There are many elements of a road trip that make them fun to me. My favorite part is probably the time away from distractions to just talk. You would think after 34 years of marriage there would be nothing left to say, but somehow we still talk. A lot.
Another part that is fun is seeing where the adventure takes you. As I’ve gotten older I want to be sure that we have a nice hotel waiting for us at the end of the day, but during the day I don’t want everything scripted. I make reservations way ahead of time for a room, I make a skeleton of a schedule and then just leave the rest to chance.
As we drove down the road from Tyler, Texas to Austin I looked up to see what appeared to be an antelope of some sort. This was something I remembered from my past growing up in the zoo, something from Africa, not Texas. I then saw gazelles grazing beside the road and while I shouted out my astonishment, I noticed a large group of zebras standing together. Before I could say anything else, Tim had driven past what seemed to be a farm full of exotic animals. Thinking back on it, I wish we had stopped or gone back to explore more, but we didn’t.
What we did do was realize that we were well past where we should have gotten back on the interstate. The only explanation I could come up with was that I had put a finger on my phone in such a way as to change our route. We were getting close enough to Austin to just keep on going at this point.
I settled in to reading some more, keeping one eye out for anything else I might see. Lots of beautiful horses, long horned cattle and goats could be spotted on the side of the road. At this point an elephant would not have surprised me. The drive was slower than we had planned, but it was pretty and I was happy to have the extra time to read and talk.
We arrived at our hotel and checked in. It was nice and centrally located to the downtown area, but off of the main drag enough to be quiet. We had been warned that the downtown area could get rowdy. As soon as we could change clothes we were back out, looking for the Driskill Hotel, where we had been advised to have a drink. Finding the hotel was much easier than finding a place to park.
Bar after bar after bar, each with live music blaring out of their doors, made for congestion on the street and absolutely nowhere to park. A few blocks away we found a parking lot after circling around a half dozen times. We paid the machine and walked past restaurants, bars and crowds to finally walk into the beautiful elegance of the Driskill.
Up a curved flight of stairs we were in the bar, a quiet, dark room with stained glass ceilings and beautiful art. It contrasted sharply with the noise on the street outside.
Fairly soon after we ordered our drinks and some food, our phones began to ding. Our son Jon, who works at a cluster of radio stations, had just seen a news story come through about another bombing in Austin. He quickly texted us to make sure we were alright and that we were aware of the situation.
We assured him that we were fine about the time our neighbors texted us to tell us that they had seen a news story about a bombing and they wanted to be sure we were OK.
We finished our food and walked around downtown before heading back to our car. The bombing had not happened anywhere near us, but it makes you a little more wary and observant of your surroundings when you hear such news.
It had been a long day of driving, reading, seeing strange animals in odd places and taking in sights and sounds from every direction. The idea of a serial bomber running around town was unsettling. It seemed the thing to do was to just head back to the room and get some rest.
The plan for the next day was to explore Austin, so we discussed what we wanted to see and do tomorrow before falling asleep. Thankful to be safely in Austin for the next couple of days, we turned off the TV. While we slept, the bomber was found and blew himself up. The fear that had fallen over Austin for over two weeks was lifted.
Although it is the central time zone in Austin, it is a long way from Birmingham to anywhere in Texas. The sun didn’t rise there until around 7:30, so sleeping in was easy. (Not that I ever have a hard time sleeping late!) Once we finally got up, got ready and had our car brought around, we were ready to strike out for another day of adventure.