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Written by Matt Joyce

W.D. Smithers, Courtesy Museum of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University

The Big Bend’s desert mountains are like magnets for modern nomads seeking isolation and adventure. But the region’s wide-open wilderness hasn’t always been valued as a haven for escape and personal renewal. The promise of mineral riches beneath the rocky remoteness pulled prospectors of the past. These opportunists weren’t looking to get away from it all—they wanted to fill their pockets.

EVA FinalNot much has come easily for Eva Ybarra, except playing music. Since getting her start as a young girl in San Antonio icehouses in the 1950s, the accordionist has carved out a lasting career with her progressive style and forceful singing. Today, Ybarra is recognized as one of conjunto’s most ccomplished players—despite the vagaries of the music business and the headwinds of macho chauvinism—and is known by the esteemed nickname, La Reina del Acordeón (the queen of the accordion).

20170814 Amarillo 1074When sitting in a stockyard café, surrounded by weathered cattlemen in sweat-stained Stetsons and busy waitresses balancing plates of chicken-fried steak and pots of hot coffee, it’s worth opening your ears to absorb a few local tales.

Dat Nguyen

Dat Nguyen holds the distinction of being the first and only Vietnamese-American to play in the National Football League. And he’s got a life story to match that accomplishment.

chandler ranch swimming pool 03We were just a minute or two from pulling into Chandler Ranch when a roadrunner popped out of the roadside scrub and ran alongside the car for a few seconds. I tapped the brakes, and the kids strained their necks from the backseat to watch as the spindly bird overtook us and darted across the dirt road before disappearing into a thicket of mesquite. It felt like a good omen.

Texas High Glenn Grieco617In a small workshop on the ground floor of Texas A&M University’s Anthropology Building, broad windows illuminate a faint dusting of sawdust covering tools, computers, and supply shelves. Three historical ship models rest on worktables in the center of the room: La Belle, a French sailing ship that sank in Matagorda Bay in 1686, and two versions of the Heroine, a steamboat that sank in the Red River in 1838. In various stages of completion, the models are so detailed they look like they could’ve sailed in from the past and docked right here in College Station.

nine rivers on rockThere’s something about the summer solstice that inspires adventure. As the official start of summer and the longest day of the year, the solstice illuminates a world of possibility with more than 14 hours of daylight. On June 21 this year, the sun will rise at 6:30 in the morning and shine until 8:36 at night. What better excuse to explore the outdoors?

CarrieRodriguez FinalArt 01

Austin musician Carrie Rodriguez bridges two worlds with her most recent album, Lola, which made both Rolling Stone’s list of best country albums and NPR’s list of best Latino albums in 2016. The diverse scope of the bilingual album is exactly what the songwriting fiddler had in mind.

Ty MurrayBull riding has been good to Ty Murray. But that doesn’t mean he wants to hop on the back of a 1,500-pound bucking bovine ever again.

river 1

“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.

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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.

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