In celebration of the 175th anniversary of Texas’s independence, Texas Monthly magazine has come up with the ultimate Lone Star road trip – a journey around the state, telling its unique story over the course of 6,000 miles. Here at WideWorld we’ve chosen our top ten places on this road map of history
Lance Armstrong joins his first cycling team
An athlete from the beginning, Lance Armstrong’s decision to focus on cycling turned him into an international superstar. Fans of Armstrong can visit his childhood hangout, Jim Hoyt’s Richardson Bike Mart, in Richardson, a Dallas suburb. This is where it all began; Hoyt started paying Armstrong $500 a month to cycle for his team – usually multi-lap races on undeveloped business parks in town. The store is still open today, just a few miles north on Campbell Road with a sticker of encouragement: “Lance is Back on the Bike. Are You?”
Bob Wills rides forty miles on horseback to hear Bessie Smith
Bob Wills was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, bandleader, and considered by many to be the father of Western swing. A bigger fan of jazz than country music, Wills rode his horse Barney 40 miles from his family farm near Lakeview to Childress to hear Bessie Smith sing in 1925. Wills set out from an abandoned farmhouse which stands today about a mile east of FM 657 in between two offshoots of the Red River. From the Bob Wills home, go south on FM 657, then east on the County Road P, which will turn into FM 2639; follow Texas Highway 86 northeast to Estelline; at Estelline, head south on U.S. 287 to Childress.
Hunters kill Bison the old-fashioned way
Just outside Silverton along Highway 207, the beautiful, rolling hill country of Texas was once inhabited by bands of hunters. Equipped with chipped-stone spears, they preyed on herds of bison for meals, clothing and shelter. They butchered and skinned the carcasses, using meat and hides for food and leaving the bones for weapons which can be found at the Rex Rodgers archaeological site. Today the aboriginal site is now submerged beneath Lake Mackenzie where fishing, camping, mountain biking and hunting are available year-round.
Cave Painters leave their marks
Aboriginal people of West Texas fashioned natural stone cisterns in the rugged county east of El Paso long before Texas ranchers learned to dig tanks to store water for their livestock. Travelers from across the vast state were attracted by the huecos, Spanish for “hollows” or “wells”. Settlements were established near these huecos, allowing their inhabitants the leisure time to develop art. Thousands of pictographs represent daily tasks and forms of entertainment and today this artwork provides a perfect excuse for adventurers to plan a weekend getaway to gain knowledge into the history of Texas by rock climbing surrounded by this aboriginal art.
First Rodeo in the country is held
Rodeos are a Texas tradition that provide a window into the past of the early American cowboys. It all began in the West Texas town of Pecos when a group of cowboys drinking at Red Newell’s saloon argued who was the most skilled at steer-roping and bronc-busting. To settle the matter, a competition was held on the Fourth of July. Calves were herded just south of the Pecos courthouse as cowboys chased them down present-day buildings housing Pecos City Hall, the fire department and the sheriff’s department. The current West of the Pecos Rodeo still takes place every summer at Buck Jackson Arena and would be great for getting out and experiencing a part of Texas’s thriving cowboy culture.
Columbia Falls to Earth
It has been eight years since the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. More than 1,200 fragments of Columbia landed across the city of Nacogdoches, Texas, including one large piece which fell to Earth behind the Commercial Bank of Texas just between Main and East Hospital streets. A bronze medallion, about the size of a DVD, near the Commercial Bank of Texas is engraved with the name of the space shuttle to serve as a tribute to the seven astronauts who lost their lives.
Bonnie and Clyde meet
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were the most infamous outlaw lovers of the Great Depression. They met in Dallas, the third largest city in Texas, and the homicidal romance began just outside of Clyde’s close friend’s house on the west side of town. The pair embarked on one of the most audacious robbery and murder sprees in U.S. history. Today, the original house where they met, just two blocks south of Singleton, no longer exists. However, a few remnants of the foundation remain at that address beyond a barricade on the dead-end street as a monument to the couple’s history.
The Lucas Gusher erupts
The Texas oil field of Spindletop, located in south Beaumont, represented a turning point for Texas and the nation 110 years ago. The roughnecks had been drilling more than a thousand feet when a rumbling began. Anticipating a gusher, they ran back and forth before a fountain of oil finally shot into the air. This moment in history revolutionized what it meant to be a Texan as no previously-discovered oil field in the world had ever been so productive, creating a frenzy that later developed into the Texas Oil Boom. The site is located just a mile south of Texas Highway 69 and west of Spur 93. The gusher’s location is on private property but a flag pole that marks the spot can be seen from Spindletop Overlook Park’s elevated platform.
Mission control saves APOLLO 13
The life-or-death drama that engaged the world for four critical days began at the Manned Space Center in Houston. Director Gene Kranz and his twenty-member Mission Control team were located on the third floor of Building 30N. Just 55 hours after Apollo 13 blasted off, pilot Jack Swigert uttered one of the most famous phrases, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The pressure in fuel tanks had dropped too low. A solution of “free return,” in which the ship would loop around the moon to gain speed for reentry, was devised by Mission Control. The astronauts landed safely in the Pacific Ocean and NASA described the mission as “a successful failure.” Space lovers can tour the new Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, and still walk around the old Building 30N where the remarkable Apollo 13 mission was directed.
John Graves launches his canoe
John Graves was a well known Texas writer who, in the fall on 1957, paddled his canoe down the Brazos River. Upon reaching a fork in the river, Graves also faced his crossroads in life head on. The trip ended up changing his life as he embarked on a new path down the river and the book he wrote about the adventure, Goodbye to a River, is a semi-historical account of the journey, containing stories from the trip and the history and settlement of the area around the river and of North Central Texas. The trip began one mile downstream from the Morris Sheppard Dam at the 1942 masonry arch bridge and extended from Possum Kingdom Dam to Lake Whitney. Today you can glide down the river in a majestic canoe just like Graves or enjoy in the various outdoor activities of camping, fishing, kayaking, and rafting the river.