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Written by Texas Highways

Lyle Lovett JF P1000386A spotlight pierces the darkened theater as an acoustic guitarist fingerpicks the opening notes of a tune. Tonight’s star, nattily clad in a dark teal suit, white shirt, and silver necktie, stands center stage. He begins to articulate the lyrics with wry precision as the lighting gradually expands to reveal his supporting players, each attired in a black suit, white shirt, and tie. Despite the ensemble’s snazzy look, this singer-songwriter’s material evokes imagery of pick-up trucks, cowboys, enchiladas, and other down-home delights. That’s right—he is from Texas.

SaladoSitting in the light-washed front room of his Salado gallery, artist Ronnie Wells shapes a small clay sculpture of two men carving a duck decoy, a model for a future bronze. In an adjacent room, his wife motions her hand as if to say, “It’s okay. Go on in.”

Dun Huang Plaza is at 9889 Bellaire Blvd., on the south side of Bellaire less than a block east of Beltway 8 (also known as the Sam Houston Tollway). Restaurant hours vary widely. Here are additional addresses.

six-ping-thumb-560x420It takes a sense of adventure, as well as an adventurous palate, to explore ethnic dining areas as vast and sprawling as Houston’s Chinatown. Unlike Chinatowns in New York or San Francisco, which span several, walkable blocks, Houston’s Chinatown—which migrated from cramped and expensive midtown and downtown locations in the mid-1980s—now encompasses an eight-mile stretch along Bellaire Boulevard on the southwest side of Houston.

delacroixWhen you think of romantic French country fare, the Central Texas town of Burton (pop. 302) may not immediately come to mind. Yet this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it burg, situated on US 290 amid the pastoral rolling hills of Washington County, is home to the Brazos Belle—a cozy weekend bistro serving French-inspired cuisine in a former 1871 general store.

averyI started collecting travel memories in the form of jewelry when I was about eight years old. In recent years, I’ve added a chunky amethyst pendant from Wurstfest in New Braunfels, a Celtic-style necklace from the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio, a mother-of-pearl necklace and earring set from Grapevine, and some moonstone earrings from the gift shop at the Black Dragon pirate ship in Port Isabel.

BLuffDaleTwelve years ago, my suburbanite parents got a wild hair and bought five acres of rugged terrain in Bluff Dale, a stoplight-free, unincorporated community 58 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Back then, a filling station and a deer processor were the extent of area attractions. Today there’s still no stoplight, which means unassuming travelers cruising US 377 between Stephenville and Granbury may miss one of the state’s most delicious destinations—one that usually inspires first-time visitors to wonder, “Why haven’t I been here before?”

Mission-Reach02The river rounds a bend and six mossy-backed turtles sunning on a row of rocks drop into the water—plop, plop, plop, one after the other, as if in a water ballet. Ahead, the shores pull farther apart and I see several bright white egrets and yellow-crowned night herons standing statue-like at the waterline. A breeze ripples the tall grasses around them.

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The country roads east of Brenham traverse a region steeped in Texas history, the very heart of Stephen F. Austin’s colony. Driving these verdant rolling woodlands and fertile prairies, it’s easy to understand why colonists arriving in the 1820s fell in love with the area.

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It’s the smell that first grabs you when you enter the Collings Guitars Factory in southwest Austin—that heady intermingling of hand-milled spruce, mahogany, rosewood, maple, and other high-end tonewoods, layered with the pungently pleasing odor of varnish and lacquer.

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It’s bumper-to-bumper in Weatherford, and most everyone is smiling. Traffic moves at a crawl around the courthouse, its picturesque red cupolas reaching into an azure sky.

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