Seems Low Budget Review Guy grows restless these days judging by the number of reviews on traveling Texas.  Nice to see he gets out of his den of rum once in a while. And just to spite him, I will post this on Facebook as well as he refuses to use Facebook in some sort of stand against what is popular……..we leave him to his rum, but we always enjoy his LBR write ups

As a long-time history buff, I  recently took a  day trip from the Austin area to see some of the early sights of the struggles for Texas Independence.  Down 183 we traveled, past Lockhart, the BBQ capital of Texas with at least four quality BBQ places, through Luling, home of the world-famous annual Watermelon Thump festival (and has a water tower painted like a giant Chernobyl melon) to the scenic town of Gonzales,TX.  The pretty county seat of approx 8,000 people on the Guadalupe river, has one of those beautiful 1880-1900 County Courthouses that have undergone renovation.  The architecture is amazing.  It was one of the early settlements of Texas, founded in 1825 and considered as the far west frontier.  The Mexican government gave the settlers a cannon as protection from native-American tribes. As Texas Revolution sentiment grew hotter, the Mexicans sent a military force to repossess the cannon.  At a spot about 5 miles from town,  the Texas settlers faced down the Mexican troops with the loaded cannon and a flag with the words, “Come And Take it”.  The shots fired were the first of what would become the Texas Revolution and would eventually cost Mexico all the land now known as the Western US, including Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, etc. From such small actions do mighty countries grow.  There is a beautiful bas-relief monument close to the actual “battle” sight and a small road will take you the 1/8th mile trip to the actual sight.  Flyers in the courthouse will give you precise directions. Gonzales is also famous for the 32 men who left their homes and families to reinforce the Alamo in San Antonio.  It is believed they were the last volunteers to join the mission before it’s famous final stand.

From Gonzales, we traveled east about 5 miles and took a rough country road a couple of miles to see the famous, “Sam Houston” Oak.  This huge oak tree served briefly as a campsite for Houston and the ragtag Texas armed forces and civilians as they fled eastwards away from the Mexican Army.  They had received word that the Alamo had fallen from Susannah Dickinson, one of the few survivors of the Alamo.  Houston ordered the retreat in what became known as “The Runaway Scrape”.

From there it was just a short drive to the town of Shiner.  The “Cleanest Little Town in Texas” is home to Spoetzel Brewery, makers of world-famousShiner Beer (Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, and several others).  The town is in a river valley between the Lavaca and Guadalupe Rivers and has a population of around 2000.  Although we had dallied in the Gonzales area longer than planned, we just made the morning brewery tour, joining approximately 25 others in learning how the brewery makes its special liquid delights.  The tour was about 30 minutes and included several free beer tastings at the end.  A sip or two of their holiday season-only “Holiday Cheer” beer  along with a few others and perusing the small gift shop was well worth the trip.

While hunger pangs were starting to be noticed, we had miles to go. So back on the road we headed, with a brief stop at a local Shiner business called, “ Antiques, Art, and Beer” a truly unique business whose title pretty much sums it up.  What a great place!  We also stopped at Howard’s Convenience Store on the way out of town to grab a snack and some cokes while grinning at the  small area inside with 7 beers on tap. At a convenience store. Hilarious!

The last destination in mind was Goliad, but before we got there we stopped in Cuero for a late lunch.  Cuero is the county seat of DeWitt County and boasts another outstanding renovated Courthouse.  This town of 7000-plus has been known as a jump-off spot for Texas hunters for generations. This railroad-founded town of approx 1872   is also home to the famous “Turkey Trot” where they chase/race turkeys to the finish line.  Will have to make that festival one of these years. For you linguists, Cuero means “rawhide” in Spanish.  For lunch we stopped at Barbecue Station on the main street for a delicious lunch (A review on the BBQ will be a later post). We also stopped at the Pecan House, where you can buy a number of different types of pecans, shelled or unshelled, plus gift baskets, flavored pecans, jellies, sauces, marinades.  An unusual store. We bought a bag of sweet-cinnamon pecans for dessert while watching the giant shelling machines do their task.

After approximately 40 minutes from Cuero, we arrived at Goliad.  This town of under 2000 on the San Antonio river was the location of a Spanish Mission, Espiritu Santo De Zuniga and a fort called Presidio La Bahia. This amazing stone structure was built in approx 1747.  It was the scene of perhaps the saddest event in  all of Texas history.  After the fall of The Alamo, Col. James Fannin’s forces, under orders, left The Presidio but by the time  were only about 8 miles away, they came under fire from the Mexican Army.  The next morning found the Texans surrounded and made terms for surrender. The Mexican general advised them that he considered them prisoners of war and should be treated as such, but also said it was not his decision to make.  The Texas forces were marched back to the Presidio and kept under guard for a few weeks. On Palm Sunday, 1836  the group of approx 340 men were marched out in three separate groups all going three different directions.  A few miles away from the fort, the guards opened fire on the prisoners, and used cavalry to hunt down those trying to run away.  A few did escape.  The wounded back at the Presidio were placed against a wall and were shot.  Jim Fannin was the last to be executed.  The fort is still in great condition and the docents were helpful and friendly.  A short film explained the history and guests  can walk the grounds including the beautiful chapel.  There are even guest quarters for those brave enough to stay overnight and perhaps encounter some of the ghosts said to be haunting this ancient fort.  Near the Presidio is the Obelisk where the remains of those massacred that could be gathered were placed.  The structure is very moving.  Also close by is the statue memorializing “The Angel Of Goliad” .  The wife of one of the Mexican Officers, she managed to save the lives of several of the Texas soldiers from the tragedy.  Also nearby is Goliad State Park where the early Spanish Mission has been renovated.  The chapel with its frescoes is well worth the visit.  Goliad is also the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragoza who lead the Mexican army in defeat of the French Army in 1862 on Cinco De Mayo.  Without General Zaragoza, we may now be drinking Mexican (French) wines instead of Dos Equis, Negro Modelo, and Corona.  The Most Interesting Man in the World would speak French and would  be less interesting….hmmmm….

As darkness fell, we headed our weary way home with memories of Texas History, BBQ, and Beer.  It’s hard to get better than that!

In Summary:  Well worth the trip.  If not into the architecture and old Courthouses, can been done much quicker, depending on the time spent at the Presidio. Traffic was mostly light, and small-town Texas residents are helpful and very friendly.

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