T for Texas

No one has ever said to me “you must see Houston.” So I didn’t. Circumventing downtown, I rendezvoused with Jack Stadler and his girlfriend, Donna. Jack Bowles, who had been a guest at The Home Ranch, had put me in touch with Jack S. because of our common passion for western music. Jack kindly let me stay at his house. The next morning, after warbling a few tunes, we drove over to the burg of Tomball for breakfast. While the town didn’t exactly grab me, it is, I recently discovered, right in the heart of Lyle Lovett territory. Heck, if it’s good enough for Lyle…

I departed Tomball in the driving rain, which didn’t start to let up until I reached Austin a few hours later. As fate would have it, I pulled into town just prior to kick-off time for the Texas vs. Texas A&M football game – or war. A little rain is not about to stop a Longhorn fan, and the whole of Austin was one huge tailgate party and awash with orange T-shirts. Hook’em horns.

Known for its hip music scene, Austin has been a place I had been looking forward to visiting for years. Unfortunately, neither of my Austin connections was available, so my musical tour consisted of an afternoon walk in the drizzle while peering into darkened clubs. Not exactly what I had in mind when anticipating the visit. Ah well, things don’t always work out. C’est la vie.

Texas hill countryMy walking tour completed, I couldn’t rationalize staying any longer in the city, so bid Austin adios, knowing I’ll be back someday. I drove west across the hill country with its rolling terrain, cedar trees and mesquite thickets. One can see why Texas cowpunchers wear long chaps and thick canvas jackets. Those thorns can shred both rider and gear. Cuidado, boys!

Roadside site: The Snake Pit: Live Rattlers!

LBJSunlight broke through the clouds as I passed through Johnson City (as in LBJ). A dying sun painted the huge sky in oranges and pinks. Beautiful. As dusk settled in, I found myself crawling along the main street of Fredericksburg, a quaint looking little town of German heritage lined with antique shops and restaurants. A tourist town, for sure, but with character. In retrospect, I should have stopped to explore and spent the night there, but I was in road mode and just kept rolling.

Then it got dark, like really dark. With my gas running low, the unending miles of rolling hills and cedar thickets, so picturesque in daylight, now took on an ominous character. My headlights illuminated the hordes of small deer that grazed along the roadside. A couple of times, I had to swerve or brake to avoid them in the road. Between being hungry, tired, and spooked by the deer, this was the only time during my entire trip that I was truly grateful to get onto an interstate.

The hour was late when I finally pulled into a cheap motel in the pit stop town of Ozona. While not a memorable night, I was happy with a tank of gas, a bed, some Mexican food, and the late night news. Ah, life on the road.

The fog was thick the next morning as, revived, I continued the long journey across the west Texas plains. At Fort Stockton, I pulled off with the intent of visiting what the map touted as “Historic Fort Stockton.” But after a fruitless search, I pulled into “not so historic Fort Stockton,” i.e. the Walmart. Hey, it may not be historical, but when you need toothpaste, what better place?

Next: Aliens and outlaws…


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