Central Texas Road Trip

For my wife’s birthday, we had planned to drive to Abilene and stay the night in a Best Western motel, using our free room voucher that was to expire June 30.  We’d have dinner at Perini Ranch, a steakhouse in Buffalo Gap.  Then, next day, we’d go home.  But online reviews of Perini Ranch convinced us that it may have gone downhill since we were there last, two or three years ago.  So, instead, we drove to Central Texas a few days before her birthday.

We got up early, with the intent that we’d leave the house at 6:00 a.m., heading toward Fredericksburg.  Thanks to my dilly-dallying, we didn’t leave until almost 6:30.  That, I am sure, made a big difference in the Dallas traffic we experienced on the way out of town.  By the time we made it to I-35 East (heading south), the roads were clogged with traffic, though cars were still moving at a fast clip…there was just very little space between them.  Traffic slowed to a stop once or twice, but for the most part it was just heavy; impatient drivers who think themselves invincible were darting in and out of lanes, trying to move ahead of the traffic that was moving slower than they’d like.  They simply wasted gas and frayed nerves; their progress was measured car-lengths ahead of those they passed, not in miles.

Not long after we turned onto U.S. 67 heading west, the traffic had dwindled considerably.  Then, when we passed I-35 West (heading west), it unwound even more.  My wife suggested we stop for breakfast; it wasn’t until we reached Hico, a good hour later, that we actually stopped.  We pulled into the Koffee Kup, a tiny place at the intersection of Texas 220 and U.S. 281.  We’ve been there before, but it has been years. The meal wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t memorable; I think I had breakfast tacos, but I’m not sure.

After breakfast, we continued south on U.S. 281 to Evant, then headed west on U.S. 84 to Texas Highway 16, then south to Fredericksburg. Once in Fredericksburg, we parked near the visitor center, picked us some maps and brochures and began wandering around the downtown area.  We went from shop to shop, viewing the arts and crafts and clothing and jewelry and nick-nacks and just enjoying ourselves.  When it was time for lunch, we stopped at the Silver Creek Restaurant and Biergarten. I had a Lobo Negro beer (a local brew) and a pepperwurst sandwich, while my favorite wife drank water and had a cashew chicken salad.

From there, we continued wandering, stopping in to marvel at the size and scope of Der Kuchen Laden, a kitchen shop of extraordinary proportion.  I could have stayed there for days and bought thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of kitchen gadgets, but my wife was with me, which blocked that.  Instead, we each bought a small cardboard bowl of store-made ice cream; peach for me and vanilla for my wife.  Good, but not great.

As we wandered about the downtown area, a place jam-packed with stores, my wife spied something else she had to try: chocolate covered bacon from the Lone Star Candy Bar. Neither the chocolate dipped slice of bacon nor the chocolate dipped lemon peel were of sufficient taste and quality to warrant my unqualified recommendation.

Later, we stopped in at Cultures Grill & Bar, where I enjoyed a couple more beers, a Franconia Dunkel (a dark lager) and a Goose Island IPA, both of which were very good.

Then, off we went to our freebie hotel, the Best Western Sunday House.  We got checked in easily and quickly, then relaxed for awhile until dinner time.  For dinner, my wife opted for an upscale restaurant: the Navajo Grill. Now THAT is a nice restaurant!  Despite being an upscale place, I did not feel out of place in my t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops (especially after some like-dressed people came in a bit later).  For drinks, I had yet another beer (Fireman’s #4) and my wife had a Strawberry Cilantro Margarita.  The dinner was excellent!  For starters, my wife ordered a roasted beet salad (herb-roasted beets, pickled red onion, & goat cheese on bibb lettuce, with smoked paprika dressing) and I ordered marinated goat cheese (local goat’s cheese with sun-dried tomato-red chile-herb marinade, warm home-made pepita flatbread). Outstanding! Then, for our entres, my wife ordered hot & crunchy shrimp (almond-red chile crusted Gulf shrimp with ancho chili mashed potatoes & seasonal vegetables), while I ordered the bone-in pork chop (double-cut Niman ranch pork chop grilled to perfection, seasonal chutney, garlic kale & ancho mash). We were not disappointed. There was NO WAY we could eat dessert; the meals were huge.  Photos of these beasts follow.

CrunchyShrimp

PorkChops

BeetSalad

GoatCheesePepitas

Magarita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner, we headed back to the motel to sleep off the massive calorie overload.

The next morning, we awoke reasonably early and decided to check out a kolache shop not far from the hotel. The jalapeño-cheese-sausage kolache was superb; they use sausages from a local producer, Opa’s, for their kolaches. The sausage kolache, though good, wasn’t as filling as I would have liked. So, we decided we had to go in search of more food. We found it at the Old German Bakery & Restaurant.  We had a delightful second breakfast; I ordered a single German pancake and a side of sausage.  It was worth a trip back!

Then, we went back to the motel to check out and headed out for more sightseeing in the area.   But first, we stopped at the retail shop for Opa’s Smoked Meats, where I bought a pack of  jalapeño sausage (no cheese for me) and a dried smoked sausage for later nibbling. Once our “stuff” was back in the car, we headed south toward Kerrville.  We drove aimlessly around for a while, enjoying the sites of Kerrville, country lanes, and the like, until we decided to take a special drive along the Guadalupe River.   It was breathtaking scenery, with lots of rock outcroppings, wide rock ledges that served as sunning and diving platforms along the river, and lots of greenery.  Delightful stuff.

Once we made that drive (Texas 39, then Texas 27), we headed further south to Leakey, where we stopped for lunch at the Mill Creek Cafe.  I posted a photo, to Facebook,  of my empty plate after having lunch, commenting something to the effect that this was my upscale lunch plate after I’d eaten lunch.  That comment was made with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.  The Tex-Mex buffet was mediocre, at best.  Edible, but not something I’d recommend as a “must eat.”  Following lunch, we continued to amble about, visiting Bandera and environs.

We decided to head back toward Fredericksburg so we could visit Wildseed Farms, a wonderful place that has some of the most beautiful grounds I’ve ever seen, all planted in native Texas plants and wildflowers.  None of the photos I took do the place justice; suffice it to say that I want to go back…I want to buy seeds and plants and create a lush Texas wildflower environment.  Almost enough to make me want to stay in Texas.

PeachtreeSuitesBack in town, we opted to find another place to stay, instead of the Best Western (lots of reasons, about which I may write later…much later).  We found an intriguing place called the Peachtree Inn and Suites,  which was a real find.  It had available rooms from $49 per night up; we opted to splurge and got a suite with a full kitchen, living room, and bedroom (plus a nice bath) with a porch for only $99.  We sat outside, facing east, for awhile, enjoying the solitude of the place.  It was a nice place; old, not flashy, but very comfortable and relaxing.  The photo to the left was taken outside our room, looking north; to the east is a large area of greenery that borders, I think, on a creek.  It was truly a beautiful place that is worth visiting again next time we find ourselves in or around the Fredericksburg area.

HugeBurgerFor dinner, we took the backroads to a place called Alamo Springs Cafe, a place tagged as the number 3 best burger in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine.  The place is in the boonies, a good 30 minutes in the country from our motel.  It’s adjacent to the Old Tunnel State Park, which is home to a large colony of Mexican freetail bats. We enjoyed a huge burger and some excellent Texas beer.  I was a little disappointed with the burger; it wasn’t bad, but I expected the taste to be exquisite.  However, it was pretty plain, aside from its monstrous size.  But the place itself was worth a visit; I’d go back!

The next morning, we walked about a block to Andy’s Steak & Seafood Grille for breakfast.  We opted for the extensive buffet, which had about anything we might have wanted except eggs cooked to order and steak; we had scrambled eggs and were happy with them.

From there, we set out looking for a place to buy Texas peaches and tomatoes, as we’d seen huge numbers of signs advertising those two products.  Several miles east of Fredericksburg, we found a place and stopped.  We learned immediately that the peaches were not from the Fredericksburg area; the peach wilt had destroyed 95% of the year’s crop, so the farmers and roadside vendors were selling products trucked in from the Pittsburg area of East Texas.  But the tomatoes were local.  We bought both, despite being disappointed that local peaches were unavailable.

With a car full of peaches and tomatoes (well, full is the wrong word), we continued east until we reached a Farm-to-Market road that promised to take us to Willow City.  We wandered around and about the back roads to Willow City, only to see that there’s a Willow City Loop; we took it.

Along the “loop,” which went through some beautiful country, we saw jackrabbits, roadrunners, deer, lizards, and all manner of other beasts that thrive far, far away from humans.

We took a slightly different route back home, opting to drive through Lampassas, where we stopped for lunch at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurant.  The meal was acceptable, but uninspired.  The location, though, was rather nice, as it was next to a river; after lunch, we went wandering about, checking out the sights of the river before heading north toward our next stop (aside from gas) in Hico.

In Hico, we stopped at Wiseman House Chocolates. where my wife bought a few chocolate treats.  We’ve since tasted them; I cannot complain about the stop.

After leaving Hico, we ambled home to Dallas, where it was good to order a pizza from our favorite place, chill, and get to bed early.

This trip was intended as a birthday celebration for my wife, whose birthday was the day we returned to Dallas.  I hope she enjoyed it; she deserves it!

 

 

 

 

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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