, the view of the lake from the computer desk in the Montana. I did some input and work while we spent 2 wonderful days here, well, I tried to do some work, this view had me looking out the window as much as I did input!

Friday, April 8, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 8, 2005, Texas Flowers & Fredericksburg Delightful Shopping

More flowers, so many flowers, so much temptation, just could not help ourselves, had to take lots of photos, some of which we are enjoying sharing with you, hope you enjoy them!

This lone purple flower was growing on Enchanted Rock, in a divit created by stones.

Yellow daisies, again, at Enchanted Rock, extra special when you see them against the background of the stone of the area. They sure jump out at cha!

One last flower photo, Enchanted Rock area.

While we stayed in Fredericksburg Texas we ate a 3 fabulous German restaurants, and found at least 2 more!

The country side is very scenic, fun to drive around. The area is full of unusual things and places, stuff Al and I both enjoy.

The last day we did something we seldom do, cause I HATE SHOPPING!! But, we went walking around downtown Fredericksburg, window shopping style, Found a number of additional restuarants to try, some smelled reallllllll good! We never did get into the Brewery, but when we walked by there a couple of guys were drinking a beer and said it was FAB!!!!!

The stores were OUT OF SIGHT!! There was some of the usual, touristy stuff, but, I got to tell you, it was mostly UP SCALE! This is not your everyday tourist trap! The clothing stores were so wonderful, I stared, I drooled, I did not dare go in! The art was wonderful, and, let me tell you about the antique stores. Now, I am no expert, and I am sure some of this was not the best, but, I can tell you that some of it was real and some of the most unusual pieces I have ever come across. The new stuff weren't so bad either! Tables made from mesquite wood. Oh, man, that stuff is so heavy you cannot believe it, but, wowie, gorgeous. Some of it, they picked wood that had holes it in, and filled the holes with tourquoise or copper pieces. Very unusual, very pretty, very Texas!

There was this store called Rustlin' Rob's Texas Gourmet Foods, it totally overwhelming! They had stuff I have never heard of or seen before, they had cobblers, like cherry cobbler, serve warm over ice cream, yum, you could bake a pie with this stuff. They had dips and mustards, and jelly, like Raspberry Jalapeno Jelly, barbeque sauces, bloody mary mixes, Toffee Pecan Honey Butter, Peach Amaretto Pecan Honey Butter, they had Jalapeno Peanut Butter, and TONS AND TONS AND TONS MORE! And you could taste anything you wanted, as much of it as you wanted. Al said he could eat a total meal in there. It was EXPENSIVE, but what a experience. WOWIE. And, they had fudge. Like $3.00 a quarter pound. Let me tell you, I have not had fudge that good in years, they make it with cream and butter, it is the smoothest creamiest fudge I have had, maybe ever!! And, not gaggy sweet, like a lot of the stuff you buy. One bite and I am spoiled for life!

We have had fabulous weather, mid 70 to 85 or so, clear skies, not much humidity, slight breezes, a bit windy once or twice. All in all it was a great week! We left a lot of sights unseen, and museums and other great places unvisited, we surely want to come back to Fredericksburg Texas!

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 7, 2005, Enchanted Rock & Ft Worth Star Interview

Before we left the Fredericksburg Texas area we wandered over to Enchanted Rock. We did not really know what to expect, but had been encouraged to run out there. It is supposed to be the second largest outcrop of granite in the United States. That sounded interesting, little did we know just how BIG this might be. The photos will give you some idea, but until you visit this in person, you cannot have a true appreciation for the SIZE!! Here it is:

This fine collection of granite is 1 billion years young! There is a hiking path, for those brave enough to climb. In the photo to the right is a part of the path. Yes, that IS the path, every once in a while there is a marker. Take your time, watch for snakes, have a hat on, and best to have a bottle of water with you, which of course, we did not, cause we had NO idea what Enchanted Rock was all about!
Below:  They call this Turkey Peak. I believe to climb in this area you need special permission, sign waivers, and have all that special rock climbing gear, ropes, stuff like that. Aren't the prickley pears pretty in the foreground?

The view from about 1/3rd of the way to the top. As we were not prepared, remember, no drinking water, and cause of Al's knee, we decided that we enjoyed what we had climbed and the view was great, so, why go further! No sense pushing our luck!

This next photo is of one of the pieces of granite that fell down the hill (small mountain) at some point in time. If you look hard, you will see me standing by the rock to give some idea of size.

After we left the Enchanted Rock area, we went driving around looking at flowers, etc. BUT, first we had to find something cool to drink, so we stopped at the Knot in the Loop Tavern, near Willow City. We ended up being interviewed by the Ft. Worth Texas newspaper, the Star-Telegram, and a few days later, the article appeared, with some quotes from both of us! How fun was that?? Here is a bit of the article:

"WILLOW CITY - The wildflowers weren't exactly in full bloom along the famed Willow City Loop last week, but Al and Carol Stevens couldn't have cared less.

The 13-mile loop, about 11 miles northeast of Fredericksburg, is considered by many to be the premier site for wildflowers in Texas. The flowers are blooming late this year, but the Michigan couple was too busy swapping stories with strangers inside the Knot in the Loop Saloon to care.

"Dang, if this is spring, then I'm coming back every year," Carol Stevens said. "This sure beats springtime in Michigan."

For the Stevenses and thousands of other tourists, searching for fields of wildflowers appears to be as important as actually finding them....

Last week at the Knot in the Loop, which serves as a base for cyclists and car clubs touring the Hill Country, patrons were swapping recommendations about restaurants and good routes.

After soaking up the bar's laid-back atmosphere and the 75-degree weather, Al Stevens, the Michigan visitor, vowed to return.

"The rest of Texas is pretty mundane, but we kept hearing about the Hill Country so we thought we'd give it a try," he said. "We didn't know what to expect, but the food is great, the people are great and the hills are green."

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 6, 2005, Luckenbach & Storm Clouds

The weather this week has been wonderful, sunny, clear, bright, if this is spring, GIVE US MORE!

Above, another photo of bluebonnets. They sure are pretty.

Another one of our stops this week was in Luckenbach. I am not quite sure how to describe or explain Luckenbach. Except to say it is small, it has a dance hall and a old post office that is now a gift shop and in the back is a bar. There is usually a musician pickin' at a guitar in the bar. That is about all the action this place has, except that every summer Willie Nelson comes and performs here. Fun place, where when you ask what kind of beer they have, they show you the caps from every kind they have, hooked to a piece of cardboard. A cap menu of sorts. It works, and is kinda cute, eh?? Left, the Post Office turned bar and gift shop. The population, they say, of Luckenback is THREE! They say, that everyone in Luckenback is someone (or something to that effect!)

Below, we saw a number of homes built in this style, and we thought they were very handsome homes, the stone work and brick work is very impressive, although it does not show real well here.

Al came back from running errands the other evening and caught these magnificient storm clouds on film. It had been a gorgeous clear and very warm day. This storm did not cause us any grief, but we understand it did some nasty business over towards Austin.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 5, 2005, Lyndon Johnson Ranch

Monday, we had lunch in Fredericksburg at another German restaurant. The food was so fabulous, well, we just cannot express how good it was! We then drove out to Stonewall to the LBJ Ranch. They have a very nice bus tour, which we took and enjoyed. We saw the re-constructed house of his birth, the cemetery, the Texas White House, the landing strip, and a lot of animals! Lady Bird is said to spend about half her time at the ranch, sitting on the porch and waving at the tourists. They said she was at the ranch the day before we arrived. Here are a couple of photos.

This is the Johnson Cemetery, on the Ranch. The public is not allowed inside of the stone wall. President Johnson is buried in the closest row, about midway, his stone is taller than the rest. Five generations of his family are buried here.

Above, the Texas White House while President Johnson was in office, Lady Bird is sometimes sighted sitting on the porch, waving at the tourists.

Above is one of the cattle on the ranch, look closely at his left horn, yep, it says "LBJ".

Left, it is spring, the pansies are planted. One of my favorites. Note the border on this flower bed, it appears to be made of glass bottles, buried neck down. See the enlarged photo. These were taken at the Sauer-Beckman Farm, which is part of the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historical Site. The Sauer-Beckman Farm is a sample of Rural Life in the Hill County of Texas. Interesting tidbit we learned, Augusta Sauer Lindig was the midwife at the birth of LBJ.

Close up of the bottles that make up this flower border.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 4, 2005, The Hill Country of Texas in the Spring

The week of April 3, 4 and 5, 2005, Fredericksburg, Texas, the Texas Hill Country. Again, lets let the pictures tell our story.

Sunday April 3rd was another beautiful day in the Hill Country. We drove out to Bandera, The Cowboy Capital of the World. Al's nose found this Bar-b-que restaurant. You know where we ate lunch!

Our ride around the Hill County through Medina and back to Kerrville was lovely. There were some great views, sadly, there are no pulloffs, so we just drove and enjoyed the views and did not take any photos.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Montana Tours of 2005, April 3, 2005, The Hill Country of Texas in the Spring

We are in Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country. We ate at a terrific German restaurant today, and went for a ride in the countryside. It is wildflower season here, the photos will tell the story.

Nope, they are not Texas wildflowers. They were part of a rather large
group, all enjoying a sunny Texas spring day, they took
the same scenic tour we did.

NOW, some flowers:

 Above: Texas Bluebonnets. Prickly pear cactus in front.

Right:  I believe this is called a White Prickley Poppy, it sure is prickley, reminds me of thistle.

Above, prickley pear cactus with a Texas hill behind, it was a
cloudless beautiful sunny day in the Hill Country!

Above, a field of Indian Paintbrush. These, as well as the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are planted along many of the higways here in Texas, miles and miles of them. They are quite the sight when seen from that prospective. Colorful and breathtaking!Above, a field of Indian Paintbrush. These, as well as the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are planted along many of the higways here in Texas, miles and miles of them. They are quite the sight when seen from that prospective. Colorful and breathtaking!

Above, more bluebonnets, the official state flower of Texas.