A Tasty Trip Across the Lone Star State
By Eva Eldridge
Most of my trips through Texas involve changing plans in Dallas or Houston. I drove through Texas once and spent a little time with a friend, but I didn’t explore the area. In 2016, my husband and I decided to drive to Galveston the week between Christmas and New Year so we could explore the state. I had hoped to write about several noteworthy attractions, but Texas is a big state and we spent a lot of time driving. One of the things we did get to explore was the food available in Texas.
We wanted to see Fort Davis and the surrounding Davis Mountain area. On the way we turned off of I-10 onto Highway 90 which takes you through Marfa. Marfa is one of those towns you hear about, but besides reading a few things on the internet, I didn’t know much about it. I wanted to snoop around and find the art galleries and museums, but it was Christmas Eve and everything closed at 2:00 pm. We were hungry and ended up at Buns ‘N Roses Flowers Gifts & Bakery on the outskirts of Marfa. What a surprise this metal fabrication yard and Quonset hut restaurant turned out to be. The place was busy, even on Christmas Eve. The waitress was funny and the bakery goods were delicious. We had cheesy grits and eggs after indulging in a flaky apple turnover.
The patrons were as friendly as the staff. A local gentleman claimed to have experienced the lights of Marfa back in his youth while hunting rabbits with his buddy. The strange, mysterious, ghostly lights have been reported since the 1880’s. During the 2000’s, studies were done to verify the existence of the lights, but the results were disappointing. Most of the data indicated the lights were caused by weather conditions and motorists along Highway 67. I don’t think that explains the sightings in the 1880’s, but that’s a subject for another article. After our delightful breakfast we headed to Ft. Davis.
We checked into the Butterfield Inn, a quaint little hotel that includes an antique shop, separate cabins for its visitors, and is dog friendly. Since it was late afternoon and everything had closed for Christmas, we decided to drive through the Davis Mountains. The McDonald Observatory operates four telescopes for the University of Texas, Austin, on Mt. Locke and the surrounding mountains. The observatory produces StarDate, a nationally syndicated radio program. Because of the holiday, we weren’t able to visit, but we did find a wooded area to stop and have a late afternoon picnic.
On Christmas day, we were looking for a place to have breakfast and ended up in Alpine at Penny’s Diner. They served great coffee with fine eggs and bacon. It was a decent way to start off a day driving through the state. We headed towards Del Rio to see the large lake that meanders amongst the hills between the border of Texas and Mexico. If we had time, it would have been a nice spot to indulge in water sports.
After a night on the east side of San Antonio, we headed to Galveston. For lunch, we stopped at Corelli’s in Sugar Land. The aroma of garlic tickled our senses as we were seated. Our meals of Pollo Trapni, a chicken and pasta dish, and Four Cheese Ravioli with caramelized onions and pesto was amazing. I didn’t expect to find such fine Italian dining in a strip mall on the outskirts of Houston. I want to go back.
In Galveston, we stayed with friends on the beach in a vacation rental that had enough beds to sleep at least twelve people. Located two houses from the beach, we had a nice view of the ocean despite the fog. A little fog didn’t stop us from walking miles along the nice hard packed sand. Most of the houses in this area are elevated on stilts, which tell their own story of surging ocean and wind.
One afternoon we went into old Galveston to do a little touristy stuff, but mostly we just went in to try one of the local restaurants. We stopped by Shrimp ‘N Stuff for lunch. We shared an appetizer called Besitos (little kisses) which was gulf shrimp stuffed with pepper jack cheese and wrapped in bacon. My husband, Jeff, had a crab cake sandwich and I enjoyed a delicious shrimp salad with tender shrimp and crisp vegetables. I’m picky about my shrimp salad and this one was the best I’ve ever had.
We decided to drive home on I-10 and try and make it back by New Year’s Eve. We made it as far as Sonora, Texas, between San Antonio and El Paso. A friend recommended stopping by the Caverns of Sonora. This is a privately own cavern that is open to the public for tours and photo tours. Our guide, Bill, has worked there for more than twenty-five years and was very knowledgeable about the history and the progression of the caves. They are live caves, meaning they are still making formations. Be prepared for warmth and high humidity, but it was worth the 1.75 mile, 350 stair steps tour. The formations were varied and beautiful, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It took about ninety minutes to wind our way through the caverns, and worth every step.
Our last notable stop in Texas was the Cattleman’s Steak House at Indian Cliffs Ranch in Fabens. We turned off I-10 at exit 49 onto a very dark road with no markings. It felt like a scene out of a scary movie, but we persisted. A few miles later, we round a curve, see lots of lights ahead, and hoped we had reached our destination. The ranch is a working cattle ranch and movie location where Glory Road, The Day After Tomorrow, Courage Under Fire, Lone Wolf McQuade, The Border and others movies were filmed. The restaurant was busy and we had a thirty minute wait for a table. It was Friday night and the folks of El Paso knew where to get a good meal. The steak was flavorful, the beans were tasty, and the drinks weren’t watered down. It is a place that interested me and I would like to explore it more, but we needed to keep moving.
I feel I’m not doing justice to all the things Texas has to offer, but unless you have unlimited time, it’s hard to fit everything in. As I said earlier, Texas is a big state and it has a lot to offer in good food and activities.
Eva Eldridge is a contributing writer for Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine and Spirit of America Magazine. Along with travel and lifestyle articles, she also writes fiction and poetry. Visit www.EvaEldridge.com.