Day Trips & Beyond: October Travel Updates

A true beer cave softens the blow of pandemic cancellations

October weather is why we live in Texas. Time to take a drive out west or find something new closer to home. Plus, more cancellations due to the pandemic.

Camp Wood Cafe is a dining oasis in a sea of juniper covered hills in the Nueces River Valley. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

At the western end of FM 337, Camp Wood Cafe offers a mixture of German and Italian food, sandwiches and pizza. While the tiny cafe – there are only around a half-dozen tables in the dining room – would not rank very high in the culinary arts of a large city, it is more than adequate in a town of 736 or a county of just less than 3,500 hearty souls.

This is a very good example of the journey being more important than the destination. FM 337 is one of the prettiest drives in the state. The two-lane blacktop winds among the hills and river valleys for 57 miles of hairpin turns and scenic vistas. Take it slow and easy on this alpine road; there’s no need to rush; you’re already in God’s country.

At the intersection of FM 337 and TX-55, the town of Camp Wood was established in 1920 by cedar choppers working the surrounding hills. Before that it was the site of the San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz Mission (1762–71), whose remains can still be seen on the northern edge of town. The town’s name is derived from a military encampment that was there between 1857 and 1861.

Charles Lindbergh made an unscheduled landing in Camp Wood in 1924. Flying to California from San Antonio, Lindbergh took a wrong turn and stopped in Camp Wood to ask directions. When he attempted to take off again he clipped a telephone pole and crashed into Walter Pruett’s hardware store. Lindbergh and his co-pilot spent several days in Camp Wood waiting on parts and making repairs.

The small park across the street from the Camp Wood Cafe is named for Lindbergh.

Happy birthday, Ike! Celebrate the 130th anniversary of the former president’s birth on Oct. 10 at the Dwight Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site in Denison for free. Advance reservations are required for the small-group tours of the house happening every 40 minutes throughout the day beginning at 9am and going until 4:20pm. Reserve a time slot by calling 903/465-8908.

It isn’t often that they build a brewery and then find a natural beer cellar underneath it. That happened at Roughhouse Brewing outside of San Marcos. What at first was thought to be just a small sinkhole turned out to be an 18-by-20-foot cave. What’s head brewer Davy Pasternak’s first thought after the discovery? How to use the cave to brew beer. In February he started the first beer destined for the cellar in collaboration with Jester King Brewery. The beer is aging in American cask foeders, and won’t be ready until early in 2021. In the meantime you can go down in the cave on a virtual tour to see how the first cave-aged beer in Texas came about.

Be a part of the art at Hopscotch in San Antonio. Opened on Oct. 2, the immersive and interactive art experience is the work of 40 artists who created 14 installations that include guests as active participants. Come prepared to be awed and entertained, and maybe inspired. Tickets are for time slots on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. During the day it’s open for all ages with adults only after 7pm.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing, the organizers of the Texas SandFest in Port Aransas were in a squeeze to postpone and then cancel this year’s beach festival. Sculpture by Greg J. Grady in 2018. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The Texas SandFest in Port Aransas usually happens in April come rain or shine. This year the annual festival was postponed from April until October. In late September the organizers announced that this year’s festival is canceled. See you April 23-25, 2021, hopefully. What began in 1997 as a small-town festival has grown to become one of the largest sand sculpting competitions in the country. Professional and amateur artists come from around the U.S. to create amazingly creative works of art on the beach.

Founded in 1972, the Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair has presented hundreds of local artists over the years. This year’s show has been canceled, but you can still view some of the artwork at the fair’s website.

Officials at the King Ranch aren’t using the word “canceled” for the 30th King Ranch Annual Ranch Hand Breakfast. It was announced that the breakfast, a longstanding tradition in South Texas, will be “postponed” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Ranch Hand Breakfast is always held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The 30th edition is now scheduled for Nov. 20, 2021. The breakfast serves as a major fundraiser for the annual La Posada de Kingsville lighted Christmas parade in downtown Kingsville, which has also been postponed until next year. Last year the annual event served enough $6 cowboy breakfasts to donate $42,715 to the school district. The breakfast is the only time of the year when visitors may drive their own vehicles onto the King Ranch. The event features an authentic, hearty cowboy breakfast cooked and served outdoors. Team roping and old-time cow camp cooking demonstrations are a part of the activities, along with live music and storytelling.

A public and private effort to reimagine Alamo Plaza in San Antonio, the Alamo Plan would close Alamo Street in front of the church and long barracks to give a more historical appearance to the site. (Courtesy the Alamo)

The Alamo Cenotaph will remain where it is after a Texas Historical Commission vote on Sept. 22 denied a request to relocate the monument 500 feet to the south. A coalition of the City of San Antonio, the Texas General Land Office, and the nonprofit Alamo Trust had requested the move as part of a $450 million redevelopment plan. The reimagined Alamo Plaza would include more of the original battleground and give visitors more of a sense of how the fortress looked in 1836. No one is buried in the Cenotaph that was added to the site in 1936. Part of the plan for the move was to clean and restore the stone monument, correct misspellings, and add names left off the list of dead. Following the 12-2 vote, the parties involved in the redevelopment of the plaza say the project is in jeopardy of not being completed. The plan also includes a new visitor center and museum to hold artifacts donated by Phil Collins.

The Texas Department of Transportation pointed out in a press release that if nothing changes between now and then, on Nov. 7 it will have been 20 years since the state had a day without a traffic death. On average, 10 people die in crashes in Texas every day. It’s not a surprise, with the heavy concentration of vehicles, that Houston has the most dangerous roads in Texas. I-45 between Houston and Dallas is the most dangerous road, with 56.5 fatal crashes per 100 miles over an eight-year period. U.S. Highway 285 from Fort Stockton to the New Mexico border is called “Death Highway” because of the number of fatalities on that 106-mile stretch of highway. TxDOT recognized 20 out of 254 Texas counties that did not have a traffic fatality in 2019. They are: Carson, Swisher, Hall, Lamb, Motley, Cottle, Coke, Brown, Brewster, Jim Hogg, Zapata, King, Foard, Dickens, Knox, Lynn, Garza, Kent, Throckmorton, and Shackelford counties.

Southwest Airlines has announced that it will continue to keep the middle seats open at least through Nov. 30. Of course, family groups traveling together can utilize the seat. The Texas-based airline continues to require face coverings for everyone ages 2 and up from check-in to baggage claim.

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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.

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Day Trips, coronavirus, COVID-19, Camp Wood Cafe, Charles Lindbergh, Dwight Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site, Roughhouse Brewery, Jester King Brewery, Hopscotch San Antonio, Texas SandFest, Port Aransas, Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair, King Ranch Annual Ranch Hand Breakfast, La Posada de Kingsville, Alamo Cenotaph, TxDOT, traffic fatalities, Southwest Airlines

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