Picking the best day trips is a pretty tall order. Texas is a really big place and there are a bazillion people, places, and things that could fall in that category. I once tried to write a list of the top 25 attractions in the state and soon lost track well past the century mark. And, of course, everybody has his or her own special list. Here is a list of some of my favorite discoveries and special quirks of Texas since last year's list.
Best Place to Take a Leak -- The Seguin Radiator Shop on Texas Avenue in Seguin proudly makes this claim on the sign out front. The 1960s-era gas station that has been turned into a garage specializing in fixing automobile cooling systems is pretty spiffy on the outside, but since it was closed on a Sunday, I never got a chance to check out the restrooms.
Best Reason to Buy American -- Shop Nocona. The little burg about seven miles from the Red River used to be home of some of the biggest names in cowboy boot factories in the state, but they all moved to Fort Worth or south of the border. When the Nocona Boot Company closed in 1999, it looked like the tradition started by "Daddy Joe" Justin was about to die with it. Folks weren't about to sit around the liars' table at the Dairy Queen and let the town dry up and blow away with an Oklahoma breeze. They began promoting the town to industry again.
The town still had (www.nokona.com) one of the last manufacturers of baseball gloves left in the U.S. Last year the Montague Boot Company opened in downtown to help the town regain its identity. Another newcomer to town has set the old Nocona Boot factory humming making Diamond Gusset Jeans (www.gusset.com). With a diamond-shaped insert in the crotch (What are you looking at?) to provide expansion and reinforcement, these are a great pair of jeans. They may have been designed for horseback riding or working, but they're good anytime. (No promotional fee was paid for this endorsement, but I'm available.)
Best Attraction to Show a Brit -- According to British Airways, the best sustainable tourism project in the colonies is the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. A joint project of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Department of Transportation, the three-map series guides visitors to parks and preserves in the coastal communities. More than 400,000 birders and other interested parties visit the 308 sites each year. It's not just for the fish and chips crowd anymore (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/birdingtrails).
Best Town That Can't Get Any Respect -- Never mind that San Antonio has a football stadium, but no football team to play in it. Then this summer a sign painter misspelled Pepsi on convenience stores around town as "Peepsi" and nobody noticed. To add insult to injury, when the makers of Old Spice deodorant selected the Alamo City as the sweatiest city in the U.S. you could almost hear the city's collective sweat-soaked hankies drop in horror. For all its summertime attractions, San Antonio must have been the place that Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman had in mind when he said, "If I owned Texas and hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell." Of course, the "scientific formula" used by the company averaging the high temperature and high humidity of U.S. cities in June, July, and August has to be suspect. They selected Dallas/Fort Worth as the second sweatiest, New Orleans as third, and Houston as fourth. Let's all say it together: "San Antonio, don't ever change for me."
Best Cryin' Time -- In springtime in Texas a young man's fancy turns not to love, but to sweet onions. The bulbous 1015 onion from the Rio Grande Valley is rapidly gaining national popularity. But in East Texas around Tyler, Athens, Kilgore, and Jacksonville they have known the secret of the Noonday onion for generations. Farmers sell these pearly whites from roadside stands like peaches. Or stop by the Noonday Store on TX 155 south of Tyler for a taste of their King Ranch Chicken or hamburgers smothered in the local delicacy.
590th 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.