Monday, May 15, 2006

Weekend in Wimberley

Over the 7th, 8th, and 9th Nikki and I took a long weekend and visited the sleepy little burg of Wimberley for one of our mini-vacations. I am not sure where the idea to go to Wimberley came from, or to be more correct I don’t remember though I do remember Nikki telling me why she wanted to go to Wimberley. I am fairly laid back when it comes to these vacations as the most important thing I get from them is a quiet (sometimes) weekend with Nikki.

Nikki kickin' it in Wimberley.

Wimberley is this small, artsy town on the banks of the Blanco River near the edge of the Texas Hill Country and like all small, artsy towns in the Texas Hill Country the town is lousy with bed and breakfasts just waiting for the citified hordes to descend on them for weekend getaways to the “country.” Being located approximately 20 miles from Austin calls into question Wimberley’s classification as country (at least in my mind), however due to the geography and Austin’s tendency to expand on a north-south axis, the 20 miles from Austin to Wimberley are not quite as suburban sprawlish as, oh lets say I-45 is to north of Conroe (50+ miles outside of Houston.)

Bluebonnets.

All in all we had a really good weekend. We drove out from College Station Friday morning and would have gotten their faster had I simply paid attention to the directions I wrote for myself rather than freaking out when 71 crossed 290 and hopping on 290. Oh well, one of these days I will learn. On second thought I wouldn’t bet on that. As a somewhat funny aside, in the weeks leading up to the trip my office mate kept bugging me about where Wimberley was. I didn’t really know and would answer with fairly vague descriptions like, “In Texas,” or, “near Austin,” when I felt like being helpful. While I was coming up with driving directions I found we had to turn off of 290 in Dripping Springs. This name was very familiar to me however I could not remember why I knew the name. It bothered me a little, but not so much that I did any research on the issue to figure out why I recognized Dripping Springs. As we were pulling into Dripping Springs I finally realized why I recognized the name. Dripping Springs is where the annual Tex-i-fied version of Burning Man, called Burning Flipside (or just Flipside) is held every Memorial Day weekend. I kind of felt like an ass since I have been going for the past two years and hearing my friends talk about it for about five years before that. Oh well, sometimes I am not too bright.

Some awesome junk art.

Anyways, we arrived before our posh accommodations were available, so we stopped at the tourist center and Nikki selected a couple of things for us to check out. We then parked and walked around the town a little. Basically the town is centered around several little groups of shops. Most of the shops carry the kind of stuff your rich friends parent’s would use to decorate one or more rooms in their house in order to appear more Texan, however hidden in there were a couple of cool little art galleries, a shop that had something on the order of 300 pairs of cowboy boots, and a store for the kitchen fetishist (I’m looking at you, Scott.) We wandered aimlessly and then headed over to the Country Sun B & B Cottages which was to serve as our base of operations for the weekend.

Our "cottage".

Somewhat predictably the Country Sun was not quite as nice as expected, but what did we want for $100 a night? Sleeping there Friday night was a fairly rough affair as the mattress was hard as a rock. What I had failed to notice was that the bed was equipped with some bizarre Select Comfort mattress and therefore adjustable. Nikki discovered the controls for the mattress sometime the next day and therefore Saturday night was a bit more bearable. Besides the snafu with the mattresses and the fact that there was no soap in our bathroom, the place was serviceable as a place to stay and, as we discovered on Saturday, the pool was a God send. I think it might be fun to get together with several other couples and take the place over for the weekend. They had a Bocce ball court, horseshoes, and a BBQ pit, all of which could be put to good use with the proper amount of friends and beer.

The Bed of Doom.

After we got settled at the B&B it was time for a nap before heading back into town for a spot of dinner at the Burger Barn (I love that one of Nikki’s favorite foods is hamburgers) and then shopping for some essentials (soap and Dr. Pepper).

Saturday we started the morning with the somewhat disappointing breakfast supplied by the B&B and then headed out to the Bella Vista Ranch, home of the First Texas Olive Oil Company. Founded in the late ‘90s, Bella Vista Ranch is based on a traditional Italian family farm where olives are the primary crop. This crop is then supplemented with several other fruits and vegetables, in this case primarily blackberries. Once these are ripe they have a weekend or two where you can come out and harvest your own blackberries. Whatever is left after the unwashed masses descend upon the ranch are then used to make a blackberry wine, which I really want to try and may necessitate a return engagement.

Olive larvae.

A visit to the Bella Vista Ranch begins with a tour of the orchard and production facility (they have a cool Italian word for it which I have since forgotten). If you’re lucky you will be given the tour by Jack Dougherty who will drop a little bit of knowledge on you. Okay, that’s a lie, he’ll drop more knowledge about olives and the history of olive husbandry (I think that’s the word and it sounds better than orcharding) in Texas than my mortal mind was ready to absorb. The most interesting thing I learned throughout the tour is that while the Texas hill country has a climate and soil similar to the prime olive growing regions around the Mediterranean however several attempts to establish olive orchards in Texas had failed leading to Texas A&M (who was leading the charge) to declare Texas unfit for growing olives. The reason they gave, which I cannot remember, did not make a lot of sense and so Mr. Dougherty decided to give it a whirl. He discovered that the issues TAMU had seen with growing olives in Texas came from two factors. First Texas does not have a very cold winter which allows the olive tree a year-round growing season. Second when Texas goes through a Blue Norther, the temperatures drop significantly more than they do in other olive growing regions. Since we have warm winters here and the olive trees continue to grow throughout the year, they are very vulnerable to the sudden drop in temperature that accompanies a blue norther. The Bella Vista Ranch has suffered through one of these blue norther’s, which lead to the loss of a considerable number of their trees.

The orchard.

At the end of the tour/oh-my-god-I-learned-too-much session, you get to sample some of the fruits of their labors. This includes their olive oil (I bought a bottle), wines (I bought a bottle), balsamic vinegars, and jams (I bought some). One final interesting fact for you kids, did you know that olive oil contains capsaicin, the molecule that gives jalapenos and other peppers their burn?

A flowering tree in Wimberley.

After the Bella Vista Ranch we headed in to town to grab some lunch and do some more wandering/shopping. We had lunch at Inoz, which had an okay chicken fried steak, awesome nachos, and marginally bad service. We then shopped a bit more and I picked up a cookbook, A Cowboy in the Kitchen by Grady Spears and Robb Walsh, at Kiss the Cook. Sometime this weekend I intend to give the Cream of Jalapeno soup recipe a try and I will try to remember to let you guys know how that goes.

Trees along the creek behind Inoz.

To close out the afternoon we drove over to Jade Gardens and the Central Texas Bonsai Exhibit. Being something of a japanophile I have been interested in bonsai for some time however this was my first opportunity to take a look at an extensive collection of the wee trees. After looking at all the trees, and they have a ton of them, I am even more mystified than I was before hand. I went ahead and picked up a book so I can get my learn on with the intent of returning to Jade Gardens to take a class or two and start my own collection of bonsai. The Japanese Maple and Cypress are a two of my favorites.

A grove of Japanese Maples.

Nik and I then returned to our base of operations to relax and dip our toes in the swimming pool. The water was so nice and cool and the sun was just hot enough to quickly turn this dipping into swimming. It was glorious. Glorious. Then it was time for a nap before a dinner of Subway sammiches. I likes me some Subway.

Sunday came far too soon and we finished up the weekend with a bit more shopping, including the purchase of a Mother’s Day gift for my mom. All of my pictures from the weekend can be found in this gallery on my Webshots account.

More junk art. Isn't he cute?

1 comment:

nikki said...

lol. i had no idea you put this post on here. so glad i decided to read back to everything i had missed over the past few weeks.
thanks for showing everyone that goofy picture of me....although i won't complain much because i know you probably have much more damaging photos of bed-head or something.
thanks for recapping the weekend so nicely. you know....i don't remember why i wanted to go to wimberley either.