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Texas Chainsaw Road Trip

May 6, 2012

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and yesterday it finally seemed like the right time to take a tour of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre locations – specifically the gas station, the cemetery, and the house. All are within an hour’s drive of Austin, but they’re all in different directions, so this is basically an all-day jaunt. Here’s an account of my trip illustrated with terrible photographs taken by me. I’ll give directions in case you ever want to do this yourself. (And why would you?)

First up: the gas station. When I viewed Chainsaw as part of my hillbilly horror marathon for my book Hick Flicks, it helped inspired one of the items on Top 10 list of Things I Learned from my Day of Hillbilly Horror: “The old man at the gas station? He’s in on it, too.” To find the gas station, or the remains of it anyway, take 71 east from Austin about 30 miles to Bastrop, then take a right on highway 304. You’ll pass an unfinished housing development and a few ranches, and then you’ll see it on your left. I didn’t much spend much time here, because it really did give me the creeps. It’s obviously been closed for quite some time:

Next stop: the graveyard. Head back toward Austin, and just past the airport, take 183 north. You’ll stay on 183 for 35-40 minutes, all the way to Leander. Take a left on 2243, then don’t make the same mistake I did. I somehow screwed up my directions and took a right on Bagdad Road. After a few miles, I came across a tiny cemetery. It didn’t look right, but I took a picture anyway:

On the way back, I noticed a much larger cemetery I’d somehow failed to see earlier, right at the corner of 2243 and Bagdad. This was obviously the right one (which I’ve since confirmed), but I didn’t stop to take another picture. It’s a cemetery. You get the idea.

I saved the house for last, because it’s now a restaurant, and I decided to have dinner there. There’s probably a much more efficient way to get there from the graveyard, but since I had to stop at home and empty the dog, I took 183 back to Mopac, south to 71 West. After about 35 miles, take 281 north for 5 miles, then left on FM 1431 west for 12 miles. You’re looking for King Court in Kingsland, which will be on your right. You’ll pass some train cars, and then you’ll see the house on your left. Can’t miss it:

Although this is the original house, this is not its original location. The owners of what is now the Junction House restaurant moved the house to Kingsland from its original spot. (You can find all this info here.) I arrived just as the restaurant was opening at five o’clock. By now I was parched, but unfortunately, I learned that the bar had been shut down, and that it was now a BYOB place. Luck was on my side, however, as a couple of guys also dining there had a six-pack of Lone Star and were willing to sell me one.

I was seated in the Bone Room. To refresh your memory, it’s at the beginning of this clip:

Appetizing! This is the view from my seat:

To the left of the photo, you can see the edge of the dining room, where the family had dinner with Grandpa. I decided against having any meat, for some strange reason, and had a salad instead. Even though the upstairs bar was closed, I was allowed to go up and take a look. Obviously, the restaurant isn’t distancing itself from its roots, as you can see from this life-size figure at the top of the stairs:

That’s ol’ Leatherface, of course, with whom I have two oddball connections. In the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface was played by Gunnar Hansen, a Maine native who went to school at the University of Texas in Austin. Hansen has been living back in Bar Harbor, Maine, for many years now. During high school, one of my teachers claimed that Hansen was his next door neighbor, and that one day he’d come over to borrow a chainsaw. That might be too good to be true. In TCM 2, Leatherface was played by Bill Johnson, who taught an acting class I took shortly after moving to Austin. (That’s not why I took it – I didn’t know who he was until the class had started.) So I guess it was fitting that I finally got to have dinner with Leatherface in some fashion.

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