Monday, June 7, was a different kind of travel day for us. Normally we are up and out early, hitting the road between 7 and 8 AM. Today I wallowed a little bit, talked to my Mom for a while, and finished up the last blog post while Mr. Wonderful (MW) researched where we could go for lunch. Then we headed out a little before noon. *Sigh* My kind of start! The reason…our next campground was only about 45 miles east. Our first stop was about 15 minutes away at Fish City Grill in Georgetown. We were seated quickly, but then thought we weren’t going to get served. Once the waitress, who was training a new employee, did show up, all was good, though. This place is two things: 1) a pretty decent-sized chain with locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida; and 2) darned GOOD! You know I don’t often post food pics, but this time you deserve to see. We started by sharing the Oyster Nachos appetizer…DE-lectable. I wouldn’t have thought of the combo, but I’m sure glad someone did! Next we both had the BBQ Salmon Taco special, which was three tacos with a side. Simply amazing flavors, and more than enough left for us both to have another meal. After lunch we stopped into Kohl’s to look around a bit and move some, then headed out of Georgetown.
We took the I-35 access road down to FM-2246 south, then turned east on University Blvd, which eventually turned into Chandler Road. It was incredible how long it took us to get out of giant neighborhoods and back to farms and ranches. The weather was very grey, with storms popping up all around us. At TX-95 we turned north to Circleville, then hit FM-1331 east over to Taylor Park. As we were cruising along just short of the entrance, I spotted something in a field. Was that a caboose? Really? Yep. Maybe someone is using it as a tiny house. We made it to the park about 2:15 PM and got everything set up. The crowd here is much smaller, and it seemed like everyone was out fishing. We may be in for a quiet time. Bonus!
Tuesday morning I was wide awake at 4:30 AM. I HATE it when that happens. We didn’t have much planned for the day, so I was able to nap a bit later in the morning. Just before lunchtime we headed out to run a couple of errands. The town of Taylor, Texas, is less than 10 miles from the campground and an easy drive. It offers a small but cute downtown, a few places to eat, and shopping opportunities including Walmart and H-E-B. While there, we grabbed lunch at Whataburger (of course), scoped out the laundromat for tomorrow, then went over to Murphy Park. We drove through Taylor on a previous trip, but neither of us remembered until we saw the birds swirling above the park. It is the craziest thing. There is a small lake with an island that is absolutely covered up with egrets…hundreds of them. I took pics with my iPhone, but they didn’t do it justice. I decided to bring my good camera when I come in to do laundry. Back at Petunia, I focused on getting some work done and staying cool. The weather is HOT, HOT, HOT, and it’s looking like it will be that way for a while. Plus, we are fighting mosquitos. It is breezy sometimes, which makes it okay to sit out at the picnic table, but as soon as the breeze stops, the heat is unbearable and mosquitos attack! You can always tell a place that has an abundance of mosquitos, because if you look just above the grass, you’ll see lots of dragonflies on the hunt. Our site has a nice, small grass area behind it, and there are several deer that come out in the early morning and late evening to graze. I looked out the window just before sunset, and one was laying down in the grass at the edge of the woods. They are just so beautiful.
Wednesday morning I headed back into town to take care of the dirty chore. On the way I passed a herd of longhorns up at the fence, so of course, I turned around and went back for pics. My presence didn’t phase any of them. Even the young one at the gate didn’t flinch. Then it was on to Skyline Laundry. First, the good: They do a FREE LAUNDRY DAY the second Tuesday of every month, sponsored by Laundry Love. That is, if your definition of a day is a couple of hours between noon and 2 PM. Regardless, it’s a nice thing to do for the community, and they even provide the soap and dryer sheets. Now, the bad: This is the second laundromat that I’ve been to recently that uses a card system. In both cases, the machine costs were the highest I’ve experienced, and you guys know I go to a LOT of laundromats. Aside from these two places, small washers typically run $1.50 to $3.00 per load, and dryers are usually a quarter for 5 to 8 minutes. This place had an advertised price of $2.99 for the smallest washers, BUT…that is for cold water, quick cycle. Make it warm or hot water, or normal or heavy duty cycle, and the price goes up. Then the smallest dryers were $.45 for 8 minutes! The kicker for me, though, is that they’ve come up with another way to rip people off. The cards can be loaded from your credit card or with cash. Now, you know that everyone just loads an even amount on the card, but NONE of the machines run on quarter increments (like normal laundromats). So, you ALWAYS have money left on your card, AND you can’t give them back the card and get the money back. That is really just an easy way to steal! I had a little left on my card, so I gave it to another customer on my way out. Before heading back to the campground, I rode back by Murphy Park to get pics of the birds. This time I ran into a nice couple who were bird watching while they enjoyed lunch. Originally from the area, they said that the birds just showed up about 15 years ago and have been there since. Apparently, you will occasionally see small flocks coming or going, but the island is always covered up. So strange! After another quick post office drop, I headed for Petunia and spent the afternoon getting caught up on work. (Although tax season has officially ended, returns are still straggling in.)
Thursday morning we took a ride back over to Round Rock (just north of Austin off of I-35) to check out the Skechers store and a few other places at the outlet mall. It was HOT! Damn hot! Especially for an open air mall. Thankfully they did have shade sails over some of the areas, but we still didn’t stay long. Nearby we found BJ’s Restaurant and Brew House for lunch. The place was not full at all, so we were surprised when the hostess said we would have to wait for 10 minutes. Really? Turns out, only two waiters were there. (Don’t know if they just called out sick or it’s because of the shortage of people willing to work, but I’d bet on the latter.) In any case, we were seated quicker than expected, and our waitress was very nice. It turned out to be her birthday, so we thanked her for coming to work on her special day. I had the BJ’s Classic Chicken Sandwich with green beans, and MW had the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with fries, paired with a (512) Pecan Porter. Mine was probably one of the best chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten…juicy, tender, and a perfect flavor combination…and the green beans were terrific. MW felt the chicken on his was too small (didn’t cover the bun), it didn’t have enough dressing on it, and the spice wasn’t hot enough. Oh, and the beer was a little bland. Often when MW sits down to lunch or dinner out, he first looks at the dessert menu to see if he needs to save room. (My Great Aunt Madolyn used to say we should eat dessert first. In fact, on one or two of our “chick days”, she and I did exactly that. Sure do miss her!) Despite his sandwich issues, the options reeled him in, so he tried the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pizookie. You know I’m not going to sit there and watch him eat that, so I had the mini version of the Monkey Bread Pizookie. Sort of a cross between a cookie and a pie, we both agreed that (as Seattle Sandy would say) they were calorie-worthy!
Our next stop was the cemetery. Often when we are on the road, we watch over-the-air TV. Neither of us care too much for the big network stuff, so we end up watching old shows. My favorite channel is Grit, which is all westerns all the time. Lately we’ve been watching “Tales of Wells Fargo” with Dale Robertson. (If you want to see some absolutely beautiful eyes, take a gander at Dale in his prime!) A week or two ago, we watched an episode where the bank in Round Rock, Texas was robbed by the Sam Bass Gang. At the time, MW looked up Sam Bass, and it turns out that a lot of the criminals and basic facts from that show are actually real. Samuel Bass was a criminal, plain and simple. Some accounts say he was a happy-go-lucky guy who made friends easily, too. But first and foremost, he was an outlaw. With his gang, he robbed trains, pistol-whipped people to get information, robbed banks, and by most accounts, shot and killed a Deputy Sheriff. Yet, somewhere along the way, he became celebrated. The city of Round Rock has a major street named Sam Bass Road, a Sam Bass Centennial Commission, and a Frontier Days Celebration in which Sam is a major feature. Maybe, back in the day, the town really needed something to set it apart, and being the place that Sam Bass died was all they could come up with. Who knows? If time travel ever becomes a thing and some of those Rangers and Deputies find out about it, they’ll be scratching their heads, I’m sure. Sam and his cohort Seaborn Barnes, both killed in the final shootout with Texas Rangers in Round Rock, are buried in the Round Rock Cemetery. Sam’s original grave marker was placed by his sister a few years after his death and said “A brave man reposes in death here. Why was he not true?” It was destroyed by people chipping off little souvenirs (seriously!), so there is a newer version now. The cemetery was established in the early 1850s with the oldest legible tombstone dated 1851. Another interesting tombstone belongs to Mary Ann Lavender, who apparently died on February 30, 1870. Hmmmmm?
Done with the heat, we headed back to Petunia. Later in the afternoon, I took a walk around the campground. Not too many people in yet, but the weekend is expected to be full.
Friday it was time for a much-needed pajama day. (Just me. If MW ever gets up and doesn’t immediately get dressed, we are going to the hospital!!) It was spent catching up on work, watching a little TV, doing a puzzle or two, etc. It was terrific, but…BORING! Let’s move on.
Saturday it was time to get off our butts and do a little more exploring. We took FM-112 southwest. It was a beautiful morning for a drive, and we enjoyed the scenery. The landscape is mostly flat with sporadic areas of rolling hills. At Lexington, we turned north on US-77 and stopped for lunch at Lee’s Landing in Rockdale. Typical southern diner fare, the waitress said they were known for their catfish and chicken fried steak, so MW went for the former and I, the latter. Now I’m just going to say, as a true southerner, I have tried my share of chicken fried everything. This was THE BEST I’ve ever had. Truly. MW said his fish was also very good, so winner, winner, diner dinner. After lunch, we drove through the old, downtown area, which was mostly empty, then continued north.
Approaching Cameron from the south, the courthouse dome pulled us right into the square, which was beautiful. Not as revitalized as some, it nonetheless had quite a few businesses and a couple of beautiful, historic buildings. Plus, a nice walk around the square was a good thing after that lunch. (Although the now solid cloud cover wasn’t helping in the heat department!). Milam County, Texas, apparently struggled to keep a courthouse. The first was in Caldwell and no longer exists. Once they moved the county seat to Cameron, courthouses were built in 1846 (small and temporary), 1856 (burned in 1874), 1876 (badly built and declared unsafe), and 1892 (contracted for a little over $82k, which included removing the old building).
There is also a monument on the courthouse grounds to Benjamin Rush Milam. Born in what is now Kentucky, Milam served in the War of 1812 before journeying to Spanish Texas in search of trade opportunities. He was part of the Long Expedition at the very beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, but it was his actions during the Siege of Bexar in the Texas Revolution that gained him “hero” status. In mid-October, 1835, the Texian Army, led by Stephen F. Austin (yes, the State Capitol is named after him), advanced on San Antonio de Bexar, the Mexican foothold in Texas. Without enough men to launch a full-scale attack, they laid siege to the city, fighting skirmishes here and there. Weeks later in early December, the Texian Army had lost their mojo and was considering retreat to winter quarters. Milam, convinced that would be a mistake, asked the commander for permission to call for volunteers to storm the city. Three hundred men joined the fight when Milam pled “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?” The next day (December 5) the battle began. Milam was killed on December 7 as the fighting continued, but two days after his death, it was all over. Mexican troops, having lost more than 400 men (dead, wounded, or deserted), gave up the only organized garrison they had in Texas. The Texians lost 20-30 and gained the Alamo. Sadly, that wasn’t the only time the mission played an important role in that war, but that would come a few months later. Incidentally, when I was doing a little research on Milam, I found another Benjamin Rush Milam who died in 2020 at 90 years old who turned out to be statue man’s great, great, great nephew.
Just across the street from the courthouse was the old jail, another cool building. Built in 1895 at a cost of $18,883, the beautiful building had offices/living quarters on the first floor, two floors for cells, and a “hanging tower” complete with trap door. The latter was never used as they still preferred to make hangings public. It is a beautiful building that now houses the Milam County Museum, but they do need to do some work on the landscaping that seems to be taking over.
Next we took US-190 up to Temple to grab a few things at Target, then backtracked to Rogers, Texas, and turned south. Just before Davilla, we turned west on FM-1915 to check out another Roadside America attraction…the World’s Largest Purple Martin Apartment Complex. I have to admit, I wasn’t really into this one, but it was pretty cool. This guy not only has a giant bird apartment building, but lots of other houses, and the Purple Martins were EVERYWHERE! MW did a bit of research and found out that the population of our largest swallow is declining, which has been attributed to fewer people putting up habitats. Apparently, once you attract Martins, they will come back every season, AND they eat bugs. That seems like a win-win, so we will be looking for Purple Martin houses when we get back to the barn in hopes that they like stink bugs and Asian Lady Beetles. It was really amazing to see the bird acrobats, diving and climbing, and flitting back and forth to the houses.
As we were figuring out the next turn, we caught the lady below checking us out. I don’t think she liked us stopping on the road near her fence. We headed back the way we came and passed through Davilla, which is basically a ghost town with a few houses nearby.
We zig-zagged over to our last stop, the Granger Lake Dam. For a really hot Saturday, I was surprised there weren’t more people on the lake. Maybe it was just too hot! On the back side there were folks fishing in the turbulent water. We’ve noticed that a lot. I would think there would be no interest from the fish when being thrown about, but I guess that’s not true. We walked down to check it out and were disappointed to see trash spread around everywhere and a stench where people have been cleaning their fish and leaving the mess. Someone even let their dog poop in the middle of the small path.! Yuck! Tired after the long day, we headed back to Petunia.
I started Sunday morning with a nice, early walk. As hot as it has been, pre-sunrise is the best time to be out! Later we headed into town for brunch at the Plowman’s Kitchen. We thought the GPS was lying to us when it turned us down a neighborhood street, but not the case. The restaurant is located in the band hall of the old high school, and I loved that they kept a bit of a band theme. Other parts of the school have been made into apartments, a bar, and other businesses. Too cool! They did a great job of converting it, too. (You may remember that we went to another place, the Swinging Bridge Cafe, in Moline, Kansas, that was also in an old school. The food was okay, but they weren’t as successful with the conversion.) The brunch menu was good, and we both went for the Eggs Benedict. (To be honest, it was prepared well, but they put a seasoning in the hollandaise that was a little off for me. MW said he liked it, though.) Afterwards we topped off the tank and headed back to the park to catch our church service online. Later I did a bit of writing, which was really about it for the day.
Taylor Park is an Army Corps of Engineers facility on Granger Lake, further downstream on the San Gabriel River from Jim Hogg and is also fed by Willis Creek. It is a fairly basic park with a boat ramp, picnic area, and hiking trail. Shopping opportunities are available in Taylor, Texas, about 15 minutes, or Austin about 45 minutes away. The campground has 48 paved, relatively level sites with 30-amp electric, water, covered picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. They are fairly well-spaced, and there are quite a few trees for shade, particularly around the outside of the loop, and a nice playground. There are two bathhouses that are older, but kept relatively clean, although leaving the doors open and lights on all the time made for a lot of bugs. The main negative for us was maintenance. For our entire stay, there was a toilet clogged and stinking in the men’s room on our loop. They taped the door shut, but never fixed anything. The grass in our campsite was almost knee high, and in the heat of a Texas summer, I’m certainly not walking through that without boots on. The grass around the playground was the same way, and the huge picnic area with lots of covered tables hadn’t been mowed either. We heard mowers sporadically, but only for a few minutes at a time, and then they just mowed random spots…one or two campsites, a small part of an open area. It really made no sense. Finally, the campground road was fine, but the one down to the boat ramp and picnic area was terrible. For this stay in June of 2021, we paid $154 for 7 nights.
I think that covers it for now. Next up…Coleman, Abilene, and Did I Mention the Flippin’ HEAT? See you on the path!
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