I headed south to New Braunfels for breakfast this morning. If beer counts as breakfast i did well. I think the guys offering up suggestions settled on a joint that was more "Texas" than "breakfast", since i was stressing wanting to go somewhere i couldn't anywhere else. After driving through some of New Braunfels and Gruene (historic German settlements that retain parts of the culture), i ended up at a biker bar. Well, biker slash tourist bar. Cracked a breakfast beer, and then another, once i got to talking with the bartender. She was thrilled to hear about my trip and mentioned being in the same boat a few years back, but she chose to move back to her hometown instead, where she met her boy and landed a steady job. Notable as being the first Elvis fan i've randomly met in America. She gave me some advice on places to visit, not just in the area, but "if you're ever in Arizona..." - i wish i could say i would be.
After failing on the breakfast front, i headed in a direction she pointed out for decent Mexican, but saw a railroad crossing so went there instead figuring i'd come back. I didn't. Went way out west of the town, then crossed under the highway and went way out east, and got to San Antonio 2 hours later. (It's about 20 minutes on the freeway.) By this point i was starving, but i was also conscious that light was going and i still wanted to take the scenic route back to Austin. So i blazed through the Alamo without even going inside, and ducked into an Irish pub to grab a bite. Yes, i know, after i said i didn't want to be That Brit, i was. But this primarily because the bartender at the other joint had recommended it as the least touristy-feeling place to go in the touristy part of San Antonio (which, incidentally, is ridiculously touristy - like, Vegas-level touristy). The food wasn't great, but i had a couple of snakebites (my go-to beverage in Toronto - Harp and cider) and there was a piano man, which was nifty.
After navigating my way back out of all the one-way streets i finally drove through what i had expected San Antonio to be like - iglesias, taquerias, massive rims and bail bondsmen. I wish i'd held off on eating till then, but hey - next time. Stopped off a few more random spots for photos, then headed up to Hill Country. This is a part of Texas i'm quite familiar with by name, because for years i've been reading jenndolari's travelogues of the area, but people outside of Texas have probably never heard of it. It's a little chunk of the state that is very hilly (but not at all mountainous) and is dotted with caves and rivers and ranches and trees. Unfortunately once i got out of the gridlock i only had about an hour of sunlight, and because of the shadows of the hills it was too contrasty to get decent photos, but my God it's beautiful out there. On the final stretch back to Austin i passed a bunch of those roadside saloons where no doubt the real cowboys were drinkin' and fightin', but i made a beeline to J's place so we could hang for a bit more before she went to bed. After a quick dinner and planning a roadtrip for tomorrow, i headed back to the motel.
And, you know, the words aren't going to do it justice. Texas is awesome. Photos can't really either, you just have to drive those freeways and farm roads, see the water towers and stadiums and ranches and hills. This is fucking America. I can't really compare it to Vegas and the Mojave because they stand on their own as my favorite place i've ever visited, period; but i do feel like this is the more balls-out, no-apologies version of California, which is high praise from me. Can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store.