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Wild Horses

The rock-heavy and lightning-fast 2013 Mustang GT runs roughshod over Texas Hill Country

Author JOE KEOHANE

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOE KEOHANE

AUSTIN, TEXAS

WE WERE HOURS DEEP into Texas Hill Country, just north of Bandera on Route 16, when my copilot became agitated and demanded I pull over. “Llama on the loose!” he cried. And indeed there was, running resolutely down the middle of the road. “It jumped out of the thing! Look at the guy running at it!” I swung the Mustang to the shoulder and he grabbed the camera and lit out in hot pursuit, to the annoyance of the ranchers scrambling in vain to catch the llama. After a few shots, he returned. “Sometimes in life,” he said philosophically, indicating the ranchers, “you gotta grant that a llama’s gonna run into the middle of the road, and when he does, you’ve just gotta let him run until he’s done.”

The same could be said of our ride for the weekend, a sterling-gray 2013 Ford Mustang GT fresh off the test track, and maybe help explain why what began as a four-hour road trip turned into a two-tank, nine-hour odyssey.

We had started the day in Austin, at Torchy’s Tacos, a food truck on South First Street, not far from the river. After stuffing ourselves to the point of collapse with fantastic fried chicken tacos — tacos for breakfast being one of the great advances of civilization — we rounded up the Mustang and hit Highway 71 toward Fredericksburg.

Before going any further, though, a word on the car: At a time when automobiles are becoming increasingly concerned with our well-being — always beeping, flashing, warning, worrying — the Mustang is refreshingly stoic. It’s essentially a giant hunk of metal, weighing in at nearly 2 tons. It’s equipped with a V-8 capable of 420 hp and a wombat howl that will keep you wondering if you have a gang of Hells Angels bringing up the rear. Inside, there’s a cup holder. A mirror. A stereo. Map pockets. In other words, pampering is not the point. Driving is the point. And driving this car is stupidly fun.

So drive we did. Route 71 West out of Austin belies the notion, held by the uninitiated, that Texas is all low scrub and big sky. The road takes you through dramatic terrain, past ostentatious stone and iron ranch gates and between pools of bluebonnets gathered amid the gentle green hills. We saw half a dozen families that had pulled over to just sit in the fields of wildflowers.

After turning onto Route 16 at Llano, we arrived in Fredericksburg. German immigrants founded the place in the mid-19th century, and it retains some of its historical flavor. While a good deal of the main strip is now geared toward tourists, signs of the old days include a museum honoring Adm. Chester Nimitz, who was born here, and two lively beer halls. We ducked into one of the latter, the Fredericksburg Brewing Co., to escape the heat, and called up a couple of pints of the fine Peacepipe Pale Ale.

Route 16 heads southwest from there, into harsher but no less beautiful country. Past Kerrville, the landscape turns craggy and the road takes on the contours of a roller coaster, all sharp climbs, steep drops and hairpin turns. The Mustang’s heft and power might not have been ideal for this, but they made for some stomach-churning fun.

After the llama episode, we drove through Medina, a welcoming cluster of businesses surrounded by orchards and ranches, and into tiny Bandera, the self-proclaimed “Cowboy Capital of the World” and site of many a rodeo. Following a quick snack, we wheeled onto Route 46 toward Gruene, en route to Gruene Hall, Texas’ longest-running dance hall. At least, that was the plan until we discovered that our final destination, the legendary Kreuz Market in Lockhart (which was sort of the principal reason for our road trip in the first place), was closing at 8 p.m. It was 5:45, and Lockhart was two hours away.

So … after a great deal of noise, we pulled into the nearly empty parking lot of Kreuz’s, housed in a big red hall, and practically ran to the door. We narrowly made it, and the friendly people within dished out the best brisket either of us had ever had, along with jalapeño-cheddar sausages and a mess of sides. The meat was served on paper, meant to be eaten with your hands. We over-ordered, grossly overindulged and weaved out into the parking lot. Across the street was the town cemetery, which seemed apt as our systems struggled to make sense of what had just happened. Back into the car then, onto Highway 183, the sun falling to our left, the lane markers lighting up the road like a landing strip, 31 miles to Austin, where the fun was only beginning.

Hemispheres editor in chief JOE KEOHANE needs to invest in a smoker.


2013 FORD MUSTANG GT
The bells and whistles

STARTING PRICE: $34,300
ENGINE: An uproariously loud 5.0-liter V-8
PERFORMANCE: It may feel like driving a cinder block coming off the starting line, but the Mustang GT can move, with 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, and a highway fuel efficiency of up to 25 mpg.
PERKS: Aside from being an all-around blast to drive, this car is a spartan affair. There is, however, a feature that projects the Mustang emblem onto the ground when the doors are unlocked — which everyone we came across commented on approvingly, but in a way that led us to believe we were being made fun of.

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