April 27, 2015: by Sandi Argo
They say, in life, one must take time to stop and smell the roses. They say that “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
According to what “they” have said, the weekend that I just spent was a great success. As the first of many “Day Trips” that we will be sharing in the times to come, I could not have possibly imagined things to start out any better than it has, which considering the start that we had on the trip, that could have been a lot different! The purpose of the “Day Trippin’” section is to (hopefully) “entertain” and inform you about the many wonderful places there are in our area, or within a 3 hour drive. While pondering on how to begin this venture, I was offered the chance to go on an excursion with a group of ladies that I have known for a very long time (thus finding myself being obedient to the latter of the 2 phrases). Although our travels did not take us far in actual miles, the friendships we measured were enough to take us around the world several times. It was a day and a half of laughter, some tears, and what was quite possibly the most frightened that I have been in a very long time.
The trip began with a scenic drive to Stephenville, Texas. What is usually an un-remarkable drive turned into a local “Texas style” version of the Wizard of Oz. As we got closer to Stephenville, we had noticed that a storm cloud was taking on an attitude that was giving us some concern. We thought that we were going to be able to skirt the storm, but we were soon to find out why our expertise is NOT in weather prediction. As we made our way through town, the sky progressed in shades of grey to dark, mean, violent clouds full of rain and hail, along with damaging winds Hell bent on taking out anything in its path. With knots in our stomachs, we drove on until we hit what can only be described as a “wall” of wind and rain (and one trash can) that brought us to a sudden halt!
It was at this time that I made the executive decision to seek shelter. There was a debris cloud reaching up to the sky that I could only see when the wind carried the rain in a different direction. Whether it was straight line winds or a twister, it didn’t matter. We were getting out of the ragtop and in someplace safe! With the quick thinking of a NASCAR driver, I made the split second decision to pull into the first parking lot that I saw. I’m pretty sure that I likely broke at least one or two laws getting across the lanes. The only place to park was right next to their large sign, which was shaking back and forth in the wind. I pondered the thought for a brief moment that parking so close to it might have been a mistake, as it would wipe out my car if it were to fall over, but then reality took over…I have insurance! With that in mind, I shouted to my “sister from another mother”, Karen, that we needed to get out NOW! I tried opening the door but it wouldn’t give easy, the wind was blowing it right back. Finally I gave a hard shove and took off for the building, only to find the door locked! The rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see the man inside that was trying to unlock the door for us. After what felt like forever, it came open and we fell inside. Taking a deep breath to gather myself and calm down, we heard the sound of hail beginning to fall. It was then that it occurred to me…we were in a store front, and surrounded by windows! I took a good look around and felt all of my confidence about my choice of shelter leaving me. As far as I knew, we were goners!
Inside, there were 3 people in the small room we were in, and 3 college aged guys in the shop. Yes, we had landed ourselves in a quick change oil shop! The manager stepped out to check on the boys in the garage. While he was out, I asked if, perhaps, they felt the need to find shelter elsewhere. It was quickly pointed out to me that we were in a very safe place and that the pit actually reached a good distance up under the floor of the shop and would keep us from all harm, even if the building fell or blew away, and at this point I was not convinced it wasn’t!
Finally the storm settled enough for us to feel safe to leave the comfort of our shelter. I walked to my car and looked up to the sign, and realized the place we were calling our shelter was aptly named “The Oasis”. It certainly was a safe oasis for us and we were thankful for it!
We made it down to Rochelle, Texas and that’s where the real fun began! Greeted by the rest of the ladies, and witness to a brilliant west Texas sky, I was given the tour de Grande throughout the hacienda that I would call home for a couple of days. It is a stunning ranch house with cool “cobbled” style tile floors, windows everywhere…giving guests views of antelope, deer and various bird species! My room had a window facing the east, and in the morning I watched the shadows of numerous hummingbirds fighting over a feeder in what almost seemed like a dance through the air!
After watching the air-dancers, I headed to the kitchen where I was treated to a breakfast that would put any resort to shame. Our hostess, Ellen Kendrick, is a very talented “Betty Crocker” and served a sausage and egg quiche (or pie) that was AMAZING! With our energy heightened, we loaded up and headed out for a day of adventure!
Our first stop was a scenic one, along the banks of the San Saba River, outside of Brady, Texas. Although we weren’t there more than a few minutes, it was long enough to soak up a little sunshine and take in the beautiful scenery. The area has seen a bit of rain, enough to produce a nice showing of green grass and many variety of wild flowers (which we will talk about soon!) After a quick photo session, we again loaded up and set out for Mason, and a meeting with a 587 caret topaz!
Mason Country Collectibles, a collectors dream shop, has been visited by guests from far and wide. Once featured on an episode of “Daytripper” the shop has gained a reputation of “must visit” while in the area. Partly due to the collection of Blue Topaz gems they broker, and probably even more credit goes to the entertainment provided (mostly free of charge) by owner Warren Grote. The store is stuffed to the ceiling with antiques, gifts and even a few “oddities” to sort through. It is a 2 story building, and the second floor is likened to a carnival ride! Visitors access it through one of 2 ways, either by a spiral staircase (Which has a bit of a shake to it, but Warren assured us all that it had not fallen in at least 3 or 4 days…!) or by a steep “ramp” connecting the 2 floors. I opted to take the ramp up, but my sense of adventure and danger caused me to throw caution to the wind and descend by taking the stairs, which thankfully held!
Our small group of jokesters and merry-makers put Mr. Grote to the test, although he did get the last laugh on us as he told a tall tale about the rooster he proudly displays in the front of his shop… With waves of goodbye, it felt like we were leaving a family member or old friend as we again set out on the open road. Our next stop (officially) was to be Wildseed Farms, in Fredricksburg. On the road to Fredricksburg, this merry troupe of women happily stopped to smell a few roses, well, admittedly there were no roses that this traveler observed but the masses of Bluebonnets, Paintbrush, Lantana, and other flowers that I am not skilled enough to identify. I have to give credit and kudos to my fellow traveler and long-time friend, Cyndy Finell, for knowing the names of each flower we encountered. She is an un-official botanist, with a true love for learning about these roadside treasures. As we drove down the roads Cyndy would bring our attention to different variety by saying “Look at the beautiful Castilleja” or other scientific name, that I had no idea what she was referring to. I finally told her to bring it down to my level…just holler out the color! So, yes, the Castilleja indivisa were decorating the land beautifully…along with the yellow, red, pink and blue flowers! It was MAGICAL!
We made our way to Fredricksburg, to Wildseed Farms. According to their website,
“In 1983, there were very few sources for wildflower seeds and the seeds that were available were prohibitively expensive. Today, Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas lends a hand. John R. Thomas, Wildseed’s founder and president, knows the importance of beautiful wildflowers along our highways.
The public’s love of wildflowers and demands from landscape contractors and the highway department motivated Thomas to turn his sideline turf seeding business into a full-time wildflower farm. In addition, he developed a machine to plant the tiny seeds and another to harvest them. The new company pioneered the practice of planting wildflowers in rows on large acreage.
The farm has more than 1,000 cultivated acres in Texas and over 200 acres of wildflower fields at its Hill Country headquarters outside of Fredericksburg. Come and view a real working wildflower farm and stay to shop at Blossoms Boutique, Lantana Nursery and the famous Brewbonnet Biergarten. Fun for the whole family!
There is a growing market for top-quality wildflower seeds. The farm attracts the attention of people all over the country through retail sales, catalog sales and consumer education. At its Wildflower Market Center, seven miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290, fields of wildflowers bloom from March through October, boosting retail sales. More than 350,000 people a year stop by the Center. Visitors can explore walking trails, watch the farm staff work and take photos. In Pick Your Own fields, they can create bouquets. They can buy wildflower seeds and pick up one of the farm’s award-winning and extremely informative catalogs.”
Indeed, the website does not stretch the truth one bit. A beautiful setting, with pathways leading to and through fields of flowers (Poppies were abundant!). One field was planted in Larkspur, wonderful blues and whites, and hummingbirds were taking full advantage of them. It was amazing! Shoppers were there looking for plants and garden tools…of which they found a wonderful selection. The gift shop was a beautiful, rustic building filled with items for all likes and ages. From decorative items (such as wind-chimes) to shirts and everything in between, finding that “special something” to remember the trip by was easy. A favorite shop there, for me, was the old fashioned “General Store”. Filled with displays of jellies, salsas, pickles and more, it took the shoppers back to a time when life was slower and simpler. I walked out with a jar of Strawberry preserves, a jar of Peach Cobbler and a small box of rocks…chocolate of course! As we gathered back at the caravan, an executive decision was made for a last minute side trip to a place that I had heard of, but had never been to. Luckenbach, Texas!
Describing Luckenbach is a bit like describing fishing. You can find pretty words to paint a picture of it but unless you get your hook wet, you ain’t fishing. Describing Luckenbach is the same. You can find pretty words to paint that picture, but until you’ve sat at a table listening to the evening “picker” strumming his guitar and singing songs that you probably won’t want your teenage kids to hear, then you just can’t do it full justice. We did sit at a picnic table, sharing good times in the evening sunset, listening to the picker sing….sometimes questionable…songs, watching the local roosters pecking around the crowd. And we laughed. Not that “Oh, I’m embarrassed but will offer an obligatory giggle”…oh no, we LAUGHED! It was good times at the highest level. And, to me, that is what day trippin’ is all about. Finding someone to share good times, or enjoying the moment by yourself…just you and nature. But what matters is making that moment happen. The day trips don’t have to cost a lot, it doesn’t have to take a lot of planning. You just pack and go. And laugh.
If you are planning a day trip, here are a few things to remember…
- Don’t forget you camera or whatever device you prefer to take photos with
- Don’t forget to bring the charger for those devices too.
- Wear comfortable shoes while you are out trippin’, and if you are out looking for wild flowers then be sure to wear shoes that you can walk through tall grass and rough terrain in.
- It goes without saying, be sure to wear comfy clothing as well.
- Take along a couple bottles of water, but also remember that there may be a long drive between “pit stops”.
- Be respectful of the places you stop and the people that may live there or close by. We made several stops just right off the roads because the flowers were covering fields. A couple of times there were homes right near where we stopped. We never left anything behind, and we didn’t tear up the flowers taking our pictures. Be a courteous guest!
- Don’t hesitate to meet people and get their stories! That’s the fun stuff, right there!
Get out there, have a great time in Day Tripper style!
Photos available for purchase on canvas. See Jack County New Edition Facebook page for gallery.