Welcome to part two of our 2022 Texas adventures! For those of you just now joining, we traveled to Texas at the beginning of September to watch App State upset #6 Texas A&M. Last time, Dad, Trevor, and I made the trip; this time we added Larry Knight (a friend from Granite Falls) and Cody (one of my college roommates).
The first two days of our second trip, we ate some excellent barbecue, saw some beautiful scenery, and watched an extremely disappointing football game.
Travel // Allison's
We all took a half day off work on Friday, and met in Granite Falls just before 13:00. From there, we piled into Larry’s SUV and headed for Asheville. First, we stopped at Allison’s Family Restaurant in Morganton so everyone could get caught up on lunch. After fighting I-26 traffic, we finally made it to the airport, and wound up having to park in an overflow lot (which I’m convinced was actually in Fletcher) and ride a shuttle back to the terminal. We checked in, and finally made it through security, notwithstanding a slight mishap with Cody’s birth date in the airline’s system.
Terry Black's BBQ
We landed in Austin just after 19:00CST at the AUS South Terminal, and waiting a solid 30 minutes on a shuttle to take us on a long drive back to the main terminal. As Cody commented, “It took us 30 minutes to get from the airport to the airport”.
We waited in a moderately long rental car line, got our matching black Nissan Altima’s (one for Larry and Dad and one for Cody, Trevor, and me), and headed to downtown Austin to find some food. Of course, our first stop in Texas was going to be barbecue, so we went to Terry Black’s BBQ in downtown Austin.
Terry Black’s is a buffet-style (except they dip/weigh everything for you) joint that serves a tremendous amount of people. I primarily chose it because they’re open late, and was honestly not expecting the food to be as good as it was. We got brisket (plus the free burnt ends they gave us), a beef rib, turkey, pork ribs, creamed corn, mac & cheese, pickles, jalapeños, onions, and white bread. For dessert, I got a peach cobbler, and everyone else got banana pudding.
The whole meal was excellent. The brisket and beef rib had a thick, peppery crust and a delicious fat cap. The turkey was tender and moist, and the sides were very good. It was an excellent kick-off to our trip.
The Austin City Limits music festival was going on, so it took quite a while to get out of Terry Black’s parking lot. However, while we waited, we enjoyed some of the best people-watching we’d ever seen, as thousands of University of Texas students paraded down the road in rickshaw bikes, on foot, and via other various wheeled vehicles.
We finally made it out of the parking lot, and drove northeast to Lexington, TX. If that sounds familiar to you, you’re not mistaken; we stayed there last time. Just after our first trip, we decided to make yet another early morning barbecue run, this time with Cody and Larry joining us.
We stayed at an Airbnb just outside of Lexington in Blue, TX. The property was managed by Rosamaria, who ran the 10 acres as a well-decorated “health retreat”. Clearly, our planned pre-dawn brisket run didn’t constitute “health”, but the house was a nice place to stay for the far-too-short night.
Snow's, Part II
Sometime before 04:30, I dragged everyone out of bed. Everyone piled (quite literally) in Larry and Dad’s rental car, and we drove over to Snow’s BBQ, arriving just before 04:45. Last time, we arrived around 05:15 and were #44 in line; this time, we were number #85, despite arriving over 30 minutes earlier. The five of us rotated standing in line and sitting at a picnic table, until an hour or so later when someone from Snow’s brought out a pallet of dilapidated lawn chairs. We snagged three of them.
At some point, Cody and I walked down the street to observe the local cattle auction. Eventually, Snow’s broke out the cornhole boards, and Cody and I took on Trevor and Larry. Pro tip: don’t play Larry in cornhole unless you enjoy getting soundly beaten, especially not at 05:00.
We soon realized what all the fuss and longer lines was about: Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages, a regional distributor, was sponsoring an event at Snow’s that day. They were giving away various prizes, and had commissioned a drone light show at around 06:00. I’d never witnessed anything like that…it was basically like a quiet, choreographed fireworks show. Here are some social media posts highlighting the event:
The restaurant started serving around 07:30, and we got our food around 08:45. The line definitely moved faster than our previous visit. We ordered everything on the menu, except for chicken, which sold out at #80 in line, just before us. The food was just as special as before, and the ribs were even better this time. We ate at a picnic table beside the pits, and then headed back to our Airbnb.
Dad and Larry left quickly so they could travel to New Braunfels to watch Larry’s grandson’s football game. Meanwhile, Cody, Trevor, and I stripped the beds, checked out, and then started the drive back towards Austin.
McKinney Falls State Park
Our first stop was McKinney Falls State Park, which sits southeast of downtown on Onion Creek. The park has two falls, a variety of ruins, a giant bald cypress tree, and an old Tonkawa shelter dating back to 500 BC. We hiked the trail to the lower falls, and crossed the limestone creek bed to traverse the trail through the homestead and grist mill ruins. Both the upper and lower falls were quite dry due to the lack of recent rain, but there were several people swimming in the creek at their bases. Next, we drove up the road to the visitor center parking lot, walked to the upper falls, found “Old Baldy”, visited the ancient rock shelter, and got semi-lost in a cactus field on our way back to the car.
By now, we were thoroughly hot and exhausted, so we decided to seek out something cold to drink. After a quick search, I excitedly realized that Dutch Bros had spread to Texas. Faith and I discovered the Grants Pass, OR-based chain during our trip to Colorado Springs this summer. We each got a Dutch Freeze, a frappuccino-like drink with chocolate and a shot or two of espresso. It was extremely refreshing, and we immediately started discussing when we would return.
Since we didn’t really have time for another adventure before the football game, we decided to drive on to San Marcos, home of Texas State University. We easily found parking next to the stadium, and proceeded to walk around campus and the town for a couple hours. Texas State has a beautiful (and huge) campus, highlighted by the San Marcos River flowing through the area. There’s a place on campus where they’ve canaled the river, and students can swim in the clear waters under lifeguard supervision. Farther downstream, you can rent a kayak and paddle through campus and town.
While we’d rate their campus 5 stars for water features, we would rate it 0 stars for gameday atmosphere, 1 star for landscaping, and 1 star for friendliness. The friendliness star was earned solely by a campus employee who directed us from our parking lot towards the river and campus. Most of their campus is on a sizeable hill, with nice views of the buildings below. Other highlights of our campus tour included not finding a statue of George Strait (very disappointing, considering he’s an alumnus), finding a statue of LBJ (I guess that’s understandable, since he was president), and a finding a very large statue of fighting horses (with no plaque explaining its meaning). Interestingly, their performing arts theater also had a moat around it, scattered with several sizable snapping turtles.
Soon, we walked over to Bobcat Stadium, well before kickoff, to watch warmups and explore the venue. It’s a pretty nice stadium, but the overall gameday atmosphere pales in comparison to most college football games we’ve visited. Atmosphere aside, Appalachian played horribly, mostly thanks to a lack of pass defense, and suffered an embarrassing loss. But, as always, it’s great to be a Mountaineer, and we all had fun despite the dismal result.
Buc-ee's // In-N-Out
After the game, Cody, Trevor, and I managed to weave our way back to our car, despite railroad tracks and baseball fields making it challenging to walk in a straight line. Once again, we drove south on I-35, this time heading towards San Antonio for the night. On the way, we stopped at Buc-ee’s (read this post for more info) so Cody could experience the 138 gas pumps and endless snack options. Instead of getting “sat-out-all-day” food from Buc-ee’s, we opted to drive down the street to In-N-Out for a hot $3.25 burger. Can’t beat that! It took a while to get our food, but it was delicious.
We finally arrived at our hotel in San Antonio around 23:00, and immediately headed to bed.
The next two days, we’ll explore San Antonio and possibly more of Austin.
– Isaac & Co.