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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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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