During our 30-day self-imposed sequestration, we were daydreaming about how we’d cut loose at the end of the month. As it happened during one of our mindless web scrolling sessions, we lucked into finding tickets to see yet another exuberant performance of the incomparable Miss Margo Price on September 7th in Austin. Not just Austin, but Austin City Limits (or ACL Live)!!
Our 17th wedding anniversary was September 5th, and this heel-kickin’ country concert to benefit the Texas Hill Country Conservancy made our celebration plans a no-brainer. When else can we break out the Lucchese‘s? Carey had watched the American all-star lineup cross the ACL stage on PBS for decades as a little girl, and Ben was chomping at the bit for another exceptional live event with one of his favorites bands, not to mention the songwriting joy of Hayes Carll as the opener. Game on!
So, what’s the best way to get to Austin and back? Well, you make a big loop through Texas to include a quick a stop in Mexico.
As we started looking at the map and routes, we figured we’d turn the down-and-back concert road trip into a multi-faceted meandering around the big ass state of Texas. We covered 1,700 miles over nine days in our little gas-sipping 1998 Saturn SL. To be sure, our expectations were set very low for this trip. We anticipated wrestling with big Texas egos and breakdowns, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time and encounters in every way.
We left home on our anniversary and didn’t want to ride the full haul to Austin in one day, so we ended up in Lubbock for a romantic dinner at Chipotle and a rainy camp out at Buffalo Springs Lake. It really was one of the highlights of the trip, complete with free firewood and a champagne toast. We set-up just before dark and had the whole waterfront area to ourselves on a Wednesday evening. We’ve celebrated anniversaries at the national seashore, the national forest, wine dinners, Universal Studios, Epcot, among other extraordinary locales, but this was by far one of the best!
Along the way, we enjoyed seeing the equipment on display at Cannon AFB under overcast skies with the preliminary storm bands from Hurricane Florence rolling up from the Gulf. We also discovered that cotton is a huge cash crop in Texas, and that the plant blooms with bright crimson flowers. The air smelled so sweet and tricked us into seeing roses or pepper plants a time or two.
The City of Weird was a welcome arrival on Thursday where we stayed a couple of nights in the trusted La Quinta Capital downtown that was within walking distance of pubs aplenty.
Sidebar: Are we the only ones that hate valet parking? Not only are we rolling out of our dusty little beater of a car after many stuffy hours on the road packed in with picnic remnants and blankies, and often with other guests milling about or parked behind, but it’s terribly uncomfortable having a stranger take your keys and park your car in parts unknown. Ben actually asked to ride with the valet so we knew where we were parked, and I’ll be sure to carry an extra set of keys next time. End sidebar.
In a fortunate twist, our dear friend and neighbor, Mark, was able to make the trip from Florida and join us for a few nights and puppy sit while we went to the Margo Price show. On the way to the concert on Friday, our squad was dutifully stationed with cocktails in hand at the Radisson pool to see the bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Anticipating a mass of swirling avian creatures, we were completely underwhelmed with the thin display.
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Crazy that the news of Burt came out while we were here. #ripburtreynolds #america #americanmuscle #mustache
Leaving Mark and Radar to channel surf at the hotel, we arrived at the fabled venue of Austin City Limits and felt over the top- a bona fide dream come true. The only disappointment was the lack of real cowboys and cowgirls coming for the true country and western performance. The live auction fundraiser held the show start back for too long (and brought back memories of a past life), but Hayes and Margo brought their best and even shared some new music.
With our hot ass fringe in tow, we said adios to the capital city and headed southward to spend a couple of nights in San Antonio. (We enjoyed a simply scrumptious lunch in New Braunfels on the petio at the the Fork & Spoon.) If you’ve never been on the Riverwalk, GO!! It’s a luxurious oasis beyond imagination… Made of winding waterways full of historical and culturally-engaging dining and lounging spaces, all amid lush greens with miles of walking paths and riverboat circuits completely closed to vehicular traffic. We made a visit to the sacred grounds of the Alamo, but by far our favorite outpost was the Biergarten just out the front door of the Hyatt where we stayed (thanks, Mark)!
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We said our bleary-eyed good-byes to Mark on Monday morning and headed off for Eagle Pass. While being the most expedient route to Mexico, not many Riverwalk strollers would take notice of this scrappy little border town, but we had our reasons to visit. One of the other activities that we gave attention to during the monsoons was genealogy…
Carey’s great-grandfather was buried in Eagle Pass after spending forty years in the area working as a civil engineer for the US Army, railroads, and later as a hotelier on both sides of the border. We had planned to visit the Fort Duncan Museum to see if they had any records of his work, but we also discovered, when making arrangements to camp at a local RV park, that a member of one of the long-time families in town personally knew the man from Baltimore.
We were invited to tour the homestead at Weyrich Farm and were treated to hand-raised pecans, endless stories, and the golden grace of southern hospitality. It was a surreal experience to share tacos with the person who had met our ancestors face-to-face all those years ago. Seemed it was all meant to be as we were able to find the family’s marbled headstone in the second sprawling cemetery we scoured just before sunset on Monday. Clouds of mosquitoes met us in the soggy plot, and we were treated to what was previously due to us- a swirling bat show, when we arrived back at the La Quinta. (We couldn’t camp because the ground was thoroughly saturated at the farm.)
On Tuesday, we walked the International Bridge to indulge in cheap nachos and cervezas with the mariachi in Piedras Negras. We had enough pesos leftover for a couple more beers and tacos, but we instead came back through the checkpoint after a pleasant stroll around the park and mercado area with a much-anticipated tortilla press as our souvenir.
Our roundabout journey to the benign southern border crossing was surprisingly green and lush with storm showers raising tropical plants and thriving palm trees by the river. The desert was happy with all the buckets of rain being dumped by passing storms. We departed Eagle Pass full of meaningful and sensational experiences on Wednesday heading westbound for El Paso and Las Cruces. Our route took us through the fiery ocotillo-filled Chihuahuan Desert, by the vital and incredibly picturesque Amistad Reservoir, and on under the airspace of Laughlin AFB towards I-10.
We passed by the exit to the McDonald Observatory and went on to hit the west Texas town of El Paso at rush hour, so we managed to find a quiet watering hole for happy hour to settle our nerves. Not Rosa’s Cantina, but song-worthy nonetheless, we wound up at the Aceitunas Beer Garden and enjoyed delicious food truck grub and a cold beer amid the koi on the petio. The complimentary green olives were a very well-received novelty.
For our last night on the road, we splurged on a room at the pet-friendly Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces. It was a treat to enjoy the resort amenities and catch a dazzling desert sunset after a long day (and week) in the car. A delicious breakfast, inside, with our dog, fueled us for the last leg of the trip. Nonetheless, we were compelled to make a quick stop at the landmark Owl Bar in San Antonio to see what all the fuss is about. It’s totally worth it.
Our Big Ass Texas Adventure finally came to a close when we arrived in Cuba, and left us with so many memories to share. (Thank you to all who have stuck through the obligatory vacation slideshow.) We were pleasantly surprised at all our discoveries, both planned and unplanned, and have been made richer with the expansive landscapes and captivating personalities we met along the way. As for future travels, we hope that Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras become an annual pilgrimage (perhaps for Nacho Fest), we’d love to check out more in the Big Bend area, and we’re always up for another quality performance at ACL. Maybe we’ll make it to the beaches of Corpus Christie next time. How about you? What is your favorite Texas memory or travel recommendation? Tell us more about how you like to road trip. Do you have any petios worth sharing? We love seeing your comments below. Thanks for reading!
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GO little #Saturn GO!! 1700 miles covered in our ’98 SL now with 260K on the clock. Thank you @generalmotors for making a dependable no frills transporter!! #bigasstexasadventure OLF courtesy of @valvoline_instant_oil_change #ABQ #NewMexico #Texas #roadtrip #sahaleegoestotown #southoftheborder #dogismycopilot #insearchofnachos #findingyourroots #findingyourroutes #happyanniversary #southwest #americathebeautiful #homesweethomeView this post on Instagram
Travel helps you learn things… When we visited #EaglePass #Texas, we were taught about the #Kickapoo tribe. They lived #offgrid under the International Bridge on the #riogrande in traditional shelters well into the 1980s. “It is this band that does not, will not, fit into the zip-coded, credit-carded, licensed and bureaucratized 20th century… ‘Our huts are made out of Carrizo cane. Our huts are made out of cardboard because it is a home for comfort, it is not a home for tourism. It is not a home for other people to come and look into. It is a home to live in.'” We can relate. #americanhistory #nativeamerican #borderpatrol #mexico Find out more at http://www.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=36062