For all you Texans, you get this. You probably have a Bucket List, but then you have a separate Texas Bucket List, for things that every Texan should do. For all you non-Texans, I’m sorry. Hopefully you can get here some day and check all these things off of your list. Luckily there is now a song dedicated to a Texas Bucket List. It’s called My Texas, and it’s by The Josh Abbott Band. There is also a little known guy named Pat Green that sings along with him. You may have heard of him?
Anyway, the list in the song has pretty much everything you need to do in Texas – here is the breakdown.
1. Climb Enchanted Rock CHECK At least 4 times
2. Drink a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach CHECK Of course I have! And I’ll do it again, too!
3. Take your baby to the River Walk CHECK And I’m planning on going in March again!
4. Float the Frio River CHECK Used to do this every summer as a kid!
5. Listen to Red Dirt music on the radio CHECK Back when I was in high school, we had a good Texas country music station. Not anymore….
6. Eat Cooper’s In Llano* (sort of) CHECK I have an * by this, because I have had Cooper’s from Llano, but I haven’t had it IN Llano. They were leftovers a friend brought for me to try
7. Go to the Houston Rodeo CHECK Pretty much every year of my childhood, and I showed a steer in Houston
8. Sing “Carry On” at a Pat Green Show CHECK I saw Pat Green AT the Houston Rodeo
9. See an Abilene sunset
10. Catch a trout in Port A(ransas)
11. Heard the words to “Corpus Christ Bay” CHECK Robert Earl Keen is one of the best – I know all the words!
12. Watch fireworks on PK (I had to look this up, it’s Possum Kingdom Lake)
13. Have a kolache when you go through West* (sort of CHECK) Again, the * means I had them when a friend (the same friend who brought me Cooper’s from Llano by the way, brought me some, but I haven’t had fresh ones. Doesn’t matter though – they were still A-MAZ-ING.
14. Heard of the Larry Jo Taylor Fest
15. Go to the Fort Worth Stock Show CHECK I showed a steer here too
16. Sing along with Cory Morrow CHECK Did this 3 times last year!
17. See a hill country sunset CHECK It’s beautiful every time
18. Hike through Big Bend CHECK I practically lived there for 6 years while I was in college!
19. Let your hair blow through the Lubbock wind
20. Be somewhere that they call you “friend” CHECK I count a lot of places, most of them in Alpine. You always run into someone you know there!
21. Go to the San Antonio Rodeo CHECK Showed a steer here too…
22. Sing “Everclear” at a Roger Creager show CHECK At least 8 times
23. See an El Paso sunset CHECK Best place in Texas to get factory direct boots, but it was quite a drive to get to even when I lived out West. So of course I saw the sunset!
So as you can see, it’s a lot of sunsets and listening to good country music. I’ve done most everything on this list. I think there are a few things that need to be added to it though. See live music at The Salt Lick (and get the Family Style bbq meal. Just trust me on this.), go to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, the Llano Crawfish Open, horseback riding on the beach on South Padre, have a beer on the Front Porch of Terlingua, swim in Jacob’s Well, see a Willie Nelson show, drive down a hill country road to see the bluebonnets at their peak, watch the sunset over Lake Travis at The Oasis, drink cold Texas beer on a hot Saturday night, go 4 wheeling on the Brazos River, eat Huevos Rancheros at Bob’s Taco Station, eat at ALL of the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints, and go on every brewery tour (this is going to be a hard one, since new breweries are popping up all the time!), smell the wild Mountain Laurel blooming, get a Round Rock donut, go to Pete’s Piano Bar, and climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas. Sounds like I’ll be busy, because I have a few more to do. And the things I’ve marked off the list already, I’ll probably do again.
On Earth As It Is In Texas.
Go to the Llano Crawfish Open
Sing Along with Cory Morrow
Smell the Mountain Laurel
Get a Round Rock Donut – yes, they are THAT BIG.
Go to the Houston Rodeo
You haven’t done them all until you’ve seen Big Bend Brewing Company – the most remote Brewery in Texas, and one of the most remote in the USA!
Hubby and I went to college WAY out in west Texas. And no, I don’t mean that we went to Texas Tech. Lubbock is NOT west Texas.
Lubbock is obviously in NORTH Texas. Alpine/Big Bend National Park is obviously WEST Texas. Now, I probably didn’t draw these regions out exactly the way they are in real life (there are true divisions in this state), but some people consider San Antonio as part of Central Texas, and others count it as part of South Texas. So I guess I should have really put that as a dotted line instead.
Anyway, like I was saying Hubby and I went to college in West Texas, at Sul Ross State University. We loved living in that area, but it’s hard to find good jobs there because it’s so isolated and mostly ranch land surrounding it, so we ended up getting jobs back in southeast Texas (a sub-region dividing East Texas because sometimes East Texas is really just an extension of Louisiana). Every once in a while we like to go back to Alpine for vacation, especially because we still have a lot of friends in the area, and we love Big Bend National Park. Our plan was to go to Alpine for Art Walk. It’s an annual celebration that was started while we were living there. The art galleries stay open late, there is live music on the street, and every year it gets bigger and better.
This year, even Ray Wylie Hubbard was playing!
I travel a lot for work (the Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention business) so I get quite a few frequent flyer miles that we love to cash in for free trips, so we used my frequent flyer miles to buy two tickets to Midland, three hours north of Alpine, but still considered West Texas (Texas Geography Lesson #2). This was our plan:
1. Fly into Midland and drive to Alpine – get into town just in time for a late dinner with friends and hit the bar.
2. Get up CRAZY early and head down to Big Bend National Park.
3. Hike the South Rim Trail, which I think is like 12 miles.
4. Get off the mountain just at the right time to get sunset photos of the Sierra del Carmen mountains, and head back to Alpine (more than a 1 hour drive).
5. Enjoy Art Walk, see all of the friends that we still have in Alpine, go to every bar, and see the artwork of a friend in one of the galleries.
6. Spend the day buying Christmas presents for our friends’ kids, and send them home with said friends.
7. Enjoy a leisurely drive back to Midland, and get on our evening flight back home.
8. Be home for a late dinner.
As the date of our trip got closer and closer, the weather forecast was getting grim. 30 degrees F as the high. Mixed sleet and snow. But we already had the trip planned, and we were determined to go. Hiking in the cold isn’t that bad, afterall. We got free drinks on the airplane because the flight attendant never came back to pick up our drink coupons that I love getting in the mail, and it was off to a pretty good start!
However, the temperature didn’t get above 27 degrees the entire time. We were able to get a free upgrade for our rental car, and got a Nissan Frontier truck. We were excited about this because we would have a high clearance vehicle for Big Bend, and if the roads were snowy, that would be helpful too. We got out to our truck and it was coated in ice. We had to set there for 30 minutes, letting it defrost so we could see through the windshield and windows.
On the 3 hour drive from Midland to Alpine, we were worried about frozen bridges the entire time. We finally crawled into town at 9 pm, and got a late dinner from Cow Dog, the best hotdogs you can find. Anywhere. Everything was covered in ice. We had to eat standing up because all of the outdoor seating was frozen.
We hit a couple bars, ran into old friends, and stayed out until about 2am. It started snowing and the roads were icing over. We weren’t real sure we were going to make it out to Big Bend after all. That morning we woke up and everything was coated in a thick layer of ice. There would be no traveling to the park today. For those of you who have never been to Big Bend National Park, let me explain (Texas Geography Lesson #3).
It is isolated.
If something goes wrong while you are down there, it could be a while before someone comes by. You rarely have a cell phone signal. You rarely even have a radio signal. And weather in the desert can change in an instant. The last thing we wanted to do was get stuck down in the park because they closed the roads, or worse – get stuck because there was an ice storm and we ran off the road into a canyon that three cars a day drive past.
This is what the main road to the Chisos Mountain Basin looked like on Monday, two days after we had planned on going. If we had gotten into the park to begin with, we probably would have been stuck there until Tuesday!
So instead of risking death, or at the very least a miserable day in the cold, wind, and snow, we stayed in Alpine. We got discounted breakfast at the restaurant that is in the same parking lot as our hotel, and that place is the epitome of a small town diner. It’s called Penny’s, and it looks like it’s made out of an Airstream trailer. Food there is usually only consumed at 2 am when suddenly you are in the mood for French toast and gravy, but it was discounted and we didn’t have to drive to it, so that’s where we ate.
Now if you are looking for good service, try somewhere else in town. But if you are looking to people watch, this is the best seat around. The short-order cook makes the food right in front of you so you can watch him almost burn up the kitchen with a grease fire or try to figure out why the fryer isn’t working. You can also listen to all of the employees complain about other employees calling in “sick” or try to figure out if Hubby has been given all of his food (he hadn’t) while they make pancakes for an order that doesn’t exist. It’s entertaining at least.
Afterwards we hit the town and enjoyed the coffee shop, Plaine while we waited for our friends to meet us for lunch (this trip ended up revolving around food and bars, but we were ok with that).
I was FINALLY able to buy a Cow Dog t-shirt and the Cow Dog himself, Alan, recognized Hubby and me from long, long ago and we were able to chat him up a bit about moving away from Alpine. He’s a great guy, and I’m always happy to give him my business (especially if I get a Cow Dog out of it). I really appreciated how he repurposed his hot dog bun bags for t-shirt bags. Reduce, reuse, recycle afterall!
We had heard about Big Bend Brewing Company after we moved away, and I had never had a chance to try it until this trip. I was very excited, because Alpine had once, long, long ago had a German microbrewery called Edelweiss (pronounced A-Dell-Vice for you non-German speakers) and it was the best beer we had ever had. It was actually the reason Hubby and I became craft brew snobs. Long story short, Edelweiss is no more, but you can always have a chat with the man that started it all, Harry Moise, who now owns, operates, and hangs out at Harry’s Tinaja in Alpine. Go have a drink with him, but remember, it’s cash only.
And the guy that started BBBCo was actually a brewmaster in Austin, Texas and moved to Marfa. I’m just glad he opened the brewery in Alpine instead of Marfa, but if you aren’t from that area, you won’t understand 😉
There was an open house at the brewery with free beer, but we had just eaten lunch and it was absolutely freezing inside the brewery (it’s just an open warehouse) so we didn’t stay long. Instead we went back to the hotel to take showers and take a nap, only to find that our hotel had lost power because of the ice. We napped for a while and woke up colder than when we had fallen asleep, and then we hit the town again for the actual Art Walk. It wasn’t that big of a turn out this year because of the weather, but it was still fun, and we still got to run into a bunch of old friends.
Although our trip didn’t go exactly as we had planned, we still had a great time. It made me miss seeing the snow every year, but it also made Hubby remember how much he hates the snow 🙂 And, because we didn’t get to hit Big Bend National Park, it just made us want to plan another trip out there so we can see the beautiful desert and mountains that we miss so much. Because (Texas Geography Lesson #4) the desert gets in your blood.
These are my silly travel stories where I use humor and sarcasm to explain other cultures and world events. I use this forum to be a voice for the Little Guy. Little Guys have tiny, squeaky voices and no one wants to hear them anyway.