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Blanco, TX

This blog is for my friend Dr. C (but you can read it too).

Dear Doc:

Everyone tells us that Blanco is a neat little town, but when we drive through it looks like a small patch of not much. The Court House building, an ornate cube sitting primly in the middle of the green, has a sign in front of it that says you can rent it for events. The block of buildings across the street are the sort of half-rotted stone and wood construction you see everywhere in the old western towns, vacant of stores. I am reminded of your phrase about your hometown of Patagonia, that it is “a landfill in waiting.”

But if you look more closely, Blanco has surprises and small treasures. You have to stop and talk to people to get the real picture of this place. Last night at dinner with Jim, we met the mother of the owner of Riley’s Restaurant. She was a charming old lady, sitting in her chair by the entrance and chatting us up without guile or reserve. Today at the post office, “Chief” (of police? of the fire department — I wasn’t sure) came in to pick up a package and started a friendly round of ribbing and joking that everyone waiting in line joined in on. Everywhere we go, people are exceptionally calm and friendly. Those are the attributes of people who live in a low-stress region of the world, and who are comfortable with their places in life.

I took to asking people why they recommended we come to Blanco. The real estate agent in Wimberley, our friend John in Austin, the folks at the store …. all said that Blanco is the kind of small place that feels like the town they remember from their childhood: friendly, sweet, uncomplicated.

They’re right about that. Blanco even has institutions that haven’t been seen in other parts of the country in decades. The most-often mentioned local restaurant is a simple cafe carved out of the front of the local bowling alley. It’s a place where you can still get a decent dinner for $5.95, with two sides. The bowling alley itself is a throwback: 9 pin bowling with manual pin setters. They hire kids to set the pins up between frames. If you want to bowl, you need to reserve a week in advance and your reservation is “dependent on availability of pin setters.”

And if you look closely, or talk to anyone in town, you’ll find out that the block of decaying storefronts is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation. The daughter of a car dealer, so the gossip goes, was given a pile of money to spend and she chose to spend it renovating Blanco’s one-block downtown. Makes you think maybe Blanco has an upswing coming.

I’d hate to see it become too much of a success. Fredericksburg, 40 miles to the west, is a tourist mecca with all the trappings and high real estate prices. Blanco is still a real town, with real (nice) people, and while it’s not an exciting place, it is a place worth visiting.

I worked in the trailer most of the day, but the tedium of work was broken up by two unexpected visits. Warren K is parked just a few sites away from us in his shiny new Airstream Classic 25. He’s a nice guy who has a rough medical history, out full-timing on his own and trying to enjoy life as best he can. When I meet people like Warren I’m always impressed with the healing power of travel. It doesn’t cure problems, and you can’t escape them, but it does provide perspective, new friends, and opportunities for reflection. That’s got to help.

Blanco Luc Jane.jpg
Luc and Jane

Jane and Luc dropped by too — they’re 20-somethings (I think) roaming the country in a 1969 B-van with no particular plan except to see what there is to see. They knocked on our door just because we have Vermont plates and Luc is a Vermonter too. You don’t see too many people from Vermont in Texas, I guess. They brought over some brownies and we compared notes about places we’d been before Jane had to head off to her temporary job up in Johnson City. Once they have some money saved up, they’ll move east, but they were so nice that I hope we can cross paths again.

So goes a day in our life. Blanco ain’t Disneyworld but sometimes that’s better. Now I’m reminded of what you like about Patagonia. See you there, in a few weeks.

2 Responses to “Blanco, TX”

  1. Craftsman Says:

    Rich, I like the fans for the frig exaust. what is the model number and are there special brackets required for the install? Also, very interested in the size and design of fixed dwelling that you eventually decide on. I,m sure full time Airstream living will have an influence on these decisions.Maybe you can share some of your thoughts for us wanna be’s.

  2. Bob Says:

    I grew up in S.A. with two aunts, an uncle and many cousins in Blanco. We swam at several places in the river, walked the dinosaur tracks upstream of the park, and spent a lot of time at one aunt’s family style restaurant. It always was a sleepy sort of place — the theater closed in the early ’60’s. LBJ’s presidency saw the county seat move to Johnson City and that was like hitting the snooze button on Blanco. I was back through there 2 years ago and glad to see it is looking okay. Thanks for the topic — it’s a good read on a 10-below morning in Minnesota!