December 8: Inspecting the Dallas Condo
July 3-8: My Sister Visits Chicago and Muskegon
Return to the Index for 1984


NOTE:
I have two personal entries that come here in time sequence. Both entries require a password; if you will email me at "ron" at "rondougherty dot com" I will send one to you. Links to these two personal entry pages are below:

Jim Cottone and Lin Shampine
Meeting Grant Wagner
 
September 15-16, 1984
A Weekend on Lake Travis

 

I met Grant Wagner in late July at Christopher Street- the same bar that Judy and I visited when she was here early that month. Grant and I hit it off very well and very quickly, and through most of August we were spending every weekend together either at my condo or his condo in Bloomingdale, a western Chicago suburb. I have already met his dad and brothers; they live in Des Plaines and Glenview. We have become so comfortable together, that when I had some time off in mid-September, I asked him if he would like to take a trip with me down to Austin.

The actual reason for the trip was that a friend of mine, George Pelletier, had asked me to come down to have a look at a potential investment- some newly-built dock slips on Lake Travis that he thought we might each buy some of as an investment (renting them out, of course). I met George through my friend Greg late last year when we were purchasing the former home of Greg's doctor; he had ideas for Greg and I as investments, and the dock slips were one of them.


I flew Grant and I down on Saturday morning. It was the first time Grant had been to Texas. Actually, it was the first time Grant had been anywhere but Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, and the first time he had flown in a commercial jet. One of his brothers has taken him up in a small plane before, so he didn't have first flight jitters.

When we boarded the plane, Grant was wearing a T-shirt that advertised one of Chicago's gay bars (very unobtrusively), and the steward that was taking our tickets commented on it. We had just gotten seated in coach when the steward came back and invited us to come up and ride in first class. (He had noticed that I was one of American's frequent flyers, but he had also noticed that both Grant and I were gay, as was he.) So we spent the whole trip as the only two people in First Class. Grant was very impressed, and it was a great two hours.

As we came in for a landing in Austin, Grant seemed amazed when he looked down and saw scenery that looked a lot like the Chicago suburbs- with grass and trees and all. I came to find out that he had expected a desert! His vision of Texas was cow skulls in the sand and "last chance" gas stations out in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that many people who don't travel much have these misconceptions about certain areas of the country.

Anyway, George and his own partner Bret picked us up at the airport and took us out to the Summer house that he had built near Lake Travis. We got changed and went right over to the Lake Travis Marina where I saw my three docks for the first time. They are just an investment, since I don't have a boat, although George kept telling me that I ought to move down to Texas and get one.


George and I have invested in one piece of raw land in Grapevine, so I guess you could say we are business partners. He lives in Dallas, but also has this house near Lake Travis and he keeps a boat there as well. Other than to conclude our business with the dock slips, George wanted me to come down to see what Lake Travis is like.

"Built specifically to contain floodwaters" in a flash-flood prone region, Lake Travis was created in 1942 by the construction of Mansfield Dam on the western edge of Austin, Texas by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). Highlighting its purpose, even during its construction (after a severe flood in July 1938), the height of the dam was raised to add storage capacity for floodwaters.

Lake Travis has the largest storage capacity of the seven reservoirs known as the Highland Lakes, and stretches 65 miles (105 km) upriver from western Travis County in a highly serpentine course into southern Burnet County to Max Starcke Dam, southwest of the town of Marble Falls. The Pedernales River, a major tributary of the Colorado River, flows into the lake from the southwest in western Travis County. The other reservoirs on the Colorado River are Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake).

The lake is used for flood control, water supply, electrical power generation and, with warnings and caution signs, recreation. (The warnings and cautions have to do with what is submerged in the lake, which is not all that deep save for the area near the dam.)


Hippie Hollow Park (originally known as McGregor County Park) is located on the shore of Lake Travis in northwest Austin. It is the only legally recognized clothing-optional public park in the State of Texas. Though the land is owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority, it was recently leased to Travis County, whose Parks Department administers it. Sometimes erroneously labeled as a beach, the park actually sits on a somewhat steep slope above Lake Travis with limestone steps that can be quite rugged in some spots. Depending on the water level of the lake, access to the water may require some rock climbing.

The history of the park goes back many years; it had always been a site for skinny-dipping. Controversies and numerous court cases changed its character and access to the park was eventually restricted to persons over 18 years old- the only Texas park with an age restriction. Austin's gay and lesbian community sponsors Splash Day on the first Sundays of May and September every year, drawing large crowds of visitors which have occasionally exceeded park capacity. These high-publicity events have given the park the reputation as being popular with gay sunbathers. On other warm, sunny weekends, the park is populated by both clothed and unclothed people of both sexes, with a demographic mix that is comparable to that of the surrounding region. Like most parks, weekend usage is much heavier than on weekdays.


Once we'd arrived at George's boat, we headed out onto the lake to join the flotilla of other boats clustered near the cliffs at Hippie Hollow. Since driving a boat is no more complicated than driving a car, George let me pilot his power boat- a 30-foot craft.

The occasion for this particular outing was something called "Last Splash", which is an institution at Lake Travis. It is a day when all the boat owners and just about everybody else converge on the huge lake. It's kind of like Memorial Day at Lake Michigan in Chicago. A week or two earlier is "Splash Day II", held on Labor Day weekend, and marking the end of the boating "season" on Lake Travis. The LGBT community holds "Last Splash" towards the middle of the month, and while many straights attend, it's mostly a gay celebration.

Gay boatowners and their guests converge on the area of the lake below the cliffs of "Hippie Hollow"; I am sure there were 100 or more boats in the area today. Gays without watercraft sit on the shoreline cliffs. On the boats, there might be small parties (or large ones, depending on the size of the boat), and sometimes boats will navigate close enough to the rocky shore to pick up or discharge passengers. Of course on the shore there is clothing-optional sunbathing, and there is a good deal of nude swimming as well.

I just took a few candid photos this afternoon, and most of them are pretty self-explanatory:


One of the Sailboats Out on the Lake

A Trawler-style Cruiser

The weather was ideal, and I think Grant was having a wonderful time. I think that if Grant had his way, he would own every boat ever built.


The Wake Behind Our Boat

George Pelletier

I did some of my own sunbathing for a while on a big inner tube in the water, but mercifully no one thought to take a revealing picture of me.


George's Partner Bret Foster

Lake Travis

I have one more picture of some of the boats on the lake and I also have a picture of Grant getting back on the boat from being in the water. There is something very unusual about Grant, in that even though boating is one of his passionate interests, he can't swim! That may be because he is so thin that he has very little body fat for buoyancy, but in any event all he can do is wear a life preserver or hang on to the side of a boat. I don't think he was prepared for me to take his picture; certainly it should be labeled as "x-rated". Because of that, if you want to have a look at the picture, and you have a password, then click here.

George had brought snacks and drinks, and Grant and I had a great time on his boat. That night, we stayed in the guest room of Georges lake house and on Sunday he took us back to the Austin airport for our flight back to Chicago. I think Grant was impressed with Texas; it his visit certainly corrected some misapprehensions about the state. And I think he was pleasantly surprised to find that there was boating in the state- away from the Gulf, of course.

 

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


December 8: Inspecting the Dallas Condo
July 3-8: My Sister Visits Chicago and Muskegon
Return to the Index for 1984