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Behind the Swinging Doors: A Tour of Hill Country Barbecue (Slideshow)

Behind the Swinging Doors: A Tour of Hill Country Barbecue (Slideshow)

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Take a look inside the smokers of the BBQ joint’s Brooklyn outpost

Jane Bruce

Pitmaster at Hill Country Brooklyn Ash Fulk checks on some wood burning in a smoker.

Ash Fulk

Jane Bruce

Pitmaster at Hill Country Brooklyn Ash Fulk checks on some wood burning in a smoker.


Jane Bruce

Try the sausage they make in-house, or one of the two varieties they have shipped from legendary barbecue joint Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas.

Wood in the Fire

Jane Bruce

Fulk adds wood to the fire in the smoker.


Jane Bruce

Fulk carefully seasons his brisket with a blend of kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne.


Jane Bruce

All their meat is smoked daily and in-house for the freshest possible result.


Jane Bruce

All their meat is carved to order, and the brisket can be served by the pound or on a sandwich.


Jane Bruce

Pork or beef ribs can also be ordered by the pound, or on one of their platter options, such as brisket, chicken, and rib, or The Pitmaster — a quarter of a chicken, one pork spare rib, one Hill Country hot link, a quarter-pound lean brisket, and two sides.

Signed Smoker

Jane Bruce

Esteemed guests have the opportunity to sign Hill Country's smoker.

Behind the Swinging Doors: A Tour of Hill Country Barbecue (Slideshow) - Recipes

MVSTA is excited to announce that we will be hosting a SuperTour ski race on January 16th and 17th, 2010.

The SuperTour is a United States Ski Association (USSA) sanctioned ski race series and is the highest level of cross country ski competition in North America. The Methow Valley SuperTour is one of thirteen races in the nationwide SuperTour race circuit in which racers compete for cash prizes and series points. The Methow Valley SuperTour will be held Martin Luther King Weekend, one month before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada. It is expected that the best Nordic ski racers from the United States and Canada will attend.

Youth skiers will also compete this weekend in Junior Olympic Qualifying Races as part of the SuperTour weekend. This is a tremendous opportunity for junior skiers to race right alongside some of the best skiers in the world. We anticipate youth ski teams from across the West will take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Collegiate ski teams, Senior and Master skiers will also be racing this weekend in their respective categories.

The race will be held on Methow Valley ski trails specifically created for competition. The race course is located next to Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop. Racers will compete in a 1.3km skate sprint race on Saturday. On Sunday the men race a 15km classic distance race and the women and juniors a 10K classic distance race. The race course is very spectator-friendly allowing viewing from the stadium bleachers as well as alongside the race course.

MVSTA is honored to host a race of this caliber. Racers and spectators will be treated to the all best the Methow Valley has to offer. More information can be found here.

The Methow Valley SuperTour title sponsors are AeroMech and Nordic Ultratune.

If your business is interested in sponsoring this race, please contact Kristen at MVSTA: 509-996-3287.

Acclaimed Austin brewery preserves breathtaking piece of Hill Country

As residential development continues to encroach on the Texas Hill Country, one Austin brewer has taken a big step to preserve a piece of its natural beauty.

On May 10, Jester King co-owner Jeffrey Stuffings announced in a blog post that the lauded beer maker has purchased the remainder of the Ceres Park Ranch where the brewery is located. The 107 acres of land includes an onsite events center and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza.

“We have a responsibility to preserve its natural beauty and keep it a green space for visitors to enjoy,” wrote Stuffings. “We also have a wonderful opportunity to create a system of land, agriculture, and people that's respectful of our surroundings and creates thoughtful, enjoyable experiences based on food, drink, fermentation, farming, and community.”

Stuffings promised that the land, now totaling 165 acres, would not be further developed except for agricultural projects. The team also does not plan to do much tinkering with the two businesses they acquired with the land.

According to Stuffings, the only immediate change at Stanley’s will be that the pizzeria will finally be able to sell the brewery’s award-winning farmhouse ales, but he did allude to some future tweaks. “Over time, it will be natural for Stanley's to slowly evolve to better fit our philosophy and approach,” he said. “We're excited about making the kitchen an extension of our land and farm, and achieving greater symmetry between their food and our beer.”

The barnlike Ceres Park Ranch Event Center will be open for bookings later in the year. Stuffings noted that the brewery often gets requests for weddings and special events but has been unable to accommodate them due to space.

As previously reported, Jester King is also developing a restaurant and vineyard on a neighboring plot of land purchased in 2016.

Here forever: Hill Country Conservancy protects open spaces and ranching heritage

That photo of your kid/dog/significant other in the bluebonnets looks a lot better without a mall in the background.

But the number of pristine, photo-worthy fields is shrinking, as are the iconic farms and ranches of the Hill Country. Texas is paving paradise and putting up parking lots at a startling pace. In the 90s alone, more than a million and a half acres of rural and agricultural land in Texas were lost to development.

The Hill Country Conservancy is working to preserve the blue-green hills and swimmable streams that brought many Austinites here in the first place. And it’s doing so not by fighting the market forces that bring development to Central Texas, but by using a tool of the market: it buys development rights to ranches and then dissolves them in an agreement called a conservation easement.

By doing so, HCC keeps the open fields around forever. And it protects them without a battle between environmentalists and developers.

“We were founded on the premise that the environment and economy can and do work hand in hand,” says executive director George Cofer.

The project is a win-win-win: financially strapped landowners get relief without having to sell their ranch. The ecosystem is spared the pressure of additional development, with its attendant loss of wildlife habitat and drain on the aquifer. And Central Texans — rural and urban — can still enjoy the natural beauty that attracted them here.

“If you really want to hold on to your ranch and just keep doing what you’re doing, there’s not a better idea in the world,” second-generation rancher Scott Storm said in a film about HCC made last year. “Basically [the easement] is the only reason why we’re still in one piece instead of a whole bunch of little fragments.”

Formed in 1999, the Hill Country Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that buys the development rights to rural land with money from government sources, bond elections and private donors. Since 2000, the HCC and its partners have conserved 40,000 acres over the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer.

A dilemma for landowners

It’s a familiar story: the Smith Ranch is sold to a developer, who carves it into hundreds of lots. A sign pops up welcoming buyers to Smith Ranch Estates. In time, the Smith family is forgotten.

It’s nearly impossible to make a living in traditional agriculture in the Hill Country.

Why does the ranch disappear? It’s often a result of heartwrenching decisions based on the bottom line.

It’s nearly impossible to make a living in traditional agriculture in the Hill Country. The amount of grass on most Central Texas ranches isn’t enough for a large cattle operation, particularly in brutal droughts. And grass-fed beef is not yet popular enough to compete with large-scale conventional farms.

At the same time, Central Texas’ popularity has made land values rise even as beef markets have shrunk. Basic expenses and taxes outpace agricultural income. When the owner of the ranch — typically granddad or grandma — dies, the estate taxes may be so large that it’s easiest to sell the family place.

Scott Storm describes the scenario his family faced: “It was finally [either] work yourself to death and lose it to the tax man, or go ahead and sell it, move into the city, and at least survive.” While the Storm ranch is one the HCC ultimately saved, Storm says the tough choice he faced is one that led most of his neighbors to sell their ranches.

How conservation easements work

But a conservation easement can change everything. When a landowner approaches the HCC, the property’s development rights are appraised — “if we WERE going to build 200 homes and a shopping center here, how much would that be worth?” HCC then works with the landowner to determine the development rights that will be retained (such as a rancher’s right to build a road) and those that are forfeited through sale or donation to HCC.

Once the rights are donated or sold, the land’s taxable value decreases because its potential economic value has been reduced. The rancher gets to stay on the land and makes money from the sale of the development rights but knows they won’t ever be used.

It’s a huge relief for multi-generational ranching families who worried about losing their livelihood as well as their heritage. Cofer puts it this way: “People say, ‘Yeah, you saved the ranch, but what you really saved is our family.’”

Environmental benefits, lifestyle benefits

The deals are also saving crucial natural features. The land where HCC focuses its efforts lies over the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, the underground water source southwest of Austin. New development in western Travis and Hays counties adds additional strain to the already tapped aquifer — imagine a glass of water with dozens of drinking straws in it. And roads, roofs and parking lots built over the aquifer mean that the water that does soak back into the ground is often polluted.

When land over the aquifer is conserved, the creeks and streams keep running and stay cleaner. The air quality improves, and habitat is preserved for endangered species like the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler.

HCC strongly believes in the land as a recharge feature not just for water but also for nature-starved urbanites — easy access to natural features is one attraction that brought many people to Austin. At some HCC properties, public access is part of the deal — the Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve offers monthly hikes.

When land over the aquifer is conserved, the creeks and streams keep running and stay cleaner. The air quality improves, and habitat is preserved for endangered species like the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler.

The HCC is also gathering funding and partners to build the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-plus-mile trail that will be open to the public and will ultimately wind all the way from Barton Springs Pool into Hays County.

An unusual partnership

Conserving rural land has economic benefits, too. The area’s natural beauty is one reason people and jobs move to Central Texas. Without that beauty — and without adequate water — the economy will suffer.

Rather than fighting all development, “Our stance is that development shapes our community, and you need development — but at the same time there’s a smart way to grow,” says Frank Davis, director of land conservation. The HCC’s board includes both environmentalists and developers.

So does EPIC, the Emerging Professionals in Conservation. The program comprises about 150 Austinites between age 25 and 40 and is meant to build the next generation of leaders in the conservation movement. In return for monthly donations as low as $20, EPIC members can hike, canoe, camp, pick peaches and go caving with HCC.

“It’s a program to get young professionals out on our land to see why we do what we do,” explains Harper Scott, HCC’s director of communications and development.

Young urbanites who’ve never built a fence or ridden a horse forge their own connection with nature and their own reasons to save the Hill Country. And the Hill Country Conservancy ensures that its legacy — as well as the legacy of Texas ranches — will live on.

15 of the Best Small Towns in Texas to Road Trip to This Summer

Looking for the best small towns to visit in the Lone Star State? We've got you covered.

Welcome to Texas: one of the best states for road tripping, where the highways stretch for miles and the summer heat is sweltering. While Texas is home to some of the biggest cities in the U.S., there are some hidden gems along the backroads that you won't want to miss. So put on your boots, and get ready to say "Howdy, y'all" to these small Texas towns!

When visiting Gruene, a town established by German farmers in the 1840s, the #1 thing on your to-do list should be seeing a show at the famous Gruene Hall, which is Texas' oldest operating dance hall, built in 1878.

If you're driving along Route 66, be sure to make a pit-stop in Amarillo, where you'll find The Big Texan Steak House, home of the 72-ounce steak. And if you're in the mood for something quirky, check out the roadside art attraction Cadillac Ranch, featuring 10 graffiti-covered Cadillacs.

About 23 miles west of Austin, you'll find the town of Dripping Springs, where you can take a refreshing dip in the Hamilton Pool Preserve, a picturesque swimming hole that was created thousands of years ago after an eroded underground river collapsed.

If you're looking for the perfect spot for a girls' getaway, Fredericksburg is a great home base for visiting some of the best wineries Texas has to offer. The Texas Hill Country region is home to more than 45 vineyards, including favorites like Barons Creek Vineyards and 16 others that are all a part of the local winery association, Fredericksburg Wine Road 290.

Every Texan knows where the best kolaches are: at the Czech Stop in West, Texas, only 20 minutes outside of Waco. If you're unfamiliar with kolaches, they're a type of pastry that holds a dollop of fruit or melted cheese and sausage inside&mdasha.k.a. the greatest things on earth, according to hungry Texans. The Czech Stop is a must if you're making your way between Dallas and Austin on I-35.

It might seem unlikely that a Prada-themed art exhibit would exist in the middle of nowhere, a.k.a. Marfa, Texas, a city with less than 2,000 people, but that's exactly what has made this little town so famous. The 2005 Prada Marfa exhibit is a one-room, stucco replica of a real Prada store designed by artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. It's become a cultural landmark for the tiny town,with all kinds of visitors, including celebs like Beyoncé, passing through just to see it.

Ask any Texan, and they'll tell you the Dr Pepper you can get in Dublin, where the drink originated, is the best kind they've ever had. For more than 120 years, Dublin Bottling Works has been bottling sodas, and it's the company's Texas-made Imperial pure cane sugar that makes their Dr Pepper so special and sweet. While the company no longer bottles Dr Pepper, you can still taste the soda at Old Doc's Soda Shop.

As the only established town on Mustang Island, Port Aransas offers plenty of family-oriented activities, including visiting several local beaches, fishing on the Horace Caldwell Pier, and visiting the Lydia Ann lighthouse.

Only 13 miles from Fredericksburg, Luckenbach is another must-see Hill Country town. You can still visit its oldest building today&mdashit's a combination of a general store, post office, and a saloon, which opened in 1886, a few decades after the town was established as a trading post in 1849.

It might be home to a little more than 2,000 people, but Shiner is also home to the famous Texas brewery, Shiner Beer, which starting brewing in 1909. You can take a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery where they still produce every single drop of Shiner Bock.

Visit the border town of Laredo, one of the oldest border crossing points that sits on the north bank of the Rio Grande River. In the heart of the downtown historic district, don't miss visiting the Cathedral of San Augustin, which dates back to 1872.

Whether you're just passing through the quaint lake town of Marble Falls or you're making a weekend visit of it, you have to stop by Blue Bonnet Cafe, especially for its pie happy hour. When you've had your fill of delicious pie, make sure you get plenty of R and R at Lake Marble Falls or even Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.

If you've never been floatin', grab your inner tube because New Braunfels is a good place to start. Relax while floating down the Guadalupe River, or you can visit the Schlitterbahn Waterpark if nature's not your thing.

Saying you've visited Brownsville, located at the southernmost tip of Texas, is an accomplishment in and of itself, since the state is so large! While you're there, don't forget to visit the beautiful historic downtown on Elizabeth Street.

If you've always wanted to visit a real-life ghost town, you've come to the right place. Terlingua, often referred to as Ghost Town Texas, is a former mining community, part of the Study Butte-Terlingua group of communities in Big Bend Country, near Big Bend National Park. There's plenty of abandoned buildings to explore, left behind by miners after they fled when the mercury market crashed in the mid-1800s.

Lonesome Cowboy

He's rich. He's handsome. He ropes. He rides. And he has four years as land commissioner under his belt. So why do so many Republicans (let alone Democrats) hope David Dewhurst is not the next lieutenant governor of Texas?

If you know anything at all about David Dewhurst, the state land commissioner and Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, you probably know that he rides horses. He has carpet bombed the state with televised images that feature him sitting atop a galloping horse, wearing a spotless white hat and perfectly pressed shirt and swinging a rope over his head. The ads aired during his campaign for land commissioner in 1998 and again last summer to discourage would-be Republican rivals from running against him and his nine-figure fortune in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor. Three challengers entered the race at various times, but all eventually dropped out, leaving Dewhurst to face Democrat John Sharp for the job that has traditionally been considered the most powerful position in Texas politics.

The two images of the 56-year-old Dewhurst that appear in the ads—one, a man in a starched shirt and an obviously expensive suit who seems to have just emerged from an hour of hairstyling and makeup the other, a lasso-swinging cowboy—seem a bit odd (why is that fellow with perfectly groomed hair trying to rope a steer?). But the political iconography is clear enough: He’s selling himself as a successful businessman with the cowboy virtues of courage and self-reliance. In fact, that is not too far removed from his life’s story. Dewhurst grew up in Houston, worked his way through college waiting tables during the school year and doing manual labor and office work in the summers, served in the Air Force and the CIA, made and lost a fortune, and made and kept another. In time he became a breeder of cutting horses and cattle and a valued fundraiser for the Republican party. In 1998 he won more votes at the polls than Rick Perry, John Cornyn, or Carole Keeton Rylander. It’s hard to construct a better bio for a Texas politician: self-made wealth, ranching, patriotism, party loyalty, and a post-September 11 credential as chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security. On paper, David Dewhurst should be the fastest rising star of the Republican party.

Pitted against his idealized version of himself, however, is a vigorous countermyth that goes like this: Dewhurst is a vain, aloof aristocrat who is scorned by his fellow officeholders a detail-obsessed martinet who is difficult to work for a candidate so stiff and formal that his public appearances work against him a politician who proclaims himself to be a “George W. Bush Republican” but actively patronizes the party’s far-right wing a businessman whose riches are the fruit of dubious business deals an officeholder who spent the past decade systematically and cynically buying his way in. And then there is the gossip, of which the kindest thing is that he is said to wear makeup—although I saw no evidence of it.

This is not just the idle chatter of partisan Democratic spinmeisters. You hear it from Republicans too. It is the political establishment’s line on a man who is still seen by his colleagues in the corridors of power as someone who doesn’t really fit in—the closest thing to a political pariah. You would think that GOP insiders would be thrilled to have a candidate of Dewhurst’s wealth and stature running for higher office. But the reality is that they recruited state Supreme Court justice Greg Abbott to run against him for lieutenant governor (Abbott later switched to the attorney general’s race) and discouraged Dewhurst from challenging Attorney General John Cornyn in a GOP primary race to succeed Phil Gramm in the U.S. Senate. Outgoing lieutenant governor Bill Ratliff, who abandoned his race for reelection after Dewhurst got in, says, “His personality is the main problem. Compare him to [state comptroller] Carole Rylander. The contrast is stark between the warm, fuzzy grandma and the starched shirt. He is not one of the good old boys.” A reporter for the Washington-based political newspaper Roll Call has described Dewhurst as “a megawealthy businessman whom Texas observers call ‘plastic,’ and even Republicans characterize him in unflattering terms.” Ross Ramsey, the editor of the Austin political newsletter Texas Weekly, says simply, “He is the strangest duck in Texas politics.”

Dewhurst acknowledges that there are people who don’t like him, but he attributes what he calls “negative gossip” to three words he uses more or less interchangeably: “Austin,” “Democrat,” and “partisan.” To him it is all myth and calumny. “The partisan Democrat spin that I stay away from people is malarkey,” he says. “In 1998 I spent more time doing retail campaigning than almost any candidate I know. I did a 103-city tour of Texas in a bus. One of my favorite things to do is to go into little towns and walk in and out of stores and say, ‘Hi, I’m David Dewhurst, and I’m running for office. Would like to talk to you.’ Great fun.”

So the question is, Who is the real David Dewhurst? And why are people saying such terrible things about him?

It is breakfast time at the snaffle Bit Ranch, David Dewhurst’s lovely 1,800-acre stream-crossed scrap of Hill Country just south of Fredericksburg. The sun is rising over the rolling live-oak pastureland and over the barns, stables, and arenas that house 119 of Texas’ finest quarter horses. Four of us—Dewhurst, his campaign manager, his press secretary, and I—are seated at a spacious oak table near the kitchen in a large, remodeled limestone ranch house. It is a splendid place, a multimillionaire’s dacha, jammed with art and antiques and designer-crafted down to the last curtain tassel and bathroom valance. I have just spent the night in a bedroom the size of my front yard. Breakfast consists of cereal, orange juice, and bagels that Dewhurst personally picked out the night before at the H-E-B in Fredericksburg. While we eat, I am summarizing for Dewhurst, as tactfully as I can, all the reasons I have heard, in two months of reporting, why people do not like him. I have his full attention.

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I am here because I asked Dewhurst if I could interview him at his ranch—away from the swirl of his professional and political life in Austin—and he not only agreed but also invited me to spend the night. This came as a surprise since I had heard that he distrusts reporters, who seldom have a good thing to say about him. But he has invited me here nonetheless, at what must have seemed to him considerable risk, and I am getting to see what the state’s biggest political mystery looks like at close range. He is a large, strikingly handsome man, six feet five inches tall, and has the lean, muscled body of someone thirty years younger—the product of frequent weight lifting at Powerhouse Gym in downtown Austin. His hair ranges from dark brown to gray in such perfect gradations that it can appear airbrushed, even from five feet away. His elevated cheekbones, flawlessly translucent pink skin, and faintly retroussé nose make him appear more cinematic than aristocratic, as though he might have been one of Sue Ellen’s lovers from the old prime-time soap opera Dallas.

I mention this because one of the first things you learn about David Dewhurst when you spend time with him is that he is a prisoner of his looks. We all are, to some extent, of course, but he is an extreme case. You can trace many of the unkind things people say about him to his too-perfect appearance. After riding hard in a hot sun, with dirt and sweat on his face, his hair mashed down by his hat, he still looks like someone who just wandered off a movie set. And while it must be nice to be a handsome centimillionaire, his appearance is not well suited to politics. It suggests neither the youthful vigor of a John F. Kennedy nor the ruggedness of Rick Perry. Rather, it seems to bear out what his critics say about him: He’s too concerned about how he looks. Hence those words—“aristocratic,” “vain,” “fussy,” “a bit of a dandy,” “lacking a common touch,” “short on intellectual heft.”

This is some of what people say about him, I tell Dewhurst, but they say worse things too. You do not have spend much time in Austin political circles before you hear the rumor that he is homosexual—notwithstanding his six-year marriage to former model Tammy Jo Hopkins, which ended in divorce last year—or the more finely articulated stories that he is obsessed with having his nails manicured or that he changes his shirt eight times a day or that he sometimes wears makeup for public appearances. Whisper campaigns like this are peculiarly effective. They need not be proven: If you believe a man is obsessive about his fingernails, you will believe a lot of other things about him too. You hear variations of this all over Austin, which is where people care enough to whisper about such things. Underlying all of this is a sense of unease, a sense that, for whatever reason, he just doesn’t belong in politics.

Now he is responding, across the breakfast table, to my catalog of things people don’t like about him. The whisper campaign, which he knows about, he finds “despicable.” “Ninety-five percent of any negative gossip that you hear about David Dewhurst is generated from one or more liberal Democratic partisans and lobbyists in Austin,” he says. The gossip, he says, is deliberately, maliciously false, and he suspects it is at least in part the work of John Sharp and his minions. No evidence to support the rumors has ever surfaced, and Dewhurst built a reputation, both before his marriage and after his divorce, for squiring beautiful women around. “You need,” he says, “to listen to what people outside Austin are saying.”

Then there are the political allegations. Of the charge that he is a poor candidate, he says, “If there was any truth to that, I wouldn’t have been the highest non-judicial vote-getter in 1998 after Bush.” He also bridles at the notion that he represents only the far-right wing of the Republican party. “If there was any truth to that,” he says, “the Texas Federation of Republican Women, who represent the whole smorgasbord of Republican women, from pro-choice to soccer moms to conservatives, wouldn’t consider me one of their best friends. I have to allocate more time whenever I speak to any Republican women’s club so everybody has time to give me a hug.”

By the time our breakfast is over, I have spent a late afternoon, an evening, and a morning with him. My impression is that the David Dewhurst of the Snaffle Bit Ranch (as opposed to the political world) is not aloof and is anything but a lightweight. He is voluble, ebullient, and something of a know-it-all. He has a side of him that is pure policy wonk. He can be alternately charming and overbearing. Occasionally he sits quietly and listens. He has a dry, almost nerdy sense of humor he thinks it is funny, for example, to tell people that he is five feet seventeen inches tall. “Vertically challenged,” he calls it. He is impassioned and expansive on subjects he likes, such as horses and Spanish culture, and he likes good food and fine wine. At dinner the previous night at the Hilltop Café, outside Fredericksburg, he showed me the many scars on his hands from roping cattle. He is, in short, a big, ambitious, rich Texan. This is not at all what the rumor mill had led me to expect.

My last question is why he thinks he can win. “The state of Texas is two or three points more Republican than it was in 1998,” he says. “Today I am a better candidate than I was in 1998. My opponent is not as good a candidate as he was in 1998. I would not be in this race unless I thought I was uniquely qualified to be lieutenant governor and that I will win.”

David Henry Dewhurst III was born in Houston on August 18, 1945, into modest circumstances. His father, a bomber pilot and a war hero, was killed by a drunk driver when David was three. He grew up on the west side of town in a family with limited means. His mother worked as a legal secretary. David attended Lamar High, where he played on the basketball team. He went to the University of Arizona and played basketball his freshman year as a walk-on. He graduated in 1967 with a major in English, a minor in history, and an ambition to go to law school. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force.

His idea was to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a pilot. But his eyesight did not meet the minimum standards. Instead of flying fighters or bombers, Dewhurst was shipped north to a Strategic Air Command base in chilly Plattsburgh, New York, a few miles from the Canadian border, where his main duties were to guard nuclear weapons and the B-52 bombers that carried them. There he acquired his obsession for planning and detail. “I learned to schedule decision making and conversations in certain downtimes,” he tells me. “I remember having to make a decision, and so I scheduled it for the two minutes that I was going to walk in formation from the barracks to the mess hall.”

In 1971 he finished his hitch in the Air Force and took a job with the CIA. He was sent to La Paz, Bolivia, a hotbed of leftist ferment where governments were routinely toppled and where guerilla leader Che Guevara had been captured and killed just four years before. Dewhurst’s cover was a State Department job dealing with consular issues—passport and visa problems and the like. “I had a full-time embassy job,” he says. “After hours and on weekends I was tasked by my [CIA] boss in Washington to keep in touch with certain groups and foreign embassies and opinion makers that Washington was interested in.” (He later added that he had the responsibility to “monitor certain terrorist and other foreign targets.”) Two months after he arrived in Bolivia, a bloody coup ousted leftist president J. J. Torres. Dewhurst says that the coup was not assisted by the United States (a claim disputed by some historians) and that he had nothing to do with it. (The CIA confirmed that Dewhurst worked for them from 1971 to 1974 but would provide no further information.) In the CIA Dewhurst acquired fluency in Spanish and a lifelong passion for the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries. He has traveled to Mexico and South America more than a hundred times. Twenty-eight years later you can hear him speaking competent Spanish in radio advertisements in South Texas and El Paso.

After he left the CIA, he returned to Texas, where the oil business was booming. Though Dewhurst had no experience in oil, he decided in late 1978—at the age of 33 and with no capital—to move back to Houston from Washington, D.C. (where he had been attending law school and working as a marketing consultant) to try his hand at it. His plan was to sell drilling rigs to Mexican oil companies. He found a partner and in the summer of 1979 launched an oil-field service company later incorporated as Trans-Gulf Supply.

The company was an instant success. Less than two years later, thanks to steadily rising oil prices that supported an enormous demand for drilling rigs, Trans-Gulf had revenues of around $70 million a year, with annual earnings of more than $3 million. Then all hell broke loose. “As of December 31, 1981, when our audited financials were prepared, I was a thirty-six-year-old millionaire,” says Dewhurst. “Six months later, when the price of oil fell, only one of those two facts was true.” Like many Texas companies in those years, Trans-Gulf crashed just as quickly as it had risen. Bankruptcy followed. The company that had once employed 150 people employed only Dewhurst himself at the end. Documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court show that at the time of its bankruptcy, Trans-Gulf owed more than $8 million.

While Trans-Gulf was in bankruptcy, Dewhurst had another idea: He would build a type of electricity-producing facility known as a cogeneration plant. It would burn gas, partly from wells he owned through a drilling-and-exploration company called Falcon Seaboard, to produce steam and generate electricity. The electricity would be sold to a utility, the steam to an adjacent refinery. Without capital of his own, Dewhurst persuaded banks to lend him $110 million and by 1988 had built a successful cogeneration plant in Big Spring. It was the foundation of his fortune. Over the next three years, he built two more plants—in his old stomping grounds of Plattsburgh, New York, and in North East, Pennsylvania—and sold them in 1996 for $226 million. He is now worth more than $200 million.

But along the way, especially in the months immediately preceding the closing of the Big Spring deal, he was desperate for money and secured loans any way he could. To get one $200,000 loan, he promised equity in the cogeneration plant to one of his oldest childhood friends, Jay Golding, and a partner. Dewhurst also got a six-figure loan from a Louisiana bank, and to get another $250,000, he got a personal loan from the bank’s chairman, for which he had to promise a six-figure commission linked to the cogeneration deal.

Some of the wheeling and dealing got Dewhurst into trouble. He lost $150,000 in a short-term deal. In 1990 he was sued by Golding and his partner, who claimed that Dewhurst had cheated them out of equity in his cogeneration plants. In 1991 Dewhurst agreed to pay them what he terms a “substantial” amount of money—roughly a 30 percent stake in his Big Spring plant. (Golding and Dewhurst are once again close friends, and both say they regret the lawsuit in February of this year Golding contributed $10,000 to Dewhurst’s campaign.) This and other business deals would later haunt him. They became an issue in his 1998 race for land commissioner and have resurfaced in his race for lieutenant governor.

Dewhurst spent twelve years in the cogeneration business. Friends describe him in those years as a solitary, driven figure who worked almost all the time and who seemed to care little for the trappings that his wealth could bring. (Even today, he buys his own groceries and washes his own clothes.) “He lived in a little townhouse,” says Ashley Smith, the president and CEO of the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, a Houston hospital, who has known Dewhurst since high school. “All he did was work. You couldn’t outwork him. He was married to his business.”

Dewhurst had also begun to buy his way into the world of politics. In the late eighties he started spreading political money around. In 1991 he became the finance chairman of the Texas Republican party and one of Phil Gramm’s principal fundraisers. Dewhurst quickly became known around the state as a wealthy man with a ready checkbook. Between 1994 and 1997 he gave $105,000 to George W. Bush’s two gubernatorial campaigns. From 1990 to 2002 he personally contributed more than $500,000 to GOP federal candidates and the Republican party.

In the mid-nineties two events happened that would radically alter Dewhurst’s life. One was his 1995 marriage, at the age of 50, to 32-year-old Tammy Jo Hopkins, a Nebraska-born, New York-based model. The other, coming less than a year after his marriage, was the sudden, stunning windfall from the sale of his cogeneration plants. The two events together completely changed the way Dewhurst lived and how he spent his money. He and Tammy went on a spending spree, indulging in the sort of material acquisitions in which he had never before shown any interest. In 1995 they bought the ranch in Fredericksburg. In 1997 they bought the late John Mecom’s 13,000-square-foot French chteau-style mansion on Lazy Lane in River Oaks. They added a Mediterranean-style mansion in the Pemberton Heights section of Austin and a condominium in Santa Fe. They bought art and furniture. “To some extent, he lived her life instead of his own,” says John Lyle, a lawyer and former congressman who is a close friend of Dewhurst’s. They were involved in the opera and the symphony and lavished money on local charities. Tammy was named one of the Houston Chronicle’s best-dressed women. The Dewhursts were conspicuous for their good looks, their huge fortune, and what everyone by now said were David’s political ambitions. “He was going to become a candidate,” says Austin political consultant Bill Miller. “There was no doubt about that.”

Dewhurst considered running for lieutenant governor in 1994, a job then held by the formidable Democrat Bob Bullock, and again in 1998 against Sharp, but decided instead on an easier prize: land commissioner. The Republican primary against state senator Jerry Patterson, of Pasadena, turned out to be a tough, negative campaign in which Patterson accused Dewhurst of trying to bribe him to quit the race. In the general election, state representative Richard Raymond, of Benavides, accused him of embezzlement, among other things. Dewhurst was not a great candidate. He was a pedantic, undisciplined stump speaker who was not yet comfortable in public. But he diligently traveled the state, spent $8 million (half of which was his own money) to Raymond’s $1 million, and won the election going away. He put his fortune into a blind trust and turned his full attention to politics. Last fall he agonized over whether he should run for the Senate seat that Phil Gramm is giving up. Despite a clear financial advantage over his rival for the Republican nomination, John Cornyn, Dewhurst chose to run for lieutenant governor instead.

DURING MY VISIT TO THE SNAFFLE bit Ranch—named after a type of bit that looks like two D’s back to back—Dewhurst gave me a tour of the ranch house. It is the sort of weekend place you might see in a design magazine, full of heavy wooden furniture and Native American and Oriental rugs. There are sky-high ceilings and large picture windows, Western paintings by Melvin Warren and spacious Ralph Lauren chairs. As he showed me the house, it seemed in some ways more of a tour through his marriage. He was wistful when describing individual pieces of furniture—a large armoire he and his wife had bought in France or a table they’d gotten in Mexico.

Friends say Dewhurst was devastated by the failure of his marriage. “He had always been able to work harder to make things happen,” says a friend of the couple. “But he couldn’t do that in this case.” In July 1999 Tammy was arrested for drunken driving after her Mercedes-Benz collided with an oncoming car near the ranch at one-twenty in the afternoon. After she pleaded no-contest to the charges, Dewhurst issued a press release: “My wife’s car accident in July was a wake-up call which caused Tammy to completely give up drinking and enroll herself in a clinic full-time. Today she is in the best health of her life.” The couple split up a year later. Though the Dewhursts are constrained by a confidentiality agreement from commenting on their marriage and divorce, Tammy’s lawyer says the divorce was “amicable.” Dewhurst says simply, “Tammy is a special person. I care about her, and we remain friends.” She currently lives in Houston.

Outside the ranch house, around the stables and cattle pens and riding arenas, Dewhurst feels more at home. He is a commercial—as opposed to recreational—cattle rancher and horse breeder. His company, Falcon Seaboard, breeds cattle on leased land in Sutton and Edwards counties (near Sonora) and in western Colorado. He has the third-largest registered Black Angus herd in Texas. At Fredericksburg he breeds mostly cutting, roping, and reining horses for sale and for competition. One of his reining horses is ranked fifth nationally in career earnings, and in 2000 one of his cutting horses won tenth place in the American Quarterhorse Association’s World Show.

The sport that is featured in Dewhurst’s political ads is called team roping, in which two riders, a “header” and a “heeler,” pursue a running steer inside an arena. At full gallop, the header ropes the steer’s horns riding behind, the heeler then ropes its hind legs. Dewhurst is a header. I watched as he backed a large quarter horse named Jerry into a chute off the arena. When the steer was released, Jerry hit 35 miles per hour in a step and a half. It was a violent, exciting moment. I couldn’t imagine how he stayed on the horse. Dewhurst managed to rope the steer’s horns two out of four times.

His success rate is not as good in politics. Set aside the rumors and the gossip, and you find that David Dewhurst’s real problem is that he does not yet have fully developed political instincts. As a result, he has gotten into tight political situations from which he has been unable to extricate himself without alienating other politicians, including Republicans. The best example of this was his participation last fall on a five-member redistricting board whose job it was to redraw the electoral map of the state House and Senate based on the 2000 census. Dewhurst came up with a Senate map that 30 of 31 incumbent senators said they would support. But Cornyn, who was also on the board, had his own map, favored by big Republican donors, and he had the vote of a fellow Republican, Carole Keeton Rylander, the state comptroller. Speaker of the House Pete Laney, a Democrat, and Lieutenant Governor Ratliff, a Republican, sided with the incumbents. Dewhurst was in the middle. A skilled politician would have tried to cut a deal with Laney and Ratliff, asking for a few concessions to keep the money people happy. Instead, he voted with Cornyn and Rylander. Angry senators who ended up with districts not to their liking blamed Dewhurst, not Cornyn. Two of them, Republicans Robert Duncan, of Lubbock and Jeff Wentworth, of San Antonio, criticized Dewhurst by name in the press. Wentworth—who had been the chairman of the Senate redistricting panel—even suggested that a Republican-controlled Senate would strip Dewhurst of the traditional powers that body has granted to the lieutenant governor. Ratliff, who will return in 2003 as a senator, says, “What he did was heavy-handed, and it is a perfect example of what bothers senators about him. The members’ opinions were not given the kind of weight that a presiding officer would have given them.”

Dewhurst defends his action, arguing that if he had abstained from voting—the only other choice as he saw it—he would have thrown redistricting into the courts. Apparently acting as a broker never occurred to him. He has tried to make amends, speaking with all sixteen Republican senators and most Democrats to try to explain himself. He believes he has healed the wounds. “I think that all these Republican senators know where my heart was,” he says. But Wentworth, for one, still feels aggrieved: “He tried to defend what he did, and I still disagree with him.”

Another problem for Dewhurst is that he has left himself vulnerable to being portrayed as an ultraconservative Republican, as opposed to a mainstream conservative. In March he got caught in a controversy involving the right-wing group FreePAC (short for Free Market Political Action Committee). In a mailing to GOP primary voters, FreePAC claimed that six GOP legislators (including Ratliff and Wentworth) supported policies favored by “radical homosexuals” and Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The mailing included photographs of two men kissing. Led by Ratliff, GOP state officials and many legislators condemned the mailing, as did Dewhurst. But it turned out that Dewhurst had been a major donor to FreePAC in the nineties, in the amount of $84,500. He stopped giving to the group in 1999, the year it began targeting incumbent Republicans it considered insufficiently pure. But that information got lost in the larger news story, the gist of which was: Dewhurst Funds Fanatical Right-Wing Group.

The FreePAC controversy is not likely to be remembered by voters in November. Among insiders, however, it has the effect of making Dewhurst seem even quirkier, more mysterious than he already is. Without any coaching from Dewhurst’s opponents, a reasonable person might well conclude from this episode that he really is a right-wing ideologue who doesn’t fit with the mainstream of his party. You don’t have to talk to him for long before you realize that he is very much a creature of the mainstream. But that is not how John Sharp will describe him.

The general election is still five months away, but the signs are that Dewhurst and Sharp will soon be blasting away at each other’s records as officeholders, saying how poorly the other did in managing his state agency. In a year when the state faces a possible $5 billion hole in the budget, both men are selling their abilities as managers—Sharp as a former state comptroller and Dewhurst as a businessman and state agency budget-cutter.

They have already clashed over Dewhurst’s Land Office budget cuts. In advertisements, Dewhurst claimed that he had cut his agency’s budget by 25 percent. Sharp disputed that, saying that Dewhurst had made cuts of only 4 percent—a position supported by newspaper stories and editorials. Who is right? Dewhurst justifies his claim with two numbers: the $53.5 million annual budget he inherited from his predecessor, Garry Mauro, for fiscal year 1999 and the $40.56 million in expenditures reported officially by the General Land Office for 2000, the first year Dewhurst had full control of his budget—a drop of 24.2 percent, not quite 25 percent but, as they say, close enough for government work. Sharp bases his claim on the $48.5 million the General Land Office spent in 1999, the fiscal year Mauro and Dewhurst split as land commissioners, and the $46.6 million he says Dewhurst’s GLO spent in 2000, citing a Legislative Budget Board analysis. Both sides’ numbers are questionable. By the time Dewhurst took office, Mauro himself had previously recommended, and legislative budget writers had accepted, a $6 million reduction for 2000, which Dewhurst subsequently reduced even more. Dewhurst shouldn’t be able to take credit for the Mauro reduction his portion of the budget cut amounts to 15 percent—not 25 percent, but still substantial. Sharp’s $46.6 million figure for GLO spending in 2000 was way off: it was only a Land Office estimate (not a budget board analysis), which turned out to be $6 million higher than what Dewhurst, correctly, had said he spent. As with all budgeting disputes, this one may seem pretty arcane, but it is important because Dewhurst, who achieved most of his savings by firing 103 people in his first week on the job, plans to attack Sharp for expanding the comptroller’s budget during eight years in office. In any case, Dewhurst is not alone in believing he ran a tight ship. “I don’t mind saying that David has done a good job running that agency,” says House Appropriations Committee chairman Rob Junell, a Democrat who is supporting Sharp. Still, the skirmish is classic Dewhurst: When Sharp attacked, Dewhurst was unable to explain his numbers to the media and wound up losing round one of the public relations battle.

Later, he somehow managed to lose the endorsement of the state’s biggest business association. In February the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, which is supporting Republicans in every other race and of which Dewhurst is a former officer, threw its support to Sharp. The setback resulted from a combination of his failure to anticipate Sharp’s challenge of his numbers—Dewhurst admits that he did little advance work—and being outperformed by Sharp when the two made a joint appearance at a TABCC luncheon.

On Dewhurst’s side is his money, which he will use mainly to buy television and radio advertisements, and a built-in six- to eight-point tilt among Texas voters toward Republicans. Sharp has a distinguished record in Texas politics—he has served as a House member, a senator, and a railroad commissioner and as comptroller for eight years, and he narrowly lost the lieutenant governor’s race to Rick Perry in 1998. He has substantial Republican support Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan heads Republicans and Independents for Sharp. He also stands to benefit from the presence of gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk on the Democratic ticket this year. If Hispanic and black voters turn out in large numbers, Sharp will get a huge lift. Look for Sharp to paint Dewhurst as an extremist, a far-right-winger who contributes to groups like FreePAC—even though Dewhurst’s pet issues are shared by many Republicans: He wants to raise education standards and give teachers more money, improve access to higher education, and streamline the health-care system.

No matter what the big issues turn out to be, the 2002 campaign for lieutenant governor may well come down to money. Sharp and Dewhurst are like the fox and the hedgehog in the old fable. The fox, you’ll recall, knows many things. The hedgehog knows one big thing. Sharp is the fox, a wily veteran politician with a lot of allies and friends and a vast store of knowledge about state government. Dewhurst, the hedgehog, knows that he can afford to drop $25 million on this campaign compared to Sharp’s $8 million to $10 million. And that is a big thing indeed.

If David Dewhurst has a natural constituency, it is probably women. This is no doubt partly because he is tall and good-looking. But there is something else too, and it is obvious when you see him in public. Women like him, and he likes them. He is at ease around them, something that isn’t true when he is in the male-dominated world of the Capitol, where he seems stiff, formal, wary, and a little out of place. At the monthly dinner of the Austin Young Women’s Alliance in April, his comfort level is obvious. The event takes place in the banquet room at Truluck’s restaurant. He circulates, leaning down from his six feet five inches to talk to his hosts. One of the women is from the complex where he has an apartment, called the Gables on Town Lake, in Austin. They know each other. They are telling me, jointly, a story about roping.”I drove in one night and saw the strangest thing,” the woman says with a laugh. “There was a man practicing roping out in the parking lot. Then I saw who it was.”

“You’re kidding,” I say to her, looking at him.

“Unfortunately she isn’t,” he says.

“He had this little toy sort of cow, and he was throwing the rope at it.”

“But in the parking lot?” I ask, still not convinced that Dewhurst was actually doing this. The small crowd around us is laughing now.

“Well, you see,” he says, grinning, “I had some roping events coming up, and I needed to practice. I have this roping steer made out of metal. So sometimes I practice. In the parking lot.” More laughter.

“A couple of drunk guys showed up and tried it,” says the woman.

“That was pretty funny,” he says.

I can’t imagine another politician who would be standing in the parking lot of an apartment complex roping a metal cow. Who is the real David Dewhurst? He’s the Republican party’s lonesome cowboy.

Refuge at Riven Rock Ranch

Not every weekend in the Hill Country is a bed of roses, especially if you’ve taken a chance on a B&B booking site and ended up with an accommodation that didn’t quite hit the notes you were expecting. (Despite the deceptively glorious pictures online.) There are those who love a weekend of back-in-time bliss complete with country charm décor and remnants of Texas history around every corner. And there’s certainly a time and place for that.

But vintage lace, doilies, and excessive collections of antiques are not my style. So when it comes to a relaxing weekend away, where I’m really looking for more of a home-away-from-home—or perhaps even a step up from that, I look to the Riven Rock Ranch in Comfort, Texas. (Seriously, there is a town called Comfort, and it’s every bit as charming as the name implies.)

Riven Rock Ranch is a relative newcomer to the Hill Country accommodations circuit. It’s located off of Highway 27 down a winding road along the Guadalupe river. Just beyond scenic cattle pastures, up a narrow drive, you begin to see the sophistication that sets this ranch apart from just any B&B. Walking the hilltop grounds of the property, it doesn’t take much to see that Owners Chris and Elaine Havens have made every effort to cross all ‘i’s’ and dot all ‘t’s’ in the name of Hill Country luxury.

And it really is a special experience. With 4 vintage ranch-style cabins that can be rented in their entirety or by private suite, the property is perfect for a romantic getaway with a loved one or even a family reunion. Each of these cabins come complete with handsome gourmet “dream” kitchens--stocked with all the basic cooking gear, well appointed bath and sitting rooms, and beautifully staged bedrooms (Yes, there’s a country theme to them, but think Grandma's House-meets-the Four Seasons). Each cabin also has limestone patios with Adirondack chairs and gas grills. No cabin is without a stunning view of the valley below. The Havens are working on adding smaller individual cabins for those that don’t need the full expanse of a kitchen and living area.

I recently spent an evening in the smaller “Teacher’s Cottage,” a remodeled cabin from the 1940s. It had more space than my husband and I were able to use but we did our best. Wine and cheese in the kitchen area, reading books in the comfortable living room, more wine as the sun set from the patio, and an unbelievably restorative slumber in our marshmallow cloud of a bed layered with scrumptiously soft sheets.

We woke the next morning without much desire to leave our sunny little room, but a tap at our front door followed by the parade of breakfast trays and the enticing aroma of fresh coffee delivered to the kitchen table roused our appetites. Ricotta-pine nut and blueberry pancakes along with a petite cast iron skillet strata with a savory egg, brioche, and axis-venison sausage. Both dishes were accompanied by yogurt with fresh fruit, fresh orange juice, and a thermos of strong, hot, black coffee—the only way to welcome the day. We thanked our breakfast delivery folks and happily dug into the morning bounty. We enjoyed the second cup of coffee back on the patio before the heat of the day set in.

Impeccable décor, cozy beds and breakfasts fit for a king aren’t the only things Riven Rock has to offer.

Outdoor lovers will enjoy canoeing or kayaking the emerald Guadalupe River. (Bring your rods if you enjoy bass fishing.) There are also hike and bike trails, a swimming pool and nearby ranches can accommodate hunting and horseback riding requests. Foodies will love the Terrace Grill at the peak of the hill. It’s open for lunch on most days and dinner only on the weekends, but the rustic American fare is delicious and very fitting of the limestone open-air frame. The kitchen gets most ingredients from local farmers and purveyors as well as from the ranch’s garden. And soon, the property will have it’s own winery. The Havens have already planted merlot, tempranillo, negro amaro, and viognier, all of which are expected to yield enough for a 2012 vintage.

And while many may enjoy spending their day shopping in nearby Fredericksburg or Boerne, I’d suggest sticking to the Comfort area, taking the time to stroll the property, and maybe make an excursion to Comfort’s High Street for a little antiquing. Or perhaps around the bend to Bending Branch Winery, where you’ll find an impressive collection of wine, most of which is made from Texas grapes. (The Tannat and Picpoul are the dominant varietals for this winery.)

Where a lot of places seem to try to hard, Riven Rock just is. It’s a place where you just sort of melt into the Hill Country and forget the world you left behind. We reluctantly left our home-away-from-home just as a crew of event staff were pulling up in large vans and trucks set up for an evening wedding—an occasion that happens often at this place. Though we’re well past having thrown our own wedding extravaganza, I couldn’t help but think this would have been the perfect spot had I the opportunity to do it all again. Nah, I’ll just take the quiet weekend getaway here, thank you very much.

An untidy private life, then a turn to stability

Senator Edward M. Kennedy attended a 25th-anniversary celebration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government knowing he had a huge problem. A recent Gallup poll gave him a 22 percent national approval rating, shockingly low for a legislator of his stature. Voters regarded him with personal distaste, and most hoped he would lose his next election.

Kennedy had long been scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the October 25, 1991, commemoration, at which he was expected to pay tribute to an institution he had helped build and a career, public service, his brothers Jack and Bobby had ennobled. Instead, a few days earlier the senator advised school officials that he had prepared a different speech, more personal in nature.

Kennedy had labored over the speech as friends and aides watched his public image take a pummeling. Spiced by published reports of heavy drinking and sexual escapades, his personal life had become punch-line fodder for late-night TV shows. At odds with the prevailing political winds, he was now perceived to have lost control of his own appetites as well.

The poll followed Senate hearings on Clarence Thomas's nomination to the US Supreme Court, a low moment for Kennedy, who had been expected to lead the fight against the conservative African-American jurist yet played only a secondary role after sexual harassment became the hearings' main focus. Potentially more damaging to his political future was an upcoming trial in Palm Beach, Fla., where his nephew was accused of raping a woman at the family's estate. While not directly implicated, the senator was a key witness in a tawdry case that made headlines around the world.

Not surprisingly, many thought the senator would announce that he wasn't running for reelection in 1994, that it was time to get his personal house in order. In fact, Kennedy was already gearing up for the toughest race of his Senate career. In many ways, this speech was the kickoff.

Media guru Robert Shrum helped Kennedy draft the speech. Accompanying him to Massachusetts was Victoria Reggie, a young Washington lawyer whom the senator had been dating for several months. The public knew virtually nothing about Reggie. Kennedy asked that she be seated close to the podium &mdash close enough, as it turned out, that the press became suspicious.

While speaking, he betrayed little emotion.

"I am painfully aware that the criticism directed at me in recent months involves far more than disagreements with my positions," Kennedy said, "or the usual criticism from the far right. It also involves the disappointment of friends and many others who rely on me to fight the good fight.

"To them I say, I recognize my own shortcomings &mdash the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them."

He alluded to the Thomas hearings. "Some of the anger of recent days reflects the pain of a new idea still being born," Kennedy said. "The idea of a society where sex discrimination is ended and sexual harassment is unacceptable." Unlike his brothers, he continued somberly, "I have been given length of years and time. And as I approach my 60th birthday, I am determined to give all that I have to advance the causes for which I have stood for almost a quarter of a century."

He took no questions afterward.

Reaction was, to put it charitably, mixed. In The New York Times, Alessandra Stanley called it a first step "to repair the damage and restore, if not his personal reputation, then his political standing as the voice of American liberalism." The Boston Globe's Mike Barnicle was more skeptical, questioning whether the speech marked a true turning point, as Kennedy's friends insisted. The senator's so-called friends "may not be the wisest counsel available," Barnicle quipped.

Nobody singled out the "friend" whose counsel now meant more to Kennedy than anyone's.

It was not just his yo-yoing weight and blotchy complexion that raised questions about how he lived his life. Kennedy possessed movie-star wealth and celebrity. A bachelor since his divorce in 1982, he was also a man of his generation, embracing the swinging Playboy ethos of the 1960s as ardently as he did the New Frontier spirit.

Since Chappaquiddick, Kennedy had been largely able to keep his public and private lives separate. More and more, though, his worst excesses were spilling into public view.

As far back as 1979, such reputable sources as Time magazine had been writing about his extramarital adventures. "The mere mention of Edward Kennedy's social life is enough to make an editor's head throb," one story began, concluding with an anecdote about a D.C. dinner party where "14 talented and interesting men and women talked of nothing but (his) sexual activities."

Other media entities picked up the thread, adding tales of Kennedy's binge drinking. Rarely did they suggest alcohol was impairing his job performance. If anything, the opposite seemed true: that he was demonstrating greater command of his Senate duties than ever, even as his presidential ambitions waned. Yet as those dreams faded, along with his patched-together marriage, Kennedy's sense of discretion seemingly vanished, too.

"Ted Kennedy always baffled me," says former Time correspondent Lance Morrow. "He was so astonishingly productive as a senator, yet his private life was extremely messy. When it came to Kennedy's character, you'd feel whipsawed judging it."

Whether Kennedy was an alcoholic or not was something Morrow, for one, never resolved. The senator denied it in interviews such as the one he gave the "Today" show in 1992, when he said "absolutely not" after being asked whether he had a drinking problem.

His denial did little to quell suspicions. In a later interview on "60 Minutes," Kennedy was again pressed about his drinking. "I went through a lot of difficult times over a period in my life where [drinking] may have been somewhat of a factor or force," he acknowledged uncomfortably. "I never felt that myself." Others did, he admitted.

Biting comments captured Kennedy's growing image problem. At the 1988 Democratic Convention, he delivered a rousing "Where was George?" refrain in attacking GOP presidential nominee George H.W. Bush. "I'll tell Teddy Kennedy where George is," retorted Republican congressman Harold Rogers at a post-convention rally in Kentucky. "He's home sober with his wife."

A year later, Kennedy was stalked by paparazzi during a European vacation. One snapped the senator having sexual intercourse in a motorboat. After the National Enquirer ran photos of the tryst, Alabama senator Howell Heflin joked he was glad to see Kennedy had "changed his position on offshore drilling."

If alarmed about Kennedy's behavior, friends and aides seem to have taken few steps to curb it. Many downplay its excesses to this day. Whenever he left on vacation, "I'd say, 'Remember two words: telephoto lenses!' " recalls former press aide Melody Miller, adding, "He was a bachelor, though, and he was entitled to a dating life."

Edmund Reggie, Kennedy's friend and future father-in-law, bought a home on Nantucket in 1982. "Ted said, 'Why didn't you tell me?' " Reggie recalls. " 'I'd have found you a place near us [on Cape Cod].' But that was during Teddy's party days, and I knew I couldn't go a whole summer with that."

Kennedy would bring girlfriends to Nantucket, says Reggie, but never seemed overly serious about the relationships, though many of the women did.

Shrum, another old friend, asserts he was unconcerned about Kennedy's judgment &mdash or health &mdash during his second bachelorhood. "My experience was that these stories were vastly exaggerated," contends Shrum, pointing to the heavy workload Kennedy was shouldering at the time.

Exaggerated or not, the worst blow to his image came in 1990 in a long profile in GQ magazine written by Michael Kelly. Titled "Ted Kennedy On The Rocks," it portrayed the senator as "an aging Irish boyo clutching a bottle and diddling a blonde."

In 1985, according to Kelly, Kennedy, and his close friend Chris Dodd, the Connecticut senator, made crude advances on a waitress after a boozy dinner at La Brasserie, a posh Washington restaurant. Two years later, Kennedy was caught having sex with a congressional lobbyist on the floor of the same restaurant. He "seems to be getting worse as he gets older," Kelly wrote. "I wonder whether Kennedy is really enjoying this anymore."

Many others did, too, especially following what happened in 1991 in South Florida.

In 1983, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was arrested for heroin possession. A year later, another of RFK's sons, David, died of a drug overdose. Ted Kennedy's son, Patrick, went into rehab in 1986, followed, in 1991, by his brother Ted Jr. Christopher Kennedy Lawford waged his own battle with addiction, recalling in a memoir how he and his uncle, both besotted, nearly came to blows during an argument in 1982.

"Teddy had moved from the mythic to the human," wrote Lawford, a judgment that hovered like a storm cloud over Easter Weekend 1991.

Kennedy had invited relatives and friends to the family's Palm Beach estate for the holiday weekend. Bought by Joseph Kennedy in 1933, the six-bedroom house had fallen into a state of disrepair. Although it still loomed large in family lore, to locals it was mostly known as a Kennedy party house.

Guests that Easter included William Barry, who had served as Bobby's bodyguard Patrick Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith and her son William, a Georgetown University medical student. According to police reports and trial testimony, a Friday dinner ended with the senator sipping Scotch and reminiscing about Steve Smith. Around 11:30, he asked Patrick and Willy Smith to go out for a drink. The three drove to Au Bar, a hip nightclub known as a pickup spot for older men seeking younger women. It was not the first time a group of Kennedy men had visited Au Bar in the wee hours.

At the club they met several locals, among them Patricia Bowman, a 29-year old single mother, and Michelle Cassone, a Palm Beach waitress. Both women made their way back to the estate around 3:30 a.m. Cassone said she and Patrick were "cuddling" in a bedroom when the senator walked in wearing only a nightshirt. Disturbed by his appearance, Cassone left the house.

Bowman and Smith walked to the beach. According to Bowman, Smith then forced himself upon her sexually. Back inside the house, he denied raping her and allegedly told Bowman that no one would believe her, anyway.

Police officers did not visit the house until Sunday, later saying they were led to believe neither the senator nor Smith was around. This was not true. What Kennedy could not avoid was the media firestorm around a juicy tale involving booze, sex, the police blotter, and America's foremost political family.

The Kennedys launched their own investigation into Bowman. "We knew that was the way they were going to play the game," says Ellen Roberts, a prosecutor on the case. "Patty certainly was not a bad person. But she did have a past."

Major news organizations, including The New York Times, published Bowman's name, igniting further controversy.

The trial was televised nationwide. Until O.J. Simpson's, it was the most widely watched trial in American history. The prosecution called Kennedy as an adverse witness, believing it could question him more aggressively than if Kennedy were summoned by the defense. But the strategy backfired badly, according to lead defense attorney Roy Black. "They grossly underestimated Ted Kennedy's charisma," says Black. "As soon as he walked into that courtroom, you could tell this was going to be a disaster for the prosecution."

Kennedy took the stand on Dec. 6, looking relaxed and confident.

No, said Kennedy, he did not hear any screams that night. Yes, he regretted not having gone for "a long walk on the beach" rather than going out drinking. Only when Bill Barry and Steve Smith were mentioned did Kennedy become visibly emotional. Smith, he said in a husky voice, "was very special to me."

Black sensed the ballgame was over. "Suddenly it wasn't the Kennedys out carousing that the jury saw," he recalls, "but a sense of melancholy hanging over them."

Willy Smith was acquitted five days later. In 1995, the Kennedys sold their Florida estate to a Manhattan bank executive.

Picked to replace retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall, a civil-rights hero, Thomas had served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before becoming a D.C. Court of Appeals judge less than two years earlier. His judicial temperament was jarringly at odds with Marshall's, however, and although Thomas had issued few written opinions that could be picked apart, Kennedy saw his nomination as a ploy to fill the court's "black seat" with a young jurist who could tilt the court rightward for decades.

Kennedy's frustration was evident during the hearings in September, when Thomas asserted he had never discussed Roe v. Wade with colleagues. Still, without strong opposition from African-American leaders, Thomas appeared to be headed for confirmation. Then Anita Hill surfaced.

In a few tumultuous days, the focus shifted from judicial philosophy to personal conduct and veracity. And that almost guaranteed Kennedy's name would be dragged into the same awkward conversation.

Like Thomas, Hill was an African-American and Yale Law School graduate. Having served as Thomas's assistant at both the Department of Education and EEOC, she told investigators that Thomas had made sexually charged remarks to her on several occasions. Hearings were reopened before a Senate floor vote on Thomas could be taken.

Hill assumed others had come forward with similar stories. They did not, though, and on Oct. 11, she was grilled by committee members while millions watched her televised testimony. Hill said Thomas had described XXX-rated movies he had watched and bragged about his own sexual exploits. Thomas angrily challenged Hill's account, calling the hearings "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks."

Kennedy said little while Republicans Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch went after Hill. At times, Kennedy appeared embarrassed by her graphic testimony. Only on day three did he protest the treatment of Hill.

"The issue isn't about discrimination and racism," Kennedy said. "It is about sexual harassment." He went on, "Are we an old boys' club, insensitive at best &mdash and perhaps something worse? Will we strain to concoct any excuse? To impose any burden? To tolerate any insubstantial attack on a woman in order to rationalize a vote for this nomination?"

After Thomas was confirmed, by a 52-48 vote, Kennedy was assailed for having said too little, too late.

"It was obvious he'd been defanged," says Faye Wattleton, the former Planned Parenthood director. "His personal life mitigated the kind of blazing attack he'd become known for." Looking back, Hill believes a more spirited defense by Kennedy might have hurt more than helped.

"Because of the situation he was in, I could see people possibly discrediting both of us," reflects Hill, now a Brandeis University professor. More significant to Hill was the disconnect between what lawmakers such as Kennedy stood for publicly and their private conduct.

Committee members on both sides, she says, "underestimated the political impact of the [sexual harassment] issue. I don't think they understood either that on a personal level, the harassment they saw every day amounted to an inequality problem."

If there's one lesson to be drawn, she adds, it's that the fight for equality must be internalized in people's day-to-day lives. In that sense, she says, Kennedy was "no different from anyone else."

The Reggies were old, cherished friends who had supported Kennedy during bad times and good. A retired Louisiana judge and banker, Edmund had Kennedy ties dating to 1956, when he had marshaled Louisiana Democrats to support Jack's vice-presidential bid. He had gone on to manage presidential campaigns in '60 (for Jack), '68 (Bobby), and '80 (Ted) in Louisiana. Doris was a feisty party chairwoman who, resisting a push to have Jimmy Carter nominated unanimously, had cast the only Louisiana floor vote for Ted Kennedy at the '80 Democratic Convention.

In a political world where alliances ebbed and flowed, the Kennedys had no more loyal allies than the Reggies of Crowley, La.

If the bond between the two families was built on politics, though, it had grown over the years into something deeper. The Reggies were Lebanese-Americans with Deep South roots. The Kennedys were Irish-Catholic Northeasterners. Their superficial differences notwithstanding, the Reggies and their six children had more than a little Kennedy in them. Edmund was an unabashed liberal from the heart of Dixie, an immigrants' son living the American Dream. "Last one in the pool is a Republican!" the judge was known to bellow at his kids. He and the senator &mdash gregarious men with robust senses of humor &mdash loved each other's company.

After Bobby died, says Edmund Reggie, "I considered Ted my best friend."

The party took place at the Washington home of Vicki Reggie, 37, the couple's second-oldest child. Two decades younger than Kennedy, she came from a different generation, a different place in life. Although she had interned one summer in Kennedy's Washington office, the two barely knew each other, having shared only a brief conversation and photo-op. After law school, Reggie had married telecommunications lawyer Greg Raclin, moved to D.C. to practice banking and bankruptcy law, and started a family.

Divorced in 1990, Vicki Reggie was no fixture on the Beltway social circuit. Juggling single motherhood and a demanding career precluded having much of a dating life. She had also been named a partner at her firm, combining what colleagues say was an ability to master complex financial transactions with a high degree of emotional intelligence.

"Vicki was a real star," says Steven Engelberg, who ran the law office where Reggie worked. "Not only was she a great lawyer, she had tremendous political skills and a great sense of humor."

Kennedy quickly realized many of the qualities that made her an outstanding lawyer &mdash sharp elbows combined with an even sharper wit &mdash when he rang the doorbell for the anniversary party. "What's the matter," she said, smiling at the senator, "you couldn't get a date?" He followed her into the kitchen while she made dinner and asked her out a few days later. More social than romantic at first, their meetings gradually deepened into a mutual affection that took both of them by surprise.

What made Vicki different from the scores of other "dates" Kennedy had pursued? She was youthful and attractive: 5-feet-8 with hazel eyes and a sophisticated air. Intelligent, politically savvy, a lover of opera and pro football, an accomplished cook. More significantly, perhaps, she was raising two children, aged 5 and 8, who were central to her life. For all his middle-aged roistering, Kennedy loved children and never seemed happier than when surrounded by them.

"His life was going in a very different direction when they met, then it all came together afterward," says Heather Campion, a longtime Kennedy friend. "Vicki made Ted Kennedy much more accessible to us than he'd been before. None of us had ever seen or known him that way, as a family man, a romantic man."

Unlike Joan and other wives of Kennedy men, Vicki shared his political interests, enabling her to serve as partner &mdash and troubleshooter &mdash in all aspects of his life

After they had been dating for a few weeks, the senator was stuck on Capitol Hill and could not make it to her house for dinner, where he would often help with the children's homework and read them bedtime stories. At that moment, she later said, "I started to realize more and more that this man was very important in my life."

To Pamela Covington, a close friend of Reggie's, the affection between Ted and Vicki was "obvious right away." Well aware of the senator's past reputation, Covington says, she was unconcerned that Vicki would go the way of other Kennedy girlfriends. "For all her sense of humor, Vicki can take care of herself," says Covington. "I knew that whatever decision she made would be the right decision."

Edmund Reggie, who had seen plenty of what he calls Kennedy's "wild side," was similarly unconcerned. "There was no romance before Vicki, none," he asserts. "I knew how strong his religious faith was. And I knew in the end that was going to prevail."

After they had married, Vicki was asked whether Kennedy's reputation for womanizing had given her pause.

"I know him," she said. "I know the tremendous respect he has for me, and for his daughters, and for his mother. I think that says it all."

Edmund and Doris Reggie were on Nantucket that December when the senator sailed over to ask their permission for him to marry their daughter. They happily said yes. In January, the senator formally proposed at a performance of "La Boheme," Vicki's favorite opera. They married in a civil ceremony that July at Kennedy's house in Virginia. The news stunned many who had taken Kennedy at his word that he would never marry again, raising suspicions that he was only doing so for political reasons.

"Let me put it this way," says Edmund Reggie. "We all know people who fall in love, marry, and a few years later become two different people. After 16 years of marriage, Ted and Vicki are closer and more romantic than they were after five years. It's impressive."

The summer of 1994 was winding down when David Burke asked whether he could help with the senator's reelection campaign. To Burke, an old Kennedy hand who had run CBS News, it was unimaginable the senator would have trouble winning in Massachusetts. Since his first Senate race, Kennedy had captured at least 60 percent of the vote. He had raised $3.6 million for this campaign and had steered hundreds of millions of federal dollars toward the Bay State.

It was a great record, Burke thought. Unfortunately, the poll numbers and news columns told a different story.

Kennedy's early 20-point lead had shrunk to practically zero. The 25th anniversary of Chappaquiddick had been widely noted. Joan Kennedy was seeking a new divorce settlement. Old demons were proving hard to escape.

Moreover, Kennedy, 62, had never faced as well funded and telegenic an opponent as 47-year-old businessman Mitt Romney, a wealthy, Harvard-educated venture capitalist. Now, with Republicans across the country poised to blow away the Democrats, Kennedy particularly resented Romney's implying that the senator's time had passed. Recalls one campaign staffer, "He was offended that someone like that could come along and take his Senate seat by buying it."

Kennedy asked Burke to ride around the state in his campaign car. "What he really needed," Burke recalls, "was an older hand like me to talk to."

In fact, a platoon of old hands was being summoned back to shore up the campaign. Bob Shrum was aboard, writing speeches and advising on media strategy. John Sasso and Paul Kirk had enlisted, too. Tom Kiley and Jack Corrigan were running polling and research, Rick Gureghian the press office. Ranny Cooper arrived shortly after Burke. Michael Kennedy, the senator's nephew, held the campaign manager's title. Charles Baker beefed up field operations that had languished since Kennedy's &rsquo88 race. Joined by Vicki and Edmund Reggie, all were veterans of presidential-level campaigns.

Money was a major concern. Romney had pledged to spend as much as $8 million on the race. Kennedy's staff had drawn up two budgets, one if they held a comfortable lead, the other if the race was close. Plan B was now operative. With expenditures eventually topping $10 million, the plan provided for a series of negative ads targeting his opponent, a tactic Kennedy had never used before. The senator took out a second mortgage on his McLean mansion to help pay the bills.

Romney's strategy: sell himself as a job-creating executive and Washington outsider, a family-values Mormon with moderate views on social issues such as gay rights and abortion. Kennedy, by contrast, was old, out of touch, soft on crime, and beholden to special interests. Only the senator's personal life was off-limits, Romney told his staff.

"People in Massachusetts knew that stuff already," recalls campaign aide Charles Manning. "And the national audience didn't vote here anyway."

Kennedy's challenge? Reintroduce himself to voters and grass-roots party organizers, reenergize his core constituencies such as organized labor, and reeducate himself on a state economy in rapid transition. That, and teach Romney a lesson in hardball politics, if necessary.

"He may have been right out of central casting, but Romney had a glass jaw," says Burke.

A Sept. 18 staff meeting set the tone. With Kiley's latest poll showing Kennedy a point behind, the mood was one of "looking into the abyss," as several attendees put it. Shrum, backed by Vicki, recommended going harder after Romney. Staffers had learned that Bain Capital, Romney's firm, had bought an Indiana paper plant, SCM, which had then laid off workers, precipitating a bitter strike. An aide was dispatched to interview disgruntled employees. Ads built around those interviews sharply undercut Romney's image as a job-creating chief executive.

"I would like to say to Mitt Romney: If you think you'd make such a good senator, come out here to Marion, Indiana, and see what your company has done to these people," challenged one out-of-work packer. When a "truth squad" of six striking workers journeyed east to confront Romney, he refused to meet with them for three days, keeping the story unnecessarily alive. Kennedy took full advantage, pressing his case with blue-collar voters across the state.

"Labor hated Romney, yes. But they also loved Ted," notes Baker. "I remember the AFL-CIO national political director saying, 'Look, just tell me what you need, and we'll do it.' "

The race shifted into high gear. Romney ran ads highlighting his all-American family. Kennedy touted all he had done for Massachusetts, his arm draped affectionately around Vicki.

A large and noisy crowd filled Faneuil Hall for their first debate. Three million Massachusetts voters tuned in as Kennedy walked onstage to a thunderous ovation.

Heavy on his feet but brimming with confidence, he hit Romney hard on abortion rights ("You're not prochoice, but multiple choice") and healthcare. When Romney went after Kennedy for attacking his business record, Kennedy delivered a line he had rehearsed with Shrum about Romney's questioning of a Kennedy family business deal. "Mr. Romney," he said, "the Kennedys are not in public service to make money. We have paid too high a price."

The crowd, and most pundits, judged Kennedy the clear winner. Massachusetts voters concurred, reelecting the senator by an 18-point margin in a year when the Democrats lost eight Senate seats to the GOP.

Savoring the victory with an ebullient Vicki by his side, Ted Kennedy had faced his harshest critics, his most formidable opponent, and a host of old demons &mdash and prevailed.


WHEN I THINK OF my childhood in north India, it is always summer: the days stretch endlessly, the sun is always at its zenith, turning the sky white with heat like a sheet of tin, the earth yellow and cracked with aridity. Dust storms sweep in from the desert, burying whole cities under a suffocating yellow pelt. In the garden, trees and grass shrivel and turn to straw. The electricity wavers and dies, the taps run dry. But then relief would come. On the 15th of May, schools closed for the summer and we packed our books and clothes into tin trunks, baskets and bedding rolls, the woolen garments feeling coarse and scratchy to the touch, travel fever rising in our throats till we felt sick, and then made our way through the greasy, stifling bazaars whose entire population seemed to be stretched out on the pavements for air, to the Victorian Gothic pile of red brick and yellow stucco that was, and is, the Old Delhi railway station. There we ran up and down the crowded platform, past porters, luggage trolleys, beggars and food stalls, searching for the carriage that had our name on the reservation slip pasted on the door. Then we climbed in to find four green leather bunks, a ladder for climbing into the upper ones, reading lamps and metal holders for glasses beside each, a metal washbasin that folded against the wall, three shutters - of wood, glass and wire gauze - at each window, to be pulled up and down, dim violet night lights and electric fans that buzzed like flies against the ceiling (before there was air-conditioning that brought with it not only cool air but protection from soot and grime so that clean bed linen, curtains and carpeting became possible). A bearer in a grimy white uniform and peaked red turban brought in dinner on tin trays - invariably chicken curry and rice followed by caramel custard (now that there are refrigerators in the dining car, this is replaced by cups of ice cream) - and took our orders for breakfast, which would invariably be very strong tea, buttered toast and omelets glistening with onions and green chilies. When he left, we prepared for bed, struggling and giggling in that confined space and wondering how some passengers managed to bathe in the closetlike bathrooms, sloshing ankle-deep in water. Finally we climbed into our bunks - not a moment too soon for our exhausted mother - certain we would not sleep for the pounding wheels and the shrill cries of vendors at passing stations - but sleep we did, hammered down into it by the rhythm of the steam train.

At 6 oɼlock we woke to emerge onto the platform of a little toy station in the foothills. Quickly, quickly we transferred our baggage into a smaller train, or a taxi, or a bus, and began winding our way up the flanks of the mountains, rising through masses of bamboo and lantana to enter the pine forests, silvery and susurrating and resinous, then higher still, into a region where mist blew through the fir trees and sprinkled the windows with rain. Eventually it cleared, and we saw the first sloping red tin roofs, the first church steeple and the ramshackle shantytown bazaars sliding down the precipice. We rose, clutching our woolen garments with a sense of purpose because we had arrived at the hill station.

We were following a pattern laid out centuries ago by foreign invaders who came to India for its riches but could not abide its climate. The first Mogul emperor, Babur, complained on arriving: ''The people are not handsome, have no idea of friendly society . . . there is no ice or cold water . . . no baths or colleges, no candles, no torches, not a single candlestick,'' sounding very like the memsahibs who, two centuries later, followed the British adventurers who had decided to expand the frontiers of trade into an empire. In journals, memoirs and letters home, they deplored the dust, the incompetence of servants and the proliferation of snakes and scorpions. Women drooped and children died. Something had to be done.

So the British loaded their families and belongings onto horses, carriages and jampans, and climbed into the Himalayas. Here they found the cool breezes, the wild roses, the streams, waterfalls, firs and ferns of distant England. True, the mountains towered thousands of feet into the clouds, monsoon rains drenched the hillsides and the forests were impassable but, with Queen Victoria's name upon their lips, they dealt with all that. Within a century, roads had been built, with the necessary bridges, tunnels and aqueducts, and in the cleared forests little English resort towns arose, with timbered cottages, rose arbors, tea shops, theaters, churches and cemeteries. In that farthest and remotest region, the pillars of the Raj constructed surrealistic replicas of the little coastal towns of Devon and Dorset. The hill station became a part of the Indian experience.

It could be Simla or Mussoorie, Naini Tal or Ranikhet, Darjeeling or Dharmsala. Each claims the title Queen of the Himalayas since each has a tiara of lights to crown the hilltops in the dense darkness of the Himalayan night.

Simla probably has the first claim to the title since it was the summer capital of the British Raj and is now a state capital. There are still traces of the British but they grow increasingly faint: Viceregal Lodge still stands on top of Summerhill like a baronial castle, but as the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, it has taken on the shabbiness of bureaucracy, the portraits of the viceroys removed from the paneled walls and metal bookracks and folding chairs shamefacedly occupying the ballroom. The Gaiety Theater on the Mall, a small gem of Regency architecture, no longer stages anything as grand as the Gilbert and Sullivan operas in which the British delighted it now hosts ''guest nites'' by Bombay film stars.

This is not the elegant, somewhat decadent scene that Kipling described or Lola Montez briefly dazzled, but Simla remains a center of government: jeeps with official number plates race busily up and down the streets, and the gray concrete and tin of government housing covers the hillsides with its dismal scab. The schools established by the British for children who could not be sent ''home'' are now popular with the Indian upper middle class: boys in gray flannel play soccer on the playgrounds of Bishop Cotton School, and girls at St. Bede's College still learn music and etiquette.

Tourism has proved to be the greatest instrument of change, here as elsewhere. The rich no longer take a cottage and settle in for the summer today the ordinary Indian middle class come up on overloaded buses from the sweltering cities of the plains, stay for a few days in cheap hotels and stroll on the Mall with transistor radios and cameras, buying spicy snacks for their children and carved walking sticks and felt caps for themselves.

To see a resort relatively untouched by the new tourism, one must take a slight detour through the pine forests on the way to Simla, to Kasauli, the smallest of the hill stations. All the essential features are to be found here - a club with a dance floor, a billiards room, tennis courts beneath gigantic, spreading deodar trees, a gray stone church, an unlovely army cantonment and cottages called Fairhaven, The Grange or Shrubberies. Also the first Pasteur Institute in the country, rearing its ominous gray chimneys above the town, and across the valley, the red-roofed buildings of Lawrence School, once a public school for children of army officers, now for Indian children from rich families. In summer the pine forests turn so dry that fires break out the monsoons bring out wild dahlias and fresh grass where there were ashes.

Mussoorie has all the clamor and crowds of a summer resort. At one end, Charleville, there is a Tibetan refugee center where one can buy Tibetan rugs and embroidered coats, eat dumplings and noodle soup and watch Tibetan orphans chant their lessons and play. At the other, Landour, there is an American mission school, Woodstock, set amid oaks and rhododendrons, where children play baseball and eat popcorn. Between the two stretches the Mall, crowded with tourists who ride on ponies, buy pink and purple woolens from the pavement stalls, eat ice cream and play video games. Oddly enough, the sense of the mountains becomes strongest after dark when the lights of Mussoorie go on, the stars swing low out of the sky and, 7,000 feet below, the plains are sprinkled with the luminous dust of city lights beside the rivers that cross it invisibly.

Ranikhet is set deeper in the mountains, the world of the plains and cities left farther behind. One might walk for hours through forests of pine and deodar and see nothing but bands of monkeys swinging in the trees and the sweet-voiced Himalayan magpies with their long blue tails. The town is kept neat and trim and polished by the Kumaun regiment that is stationed there, and the ghosts of the British officers attend its ceremonial dinners in the mess and linger in the club, whose members sit drinking tea on verandas that look out over the gardens and tennis courts to the Trisul range, its highest peak -Nanda Devi - occasionally appearing like a white goddess. In the cavernous, coal-blackened kitchen, the cook can still rise to roast mutton with mint sauce, and the library houses popular novels of the 20's and 30's under a leaking roof. There is no fashionable promenade here, but one can take a picnic to Chaubattia, where apple trees grow in terraces and streams flow through ferns and moss. These forests were once the home of Jim Corbett, the author of ''The Man-Eaters of Kumaon'' and ''The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag,'' and although tigers, an endangered species, are confined to the Corbett National Park at the foot of the hills, leopards still roam free, and goats and pet dogs have to be carefully locked up at dusk if they are not to be snatched off in the night. A three-day trek through these mountains and forests takes the more adventurous traveler to the Pindari glacier in flowering meadows below the snow range.

Nearby Naini Tal has one unique feature - a mile-long lake of glassy green water, fringed with willows, on which one can row or sail in the yachts that belong to the yacht club at one end. Across the lake is the temple of the presiding goddess of the lake, its brass bells rung continually by pilgrims. The town itself is held in a cup, climbing steeply uphill. In the season - May to July - the skating rink rings with the sound of roller skates, and ponies scamper around the lake, their tails held by panting grooms as tourists make them gallop with switches cut from willows. The streets are lined with stalls dispensing sweet, syrupy tea, fried snacks and the plums, peaches and pears of the region.

The town of Dharmsala, set under the craggy Dhauladhar range of mountains, seldom crossed by any but shepherds and enormous, shaggy mountain goats, has a few British touches about its upper reaches, in Macleodganj -the church and its densely overgrown cemetery, a grocery store, run by the same Parsee family for three generations, which retains posters of Bath Olivers and Chivers jams long after they have been replaced by Indian products - but is otherwise distinctive for its Tibetan population. The Dalai Lama made this his retreat on fleeing from Tibet, and the most devout of the Tibetans have remained in his vicinity so they might see him at prayer meetings or racing uphill in a jeep, pink-cheeked and owlish in large spectacles. Those who wish to study Tibetology or Buddhism or work with Tibetan refugees come to Dharmsala, but few others.

Toward the eastern end of the Himalayas, where they run into Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan, there is a cluster of hill stations of a very different aspect, not only because they are approached through Calcutta, in the eastern state of Bengal, rather than Delhi, but also because their population is more Mongolian than Indian. The mountains are distinctly closer to the eastern tropics. As you emerge from the plane at Baghdora, or from the train at Siliguri a few miles away, you feel the heavily humid, steamy, sweltering air lap around you and see the dense, damp greenery of a moister land - banana groves, rice fields, straw-thatched huts on bamboo stilts and great teak forests in which elephants roam. Where the forest has been cleared, the tea gardens roll in smooth, serene miles in the shade of feathery trees, tinged blue by passing clouds. You pass the big white bungalows of the tea planters, the tin-roofed factories and the huts of the tea-garden workers as you wind uphill in the little toy train that travels at the pace of a trotting pony. You can jump out to stretch your legs, run alongside through groves of flowering creepers, lantana and bamboo, then jump on again to climb into the higher reaches where mist swirls down from hilltops crowned with Buddhist monasteries with painted eaves and hosts of fluttering flags.

Darjeeling is as often shrouded in fog as it is bathed in sunshine. A glimpse of Mount Kanchenjunga is so rare and miraculous that one feels blessed and favored as by a goddess, which is indeed how the mountain is regarded by the hill people, Buddhist rather than Hindu, with the slanting eyes and high cheekbones of the Mongolian. There is a Tibetan refugee center where Tibetan scenes are painted on jute scrolls and Tibetan dragons woven into rugs, while the bazaar is full of chunky silver jewelry and brilliantly colored knitted woolens. The influence of the British lingers on in the Planters Club to which planters - now more often Indian than British - come from the surrounding tea gardens to relax with beer on the verandas and in the bar, and in the botanic gardens, where begonias and orchids bloom demurely in a Victorian conservatory. Government House, with its bubble of a dome, is an Occidental vision of the Orient, neither one nor the other.

A drive through tea gardens, deodar forests and over the frothing Tista River by a suspension bridge brings one to Kalimpong, 3,000 feet lower, so that the conifers are twined with flowering bougainvillea, and mango and papaya grow alongside the wild pear and plum trees. Every third house runs a nursery of delicately scented Himalayan orchids, or Indian cacti and succulents, which are exported all over the world. The population - a mixture drawn from Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan - lounges around the small bazaar that comes to life twice a week with squealing pigs, ruffled chickens, wild honey and mushrooms, fresh cheese and yak butter, loose tea leaves and medicinal herbs, brought in by farmers and their wives in colored blouses and striped aprons. Before returning to their villages they can be seen spending their earnings in soup restaurants hung with the fresh noodles that are the cottage industry of the area, playing cards and drinking the local liquor, brewed from fermented millet and drunk warm from bamboo mugs through bamboo straws.

Kalimpong's bus depot swarms with the groaning buses that can take you farther through the valley, along the racing Tista - a region known to lepidopterists the world over for its peacock-colored, slowly fanning and opulent butterflies - to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Gangtok, which was once a small village that sprawled at the foot of the palace and the monastery, has grown rapidly into a bustling frontier town with hotels, restaurants, video parlors and bars that serve the millet brew as well as sweet liqueurs made from coffee, cherries and betel leaves. From here one can trek to the Pemeyangtse monastery for a closer look at Mount Kanchenjunga, or the Green Lakes where yaks wander in the high meadows, or to the border, where one can look through binoculars at the Chinese soldiers, who wave and shout greetings from the ice and stones of Tibet. TAKING TO THE HILLS

Information on the hill stations, including lists of accommodations, is available from the Government of India Tourist Office, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 10112 (212-586-4901). A pair of old landmarks merit particular mention.

In Simla, the Oberoi Clarkes Hotel (formerly Clarkes) is a turn-of-the-century chalet set among trees and lawns on the Mall double rooms are $55, and suites are $60. The hotel may be booked through Loew's Representation International, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York 10103 (212-841-1000 or 800-223-0888), which represents the Oberoi chain.

In Darjeeling, the Windamere, which is set on a plateau a few hundred feet below the summit of Observatory Hill, evokes the Raj in its furnishings and service double rooms, with full board, are about $55.

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Another fashionable holiday accommodation is the honeymoon suite. This is really just about the most romantic villas on site. The clear sights of the ocean ensure it is attractive to those who really like awesome surroundings and also relaxing surroundings. Ethereal art works and color tactics are used to make it much better for spouses. There are numerous whites and also woodwork found in the interior design. It includes its own pool therefore the couple can easily appreciate the water and also being together as long as they prefer. The bedroom features a beautiful four poster bed and also gorgeous landscapes. Contemporary services will really make your vacation much more relaxing. There is certainly a huge LCD TV, a wine chiller, net connection, along with a well-stocked bar. Additionally there is a modern coffee machine as well as a stereo system with DVD.

It includes its own restaurant. Providing visitors with a pleasing ambiance, here they could appreciate an excellent meal. Guests can appreciate their desired luxury food items while appreciating the wonderful sights. Piano performances are something you could look ahead too—to include a touch of romance to your meals. The spot is soothing which is a favorable to a pleasant meal.

The estate is extremely passionate therefore it is usually selected as a marriage ceremony venue. You will find only 11 villas on site, therefore it is a romantic environment which is not so congested. Accomplish your dream seashore wedding and also benefit from Phuket’s gentle weather and also welcoming ambiance. Your guests will definitely appreciate the concept as well. Most importantly, you could be sure that you would possess a romantic day to exchange vows with your beloved. The spot has the most beautiful wedding deals offered. The landscape designs are properly tended, which makes it the best canvass for a marriage ceremony theme.

Because of so many exclusive villas Phuket is well known for, it could be very overwhelming when searching for the best holiday location. Phuket has too much to provide regarding leisure along with an unforgettable stay is made potential by an attractive home away from home.

Watch the video: Directions to Cabernet Grill, Fredericksburg (May 2022).