Texas. The second biggest state in the Union.
I don’t know why we only planned ten days in the great state of Texas but what we saw whetted our appetites for more.
We entered from the east, through Beaumont, where the oil and gas processing facilities dominate the horizon. We spent our first night on the roadside outside of Houston, next to an Interstate highway and a train . It was just a way station to bigger and better parts of the state.
Austin was not the city I remembered from forty years ago, though the State Capitol still looms higher than the U.S. capitol, a fact that Texans make a point of mentioning.
Our friend Tina showed us around and posed for a photo next to the Ten Commandments Monument that the Supreme Court ruled has the constitutional right to be situated on the state capitol grounds.
Downtown Austin is nothing like I remembered from my first visit. Skyscraper office buildings and apartment towers dot the skyline.
The bars on Sixth Street are crowded with music and lots of booze. So is lively Rainey Street, which by 10 pm was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of people under-30. We left our rig parked at Tina’s house and stayed in a trendy boutique hotel right in the middle of all the action.
We found our niche, delicious food prepared in trucks around the city, this one in East Austin.
We also managed to get second row seats to a Neil Young Fest where Boz Scaggs and Nora Jones were joined by a dozen or more local Austin musicians who showed up to raise money for an independent record label. The onstage finale below will give you a rich sense of the evening. That's Nora Jones on the microphone.
Cloudy skies provided a good excuse to visit the LBJ Presidential Library where his presidency was examined in detail, highlighting the civil rights legislation and Great Society innovations including Medicaid that are overshadowed by his failure to end the Vietnam War.
The Story of Texas, as told at the Texas State History Museum, recounted the heroic stands that early pioneers took to build homesteads and then fight for independence from Mexico. The fight to seize all the land that is today Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California is a fight near and dear to Texans’ hearts.
Eighty years after the US defeated Mexico and Texas became a state, Pancho Villa grabbed international headlines as a militia leader in the Mexican Revolution. He recruited cash hungry gringos to enlist with his cause in 1915.
By the mid-1900s, Texas was secure in its economic future, fueled by the oil and gas industry, and the huge cattle ranchers who cemented the legend of the Texas cowboy.
From Austin we drove west to Dripping Springs, where Harriet, the sister of my friend Audrey from Atlanta, invited us to park on her ranch, Fiddler's Green.
It was right next to the Pedernales Falls State Park where we began to discover the magic of rural Texas.
When we left Dripping Springs we headed south to the Rio Grande where the Mexico border was a stone’s throw away. That night we stopped at an RV park next to this motel in Marathon.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.