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122 miles S of Amarillo; 100 miles SE of Clovis, New Mexico

When Capt. Randolph Marcy, one of the first Anglo explorers to happen on to the site of modern-day Lubbock, arrived, he was something less than impressed. "It was the dreaded Llano Estacado," he wrote, "a land where no man, either savage or civilized, permanently abides; it spreads forth into a treeless, desolate waste of uninhabited solitude, which has always been and must continue, uninhabited forever."

Certainly, Marcy would be in for a shock if he were to see Lubbock today: a city of about 250,000 residents, the home of a major university in Texas Tech, and the economic and cultural center of the surrounding South Plains. Self-labeled as "the nursery" for Austin's music scene, its musical heritage is legendary: Buddy Holly still reigns as the local king, but Tanya Tucker, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, and Dixie Chick Natalie Maines have also called the city home.

Named after Col. Thomas Lubbock, a Confederate officer, Lubbock was established in 1890 and grew rapidly, its economy built on cotton and cattle and, later, oil and gas. The city has long been a regional hub -- hence the nickname, "Hub City." Look at a map and the moniker's appropriateness becomes crystal clear: Lubbock is surrounded by dozens of small agricultural towns.

A bit rough around the edges, Lubbock is a fun stopover for a night because of its lively dining scene, college-town vibe, and happening nightlife with plenty of good music.