Day Trips & Beyond: September Travel Updates

Go the social distance

It’s been a hot summer, but cooler temperatures are around the corner as we melt into fall.

Opened to the public in 2013, the Goodnight ranch headquarters is now on the list of official Texas historic sites. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site joined the Texas Historical Commission’s list of 32 state historic sites this summer. The two-story Victorian house on the prairie was built in 1887, and served as Goodnight’s ranch headquarters until his death in 1929. A former Texas Ranger and traildriver, Goodnight partnered with Irishman John Adair to establish the JA Ranch outside of present-day Amarillo. The ranch, which still exists, was the first permanent cattle operation in the Texas Panhandle. The Armstrong County Museum undertook the six-year restoration project of the house and operated the museum at the site until the transfer to THC on June 1, 2020. The house is off U.S. Highway 287 between Clarendon and Claude about 40 miles east of Amarillo. The complex is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Goodnight and his wife are buried in a small cemetery north of the house.

Tickets are on sale for Dobie Dichos and they will most assuredly sell out before the Friday, Nov. 6 festival. Since 2011, this little get-together remembering J. Frank Dobie with storytelling and songs has been a hidden jewel in the Brush Country. If you enjoy Texas literature and folklore, you’ll want to pull up a lawn chair in Oakville. The evening begins with a bowl of chili con carne and pan de campo and ends under the stars with stories and music by the campfire. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a limited number of tickets will be sold, no tickets will be sold at the event, face coverings will be required, and social distancing will be expected.

Nueces County beaches have reopened to vehicular traffic, but a beach curfew remains in place. County Judge Barbara Canales rescinded the county’s temporary prohibition on driving on the beach effective Aug. 17 after Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said the local police could not afford to enforce the county’s order. The ban on driving on the beach during July was intended to discourage out-of-town visitors. Instead, residents of Port Aransas complained that beachgoers were leaving their vehicles on side streets, blocking driveways, and creating other problems. The beaches were never closed to foot traffic, but did have a curfew from 9pm to 6am, which was left in place. There are some restrictions to the beaches due to Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Laura cleanup: Access to Zahn Road is closed, Bob Hall Pier is closed, and beach access south of Bob Hall Pier is closed.

If you’ll be visiting any of Dallas’ 397 city parks during September, the parks department has a new game for you to play outdoors. It’s called BioBlitz. It works something like Pokémon GO, but you’re looking for pollinators instead of imaginary critters. Download the iNaturalist app to your phone or device and then start taking pictures of the plants, insects, and animals you see in the park. The information will help the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department take an inventory of the pollinators in the parks and help them better protect an essential part of the ecosystem.

Once a mainstay on the courthouse square in La Grange, Prause Meat Market and Barbecue has closed. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Prause Meat Market in La Grange has closed, substantially reducing the number of heritage barbecue joints left in the state. To a very large degree, Texas barbecue originated as a sideline in meat markets like Prause Meat Market. With few exceptions like City Meat Market in Giddings and Southside Market in Elgin, the butcher shops in small-town meat markets have been replaced entirely by the smoked-meat restaurant trade. The family made the announcement of the closing on their Facebook page on Aug. 6. According to the site, the meat market originated in the 1890s and moved to the corner across from the Fayette County Courthouse in 1954. Daniel Vaughn posted a wonderful tribute to the family-owned business on Texas Monthly.

The Grand Canyon of Texas now offers glamping. Palo Duro Glamping in Palo Duro Canyon State Park provides all the equipment you need to spend the night in the park. For an added fee you can even have a hamburger kit ready to throw on the grill when you arrive. Each campsite comes with a wood-paneled cabin with a canvas roof, a comfortable bed, air conditioning, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, bicycles, gas grill, and gas fire pit. About the only “roughing it” will be that each of the four GlampSites is at least 370 steps from the restroom and 1/16 of a mile from the parking lot.

The Admiral Nimitz Foundation and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg will hold their 33rd Annual Symposium honoring the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II online on Sept. 18-19. The symposium will feature a bestselling author, historians, and experts on the war in the Pacific. All participants must register online. Tickets are $65 for nonmembers, $25 for active and retired military, and free for students, teachers, and World War II veterans.

Because of the pandemic, for the first time since World War II, the State Fair of Texas has been canceled. If you’re missing your annual fried food fix head up to Garland for Fair Fare on the Square. Throughout September, local restaurants will be featuring traditional Big Tex-approved grub like fried Oreos, turkey legs, foot-long corn dogs, and bacon funnel cake.

Michael Hearne and the good folks at the Big Barn Dance tried their best to find a way to bring fans back to Taos, N.M., for another year of great music. The coronavirus just wouldn’t let it happen. Instead, they’re doing the next best thing – the 15th annual music festival will come to you. On Sept. 10-12, the original dates of the festival, they will be livestreaming stories and tunes. It will be the same great virtual lineup of Americana music that you expect, with old favorites and maybe a few new favorites. It will be free to watch, but they ask that you make a donation to help support the community of musicians during the pandemic.

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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, coronavirus, COVID-19, Goodnight Ranch, Prause Meat Market, Dobie Dichos, Texas beaches, Dallas parks, iNaturalist, Palo Duro Glamping, Admiral Nimitz Foundation, Fair Fare on the Square, Big Barn Dance, State Fair of Texas

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