The Bucket List

Driving the River Road, in far West Texas; having a drink at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas; fishing for bass in Caddo Lake; eating a chicken-fried steak in Strawn; searching for a lightning whelk along the coast; and 58 other things that all Texans must do before they die.
Photograph by Randal Ford

Life is too short not to live it in Texas. But recently we asked ourselves an uncomfortable question: If we had only one year left on earth, what would we do in the Lone Star State? A spirited conversation ensued, writers and editors submitted their picks, and more than two hundred ideas poured forth. We overlooked suggestions like seeing the Alamo or going to the Capitol because we assumed that everyone has already done those things (you have done them, right?). Instead, passionate arguments were made for who makes the best barbecue, which books to read, and where to see Willie Nelson perform. In the end, we asked the staff—and a few friends—to write about the 63 most interesting ideas in the bunch, which are numbered but not ranked. Of course, we fully expect you to have many more than twelve months to complete this list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started right away.

1. Take the Ultimate Road Trip

When you get tired of hearing about how big Texas is, go find out for yourself. Drive from Dalhart, in the Panhandle, to Brownsville, where Texas, Mexico, and the Gulf converge. Depending on your route, it’s about 842 miles. You’ll travel down the Staked Plains toward Amarillo, heading south by southeast to Lubbock, Big Spring, and San Angelo, lulled by a symphony of wind and space. Then weave through the Hill Country toward San Antonio, basking in the dry crackle of history. From there you’ll head to Corpus Christi, down U.S. 77 through Kingsville and the King Ranch. There is no more desolate—or fascinating—stretch than the final hundred miles or so to the Rio Grande Valley. After you arrive Lord-knows-how-many-hours later, cross the international bridge into Matamoros and treat yourself to a margarita. You’ve earned it. Gary Cartwright

2. Eat Barbecue at Snow’s, in Lexington

Eating at Snow’s is like scaling Mount Everest: Only the hardy and fully prepared reach the summit. Snow’s is in the middle of nowhere, about an hour east of Austin. Furthermore, the window of opportunity is minuscule, because it is open only on Saturday mornings. On top of that, Snow’s septuagenarian guru of ’cue, Tootsie Tomanetz, cooks a limited number of briskets, chickens, pork ribs, and pork butt. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So get up before dawn, make a thermos of coffee, drive to Lexington, and wait your turn. Your reward is the most celestial barbecue in Texas—that and the knowledge that you are one of the few, the brave, who have summited Snow’s. 516 Main, 979-773-4640. Patricia Sharpe

3. See Willie at Floore’s, in Helotes

There are no bad shows at the John T. Floore Country Store, and there’s no bad place in all the world to see Willie Nelson. Still, there’s nothing like watching Texas’s greatest entertainer on his home court. Willie started playing here regularly in the sixties, making Floore’s—and not Austin’s long-gone Armadillo—the refuge where he sloughed off Nashville expectations and grew into the singer/songwriter/holy man who would win over the planet. He still plays the old dance patio about once a year, and when he eases into “Yesterday’s Wine,” you’ll be able to look up at the same Hill Country stars he once dreamed on while downing the same cold Lone Star, homemade tamales, and fresh baked bread. It’s like a night in history. 14492 Old Bandera Rd., 210-695-8827. John Spong

4. Play Chicken Shit Bingo, in Austin

At just before four each Sunday afternoon, grandmas, hipsters, middle-aged lovers of the two-step, and kiddos who haven’t caught up to the legal drinking age start to fill Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. They happily cram the dimly lit hole-in-the-wall just as Dale Watson begins his set. But the real reason they’ve flooded this dive is to play chicken shit bingo. At Ginny’s, there is no spinning basket of lettered and numbered balls, no elderly gentleman calling out squares. There’s just a piece of plywood, gridded with boxes numbered 1 through 54, sprinkled with feed and hand-torn bread, and enclosed with chicken wire. For $2 you buy a number and hope that the “caller,” an auburn-feathered hen named Sissy, eats enough of that feed to, ahem, relieve herself on your square. If she does, you win the pot of money, which just might be enough to buy you and your friends a chicken dinner. 5434 Burnet Rd., 512-458-1813. Stacy Hollister

5. See the world in San Antonio by Flaco Jiménez

I love to experience the incredible view from the top of the Tower of the Americas. It was built for the World’s Fair in 1968 and is 750 feet tall, making it the tenth-tallest building in Texas. The view is amazing—you can gaze from the Alamo down the River Walk and peer into the hazy distance of South Texas. Stay for dinner in the revolving restaurant and watch the sun set and the city begin to sparkle with lights. Someday, maybe the Texas Tornados will play there. Jiménez is a legendary Tejano accordionist and member of the Texas Tornados.

6. Visit the State Fair of Texas, in Dallas by Bob Phillips

It was the autumn of 1963 and my best friends, Charles McCommas and Greg Chitsey, and I were all twelve years old. Dallas of the fifties still lingered. It was an innocent time for us and the world. That would all change in November, but on that day we were simply young boys in search of adventure. We got free tickets and Friday off from school for State Fair of Texas Day. Better yet, our parents had decided it would be okay for us to go alone. It was the most freedom we had ever enjoyed in our short lives. I still get those feelings every time I go to the state fair today. Big Tex! The midway! Fried food! The rush of memories and the sense of independence from that day nearly fifty years ago still come back. Phillips has been the host of the television program Texas Country Reporter since 1972.

7. Explore Palo Duro Canyon

At 120 miles long, about

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