The Calm of the Whirlwind

Texas has been an interesting place for sure. The day we pulled into the state, at the beginning of February it was close to 80 degrees. Since then it has dropped to almost freezing and then risen back up at least three times. As I write this it’s 75 and I’m sitting at our camp sight near the bank of Lake Austin. This is the third place we’ve stayed at since arriving in Texas (fourth if you count the one night we boon docked outside the Renaissance Festival) and this one is packed to the gills!

First place was McKinney Falls State Park which was a welcome stop after so many nights of boon docking and traveling so much. We decided to bite the bullet and plunk down the cash to stay for two weeks. Let me say that getting to park it for a couple weeks brought a great sense of security and relaxation. That’s not to say that moving around a lot is SOOO stressful, but it does come with the drawback of wondering if the place you’ve decided to “land for the night” (I really love that expression and the visual it conjures, so you will hear me use it again) is 100% safe. That being said, is anywhere 100% safe? …Exactly.

But anyway, it was nice to plant it for a while and look up an old friend who we hadn’t seen since we got married. We picked up right where we left off as if the past sixteen or so years were sixteen days. On the other side we hooked up with some new friends who we hadn’t actually ever physically met (the wonders of the internet folks!) and found ourselves in the company of this great family who we are glad to call real friends now!

Due to the two week maximum stay rule at most state and national parks, we had to split the homey McKinney State Park for… Hobo Camp!! That’s right!! YEA, HOBO CAMP!!! Eventually, after we’d been there for a few hours one of the guys came over and told me everybody in Texas carries a gun. Then asked if I’m packin’. Being the streetwise cat that I am, I grinned and said nothing… then began to consider the pros and cons of this particular stopover. Considering the fact that I would be leaving for a job install in North Carolina in a couple days, I obviously wasn’t too keen on leaving everybody in the quaint gun-toting community known as Hobo Camp. However, the price was right and Tan continually assured me that she could fend off any toothless, pistol wavin’ and a’winkin’, beer guzzlin’, hobo camper.

With the friendly, genuine, good-hardheartedness of the proprietor, Hobo Camp became a cool little place that we counted ourselves lucky to have stumbled upon. I could sense that he was a standup guy who I felt would keep my family safe while on his property. He conveyed to us the history of the immediate area and regaled us with more than a few stories of ghost sightings that have occurred right there in the camp. Picture “Uncle Jesse” from The Dukes of Hazzard giving history lessons and telling ghost stories around the fire pit and there you have a good picture of Hobo Camp.

I’m going to take this opportunity to address the idea of our multiple references in this and other postings to The Dukes Of Hazzard TV show. I loved The Dukes Of Hazzard and being in the south/south west, we have run into more than a few characters who could have been… well, characters on that show. This is in no way a dis or swipe at any of these folks we’ve come across. Most have been kind, helpful people who have been more than willing to offer some friendly advice or assistance, and have been perfect examples of what we refer to as “southern hospitality”.

Austin kept us quite busy with some volunteer work we did for The Ronald McDonald House at the Live Strong Marathon, touring the set of “The Lying Game” at Austin Studios,  (courtesy of the previously mentioned old friend), conducting interviews and  being treated like royalty for a day at The Sherwood Forest Faire, scooping ice cream at Threadgills for the “Roky Erickson Ice Cream Social” during South By Southwest (SXSW), and Tan actually winning us a pair of wristbands for SXSW on the local radio station! She willed it all week long and we finally won on the second to last day of the contest (caller#9!!). You should have heard her shouting in jubilation on the radio as the DJ had to ask her to calm down!

Due to Tan’s picking up some work for SXSW and our desire to be a little closer to downtown Austin for the festival, with a little sadness we bid Hobo camp farewell and headed to Emma Long Campground. This is a place that Tan and I had stayed at twenty years ago with my sister and her husband. For the most part the place looked the same… long, winding road to get in, bathhouse where it was before, an open field with a cliff face behind it, and… a lake buzzing with speed boats and other water craft? We looked at each other and I said “Do you remember a body of water here twenty years ago?” Tan didn’t either, so she contacted my sister. She didn’t either. Clearly the lake is not a new addition and according to the locals it has always been there. How we missed it twenty years ago I’m not really sure because the place really isn’t that big! What a pleasant surprise to say the least!

Initially it was nice and quiet with a few campers, but after a few days the place became packed. We quickly discovered that this week was spring break for the local schools so folks were taking advantage of the local (waterfront!) camping. Our scenic little oasis suddenly became a bustling tent/RV community complete with loud people, loose dogs, kids cutting through our campsite (who Mercy set straight), and no privacy. Eventually things did thin out again but never back to the way when we first got there.

Our last week was a crazy time of running around enjoying the musical offerings of SXSW and spending some time with our new found friends. While in town we enjoyed the sounds of quite a few bands like The Soft White Sixties, Peelander-Z, Maus Haus, and of course the incredible Guy Forsyth (who you MUST check out) who we got to see twice! It was a difficult (as always) bidding Austin farewell, but after six comfortable, yet busy weeks it was time to hit the road again.

More to come from Texas…

9 thoughts on “The Calm of the Whirlwind

  1. Glad to have been able to see you guys during your stay, Great read, look forward to more!

  2. It all sounds sooooo fun! I miss you guys & I’m still trying to plan a visit to you while you’re on the road, just need to figure the logistics. Safe travels.

  3. I can’t believe we don’t remember the water at Emma Long. Maybe I was too focused on my new puppy, Frodo Baggins. That campsite was his first home.

  4. Nice to hear so much positive about Austin;my oldest brother lives there and I hope to get there sometime in the next couple of years for a visit.

    1. Great city mainiacbill! Do yourself a favor; visit your brother and check it out when you can.

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