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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

#40. Enjoy a series of hilarious crime-spree mystery novels centered in the Texas Hill Country

The fact is that it's pretty darn hot outdoors right now. Days like today remind me to stay in the "AC" and maybe enjoy a great novel, especially one that takes place in the Texas Hill Country.


Ben Rehder writes some really hilarious mysteries about a game warden in the Texas Hill Country. There are six books in the series, starting with Buck Fever. Here's a description of Buck Fever from Ben's website at http://www.benrehder.com …

“Blanco County, Texas: It's the week before deer hunting season, as close to a statewide holiday as you get in Texas, and the locals are getting restless. Game Warden John Marlin has his hands full with poaching complaints coming in faster than he can write out-of-season tickets. Then a call of a different sort comes in. A man dressed up in some sort of deer costume has been shot at the Circle S ranch, and witnesses are reporting a massive wild-eyed buck prancing about the pasture in a lovesick frenzy. Marlin's seen a lot in his years, but this is wilder than he could have imagined: the man in the deer suit is a good friend, and the whacked-out whitetail isn't exactly a stranger either. It's the beginning of a mad, frantic weekend in Blanco County, one that will see a few more men shot, an invasion by Colombians with more than hunting on their minds, and damn near the end of Marlin's life. Ben Rehder serves it all up with a huge helping of humor in this debut comic mystery that will firmly establish him as the funniest crime writer in Texas”.

Ben is a Hill Country boy himself and knows how to write a great story. The series of six novels all take place in Blanco County (the Johnson City area of the Hill Country) and feature the names of cities, creeks, roads and rivers that are actually there. Ben has a talent for capturing the essence of some funny Hill Country personality traits in his characters.

You can purchase Buck Fever at most book stores, from Ben’s website, or on-line at
http://www.amazon.com/Buck-Fever-Blanco-County-Novels/dp/0312992203/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202251600&sr=1-5

Over the next few months I’ll tell you about other books in Ben’s “Blanco County” series. Want you to have time read each one before I tell you about the next one in the series!

Good reading!


-Don Gray

P.S. This posting was suggested by Cindy Ivy, a friend of “365 Things To Do In The Texas Hill Country”.

#39. Rabke’s Table Ready Meats, Willow City, TX (near Fredericksburg)

A few miles north of Fredericksburg toward Enchanted Rock, and between the little communities of Willow City and Crabapple, you’ll find Rabke’s Table-Ready Meats. The Rabke family has been producing delicious smoked and fresh meats, sausages and cheeses on their ranch since the 1950’s. I love all of their products, but I always gravitate toward the dried sausage, jalapeño cheese beef sticks, and their beef and turkey jerky. Other Rabke products include salami, fresh beef, pork and turkey sausage, smoked boneless turkey breast, smoked hams, whole smoked turkeys, beef sticks, and tamales. Their address is 3875 Eckert Road, Willow City, Texas 78675, just off Lower Crabapple Road.


A visit to Rabke’s is always fun, especially when you are out for a drive through the Hill Country. Rabke’s is not some large glitzy commercial business. You won’t find large billboards pointing the way to Rabke’s. Rather, their processing/smokehouse facility is located right next door to the Rabke family house on the family ranch. When in the area I always stop and pick up some cheese, dried sausage and jerky to munch on during my drive (plus some extra to take home). It’s a good idea to call first to make sure a Rabke will be there to take care of you, as sometimes they are off-site (a run into town, a calf that needs to drop, etc.). If your travel plans include Enchanted Rock, then be sure and stop by Rabke’s. Rabke’s is located just a few minutes from Enchanted Rock, with Rabke’s being located east of the Crabapple Community.

Rabke’s is a great source for holiday gift treats. Send Rabke’s your client list and Rabke’s will ship a gift box that is certain to impress.

Rabke’s began as a family owned and operated turkey hatchery, slaughter facility and processing operation for the sale of fresh and smoked turkey products. Over the years Rabke’s has evolved into a family owned and operated smokehouse, catering, retail, and deer processing business.

Rabke’s is located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country just an hour and a half from Austin and San Antonio. Found thirteen miles out State Highway 16 North from Fredericksburg, then four miles west on Eckert Road, it's a pleasant, beautiful drive. Rabke's also provides custom deer processing; making your venison into delicious German sausage, smoked deer hams, backstrap steaks, salami, jerky, and more.

Rabke’s also has a deer hunting facility; R Diamond Ranch, right next door. The ranch offers guided, in-season, day hunts on 320 acres of high fenced, game managed land. We have available trophy and management hunts for Fallow, Axis, and Blackbuck Antelope as well as White-Tailed Deer. Call them for details.

If you can’t make it by Rabke’s, you can always place an order by phone. All you do is look over the list of select items on their website and call to place your phone order. They will do the rest- box, wrap, and enclose a gift card if you choose. Rabke’s offers free delivery to Fredericksburg, Texas or can ship via UPS to other areas.

Check out the Rabke’s website at http://www.rabkes.com/

I’ve been a Rabke’s customer for 20 years or more. Two Rabke’s have passed on during my years as a Rabke customer, and both times it was like losing family for me. They had become true friends. They are just good ordinary hard working people who make an exceptional product.

Contact Rabke’s at:

Phone: 830-685-3266

Cell Phone: 817-395-3881

Think of me when you snap off a peice of dried sausage or slice a thin strip of jeky!



-Don Gray

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#37. Celebrate Whataburger’s 60th birthday with a free burger tonight

Sixty years ago today, Texas entrepreneur Harmon Dobson opened a small burger stand in Corpus Christi and called it Whataburger because he believed that’s what customers would say when they took a bite of his big, fresh, made-to-order burgers.


Today, Whataburger is a southern burger icon with more than 700 locations in 10 states. To mark the occasion and to thank its millions of loyal fans, the company will host “Orange Night Out” at most of its restaurants on Tuesday, August 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. Every dine-in customer who comes dressed in the company’s signature orange will receive a free Whataburger.

You'll find Whataburger locations all over the Texas Hill Country (but you already know that!)


-Don Gray

#35. The Shade Tree Saloon in Spring Branch, TX

The Shade Tree Saloon in Spring Branch, TX is a place you feel at home at. It has the feel of a traditional Hill Country ice house, complete with roll-up doors, pool tables and a shuffleboard table. And they often feature live music. They serve lunch and dinner too! You’ll find it on Highway 281, just north of the Guadalupe River Bridge (between where Highways 46 and 306 intersect 281).

Their beer list includes all of the domestics and a wide array of imports, including imports on tap. The Shade Tree also takes care of the vino folks and the “set-up” crowd.

I enjoyed a really good home-style cheeseburger and fries at the Shade Tree. But their menu also features shrimp poor boys, philly cheese steak sandwiches, Reuben sandwiches, catfish sandwiches, onion rings, jalapeño poppers, tater tots, dressed up spuds, and salads. They offer a large assortment of appetizers, including fried calamari. And the service was also great, complete with a server who kindly laughed at my comments and enjoyed a fun round of verbal jousting with me.

The Shade Tree would be a great place to visit after enjoying the nearby Guadalupe River (swimming, tubing, canoeing or kayaking). That’d be my kind of day and how I will do it next time there.

I don’t often include comments about bathrooms, but the men’s room had a special twist. It was scented with a fragrance that smelled just like a vanilla cake coming out of the oven! Except for the traditional bathroom facilities, I thought I was in my grandmother’s kitchen on baking day! Not many places got that going for them!

The Shade Tree is also dog friendly (in the outdoor areas).

Website: http://www.theshadetreesaloonandgrill.com/

-Don Gray

Monday, August 2, 2010

#34. The Eckert/James River Bat Cave near Mason, TX

Since bat caves seem to be the topic of current interest, here’s a posting about another great Hill Country bat cave.

A gorgeous country road drive will take you to the Eckert/James River Bat Cave about thirty minutes southwest of Mason, TX. The Eckert/James River Bat Cave Preserve is one of the largest bat nurseries in the country. About 4 million female bats inhabit the site from May through September. Most of these are pregnant when they arrive. In the Bat Cave, females give birth to a single pup in June or July. The young bats grow rapidly and are able to fly at about five weeks of age. However, they will remain with their mothers until they return to Mexico in October.

The Bat Cave is owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy offers public viewing on weekends during the season. The preserve is open from mid-May to early October for interpretive tours. These tours run Thursday-Sunday, from 6 p.m.- 9 p.m. Some sunrise tours of the bats returning from their nocturnal hunts also are offered. The preserve is open to visitors each summer. There is a $5 entrance fee. Children 5 and under are free.

An hour or two before sunset, hundreds of bats flutter and chirp around the mouth of the cave. Slowly, a stream of bats emerges and flies in a large circle, low to the ground, just outside the cave entrance. These bats gradually spiral upwards and form a dark funnel of flying mammals, reaching several hundred feet into the evening sky. The bats at the top of the spiral break off, forming columns that stream out over the countryside. This seemingly impossible torrent of bats forms a densely packed "bat tornado" for about an hour.

Richard Phillip Eckert and Virginia Eckert Garrett donated the cave to The Nature Conservancy in honor of their father, Lee Eckert, and grandfather, W. Phillip Eckert. The Eckert family acquired the property in 1907 when W. Phillip purchased the ranch on which the cave was located. In the early 1900s, W. Phillip mined the bat guano in the cave and sold it to local farmers for crop fertilizer. W. Phillip's son, Lee Eckert, continued his father's legacy of bat conservation and guano mining and left the site to his wife and children when he passed away in 1967.

This generation of Eckert’s wanted to ensure permanent protection of the bats, so in 1990 they donated the cave to the Conservancy on condition that the land around the cave remain open to the public for enjoyment and education, as it had been for more than 100 years.

The management plan developed by Bat Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy prevents human entrance to the cave during maternal activity, controls visitation, monitors the bat population and protects the cave opening. Scientific research continues at the site and the cave remains open to scientists throughout most of the year.

Along the way to the cave I strongly suggest three stops. First, stop at Cooper’s BBQ on highway 87 in Mason, next to the Super S grocery store. Pick up some of the best BBQ in Texas to enjoy on your drive to the cave. Second, don’t miss the “Todd Mountain” historical marker on FM 2389 that tells the story of an Indian kidnapping that occurred at this spot in 1864. That kidnapping became the story for the classic John Wayne movie “The Searchers”. Third, stop and swim in the Llano River where FM 2389 crosses the river. You can park on the gravel island in the river and enjoy the clear cool river. Be sure and wear water shoes to protect your feet.

Prepare for your visit by calling (325) 347-5970 during the season or (512) 263-8878 otherwise.

It is wise to phone ahead to obtain local weather conditions and updates concerning the James River, as you will need to drive through the river to reach the cave. This river is affected by flash flooding. Please note that the flood gauge normally reads 1 foot (even though the actual water height is about ten inches when the sign reads 1 foot). Although higher clearance SUVs and pickup trucks are the preferred vehicles to cross the river, if the flood gauge is at 1 foot or below, most vehicles should be able to make the crossing (other than low vehicles like Corvettes). Use your own judgment based upon knowledge of your individual vehicle. Do not make the crossing if the flood gauge is above 1 foot or higher.) Download PDF map and directions or see the directions below:

Start from the southeast side of Mason town square on Highway 87 South. It is about 16.5 miles to the preserve. Follow Highway 87 about 1 mile to FM 1723. If you pass the city park on the left, you have gone too far. Turn right on FM 1723. Follow FM 1723 for about 2.4 miles to FM 2389. Follow FM 2389 for about 4.8 miles to James River Road. You will cross two bridges over the Llano River just before you reach James River Road (you can park o the island between these bridges and enjoy a nice swim!). Turn right on James River road. It is about 8.3 miles to the preserve. Watch for deer and cattle on this road. The pavement will end about half way through and will then be driving on dirt road. Continue on the James River road to the James River crossing. Before you reach the James River, you will pass the Dalton J. Woods paved turnoff to the right; do not turn, continue straight through this intersection. Cross the James River. The roadway actually fords the river. Drive slowly. When crossing the river, you will see small waterfalls to your right. If you stay near those waterfalls (careful not to go to the right of them) the water level is constant all the way across the river and the river bottom is hard rock all the way across. Although it can be slick at times, it is crossable. Caution: This river is affected by flash flooding. Continue along the James River road about a 1/2 mile until the road turns a sharp left; the gated entrance to the preserve is on the right at this curve. Follow the road to the parking lot.

The drive from Mason to the cave takes about 30 minutes without stops. There is no opportunity to purchase fuel along the drive from Mason to the cave, so be sure and buy fuel in Mason.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNo5AuRH2To

-Don Gray

P.S. Here's some photos taken along the drive from Mason to the Bat Cave...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

#33. The “Devil’s Sinkhole” near Rocksprings, TX

Imagine discovering a huge dark vertical hole in the ground some 50-60 feet across. You walk apprehensively to the edge of the hole, lay down on your stomach and peer over the rock edge to discover that the bottom of the hole is REALLY deep (close to 361 feet deep). As your vision adjusts to the hole, you see that the bottom of the hole is much larger than its mouth, some 250 feet by 450 feet. You also see a large cone shaped pile of rock, some 200 feet tall, rising up from the center of the cavern floor. The pile of rock consists of remains from the roof of the cavern after it collapsed into the cave to create the surface hole you are peering through. At the base of the rock pile you notice two small lakes filled with crystal clear water.


A man by the name of Ammon Billings experienced this find in 1876, but he was not the first discover the hole. Man has visited this hole since at least 2,500-4,000 B.C. Now it’s your turn to discover the sinkhole.

The Devil’s Sinkhole is a collapsed underground cave in the Texas Hill Country near Rocksprings. It is the main drawing card to the 1,800 acre Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area (DSSNA). The sinkhole is the summer home to one to four million Mexican Free-tailed bats (up to three times more bats than Austin’s Congress Ave. Bridge). It is an amazing sight at sundown when the bats begin to come out, a trickling out at first in handfulls, then more and more until they become a swirling mass, like a “tornado” of bats reaching upward in the sky.

Visitors are shuttled from a meeting location in the town of Rocksprings to peer down into the sinkhole’s mouth. The Rocksprings Visitors Center serves as the meeting spot. The Visitors Center is located on the town square at 101 N. Sweeten Street in Rocksprings. Rocksprings is located at the junction of State Highway 55 and US Highway 377 on the western edge of the Hill Country, south of IH 10.

Four types of DSSNA tours are offered.

1. Evening bat flight tours are available to the public from May to mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Space is limited, so call ahead for reservations. Evening bat tours leave from Rocksprings about 45 minutes before the bats are expected to emerge and then return to town about two hours later.

2. Afternoon sinkhole tours are available to see the sinkhole from a viewing platform located on the edge of the sinkhole, but the bat flight will not been seen during the afternoon tours. The afternoon tours are conducted from January through October. There is no regular afternoon schedule; so you must arrange your tour several days in advance.

3. Guided walking tours of the DSSNA are offered two Saturdays a month, January through October. Reservations for walking tours are required and special group tours can be arranged with prior notice. Walking tours meet in Rocksprings about 10:00 am. and leave about 10:15am.

4. Birding tours are also offered by reservation on the first and third Saturday’s of each month, January through October. The Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area has nesting sites for black-capped vireo, Montezuma quail, and many other birds. The birding tour involves a walk of about a mile on fairly level undeveloped ranch paths. People taking the bird tour must be ten years old or older.

The Devil’s Sinkhole SNA was established by Texas Parks & Wildlife in 1985. Minimal development was completed in September 1996 to include picnic sites, a chemical toilet, and some trail development. A wheelchair accessible viewing platform is now available and allows visitors to look down into the sinkhole.

Spanish speaking guides are available for each type of tour, but such tours must be arranged several days in advance.

To arrange tours, call 830 683-BATS or 830-683-2287.


Evening Tour Fees (Bats)

Adults— $12

Child 4 to 11—$6

Over 65—$10

Children under 4—Free

Afternoon Tour Fee (No bats)

$6 per person

Children under 4 years old—Free

Minimum 5 persons or $30

Web sites:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/devils_sinkhole/

http://www.devilssinkhole.org/

-Don Gray

Friday, July 30, 2010

#32. The World Famous "Blue Bonnet Cafe" in Marble Falls


Is there anyone left in the world who has not enjoyed the Blue Bonnet Café? Fresh home-style food at its best! Where you can enjoy breakfast from opening til closing with food served by the “tops” in friendly waitresses. Where around 26,000 eggs are cracked each month to take care of hungry customers! Breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Blue Bonnet have been a Hill Country tradition for close to 81 years now.


Did’ja know that the Blue Bonnet is named after a woman’s bonnet and not after the flower? Hence, the “two words” in the name Blue Bonnet.

The Blue Bonnet’s breakfast menu includes eggs, omelets, french toast, pancakes, biscuits, sausage, biscuits and gravy to die for and of course, crispy hash browns. Lunch and dinner features chicken-fried steak, grilled steaks, liver and onions, pot roast, ground steaks, fried catfish, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and Mexican plates. And the Blue Bonnet is well-known for its wonderfully tasty yeast rolls!

Pies are the BIG thing at the Blue Bonnet. And when ordering a slice, you get a HUGE slice! The pie selection includes apple, cherry, peach, pecan, fudge, chocolate meringue, lemon meringue, coconut meringue, and peanut butter. Pies ”to go” are priced at $12. 95.

John and Belinda Kempner have owned the Blue Bonnet since February 1981. The Blue Bonnet first opened in 1925 and opened at its present location in 1946.

Hours: Monday through Thursday – 6 AM to-8 PM, Friday and Saturday – 6 AM to 9 PM, Sunday 6AM to 1:45 PM. Pie Happy Hour 3 PM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Breakfast served from opening to closing. No credit cards, but an ATM machine is on site.

You’ll find the Blue Bonnet at 211 Hwy 281 in Marble Falls, close to the 281 bridge over Lake Marble Falls. And you’ll see Blue Bonnet Café t-shirts all over the world worn by folks anxious to return to the Hill Country for a great meal at the Blue Bonnet.

-Don Gray
Liver & Onions
Service with a smile!!
Pot Roast

Thursday, July 29, 2010

#31. Fredericksburg's streets spell out “All Welcome” and “Come Back”

Interesting fact: The first letters of streets intersecting Fredericksburg’s Main Street heading southeast from the center of town spell "ALL WELCOME" (Adams, Llano, Lincoln, Washington, Elk, Lee, Columbus, Olive, Mesquite, and Eagle). The first letters of streets intersecting Main Street heading northwest from the center of town spell "COME BACK"(Crockett, Orange, Milam, Edison, Bowie, Acorn, Cherry, and Kay).

It’s a friendly town for sure.

-Don Gray

#30. Get filled up at "Porky's" in Fredericksburg. You’ll love it!

Ready for some of the best onion rings and burgers in the greater Hill Country? Then head to Porky’s in Fredericksburg. I do my best to make a stop at Porky’s every time I’m in Fburg.


Porky’s is known for their onion rings, burgers and hand-cut fries. But you’ll also find pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ’ed meat loaf, chicken fried steaks, pork cutlets, muffaletta sandwiches, etc.

Porky's is located in an old wooden house at 904 W. Main Street (north side of the street) at the west end of Fburg where parking is not a problem, near the intersection of Highways 290 and 87, near to the post office. Enjoy the shaded parking lot there.

Porky’s hours are 11-4 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; 11-8 on Thursday. & Friday. Closed on Sunday. If you are passing through town and in a hurry, then phone in your order to (830) 997-6882 and they’ll have it ready for you to pick up.

Porky’s has been around for close to 13 years now. Russ and Sue Engelhardt own and operate Porky’s. You’ll find them behind the counter taking care of customers. Tell’em “hi” for me.

-Don Gray

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

#29. Enjoy Kevin Fowler at "Harperfest 2010", Saturday, August 7th in Harper, TX, USA

Harper is a neat little hill country town just west of Fredericksburg on Highway 290. Kevin Fowler has a ranch near there and now puts on an annual concert in Harper. I met Kevin though our mutual interest in archery and my son and Kevin have become good friends. He’s a first class person with a great talent for country music. His hits include “Ain’t Drinking Anymore”, “Pound Sign”, 100% Texan til I Die”, and “Biggest Mistake I Ever Made”. Kevin wrote “Long Line of Losers” (recorded by Montgomery Gentry) , Beer, Bait & Ammo” (recorded by Sammy Kershaw), and “The Lord Loves A Drinking Man” (recorded by Mark Chesnutt). Kevin was born and raised in Amarillo but lives in the Hill Country by choice.


The outdoor concert will be at the Community Park in Harper. You can enter as early as 7 PM for the show that begins at 8:30. Pre-show tickets are $17. The pre-sale tickets allow you a quick entry into the event. Tickets are $20 at the entrance. You can purchase pre-show tickets on line at http://www.kevinfowler.com/

The parking spots at the Community Park will fill pretty quick that evening. You will find additional parking at the school nearby with a lighted walking path from football field to park. No ice chests or bottles allowed. Main gate will have separate line for presale tickets. Concessions available.

Harper Community Park is at the intersection of Hwy 290 W and RR 783 S, across from Dauna's Corner Store.

Hope to see you there.


-Don Gray

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

#28. Enjoy the nectar of Hill Country flowers with a jar of Fain’s natural raw honey!


Fain's Honey Store south of Llano specializes in 100% Texas Hill Country honey. That is, honey made from bees who pollinate Texas Hill Country flowers, primarily the flowers of “bee brush” found all over the Llano area. Bee brush produces tiny white, incredibly sweet smelling flowers after each rain. The honey it produces is considered by many to be the most delicious honey of all, tasting just like the flowers smell.



Fain’s has always been a family business. The business has been in operation since 1926. It is now owned by Keith Fain, the third in the line of Fains to own the business.

The most enjoyable way to get Fain’s honey is to visit the store south of Llano, open 9-5, except closed for the noon hour, weekedays. There, you can personally select from 9 cremed honey spreads (also called creamed honey), natural raw honey, sorghum molasses, and ribbon cane syrup to custom build your own gift box... or choose from several pre-selected, unique Texas honey gift boxes. Fain’s produces it’s famed cremed honey in several delicious flavors: pecan, amaretto pecan, almond, lemon, cinnamon, jalapeño, peach, and peach amaretto.


If you can’t get to the store, you can order on line or find Fain’s at HEB grocery store. Fain’s Honey is a great, unique gift (Texas gift or birthday gift) for someone special. Visit Fain’s website at http://www.fainshoney.com/


Fain’s is located two miles south of Llano on Highway 16, eastside of the highway. Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM, closed for the lunch hour, Mondays through Friday only.


Take a trip to Fain’s for me…you’ll be glad you did. And I sure wouldn’t complain if you dropped a jar off for me.




-Don Gray

#27. The Hill Top Café near Fredericksburg

It might not look like it from the outside, but the Hill Top cafe north of Fredericksburg is a first-class restaurant that features Louisiana, Greek and Hill Country cooking and some of the most authentic blues music you’ll ever hear. Johnny Nicholas and Brenda Schlaudt (husband/wife team) opened the Hill Top back in the 80’s. The Greek specialties reflect Johnny’s heritage, the Louisiana dishes reflect Brenda’s roots in Port Arthur. The live “blues” music comes from Johnny’s days as a well-known blues performer.


The café is actually an old gas station that has been transformed to be a diamond in the Texas Hill Country. The Hill Top is a true “destination” experience. Many folks actually plan trips to Fburg for the primary purpose of dining at the Hill Top and then to enjoy everything else that Fburg has to offer.

You’ll find the Hill Top on Highway 87, ten miles north of Fburg. It’s a popular place, so for weekend evening meals you’ll need to make reservations several days in advance. An evening at the Hill Top is an experience in itself. I like to say “If you haven’t taken her to the Hill Top, you don’t deserve her!”.

The evening fare includes fresh salads, fried shrimp, Greek tenderloin, flounder, pork chops, crab cakes, and chicken fried steak (plus music!!). And it’s a sin not to taste the Hill Top’s gumbo, fried oysters and homemade pies. Lunch at the Hill Top offers juicy burgers, poor boys, sandwiches, boudin, gumbo, and of course, gyros.

The Hill Top is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch (11 AM to 2 PM) and dinner (5 PM to 9 PM except to 10 PM on Friday and Saturday).

For reservations call: 830-997-8922.

Check out their website at http://www.hilltopcafe.com

-Don Gray


Sunday, July 25, 2010

#26. Go “Topaz” hunting! Find your own Topaz gemstones



Grab your shovel, screen, and water, and go hunt for the Texas state gem. It’s fun for all ages. In Texas, topaz is only found within Mason County. The Seaquist Ranch near Mason, TX offers access to topaz hunters for a nominal fee. For a demonstration of what you’re looking for and how to find it, stop by “Gems of the Hill Country” on the north side of the square in Mason. Be sure to pack something to sit on and maybe some knee pads, as the ground can be hard. Gem quality clear and smoky quartz are also found, along with arrowheads. The topaz is found in certain creeks running through the pink granite. It is suggested that your sifting screen have a mesh size of ¼ to ½ inch per square. The screen can be fastened to a frame made from 2x2 lumber, sized to your liking.

Visit the Gems of the Hill Country website (link provided below) to get contact information for the Seaquist and Lindsay Ranches and to view photos of rough gems and cut gems.

The web link is:

http://www.texas-topaz.com/aboutus/rockhounding.htm

Send me photos of your gem finds!

-Don Gray

#25. Angel's Ice House on a hilltop near Spicewood, Texas

Sadly, there’s only one Angel’s Icehouse. I wish they had locations all over the Hill Country! Angel’s is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or evening and chill out. I recently picked Angel’s to celebrate my birthday celebration with 50 friends. What a time we had there dancing to the Fabulous GTO’s!

Angel’s is a place for all ages. A place to be casual and enjoy yourself. Hang inside or enjoy the shaded picnic tables outside. Great food, drinks (full bar), live music, good bands, casual atmosphere, pool table, a large outdoor area, a killer jukebox, a playscape for the kids, outdoor misters, and large screen televisions.

Angel’s has the appearance of an old authentic corner ice house, complete with concrete floor and roll-up walls. And even strangers treat each other as old friends at Angels. People-friendly dogs are even welcome outside while leashed. You’ll enjoy live music inside Angel’s on Tuesday and Friday nights, and live music outdoors on Saturday night.

Angel’s food selections include hand-dipped chicken fried steaks, home-style burgers in assorted styles, hand-cut french fries, fresh salads, fish and chips, sandwiches, home-style chili, wraps, etc. Even a menu for kids and pets! Appetizers include nachos, crispy fried pickle wafers, crab cakes, chicken wings, gliders and frito pie. And the food is supported by a great wait staff and cooks that prepare a great meal. The friendly waitresses even call you "baby" if you're sweet. And lately Angel’s has been hosting $2 tacos on Tuesday nights.

And don’t miss the humorous signs posted around the place! Such as “Finish that beer, there are sober kids in India”!! (an old twist on what our parent’s use to tell us about finishing a meal).

Angel’s live music scene is also good. Recent bands have included the Fabulous Chevelles, the Troubadillos, The Fabulous GTO’s, Wyatt Akers, Freddy Powers, Jr., Andrea Marie & Magnolia, Derral Gleason. Angel’s hosts a gospel lunch on Sundays from 1 PM to 3 PM with live music.

Angel’s is located along Highway 71W on a hilltop between Austin and Marble Falls. The address is 21815 Highway 71 West, Spicewood, TX. Check out their website at http://www.angelsicehouse.com/ and see the calendar for upcoming bands.

Open Tuesday through Sunday at 11 AM til late, closed Monday.

See ya' there...
-Don Gray (just turned 56 at Angel's on Friday!)