Day Trips & Beyond: August Travel Updates

The latest on safe travel during the pandemic

The Texas Medical Association doesn’t directly address the dangers of going for a day trip, but getting takeout food and eating it at a park is a two on a scale of 10 in risky behaviors.

It’s always pie time in Marble Falls and the Blue Bonnet Cafe has the flavors you crave. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

When the Blue Bonnet Cafe opened in Marble Falls in 1929 the Ford Model A sold for $450 and the Great Depression was just beginning to grip the nation.

The little eatery on a hill overlooking Lake Marble Falls survived both cultural events to become a Hill Country icon serving good-old-fashioned comfort food. Now the cafe’s staff has made adjustments to confront another major challenge.

Due to the pandemic, the cafe has added nearly contactless pie purchasing and pickup.

Famous for meringue pies that stand up the world, the cafe offers pie lovers the ability to preorder online and have their slice of heaven ready at curbside pickup. The variety of flavors almost defy the imagination with buttermilk, chocolate, lemon meringue, and an assortment of fruit flavors.

The cafe, on Highway 281 just north of Lake Marble Falls bridge, is still open for indoor dining and food to go. The dining room is limited to 50% of the restaurant’s capacity. They have added partitions between the tables and increased sterilization according to CDC guidelines.

The kitchen staff has reduced the daily menu a bit during the pandemic. Daily lunch specials still include chicken and dumplings on Tuesday, meatloaf on Wednesday, turkey and dressing on Sunday, and other favorites the rest of the week.

Cafe hours have also been reduced slightly to Monday to Wednesday 7am to 3pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 7am to 7pm, and Sunday 7am to 1:45pm.

How dangerous is daytripping during a pandemic? Well, it all depends. The Texas Medical Association has released a chart ranking different activities – on a scale of one to 10 – of how risky it is as COVID-19 continues to surge across much of the country. The risk assessment chart says getting takeout from a restaurant or going camping are a two, staying two nights in a hotel or going to a museum are a four, going to the beach is a five, swimming in a public pool is a six, traveling by plane or eating inside a restaurant are a seven, going to an amusement park is an eight, going to large concert, bar, or sports stadium are a nine. Let’s all avoid another lockdown by daytripping wisely and safely anytime and everywhere we go.

Know before you go where highway construction around the state might slow you down. The Texas Department of Transportation shows all of their construction projects on a map at TxDOT has as many as 3,000 active work zones at any given time on the 80,000 miles of roadway it maintains across the state.

They’re going ahead with the 46th season of the Texas Renaissance Festival from Oct. 3 to Nov. 30 in Todd Mission about an hour north of Houston. Organizers say all staff, performers, and vendors will be required to wear face coverings and will receive daily temperature checks. Patrons must follow any statewide order requiring the wearing of face masks, but masks will be strongly recommended regardless. A daily face mask contest will honor the attendee with the most creatively decorated face covering. Tickets will not be sold at the gate, but must be purchased online or at participating H-E-B stores. The largest festival of its kind in the U.S., the Texas Renaissance Festival happens over nine weeks on Saturday, Sunday, and Thanksgiving Friday from 9am to 8pm.

When Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca returned to Spain in 1537 from his harrowing eight-year struggle for survival in the wilderness that became Texas, he wrote the first travelogue about the territory. Brandon Seale opens the third season of his podcast A New History of Old Texas with Cabeza de Vaca’s story of the first meeting between Texas natives and Europeans. The 25-part series began in early July with new episodes available every Monday and Thursday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or on the Rivard Report. Episodes of the past seasons of A New History of Old Texas are still available.

We all had such high hopes that by this fall things would return to more normal, but the coronavirus keeps marching on. For the first time since World War II, the State Fair of Texas and Fiesta San Antonio have been canceled.

Big Bend National Park was closed on July 2 because COVID-2 showed up in the residential community. There’s no word on whether it will still be shuttered to visitors on the National Park System’s birthday and free entrance day in National Parks on August 25.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has extended how far in advance you can make an overnight reservation at a state park from 60 days to three months. With the number of visitors to state parks limited to less than 100% to allow for better social distancing, many parks are quickly reaching capacity. During the pandemic the park system has seen an uptick in demand as homebound Texans look for outdoor space. The quickest and easiest way to reserve a camping or day-use spot in a state park is online or at 512/389-8900. Day-use passes can be purchased up to 30 days before the visit. All visitors and staff at the park are required to wear a face covering when in public areas, are expected to maintain a social distance, and groups are limited to 10 people unless in the same family or household.

Galveston Resilience Flag (Courtesy Galveston Historical Society)

From natural disasters to uncommon pandemics, few Texas cities have had to overcome more adversity than Galveston. Now you can join the community spirit of recovery, reworking, and rebuilding by proudly displaying the Galveston Resilience Flag. The red and blue banner with a white star in the center commemorates the original Juneteenth, rebounding from severe hurricanes, and construction of the seawall. A project of the Galveston Historical Foundation, the flag comes in two sizes for $39.95 or $89.95.

What most of us know about the Republic of Malta we learned from the movie The Maltese Falcon, which has nothing to do with the island state. About halfway between Italy and Libya in the Mediterranean Sea, the archipelago is made up of three islands of which Malta is the largest.

All this brings me to a way you can visit the island from your chair. The Virtual Museum – Underwater Malta lets you visit 10 underwater archaeological sites and sunken military craft without having to learn to scuba dive. The website uses 3D photography and a written explanation to let you explore shipwrecks, plane crashes, sunken submarines, and more.

They say the problem with common sense is that it’s not common enough. Slipping out for a day trip shouldn’t be life threatening if you use a little common sense. In addition to adhering to any local rules and regulations designed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, please wear a mask when you’re out in public, keep your distance from people outside your immediate family, use the free hand sanitizer or bring your own, and always use a little common sense.

Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for more than 25 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Day Trips, Blue Bonnet Cafe, Galveston Resilience Flag, Galveston Historical Society, Texas State Parks, Fiesta San Antonio, State Fair of Texas, Texas Renaissance Festival, coronavirus, COVID-19, A New History of Old Texas, Brandon Seale, Big Bend National Park

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