Friday, November 30, 2007

Canoeing on the San Marcos River

Ok, enough sitting around. I've put back all the weight I walked off over the last few months, plus some, so when Jon told me we could get a good rate on a canoe at the Texas State Outdoor Center, it was off to the river. You put in right there on campus, and if you are lucky and the water is not flowing too fast, you paddle back to the same spot. We were so worried about it we went down to the first rapids and back twice, plus a couple of excursions upstream from the takeout point.

Upstream, in Sewell Park, is the only place we came close to getting wet. I heard an unusual whistle and looked up to realize we were playing frisbee from the canoe with the world renowned Frisbee Dan. Jon tells me he's been written up in USA Today, but when I looked him up I found this video on Texas State TV at . It's harder than you might expect to catch and throw a frisbee from a canoe. Once we had water coming over the side of the canoe. Fortunately, we covered, since I was not prepared to go swimming and you'd have missed the picture version of the trip.

The San Marcos river is similar to the Comal, in that it is spring fed from the Edwards Aquifer. I'm still amazed to see these huge volumes of water flowing from springs. The San Marcos originates a short distance upstream from campus at Aquarena Springs, a well known recreation area.

Our original plan was for a half day trip, but when we arrived we realized we couldn't get the canoe until 2:00pm, so it became a 2 hour trip. The lower end of our trip was at Rio Vista rapids, pictured below. We didn't shoot them, since, as mentioned above, I wasn't prepared to go swimming. I also wasn't prepared to try to return to our pickup point from below the rapids.

Even though our trip was only a few miles, all within the city of San Marcos, there was some very nice canoeing and scenery.

Jon and I had a great time on the river, then capped it off with a nice dinner at sunset at the San Marcos Pub and Grill, which overlooks the Rio Vista rapids.
Here's a view looking toward the pub from below the rapids, and then sunset over the rapids from the pub. Riley had nothing on me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A writer or a blogger?

Wow, writing is a tough business. Ever since I was in elementary school, I've aspired to be a writer. It seemed such a cool, glamorous and lucrative occupation. In fact, back in those days, I used to write stories and essays and try to get my friends to read them. You can imagine the laughter. And yet I kept noticing the Reader's Digest offer of hundreds for short, simple stories about things like "Life in these United States." Even this blog probably has some roots in the aspirations of those days. But, as time went by, I departed for other careers, other ambitions.

So, after a few months of blogging I was glad to hear that at least a few people thought I had some writing talent. But, I was a bit disappointed that my readership was so low. About that time I noticed an advertisement on the blog for Helium. If you look back through my blogs you'll likely still see the ads. They publish on line and claimed a bigger readership than my blog, as well as connections to more traditional publishers. Could it be that a wider readership would recognize my considerable talents and lift me to fame and fortune?

I checked it out. I read. I dabbled by submitting a few articles. To my delight, I often rose into the upper tier among dozens of authors rated for each title. And so I wrote some more. Good ratings, but was anybody out there reading? Looking at my earnings, the answer was no. I was up to $2.50 after several months.

Then I saw it. They sponsor contests, with prizes like $75 for the top prize. That's not a lot, but could it launch my writing career and finally recognize my talent? The key was to write more good articles than anyone else on topics within various categories. How hard could it be? After all, I was #1 of 38 on at least one of my articles. And so, last week I jumped in with both feet. I wrote about things I knew. I wrote about things when I could barely guess what I had to say. I spent the better part of 5 days writing a dozen articles. The contest ends today, and if I'm lucky I might get one of several $5 consolation prizes. Boy, am I glad I went into engineering instead of writing!

From now on, I think I'll stick to the life of Riley. Jon and I plan a canoe trip on the San Marcos river tomorrow. Maybe after that I'll use the services of my good friends Sonny and Reva Harris on their travel website, . I think I'll be content with communicating my experiences, wisdom and whereabouts to my small group of friends and family in this space. And maybe I'll stick to pictures. How can I go wrong? In an attempt to get back on track I'm throwing in a couple of picture from the "meadow" between my condo and the Guadalupe river.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Landa Park and Panther Canyon Trail

I've visited Landa Park in New Braunfels several times, but never really spent the time to get to know it. Today I spent a few hours there and found a pretty amazing place. Landa Park is a 200 acre New Braunfels city park in the middle of the city. One of the most interesting features is Comal Springs. This amazing spring today flows over 275,000,000 gallons per day of fresh, clear water. Its maximum flow was measured in 1977 at over 355,000,000 gals per day. The water flows from hundreds of outlets from the Edwards Aquifer into streams which flow into the Comal River and a small lake in Landa Park. A hydroelectric plant nearby generates power for the city. As I walked along the river I could see rainbow trout swimming several feet down in the swift current.

The park has lots of monuments and plaques with interesting historical information about the area. For instance, did you know that the 1850 census shows that New Braunfels was the 4th largest city in Texas, or that it was one of the major camps along the Camino Real and later for the railroads. I'm sure lots of clean, clear water had a lot to do with that. And then there was Sesquecentenial Oak. It was a so designated in 1986 at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Texas Independence. It was a small sapling in about 1700, and legend has it that when bands of Indians of that time left camp they bent a sapling over to indicate to those that came later which way they had headed, thus the horizontal trunk shape.
Again, pecans everywhere. I picked up another pocketful at the park. They make great hiking snacks, but my hands are sore from cracking them against each other. Pecans were one of the staples for the early settlers as they moved into this area.

Also, I discovered that there is a nice trail, the Panther Canyon Trail which runs from the Park to New Braunfels High School. I hiked this quiet nature trail along a dry creekbed right through the heart of New Braunfels.

Pretty amazing for a city park.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Braunfels, Guadalupe River, WurstFest and It's a Boy

New Braunfels agrees with me, so far. My condo is very nice, with a great view of a meadow and pecan orchard leading down to the cypress-lined Guadalupe River. It is pecan season, so I'm getting fat picking up and eating pecans I find on my walks around the property and a couple of small city parks located nearby. Lots of hours spent watching football, basketball and movies on TV help with the fattening process. That's not such a bad thing, since a couple of months of roughing it have my old pants sagging a couple inches lower than normal. If I didn't fatten up a bit, I'd have to buy new clothes! Anyway, here is a picture of the view from my living area.

Here is a view from the kitchen which shows a bit more of the living area.
A view of the Guadalupe from the pool/hot tub area.

Finally, a better view of the Guadalupe from the water's edge on the property.
Jon has visited several evenings, so it has been a great time with him. Yesterday we went to WurstFest (Sorry, no pictures... I forgot my camera.), a popular local festival that is going on right now. We enjoyed some Kartoffel Poffers (potato pancakes) with our wurst, topped off later with fried cheesecake and brownies. Jon even sampled the German beer. We visited all three music venues, Das Kleine Zelt (Little Tent), Das Gross Zelt (Big Tent) and WurstHalle (Sausage Hall), and got to listen to all 5 German bands. Each had its own flair. Unfortunately, I didn't find a frau to dance the polka with, and Jon wasn't game, so no dancing. Jon heads off to Guatamale tomorrow for a few days.

Meanwhile, I just heard that the latest sonagram shows my first grandbaby is doing just fine in NC, and is a boy. These are good days.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sunset on The Temple Project

Well, I’m moving on. Next stop, New Braunfels. I know New Braunfels is an interesting place for a weekend in the summer, but it will be interesting to see how it fares as a wintering place for a couple of months. I’m not really sure what I’ll find to do there. Perhaps catch some of Jon’s open mic shows, catch the Big 12 soccer tournament in San Antonio and College Station, or a few basketball or football games. I do still have a few places in the Hill Country that I want to hike. However it works out, I’m sure it will be a change from Temple.

I’ve had a great time in Temple. A typical day in Temple has included 4-6 hours working on some project, followed by an outdoor shower warmed by the sun. Then, I visit one of several places for a late lunch, which usually includes some web time on WiFi. Then, I either shop Lowe’s for building materials or catch a movie matinee. Maybe fish or hike around the place, then grill a steak or chicken over a mesquite fire, while checking out the sunset. Catch the Nightly Business Report on PBS and some TV or sports on the radio, or maybe attend church. Or, maybe do some more web surfing…I can’t get it in the cabin so far, but if I go to the north side of the pond I’ve discovered I can piggyback on my neighbor’s WiFi by hanging my receiver in a tree. My War Driving WiFi setup is making it possible for me surf from an ever increasing number of places. I can even lunch at Taco Bell and log on to the Hilton network over a quarter mile away.

I’ve added a small kitchen counter with a sink I snared from a landfill. It is really nice to be able to wash dishes, shave or brush my teeth without a visit to the pond(of course, the water still comes from the pond, but now it meets the definition of running water and is a bit warmer on these cool mornings). I ‘ve added the room for a small, primitive bathroom in one corner, but I’m a few days away from finishing it. I wasn’t sure whether to add these improvements, since I’m not sure how much time I’ll spend here. But, the truth is, I enjoy the projects.

Church has been great, as well. This past Sunday, I decided to the visit the Canyon Creek Church of Christ. I’ve visited there several times over the years and have found it to be a very pleasant, sound, friendly church, though smaller than Western Hills. And, the singing is great in their packed, small building. This visit confirmed the impression. I was invited out for lunch. Then, I was invited to the preacher’s house for tortilla soup and their group meeting on Sunday night. They are watching a video called the “Truth Project” by Dr Dobson( Not James). It was very interesting and thought provoking and led to a good discussion. And, over the course of the day I got to know several of the brethren better, enjoying the fellowship and study.
I’m looking forward to something new in New Braunfels, but all-in-all, I almost hate to leave here