My first stop in Texas was Amarillo. I arrived just in time for a workout at a gym that a friend highly recommended. Tornado Alley Crossfit was very friendly and welcoming. I got an amazing workout that kicked my ass!
The next day, I arrived in Dallas. I was a week early for the Texas Old English Sheepdog Rescue picnic, which was the only event I had planned on attending from the beginning of the road trip. The picnic also happened to be the end of my plans. What would I do after the picnic? Would I turn around and go back to Washington? Should I keep going until I get to Florida?
I was still trying to figure out if I could squeeze in a trip to Topeka, Kansas, before the picnic. While I was considering the additional stop, a friend from college texted me saying he wanted to meet up in Austin. I wanted to see the Equality House, but wasn’t sure if there was anything for visitors to do there besides drive by. That’s a long drive for a potentially small payoff. I decided to head to Austin the next day.
First order of business in Austin – my car needed new brakes. I felt awkward about potentially going to the mechanic with everything I own in my car. When I arrived at my hostel, several wonderful people helped me unload my car and store everything in the house. Unfortunately, the mechanics were all closed by the time I arrived, so I had to wait until morning.
I arrived at the mechanic around noon. My friend picked me up, and we headed to lunch to catch up. Afterwards, he brought me back to the mechanic and shortly after, my car was ready. We had planned to meet up again the next day.
When I got back to the hostel, I hung out for a bit with the other friendly guests. A group of us were sitting in the living room when a belligerent old man came in. He made inappropriate comments to all of the women, but for some reason was not kicked out. I knew I was going to be moved to a different room that night, so I asked staff to double-check that he wouldn’t be anywhere near me. They checked the reservations and realized they were overbooked. They apologized and said they made a mistake, and I would have to leave. I tried to find another hostel or AirBnB in Austin, but there was nothing available at a reasonable price. I was so upset. It was already past 5pm. Couldn’t they have let me know earlier in the day? As I made many trips from the house to repack my car, the previously friendly staff now completely ignored me. They didn’t even look at me as I walked by; they pretended I didn’t exist. Nobody offered to help me repack my car, even though it was their mistake. I felt so invisible and dehumanized. I had nowhere to go. Sometimes I felt like I spent most of my days looking for my next place to stay. I was so frustrated. I ended up going back to the hostel in Dallas. They had plenty of room and welcomed me back.
I still had a few days before I had to pick up my mom from the airport, so I went sightseeing. A teacher from Australia joined me for a day at the JFK museum, which is inside the building that JFK was shot from.
After we parked the car, he saw a lady on the sidewalk selling tickets for a bus tour. He asked her about it, and she said it was leaving in less than 5 minutes. We decided pay up and hop on the bus. It was an amazing tour that explained a lot of the background and political climate of the early 1960s. It took us through neighborhoods that look exactly the same as they did on that day. The bus also followed the route of the motorcade. The museum was on the sixth floor, right where Lee Harvey Oswald was perched, waiting for the President to drive by. The window is open a crack, just like it was the day JFK was shot.
The day we went to the museum happened to be the day of the United States Presidential Election of 2016. Because it was election season, the special exhibit on the 7th floor was related to the Kennedy election. They also had selfie props so that you, too could get in on the action at that moment in history.
After I left the museum, I visited the gift shop across the street. Since my nephew is a history buff, I bought a book about JFK for him. It would be a great book for him to read with his grandpa, who was about his age when the President was shot.
I headed home, ate dinner, and gathered around the TV with the other hostel guests to watch the election. We were all very disappointed that the results were not available until a few days later.
The next morning, I went to the grocery store to order a cake for my mom’s birthday. I ordered her a photo cake. The picture was of an Old English sheepdog wearing heart-shaped sunglasses. They had her name printed on the photo as well. When I saw the cake, I was horrified! They spelled her name wrong. The cake was only a single 8″ round instead of the usual double layer cake. It was so tiny and pathetic. When I showed the bakery associate that they spelled her name wrong, I dropped my car keys into the cake and made a hole in the top! They were able to cover up the misspelling by writing her name on top of it with frosting. But they couldn’t do anything about the hole. Or the fact that it was half the cake I was expecting. I wandered around the store for a bit, wondering if I should just hide the awful cake on a shelf and leave. Why should I pay for such a disaster? Against my better judgment, I ended up buying the cake.
I headed over to the picnic location to help them set up. I left the cake there overnight, hoping someone would figure out a way to salvage it. Shortly after I arrived, I was introduced to some of the group members’ Old English Sheepdogs. It was the first time I had seen a “sheepie,” as they are called, in almost 20 years. And it was the first time I had ever met one with a tail! I was in sheepie heaven! I was so excited about the picnic. I couldn’t decide if I should send my mom lots of pictures, or make it a surprise.
That night, I picked her up from the airport. She sent me a text to let me know her flight was delayed a few hours. I sent her a picture of two sheepies waiting behind a fence and said “ok, we’ll wait.” I went about my business, putting final touches on a gift basket for the picnic. One of the items in the basket was my own handmade dog soap.
When she texted me that her plane had landed, I got a brilliant idea. The hole in the cake was approximately the size of the hole that a large candle would make. Now what type of candle would work? I quickly swung by the grocery store bakery section to look at the birthday candles. All they had were small candles and some number candles. I stared at the birthday candle display for about 10 minutes, knowing that she was probably already standing on the curb waiting for me to pick her up. Finally, I decided to get an “8” and tell people that’s how old she was turning in dog years. I grabbed the candle, sped through the self checkout, and hurried to the airport.
When we arrived at the picnic the next day, she was so happy to see all of the sheepies. I quickly slipped into the kitchen to put the candle on the cake. She quickly made friends with everyone from the rescue in attempts to adopt a sheepie for ourselves.
We also looked at the items for sale. We ended up getting a t-shirt. She also got lots of phone numbers and called frequently to find out if the rescue had any dogs available for adoption.
Lunch was catered from a local barbecue place. There was also an enormous cake, so it didn’t matter that ours was so small. After lunch, I made an announcement that there was a birthday in the house, lit the candle and brought the cake over to my mom to sing Happy Birthday. She was so surprised! She absolutely loved it! It was one of the best birthday presents ever! Hopefully we get to go again next year.
The next day, I brought her back to the airport. A friend in Florida needed my help, so I decided to extend my road trip all the way to Florida. I headed east towards Louisiana.
Road Trip Series:
Part 4: Cross-Country Road Trip: Texas