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Aug 17 2013

Steak Ranch Beer

And some mighty fine vittles

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Amarillo sits smack dab in the middle of the Texas Panhandle, that peninsula of Lone Star territory that stabs into that tiny sliver of Western Oklahoma and is nuzzles the New Mexico border. It is the fourteenth most populous city in the state, the largest in the Texas Panhandle and the seat of Potter County. It’s also home to the Big Texan Steak Ranch—an over-the-top dude ranch restaurant/motel/tourist destination. And they really pull out all the stops when it comes to Texas-sized over-indulgence.

The Big Texan has been featured on scores of foodie programs and is constant website fodder for those interested in big beef feasting shot through with a hearty helping of cowboy atmosphere. It has become a mecca for thousands passing through on Interstate-40 having a desire to take a peek into the Texan mystique. And the Big Texan takes every opportunity to let you play ranch hand, at least for one evening.
Gordo_Texas_Big_Texan_Eddie_from_SpainThe Steak Ranch is most famous for its 72-ounce steak challenge that started in 1960. Known as The Texas King, this 4.5-pound chunk of dead bovine is yours free if you can eat the entire meal in one hour or less. The entire meal consists of that slab of steer, a baked potato, ranch beans, shrimp cocktail, a salad and a roll with butter (yeah, don’t forget that pat of butter!). If you fail (and more than 40,000 people have) the dinner will run ya $72. Back in 1962, pro-wrestler Klondike Bill (weighing in at a respectful 378 pounds himself) consumed two of The Texas Kings in under an hour. The current record holder is Joey Chestnut who set the bar back in 2008 when he blazed through the entire meal in 8.52 minutes—that’s some major chowing. And he was from Californya!

But during my latest visit I wasn’t there to partake of the beef so much as to imbibe on the Ranch’s recently established brewery. Yep, handcrafted beer, brewed on site with the Big Texan even being selected as one of the top ten places in the world to have a beer by DRAFT Magazine. So after a quick phone call to make arrangements, I hopped into the provided limo for the free ride over.

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Now the limo “has” seen better days. But my chauffeur Roger (a carpenter during his day-job) showed up in a classic plaid, pearl-button shirt and sporting a cowboy hat, providing a toothy grin and friendly banter. After we arrived and before Roger left, I had him lay on the limo’s horn, one that delivers an electronic bull bellow that goes so well with the set of longhorns mounted to the vehicle’s hood.

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While waiting for my table in the main dining hall, I took a stool at the bar and ordered up my first Big Texan brew, a Honey Blonde Ale, 27-ounces of frothy creaminess for a mere 7-dollars. Icy cold, it was gone long before my table was ready. My second mug of choice was the Texas Red Amber Ale, a bready malt with caramel undertones that was just as flavorful as my first. The printed menu lists 11 unique brews with names set to match the tone of the establishment, including Rattlesnake IPA and Whoop Your Donkey (no kidding), a Double IPA that carries a “whooping” 9.1 ABV. They also have a few seasonal flavors that rotate throughout the year. They even have gallon and ½ gallon “growlers” of the suds that you can take home for $26 and $15 respectively.

Gordo_Texas_Big_Texan_Dining_HallHalf way through my second 27, my table was ready. The main dining hall (you can eat at the bar but the real action is inside) is Bonanza on steroids with a mass collection of critters heads hanging from every available wall, huge wagon-wheel chandeliers and an efficient wait staff of cute cowgirls and lean cowboys all in proper attire. Encouraged by more than a quart of beer, I decided to properly extend my decadent evening and ordered a full batch of Mountain Oysters (like the menu states, “If you thinks it’s seafood, go with the shrimp”). That’s right a heaping plate of meaty bull testicles breaded and fried to perfection. I took my waiter’s suggestion and followed that with a 12 oz. Double Cut Big Texan Filet, reported to the most tender steak in the house. By the time that arrived, I was ready for beer sample #3 and chose the Palo Duro Pale Ale, light and smooth (I had a limo ride back to my digs so I felt it within limits).

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A trio of musicians wandered the tables, stopping to play western favorites. These singing cowboys were the same three that serenaded me four years ago (they’ve been performing here for 11 years) with the only difference being the fiddle player now has to drag around a bottle of oxygen. A large table full of visitors from Spain (all wearing tiny matching cowboy hats) eventually talked one of their amigos into competing in The Texas King competition and soon they were all gathered around the elevated eating platform, snapping photos of Eddie from Spain like he was some modern day gladiator who had taken the quest to vanquish the beast (a 72-oz. beast). Thirty minutes into the battle, Eddie was looking a little overwhelmed but it was all in fun. Hopefully all his friends pooled their funds to help pay that $72 tab.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch is fun, quirky and well worth the stop. It also has a shooting arcade, beer garden, a 54-unit motel, gift shop and homemade candy store. But be prepared, you can drop some bucks here. My little culinary adventure set me back more than $56 before the tip. But that’s a small price tag when you consider the big bucket of balls, the best fillet in town and 81-ounces of handcrafted adult beverages all served up with true Big Texan flair. Yee-haw, pardner.

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=1026

Jul 20 2013

Defeating My Inner Arachnophobia

And discovering a trike that’s actually a joy

Gordo_TX_Can-Am_Front_ViewI approached the beast cautiously. To a layman’s first glance it would appear to be a motorcycle. Ah ha, but as a wizened sage privy to vast experience afield, I instantly recognized it as otherwise. It was a trike—a three-wheeled contraption of dubious nature. Taking up the challenge, I would reveal the machine’s true colours (other than the obvious canary yellow), ripping away the guise of it masquerading as that most noble means of transport, a proper motorcycle.

I was down on South Padre Island for a few days. And since I was contained in a most hideous vehicle (a 2014 4-Runner, all GPS satellite intelligent, chocked full of electric window/door lock gizmos, multiple cup-holders and totally lacking any sort of adventurous spirit), I challenged some locals to secure me bona fide conveyance. F&T Valley Motor Sports came to my aid and gifted me the use of this 2013 Can-AM Spyder ST-S. Based in Pharr, Texas F&T carries a full line of Can-AM, Sea-Doo, Suzuki and Triumph products. And while I was initially affronted by straddling three instead of two wheels, I quickly made the needed adjustments and then began to take great pleasure in this most unusual machine.

Founded by J. A. Bombardier in 1942, BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) manufactures the Can-AM motorcycles. With facilities located around the world, BRP also owns the Sea-Doo watercraft, Evinrude outboard motors, Ski-Doo snowmobile and ROTAX engines product lines. And while the Can-AM line of bikes has been around since 1972 (first starting as motocross models), the 3-wheeled Spyder is relatively a recent design, being first offered to the public in 2007. The concept was revolutionary for more reasons than simply placing two wheels in front and one in the rear. Engineered in tandem with Bosch, the Vehicle Stability System (VSS) included anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control systems. By 2008 the Spyder was so popular that the company played host to the first Homecoming Owners Event with some 350 Can-AM Spyder owners gathering in Quebec. And BRP hasn’t looked in their rearview mirrors since.Gordo_TX_Can-Am_Spyder_side_view

While the Spyder features traditional handlebars giving the semblance of being aboard a traditional motorcycle, even that part of the package appears space age, being fabbed from some type of poly-carbon material. And that one aspect is pretty much where any comparison to a two-wheel motorcycle ends. Yes, the Spyder does offer a two-up seating arrangement with the passenger nestled in firmly behind the operator’s butt-cheeks—so maybe there are two aspects of this damn thing that is almost “motorcycle”. But that’s about it. Those before mentioned handlebars actuate a type of rack-&-pinion steering configuration allowing both of the front wheels to turn a lot easier than what I envisioned. The front tires are 15” diameter and measure in at an imposing 165/55 (basically 5” wide), leaving the impression that steering would not be an easy task. But after engaging either the forward or reverse gear (yes, there is a backup feature) the riding is pretty much straight forward even if a little awkward at the beginning. And once you’re up and running down the tarmac, you can witness each front wheel assembly bouncing independent of one another, absorbing whatever road-nasties are tossed your direction. The massive rear tire (225/50 R15 = 7” wide!) is connected via a rubber cogged belt to the V twin DOHC Rotax engine that churns out 100 HP—more than enough power to get you speedily down the road but never so much torque as to make the unit unstable.

The bike includes all the amenities such as electric start, multiple safety features, full instrument package and even a roomy trunk inside the front cowling. Long distance riders are catered to with plenty of optional components such as color-coordinated hard luggage (saddlebags) and even a tour pack trunk that doubles as a passenger backrest (both sold separately).

The Spyder is very user-friendly even for the novice or non-rider especially since the clutch lever has been eliminated. Although you do actually shift the 5-speed semi-automatic transmission, there is no engagement or disengagement of said clutch lever. Merely use your thumb to push the paddle-shifter lever located on the left handgrip to access higher gears. And then, pull the paddle backward to downshift or allow the transmission to automatically downshift as you decrease speed. It doesn’t get much easier than that. The Spyder may actually be easier to operate by a novice than a seasoned rider since I constantly found myself leaning into turns and putting my feet down at stops. (Old habits are hard to break.) So if you have the opportunity to enjoy such a ride, do not pass it up. You will have a most enjoyable romp.

There are currently three main models, the RS (Sport), the RT (Touring) and the ST (Sport Touring). The suffix “S” on my model (ST-S) designates “Special” and offers a custom trim package at a slightly higher cost than the ST. And it’s a sharp package for those few extra bucks. The MSRP for the 2013 ST standard is $18,899 while the fancier ST-S will run ya $20,099.

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Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=999

Jun 14 2013

Creme de’ la Tejas

A sweet expedition

Door to heaven.

After a long day of wranglin’ rattlesnakes under a blazing sun, kayaking the white water at Santa Elena Canyon or rescuing damsels from marauding evil-doers, even the heartiest Texan likes to relax with a few fingers of bourbon and a decent cigar. Toss in a big ol’ bowl of Blue Bell ice cream and all those heroic accomplishments become just a little sweeter.

Founded in 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company initially sold butter to the community. Four years later they began also producing small batches of ice cream. In 1930 the name was changed to Blue Bell Creameries after the Texas Bluebell, a native wildflower. From those humble beginnings Blue Bell is now ranked as the third best-selling ice cream in America despite the fact that it’s only distributed in 22 states (it’s even been eaten aboard the International Space Station and at Camp David). It was recently introduced to Denver and within 13 weeks, Blue Bell had captured the top position in the market. Eight hundred passionate workers are employed at the Brenham, Texas location (averaging a 20-year tenure) and during the company’s 105-year history there has never been a lay off.

Udder delight
There are 18 standard flavors that are produced continuously throughout the year and an additional 25-30 seasonal flavors that are rotated throughout the calendar. Approximately five new flavors are introduced each year. It takes 60,000 cows to provide enough milk for one day’s production with Homemade Vanilla being the #1 seller since 1969. Pistachio Almond is #1 in New Mexico, Banana Pudding #1 in Louisiana. (One of the newest flavors, Italian Cream Cake is just as decadent as it sounds.) The company’s biggest flop was one concocted by CEO and president, Paul Krause. He swears that although Peanut Butter and Jelly sounds terrible, it was delicious. Unfortunately a fickle public had a different opinion with thousands of unsold gallons being donated to the freezers at the Star of Hope Ministries in Houston. Employees are encouraged to develop their own inclusions for possible development into a new flavor and, they are also allowed to eat all they want while at work. So apparently the company’s motto, “We eat all we can and we sell the rest” is more than just a catchy sales pitch.

The company maintains its own bakery (cookies for the Cookies ‘n Cream) and all bananas are hand-peeled. They also produce frozen yogurt, sherbet and a variety of frozen treats. Their policy of Direct Store Delivery means that once the milk is received, only Blue Bell employees handle the product until it is sitting on the grocery shelves. And as for those vastly varying price differences you have no doubt encountered, Paul Krause assured me that Blue Bell is sold for the same price to all distributors. Final cost at the register is dependent on each individual retail outlet. So don’t blame these guys.

Take a chilly trip
Tours run Monday through Friday and are about 45-minutes long. They end with a free serving of ice cream. General admission is $6 and although I was granted permission by the Sweet Tooth Fairy to take photos, you can’t even bring a camera through the doors. I also received special access to the interior of the blast freezer (at minus 30 degrees)—not something included as part of your tour. Brenham is a quaint, historic town with a rich German heritage. It is the county seat for Washington County, known as the “Birthplace of Texas”. But be forewarned: the place is super crowded with tourists and amateur photographers during the Spring Bluebonnet season. The Creamery is an inexpensive excursion that all Texans owe themselves to visit. And not to worry… such a sweet indulgence did not soften my rough exterior or melt my stern resolve. Hell, I even made the beard net look dashing.

Blast freezer

Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=954

Apr 23 2013

The Ferry That Couldn’t Fly

Sometimes you miss the mark

I was down in the Rio Grande Valley, whooping it up with a pack of hombres and chicas when someone mentioned a possible photo-op about 20 miles down the road—Los Ebanos.  And the more I heard the more intrigued I became. But sometimes the adventure you chase doesn’t also end the way you planned.

Nestled along the banks of the Rio Grande River, Los Ebanos sits just a few miles from Sullivan, Texas. Just head south on Faro Road at the intersection of State Highway 83 and Jessie’s Meat Market (you can’t miss it, it’s the only red light in Sullivan). As soon as you jump off that busy highway, the scenery changes and, while rolling through a landscape of cactus and mesquite, it’s easy to imagine Mexican bandits along the horizon and Indians fording the river by horseback.

Originally this spot was known as Las Cuevas Crossing and its low-water access had been used for centuries by native tribes, Spanish colonists and even American soldiers during the Mexican War. In 1952, the Las Cuevas Ferry (a hand-drawn ferry) was licensed by the county and soon used by cattle rustlers and the Texas Rangers chasing them. During the Prohibition years, it became known as Smuggler’s Crossing when the tequiladores brought bootleg hooch across from Mexico. In 1950, a U.S. Inspection Station was established which included a 3-car hand-drawn automobile ferry. The cable lines on the Texas side were tethered to an ebony tree (Ebenopsis ebano)and soon the town was renamed Los Ebanos. Still in operation, the ferry is the only licensed (as in, a legal crossing) hand-pulled ferry that crosses any United States border. And mi hombres had told me the ferry had just reopened for business (apparently the river had been too high recently for safe navigation) so I had to go take a look-see.

Los Ebanos is a dusty little border town with less than 400 current residents. A lot of the homes are ramshackle with a few ornate ones peppered throughout the small village. I pulled up in front of the Los Ebanos Ferry Junction Gift Shop, Restaurant and Depot. Sadly, the place had seen better times and apparently hasn’t been open in years with only a bell on top of the signage, blowing in the wind and clanging the establishment’s heyday. Too bad, the temperature was rising and a cold cerveza right about now would have been just about perfect.

Since it claimed to be the Depot, I wandered around back of the building, discovering a dirt road that headed in the general direction of the Rio Grande and started hiking the path. About a quarter mile in, it was getting a little spooky—deep into unknown territory with an expensive camera and no backup. I retreated to my bike. Soon I found another dirt road that I could actually ride down and followed it all the way to the river, only getting stuck once in a deep sand drift—but still, no ferry in sight. After throwing a few rocks across to the Mexican side, I finally managed to get the Harley turned around in the loose dirt and headed back to the Junction. On my way I spotted the crossing, a massive concrete and chain link site that was definitely out of place in this quaint town. Don’t know how I missed it initially—looking for something a little more romantic I guess.

But the damn thing was closed. I wasn’t sure at the time whether the water level was high again (seemed unlikely) or possibly everyone was still at Sunday Mass. I discovered later that high winds are also a cause for shutting down the operation due to the probability of the contraption getting blown away in mid-river. And I’d struggled with 40 mph gusts across the RGV for days so that made sense.

So while I did get to “see” the barge, unfortunately I was not able to hitch a ride to the other side for that frosty beverage. Since I couldn’t take the ride, I’m not even certain whether or not you need a passport to get back inside Texas (I had mine just in case). But I’ll be back. The place is just a little too cool to not experience at least once, even if I have to bring my own damn beer.

Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=917

Mar 04 2013

Innovation on Steroids

Gear and Gadgets for March 2013

Aided by ongoing advancements in technologies, the inventiveness of the human mind continues to churn out some great travel related products. And although none of the items mentioned below have yet to be tested by Gordo Texas—and as such, I cannot personally endorse them at this time—their uniqueness requires they be mentioned in this report. But they are on my list for extensive field tests and destructive examination so be on the lookout for a future critique.

Funk be gone
While certain scents can remind a nomad of past travel memories, the smell of a road wanderer can at times be quite… uhhh… aromatically pungent. Coming to the rescue of the fragranced impaired, the Scrubba Wash Bag is a great alternative to gas station washbasins or pounding your laundry along a streambed. The Scrubba is a 5-ounce vinyl bag with an internal, flexible scrub board. Simply fill it with 2-4 litres of water, a small amount of soap or shampoo and toss in the equivalent of 2-3 tee shirts. Roll down the top and seal. Open the release valve to expel excess air, press down and rub clothes against the scrub board for 2-3 minutes. Rinse the clothes either in the Scrubba Bag with fresh water or under a running tap and dry. Invert the Scrubba to dry. The basic Scrubba Wash Bag sells for $59.95 while the Scrubba Traveler’s Kit goes for $99.95 and includes a Scrubba Travel Towel, Travel Clothes Line and a Travel Bag to keep it neat and tidy.

Yuck detector
At some time we’ve all been forced to overnight accommodations with appalling conditions, either due to lack of an alternative or lack of substantial funds. On many occasions I’ve even elected to sleep on top of a bed cover “inside” my sleeping bag without ever unwrapping the unit’s hidden past (there are reasons facilities offering 24-7 on-demand pornography are so popular—they’re called “pervs”!) The Semen Light first came to “light” and got my attention simply due to its bizarre name. This small handheld unit is similar to those nifty devices you’ve seen on CSI, shining a special form of light that causes semen and a variety of other body fluids like blood, urine and saliva to glow. At only $12.95, it’s an inexpensive investment that will engage the ol’ lady’s investigative curiosity for hours while checking out that motel bathroom and giving you ample time to watch porn.

Creating green fire
The makers of BioLite wanted to provide a low-cost biomass cookstove to the millions of people who cook on an open fire worldwide. To fund the HomeStove project, they first developed the BioLite CampStove. And these guys have apparently hit a GREEN homerun. The CampStove uses nothing but twigs, pinecones and wood debris collected during your backpacking/camping journey for fuel, eliminating the need to purchase or carry any type of petroleum product—GREEN. Its conservative design only requires 1.6 ounces of wood to boil one litre of water—GREEN. It only measures 8.25” in height, is 5” wide and weighs in at 33 ounces. And while just over two pounds may seem a little hefty, its final GREEN feature is the coolest feature of all. Piggybacked alongside the cylindrical stove column is a patent-pending thermoelectric generator that converts heat to electricity. That current powers a fan, making the fire ultra efficient—GREEN. But the best part is that the extra generated electricity is routed to a USB port where you can charge small electronics like your mobile phone—GREEN GREEN GREEN! The unit sells for $129.95 with the proceeds being used to support the market establishment cost for the HomeStove project. And a BioLite Portable Grill attachment has just been released as a companion to the main unit and lists for $59.95. A truly stunning concept that may have huge ramifications for a majority of the planet, BioLite has developed a winner.

Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=900

Feb 17 2013

Cliff Diving-Part 2

Taking the travel plunge

Following installment #1, here is the second half of my recommendations for your 2013 Texas travel calendar.

San Antonio & Austin:
No matter how hokey the entire affair may seem to non-Texans, the Battle of the Alamo represents an important point in our history—breaking ties with Old Mexico and the establishment of who we would become as Texicans. Originally tagged with the exhaustive moniker of Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo remains a key reminder of the State’s sacrifice for liberty and the courage mustered to establish this Republic. And admission to the Mission is free; so take a stroll through those oak doors and a step back in time. The nearby San Antonio River Walk is an atypical urban getaway that’s visited by hundreds of thousands each year. And it’s packed with impressive gastronomic hijinks, outdoor patios and a refreshing bar scene.

The Texas State Capitol in Austin is a must-see for anyone who with Lone Star blood running through their veins. Built in 1888, the Texas Capitol is the largest in square footage of all state capitols and only second in size to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. (kinda figures it’s that damn big, don’t it?). A walk through these hallowed corridors should be mandatory before anyone qualifies as an official Texan. And Sixth Street continues to shout the mantra of being the Live Music Capitol of the World, playing host to the South by  Southwest music and film festival (SXSW) and the Republic of Texas Biker Rally.

Downtown Austin

Midsection:
The Blue Bell Creamery is located in Brenham and hosts more than 115,000 visitors each year. Noted for ice cream so good they “eat all they can and sell the rest”, the tour is fascinating due in part to its knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. And the $6 admission fee includes free ice cream at the end.

The Spoetzl Brewery is located in Shiner and has been producing Shiner Beer since the early 1900’s. It’s the oldest independent brewery in Texas, the fourth-largest craft brewery and the tenth-largest overall brewery in the United States. And at the end of the tour, free samples are on tap.

Gulf waters:
Talk of the Texas Gulf Coast and most conversations linger on Galveston Island, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island. And yes, Galveston has the nostalgic Pier Park, Corpus has the USS Lexington and Padre scores big time with its beautiful beaches and super cute bikini girls—all worthwhile. But for a different type of coastal experience, head on over to Port O’Connor for a paddling trip to Matagorda Island. The Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area cover more than 56,000 acres and serves as a crucial sanctuary for migratory birds. The Island is primitive, devoid of electricity, fresh water or telephone service. But there is a kayak trail, camping, and 38 miles of isolated beach. Just be certain to take adequate water, food and sunscreen.

Now all I’ve done is paint a wide brushstroke right across the middle of Texas and completely left off a lot of cool stuff in the Rio Grande Valley, the Piney Woods and all of north Texas and the Panhandle. This list just contains some suggestions; don’t let it limit your dreams or ambition—plan BIG!

So load up the peanut butter and jerky, grab the rucksack and canteen and I’ll see you on the back roads.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://gordotexas.com/?p=873

Jan 29 2013

Cliff Diving

Taking the travel plunge

 

Despite the Mayan’s best efforts, you survived 2012. But with the passing of time often comes a sense of urgency—another year gone with goals unattained, opportunities missed. Along those lines, a number of Texas are feeling the pressing need to explore this wonderfully diverse state, uncovering nuggets of its rich heritage. So as you sit at the kitchen table, sipping on the bitter dregs of that remaining jug of Blood Marys and lamenting the time wasted making resolutions that have already faded into memory, drag out that silly calendar you were gifted at Christmas (you know, the one with all those fuzzy, sleepy kittens). Now shove all that fiscal cliff boogey-man crap into a corner and determine to jump off the exploration cliff by beginning your 2013 list of Texas adventures. And scrolling across the State from left to right, here are a few worthwhile suggestions that come quickly to mind.

West Texas:

Big Bend Sunrise

Big Bend National Park is one of two national parks located within Texas and offers more than 150 miles of the best hiking trails in the state. Sharing borders with Old Mexico, Big Bend maintains a Wild West character due to its pristine isolation while also offering quality camping and rafting along the Rio Grande River.

Sidetrips:

The Terlingua Ghost Town with the Starlight Theatre, the Terlingua Trading Company (where a cold beer and the friendly front porch is always a good idea) and the annual International Chili Championship held each November are all rewarding. An almost neglected treasure is nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park (where you can actually rent a geologist for a day of explorations). And then there is the resort town of  Lajitas, the River Road (County Road 170) and Big Hill and the sleepy Mexican village of OJ (Ojinaga). And right up the highway, the quirky town of Marfa has several interesting art galleries along with those mystifying Marfa Lights.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located 265 miles due north of Big Bend and is home to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak. The Park is part of the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 25 miles to the north in New Mexico. Guadalupe Mountains National Park spans more than 86,000 acres and includes some well-established trails for hiking and horseback riding. Highlights include El Capitan, long used as a landmark by people traveling the route established by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line and McKittrick Canyon, which is just totally freakin’ awesome during the fall.

Sidetrips:

Hueco Tanks contains a trove of Native American rock art and is the #1 bouldering location in the nation and third best in the world! The McDonald Observatory is a research unit of the University of Texas and is located in the Davis Mountains. Its Hobby-Eberly Telescope is one of the world’s largest optical telescopes (362-inch) and the facility’s Star Parties are a special treat. The excellent roads in the area are also ideal for motorcycling. Further east, the town of Langtry features the rustic courtroom, billiard hall and saloon of noted Hanging Judge, Roy Bean who dealt out his own personal Law West of the Pecos. The facility also houses the largest cactus garden in Texas. There is no admission charge to either. The nearby Pecos River Overlook and Seminole Canyon State Park are both highly recommended.

Hill Country:

Luckenbach

Luckenbach, the 3-Sisters, Lost Maples and the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum are all a great places that should be on your short-list. Legendary Luckenbach is noted for its guitar picking and beer drinking. A throwback to the “one-horse-town” mindset, now-a-days there are normally more motorcycles along the general store’s hitching post than equines. The 3-Sisters (AKA: the Three Twisted Sisters) is a stellar set of rollercoaster roads comprised of State Highways 335, 336 and 337. The Lost Maples State Natural Area is stunning no matter what time of year (but the Fall remains the best). And the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool serves up some classic bikes along with some killer meat-pies by the establishment’s Aussie owners in the Ace Cafe. Fredericksburg is a quaint burg rich in German heritage (hard to order any menu item that doesn’t include a “wurst” of some type) and is where you can find the National Museum of the Pacific War housed in the historic Nimitz Hotel (well worth the $14 admission price). The town is flush with old-world eateries and B&B’s. But schedule your visit well in advance—accommodations are often scarce due to the area’s popularity.

And with that, we end up approximately halfway across the State. So stay

tuned for part 2 where we will start in San Antonio and then head due east for the Texas coast. Until then, start filling in that calendar. No excuses.

Terlinua Trading Post Porch

 

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