Taking Our Time in the Texas Hill Country

We’ve covered almost all of Texas over the past two months, as we’ve traveled in our fifth wheel, except for the valley and the beach. Fortunately, we’re scheduled to return to catch those areas the first of 2017.

Our Texas Hill Country home for the past couple of weeks was Bandera, Texas, the Cowboy Capitol of the World. This experience was truly a pleasure for us as we parked at a working ranch, Twin Elm Ranch, alongside cowboys and their horses.  twinelmWhile we visited Bandera many times when we still lived in our former stick and brick near Austin, never had we stayed in our RV nor had we even overnighted. During our time, we attended the communities’ Celebrate Bandera event. From the parade downtown that included a longhorn cattle drive to the Native American PowWow on the Medina River, it is by far one of the most interesting events I’ve ever experienced. Mutton bustin’, bull riding, and chicken roping were just a few of the highlights. bandera-parade celebratebanderaAnd there’s no better way to end a celebration weekend in the Cowboy Capitol than attending Cowboy Church, where you get to enjoy some great gospel music and listen to a sermon by a friendly preacher wearing a cowboy hat. Can I get an amen?cowboychurchOnce Celebrate Bandera was over, we took the time to further explore the community. The newest attraction in town opened just a few months ago, the Bandera Natural History Museum.  The museum grounds are home to life-sized reproductions of dinosaurs and Ice Age animals, plus the occasional live deer that are known to wander the wooded yards of Bandera residents, no doubt checking out their new oversized neighbors.  The museum also includes beautifully painted dioramas, the Trail of Habitats, with representations of animals from around the globe. My personal favorite part of the attraction was Juan Carlos Infante International Hall, which houses a number of animal mounts, including the Tyrannosaurus skeleton, “Rexy,” seen in the movie Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller. If only I’d had a stick for Rexy to fetch while we were there.banderamuseumBandera offers wonderful shopping in town but one of our favorite locations to browse and find truly unique and interesting items is Country Accents Antiques, located just a few miles down the road. It’s kind of like a museum where everything’s for sale. The owner has an affinity for pigs, so you might run into Wilbur, a pot-bellied pig, napping on the porch or resting under a shade tree. After you’re done shopping, head to the Backyard Bistro, located behind the antique shop for a bite to eat. I’ve dined there a couple of times now but my favorite dish , hand’s down, was the Crab Eggs Benedict. So good!countryaccentsIn addition to staying in Bandera, we also spent almost a week in Fredericksburg. A community with a rich, German heritage. This place is hopping every day of the week. I’m not a big shopper but for those who are, you’d be hard pressed not to find something to purchase. Stores we like to frequent when we’re in the area include Just Pop – N, a nostalgic candy and popcorn store; Wildseed Farm, the nation’s largest working wildflower farm; and Texas Jack’s Wild West Outfitters, where you can buy your six-gun and the period clothes to go with it. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you’ll be in heaven as  wineries are everywhere.

We’ve visited Fredericksburg numerous times, but we always discover something we didn’t see before. The newest find for us was the Texas Rangers Heritage Center. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the unveiling of their newest bronze, as it happened the day after we left. A 26,000 sq. ft. Heritage Center and LoneStar Ranger Academy is in the works, so stay tuned. This new attraction will partner well with the Smithsonian-quality National Museum of the Pacific War, located right downtown. Plan a few hours for this historic museum, as you won’t want to rush. It also houses a wonderful gift shop.

Since we were in a German town, we felt obligated to partake of German delicacies and the Old German Bakery and Restaurant certainly fit the bill. From schnitzel to bratwurst, they had it and all of it was terrific.fredericksburgThe first time we drove the Texas Hill Country, we fell in love with its beauty. The rolling hills and breathtaking views made our decision to move here a few years ago a no brainer. Many regular and exotic game ranches cover acres of land in the area, making the wildlife viewing rather interesting. Aside from the horses at the RV park, we saw longhorns, donkeys, deer, buffalo, and some exotic animals that now roam the hills of Texas rather than the lands of the African continent.banderaanimalsAside from a brief stop in Utopia, one of our favorite finds during our stay was Polly’s Chapel, a gorgeous limestone church from the 1800’s, located in the rural community of Polly. The Medina River is down the road from the church and the stone that built it came from there. We even had the good fortune of meeting a descendent of the church’s founder, J. P. Rodriguez.pollyschurchAs a photographer, I have to say the night skies were truly magical to me.  The stars at night WERE big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas, as was the Milky Way and even the occasional shooting star and comet. Many nights were spent looking up at the sky and enjoying the vastness of the universe. nightskyIf you haven’t visited the Texas Hill Country, schedule a trip. We found many RV parks around the area offering a variety of different options from which to choose. And if you don’t have an RV, don’t worry. Accommodations are available throughout the region. Safe travels!

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