Sunday, April 17, 2016

BBQ and Bluebonnets

El Nino appears to have returned to Texas.  It’s been pouring for most of the day, and our rain gauge has recorded almost 4 inches since yesterday evening.  There has been some flooding in low-lying areas, and more rain is predicted with more flooding to come.  We hope the weather-guessers are wrong, and that damage will be minimal.  Fortunately for us, we are located well above flood-prone areas.

The previous couple of weeks, however, have been beautiful.  We were fortunate to have a visit with John’s sister, Judith.  Then, my cousin, Frances, and her husband, Roy, who call Estes Park home, were in town for a couple of days.  As they have done often, they came to Austin and braved the heat and humidity to run in the annual Capitol 10,000.  (I actually did that race once or twice in the distant past, but haven’t felt the need to repeat the punishment.)

Fortunately, Roy and Frances also badly needed a barbecue and bluebonnet fix.  After a typical Colorado winter, they are still getting snow in Estes Park.  And, while they may be able to get barbecue close to home, their wildflowers aren’t out yet.  

After a lazy start to the day, on Monday we headed for one of the area’s best-known barbecue restaurants, The Salt Lick in nearby Driftwood.   The Roberts family has been serving Texas-style barbecue there for more than 40 years.  They are one of only a few barbecue establishments in the country that cook their meats over an open pit fire rather than in a smoker.  The flavor is unique, and their sauces are our favorites.  

We were disappointed that the original restaurant was being power-washed, and they were serving in the adjacent dining room.  

However, we were certainly not disappointed by the BBQ.  

The pit was smoking, and the place was full…. And soon, so were we.

After lunch we continued west through Johnson City toward Fredericksburg.  The roadside bluebonnets were pretty, but not as spectacular as in some years.  Here, as at our farm outside Hamilton, many of the flowers have been overstoried by grasses that grew more quickly usual because of the wetter-than-normal spring.  

As we drove toward Fredericksburg, in addition to the roadside bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes, approaching Wildseed Farms we saw vast fields of spectacular crimson poppies. 

We stopped to admire them, and to have some of Wildseed’s delicious peach ice cream.  The flower farm is family-owned, and has been in business since 1983.  It is supposedly the largest flower farm in the nation.  The business began in Eagle Lake, Texas, but in 1995 relocated to the location on State Highway 290 outside Fredericksburg.  
The facility has roughly 100,000 visitors each year between March and May during the peak of the blooming season.  The farm brings in about $4 million each year, with about $1.5 million coming from their retail facility and the rest from sale of flower seeds.  

Really full, now after enjoying our ice cream, we pressed on, marveling at the number of wineries competing for space on both sides of the road.  (We were told that about 16 new ones have opened in the last five years.)  Not all were open on a Sunday afternoon, but Grape Creek Winery was doing a brisk business. 

We stopped to have a taste of their wines, then more than a little relaxed and happy,
made our way back home.  

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