The year's best traveling around Texas
The best of traveling around Texas. After 850 weeks of writing this column (that's 16 years and four months), I keep finding new and interesting things around the state. Here are some of the best that I have found this year.
Best Quick Seafood: Tracy's Seafood in Port Arthur serves a golden-fried fish-and-shrimp dinner that will knock your socks off. In an old Burger King building, the place is a beehive of activity in the evenings, when families pick up bags full of dinner. The big, juicy crawfish have just the right spiciness. Best of all, less than $20 feeds a family of four, with sweet tea. Tracy's Seafood Deli, 1201 Gulfway Dr., Port Arthur, 409/985-2260.
Best Across the Border Experience: I have friends who have celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing at Garcia's in Matamoros, Mexico, every year for the last decade. The combination restaurant, curios shop, and pharmacy, five minutes from the International Bridge and downtown Brownsville, is an easy and relatively safe tourista experience. The food is good, the velvet paintings inexpensive, and the druggist speaks English. Garcia's, Obregón No. 82, Matamoros, 800/769-2470.
Best Restrooms: Usually the local Dairy Queen or McDonald's provide quick relief on long drives. But on that drive across the Panhandle from Lubbock to Clovis, N.M., Carolyn's in Muleshoe decorates its restroom in different themes throughout the year. It might be done in Christmas, Victorian, or sports decorations, but no two motifs are ever the same. Plus, the antique and gift shop offers free coffee and tea. Now you have something else to look forward to on those long drives to the ski slopes. Carolyn's Christmas Creations, 106 E. American Blvd., Muleshoe, 806/272-5911.
Best Public Biking Trails: Cameron Park in Waco has something for everybody. It has a zoo, boat ramps for canoes and kayaks, sand volleyball courts, bridle paths, horseshoe pits, and two disc-golf courses along the Brazos River banks. But you're not trying hard enough if you're not getting lost on the mountain-bike trails. Ten miles of well-maintained trails climb from the river up to scenic overlooks through the 416-acre park. The trails are marked easy to difficult like ski slopes, but the overall rating is intermediate to difficult, and they're not kidding. For maps and information, call 254/750-8080, go to www.wacocvb.com or www.teamwbc.com, or stop by 201 W. Waco Dr., Waco.
Best Beach to Avoid the Crowds: I dearly love Port Aransas beaches during weekdays in the fall. I used to think that Boca Chica Beach at the southern tip of Texas was the best beach of them all. And then I discovered the beach at the end of FM 457. I promised that I would only tell my best friends about this find. Six miles south of Sargent, the road crosses a drawbridge over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway onto a narrow barrier island. On the island is a row of colorful beach houses and fishermen in the surf. On the mainland side of the shipping channel is a marina and restaurant. Fishermen often sell fresh fish off the back of the boat. Is this heaven, or what? Sargent Beach, www.sargenttexas.com.
Best Revival From the Forties and Fifties: On the north side of Wharton are 10 concrete teepees. No, they weren't left behind by some nomadic Native American tribe. They were built in 1942, just as America was beginning its love affair with the automobile. Part of a small, national franchise, the Tee Pee Motel lasted for 20 years before the owner passed away. The cone-shaped buildings stood empty until last October, when Barbara and Byron Woods reopened the motel. Bigger than you would think, the rooms are nicely furnished and only cost $52.50 a night. Tee Pee Motel, 4098 E. Business 59, Wharton, 979/282-8474. www.teepeemotel.net.
Best View of a Monument: You can tell a lot about a city through an airplane window. Does everybody in Phoenix have a swimming pool in their back yard? Las Vegas is most beautiful from the air at night. Coming into Houston on a 747 airliner at sunset looking down on the San Jacinto Monument is the best.
850th 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.