Ah Texas, the state with the most counties of any state in the US – 254. The second weekend in October found me back in Texas for my third county collecting visit to the Lone Star State. Unlike previous trips in 2013 which included New Mexico and Arizona, and 2014 with stops in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado, (see High Plains Drifter) this visit focused entirely on counties in Texas.
Arrival at DFW was just before sunset and by time I checked into the Gaylord Texan just north of the airport it was dark. The upgrade from a standard room to a spacious suite (900 sq. ft.) proved a perfect way to start a trip. Too bad, I only had one night booked.
After gawking at the size of the room and stepping out onto each of the two balconies overlooking the atrium, it was time to choose one of the resort’s restaurants. I had my choice of a steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, or a sport bar. With the first round of the MLB playoffs on, I opted for the sports bar, Texas Station. Stop in for a burger, chicken fried ribeye, or some bison meatloaf and wash it down with a local beer from the nearby Grapevine Brewery.
The Gaylord Texan is quite an amazing resort and does charge an $18 resort fee which includes admission to the nearby water park (between Memorial Day and Labor Day) and to the Glass Cactus Nightclub. It also provides free high-speed internet access and 2 bottles of water per day. As a Platinum Elite, I already get high-speed internet, and since I didn’t (or couldn’t) use the access to the nightclub or water park, I ended up with two $9 bottles of water.
Leaving Dallas the next morning, I followed I-20 west toward Abilene. Zigzagging my way north along US 83, U2 82, and state route 86 past cotton fields through towns named Dickens, Guthrie, Matador, Silverton, Tulia, and Dimmitt before ending the day at the Fairfield Inn in Clovis, NM. My previous stop in Clovis was May 16, 2013 when I mailed a postcard from the Curry County courthouse. The sole purpose for this visit was because the FFI offered a much better rate than any Marriott property within a hundred miles, and as Clovis is only ten miles from my last county seat stop in Farwell, TX, it made sense. I was surprised to learn that this FFI is a category 1 property (guess not too many people visit Clovis, NM). I can recommend it to anyone passing through the area. As a side note, this was my 2nd FFI stay since the Marriott badges began over a year ago, so I earned the badge and 25 bonus points.
After dark, I drove a few miles north of town to a large park (Ned Houk Park) and spent a short time watching the night sky. While the stargazing is not as spectacular as atop Mauna Kea (see County Collecting Hawaiian Style - Part 2, The Big Island), the sky is dark enough to see the Milky Way. While standing alone in the dark, I heard a couple barred owls calling to one another. Speaking of stargazing, the next morning about an hour before dawn, I was fortunate enough to see the planet Mercury just above the rising crescent moon. While I can’t be certain, this may have been the first time I have been able to pick out Mercury in the night sky.
My drive across west Texas continued with stops in Muleshoe, Levelland, Crosbyton, Lubbock, Post, Colorado City, and Sweetwater (among others) finally ending in Abilene shortly before nightfall. One thing about driving in Texas, especially in a rental car with a small gas tank, is that you sometimes gas up at strange places. Here’s the only place I could find in the Gail, the Borden County seat.
Gail was one of the smallest county seats I visited. Check out this Google Maps street view https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-101.446646,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sZQNoXp8nCR4k0OrSNZbNOQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
Look around a bit. It won’t take long. The gas station is on the NW corner and the county courthouse is on the SE. Other than the post office, there’s not much else worth mentioning.
The CY in Abilene provided adequate accommodation. Hard to see why it is a category 4 property. Location must play a significant role as the property was nothing special.
Day 3 took me as far south as I-10 and the county seats of Ozona and Sonora. Not much to say about this part of Texas, but I did spot a roadrunner while driving from the courthouse to the post office in Mertzon (Irion County).
By day’s end, I reached the CY in Killeen, a 6-story, category 1 property. Quite a bit nicer than the much higher category CY in Abilene and just across the freeway from an In-N-Out Burger. Yum!
The final day for this visit to Texas involved winding my way back to DFW for an evening flight home. This allowed almost a full day of county collecting and included some of the most impressive courthouses of the trip. Here are four I saw this final day. Gatesville, Coryell County; Stephenville, Erath County; Granbury, Hood County; and Hillsboro, Hill County.
The final tally of county seats visited reached 55 over the 4 days and involved driving just shy of 2,300 miles. Now with three trips to Texas in the bag, I’ve managed to collect 125 of the 254 counties (almost half). Three more visit may be enough to more the state into the “completed” column. Here are the before and after maps showing this latest trip assuming all my postcards arrive (I’m still waiting on a couple). Should any fail to arrive, I’ll change those counties from blue to green. For anyone who doesn’t know (or has forgotten), the colors translate as follows: Cyan = visited the county but not the county seat, Green = visited the county seat but have not mailed (or received) postcard documenting my visit, and Blue = visited county seat and have postcard to prove it.
Though the year is winding down, I still have a few more trips planned, none of which are specifically aimed at county collecting. Even so, I will visit as many as 50 counties between now and mid-December in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New York, Connecticut, and Florida as part of these travels. Sandwiched in there is also a weekend jaunt to Washington, but since I’ve completed D.C., Virginia and Maryland, that trip will just be for fun. Look for another blog post on my journey to the northeast in mid-November.