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An old, unlikely legend holds that Spanish sailors shipwrecked in Matagorda Bay saw a mirage of three sparkling palaces on a distant shoreline, and named the surrounding inlet Tres Palacios Bay.

Hockey isn’t normally on my radar, but I became a fan for an evening at a recent Texas Stars game at Cedar Park Center. The Stars went stick-to-stick with the Hamilton (Ontario) Bulldogs, but the experience went beyond the swift-paced, puck-whacking, Plexiglas-pounding action of the game. Booming music, the jumbotron’s frequent fan footage (showing lots of happy kids and the kiss-cam), a roving burger-shaped blimp dropping coupons, the Chuck-a-Puck competition, a T-shirt cannon—all further amped the excitement.

Find ticket prices and details on special deals at (remember, there’s also a parking fee). And go, Stars!

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As if the gorgeous autumn weather isn’t excuse enough to cruise the Hill Country ... the 20th annual Fredericksburg Food & Wine Festival takes place this Saturday on the town’s Marktplatz (on the 100 block of West Main St.). Some 50 food and arts vendors and more than 20 Texas wineries—including Val Verde Winery, Fall Creek Vineyard, and Messina Hof—will be on hand, along with the sweet sounds of Texas musicians like Jeff Lofton. So listen, sip, and sample to your heart’s content!

Texas Highways staffers will be there, too, sharing copies of the magazine and selling some of our favorite TH products. And our own Lois Rodriguez will present her delectable Tres Leches Cake in a Grape Expectations Cooking School session at 1:15. Warning: Side effects of the spongy-creamy concoction may include prolonged euphoria. Delicioso!

Find ticket information and more fest details at

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Texas Highways’ exhibit of vibrant wildflower photographs from the April issue is up and ready for enjoyment in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center. Cosponsored by TH, the Wildflower Center, and Canon, The Serendipity of Wildflowers 2010 features 20-plus bloom close-ups and spring scenes by such notable photographers as Richard Reynolds, Joe Lowery, and Wyman Meinzer, and coincides with the Center’s celebration of National Wildflower Week (May 3-9). In addition to the gorgeous gardens, other Center highlights this month include a show of Shou Ping’s paper sculpture and a display of Texas-native bonsai trees.

TH reader "Steve" from Liberty Hill just emailed us about Melissa Gaskill's "Trips to Bountiful" in the new April issue (available on newsstands): This is regarding a special wildflower located on the drive route within Melissa's very nice Wildflower Drives story, Steve says. She mentions Park Road 4 off Texas 29 west of Inks lake. Tell readers to be on the lookout for a special variety of Indian blanket that are all red; their ray flowers are not tipped with yellow. There are very few patches of these in western Burnet County. One spectacular patch is located on Texas 29 between the Inks Dam and Park Road 4 to Inks Lake. Look for the big patch located near two small roadside ponds; it is quite dramatic.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's plant database lists the red Indian blanket (Gaillardia amblyodon), also known as maroon blanketflower and red gaillardia.

Tell us about your favorite wildflower finds!

For my son's seventh birthday, we forewent Chuck E Cheese, and packed up the car for a San Antonio daytrip. Our main destination, the San Antonio Zoo, which we had only half-explored when he was three. I visited the zoo many times as a child on summer stays with my grandmother, who, in the interest of preserving my good time, gracefully masked her sadness over the pacing cats and other creatures in tight enclosures.

Check out Dale Weisman's feature on rock hunting in the February issue. A lifelong rockhound, Dale logged hundreds of miles researching this piece, scouring rock-hunting ranches, rivers, roadcuts, and rock shops across the state. He offers the following suggestions for further reading: Gem Trails of Texas, by Brad Cross; The Rockhound's Guide to Texas, by Melinda Crow; and Roadside Geology of Texas, by Darwin Spearing.

I concur with Dale on the wonders of Woodward Ranch. Two tips if you go: Ask Trey Woodward to show you the gemstone-studded mantel in his home, and pick up a hand lens (around $16) in his rock shop for spectacular crystalline close-ups.

Let us know about your cool rock and fossil finds. Happy hunting!

The crisp autumn mornings of late are reminding me of my summer trip to the Fort Davis area. Even in August, the daytime highs climbed only to the 80s, and nighttime lows fell into the 60s, energizing temps that inspired numerous hikes in Davis Mountains State Park, with the magical CCC-constructed Indian Lodge as our base. News to me (and especially enjoyed by my kid) was the mile-and-a-half trail that descends from the park's scenic Skyline Drive to Fort Davis National Historic Site. Other trip highlights: star partying at McDonald Observatory (which we learned has a fun back-up plan for cloudy nights), rock-hunting at Woodward Ranch south of Alpine, and following the Rio Grande's flow as we drove the majestic River Road. Keep a lookout for TH's upcoming stories on the latter two in the February Big Bend special issue! 

Our friends at Lubbock's American Wind Power Center have sent an update to E. Dan Klepper's windmills story in the September special issue. On October 17, the center plans to unveil a 5,500-square-foot mural created by artist La Gina Fairbetter, an instructor in the Department of Architectural Art at Texas Tech University. The two-year project illustrates American windmill history, from 1700s Dutch-style windmills to today's massive wind turbines. All of the whirring wonders depicted are represented in the center's collection. Another good reason to make the AWPC part of your next High Plains adventure!

Be sure to check out the story on bat-watching by Nola McKey and Larry Ditto in the August issue of TH, coming this week to a newsstand near you. A side-note regarding the colony that roosts under Austin's Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge: Though not nearly as spectacular as the bats' mass exodus at sunset, another interesting sight for early risers is the creatures' return to the bridge after their nighttime banquet on pesky insects. I often catch a glimpse of the furry fliers when I drive over Ladybird Lake at daybreak, one by one, they dart from the sky, back to their bridge abode.

Enjoyed a fabulous Friday evening last week at the kick-off of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum's annual Music Under the Star concert series. Now in its sixth season, the mid-summer series draws hundreds, blankets and camp chairs in tow, to the museum plaza (at MLK and Congress in Austin) for an evening of outdoor music and free food. all in the shadow of the plaza's signature 10-ton bronze star. We prepared for the 100-plus temperatures by bringing plenty of water, but to our pleasant surprise, the plaza proved well shaded and bearable by late afternoon. (Exploring the fascinating museum's free admission during the event from 6 to 9 p.m., provided respite, as well.) Our feast on Rudy's barbecue, Sweet Leaf Tea, and Blue Bell Ice Cream was set to the sweet sounds of Austin Blues Society blues harp players and R&B icon Miss Lavelle White. (Fun note: The show started with a harmonica workshop and free harmonicas for the kids.) The musical lineup for future Fridays includes Toni Price, Tiburon (including salsa lessons), and Doyle Bramhall.

Last year, I blogged about my family's prehistoric experience at Dinosaur Valley State Park, near Glen Rose. Laurie Jasinski's coverage of the 100th anniversary of the tracks' discovery in June Speaking of Texas inspired our most recent dino fix, a trip to the Texas Natural Science Center, in the Texas Memorial Museum on the UT-Austin campus. Outside the museum, a small building houses some of the Glen Rose sauropod and theropod tracks (awaiting restoration), among the finest examples of dinosaur trackways ever discovered. Inside, we explored the natural science of Texas on four floors, my six-year-old gravitating to the Hall of Geology and Paleontology. Here, impressive displays range from a 90-million-year-old (30 foot) mosasaur, which swam in the sea that once covered this area, to multiple meteorites that have showered the state. My son even brought along fossils he'd found in Brushy Creek for inspection by the staff paleontologist on duty. We started and ended our tour gawking at the Texas Pterosaur suspended from the ceiling of the Great Hall. With its 40-foot wingspan, the largest flying creature ever discovered, once soared over the Big Bend area. How did this giant ever get off the ground! 


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