Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Best Little Rest Stop in Texas

If you drive around Texas as much as we do you'll find that as the road calls you, so calls the biological necessities of nature.  That 32 ounce cup of coffee is a fickle traveling companion.  So we've had our fair share of pee breaks at gas stations, picnic areas and rest stops.  And if this rest stop isn't the best, it's definitely above even comes with its own promotional pamphlet:

Not too shabs.  It's located near the East Texas town of Jacksonville, TX and is called "Love's Lookout."   The land was formerly owned by a local family (named "Love") and became a rest stop in 2004.  Let's check it out:

After obtaining sweet relief you can check out the Blue Star Memorial marker as well as a common site in nearby Jacksonville:

Over 300 concrete tomatoes are scattered around town.  A lot of towns do something similar by creating a symbol that represents the area's history and heritage and decorating local businesses (like the Hippos of Hutto) with them.  This one is ripe for the picking.  A little further on in and you can see the stop's official Texas State Historical Marker:

The marker reads:

     "On this nine mile long ridge there are two historic lookout points which command a view of 30 to 35 miles. Between this site, with an elevation of 713 ft., and Point Lookout (1/4 mi. NW), lies a narrow valley. An Indian trail and later a pioneer road crossed this valley. The pass became known as McKee's Gap in 1846, after Thomas McKee led a group of Presbyterians here from Tennessee and began the town of Larissa (3.5 mi. nw). Named by McKee's son the Rev. T. N. McKee, the village flourished as the location of Larissa College from the 1850s until the 1870s. Point Lookout was a popular recreational area for citizens of Larissa until the railroad bypassed the town and it declined.     
     Around the turn of the century, John Wesley Love (1858-1925) bought this land and developed a 600-acre peach orchard. Known as Love's Lookout, the scenic point was used for outings by area residents. After Love's death, his family gave 22.22 acres, including the lookout site, to the state for a park. The City of Jacksonville bought 25 adjoining acres and developed both tracts as a WPA project. 
     J. L. Brown (1866-1944) and Jewel Newton Brown (1873-1966), former Larissa residents, gave the city 122 acres next to the park in 1940 in tribute to pioneers of Larissa. (1978)"

 Inside the visitor's center you can find the standard pamphlets and tourist info but also some headlines about the area, including some weddings that were performed here:

But the highlight of the center has to be the framed, autographed photo of legendary Texas actor Burton Gilliam (Blazing Saddles, Back to the Future III):

If all that isn't enough to schedule a pit stop then we'll leave you with the view from the lookout.  It may not be the Grand Canyon but it's a great break from the road:

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