A Room with A View: Glass Bathrooms in Sulphur Springs

Saturday, January 11, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

About 90 minutes northeast of Dallas, you'll find the small town of Sulphur Springs. It's an active community with a bustling downtown area, lots of fun events and music festivals, great shopping and dining, and fantastic fishing and boating on Cooper Lake. 

 

But there's one attraction that people go out of their way to explore, that they tweet pictures of and post to their Facebook page: the toilets!

Back in 2012, the town debuted two all-glass public bathrooms on their downtown square. Each small glass enclosure has the things you'd expect into see in a bathroom - a toilet, a sink, a roll of t.p. - and one thing you wouldn't normally expect: a panoramic view of the outdoors. From inside, you can clearly see everything around you: cars driving by, people walking around and sometimes, faces peering right into the bathroom.  While the glass is completely transparent from the inside out, no one can see in. 

These bathrooms are the first of their kind in the U.S. The city felt that in addition to their obvious function, they would provide an interesting art installation that people would come to see and use.  And they've been right! There has been a steady stream of tourists and curiosity seekers who want to see what it's like to perform a private function in public. 

It's strange, alright. I tried using the bathroom and just during a *ahem* personal moment, two young children ran up and pressed their faces up to the glass, trying to see in.  A woman walked over and fixed her hair in the mirrored exterior surface, oblivious that I was watching her from the inside. Two people took pictures. Before I went in, I had carefully examined the cubicle from the outside to make sure there was no possible way to see in. But as many times as I reassured myself about that, I still felt a bit.. exposed. When I noticed someone taking a picture of the exterior, my first instinct was to smile at the camera!

It's a novelty, for sure, and I can see why people want to check it out for themselves. Think you could "boldly go" in the middle of the town square? If you're one of the brave, why not plan a day trip or even a weekend in Sulphur Springs.  To explore all the town has to offer, visit Tour Texas.

10 Fantastic Free Things to Do in Fort Worth

Friday, July 6, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

As the 16th largest city in the United States and part of the No. 1 tourist destination in Texas, Fort Worth has come out from under the shadow of its "big sister" city, Dallas.  Fort Worth is an eclectic blend of cowboy-meets-culture: whetherTour Texas you prefer to spend your time in a museum or watching the world's only twice-daily cattle drive, this city offers plenty of things to do. And, if you need to give your wallet a little rest, here are 10 fantastic things to do in this city, completely free:

 
1. Amon Carter Museum of American Art  >> website
It's hard to believe that admission to this American treasure is free.  Housed in a beautiful, contemporary building, this museum offers a diverse array of exhibitions, publications, and programs that connect visitors to masterworks of American art in many genres, including painting, sculpture, illustration, photography and more. Don't miss your opportunity to view nearly 400 works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, the two greatest artists of the American West.
 
 
2. See U.S. Currency Being Printed...Legally!
visiting fort worth texasThe Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Fort Worth Currency facility is one of only two locations in the U.S. that print money (Washington, D.C. being the other). Come on a weekday and take a free 45-minute guided tour. The tour features the various steps of currency production, beginning with large, blank sheets of paper, and ending with wallet-ready bills! You'll see millions of dollars being printed.
 
 
3. Tap your toe to a Cowtown Opry Show
free things to do in fort worth texasDedicated to the preservation of country music as a part of Texas heritage, the Cowtown Opry is a group of performers who specialize in bringing back authentic western music shows. Concerts include vintage and contemporary western music, songs from the singing cowboy movies, old time cowboy ballads, and western swing (THE official music of Texas!). Weekly concerts are free, on the steps of the Livestock Exchange Building. Visit the Cowtown Opry website for an up-to-date schedule.
 
 
 
 
4. Take a Tour of Fire Station No. 1
A historic fire station near Fort Worth's Sundance Square District, Fire Station No. 1 is part of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The exhibit features interactive models (including a bucking bronco) that commemorate Fort Worth’s first 150 years, from its early years as a frontier outpost, through its raucous cattle-town years, and into the modern big-city era.
 
 
 
 
 
 
5. Watch Texas Longhorns Driven by Genuine Texas Cowhands
Relive the romance and mystique of Old West cowboys and cattle drives! Watch the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive where teams of real cowhands drive longhorn cows through the Stockyards on Exchange Avenue. 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily in the Stockyards.  And look for the Drovers before and after each cattle drive for photo opportunities and to learn more about life on the trail!  >>more info and schedule
 
 
 
 
6. Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Home to more than 2,500 species of plants in its 23 specialty gardens, the Botanic Gardens are absolutely beautiful and a great place to learn about nature. The general gardens are free; there is a nominal fee for the Conservatory and the Japanese Garden, where the koi-filled pools, sculptured hillsides, crafted stonework and dramatic waterfalls provide a view of exotic conservation.
 
 
 
7. Fort Worth Water Garden
The 4.3 acre urban oasis is located next to the Fort Worth Convention Center featuring three pools of water and over 500 species of plants and trees. The quiet meditation pool, the aerating pool and the active pool all have water cascading down terraces and collecting in pools below.  1502 Commerce St.
 
 
 
8. Monnig Meteorite Museum
travel texasMeteorites are the oldest materials known — older than any rock formed on Earth! The Monnig Meteorite Museum is one of the largest university-based collections with over 1,700 specimens. Explore the mysteries of meteorites, create your own terrestrial impact crater and even touch a piece of Mars at this “out of this world” gallery devoted to our visitors from space. Located on the grounds of the Texas Christian University campus. >> more info
 
 
9. Trinity Trails
texas traveTrinity Trails are the biking/cycling, running/walking and horseback trails of Fort Worth. The trails are named for the Trinity River, along which many of the trails are located.  There are over 40 miles of trails along the Trinity and its tributaries, connecting with 21 parks, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Japanese Garden, Log Cabin Village, Fort Worth Zoo, the historic Stockyards and downtown Fort Worth. >> more info
 
 
 
 
10. Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell's permanent collection contains works ranging from the third millennium B.C. to the mid-20th century, and includes major pieces by Fra Angelico, Velazquez, Bernini, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Mondrian and Matisse. It is also home to Michelangelo's first known painting. The collection comprises Asian and non-Western as well as European art. The museum features special and traveling exhibits on display throughout the year.  >> more info

 

 

 

 

Oh, and one more thing in Fort Worth that's free:
"Molly the Trolley" is a vintage-style vehicle that offers a quick and convenient way to travel throughout the downtown area for free, from the Fort Worth Convention Center to Sundance Square.  Molly stops near every downtown hotel property, landmark, dining, shopping and entertainment venue.  Be sure to hop aboard for a free ride while exploring Fort Worth's free treasures.  >> more info

Medina River Kayaking: It'll Float Your Boat!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

You don't kayak the Medina River for a wild, whitewater, exhilarating day on the water. You kayak the Medina because you want a relaxing excursion, surrounded by pristine, natural beauty and wildlife, shaded by the arching cypress trees where you can just let the river do most of the work.

Still one of the best kept secrets in the Texas Hill Country, the Medina River in Bandera is about 20 minutes from Kerrville and 45 minutes from San Antonio. There are several kayak, canoe and river tube rental places in the towns of Bandera and Medina, and they can all advise you on good start and end places for your trip.  We drove south on Highway 16 from Kerrville and made a right on FM 2107. The road crossed the river once, then twice, then a third time, which was where we parked and hit the water. 
 
It was early May, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the weather was a perfect  84°.  We started our trip on a wide open stretch of the river, but it wasn't long before we were paddling through a tunnel of bald cypress trees that lined both banks and created a leafy, ethereal canopy.  The Medina cuts through limestone bluffs and outcroppings with free-flowing springs that feed the river and the wildlife that live here. The sounds of birds, jumping fish and other hidden creatures could be heard echoing around us.
 
We paddled past a father and his son fishing for catfish and bass. Half an hour later, we passed some teens idly floating in tubes (whew! the water seemed a bit chilly to me, but they didn't mind a bit.) Other than that, we didn't pass anyone else on the river.  The Medina seems to be a hidden treasure, still undiscovered by tourists and weekend trippers.
 
Our three-hour trip was mostly a leisurely ride with Class 1 and under rapids, but we did encounter a few fast ripples of whitewater and stepped drops that made us gather up all our skills and recall what the pamphlets said about navigating the river.  It provided a few moments of adrenalin rush for our group of novice kayakers and a nice contrast to the dream-like state of the rest of the trip.
 
Floating along the crystal-clear waters of the Medina, serenaded by the calls of birds and the gentle sound of your paddle cutting the river's current, your soul is lifted and the real world is a million miles away.

San Antonio: Take a walk along the River Walk

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

I’m sitting at an outdoor café, enjoying my beer and watching the sun set as a pair of ducks paddle by, and ISan Antonio TX  riverwalk can’t think of a nicer place to be right now than San Antonio’s River Walk.  I’ve got a prime spot for viewing the boats as they float by, for people-watching and relaxing after a day of sight-seeing and shopping.  I can hear the sounds of a strolling mariachi band and it’s the perfect ending to a great day.

I’ve been to San Antonio several times before and seen many of the major sights (you can read about my last visits in May and August of last year).  I’ve perused the handiworks at Market Square’s El Mercado and I’ve “remembered the Alamo”.  Today’s visit was all about exploring what the River Walk has to offer.

The River Walk consists of two parallel pedestrian walkways along the banks of the winding San Antonio River. The trails connect major tourist attractions in San Antonio, from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl Brewery, but the River Walk is actually a pretty big Free Texas Travel informationattraction in itself.  Lined by restaurants with colorful café umbrellas, hotels and shops, the walkways are always full of activity and there are often planned activities and events going on.   You can spend the day walking along the 5 miles of walkways, stopping for lunch or a snack and checking out the distinctive gift shops along the way.  Or, do what I did – take a tour on a Segway for a fun way to maneuver among the pedestrians.  Boat rides along the river are also a popular way to relax and see the sights.  Some of the boats offer meals.  I haven’t tried any of the floating restaurants yet, but I’ll make that part of my next visit.  And, don’t forget your camera – the walkways are beautifully landscaped, with colorful gardens, waterfalls and picturesque bridges.

With Saint Patrick's Day approaching, the River Walk is preparing for their big, two-day festival when they dye the river emerald green, the barges ride down the river in a floating parade and you're more likely to hear bagpipes than mariachi music.  

At first glance, the River Walk’s winding canals may conjure up images of Venice, but you’ll soon realize there is an unmistakable Texan flavor here, with plenty of Mexican flair sprinkled around.  There’s no place else like it. 

Come on to Kemah!

Thursday, February 23, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

About 30 minutes south of Houston, right off I-45, is the small, coastal town of Kemah, part of the grouping of towns called Bay Area Houston.  Kemah is known for its bustling boardwalk, nestled along Clear Creek Channel which opens up into Galveston Bay.  The area is a charming Gulf Coast destination that gets millions of visitors each year.

Back in earlier days, Kemah used to be a rustic shrimping port on Galveston Bay where youKemah Texas travel information could buy some fresh shrimp and a beer and sit by the dock on an afternoon to watch the boats come in.  During the 90s, a developer built the boardwalk and brought in amusement rides, restaurants, shops and carnival games and turned it into a tourist attraction.  I do have to admit, it is somewhat "touristy", but to me, that's not a bad thing.  On a recent sunny day in early February, I was one of those tourists enjoying a stroll along the Kemah Boardwalk.

The Kemah boardwalk is essentially an amusement park featuring some great rides, such as The Boardwalk Bullet, a 96' wooden roller coaster.  It reaches speeds of 51 mph and gets so close to the water's edge, it feels like it will fling you into the bay! You'll also find midway games, theme shops and souvenir stores.  There are plenty of restaurants along the boardwalk, and most have seats overlooking the water.  All of the restaurants are good and of course, they all offer plenty of seafood dishes.  You won't get a fresher catch anywhere else.  In addition to the rides and midway games, there are often events or festivals going on at the Boardwalk.  Check the Kemah Boardwalk website for up-to-date information.
Aquarium Kemah Texas info
I started my afternoon in Kemah with lunch at the Aquarium Restaurant.  This restaurant offers many attractions beyond its good food - they feature a 50,000-gallon, floor-to-ceiling aquarium housing more than 100 species of tropical fish and sharks, and Stingray Reef, where you can touch and feed live stingrays. They've also added a Rainforest themed exhibit with piranhas, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas.  Under the blue glow of the huge aquarium, I enjoyed a New Orleans Po-Boy with shrimp which was really fresh and tasty.   If you don't feel like a sit-down lunch, another great option is to check out the food vendors along the boardwalk.  You'll find the expected carnival type fare along with some unique items worth trying.  Just "graze" your way through and sample a few items from different carts.

After lunch, I thought about going on the Bullet, but decided that wasn't best done right after a big meal, so instead, I meandered along the boardwalk, enjoying the relaxing sight of boats floating slowly by.  I checked out some of the shops, which are what you'd typically expect to find in a touristy area - souvenirs, Kemah T-shirts, beach wear.

There's no entry fee for the boardwalk, but the rides cost $4-5 each.  If you think you will be going on several rides, your best bet is to get an all-day pass.  The cost is $20, but with a little pre-planning, you can sometimes get discount coupons.  In fact, right now in February, there's a Wintertime Blues promotion on the Kemah Boardwalk website which offers an all-day pass at $5 when you buy one at regular price. During other times of the year, check the Houston Chronicle for discounts coupons or search online.

Still in the neighborhood at dinner time?  You can certainly try one of the other many restaurants along the boardwalk, but what I'd recommend is walking a few blocks over to Highway 146 and eating at T-Bone Tom's, a down-home, family style restaurant where the food is really good and really plentiful.  You can get seafood here, but when a place has "T-Bone" in the title, your best bet is usually the meat and that's for sure true here.  I started with an appetizer of "Armadillo Eggs", which aren’t eggs and they're not from armadillos, either. These are large jalapeños, stuffed with brisket and deep fried.  Served with a creamy dipping sauce, they are really fantastic.  I could have made a whole dinner of these, but I also had to try their ribeye steak.  This was 14 ounces of choice, tender beef, bathed in some sort of magic marinade with a pineapple tang to it.  It was truly a memorable dinner. (we covered T-Bone Tom's a few years back during our quest for the best chicken-fried steak.  Read about it here.)

Overall, Kemah is the perfect family getaway. It's a paradise for children and a romantic date for couples.  There’s lots to do during the cooler months and it’s a great destination during the warm months when the water activities and refreshing Gulf breezes keep you cool.  Make a day of it!

>> more travel information about Kemah 

TOUR TEXAS: Bah Humbugs Not Allowed

Monday, December 12, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

You’ve got to love Christmastime in small town Texas. From Orange to El Paso and Brownsville to Amarillo, lights are strung throughout downtown with care, in hopes that the tourist soon would be there. 

Not too far north of Dallas is the town of McKinney. For 31-years the community has staged one “Dickens of a Christmas” and this year I was there to join in the celebration. Though not as large or flamboyant as the famed Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, McKinney still throws a great holiday party on the Square every Thanksgiving weekend.

The gray sky, crisp temps and steady breeze added to the Victorian era theme of the decorated downtown.  As we strolled the 12-block historic district we noticed that “A Christmas Carol” was being performed at McKinney Performing Arts Center inside the old courthouse. Nearby, Santa was listening closely to a young boy as the child confirmed that he had been good all year long and that an X-Box would be the perfect gift to find under the tree this Christmas.

Dickens

At the corner of Tennessee Street and Virginia two women dressed in their Victorian best posed for a photo. “Make it quick”, one said as the cold wind whipped beneath her dress. They were heading inside for hot tea and cookies.

All around us families walked together, talked together, and experienced quality time together as if traveling with the Ghost of Christmas Past to time long ago. There was caroling on one street corner and hand bells on another. The Victorian magic show befuddled a group of kids as their parents stood back with their cups of hot coffee and tea.

Out front of the historic Grand Hotel McKinney was a garland wrapped karaoke stage where youngsters took turns singing loud and out-of-tune renditions of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells. But, no one cared that they weren’t pitch perfect. It was Christmastime in McKinney and everyone was having fun.

The restaurants and shops around the Square were in full holiday mode. There were festive decorations both inside and out. The original Panty Restaurant was filled with festival goers at lunchtime looking for a ho-ho-home-cooked meal. I had the Blue Plate Special . . . a large portion of meat loaf with hot mashed potatoes and a bowl of beans. It was mighty fine on this blustery day in north Texas.

This is what Christmas in small town Texas is - happy faces, greeting everyone with a wave or a friendly nod, spending time with the family and joining in a tune or two celebrating the real reason for the season.  

Don’t even consider being a Scrooge if you’re coming to McKinney at Christmas. Bah humbugs are not allowed.  

Be sure to visit TourTexas.com for a complete list of Christmas festivals and celebrations throughout Texas.

mike






  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man


Always visit TourTexas.com for the latest Texas Travel information, travel guides and Texas brochures.

TOUR TEXAS: It Would Have Made Hondo Proud

Saturday, November 19, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

I spent a few days on business in Fredericksburg recently and like the true Texas Travelin’ Man that I am, I explored whenever I had some free time. I always enjoy wandering through the nearby historical sites like the National Museum of the Pacific War with the Admiral Nimitz Museum. More than a dozen art galleries, bats by the billions and wildflowers like nowhere else in Texas are within a short drive. Then there are the wineries . . . we’ll save that for another blog.

But, this night I was on a mission; a mission to try out an eatery that I had never tried before. Something different from the traditional German fare that I am way too fond of when visiting the Hill Country. No, tonight I wouldn’t savor the great brats, sauerkraut and potato pancakes at the Auslander or Altdorf. I had the urge for something with the taste of Texas.

After asking a few locals for their recommendation and cruising the Main drag . . . seriously, it’s on W. Main Street, I found it . . . Hondo’s.

Hondos

Named for the legendary “Hondo” Crouch, humorist, writer, owner and self-proclaimed Mayor of Luckenbach, Hondo’s had the Texas Hill Country look and smell that could make me happy tonight.

 

The building looked old yet well kept. A large open patio was covered by the canopy of twinkle lit tree branches. As if I needed a reminder, all it took was one step through the double wooden doors and onto the worn hardwood floor and I knew I was deep in the heart. From wall to wall and floor to ceiling Hondo’s shouted, “welcome y’all!”

To my right was the long, well-seasoned bar that had served up many a Lone Star and Shiner Bock over the years. A traditional-style barroom mirror filled the wall behind the bar and bottles of Tequila, Jack Daniels and other liquid sedatives.

To the left two Texas troubadours were on-stage just finishing their version of “Take it Easy” by the Eagles, then smoothly transitioned to something by Willie and the boys.

I could have chosen the fried chicken sandwich in a traditional fried chicken batter, or an

appetizer of spinach and pepper dip with a large platter of shoe string onion rings, traditional fries and sweet potato fries, but I didn’t. I took the advice of the bartender and went for the famous Donut Burger with a poblano pepper sauce.

 

The sauce looked like a light colored thousand island dressing with chopped poblano peppers, but it wasn’t. That spicy sauce made the burger something special and with the grilled peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and a basket of homemade potato chips dusted with parmesan cheese, ooh, I was good for the night. I didn’t even take the time to look for the “donut hole” in the middle of the burger before taking it down . . . it was the kind of meal that would have made Hondo proud. It sure made me smile.

 

mike






  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always check TourTexas.com for the latest Texas travel information, to order Texas travel guides and for Texas tourist information.



TOUR TEXAS: Let's Go To Luckenbach,Texas

Saturday, November 12, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man



Its name was made legend in a song. Luckenbach.

Over the years the stories, the music, and the history have all combined to give this iconic community between Fredericksburg and Boerne an image that any place would have a tough time living up to.

I had no idea what to expect as I turned onto the Luckenbach Town Loop off of Ranch Road 1376.  I rounded the final curve in the narrow road and there it was . . . a spread of old-style tin-roofed barnwood buildings set beneath towering shade trees and surrounded by rows of motorcycles, SUVs and pickup trucks. Welcome to Luckenbach!

It could have been a movie set, but this was the place of “blue eyes cryin’ in the rain…”.

luckenbach

The dust rose in puffs around my boots as I walked toward the Post Office. A tourist sat on the front porch of the historic old wooden building. A sign overhead read “U.S. Post Office, Luckenbach, Texas, 1850-1971”. We both nodded as I walked past.

The path I picked led to a live acoustic guitar venue where a single performer played his Texas tunes to a small audience of appreciative guests. Like me, some were first timers, while others were regulars who come to Luckenbach when they feel the urge to leave it all behind for an hour or two, listen to a little Country music and sip on a cold Lone Star.

The smell of barbecue filled the air as I took a quick look into the nearby dance hall with its well-worn hardwood floor and array of overhead string lights.  This was the stuff that memories are made of. Some of Texas’ most well known performers have sung their songs here. Ray Benson, Gary P. Nunn, Charlie Robison, and Willie’s daughter Paula Nelson were set for gigs around the holidays. I closed my eyes and could almost hear them among the sound of revving Harley’s and children playing in the manicured glade across the creek.

As the web site reads, “ Luckenbach . . . A Texas state of mind, where you can kick back, relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life—like a step back in time.” That’s true, but for me it was more. It was a look at how Texas used to be and how many of us sometimes wish it still was.  Now that I’ve found it, let’s go to Luckenback, Texas . . . more often.

mike







  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always check in at TourTexas.com for the latest Texas Travel Information, for Texas Brochures and Travel Information.

TOUR TEXAS: Dilemma in Dobbin

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

I was torn. What would it be? What would it be?

I had heard that Holder’s Barbecue and Burgers was the best. Not just in Montgomery County, but among the best in Texas. 

The tales of Bobby Holder’s barbecue brisket sandwich were legend. I’d also been told stories about the juicy cheese burger and how people would drive for miles to his restaurant along Highway 105 in Dobbin between Montgomery and Plantersville. 

Holders

As I stood at the walk-up window waiting to place my order I couldn’t help but gawk at the décor. Hundreds of license plates from across the U.S. carpeted the rustic barnwood walls. A handwritten cardboard sign near the register read, “If You’re In A Hurry, Go To Houston!” 

I do love a good cheeseburger, but today the thought of a smoked barbecue brisket sandwich sounded real good. I got it with extra sauce, pickles, onions and pickled jalapenos. As a good friend of mine says, it was “mighty fine.” The brisket was piled high on a fresh bun and the sweet iced tea washed down a side of hot, crispy fries with ease.

The smoky sweet barbecue sauce worked its way into my mustache and ran down my chin. I didn’t even try to stop it. This was good Texas eatin’.

As I savored this roadside treat I took in the atmosphere. Seated to my right at a heavy wooden picnic table with names and hearts carved into its surface was a monk, a gypsy, and two civilians . . . obviously on the way the Texas Renaissance Festival a few miles to the east. A large ice house-style dining room and dance hall to the side featured a whiskey keg bar surrounded by barnwood walls and topped with a high rusty tin ceiling.

Deer and boar head mounts shared wall space along side neons and signs with slogans like, “Fish Naked . . . Show Off Your Bobbers”, and a bikini clad mannequin cowgirl on a balcony overlooking the scene.

The wooden floor had been intentionally designed to creak with the sound of a much older building and the wide garage doors across the way opened onto an oak shaded yard where live music plays when the weather cooperates.  This was the whole package.

The building, barbecue, burgers and Bobby Holder . . . It was a Texas-style treat for the senses, and a great outcome from my dilemma in Dobbin.

mike







  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always check TourTexas.com for the latest Texas Tourist Information, to get Texas Travel Brochures and more . . .

TOUR TEXAS: On Texas 35

Monday, October 3, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man
rockport

A short drive up the coast from Corpus Christi are the communities of Rockport and Fulton.

I had driven through several times over the years, but on this particular day I decided to stop and see what it was that many of my friends found so endearing about this part of Texas.

Sure, being on the Texas Gulf Coast in itself was a plus, but there had to be more. There had to be something else that draws guests by the thousands  . . . it didn’t take me long to find out why.

We came into Rockport down a drive of eclectic shops, restaurants and art galleries. The pastel colors, shingle signs, and wall murals were what you might expect from a quirky coastal community.

 My favorite wall art was a faded advertisement for The Cool Coast Camp. An almost folk art image of what appeared to be a giant sawfish was painted on a building along with a notation of its 17-foot length, 6 ½ foot width and 2,000 lbs. weight. To the side it read free admission, and at the bottom was brushed, “Hamburgers and Ice Cream”. I love this stuff!

Our next stop was the marina with row after row of gulf worthy vessels, some with masts, others without, but all really cool for a guy who has spend very little time on the water. Nearby were the public beach and the Texas Maritime Museum. A boater told me that the Museum was the site of the annual Rockport Festival of Wine & Food, and was filled with stories about the rich maritime history of Texas. He had me at wine and food.

From there my Texas Travelin’ Gal and I drove over to the neighboring community of Fulton with its resort-style homes and hidden getaways. It was there that we happened upon the incredible Fulton Mansion, completed in 1877. 

With an architectural design reminiscent of the Addams Family with a Texas flare, the Fulton Mansion offers a rare glimpse into the posh Victorian world of a prominent South Texas family during the days when central heating, interior gas lighting and flush toilets were a novelty here.

From birding and fishing, to shopping for art treasures, or just relaxing in the salty breeze, I now have a better understanding of why my buddies like this part of the state. The Rockport/Fulton area is now on my list of places to spend more time when traveling along the south Texas coast on Texas 35.


mike









Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man


Alway use TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Family Vacations in Texas and Texas Brochures.

TOUR TEXAS: Mini Mass in Warrenton

Sunday, September 25, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

It has sat quietly along Highway 237 between Warrenton and Round Top for more than a century - a tiny sanctuary for reviving the soul and praising the Lord.

At just over 250 square feet, Saint Martin’s is said to be the World’s smallest Catholic Church. The simple white frame structure is home to an equally small congregation that meets there for Mass once a month.

st martin

From the hardwood floor - worn smoothed from years of wear, and twelve small bench pews, to the exposed roof beams and traditional bell steeple above, this pint sized house of worship may be simple in construction, but it’s filled with the Spirit.

On either side of the ornate gold and white painted alter are iconic symbols Catholicism: the Virgin Mary, Christ and a Crucifix, and a large oil painting of St. Martin – Patron Saint of soldiers. There are vases of fresh and silk flowers, and framed words of wisdom.

A hand-written note lay on the Alter – an open letter to God. Though short on words, the message was strong. “Almighty Father. Empower the Holy Spirit to help us with decisions that we have to make at this time. Sweet Jesus, give strength to our daughter and her family to cope with having a very special daughter, our RETT ANGEL. Thank you Lord for all you have given us, especially our children.”

The double doors to Saint Martin’s are always open to visitors, and an expectedly small donation box is there for those wanting to support the upkeep of this tiny treasure, home of the mini-Mass in Warrenton.



mike






Michael Baxter is the Texas Travel' Man


Always check  TourTexas.com for Texas City Maps, Texas Brochures, Texas Tourist Information and more.

TOUR TEXAS: God's Glass

Sunday, September 25, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man



Small Texas towns. What’s not to like about them? Maybe it’s a special shop, restaurant, historical site or the town “character” you meet at the gas station that makes the visit memorable. But, on this day it was more. It was the white limestone church on the hill with its steeple towering above twisted old trees. It was the historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Round Top.

Dedicated in 1866, the church was designed in an old world style by Carl Bauer, a German immigrant who moved to Texas along with so many others during that time. The $2,400 cash needed to construct the building was collected by the congregation and all the inside furnishings – from the altar covering to the massive pulpit Bible and Crucifix - were donated.

church

For more than 140-years, music has lifted high into the sky around Round Top every Sunday from the handmade cedar pipe organ that still plays from the balcony overlooking the sanctuary. Its 408 hand-shaped pipes were crafted from cedar trees grown nearby.

On the gently sloping turf to the rear is the church cemetery.  There are the headstones marking the final resting places of church founders, Texas war veterans, children taken by illness and more. It’s the history of Round Top there to ponder.

As impressive as the building, its contents, and its long history are, one element within the church spoke to me like no other; God’s glass . . . the stained glass windows that have inspired congregations for generations.

Shades of blue and purple are wrapped in bands of gold and orange. Diamond shaped panels spray a rainbow of colors onto worshippers seated in the well-worn wooden pews below.

Each window displays its own distinctive biblical message in a circular pattern among the diamonds. One features a lamb and pennant, another a cross and crown, and a third displays an open bible with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. The image of two carved stone tablets with the Roman numerals “I, II, III, IV . . . X” share another window with crossed trumpets announcing “Ye Praise the Lord”. It is an emotionally moving display of spiritual art created by devout German believers in small town Texas at the end of the Civil War.

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church is at 409 S. White Street, just a block or two off Highway 237 in Round Top. You can’t miss it . . . just look for the steeple on the hill and God’s glass in the walls.


mike






 Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man


Always check TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Information, Texas City Maps and more.

Whiskey and Steaks on Josephine Street

Saturday, September 24, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

TOUR TEXAS: Whiskey. Steaks. Whiskey. Steaks.

I’ve made the Josephine Street Café in San Antonio a regular stop for more than 25-years. It’s the kind of place that locals flock to every day and tourists happen upon by accident or on the recommendation of someone who knows good food.

I can remember twenty-five years ago asking the concierge at the Hilton Riverwalk where I might find a good restaurant where the locals eat. He told me to go out of the driveway, then down Broadway, take a left at the Pearl Brewery and look for the flashing signs that read “Whiskey, Steaks, Whiskey, Steaks” . . . he added “park under the freeway and order the steak”.

Josephine Street Cafe

Since that first outing little has changed at the Josephine Street Café and I wouldn’t visit the Alamo City without a steak and Shiner Bock in a corner booth there.

On this trip a buddy and I settled in around sunset. I didn’t even have to look at the menu. It was the 16 oz. T-bone steak with mashed potatoes, white gravy and a single, large onion ring that spoke to me.

Regular customers and first-timers continued to come and go on the well worn hardwood floor as classic county music played overhead. The old wooden bar along one wall was busy with orders for Texas craft beers, Budweiser and mixed drinks. A waitress patiently waited behind the tree that pierces the dining room floor and ceiling, while a group of customers made their way to their table.

I really love this place. It’s like Cheers with history. From the wait staff to the customers, Texas friendly is the norm and the food is consistently the primary reason for coming.

My steak, topped with seasoned butter, was done just right, and went down great with the ice cold Texas beer from the little brewery about two hours to the east of San Antonio.

My friend and I talked about this and that, watched the diners as they enjoyed their meals, and laughed at the passing convertible party bus decorated with Lone Star and Schlitz beer signs. It was a great night to be in San Antonio.

That’s when our waitress suggested the “best apple pie and ice cream in the entire state of Texas”… come on, who could pass that up? Not me.

Several minutes later the large slice of homemade apple pie with an equally large scoop of Bluebell vanilla was set down on our table. It was awe inspiring . . . a sugary golden crust over cinnamon laced baked apples, and a layer of melting Texas tradition.

The Josephine Street Café is San Antonio. It’s one of those places where the locals congregate to have a good time over a great meal or a brew or two. It’s my go-to place when passing through and I can’t wait to try the ribeye on my next trip to town. I might even have another slice of apple pie.

mike








Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always visit TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Guides, Family Vacations and more.



TOUR TEXAS: It's Football Season in Texas

Monday, September 5, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

tailgate

Fall in Texas. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there’s color in the leaves, and other times no so much. This year it’s been a lot like the scorching, dry summer that has preceded it. But despite what nature may serve up in any given year, fall in Texas is legendary for two things . . . football and the tailgate parties that come before the action on the field.

From the Pros to college, and high school to youth leagues, tailgating is a statement. It’s an art. It’s the opportunity to experience a shared interest with a few friends or a few hundred. It’s a serious part of fall football and no one does it better than Texas.

An Aggie by marriage, I was invited to make the trip to College Station recently to watch the SMU Mustangs go head-to-head with Texas A&M. I had never been to a game at Kyle Field so I was really looking forward to the contest.  

Dressed in my recently purchased maroon and white, I was ready for the game, but not for all the pre-game parties that I found clustered throughout the campus. It was the sort of thing that I had heard about from die-hard fans for years, but not even my fertile imagination would have done justice to the real thing.

Row after row of Aggie logoed pop-up tents cozied up to motor homes, folding chairs, ice chests, smokers and barbecue pits fired by Kingsford charcoal or 12-inch splits of hardwood. I’m sure that there were some Hank Hill propane aficionados somewhere, but they were well hidden from the purists among the shrubs and pick-ups.

I joined a group of Aggie tailgaters, not be confused with LSU “tailgators”, in a parking lot several long blocks from Kyle Field for a bit of pre-game revelry prior to kick-off.  The “Saw-em-Off Rangers” were a blend of alums, current students, family and friends brought together for an evening of football frenzy. Some had game tickets, while others would cheer their team on gather around the large flat-screen TV attached to the rear of the massive maroon and white tailgater trailer.

With the smell of smoke and barbecue from surrounding parties in the air, pans of well-seasoned beef and chicken fajitas were set out on our tables along with warm tortillas, guacamole, pico and more. Homemade desserts like chocolate iced Rice Krispy Treats and Jamie’s Whoop Pies – maroon-colored red velvet delights with sweet sour cream icing between the muffin top layers – provided a balance.

Large chests filled with iced cans of the official beverage of Texas were bottomless, as was the camaraderie. Washers were tossed at holes in plywood game squares much like horseshoes at posts. Footballs were flung overhead and maroon porta-potties soon filled to capacity. It was a great day to be on the campus of Texas A&M University.

Football season in Texas is short lived, but its long standing traditions live on. The rivalries are fierce and time spent together at the tailgate party deepens old friendships and creates new ones.

 If nothing more, grab a bucket of spicy wings, a six-pack of Shiner 102 and a buddy, drop the tailgate on your pick up or set a card table in the driveway, then crank up a game on the radio . . . It’s how we celebrate here. It’s football season in Texas.


Mike







  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always check TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Guides, Family Vacations and more.

TOUR TEXAS: The Taste of Catfish on My Lips

Monday, August 29, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man


In 1984, Vernon and Mary Bowers opened Kuntry Katfish with just ten tables and seating for forty. Today the Conroe landmark on Highway 105 has grown to three simply decorated dining rooms filled with catfish connoisseurs seven days a week.

I could have had a fried shrimp platter, frog legs or crawfish etouffe. I could have filled up on chicken fried steak with cream gravy or a half-pound Kuntry burger. But, when you venture beyond the end of your driveway to an eatery with the word “Katfish” in its name, you order the catfish.
 
Vernon

I’ve eaten at Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish before, so I waited in mouth watering anticipation for the first course – a plate filled with hot southern hushpuppies fresh from the fryer and a bowl of signature pickled green tomato relish. . . oh, baby! 

The combination of those hot, crispy fried cornbread balls and the sweet and spicy tang of relish conjured up images of fishin’ poles and lazy green rivers, while “Mountain Music” by the band Alabama wafted from the speakers overhead.

When my order arrived I took a moment to enjoy the aroma and the presentation before me.  Five large, corn meal crusted catfish fillets were fried to golden perfection and stacked on a mound of homemade, skin-on fries. The freshly made tartar sauce only delivered more hits of deep south memories of my kidhood. As on previous visits to Vernon’s, my greasy fingers and I were lovin’ it.

Bite after bite soon made me realize that once the plate had been emptied there would be no room Vernon’s signature desserts. I love the homemade banana pudding, pecan cobbler, and brownies with ice cream, but this was the right decision for this particular visit. Catfish had brought me here and I would leave with the taste of catfish on my lips.

There are lots of good catfish restaurants across Texas. Mel’s in Tomball, Catfish Charlie’s in Corpus Christi, and the Clear Springs Restaurant in New Braunfels top my list. But today I was satisfied with the hushpuppies, tomato relish and tasty fillets that I found in Conroe, Texas.

 

Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish is at 5901 Old Highway 105 W. in Conroe. Visit www.kuntrykatfish.com for a look at the menu. 

    mike






  Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man


Always come to TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Family Vacations - Texas, Texas Travel Guides and more.


TOUR TEXAS: They Were Way Too Cool For Me!

Sunday, August 28, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

TOUR TEXAS: They Were Way Too Cool For Me!

I had lunch with Bill Haley and the Comets, Rick Nelson and the Four Tops the other day . . . no, not in rock and roll heaven; at the City Diner & Oyster Bar in downtown Corpus Christi.

The City Diner has been a landmark for decades with an eclectic look of art deco architecture and a ’50-style black and white pallet. It’s a sort of Mel’s Drive-In with an attitude and no curb service.

We were led to our table past an open mesquite grill used on steaks and juicy mega burgers. There were miles of stainless steel, pink and white neon, and gray-topped tables paired with vinyl covered chairs and booths. As they used to say - it was a serious blast from the past.

A wall along side our corner booth was covered with framed yearbook pages and class photos from the 50s and 60s including an 8x10 black and white image of everyone’s favorite Angel, Farrah Fawcet. She must have been 18 or so, and a cutie even before the infamous red swimsuit pin-up poster.

While waiting for our meal to be delivered by a waitress whCity Dinero called me “hon”, my Texas Travelin’ Gal and I took in the atmosphere and listened to classic oldies like “Poison Ivy”, “Rock Around the Clock”, and “Blue Velvet”. We heard the Everly Brothers explain in song how little Suzy’s goose was cooked, her reputation was shot. So sad for Suzy, but my lunch was here!

Loaded with cheese, pickles, onions, jalapenos, lettuce and tomato, on a fresh bun, the quarter pound “Greasy Burger” was just as advertised . . .”A Hamburger should be a little greasy or it’s just not a Hamburger”, the menu read. The mesquite grill in the lobby had done its job well. Bring on the big, thick chocolate malt and this diner delight could not have been better.

Lunch at the City Diner was a tasty trek back to the time of real American music and messy burgers, black and white wall tiles and touches of maroon in a black and gray carpet. It was an escape from cookie cutter menus and eateries found along the freeway from Orange to El Paso. It was the kind of place where Arthur Fonzarelli or Danny Zuko would have hung out with Sandra Dee, Connie Francis and the Texas Travelin’ Man.

Who am I kiddin’? They were way too cool for me!

 

The City Diner is at 622 North Water Street in downtown Corpus Christi.


mike







   Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man


Always come to TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Guides, Texas Travel Information and more.

TOUR TEXAS: You're Gonna Like It!

Sunday, August 28, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man




The Busy Bee Café sits alongside the railroad tracks in old Pearland. Though the building looks relatively new, a sign over the door reads, “A Texas Tradition Since 1935”.

We found the Busy Bee Café by accident while cruising through Pearland looking for cool “stuff” to write about for this blog, and as is often the case . . . it just “spoke to me”. “Hey buddy . . . yeah, you in the red pickup. Try me out. You’re gonna like it!”

Busy Bee

My wife called the surroundings cute. Straight-back wooden chairs at café-style tables beneath an open ceiling, and giant Lone Stars and Texas memorabilia hung on the walls. The hand-dipped Dreyer’s ice cream station at the counter was an unexpected surprise. That’s when the café spoke to her, “Hey lady . . . yes you with the old guy on a mission. Try me out. You’re gonna like it.”

There was an awesome list of Texas-style comfort foods surrounded by local advertising from front to back in the brown paper menu. An ad for Long’s Auto Repair and Wrecker Service was posted above the heading BREAKFAST SERVED ALL DAY, and smaller spots for Studio Five Eighteen Salon and Right Price Movers were paired with the list of  thirteen burgers and sandwiches, and five poor boy combinations … all “served with fries or chips”. I was going to like this place.

The waitress was small town friendly and offered suggestions from the fried catfish and baked potato stuffed with taco meat or barbecue beef, to homemade meatloaf and smothered chicken. But today was one of those days when you have to say to yourself . . . let’s do it.

I ordered the house specialty - chicken fried steak with white gravy. My sides were fried okra and fried green tomatoes, and the most incredible homemade corn casserole that I had ever eaten . . . ever. The top was crispy, it was filled with giant kernels of whole corn, and the flavor . . . it was oh, so tasty. Just like grandma never used to make.

Stuffed with the entrees we only sampled the old-style cornbread and rolls, but did take a couple of containers filled with blackberry cobbler for the road. Hours later they were still amazing.

If the Busy Bee Café has been serving meals like this for more than 70-years, it’s no wonder why it’s been a Texas tradition since 1935. It will no doubt become a tradition for me when traveling through Pearland in the days ahead. It spoke to me.  It said, “You’re gonna like it,” and it was right.

The Busy Bee Café is at 4009 West Broadway in Pearland, Texas 77581. Call ahead at 281-485-8690.

mike







   Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man

Always come to TourTexas.com for your Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Guides, Family Vacation Guides and more.





Tour Texas: The Artist and the Rail Rider

Sunday, July 17, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

Though he looks like an early twentieth century Station Agent, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad.

 

His well groomed gray beard and wire-rimmed glasses are a reminiscent of a time when the City of Tomball, Texas was a rural community of farmers, prosperous businessmen and employees of the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad.

Ken and depot

 

The dark suit with a pin-striped vest, and gold pocket watch are just what I would have expected to see at the station more than 100-years ago as he stepped forward to meet steam locomotives at the platform with loads of freight and passengers.

 

No, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad, but this life long train enthusiast still knows more about riding the rails than most . . . after all, Ken is the fact-filled historian of the Tomball Depot and museum.

 

An illustrator by trade, Ken spends every Sunday afternoon in the restored Tomball Depot by the tracks that run from Galveston northward as they have more than a century. He told me that as a volunteer he regularly shares stories with locals and tourists who wander by for a look or maybe to shoot a photo or two by the old caboose nearby.


caboose low res

 

He tells the tales of how the Depot was the first building constructed in the tiny railroad town of Peck, Texas, and how on December 2, 1907 Peck was renamed Tomball after Thomas Henry Ball, the man responsible for bringing prosperity to town by way of the railroad in the late 1800s.

 

Ken’s original hand-drawn illustrations of the old depot, a grandfather walking hand-in-hand with his young grandson along the tracks and other railroad-themed art hang throughout the building. 

 

It was while looking at this art that Ken introduced me to a frequent visitor to the station. His name was Frank, but he's known as Doug or “Thug” depending on what part of the country he was in.  “Frank here is an honest to goodness hobo,” he told me. “He and his wife stop by to say hello when they are passing through.”

 

Frank smiled and nodded in my direction. His salt and pepper gray bearded face showed the many years of  riding the rails. His hands were rough and scarred from fights and grabbing for moving box cars as they rolled down the line.  His soiled t-shirt  was an obvious souvenir from the road promoting a Gulf Oil gas station in Reno, Nevada . . . “Home of the $4.99 Oil Change!”.

 

For an hour I listened as Frank told Ken and me tales from the rails. I heard about the hobo camps, life-long friendships and ruthless gangs. The rail yard “Bulls”, or police, that helped the riders and those who would beat them down just for fun. Frank told us about climbing on a train in Magnolia almost 20-years ago and waking up somewhere in New Mexico the next day, then jumping another to wind up in California a day later.

 

It was a lifestyle that most of us would never image for ourselves, though an occasional thought of leaving it all behind has certainly crossed my mind over the years.

 

I asked Frank why and he simply said, “I got tired of working all day and giving my money to the government.” Then after a short pause he added, “I can go anywhere that I want for free, and Ive got nobody to stop me.” With that he said goodbye and left the depot for destinations unknown. Ken told me that Frank would be back . . . he always came back when the wanderlust was out of his system.

 

We continued the depot tour. From the long wooden benches in one of the two original waiting rooms, to the authentic tin ceiling and paint colors both inside and out, the Tomball Depot is as close as can be to those first days more than a century ago. 

 

Typical period railroad décor is displayed on the two tone green walls of the depot among faded and rusted memorabilia from the golden age of rail travel. On exhibit are two gowns worn by Mrs. Thomas Ball to the Presidential inauguration of William McKinley in 1897, along with old handwritten Western Union messages, train orders and other documents found in the depot’s attic during restoration.

 

The old Tomball Depot is a treasure as is its caretaker. Ken Walden is passionate about the responsibility that he has accepted. But, the real adventure this day was meeting an honest to goodness hobo named Frank, or Doug, or Thug, who shared his stories of traveling the rails.

 

Tomball, Texas is 25-miles northwest of downtown Houston at FM 2920 and Highway 249. For more information, please visit http://www.ci.tomball.tx.us/, or call 281-351-5484.

 

Follow the Texas Traveilin' Man at TourTexs.com for stories about the real Texas. 

mike







  

Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin' Man at TourTexas.com

Tour Texas: Tee Pee Tourism

Thursday, July 14, 2011 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Vacationing with the family in the 1950s was a lot different from today. I remember rolling along two-lane highways in our white over turquoise Ford Fairlane while singing to rock and roll tunes on the AM radio. Our air conditioning was called 4-40 . . . that’s all four windows rolled down at 40 mile per hour. 

Bathroom breaks were on the roadside or the occasional small town along the route, and oh how we looked forward to the big billboards featuring images of pecan nut logs that read, “Stuckey’s . . . 100 miles”, “Stuckey’s . . . 99 miles”, “Stuckey’s . . . “. It was a great time to travel.teepee motel low res

A part of the adventure in those days was where you spent the night. Would the motel have a flashy neon marquee and a pool with green water or would the restaurant serve French toast with powdered sugar. Would the room smell like your grandma’s musty old closet, or would a roach the size of Zippo run across the ceiling after lights out? You never knew what to expect.

About 60 miles southwest of Houston in the laid back community of Wharton is a nostalgic tribute to those days long past. It’s the sort of place that many of may remember, but probably didn’t have the opportunity to stay in. It’s an old-style roadside motel with just ten units lined in a row like ten little Indians; after all this is the Tee Pee Motel.

Originally built in the early 1940s just off of what is now Highway 59, the Tee Pee Motel is the ultimate throw back to another time and has become a regional landmark. I had driven past it for years, but on this day decided to stop in for look. 

As I cruised by the towering arrows that dot the closely cut lawn I flashed back to when I was a kid. And, though I never stayed in one, I remembered seeing similarly painted concrete tee pees while on family vacations and in Travelogs.

The motel staff was friendly and jumped at the chance to show me what the interior of a modern day tourist tee pee looks like. I’m sure that Native Americans never traveled with free Wi-Fi access, cable TV, microwave, refrigerator and a coffee maker. Poor them. Lucky us.

The décor was nothing fancy, but the room was clean and smelled fresh . . . nothing like the buffalo hide and campfire smoke of the earlier models. Earth tone colors and Indian patterns filled the room. It was the kind of old skool getaway that folks should experience at least once in a lifetime if only to say that they had slept in a true blast from the past. 

After more than 70- years the Tee Pee Motel is one of only four original tee pee-style properties remaining in America, and it’s the only such lodge in Texas. It’s an icon from a simpler time. It’s the kind of place where I should have dozed off clutching my Red Rider with dreams of Roy and Dale. Maybe it’s not too late pardner. We’ll see.

Mike Mug

TOUR TEXAS: ALL ABOARD FOR THE MAGICAL HISTORY TOUR

Thursday, January 1, 1970 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

Though he looks like an early twentieth century Station Agent, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad.

 

His well groomed gray beard and wire-rimmed glasses are a reminiscent of a time when the City of Tomball, Texas was a rural community of farmers, prosperous businessmen and employees of the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad. Ken Walden and the Tomball Depot

 

The dark suit with a pin-striped vest, and gold pocket watch are just what one would expect to see at the station as he stepped forward to meet steam locomotives at the platform with loads of freight and passengers.

 

No, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad, but this life long train enthusiast still knows more about riding the rails than most . . . after all, Ken is the fact-filled historian of the Tomball Depot.

 

An illustrator by trade, Walden spends every Sunday afternoon in the restored Tomball Depot by the tracks that run from Galveston northward as they have more than 100-years. As a volunteer he regularly shares stories with locals and tourists who wander by for a look or maybe to shoot a photo or two by the old caboose nearby.

 

He tells the tales of how the Depot was the first building constructed in the tiny railroad town of Peck, Texas, and how on December 2, 1907 Peck was renamed Tomball after Thomas Henry Ball, the man responsible for bringing prosperity to town by way of the railroad in the late 1800s.

 

From the long wooden benches in one of the two original waiting rooms, to the authentic tin ceiling and paint colors both inside and out, the Tomball Depot is as close as can be to those first days more than a century ago. 

 

Walden’s original railroad illustrations decorate the two tone green walls of the depot among faded and rusted memorabilia from the golden age of rail travel. On exhibit are two gowns worn by Mrs. Thomas Ball to the Presidential inauguration of William McKinley in 1897, along with old handwritten Western Union messages, train orders and other documents found in the depot’s attic during restoration.

 

The old Tomball Depot is a treasure as is its caretaker. Ken Walden is passionate about the responsibility that he has accepted as he calls out, “All aboard for the magical history tour!”

 

Tomball, Texas is 25-miles northwest of downtown Houston at FM 2920 and Highway 249. For more information, please visit http://www.ci.tomball.tx.us/, or call 281-351-5484.

For Texas travel information about real Lone Star destinations and more, always visit tourtexas.com



Texas Travelin' Man

 









The Texas Travelin' Man is Michael Baxter