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Mason, Texas


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Last weekend my wife and I rode up to Mason, Texas for our wedding anniversary. We both took off from work Friday to get an early start. I was watching the weather forecast like a hawk because the skies looked a bit grey. The National Weather Guessers insisted on only a 30% chance of scattered showers so we loaded our gear and left from southwest Austin out Hwy 290 West. Between Dripping Springs and Mason I know we found all 30% of those showers. Oh well, it was a good exercise for our rainsuits.

The ride itself was scenic with wildflowers blooming on the sides of the road. The distance was 114 miles. We stopped at the Kountry Kitchen in Johnson City for lunch before heading on over to Fredricksburg and turning north for Mason. We had reserved a place called the Fort Mason Outpost for Friday and Saturday nights. This is an original stone home that has been renovated and includes 2 1/2 bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths. Two couples and a child could easily fit but we had the place to ourselves. A balcony runs around two sides of the upstairs and makes a great place to sit and listen to the quiet while watching the squirrels and birds. The Outpost is about 2 blocks from the town square making for easy walking distance to restaurants and shops. We were both impressed by the freshly baked banana nut bread that was waiting when we arrived. There was also fruit juice and the fridge and microwavable popcorn in the cabinet. There was a coffee maker and coffee. Pretty darned nice!

Mason is a great place to get away from it all. It's even better if you are a history buff. Fort Mason is long gone although the stables still stand on private property and the Officer's Quarters have been rebuilt as a park. Fort Mason was the last command of General Robert E. Lee before he was recalled to Washington and offered command of the Union forces in the Civil War, an honor he declined. I found it interesting to walk where the General walked and to look out over the valley below the Fort. He and his troops were guarding against attacks by Comanche and Kiowa Indians.

The fort isn't all the history there is. Do a search for "Mason County Hoodoo War". It's a story that sounds straight out of a western shoot-em-up novel but happened in real life. You can walk the streets and stand in places where gunfights took place. There were German settlers, cattle rustlers, and Texas Rangers. It's quite a story. Mason was the birthplace of author Fred Gipson who wrote, among other stories, "Ol Yeller". The town library has a statue of Yeller and Travis out front.

If you go there get ready to smile and wave at folks because the locals will be doing the same to you. The town population is just over 2,000 and it seems that everybody knows everyone else. One of the restaurants on the square (Willow Creek Cafe) has a "seat yourself" policy and it didn't take long to figure out why. It seemed that everyone who came in made a circuit of the place shaking hands and saying hello to friends. I grew up in a place like this and it was like going home.

Just a couple of warnings. The Fort Mason Outpost doesn't have much of what you would call a driveway and what there is is steep. I got in some experience feathering the clutch and working the throttle getting up there. The second warning concerns Zavala's Restaurant. The food is great but the parking lot is full of deep potholes. When we were there they were full of water and therefore difficult to determine how deep they were. Both places are worth the effort, however.



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