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Written by Texas Highways

05 KLEPPER PUFFY TACOS rays drive inn 06

Anyone who’s been to a Spurs game in San Antonio can attest that the city is filled with red-hot, habanero-grade pride. The iconic Alamo and its sister missions, a lively Riverwalk, and plenty of community-wide celebrations like Fiesta all give the historic Texas city its flavor—and no place captures the city’s character better than Ray’s Drive Inn, the West Side icehouse where the locally famous puffy taco was born.

Biram2Scott H. Biram is a one-man band who has blown five-piece rock groups off the stage. But the San Marcos native is just as at home picking country blues on his back porch, with his chickens running around the yard, as he is in a nightclub.

Horses 6285On the outskirts of Murchison in East Texas, a sprawling animal sanctuary has provided a home for rescued animals for nearly 40 years. With more than 40 species—ranging from American bison to Asian water buffalo, giant tortoises, llamas, and chimpanzees—Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch provides a home to 900 animals, which outnumber the human population of their hometown by 30 percent.

HighHillFarm3With Tyler in my rearview mirror, I’m driving southeast toward the tiny town of Arp on twisting farm-to-market roads, deep in a rolling countryside that unfolds into towering forests and varying shades of green. I roll down the windows to smell the pines and see the wildflower meadows more clearly.

castle 4Something amazing, and in fact, quite regal is hidden in Bellville, a tiny town roughly halfway between Austin and Houston. Though primarily known as the seat of Austin County, this not-so-sleepy small town (pop. 4,000) has recently distinguished itself for more than its governmental function.

HillCountryDwelling2June Naylor’s story on the new Midland Hotel in Hico urges you to make tracks to experience the inn’s hospitality. Once you’re settled into the Hamilton County town, there’s plenty to do and see and eat right outside the hotel’s front door. Here’s a look at some of downtown Hico’s offerings.

WhartonArtwork3503Wharton is the kind of town that invites you to relax on a wraparound porch with an old friend, sip an iced tea—or something stronger—and reveal some secrets. At least that’s what I wanted to do when visiting for a weekend last spring, standing on the front porch of Wharton-born playwright Horton Foote’s childhood home, peeking in at all the old photos on his mantel, and then looking out at the blossoming azaleas and old oak trees that adorn the front yard.

daytripper nb

Natives and visitors love New Braunfels for its crystal-clear rivers and the thrilling slides of Schlitterbahn. And while these top tourist attractions are great reasons to go tripping, there’s much more to this German burg than many people know. I decided to take a trip to this Texas-style Bavaria and see what I could uncover.

Hico617On trips to the Hamilton County town of Hico over the years, I’d wondered why the handsome 1896 Midland Hotel building had remained sorely neglected. An imposing corner building at the center of a charming vintage downtown, the two-story brick landmark had clearly been a showplace in its heyday.

bikingwithbirds 617Not a half-hour into my daylong adventure, in the middle of a prairie of sea lavender and leatherleaf, I stopped my bike in wonder. A few dozen yards from the pavement, dozens of sandhill cranes comingled with a flock of ivory snow geese, completely ignoring my entrance into this unspoiled coastal scene.

pho nomenal 617About 10 miles north of the town of Palacios and Matagorda Bay, the scenery along Texas 35 begins to change. Nondescript coastal scrub morphs into something greener, and the air begins to carry a faint salt tang. To the east, colorful farmhouses punctuate verdant pastures where cattle graze beneath fluffy cloud formations. To the west, rows upon rows of neatly manicured crops—mostly corn but also soybeans and sorghum— glisten in the afternoon sunlight, like a blanket of green leaves covering the soil beneath.

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