August 8, 2011: The August Birthdays
June 29-July 14, 2011: A Trip to Florida (with Tyger)
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July 19, 2011
Visiting Frank and Joe in Leakey, TX
A Visit to Ruckman Haus


Not long after we returned from Florida, we headed down to the Hill Country for a visit with Frank and Joe. We were last at their house in 2009, but what prompted this visit was the fact that this will be the last year that Frank and Joe, along with Linda Hamilton, will be performing the "Sunset Serenade" at Garner State Park. I have heard about their program frequently, but have never had a chance to see it. We asked Frank what would be a good time to come down for it, and his suggestion was this week. Frank's mother is currently staying with them as she recuperates from her auto mishap, so we look forward to seeing her again also.


Getting to Frank and Joe's House

Frank and Joe live just northwest of Leakey, Texas, and we started out for their place on Tuesday morning. We plan on seeing their performance this evening, staying the night with them and then going over to San Antonio for a visit with Prudence and Ron. We might have stayed with Frank and Joe longer, but with his mother already there, they probably don't need the added guest list. We've planned to get to their house in mid-afternoon, so we are going to stop in Fredericksburg for lunch.

We took I-35 south from Dallas to Austin, and then Highway 290 over through Johnson City to Fredericksburg. There, we stopped in the middle of town to find a German restaurant for lunch. We tried one we haven't tried before (since the one we'd planned on was closed on Tuesdays. It was a good lunch, except that the "German Potato Salad" tasted more like what you get at the grocery store.

After lunch, we headed south on Texas 16 to Kerrville. We usually go up the Interstate to catch a different highway south to Leakey as it is faster, but today, Fred wanted to see if he could find the real estate office where his friend Perrin Wells works, but the memory Fred had of how to get there wasn't good enough for us to find it (and we couldn't get him on the phone).

So from there, we decided to take the scenic back road down to Leakey- Highway 39. The day was overcast and rainy (and we hoped that Frank and Joe, who are in the midst of the Great Texas Drought were getting some of it. While this made the driving a little more difficult, there was no traffic to speak of and the scenery was really pretty.

We continued along scenic Highway 39 all the way over to US 83 (the road that we usually take south from I-10). Turning south, this took us all the way to just north of Leakey, where we turn by the Real County Airport to head up the Frio Canyon on Ranch Road 336 to the road to Frank and Joe's house.

Ranch Road 336 follows a branch of the Frio River northwest. This branch of the Frio River is often called the "Dry Frio" because it only has water in it during the short rainy season in the Hill Country or when there have been sufficient thunderstorm rains upstream. Ranch Road 336 heads north paralleling the river, and we take that for about two miles until we see Bonner Road ahead of us to the right. Bonner Road is named for Joe Wells' mother's family. They own the land from a hundred feet or so south of Bonner Road a good ways north into Real County- some 1600 acres if I remember correctly. Bonner Road goes east, and as soon as we turn onto it we can see the roof of Frank and Joe's house ahead of us up on the hillside across the "Dry Frio."

We cross this dry branch of the Frio on a low-water crossing (which is basically just a low, flat concrete dam with culverts under it. When the water is low or non-existent, it is dry pavement, but when the water is high, it just flows over the top of the concrete, which is high enough so that 99.5% of the time a vehicle can make it across. There are the occasional times when the water is so high that residents like Frank and Joe who live up on the mountainside have to wait until the water recedes.

Up the other side of the river bottom, Bonner Road splits and goes north-south on top of the cliff. It is along this road that the three or four residents up here have their homes. All of them have excellent views as they are sixty to 100 feet above the valley floor. Frank and Joe are north along Bonner Road, as you can see in the aerial view above. This is as good as the aerial views get, but you have probably already seen some pictures of their property (and you will see more that we took during this visit).


Our Arrival and Dinner

We got to Frank and Joe's house about three-thirty, and had a good visit with Joe and Frank's mother, who were there to greet us. Frank got home about five, and he had brought some barbeque for supper. After we ate, Fred and I headed off to Garner State Park where Frank had already made reservations for us for this evening's Sunset Serenade and Hayride. Frank and Joe headed off to pick up Linda so they could be ready when the hayride reached the spot where they do their performance.


The "Sunset Serenade at Garner State Park

On the map at left, I've shown you our entry into the park and the approximate route of the hayride. Garner State Park consists of a wide, flat lowland area alongside the Frio River, with a mountainous (hilly) area to the south of it that constitutes most of the park. The attractions of the park are camping, hiking in the hills and the Frio River which, in normal years, offers enough water for lots of swimming and other activities. So most of the area of the park is just wilderness- which is what city folks come to the park for.

As we were coming into the park, we stopped so Fred could make a panorama of the valley floor in the park, and you can see it below:

Garner State Park
When we got to the park headquarters where the hayride begins, we were pretty early, and only a few people had arrived. There were some people checking folks in, and I stopped to take a 360-degree look around the lowland area of the park.

It was getting on towards six-thirty, so we went over to get our hayride spots.

We picked up our reservations and paid the cost of the hayride and then just hung out until one of the park employees arrived with
the picturesque hayride wagon. OK, so it's actually a flatbed truck that's been modified to carry visitors, but there are actually bales of hay in the middle of the flatbed, covered with a fabric so that people can sit on them. That's where most of the kids sat.

I prevailed on one of the other hayride participants to take a couple of pictures of Fred and I in our spots at the rear of the truck. (There were other folks who intruded on the picture as we were crammed in pretty close, but I was able to crop/Photoshop them out.)

When everyone got loaded on, and there were some last-minute additions, we got started.

When everyone had gotten loaded, our "hayride guide," who had also been one of the folks checking us in, got on the truck at her spot right across from us. She started orienting us to the Park and some of its history while I made a movie of her presentation and the rest of the folks on the hayride with us. You can use the player at left to watch it.

From the flat area of the park, the truck headed over towards the road that goes up along the hillside. The first road we were on actually goes to some of the camping areas and hiking trails. As we drove, our guide kept up a running commentary which was, by and large, very interesting.

The road that we were on connected to a road that runs along the northern slope of the mountainous area, gently climbing until it eventually meets up with Highway 83. Actually, this used to be the entrance road for the park, but it was found many years ago not to be wide enough for all the vehicles that were using it, and so the new entrance was built further north. This road is now gated at the Highway 83 end, and only used by the hayride and by park vehicles. So our truck turned onto the old entrance road and we continued to listen to our guide until we reached the venue for the serenade. This venue is at a point about halfway out to the highway, there is a wide place on the hillside that offers unobstructed views to the north and northwest. The truck came to a stop, we all piled out (leaving our guide behind) and found Frank Roberts, along with Joe Wells and Linda, waiting for us.

The performance area is nothing fancy- just a few picnic tables arranged in front of the performance spot. Behind the performers is that unobstructed view out across Garner State Park and on towards the Hill Country.

During Frank, Joe and Linda's performance, I took a number of pictures- one of them from a point up the hillside on the opposite side of the road. You can have a look at these pictures by clicking on the thumbnails at right.

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All during the performance, Fred took lots of good pictures of Frank, Joe, and Linda, and I've select the best ones to include here.

To make them easy for you to view, I've placed them in a slideshow, and that slideshow is at left. You'll notice little arrows in the lower corners of each picture; you can use them to move backward and forward through the images. And you can track your progress through the pictures by referring to the index numbers in the upper left corner of each slide.

Enjoy having a look at Frank, Joe, and Linda doing their performance!

Fred also did some very nice panorama shots from here, and you can see them below:

"Cattle Call"

I've got lots of movies in this photo album of Frank, Joe and Linda performing, so I didn't take many more here. What I did want to do is show how the performance is against the outdoor backdrop, as opposed to some indoor venue like the Stock Show in Fort Worth. It is pretty impressive.

Fred, however, took a number of good movies of parts of the performance, and you can watch some of them with the players below:

Frank and "The Long Chaparral"

Linda and "Mary Ann Goodnight"

Frank and "Back in the Saddle Again"

Frank and "Geronimo's Cadillac"

It was a real treat to experience the "Sunset Serenade," and I am glad that Fred and I had a chance to see it before Frank and Joe retire from doing it. When the performance was over, the truck headed back down the mountain while Frank, Joe and Linda headed home. We met them later at their house where we had coffee, talked and then retired for the night.

The next day, we were going to spend the morning and early afternoon with Frank and Joe before heading over to San Antonio for a visit with Ron and Prudence. When Frank's mother was up and about, Fred fired up my laptop to show her some of the pictures we'd taken at her birthday party a while back, and some of the pictures of our trips and the kitties. We also had a chance to wander around outside for a while, and I snapped a few pictures while we were doing so. You can have a look at these pictures by clicking on the thumbnails at left.

Joe's Water Feature

As you've probably seen, Joe put in a water feature outside their house. The folks who live down the road from him saw it and commissioned him to do a larger one for them. It took him a long time to finish, but it is pretty spectacular. He took us down there to have a look at it. You can see it in this movie and in the still pictures here and here.

You can also see a couple of pictures Fred took of us here and here.

We enjoyed our visit with Frank and Joe very much, and by mid-afternoon we were heading over to San Antonio. There, we spent a couple of evenings with Ron and Prudence, once yet again enjoying their incredible hospitality. On Friday afternoon, we headed home.

You can use the links below to continue to the album page for different day.

August 8, 2011: The August Birthdays
June 29-July 14, 2011: A Trip to Florida (with Tyger)
Return to Index for 2011