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Written by Lois Rodriguez

1839C-Parmount20080910 004 v2Abilene won readers’ praise for its small-town feel, state park, zoo, shopping, history, and restaurants, which range from classic barbecue joints to newcomers like Abi-Haus, which makes waves with craft cocktails and modern American fare.

19The beaches of Padre Island are so inviting that inland lakes have been known to import loads of Padre sand for their own waterfronts.

35 ButterflyThe beauty of Mission wasn’t lost on Tom Landry. In his 1990 autobiography, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach reflected on his Rio Grande Valley hometown, where he’s now memorialized in a colorful downtown mural.

65 FigureThe desert canyonlands formed by the Rio Grande, Devil’s, and Pecos rivers may appear inhospitable to travelers driving west of Del Rio on US 90. Rugged limestone canyons cut through sun-drenched desert plains of thorny brush vegetation like sotol, lechuguilla, yucca, and prickly pear. But to hunter-gatherers some 4,000 years ago, this uninviting territory was a veritable garden.

BeesOn a steamy Saturday morning, I park my car alongside a rural road in Denton County. At a roadside check-in table, I’m handed a white zippered jumpsuit, elbow-length gloves, and a netted hat; not the smallest patch of skin will be left exposed.

22-23 DogTagsDuring the Civil War, soldiers were known to pin their names and addresses onto jackets or knapsacks in order to provide their identity should they perish in battle.

19-pumphouseWith the toll booths of the Hidalgo-McAllen-Reynosa International Bridge straight ahead, I veer left to the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum & World Birding Center.

15 FaceCar

On a sunny day last May, the bustle of traffic along Houston’s Allen Parkway momentarily slowed to a crawl comprised of fancifully decorated cars, costumed unicyclists, and lawn mower-driving artists.

33 ReubenSan Antonio has so many historic places it could take an out-of-towner a lifetime of visits to see them all. I made dozens of Alamo pilgrimages over a half-century before I discovered one of the city’s tastiest—and most historic—locales: Schilo’s Delicatessen, on Commerce Street just west of the famous Commerce Street bridge and within bugle range of the Alamo itself.

30 SausageSpoetzl Brewery, founded in 1909 and now the fourth-largest craft brewery in the United States, has made quite a name for the Central Texas town of Shiner.

28 PieCoPie captured my heart decades ago, when it was a menu staple of the small-town cafeteria where my extended family frequently gathered.

60-61 Hippo

Sunburst glitters across a creature-filled pool on a bright afternoon, piercing the ripples and illuminating the aqua depths.

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