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Written by Texas Highways

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Ever since the 1999 debut of his first album, Singer/Songwriter, country crooner Aaron Watson has been blazing his own trail up the charts with songs that draw from his hometown roots and Texas musical heritage. Watson began writing songs and playing guitar as a teenager in his hometown of Amarillo. After attending Abilene Christian University, he ventured to Nashville to try his luck with the major record labels. But the labels told him that his sound— modern honky-tonk with splashes of rock, gospel, and Tejano—lacked commercial appeal.

KLEPPER SA MURALS 09After crossing Alazan Creek via Guadalupe Street on San Antonio’s West Side, you’ll traverse a neighborhood characterized by locally run shops known as tienditas, pretty Catholic churches, 1920s shotgun homes, and the occasional turn-of-the-century Queen Anne ornamentation. With a glance back toward the city center, you’ll see shade-lined streets framing surprising views of city icons—Tower of the Americas, Marriott Rivercenter, Tower Life Building—all appearing close enough to poke witha stick. But what really distinguishes the neighborhood is its mural collection, featuring 53 murals to date, splashed across its shop facades, community centers, and brick walls. More than mere artworks, the murals serve to illustrate cultural selfhood, celebrating the neighborhood’s Chicano character and laying claim to a distinctly Mexican-American identity; flags planted, bright and colorful as papel picado.

TX Stadium Final1I experienced 10 of the most exciting minutes of soccer I’ve ever seen in my life—and I watch a lot of soccer—inside Frisco’s Toyota Stadium on a cool November night in 2015.

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When the rumbling of your stomach becomes louder than the 18-wheelers roaring past, options for an interesting meal along the interstate are challenging at best. The mind-numbing sameness that comes from a steady stream of golden arches, latte meccas, and convenience marts makes the notion of satisfying from-scratch food—served in a memorable setting—seem impossible.

BlackiesThe first time I walked into Blackie’s Bait Shop and spotted the blue marlin replicas hanging on the walls and a surfboard standing up in the corner, I turned to my husband and said quizzically, “Dan, we’re not in Walnut Springs anymore.” We weren’t in a bait shop, either.

05 KLEPPER PUFFY TACOS rays drive inn 06

Anyone who’s been to a Spurs game in San Antonio can attest that the city is filled with red-hot, habanero-grade pride. The iconic Alamo and its sister missions, a lively Riverwalk, and plenty of community-wide celebrations like Fiesta all give the historic Texas city its flavor—and no place captures the city’s character better than Ray’s Drive Inn, the West Side icehouse where the locally famous puffy taco was born.

Biram2Scott H. Biram is a one-man band who has blown five-piece rock groups off the stage. But the San Marcos native is just as at home picking country blues on his back porch, with his chickens running around the yard, as he is in a nightclub.

Horses 6285On the outskirts of Murchison in East Texas, a sprawling animal sanctuary has provided a home for rescued animals for nearly 40 years. With more than 40 species—ranging from American bison to Asian water buffalo, giant tortoises, llamas, and chimpanzees—Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch provides a home to 900 animals, which outnumber the human population of their hometown by 30 percent.

HighHillFarm3With Tyler in my rearview mirror, I’m driving southeast toward the tiny town of Arp on twisting farm-to-market roads, deep in a rolling countryside that unfolds into towering forests and varying shades of green. I roll down the windows to smell the pines and see the wildflower meadows more clearly.

castle 4Something amazing, and in fact, quite regal is hidden in Bellville, a tiny town roughly halfway between Austin and Houston. Though primarily known as the seat of Austin County, this not-so-sleepy small town (pop. 4,000) has recently distinguished itself for more than its governmental function.

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