Monthly Archives: August 2011

Halfway Somewhere

We’ve gone as far west as we’re planning to go, and this morning, for the first time, we got on a freeway heading east. We’ve travelled all the way out to the farthest tip of our map, and now we’re making our way home.

Meandering our way home is more like it. If the trip back is as much fun as the trip there, we will have had a wonderful time indeed.

A little bit of that wonderful-ness was the brewery in Shiner where we stopped for a brief tour and samples of their amazing beer. Any place that will fill your cup for free just for driving out there is okay by me, and we got to listen to a proud tour guide go on and about how wonderful their beer is. We learned that this Texas brewery that is two hours from anything (we know, we drove it) won a competition held in Munich for the best Munich-style ale. And we had some.

It feels fitting that San Antonio marked the westward apex of our drive, because the countryside around San Antonio is about as iconically westward expansion as you can get. Open fields, barbed wire fences, cattle, and you really can see the whole sky. It’s almost enough to make you want to be a cowboy. It’s beautiful, and it feels far from where we’ve come.

Even though we’re almost two thousand miles from where we live, anywhere you have family feels like home, and San Antonio treated us well. We had our own personal tour guides in my sister and her husband, and they showed us the sights, both the typical tourist sights (hello, Alamo!) and the personal ones that comprise their daily lives. We walked around downtown and down that walk by the river that San Antonio is famous for, just for as long as we could stand it in the heat. A brief ice cream break helped tremendously. But really, ice cream always does. Especially when you’re in Texas and can eat Bluebell!

While we’re at it, let me tell you some more about the food. We ate breakfast tacos for lunch at one of those great little places that word has gotten out about. It used to be a college hangout and neighborhood place that just happened to serve the best tacos you’ve ever had. Then they were featured in national media all over the place, and now there can be a line out the door. I’m happy to spread the word too,because they deserve every bit of the business AND because we were lucky enough to not have to wait. So here’s your travel tip: if you’re ever in San Antonio, eat at Taco Taco. Bonus tip: stop by Rudy’s for barbeque, too. I never thought turkey could taste that good.

But the best part was sitting around, laughing and talking with family. It’s not just where you go, it’s the people you go with and the people you see when you get there.

The sunset’s in our rearview mirror now, and soon we’ll be on the beach. After, of course, New Orleans round two.


Being There

It’s practically miraculous, the way this road trip works. We mapped out our route, we drive on it, and if we perservere long enough, we make it just where we planned to be. The maps don’t lead us astray. It’s not like the city, where you can look at a map, say that it doesn’t look that far, set out and find yourself waylaid in a traffic snarl more often than not. For the most part, when the map says that it will take 9 hours to get there, just about 9 hours later, we pull in.

Except when there are surprises. Like the medical emergency that required a helicopter to land on a bridge a half mile in front of us, while we stood baking over a swampy river.

The truck driver stopped behind us told us what he knew about both why we were stopped and the kinds of fish in the river. He also let us snap a portrait of his vehicle to pass the time.

There aren’t any shortcuts. 90 miles to our destination means driving every single one of those 90 miles. There aren’t special routes that only we know about. If you want to cross the Achafalaya swamp, there is only one bridge that goes there. So stay on it, keep going, and you’ll find yourself pulling in to your parents driveway.

And that’s the beauty of this whole adventure. Because some things are better in person, and we’ve travelled a lot of miles just for them. A friend’s newborn baby, a sister’s new house, even the new flowers my mom planted just aren’t the same over the phone. It’s just one of those challenges that we have to drive this far to see them, but it’s wonderful to be able to do it.

New homes, babies, friends, family. We drove all this way to see you, and we coudn’t be happier.

Just Like Home

Some things are different on the road, and some things are the same.

Our travels have taken us through Greensboro, NC for fried green tomatoes and pulled pork; into Atlanta, to see old friends, make a new, very fluffy friend, and pay a visit to a café with biscuits painted on the ceiling. We’ve traveled through Evergreen, AL for the best pork smoked sausage you’ve ever tasted, served by a man with a red face and a white beard and a perfectly Alabama accent; and finally, into that great bend in the river, New Orleans. You can’t get much of that at home.

New Orleans welcomed us in the person of our very knowledgeable innkeeper, who talked up the local joints and chastised us for staying so briefly. We made a beeline for some hot coffee and beignets, thinking ourselves crazy for doing so in this heat, right up until we took that first bite. Then it was perfection.

You can walk around New Orleans just like you can walk around DC. You can talk and laugh and hold hands and comment on the interesting looking buildings. But here, there seems to be music playing most of the time. There might a man outside the bar where you stop making a painting of that very bar, and you can watch him like looking in a mirror. And then, if you feel like it, you can walk right outside with your drink in your hand. “Very civilized,” our innkeeper called it, and at the first bar, it feels like it.

Around the next corner, it’s clear that it’s not only the very civilized who walk around with drinks in their hands, but if you let yourself, a little bit of their brand of fun can be fun too. We ended the night with plastic drinks with laughing faces on them, and fell into bed making the same face right back at our drinks that they were making at us.

I’m smitten.

Of course, in the morning you can drink coffee like you do every morning. Or if the coffee isn’t ready yet, you can sit on a porch swing and sip some cool water out of a green plastic cup with a laughing face on it. If you want. Which I did.

We’re back on the road today, but not before we pick up Muffalettas to eat for lunch. See you next week, Big Easy.

On Our Way

Your regularly scheduled DC life will now be taking a short break to pack up what you need into Rosie the Mini, put on some shades and hit the highway!

My darling husband and I are taking the time we have between our summer lives and classes re-starting in the fall to drive halfway across the country. We’ll visit my family in Texas, his family in South Carolina, and in between, hit New Orleans and camp on the beach with a TENT in Florida. It should be a welcome break from city living. This means that this (sadly dormant of late) blog will be briefly transformed into a travelogue. I don’t know what we’ll see or exactly what we’ll do, but I do know that I would love to write about it here. So today, I’m hoping. Today we set out.

In case you couldn’t tell from my excessive capitalization in the preceding paragraph, I’m very excited about the camping part of our adventures. I don’t really camp, but I married into a tent, all sorts of camping supplies and one very knowledgeable Eagle Scout, so a-camping we will go. I’m hoping the sand is soft, the sunsets are beautiful, and the food tastes like only food grilled on the beach can taste.

New Orleans should be fun of a different sort. I’ve never been as a grown-up, but have heard rumored that there is fun to to be had there. Really, good food, drink and music is what I’m hoping for. I’m pretty sure New Orleans can deliver. In fact, we’re so sure that we’re planning to stay there twice – once on the way to Texas and once on the way back home again. Two times the Big Easy.

And of course, I’m hoping for wonderful restorative family time. Like being re-inflated.  I’m hoping that two solid weeks in a tiny car together doesn’t totally destroy our baby marriage, but only makes it stronger.

Before we transition into full-on vacation mode, I should say a fond farewell to my summer gig helping out prisoners at the jail. I don’t think I’ve fully processed yet, so I may wait to write a full post on that. Suffice it to say that it was wonderful, difficult, and extraordinarily memorable. Here’s to those who keep doing good where good is sorely needed.

And here’s to The Road Trip, that great American tradition. I’ll raise my glass tonight to Eisenhower, his inter-state highway system, and the grand blessing of taking two weeks to just drive.