As you approach Ten Bits Ranch Bed and Breakfast on a dusty road that bumps and swerves through slanted hills and cliffs, the beaten path tapers away and it becomes apparent that you’re venturing into the remote badlands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Most signs of human development have already receded from the roadside as Texas 118 zips down from the relative metropolis of Alpine, leading to the Ten Bits turnoff.
Amarillo is a frequent stopover for travelers bound for Texas and beyond, so it’s fitting that the city is home to the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum and its celebration of the history, spirit, and quintessential vehicle of the family road-trip vacation.
It takes a certain amount of audacity to deep-fry butter, bacon, and beer, but let’s face it: The State Fair of Texas is not a destination for those seeking subtle flavors (nor is it the place to kick off your new diet). The staggering variety and abundance of food, most of it designed to eat while roaming about, is not for the faint of heart. “The food at the State Fair of Texas is one of the best state fair food experiences in the country,” says Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.”
There’s renovation the way most of us do it—repainting the front door, updating the fixtures in the bathroom, hanging new window treatments—and then there’s renovation the way it’s been done in New Braunfels by the engineers, architects, and civic leaders behind the Comal County courthouse makeover. A decade in the making, the meticulously executed $8.6 million project has restored the stately limestone structure to its original 1898 glory.
In the heart of Amarillo’s downtown, you might expect to find Tex-Mex and barbecue—but not Continental fare like English trifle, shepherd’s pie, and standing rib roast. But this Texas café has a decidedly European twist. The original owner, Jonathan Early, named the café On Her Majesty’s Service to honor his English roots. Three years later in 1992, restaurateur Mary Fuller bought the eatery, and now folks just call it OHMS Café.
Each Texan has a story to tell. Each story comprises one thread in the special tapestry that is the Lone Star State. Some threads seem to sparkle especially bright, glowing with special passion. Following are eight such Texas stories. Though not household names, these Texans are respected in their fields. By virtue of talent, good luck, and fortitude, they have done extraordinary things. Each story is unique, yet together they reflect an enduring commitment to sense of place.
Award-winning Austin choreographer Allison Orr is lifting the old Texas saying—dance with the one that brung ya—to new heights. During the past decade, the founder of Forklift Danceworks (and dance professor at Austin Community College) has convinced groups of ordinary folks—from firefighters to roller skaters—to perform choreographed dances that reflect their lives and common humanity.
I'll have a bottle of Crazy Water, please.” Well, actually, I’ve already got one. Mine looks to be from about the 1940s. But I’d really like to find a much older one, like the corked medicinal bottles that were sold in the 1880s, not too long after the water at Mineral Wells was found to have some rather unusual qualities.
Tourism in the mountain west got a boost in 1930 with the opening of two nearly identical sister hotels designed by famed El Paso architect Henry C. Trost. Hotel Paisano in Marfa and Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn embodied elegant Spanish baroque style for decades. In the 1950s, the Paisano even housed actors James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson during the filming of the now-classic movie Giant. By the early 2000s, though, the Paisano lay abandoned, and El Capitan was a bank. Then native West Texans Joe and Lanna Duncan bought the venerable lodgings and spent years restoring them. Today the Paisano boasts 41 well-appointed rooms, and El Capitan 38. Both offer stylish restaurants, bars, and gift boutiques. For the Duncans, it was déjà vu all over again.
Tom Perini grew up in Abilene in the ’50s, but spent weekends on his family’s ranch 15 miles south at Buffalo Gap. He loved cowboying—being outside, working with cattle, and cooking for the hands. Perini was so good at cooking steaks that other ranchers, including Watt Matthews of the famous Lambshead Ranch in Albany, asked him to cater their shindigs. Matthews even steered Perini’s career from raising beef to cooking it. In 1983, Tom Perini turned the ranch’s hay barn, at the end of a long dirt road, into the rustic Perini Ranch Steakhouse.
Most families start with a love story, but not many start like Lareatha Clay’s. Two centuries ago, in Kentucky and Tennessee, her great-great-great-grandparents, Jim and Winnie, were born into slavery. They ended up on a Mississippi plantation and fell in love. When a Texas farmer bought Winnie and the two were separated, Jim ran away to find her, trekking 400 miles under cover of night. After weeks of searching, he found her at a spring gathering water. Winnie convinced her owner to buy Jim, and after Emancipation Jim and Winnie Shankle became prominent landowners in the Newton County freedman’s town of Shankleville.