There And Back Again (Texases I Have Known)

Just a few random comments from a recent trip Mrs. Hoke and I took to Texas. With some photos.

First off, I love when we’re driving somewhere and manage to find a spot to eat that has precisely what I wanted even when I wasn’t really sure what I wanted when we pulled into their parking lot. So it was at The Rib Shack in Murphy, NC. We have some friends who search out barbecue joints as they tour around the USA and will drive miles off their planned route for a platefull of wellseasoned smoked meat. We don’t do that, but I admire their dedication or whatever in a “yeah I’m not going to do that” sort of way. I do not have a photo from The Rib Shack in Murphy, NC, but did find an image online detailing "The Anatomy of a Baby Back" which I include here for educational purposes.

We stopped overnight in downtown Houston and I got up in the morning for a run around Rice University and Herman Park. Lots of Houstonians were out doing likewise in the earlymorning dampish heat. Herman Park is lovely—I used to come down to Miller Outdoor Theater somewhat often-ish for music, opera, and whatever they were doing on a given night. My run took me around the zoo which offered up some curiously unidentifiable funky aromas in the morning air. Phew...monkeys, I think. Here's a photo of Herman Park I took after going up in a hot air balloon that took me back in time to the 1920s.

herman park

We were in Houston because my father had been in the hospital. He’s home and doing okay—thanks for asking. My sister had flown in from California and was offering support and distraction. It was good to be in the heart of my family. Lester (aka Dad) has such an irrepressible spirit. I called him on his birthday earlier this year and he was having a beer after being up on their roof with his leafblower. “My annual self evaluation,” he reported. “If I manage to get up and down without falling I figger I’m doing okay.” Right, Dad, right.


We left Conroe for The Kerrville Folk Festival and had another one of those driving upon the perfect meal events in Round Top at Royer’s Café. I vaguely remembered reading about the place when we lived in Austin and that memory sucked us in and wow—lucky us. Seriously good grilled shrimp BLT and a big slice of “junkberry” pie with Amy’s ice cream. Wow again. Worth the detour or daytrip if you ever have the chance. For serious now. Also: there's a whole collection of tastefully restored buildings around the square. Including the church pictured below (kindly note that my attire is period appropriate to the horsebuggies and historical whatnots).

Royer's Junkberry Pie

Round Top church

We arrived at Quiet Valley Ranch. It’s beyond me to really capture what happens at The Kerrville Folk Festival—it’s basically a leash free area for the human spirit. Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Many many smiles, hugs, songs, and laughs were enjoyed during our stay. Of course it was too short. And of course we missed the folks who had come and gone by the time we arrived. But Mrs. Hoke and I thoroughly delighted in the time and friends we had. Yup. Very yup indeed.

Arrival at KFF

Lester has hosted a frozen margarita night at one of the festival camps for a couple of years, and with him absent I assumed the task. But simplified it. Rocks instead of frozen. Cheap tequila + margarita mix + triple sec + lime garnish = here’s your drink now play us the good one. It might be that the drinks got stronger as the night progressed. I can’t really remember. Here's a very shadowy image of me pouring as Frank Meyer looks on. While muttering, probably. That I'm not doing it right or something similar.


Also at the festival: A friend of ours--Deanne--has acquired a chickenhead mask and has been posting photos of Chickenhead in various places. She went back to her camper to get it so we could have a photo together. I actually have another photo of us that is in focus but I think the blurry image and crazy lighting better captures the surreality of the moment. So there. Keeping with "birds" as a loose theme, another friend (LuraFaye) had rescued a baby mockingbird and brought him to the festival to release when she left. Atticus the mockingbird--clever, no?--hung around their camp throughout the festival begging food. I tried to feed him some grapefruit with my toes. He didn't go for it.

with Chickenhead


Our last night at the festival I pulled an all-nighter. Which is to say I stayed up through the night until dawn broke. Or almost that long, anyhow. I didn’t do it on purpose, really. I just kept playing and moving until I was atop Chapel Hill with the rest of the folks still percolating. I didn’t make it till sunrise, though, and caught a too brief nap in a hammock until a baby started crying in a nearby tent. I tumbled into our tent and onto our air mattress and woke Mrs. Hoke in the process. She set about packing us up before the day (and heat) really set in. I slept through a little of it but eventually lent my groggy assistance. She drove us to Austin.

daybreak at KFF

In Austin we stayed with our very good friends Rich & Nancy. Swell humans, dear friends, and generous hosts. Sweet Nancy made me guacamole—as if I didn’t already love her beyond measure. We don’t see these folks nearly enough. I don't have a picture of Rich, Nancy, or the guacamole Sweet Nancy made for me. I do, however, have a picture of a guy taking a nap at Kerrville in the middle of a couple of spirals I made from the gravel while listening to the groovefilled sounds of The Jitterbug Vipers.

gravel spiral naptaker

That night we supped with a crowd of friends at Jax/Artz (you either know or you don’t) as Danny Britt played onstage. Then we shuffled southward to Donn’s Depot for Chris Gage’s Monday night throwdown. Mr. Gage was kind enough to invite me to sit in for a few songs and Winker (you either know or you don’t) was kind enough to catch a photo of me blissed out in the joy and fun of the moment. I believe I am/was the first musician ever to lead the crowd at Donn’s in whistling the theme from The Andy Griffith Show. We are awaiting official data to confirm or refute this claim. So stand by for that.

Donn's Depot

The next day we drove back to Conroe—my hometown, if you care about that kind of trivia. While we were there I got a haircut and shave at a barbershop downtown. Very relaxationmaking. I’ll have to investigate our downtown barbershop back in WNC for these services. Mrs. Hoke and I have gotten in the habit of picking up sausages from Southside Meat Market in Elgin when we drive from Austin to Conroe so Lester can grill them for us during our stay. Among other things, this routine helped us learn the word self-immolation. With Lester still recovering, he offered fatherly supervision and advice as I tended the grill. Only a very smallish—by Hoke standards—greasefire resulted. And all agreed they were tasty and burnt just enough.

men with sausages

After a couple of days in Conroe, we packed up and drove east and north. We overnighted in Birmingham on our way back home and had supper at John’s City Diner where Mrs. Hoke had an outrageously large order of chicken and waffles. Our waitress told us that most customers took a photo of the food when it was set before them. We complied accordingly. (My less camera-friendly meatloaf can be viewed sulking in the background.)

chicken and waffle

We ran the next morning at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. And stopped in Chatanooga to have lunch with a friend. And then…home. Renewed. Relaxed. Refilled. Thanks one and all who contributed. Thatisall.

healing in the wisdom

rolling home

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