If you think a day trip is going non-stop to your destination, enjoying a locale or festival for a few hours, and then turning around and heading home, this jaunt through miles of Texas backroads isn’t for you. But if you enjoy meandering through meadowlands, this ridge of roads leading to the Hill Country is beautiful and delightful.
Get up early in the morning and head south on I-35E for about an hour to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table restaurant in Waco. Their restaurant opened in February 2018 after an extensive renovation of the Elite Café which was built in 1941. Exit 333A and on the eastside of the interstate you will circle around to the new café.
It opens for breakfast at 6 a.m. and offers a full breakfast menu of farm-to-table, downhome vittles from buttermilk biscuits to fresh eggs served in a variety of ways. You’ll be tempted to eat heaping plates of the homemade food, but save room because there’s some more good restaurants coming down the road.
Get back on I-35 heading south for another 40 miles until you reach the I-14/Hwy. 190 exit heading west which you follow for about another 50 miles to Lampasas. At Lampasas you connect with Hwy 281 south to Marble Falls. Along the stretch from Belton to Marble Falls you will find quaint antique and roadside shops, riverside parks and delightful town squares as you pass through Copperas Cove, Lampasas and Burnet.
As you enter the heart of Marble Falls, just before you reach the bridge over the Colorado River, turn right on 3rd Street for the old town, Main Street shopping area, with rows of boutiques and specialty shops.
There are some good eating places in Marble Falls. Across the Colorado is Horseshoe Bay were there are several good eateries scattered along the golf course, yachting marina and overlooking the river. On the north side of the bridge is the Blue Bonnet Café, a noted, country style diner with a legendary reputation for its pies.
A couple of blocks south of the Blue Bonnet is the restaurant Flat Creek Enoteca (112 U.S. 281) with its wood fired oven offering great pizzas. It is owned by Flat Creek Winery, possibly one of the best vineyards in Texas.
Just north of the downtown cafes at 10th Street is Hwy. 1431 where you turn to the east.
A winding road follows the Colorado River. In about 20 miles you will reach Travis Peak Church of Christ where you turn right on Singleton Bend Road and travel about 4 miles on a gravel road to Flat Creek Estate Winery. You will be absolutely astonished that such a beautiful winery and gathering place could be built out in the boonies. And you will know immediately, especially after tasting the wine (try the award winning Super Texan) that you have found an 80 acre vineyard in one of the most beautiful settings in Texas. They are always having special events, multi-course dinners and live music, so check out their website HERE (www.flatcreekestate.com)
Once you get back on Hwy. 1431 head north until you hook up with 1174 which takes you to the city of Bertram, about a 30 minute trip which is through breathtaking countryside. At Bertram, turn right on 243 and at Hwy. 183 take a quick jog to Hwy. 138 and 195 which takes you to the doorstep of Ding Dong, Texas, just beyond the Lampasas River crossing.
There is nothing to do in Ding Dong except say you’ve been there. The last time we passed the turnoff to the burg, there was a sign with the town’s name on it and a great place for a photo.
Continuing north on Hwy. 195 you will soon come to the outskirts of Fort Hood and there catch I-14 to Temple and I-35 north back home to Ellis County. You will go through West, Texas where there are two great places to stop and pick up delicious Czech food at Exit 353. On the east service road is the longstanding Czech Stop and on the west service road is the newer and larger Slovacek’s. Bring a cooler and stock up on great, authentic products from sausage to pastries.
Then, it’s back to Ellis County; a total trip of around 400 miles. It’s not that long a drive and you will come away with a deep appreciation of how beautiful the rolling hills of Central Texas are at any time of the year. We are blessed to live in Texas.
Along the serpentine route through the rolling, bending roads there are many great places to stop, visit, eat, sip wine and shop. We would like to hear about your favorite spots in that area. Send them to Downhome and share your memories.