IH35 Road Trip Part 1

IH-35 Road Trip Part 1

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by Celia Hayes

Having a book event last Saturday in Belton – a very pleasant and prosperous town overtaken and reduced to mere suburb status by the mighty municipalities of Fort Worth on one side and Dallas on the other. Not having more than a day available to spend on this excursion, and depending on the takings from sales of books at it for any extraneous adventures, we did not take any scenic and exciting backcountry routes to and from. Instead, we took the simple and uncomplicated road – IH-35, at a consistent 60 to 70 MPH, except for twenty minutes on the return journey, stuck in Austin traffic at a slow crawl. How they can manage a total stand-still on a Saturday evening is beyond me; it must be some kind of special Austin gift.

But that simple, straight-forward jaunt took us right by a number of curious attractions conveniently located right off the highway, beginning with a stop at Buc-ees in New Braunfels. At an early hour on a Saturday, the joint does not precisely jump – but as a stop for gas, sandwiches, coffee and a visit to the princely and beautifully clean bathrooms – the place has no equal in Texas or the world. Believe me; I have experienced some of the vilest public bathrooms in Europe and Japan. In Europe, they built cathedrals – in North America, the finest bathrooms since Rome. At Buc-ees, the food is pricy, but excellent, and how many other choices do you have at 5 in the morning off the interstate, anyway?

The next curiosity going north would be just south of San Marcos at the San Marcos Retail Outlets. We used to spend a lot of money there; and it seems that a lot of other shoppers have done so too, — for they have expanded hugely. The outlet mall around Centerpoint/exit 200 is practically a tourist attraction in itself, although I don’t think the Venetian gondolas get all that much use.

Austin – oh, what can one say about Austin: It used to be a series of scattered farms and blockhouses, among the hills and woods by the upper Colorado River, until Mirabeau Lamar killed a buffalo near Congress and 8th street, and decided that henceforward, Austin would be the capital city of an independent Texas. And so it did – these days Austin is distinguished by a vibrant music and intellectual scene, astonishingly clogged traffic on the IH-35 even on weekends, a view of the capital building from the highway, and an incredibly large assortment of hotels along the stretch of IH-35 between Austin and Georgetown. Every hotel chain in America must have three or four outlets along that single stretch.

So does another commercial establishment; a single Ikea store. There it is, on the outskirts of Round Rock, a monument to spare modern Scandinavian design and flat-pack furniture, marooned in the middle of a country where elevated taste often runs to chairs contrived out of cattle horns and upholstered in cowhide with the fur on.

On northwards – to Waco, home to Dr Pepper, Baylor University and … most impressively to a lover of Texas history; the home of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, which is right off the I-35. It is so close that I would have squeezed in a brief and flying visit … if we had not been going past at 6:45 in the mornings, a tight schedule and a serious need to be in Belton by 9:30 at the very latest.

(But there were so many interesting places glimpsed as we flew past, so many bill-boards for places … another time, when time is not so pressing upon us. The rest of this journey is continued next week…)

Big Time Texas Hunts

Big Time Texas Hunts

by Texas Parks and Wildlife

The hunting season is almost here and there’s a way hunters can win the chance of a lifetime all while helping wildlife conservation and public hunting programs. Texas Parks and Wildlife has the story of one lucky winner from San Antonio.

Big Time Texas Hunts offers seven premium hunt packages on some of the finest private ranches and prime wildlife management areas in the state.

All proceeds from Big Time Texas Hunts go to support wildlife conservation, habitat management, and hunting on both public and private lands. If you win, you will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. If your name is not drawn, you’ll still know that your support helps the important work of wildlife conservation in Texas.

For more information on Big Time Texas Hunts, check the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at Texas Parks and Wildlife or call 1-800TX-LIC4U (1-800-895-4248/ Entries can be bought for $10 each wherever hunting licenses are sold or by phone. On-line entries are only $9. Enter by October 15, 2012 in order to be eligible to win.

Clean Your Garage

Use Self Storage To Help Clean Your Garage

by Randy Watson

Outdoor sports such as softball, baseball, football, golf and Frisbee are activities I enjoy when it is nice enough to get outside. Much of this summer was far too hot to be outside playing with the kids or having people over and thus the golf clubs and softball gear didn’t get much action. Usually there is extra space in the house to keep all of my gear but with another baby and larger home office, the sports equipment is losing ground quickly. Most of it is beginning to pile up in the garage which is forcing the cars into the driveway. Now that the weather is starting to cool off, it’s time to start golfing and dusting off the softball bats. What are options for cleaning out the garage with limited space in the house though? After some research, I found the best choice was to rent a self storage unit.

The most obvious possession which should be stored in your garage is a car. Aside from a car, most of the time the garage is used for other stuff you can’t fit in the house like paint cans, spare wood, sheet rock, ladders and lawn chairs. Sometimes, there isn’t even enough room in the house or garage to keep all of your extra stuff and something gets compromised, in my case the cars going into the driveway instead of the garage. I saw this as a potential issue and decided to clean out the garage before it got to looking like a closet where anything extra got dropped and left for later. In addition to paint cans, wood and ladders there was my sports equipment and seasonal tools – lawnmowers, shovels, snow blowers and trimmers.

You have your choice, buy a new San Antonio home or begin cleaning the garage, I made three piles of “stuff”. One pile was for things I could keep, the second was for things to be donated and the third was trash. Once I got going into cleaning mode I was surprised how quickly it went and how quickly the piles built up. Most of my sporting equipment was in the keep pile aside from some old gloves, hockey sticks and golf clubs which were all donated. The trash pile was filled with wrappers, papers, dirt and dust as a result from me sweeping it clean. I was surprised at how much room I now had in the garage but it still wasn’t enough to get both cars in.

I decided to rent a storage unit to keep most of my seasonal garage tools, sports gear and even an old couch I had in a storage room in the basement. Winter shovels, snow boots, a snow blower, hockey gear and the couch all fit comfortably in a 5 x 10 storage unit. Once the seasons shift, I will be able to store my summer gear and tools and use my winter tools and gear. The garage is now clean, both cars fit nicely and I have more time to golf. Another bonus is my wife is happy because she can find everything she needs and all of my smelly hockey gear is in a storage unit until the winter.

You can find a San Antonio self storage facility quickly by using Self Storage Finders. SelfStorageFinders.com lists thousands of local self storage facilities around the country so you can quickly research, reserve and rent a storage unit online in minutes.