Visions of William B. Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie fighting to the death at the Alamo in 1836 linger while we cruise and climb northwestward from San Antonio, Texas. The really inspirational driving starts in Bandera-"Cowboy Capital of the World"-where the Frontier Times Museum merits a visit. Its founder, John Marvin Hunter, born in 1880, published the local newspaper, wrote many books about the Wild West, and was a great collector of western memorabilia.
Outside the town, our torquey Pontiac GTO flexes its muscles on the Texas Hill Country Trail. Tiny settlements punctuate the road before we turn north near the entrance to Garner State Park. Walnut trees and live oaks overlook this stretch of Route 83, which was a feeder for the storied Chisholm Trail when cowboys herded cattle to the railhead at Abilene after the Civil War. A plaque in the scenic overlook north of Leakey reminds us that this is the Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.
A few miles later, the Texas Hill Country Trail turns east and heads for Kerrville, running across limestone uplands carved by the Little Guadalupe River, which the road crosses several times. When that happens, long views contrast with cliffs, shady gorges, and a few of the Lone Star State's countless pecan orchards.
Be patient in Kerrville, where slow-moving traffic comes as something of a shock. Then finish the 180-mile drive in Fredericksburg, which is more German than many places in Germany. This attractive little town is where the future Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was born in 1885. The "modest, calm, polite" son of a widowed mother became the Pacific Fleet's commander-in-chief after Pearl Harbor. His childhood home on Main Street is part of the nine-acre National Museum of the Pacific War.