Southern Border Adventure 2008 travel blog

Gruene Hall

Steve at The Gristmill Restaurant

Inside Gruene Hall


Recognize anyone? (photos in Gruene Hall)



Lyle Lovett

Quiet bar at Gruene Hall

Looking through to the dance hall

just a teaser for you all...more to update tomorrow when I'm enjoying a cup of tea on the balcony at the Gruene Mansion Inn in Gruene (pronounced green), Texas. I'm giving the Sea Dragon a brief break for a couple of nights before I meet up with Sue in Austin where I'll continue to live the life of luxury in the Austin Motel for a night of two. I knew this place would be a good place to stay when I saw a seahorse on the switch plate in my room. (I did tell you all that a sea dragon is a type of seahorse didn't I? and that seahorses have always been special to my Mom and Dad). Night for now, big updates and musings tomorrow.

It's now Feb 9 and I'm finally putting the details into this posting.

After a very warm welcome at the Gruene Mansion Inn, I went to the White Crane Massage and Spa in New Braunfels, TX proper and parked the RV in a corner of the parking lot. The spa was in an old Victorian house I knew it was going to be just great because the parking lot was easy to get in and out of, and there was a small diner just down the street where I could grab a bite to eat. I ducked into the spa first to tell them I was the one with the RV and that I'd be back in an hour or so in time for my appointment for a facial. If I'm going to splurge, why not go all out?

I think I had a hamburger at the diner, I don't really recall, but I do remember it hit the spot. There were only a couple other tables occupied. One table with four women doing some sight seeing and another table of two boys, probably locals. The owner seemed tired and not really friendly. I got less than a warm welcome here, maybe because they were scheduled to close in 45 minutes or so. While I was there, a really tall loud Texan came in and sat down. His presence, his voice especially, just took over the place. The women realized he must be from around these parts and asked him about a restaurant on the river, with a couple of antique shops close by. One of the women had been there before but they couldn't seem to find it now. They'd been shopping in New Braunfels, but they were describing Gruene. Gruene is actually part of New Braunfels now, but it used to be it's own town. Somehow the conversation turned to the man's voice, and he said he did voice overs on radio and such, and I wasn't in the least surprised. He definitely had the voice for it, but the more I thought about it, I also wondered if he'd done some TV as well. He was very familiar. The ladies asked about BBQ and he said the Salt Lick BBQ is THE place to go. Why is it so good? Because of the lard and spices they use, the recipes go back for generations and so does the stove and pots and pans it's slow cooked in. The wood has something to do with it, too. Supposedly President Bush uses them frequently, most recently for the State of the Union address dinner the night before. The man had a huge meal, followed up by a cinnamon roll with extra butter please and then got back into his big truck and took off.

I walked back up the street and into the house/spa for my facial. It was wonderful, and Joanne the owner was great. She'd moved from Colorado a couple years back and had somewhat recently bought the house, moving her spa from a previous location in the area. Something about the upstairs tenant, a photographer, having an unexpected, loud Easter Bunny photo shoot which wasn't so soothing for her customers. She liked living and working in Hill Country very much, but I also got the feeling it takes a long time to not be considered an outsider, or the new kid on the block. Feeling refreshed, but anxious to get back to the Inn while it was still daylight, I drove the now familiar few miles back to Gruene and pulled into the parking lot not sure where to leave the Sea Dragon so that it would not be in anyone's way. I walked in and there were two new women at the desk. Jackie, the manager of the Inn and a young woman expecting any day. Jackie had a big smile on her face and when I asked her about where to park the RV, she said oh yes, Cecil told me about you. Cecil? I'm thinking to myself, who is Cecil? But she told me where to park, just on one side of the lot, easy enough. When I came back in again, with my hands full of this and that, Cecil was at the front desk as well. He said "Well, is this our wayfaring traveler?" I smiled, and said well yes, I suppose I am. I told them I'm always surprised how quickly my story travels. We chatted a bit, he asked what my biggest adventure was, and I told them about the wild pigs on night three in the Sea Dragon. I started to excuse myself - my arms were still full of stuff and I felt like I looked a wreck, but I must not have been in too bad of shape because they seemed surprised when I said I wanted to go clean up a bit. Cecil said "We need to celebrate Bethany's trip in some way... how about if we give her a t-shirt? Can someone make a note of that and make sure she picks out the one she wants before she leaves?" They're not the Best B&B of 2007 for nothing. Nice touch. I thanked him and made my upstairs to Bertha's Bedroom as it was called.

After a shower in the claw foot bathtub, I walked over to The Gristmill restaurant for something light. It really is in an old gristmill, a fun setting, but it wasn't really crowded and didn't seem real conducive to one person (me) sitting at a table. So I opted for the bar instead and the much smaller bar menu. I ordered some wings and a beer from the bartender and hoped that was in the mood to talk as he worked, so I wouldn't feel like a dolt sitting there on my own. Thankfully he did and I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the next couple of hours. Having finally cleared the border patrol twilight zone, I still wasn't sure I'd meet anyone until Austin who had some of the same priorities or interests I did, what with Bush's primary caterer being in the area and all. So when I told Steve I'd recently been to Big Bend National Park, and he said he'd been there several times camping, I knew I was in good company. He seemed to understand when I told him that even though the mountains could be intimidating when you were among them, I sure did miss their comfort once I was no longer surrounded by them. He told me that there were talks of trying to create an international park with Mexico combining Big Bend and the park land on the Mexico side. I think that sounds really neat, and ambitious. I wonder if it will happen in my lifetime. He also talked about the Christmas Mountains, which sounded familiar to me. I had to look on a map though to remember that we'd driven by them on our way to Big Bend. Someone in the government is trying to sell them off to private investors, although they were donated for public use. How can you sell mountains that belong to the public, I asked. Exactly, he said. He said if you're interested, there's a website that is trying to stop it, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd sign the petition against the sale. The web site is Steve, if you're reading this, I've signed the petition. We also talked about the books we're currently reading. My J.A. Jance novel paled in comparison to the classic he was reading. (This is the trouble with not keeping up the trip journal every day...I forget the interesting details.) He kind of laughed when my eyes got big... he said he'd been trying to read it ever since high school or college. It was slow going and required a few look ups on wikipedia. We talked about music, and when I couldn't remember who was playing at Gruene Hall, he called and asked. Country he said. Not his favorite, but when he found out I was going to Austin and specifically to the Continental Club, he recommended James McMurtry, son of Larry McMurtry author and owner of a bookstore in Archer City (or was it called Archer City). He'd lived behind the Continental Club for a while. Turns out Steve is also a bit of a foodie. I left with recommendations for several restaurants in Austin including Mars, which has a good wine list, a little pricey, Kirbie Lane Cafe off of Lamar, East Side Cafe in downtown Austin where they grown their own veggies, Mother's in Hyde Park, a vegetarian, funky place and Wink, with a seasonal menu and fantastic wine list, located behind the Whole Earth Provisions store. (Sue and I did go to Wink, which will be in the Feb 2 entry, and it was outstanding. Definitely one of the top three meals I've ever had...and I couldn't tell you what the other two would be at the moment.) At some point, two women sat down next to me and ordered a Sycamore Lane cabernet, a Napa Valley winery. They made a point of asking for the bottle to see the label which is how I know it's a NV winery. One of them also asked for just one ice cube to cool the wine just a bit. She made a point of saying she'd take it out after just a few seconds. Steve dropped in a cube and she did take it out. She offered a taste to her friend after it was properly cooled, and said "see how much more of the flavor you get now that it's just a bit cooler?" Hmmmm...

We talked about politics of course, since I did say he was the first Democrat I'd met in the state of Texas. He said being in the midst of a very Republican state sometimes got to him, and he was sure he drove some people nuts too. One of the reasons he liked Austin was because it was more liberal. He and his girlfriend were thinking about moving back to Portland where he'd been for a while. He'd also lived in Montana, where he'd read a lot of books. Jobs are hard to come by in Montana. But for now he's in Hill Country saving money and going back to school to get a teaching degree/certificate so he can teach Art (and leave the service industry.) He has an undergraduate in Painting. It got to be 9pm and I wanted to hear the music in Gruene Hall, so I gave him the trip journal website and wished him luck with school. The music was okay at Gruene Hall, a couple of guys alternating singing songs. The crowd was small, and I chatted briefly with a couple who had driven down from Austin to Gruene for dinner to celebrate their anniversary. She was from Honduras and he from the US. The highlight of the evening was the conversation with Steve. It felt like catching up with an old friend and finding out you still have a lot in common and enjoy each other's company.

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