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Thursday, 28 June 2012 16:29

TH Deal: San Antonio discount

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Mention Texas Highways at the Official San Antonio Visitor Information Center (317 Alamo Plaza, in the historic Crockett Building between the Alamo and the River Walk) from August 1 through October 30, 2012, and receive a 15% discount on your total merchandise purchase, as well as a free packet of five postcards. The discount does not apply on purchase of tickets, attraction passes, or tours.


While at the Center, make sure to pick up a San Antonio Vacation Experience (S.A.V.E.) brochure to get great rates at hotels, plus discounts at shops, museums, outdoor adventures, and theme parks, including SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and many others. For S.A.V.E. details, go to

Thursday, 28 June 2012 16:20

Web Extra: Sun-Dried Tomato-Basil Soup

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Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Soup

Tomatoes and basil are in season (and at their peak in flavor) now, so make this soup while you can! This recipe, and hundreds more, appears in Cooking with Texas Highways (UT Press), available at

—Lori Moffatt

  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 12 oz. tomato juice
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves (or more to taste), cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • hot pepper sauce
  • celery leaves (for garnish)

Place Roma tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds, then remove and place in a bowl of cold water; peel, seed, and half when cool

In a medium skillet, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Pure onion mixture and Roma tomatoes with tomato juice in a food processor or blender. Combine mixture with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, salt, and white pepper in a medium saucepan; heat thoroughly. Add hot pepper sauce to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with celery leaves. Yield: 4 servings.

Thursday, 28 June 2012 16:16

More: Streets of Laredo lyrics

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In the August 2012 issue, writer Gene Fowler delves into the convoluted history of the widely recorded song “Streets of Laredo,” a tune of indeterminate origin that has been recorded over the years by artists ranging from Bing Crosby to Willie Nelson. While most musicologists attribute the song’s beginnings to an 18th-century Irish ballad called “The Unfortunate Rake,” the lyrics have been modified so many times over the years that it’s impossible to state what the “true” lyrics are. Some versions—with alterations in phrasing, sometimes with additional verses—are copyrighted, such as those made popular by Arlo Guthrie and Johnny Cash, but here are some of the verses that occur regularly.

—Lori Moffatt

Streets of Laredo

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo,

As I walked out in Laredo one day,

I saw a poor cowboy wrapped up in white linen,

All wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay.

“I see by your outfit that you are cowboy.”

These words he did say as I calmly walked by.

“Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,

I’m shot in the breast and I know I must die.”

“Once in the saddle, I used to go riding,

Once in the saddle I used to go gay.

First led to drinking and then to card-playing,

But I’m shot in the back and I’m dying today.”

“Let six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,

As six pretty maidens to sing me a song,

Throw bunches of roses all over my coffin.

The roses will deaden the clods as they fall.”

Thursday, 28 June 2012 16:04

Web Extra: Blackout Cake recipe

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An homage to Ebinger’s

Since Ebinger’s, the legendary Brooklyn bakery known for its crumb buns, lemon cupcakes, and famous chocolate Blackout Cake (packed carefully in a pale green box with brown crosshatching) went out of business in 1972, fans have been trying to duplicate the Blackout Cake, in particular—three layers of devil’s food cake ’s held together with chocolate pudding and frosted, then sprinkled with chocolate-cake crumbs to really send it over the top. Legend has it that the Ebinger’s heirs won’t reveal the secret recipe, but we found this one online and tweaked it slightly for simplicity. Count on an hour-and-a-half to make the whole thing—or you can pop by Kenny & Ziggy’s in Houston for a slice of that restaurant’s rendition.  You’ll need two 8-inch round cake pans.

—Lori Moffatt

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, slightly softened, plus 2 tablespoons for the cake pans
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon for the cake pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

 For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • ¼ tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For the frosting:

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sweet butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. To make the cake, place the cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in the boiling water to form a paste. Combine the chocolate and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently as the mixture warms and the chocolate melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk a small amount of the heated chocolate milk into the cocoa paste and then whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk mixture. Return to heat, stir for one minute, remove and cool until tepid.

3. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the sugar and butter together. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time and add the vanilla. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture.

4. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. In another bowl, whip the egg whites to form soft peaks and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

5. Butter and lightly flour two 8-inch round cake pans and divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for 45 minutes and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Gently remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool.

6. While the cake is baking, make the filling. Put the cocoa into a saucepan, pour in the boiling water, and place over low heat. Add the sugar and chocolate. In a small bowl or coffee mug, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Whisk the cornstarch into the water and chocolate, add the salt and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute.

7. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the vanilla and the butter, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.

8. Make the frosting. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, returning to heat if necessary to melt the butter.

9. Whisk in the hot water all at once and stir until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and the vanilla. Refrigerate for up to 15 minutes before using.

10. Assemble the cake. Use a sharp knife to slice each cake into two disks to form four layers. Set one cake layer aside. Place one layer on a cake round or plate. Generously spread the layer with half of the filling. Add the second cake layer and repeat. Add the third cake layer. Quickly apply a layer of frosting (half of total frosting) to the top and the sides of the cake and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, crumble the remaining cake layer. Apply a second layer of frosting to the cake, sprinkle liberally with crumbs and serve within 24 hours. Store in a cool place.

Yield: 1 cake.

Wednesday, 06 June 2012 15:45

TH Deal: Texas Quilt Museum

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When you visit the Texas Quilt Museum (140 W. Colorado St. in La Grange), ask about the Texas Highways special offer. If you buy one hard copy of Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011 (list price $50), you’ll also receive two free quilting books: Celebrate Great Quilts and America: From the Heart.

The Texas Quilt Museum opens Thu-Sat 10-4 and Sun noon-4. Admission: $8, $6 students and ages 65 and older. Call ahead to arrange group tours for 20 or more ($6 per person). Call 979/968-3104;

Monday, 04 June 2012 16:09

Web Extra: Balloonin’ Around

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We featured Longview’s Great Texas Balloon Race in our July issue, but Texas boasts 10 other balloon festivals around the state. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, the sunrise flights, daily festival activities, and evening glows are sure to fill your day.

Hopkins County Dairy Festival Balloon Rally, Sulphur Springs.
June 9,
Take to the Skies Airfest (formerly DFW Summer Balloon Classic), Mesquite.
There’s a balloon glow this year but no flights: those will return in 2013.
May 26-27,
Lions Club Balloon Festival and Fair, Highland Village.
August 17-19,
Big Bend Balloon Bash, Alpine.
September 1-3,
InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, Plano.
September 21-23,
Big Country Balloon Fest, Abilene.
September 28-30,
RE/MAX Ballunar Liftoff Festival, Houston/Clear Lake.
September 28-30,

Celina Balloon Festival, Celina.
October 26-27,
Pirates of the Canyon Balloon Festival, Amarillo/Palo Duro Canyon.
October 26-28,
KLAQ International Balloon Festival, Anthony.
Memorial Day weekend, 915/544-9550

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 11:12

Let the Water Do the Work: Texas Rivers

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Looking for an adventure that moves you? How about one that literally moves you? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We at Texas Highways have taken it upon ourselves to compile a list of the most inviting slivers of rivers in the Lone Star State. Check out the following list to help you decide which river to float down this weekend. You’re welcome.

By Carson Lane

The Llano River (Photo by Stan A. Williams)


A tributary of the Colorado River, the Llano, is a beautiful river to kayak, swim or float down. Two spring-fed tributaries converge in the small town of Junction Texas, forming the head of the Llano River. The river passes near Enchanted Rock and the Llano Uplift offering insane views of geologic rock and vast landscapes. Among the swimming spots on the Llano River, The Slab–popular with swimmers and tubers–lies in Kingsland on FM 3404, about a mile west of FM 1431. Fishing, camping and mountain biking are also popular in this area.



While it may be one of Texas’ shortest rivers at just less than 3 miles, the crystal clear Comal River, in Landa Park, is a go–to for tubers looking to enjoy an easy, refreshing ride. Spring fed and at a constant 72 degrees, this river was made for floating. In addition, Landa Park also has a spring-fed swimming hole and two chlorinated pools.

Admission typically includes renting a tube from one of the multiple river outfitters just near the entrance to the Comal.     


The most well known river in Texas is easily the Guadalupe. This river is a great weekend party river and is usually filled to the brim with young adults sipping on beverages and having a good time. If you don’t mind the crowds this river is a blast to float down.

The flow is ever changing with rapids and boulders and tube chutes! One of the reasons that this river’s character changes so constantly, is because it the flow rate is dictated directly from the water release at the Canyon Lake dam. Many tubers choose the Guadalupe River, especially the 20-mile stretch between Sattler and New Braunfels.

830-625-2385 or 800-572-2626.

The San Marcos River (Photo by Kevin Stillman)

San Marcos

The San Marcos river is home to the cleanest water you can find in Texas. So if you’re a little hesitant to swim in a river, this is the one for you. The water is 10 times cleaner than EPA standards for drinking water.

Another reason the San Marcos River rocks is because of the views. You will tube through part of the Texas State campus and Downtown San Marcos and feel like you’re floating in a nature reserve. The giant elephant ears that line the riversides really make this river stand out.

512-393-5900 or 888/200-5620.


We all know Texas is hot so it just seems natural that the perfect remedy would be a dip in the Frio. Spanish for “cold,” this beautiful, secluded river is perfect for tubers who are looking to avoid the crowds. The Frio river runs for 47 miles and offers tubers a relaxing time and exquisite views of high limestone bluffs and enormous cypress trees.

While the park lies outside of the traditional central Texas area, it is easily accessible from the bigger cities in the state with a little driving time.



On US 281 (at Park Rd. 23) in Blanco, Blanco State Park, on–you guessed it–the Blanco River, offers up a good swimming spot above the low-water crossing and dam. Most well known for being a kayaker’s paradise, the waters flow southeast for about 87 miles. Paddle right past the white limestone that lines the riverbanks that gave the river its name. But be careful because this river is not for the faint-hearted, there are whitewater rapids, occasionally. Hint: The best time to go is after a good local rainfall because well, this is Texas, ya’ll.


The Blanco River (Photo by Michael A. Murphy)

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 11:22

TH Essentials: Medina Dam Centennial

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altMedina Dam is in Medina County, about 14 miles north of Castroville.

From Castroville, take FM 471 north about 15 miles, turn left (west) onto FM 1283, following the signs to Mico/Medina Lake, and drive about 8 miles to a flashing yellow light, where FM 1283 makes a hard right. Go straight, through the light, onto CR 271.

The Medina Dam is about 3 miles west.

The Medina Lake Preservation Society will host a daylong celebration of the Medina Dam’s 100th anniversary on Saturday, August 25, 2012, in Mico and Lakehills. The opening ceremony at the dam begins at 10 a.m. and features visiting dignitaries from Mexico and Great Britain. There also will be a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 70 workers who lost their lives during the dam’s construction.

Other planned Centennial Celebration activities include a flyover by four World War II vintage aircraft of the Commemorative Air Force, a boat parade, history lectures, water conservation and photography exhibits, a barbecue meal, and a live-music concert. For details, call 210/400-0331; Check the website for updates.

—Rob McCorkle

For the full article on the Medina Dam's 100 year anniversary click here!

Friday, 04 May 2012 16:45

Web Extra: Titanic

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A century ago in April, the British passenger ship RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage en route to New York, killing more than 1,500 passengers.  While the wreck of the Titanic remains on the seabed even today, in 1987crews began to remove artifacts from the debris field, fueling a number of exhibitions at museums worldwide.

In honor of the shipwreck’s 100th anniversary, the Museum of Natural Science in Houston (713/639-4629; welcomes Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition through mid-September. The more than 200 pieces on display include jewelry, china bearing the ship’s White Star Line logo, perfume bottles, currency, and interestingly, many personal effects made of leather.  After the show closes in Houston, it will travel to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Senior Editor Lori Moffatt spoke about Titanic with Theresa Nelson, a member of the education team entrusted with interpreting the exhibition. “All of the 200-plus items on display were recovered between 1987 and 2004,” explains Nelson. “The exhibition has a good mix of personal effects. They make you realize that these items belonged to people like you and me.

“There are some incredible pieces of jewelry on display. One of my favorites is a gorgeous, three-diamond ring. We don’t know who owned it, but it might have belonged to a first-class passenger.

“When you go through the exhibit, you’ll see items that clearly show noticeable wear. Our conservation team preserves these items, but we don’t restore the items. As the ship broke in half and sank, it traveled 2.5 miles to its final resting place, and many items were ripped from the ship. As you can imagine, in many cases, the items are very worn. But some of the best-preserved pieces, such as currency and jewelry, were found in leather suitcases, trunks, or wallets. Why is this? Well, in the early 1900s, the process used to tan leather included chemicals that repelled microorganisms at the bottom of the sea. And with the pressure of the water at the bottom of the sea, these suitcases and such were sealed shut. When we bring up a leather suitcase or wallet, it’s like a time capsule.

“Our mission is to preserve the legacy of not only the Titanic, but also of the passengers, crewmembers, and all who sailed with the ship. We worked extensively with historians to develop the content of the exhibit, and with historical engineers to piece together the artifacts.

“When you enter the exhibit, you receive a boarding pass. On the back of the pass is the name of an actual passenger, along with an age, class of service, and what cabin they were assigned to, if we know that information. So you assume the identity of the passenger for the duration of the exhibit. We even include a bit of information about who you were traveling with, and why.

“You’ll visit the Construction Gallery, set in Belfast, Ireland, and learn about the design and construction of the ship. You then board the Titanic Passenger Gallery, a re-creation of First and Second Class cabins. You’ll see some of the personal effects recovered, including jewelry and china service. Then you’ll start reading some of the iceberg warnings that the crew began to receive.

“The you’re off to the Iceberg Gallery, where you can feel how cold the water was and read testimonials of some of the survivors.

“Next, you’ll walk through the Seabed Gallery, which describes the recovery and conservation efforts undertaken since 1987. Finally, you take your boarding pass to the Memorial Gallery, where we have the ship’s manifesto. Here, you’ll learn if you are a survivor or if you perished, and you can learn the fate of some of your fellow passengers.”

Friday, 04 May 2012 16:37

More: The House that Cattle Built

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As Medina Dam celebrates its centennial, fans of the Spettel Riverside House, in the Lakehills community bordering Medina Lake, also mark a milestone. The Spettel House recently made Preservation Texas’ annual list of the state’s most endangered historic places. Preservation Texas provides assistance for grassroots groups attempting to save historic landmarks around the state, such as the Medina Lake Preservation Society, which began trying to save the Spettel House two-and-a-half years ago.

According to Carol L. Smith, executive director of the Medina Lake Preservation Society, the Spettel family built their home near the town of Medina between 1874 and 1881. The house became one of the last overnight stops for cattle drovers along the road between Castroville and Bandera before they joined the Chisholm Trail. The Spettels also constructed holding pens for cattle, which allowed cowboys to rest easy and be certain that their herds were safe. Because of its history, locals nicknamed the Spettel residence as the “house that cattle built.”

The house originally sat at what was called Cattlemen’s Crossing, on the Medina River. When construction of the Medina Dam threatened its future, the by-then-widowed Theresa Spettel had the house moved out of the riverbed by cutting it into two pieces. A mule train hauled the first half out, which took more than a month. As Medina Lake began to rise, the movers realized they wouldn’t have

enough time for the mule train to move the second half of the house. Instead, they called in a steam engine, pulled the remaining half out, and pieced the house back together where it stands today, at 215 Spettel Road.

Preservation Texas representatives hope that naming the Spettel House to the Texas Most Endangered Places list will encourage the surrounding community to pull together and restore the deteriorating home. As part of the nomination, Preservation Texas will visit the site, meet with representatives of the Medina Lake Preservation Society, and lay out both an immediate timeline and a long-term plan for preserving the Spettel House.

“We’re afraid these types of places will just disappear, and no one will ever know they were there,” says Krista Scheiner Gebbia, executive director of Preservation Texas. “Medina-area residents are trying to prevent that. The history of Medina Lake is Texas’ history, and anything Preservation Texas can do to help save it, we will.

—Claire Ronner

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