We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.
One such gem we recently visited is Bandera, Texas, which is known as the Cowboy Capital of the World. Bandera is one of those places we always wanted to explore but never got around to for way too long. But you can bet that now that we have been there, we will be going back!
Bandera’s unique blend of Indian, Mexican, Polish, and Western cultural influences combine to give the town’s its own special flavor that you won’t find anywhere else. Here you can enjoy a fresh kolache with your morning coffee, stroll down the main street and check out the shops and galleries, browse for antiques in an old building that is an antique itself, visit interesting museums, take a horseback trail ride, visit a dude ranch, or go bicycling or hiking through some of the prettiest country in Texas.
Long the hunting grounds for Apache and Comanche Indians, the area was visited by Spanish explorers and missionaries, and many bloody ambushes took place at Bandera Pass, located twelve miles north of present-day Bandera. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1853 and established a sawmill to make cypress shingles. Two years later several Polish families arrived in Bandera to work at the mill. That Polish influence is reflected in much of the town’s architecture, including St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, the second oldest Polish Catholic Church in the United States.
During the late 1800s many cattle trail drives passed through the region, giving Bandera the title of the Cowboy Capital of the World. That Old West tradition has lived on to the present day, and a number of National Rodeo Champions are from Bandera. A monument on the courthouse lawn honors their accomplishments.
Driving down the main street you can’t miss the Western ambiance in the style of the buildings old and new.
In celebration of that history and tradition, the Bandera Economic Development Corporation commissioned artist Bill Stevens to create three murals recalling the cattle drives and Rangers who helped shape the community. This one is called Kelly’s Coffee and can be found on a side street near two interesting old buildings with a lot of history.
The first is the original limestone Bandera County Courthouse, built in 1868 and designated a Texas Historic Landmark.
Next to it is the old jail, built in 1881. Both buildings are in need of restoration, and community members are working to make that happen.
As I said above, there is a lot to see and do in Bandera, and while you are there, don’t overlook the Bandera Natural History Museum, located at 267 Old San Antonio Road. The museum has replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals and educational play stations on its eight-acre grounds. Inside there are over 100 full-body animal mounts positioned in hand-painted dioramas portraying their natural habitats, along with an admirable collection of art.
Another interesting stop is the Town Mountain Miniatures Museum, which displays the impressive collection of native Banderan Patty Callahan Adamson. In addition to thousands of amazing miniatures, you will see a collection of vintage toys that will take you back to yesterday and beyond. Located at 1010 Hackberry Street, the museum has limited hours, so call (210) 240-6920 to schedule a visit.
Whether you choose to say in one of Bandera’s comfortable hotels, at a dude ranch, or at one of the RV parks in or near town, give your schedule plenty of time, because it’s hard to be bored in Bandera!
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Man on the Stair by Stacy Bender. It’s the story of a man whose whole being ceases to exist when he is erased from the system, his digital identity gone. He can’t hold a job, have a bank account, or own a house. He doesn’t exist. So he spends his days wandering the park, keeping street gangs from shooting up the neighborhood, until a good friend is nearly killed while investigating an accident that should not have been possible, and the evidence points to a serial killer who uses technology as a weapon. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – If you eat cookies fast enough your Fit Bit will think you’re walking.