Texas is BIG—Beautiful & Diverse

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse.

Big Bend National Park  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 267,000 square miles of amazing opportunities and unforgettable destinations, an RV visit to Texas is always exciting.

In a state as diverse as Texas, there’s always an adventure around every corner and unique attractions at every turn.

From West Texas to the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, El Paso to Texarkana to Brownsville, from outdoor enthusiasts to foodies to culture buffs, there’s always something to see and do in Texas.

Even those of us who visit Texas frequently and spend a big chunk of our time traversing it leave most of the state untouched.

We’ve driven through Texas numerous times over the years. But yet, it always amazes us just how big Texas really is.

Charting any RV trip through the state can be a daunting task. So many miles, so many routes, and even after all our years on the road we’ve still not seen large portions of the Lone Star State. Every trip through, we explore new areas—and revisit favorite haunts.

The state overflows with awesomeness at every turn, places we find completely captivating.

Monahans Sandhills State Park  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usually we just follow I-10 in from the west. Yes, it can be boring but it is the most direct route.

We take our time and schedule varied side excursions along the way and make the journey—and not the destination—the highlight of the trip. It is the journey that is the joy of RVing.

We’ve explored the Big Bend area, including Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Alpine, Marfa, and Davis Mountain Observatory. If it’s solitude you seek, you’ll find it here. However you see it, Big Bend is not soon forgotten: It’s a place of mystery and timeless beauty.

The wind-swept, dynamic rippling sandscapes in Monahans Sandhills State Park is one-of-a-kind. A half-hour’s drive west of Odessa it’s well worth a visit. The park consists of 3,840 acres of wind-sculpted living sand dunes, some up to 70 feet high. The Park is set in one of the areas where the dunes are still active and constantly being shaped by the wind and rain. The dunes grow and change shape due to seasonal prevailing winds and you can watch them change whenever the wind is blowing.

Blue Bell, Brenham  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Blue Bell, Brenham © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream. For us aficionados, ice cream is one of the four food groups. Blue Bell has become the best tasting and certainly the most successful ice cream in Texas (and that means the best in the world). Would my taste buds lie? To learn what makes an exceptionally good thing good, we visited “the little creamery” in Brenham: I think we found out but every few years we require a refresher course.

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market. Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage links are served each day. Aside from the barbecue, Lockhart is a wonderful old town to visit. This small Texas town exudes a rustic, slow-paced charm arising from its Western heritage, rooted in cattle and cotton.

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth. City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town. Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer, as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, we headed to Spoetzl Brewery and joined a tour. The tour gave use a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from flagstaff Shiner Bock to the Extra Pale Ale, Haymaker. A day trip to Shiner goes down as smooth as the namesake beverage. As they say when toasting in Shiner, “Prosit!”

There’s more—much more—adventure in Texas. Space does not permit to detail our numerous other unforgettable adventures and experiences from The Alamo, River Walk, and San Antonio Missions National Historic Park in San Antonio to Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park in the Hill Country. Galveston, Johnson Space Center, Big Thicket National Preserve, Caddo Lake, Rockport, Goliad, Rio Grande Valley, Palo Duro Canyon, and Austin.

Don’t Mess with Texas, Y’all!

And, of course, because we haven’t yet been quite everywhere, we’ll keep exploring Texas

What’s Next?

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

Read More

Airport Dining You’ll Love

“Let’s head to the airport for lunch,” is not a suggestion I’ve ever heard.

The friendly waitresses dressed in poodle skirts and saddle oxfords. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The friendly waitresses dressed in poodle skirts and saddle oxfords. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is until our Texas full-time RV friends suggested taking our hunger pangs to Southern Flyer Diner prior to our annual taste-testing event at Blue Bell Creameries.

Located at the Brenham Municipal Airport, Southern Flyer Diner is open daily for lunch. The Diner harkens back to cafes from the 1950s, complete with black-and-white checkered floors, red-and-white booths with Formica tabletops, jukeboxes, and friendly waitresses dressed in poodle skirts and saddle oxfords.

Southern Flyer Diner serves Southern comfort food and make almost everything from scratch. Chicken-fried steak, grilled catfish with okra and tomatoes, squash casserole, chili with cornbread, meatloaf, Monterrey chicken—they’re all made to order in the kitchen with fresh ingredients.

In aviation circles, pilots often joke about dining on “$100 hamburgers,” a term that reflects the cost of gassing up and flying a plane to an out-of-town restaurant for lunch. At Southern Flyer, the hamburgers are no joke. They’re huge and they come topped with pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions and mushrooms, jalapenos, cheese, and bacon—and just about anything else you can think of including fries.

Southern Flyer Diner menu © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Southern Flyer Diner menu © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And while the diner serves sodas, sweet or un-sweet ice tea, draft beer, and wine, perhaps the best beverage choice for a $100 hamburger (which really costs about $8 to $9) would be a Southern Flyer milkshake made with Brenham’s own Blue Bell ice cream.

Eating at the Southern Flyer was a total delight, a relaxing place for a leisurely informal meal. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. Staff is friendly; the place is very clean. Service is super fast and the food is delicious! My chicken fried steak was very very good.

People all around us were eating burgers. The people at the table next to us said they fly here from The Woodlands in their little plane just for the burgers. Seriously. So, you know it must be good.

I’ll be having a burger next time—and yes, there will most definitely be a next time. Trust me. I’m still asking myself how did this adorable little diner came to be at the Brenham Municipal Airport? I mean, when I think about heading out for lunch I certainly don’t think about heading to an airport—but I will now when I’m in B-ham!

The Southern Flyer Diner at the Brenham airport is hard to find but worth the hunt. Follow the airport signs about 10 minutes out from downtown Brenham to find the teeny little airport and the Southern Flyer Diner.

Yes, Brenham is more than just Blue Bell. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

However, let’s not pretend. Brenham IS Blue Bell too.

And for dessert we explored the sweetest side of Brenham—Blue Bell Creamery with a tour and a scoop—or two or three—to learn how the “little creamery in Brenham” got its start and went from producing two gallons a day to thousands.

The Crosswind Cafe, located at the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport in Angleton, also comes highly recommended.

As long as I’m able to drive my motorhome from one outstanding restaurant to another, I’m just as happy to keep my feet on the ground.

The Southern Flyer Diner hardens back to the 1950s with red-and-white booths and jukeboxes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Southern Flyer Diner hardens back to the 1950s with red-and-white booths and jukeboxes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Southern Flyer Diner

Directions: From Brenham, drive 1.8 miles northeast on U.S. Highway 105, 1.2 miles north (left turn) on FM-50, and 0.5 mile west (left turn) on Airport Road, north (right) on Aviation Way into the Airport entrance and continue until you see the split rail cedar fence and take a left into the parking lot (tan building with green roof).

Address: 3001 Aviation Way, Brenham, TX 77833

Diner Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Phone: (979) 836-5462

Website: brenhammunicipalairport.com

Worth Pondering…

I am not a glutton—I am an explorer of food.

—Erma Bombeck

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Texas RV Travel Bucket List

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse.

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So much has been said about Texas—its sunny seacoast to mile-high mountains, dense forests to cactus-studded desert, great cities to small villages and towns, rich and diverse history, and the hallowed Shrine that represents her birthplace.

With 267,000 square miles of amazing opportunities and unforgettable destinations, an RV visit to Texas is always exciting.

In a state as diverse as Texas, there’s always an adventure around every corner and unique attractions at every turn.

From West Texas to the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, El Paso to Texarkana to Brownsville, from outdoor enthusiasts to foodies to culture buffs, there’s always something to see and do in Texas.

Even those of us who visit Texas frequently and spend a big chunk of our time traversing it leave most of the Lone Star State untouched.

The state overflows with awesomeness at every turn, places we find completely captivating.

These are the places on our Texas Bucket List: 10 things that every traveling Texan should do. Whittling the list to 10 was totally frustrating, so, at the end, we’re listing some other Texas travel spots we love. And, of course, because we haven’t yet been quite everywhere, we’ll keep exploring Texas — and keep letting you know about new finds.

Here, in the meantime, is our bucket list, in no particular order.

We’ll start at the hallowed Shrine that represents her birthplace.

The Alamo

 

You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.—David Crockett © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.—David Crockett © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Alamo is sacred to every Texan, and the state’s number one tourist attraction.

For 176 years, the words, “Remember the Alamo,” have inspired passions and politics. The 13-day siege resulting in a battle to the death for its defenders is truly the stuff of legends.

Entering the doors of this monumental artifact of Texas history, we couldn’t help but wonder how many truly know the saga that unfolded within the walls and under their feet? How many actually think about the struggle for freedom and liberty and the cost involved in the fight against tyranny and suppression?

The story of the birth of the Texas Republic is one of great drama and personal sacrifice.

The Alamo was defended by slightly fewer than 200 men. All were killed or executed.

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city.

Though the old Spanish mission may not be the biggest building on the block, it still casts a giant shadow across the Great State of Texas.

If you have never visited this sacred shrine, you haven’t really visited Texas. And even if you have made the pilgrimage, journey there again and walk the grounds and explore the many enclaves in reflection of the events that transpired there 176 years ago.

Remember the Alamo!

Brenham: Ice Cream Capital of Texas

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What’s your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brenham—Ice Cream Capital of Texas,” proclaims the giant sign at the corner of U.S. 290 and FM 577, which becomes Blue Bell Road, home to Blue Bell Creameries.

The tour begins in a small projection room with a brief, humorous video depicting the history of Blue Bell, founded in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery Company. Afterward, a guide leads visitors upstairs to watch cream transform into frozen confections. Tour-goers peer through large, glass windows that overlook the various processing areas, stainless steel vats and chutes crank out the chilly treats into paper tubs, which are loaded into boxes headed for the freezer.

Our guide mentions that less than half of Blue Bell’s 18 year-round and 24 rotating flavors are produced on a given day. On this day, we watch half-gallons of Pecan Praline, Milk Chocolate, and Rocky Road, pints of Moo-llennium Crunch, and three-gallon containers of Homemade Vanilla glide down the line, as well as the rapid assembly of ice cream sandwiches (120 made per minute).

Cravings can build, even in the quick half-hour watching workers operate vats and pack ice cream. Luckily, an ice cream parlor awaits downstairs at the end of the tour. Visitors receive a serving from their choice of 24 flavors, including the latest creations.

An extensive gift shop adjoining the parlor tempts with everything Blue Bell.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Please Note: This is part 1 of an on-going series on our Texas Bucket List

Worth Pondering…

Wasn’t Born in Texas, But Got Here as Fast as I Could

Read More

50 Things We Love About Texas

1. Texas Hospitality

2. Paso Del Rio, or River Walk, the Jewel of the City (San Antonio)

3. Fresh from the Gulf shrimp and oysters

When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of shrimp. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Exploring the pine and hardwood forests of the Piney Woods of East Texas

5. Saying howdy

6. The Alamo

7. Texas’ wide open spaces

8. Hiking Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, north of Fredericksburg

9. Tex-Mex, especially in far South Texas

10. The way small-town drivers wave to everyone they pass

11. The timeless beauty of Presidio La Bahía near Goliad, and its rural setting

12. Stopping for lunch at almost any small-town BBQ joint and sitting elbow-to-elbow with folks you have little in common with except that you all love good ‘cue

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Blue Bell Ice Cream. Wow!

14. The wind-swept, dynamic rippling sandscapes in Monahans Sandhills State Park is one-of-a-kind

15. Stopping for kolaches at a small-town bakery

16. Driving the winding road to Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park

17. Feeling at home everywhere we go in the state

18. Bird watching in the numerous state parks and national wildlife refuges of the Rio Grande Valley

19. Chunky salsa with plenty of heat!

20. San Jacinto Battleground Monument and Battleship Texas state historic sites

21. Texas music with Willie, Waylon, and the boys…

22. Millions of gallons of crystal-clear, cold water bubbling up from the San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas

23. Tex-Mex Enchiladas

24. Exploring the pretty towns, rolling hills, wineries, dude ranches, beautiful lakes, historic attractions, and cool caves of the Hill Country

25. The wildflowers

26. Friendly Texans—who smile and never hesitate to give out directions when you’re lost

27. Touring Galveston, the “Island of Endless History”

28. Margaritas—frozen, on-the-rocks, or martini-style (with salt!)

29. Summer weather in the middle of winter

Entrance to Galveston’s Strand Historic District, the city’s primary commercial area during the second half of the 19th century, when its star was bright and full of great promise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Touring the Bluebell factory in Brenham. Especially in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

31. Nine-unit World Birding Center which stretches across 127 miles of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island northwest to Roma

32. Breakfast tacos

33. The sign in Hondo that says “This is God’s Country, Please Don’t Drive Through it Like Hell.”

34. Photogenic Guadalupe Mountains and namesake national park area earns a thumbs-up

35. Pecan pralines

36. Being amazed by the subtle colors—red, white, yellow, gray, and lavender—that arise from the claystone, sandstone, gypsum, and mudstone of the panhandle plains at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of Texas”

37. Shopping H-E-B (Here Everything’s Better)

38. Sense of wit that shines through in town names like Paris, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, and Earth, as well as Uncertain, Utopia, Happy, Friendship, Veribest, and Needmore. Let’s not forget Cut and Shoot. Oh, there’s so many more!

39. Pecans and all the goodies made from them

40. Small towns decked out for Christmas

41. HEB salsa/picante sauce with the round HEB corn chips.

42. Saying Howdy and Ya’ll

43. Picturesque Rockport-Fulton and Corpus Christi on the Texas Riviera

Rockport-Fulton is an increasingly popular snowbird roost for Winter Texans. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

44. Bluebell Pecan Praline ice cream

45. Kemah Boardwalk and its Christmas Boat Parade

46. Texas ruby red grapefruit

47. A 26,800-acre cypress swamp with Spanish moss dripping from ancient cypress trees limbs, Caddo Lake may be Texas’ most magical and mysterious place

48. Touring and taste-sampling at the “Little Brewery in Shiner

49. Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World” and one of the prettiest areas in the Hill Country

50. Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Wasn’t Born in Texas, But Got Here as Fast as I Could

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50 Spectacular RV Trips

You might have read it or flipped through it or seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virginia

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road noted for its scenic beauty.

Meandering 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Parkway follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It runs through the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.

Brenham Creamery Company, Texas

Blue Bell ice cream is an icon in Texas. I consider ice cream to be a food group—and there’s no better ice cream available than Blue Bell.

In 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company opened its doors to sell butter. By 1911, they had put together milk, cream, eggs, and fruit fresh from local farmers and were making a gallon or two of ice cream daily, packing it in a large wooden tub with ice and salt, and delivering it by horse and wagon to neighbors. By 1930, Blue Bell Creameries had been born, and today their ice cream is a true Texas favorite.

What makes an exceptionally good thing good? For the answer, visit “the little creamery” in Brenham—I think you’ll find out.

Continue reading →

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon’s limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park is actually less of a canyon than it is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.”

Millions of years of wind, water, and geologic forces have shaped and etched the surreal landscape. The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Bryce is an unforgettable experience. The 37-mile scenic drive will also get you to key overlooks and vistas, such as Sunrise, Sunset, Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Inspiration Point.

Continue reading →

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sheer sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo.

Continue reading →

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park covers a vast area of rock wilderness in southeastern Utah. Over millions of years, the rivers and their small tributaries have carved the flat sandstone rock layers into many amazing forms with a wide range of colors.

The 530 square miles of the park contain countless canyons, arches, spires, buttes, mesas, and a myriad of other spectacular rock formations.

The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sheer unbridgeable canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers divide Canyonlands into three distinct sections—Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze—which differ in the types of landscape found there, the number of visitors and the available facilities.

Continue reading →

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod juts out from Massachusetts, extending 70 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer miles of glorious ocean beaches, quaint villages, art galleries, outdoor recreation including biking, hiking, and golf. Lighthouses, grassy dunes, whales, salt marshes, seafood, cottages, resorts, shopping, restaurants, clam bakes, pubs, galleries and, oh, yes, a little nature and history.

Each island town has its own personality, but they all share a relaxed way of living, clean saltwater air, and a sense that you’ve discovered a place where time might occasionally truly stand still.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places and moments that take our breath away.
—George Carlin

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What’s to Love about Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Black's Barbecue is Texas' oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Black's Barbecue is Texas' oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you slander their vittles, they’re apt to defend their deep-fried passion as though you personally launched another attack on the Alamo.

Necessity has frequently mothered our creations, and early Texans had to make do with meager supplies, which is how they wound up with frugal favorites like chicken-fried steak and fried pies. Such resourcefulness produced foods that bring us endless gratification today.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

Little Known & Great Places to Eat

Sure, there are thousands of great places to eat scattered throughout cities and towns all across Texas, and a Main Street Cafe on just about every corner of every berg from Wink to Brownsville. But there are those really special places that qualify as the Best of the Best—the unique and extraordinary—the unusual, and just plain great places to eat. They shouldn’t be missed when traveling down the highways and byways of Texas.

Take a tour of some of our personal favorites and schedule lunch or dinner next time you’re in the neighborhood. These are spots you can’t afford to miss. Bon Appetite!

1. Texas Barbecue

The meat that’s most often used in Texas BBQ is beef. And among the various beef cuts, brisket is hands-down the most popular. There’s something about taking a tough piece of meat like a beef brisket and turning it into a tender and delicious masterpiece.

Another difference is the barbeque sauce. Every Texas barbeque lover knows that there is nothing like the original Texas BBQ sauce. This famous sauce has a sweet and spicy, tomato-based flavor that is thick and delicious.

2. Chicken-fried steak

Born on the cattle-driving trail, this Texas staple was poor folks’ food, as the cowboys ate pretty much what their coosies (chuck-wagon cooks) could scare up. Longhorn was a tough beef, so the coosie pounded it until tender with whatever tools he could find, then dredged it in flour and fried it up in a Dutch oven. Texans by the thousands now savor it on a daily basis.

3. Shrimp

When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of shrimp. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The shrimp fleet that fishes the Texas Gulf Coast is one of the world’s largest, and there isn’t a place where you can buy this delectable crustacean any fresher or tastier. When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of this fresh crustacean. Back in our motorhome Dania whips up a fresh feast for dinner while freezing the rest for our future eating enjoyment.

4. Blue Bell Ice Cream

I consider ice cream to be a food group—and there’s no better ice cream available than Blue Bell. In late August 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company opened its doors to sell butter. By 1911, they had put together milk, cream, eggs, and fruit fresh from local farmers and were making a gallon or two of ice cream daily, packing it in a large wooden tub with ice and salt and delivering it by horse and wagon to neighbors. By 1930, Blue Bell Creameries had been born, and today their ice cream is a true Texas favorite.

Made in a multitude of flavors—Pecan Praline ’n Cream, Buttered Pecan, Caramel Sundae Crunch, Spiced Pumpkin Pecan are tops with me. 

5. Pecans

Did someone mention pecans? In the autumn, pecan tree branches become heavy with their bounty of nuts, and the delicious fun begins soon after harvesting. Grown in some 150 Texas counties, Lone Star pecans come in such varieties as Desirable, Western, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Cape Fear, and many more. Enterprising cooks make batches of spiced pecans, pralines, and fudge.

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note: This is the first in a ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

No you can’t have Antonio unless you got the San.
And you can’t have the Valley without the Rio Grande.
It ain’t Texas barbecue without the Mesquite smoke,
And Austin’s gotta have its Hook ‘Em Horns and Broken Spoke.

It ain’t the Hill Country if it doesn’t have the hills,
Or Fredericksburg or Dripping Springs, or good ol’ Kerrville.
It ain’t the Texas flag without the Lone Star,
And without blackeyed peas, it ain’t Texas caviar.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

—Written and sung by Jack Ingram

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A Sweet Tour: Blue Bell Creamery, TX

Yum—we’ve reached the home of “the little creamery”, Blue Bell Ice Cream, just two miles southeast on Loop Farm Road 577.

"Blue Bell Ice Cream tastes so good because the cows think Brenham is heaven." © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like other visitors to “the little creamery in Brenham”, we share in the rich history of Blue Bell with a short film, observe the ice cream making process from the time the milk is received to the time the filled ice cream cartons are sent into the blast freezer, and end our tour with a serving or two or three of our “favorite” ice cream flavors.

“In the 1900 era there were hundreds of dairy farmers in this area,” related our tour guide. “Now there are only two or three in the county.” Today the creamery gets its milk from dairy farms within a 200-mile radius.

Blue Bell, still a family company after 104 years, does not sell franchises. That’s because, “We eat all we can and sell the rest,” our tour guide added.

We were led to an observation area that overlooks an array of gleaming steel pipes and containers. We see the pasteurizing tank, the flavoring tanks, and an area where special ingredients like peaches and pecans are added. The finished concoction is the consistency of soft custard when it’s poured into cartons. The cartons go straight into a blast freezer—wind chill factor minus 100 degrees—for eight hours before they get loaded onto trucks.

The company is control-freaky with its distribution. “Making good ice cream is one thing, but then you have to keep it at a constant temperature and ship it properly,” we were told. “We do it all ourselves. We have Blue Bell employees driving Blue Bell trucks that take it to the stores.”

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They don’t even let stockers fill the freezer cases — Blue Bell employees handle that part, too.

In addition to the tour, visitors can shop in the Blue Bell Country Store for Blue Bell logo items and special gifts with distinct country flavor.

Tours are offered weekdays. From October through February Blue Bell Creameries are on their winter schedule.  If you plan to come on a Wednesday or Friday please call first. Tours are Monday to Friday: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.  No weekend tours.

Visitors are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Groups of 15 or more must always have a reservation.

Since tour times change, it is recommended that you phone in advance (800-327-8135).

Admission costs (includes a serving of Blue Bell Ice Cream)

We ended our tour with a generous serving of our “favorite” Blue Bell ice cream flavor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Admission $5.00
Senior Citizens (55+) and Children (6 to 14) $3.00

Tours are also available in other Blue Bell Creamery locations including Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Sylacauga, Alabama.

“Blue Bell Ice Cream tastes so good because the cows think Brenham is heaven.”

As I dug into my Pecan Pralines n’ Cream, I was pretty sure those cows were right.

What’s your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream?

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Have Yourself a Blue Bell Country Day

If you could take a rainbow,

And a clear blue summer sky
And mix them with a gentle breeze,

In a bowl of pure sunshine;
You’d have the taste of Blue Bell,

Made the good old fashioned way;
Then you’d have a real good start,

On a Blue Bell country day;
Homemade Ice Cream

What a perfect way to say

Have yourself a Blue Bell country day.

—Aaron Barker

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King of Ice Cream: Blue Bell Creamery, TX

Ask expatriate Texans about Blue Bell ice cream, and a certain wistful look will come into their eyes.

Blue Bell ice cream is an icon in Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Oh yeah, Blue Bell,” they say. “You’re making me homesick!”

Blue Bell ice cream is an icon in Texas.

Blue Bell has become the best tasting and certainly the most successful ice cream in Texas (and that means the best in the world).

And we’re talking big-time success here! And they did it all out of a little ice cream plant in Brenham, Texas.

How? What makes an exceptionally good thing good?

For the answer I visited “the little creamery” in Brenham: I think I found out.

The Blue Bell Creamery has been churning out some of the best ice cream in the world for over a century. Blue Bell got its start in Brenham back in August 1907, as butter-maker Brenham Creamery Company.

Four years later, they put together milk, cream, eggs, and fruit fresh from local farmers and began making a gallon or two of ice cream daily, packing it in a large wooden tub with ice and salt and delivering it by horse and wagon to neighbors.

What is your favorite Blue Bell flavor? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1930, the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries, after the Texas wildflower that grows throughout much of the state.

Today their ice cream is a true Texas favorite. Made in a multitude of flavors (Pecan Praline ’n Cream, Buttered Pecan, Caramel Sundae Crunch, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Spiced Pumpkin Pecan, and Moo-llennium Crunch are tops with me), there’re like a hug in a bowl.

Southern Scoops

Known for its frozen interpretations of Southern desserts—Southern Blackberry Cobbler, Banana Pudding, Chocolate Mud Pie, and Southern Hospitality—Blue Bell debuts several new flavors each year, narrowed down from hundreds of suggestions from fans and employees.

Sure, Blue Bell has made a few duds over the years—the Dill Pickles ‘n’ Cream must have prompted a run on grocery stores by pregnant women but Homemade Vanilla, Cookies ‘n Cream, and Dutch Chocolate have earned it a loyal following.

Blue Bell isn’t just the number one ice cream in the Lone Star State. It dominates the market.

A great flavor for the good folks in Kentucky. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And although Blue Bell is only available in about 26% of the nation’s supermarkets, it ranks as the number three best-selling brand in the United States; also Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla is the best-selling single flavor of ice cream in the entire U.S. Their products are currently sold in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Sales vary according to regional tastes; Black Walnut is a best-seller in the Mississippi River Valley, Pistachio Almond is popular in New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida, and Kentucky Delight is sold only in the Bluegrass State.

Like other folks around Texas and the South, we’re interested in seeing where our favorite ice cream is made.

The sweet story of “the little creamery” in Brenham and the tasting test continues tomorrow…

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Blue Bell Ice Cream jingle

I remember our old country home
Clean fresh air and the flowers growing
In the fields, along the path, beside our swimming hole
Momma hollering through the screen
Would you kids like some homemade ice cream?
That was such a simpler time and place
Blue Bell tastes just like the good old days!

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