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Posts tagged: Rachel Ashwell

Travel: Exploring Round Top, Brenham and Washington County, Texas

    Too often, when we travel to big events, the only thing we see of a town while we’re there is the crowd and the attraction. There’s no time to take the side roads and explore. But as a traveler I’ve learned it pays to make another trip when the crowd is gone, to see a town or city or part of the country when it’s not on show. When the roads are clear, the diners and cafes are more relaxed and rooms are not scarce.

    Anyone who’s ever been to one of the Round Top, Texas, antique shows knows what it feels like to roll right into a big raucous party. Acres of antiques, miles of traffic, parties and people everywhere. It’s all great fun but if you make the trip between shows, you get a different view.

    I’ve spent hours treasure hunting, moving from one vendor to another in search of the perfect antique, but this time I was looking for more than that so I spent an off-season week exploring the small towns in and around Washington County, Texas, including Round Top. There was still a trace of autumn color on the big oak and pecan trees and although the temperature dipped at night, the days were warm and golden. But this time, instead of antiques, music and food, history took center stage.

    I stood in the reconstructed Independence Hall at the Washington-on-the-Brazos historic site at the edge of the Brazos River and listened to the story of the fierce struggle to gain independence that happened at that site. A town was born, transformed and then faded away but the legacy of fiery confidence and determination still remains in the pride of native Texans.

    At the same park I strolled through the home of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic before Texas gained statehood and I traced the timeline of events that led to the creation of contemporary Texas at the Star of the Republic Museum.

    I spent time in Brenham, one of the state’s oldest settlements and toured the Simon Theater, a 1925 movie palace and show hall that is undergoing a complete restoration. I explored Chappell Hill, an old stage coach stop that has a rich history of cotton farming and was home to Polish immigrants who traveled to the United States in search of a better life.

    And the day I stopped by the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum just happened to be election day. I traced the story of the man who became the nation’s 41st president while at that moment, across the country, men and women were casting ballots to elect the 45th president. One of the rights that was fought for by men and women who built the simple Independence Hall I’d toured the day before.

    Nothing beats the fun when the tents are up and the antiques are everywhere, but that’s only half the story around Round Top and Washington County. The beautiful rolling Texas countryside is rich with history and the stories of ordinary people who did and continue to do extraordinary things.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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