I didn’t start my favorite road trip thinking, “let’s drive clear across Texas.” But that’s exactly what we ended up doing.
My sister Jenavieve is working on a photography series about America — more specifically the spaces between and the people who live there. So we went to Texas looking for the Texas of our shared imagination. The Texas of Tim Riggins and country songs and cowboys, wide open spaces and dusty roadside bars and good stories and land that stretches so far that the horizon starts to curve.
We figured for how big the two of us dream, there is no better place to do it than Texas. What we found is one of the most iconic American road trips in the country.
We started in Austin. I could go on for ages of all the things I fell in love with about this city, but space doesn’t permit. I will shout out my favorites, just to have said them:
- The dumplings at Ah-Sing-Den. I devoured multiple orders and visited multiple times. The incredible food mixed with their opium den vibes really speaks to my heart. If I were a restaurant I would be Ah-Sing-Den
- Thrifting in the East End. There’s a boatload of stores, lead yourself on a treasure hunt of actual treasures. I had to buy a separate suitcase to get home.
- Dancing at The White Horse. Never have I had so much fun two-stepping in my life. There are always a handful of locals ready and willing to toss you around the dance floor. Check your ego at the door, and get to it. You’ll love it. Trust me.
Alas, after two days tearing up the big city, my sister and I wanted to kick up some dust and get on the road. We didn’t come to Texas to dwell in a booming metropolis. We wanted the back roads and blue highways. So off we went.
From Austin, we drove south to New Braunfels and then got off the highway and took the 46 west to get to Boerne. This drive is lovely. It winds through some gorgeous Texan ranch country. Exactly what we wanted. In Boerne, we stopped at The Creek for a bite.
Why is it that finding good food when you’re on the road feels preordained by some God? This meal felt heaven sent — hearty burgers, that famed Texas ribeye, and a surprisingly solid selection of salads. The staff here also directed us where to go next, because the best thing to do on a road trip is to always ask the locals. We told them we wanted to see Texas, that we wanted to hear some music and get lost and shoot some portraits of people who’d lived in the state all their lives. They unanimously sent us to Bandera.
Bandera is the Cowboy Capital of the World. As you might imagine, literally nothing could have pleased us more than this. And the city did not disappoint. A small one horse town with as many bars as anything else, beautful countryside to ride a horse through, and Wednesday steak nights. Jenavieve and I felt like we’d slipped through a seam in time and space and we still aren’t entirely sure how we got so lucky, or even if lucky is the right word for it.
Badnera is everything we wanted. It’s road trip worthy all on its own.
Hands down one of my favorite places to see live music in Texas is Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar in Bandera. It’s a damn institution. Arkey, who you can still find banging around the joint most nights, has played with everyone from Hank Williams Jr. to Willie Nelson. The man is a legend. It’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for the right spot. There’s a sign and a red door, but that’s it. Go through the red door and down the stairs and descend into another time entirely.