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Texas Bucket List for the RVer

April 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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No matter how you size it up, Texas is a BIG friendly state that offers a wealth of experiences for all RVers. A trek across Texas’ 267,000 square miles brings you face to face with all kinds of natural wonders—from tumbleweeds, wildflowers, deserts and cedar forests to angular canyons, rivers and sandy beaches with sea-green surf.

Our Texas RV Travel Bucket List continues.

No Finer Day in Shiner

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town.

Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer, as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, I headed to Spoetzl Brewery and joined a tour.

Shiner beer started in 1909 when the town’s thirsty German and Czech immigrants decided to start a brewery to make the traditional Bavarian brews of their homeland. In 1914, legendary brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl took over and the rest is history.

The Spoetzl Brewery is now the oldest independent brewery in Texas and still brews every drop of Shiner Beer from its “little brewery” in Shiner.

The tour gave me a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from flagstaff Shiner Boch to the 102 Double Wheat. The tour is the best way to sample the spectrum of Shiner, and it whet my curiosity as to what else the town had to offer.

Thirsty no more, but definitely hungry, I went to Friday’s Fried Chicken, a local spot that’s part fried-chicken-joint and part Czech bakery. My two-piece golden-fried-chicken plate with cold slaw and French fries hit the spot. Then I finished my lunch with a slice of homemade pecan pie and a whole pie to go.

While Shiner Beer put Shiner on the map, it isn’t the only thing keeping it there. And a day trip to Shiner goes down as smooth as the namesake beverage. As they say when toasting in Shiner, “Prosit!”

Valley Nature Center

The Valley Nature Center is a 5-acre thicket of native vegetations, primarily upland scrub forest, with a courtyard of identified native plants, a butterfly garden, elevated lily pond, cactus gardens, and self-guiding, interpretive trails winding its way through nature vegetation.

The center features a courtyard dedicated to the preservation of endangered plants and teaches how these plants can be used in wildscaping land in the Valley.

A trail guide identifies native plants and animals of special interest.

The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo taken at the Valley Nature Center, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo taken at the Valley Nature Center, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Valley Nature Center is the oldest nature center in the Rio Grande Valley, and the only non-profit center fully dedicated to environmental education south of San Antonio and east of Eagle Pass. It has been in operation as a non-profit organization dedicated to its mission since 1984.

The park is a wonderful natural oasis in the middle of the city.

Native Plant Nursery open to the public—140 species of plants native to the Rio Grande Valley

Viva, Las Vegas Café

Las Vegas Café is a dining staple on West Harrison Avenue in Harlingen that serves breakfasts, lunches, and dinners Monday through Saturdays. The popular café began its operation with only three tables and eight stools and now has a seating capacity for 140 people.

The name has spicy origins and so do the recipes. The building was a go-go club in the early 1960s that went by the name of Las Vegas Lounge.

Las Vegas owners Julio Charles and his wife, Eloina, started the café in 1964. Today, their two daughters, Lori and Julie, primarily run the café.

The key to the eatery’s continued success is its consistency with good food, good service, and reasonable prices.

The specialties of the house include beef and cheese enchiladas that are prepared from a special recipe that is really their trademark. Plus they have several other quality Mexican dishes such as steak rancheros, fajitas, chicken fried steak, and chicken tenders.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Please Note: This is part 3 of an on-going series on our Texas Bucket List

Worth Pondering…

First buy a cowboy hat and boots. Then you’re on your way to being a Texan.

—James Michener

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If you enjoy these articles and want to read more on RV travels and lifestyle, visit my website: Vogel Talks RVing.

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