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Written by Texas Highways

missionOn a 1709 expedition into the unsettled territory north of the Rio Grande, Fray Isidro Espinosa of Nueva España wrote in his diary about the springs and river that later gave rise to the city of San Antonio, noting that the river could “supply not only a village but a city” and that “we called it the river of San Antonio de Padua.”


At 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I turn off US 67 onto twisty, narrow Somervell County Road 1004 southwest of Glen Rose. About a mile down the way, we come upon a ramshackle barbecue joint where pickup trucks, SUVs, and an assortment of Harleys and other motorcycles are parked beside a cedar-post fence.

bangersHalfway through a pumpkin porter and a bluegrass song, my Thursday night is humming along nicely. I’m sitting outside at a long wooden table at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden in the heart of Austin’s Rainey Street.

periniEach visit to Buffalo Gap proves more rewarding than the last. This tiny burg (population about 460) sits in a woodsy hollow less than 10 miles south of Abilene, and reassures me that there are still places whose charm stems from old-fashioned simplicity. Equally removed from modern-world worries is a refuge known as Perini Ranch Steakhouse, the primary reason I bothered to find Buffalo Gap in the first place.


A guitar-brandishing fiberglass jalapeño beckons from the sidewalk in downtown Irving. Walk a few paces more and you’ll find a keyboard painted on the walkway, and beyond that, a glass door etched with the names of famous songs, from “Tumblin’ Tumbleweed” to “Wooly Bully” and “I Want to Take You Higher.”


There’s a new sense of energy and possibility on the streets of downtown Waco—not a boom, exactly, but a steady drumbeat led by some determined entrepreneurs whose vision of the future is infused with an affectionate regard for the city’s past.

route66How can one explain the neon magnetism of Route 66? Before this summer, I could quote a few lines of the famous 1946 Bobby Troup lyric, but if pressed, I had trouble pinpointing on a map precisely where you could “get your kicks.”

stylle1Stylle Read took an interest in re-creating old-time Texas with colorful artwork while growing up in Lufkin in the 1950s. “It was the decade of Davy Crockett on TV’s wild frontier and the John Wayne Alamo movie,” he explains. “I was hooked on history from a very young age.”

Pan Dulce Finish620Not all road trips are equal. That is especially true from a child’s perspective. A day’s drive to an amusement park is delightful in theory, but the reality involves hours and hours of confinement before the pay-off.


Join the 30 teams vying to make the tastiest wassail and win the coveted title of “Schmecken--meister” at La Grange’s Schmeckenfest. This eighth-annual kickoff to the Christmas season starts at 5 p.m. December 3 with a parade around the downtown square followed by a Christmas-tree lighting, children’s activities, food vendors, and after-hours shopping at downtown stores. The main draw is the wassail competition, in which visitors vote on their favorite version of the hot cider or spiced-ale drink in the categories of leaded (alcoholic) and unleaded.

“Rio Grande,” oil on canvas by Tom Lea, 1954, courtesy El Paso Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Decherd

Looking to impress holiday visitors or beef up your Texas bona fides? Consider a trip to one of four special exhibitions on Tom Lea (1907-2001), the artist, author, and historian from El Paso known for his insightful chronicling of 20th-Century Texas and the world. Get a variety of perspectives on Lea at the El Paso Museum of Art’s Tom Lea as Draftsman and Illustrator; the Bullock Museum in Austin’s Tom Lea: Chronicler of 20th Century America; the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine’s Tom Lea Retrospective; and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg’s Tom Lea, LIFE Magazine and World War II.


The days grow short and the nights long during the Texas winter, but we’ve got nothing on the ocean depths and hidden caverns so sunless that creatures produce their own light to survive. At the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence explores the earth’s darkest ecosystems and the bioluminescent organisms that chemically generate their own light. See replica examples ranging from a vampire squid with glowing arm tips to glowworms in New Zealand caves and backyard fireflies, as well as live flashlight fish. Through February 21.

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