Monday, February 4, 2013

On the Road: Bastrop, Texas, to San Angelo, Texas

When we left Bastrop State Park on January 28, 2013, we returned to San Angelo in a roundabout way. I'm not crazy about big cities in the first place, but when pulling the trailer, I really try to avoid highly populated areas. So I came up with a route that bypassed Austin.

Bastrop to Angelo, 261 miles

We left our campsite pretty early in the morning. We followed Texas 95 north to Elgin, where my family and I lived when I was in the 4th and 5th grades. This stretch of 2-lane highway is very busy as there are a number of subdivisions along the road, not to mention the Bastrop Federal Correctional Institution, the Camp Swift Training Center, and other places of activity.

At Elgin, I really wanted to drive through town and see how it has changed over the years, but decided against this since we had a long trailer in tow. Instead, I opted to follow the highway, which bypasses the downtown area. From Elgin to Taylor, traffic decreased considerably on Highway 95. Much of the countryside is rich farmland, and I enjoyed this stretch of road.

We drove straight through Taylor, a city which has enjoyed a lot of growth over the years. I was surprised at how much the city has grown on the north side of town. A few miles north, just after crossing the San Gabriel River, we turned west on Highway 29. This was a lovely stretch of highway paralleling the San Gabriel River to the south. The countryside mixed beautiful trees with open patches of farmland.

We entered Georgetown from the east. This is a beautiful old town that is struggling to retain its identity as Austin encroaches from the south. Home of Southwestern University, founded in 1840, the city's population has grown to almost 50,000. I can remember passing through here as a child when no more than 3,000 or 4,000 residents called this beautiful town home.

At Georgetown, Highway 29 becomes a 4-land road all the way to just beyond the Colorado River and Buchanan Lake. We crossed I-35 here. This interstate has always been my line separating East Texas from West Texas. I've always breathed a sigh of relief when crossing this line, because traditionally there have been fewer people, less traffic, and less buildup on the west side. But on this stretch of highway, I'm going to have to wait a while. There are a large number of subdivisions and businesses along Highway 29. It really isn't until about Buchanan Lake that things relax.

We passed through Liberty Hill, which not too many years ago was simply a crossroads but today is a growing community with new schools and businesses. Next is Bertram, home of the Oatmeal Festival, then Burnett (which rhymes with "durn it"). From Burnett to the Colorado River, which forms the Highland Lakes in the region, the road is like a roller coaster with easy up and down swales and curves.

At the junction of Highway 261, the road narrows to 2 lanes. Soon the Llano River appears on the south side of the road. This is the beginning of real ranch country, and large ranches dot both sides of the highway. Yes, I'm entering West Texas now.

At Llano, we stop for gas and lunch at Cooper's BBQ. Then we're back on the road on our way to Mason, an historic German community that was home to Fort Mason in the 19th century. Not much remains of the old post that was located on a hill on the south side of town, but the memory of Fred Gipson, a Mason native and author of Old Yeller and Savage Sam, lives on. Mason was also the site of the Hoo-Doo War, one of many notable Texas feuds.

From Mason, we continued west to Menard. There is little traffic, just the way I like it. I'm in my element now. This is beautiful country. There are still good oak trees everywhere, but the views are great and there are fewer houses visible from the roadway. This is the Hill Country, and I love it. This may be my favorite part of Texas.

We soon come to Menard. I've covered this part of the trip before in other "On the Road" entries, so I'll not repeat myself here.

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