Most say that life is a “journey worth living”. No one is ever guaranteed tomorrow and tomorrow is never guaranteed….a mantra to live by! This blog is a documentary of our life, liberty, and the pursuit of exploration!
What better time to begin documenting our journey than in the midst of a fear pandemic. We’ve followed the events closely as it impacts our daily life and business as much as everyone else and we take in all the news and political noise, as information only, and make our own assessments. All we can say is we see the data and we may not be smart but we ain’t stupid either. Our own belief in following the data is that we will all look back at this time as a fear-based manipulation. With information being available in so many forms and in so many mediums coming from sources with clear and planned agendas it is likely these types of dramatic overreactions will become more and more common. There is always a risk of getting sick when you wake up in the morning; it makes sense to be careful and courteous to others…and that is the tact we are taking. All that said we are fortunate to be relatively young and healthy and we aren’t interested in living in fear.
We chose Texas as our initial test voyage before our true full year of family travel given it was one of the first states to announce re-openings. We began waking up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house On Top of the World in Ocala, FL. Leaving our Maltipoo – “Nash” – with Grandma and Grandpa was very easy for some and agonizing for others (mostly Grandma and Grandpa I venture to guess) but necessary to make the trip. The “Baked Beans” as Cadence affectionately calls our nine pound “bundle of joy” will have to wait. We jump in our vehicle and off we go to the center of tourism at MCO – Orlando, FL – and their super busy international airport what should one expect in the midst of a feardemic? Well, check out our photos below.
Any empty airport is a great airport as far as we are concerned. Crisp, clean, and subdued environment makes for an easy effort. MCO to Austin, TX – let’s do this.
How about that flight? Super easy – barely an inconvenience. Honestly we will mark this one down as the safest flight we will ever take. Cleaning chemicals abound but the flight was easily 2/3rds full with plenty of folks taking advantage of $17.00 flights…yes, government gets $11.00 and the airline gets $6.00, haha. Another record breaker probably for our books. The flight was comfortably full and everyone minded their space and business. That is until the customary jerks that jump up on landing and ran for their bags and forcefully pushed forward in the middle aisle while everyone else waited their civil turn…but not to digress.
Austin, TX Part One
We took it normal; jumped in an a Lyft with our boy Darrell and set foot on Texas capitol soil at a crisp 11:00 am. Minor issue though; we had a decent amount of luggage and our AirBnb check in was 2:00 pm. All good – mom and dad kept their heads down answering emails and taking calls while we meandered towards the state capital building to set up shop and chill. As one would expect the capitol building was outstanding day and night and one of the best capital grounds we have seen to date. The consensus among us was that Texas birds are dang vicious. Lamar Jackson has nothing on the Ravens in the capitol building park. Not kidding – these birds ruled that park and the hissing sounds were terrifying. But ultimately we channeled our inner Tennessee Titan and perservered. After a long day of travel, work and school we settled down in the AirBnb for a good night’s sleep.
Austin, TX Part Two
We spent the two full days in Austin walking and scooting around exploring the City. No doubt we did not get the true Austin experience due to ongoing mayoral executive orders but there were advantages of the City largely shut down as we were able to traverse the various Austin neighborhoods, South Congress, East Austin, Blackland, UT campus, and others. We made it a point to find open local businesses to support them the best we could and we were not dissapointed. East Austin/Blackland in particular had a great vibe and outstanding drinks and eats. The lone exception though was a trip to Cava Grill which must have fairly recently entered Texas; this is the absolute best fast casual dining concept in the country – a Medetteranean Chipotle!? Heck yea.
Being in the middle of a work week and closures we didn’t get to explore as much as we would have liked but we gained an understanding of the Austin layout and general vibe…although 6th Street was a big disappointment under these conditions. The growing homeless problem in these types of cities was quite apparent and exasserbated under the lockdown.
San Antonio, TX
After a few good days in Austin we rented a car and headed south on I-35 to explore San Antonio. With Tim Duncan gone San Antonio may have lost some luster but in different times I am sure this would be a good revisit – but in this instance we were underwhelmed. The Riverwalk is a great idea and definitely a fairly unique experience and with more energy surely would have been much cooler. In these times it was a nice walk but seemed to be mostly chain restaurants and tourism-based efforts which turned us off. Yardhouse was the edgiest restaurant we could find open. The Alamo remained closed although not sure we missed much not going inside. The highlight of San Antonio was staying in the third most haunted hotel in the US – The Emily Morgan San Antonio – Cadence was a little freaked out but no sightings of note so we made it through.
One of the greatest thrusts for making the Texas trip also centered around Chip and Joanna Gaines and the empire they’ve built in Waco via their Fixer Upper success. Despite the Magnolia Table and Silos both being closed Cadence and Jacki were able to get a near complete Fixer Upper experience with coffee at the Solios coffee shop, a driving tour of some of the most popular Fixer Upper projects and a stalking drive by of the Gaines farm just outside of town. Waco’s vibrance is significantly impacted by Baylor University and with school out of session there again was not alot of energy in the City but there was certainly more businesses and restaurants open per capita in Waco than in Austin. That all said the highlight of this portion of the trip may have been our first Buc-ee’s experience in between Waco and Dallas. I mean WTF. 56+ pumps and a wonderland of convenience based items that you never thought you might need all at a suburban interstate exit.
Our excursion in Texas ended in Dallas. More of the same in Dallas as business continued to be severely shut down which allowed more productive work sessions for Mom and Dad. The hotel was virtually a ghost town but as we ventured out from the CBD where our hotel was we found pockets of neighborhoods with activity and ate on the patio of a very good Tex-Mex restaurant before turning in the first night. Day two was alot of work during the day and then again ventured out walk much of the JFK Assassination route with Cadence risking her life and limb to take a photo on the first “X” marking the first of the fatal shots from the sixth floor window of the current Dallas County Administration building. How would you like your office to be near that window? After touring the JFK Memorial site we found a kicking restaurant in a new AT&T sponsored mixed use development that had a massive outdoor patio area with music, fire pits, tv’s etc. After a good night’s sleep we headed to DFW for our flight. The only thing missing from the Dallas stop was a visit to Dude Perfect headquarters which just didn’t fit in the schedule…and Plano is a haul as well. The return flight experience was quite similar in the airport with no lines for security but this time the airlines had newly implemented during our trip mandatory masks in-flight. This was fine and the loophole we discovered fairly quickly was to bring food and drink on the plane to break up mask time.
All in all a memorable trip under generational type circumstances. Seeing the varying reactions in rural vs urban areas surrounding the virus was interesting and a microcosm of overall reactions across the country and the world. Despite the conditions we felt safe and came home happy and healthy and full of new experiences. Austin is clearly our favorite city of the cities we visited and we look forward to returning under more normal circumstances. This was a great kick-off to what will be an fascinating and exciting year coming out of this lockdown and watching the varying approaches to returning to living.