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Home Road Trip Days 8–9 – Fort Worth Magazine

Days 8–9 – Fort Worth Magazine

by Staff

The Hill Country is like no other place on earth. The inland area, which resides just west of Austin, combines the rolling hills of Tuscany with the rocky soil of Greece and dots this landscape with mountain cedars and two types of flora entirely native and unique to the area: the aptly named Texas live oak and Texas bluebonnet. The Texas live oak, with its gnarled, unruly limbs, is a tree that actually enjoys the Hill Country’s dry weather — preferring it to rainier conditions — and is generally accepted to be the hardiest evergreen oak that exists.

While once desolate due to its lack of arable land, the Hill Country has gained in popularity over the decades and is now home to suburban neighborhoods, mansions for the rich and famous, and is a go-to vacation spot for Texans seeking respite. 

We kick-started our two-day venture through the Hill Country in Mason, where we stayed at a boutique hotel, Lea Lou Lodge, in the city’s downtown square, and went west to an unincorporated community called Hext. The community, with a population of 73 according to the 2000 census, has a café and trading post (both operating in the same building) and, well, nothing else. The Hext Trading Post & Café is a bit of a misnomer — from my vantage point, I didn’t see a trading post, unless they are in fact accepting trades for a 20-year-old NordicTrack and a lifetime’s worth of yarn. However, they do serve a mean burger. And by “they,” I mean the elderly husband and wife who own the establishment. The husband, clad in suspenders and jeans, sat in the dining room, took our order, and yelled it to his wife in the kitchen. What followed was a back-and-forth conversation in very heightened volume interspersed with a lot of “ehs” and “whats.” The yelling, as it turned out, was not out of anger but by necessity. Later, the man would show me his gun, which I took as a sign of friendliness. Texas.

From there, my travel companion and I stayed off the beaten path, taking as many side roads — and side roads of side roads — as possible, eventually ending up at Colorado Bend State Park. The park, next to the Colorado River, is home to the spectacular Gorman Falls, a 65-foot waterfall that would feel right at home on the Hawaiian Islands.

A few miles down the winding road that leads to the park is the town of Bend, which has a restaurant and dance joint that advertise pizza and barbecue. Looking for barbecue, I was told they didn’t have any. They didn’t have pizza, either. I ordered the chicken-fried steak, which was fantastic.

That night, my travel buddy and I would bunk in a cabin outside of Hamilton. And the following day, we would notch the final miles of our road trip. I would take Kevin home, hitting Comanche, Santa Anna, and Ballinger along the way and enjoyed a beer at the local Horny Toad Brewing before saying adieu. We’d spent over 60 hours together in the car, and never once did I feel annoyed. I hope he can say the same, but I honestly don’t know.

I’d then make the lonely drive from Miles to Fort Worth. It felt strange getting on the interstate, something I’d avoided all week. And it felt even stranger yet driving a mere few miles to work the next day. A combination of relief and stir-craziness, perhaps a symptom of withdrawals. I can’t stop wondering where we should go next.

Things to See and Do

1. Colorado Bend State Park Home to Gorman Falls in Bend

2. London Hall The oldest dance hall in Texas in London

3. Robert E. Howard Museum The house where the creator of “Conan the Barbarian” lived in Cross Plains

4. Horney Toad Brewing Craft brewery in Rowena

Where to Eat

1. Hext Trading Post and Café Husband-and-wife-owned burger joint in Hext

2. The Bend General Store No barbecue, but fantastic chicken-fried steak in Bend

3. The Grain The only late-night option in Hamilton

4. Lowake Steak House Previously in Lowake until destroyed by tornado, now in Rowena

5. Rancho Pizzeria Brick-oven pizza in Coleman

Where We Stayed

Mason: Casita Modesta, minimalist Airbnb in downtown

Hamilton: Cabin by the Pond, an Airbnb cabin with beautiful patio on stilts sitting in a pond

The Great Texas Road Trip Playlist and Game

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