With spring now in full blossom many are beginning to plan for summer vacations. My suggestion is (as has been for some time now) spend that time checking out the Lone Star State. Texas has much to offer, features a variety of climate and geographic regions and is awash with historic and natural wonders.
It has been 10 years since I embarked on an intensive 10-day, 3,100-mile journey circumnavigating the massive state. Along the way I visited 28 state and national parks and natural areas, discovering just how unique Texas is. General Motors was kind enough to loan me “LoneStar IV” for the trip, a special edition 2000 Chevy Suburban designed in a partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife at the time. That new version marked the 65th anniversary of Suburban for the automaker and May 3 they will mark 75 years for the model with NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson driving a special edition Suburban off the line at the Arlington GM assembly plant.
The paint scheme of LoneStar IV was quite unique and would soon be replicated by a certain “reporter” who travels the “Texas country.” A state flag design was painted onto the sides and hood with decals in the shape of longhorn cattle horns all around. I felt like a Texas ambassador and my arm got so tired from returning all the waves of passersby.
I drove in a counterclockwise direction around Texas and even at 10 days I did not hit all five corners ??? I had to sort of round off the furthest points west and south. I was snowed and sleeted on in the panhandle region and got sunburn just two days later in Big Bend. I almost lost a wheel coming down a mountain road near Fort Davis got uncomfortably close to live alligators in the wild near the Texas coast.
FM170 (aka the river road) near Big Bend remains one of my all-time favorite byways to travel in Texas and the road leading into the Chisos Basin in Big Bend is tops for sunsets. During winter there are bald eagles near Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River, with sightings also around the lakes of East Texas. Springtime, of course, is best spent in the Hill Country and its annual floral displays. The Pineywoods of East Texas help tame the summer sun and autumn shows its colors around Lost Maples State Natural Area west of San Antonio and the Guadalupe Mountains out towards El Paso. Galveston and Matagorda Island state parks are a great way to enjoy the beach and Garner State Park offers peaceful floats down the Frio River.
Palo Duro Canyon is Texas’ mini version of that big famous split in the ground out west and history almost comes alive in Seminole Canyon or the San Antonio missions. Scuba dive the clear waters of Balmorhea, sled down a sandy slope at the Monahans Sandhills or stare as a starry sky at McDonalds Observatory.
Texas has plenty to offer. See for yourself but I advise going a more leisurely pace than I did 10 years ago. Split the state into regions to explore on subsequent adventures and say “Howdy” to parts of the Lone Star State you never knew existed.