Brent Clanton: Vacationing this Summer

The summer doldrums have set in early this year. Houston’s vast matrix of concrete simmers and shimmers in the harsh sunlight, and it’s only 10 in the morning. The hourly growth rates of St.                     Augustinian lawns soon will be stunted by the blast furnace of July. It’s time for a vacation.

I am a very low-maintenance vacationer. I am just as happy camping out in my living room for a week as I am laying on the foredeck of a cruise ship (although if you are offering me an expense-paid choice, I’ll take the latter over the former) I have learned to eschew air travel — it’s no longer fun to fly — and to appreciate the slightly longer, less-traveled, but less crowded, routes from A to B.
Time should be no object while on vacation. That’s why traveling from Houston to Dallas by car, for example, can be made to stretch into an all-day affair if you’re careful. Getting off the Interstate and traveling the original route that US Highway 75 carved through this part of Texas can be an adventure in itself. Stop in the little towns along the way, and savor the rolling, winding vistas in between. My cousin operates a café on the town square in Madisonville. Walker’s Café is worth the detour.
Austin and the Hill Country are also favored destinations for city-stricken Houstonians. You can get there in under three hours — if you live on the west side, or leave before dawn. But,  why rush? Turn off Highway 290 at Chappell Hill, and follow your GPS to Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of Texas. Get out of the car, and walk around.
I believe there’s not a more scenic, tranquil and beautiful county in the entire state than Washington County. There’s a reason those Blue Bell cows are so happy up there. It truly is Heaven on Earth.
From Washington on the Brazos, drive north to Highway 105 and head west to catch William Penn Road to connect with Loop 390, the scenic La Bahia Highway. Originally an Indian trail, this appealing ribbon of asphalt connects Burton, Gay Hill, Long Point and Independence. 
Burton boasts the country’s oldest operating air system cotton gin; Gay Hill features an ancient railroad viaduct; and Independence is steeped in Texas history, with the ruins of the original Baylor University. Independence Baptist Church, into which Sam Houston was baptized in 1854, also marks the gravesite of Houston’s wife, Margaret Moffett Lea.
Between Independence and Gay Hill is the cabin of the naturalist, Gideon Lincecum, at Long Point. Gideon was an explorer of the southeastern territories beyond the 13 colonies, and a correspondent with Charles Darwin. He lived among the Choctaw in Mississippi, learned their language and recorded their oral histories. He moved to Texas in 1848, settling on 1,828 acres centered at Long Point; he passed away in this cabin in 1874.
There are plenty of similar, back-road trails to sate your summer wanderlust. Most can be reached within a few hours of Houston by car. I fill up the tank, clean off the windshield, drop the top, and go. No airport lines, no luggage, no surly TSA attendants. And, the best part about any vacation: the first night back home in my own bed! 
Brent Clanton is a native Houstonian, member of Texas Radio Hall of Fame and regular contributor to Houston Woman Magazine. 
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