Tuesday night J drew up a road-trip i could do that wouldn't leave me too far from town at the end of the day, and Wednesday morning i headed out. She also loaned me her giant roadmap of Texas, which made it a lot easier for me to just take off down whatever random trail i felt like and still manage to get back on course once hitting a numbered road. It was an absolutely beautiful drive. I got to see a bit more of Texas Hill Country, including a more desert-y part complete with cacti and lizards.
Some of the route took me through an almost-ghost-town where most of the wild-west-looking buildings had been abandoned, which was a real treat. Unfortunately those buildings had "FOR LEASE" signs in front, so photos couldn't really capture the ambiance. Outside of town, the ranches look just like in the movies - with Wizard of Oz windmills and quirky names and big ol' entrance gates. Every now and then there is a sign for a cemetery, which if you follow leads you down a dirt road to a field of tombstones in the middle of nowhere. Certain back roads were across cattle grates, and Texas longhorns just sat around under trees staring at me. I jumped out of the car at every opportunity to take photos, crunching across drought-ridden scrub and scattering dragonflies and crickets.
I'm not sure what it is about arid rural areas, but i feel so comfortable in them (which is rare for me in nature). I think it appeals to me that there's nothing slimy lurking, there's lots of sky and it's always warm. I noticed that as a storm rolled in from the north. After over an hour of rolling thunder it started cascading down, to the point where i could barely see 20 feet ahead of me. But when i pulled over to take some soggy shots, the air was steamy and smelled of dirt. It really made me realize how much i miss the climate of Australia - although i do enjoy the crispness of Canadian spring and fall, there's something nurturing about a place where day and night you're wrapped in a blanket of heat. I hate going to work in it, but right now i'm not working and it's perfect.
After an amazing lunch of carnitas in another wild-west-looking town i hit the halfway point and stopped into a biker bar for a couple of beers. Had a interesting talk with the bartender, who had moved down with her husband from New York, and listened to some of the patrons' chatter, then headed back to the city - that was when the rain started. It was probably a good thing too, because it forced me to concentrate on my driving and not pull over every 5 minutes to take a million of what probably look like the same photo to all of y'all. The last 10-15 minutes was a winding hill road with a thousand hairpins that i screamed around doing my best Takumi Fujiwara impression. I pulled into J's around 6 and then we headed out for BBQ.
On our final sightseeing tour around Austin, we hit up the state capital, which at 9:30pm was still open. I'm really happy i got to see it because (of course) it's a fabulously ostentatious structure full of stylish brass and granite and a motherfucking underground bunker where the senators and representatives who drew the short straws get to work. When locals say everything's bigger in Texas, well, it kind of is, but what they don't say is that it's also all overkill. In the most delightfully American way. We chatted on till midnight, by which time i was very ready to sleep.
And sleep i did. This morning i headed back to Dallas. I was originally going to take the scenic route, but i decided against it at last minute so i could spend more time in the city (and do my laundry!) I'm glad i did, because downtown Dallas is pure sex. In honesty there really isn't a lot to do, but Dallas has been one of my favorite skylines for years, and i only realized why once i started walking around - the buildings all have space to breathe. This lets a lot of sunlight onto the streets and lets you admire the architecture against blue sky instead of another six buildings. I tried to find the grassy knoll but failed, probably because i wasn't on a steep enough angle to make one of the many parklets look knollish. They waste water like it's Dubai here, but the fountains look great and give the illusion of a temperate climate, even as your shoulders burn to a crisp in the blazing sun.
On the way back i did stumble upon a coffee shop called Stupid Good Coffee. Which of course i had to stop into because that's pretty much Texas in a nutshell for me - no mealy-mouthed waffling, just straight-up WYSIWYG. And speaking of waffles, they had stroopwafels, which was fucking awesome. This state continues to surprise. In fact, i really love it here. The food is good, the countryside is pretty, the roads are a fucking dream and the people are genuinely friendly without coming across as demeaning or politically correct. And i've only seen two people wearing cowboy hats since arriving. Of course, i plan on going to the gay district tonight for dinner, so i'll be disappointed if i don't see at least a dozen more. And some assless chaps. And rhinestones. Because, you know. Dallas.