The hometown of Buddy Holly and Texas Tech University extends a big Lone Star welcome to one and all.
By Julia Hollister
Some Lubbock folks swear that on early summer evenings when a warm zephyr comes off the High Plains, they can hear Buddy Holly’s sweet guitar strings playing “Peggy Sue.” But Lubbock, Texas, is much more than music. It has more hues than a West Texas sunset.
One big aspect of Lubbock’s attractiveness is its weather. It’s typically dry, at an altitude of 3,200 feet, and in the fall and spring, highs are usually in the 70s to 80s. Its population of 200,000 makes it the ninth-largest city in the state. It is a six-hour drive west of Dallas and 50 miles from the border of New Mexico.
But the first priority for your West Texas stay is finding a place to make camp. Once you’re settled in, it’s time to explore. First, see a tribute to the city’s favorite son and discover more about Texas musicians at the Buddy Holly Center in the city’s Depot Entertainment Center area. The center’s Buddy Holly Gallery is shaped like a guitar, defined by curving cherrywood exhibit cases on three sides, and a glossy black display wall on the fourth. It features a permanent exhibit on the life and music of Buddy Holly, and follows his rise to stardom from Lubbock to his last concert near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Most everyone knows the story of the singer’s last concert, but for those who haven’t heard it, here’s an abbreviated version. After a February 2, 1959, performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, that featured big names such as Buddy Holly, “Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens, the traveling musicians were tired of using their unheated tour bus, which was prone to breakdowns. So Holly chartered a small plane to take him and some of the entourage to their next gig. Richardson asked for and got the third seat. Ritchie Valens had never flown in a small plane, and won the last seat with a coin toss. The plane took off in clear, cold weather, but crashed only a few minutes after takeoff, killing all aboard. An investigation ruled pilot error as the cause. A big hit tune of the mid-1970s called “American Pie” (by Don McLean) memorialized Holly and the others who perished in the crash.
Included in the Buddy Holly Center exhibit are Holly’s Fender guitar and his famous horn-rimmed glasses.
The center also acknowledges other West Texas music legends “” Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Roy Orbison, and Tanya Tucker “” as part of the Texas Musicians Hall of Fame. Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, is a Lubbock native, too. The group’s song, “Lubbock or Leave It,” hit the charts a few years ago.
The center, which also includes a fine arts gallery, is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for students, and free for children under 12. Car and RV parking is available near the civic center downtown. The streets are wide and well-marked for maneuvering.
After a lunch in the downtown area, why not visit the Silent Wings Museum and hear the story of the U.S. Combat Glider Program and its role in World War II? During a difficult time in American history, the gliders’ primary mission was to land behind enemy lines, a valuable part of the Allies’ invasion effort. The pilots’ one-way trip is history, and the museum is their legacy. One of the few remaining fully restored gliders is on display at the museum. The facility is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children under 12.
The next day, plan a visit to the Texas Tech campus, home to more than 30,000 students and faculty. The Museum of Texas Tech University includes the main museum, the Diamond M Galleries wing, a planetarium, a sculpture court, and more. Drive to the museum’s Lubbock Lake Landmark, a North American archaeological site, to see an interpretive center with exhibits on the story of an amazing community built 12,000 years ago (call 806-742-1116 for information and directions). Admission to all sites is free. You may wish to visit the campus on the weekend, when parking lots are less occupied.
Texas Tech is in the Big 12 Conference, with nationally recognized prowess in football and basketball. If you want to tour the campus by towed vehicle, drive through after 5:30 p.m. or on weekends. Parking is available in the commuter lots on the edge of the university’s grounds.
The centerpiece of the campus is a bronze statue of Will Rogers astride his horse, Soapsuds. A humorous story surrounds the 3,200-pound statue. Purists thought it should face west, as a cowboy would, but city fathers wanted it to face east toward downtown Lubbock. The two factions arrived at a compromise “” the statue was erected so that the horse’s behind was aimed directly toward College Station, the hometown of Texas A&M “” Texas Tech’s rival.
While you’re near the campus, stop at the nearby National Ranching Heritage Center (Fourth Street and Indiana), where the story of ranching is told through the preservation of 45 authentically restored structures displayed on a 30-acre site. They include a bunkhouse, barns, ranch headquarters, windmills, and a blacksmith shop. The center is open daily, and admission is free.
If you have a hankering for a night out under neon stars, then head for the Depot Entertainment District, the pulse of Lubbock’s nightlife. You can stroll down Buddy Holly Avenue, have a cocktail, and hear live music at many local venues. Catch a bite at Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co., Lubbock’s only microbrewery, featuring handcrafted brews, pizzas from a wood-burning oven, steaks, and other dishes. Or see an original production at the famed (and restored) Cactus Theater. Crickets Grill on Broadway has live entertainment Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and pub fare.
After a night out, continue your fun with an all-day trip to 278-acre Mackenzie Park, located along Interstate 27. The park is home to Prairie Dog Town, which was started in 1930 with four of the gregarious rodents and two burrows, and was the first protected prairie dog colony of its kind. Seventy-seven years later, the town has more than 50 furry residents, although tens of thousands live in the region. A recent renovation includes a pavilion for viewing, interpretative signs, sidewalks, and RV parking. Visitors can discover the little critters’ intricate tunnel systems and hear the distinctive bark that gave them their name. The village is free to the public and open daily from dawn to dusk. Mackenzie Park also features a 36-hole golf course and an amusement park that is open in summer.
For more fun, Lubbock also has a big water park called Texas Water Rampage that the kids or grandkids will love. It’s open from late May through late August.
Another fun place is the Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre, open year-round. It has three large screens and low rates of just $5 per person. Dine during movie time in your car, or sit down in the 1950s-style café. The drive-in is open varying hours, depending on the season.
It’s about time to wind down with a visit to Lubbock’s wine-growing area, which dates from 1662 when Franciscan missionaries introduced winemaking. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes occupy the most acreage. This region is 3,400 feet above sea level, with long, hot, dry summers creating proper sugar and acid levels for these grapes. Four area wineries vie for your tasting attention: Cap*Rock Winery, Llano Estacado, Pheasant Ridge, and La Diosa. You can learn more about their tasting times and whereabouts from the Lubbock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Toast the day and your High Plains stay with a dinner at Texas Land & Cattle, located on Indiana Avenue. Steak dinners run about $20. Call (806) 791-0555 for reservations.
When you have experienced Lubbock’s cowboy boots and musical roots, you might believe the final lines of Lubbock native Mac Davis’ hit song, “Texas In My Rearview Mirror”: I guessed happiness was Lubbock, Texas, in my rearview mirror; but now happiness is Lubbock, Texas, growing nearer and dearer. And the vision was getting clearer in my dream. And I think I finally know what it means. And when I die you can bury me in Lubbock, Texas, in my jeans.
Lubbock Convention & Visitors Bureau
Wells Fargo Center
1500 Broadway, Sixth Floor
Lubbock, TX 79401
The following is not a complete list, so please check your favorite campground directory or the FMCA Business Directory, available online at FMCA.com and published in the January and June issues of FMC magazine.
Buffalo Springs Lake
9999 High Meadow Road
Lubbock, TX 79404
6001 34th St.
Lubbock, TX 79407
Lubbock KOA Kampground
5502 County Road 6300
Lubbock, TX 79416
Lubbock RV Park, C10669
4811 N. Interstate 27
Lubbock, TX 79403