I was very curious about what Texas would be like. I have to admit, its image is pretty much everything I dislike about the US and the very opposite of everything I love about the Bay Area. So I was intrigued to see what the Lone Star State was like in reality. It was also notable because this was the first state we were driving through that we hadn’t visited before – it felt like we were branching out into new territory!
On the drive from Colorado, we drove a few hours through a corner of New Mexico, another new state for us. We saw only the briefest glimpse of the Land of Enchantment, but New Mexico was much greener than I’d expected, an enormous endless plain stretching out into the distance. It was empty!
Texas was also pretty empty for two solid days of driving. We stayed overnight in a sad hotel in Amarillo (we drove into town singing the Tony Christie song at the top of our lungs) and then drove on to Dallas. The land was flat and green. Roads stretched for literally hundreds of miles, dotted occasionally with tiny towns devoid of people. Where WAS everybody? Each town had an enormous grain silo and one of those iconic water towers. We saw nodding donkeys in fields, town names like ‘Boys Ranch’ and trucks aplenty.
Then we got to Dallas. The husband had found us a bargainous hotel – the Cooper Hotel which was ridiculously swanky and ridiculously great value. It had an incredible gym, a mile-long running track around the hotel grounds and our room was amazing. The boys wanted to stay for a week! The running track got put to good use. That night, the Husband and Big Brother ran 5k and Big Brother went sub-40 for the first time (his first ever 5k in May was 46 minutes). He was rightfully proud. I ran 5 miles on the path both mornings. It was hot and humid even at 6am but so nice to run safely in the grounds of the hotel.
We had a really good day in Dallas. We started off visiting Southfork Ranch, home to the Ewings and the location of one of my favourite childhood TV programmes. I was very very excited to visit and Skyped my Mum from the front lawn. She was also excited!
We then headed into downtown Dallas to visit the 6th Floor museum where Lee Harvey Oswald hid to shoot JFK. The museum was excellent, one of the best we’ve ever seen – if a seven-year old is enthralled about the assassination of someone he’d never heard of before he walked in, you know it’s good. It was also very sad. Made you wonder what could have been.
To cheer ourselves up we walked the half mile through some dodgy streets to see the fantastic cow stampede sculpture at Pioneer Plaza. We loved this!
The next day, we very sadly left our wonderful hotel and drove to Austin. Everyone in the Bay Area had told us we’d love Austin and we really did. Big Brother didn’t feel very well the day we arrived, so the Dude and I left him and the Husband in our hotel room and headed to the gorgeous Zilker Park for TexMex and then kayaking!
That night, with Big Brother fully recovered, we drove back into Austin to see the bats. There’s a bridge across the river which hosts about 1.5 million bats and as dusk comes, they all fly off. We joined the sizeable crowd waiting for sunset and sure enough, once it grew dark, an endless stream of bats flew away from the bridge. They were tiny and fast, darting through the night sky. Impossible to photograph but really quite magical.
The next day, we headed back into town and rented bikes. Big Brother learned to ride a bike only a few weeks ago in Hawaii, this was his first actual bike ride, but he was a champ. We cycled about 10 miles on the fantastic hiking/biking trail along the river. It was generally cool and shady, there was a fabulous stretch on a long fixed path on the river itself. All the bridges across the river had bike lanes. Austin is a fantastic place to cycle and we had a great time.
That afternoon, we got back on the river. The boys rented single kayaks – the Dude did a decent job by himself despite my worrying – and I rented a paddleboard. I’ve done SUP once before so I was excited to do it again. It was a lot of fun (and I managed to stand up for a good amount of time) but I decided I prefer kayaking!
We really liked the vibe in Austin – it felt like a really livable place. I wish we’d seen more of it but one of the challenges of travelling with kids is that you really can’t do the hipster coffee shops/cool bars/quirky shops for very long before they get bored so we didn’t explore that downtown area at all. But we loved the open spaces!
On that note, there were some cracking places to run in Austin in case you ever go. The trail along the river makes for splendid running – shaded by trees and scenic. Also near our hotel was the Pease District Park which we drove past, and that looked great too. I opted not to tackle the terrifying Austin traffic in the early morning dark in order to drive to these places and instead I chose to run in a slightly dodgy area near our hotel (before reverting to the safety of the treadmill when too many dogs barked at me) but those trails looked awesome! Also, Austin runners look amazing! Fit, fast, toned and totally unsweaty despite the fierce heat and murderous humidity. Swines.
The next day, we made the long drive to Nassau Bay, just south of Houston in time to visit the NASA Space Centre. I’m not a massive space fan but the boys all are, so they had a fantastic time. It’s a great museum – we stayed until they literally shooed us out the building at 7pm.
I ran the next morning in the streets around our hotel. At 6.30am it was 27C/81F and 90% humidity. The whole thing was a sweaty slog but I got it done.
I was delighted to finish June with 100 miles in the legs. That had been my goal initially but by the 20th, I’d only done 57 miles and 100 was looking unlikely. But I’d promised myself that I’d run every day if necessary to make that goal and today, I made it and I was pretty proud of myself. It’s hard to prioritise running and exercise when you’re travelling with other people, especially with kids, so there have been a lot of early mornings to get those miles in. I definitely feel better for it.
As we drove out of Texas, I reflected on what I’d found. Six nights in a state is definitely not enough to form solid ideas but it was a good start. There were some things we loved about Texas – people are really friendly! They like chatting as much as I do. They have awesome southern accents. They have great value hotels with excellent free breakfasts, which we, on a budget, appreciate enormously. Petrol/gas is amazingly cheap.
On the flipside, Texas isn’t a particularly beautiful state. The countryside we saw was almost entirely flat, it was a far cry from the splendours of Colorado. The cities seemed enormous, the empty spaces vast. I didn’t see guns everywhere as I’d imagined beforehand – although one hotel receptionist assured me, when I asked if it was safe to run in the neighbourhood, that I didn’t need to worry as ‘everyone in Texas has a gun, you’re totally safe’. Hmmm…that’s not a British perspective on safety. But I’m not in Britain and it was interesting to hear that point of view.
I’m really glad we explored Texas, even in the little we saw of that enormous state. We move on to Louisiana and the deep south today, and I’m really excited to see what THAT’S like!
Texas, thank you! Louisiana…here we come.