There Is No Place Like Home

In the closing sequence of “The Wizard of Oz,” young Dorothy, who is longing to return to her home in Kansas, speaks one of the most memorable lines in the story — “There’s no place like home!” Dorothy’s words are true. There is no place like home. Just the mention of the word home does something good to our hearts, especially when we’ve been away for any period of time.
Dime Box HouseOne of the best things about backroads adventuring in the Lone Star State is coming across old homes — long abandoned structures weakened and worn by the passage of time. You won’t find these crumbling old places in our manicured HOA-governed subdivisions. You’ve got to hit the backroads and do some exploring.
Catspring Old HouseWhenever possible, I have to stop to explore these fascinating places once held dear by occupants unknown to me but not unlike me. Every decaying structure stirs my imagination and causes me to ask questions only walls could answer. How I’ve often wished walls could talk!
Catspring Old DFoorEach and every abandoned home share one thing in common — at one time they were all new. These old homes represent the dreams, aspirations, and perhaps the answer to the prayers of whoever built and lived in them. Someone was excited to see the walls go up and the roof take shape. Someone was the first to step across the threshold and the last to move away for good.
Old PorchWho looked forward to returning to these places, perhaps to be greeted by the welcoming embrace of a loved one? Who sat on the front porch watching a sunrise or sunset or the falling rain? Who carved the turkey at Thanksgiving or put the gifts under the Christmas tree? Who anxiously looked out a window, awaiting word about the welfare of a loved who was away? Who repaired the leak in the roof or the loose floorboards?
OPttine House 1907These old homes are the context in which people celebrated life’s ordinary days and holidays. And yet, at some point, the life and laughter moved out and silence moved in. Those connected to these old properties are the remaining custodians of their history. And, unless this history is recorded or passed on, it too will go the way of these old homes.
Catspring House GateThere is indeed no place like home. And the fascinating old and abandoned homes on Texas backroads are definitely worth exploring. If you happen to come across one of these old homes, ask permission before stepping onto private property, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, enjoy the experience, and respect the home and its history.

The Backroads Adventurer

Texas leads the nation with 675,580 miles of highways and byways, enabling you to get to anyplace you want to visit at whatever pace you want to travel. While I enjoy the 85-mile per hour speed limit on Interstate-10 once you head west of San Antonio, I still prefer to travel the Lone Star State at a much slower pace.

Traveling Texas backroads yields treasures that are easily missed when you travel by faster routes. Not the least of these treasures are the many small towns, farms, and ranches along two-lane arteries off the beaten paths. I have made a list of some of my favorite things about traveling at a slower pace along Texas backroads.
Texas 1907 House10. Interesting old houses and buildings. | Every small town has interesting old houses and buildings, some in a permanent state of disrepair, melting away in the heat of the passing years. These places stir my imagination. I also enjoy seeing how entrepreneurs have restored or repurposed old houses and buildings and turned them into craft shops, specialty boutiques, restaurants, and more. It’s nice to see new life breathed into old buildings.

9. Historic hotels. | Many of the smaller destinations in Texas have some of bigger and better historic hotels. I especially like the old Gage Hotel in Marathon and Hotel Limpia in Ft. Davis. These old hotels are beautifully appointed with antiques and offer comfortable common areas where you can actually enjoy relaxed conversations around the hearth with other guests.
Two Trucks8. Steering wheel salutes. | When driving Texas backroads, especially in a pick-up truck, you can expect the person in the approaching vehicle to give you a quick salute with the hand on top of his steering wheel. Or, if you make way for the guy behind you to pass you on some two-lane backroad, he will generally give you a courtesy thank-you wave. The good thing about all this is that folks in Texas wave at you with all of their fingers!

7. Incredible hospitality. | You can expect to meet some really friendly folks when you travel Texas backroads. Once, when my wife and I were running late, we phoned ahead to tell the small town hotel of our late arrival. The lady told us not to worry. “If you get here late,” she said, “we’ll leave the key in an envelope with your name on it on the front porch. It will unlock the front door to the hotel and also the door to your room.”
Dairy Queen Burnet Tx6. The Texas Stop Sign. | You will not see many Golden Arches when traveling Texas backroads, but you will see the Texas Stop Sign in almost every small town you come to — Dairy Queen. Enjoying a cone dipped in chocolate at a Dairy Queen in a small town is the equivalent of ordering one of those fancy coffee drinks at a big city Starbucks.

5. Home-style cooking and generous portions. | When traveling the backroads, you should always take time to ask the locals about the best places to eat. Or, just pick a place that looks interesting and stop in for a meal. That’s how I have discovered some really good places to eat that offer home-style-made-from-scratch cooking offered in generous portions complete with a tall glass of sweet tea. Oh my!
El Granejo Marker4. Historical markers. | Texas has a great Historical Marker system in place throughout the State. One advantage to not being in a hurry is that you can take the time to stop and read some really interesting things about what happened at or near wherever you happen to be.

3. County courthouses and town squares. | County seats in Texas boast some of the best-looking courthouses in the nation. These prominent courthouses are generally centrally located and adjacent to inviting town squares where people actually sit on park benches and have conversations.
Texas Gate2. New friends. | One thing I enjoy most about slower travel along Texas backroads is meeting interesting people along the way. On one road trip, my wife Cheryl and I met a young lady from New York who had left the corporate world to seek new employment and adventure in small town Texas. She was excited about making a new start in really small town. This New Yorker turned Texan is one of many interesting people we have met over the years because we travel at a slower pace.

1. Sharing the adventure. | I have traveled many backroad miles all by myself in my pick-up truck. But, I prefer to travel with my wife or a friend in the passenger seat. I believe that the beauty of the Lone Star State is made even more enjoyable when you share the experience with a loved one or a friend. So, the next time you venture out, take someone along and enjoy Texas.