Sadly, the fun part of our trip ended as we left San Marcos. We had a two day drive ahead of us to get back to our home in Arizona. There is very little to see along the Interstate 10 from San Marcos to our home in Arizona. It was a great trip and we were happy to be home. Our next trips will be with the RV.
Because we were worried that we would run into weather or a late arrival in San Marcos, we booked a two night stay instead of one. Since everything went smoothly and we had eaten lunch at the Salt Lick that afternoon, we had an extra day and no set plans. We had been through the Hill Country of Texas once before but didn’t have the time to see much. We decided to visit the Lyndon B Johnson Ranch instead. It was a great choice. The Ranch itself works jointly with Texas Parks and National Park systems. We stopped into the Visitors center for an orientation and map of the ranch, then picked up our free park pass.
After leaving the visitors center we entered the working ranch. The ranch is huge, so you need a vehicle to get around. The first stop was at the family cemetery where the family members were laid to rest. There were walls and security cameras around the cemetery, so we were not able to get close to the stones.
The next stop was a drive through the ranch itself, including the Show Barn, the landing strip and hanger. It was all very interesting to see.
It was an enjoyable and informative afternoon. After leaving the Johnson City area, we decided to visit a winery to test some Texan wines. We stopped in at Hye Meadows Winery, not far from the Johnson Ranch. The area is known for its wine so we thought a tasting would be fun. The place was busy will a group of 20 or more at the tasting. I tried a few white wines which were delicious and came home with 2 bottles of the ones I liked the best. It was a great time.
We were able to get into our hotel room about 2:30. We freshened up and headed to Driftwood, TX for Bar-B-Q at the Salt Lick. We had been there a few years ago and vowed we would be back. It was the best bar-b-q we had ever eaten. The food is served family style in a casual setting. Service was excellent and our food arrived quickly. After we ate a large amount of the food, our server noticed that we had eaten a lot of the meats. A minute or two later, another platter showed up on our table. The sampler platter is all you can eat for $24.99 per person. It is a great bargain for such great food.
Everything was delicious. The Salt Lick does not have a bar, but they allow bringing your own beverages. Many of the patrons had large coolers with them.
Most of the smoking is done outside in a large smoker behind the restaurant. It is brought inside to finish up on the pit. The scent from the meats permeates the restaurant. The juice from the sausages hanging above the pit flavors the meats below. I say the Salt Licks’s Cole Slaw is the best I have ever eaten. The sausage is incredible. All in all, it was well worth the detour we took to get here. We hope to eat here again in the future.
From Shelbyville, Kentucky we journeyed to St Charles Missouri, to visit cousins. The drive was slow with heavy rainfall most of the time. We were happy to see just a few showers once we arrived in St. Charles. Despite the weather our time with the cousins was wonderful. The first evening they treated us to a very nice dinner at Trattoria Marcella in St. Louis. The owners were good friends of our cousins, so we received excellent service and met several of their friends. The food was delicious and the proportions huge.
We met up with the cousins again about noon the next day. This time we treated at Pickleman’s, an excellent sandwich shop in St. Charles. This time the mood was more casual. We had a table set up for 8-10 people, and they soon filled up with friends of the cousins. We spent several hours listening to every ones travel stories and telling our own tales. Although we really can’t remember their names, it was a great time.
Later we went back to the cousins home for more talk and some sharing of genealogy trees. After a nice meal of rotisserie chicken with some sides, we also ate the leftovers from the huge dish of lasagna I ordered at Trattoria Marcella the night before. Unfortunately, we were so busy having fun, we failed to take any photos of this leg of the trip. But we sure made memories.
Again, it was hard to say goodbye. We will travel from St. Louis, MO to McAlester, Oklahoma for a hotel stop, before leaving early the next morning, to arrive at the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q in Drifwood, TX
After leaving Nashville our next stop was to visit our nephew and his family near Louisville. The children were waiting on the front porch when we arrived and ran up to give us hugs. The oldest remembers us from when she lived in Arizona, but the younger two, one a baby, also seemed happy to see us. We spent most of the afternoon catching up with the family, getting a tour of their new house, and watching the kids enjoy the Bouncy House in the yard.
Later that week, the Kentucky Derby, sponsored by Woodford Distillery, would be held. We decided to make plans to visit the distillery and take the tour which was very informative and enjoyable. The guide showed us every part of the distilling plant, including a tasting at the end of the tour. Chocolate seems to be the trick to the bourbon tasting smooth.
The girls seemed to enjoy the tour, despite what we thought would be boring for them. They exclaimed that the “horse was wood, real wood.” After lunch at one of their favorite lunch spots we headed back to their home for the afternoon. Our nephew had been experimenting with a homemade pizza oven and spent the rest of the afternoon tending the fire until the oven was hot enough. Our niece was charged with making the pizza dough and sauce. The results were quite good. Of course there may have also been beverages. It was very hard to say goodbye to everyone, but we had a schedule we needed to stick with. it was a great visit.
Due to the 2019 NFL Draft being held in Nashville we were glad that our plans were to arrive on Monday, after the draft was finished, sort of.
There had been nearly 600,000 visitors to the draft. Arriving early at the hotel, the lobby was a mass of people trying to get taxis and shuttles to the airport. We decided to have lunch at the hotel instead of looking for a restaurant offsite. It was a good choice since the bartender gave us a lot of tips of things to see and places to eat in Nashville.
As we were checking into our room, the manager told us there was a round trip shuttle to downtown Nashville for $10 dollars per person. It was definitely an excellent option, since the city is undergoing a lot of construction and is still reeling from the 2019 draft. After lunch our room was ready and we spent the afternoon doing some housekeeping, namely laundry. We had been on the road for over a week at this point, so laundry was a must. Also it was time to take a break. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the room then going to the evening reception for snacks and drinks.
Fun Day in Nashville
The next morning we boarded the shuttle which dropped us a block away from the Ryman Auditorium, better known as the Grand Ole Opry. We bought our tickets and went inside. The first thing we saw was a short film about the history of the Ryman. Then we were free to roam as we wished. The Ryman was originally a church, so seating was in pews. We chose our pews and watched as other visitors took their places on the stage. We passed on doing it at first but finally gave in.
After visiting Ryman Auditorium it was time for some music and a beverage. Hearing country music brought us into Dierks Bentleys Whiskey Row to listen. The band was great so we spent some time sipping our drinks. It was time for some nourishment though, so we headed to Jacks Bar-B-Q. The food was just okay, but it filled the gap.
After lunch we walked past many bars playing live music, but we were looking for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. When we found it the building was enormous and seemed to be all gift shops. We finally spotted the entrance to the Hall of Fame in a corner at the far left of the building. The sign said the museum closed at 4:30 and since it was already past 3:30 we skipped the museum and opted to go back to the main street for more music and beverage. We had a nice time listening to a band at a bar whose name escaped us, but the music was familiar.
It was now getting close to 4:45 PM and we wanted to catch the 5:30 shuttle quite a walk away from where we were. In retrospect we should have planned an extra day in Nashville, but we had many more sights to see in Kentucky, our next stop.
We had not planned to go to Georgia at all on this trip, but as we got close to Chattanooga, we saw signs for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, a few miles over the Georgia/Tennessee border. The next morning after our visit with friends in Tennessee, we were up very early and decided to check out the park. The visitors center was not open this early, but we were able to spend time looking at some of the cannons on the grounds and driving through the battlefields.
From there, we drove through some of the battlefields, seeing hundreds of plaques and monuments along the way.
To be fair, this Kentucky monument is to the Confederacy.
On the way back towards Tennessee we stopped again to visit the Visitors Center which opened at 8:30 AM. We were the first visitors of the day which made it possible to have a great conversation with the staff. This was a beautiful, tranquil detour from our planned visit to Nashville later that day.