Welcome to The Lone Star State. We started our tour of America in Alaska. Not since then have we encountered sheer size like this. I remember talking to a friend who drove from Oregon to graduate school in Dallas. He said, “When I got to El Paso I thought, ‘I’ve got this whipped. I’m in Texas, so I must be almost there.”
Um, no. Still 635 miles and a culture change to go.
Texas became a state in 1845, after a vote in favor of joining the Union by a majority of the residents. Unfortunately, Mexico followed through on a promise to start a war with the United States if it took Texas. The promised war took place even though Texas had been self-governing prior to Statehood. It was just one of many conflicts between the U. S. and Mexico over what was to become the southwestern part of this country.
Texas is known for many things, but it is also doomed to be misunderstood. Do you think of cows and cowboys when you think of Texas? You’ve missed the cosmopolitan culture and business center that is Dallas and the tech sector in Midland-Odessa. Do you think of a particularly soft Southern accent? You’ve missed Houston where many folks speak like Midwesterners. Do you think of conservative politics? You’ve missed Austin.
Texas is a state that resists being categorized as anything, except “independent.” That’s a word they will embrace with a Lone Star bear hug. Texans see an American flag with 50 stars, but they see one star a little bigger than the rest.
That’s Texas! Loud and proud, big and brash, old and bold, vast and varied. Welcome to Texas, Y’all! They’re glad to show off for you.
Texas is one of the states on our road trip that can’t be designated as rural or urban. Like it’s western sisters it is full of land. You probably know it is the second largest state. Did you also know Texas is the second most populous state in the Union? That’s right!Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio are all Top Ten in the country by population.
The capital of Texas is in Austin. The largest city is Houston, and there are 38 cities in Texas exceeding 100,000 in population. Hey, that’s a good research project for you!
The highest point in Texas is on Guadalupe Peak (also known as Signal Peak), near the New Mexico border in west Texas. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulf of Mexico.
The geographic center of Texas is in McCullough County’s Brady.
Have you guessed that a state the size of this one would have more than one time zone? You’re tight, but just barely. The enormous majority of Texas is in the Central Time Zone. Just Hudspeth and El Paso Counties, way out west, adhere to Mountain Time. The whole state recognizes Daylight Savings Time
Major Airports in Texas:
El Paso International serves just over a million passengers a year. The most popular destination is Dallas.
San Antonio International serves about 2.7 million passengers a year. The most popular destination is Dallas.
George Bush Intercontinental greets about 5.5 million Houston-area passengers a year. The most frequent destination is Los Angeles.
Dallas/Fort Worth International serves about 8.4 million passengers a year. The most common destination is Los Angeles.
Austin–Bergstrom International serves about 11.3 million passengers a year. Dallas is the top destination.
Top Movies Filmed in Texas:
Django Unchained (2012)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower, and First Ladies Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson and Laura Bush.
Politics/Military: Stephen F. Austin and H. Ross Perot.
Actors: Kathy Baker, Dooley Wilson, Lizzy Greene, Nick Jonas, Carol Burnett, Rip Torn, Cyd Charisse, Spanky McFarland, Joan Crawford, Tommy Lee Jones, Audie Murphy, Missi Pyle, Holland Roden, Madison Pettis, Spencer Boldman, Madison Hu, Hilary Duff, Jared Padalecki, Raini Rodriguez, Dylan Sprayberry, Brec Bassinger, Jensen Ackles, and Larry Hagman.
Entertainers: Gene Autry, Austin Mahone, Hayden Summerall, Ernest Tubb, Usher, Young Lyric, Machine Gun Kelly, Selena Gomez, Corbin Besson, Beyonce Knowles, Buddy Holly, Selena Quintanilla, Tex Ritter, George Jones, Zach Heron, Buck Owens, Maggie Lindemann, Roy Orbison, Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Trini Lopez, Mary Martin, Ciara, Logan Henderson, Roger Miller, Ally Brooke, Scott Hoying, Miranda Lambert, Travis Scott, Kelly Clarkson, and Mitch Grassi.
Athletes: Lance Blanks, Chris Bosh, The Undertaker, Chase Anderson, Quincy Acie, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brandon Belt, Josh Scobee, Charlie Blackmon, Maceo Boston, Adrian Peterson, Tony Battie, Michael Crabtree, Jimmy Butler, Matt Carpenter, Danny Amendola, Dez Bryant, Chris Ivory, Von Miller, LaMarcus Aldridge, Josh Huff, Zelmo Beaty, and Mookie Blaylock.
Authors: John Bradshaw, Graeme Wood, John Lutz, William Ash, William Benton, Lynne Kelly, Robert Bryce, Lee Thomas, Don Webb, William Harrison, and Lee Varley.
Weird and Wonderful Facts about Texas
Texas is the only state to have the flags of six different nations fly over it. Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States, and the United States have all claimed it.
The King Ranch, near Kingsville, is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
Texas was an independent nation from 1836 to 1845.
Texas is home to Dell and Compaq computers and central Texas is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the Southwest.
The dome of the State Capitol building in Austin stands seven feet higher than that of the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Texas makes up 7.4% of the nation’s total area.
16 million head of cattle call Texas home.
Tyler boasts the world’s largest rose garden, 22 acres in size. It contains 38,000 rose bushes representing 500 varieties of roses.
Let’s Take a Trip Across Texas:
You are going to need more luggage than that, friend. This is Texas! Our trip through this baby is going to be over 1,000 miles and take five days. Come on! The eyes of Texas are upon you.
We are starting in the history-rich city of San Antonio. Here we will get our history and our margarita on, all in the same day.
Remember the Alamo! Short of God Bless America, I doubt there is a better known three-word phrase in all of American history. The tragic events started February 23, 1836.
Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio), killing everyone inside. The Mexican troops were under the command of President General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
In the early morning hours of March 6, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repulsing two attacks, the Texians (as Texans were known as then) were unable to fend off a third attack. As Mexican soldiers scaled the walls, most of the Texians withdrew into interior buildings.
Defenders unable to reach these points attempted to escape. They were slain by the Mexican cavalry. Between five and seven Texians may have surrendered. If so, they were quickly executed. Eyewitness accounts reported between 182 and 257 Texians died. About 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded.
The Alamo itself stands as a stark reminder of the tragic events. it has been neither restored nor modernized. We are just a few of over 4,000,000 annual visitors. In fact, the Alamo is one of the most popular historic sites anywhere in the United States. We will tour the chapel, and continue to the Long Barracks, which contains a museum with paintings, weapons, and other artifacts.
There is a gift shop nearby, but we’re going to skip that. The Alamo isn’t a place for hawking tourist wares. It is a place of historic bravery mixed with grief and despair. It wasn’t a war. It was a massacre, and we leave silently, each with our own thoughts.
Across town, we find the San Antonio Riverwalk, a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River. Stores, clothing boutiques, and dining establishments line the picturesque river. We are going to take a boat ride one way and walk back the other. Remember that margarita? We will get it at The Fig Tree Restaurant.
On the way back we’ll walk through the Hyatt Regency Hotel. While we can’t afford to stay the night here, we want to see something that makes it unique.
It’s the only hotel we have seen where a river runs through the lobby. The San Antonio River flows a few feet behind the registration desk. It’s just one of the cool things in a very cool city.
The diversity of two cultures sharing one space is a great thing to see. The Mexican heritage shared by so many San Antonio residents colors the city with passion and fun. The music, dancing, and joy displayed by people from the United States in community with those from south of the border is a testament to the word “neighbor.” San Antonio is a vibrant city that we will long remember after The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken is long over. We will stay at the Best Western Plus Atrea Hotel & Suites for $93 a night.
Eighty-nine miles north of San Antonio we will find Enchanted Rock State Park. After the noise and crowd on the San Antonio Riverwalk, this is a great place to get away and see some of Texas’ grand landscape.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area consists of over 1600 acres on Big Sandy Creek. The Rock itself is a ginormous, pink granite dome. It rises 425 feet above ground and covers 640 acres, the largest batholith (rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the country. Native Americans believe, to this day, that the rock and the area around it are enchanted.
Back in the car, and 95 miles east finds us in Austin, but this isn’t just any old stop in any old town! We’re going to 6th Street!
Sixth Street is the entertainment capital of the entire state. In fact, it rivals Beale Street in Memphis and Nashville’s Music Row. Sixth Street is one of the great live music places in all the land. When can we hear music? All hours of the day and night, of course.
“Is it all country music? After all, this is Texas.” Then you haven’t fully grasped Austin. From jazz and blues to rock, hip-hop, progressive, metal, and punk there’s something to satisfy everyone’s musical taste. Oh, yes, there is country music to be found, as well.
We won’t be the only tourists, but there will be quite a few residents present, as well. Students from the University of Texas-Austin come here to savor the town that hosts the school they chose. If we look carefully we might see some celebrities. I’m almost sure that was Matthew McConaughey!
We are going to listen to music until the night wears thin. Then we will stay at La Quinta Inn & Suites Austin NW/Lakeline Mall for $95 a night. We have a long drive tomorrow.
I can say that again. We are driving deep into west Texas today. We want to get off the Interstate that connects the major cities, and get a feel for the rest of the state. We will touch on Abilene and Lubbock on the way to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Palo Duro means “hard wood.” It’s a reference to the many mesquite and juniper trees that can be seen there. The canyon is 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and has a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. It is sometimes compared to the Grand Canyon, though it isn’t nearly as deep. We can, however, see the same kind of rock formation striations here that we can see at the G.C.
Palo Duro isn’t crowded. That makes it unique amongst some of the places we have been. As night falls, we will watch the stars as they wink on, one by one. This is the Texas with which early settlers fell in love. Relax, and listen to the mesmerizing wind.
If we choose not to camp out we can go into the town of Canyon and stay at the Best Western Plus Palo Duro Canyon Inn & Suites for $87 a night.
One of the hallmarks of our big trip is that we sometimes go see places that need to be seen, even if “enjoyment” isn’t part of the package. That’s what today is all about. We are going to Dallas to talk about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
At about noon Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was riding with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. As his car passed the Texas School Book Depository a number of shots rang out. President Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.
Dealey Plaza includes the depository and the area where witnesses stood in shock. The so-called “grassy knoll” which has been the subject of speculation since that day, is part of the area, as well. The Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark is an education for younger people. It is a site of grief for those who were alive in 1963.
The subject of who fired the shot that killed John Kennedy has been one of speculation through the years. While Lee Harvey Oswald is the assumed assassin he never was brought to justice, killed days later by Jack Ruby.
Whether there was a conspiracy or other participants and planners will likely never be known. Our trip to the site is a time to ponder what went on here and to pray it never happens again. That seems like an especially appropriate thing to do at this point in our history.
We will spend our one final night in Texas at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Dallas Addison Galleria for $95 a night. We hope you both enjoyed and were educated by our trip through Texas.
Next up: Minnesota