15 Highlights From My 2015 Texas Wanderings
The best sights, bites, and experiences from my travels around the state this year.
As another year comes to a close, I’ve been taking a look in my rearview mirror at all the places I’ve wandered to in 2015. Here are a few of the (many) superlative stops and sights that made my year–and that I hope may inspire your own wanderings in the not-too-distant future (i.e., 2016).
- Most charming roadside stop: the Down Unda Trading Post, along U.S. 281 in Adamsville, about 17 miles north of Lampasas, where you may find the Aussie owner, Emma, taking fresh-baked Anzacs (Australian for “biscuits”) or meat pies out of the oven. The gas pumps are for emergencies only, but there’s also a mini antiques/junk shop inside to peruse as you stretch your legs (or digest your meat pies).
- Most unexpected discovery: six Tesla Superchargers behind the U-Drop Inn on historic Route 66, in tiny Shamrock (pop. 2,028).
- Most comfortable lodging: my cozy nook upstairs at the sumptuous six-room Sayles Landmark, in Abilene. It didn’t hurt that I had the B&B to myself during my three-night stay, but between the “welcome” pound cake in the kitchen and all the little details that owner Terry Browder hasn’t overlooked (soft sheets, interesting reading material, Instagram-worthy décor, good old-fashioned hospitality), I felt more than right at home.
- Best show: the Trishas, that harmonious quartet of Texas singer-songwriters, at the Kessler Theater, one of my favorite venues in the state, in Dallas’s historic Oak Cliff neighborhood.
- Best meal: dinner at Pax Americana, near Houston’s Museum District, where all of the small plates (creamy goat ricotta on sunflower rye, lamb meatballs with golden beets, rock shrimp in a chilled celery root broth) were outsized in creativity and flavor. (Runner up: the raw vegan zucchini “noodles” I ate at Deer Lake Lodge, in Montgomery, after four days without solid food.)
- Best Saturday night: dancing at the Quihi Gun Club and Dance Hall in Hondo that’s been hosting dances (never “concerts”) on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month since 1890. (The “tin-barn hall in the middle of nowhere,” as my colleague John Spong described it, is so picturesque that it made the cover of our December 2009 issue.)
- Farthest drive: the approximately 475 miles that it took me to get from Austin to Canadian, way up in the Panhandle. My eight-plus hours behind the wheel were made more interesting by a long line of tornado-spawning storms, but it was more than worth it to spend a slow but inspiring weekend in this blissfully unhurried town.
- Favorite souvenir: the pink back scratcher with a map of Texas that I procured for $2.50 at the Antique Station, in Abilene.
- Best breakfast in bed: the feast of griddled flour tortillas with blackberry butter, a queso blanco omelette with an arugula and herb salad, and a carafe of coffee that I order every time I stay at the Hotel Havana, in San Antonio.
- Best family outing: a trip to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, in Dallas, where our party of seven (none of whom was under the age of 24) spent a highly educating, and often hysterical, afternoon stomping up and down the musical staircase, attempting to outrun cheetahs (and superstar athletes), wobbling through a simulated earthquake, and gazing deep into the (3D animated) cosmos.
- The place I’m most eager to revisit in 2016: Coleman, that small West Texas town an hour south of Abilene where big things—namely, the incredibly tasty Rancho Pizzeria, a new coffee shop, a new festival, and more—seem to be sprouting up every month.
- Best communing with nature: kayaking the super-salty Laguna Madre, birding along the lush resacas, and keeping an eye out for the elusive ocelots in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, one of the state’s last great unspoiled habitats.
- Best conspicuous consumption (i.e., shopping): making my way through the dozens of fancy showrooms, eclectic shops, and antiques emporiums in the Dallas Design District, the subject of my first Wanderer column of 2016.
- Favorite interview subject: Marvin Taylor, the ninety-year-old former postal worker and running enthusiast who helped raise thousands of dollars to restore his favorite jogging trail, which runs through the revitalized Hermann Park and now bears his name.
- Most memorable experience: flying over Texas—from San Marcos to Victoria to Galveston to Houston and back to San Marcos—in a four-seater Cessna with pilot/photographer Jay B. Sauceda, for a special cover story in 2016. Stay tuned!