Visiting Gruene, Texas
By James Salazar
Houston Chapter BMW CCA
(Article first appeared in the February 1998 issue)
One of the many newsletters I receive is Texas-German Autohaus'. In their latest issue, Hans and company was giving away a weekend in Gruene, Texas, another small Texas town with a German influence. Not having taken a drive in a few months, Gruene sounded like a good weekend getaway.
Gruene is located just inside the Hill Country, near New Braunfels and about a two hour drive from Houston via I-10. I chose I-10 mainly because I was anxious to get there to explore the town and the surrounding area. Also, we had arranged to meet with fellow Houston BMW CCA club members for lunch so I didn't want to take a chance getting lost on a back road.
Our home for the night was the Gruene Mansion Inn (830-629-2641). Built in 1872, the inn had originally been H.D. Gruene's cotton plantation home. We didn't actually stay in the home but in one of the cottages in the back. The cottages are quite nice and, if you sit on the deck, offer a view of the Guadalupe River. Rooms at the inn start out at about $100 per night and if you stay Saturday night, there is a two day minimum. If you would like to have breakfast in the morning, that's an additional $5 per person (remember, this is not a bed and breakfast). We had breakfast Sunday morning and would highly recommend it – good food and a chance to meet some new people. But, we should also remind you that there are some good bakeries close by in New Braunfels that you should try out, too.
After checking in and dropping of our luggage (mostly camera gear), we walked around the town until it was time to meet our friends for lunch. Personally, I wasn't too impressed with the shops, with a few exceptions. The majority of the shops offer the same things (and in some cases, the same junk) that you would find in any other small town or lower Westheimer for that matter. I suppose that for some, you can never get enough of the country theme. If you really want to do some driving and shopping, I would recommend Fredericksburg over Gruene. But I did say there was at least one shop I enjoyed, right? That would have to have been the Gruene General Store. Nothing special except the atmosphere - a little bit of this and that with a counter to enjoy a Sundae or some lemonade – very nostalgic.

If you want a nice place for lunch, try the Grist Mill. Even though it was a bit cool, we still enjoyed a filling lunch outdoors (both times we ate outdoors, heaters were lit to keep everyone warm). The food and atmosphere are also great - the food leaning towards the German theme, of course, and the restaurant is on the ruins of the old mill. If you sit outdoors you can also enjoy a great view of the Guadalupe River.

I never thought a city boy like me would be shopping at a feed store yet, there I was fueling up.
After doing the town on Saturday, we took a drive along River Road to Canyon Lake (about a 12 mile drive). If you get a chance, you should drive River Road - I really can't say that you'll have many times when you will want to stop the car to get a better view of the scenery but you will still be rewarded with good views of the river and some fun driving. In January we didn't expect to see anyone floating down the river but we were surprised to see a few people canoeing – the more popular past-time at this time of the year is fly fishing. With some daylight to spare, we back-tracked on River Road to New Braunfels to check out the town before heading back.
And what about night time entertainment? you may ask. Well, that was one of the things I was most interested in (aside from the drive, of course). Gruene boasts the oldest dance hall in Texas, The Gruene Hall. When you walk in, you'll see pictures of various bands and artists that have played in the hall over the years including some big names like George Strait, Lyle Lovett and Jerry Lee Lewis. In fact, if you look closely you'll find pictures that chronicle the music careers of some performers (and their hair as is in the case of Lyle Lovett). Gruene Hall's other claim to fame is its appearance in the movie Michael with John Travolta (for those of you that saw the movie, Gruene Hall was used in the scene where Travolta dances with two of the lady patrons and later ends up fighting with the jealous male regulars). After dinner on Satuday, we stopped in for an hour or so to enjoy some live music by Ted Roddy and the Tearjoint Troubadors. We didn't dance but there were plenty of others on the dance floor (by the way, age didn't seem to matter in this place so don't worry about being too young or too old). And if you had one too many, don't worry – as mentioned before, Gruene is very small and if you stayed in one of the local inns, you're only a short stagger from your bed.
Heading home we took a more scenic route suggested by Chris and BJ that headed through Wimberley to Dripping Springs before getting on 290. Chris' instructions were:

From Gruene, Hunter Rd to 306. (Left).
Purgatory Rd (215) (Right) to (mail boxes).
32 (Right) to Ranch Rd 12 (Left) to Wimberley.
Stay on Ranch Rd 12 thru Wimberley to Dripping Springs and 290.

You can keep some pretty good speeds on this route but you have to watch for the dips. Doing a little over 70mph, the first dip caught me off guard since it turned out to be more severe than I had expected it to be. With it's beefed up suspension, my little 02 had no problems dealing with the dip: no bottoming out and the Alpine changer didn't even skip. We were ready for the second dip but the third one really got us - that one did cause the Alpine to skip (the fourth time in two years - not bad) even though we had reduced our speed in anticipation. After that one, we slowed down even more for the last ones. As you drive this route, try to check out the 'livestock'. Aside from the usual cows and horses, you may see some ostrich, zebras and other assorted animals - really! You'll just have to believe us on this one.

Breakfast is not served until 9:00AM at the Gruene Mansion Inn and I'm an early riser. But early morning is always a good time for taking photos for me: the lighting is interesting and not too many people are out on the streets. At 7:00AM I grabbed my car keys and the Nikons and headed out the door. Sunday was a little gray but it still was a good enough of a day for taking photos that there were a few people out there shooting already. One lady I met was an artist and was taking photos to make sketches from. We talked in between photos and I was given some ideas for my next drive. Stay tuned!