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Written by Texas Highways

ramblin

A comparison can be made of Van Horn, a dusty stop on the trek from Pecos to El Paso, and a barbed-wire fence stretched across a grassland plain. Both are windswept, catching and holding travelers or tumbleweeds as they pass by before releasing them onward. Barbed-wire likely appeared in this desert mountain country around the 1880s. Van Horn, then an outpost on the San Antonio-El Paso stage line, entered perhaps its most defining era within the same decade. The tracks and trains of the Texas and Pacific Railway rumbled through the community in 1881, delivering growth and prosperity in their wake.

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When visiting Texas’ capital city, some may be tempted to spend all of their time exploring within the confines of the famous Austin city limits. But those who know better will roll up Interstate 35 to visit a different Texas town where the history, sports, and donuts will rock your socks.

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Like many urbanites, my daily grind includes too much traffic and too many frazzled nerves. After one recent particularly hectic stretch, my husband John and I were in dire need of an escape. We imagined a weekend without getting into a car that would allow us to relax, eat great food, take in some culture, and spend time outdoors.

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On six acres overlooking the Pedernales River in Spicewood, bees come and go from 20 hives scattered around a field of wildflowers and oak trees. The honey these bees produce goes into select dishes and cocktails at Apis Restaurant and Apiary, where fine dining and Hill Country ambiance blend seamlessly in a cozy limestone building surrounded by more wildflowers and oak trees.

JIMMYSItalians have a saying, “Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto”—Eat well, laugh often, love much. This approach to life also sums up the 50-year history of Jimmy’s Food Store in east Dallas, where an extensive inventory of Italian foods and attentive customer service spearheaded by owners Mike and Paul DiCarlo make each customer feel like part of the family. Located northeast of downtown, just a few miles east of Central Expressway, the store is easy to spot: Just look for the awning sporting the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag.

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I was 35 when I went to Paris for the first time, which coincided with my first cup of coffee. By the end of the 11-day trip, Paris had turned me into a coffee fiend. But I didn’t know the first thing about my new favorite drink.

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A meteor streaks across the pre-dawn sky, its long tail sparkling. Perhaps Chicken Little is right. The sky is falling. But what are the chances that a killer meteorite might land in West Texas? The chances are low, but it has happened before.

HAPPYTRAILSThe scene is wistfully familiar. As I pull off US 83 and into the stables at Elm Creek Ranch near Concan, there are a dozen or so horses saddled and tethered to the open-air barn where round bales of hay are stacked to the ceiling. A mess of chickens scratch around the yard, an old dog snoozes in the shade, and a frisky chestnut foal prances around the ring. Clayton Kessler, a strapping 27-year-old roper, is attempting to shoe an impatient cream-colored horse. His grandfather, George Streib, a veteran rancher who originated the trail rides and other offerings here, sits at a nearby picnic table, offering unsolicited advice. The horse paws at the dirt, irritated. George looks at me and winks; I smile in return, feeling the deep swell of happiness that comes from seeing an old friend.

courtesy Excelsior House Hotel.

Jefferson may be best known for its rich history as a 19th-Century steamboat river port, but the region’s railroad heritage takes center stage May 14-15 at Jefferson Train Days. The weekend includes a model train show with operating demos, clinics, vendors, and a play area for kids; guided tours of railroad tycoon Jay Gould’s private 1888 rail car, complete with plush couches, ice boxes, and a bathtub; rides and gunfighter reenactments on the Historic Jefferson Railway steam train; and the Jefferson Historical Museum’s expansive model of the Texas & Pacific Railway’s West Texas system circa 1950.

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I know a museum has triumphed when I leave a bit stunned, new realizations having just taken hold. Before my recent visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War and Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, I had considered the site a destination solely for World War II history buffs. And while I was surprised to find the artifacts of war so intriguing, that realization is not the one that left me teary-eyed in the penultimate exhibition room. I was startled by how, in weaving together the complex threads of history, the museum tells the story of a whole generation— and in that telling, there is a story of my family, too.

CITYPASS

Anyone who travels to a big city for vacation knows that apart from lodging, food, and shopping splurges, the other big expense—especially if you have a family—is admission to attractions. Those costs can be shaved by at least 40 percent in Dallas and Houston, thanks to a program called CityPASS.

Funtier Days in Bandera

Summer doesn’t officially start until late June, but Memorial Day weekend sure feels like the season’s debut as events across the state celebrate the three-day weekend and pay tribute to our nation’s war dead. In the cowboy country of Bandera, Funtier Days (May 28-29) features a Memorial Day parade with 90 entries, including veterans groups, and a bustling arts-and-crafts fair on the courthouse lawn. Local restaurants and bars hop with live music, and at 7:30 p.m. May 27-29, the Bandera ProRodeo Association hosts its annual PRCA Memorial Day Rodeo at Mansfield Park Arena, a classic outdoor venue.

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