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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Texas Hill & Dale & Tornadoes: Day 6 Florida > PNW


Hippie Hollow is a local Austin Texas favorite swimming hole.
It was a little too chilly to swim but still pleasant to hang out at.
We stalled a little bit in the morn of our sixth day of cross-country travel, from Florida to the Pacific Northwest.Stalling is easy to do when you’re feeling lazy, and are blessed with a comfortable bed and a free hotel breakfast. 

We were hankering for Hippie Hollow swimming hole, about a 45-minute drive out of Austin Texas. Getting there too early didn’t make sense.

Turns out due to all the wet weather and flooding that’s plagued the Central States in recent weeks, Hippie Hollow's water level was quite high. That, coupled with a brisk wind, slippery rocks at the shoreline’s entry point and taking our cues from the locals, we didn’t dip in after all. Instead we made use of the blanket we brought “just in case” and lounged on the shore, relaxing for a good hour plus before we hit the road. We did see two locals gingerly wading thigh-high in the water on the way out, but that was it.
The Texas highways we drove were fairly consistently bordered by wildflowers in bloom.
Here in Hill Country there were trees, too.
 After Hippie Hollow, we just needed to burn some miles. 

Our goal the following day was to get to Carlsbad Caverns no later the mid-afternoon. Driving to Carlsbad from Hippie Hollow in mid-afternoon would make for a late arrival.We might’ve considered pushing to Carlsbad, but lodgings were expensive there. There were only two small hotels for less than $100. Even the Hampton started at $287. 

Between Hippie Hollow and Carlsbad, there wasn’t a whole lot of options.   

 All we needed was a place to rest our heads and a grocery store for dinner and restocking, closer to Carlsbad than Hippie Hollow. San Angelo Texas looked like our most affordable in-between option.

Along the way, we continued to stay off the interstates as much as possible, taking in small town main streets whenever we could as well as getting whatever sense we could of life in the many blink-and-you’ll-miss-it towns that we could at the prescribed speed limits, unless we had a reason to stop.
A nice bit of architecture in Llano,Texas, serving as the county courthouse, completed in 1893.
Neither of us had ever traveled through Texas hill country before. Given we had no expectations for it, we were all the more pleasantly surprised with the area’s simple beauty. Rolling hills, trees, a generous sprinkling of wildflowers, small town Main Streets (the ones we didn’t miss) with well-preserved buildings from 1800s. Thanks to the rains, the countryside glowed spring green.
A closer look at Llano Texas courthouse clock tower.
Llano Texas, for example, was established in 1856 and served primarily as a frontier trading center, It evolved into a ranching and farming community. We liked the architecture and decided it was worth a brief stop.


As convenient and helpful as Waze and GoogleMaps directions are, if any knows of an app out there designed to route you through rather than around small town center Main Streets let us know! We can play with the apps to go with shortest rather than fastest route, but that’s still no guarantee the app will take us where we want to go.

Many a time we felt frustrated that our apps were navigating us around Main Streets, probably because that route might take longer due to a stoplight or two. We realized we'd been route away from town centers after we passed them. 
Butcher and deer processing store in a small town in Hill Country Texas.
Impressive mural quality for such a small town.
Those few super small towns that are resourceful and creative enough to offer more than General Dollar Store of Family Dollar Store often offer unique combination businesses that would be unlikely to occur elsewhere. The general store, butcher and “process your deer here” (pictured above) was less of a stretch than most. I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of the storefront as we zipped past; the  mural on the side of that retail shop was surprisingly beautiful.

We knew before we left Austin, there were tornado warnings throughout a broad swath of the Central Southeast, including San Angelo. Fortunately we made to San Angelo before the weather hit.
This H.E.B. market store brand display for their ice cream made me smile.
Also, fortuitously, there was an H.E.B. market in town. We discovered H.E.B. in Austin. They’re part of the Kroger chain (like Fred Meyer aka "Freddies" in the Pacific Northwest), so they’re well stocked with some affordable options, especially store-branded items for budget shoppers like us. H.E.B. also carried a good range of regional favorites and a healthy food options. Wayne spotted  a Southwestern shrimp / salsa / avocado salad that was enough for 2 ½ servings.
Kolaches are a food we kept coming across in Texas. They seem like what as a kid the school cafeteria called pigs-in-a-blanket -- hot dogs baked into a bready wrap.  Most of the kolaches I saw were three times as much bread
as the meat filling (they had other meat "fillings" besides hot dogs). We didn't try them.
We also didn't expect this area that seemed to exist primarily for the oil industry to also be a college town. Not much of a college town, but a college town nonetheless.

We were a bit less fortunate with our room. The price was low and true to the reviews, which warned the motel was less than fastidiously clean. Other than the exceedingly low bar set for ugliness in d├ęcor at the Eagles Nest in Concrete Washington, our room boasted the ugliest hotel couch and mirror and bed we’ve even seen in a hotel. At least we had a couch; most rooms don’t.
We always appreciate rooms that offer a couch, though this one was pretty darned ugly.
We settled in for a good night’s sleep but it was not to be. Both our phones went off four times each with local tornado emergency alert warnings between 4:20 and 6:30 am. I had the wherewithal in my groggy state to pull out my laptop and Google on my laptop for the local tornado specifics and what to do if a tornado hit. The wind was not tornado strength by us (we have some idea what strong winds sound like from sailing halfway around the world), and the bed was far from the room’s window and door. Had it got a bit worse, we could’ve gotten more shelter in the bathroom, but it didn’t come to that.
The hotel mirror "matched" the couch in style; definitely not our style.


Breakfast was well-rated and complimentary at the restaurant that shared the same building as the hotel. However the restaurant was packed plus several tables waiting so we skipped the freebies because getting miles was more important in starting our day than a leisurely breakfast in a restaurant crowded enough to give us both claustrophobia.

Besides, we figured the sooner we got going, the sooner we could put some distance between us and the storm area. Within about an hour and a half, we drove into much better weather. Carlsbad awaited....

Note: We are currently in Price Utah. I am catching up on the posts of our daily cross-country travels.

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