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Written by Texas Highways

Mt Pleasant

Mount Pleasant, in the northeast corner of Texas, combines history, unexpected cuisine, and beautiful scenery that go together just like iced tea, sugar, and lemon. It’s a small town that exudes Southern charm and hospitality but isn’t afraid to add in a dash of fun and whimsy.

When that road-trip itch needs scratching, I can always count on one friend to join me: my big mutt Max. He won’t beg off due to work commitments, because he’s too tired, or because he doesn’t have anything to wear. I never hear whining about where I want to go, either, because anyplace with me suits him just fine.

In Texas’ booming restaurant scene, new eateries seem to spring up overnight, and sometimes they fall by the wayside just as quickly. But one of my local favorites, Hickory Hollow in Houston, has managed to endure over the years, not by keeping up with the times but by offering the one thing that never seems to go out of style: old-fashioned comfort food.

Hangar6CafeKBS23

For most of us, it wouldn’t occur to drive out to a town’s airport just to eat. But then again, most towns don’t have an airport café as enjoyable as the Hangar 6 Air Cafe in Uvalde. Longtime aviation veteran Mark Huffstutler and his son-in-law Eric Reyes launched Hangar 6 Air Cafe at Uvalde’s Garner Field Airport in July 2016, and the restaurant’s charm, nostalgia, and “just plane good” food attract pilots and drivers from near and far.

YauponTeaKBS28Jason Ellis, an ardent forager and naturalist, has long been passionate about organics. In fact, his East Austin home, within a half-mile of both Boggy Creek Farm and Springdale Farm, boasts a front yard full of edible plants, fruit trees, and even a flock of domestic ducks in a large hog-wire pen.

Cisco, Texas welcome sign

Cisco’s downtown was bustling with Christmas shoppers on Dec. 23, 1927. One was college student Lela Latch, accompanied by her younger brother Bill. In a television interview decades later, she recalled that Bill, age 6, approached a man dressed as Santa Claus to declare his Christmas wish– a football in a nearby store window.

Comfort’s effect on me during my recent visit mirrored my thoughts on my first trip more than 20 years ago: This little Hill Country burg—about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio and 25 miles south of Fredericksburg—couldn’t have been named more appropriately, and its inherent sense of ease makes me think I could happily stay forever.

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While gourmet coffee on Madison Avenue in New York City may sell for $24 a serving, you can sip a similar cup for $2 in the Eastland County town of Cisco at Waverly’s Coffee & Gifts, a cozy refuge in the center of this newly percolating community. “There are New York, Seattle, and Austin coffee shops. We are a Texas coffee shop,” says proprietor Sean Grose, who started a new life here in 2012 with his wife and daughter.

Cyclists pass through Pecan Grove, TX

The narrow Hill Country road drops toward a low bridge over a small creek. I coast on my bicycle, faster than I ever have before, scanning the pavement in front of me for potholes, tires humming, the wind blowing in my face. It feels exhilarating. I zip across the bridge and make it halfway up the short ascent before losing momentum.

A few ways to save money on the road like a pro.I try to think of myself as a wise and thrifty traveler. I stay in $50 motels instead of $100 ones because that means I can afford to stay out on the road twice as long. Besides, who needs all those pillows?

Ice Land at Moody Gardens

What: Ice Land: Rainforest Holiday

Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX

When: Through January 7, 2018

The holiday spirit blends with the tropics this year during Galveston’s annual chilly spectacle, Ice Land. Each fall, a team of expert ice carvers from Harbin, China, travels to the Texas island to spend more than a month creating a labyrinth of ice sculptures. This year’s Rainforest Holiday theme takes visitors through a colorful maze of equatorial delights, including playful monkeys, exotic birds, and flitting butterflies. Take a ride down a giant ice slide (it’s fun for kids and adults alike), while the 21-and-over set can sidle up to the Shivers Ice Bar for spirited refreshments. While it may be a challenge to have a true “White Christmas” in the Lone Star State, you can at least experience a cold one: The 28,000-square-foot space is kept at a bone-chilling 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Parkas are provided for the unprepared.

Photo: © Hogaboom Road, Inc.

Finding the boundary between Texas and Mexico isn’t as simple as locating the Rio Grande. As I discovered on my trip to Laredo, the border between these lands is more of a gradual blending, where the best parts of Texan and Mexican traditions mix and fill the area with history, food, and pride that’s truly unique.

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