The road home to San Angelo - Llano to Brady to Eden - is a gorgeous drive. Once you get out on Highway 71, past that new metropolis around the Hill Country Galleria on Highway 71 and 620, and past Bee Cave, at about the 40-miles-to-Llano mark, the landscape starts to spread out and fill the windshield and then some. It's rough terrain, but filled the trees and grasses and brush-covered hills. Sometimes the road goes narrow and tunnel-lilke, with the highway blasted through the middle of a small mountainous hill, and the car seems wedged between granite slabs for a few dramatic moments, until the vista spreads out again with clear views to the horizon of nothing but the brush, hills and grass. It's about this time you turn on the country music. As we did. And before you know it, you're in Llano.
There is of course, at this time of year, the Welcome Hunters banner down the main street that runs in front of the ornate courthouse, a few adorable facades for small cafes, then the bridge over the Llano River.
Heading out of town you can't help but notice the cars crammed into a small parking lot right up near the road, acrid smoke everyewhere, and, though early still, a line of people. This was Cooper's of course. Pit BBQ.
The heat and the smoke are a full sensory assault right away. No wonder. Rows and rows of pits. And a pulley system handling the raising and lowering of those lids covering the entire length of the pit filled witih mesquite coals.