The allure of the open Texas road

Looking to catch up with an old friend? Set out with a windows-down playlist, a hearty appetite and a general plan for a five-day easy riding road trip from Austin to Dallas.

Thelma and Louise is the archetypal female road trip film. But the real appeal of their adventure lies not in the danger of shoot-outs, hold-ups (or Brad Pitt's abs), but in that unique bond that can only be forged on the open road. So when it came time to catch up with an old friend, I decided to eschew the average city break and instead set out with some windows-down playlists, a hearty appetite and a general plan to mess around with Texas on an easy riding road trip through the Lone Star State.

Day one: Austin
State capital Austin is one of the few US cities where females dominate the hotel business, with the savvy Liz Lambert leading the pack. Check into her super-hip Hotel San Jose in the South Congress neighbourhood (think modernist chairs and vintage music posters), join the creative types lounging in the sun over breakfast tacos and cold-brew coffee at the open-air Jo’s in the hotel’s parking lot, and then set out to do some damage in the vintage shops along South Congress Avenue, including Uncommon Objects, New Bohemia and Feathers. Risk spoiling your dinner with a Black Out doughnut ­– filled with brownie batter and topped with hot fudge and brownie bites – from the neighbourhood’s shiny Gourdough airstream trailer, or relax over lunch nearby at nouveau Vietnamese joint/French bakery Elizabeth Street Café. After an afternoon margarita or two by the hotel pool, break in your new cowboy boots over a night of bar hopping in East Austin, starting at the neo-speakeasy East Side Showroom and ending up with Lone Star beers and tequila shots at hipster honky-tonk The White Horse, a haven for live country music and two-stepping. 

Day two: Head into Hill Country
Before leaving Austin, join the hungover masses sharing heaping plates of migas (scrambled eggs with tortilla strips, chorizo, cheese and salsa) at old-school Mexican joint Juan in a Million in East Austin, followed by a cooling dip in the nearby three-acre, spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Then, leave the city behind for Travaasa, a blissed-out Hill Country refuge just 19 miles northwest of town. Tucked in the rugged Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the resort trades the zen of traditional spas for an only-in-Texas brand of relaxation. Ride horses (or a mechanical bull), rock-climb and zipline before having a Janis Joplin-themed massage (tie-dye sheets and organic rose oil included).

Day three: Hill Country
Take the scenic Ranch Road 12 about 60 miles south towards New Braunfels. Join the floating party on the lazy Guadalupe River, where outfitters set you up with big black inner tubes and floating coolers to while the morning away in the water. Then make a barbeque pilgrimage 30 miles north to the famous Salt Lick in the town of Driftwood. Grab a seat at a picnic table and settle in for a $20 all-you-can-eat tidal wave of brisket, ribs, sausage and sides.

Thankfully your hotel for the night, the magical little Inn Above Onion Creek, sits just 12 miles north. This is the kind of place where time stands still, where ancient oaks shade rolling fields of wildflowers and you don’t feel compelled to do much more than sip icy lemonades while reading a good book. Settle into a rocking chair to watch the sun set in a fiery masterpiece over the hillside before a three-course dinner of rib-sticking locavore fare in the hotel dining room (think collard green cornbread gratin and pork chops with dried cherry compote). 

Day four: Canton and Dallas
If today is the first Monday of the month, you will want to get up at sunrise to drive the 244 miles north to Canton (trust us, it’s worth the journey). For more than 150 years, this little town has hosted a huge outdoor market, which now includes more than 7,000 vendors spread over 450 acres. Skip the tatty knock-offs in the front section (known as the Arbors) and instead make a beeline for the vintage heaven around and inside the Civic Center building. Score everything from vintage arcade signs to ‘60s day dresses, all for a steal. After finding some treasures (and eating a few deep-fried Oreos), hit the road again for the 61-mile drive west to Dallas. Check into the Belmont, a motor lodge-turned-boutique-gem in the hip Oak Cliff neighbourhood, and grab a dinner of fried-chicken-and-biscuits at the nearby Chicken Scratch/the Foundry, a funky outdoor music venue and bar complex of shipping containers and repurposed wooden pallets. 

Day five: Dallas
You have two possible itineraries for your last day. Opt for a day of sightseeing downtown, checking out the Dallas Art Museum, going on a walking tour of the city’s edgy architectural landmarks, such as the sleek Calatrava bridge, and visiting the flagship Neiman Marcus clothing store. Or you can stick near the Belmont and check out the Bishop Arts District, a recently revitalised enclave of art galleries, restaurants and shops. Check out the art prints, stationary and home goods at We Are 1976, sample the farm fresh fare at Oddfellows and cap it off with a classic red velvet chess pie at Emporium Pies before catching your flight home.