Coming back to Texas

Days 11-17: Leander, Texas, 2856 miles, 13 states

There’s a land I know where the bluebonnets grow that is paradise to me,

From Amarillo skies down to Mexico, from the Pecos to the sea

Kenneth Threadgill, “Coming back to Texas”

Fifty years ago, I heard Kenneth Threadgill and the Hootenanny Hoots perform “Coming back to Texas” at the Split Rail in South Austin. This was in the “land that gave me birth.”

I went with good friends to share pitchers of beer, enjoy fried onion rings, and listen to great music performed by Threadgill, George McLean, and other notables. I should retract that. The music wasn’t always “great,” especially when folks like me chose to sing along.

“Frauleinwas a favorite and we weren’t awake enough to see that the term might be sexist. We were transported by lines like

Far across deep blue waters, lives an old German’s daughter

By the banks of the old river Rhine.

It was easy to ignore the fact that the actual subject of the song was a German-American living in Houston. If the singer had really meant

By the same stars above you, I swear that I love you

You are my pretty fraulein

he might have put more effort into just making the relationship work, not dreaming about the old river Rhine.

The Lone Star and Pearl longneck beers were cheap, there was no cover charge, no dress code, and no paving in the parking area. Hippies, cowboys, and graduate students mingled with little concern for status or political beliefs.

This was the Old Austin, near its end. Today, the streets around the Capitol and the University are just a tiny eye of calm in the middle of the hurricane of highways, suburban developments, and booming tech industry that characterize the New Austin.

But the real purpose of our stop in Austin was not to reminisce, but to see family, just a few of whom are shown here in a photo from dining out. The family time has been far more precious than even the memories of the Split Rail.

Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
At Matt’s El Rancho
Checking out the lower vanagain bed for comfort and size
At sister Karen’s; Henry recovering from broken arm playing basketball

Primeval soggy

Days 5-6: Prince William Forest, VIrginia, 824 miles, 8 states

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie”
With the Williams. Guess which baseball team they support!

We stayed last night in Prince William Forest Park, Virginia. There had been a continuous rain for several hours leading up to our arrival in the area, so the grounds were soggy, the air was misty,  and the trees were dripping.

Our stay almost didn’t happen, because we’d made a mistake on our reservation. A ranger happened to pass by as we were considering speaking to the usurpers of our campsite. We learned that they were totally in the right and that our reservation was for a previous day. Fortunately, there was an unoccupied site we were able to use.

The Park sits next to the Quantico Marine Base, and as a reminder of the toll of war, the Quantico National Cemetery. The area of the Forest was once home to several villages, including one for former slaves.

It’s now a lush green landscape, much further along than our cape Cod vegetation and denser in any case. There’s a beautiful Scenic Drive, trails, well-spaced campsites, and limited, but well-functioning facilities.

We visited nephew Mark, his wife Laura, and their two boys in Springfield. It’s a sign of the enforced isolation of covid on top of our laziness that they’ve been in a new home for five years and we hadn’t seen it before.

Mark and Laura may have started a trend. We’ll be seeing at least seven family individuals or groups in domiciles new to us on this trip, and as a bonus, one family in Texas and another in California who’ve sold their homes and moved out, but don’t have a new one yet. In addition to covid, there are growing families and new jobs, maybe a little restlessness appropriate to our times.

Chess masters. Why is there no large screen TV?

Blue heron at Burke Lake

Intrepid explorers

Paulownia bush taking advantage of a disturbed area under a bridge

Cicadas preparing to emerge

The new baby

Day 3: Holmdel, New Jersey, 435 miles, 5 states

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

D. H. Lawrence, “The Enkindled Spring”

We’re now seeing family in New Jersey. This means renewing ties that have been too long restricted to email, phone and zoom. But it also means newing (?) ties with Claire, the baby who joined the world last September 5.

Yesterday we went for a walk in Deep Cut Gardens, an enchanting site with waterfalls, formal and informal gardens, statuary, and lush trails. It’s a marked contrast to the life of the man who developed it, Vito Genovese. He reportedly sought a retreat from mob warfare in New York City. See The Gangster’s Garden.

Packing for the Big Circle

Day 1: Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 0 miles, 1 state

Ring out the old, ring in the new

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells

After eight months hibernating, we’re about to set off on a big adventure. We’ll travel through 30 or more states in our vanagain, camping along the way, and visit well over 30 family members and old friends. We’re leaving just as the cherry tree is about to lose its last blossoms.

Susan and I now have our covid vaccinations and I’ve had my cardiac ablation. These should lessen our danger to others and ourselves, especially with the camping.

We’ve had several smaller jaunts in the vanagain, such as canoeing on the Raquette River. That’s helping us with the packing. We also remember many great adventures with Emily and Stephen in our VW camper.

Off to canoe on the Sangamon RIver, 1992
Off to canoe on the Sangamon RIver, 1992

The new camper van is similar to the VW, but it’s built on a Metris platform. Although much of it is familiar, the heater and AC both work. There’s also better gas mileage and enough acceleration to enter an interstate highway safely. So, a little less drama, but it’s still fun to drive.

The vanagain has all we need for extended travel and camping, but it doesn’t require us to stay in an RV park. It even parks in a standard garage.

Susan, packing the vanagain