Written by Matt Joyce
Maybe you know George Foreman the boxer. “Big George” notched a 76-5 record in his legendary career, including an Olympic Gold Medal in 1968, a world heavyweight title in 1973, and, following an improbable comeback at age 45, a second world heavyweight title in 1994.
Chances are I won’t be hitchhiking out West any time soon to hire on with a ranch or join a sheriff’s posse. My boyhood fancies of a cowboy life on the open range, fueled by Lone Ranger reruns and imaginative bicycle escapades around the neighborhood, lost steam over time. But I’ve still got a Lone Ranger poster, and I’ve still got a mountain bike. And exploring the Texas countryside by bicycle still kindles my childlike excitement for adventure, freedom, and fun.
Veteran Austin honky-tonker Dale Watson says it’s gotten harder and harder to explain his music to strangers—the curious truck-stop bystander intrigued by Watson’s tour bus emblazoned with his autograph or the barber trimming his signature pompadour before a far-flung road show.
It’s a weekday morning in La Grange, and the courthouse square bustles with activity.
Coming in the February issue of Texas Highways, we’ll preview the Ameripolitan Music Awards, an annual showcase of bands playing “Ameripolitan” music.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Texas schoolkid from the mid-1980s forward who doesn’t crack a smile at the mention of Hank the Cowdog. Hank, the self-assured yet blundering hero of John Erickson’s long-running Hank the Cowdog series, narrates his adventures as the self-appointed “head of ranch security” on a Panhandle cattle ranch.
Nolan Ryan doesn’t pitch much these days, unless you count the occasional honorary first toss, bits of sage advice for up-and-comers, and games of catch with his grandkids. But the legendary Texas fastballer keeps plenty busy with his business pursuits, drawing on the same energy and competitive spirit that made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer after he retired from a 27-year major-league career—including nine seasons with the Houston Astros and five seasons with the Texas Rangers—in 1993.=
From a rise overlooking this Hill Country valley, the elements that create Utopiafest’s celebration of music and place come into focus: A band rocks a stage to the cheers of a bobbing crowd. Nearby, mountain-bikers saddle up for a ride and disc-golfers navigate a rocky hillside course. Hemming the festival grounds, campers lounge around their tents in live-oak groves that stretch to the valley’s edge.
The Lone Star State was a little late to the national parks game, but as is our way, Texas jumped into the scene with a splash.
In the span of roughly one year, documentary filmmaker Lynn Boswell has hiked the Guadalupe Mountains carrying a camera tripod, rung the historic church bell at Mission Concepción, shed a tear at the moving spectacle of sea-turtle hatchlings scurrying into the surf at Padre Island, explored Big Thicket mushrooms, and boated Lake Amistad in search of prehistoric pictographs.
Dedicated road-trippers know that the greatest journeys enrich their final destinations—and sometimes even eclipse them. Famous sightseers from Robert Louis Stevenson to Jack Kerouac and Clark Griswold have shown us how an expedition’s pleasures and pitfalls make the entire experience all the more memorable.
Like most Texans, I grew up loving pork: bacon, bratwurst, ham, carnitas, chops, loin, hot dogs, baby-back ribs, breakfast patties, chorizo, and so on. But also like most people in this urbanized state, my primary contact with pork has been the plastic-wrapped products in grocery stores.