A Road Trip to Llano

DSC_5839It was Sunday and I had an itch to get out somewhere, anywhere to take some pictures. It was already noon time and the temperature in the 90’s and was forecast to reach 100 so I knew that taking a hike was right out of the question. That is unless, I wanted to avoid heat stroke or something like it. So, I hopped into my car after collecting my camera bag with all of its lenses and stuff ready to go and decided that I would drive to Llano and then make a big sweep around back through Fredericksburg and then home taking pictures along the way.

As soon as I crossed Hwy 290 just outside of Marble Falls on Hwy 71, the scenery gradually began to change. Away in the distance, I could see a line of hills and I was heading towards them. I passed a sign that directed to Round Mountain but although I was tempted, I stuck to my original plan and continued along Hwy 71 stopping several times to take pictures of the impressive hill structures off to my right. Round Mountain will be a separate trip. The rock formation had changed from the grey limestone of the Austin area to a solid almost red colored granite. In places, the rock was sticking out of the ground in huge curved formations with the grass growing solidly all around it.

I arrived at Llano and took a drive through the town exploring it a bit before parking and then getting out of my car to walk around. The Llano river runs right through the middle of the town splitting it in two. It has a damn that holds back the water and an old steel arch bridge that carries the road from one side to the next. Llano is the county seat of Llano County and one of its historical buildings is the old Llano Jail known as the Red Top Jail. This building is actually pretty impressive as it sits all by itself. It has been going through a lot of repairs and rehab and is currently closed to the public.

As you can imagine, many of the buildings are very old by Texas standards including the County Courthouse which stands in the middle of town. In front of the courthouse are various  memorials to those that served in the different wars including both the Viet Nam and Korean wars. There are two major statues, one to remember the Confederate War and the other World War 1 and 2.

There are many old building grouped around Main Street and on one side, a covered walkway reminiscent of days gone by. Many are eating establishments and almost without exception, all lay claim to some sort of fame. As you can imagine, many shops sell local artifacts and mementos and some have older and more historical items on display. There is a Museum which I did not have time to visit. Maybe on another day.

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around and took over 100 pictures some of which appear below. My impression of Llano is that it is a sleepy small time town situated on the banks of the Llano River and would probably make a great place to  retire especially if you like to hunt deer as it has the title of the Deer Hunting Capital of the West.

I had a change of plans about the way home and headed towards Lake Buchanan and then Inks Lake and took several pictures along the way. At one point, I stopped to look at an old railroad trestle which looked very similar to the bridge in Llano. I did not go into the Inks Lake State Park other than to get some brochures for maybe a later visit.

I headed home through Burnet and then back down along 183 and home stopping on the way at a Starbucks that for the first time in my life served a half cold latte. I should have gone back and complained but was already heading home and it was not worth the bother.

All in all, a very enjoyable trip and it is real fun to visit these old towns of Texas and try to get a feel of the days gone by. I was very glad that I made the effort to get out.

If you click on any one of the pictures it will enlarge and then you can move right or left by using the arrows. Use the “Escape” key on your computer to return to the webpage.

Thoughts about Retirement

Sunset

Sunset

I have been retired from the University of Texas where I worked for 22 or so years in many different capacities although all related to Managerial Roles within the Physical Plant for 13 years now. When people have asked in the past just where I worked, their immediate response was, “What did you teach”. I don’t know if that is a standard question or whether I have that imperial look of a very knowledgeable Professor type probably in the field of Literature or World History. Others have thought, because of my long years associated with the Soccer Program in Austin, that I might have been the Athletic Director or at the very least, Head Coach of the Women’s Soccer Program. Alas, I can lay no claims to any of those exalted positions and had to content myself to what I knew best which was the many aspects of Construction and Maintenance.I guess we can’t all be brainy or worthy enough to be Professors and hold Doctorate’s and after all, someone had the keep the place running and the ship afloat.

I was sitting here waiting for three videos to complete uploading to Vimeo, the video site I use for that purpose and the thought suddenly struck me that it is Saturday. I got to thinking what Saturday meant in years gone by and immediately the fact that I have been retired for so long hit me. To me, unless I have something specific arranged for this day like a Pond Tour or maybe a visit to someone or something, Saturday and Sunday are just like any other days of the week. They are not days off as for me every day is a day off. I can pick and choose what I do and when I do it and if what I have chosen to do falls on a Wednesday or any other day, I can go do it without having to call in sick or by using a vacation day.

Some of the places I like to hike like the Greenbelt or Bull Creek are very crowded on the weekends as every one of those mostly working people is trying to make the most of their days off. Me, on the other hand can go any day I choose to avoid those masses of humanity as they desperately try to make the most of their time. It is true that many things only occur on Saturdays or Sundays in which case, I am forced to join in with that mass of humanity if I want to participate. On those occasions, I just grin and bear it knowing that come Monday, these poor suckers have to go back to work for their weekly 9-5 shift. Been there and done that. I’ve served my time. Hooray for retirement…

Working Out

lifting weights
I worked out at the gym today
with many others who like to play
with weights and complicated machines
all trying to follow their dreams
of losing weight and looking sharp
as they huff and puff walking endless miles
on machines of various and different styles
some for walking or running fast
others for sitting and pedaling around
with the same purpose of calories to burn
or to raise the heart rate and make it sound
there are some who are here with a friend
pushing each other to the end
or companionship as they make the rounds
helping each other to better heights
others like me, work alone
all of us living within our zone
of comfort as we make the rounds
with a nod and a smile to each other to say
“Glad to see you back today”.

A Beautiful Lotus

A beautiful Lotus

A beautiful Lotus

This Lotus is named Momo Botan – Nelumbo Double Pink and is one of several growing in my ponds. I do not have any luck with water lilies as the Koi are so big, they tear them to pieces as they go after the roots. Lotus have harder and thicker stems with prickles on them and the Koi tend to leave them alone.

Next year, I plan on more Lotus and I will not even bother with lilies.

Who Said Koi Don’t Have Fun…

I was listening to the sound of the big Koi jumping in the middle pond and as popular belief among us Koi enthusiasts, wondered if they were getting sick and how many I might lose. So, I set up my camera and spent an hour or so just watching and filming their actions.

Turns out that they are far from sick and in fact are actually demonstrating the signs of their good health by actively jumping over a plant container that is sitting on the bottom of the middle pond. The container had a lily in not too long ago but the Koi have torn it to shreds and there is very little of the plant left. As I watched and filmed, it was very apparent that the Koi were deliberately jumping over the container. There is plenty of room on either side for them to go around but they chose to swim at and then jump over it. The big Koi in this pond hang out where the plants are most of the time and only venture into the open area occasionally. I think that the pond is now too shallow for them and they feel too exposed in the open water. That area is populated by the smaller Koi and goldfish that I rescued.

Watch the video and you will see that the Koi are apparently enjoying themselves.

Jumping Koi from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Another Hike at McKinney Roughs on 7-11-2015

DSC_5356On the spur of the moment, I decided to take a small hike at McKinney Roughs. I had this sudden urge to get out and walk and I knew that McKinney’s trails were fairly easy as the weather was hot and I had left it late to get out. I pulled into McKinney Trail Head East around 2:30 pm and it was already hot. I had lots of water and my wide brimmed hat with the neck cover so I was all set to go. There was one other horse trailer in the Trail Head but they were getting ready to leave so it looked like I had that end of the trails to myself.

I entered on Whitetail and walked at a steady pace. Luckily, most of the entire trail is in the shade and the few moments in the sun were bearable. When I came to the first pond, I walked as quietly as I could in order to catch a glimpse and maybe a picture of any Herons that might be there but I was out of luck. There were not very many flowers in bloom and I had to content myself with taking pictures of the many variations in the trails and later on in the hike, the different skylines I was able to see.

From Whitetail, I took Bobcat Ridge and finally to Pine Ridge which brought me back to where I had started. Pine Ridge is a very interesting trail. It starts on the high ground and there are wonderful views all around as you can see from the pictures. Then it starts to descend into the valley and in some places, the descent is on man made steps which in most cases have suffered severely from washout. When you reach the bottom, there is a plank bridge to get across the creek and then this trail winds its way upwards and towards the end, the ascent is also by the man made steps. You have to be careful as there is quite a drop off and the footing is not the best but it is well worth the challenge. Eventually, the trail comes out on top of a different ridge heading back to Whitetail and the parking lot.

I covered a little over 7 miles and was very surprised that I had been out there over 4 hours. As usual, I was soaked and had to change into some dry clothes before getting into the car and heading into Bastrop for my Starbucks reward. All in all, a very enjoyable few hours although disappointing as far as picture taking goes.

Ponds and Pumps

DSC_5440-2I woke up this morning and did my usual tour around the garden carrying my plastic bucket full of fish food, feeding as I normally do and checking to see that everything made it through the night. I used to send Richie, my male Dachshund out to check but he sometimes gets waylaid with the overnight smells and forgets to to do the job. He is not very good at feeding the fish as he has taken a liking to the fish food for himself. Then when he does come back in, I can’t understand a word he says so it is simpler to check for myself. That way, at least I know that the fish are being fed.

The very first pond that I visited was the 5000 gallon original big pond, the first one I built 25 years ago and lo and behold, one of the pumps was not working. This is a multi use pump and drives a waterfall, a bubbler urn that sits in the middle of the pond, another urn that sits on the bank and has water flowing out of it and finally, a small Skippy filter that I installed to help keep the water clean. This pump is pretty important to the entire scheme of things for this particular pond.
DSC_5456

No big deal, I thought, I’ll just check my supply of used pumps and find one that is working and do a quick change. Well, all the best laid plans and all that stuff just didn’t work out. I dug out five separate pumps that had all been used previously and were stored in one of my sheds and carefully checked each one by plugging it in to the nearest outlet to see if it worked. Four out the five I pitched onto my used pump pile where I probably have 12-15 old, used and broken pumps collected over the years. The fifth pump worked when I tried it so I planned to use it in place of the burned out one. If my memory was better or if I was more organized, I would chuck the useless pumps onto the stack just as soon as they die instead of having to check them out, one by one at a later date to see if they are still working.
DSC_5435-2You can tell from the dirty water that one of the filters is not working and the sooner I get everything back up and running, the happier the fish will be. Of course, the big Koi in this pond are notorious for stirring up the mud and both filters have to work very hard to keep the water anywhere near clean.

I must mention that I have been experimenting with using two 12 x 12 plastic baskets with one inverted on top of the other and the pump in between in an effort to stop the many blockages caused by the leaves and debris in the ponds. This  pump sits in the pond itself and not in a skimmer so it is prone to blockages although it never completely stops flowing, just doesn’t flow as well. BTW, this is not my idea as Jeff Yarborough from Emerald Gardens, now Leaf Landscape Supply put me up to it. You have to do a little trimming for the inlet pipe to poke through the basket and then use cable ties or drill and use nuts and bolts to hold the thing together. As it turned out, this particular pump that I dug up was already in a basket and with a little adjusting, I was able to get the pipes lined up and placed the unit in the water. DSC_5444The big moment came as I plugged it in and after a few fits and starts, the pump began to push the water through although without much pressure. It ran for probably two minutes and then quit entirely. So much for that effort. I jerked it out of the water after disconnecting it, removed it from the basket and added the pump to the broken pump pile. I searched around in the shed and found one more that worked just fine but it was only a 1200 gph pump and I knew that it would not handle the requirements of driving four separate water features.

So, there was nothing else for it. I was going to have to visit my favorite store, Home Depot and buy a new pump which I proceeded to do. I am lucky that I am caught between two such stores both about the same distance away. I ended up with a 3600 gph pump that I knew would replace the one that no longer worked. It cost me $189 but should be good for a couple of years at least that is how long it is warrantied…

Yeah, right, we all know that it will probably burn out a couple of weeks after the warranty expires. They always do. This pump was almost exactly the same as the one it was replacing so that also in my favor was the fact that the pump inlet was the same size as the existing pipework and I would not have to make any adjustments. I paid for my wares and jumped into my car to drive home.

Did I mention that when I bought my new car last year, it came already programmed to stop at every Starbucks. The only way to prevent it is to buy something. Only then will it pass the rest of them without stopping so with this in mind, I was “forced” to buy a grande latte at the Starbucks in Bee Caves in order to make the journey the rest of the way home. I think my car knows the location of every Starbucks in Austin and the surrounding towns.

DSC_5442It took me ten minutes to put everything back together with the new pump and when I plugged it in, water came out all of the appropriate places with considerable pressure and my pond was back to normal again. Now all I have to do is to wait for the second Skippy filter help to clean up the water.

The whole episode got me thinking of the number of broken pumps that I have stored up over 25 years of ponding. I did not realize there were so many as the stack is not something that I look at very often. Guess I need to make a trip to the junk yard to get rid of them.  Wonder if there is a market for used and broken pumps and where the nearest junk yard is. Hope there is a Starbucks on the way…