The stretch of road on 17 between Davis Mountain and the I-10 entrance in Balmorhea is a fingerling wonderland. Rocks outcroppings shaped like the potatoes, stacked one on top of another, stretching high to the sky and long on the land; kind of like the hoodoos but in contemporary impressionistic sort of way. But once you get to Balmorhea, it’s a gut sinking sadness to be back in the flatlands and the paved lands, high flying at 80mph to get to where you’re going. Everyone has some place they are going – fast. Lost is no longer an option.

Farewell to the Davis Mountains

With a rest stop in Fort Stockton for gas, a Boudan and a snapshot of a giant roadrunner, we were back on I-10, heading to Hill Country and a German settlement called Fredericksburg, home to Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Hackbraten, wineries and the country’s second largest rock dome.

Star of Looney Tunes and lonely towns.

Enchanted Rock Nature Area north of town is a tent-only park, unless you’re sleeping in your car. Sheri shared the bathhouse with thirty eighth grade girls on a public charter school field trip and learned that camping and hiking are ‘“really boring” and they would NEVER want to spend 30 days in a tent. We had planned to climb the 425 feet to Enchanted Rock where there was a view of trees according to the girls, but Pickleball, little Germany and the National Museum of the Pacific War got in the way.

It didn’t happen until it gets written down.

There is definitely a culture shock in coming out of the Big Bend region of west Texas. Civilization and capitalism loom. In a travel version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, leaving remote west Texas changes your basic needs from food, water and shelter to precious trinkets, dining adventures, and once in a lifetime vacation experiences. We probably need west Texas recovery therapy.

Hispanic chef and staff serve up delicious German food. Multi-cultural America at its best!

The highlight of downtown Fredericksburg is the Museum of the War in the Pacific. Five Star Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg and raised in nearby Kerrville, hence FBG’s infatuation with WW2’s Pacific theater. Not to be too subtle as to why the museum is there, an entire building is reserved for the deification of Lord Nimitz in a tribute that would surely make him blush. It is impossible to look at any aspect of Nimitz’s life, even his hand written poorly penned letters as a child, without seeing future greatness.

Please leave yourself a semester to visit.

Upon exiting the Nimitz shrine, the visitor is whisked away to a 3-6 hour PhD in Asian hegemony from the early 1800’s through the war in the Pacific in WW2 at the George H.W. Bush building. If you are a student of war, or part of the greatest generation, you will no doubt find it fascinating. This is a researcher’s and enthusiast’s museum par excellence that does not skip over a single detail. Let’s just say there are A LOT of islands in the Pacific to document. In Texas style it is a Go Big or Go Home experience. We are pretty sure we got college credit for attending.

When you are on a tennis court, it is not a pickleball paradise.

Out by the airport, pickleball frenzy has made its way to the Texas hill country. The local picklers battle with the traditional tennis enthusiasts for use of the dual lined courts at Lady Bird Johnson park. We played twice, once for social games and later for competitive games with the “heavy hitters.”

When the temperatures changed from 60s to 30s overnight, so did the plans to stay the week.

The social games were made up of only visitors to FBG like ourselves. RV’ers and other retired travelers who have Tuesdays at 10 am free came out to kibitz and kind of play. Brian and Cathy have been 14 years on the road in their RV. Mark and Linda have an RV but travel from Canada staying in hotels because Mark says 26 ft is too small. There is a lot to unpack there. Most folks could keep score but not much more.

Home is where your Hard Wear is.

Later that evening we returned expecting to find the real FBG pickleball talent. Alas, the heavy hitters were tweeners looking to kill some time and couples on a mid-week date night. Sorry FBG, Texas may be #1 in your eyes, but Florida has it all over you in pickleball. We left early so we did not have to take down the nets.

Will the Stoneybrook HOA approve?

Main Street is a plethora of hokey retail. There’s the Christmas, Easter and Man Cave shops, Texas clothing and memorabilia shops and the specialty foods shops with Tupperware containers of mustards, jellies and hot sauces to sample on stale crackers plucked by dirty tourist fingers. Every storefront has a quippy ad board to draw you in – “Husband Daycare – Open til 1AM”, “Beer Colder than your Ex’s heart” and “If you’re looking for a sign, you should have some Wine.” There are German restaurants staffed by Hispanics, dozens of wine tasting rooms for the dozens of Hill Country vineyards plus ice cream and fudge, high dollar art galleries and yard art imported from Mexico. It’s no different than many other tourist trap towns we’ve been to, but this one felt slimier when coming out of Fort Davis.

Can’t get enough quips.

The one bright spot was Texas grocery kingdom, H.E.B., where we procured every meal except one. You should see Eric butcher a mesquite barbecue rotisserie chicken in the parking lot using a Gerber multitool. Texas beer, chips and hand soap, chili ingredients and a ham off the bone sandwich on a H.E.B. made croissant – we are fans!

If you find yourself in Texas, go to H.E.B.