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Written by Lois M. Rodriguez

Across the globe, when talk of music festivals come up, two Texas events always make the list - spring's South by Southwest and fall's Austin City Limits Music Festival, both in Austin – the Live Music Capital of the World. Austin's Fun, Fun, Fun Fest, in November, is also starting to rise to similar ranks.

sxswcrowd2How to survive the Music portion of South by Southwest. Easy. Expect midnight or 1 a.m. headliners, lots of SXSW parties and little sleep.

CircusMashimusWelcomIt's a given that I love living in Texas, but I feel especially fortunate to live in Austin. That's not a slam on any other city. It's just a city that's a great fit for my personality and my varied interests. So, with my genuine pride in the Capital City, I get excited and kick into "hostess" mode whenever a big event like South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive conference and festival draws in lots of out-of-town guests. I want to make sure they feel welcome and enjoy this beautiful place I call home. I want them to go home and talk, with affection, about their experiences.

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How did I survive, SXSW? It wasn't easy, but I did ... and it was a fun journey. This is meant to give an overview of what to expect for those who have never attended SXSW before. I recommend the experience –– even if just once. I'm also glad to answer any other questions you might have about navigating it.

I want your opinions, but first ...

In the December issue of Texas Highways, I explored a few places that serve some sweet pies - the kind that warms your heart in a way few foods can.

Clearly unable to eat my way across Texas one slice at a time, there are some places that deserve mention that were not.

For example, I received a few nice letters from readers willing to share. Rhonda Cagle of Glen Rose shared that she and her friend Jean Ford run the Pie Peddlers there. She says her pies are 100 percent homemade and absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it, myself.

I also received a letter from Ann Arbor, Mich. from a doctor who recalled stopping at Frank's in Schulenberg, year after year, for their pies. His favorite, he says, was the coconut cream pie with "meringue at least six inches high that took me back 50 years." (Frank's: 11 North Kessler Ave. (979) 743-3555.)

Where do YOU go for your favorite slice of pie? Please share so that we can explore these places, too. email this Share on Facebook Like this at Facebook! twitter Add this anywhere

I'm not sure I understand the competition to come up with the next best fried thing, and I'm not here to judge (I'm responsible for my extra poundage, no one else), but every year, when the State Fair of Texas announces its list of fried food finalists, my ears perk up. I am excited to know what's being tossed into the vat next.

 

Winter wonderlands are hardly cliché in Texas.

Snow-covered steps to the Texas Travel Information Center in Denison. Submitted by Center Supervisor Robbie Dudley.Snow-covered steps to the Texas Travel Information Center in Denison. Submitted by Center Supervisor Robbie Dudley.

That's why drivers freak out when the flurries start to fall. We don't know how to drive (or walk!) in icy or snowy conditions. Northerners like to laugh when us southerners become incapacitated by the weather, but that's like a teen laughing at a baby for not walking more gracefully. They get a LOT more practice with it than we do, so for us, it's still new.

But despite all that taunting, we have something they don't when it comes to snow: a child-like awe when even the slightest flake falls. It's still magical to us. Or at least more magical.

This week, friends across the state had the chance to experience the snow. Texas Department of Transportation's Travel Services Section has 12 travel information centers at various entry points across the state. Our friends at the Texarkana, Waskom and Denison travel information centers shared some of their snow photos and stories, so I thought I'd share.

Chilly day at the Texas Travel Information Center in Texarkana. Submitted by Linda Vaughan.Chilly day at the Texas Travel Information Center in Texarkana. Submitted by Linda Vaughan.

Waskom travel counselors made use of the ice melt they had on hand and made their own shovels (not like snow shovels are easy to find in Texas!).

"Most travelers enjoyed the snow and someone made a snowman on our grounds," says Waskom travel counselor Donna Watson.

Even in our glee, we understand that snow comes with some inconveniences, too.

Waskom Travel Information Center Supervisor Melissa Wilson says, "Some of my employees didn't have electricity at their homes. They had to fix their 'Texas hair' at the center."

Wilson added, "We've had several Winter Texans say they left their homes, up north, to come to Texas, so they could get away from the snow." One Winter Texan said, "It must have followed them from Pennsylvania."

For that, we're (sort of) grateful.

Snowy day at the Texas Travel Information Center in Waskom. Photo by Melissa Wilson. Snowy day at the Texas Travel Information Center in Waskom. Photo by Melissa Wilson.

By the way, if you have not visited a Texas Travel Information Center, please make a point to stop by. They are informational havens with sophisticated, and locally-inspired architectural designs that serve the traveling public. The travel information centers also just happen to be staffed by some of Texas' best ambassadors.

You can find a list of Texas Travel Information Centers here.

 

The cold front blew through and some of our Texas friends found themselves with snow ... a pleasure or a curse, depending on Waskom travel counselors made use of their ice melt supplies and made their own shovel (not like snow shovels are easy to find in Texas!).

Most travelers enjoyed the snow and someone made a snowman on our grounds," says Donna Watson.

Looking to put an little extra love in that card? Consider sending your sweetheart a valentine postmarked and stamped from Valentine (Texas, that is). More than a dozen post offices across the United States - including Valentine, Texas - offer special postmarks for the lovely occasion, to help impress your loved ones. This special touch is easy as pie to achieve, and the effort could yield priceless benefits.

Everything's big in Texas, in fact, Texas is so big, it's gone global. ;) Or so it's been pointed out in a Facebook thread that started with "Good morning, Texas!"

New Mexico and Australia chimed in - "What about us?!" To which we replied with the simple truth: "If you love Texas, you ARE Texas. That good morning goes a long way. That's how Texas rolls. :)

So now, I'm curious where, in the world, are you if you're not living in Texas now? Did you use to live here? Just wish you could live here? What is it you love so much about it?

Share, please.

The January issue of Texas Highways includes a feature about the oddball attractions of sophisticated Houston. As a native Houstonian, I enjoy recalling those quirky sites. Of course, I'm living in Austin now, where, luckily, there's no dearth of "quirky" here.

Since I moved from Houston and an office smack dab in the middle of the city's incredible Theater District, I have to admit that I've been woefully neglectful of taking in as much live theater. I mean to, and I do miss going as often as I did. Lately, I've been getting back into the swing of things. I've seen a couple of touring musicals ("Wicked" and "Mama Mia"), enjoyed readings by the legendary Maya Angelou and the hilarious writer David Sedaris, as well as some local performances.

I forget, until I'm there, how important and good it feels to witness the art of live performance; of people entertaining people, sharing and communicating in music, dance, words, comedy and movement. This kind of creative expression, I believe, is inherent to our humanity. There's nothing like it. The best thing is, no matter where you are, big city or small town, there are plenty of opportunities to take in a show.

It would do us good to get back to being better audiences; in major performance halls, restored historic theaters, community halls and in wide open spaces under the great Texas sky.

So when you travel, or stay home, consider live performances as one of the options when asking, "So, what should we do today?"

What performance/venue would you suggest for your neck of the woods?

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