Day Trips

The Top 10 day-tripping events of '08

Looking back at 2008, it was a year of prolonged drought broken by an occasional flood in Texas. Here are the Top 10 events for day-trippers.

1) Hurricane Ike roared across Galveston Island in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, all but wiping communities on the Bolivar Peninsula off the map. The storm was the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history and spread its path of destruction from Houston to the outskirts of Tyler in Northeast Texas.

2) Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange reopened after 50 years of being closed to the public. Begun in 1937 as a private preserve by H.J. Lutcher Stark, the park and its beauty became known worldwide. In 1958, it was almost totally destroyed by a freak snowstorm. The Stark Foundation reopened the gardens to the public in March 2008. Among Hurricane Ike's victims were five years of landscaping work. The nature center hopes to reopen again in spring of 2009.

3) Flooding in West Texas? How screwy is this year's weather? The Rio Grande spilled over its banks and caused the closing of the Presidio to Lajitas road (FM 170) in September.

4) Strange glowing objects in the night sky had residents of Erath County more than a little upset. At first the military denied any knowledge of flying objects in the area, which only made residents more concerned. Almost a month after the first sightings, the Air Force begrudgingly admitted to having conducted training flights in the area.

The Beer Can House, Houston
The Beer Can House, Houston

5) Houston's Beer Can House, 222 Malone, reopened to the public after nearly five years of restoration. In the 1960s, John Milkovisch decorated his bungalow with flattened beer cans and pull tabs so he wouldn't have to paint. Folk art or just tacky? You decide.

6) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security continued to build a fence along the state's southern border despite protests from residents. No longer will an oral declaration of citizenship be enough when returning from shopping trips to border towns; now you must show a government-issued ID card or passport to get back home.

7) The June 2008 issue of Texas Monthly named tiny Snow's BBQ in Lexington as the best barbecue in Texas. The fame almost tripled the amount of meat the joint sells on Saturday mornings, the only time it is open.

8) Bobby Mueller, owner of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor and a perennial favorite in the Texas Monthly barbecue listings, passed away Sept. 6. He was 69.

9) Tom Jones, one of the founders of Houston's Art Car Parade and the Art Car Museum, was killed by a drunken driver only hours after the May parade. He was 51.

10) Ray Miller, creator of the day-tripping television show The Eyes of Texas, passed away on Sept. 27. The legendary Houston newsman was 89.

913th 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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Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, Beer Can House, Snow's BBQ, The Eyes of Texas, Louie Mueller Barbecue, Tom Jones

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