Leaving Hawaii for the second time to return to the Mainland was extremely difficult for my bride and I. Not because we don't love our family or the land of our birth--we do--but because once you've tasted Paradise it's awfully hard not to compare everything else to that.
We lived in a little town on the Windward Side of O'ahu called Kailua (Hawaiian: "Two Waters"), where I could slide my kayak or standup paddle board off the back steps and paddle to the warm Pacific Ocean any time I wanted. It was a lovely little town filled with the spirit of Aloha and with a strong sense of healthy community. We formed strong friendships in those four years, and renewed our love of those islands after being away for 11 years after our last four year tour.
However, work and family brought us home, and so we searched for a similar "vibe" in the Greater San Antonio area and found it in New Braunfels. We instantly fell in love with the beautiful mix of German, Czech, Mexican, and American culture here. As we always did during our 16 moves-in-30-year Air Force career, we became tourists in our new home.
Imagine a small Texas town with dozens of live music venues, brew pubs, shops, and eateries--and of course Wurstfest, our little version of Munich's Oktoberfest!
Of course the first draw for me was water, and there is a LOT here in New Braunfels. The city sits at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers; the former spring-fed and the latter fed from the Edwards Aquifer and Canyon Lake. They're both fun for tubing, kayaking, and rafting!
With the Comal at a constant 75 degrees all the time, it's actually accessible year-round in the mild Texas winters.
The city itself has an amazing Faust Street Bridge over the Guadalupe, so photogenic! I snapped this particular photo on a late evening walk in August while we were staying at some riverfront condos in New Braunfels' east side. We had to wait for the air to cool off!
King Iron and Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio constructed the bridge in 1887. It was originally a wagon and pedestrian trestle, but now is a pedestrian and cycling bridge. Just across the bridge is the old Mission Valley Cotton Mill, and later the New Braunfels Textile Mill, that employed 100 people from 1923 to 2005. It's slated for redevelopment into an upscale mixed use apartment and shopping area.
Aside from the Missions, Sts Peter and Paul Catholic church was built in 1871, and is one of the oldest churches in Texas. It became the permanent home for the Catholics of New Braunfels who'd worshiped without a church since their arrival in 1844. It's German roots are evident in the stained glass windows where German and English prayers are side by side. This one is among my favorites, and it's a children's prayer.
Then there's Landa Park. Right in the heart of the city, this "mini-Central Park" hosts the Panther Canyon hiking trial, ducks, fish, and deer. All the animals are very tame, and will approach for snacks if you're still and quiet.
The Park is very quaint, and gets a tremendous number of visitors daily. Cyclists, Mom's groups, joggers, fishermen, walkers, and naturalists. It hosts and Arboretum and a Dance "Slab" for gatherings in the summer, and it's very popular for family photos and wedding photo shoots. Landa Park has a natural swimming pool with a rope swing and water slides, a miniature train that circles the park, and of course an ice cream stand for hot summer days!
Speaking of deer--there's a herd of probably several hundred that roam the neighborhoods here. Our first "housewarming party" arrived with fawns in tow to browse in the backyard. They've been a daily fixture ever since, and a couple of the bravest young deer have been known to eat out of our hands.
Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey's Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be's: A Straighforward Guide to Life.