There are a lot of tales around these parts. You hear them just as much on the highways as you do on the back roads. It seems natural. When your state is larger than life, so are your people and so are your stories. ZiegenBock presents a journey through Texas to find old tales and tell some new ones.
We open our eyes and find ourselves in a place like we have only seen in old westerns. Sand dunes. There's three of us armed with cameras, a cooler full of ice cold ZiegenBock, and an SUV. This is where our story begins. The hot, unforgiving desert.
It was high noon. The punishing sun beating down on us. A strong and hot desert wind kicking up sand. We chose to seek refuge inside our ride. Where we discovered a few pairs of seemingly ancient skis. Why were we provided with these? We came to the following conclusion. Dunes + Skis = Fun? We strapped those bad boys to our boots and rode down as many dunes as we could.
Did we fall? Yes.
Were we completely covered in sand? Absolutely.
Was it the most fun ever? You bet your ass it was.
You can rent sand toboggans and disks from the office but it’s BYOS (bring your own skis).
Marathon, Texas is a pretty small town with only a little over 400 residents. This historic mission style hotel is a popular watering hole for locals, giving visitors the chance to hear the stories of the area, whether true or not. This was the perfect place for us to lay down our weary heads… After, ya' know, all that wandering and skiing around in the desert.
This hotel has a story to tell you and it is narrated through the decor of the rooms. For example, their famous mounted white buffalo, which was acquired from a shuttered natural history museum in Montana, or the collection of cow skulls that are placed to create one even larger cow skull. There are so many other unique pieces but they are best seen with your own eyes.
This place doesn’t just have character; it is a character. It’s a place you can’t miss if you head to Marathon.
The place: Marfa, Texas. A small, artsy community in West Texas. Home to an unusual occurrence that has still yet to be explained. The mysterious Marfa Lights. We know that, “the truth is out there” and we were curious if our journey would take us to this "truth."
We set off to the Marfa Lights Viewing Center. Our crew stood waiting for our chance to document the mystery lights. Cameras ready. The sun about to set. When, clear as day, the most wondrous display ever started up. We snapped as many pictures as we could but after a few short minutes it stopped dead. Then suddenly, a huge light came from the sky and hovered directly above us. We were quick to snap more pictures but it quickly zoomed back into space. We stood in awe of what had just happened when out nowhere a few black SUVs show up. Out popped a couple of men in black suits and sunglasses. They walked up to us and asked to “see” our camera equipment. Needless to say, they sort of deleted all of the pictures of the event but we traded them a few Ziegs to at least get our cameras back.
You shoulda seen it though… Indisputable proof of extraterrestrial life. Oh well.
Check out the Marfa Lights for yourself at the Marfa Lights Viewing Center.
As we were driving through some of the many cattle ranges in Texas, we were reminded of the story of Buford, the 48’ tall longhorn. We believe one of his decedents is out there and we are pretty dead set on finding him.
We pulled off to the side of the road in hopes of getting a closer look at some longhorns. They didn’t seem that interested in us until this farmer rode up and asked what we were doing. We said, “Trying to find a two story tall longhorn.” He responded with a simple “oh.” We then asked if he had seen one. He said, “Well, I can’t say I have, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t out there.” He stepped out of his truck and walked over to us. “Would you like to learn a trick?” he asked. “Of course,” we said. He walked over to the fence, put his hands around his mouth, and belted out something that sounded like “QWARP!” Then again, “QWARP!” Suddenly, we started to see them approach him at the fence. Longhorns, dozens of them. “QWARP!” They all walked over to him and gathered at the fence. He turned to us, smiled, hopped in his truck, and rode away.
These guys were huge, but none of them were Buford huge. Therefore, the search must continue. But now we have the secret call to get him.
Roads are the core of the American infrastructure. They take us where we need to go. They take us to important places. This road, however, is different. The Pinto Canyon Road takes you to a very specific place. Nowhere.
This road winds through Pinto Canyon until it just… ends. Sometimes dirt, sometimes gravel, occasionally pavement, and always somewhat dangerous. This was the place we needed to break in our new ride. So, we took it to nowhere and back. Good thing we had a full tank of gas.
The tales about secret springs with healing waters are all over the United States, but in the shadow of Chinati peak, the legends are true. Our bodies aching from our trip and dearly in need of some R&R, we spotted what seemed to be an oasis. Surely, these waters were just a trick of the tired eye… but that didn’t stop us from running full speed at them. The closer we got, the more we realized that our eyes were not deceiving us. We reached the edge of the pool and, right as we were about to hop in, we heard, “NO JUMPING!” We then stopped, calmed down, and slowed sauntered into the water, taking time with each step. Once fully submerged we felt a wave of comfort take over. We decided to soak until we achieved full relaxation… or excessive pruneiness, whichever happened first. It was the pruneiness.
We kicked around the resort for a few more hours to drink in this oasis. We met Rook, the trail cat, had some delicious chili, and decided to never leave. Until we left. Which we remembered that we had to do.
How often is it that you get to live a ghost story? Not often, right? Well, picture this: a whole town fulla ghosts. They say the people of Terlingua just up and vanished one day leaving in their wake only the buildings they used to live in. No one knows where they went or why. One day they were all just gone. However, that was following the local mining operation going bust... So, maybe it's safe to assume that they vanished mostly because of that and not because they just turned into ghosts. What I am getting at here is that Terlingua may not have been “fulla” ghosts but surely there were a few.
The town of Terlingua is now home to only a few dozen non-ghost residents who are genuinely good people. You can explore the old buildings, grab a bite to eat, check out some strange art, and grab a brew in the saloon. If you’re really lucky, the bartender may even let you in on what he thinks really happened to the people of Terlingua.
Over time and thousands of years, water can break down mountains. Nowhere in Texas is that more evident than at The Santa Elena Canyon. The mighty Rio Grande has worked its way through some truly immense hillsides. It created this breathtaking and dare I say picturesque canyon.
You may be thinking. That little stream is the Rio Grande? At the time this picture was taken, it was the low season for the water. During the high season, this river is great for canoe and kayak trips that take you through Big Bend. This river is a beautiful showcase of the best Big Bend has to offer.
Big Bend is great for hiking, backpacking, camping, and so much more.
ZiegenBock is, by definition, a Texas beer. More specifically a Houston, Texas brewed amber. Brewed in Texas, by Texans, for Texans. In our trip around our home state, we would be remiss to not stop at our home city.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States. What’s interesting about that is Houston never feels as big as it truly is. You never feel overwhelmed by Houston. Well, you may be a little hot and probably a bit sweaty from the humidity but what you won't be is intimidated. Well, the statue might weird you out bit. Oh, didn’t mention the statue did we? Well, when you are driving into Houston you may notice you are being greeted by an enormous white statue of Sam Houston. He's just standing there... Waiting. It feels like he is gonna move every time you pass him.
Houston is also home to a growing food scene, a bunch of professional sports teams, museums, and so much more. Get this, there’s even a beer can house. We clearly belong in this city.
When you think of Texas, the first thing that comes to your mind is never beaches. Let’s be honest. It just isn’t. After spending time in Corpus, we think it may be time to readjust your thinking. With the warm, beautiful gulf waters and incredible sandy beaches, it's a shock people don't think about Texas for its beaches.
Corpus Christi is also where you can find the USS Lexington, a World War II era aircraft carrier. Built in 1943 she was called, “The Blue Ghost.” She earned this name because she was reportedly sunk countless times by enemies. Then when another battle would break out, she would be there. This haunted those who faced her, wondering if they were just seeing a ghost. She was decommissioned in 1991 and is the oldest remaining fleet carrier in the world. Unless, she isn't really there at all...
If you are looking to go to the beach without having to leave Texas, you want to go to Corpus Christi.
South Padre Island is just off the coast at the bottom of Texas. The very bottom. South Padre is also home to some pretty incredible beaches. While we would like to discuss the beaches themselves we have to address what happened to us on the beach.
We parked our SUV to capture some images of the beach. We were just getting into the swing of things when we saw a horse walk past us. We thought it was kind of weird but continued on, taking our pictures. Then, another horse rode past us. And another. And another. And another. Until we were pretty much surrounded by horses. It felt like hundreds of horses were surrounding us and they just kept coming. We we’re swimming… In horses. Finally, horses with riders started appearing. They wouldn’t tell us their names or where they were going. They were fine with us taking some action pictures of them. Which is also very peculiar.
After what seemed like it could have been ten minutes or ten hours, they were all gone.
South Padre Island is home to some of Texas' finest beaches, a very popular waterpark, an aquarium, and all manner of water sports and activities. Plus, if you want to find yourself in the middle of a hundred horses, this would be a good place to look into.
Palm trees. Those are for tropical places. Like Florida. That’s where you go to find palm trees. Right?
Well, were you aware that you can find palm trees right here in your own backyard? You just have to go south. Way south.
Our trip took us to the border towns of Brownsville and McAllen. These are not only places where the US and Mexico meet, but places where beach meets west. Think of all the things you like about Texas. Now, add a beachy vibe. Now, also, add tacos, really great tacos. Then also add the best damn tamales you've ever had. Sounds pretty good right? Damn right it is.
McAllen, as we came to find out, has these clothing stores that sell "ropa usada" or used clothes. These stores are for those looking for a sort of "extreme" thrifting. The wildest thing about these places is they charge you by the pound of clothes. Not what type, by the pound. You can, essentially, find a whole closet worth of clothes and maybe spend ten dollars.
Brownsville and McAllen have a charm you really can't find anywhere else.
Anyone from San Antonio can tell you that the place to go is the River Walk. In fact, when we asked people on the streets where we should go? Most of them said: the River Walk. We took their advice and headed over there and now get why they sent us. Tons of places to eat, stay, drink, and explore. It has a sort of foreign vibe to it. Hold your horses, I heard you gasp. It’s foreign in a good way. Trust us.
There is more to San Antonio than just the river walk, though. It's the only place in Texas where you can get what they call a "puffy" taco. It's a taco with a light, crispy, and, yes, puffy shell. San Antone is absolutely filled with history, from colonial Spanish, Mexican, and Texas revolutionary. There's something big that happened there a long time ago too... but I can't quite remember what it is. You can explore a series of caves (If you've got the guts), ride roller coasters or spend a day at one of the amusement parks, or even take in some fancy pictures at one of the museums. Also, if you've ever wanted to spend an afternoon at a tea garden, San Antonio is a place where this is possible.
When you really dig into San Antonio, you'll find way more than you expected.
Floating the river has become a bit of a tradition in Texas. Maybe, it’s because all it takes are you, a river, and a tube. Maybe, it’s because of the nature of Texans. We are willing to let the river take us where ever it chooses. Maybe, it’s just the fact that spending a day floating down a river with a group of your friends is clearly a great way to spend a day. We’re not sure of the exact reason but the Texas heat surely has something to do with it.
We made our way to the San Marcos River where tubing is more than just a tradition, it’s a way of life. That’s the life we wanted, and that’s the life we got.
We grabbed a couple of tubes, floated the river for an hour or two, then walked about ten minutes back to the beginning and did it all over again.
We likely could have done this all day, every day, for the rest of our lives. However, the road calls us and it was time to head to the next location. If you wanna float your cares away, we strongly suggest heading to San Marcos.
It’s at this point that you may be realizing how much water there is in this state. One that, at first glance, seems like it would be the exact opposite. The lore of Texas does a good job painting that picture. People envision a cowboy on a horse riding through the desert, with not a drop of water in sight. As you can see, that’s just not the case. Texas is full of water!
One of the biggest rivers in Texas is the mighty Colorado. It carves its way through the heart of Texas. Along its journey, it slows down in a few places. One such place is the city of Horseshoe Bay. I bet you can guess what the city was named after. If you can’t, well, I don’t really know what to tell you. Horseshoe Bay gives its residents water front property in the middle of Texas. As the bay breaks back into the Colorado River you come across a city called Marble Falls. You see, one of the biggest reasons why people settle in a place is its access to water. You can see it everywhere in the USA and you can see it here. In case you didn’t know, you need water to live. It’s kinda important.
The Texas Hill Country is unlike anything in the rest of the state. Driving through Texas you get used to the flat landscape. However, once you hit the Hill Country, it’s like you’re in a completely different place.
The Hill Country has become world-renowned for its beauty. It’s hard to really summarize the feeling you get when you drive through here. You are seeing something you can identify as being beautiful but you can’t quite put your finger on why. It just is.
The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet. When the time is right and the bluebonnets are in bloom, nothing really compares to seeing the Hill Country covered in blue. It's taking something that already has an insane amount of natural beauty and somehow adding to it. This is probably because blue is extremely rare to see in nature. Think about it, besides water, what things can you name that are naturally blue? I'll give you a minute. There, not many right?
If you are looking to see it for yourself, you are going to have to wait until spring when the bluebonnets are just right.
"Keep Austin Weird" is not the official motto of the city of Austin. It is, however, the first thing you think of. It's Austin. It’s weird that the city wouldn’t just make it the slogan, but it adds up. It's weird.
Case and point, Austin is the Capitol of Texas, yet, Austin is very different than the rest of the State. Take a look at the people who live there. Mostly artsy folk, musicians, and other creatives. On top of that, there are tons of weird things to see in Austin. Like the the bats at the Congress Ave Bridge, and heck, you can even find the Museum of the Weird in Austin.
Another thing common in Austin is chefs who are extremely committed to making serious barbecue. It’s not weird to find barbecue in Texas but at the level that these chefs are cooking it at and the passion they have for their craft, it is a bit weird. That’s why Austin can be considered a BBQ mecca.