Day Trips

Captain Day Trips plans your travel itinerary for the coming year.

The world's biggest doggie urinal
The world's biggest doggie urinal (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

Make a New Year's resolution to explore these places in Texas.

Do a pilgrimage to Palo Duro Canyon. The expression "God's Country" was made for this state park. The multicolored canyon walls were cut by a tributary of the Red River where the table-flat High Plains drop into the rolling hills.

It is great camping on the canyon floor, but even better if you rent a rock cabin perched on the canyon wall. The park has two cabins that rent for $68.90 a night for a view that is priceless. To make reservations up to a year in advance, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife reservation line at 389-8900. Access to the canyon floor will be limited until March when the main road is reopened.

The McDonald Observatory outside of Fort Davis in West Texas has a terrific view of the heavens and earth. The University of Texas-operated research center is a beautiful site to see on Mount Locke surrounded by the mountains. Join a "star party" at the visitor center on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Once a month, the observatory opens the 107-inch telescope by reservation. To get your name on the list, call 915/426-3640 or vc.as.utexas.edu.

Texas has all kinds of treasures, and the Orange Show in Houston is one of the strangest and most special. The Orange Show is part of a neighborhood theme park with a labyrinth of passageways, stairs, and platforms built by a retired postman. He envisioned his creation as one day rivaling nearby Astroworld. The multicolored stucco walls, wrought iron, and pieces of odds and ends became much more -- a monument to folk art dreams everywhere.

In southeastern Houston off the Gulf Freeway (I-45), the Orange Show is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, noon-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The Orange Show Foundation that supports the park and the Art Car Parade can be the beginnings of many great day trips like taking a blues club tour or seeing the Beer Can House. Check out their Web site at www.orangeshow.com or give them a call at 713/926-6368.

Port Aransas is the best place to visit along the Texas coast. Somehow this seaside village avoids being completely overrun by corporate American. Any town that can support an IGA, the Tarpon Inn, and Beeman's Coffee Shop is just short of a miracle. Whether you stay at a high-rise resort or a cinder block motel, the beach and Port A are something special.

A trip to Llano is like journeying to a holy site for lovers of smoked meat. No other town of its size, 3,377, can boast of so much quality barbecue. There is Laird's, Inman's, Brother's, and Cooper's. How to pick the best? Try 'em all and then drive to Taylor and Lockhart to see which town should claim the title of "Barbecue Capital of Texas."

Eat at the restaurant at the top of the Tower of the Americas. The rotating dining room floor of the Tower Restaurant offers a spectacular view of San Antonio from 550 feet up. Built for the 1968 HemisFair, the needle tower is a downtown landmark. Open for lunch and dinner, the best time to go is just before sunset. Reservations are recommended, 210/223-3101 or www.toweroftheamericas.com.

Driving Route 66 across Texas can be just plain exhilarating. From Texola, Okla., to Glenrio, Texas, on the New Mexican border, I-40 is a modern substitute that allows a high-speed crossing following much of the old highway. It's all open road like the Mother Road was meant to be.

The World's Largest Fire Hydrant stands 24 feet tall in a parking lot at 400 Walnut in downtown Beaumont. Painted white with black spots, the fireplug is an actual working model donated to the Fire Museum of Texas to publicize the re-release of the 101 Dalmatians. Two other Beaumont attractions worth a little more time are the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum and the Janis Joplin exhibit at Lamar University.

Paint Rock about 30 miles east of San Angelo has been attracting visitors for centuries. D.E. Sims came to this corner of the West Texas desert after the Civil War and realized that the Indian paintings on the rocky bluff overlooking the Concho River were something that needed to be preserved. Today, his granddaughter, Kay Sims Campbell, gives tours of the small valley surrounded by their sheep farm. Open for daily guided tours June through August, tours can be arranged by appointment the rest of the year, 915/732-4376.

553rd in a series. Day Trips, Vol.2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Palo Duro Canyon, McDonald Observatory, Orange Show, Port Aransas, Llano, Taylor, Lockhart, Tower of the Americas, Route 66, World's Largest Fire Hydrant, Paint Rock

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