To help deal with my semi-permanent current state of settling-down, weekend trips are necessary. With the countless little towns spread throughout this massive state, there may be enough exploring to do to keep me here for a while. And since my little sis is leaving this week after a fun summer of spending time with me before both of us get married off, we decided to head out to the country for some girl bonding. There’s a little town out on 290 about 90 miles east of Austin called Brenham. I’d been out there to look at the blue bonnets in the spring, and wanted to go back and spend some more time in the quiet, pretty little town. When possible, I prefer to stay in a bed and breakfast if we’re doing hotels instead of camping. The experience is so much nicer, and it’s usually close to the same price that a hotel and breakfast would cost separately. This weekend turned out to be pretty booked with citified Texans all having the same idea we did, but we found a room at the Ingleside B & B right near “downtown” old Brenham. Old Brenham is the original part of town, where the village square has been turned into a typical photogenic little tourist trap, but which is still authentically small-town enough to make you feel as if you’re seeing the place close to what it was in the 1880s.
I left work early and picked Sophie up, and we turned the music on “loud” and followed the traffic out of Austin. As the miles unfurled behind us I felt the tightness that had been building in my chest start to dissipate. As we drove with our own thoughts, I wondered how it had gotten to this state. How had freedom gradually become “the grind” over the years? And what am I going to do about it?
As we rolled into town in late afternoon, the sun still baking down on Texas, I stopped thinking and it was the best thing I’d done all week. We found the red brick building with a wraparound porch after a bit of driving around. Ingleside is apparently in the style of “American Foursquare” which means absolutely nothing to me but looks like a Georgian plantation home. They had some patriotic bunting outside and some old people on the porch, so it looked like the South for sure. They had a big pineapple on the sign, which I didn’t think much about at first but which turned out to be significant later.
That evening we tried to make it into a few bars but only succeeded at one. Soph drank non-alcoholic beer since she is not quite 21. It turned out for the best, though, because a long peaceful night of sleep was perfect. I awoke once to the wail of a train coming through town, and my soul thrilled to the sound. We lived near the tracks often in childhood, and it always reminded me of my father’s stories of his train-hopping days. The noise amplified the silence once the train had passed, and I realized how much I miss the solitude and quiet. Living in a city has its perks, but the slow pace of life outside city limits reminds you that life shouldn’t be a rush to the finish line. There’s no reason to hurry.
Morning dawned warm and humid, and we enjoyed coffee on the porch before it hit 100 degrees. Connie cooked us a gourmet breakfast and we were off to explore. Sophie was glad to be free of the looming pineapples. The spiny fruit seems menacing when there are too many grouped together. We had planned to visit the Blue Bell Creamery, home of some of the best ice cream around, but were disappointed when our innkeeper told us tours don’t operate on the weekend.
“They’ve said they’re in the ice cream business, not the tourism business,” Connie said, rolling her eyes.
We visited the Monastery of St. Clare, but it was closed on Saturday. We clucked at the miniature horses the Poor Clare nuns raise and marveled at the tiny babies with their big heads. They looked like My Little Ponies, and when trotting they are hilarious. We also visited a lavender farm off the beaten track on a dirt road through several ranches, and walked around a Masonic cemetery in the tiny town of Chappell Hill.
Our last stop on a too-short trip was the Pleasant Hill Winery. We happened to be there during an event they put on called Crush for Fun, but it wasn’t as exciting as we’d hoped. We wanted to jump in a giant vat of grapes and stomp them but it was more like stepping on a few grapes in a washtub. We decided not to pay for that pleasure. As you can see, more non-alcoholic drinks for Soph. I had thought about working at a vineyard a few times, but after taking the tour and seeing how much work is involved I decided it probably isn’t the place for me. Wine takes far too long and I hate waiting. I do, however, love wine, so I will visit every winery I come across.
Lessons learned on this trip:
You can still smoke in many bars in Texas.
Pineapples are frightening but also a symbol of hospitality.
The Blue Bell Creamery doesn’t give tours on the weekends.
Wine is good.