If you’ve been following me on this blog since I started it in June of 2020 when I decided to drive the perimeter of Texas, you already know I am a proud Native Texan and love this state. Like all things, it has its imperfections. From politics to sports, talking Texas has caused people to agree or disagree about all things Lone Star State and it will continue until their dying day.
In my experience, as someone who has lived in 20 different cities and towns in this part of the south and visited 248 of the 254 counties, the PEOPLE are who make this place great. After all, the definition of Texas means friends. I’ve been blessed to see a great deal of this 28th state with many wonderful friends and family members, while also meeting some fabulous folks along the way.
Either I or others have captured many of those meetings through photography, but very few times, in the big scheme of things. I’ve taken more than 100,000 photos of Texas since I started seriously shooting photos as a hobby in 2012, most placing me on the other side of the camera. I’ve found a few photos with me actually in them. Fortunately, the cell phone has helped remind me to capture the moment with me in a shot or two, in order to prove I was there. I’ve remembered to do so a few times.
So I decided to search through the archives of my photos and my brain to share some of my favorite Texas travel encounters with you.
The Early Years
As a young girl growing up in Texas, I had no idea then where my life around the state would lead me. While I haven’t been everywhere in this beautiful part of the world, I’ve covered a lot of ground and participated in some interesting things along the way from little girl to young adult.
Weird and Wonderful
In searching for my purpose in life during my late 20’s, as many people are known to do, unless you got it together at a young age, I was introduced to to the world of hospitality. I worked in the hotel industry in Texas for several years and I learned a great deal about customer service, both good and bad.
By the time I made it to my mid-30’s, my fun-meter maxed out in the hotel business. Since it’s a 24-7 industry and I had a young child to raise at the time, I needed to NOT be paged every hour of the day. For those of you too young to know what a pager is, think cell phone without the ability to call or text back. You actually had to find a phone plugged into a wall, remember an actual phone number to call, and return the message.
Hotels lead me to destination marketing and the responsibility of promoting cities and towns, and telling their stories so that out-of-town visitors would come to see them and spend money, thereby promoting economic development. I’ve stayed in that world ever since, either by working at a job or by writing a blog about my travels. I’ve shared birthday celebrations at Billy Bobs in Fort Worth, rattlesnake round-ups in Sweetwater, and climbed colossal Enchanted Rock with family outside of Fredericksburg. And that’s just the tip of the Texas travel iceberg. On an almost 100-degree summer day in San Angelo in west Texas, an iceberg doesn’t sound too bad right now.
Name dropping at its finest
I have seldom been starstruck by celebrities. They are just people like you and me. The exception was when I was in the same room with San Antonio-born Carol Burnett at a conference in Los Angeles years ago. When I say ‘in the same room,’ it was actually an auditorium, but I much prefer room, as it sounds like we were closer than the 30+ yards away from each other we actually were. Still, she’s just a regular person. She’s a regular person who happens to have been the star of the greatest American variety and sketch comedy television show ever, The Carol Burnett Show. Nice try, every season of Saturday Night Live. Bless your hearts! All that said, if you are friends with Carol and want to introduce me, I’m all in.
My Carol Burnett interpretation at a conference where I was supposed to dress up as my favorite 1970’s TV character. You can’t see the curtain rod that’s attached to my outfit. If you are too young to understand the reference, click on this link.
I’d love to list the who’s who of fame I’ve encountered over the years, instead, I decided to share those who struck a chord with me in my contact with them for one reason or another.
The late Dr. Doug Blackmon, known simply as Dr. Doug, if you’ve ever sat on the porch with him in Terlingua, was a fascinating character and not someone most of you would consider to be a celebrity. But if you’ve visited the Big Bend region regularly, you likely knew him or knew of him. He gave almost FREE therapy for years to patrons at his wide open mental health clinic. For the price of a bottle of beer, Dr. Doug was in session. We lost the good doctor in 2017 but you may still pay your respects to him at the Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetery. Take him a beer and leave it by his tombstone with all the others. He’d love that.
I met Dr. Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director during the Gemini and Apollo missions, when he spoke at a conference I attended in Houston. He was literally in the room when those familiar words were spoken from space on April 13, 1970 by Astronaut Jim Lovell, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” And, yes, that is correct. Tom Hanks and the script writers in the movie, Apollo 13, took some artistic licenses with that quote. Kranz’s calm leadership during a crisis is a great example for us all.
I met humorist, author, and singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman at Carl’s Corner during a Willie Nelson July 3rd Picnic. While not originally from the Lone Star State, the Kinkster embraced Texas and has been here for decades. When we met in the summer of 2006, he was running for Texas Governor with campaign slogans, including “How Hard Could It Be?”, “Why The Hell Not?”, and “He Ain’t Kinky, He’s My Governor.” Looking back, I can’t imagine why he lost.
When I worked at the Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, I learned the impact Willie Nelson had on Hill County so the chamber decided to award him by placing him into the Hillsboro Chamber Hall of Fame. I had the honor of presenting him with the accolade. He was humble, kind, and genuinely touched when I handed him his award. So touched, he announced right then and there that he wanted to have a July 3rd Picnic at Carl’s Corner a few months later. Willie personally called me several times during the planning of the picnic, wanting to help the local firemen with tickets for fundraising and the 4H or FFA kids with raising money by parking cars. During one conversation, I actually asked Willie the question, “Don’t you have people,” as I assumed someone with his fame would have others make these types of calls. He laughed and brushed it off with an easy, “I was thinking about it on the bus so I thought I’d call” response. He is a true Texas treasure.
Speaking of Texas treasures, Texas Country Reporter’s Bob and Kelli Phillips fit that moniker better than most anyone or anything in this state, and I include the Alamo in that group. I discovered the show when I was in high school and loved it. I truly believe it played a large role in my future career decision to work in the travel and tourism industry. I met Bob around 2006 or 2007 when I was working in McKinney and then, later, when he served on the board of an association I worked at in Austin. Kelli came into the picture after a few more years for me, but I understood immediately when seeing them together that this dynamic duo was the real deal. They truly love this state and I am so blessed that they reached out to me prior to my perimeter tour to let me know they wanted to tell my story about the trip after I was done. They are a major reason I’ve had the successes I’ve had with How Big Is Texas and I will be forever grateful for their friendship.
A few more celebrity sightings
What’s it all mean at the end of the day?
To me, author John Steinbeck said it best about Texas in his book, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, a travelogue he wrote in 1960 when he roadtripped across the U.S. with his standard poodle, Charley. While in his custom-made camper, Rocinante, named after Don Quixote’s horse, he explored the good old USA and made a stop in Texas during his travels. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say about the Lone Star State.
“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.” – John Steinbeck – Travels with Charley, In Search of America
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Steinbeck. I couldn’t agree more.
Until next time…in Texas…safe travels!