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Written by Texas Highways

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.

SylvaMaes617I knew the first time I pulled up to Sylvia Mae’s Soul Food in Jacksonville that there was more than meets the eye. Sylvia Mae’s, which occupies a ramshackle, metal-sided building with red trim and a lopsided front porch, isn’t fancy. But it’s not supposed to be: Owner Sylvia Jones envisioned it as a soul-food sanctuary, and one
visit will make you a believer.

aquarium 617

On the deck of the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, on a bright afternoon this spring, a group of school kids in matching red polo shirts pressed their noses against the glass to spy river otters playing in the artificial stream that courses through Otter Creek. The otters slid and skittered in the water, occasionally posing for snapshots as the children pointed and laughed at their antics. Nearby in the aquarium’s 400,000-gallon saltwater Dolphin Bay exhibit, a pair of playful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins surged and dove, competing for the visitors’ attention. Later, trainers stopped by with fish for the tricksters, who leapt and danced for treats.

Carmen Tafolla 300 617Nearly every year since 1932, the Texas Legislature has named a State Poet Laureate to honor significant contributions in the field of poetry. In 2015 that distinction went to San Antonio native Carmen Tafolla, a celebrated Chicana literary figure. Just three years prior, Tafolla was named the very first poet laureate of San Antonio, where her family has resided since the 1700s. Tafolla published her first poetry book, Get Your Tortillas Together, in 1976 and cemented her reputation with collections such as Curandera (1983), Sonnets to Human Beings (1992), Rebozos (2012), and This River Here: Poems of San Antonio (2014).

TxQuiM 04 2Who needs to get on an airplane to dance with a foreign culture? Between Houston and Austin, a 90-minute drive from each, is Fayette County, “the cradle of Czech immigration.” In the 19th century, Czech immigrants settled in pockets around Texas—just follow the kolaches—but the concentration of new arrivals in Fayette County created a rich Czech tradition that persists today in the region’s music, food, and culture.


No coastal highway passes through Matagorda. But when you follow Texas 60 south from Bay City to its terminus where the Colorado River empties into the Matagorda Bay, prepare to be beguiled.

New Tuna Finish cmyk

The actor and playwright Jaston Williams grew up in the small towns of Olton and Crosbyton in the Texas Panhandle, but he is best known for his portrayals of a different small town—the fictional hamlet of Tuna. The award-winning play Greater Tuna, which he wrote with his co-star Joe Sears and director Ed Howard, has been gracing stages across the state and beyond since its premiere at a theater space on Sixth Street in Austin in 1981.


On the far southwest side of Houston is a city on the Brazos River that’s much smaller than its big-city neighbor but predates it by more than a decade. Originally settled in the 1820s by members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old 300 and initially dubbed Fort Bend, the city of Richmond was incorporated in May of 1837. With-standing the test of time, the small town abounds with history, eateries, and adventure.


The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco has just opened for the day, and already nearly 100 fourth-graders pore over exhibits and artifacts chronicling one of the world’s most storied law enforcement organizations.

Texas Highways Map March 2017V4This trail is as old as the bison routes, I’m told, from back when the shaggy beasts once blackened the plains along the northern Llano Estacado. Over centuries of migrations in search of grass and water, massive bison herds carved nomadic highways in the Panhandle sandstone.

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