As many of you know, one of the reasons brightlybob and I planned the Insider Meetup in Texas was so that he could join me on one of my county collecting trips. There are plenty of posts and photos of all the Insiders who met at the JW Houston Downtown, so there is no need to include more than a couple mentions here to give context.
Having already decided on the routes brightlybob and I would take, I chose to get a slight head start on visiting counties as soon as I got to Houston. Galveston was not a city we would be visiting together, so once I picked up my rental car, I made the 45 minute drive from HOU to the coast, After a wonderful lunch at Gaido’s (thanks to IAHFLYR's suggestion) I took the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry and continued on to Anahuac, the alligator capital of Texas. In fact, the annual Texas Gatorfest was being held that weekend.
By 4pm, I found my way to the bar at the JW Houston Downtown where I saw a familiar face, jerrycoin. iahflyr recognized me (I knew posting my picture on Insiders was a bad idea ) and so did seatexan (okay that made up for it ). Others filtered in all evening. Between the bar, the CL, and the neighborhood restaurants, we did quite well.
Despite getting to bed just before midnight, I was in my car and on the road at 6:10 the following morning, again collecting counties that would otherwise be missed (the maps are below where you’ll be able to see the “hole” that would have been uncollected had I not gone out Saturday). I picked up 9 counties arriving back in Houston before 3pm. There were a couple interesting courthouses but what really caught my attention was the “Hanging Tree” on the courthouse grounds in Goliad. Not only that, but across the street, one can dine at the Hanging Tree Restaurant. I’m sure many towns once had hanging trees. This was the first place I’ve seen one so venerated.
Around 11:00 Sunday morning, brightlybob and I said goodbye to those who had not already departed Houston, and we drive south towards Corpus Christi. It was a fairly easy drive that included a lunch stop at Whataburger in Bay City. We also dropped by the USS Lexington, now a museum, in Corpus Christi. We showed up about closing time, so had to make do with a photograph from the beach.
Brightlybob had a nice description of our interactions with the locals at Scuttlebutts on North Padre Island, which you can read here (Re: 17-night USA trip at 13 hotels in 10 towns over 9 brands - Am I mad?). Check out the entry for the Sunday Sept 18 and my additional comments. In fact, there are good reviews of all the hotels we visited, so I will not repeat those details here.
From the Corpus Christi SHS, we headed to the ResInn in Harlingen. Normally, that would be about a two hour drive. Not so short when collecting counties. Here’s how we turned it into a 10-hour day. Now that did include a couple hours of stops for photos, lunch, gas, etc.
So despite leaving Corpus Christi before 8am, we didn’t reach our hotel until a little before 6pm. Now, Harlingen is not the county seat of Cameron County (the one at the tip of Texas). No, the county seat is Brownsville, about half an hour farther away. Brightlybob wisely decided to remain at the hotel to catch up on a bit of work and enjoy some free beer courtesy of the Residence Inn Mix. I drove the additional 1 hour round trip to photograph the courthouse and mail my postcard. FYI, Harlingen is in Cameron County, so while brightlybob did not accompany me to visit the county seat, he was in the county.
We departed Harlingen after an early breakfast just before sunrise. I told Bob that shows his true dedication to county collecting. He mumbled something vaguely hinting that doing such things for fun borders on insane, but we arrived at our first stop of the day with sufficient light to photograph the courthouse in Raymondville. A mostly direct route with half a dozen or so stops brought us to San Antonio by 2pm. That gave us enough time to visit the Alamo and then head over to the Riverwalk to enjoy a pitcher of margaritas.
After that, we walked back to the hotel to check out the evening offerings in the CL. We snacked a bit and caught up on Insiders before heading back to the Riverwalk for dinner. It’s quite the different place in the evening.
Our last day of county collecting brought us back to Houston. Aside from the courthouses, there were two worthwhile photo opportunities. The first was in Seguin where we saw the “World’s Largest Pecan,” a half-ton monstrosity about 5 feet long and 2½ feet wide. As it turns out, the town of Brunswick, MO has a 6-ton pecan that is a full 7x12 feet. I suppose I’ll just have to go there one day and see (since Brunswick is not the county seat, I see little likelihood of that, unless one of my county collecting routes goes through town). The other notable item was the gigantic bust of Stephen F. Austin – Father of Texas statehood, located on the edge of town in Belleville, the Austin County seat. Things like these always merit a brief stop.
All too soon it was time to drop brightlybob at the Autograph ICON in downtown Houston and head back to the airport. As luck would have it, we managed one last meeting with IAHFLYR at the hotel bar (where else ).
Over the course of the six days, I visited 40 counties and drove just shy of 2,000 miles (brightlybob was with me for 4 days, covering 26 counties and 1,265 miles ). As I like to do at the end of each of these posts, here are the maps showing my progress. First, the "before" map. Next, the counties I collected prior to brightlybob joining me on the road (the two I drove through but did not collect, we visited on the way back to Houston). Third, the counties we visited together (note we passed through the edge of three that I collected by alone). Finally, the completed trip. When you compare the third and fourth maps, you’ll understand why it was important for me to collect the counties represented on the second map.
Even with this visit, I still have almost 90 of the 254 counties left to visit. While I anticipate returning to Texas next year (my 6th time in 5 years), it will likely take two or three additional trips to complete the state. Up next is a short visit to New Hampshire and Vermont. This is not specifically a county collecting trip, so while I will visit a few, the numbers will be small (something like 9 counties over 4 days). Undoubtedly there will be some interesting things to blog about so check back soon.