Thursday, October 9, 2014

11th Annual Valenta Family Golf Tournament

The family golf tournament has become a tradition and a fun family outing. As I told you in an earlier post, for the second year, the tournament was at Lost Pines Golf Club in the Bastrop State Park.

The tournament is officially known as AVAT which stands for the Adolph Valenta Annual Tournament. It was named in honor of the family patriarch. It is mostly a family fun day. There are a few serious golfers in the family, but far and away, most family members are not golfers. The purpose of the tournament is just to get the family together and do something fun in memory of Grandpa. He would have loved it.

Uncle Johnnie, Mike, Gary, Uncle Paul
Pictured above are the people who are most responsible for starting the tournament and keeping it going through the years. Mike and Gary are first cousins who handle all the logistics of the tournament every year. Uncle Johnnie and Uncle Paul presented them with the first Adolph Valenta Memorial Award. The presentation honors someone each year who embodies the spirit of the Valenta family.

Individual awards are given for closest to the pin and longest drive.
This year's tournament had approximately thirty players. Some of the teams had four players and some had five. Many of the players are beginners and it's all in fun anyway.

The tournament is a scramble and teams play best ball, best position. I'm pretty sure that the scorekeeping is creative. Once again, the point is to spend time with family and to have fun.
As you can see, players come in all ages and sizes. Everyone is welcome regardless of skill level.

Those of us who don't golf just cruise from hole-to-hole visiting and taking pictures. We all enjoy it, especially Our Little Princesses.

We end the day by gathering at the picnic area for sandwiches and chips followed by homemade cookies and rice krispy treats.
Then awards are presented.

I would be remiss if I did not share with you my single favorite moment of this year's golf tournament. There is a gas station that sits just across the highway from one of the holes. We were there taking pictures when Chase and Thomas realized that they could buy beer there. That's exactly what they did. The allowed the next team to play through and they made a beer run ... literally. Here is photographic proof.

I thoroughly enjoy each year's golf tournament. It gives us an opportunity to spend time getting to know each other. It seems like life goes so fast and we live so far apart that time gets away from us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Weekend in the Lost Pines

The last weekend of September, we made our annual trip to the Valenta Family Golf tournament. Two years ago, the tournament moved from Bluebonnet Golf Course in Navasota to Lost Pines Golf Club in Bastrop. Lost Pines is actually located inside of Bastrop State Park. After our first visit there last year, we decided that this year we would rent a cabin in the park and make a family weekend of it.

Bastrop State Park has thirteen cabins that were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The entire park has been awarded National Historic Landmark status because of the landscaping and enduring craftsmanship of the CCC. (Source) We were right in the middle of watching Ken Burns' documentary mini-series, The Roosevelts, on PBS. So we had just been brought up to date about the CCC. That made it all the more interesting.

You may remember that in 2011 the park was ravaged by the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. The fire came very close to the cabins and the stand of loblolly pines which gives the park it's name. They were saved by the hard work of many firefighters. Today, you can see the stark remainders of the trees that burned; but you can also see that recovery is underway.

Bastrop State Park has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Forest Service in the Bastrop Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign. I am also proud to say that our Aggies from Texas A&M University are lending a hand with replanting in the park. You can read about their efforts here.
We were lucky enough to rent Cabin #12 which sleeps eight, so we could all stay together in one cabin. The cabin has central heat and air, four bedrooms, two baths, a common room with a dining table that seats eight, and a kitchen with a refrigerator, stove, and microwave. You have to bring your own kitchen utensils and coffee pot. The furniture in the cabin was built on-site by the CCC using local resources. Outdoors is a picnic area with two tables, a barbecue pit, and a fire pit.
We all took the day off on Friday so we could arrive early and have plenty of time together. Check in time at the cabins is 5 o'clock, but if no one else is using the cabin, you can check in early. We all arrived around noon and were able to check in early. Pop-Pop bought cane poles for Our Little Princesses and he took them down to the lake right away for a little fishing.
On Friday night we had tortilla burgers for dinner. Nick grilled the burgers and tortillas outside while Katy made the refried beans and did all the prep work.

On Saturday morning, it sure was nice to be able to get up, have a leisurely breakfast, and be at the golf course in just a few minutes. In previous years we had to drive an hour or more. (There will be a separate post about the golf tournament later. I have lots of pictures to share.)

Saturday evening, Travis manned the grill and we feasted on ribs, potato salad, and lots more. Then we stayed up late playing our family's favorite card game, Shanghai.

It was a beautiful night and we sat outside around the fire pit just enjoying the time together.

I want to share a quick tip that you might find handy if you have kids and plan to be in the great outdoors after dark. Any time they're going to be outdoors after dark, whether they're camping or at a festival, Katy brings glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets. She gets them at the dollar store, so they're cheap. As soon as it starts getting dark, she gets them out and puts them on the girls. It makes it so much easier to keep up with them after dark and they love them.
I love sitting by the campfire at night. I also love mornings at the campsite. Both mornings we were there, Our Little Princesses were up early. Katy and I took our coffee out to the picnic tables and the girls had hot cocoa. She came prepared with watercolors, markers, and artists tablets and the girls painted for a while, while some of the family chose to sleep in a little.
All too soon our weekend camping adventure was over and we all headed back to our separate homes. We all agreed we will do it again next year.

On the way out of the park I snapped a few pictures of the other cabins. I love how they just blend in to the forest.
It really is a great park. I wish I had visited it before the fire.