Is Anybody Going To San Antone? is one of those great country songs made famous by the incomparable Charley Pride. It’s about a guy escaping a bad relationship, trying to get away to San Antonio, Arizona, or just about anywhere to forget he’d ever known her. My recent trip to San Antonio wasn’t the result of a jilted lover, but had to do with a little family business. It had been several years since I’ve been down to that area of Texas. But instead of taking the trip down the much travelled I35 corridor, I decided to take the road less travelled and as Robert Frost would say “that has made all the difference”. And besides I35 is perpetually a work in progress. It is always being enlarged, reconstructed, reconfigured to the point of deep frustration. And then the traffic congestion…so with that in mind I decided to head down State
Highway 281 from Lampasas down south to the Alamo City. This part of the state is called the Texas Hill Country. Its been called the crossroads of West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas. Its also considered the beginning and the end of the Southwest U.S. It just depends on what direction you’re going.
And if you thought Texas was just flat prairie land or unrelenting deserts, you need to visit the Hill Country for breathtaking views of tall rugged hills composed of limestone and granite. Absolutely take in the domed granite formation near Fredericksburg called Enchanted Rock. It is the largest such pink granite monadnock in the U.S., rising 1,825 ft. above sea level. As I began driving, I found myself taking in the beautiful scenery. The Hill Country towns like Marble Falls, Burnet, and Boerne offered something unique as well – the niche shops you can only find here, that you won’t find travelling the concrete canyons of I35. And occasionally you’ll come across something from a bygone era – maybe a sign, memorabilia, or vintage Americana. And as far as restaurants, don’t be surprised if you see a Tex-Mex cantina adjacent to a German Hoffbrau, such are the
Demographer Frederick Day, said that ”the Hill Country life-style reminds one of the small towns of the recent past. The cost of living is pretty low. To people who have spent their work life in Houston or Dallas, the Hill Country is very attractive.” It is one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S. And I did notice perhaps an alarming trend on my road trip – the subdividing of farmland with these beautiful vistas into smaller parcels of gated communities. Yes, they’re coming, but at what cost? They’re trading goats, sheep, Whitetail deer, and Longhorn cattle for swimming pools and maybe movie stars. That’s why conservation easements are so important. Conservation easements are a fairly recent development in land conservation. They allow landowners to hold on to and use their property but permanently remove development rights in exchange
for tax benefits.
Any trip down State Highway 281, must take in the town of Johnson City – the birthplace of the 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson. The town acknowledges this in its welcome sign but to be honest it’s a little worse for wear. The town more than makes up for it by hosting the LBJ National Historical Park and the LBJ Ranch. Just think, this sleepy little town gave rise to at one time the most powerful person in the world - a man who pushed through a historic civil rights bill that even Kennedy had he survived arguably would not have been able to do. Such was the persuasion of LBJ. Of course, his undoing was Vietnam. He retired to his ranch in Johnson City. A man who counted bombing sites in North Vietnam was relegated to counting eggs that his hens had laid.
San Antonio beckons and it doesn’t disappoint. You simply can’t go to San Antonio without visiting two sites – The Alamo and the famed river walk (Paseo del Rio). The Alamo and the 1836 epic battle for it became a symbol of heroic resistance to oppression and struggle for independence. Davey Crockett, perhaps the most famous martyr, one famously said “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas”. When one visits, one is surprised by the smallness of it. The main iconic Franciscan church still stands along with a couple of outbuildings. What was left of the original structure had long been given over to downtown development. I recently read about a proposal to “Reimagine The Alamo”. I’ll pass, let me just “Remember the Alamo”, the battle cry that fueled Texas independence. I did find it odd that there was a Koi pond in
the back behind the Alamo. So much for historical accuracy. Just a stones throw away is the River Walk. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River one story beneath the streets of Downtown. Take a lovely stroll among shops and restaurants. Also stop for one of the best Margaritas you’ll ever drink.
Well the party’s over as that great Hill Country philosopher Willies Nelson sang. “But tomorrow starts the same old thing again”. Yes the trip back…through that wonderful Hill Country.