Monday, April 16, 2012

Truck Stuck

Flowers, I think Isabel and Kevin had a tough day, the tribe on the last meeting, Texas Long Horn, Baby Texas Long Horn, this sign unnerved me more than the "Caution, Rattle Snakes may be present"....I want to go home!

No, I did not take pictures.  Probably should have.  But, at the time, it was not funny.  Kind of is now, but when I get home and get the tow bill, it won't be anymore.

We left Fredericksburg after the tribe got on the road.  Supposed to be one of the best days for wildflowers.  Jack and I were looking forward to driving the route and getting some great pics of the flowers and the tribe.  Best intentions.

We stopped at Opa's and stocked up on German Sausages for the rest of the summer, the grocery store for ice, and the quilt shop to dig Joe out of a hole.  He needed something to take home to his wife.  He has kind of had a rough week, (I won't mention the fact that he kind of didn't notice a red light in Fredericksburg.  I also won't mention that the rental car was totaled.  And you really don't want to know that aid cars and police were involved.  But, everyone was ok.  Keeping the insurance companies in business.) So with that not mentioned, he really needed to take something home to his wife.  Fortunately for him, and her, she and I are both quilters: AND: the quilt shops in Texas have a gorgeous series of wild flower fabrics.  She is now the proud owner of a great collection of fat quarters.  Joe will be quizzed next tour on what a fat quarter is: I doubt that he will remember.

We then headed out to the Jung Road and onto the route.  The scenery was awesome and we caught up with Isabel on the lunch stop.  Jack kind of sort of misjudged the turn to the side of the road.  The truck ended up with the lift gate dug into the pavement and the back wheels off of the ground.  Not going anywhere.  The guys tried to put tables and rocks under the wheels for traction.  No go.  My mad level was off the chart: the best thing I could do was not do, or say, anything.  Kevin took one look at me and decided it was time to go.  Isabel quickly packed up the lunch stop and hit the road.  When Dave arrived he turned around and made tracks.  One hour later, with a path tramped into the flower patch we were high centered in, the tow truck, (actually a wrecker), pulled us 2 feet back onto the pavement and off we went.  I really hope the road crews don't notice the holes the wrecker dug into the road to get traction to pull us out. About two hours later I was able to speak.

We hit the main roads and high tailed it to Perdinales Falls State Park.  Funny the ranger at the desk remembered me!  Not too many people camping in a huge yellow Penske truck.  We set up camp and got to work on dinner.  The tribe made it in in record time after a fabulous day of riding through the blue bonnets.  Kind of like tip toeing through the tulips, only on a bike.  Fortunately no one resembles Tiny Tim.  Or sings like him either.

We had a great last map meeting.  Awards were given out for categories including luggage, flats, age of tribe members, and the one who got lost the most.  Except there were so many that got lost on this trip, no one got the privilege of the Mageline award.

Texas has an amazing history with it's food.  We were fortunate this week to sample a diversity of what they have to offer.  The Spanish influence, the German influence, the love of beef and all that grows in the hill country, the seafood from the coast, you can eat and eat and eat and never sample it all.  We gave it a good shot at a little bit of their bounty!

We finished the night with a "clean up" dinner that included cole slaw, tossed green salad with Italian dressing, BBQ brisket, pulled pork, Opa's sausages, a hearty Texas meat chili, vegetarian chili, cheese & sour cream & grilled tortillas, and assorted pudding cakes for dessert.

All in all, it was a great week.  The tribe was awesome.  The staff did a great job.  The weather cooperated and the flowers were fabulous.  We can only hope for this good of a trip next year.  Now, 5 days on the road and we will be home for two months.  Time to see Scott graduate and head to the Marines.  Empty nest for me.

It looks like both of the Washington trips are full!  The Wine Country is one from full!  Oregon has a few spots open, so it's time to sign up!  This is an awesome tour and we are going to have a few culinary surprises in store!  See you there!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rather Sweet No More.........

Poblano chili peppers on the grill: a great Texas cook book: the cemetery in Fredericksburg, built in 1884: puppies out for a ride: one of the children's graves at the cemetery: the old grist mill in town.

It has been a ritual to visit the Rather Sweet Bakery in Fredericksburg: I wrote quite a lot about it last year and got to spend some time visiting with the owner, Rebecca Rather.  We were so disappointed to find that she has closed up shop!  As well, so were the riders 'cause we had talked up her amazing cinnamon rolls.  Now we will have to go in search of another great venue.

The New cook book that I picked up: the Second Edition of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Paradise:  should help us on this search.  I would love to take a couple of weeks and tour from venue to venue that the author, Terry Thompson-Anderson, has highlighted!  I would also love to be here during the peach harvest, but not too sure about the heat and humidity!

The weather for this trip has been holding steady: partially overcast but warm and humid every day.  No rain, and no extreme heat!  It has been great!  The tribe seems to have settled into a routine peddling through the farm roads lined with gorgeous flowers!  There is the occasional sheep, goat, or cow to avoid.  But, that makes it all the more fun!

When we set up camp in Fredericksburg we got to work preparing a great dinner of Texas Wedge Salad, potato salad, smoked beef brisket with assorted bbq sauces, homemade spicy mac and cheese (YUMM!), and Nana's rum cakes for dessert.  The mac and cheese was a great new addition to the menu!

We are at this camp ground for 3 nights: a treat for me and Jack: we don't have to set up and break down the kitchen for 3 days! Plus there are great showers and clean bathrooms!  Always appreciated!

Day 4 found the tribe riding the Little Switzerland Loop along the Old Mason Road and the Gypsum Mine Road. It was a  great 38.3 (give or take) miles with some pretty good ups and downs.  The hills here can be long and steep with little or no visibility over the top until you are at the top.  Makes it interesting & challenging to pass riders on the uphill.

Dinner day 4 was fajita night: seasoned beef & peppers, tofu & peppers, refried beans, spanish rice, and all the trimmings. As well, we featured our debut of a poblano chili relleno casserole. Oh my gosh it was good! Took awhile to roast and skin the poblanos, but nothing compared to the Red Fish!  It was a perfect night for mexican!  Many of the tribe headed for the shuttle after dinner to hit the town and find the beer.  Not they are at a loss for beer in camp: this tribe has done some serious damage to the beer cooler!

Day 5 was another day in paradise: another great ride out to Enchanted Rock State Park with and optional loop to Willow City.  We have heard that the inhabitants of Willow City aren't too friendly; unusual for Texas, but I guess they get a ton of cyclist through that area.  At least they don't tack the road!  And yes, there are wonderful people out there that do that.  Not nice.

Dinner tonight is broccoli salad, coleslaw, Opa's Country Style Sausages with sauerkraut, bbq'd pulled pork, potato salads, steamed asparagus........the list just goes on.

The week has gone by very quickly.  Our last night is tomorrow night at Perdanales Falls State Park.  It should be the best day for wildflowers.  I hope to get some great pics.

Monday, April 9, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish........

Joe watching Jack and our fearless leader, Dave,  hard at work holding up the tree: Linda in the holiday spirit at water stop:Blue Bonnets:  Isabel giving directions at lunch (she had a former student stop when she recognized Isabel at the side of the road! We can't take her anywhere!) Tribe members enjoying lunch: Dinner at Blanco: the view from my kitchen: This is how I felt after scaling those darn fish!

Scianops Ocellatus: Red Drum Fish: a species found in the State of Texas.  Other names include Redfish: Rat Red, Bull Red, or just "Red".  They range from Massachusetts to Key West, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast to Tupxan, Mexico.  It was my bright idea to cook some of these guys up for a real Texan treat.  The recipes in the Texas on the Plate cookbook seemed relatively easy and scrumptious.  When my Sysco rep informed me that yes, they do carry Red Fish, she asked if I wanted filets skin on or skin off? Skin on please.  Boned or with bones?  No bones, please.  Scaled? Why the heck would I want them scaled? Scales on Salmon and Trout, the fish species most common to us North Westerners, are slimy little things that you wash off.  Oh, no.  Not the Red Fish scales.  The first cut to portion the prehistoric looking little critters took my sharpest knife and a lot of elbow grease.  Then, things that looked and felt like guitar picks popped out of the skin.  Now I know why I should have had them scaled.  One and one half hours later I had the critters scaled.  My best guestimate is that there are about 1200 scales on a filet.  (No, cousin Charlotte, I didn't actually count them.  But I was tempted.) There are about 5000 scales on the ceiling and walls of the kitchen we were in.  Jack informed me that if I didn't shower after dinner I wasn't sleeping in the tent.  But, I did get them scaled and bathed in a worcestershire, butter and lemon juice.  Then sprinkled with Creole seasoning, they grilled up to be some of the best fish I have eaten! Worth every darn scale.

We got the Tribe on the road Easter Sunday morning bright and early.  Not too bright, actually.  Lots of cloud cover until about noon.  The roads were winding and beautiful, the wildflowers are out in full force!  The Tribe had a great day of riding and rolled in early to a packed State Park in Blanco.  We fed them a feast to remember:  Spring green salad with fresh goat cheese (procured from Chrissy Omo in the Super 8 parking lot at 11 this morning.  She made it fresh for us yesterday!) and a raspberry dressing: shrimp creole and steamed rice: corn on the cob: grilled Red Fish: fresh corn bread and Nana's rum cakes for dessert.  The vegetarians got a yummy dish of eggplant and portabello marinara with feta cheese.  This will be a dinner difficult to top!

Monday the Tribe will wander to Fredericksburg for 3 nights.  Yeah!  We don't have to move the kitchen for 3 whole days!  Now I just have to figure out what's for dinner.  Jack said we're ordering pizza.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Signs along the way

The first night's menu: Jack WORKING ON THE LUGGAGE TRUCK:  Ok, what's wrong with this picture? The neighbors digs and ours; think I'm in the wrong line of work...or maybe not...who wants that much responsibility?  Texas On The Plate: a great cook book and our mentor for this shall prove interesting!  Hey Hillary!  She is a regular on our tours and we love her so much!

With Arizona completed, 2 weeks at home, we now are finding our way to Texas.  Not unlike Plains, Trains & Automobiles, we headed to the airport, flew to Phoenix, then Tucson, took a shuttle to Cactus Country Camp Ground and picked up the big yellow truck.  Less 1/2 a tank of diesel.  Hmmmm.....Jack had a point about not filling up before we left.

We headed across Arizona, spent the night in Las Cruces, New Mexico with Tammy and Catherine, then spent a longggggg day on the road to San Antonio to spend two nights with Isabel.  Fortunately, the border patrol wasn't interested in us and the Sheriff was no where to be found.  I worked on a quilt and Jack drove, and drove, and drove.  I had to get a kick out of some of the signs that we saw along the way:  One convenience store off the highway had in huge letters:
Ok, do they fry their chicken in diesel?  If so, I don't think so. Did they forget a punctuation mark? If so, I would still be afraid to stop.
One bar had a sign that said: Jed's bbq: we cook almost anything.  Don't think I'm eating there any time soon.  The restaurant/shack next to it said; crawfish boil: bring your own bottle.  Great neighborhood.

We arrived at Isabel's early Wednesday evening, parked the big yellow truck, and went in search of a glass of wine until she was done tutoring.  I was introduced to a side of Texas that I was not familiar with: cross walks bear no meaning to a Texan in a vehicle.  I was nearly run over trying to cross the street: IN A MARKED CROSS WALK: almost didn't have a cook for this trip.  We did have great appetizers at the Bistro on Broad Street in San Antonio: great great  food!

After a day of procuring food at Costco, Sysco and the local HEB grocery store, we were ready to have an afternoon of fun.  Well, for me.  Isabel and Jack were good sports and made sure I had my quilt store fix: 1/2 an hour up to Kerrville to an amazing quilt shop.  Of course, someone in the shop knew Isabel: a trait that will follow us through this trip!

Friday afternoon found us up river from New Braunfels, at the Lazy L& L camp ground to start our tour.
What a nice camp ground: but it is Easter weekend and my gosh everything is packed!  This is a huge holiday with the Hispanic community and everyone and their tenth cousin is out.

We arrived around noon on Friday and set up camp.  Friday night was staff night out, then everything kicked in on Saturday.  The tribe trickled in all day long, had registration at 3:30, then the first map meeting and dinner.  We were excited to see quite a few riders from long ago, and not so long ago.  Hello Hillary!  You all probable know her by now!  She is part of the family.

Dinner on Saturday was a green salad with a fresh cilantro dressing: honey spiced pork chops: hot German potato salad, glazed carrots, white bean ragout, watermelon and gourmet cookies for dessert.  The meal was a hit, and we're off!  We will update tomorrow on our trip  into Blanco.....Happy Easter!