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Texas (State nr.16)

Victory or Death – Remember the Alamo!

sunny 40 °C
View America 48 States Attempt on eharpham's travel map.

BIG BOY TEXAS was an excellent choice for 4th July fireworks even though many have boycotted this years celebration as the events that have played out in the run up to it (overturning roe vs. wade, the array of shootings etc.) really put a damp on America’s birthday.

First city Houston

The drive from New Orleans to Houston was quite long so we made couple of stops on the way. The first one was at the welcome center which had a massive Welcome to Texas sign and a little swamp trail just behind it that we took in hope we would find some wildlife but had no luck in the end.
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The second stop was the quintessential stop in the South, Buc-eee’s supermarket. The place was absolutely insane and had some of the most unhealthy foods I’ve ever seen including this very weird mix of cheese and some sort of sausage as well as over 100 fountain sodas. I did however get this cute photo with Bucee the beaver.
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Houston is one of the places that most people who live in different parts of Texas don’t really rate that highly, at least based on the conversations we had. Nevertheless we had a good time. We stayed at really nice Airbnb which had a proper big kitchen which I was super excited about as I really miss cooking on our travels. It was also incredibly hot, with temperatures peaking at 38 (Austin and Dallas would soon top that)! So on day one (3rd July) we didn’t really dare to do much so stayed in and watched Dallas Buyers Club and ate most incredible tacos that we got from a food truck around the corner. It was Sunday night before the big holiday so lots of people were out and about in the vibrant neighborhood near Eleanor Tinsley and Sam Houston Parks.
On 4th July Edd and I went to get food and drinks supplies and I made delicious avo and roasted tomatoes and eggs on toast with some yummy bloody mary’s. The late brunch set us good for the rest of the afternoon. We first headed out to support another pro-choice protest in Houston CBD before heading for some amazing burgers and human size connect 4, which I love to play!
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My enthusiasm paid off as I finished 6 rounds unbeatable by either Edd or Hackett. Edd also made us have fireball shots at the end which with the heat outside didn’t really help with the hangover the next day. But oh well I guess it was 4th July so needed to go big. Full in every sense of the word we proceeded to “Shell Freedom Over Texas” where the fireworks were taking place. On the way there we spotted some very lush grass that Edd thought looked more comfy than English grass, claim that both Hackett and I disagreed with, so we did some testing and we were right the grass was not soft at all. English grass 1 – US grass 0.
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We got to the park eventually where there was loads of people exhibiting variety of different things including a city bus which was air conditioned! As we were incredibly hot this seemed like the best thing to do and it really did prove to be great for cooling! After some cooling and few “incredible” country songs by Clay Walker it was finally time for the amazing fireworks. This was beyond the doubt the most amazing fireworks I have ever experienced, beats even Disney! It was perfectly n synced with all the accompanying music and it went on for a full hour! Absolutely incredible and romantic on top of it! So grateful I got to experience this with my wonderful partner who is also a best travel buddy I could ever dream of!
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After this romantic night display we headed back home but on the way slightly dehydrated stopped at the bench to have a quick drink from the liquor store (boys had hard Ice Tea I had water) and where we witnessed the most bizarre display of food “dumping”, albeit one that ultimately worked in our favour. A guy pulled over next to a store and dropped 2 large pizza boxes. At first we thought they were empty but I had a strange hinge about it and surprise, surprise when I looked there were two large pizzas in there still intact 😊. Of course we took them and had a great midnight snack, somewhat gross but they were very delicious so YOLO. By that point I had stopped drinking and was ready for bed but boys were keen for one more drink so we went to a dive bar close by which was so fiendish that me and Edd basically left after 5 minutes in hope of not having too big of a headache next day. We were wrong. Headache came in strong, so the last day in Houston was spent mostly in recovery. We did attempt to visit a museum but it was unfortunately closed so all we got to do was a really cool space called Rothko Chapel described as a “spiritual space, a forum for world leaders, a place for solitude and gathering”, basically not a church! It was very different to any other Chapel I visited in the best possible way and I really enjoyed the neutrality of it, just very welcoming space to sit and reflect and if you so wish, pray!

San Antonio

Day 4 of Texas we dedicated to visiting San Antonio, home to infamous Alamo, the cradle of Texas republic. But before we got to San Antonio we went to visit what we thought would be the biggest real pecan in the world. Turns out it was actually a fake pecan, made out of plastic which was very bizarre, but we did learn an interesting fact that 80% of worldwide pecan crop is grown in US with Texas being #3, not sure if that was in the world or just in America but still pretty cool fact.
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We had only one day dedicated to San Antonio so had to pick our attractions carefully. Luckily there were only two main things to do – First one being a River Walk on San Antonio river which is how I imagine bits of Mexico look like. It is essentially a promenade with lots of bars and restaurants as well river barges that you can do a tour on. We opted out of the river cruise but as we walked around we did try to listen in to learn more about the history of San Antonio. Some of the highlights were learning about the tallest skyscraper, at some point in 19th century, being in San Antonio and secondly that Miss Congeniality was filmed there. The second was visiting Alamo. We spent first half of the tour trying to figure out what did actually happen there. There was a church and lots of monuments but very little explanation of what is that makes Alamo so special. Luckily Edd managed to find a “hidden” room where they were showing a little documentary about it. Long story short this part of America was once under Spanish rule, who took the land from Native Americans, than Mexico decided to fight for its independence. They won and decided to invite some American families from other parts of America to homestead, the whole principle of government was to have a lot of autonomy and from Mexico which for a while worked, but then Mexican king at the time decided that he wanted to take some of Texas’ rights away, which of course Americans living there didn’t like and so they went to fight. They lost Alamo – fought till death (hence Victory or Death), but Alamo was never forgotten, the rest of America saw the bravery of Texans and decided to send Union troops to come and help fight the Mexican army, eventually they defeated the Mexicans and Texas became republic (only for a bit) before joining the Union. Alamo was always remembered for the heroic efforts of much outnumbered group of men who thought Mexican Army as key traits of American people – fight for freedom at all cost! Very American Patriotic story that fits with the spirit of Texas. With that we completed San Antonio and began our journey back up north towards Austin.
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Austin

Austin was a place we heard most great things about, plus my really great friend Nora who I met on my year abroad in Denmark now lives there with her fiancé so I was super stoked to see her again.
We got our first tiny house Airbnb, which truly was tiny but it had everything we needed, so we were content as all the other accommodation options were insanely expensive. We were staying near 6th East Street which is full of cute bars and has a great vibe, also found a big size mascot in Croatian chequered football jersey.
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Just one of many great areas of Austin. Most importantly it was close to Franklin BBQ place which was on our list as the best BBQ in America. Big claim. Luckily Edd did some googling in advance and found that you need to queue for couple of hours to get in as the place is so popular + it is only open from 11-3 pm. Madness but it had to be done. On Friday we braced ourselves for 40+ heat and went to queue at 11 am. The queue actually didn’t look that bad but the host told us it would still probably be around 2 hours wait. It ended up being a bit less than that but still long. Nevertheless it was absolutely worth it! We got so much food that we ended up eating leftovers for next two days. Edd and I got a mix of ribs, brisket and pulled pork with side of cole slaw, beans and potato salad. The meat was soo incredibly soft, perfectly marinated, succulent, ribs falling of the bone, flavours just perfectly mixing, and all the bbq sauces were so unique. Never tried anything like it, as a matter of fact, just thinking about it makes me want it again, that is how good it was! So far Texas definitely wins on BBQ.
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After that we fell into a proper food coma which translated into 3 hour nap prior going out to meet Nora that evening. Nora recommended meeting at Broken Spoke for the most authentic Texan experience. Essentially it is a cool bar with a big dancehall where all the cowboys and cowgirls come to do 2-step. Unfortunately no line dancing was allowed with the explicit sign saying NO LINE DANCING but we did end up learning some 2-step in the end which was great. Seeing Nora and Nick was so great, we had so much to catch up on but it felt like we just saw each other yesterday, sign of true everlasting friendship! We learned that Broken Spoke is also a home to a famous TV show called Queer Eye later we actually met one of the ladies from the show who I of course didn’t recognize but she told me that she had a group of English boys come to see specifically see her couple of weeks ago so I assumed she was famous, Nora confirmed. It was also so great to meet Nick, Nora’s fiancée who is hilarious and just overall a great guy. At some point (many drinks later) we got onto a dancefloor where a well intended cowboy taught us how to 2-step. The dance is actually pretty simple. If you have been following us on Insta or Facebook you will have seen me and Edd having a go after a brief lesson.
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The next morning we finished off with a classic Denny’s which was Hackett’s must try when in America and it was actually not bad at all, and we got free coffee as well!
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Overall we loved Austin a lot and could see why it would be a cool place to live there, one of the few places in America I would actually come back to, especially because Nora and Nick are there 😊

Dallas

Last stop as a trio before Hackett would leave us for Denver was Dallas. I knew about Dallas mostly from the 80s soup opera Dallas and it being famous for its rodeo. Edd and Hackett also learned lots about JFK’s assassination on Grassy Knoll so we had a few things to do. First stop rodeo. I had mixed feelings about rodeo mostly because I wasn’t sure what exactly it would entail. Turns out its pretty brutal. We went to Mesquite, the rodeo capital of Texas and America, for week 6 championship rodeo. We even got VIP seats! Essentially rodeo involves a variety of different disciplines that showcase cowgirls and cowboys skilfulness on the horse. My favourites were saddle the bronco, riding the bull and my absolute favourite kids riding the sheep. Up until that point that was the most American thing we’ve ever seen, and one that I would probably not repeat again. The riding of the bull while very fun for the audience looked brutal for the people riding it. Luckily we didn’t see any serious injuries. At this point I should also probably mention the most unappetising burger we had so far on this trip. We have been told to try Whataburger in Texas by several people so had high expectations. Unfortunately the expectations were not met. The Texas toast double patty thing Edd had looked and tasted nothing like food that had no nutritional value or any purpose whatsoever. My classic Whataburger was also very sad and I couldn’t finish it because halfway through I felt sick. Hackett was probable the only one who finished his meal, but to his detriment, he probably felt the sickest of us 3. That was also a turning point in our travelling diet - no more junk food.
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The following Sunday was probably the hottest day we had since we came to America with temperatures topping up 42! Not ideal for walking but we had no choice, last day in Dallas! We first went to a cool Farmers Market where I had the biggest bubble tea in my entire life, think it was about 2l and Edd had what he claimed was the worst breakfast burrito ever, big claim but I am pretty sure he exaggerated a bit.
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We the proceeded onto CBD where we saw a cool sculpture of an eye and another interfaith space in a park.
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We walked for about 15 minutes at the time before getting very close to having a heatstroke so we had to enter the good old bar for some refreshments. The place we found was in CBD so not a lot of people on a Sunday afternoon. We found a great little pub called Ye Olde Scarlet Pumpernickel Tavern where we met a lovely bar lady Evelyn who gave us some great recommendations for later. We also met this really cool guy Omar who worked at the nearby restaurant that just happened to also have the best 360 vie of Dallas. He invited us on his day off to come and have a look. We of course delightedly accepted. It was incredible! Shout out to Omar if he is reading 😊
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On the way to Grassy Knoll we also got to see a cool monument depicting cattle drive and JFKs monument.
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The latter wasn’t that great (surprisingly). And then onto the final historic bit – the spot where JFK was assassinated - The Grassy Knoll. The main tourist attractions around the area are big white markers on the road indicating when the JFK was shot and then the 6th Floor Museum at the Old Book Depository where “all” the shots were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. The museum was so good and explained everything from JFK’s early career and road to presidency to other geopolitical affairs that veiled his presidency to assassination and the aftermath that was surrounded in the end we ran out of time to view it all, luckily I did manage to take a photo detailing all the conspiracy theories to catch up on later.
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And finally let’s not forget the visit to Wonder Bar. Though we weren’t planning to go on the drink session that night we did decide to go for couple of more drinks in the other trendy part of Dallas called Lower Greenville that we got recommend. I could write so much about the Wonder Bar but photos speak thousand words so I’ll just leave it at that and add that if we ever start a band, we will call it EDLE and Hackett and this will be our album cover.
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What we listened to…

Texas for sure had the best selection of songs about it, that became somewhat anthems of our little travelling group and that we will carry with us to other states with fondness:
Dicked Down in Dallas
Big D and
All my Ex's live in Texas

Posted by eharpham 14:35 Archived in USA Tagged usa texas roadtrip rodeo cowboys bestbbq

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