I stepped off the plane in Austin and could immediately feel the humidity. It had been several years since I visited Texas and the humidity was one of the few things I remember. Truthfully, it was the only thing I remembered. It had been too long.
I decided to visit Texas for two reasons: my friend Lori now lived there and my cousins lived there. Lori lived in Temple about a half hour north of Austin while my cousins Brian and Judy lived in San Marcos about a half an hour south. With one flight I could kill two birds with one stone.
Temple is a very small town with not much going for it except the government agency where Lori was working. She was a career government employee and accepted a transfer there six months ago. The move gave her a pay raise and a decrease in her cost of living. Additionally she liked her new boss and the people she was working with so she was very happy with her change.
My cousin Brian and his wife Judy had lived in San Marcos for thirty years. He is an art professor at Texas Southwest University and would be retiring at the end of this year. Judy was already retired. Both of them were consummate artists. They were also art collectors and their house was like a museum.
Lori met me at the airport. While I waited for her to pull her car around, I could feel the humidity in the air. It was definitely muggy in May. Not since my days in Florida had I felt this kind of weather. Thankfully Lori had her car air-conditioning running full blast. Soon I was chilly so I reached for my sweater. Welcome to Texas.
We headed to Temple and I watched the land become increasingly flat and more barren. Lori had relocated from Auburn, CA and it was in there that we became friends. She had moved to Auburn from Hawaii and rented my house sight unseen from a Craigslist ad. Unfortunately the job in Auburn didn't work out so she now she was at a new position in Texas.
Lori purchased a delightful three-bedroom, two-bath house. After a few days of house hunting she saw it late one day and bought it in fifteen minutes as she tells it. She was now settling in and I was one of her first guests.
On my first full day I was there the sky turned dark grey and there was lightening and thunder storms. It was also very windy. Many of the trees in the neighborhood lost branches. It was a tornado but thankfully not a bad one. Welcome to Texas!
The next day was perfectly lovely and we drove to Waco to visit a commune that demonstrates crafts and sells its products. We also scouted around Temple and found the local indoor swimming pool. It was composed of four lanes and had just as many people in it. The two historic places I wanted to tour in Temple weren't open while I was there so we spent the rest of my time playing Scrabble and reading.
On the day I left, Lori took me to Austin where we visited the Lyndon Johnson Library and the State Capitol. I particularly enjoyed the Capitol tour from a very articulate guide who was a former teacher. Austin had grown a lot with many high-risers dotting the skyline. Lori and I strolled along the river a short distance from the Capitol and watched the kayaks and canoes floating peacefully downstream. It was a beautiful area and a delightful day.
We continued on to my cousins' house. Their property is on six acres in western San Marcos known as "hill country", some of the prettiest land Texas has to offer. The house sets on a knoll that overlooks a valley. It rarely snows here nor does it get very cold. It is feels less humid than Temple because there is a breeze most of the time. To find the house you wind down a dirt road.
I was warmly welcomed and Brian, Judy and I spent the next few days catching up on family history. It was really fun to reminisce. It was also nice to visit with their son Andrew, his wife Lisa and their girls, Taylor and Chloe who lived nearby. I was equally entertained by the five cats and the three dozen doves housed in a separate building as well as all the wild birds, squirrels and raccoons. "Hill country" has its critters. I heard about snakes, possum, coyotes, and bob cats but didn't see any. Welcome to Texas!
One day we drove around a nearby lake created by a dam that was built by the army corps of engineers. Our weather was sunny and pleasant but not swimming weather. There were just a few people out on the lake but I could imagine it in the heart of the summer. It was huge and would be a magnet for vacationers. We also visited the nearest town Wimberley which has lots of quaint stores and good restaurants. Western San Marcos is much more appealing than Temple.
Brian and Judy chose well when they picked this spot thirty years ago. Remarkably not much has changed in all that time. There is still peace and quiet and wide open spaces and everywhere you go everyone calls you ma'am.
Welcome to Texas!