A Texas Hill Country road trip was one of the last things I wanted to do in Texas before I permanently leave the state. My friends tell me that it’s a beautiful area and that some of the small towns are a delight to visit. Fredericksburg in particular, is one to see. Charming and historic, it has a number of boutique art galleries, curious shops, and well-preserved 19th and early 20th century architecture. The city is also the hometown of World War II hero, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
Texas Hill Country Road Trip: Day 1
My mother and I started our Texas Hill Country road trip on Saturday morning, driving south-west from Fort Worth. The Google map directions had us cutting through the middle country, right on Highways 281 and 290. It was a pleasant and scenic drive. It would have been much nicer if it wasn’t cloudy, but I was still grateful for the fact that it was at least dry.
The first interesting town we passed was a place called Glen Rose. Its known for two things: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and Dinosaur Valley State Park. The former is practically a large ranch where visitors can observe animals like giraffes, deer, and ostriches roam around freely. The latter is a state park known for their dinosaur tracks. It’s a great place for kids and adults who might have an interest in archaeology.
After Glen Rose came Hico. It’s a very small town that claims to be the birthplace of the infamous character, Billy the Kid. It also has a “colorful” history. The owners of the family-run restaurant previously called Koffee Kup Kafe was rumored to support the white supremacist group the KKK and allowed them to conduct many of their meetings within the premises. The restaurant remains open today but has since changed its name to Koffee Kup Family Restaurant.
Next up on our Texas Hill Country road trip were the towns of Burnett and Marble Falls. Burnett is known around the state as the bluebonnet capital of Texas. It was still a bit early for the peak bloom (its usually in late April, early May) but we drove by fields that were starting to spring the beautiful wildflowers. Marble Falls’ claim to fame was its pink granite, the same one that was used to build the Texas State Capitol. It’s also a popular gateway towards Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
The last small town of interest before reaching Fredericksburg was Johnson City. It was the hometown of former president Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ). Oddly enough, the fact that it’s called Johnson City has nothing to do with the ex-president. There is however, a state park dedicated to LBJ and a historic site that contains his old ranch.
We finally arrived in Fredericksburg after four and half hours on the road. We checked in at our hotel, dropped our luggage, and then headed right to the town’s historic center. Our first stop was the National Museum of the Pacific War. I’ve heard great things about this museum dedicated to the Pacific campaigns during World War II so I wanted to check it out for myself. And though my mother isn’t quite the history buff, I knew that she would enjoy it because there were a number of exhibits about our home country, the Philippines.
An adult ticket costs $14 but it’s valid for 48 hours. It includes admission to the George H. W. Bush galleries, the outdoor war memorial, and the Chester W. Nimitz Museum. The Bush Galleries were very good and the information conveyed was very detailed. It was also well curated and has a balanced amount of small and large memorabilia unique to the museum. In short, it was a haven for history buffs. Here are some of the highlights:
- Information about the Russo-Japanese War and the US role in the conflict
- Japanese conflicts with China and Korea in the early 20th century
- The Spanish-American War and the US’ isolationist approach to World War I
- Pearl Harbor
- Details leading up to the attack as well as the actual video and audio recording during the assault
- One of the midget Japanese torpedo sub used
- Memorabilia from naval personnel and wreckage including a door from the USS Arizona
- Bataan and Corregidor
- Declassified information regarding the Bataan Death March
- Photos and recounts from survivors of the event
- Details on both the Battles in Corregidor
- Doolittle Raid or Tokyo Raid
- Detailed information on this key “experimental” move
- Actual B-25 on display
- Midway and Guadalcanal
- Audio descriptions of both key battles including video recordings of the actual events
- Interactive kiosks with declassified information and animated images of the naval plans
We didn’t get through all the exhibits at the National Museum of the Pacific War but we made quite a dent that afternoon. The museum was closing so we had no choice but to leave. We agreed to return the next day.
I wanted to grab a meal at this unusual diner called Airport Diner. It’s part of The Hangar Hotel and named as such because its location is in an airport hangar. The interior décor of the diner is retro cool and the collective feedback was mostly positive. Unfortunately, they were already closed for the day so my mother and I ended up just eating at this Italian restaurant called Pasta Bella Restaurant. We were seated in the outdoor covered patio area after about a 20-minute wait. The food was nothing extraordinary, but it was relatively inexpensive and filling. For a last-minute option, I’d say it wasn’t bad.