Low Budget Review Guy Strikes Again

On May 5, 2010, in Travel, by admin

Only this time, it is a geo review of small town Texas. Have a look:

Brenham is a town of approx 15,000 that lies 2 hrs east of Austin on Tx Hwy 290. It is a little more than halfway to Houston in the middle of very gently rolling terrain. The first thing that catches your eye is how green it is. It gets considerably more rain than Austin and the Hill Country. Coupled with a cool wet winter and spring, you notice all the stock tanks full and plants green and growing. The Brenham area was once all cotton growing, the one cash crop from early Tx independence days until the late 60’s when prices dropped. There are still cotton fields, but you are as likely to see corn, milo, soy beans as well. Also, lots of cattle and a few goats. Brenham is just a few miles from Washington-On-The-Brazos, which for you non-Texas history majors, was the cradle of Texas independence. Brenham itself is the quintessential small Texas town, with a large courthouse square (alas, the building itself looks like it was built in the 50’s, ugly, utilitarian, not like so many grand Texas courthouses built in the 19th century and preserved.) Unlike a lot of Tx towns, with empty store fronts and cracked sidewalks, Brenham’s downtown was full of shops, restaurants, stores. On Sat afternoon, almost every parking spot for two square blocks was filled. We found a restaurant which caught our eye, JT’s Longhorn Saloon and Steak House. The bar was built back in the 1880’s and was impressive, but the back bar area, with hand milled wood wainscoting and a huge mirror was a tribute to bygone days of woodworking craftsmanship. They had Shiner Bock on Draught (which I think is the law in Texas) along with 7-8 others, including Guinness. The building appeared to have the original wooden flooring and pressed tin ceiling. After a very good lunch (chicken-fried steak, thank you very much) we cruised around the town a bit before heading out to the Blue Bell Creamery. That is correct, the home of world-famous Blue Bell Ice Cream. We were there on a Saturday, so we didn’t get to take a tour of the facility, but did visit their gift shop, saw a 15 min video of the tour and then, for $1, got a huge cup of delicious Blackberry Cobbler Ice Cream. Sigh….From Ice Cream to Roses was our next destination. A few miles outside of town, we stopped at the Antique Rose Emporium. This business features not only roses from around the world but many other types of plants as well. They specialize in antique roses, versus the hybrid tea roses because antiques are hardier, need less attention, are more bug and disease resistant. Since the wife has numerous roses and was in the market for a couple of new ones (Who’d a thought, what a coincidence, huh?) to put in a new flower bed, we spent the next few hours in this large facility browsing and “discussing” which ones to get. The Emporium has a chapel, and several beautiful outside venues, surrounded by flowers, where weddings are held practically every weekend. We finally settled on some plants and rolled down the highway. Just minutes away is the town of Independence, birthplace of Baylor University. Being BU graduates, it was kinda cool to see the remains of the old school. BU moved to Waco around the late 1890’s. From Independence, we took some back roads back to Hwy 290 and home.

Most of you are aware that Texas weather, from late May to late October, can be brutal. Highs from mid 90’s to 105 and higher are normal. Winters are generally mild, except in north TX and the panhandle. But springtime, ah,springtime in Texas can be magical. With the right amount of rainfall and cool weather in the fall, and late winter early spring rains, Texas is blessed with wildflowers. Blooming anytime from usually late March through late April, the roadsides, fields, farms, are coated with Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Indian Blankets, Purple Verbena, Texas phlox, and dozens of other varieties and colors. This year was the best wildflower season I have seen in my 30+ years of living in Texas. Although it was late starting, due to a late cold snap, the volume and colors this year were spectacular. Even last weekend, the first of May, we saw fields that looked straight out of a French Impressionist portfolio. While the Hill Country gets the most publicity for Wildflowers, I recommend HWY 290 and environs. What a spectacular trip. Brenham has much to offer for a day-trip. There are wineries, lots of antique stores, a monastery that raises miniature horses, a large recreational lake a few minutes away. All that and Blue Bell, what a deal.

Well there you have it.

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