Deep in the Heart of Texas!
On Sunday, January 21, 2019 we hitched our wagon and headed north to visit the small town of Fredericksburg.
It was a pleasant one-hour drive. And while there, we found this..
Not unusual for a town in Texas (although, a stuffed skunk.. really??). But what really surprised us was that we also found lots and lots of this:
..And sadly quite a few of these:
These aren't zoos, they are ranches which organize exotic game hunts! Some have up to 60 species of free ranging animals spread out over 18,000 acres.
We were excited about coming here, not only because we had heard so much about it from other travelers, but also because we were meeting up with two friends, Chuck and Stacey, who we first met at a Grand Design RV Rally in Crossville, Tennessee.
They are from North Carolina and have been full-time RVing since 2017.
The campground we chose was the Oakwood RV Resort. This was a very well-maintained park with a really nice pool area (unfortunately, it was too cold to swim). We gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only downside was the gravel streets and pads. Not only do these create a lot of dust, but they also can get muddy when it rains but overall, we gave this park two thumbs up.
The park is located just outside the heart of the city. The other red dots on the above map are some of the places we visited while here.
WILLKOMMEN TO FREDERICKSBURG!
The town was everything we had heard. It is absurdly charming and has not strayed far from its German heritage.
Look at that main street! What's not to love!?
Not only are the streets lined with stately buildings dating back to the 1800's, they are also wide enough for your horse-drawn wagon to make an easy u-turn! Even though the feed store may be long gone, you'll have no problem finding German restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques or places selling leather goods, cowboy hats and stuffed critters.
The town has an interesting backstory. The founding of the town dates back to 1846 when German immigrants came to these unsettled reaches of Texas. Realizing the potential of this fertile area, town founders quickly organized the Mainzer Adelsverein at Biebrich am Rhein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants) to encourage migration from the "home country". New arrivals were promised "10 acres and a plot in town".
Between 1844 and 1847, at least 7,000 immigrants had arrived. Unfortunately, in between these waves of travelers, the society folded leaving inbound immigrants high and dry. When the ships docked at the malaria-infested Galveston harbor, the promised food and transportation was no where to be found. With their land grants laying hundreds of miles inland, the immigrants were forced to walk, with all their belongings, the entire 250 miles. They suffered horribly with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, dying along the way.
A HOME-TOWN HERO:
In the early 1850's the Nimitz family moved to town. They acquired a local hotel and renamed it the Nimitz Hotel.
The four-room building eventually grew into a fifty-room casino hall. The hotel became the center of Fredericksburg social life. To make a long story short, two generations later was born Chester W. Nimitz, who would rise to the rank of fleet admiral where he guided Allied forces to victory in the Pacific in World War II.
In 1964 the hotel and the surrounding property were purchased by a non-profit organization that opened the National Museum of the Pacific War. At the request of Admiral Nimitz, the museum is dedicated to the two million men and women who served with him in the Pacific during World War II.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE PACIFIC WAR:
When we bought our entrance tickets to this museum, they gave us a two-day pass. We thought, 'why on earth do we need two days to walk through this museum'? Truth be told, we probably could have used a third! Below are some of the pictures I took while walking through this immersive museum:
Admiral Nimitz was much taller than I expected! :)
This museum is a must see. It was especially interesting to Lorraine, who's father served in the Navy during WWII. The museum chronicles the development of our naval power, and our war strategy, from the explosive surprise attack at Pearl Harbor to the eventual Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri.
I came away with a new found respect for the person of Chester Nimitz. He seemed like a man of deep thought and foresight. A man who in the heat of battle, never lost sight of the big picture. There were two quotes that I thought were the most revealing about his character. One was made at the start of the war and one at the end.
After touring the wide-spread damage the Japanese had inflicted at Pearl Harbor, he told a young helmsman:
“The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America.
“‘Mistake number One: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every 10 crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.’”
“‘Mistake number Two: When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.’
“‘Mistake number Three: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top-of-the-ground storage tanks 5 miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make…or God was taking care of America.’
Some leaders might have taken a more cautious approach and stopped to "lick their wounds", but not Chester. Even as the smoke was rising from the twisted and tangled remains of the Pacific fleet, he was able to calmly and astutely size up the weaknesses of the enemy and formulate a plan to quickly put us on the offensive. I found that remarkable.
But it was his second quote, made after the war, that intrigued me most. While he never openly condemned the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he never supported it either.
“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace** before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war [with Japan]…The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.” --Admiral Chester Nimitz
**Japan was pursuing a conditional surrender, while the U.S. was insisting on an unconditional surrender.
While it is not my intention to argue the merits of using the atomic bomb, I had always assumed there was greater unity within the command structure of our military leadership concerning its use.
This is my personal opinion based on what I've read and what I learned here at the museum: Given that no Japanese government had ever capitulated to an enemy in its 2,600 year history, and given their willingness to fight viciously to the very last man (as demonstrated at the battle of Okinawa), and given that my father was fighting in this theater of the war, all other avenues to bring about the swift unconditional surrender of Japan, were equally as unpleasant.
If you would like to expand your knowledge about the war in the Pacific, put this museum on your bucket list. Oh, give yourself two days to see everything!
HIKING? OF COURSE, WE WENT HIKING!:
Chuck and Stacey took us to Enchanted Rock. It's about half an hour north of Fredericksburg. It is a massive pink granite dome rising approximately 425 feet above the surrounding terrain.
Enchanted Rock is an exfoliation dome which means it has layers like an onion. The outer layer is continuously expanding. As it expands, cracks form causing the layer to break into smaller pieces and slide away. It's a process that continues today.
It was a great hike. About a four mile loop that takes you to the top of the dome then down the backside and around the lake. Not overly strenuous with many beautiful overlooks. Well worth the visit.
LUCKENBACH GENERAL STORE, BAR AND DANCE HALL:
This was a fun, fun place!
Just about twelve miles (as the cow plods) outside of Fredericksburg, lies the three-building town of Luckenbach. Made famous by the Waylon Jennings song "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)", you'll find a general store, a defunct post office (closed in 1971), a rustic dance hall, and an environment where staff and patrons make you feel like long-lost family.
It is a unique place with a sense of warmth and magic all its own. Someone once described it as, "coming home to a place you've never been". And it was So. Much. Fun!
Stacey and Chuck brought us here to hear a band named Asleep At The Wheel. We had never heard of them but learned that back in the 70's they were known as Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (that's a mouthful) when they wrote their biggest hit Hot Rod Lincoln. They've been together for 50 years, have won 10 Grammy Awards, and a pretty big deal here in Texas. And, boy did they deliver!
The crowd loved them, and we all had a blast! It made for one of the most memorable evenings we've had in our travels! Thanks, Stacey and Chuck for bringing us here, because in Luckenbach, Texas, "..ain't nobody feelin' no pain"!
A FEW LAST POINTS OF INTEREST:
Before I wrap things up, I wanted to talk about two other interesting sights you might want to visit. Both are a short drive from Fredericksburg. The first is the home of President Lyndon B. Johnson, otherwise known as the Texas White House. LBJ was born, lived, died and buried here (although he spent his boyhood years living in Johnson City, 15 miles away). His wife, "Lady Bird" Johnson, lived here until her death in 2007.
Although tours of the main house have been discontinued because of structural issues, you can go through his plane and tour some of the outer houses.
I wouldn't say this is a must see but if you have an afternoon to spare, and want to learn more about our 36th president, it might be worth checking out. It made me realize how little I knew about this president and motivated to go out and buy his biography. After reading it, I have to say, he was not a nice person. If you are a fan of this president, make sure you visit his boyhood home over in Johnson City.
Make sure you visit a Sunday Home while here. Back in the day, immigrants to this area were given 10 acres of farmland and a plot of land in town. Since the plot of land could be miles and miles outside of town, families began to use the land in the city to put down a home.
On weekends families would pack up their wagons and head into Fredericksburg to do their shopping, to visit with friends, to attend social functions, and to attend church on Sunday morning. These quaint little homes give you a glimpse into what life was like in the mid-1800.
URBAN WINE TRAIL:
If wine tasting is your thing, there are close to 50 wineries in this area! Although we are not big wine connoisseurs, we did find it enjoyable to visit some of the tasting rooms. Most places we visited had someone playing music and offered unique menu items. It's a relaxing way to spend an afternoon (if you plan on visiting a few different wineries, think about joining a bus tour so driving doesn't become an issue).
With over 400 wineries throughout the state, Texas ranks as the 5th largest wine producer in the US. And 80% of Texas grapes are grown right here in the hill country!
As I close out this blog post, I wanted to thank Chuck and Stacey for showing us around this beautiful area.
We are looking forward to seeing you both down the road!