Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Out in the Country

Donna and I like to get out in the country from time to time and drive along some of the back roads. I'm always amazed at how different the countryside looks from these lesser roads than it does from the main highways we normally traverse.

We had recently heard a commercial for a small Mexican food restaurant in nearby Miles, so we used that as a pretense to explore some of the country in that area.

We started by heading northeast on US 67 through Miles and on to Rowena. We've passed through Rowena dozens of times over the years but had never taken the time to get off the highway and drive through this little community of 700 or so folks. I find it hard to believe there are that many people in this town. I did not see a single convenience store or any place to purchase gasoline, meaning that the folks here would need to drive into nearby Ballinger (about 7 miles northeast) for all of their needs. The main street through town, Edward Street, is fairly neat in appearance and shows that there once was a decent little business district. The most prominent structure in town today is the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, whose tower is visible on any approach to this small town on the prairie. Among historians, Rowena is reputed to be the birthplace of Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame.

The old business district in Rowena. Today it is almost like a ghost town, but it must once have thrived. The building in background on right is the Catholic Church.

I did not know it when I took this picture, but this place appears to be the home of Horny Toad Brewing Company.
Saint Joseph Catholic Church. Many early settlers were Germans and Czechs.

Old school building. I suspect that children today go to nearby Ballinger, but they may also go to Miles. Some students attend Olfen ISD to the southeast.
From Rowena, we hopped back on 4-lane US 67 to Ballinger. I'll not dwell on Ballinger much today as we plan another outing entirely to that town later on. We did drive quickly through their City Park on Elm Creek and then to Ballinger City Lake a few miles west of town.

Dam on healthy Elm Creek in the city park on the east side of Ballinger.
Ballinger City Lake a few miles west of Ballinger.
From the city lake, we headed back to Rowena, crossing the Colorado River. We picked up Highway 2133 which generally parallels US 67, but is more circuitous. I suspect at one time in the distant past it probably was the main road as it started out following the Colorado River. In those days in the arid west, people stayed close to water as long as they could when traveling, for when it ran dry, it stayed dry.

This is what the Colorado River looks like in our part of the country. It's hard to believe that this tiny river is at least partially responsible for so many lakes downstream, such as O H Ivie, Buchanan Lake, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Travis, and others.
Back on US 67, we backtracked to Miles. Our first stop was Sklenarik's Smoked Meats in the downtown area. We've been stopping at Sklenarik's for years and buying their sausage. We normally buy their jalapeno and cheese. Today, we bought several packs of that for others, but for ourselves, we decided to try their ghost chili and cheese variety. Sounds hot to me. Ymmmm!

We then drove a block or two down the street to Los Carlos, the Mexican Restaurant we had heard about on a local radio station. The outside of the building may look questionable to some folks, but the inside is clean, bright, and well-maintained. Donna tried their calibacitas plate, which contained grilled chicken and some grilled vegetables. Whenever I try a new Mexican restaurant, I like to eat enchiladas. I prefer Tex-Mex enchiladas, though, and not the New Mexican variety with red sauce. Since Los Carlos uses red sauce, I opted to try something new. The special of the day was a beef guiso plate, so I decided to try it. I was a bit disappointed. The meat was tender and good quality, but it tasted like the meat you might find in a can of beef soup. It did not have the spicy taste I've come to expect from guiso. The rice and beans were fine. The chips were a bit thin, easily breaking if we dipped too much salsa, and the salsa, although pleasant, lacked any kick at all. But the food was quite decent, though a bit pricey, I think. Since it is basically a 50 mile round-trip from our house to the restaurant, I doubt we will venture back; we have too many Mexican restaurants in Angelo of a higher quality and more reasonable price.

Los Carlos Restaurant, on the north edge of downtown Miles. The place is much nicer inside than you would think based on the exterior.
From Miles, we headed north out of town and picked up Highway 1692. We passed through pretty flat countryside, some fields with cotton waiting to be delivered to the gin. We passed an old, crumbling schoolhouse. It basically was standing alone along the side of the road, making me wonder what community must once have been in that area.

Old school at intersection of Highway 1692 and Klattenhoff Road.

Cotton waiting to be taken to market.
It was good to get out and see some country. We enjoy these little outings on the backroads of this part of the state we love so much.

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