Chapter 23
Sightings to and from Houston
The Tales of Texas

1a - The Mysterious Ski Rack
1b - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
1c - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
1d - Scorpions, Scorpio
2a - Diet Soda
2b - Riding into the Sunrise
3 - Modest Magazines
4 - Down to Houston
5a - What Does That Sign Say
5b - Just Follow Your Nose
5c - They Call It the Sunbelt
5d - The State Tree
6 - The New House
7a - Billboards
7b - Billboards Again
8 - Stereo Upgrade
9 - Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings to and from Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What's That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston through the small towns
37 - Shoe Story, an Austin Anecdote
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live music in Austin, but in theaters not in clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47a - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48a - Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House Is That-A-Way
57 - C.S.I. Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2

Sightings to and from Houston

Sightings en route to and from Houston

Trees

During the winter, the trees are bare, but in a way they're more beautiful. Craggy, gnarly, lightning-bolt-shaped branches straight out of horror movies. Arthritic wicked-witch hands that Tim Burton planted in groves, zombie hands poking through the soil under gravestones, giant Nosferatu claws pushing up the lid of the coffin. Soon they'll be covered with leaves and the waving green will soften their shape.

Anytown

The main roads now bypass around most small towns. Still, you can see the town only an access road away, a strip of buildings, commercial and residential, and you can read the signs. Every small town you drive through or around has some inevitable signs. Almost anywhere in the southern US, you can pretty much count on

BBQ
Jesus Saves
Self Storage

Wildflowers

The Blue Bonnets and Indian Paintbrush wildflowers come out at the end of March. Any road from Austin east is just covered with them on the side of the road. The profusion is quite surprising to a newcomer. Little patches, big patches. Entire hillsides sometimes. A few seeds take hold and spread over the years and you have a patch.

They do represent something of a road hazard. One, people gawk at them and pay much less attention to their driving than they ought to. Two, people pull off the road anywhere the gawking is good and take pictures. So the shoulder is littered with SUVs in addition to the millions of flowers.

Flatness

The Texas Hill Country peters out as one drives east from Austin toward Houston. About thirty miles short of Houston, it ends completely and the land is flat, flat, flat. It may not be perfectly level, though. It might tilt slightly to the southeast, descending from Austin, at about four hundred feet, through Houston, finally reaching six feet above sea level at Galveston island a hundred miles further on. But you could roll a billiard ball across it without encountering much resistance from irregularities.

Overpasses rise from the plain twenty or thirty feet, and from the top of them one has a wonderful view of the landscape. The only relief you can see to the east is other overpass humps.

Somewhere east of the Brazos river, there is a road sign for a town: Prairie View. Rarely have I seen such an irony-free sign.

A Three-Hat Kind of Place

On the way back, we stopped for dinner at a solid, homey looking place in Bastrop, the Texas Grill. This is very much a family restaurant. We were there right at the end of prime dinner hour, and most of the groups were clearly extended families from nearby ranches and farms out for a Sunday supper. And you could tell it was an informal place. Many of the men left their hats on. When I hopped out to look at the menu, I noticed three men at tables with their hats still on, and it seemed to me that this is a measurement that one might use to gauge the informality and true Texas hominess of an eating establishment.

Sure enough, the waitress treated us like long lost cousins or new friends, and the service and food were terrific. The specialty of the house is chicken-fried steak. For those of you who have not partaken of this Western delicacy, you take a steak of some description, pound it out flat and thin, batter it up, and fry it. The outside should be hot and crisp, the inside hot and tender. Then you cover it with white chicken gravy which, if it's any good, is rich, thick, savory, a little salty. Well, this one was outstanding, the best we've had since moving to Texas. So here's the capsule restaurant review.

Texas Grill, Rt 71, Bastrop, TX
Friendly family style restaurant with solid, good food and some very good items.
One dollar sign ($) for very reasonable prices.
Four stars (****) for service.
Three and a half stars (***.5) for food: chicken-fried steak positively outstanding, french fries weak.
Three hats (@@@) for atmosphere.

Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, Richard Ball Landau. All rights reserved.