15.07.2010 - 15.07.2010 43 °C
Pretty much the first question I asked when I arrived in Austin last week was, "Where are the rodeos?" In my mind at least, rodeos and the outdoors encapsulates the romanticism of the west of Texas in particular. You can understand my disappointment then when the answer I got was, "We don't really do them here I'm afraid."
I've spent some time whilst I've been in Austin researching ways to get into the country, see some rodeos, ride some horses and generally prance around in my new boots. The best way to do it was clearly going to be to stay on a ranch for a couple of nights. With that I drove about two and a half hours south west from Austin to a place called Bandera. It seems wherever I travel in Texas the scenery changes suddenly. Driving here in 'Hill Country' the flat metropolis of Austin was replaced not by rolling hills as on the ride up from New Orleans, but hills nonetheless, and landscapes that I expect resemble the Australian bush.
It wasn't too long before I rolled into Bandera, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was cheating. With saloons left and right and the odd horse slurping water from a trough, I really should have made my way here on horseback! I drove through the town and not three or four miles past the city limit was the ranch, the Twin Elm Ranch', where I would be staying. Within minutes of dumping my things in my room a ranch hand asked me if I wanted to go tubing. "Tubing, what is this 'tubing' you talk of?" "Toooo-bin Sir, is where you get on the too-be and go down the river." "Well go on then." Now, I'm not sure why, but I was expecting it to be something like a banana boat. I was wrong. I was driven a mile or so to a river, given a very large inflatable ring and wished well. Tubing is actually just sitting on a ring and floating down river. It was utterly blissful. The arching trees shielded me from the 42C sun and the warm water splashed up to keep me cool. I could have been on that river forever and not noticed. Several rapids later I made it to the end, took no time to dry off in the heat and was back at the ranch.
Dinner was served at about 5pm and around the long dining room table there ample opportunity to talk to the people who were also travelling to Bandera and the staff who worked on the ranch. I was speaking to one fifteen year old boy who was there with his family and he told that he had put his name down to rodeo the bull at tomorrow night's rodeo. Was he kidding? "Have you done this before?" "No, Sir." "Does your mum know?" "Oh yes, Sir." I was then asked by some of the ranch hands if I wanted to give it a go. I practically spat up my food in a jerk of pure hilarity and sheer dread at the idea of me getting on a bull and rodeoing it. "I'll leave it to you guys." "If you insist, Sir." "Yes, I insist." I ended up talking to the rodeoing fifteen year old's father for quite a bit of time at dinner and afterwards about his experiences in America and he was very interested in the UK. I will make some observations about our conversations a little bit later, as they will be more informed and have a better context.
That evening I headed up to a corner of the ranch where a fire had been started. I took my place around it and was handed a poker to cook marshmellows, eazed myself into my chair and listened to two travellers from the UK play their guitars whilst gazing up at the twinkling night sky. This is exactly what I had wanted from Texas - sugar and stars.