Specifically the ones who settled central Texas, for they introduced my world to beer, brats, and Schlitterbahn.
We've just returned from a relaxing five-nighter in the blue collar Riviera of Texas, New Braunfels, known for rolling hills, river sports and THE water park that started it all.
When I was growing up in that big family, most of our vacations were spent camping in the great outdoors. We had a groovy 70's VW camper (orange) with a pop-top sleeping loft and a built-in fridge and sink. We'd pack that baby to the brim: kids, tent, Coleman stove and hit the road. It must have been chaotic with the country music playing while kids fought in the back seat to pass the time, all the while, the wind whipping through the orange plaid curtains mom made for the camper that dad called "Betsy." But I only remember the good times.
I realize my memories are only just sprinkled with reality because Betsy was, in fact, a lemon and I'm reminded by my siblings how much trouble she often gave us on those romantic road trips. My brother assures me that camping was hot, uncomfortable torture once he hit his teen years but was still too young to stay home alone. I think we have photographic evidence of his misery somewhere.
Yes, hotels and a/c are not to be replaced, but what about roasting dinner on a stick over a campfire and waking up at the first sunlight to the smell of coffee brewing and bacon frying outdoors? What about chasing frogs and lightening bugs and peeing behind trees in the dark? What about learning to pitch a tent, or roll up a sleeping bag, or start a campfire? What about looking out at the night sky to discover all the stars that are washed out by city lights? And what about all that together-time with no movies or computers to entertain ourselves with? When you camp, you hang out and you talk and you eat, and you get dirty and go swimming to wash off the sweat. To me, camping evokes good times, simple times. And I want that again, for my boys.
Once out of college, MMA and I enjoyed many wonderful trips to places I'd only dreamed of going as a child. I thought I had arrived. Why drive somewhere and camp when you can travel like this? Or so I thought.
But as we were leisurely loading up the car last Sunday (no plane to catch, no danger in drinking the local water) for the drive to our rustic cottage with all the comforts of home, just three hours from home --I'm almost six months pregnant remember, let's not get crazy-- I finally got it. I understand now why so many generations have been vacationing in New Braunfels with their kids. Even those who could have gone somewhere more exotic.
Only now do I get it, that when you travel with little ones, it really is all about what they want and need because taking care of them first affords us some R&R, too. Those wonderful Germans must have surely understood that when they fashioned the perfect, affordable family vacation spot smack dab in the middle of all the biggest cities in Texas. An easy vacation in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, what's not to love!
You should have seen me floating along the lazy river, butt-up, at Schlitterbahn with my big pregnant belly resting so pleasingly in the inner tube. I felt like I had re-arrived, further evolved. Only Child was giggling and bouncing along beside me under the watchful eye of his daddy. I knew he would be worn out and ready for bed extra early.
Forget about expensive drinks at the swim up bar or going back to the room to fix my wet hair for an evening out. I was looking forward to hanging out on our rented couch to watch TV and read in peace and quiet. That last night, a whole pack of deer came to graze right outside our cabin in front of the river.
It was so pretty and peaceful and I thought to myself what I always think on vacation, (no matter where) "This is the life, right here. This is it!" (And of course, "How much is real estate around here?)
So, God Bless you, German settlers of central Texas!
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