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Written by Matt Joyce

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“It’s not too often that you just don’t have anything to do,” our guide remarked as we lounged on the sandy shoreline of the Neches River in East Texas, cooling off in the water after a day of canoeing. Across the caramel-tinted river, a dense forest crowded the dirt bluff on the opposite bank. Behind us, our loaded canoes rested on the edge of a broad, empty sandbar, its semicircle beach mirroring the luminous half-moon overhead.


You never know what you’ll find at South by Southwest, Austin’s annual summit of creative industries and popular culture. President Obama showed up in 2016 to talk technology and tacos. In 2012, Doritos hosted a party with rapper Snoop Dogg performing on a stage built to look like a five-story snack vending machine. And in 2007, Twitter famously took flight during the conference.

BikeFest TRIOWhen out in Big Bend for the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, I talked with multiple local riders to gather information for my story about mountain biking in the Big Bend region. I threw in an extra question for some of them: What’s your favorite ride? Here are their responses.

G Foreman TexasHighways

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.

BikeFest FRI 396Chances 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.

AmeripolitanMusicVeteran 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.

LaGrangeRemake1It’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.

TXhighwayFinalNolan 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.=

Utopia Fest for THM

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.

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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.

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