Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things – the natural world and the particular texture of small-town life, and the exhilarating experience of open space. (Susan Orlean)
In the second week of our latest American road trip, we entered Texas. Our intended itinerary in this immensely distanced state would take us through the major hubs of Dallas and San Antonio, and then west for over 1000 miles to El Paso. On past road trips to these destinations, we would rarely venture off Interstate 35 and 10, as the 85 mile legal speed limits on each highway would expedite ease of travel. In 2018, however, we decided to veer off on backroads to visit Texas Hill Country and the Big Bend National Park. In doing so, we discovered the unique amenities and friendly feel of small town Texas.
Llano – Population 3,422
Texas barbecue which showcases fresh cuts of ribs, sausage, brisket, and chicken reigns proud in Texas. Being eager to find a reputable bbq spot for lunch, we discovered Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue In Llano. In this rather unpretentious looking cafe, we would politely mingle with meat loving Texans and enjoy a sumptuous meal of pork ribs, cole slaw, and baked beans. We would particularly savor the overpowering smell of the smoking pits as we patiently watched our personally selected cuts of fresh meats cooked in front of us on the hot grill. Sitting at a long, picnic table, we also would find ample time to relax in this informally friendly atmosphere after a long driving day on the road.
Kerrville – Population- 23,434
Texas Hill Country exists as an easily accessible day trip from San Antonio or Austin. As Spring Break would be in full swing there on this road trip visit, we booked a two night stay further south in Kerrville, hoping to distance ourselves from the expected tourist chaos. At the Museum of Western Art and Riverside Nature Center, in Kerrville, we chatted amiably with several art/nature volunteers. They would convince us that this small town actually attracted a thriving retirement community who enjoyed a variety of sophisticated interests.
As a popular tourist town in Texas Hill Country Fredericksburg retains a Victorian feel of Main Street America in the late 19th century. Being immensely popular at Spring Break time, we correctly anticipated human gridlock conditions there. Thus we opted to simply take a leisurely walk downtown to “window shop” and “stretch our legs” a bit. Popping in and out of art galleries, popcorn shops, and clothing boutiques, Fredericksburg would perhaps deserve a more extensive visit from us in future travels.
Alpine- Population 5,095
There are no towns in close proximity to remote Big Bend National Park. Realizing our need to have easy access to Interstate 10, Alpine would conveniently serve as a two night stopover base for our upcoming excursion. Nearby our motel, we discovered the Museum of the Big Bend,where we would learn important details about the geology/history of the Big Bend environs. Rising early the next morning, we witnessed the spectacular aura of sunrise color over the surrounding mountains. Feeling positively energized, we then undertook our one hundred mile journey south through high desert to Big Bend National Park. Sizing up our road options at the Visitor Center, we opted to drive the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which would end with breathtaking overlooks of the Rio Grande along the cliffside, Santa Elena Trail. Next Stop: Sedona, Arizona.