No, Paul and I are not lost in New Orleans. No need to send out a search party. I’m completely aware that we’ve been home from our road trip for a few months now and I’ve only blogged as far as Louisiana. I’ve got quite a few more posts to go and many places and adventures to report from the cross-country excursion. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find time to write and, honestly, I’ve been lacking inspiration at times. Between the intense responsibility, energy, and time of our teaching jobs and the harsh realities of life we’ve been faced with recently, I’ve found it hard to focus and concentrate on one of the things I love to do most: write.
So I’m making a promise to myself and our readers. I will complete one post a week until I finish the Road Trip USA series. There you have it, in writing, the commitment to myself and to all of you, that I will make time for doing what I love-putting our adventures to words.
Texas. Ask Paul about his cross-country experience and the first place he will probably mention is the Lonestar State. Not because it was his favorite, but mostly because we felt like we spent a great deal of time trying to get out of it. While Texas may look big on a map, the immense size of it can best be felt when trying to steer your vehicle across its vast terrain. It’s massive and overwhelming, especially when you’ve got half a country to still get through.
Houston, We Have a Problem
Paul and I are not science people by any means, but we share this intense interest in space exploration and everything and anything NASA. We get up at absurd times in the middle of the night to watch rockets soar through the sky and we get weekly International Space Station emails telling us the best times to “Spot the Station”. It only made sense to us to make our first stop in Texas the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
After navigating our way through the less than scenic parts of Houston’s oil industry, we arrived to the space center exhausted and hungry. Thankfully, the generous parking attendant granted us free parking upon our arrival and we were able to quickly make our way to the space center food court. Usually, I find food courts in museums and other educational centers to be less than tasty, but when you are hungry and tired, you can’t be picky. Fortunately, the Houston Space Center food court offers food of better quality than one would expect and Paul and I were able to feast on a delicious and healthy vegan pita sandwich.
After lunch, we headed out on a tour of Mission Control and the Saturn V rocket. Mission Control in Houston is where we get the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem” from the famous Apollo 13 moon mission. It was truly spectacular to sit in the same room where Mission Control communicated with the many astronauts who were given the rare opportunity to step foot on the moon.
The Saturn V rocket mightily lies in a large warehouse just a few buildings down from Mission Control. Imagine how small we felt walking around the most powerful rocket ever built, a 30 story tall rocket that propelled 27 Apollo astronauts into space. Amazing!
After our tour of the Johnson Space Center, we headed to Target to purchase a new camp stove. As mentioned in an earlier post, our hand-me-down camp stove burst into flames in the Great Smoky Mountains, and therefore we were left to make a much-needed Coleman investment.
Our campground, Brazo’s Bend, was the only campground in the area we could get a reservation for. We were a little nervous about this due to the “alligator” warning on the campground’s website. This almost caused us to abandon our Brazo’s Bend plans and just get a hotel for the evening, but in an effort to save money for the bigger cities ahead of us, we made the decision to brave it out at Brazo’s Bend. Upon arriving into the park, we realized the alligators were probably going to be the least of our worries. The venomous snake signs were more of a concern as they were posted all around the park.
As if all of these wildlife warnings were not enough to make us second guess ourselves, during the set up of our tent, Paul’s feet were attacked by crazy ants! They attacked when he least expected it, and upon feeling his feet catch on fire, we both looked down to see his feet completely covered in ants. It was gross, and the painful welts they left behind put my husband in a less than delightful mood. I should also mention, these painful sores covered his feet for the remainder of the trip.
We barely slept that night. It was hot and humid in the tent, and I was constantly worried about snakes and alligators. When it was time to get up in the morning, we were more than ready to say goodbye to Brazo’s Bend forever.
I was really eager to bring Paul to New Braunfels, Texas, a town I had visited on a previous cross-country trip. During my first visit to New Braunfels, I spent it tubing leisurely down the Guadalupe River with a friend and his sister, a resident of New Braunfels. At the time, I found this little Texas tubing town to be unique and fun. It is also home to one of America’s largest water parks, Schlitterbahn.
On this trip, I planned for Paul and I to camp beside the river, grab some tubes, and wind our way down the Guadalupe. I should have known better though. I just should have known better.
There are numerous campgrounds along the Guadalupe. This is something I didn’t realize on my first visit there. I also didn’t realize that these campgrounds are just one large out of control party. We stayed at the Mountain Breeze campground, a place that provides tubes and transportation for floating down the river. While this sounds like it should have been a great experience, it was a complete nightmare.
First of all, the river wasn’t moving. It was stagnant and so were the tubers. Add some hot Texas July weather to this equation and you’ve got a recipe for yuck. For this reason, we chose to pass on the tubing experience. This, of course, perplexed our campsite neighbors to the point that one of them asked us with a rather confused look, “Y’all float?”.
Then there was the sleeping part. Due to the intense amount of partying going on and the boisterous campers surrounding us, we spent another entire night, wide awake without any chance of sleep. We awoke in the morning exhausted and irritated while all around us the late night party crowd were passed out in their tubes.
There were two good things about Mountain Breeze Campground: the parking attendant and the tacos. The parking attendant took great care of us. Honestly, I think he was a little worried about us. I think we gave him the impression that we didn’t belong with the college fraternity crowd and he was concerned for our safety. He also let us know how to find the police if we needed them in the middle of the night. Quite reassuring I might add.
The tacos at the snack stand were incredible. I think the most amazing part is that the parking attendant who has worked at the campground for many years, didn’t even know about the caliber of the tacos at the snack stand. They were so good we had them for both lunch and dinner. They were truly authentic, filled with perfectly spiced pulled pork or chicken, and garnished with homemade hot sauce. When we saw our friend, the parking attendant, throwing some tacos down later in the day, we felt so proud of ourselves for uncovering the hidden secret of Mountain Breeze. They were literally the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life. And they were dirt cheap too.
Groggy in Austin
Our next night was spent at the Sheraton in Austin. While I’d like to say we saw a great deal of Austin, we barely saw it at all. We were so exhausted by our first two sleepless nights in Texas, that we saw more of the bed in the hotel than we did of the city of Austin. Paul did our first load of laundry in the sink (he’s so domesticated) and we ate lunch at a place called Chupacabra Cantina on Sixth Street. Paul had portobello tacos and I had portobello fajitas. They were delicious, but honestly, I think we were both too exhausted to enjoy them fully. We ate lunch, returned to the hotel, and went straight to bed. After all, we had to hit Lubbock in the morning.
Ghost Town USA
Lubbock, oh Lubbock. Did you have to be the halfway point between Austin and New Mexico? After a rather scary drive through Ghost Town USA, we arrived to the KOA Lubbock just in time for the sprinklers to be turned off over our campsite. Adjacent to a noisy highway, we set up our tent over soggy ground, ate a small meal of beans and salsa, and had some interesting conversation with a man traveling through on a trike, bound for Colorado. His claim to fame was that he lives in Smithville, the small town famous for being the setting for the movie Hope Floats. I love that movie. I just love it.
We settled into our tent over wet grass and beneath a tree filled with angry birds. Just when the birds began to calm down and we breathed a sigh of relief, thinking, “Oh, we’ll finally get some sleep”, an enormous freight train came barreling past. Lucky for us, the KOA was perfectly situated between the highway and the train tracks, surrounding our tent with a constant barrage of noise throughout the entire night.
Goodbye Texas, Hello New Mexico
We awoke early the next morning and sped our way to New Mexico. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it out of Texas. It took us four days, a lot of sleepless nights, and hundreds of miles of driving to get across the Lonestar State. We are happy to report, we made it out alive.