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Choose Your Own Texas Adventure

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<span class="drop-cap">T</span>he first column I wrote for<em> Texas Monthly</em> appeared in the March 2000 issue. The article was titled <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/voting-rites" target="_self">“Voting Rites,”</a> and I argued that the Voting Rights Act, which Lyndon Johnson had proposed to a joint session of Congress 35 years earlier, was the greatest accomplishment of his presidency. The truth is, I didn’t know very much about LBJ before I came to work at <em>Texas Monthly.</em> I am a native Texan who passed seventh-grade history with straight A’s, but I remembered him only for his role in the Vietnam War. I’m ashamed to say that when I was a freshman at the University of North Texas and saw Oliver Stone’s film <em>JFK</em>, which came out in 1991, I assumed that Johnson could have played a role in John Kennedy’s assassination. That changed when I started reading the magazine’s terrific archive of stories about LBJ. I began to understand the Shakespearean complexity of the man, who could be cruel and kind, thoughtful and crude in the span of a single conversation. That led me to volumes by Robert Dallek, Robert Caro, and Michael Beschloss. Never have I laughed out loud so often while reading about a president; never have I been so awed by a politician’s sheer determination to achieve; never have I shaken my head in such dismay at so many missed opportunities. But when it came to civil rights, the critical domestic issue of his administration, Johnson purposefully set out to finish what Abraham Lincoln had started—and did precisely that. This issue contains a trio of stories that examines the complicated legacy of the Voting Rights Act, which became law fifty years ago this month. In <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/agitator" target="_self">“The Agitator,”</a> Katy Vine profiles Curtis Graves, who, in 1967, became the first African American to serve in the Texas House in the twentieth century but who often labored in the shadow of Barbara Jordan. John Phillip Santos explores his family’s roots in <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/return-cotulla" target="_self">“Return to Cotulla,”</a> revisiting the town where a young LBJ taught Mexican American students at the local public school. A photo essay called <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/while-were-young" target="_self">“While We’re Young,”</a> shot by Joel Salcido and featuring interviews by Pamela Colloff, examines the attitudes of the newest generation of voters in the Rio Grande Valley. Taken together, the package offers context for a problem that is far from settled: in 2013 key portions of the Voting Rights Act were set aside by the U.S. Supreme Court, and a redistricting case, with roots in the state Senate, that could diminish minority representation will be heard by the high court in its upcoming term. It may soon be the case that LBJ’s greatest legislative achievement could itself be history.

When it comes to traveling around the state, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of destinations to choose from. One of the things I love most about Texas is that you can drive a few hours (or more than a few hours) in one direction and be at, say, the beach and then head another direction and find yourself in the mountains or in the rolling Hill Country or in the Piney Woods. For the last several years, a few of my colleagues and I have been visiting small towns and exploring interesting areas of big cities in search of noteworthy things to do, see, and eat. Here’s a cheat sheet guide to what you can expect to find in a few of the places we’ve singled out across the state recently . . . 

Head WEST to . . .

Fort Davis for javelina sightings, homemade nuts, and a daily bugle retreat parade.


Midland for a 75-acre nursery, the Museum of the Southwest, and frozen pecan toffee.

Head EAST to . . . 

Historic downtown Marshall for the Michelson Museum of Art, a three-story co-op, and an unusual Lady Justice.

<p>Hallelujah. The good people of Coleman and lucky area travelers have a delectable new option in this smartly styled but comfortable restaurant. At lunch, puffy-crusted twelve-inch pizzas come with urban options like shiitake mushrooms, soppressata, and prosciutto di Parma. Sandwiches and snacks like burrata cheese on grilled bread, lemon-zest-tinged olive tapenade, and excellent meatballs round out the options. The daily changing evening menu might offer weekend specials like Akaushi sirloin crusted with salt and coarse-ground black pepper and cooked in the wood oven. If you’re on the road, it’s worth a detour. (7/15)</p>

Palestine for homemade pies, lots of antiques, and the Dogwood Trails Festival (in March).


Head to NORTH CENTRAL Texas to . . . 

Fort Worth’s West Seventh Street District for vintage clothes, an eco-friendly boutique, and Fred’s famous Diablo burger.


Grapevine for glassblowing, bowls of Original Texas Red chili, and rides on a vintage train.


Head to CENTRAL Texas to . . . 

Johnson City for fresh jerky, beer flights, and tours of LBJ’s boyhood home.


Kerrville for a chic department store, local arts and crafts, and a subterranean cocktail lounge.


San Antonio’s North River Walk for an upscale Italian osteria, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and Melissa Guerra’s modern mercado.

<p>Alberico, a combination restaurant and wine store, lets guests take a gastronomic tour without leaving town, populating its menu with replications of favorite dishes from other restaurants. We started with a lobster empanada (Ola, Miami), a fun combination of tender meat, grilled corn, and cheddar. Among the main courses, we enjoyed both the French-cut lamb (inspired by a meal in Pons, France) and the grilled sea bass (Del Bosque, Mexico City). The little rib chops were just as ordered, medium-rare, with a crisp mustard crust, while the fish was extraordinarily fine, with an ocean-fresh flavor. The quietly stylish dining room, with cream yellow walls and white tablecloths, is relaxing. (7/15)</p>

Head to the GULF COAST to . . . 

Historic downtown Galveston for nautical antiques, samples of warm taffy, and an 1877 ship.


Old Town Spring for Delftware, live music at Puffabelly’s, and fried Twinkies.

Head to the PANHANDLE to . . .

Historic downtown Abilene for the Grace Museum, a steak dinner, and a cool Texas novelty shop.

[All information was accurate at the time of publication, but please call ahead or check websites provided for the most up-to-date info.]

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