Having just returned from a week's vacation at Padre, I was prompted to create a list of my favorite places in Texas. And, ummm, Padre and Corpus just don't make the list. I mean, they're fine places, I'm sure. Sitting in Doc's Seafood Restaurant at the base of the causeway while watching the sun set as a bar musician sings Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" while nailing the last note to coincide with the disappearance of the sun was unique, and I like the surf and the sand and the smell of an ocean breeze, but a 115-degree heat index ain't the stuff of which dreams are made. And almost a week after our return, every time I put on my cap (which was lost in the ocean surf for 24-hours before finally reappearing on shore 500-yards away) I am still depositing sand in my hair ... and frankly, you can have that.
So what's on my list? My Top 10 Texas places, in no particular order, include:
- Standing at the base of Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, looking up. There may be no more daunting site in the world. If there is a place where you feel smaller or can better witness the magnitude of God's creation, I'd like to see it.
- Lajitas. OK, it's really only for the filthy rich, and I'm neither. But standing outside the Badlands Hotel and feeling you're on the set of a Clint Eastwood or Gary Cooper western while looking south into Mexico across a beautiful golf course is hard to top. And yeah, it's 115 there, too, but it's a dry heat.
- Fort Davis/Davis Mountains State Park. The state park is the place of which memories are made for little boys who enjoy camping expeditions, and panoramic mountain top views of Texas can't possibly get much better than southward from the peak at McDonald's Observatory. The town itself is a quaint throwback, largely undiscovered by "them" (those people east of I-35). My fear is that they'll learn about us, and all hell will break loose in this cozy little place that encompasses the uniqueness of West Texas.
- Sixth Street, Austin. We don't have a Beale Street in Texas, so this'll have to do.
- Grande Stadium, Midland, Friday Nights in the Fall. There may be no place more Texan, more home-towny, than any seat in this high school football shrine.
- Most anywhere in the Hill Country. While Big Bend has the majesty, the Hill Country has the simple beauty, the slow rolling hills and the bluebonnets in the spring and it is a slice of heaven. If you don't mind the overdose of humanity that can mightily test your patience.
- McKittrick Canyon. Think the foliage isn't spectacular in Texas? You haven't been to McKittrick in October.
- The Ballpark in Arlington/Citibank Ballpark in Midland. The best of both worlds. The Ballpark (nope, I will not call it Ameriquest Field) is pure eye candy and an immaculate major league ballwatching experience (save for the unrelenting heat and total lack of breeze in the upper home run porch); Citibank in Midland has to be the best place to watch a minor league baseball game.
- Luckenbach. It took me over a year and two trips to finally find this place; it borders on being too commercial, but on a Saturday morning in July, it's one of the most peaceful places you can visit. Thanks, Willie.
- Llano. A gorgeous little town with just a hint of New England and the best BBQ (Cooper's) you will ever eat. Guaranteed.