As 2018 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the 10 most-read stories of the year on texashighways.com.

Has Brenham Become the Hamptons of Texas?

There aren’t enough synonyms for “quaint” in describing Brenham, that rare landlocked town that feels like it should have a lighthouse. Arranged around an Art Deco courthouse which, built in 1939, is one of the newer buildings downtown, Brenham keeps history in its place.

Cast Away Your Cares on Six Texas Islands

“Islands will always be places we project onto,” writes Judith Schalansky, the German author and designer of Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands. Their inaccessibility is part of their allure, the crossing over water a literal rite of passage—the more remote, the more deserted, the better. And Texans have options: From my experience, you can pitch a tent on the mud, sand, and weeds of islands in East Texas rivers; string up a hammock between bald cypress trees on a crescent-shaped gravel bar on a Hill Country stream; and lug your gear across the wooden footbridge at Martin Creek Lake State Park near Tatum to spend a night among the pines on an island ringed by a short hiking trail.

Scale Five Peaks in One Week on This Epic West Texas Road Trip

A mile or two into my hike to the top of Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains, I stepped to the side of the trail as two speedsters overtook me on the uphill slope. “I guess that’s where we’re headed,” I said, nodding to a rocky outcrop on the horizon far above. “Nope,” one of them responded. “Baldy Peak is beyond that—you can’t see it yet.”

At Paisano Ranch, the Spirit of J. Frank Dobie—and the Muses—Abide

My personal slice of Texas paradise lies 14 miles southwest of Austin, tucked into the idyllic canyon that cradles an immaculate stretch of Barton Creek. The Paisano Ranch is a 245-acre retreat owned by the University of Texas at Austin, and it has been awarding fellowships to a few select writers every year since 1967. My lucky number came up in 2010 when I spent three blissful summer months nestled in this sanctuary.

Trust Us: There’s More Than Big Steaks and Buried Caddys in Amarillo

When I think of my Amarillo childhood, I think about Boots’n Jeans. Not the attire, but the retail store. The rustic wooden doors of Boots’n Jeans once beckoned shoppers beneath a life-size sculpture of a wild, rearing horse. Every year, for my birthday, my grandparents took me there for a new pair of ropers.

That was then. In the decades since, the store sold to a big corporation, transformed into a national Western-wear chain, and finally closed for good in 2016 after 43 years. A Jimmy’s Egg opened in its place a few months ago.

Why Every Woman Should Take a Solo Road Trip

One sunny morning in July, on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday, I slide into the driver’s seat of my car and head south. I pull onto the highway, a map of Texas in the passenger seat, like an ancient rune from a time before GPS, and I watch as the billboards turn unfamiliar and disappear. Big-box stores and strip malls turn to metal silos, oil refineries, and wheat fields.

Ray Wylie Hubbard Revisits the Snake Farm That Inspired His Famous Song

Any good songwriter knows when the muse strikes, write it down. For Ray Wylie Hubbard, it was maybe the 10,000th time he was driving southbound on Interstate 35 from New Braunfels toward San Antonio, passing Exit 182 at Engel Road and the so-big-you-can’t-miss-it sign that screamed “SNAKE FARM” in red and black letters. The words, meant to entice drivers to stop at the long-running roadside attraction, conjured the image of a farm full of snakes, and Hubbard physically shuddered.

An Unplugged Travel Challenge Through the Rio Grande Valley Leads to Unexpected Detours and Rewards

After U-turns on the edges of grapefruit groves, repeated pullovers to study our Rio Grande Valley street guide, and a precarious three-point turn on the narrow levee road where a border patrol truck blocks our path, we are really lost. Like so many wanderers before us, we are searching for La Lomita Mission, which a local history buff named Frank told me about at an Edinburg bar the night before. “Just travel the Old Military Highway that goes along the Rio Grande,” Frank said. What Frank didn’t say was that Military Highway, much like the river it runs along, is a trickster that stops, starts, and twists in unexpected ways.

History, Art, and Colorful Fall Foliage Distinguish the Great Plains Town of Canadian

Not far from the banks of the Canadian River, tucked among the River Valley Pioneer Museum’s artifacts of Panhandle ranching and railroad history, black-and-white portraits gaze from the gallery wall as if they’ve been waiting patiently for a century to look you in the eye.

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