On Day 5 of our road trip, the Salt Lick restaurant in Driftwood, Texas, near Austin was the first stop in what would end up being a 500-mile day of delicious Texas-style cooking, long drives to West Texas and even a potential alien encounter in the dessert near Marfa.
TEXAS-STYLE EATING AT THE FAMOUS SALT LICK
You haven’t tasted juicy meat until you’ve visited the Salt Lick, a rustic, ranch-style restaurant that’s famous for its world-class, smoked cook brisket. It’s also the place where before we started dating, Angela introduced me to Austin and also where we had our pre-wedding rehearsal luncheon. Salt Lick brisket is slow cooked with special logs over the course of 12 hours and seasoned with a secret formula sauce. During our visit we interviewed Jaime, a “pit boss” of Latino descent whose family has worked at the Salt Lick for many years. The first time I went to the Salt Lick I was with my vegetarian friend Bill and though Angela was dismayed I brought a vegetarian to the Salt Lick we were all relieved to know that they also have vegetarian platters.
STROLLING THROUGH GERMAN-INFLUENCED FREDERICKSBURG
Following the Salt Lick, our next stop was the quaint German-influenced town of Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is terrific for antique lovers and people who want enjoy the charms of a small town in the Texas hill country. When you go, be sure to get there early. Just about EVERYTHING in the city shuts down at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.
MYSTERYS LIGHTS SHINE IN MARFA
After several driving delays and a huge gas shortage scare we finally arrived in Marfa past dinner time at night. Marfa is a tiny town with a big reputation for its Mysterious Lights of Marfa as well as its growing arts and cinema scene. From our kids’ perspective, Marfa’s big draw, of course, are the Mystery Lights, a Texas version of Alaska’s aurora borealis. To make things interesting I brought a professional digital camera and a tripod and took time-lapse images of the Marfa Lights from the observation deck where everyone normally sees them. (If there’s too many clouds you won’t see them). If you look at my un-doctored photos (see above), you will notice a red light surrounded by other brighter lights. All appear to be around the same size but what’s interesting is that the white lights surrounding the red one clearly have some movement. For the record, I don’t believe there’s anything magical or alien-related to the lights but I do find them interesting, especially knowing that many experts and some documentaries have studied them and no one knows what to say they are.
BEWARE OF HISTORICAL MARKERS
On your way to West Texas, or really anywhere in the open roads of the state, you notice a pattern: Texas is crawling with “historical” marker signs. I’m a history guy so I appreciate things of this nature but when I’ve looked into some of these “historical” things I can honestly tell you that most of what
Texas will sometimes pass off as historically significant is hardly that. For example, in Texas, you will find historical state monument-type signs for just about everything from the first school house in an obscure town to the grave marker for a oil tycoon who built one thing or another. I can continue to harp on how Texans believe EVERYTHING about Texas is great (I’m married to one) but I need to have a place to sleep tonight so I will just leave you with that tidbit about driving through Texas. In short be wary of the historical state markers because in most any other state most of them would not be THAT significant.
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The drive from Austin to Marfa is actually pleasant and very wide open in a way that is almost relaxing. The biggest danger you encounter is running out of gas because once you get to within 200 or so miles of remote Marfa there are few gas stations and even fewer that are open after 6 p.m.
Just like in 2006, when Angela and I first came to Marfa for the first time, we came within five or so miles of officially running out of gas. Thank God our Papimobile (aka 2010 Chevrolet Traverse) has OnStar because we needed OnStar to navigate to the last gas station open within a radius of more than 100 miles in Alpine, TX. The road lesson you can take with you to West Texas and many other remote drives of the U.S.: fuel up every half tank when driving through these types of places.