Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 4

I had booked my flight from San Antonio to Atlanta to Wilmington early Monday morning so I could be home in time to work.  My plan would have been flawless if it weren’t for the snow that shut down Atlanta and Wilmington.  Luckily, I had found out early Sunday about my flight cancellation so I was able to call Orbitz and Delta to get things straightened out.  The funniest part was I had changed the trip name on my Orbitz account to “Messin’ with Texas Tour” and when I spoke with the heavily-accented Orbitz operator, who obviously was not a native English speaker, who asked, “Is this regarding your “Messin’ with Texas Tour?”  I could barely respond “Yes” to keep from laughing so hard.

After a lot of silence on the other end, the kind gentleman at Delta and I figured out a plan.  I would fly from San Antonio to JFK in New York City to Richmond, Virginia.  Crazy?  I’ll explain.

I have a college friend who I haven’t seen in ages who lives in Richmond, a decent 5 hour haul from Wilmington.  I figured since Wilmington was probably going to be shut down for 2 days for the blizzard (< 10″), I’d just rent a car and drive down the next day from Richmond.  I was all about the adventure.

I hugged Miranda good-bye, got out of San Antonio on time and landed at JFK, an airport I had never been to before.  I got twisted up in my itty bitty terminal and ended up walking out of the secure area in search of my non-existent gate.  Bugger.  I’d have to go through security again.  While I’ve traveled many cities in Europe, I’ve never been to New York, and as soon as the wanderlust started, I realized it was January, I was in New York, and my “coat” was a knit zip-up sweater.  Brrrr.  So I went through security AGAIN and figured out that gate 23 split into several different avenues (hence why there was no terminal H).

I stumbled upon a French bistro for lunch and had a crepe with Nutella.  I am currently battling an addiction to Nutella (especially after I came home and found a recipe for crepes), and oh my goodness it was heaven.  I got on the plane, tried to sleep, but the lady next to me was too close for me to slump in my seat and it made for a very uncomfortable nap.

I landed in Richmond and was picked up by my friend J.  We went back to her house and played a board game, ate a lovely dinner prepared by her boyfriend with steak and potatoes, and played some Kinect for the 1st time (that game is awesome!).

The next morning J made breakfast with real bacon and sausage and drove me to the airport.  I rented a Toyota Yaris (not a fun car to drive) and it ended up costing more than I thought it would, but it was so worth it.  I plugged in my iPod and headed for the sunnier skies of Wilmington.

The roads weren’t too bad – just wet – and as a former Illinoisan, I am quite comfortable in snow.  Unfortunately the car rental companies do not have any manual transmissions, so I was forced to take an automatic, something I don’t like to drive in bad weather conditions.  Well, it was one of those maze-like gear shifters and I noticed how hard the engine was running.  I didn’t have a tachometer or any other informative gauges, so I figured it was just the way the car sounded, having never driven one before.  I was about an hour down I-95 when I realized I was in 3rd gear.  Oops.  Shoved her into “drive” and all of a sudden it was a lot quieter and ran better.  I’m such an idiot!

I made it into Wilmington early afternoon, sort of sad that my adventure had come to an end.  I grabbed sushi at Nikki’s and all was right in my world.

I’m ready for my next adventure!

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Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 3

Miranda’s family is fortunate enough to have a ranch in Texas that was passed down through her family.  We took this opportunity to head down to the ranch and experience the real Texas landscape and to see what she grew up in.  The ranch is in a remote part of the world, very few human footprints can be seen for miles.  It was such a beautiful sight.  We hiked around, I was in awe of the plant life – a lot of things I had never seen before; large cacti, nifty live oaks (which aren’t like what we have here in Wilmington), brush, buffalo grass – just to name a few.

The weirdest thing was the cactus in a tree — apparently birds can take the needles and deposit them on the tree branch and if conditions are right, voila! a cactus will take root in a tree.  Amazing.

Another great thing about the ranch is the free-range cows.  The cows were awesome, I think I bonded with them.  They are such gentle creatures and I think it helped that I had pellets to feed them.  Despite my love for the bovine, I still love steak.

I got to experience new things: riding a 4 wheeler, climbing a windmill and seeing a wild armadillo.  I am not very good at riding a 4 wheeler – I can drive a manual no problem, but shifting gears smoothly evaded me. Both Miranda and I feared for our lives and all I could think of was how far away we were from a trauma center.  There were several windmills on the ranch to pump water for the cows.  Miranda climbed so high!  I, a well established rock climber, only got about 10 feet off the ground cuz my vertigo kicked in and I wasn’t tied in, nor did I trust the windmill.  It was my only let down of the trip.  On our way out we saw the armadillo – we chased this little guy, but he got away.  Fast little suckers!  I didn’t see a roadrunner, but I think I will save that for my next trip.

After a long day at the ranch, we headed back to her house and cleaned up for a night downtown on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  As it turns out, the river walk was closed!  They were doing the yearly drain of the river to clean it and all the stores and restaurants were closed.  We were so bummed!  So we stopped at the Marriott and asked the front desk for their recommendation of a good Mexican restaurant.  They suggested Rosario’s and so Adelle lead the way.  The atmosphere was great, the food was wonderful, and the margarita I ordered had a lot of tequila in it.  I had my 1st chalupa and it was amazing!  I would totally go back!  It was a nice way to end my visit to Miranda’s corner of the world.

But my adventure wasn’t over yet.

It had only begun.

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 2

Day 2 started out early – we were on the road before the sun came up.

After Alabama, we hit Mississippi ::yawn::, and then Louisiana.  It was here that Miranda learned of one of my notorious roadtrip impulses: wanderlust.

I was all about stopping somewhere for breakfast and we were nearing Lake Pontchartrain when it hit me: let’s have breakfast at Cafe Du Monde – in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I had been there once in 2001 on a mission trip and the thought of a French breakfast was slightly overpowering.  Without much thought – or consulting Adelle – I took the next exit, I-55 south – and headed towards The Big Easy.  It was then we realized that it would take the better part of an hour to get there (delaying us about 3 hours total), we had a dog, and a SUV full of Miranda’s possessions.  So we decided that maybe this would be something for our next roadtrip and made a “legal u-turn” after Adelle nearly stroked out with our change of plans.

And so we continued on to the great state of Texas.  After only being to Texarcana, which is not technically Texas, I got schooled in all things Texas.

  • The state flag flies at the same height as the American flag.  Crazy Texans.  They will be their own country someday.
  • Texas has these “feeder roads” the parallel the interstate – much like a service road – and you can easily move from feeder road to interestate with out exits (but they have those too.)  I wonder why no other state has this.
  • ZZ Top is from Houston, which I’m told is not a fun city.
  • It’s quite an agricultural state, which I didn’t expect.  They refer to things such as farm roads.

Our 1st stop was for lunch – Miranda and I split a Whataburger, a hamberger chain that has the most yummy burgers ever.  Unfortunately, the closest one to me is in Georgia.  Their chocolate shakes were pretty good too.  Our next stop was at D&D, a cowboy store.  It had everything from cowboy knick-knacks to saddles for your horse.  I even tried on a cowboy hat – I was way too Yankee for that store, but it was interesting to see all the clothing.  Just when I thought I had seen everything Texas, we stopped at Buc-ee’s, a traditional Texas truck stop with a novelty shop with all sorts of Texas goods.  I got the General a stand for pop cans so he could shoot them with the pellet gun.  Hee hee.

My brain was about to explode with all the new stuff I learned about the Lone Star state as we pulled into Miranda’s homestead.  Her family was so sweet and her house was so warm and homey.  Once we’re done decorating our place, I hope our house has the same appeal.  We dined on this amazing pot roast her mom made and then made our way for a quick tour of downtown San Antonio.  After that, it was time for bed.  I did too much Texas in 1 day, I was beat!

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 1

We started our 1,400 mile roadtrip from Wilmington, North Carolina to San Antonio, Texas started early at 0330.  Miranda, who is moving back to Texas til May, showed up at my house well before sunrise…..she had no sleep; I was running on 2 hours of slumber due to work.   There was no coffee involved: oh yeah, we’re that hardcore.  Also along for the ride was Miranda’s 2 year old Havanese and Adelle Magellan, a GPS system who reminded us to do legal u-turns (she’s named after a combination of our middle names since this was her inaugural trip) – our adventures had just begun.  And so, with an Xterra packed to the gills, we hit the road.

We drove to the Cocaine Corridor (aka I-95) and watched the sun come up over the South Carolinian horizon heading for Columbia.  We then headed east towards Atlanta with a stop for gas at a crazy hickish gas station.  We then hit Alabama and got lost at the exit with the Kia Motors factory – Adelle swore there was a gas station there – there was not – just a lot of cars (oh the puns!).  Luckily, the next exit had  gas station.

We kept our selves amused by talking about random stuff, my first generation iPod via a radio transmitter, eating peanut butter M&M’s, granola bars, and drinking water.  How we stayed awake is beyond me. Isabelle, the Havanese, was good in the car; a lot of nervous panting, but she kept me warm by sitting on my lap.

12 hours later we arrived at our 1st stop – Mobile, Alabama.  We got a dog-friendly hotel just outside the downtown area – it was cheap, but it was nice.  We set up shop, got ourselves cleaned up, and headed downtown in search of food (we really didn’t stop for breakfast….or lunch).  Because Mobile is a port city, I expected it to be like Wilmington – a cute downtown with some nightlife.   We weren’t in the right mode for bar hopping, obviously, but we figured there would be something interesting to see or do.   There was not.

Even though it was only 5pm, but they had already rolled up the sidewalks for the night — on a Friday night, no less.  It was strangely quiet among the french-inspired buildings of long ago.  A very quant and nice downtown, but pretty dull people wise.  We walked along Dauphin Street for awhile, and finally settled on dining at Buck’s Pizza.  We both had strombolli’s since it had been forever since we had one – Miranda got one with mostly meat, I went with all veggies — so good — especially after not eating a full meal in almost 24 hours!

Because of our crazy hours, we were in bed by 8pm so we’d be up and ready to go by 0530.  Yikes, another early morning for this night owl!

All went well until about 0100 and we heard gun shots – from a handgun, in our little corner of the commercial district of the city.  Of course, Isabelle took this opportunity to want to go outside, so I followed Miranda and Isabelle outside, still dazed from sleep — no one was going out there alone after gunshots!

We fell back asleep until I heard Miranda rumaging around — my alarm clock that has been to more European cities than most Americans — didn’t go off.  It was, as the Germans say, kaput.  Ran into the shower, grabbed a granola bar and headed out the door.  It was my turn to drive.

Isabelle ready for the road, a view of I-20 somewhere in Georgia, an the Kia Motors factory in Alabama

Driving down the beautiful view of Government Street in Mobile, view of lifeless Dauphin Street