1/02/2009

Winter Road Trips # 2 Clifton

Old Lutheran Church in Bosque County


Movie theater in Clifton, Texas


Those who live in more northern climes may not truly appreciate the winter road trip. Sure, in Texas we have periodic "northers" - storms with sleet, ice and miserable weather, (rarely snow)but in between those storms we have long periods of warm, mild, sunny weather. Daytime temps are often in the 60's or 70's, and lately (due to global warming ?) even in the 80's. I have always said that winter in Texas is like summer in Vermont, and so this is a particularly great time to take a little road trip. (In fact, I tend to avoid summer road trips all together - too many tourists, too hot, too miserable.)

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One of the places I find myself driving to repeatedly is Clifton, Tx. (My father-long story-ended up in a nursing home there. I visit him several times a year. It is a clean cheerful nurturing place, and they take good care of him. He is lucky to have stumbled across it.) Clifton is pretty much in the middle of no where, or as the highway sign euphemistically says, "At the northern tip of the Texas Hill Country". From the Dallas Ft Worth area, this means you head south on I-35, through Ft Worth, and turn right (west) at Hillsboro on HW22. You keep heading west, past the Lake Whitney Dam, (an area with some of the loveliest bluebonnet patches this side of Austin come springtime), and turn south just before Meridien. The whole trip takes me about 2 and 1/2 hours, each way - but I have a tendency to drive pretty fast.


Rolling Texas countryside on road to Clifton


The drive to Clifton is full of what we in Texas refer to as full of rolling hills - "hill" being a relative concept, if you are from Colorado or Switzerland. There are some actual smallish cliffs that the town is named after, just outside of town. The area was settled by German farmers, and is dotted with quaint little churches with old world style steeples. In the spring time, these roads are full of folks searching for bluebonnets, and the side of the road is often lined with parked cars as people feel free to just pull over anywhere, and get out and tromp through folks' private property, snapping photos of their kids and pets sitting in the bright blue flowers. Summer time brings with it people pulling boats to and from Lake Whitney on the weekends. Which is why I enjoy making this trip in winter: it is quiet, calm, pleasant. Far from any radio station, I tune into Sirius radio or load up the CD player ( my sons, trapped into joining me for this familial duty) of course are "plugged into the matrix" of their I-PODS.

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There isn't a whole lot to see or do en route to Clifton- there is an outlet mall in Hillsboro, as well as a junior college which is locally famous for hosting a Civil War historical conference each spring. (Not reinactors, like that famous scene in "Sweet Home Alabama" - just professors and authors presenting papers or discussing their books . My mom, whose hobby is genealogy and the history of her family, often attends.) Neither of these activities tempts me to stay longer. Road trips like this give me plenty of time to get caught up on all my thinking. My mom, when I drag her around with me, is ever on the lookout for places that sell ice cream, be it the local Dairy Queen, or some mom and pop type independant place. Nothing really exciting awaits us on this journey; I do it for familial reasons, and enjoying the scenery is enough for me. My children have learned to imitate grammy's speech patterns perfectly, as every day around 3 pm she will say, (thick Texas accent), "Isn't it about time for some ice cream ?" They have learned to parrot this, too, and that's usually what it takes to bribe them into joining me on this journey.

Lake Whitney

The trip this year was made more pleasant by the fact that son # 1 is now old enough to drive, and still in that excitable phase where he actually wants to drive as much as possible. So I let him drive all the way there - major highway, country roads and all. He did a pretty good job. I enjoyed being able to relax - a little. I drove us all home ; it was getting dark, after all. Didn't want any unfortunate altercations with a deer on the road that might involve swerving suddenly. As a reward for good behavior, hubster met us all at our fave Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown Dallas for dinner, when we were almost back home. That's what spells "holidays" for me in so many ways : Tex-Mex and road trips.



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