We pulled into the small town of Bandera (50 miles northwest of San Antonio) on Dec 19 and booked a site at the Pioneer RV Resort, which was located right at the end of town, and ended up staying through Christmas. Bandera has been officially designated ‘The Cowboy Capital of the World’ and definitely lives up to its name. Walking down the main street, you see lots of cowboys as well as pickups with trailers full of Texas longhorns.
Bandera only has a population of 857. According to the locals, it’s been that size for years because every time a girl gets pregnant, 2 cowboys leave town… Bandera was initially settled by Polish immigrants in 1853 and boomed after the Civil War as a staging area for cattle drives up the Western Trail. A number of ranches sprang up around the area and that character remains today. In contrast to the more touristy Hill Country towns of nearby Boerne, Fredricksburg, Gruene and Wimberly, Bandera seems more genuine in its authenticity as a western town.
But perhaps the best thing about Bandera is the live (country) music and laid-back bar rules. Two of the most popular bars in town: 11th Street Cowboy Bar and Arkey Blues Silver Dollar feature live music (no cover) several nights of the week. 11th Street was by far our favorite. First we went for an open jam session (which was awesome) and then the following night, we met up with a large crew from Pioneer RV for ‘Wednesday Steak Night’ which means you can BYOS (Bring Your Own Steak) to cook on their outdoor grills. They provide the baked potatoes and salad for 7 bucks. More unbelievably, you can bring your own liquor as they only sell beer and wine. This concept – bringing your own alcohol to a bar – is one we’d love to see imported to Canada! 11th Street is a dance bar – no kidding, everybody dances – and if you’re a fella, you better wear a cowboy hat and know how to two-step. This ain’t no girly place.
Over at Arkey Blues, you descend downstairs into a dark, dingy cavern that immediately smells of stale beer and smoke (you can still smoke inside bars in Bandera). But the paraphernalia and atmosphere tells you that this place is legendary. We saw a good band there, had a few dances and enjoyed a couple of Shiners along with our byo liquor.
We happily celebrated Christmas in Bandera, enjoying our own little Christmas dinner on the 24th, then a big mid-afternoon potluck lunch with the gang at Pioneer, which was excellent. RV people are amazing cooks! Here’s a shot of our Christmas Eve BBQ dinner – featuring organic chicken with a lemon wine sauce, bratwurst sausages, spaetzle, green beans and rosemary potatoes.
We departed Bandera and went into San Antonio to do some errands and have a look around. The Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio is amazing and the city has a very rich history, including well-known events surrounding the Alamo, which is surprisingly small.
While we were near San Antonio, we found out we had 2 nails in one of rear tires so we drove over to Boerne and had to hang around for a day waiting for a new tire to arrive. After it was installed, we drove west and later discovered that 2 of the lug caps had fallen off. So now we’re trying to get the tire store to replace them, which isn’t easy when you leave town…
We’re now heading towards west Texas and should be in Big Bend National Park in a few days. In case we aren’t able to post again before the 31st, happy new year y’all – wishing everyone a wonderful 2017!