Texas’s Biggest, Strangest, and, Yes, Most Venomous Roadside Attractions
On the road, Texans learn to bend time. In other parts of the world, folks don’t consider four hours to be a “short drive.” But here, you can sit in the car for four hours and never get out of North Texas—and that’s if you don’t hit traffic. Four hours is a third of the way from Beaumont to El Paso or from Amarillo to South Padre Island. Four hours is how long it takes just to traverse the Panhandle. It’s technically short enough to qualify as a day trip—pushing it, yes, but doable, because eight hours in a car isn’t that crazy for a Texan. Frankly, we just love to drive, and thanks to the nightmare that is pandemic-era air travel, the past few years have given us even more reason to hit the highways.
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t like to take a break every few hours or so. Indeed, one of our most cherished institutions—Buc-ee’s—built its reputation on being a swell place to get out, stretch your legs, fill your belly, and empty your bladder. But there’s a whole world of beloved stopping points beyond that beaver. Pagan monuments stand frozen on the sides of our highways, while just off exit ramps, nondescript buildings house treasures—often of the living, breathing, and sometimes hissing variety—from all over the world. We’re also quite fond of making small things, such as birds and seashells, inexplicably ginormous, and we have not one, but two of our state’s founders immortalized in statues that stand more than sixty feet tall.
To see Texas unfold through a bug-splattered windshield is to see her at her finest. A drive from Llano to Fort Stockton can reveal thousands of millions of years of erosion and geological shift in just four hours of travel. Time transforms in several ways over the course of a Texan road trip. And at the end of it all, you might get to admire a giant fiberglass roadrunner that may or may not be wearing a Santa hat, depending on the month.
Frequent Texas MonthlycontributorJeff Wilson has now turned his camera on some of our loveliest roadside oddities. His work captures not just the wonder of these statues, installations, and attractions, but also the experience of approaching them many miles into a long journey, and of leaving them behind with hours still to go. In Texas, every roadside stop is a little oasis, a welcome break before getting back in the car to finish the “short drive” that spans scores of counties, multiple terrains, and maybe even a few thousand millennia.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Pull Over!” Subscribe today.