Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Austin, Texas

After spending a week outside of Baumont, TX, nursing bad colds, and catching some rest after our visit in New Orleans, we moved on to Austin.  Our favorite State Park, McKinney Falls, only had four days available because next week is South by Southwest, Austin's big music and movie extravaganza.  Our visit included camping near Ken and Terry Smeltzer, the couple we met the very first time we went to McKinney Falls back about 4 years ago.

Ken and Terry live in Wisconsin and come down to Texas each winter.  They have a son who lives in Fort Worth but have also begun to enjoy the Rio Grande Valley so much that they just purchased a home near Mission.

Ken and Terry showed us the ropes about getting around the City to enjoy inexpensive music in the early evening hours.  Most venues have bands playing any type of music you could want and in the early hours, from 6pm till 9, they usually play for tips. 

One night we drove out to a town called Gruene, pronounced "Green".   The town is named after the first settler, Ernst Gruene, who was a German farmer.  Its location along the Guadalupe River helped it to become a thriving cotton growing area in the late 1800 and early 1900, but a boll weevil  blight, the depression, and highway construction that bypassed Gruene, left it a ghost town by the 1950s.

Its resurgence as a tourist attraction began in the 70's when a University of Texas architecture student happened on the site with all its old Victorian buildings and set to work getting the town put on the National Register of Historical Places and saving it from condo development.  Today it is a quaint village with shops, restaurants, art galleries housed in the restored structures, and a very active dance hall hosting nightly music performances, the majority of them free.

One of Marlin's favorite stores in town

Gruene Hall opened in 1878 and is one of the oldest dance hall in Texas. Check out

The  night we went, a man named Brent Graham played and sang, non stop, for four hours.  He played lots of the oldies and we were amazed that we knew the words to almost everything he sang!  As you can see in the picture, the tables and benches were possibly original to the building

Brent up close

The weather was beautiful while we were in Austin. We enjoyed a meal with Ken, Terry, Ken's brother Maynard, and his wife Nancy.

It was also the time of year when the Blue Bonnets cover the ground in all directions

The blooms were just beginning the week we were there, so there were more buds than blooms. 

Two nights we traveled to Congress Street in Austin to see one of Ken and Terry's favorite bands, "Hot Club of Cow Town"  This was a trio of guitar, violin, and upright bass who play a version of Texas Swing music.  No camera on board, but a fun night anyway.  Aside from their great talent as musicians, the folks who came there to dance were enjoyable to watch.  This band will be playing in Boothbay Harbor, Maine in August.  Will definitely try to get to that event.

The last night we were in Austin we went to a coffee house called "Radio Coffee and Beer" and listened to another incredibly talented musician, Erik Hokkanen.  Switching between the guitar and violin, he played an incredible  array of styles, including gypsy music, western swing, rock, bluegrass, and even classical.  Amazing to watch and listen to.  The two musicians with him were also talented and entertaining.

Another thoroughly enjoyable time in Austin, where even the old folks can have a good (and cheap) time!

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