10 Crazy Things You Can See From Texas Highways, Explained
Flat-faced radar steers beams electronically, so no swiveling face is needed.
The Lone Star State is a fascinating place when viewed from behind the windshield. Ask anyone: What's the wildest thing they've ever seen from the highway? And their answers will range from the bizarre to the terrifying to the sublime. We know because we asked Texas drivers on social media about their favorite eye-catchers, and nearly 100 responded. Here are 10 sites, from the wild to the weird, that caught their attention and curiosity.
The PAVE PAWS Radar (pictured at top)
Driving north on U.S. 277 between San Angelo and Eldorado, you’ll glimpse out the passenger window a strange, seemingly out-of-place 10-story structure rising up from the scrubby desert, way off in the distance. What you’re looking at is a throwback to the Cold War era — the mothballed PAVE Phased Array Warning System at the Eldorado Air Force System, currently on cold standby. The Air Force Space Command radar system, operated by the 21st Space Wing for missile warning and space surveillance, is mainly for detecting and tracking enemy sea-launched and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can also detect and track earth orbiting satellites. One of four sites designated at the perimeter of the United States in 1984, the Eldorado facility became fully operational in 1987. As the Cold War wound down, two of the — including the one in Eldorado — were closed in 1995. The radar face was moved to Clear Air Force Station in Alaska.
Funded by a millionaire and created by a New Orleans artist ... and it shows.
The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
This famous art installation on I-40, heading out west past Amarillo, is included because it just has to be. Out in the dust, half-buried in a cow pasture at the same angle as Egypt’s Gaza Pyramid, a bunch of junked-out, graffiti-covered Cadillacs depict the evolution of this remarkable vehicle throughout the '50s and early '60s. Created in 1974 by two architects and a New Orleans artist and funded by a millionaire patron of the arts, Cadillac Ranch remains an evolving beauty — as passersby are welcome to this day to jump out of their own rides with a can of spray paint and make their colorful marks on a metallic hunk of American zeitgeist.
Courtesy of LighthouseFriends.com
The Haunted Lighthouse of Bolivar
Follow Texas Highway 87 down the Bolivar Peninsula and prepare to be spooked, if you’re easily made so, by the phantom-like form of the Bolivar Point Lighthouse, entirely black from more than 150 years of erosion (hence the ghostly nickname). Commissioned in 1847 by the federal government, right after the U.S. annexed Texas, governmental red tape — yes, even in the 19th century — delayed construction until 1851 to light the way for ships coming into the vibrant and vital Galveston Bay port. Its 18 lamps were installed on Christmas Day of 1852, and the U.S. paid the first lighthouse keeper a spectacular $600 a year to be its guardian. And an important job it did, most notably keeping 120 people sheltered during the Great Hurricane of 1900, which killed 6,000 people in Galveston. Eventually, the 65-foot iron tower was outshined by a brighter light on Galveston Island, and after the Depression depleted its upkeep budget, the lighthouse flipped the switch for the last time in 1933.
Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The Jackrabbits of West Texas
A drive out to the Big Bend at any time of year is a good idea, but if you want to see something truly wild? Go during the springtime breeding season, because it’s Jackrabbit Country on I-10 west of Fort Stockton. The sight of literally thousands of these fast-moving hares dotting the landscape and zigzagging in droves before your headlights as you slam on your brakes to try not to hit 30 of them is an experience matched in oddity only by the nearby Marfa Lights (and some would say it’s even weirder). The problem with including the jackrabbits on our list is that the explanation is disappointingly simple, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: West Texas is the jackrabbit’s favorite type of habitat — scrub brush, open plains, foothills — and springtime is when they mate and multiply, so they’re on the move, looking for action. The fact that they can reach up to 40 mph still makes them no match for I-10 (which doesn’t seem to faze them, unfortunately), so if you can’t stomach the idea of contributing to their population control, you might want to think about waiting until autumn.
The Round Rock Bats on I-35
Their thunder is all but stolen by their more famous hipster Austin relatives, but the Mexican free-tail bat colony of Round Rock has something that the Austin bats don’t — serious highway miles. About 15 miles north of downtown Austin, where dwells the largest urban bat colony in the world on Congress Avenue, the city of Round Rock hosts a smaller one under I-35 at the McNeil overpass. These little creatures can go 60 miles an hour and if you’re heading down the interstate at dusk during a summer rush hour, they’ll fly right along beside you at window-level before blasting up into the sky to take millions of pounds of insects out of the air, thankyouverymuch. "If people just open their eyes and pay attention without losing control, they can see all kinds of things along Texas highways," says Steve Lightfoot, spokesperson of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
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