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Great Escapes: Southern Texas

Texas Hill Country is a Destination that Deserves an Extended Visit

Mark Quasius
Nov 1, 2011
Photographers: Mark Quasius
If you haven’t toured the largest state in the country, then it’s about time to saddle up and plan a trip to Texas. Specifically southern Texas, a region that world-class foodies guarantee has the most mouth-watering barbeque west of the Mississippi.
Our Visit

Texas Hill Country area is located in the south-central region of the Lone Star State and surprisingly isn’t at all like the flat, open expanses of western Texas. When we arrived in spring, its lush green rolling hills were covered with wildflowers, like the bluebonnet, the official state flower.
Photo 2/15   |   southern Texas Great Escapes horseback Riding
Texans are proud of their heritage, and museums can be found throughout this part of the state. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo and Texas independence, so no trip would be complete without a visit to San Antonio and its famous River Walk. State pride also extends to their involvement in World War II. In south Texas you can tour the USS Texas battleship, the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, or visit the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Photo 3/15   |   Map courtesy of San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.
RV Parks

RVing is popular in the southern region, and spacious parks and campgrounds can be found virtually anywhere you want to travel in the area. Many of these spots are popular with snowbirds, which begin a mass exodus from the cold, snowy northern states every fall and spend winters in the more favorable climates here. While these long-term sites are generally booked in advance, we had no problem finding plenty of available space for short-term stays.

We picked Johnson City as the site of our base camp. We parked our motorhome at Miller Creek RV Resort and toured the region with our towed vehicle. Johnson City was named in honor of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had a home there. The Johnson boyhood home, the LBJ Ranch, and the original ranch that his grandfather and great uncle began their cattle drives from are located here, and the public is welcome. Just to the south of Johnson City is Blanco. Moviegoers may recognize the historical Blanco downtown area. The historical Blanco Courthouse was used for the remake of John Wayne’s True Grit. One place highly recommended by the locals was the Bluebonnet Café in Marble Falls. The Bluebonnet Café is known for its pies, and we were not disappointed.
Photo 4/15   |   Spacious and nicely groomed, RV parks are located everywhere in the Texas Hill Country.
Heading West

Heading west from Johnson City on Highway 290 will take you past numerous wineries and fruit ranches on your scenic drive to the German heritage town of Fredericksburg. This is the birthplace of Admiral Nimitz and the National Museum of the Pacific War, which includes the Nimitz Museum, the George H. W. Bush Gallery, and a Pacific Combat Zone. The museum itself features extensive interpretive exhibits depicting the conflict, from Japan’s initial forays in 1936 up through Hiroshima and the rebuilding of Japan.

Inside you’ll discover aircraft, such as the B-25 from the historic Doolittle Raid, torpedo bombers, fighters, a Japanese submarine, and many vehicles, weapons, and equipment from the island hopping campaign. A compartment door from the USS Arizona is also on display, as well as one of only three remaining PT boats. In addition to the various museums and memorial gardens, a Japanese beachhead defensive position has been re-constructed. On several select weekends, special reenactments are held at this site, where U.S. forces “assault” the beach with tanks and tracked landing craft and even torch the pillbox with a live flamethrower.
Photo 5/15   |   The National Museum of the Pacific War includes a Japanese defensive beachhead exhibit. This area is also used in reenactments several times each year.
For those who are interested in more of Texas’ involvement in World War II, a short day trip to the coast is in order. The battleship Texas is on display in Houston and the aircraft carrier USS Lexington is on display in nearby Corpus Christi. The Lexington is very interesting and self-guided tours will take you below decks, on the flight deck, as well as up into the bridge. A collection of naval aircraft is on display on the flight deck and flight simulators are accessible in the hangar deck.

Photo 9/15   |   The USS Lexington is now docked in Corpus Christi and is filled with impressive exhibits. Visitors can access lower decks, as well as the bridge, flight, and hangar decks.
Wildflowers and Barbeque

Bluebonnets are prevalent throughout the Hill Country area, but the locals agree that the best place to see them is off Sandy Road, just north of Johnson City. Sandy Road is also known as Farm Road 1323 and leaves U.S. Route 281 just north of Johnson City and heads west to Willow City. Bluebonnets are easily found along this road as well as in the area surrounding Willow City, particularly the Willow City Loop. From Willow City, it’s an easy drive down to Fredericksburg via Highway 16.

Great barbecue joints are scattered throughout Hill Country. Many of them accept cash only. We sampled Coopers Old Time Pit Barbecue in Llano. Coopers was the favorite hangout of presidents Johnson and George W. Bush. LBJ even had Coopers cater a few state dinners for visiting dignitaries. Coopers is unique in that you don’t pick your food from a menu. You select your meat from a barbecue pit and the attendant will serve up whatever you want. An awesome selection of delicious cuts are available, including beef brisket, ribs, pork chops, pork tenderloin, rib eye, chicken and sausage. This is great for anyone who wants to sample a little of everything. Your meat selection is then weighed and you simply pay by the pound. Beans, potatoes, and salads are then picked cafeteria style to complete your meal. You are seated at long family-style tables. Thankfully, to-go bags are available at the counter, and we made good use of them. In addition to the original location in Llano, Coopers also has restaurants in New Braunfels and at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Photo 10/15   |   The barbecue at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue in Llano is one of the best of the West.
Home of the Alamo

No trip to Hill Country would be complete without stopping at the Alamo in San Antonio. Its expansive stone walls and artillery placements are now gone, but the original shrine and barracks are standing. It’s also within walking distance of the River Walk.

The San Antonio River Walk begins in a vast underground lake near downtown. In earlier years the city experienced flooding along the river’s banks and was in danger of being paved over. In 1924 concerned citizens battled to keep the river afloat and in 1929 the design for the River Walk was proposed, and construction was completed in 1938. The River Walk consists of a series of paved banks that creating a series of canals that is now flanked by restaurants, museums, and hotels. Canal boats ply the waters and are used as water taxis and as tour boats. There are good hotels right along the River Walk so if you are looking to get away from the RV campsite for a day and sample city living you’ll have plenty of choices.
Photo 11/15   |   The Alamo is the shrine of Texas’s fight for independence. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Alamo battle.
The Hill Country is one of our Great Escapes because it is extremely motorhome and trailer friendly. This is one destination that will entertain the entire family, and you’ll even learn a little about our country history along the way.
Photo 12/15   |   San Antonio’s historical old town is located in the midst of the city. Carriage rides will let you tour the city in comfort.

Sources

The Alamo
(210)225-1391
www.thealamo.org
Bluebonnet Cafe
(830)693-2344
www.bluebonnet.com
Coopers Old Time Pit Barbecue
325-247-5713
www.coopersbbq.com
Lyndon B. Johnson Historical Park
830-868-7128
www.nps.gov/lyjo
Miller Creek RV Resort
(877)868-2622
www.millercreekrvresort.com
National Museum of the Pacific War
(830)997-8600
www.pacificwarmuseum.org
San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau
(800)447-3372
www.visitsanantonio.com
San Antonio River Walk
(210)227-4262
www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com
Travel Texas Visitors Guide
(800)888-TEX
www.traveltex.com
USS Lexington
(800)-LADY-LEX
www.usslexington.com

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