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Written by Texas Highways

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In a grassy cattle pasture near Florence, a rounded metal-frame structure covered with sturdy white canvas stands along Buttermilk Creek, pecan trees towering overhead. The Quonset hut-like structure protects a 48-square-meter hole that descends in terraced levels, each layer of soil going farther back in time.

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It was in Austin that Foster released her first album, Full Circle, in 1997, followed by eight more albums over the years. The three most recent, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (2009), Let It Burn (2012), and Promise of a Brand New Day (2014), were each Grammy Award nominees for Best Blues Album.

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While Texas may not have any alpine skiing or alpine snowshoeing, it has alpine trippin’, Texas-style.  This West Texas town is unlike any other with an unusual mix of grit, funk, and class right in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. All this and more makes this “hub of the Big Bend” well-worth the trip.

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I got to know the Guadalupe Mountains as a child in the 1970s, when my dad was a park ranger at nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. I remember limping around with a broken leg and crutches when we attended the dedication of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 1972, and later, scrambling up Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, with high school buddies on a foggy day before there was even much of a trail. On another memorable visit, I leapt from a boulder in McKittrick Canyon when an eight-inch centipede crawled up my arm.

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With 80-degree weather and a clear, sunny sky, it seems only appropriate to take my good friend’s head-turning, canary-yellow Jeep Wrangler—with its rugged 35-inch tires and lifted body—for a leisurely Sunday drive to the Vintage Grill & Car Museum, a restaurant in downtown Weatherford that doubles as an automobile exhibit. Choosing our means of transportation was like picking out the perfect outfit to match a special occasion, and we didn’t want to show up underdressed.

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Texas boasts a strong German heritage, which naturally includes a long history of breweries and beer. Recently, 20 independent breweries in Central Texas created the Texas Hill Country Beer Trail, a meandering loop from Boerne to San Saba and Dripping Springs to Fredericksburg. Twenty is too many to visit in a day or even a weekend, but it’s easy to break the list into a manageable trail of favorites. On a recent jaunt with my daughter (and designated driver), I explored Save the World Brewing in Marble Falls, Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City, Real Ale Brewing Co. in Blanco, and Fredericksburg Brewing Company, which lie a reasonable distance from each other along a scenic loop.

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Few places embody the spirit of a city more convincingly than The Boiling Pot, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in the coastal village of Rockport. Known for its fresh seafood, served boiled with Cajun spices, The Boiling Pot is arguably Rockport’s most popular dining establishment. Over the years, the space has taken on its own character, drawing from both area history and local tradition while becoming a coastal institution in its own right.

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Traveling with a group of friends devoted to eating and exploring, I arrived in Graham on a sunny June day to attend the annual Food Truck Championship of Texas, which featured some four dozen trucks in heated competition. But it turns out we’d come to enjoy Graham—a town of some 9,000 people about an hour-and-a-half northwest of Fort Worth—for much more than a day of good eating.

haunting1016It’s a warm evening, and I’ve joined a group of about 20 people gathering inside the breezeway of a two-story building a block or so from Seguin’s town square. The structure has seen better days, a lot of them, and we’re here to hear about some of those days. You could also say that we’ve come to hear about some of its worst days.

“Are you ready for the ghosts? I am.” With that, co-owner Erin Wallace Ghedi pushes apart a set of sliding wooden doors and leads us into the Smoking Room, where she begins telling the story of the Magnolia Hotel.

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The sun is low and the gate guarded as we arrive at the south shore of Lewisville Lake, some 30 miles north of downtown Dallas. Officially, the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area is closed for the day. But my traveling companion and I are here for one of the guided night hikes. So the volunteer manning the gate checks our names and waves us through.

surgarskullWhen my family moved to Texas from Michigan in the summer of 2014, I was still reeling from the loss of my mother, gone suddenly from my life at age 64, just six months earlier.

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Today kicks off the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a chance to celebrate the many ways Hispanic Americans, who were among the original Texans, have enriched our society. Originally started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, America has been observing National Hispanic Heritage Month since 1988. We share a few events and places that will help you celebrate.

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