The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, October 2, 2009, Columns

Texas Highway 16 winds through the heart of Texas like the seam of a colorful quilt. The mostly two-lane highway crosses a diverse swath of the state as it makes its nearly 550-mile journey to the Rio Grande beginning 46 miles short of the Red River.

The highway's northern terminus is seven miles south of Windthorst, where a grotto next to a Catholic church welcomes travelers. The cave was built by local veterans thankful for surviving World War I.

South of Graham, the road skirts the east side of Possum Kingdom Lake, known for its fishing and resorts. Below the dam, where TX 16 makes a sharp drop, is a scenic view of the ranch once owned by Oliver Loving, the model for Gus in Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove. The bridge crossing the Brazos River is an access point for canoeists.

Continuing south, the highway crosses farm country known for its peanuts, peaches, and watermelons. In De Leon, the Terrill Antique Car Museum is worth a stop. The collection includes a rare steam car.

South of Comanche, the highway goes past Brennan Vineyards.

San Saba is known for its pecan merchants. North of town, a sign points toward the Regency Suspension Bridge over the Colorado River. It is one of the last suspension bridges in Texas open to traffic.

It's about time for some food, and Llano is known for barbecue. South of town, climb to an elevation of 1,825 feet atop the granite dome at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Take FM 1323 and enter the Willow City Loop, one of the prettiest drives in the Hill Country.

In Fredericksburg, climb to the top of Cross Mountain, just north of U.S. 290 on Ranch Road 965.

The highway continues on to Medina, the Apple Capital of Texas. Stop for a slice of pie at Love Creek Orchards' Apple Store. As TX 16 follows the Medina River, debris hanging in the trees shows the high-water mark.

Bandera is the Cowboy Capital of the World and home to Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar bar. Head east to the Pipe Creek Junction Cafe, which is known for its Southern cooking.

Our route circles San Antonio on Loop 410 and comes out headed south across the Wild Horse Desert. In Tilden, one of two towns in McMullen County, there is a genuine boot hill across from the sheriff's office where cowboys found their final resting place. East of town is Choke Canyon Reservoir.

At the Rio Grande, TX 16 enters the town of Zapata, the gateway to the upper end of Lake Falcon. The lake is known for its excellent fishing, boating, and birdwatching.

Maybe TX 16 isn't the Main Street of Texas, but it does give a tour of the heartland. For local flavor, stop at any country quickie mart. My favorite chain is Allsup's.

952nd 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.

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.