Exploring Ozona, TexasAs we set off from Georgetown for a month long golfing vacation to Arizona and California and to escape the cold weather. The forecast called for snow right where we were heading for our first overnight stop in (“Biggest Little Town In The World”) which is a natural stopping point between Austin and El Paso. Just about sunset it started snowing harder and the forecast for travel to Ozona looked bad - snow, ice, and wind! It was an easy decision to stop 90 miles short of our first stop goal and spend the night in Junction. We quickly found out that there is not a lot happening on a cold late snowy Sunday night in Junction - we were lucky to find one open restaurant.
We woke up the next morning to sun and snow on the ground but the forecast was for 40s and a clear road to our new goal of Las Cruces, New Mexico and then on to Tucson, Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. We had a great vacation and scheduled some time to stop in Ozona on the way home.
What a difference when we arrived in Ozona in late January - bright sunny skies and 60 degrees! We got the motorhome settled in at Encino RV Park which is just off of Interstate 10 and about a mile from downtown - a great location to explore Ozona and the local area. It's a small RV park with 19 full hook RV sites and a very friendly park manager who gave us some great recommendations on a place for a good dinner and some things to see and do the next day. Read our brief review of Encino RV Park to learn more.
Since it was a beautiful afternoon and we still had a couple hours or so before dinner, we decided to jump back on the road for a 20 minute drive west to check out the Lancaster Scenic Overlook and Fort Lancaster Historic site. The terrain around Ozona was a pleasant surprise - rolling hills with a similar look and feel to the Hill Country around Austin and San Antonio. The Lancaster Scenic Overlook offers a panoramic vista for miles of the rolling hills, valleys, and countryside - impressive for west Texas. From there it's a short drive to Fort Lancaster Historic Site which was a US Army Fort established in 1855 near the Pecos River Crossing for the purpose of safely escorting mail carriers, wagon trains, and pioneers to El Paso. The site contains the ruins of twenty-nine buildings that made up the Fort plus a visitor center with a museum about the heritage of the Fort
When we got back we decided to walk to the restaurant recommended by the campground manager which was also #4 on TripAdvisor's list of the Best Ozona Restaurants and the only bar (you'll need a membership - $5 for 3 days) in Ozona - perfect! The Hitching Post Steakhouse is rich in West Texas history. The structure was originally a sheep barn that was built in 1950 and converted into a restaurant and club in 1989. It's got two sides - restaurant seating on one side and a bar setting on the other with pool tables. They serve the finest cuts of beef available and everything is made fresh to order. They've got a wide variety of appetizers (try the Cajun Style Chicken Bits), salads and a salad bar, lots of steaks (including a 1 pound sirloin for only $22!), fried fish, burgers, and more.
But they are best known for the Gourmet Chicken Fried Steak which was highly recommended by a couple people we talked to. It was also recommended that the wife and I split it - no way, I'm starving! - but the waitress said "if it's not enough for both of you I'll buy you a drink!" Sounds good to me. A few minutes later our two sides - a plate full of mashed potatoes and corn and a big bowl of gravy arrived. Where's the Beef? Out came an over sized plate full of Chicken Fried Steak - it was so big it was hanging over both ends and one side of the plate. After eating for what seemed like an hour we still had over half of it left - which made for two great lunches over the next two days. With a full tummy we played a couple games of pool before waddling home for a good nights sleep.
I was still full by breakfast time and instead of eggs and hash browns, I settled for a piece of toast which lasted until lunch. We set off early to explore Ozona, which is the only town in the 3215 square mile area of Crockett County (named after the Alamo hero Davy Crockett) and it is proud that it remains unincorporated. Ozona was settled in 1891 at the site of a well dug by E.M. Powell who offered some land for a courthouse, jail, school, and waterworks. The area was used primarily for ranching until oil was discovered in 1925 and Crockett County went on to become one of the state's top 10 gas producing counties. Today oil and gas, hunting leases, ranching, wool and mohair production, and tourism are the main industries
During the oil boom cycles the population can swell with oil workers and then decline as the oil prices decline. Lots of old oil and ranching money contributed to a very affluent population and in it's heyday, the ratio of airplanes to people was very high as the high rollers flew rather than drove, after all Ozona is a tad isolated in west Texas - it's 358 miles form El Paso, 210 from San Antonio, 235 from Austin, and 369 from Dallas. Ozona was a perfect stopping spot for us on our way home from El Paso to Austin.
We had planned to play golf on the nine hole Ozona Country Club Golf Course but the weather had taken a turn for the worst and the forecast was a high of 40 and rain! But we decided to check it out and as we were driving up to the club house an elderly gentleman walking his dog and using a seven iron as a walking stick flagged us down. Turns out he was the current president of the golf course and country club. A very funny and friendly guy and who gave us the low-down on his course - "it's a tad run down now 'cuz it's hard to find the money to water the greens with only 50 members." You can read our review of Ozona Country Club to learn more.
From the Ozona Country Club we drove to the Ozona Square to check out the shops, visit the museum, and grab a bite to eat. Downtown has:
- a square with a park and a cool statue of a man and women holding a baby that represents the pioneer families that settled in and around Ozona
- the Crockett County Courthouse which is an American Gothic style building that was completed in 1902 for only $30,000
- several shops including the gun store which we were told is a must visit to meet the owner who is a real character - unfortunately it was closed for the day
- a couple restaurants - we enjoyed a good pizza on the square
- the Crockett County Museum
We spent a couple interesting and informative hours at the Crockett County Museum (the "Biggest Little Museum in Texas") which is home to artifacts from the Crockett Country inhabitants from 10,000 B.C. to the present day. The Museum has an interesting history - it started in 1939, moved to the current building which was the Methodist Church before it burned in 1942 leaving only the rock structure. That structure turned into a hospital until 1956 when it became the Courthouse Annex for a couple years before it became the Museum in 1958.
It's 3 stories of rooms rich with history and exhibits that range from fossils to Native American artifacts to items from the early 19th century. Some of the exhibits include rooms that are set up as an old dentists office, a firefighters room, a room dedicated to Dave Crockett, and an old school room. There are some hands-on exhibits and one of the things I liked is on several rooms there is a question outside the room about something in the room (how many razors did the barber have, what color were the ladies shoes and purse, where is the baseball glove, etc.) - and in most cases it made us take a second look.
After several hours in the Museum my stomach was starting to growl and all of that good chicken fried steak had finally worn off. On the block next to the Museum if you go left there is a Mexican restaurant and right is a pizza restaurant - a flip of the coin and we were headed for a pretty good pizza at Pizza Mia on the Square.
To walk off the pizza we went to the Crockett County Interpretive Trail which is a short trail across the parking lot from the Chamber of Commerce and it's home to over 200 specimens of plant life (a color brochure features most of the plants) that grow within Crockett County. The trail highlights the importance of xeriscaping and rain water conservation and collection.
Just after walking the trail and looking for what we were told was a race car driver's car collection (we never found it - turns it it's located 6 miles east of town at at truck stop) the weather got colder and it started to rain forcing us back to the warmth of the motorhome. That night we had a pretty good dinner at Pepe's which has a very eclectic interior and then we headed to the motorhome for a good nights sleep before starting the trip home after a fun day in Ozona.
We wished we had more time to explore some of the other sights that you'll find on the Ozona Fun Things to See and Do Page. To find some of the attractions, restaurants, RV Parks, and more you can use this Ozona Map.