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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trip Report: Up 281 to Wichita Falls

I had talked to a few co-workers about the best route to take from San Antonio to Wichita Falls, and the general consensus was that 281 was the way to go. Beside the fact that the drive would be much more scenic, the chance of encountering huge construction delays was somewhat limited. I have to say though, I was slightly concerned that we might find ourselves locked behind an Old Man in a Hat taking a leisurely Sunday drive, or even scarier, finding ourselves locked in the pokey of a small town, arrested by a Jackie Gleason looking sheriff upset that I was transporting contraband of some sort. But, neither of these things happened, and we had a great drive.

It doesn't take long, but once you get as far as even Spring Branch, you have shed the congestion and growth of that 281 and 1604 area which, in my mind feels like the last place I would want to live. Suddenly, the bulldozers and tree removal operations are gone, and the beauty of the Hill Country comes into view. There is no doubt why so many people choose to flee the city and move north to places like Boerne, even if it means a longer drive to work. Having said that, I'll stick with Silver Creek for the time being.

There are so many small towns worth stopping in along the way and certainly enough that you could make an enjoyable day trip, if only to the Dairy Queen, or a Chicken Express or better yet, the Golden Chick!
The first place that we came across that really looked like we had to come back for a weekend was Marble Falls. Even though it was raining, we could see what a truly nice looking town it was, complete with Lake LBJ and Horseshoe Bay. I had heard of Marble Falls before, but just never made the connection that it would be such a nice looking place. We didn't stop, but I suspect we'll take a drive up sometime.

We did stop in Hico, a small town famous for an incredible piece of artwork. Supposedly, this is where Billy the Kid ended up. As such, the fine people of Hico (pronounced High-Co, so say my wife) and Erath County have developed a town square including a saloon, a museum, a big huge spur
and a really, unique, sculpture of, according to the brass plate, Billy the Kid.
I was amazed to learn that Erath is one of 36 Texas counties that are "Dry", which means they do not permit the sell of liquor. I have often thought this prohibition of sorts was really, anti-American, and even, anti-Texan. Just becasue I choose not to drink does not give me any cause to take away from your good time. (Okay. That was just an example. I rarely choose not to drink, but you understand my point). So anyway, as I pulled into a parking spot so as to get a closer look of this work of art, it occurred to me that the people of Hico and Erath county were on to something.

I am not the sole arbiter of good taste when it come to art, or anything else - hell, you should see what I wear in public sometimes. But you don't have to dip a crucifix in a cup of pee to for me to see the difference between good art and bad art. This sculpture looks as though it was either crafted by one-armed third graders or a group of really liquored up blind guys. (Please, no offense to any of the groups I may have just offended). I mean, seriously, had the plaque not identified the mass of hardened fecal matter as Billy the Kid, I might have suspected it was an interesting shaped meteorite that had fallen upon the town of Hico and warranted a night of binge drinking. So, hats off to the town fathers who voted to board the wagon and allow no further art displays.

Now there I've gone and yammered on about the Billy the Kid sculpture when there was a town with an almost equally offensive site to tell you about. Mineral Wells.

This is somewhat interesting to me, now that I have had a few days to digest what I saw and actually do a little research on the topic. As we first drove into town, it looked quaint, but slightly larger than some of the smaller towns we had passes through during the trip up 281N. As we approached, I honestly thought we had stumbled upon one of those facade towns created by Hollywood so that you could shoot some sort of horror film. I fully expected bats and even zombies to approach our vehicle at the first stop light.

The reason for this was the long vacant, and on the market if you'd care to make an offer, Baker Hotel. Along with the Baker, there is also the Crazy Hotel which is still occupied as an old folks home. Not suggesting that any of them are crazy, mind you. Compared to the rest of the landscape, both before and after our brief trip through Mineral Wells, the place just seemed totally depressed and, even without a huge sculpture of Billy the Kid, ugly. But as I say, now that I have had a few days to digest it, I think Mineral Wells deserves another chance, and I think I would enjoy a day trip just to take some pictures and explore the place a bit more.

The last place to tell you about before our arrival in Wichita Falls was just north of Mineral Wells and frankly, I don't think it was in a town at all. I have been doing some research since Friday to find any reference to this place with no luck, so I'm guessing that it is either new, or recently underwent a name change. The name of the place was the Hashknife on the Chisholm, and my wife and I both agree, we had the best, bar none, Chipped BBQ Beef sandwich, EVER!

There was another restaurant just across the street and it was really a flip of a coin as to which one to eat at. Luck was with us. According to the wife of the cook/owner, the name comes from the brand used by the great great-grandfather or something like that, who used to run cattle along the Chisholm Trail. But the only references to Hashknife I could find on the Internet were in reference to a ranch in Arizona. But I could have gotten it wrong. There is a Hashknife Bed & Breakfast in Abilene, but I have no idea if it is related. If you have some info, please let me know - I'd just like to be able to tell people exactly where it was and more about it.
We ordered the chipped beef sandwich, potato salad and a drink for about $6.00 each, and it was well worth it. We did wonder about whether it was chipped beef or chopped beef, but I guess they can call it what they want - it was good! And the potato salad was out of this world.

I don't mean to prattle on about this, but this place had it going on. We didn't indulge, but they had some nice looking pudding (that the owner gave free to some customers) and some cobbler that looked very inviting. Before we left, a young lady came in and ordered some ribs to take to her parents. When I got a look at the slab being wrapped in foil, I almost felt like staying for another round of eats. But we had to move on. After we ate, my wife got such a kick out of the poster in the Ladies room, that she had to take the camera with her to pee. Thankfully, there were no equally proportioned pin-ups in the Men's.

Seriously, if you have been to this place or know more about it, I'd love to do a follow-up report.

With lunch out of the way, we made the easy trip into Wichita Falls and just before we got to the base to see our daughter, I stopped in at the Texas Welcome Center. I couldn't let it go by without mentioning the lady (who I'm sorry I didn't get her name) who was so polite and truly helpful. We explained that were were in town for the weekend and asked what there was to do; she gave me a map and circled poiints of interest and directions and such. Just a wonderful representative to greet people visiting Texas and I intend to write a letter to the state agency that runs the place. This lady was great.

That's it for now. Tomorrow, I'll try to tell you about our visit to Sheppard AFB and a few of the places we saw. How was your recent trip?

1 comment:

Sid said...

Phew! Thought that was me in the poster, but I don't drink. Mine is "Body by Burger King." LOL!

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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