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Texas: Ya’ll Come Back Now

July 15, 2012

Almost as soon as we get to Austin, we feel a change in the air. The dry heat that made our throats feel like sandpaper and our lips crack and sting has gone, replaced by the devilish combination of humidity and sunshine. We’re warned it will only get worse. We sweat as soon as we so much as pick up a tennis racket and within ten minutes we look like we have stepped straight out of the shower, but at least we don’t need to stop to guzzle water every five minutes. I prefer the humidity to the crippling heat of the desert, but I’d rather the insects that come with it stay away. As we head further south, it’ll only get stickier.

It’s clutching at straws, but Austin feels the most like home. With it’s riverside features and sidewalk cafes, this is as close to Melbourne as Texas gets. But on Independence Day, that all changes. 6th Avenue becomes a mecca of musicians and debauchery. If it’s live music you’re after, Austin has it in spades. We dabble in rock, country and even a piano bar. We avoid the hip hops bars which are flanked by girls on bucking bulls setting feminism back to the early 1800s. One girl tells me not to judge Austin based on the girls who ride the bull drunkenly, all thong and cellulite on show while men laugh and capture them on their Iphones. No doubt more than one will wake up to themselves on You Tube the next morning.

We wake up feeling worse for wear and battle on through to Dallas. For me, Dallas will be the place I watched Roger Federer capture his 17th Grand Slam title, but I guess I should remember it for the excellent zoo, rodeo and Forth Worth, which does its best to send us back to the wild wild west. But I’m a tennis nut no matter which city I’m in, and I spend half my day in bed, munching strawberries and following Twitter. No matter where you are in the world, you never change that much.

Running R Ranch is as far from bright lights and drunken wannabe cowgirls as you can get. The thud of horse hooves and the squeak of the saddle is all I can hear as we meander through the ranch’s neighbouring state park. We spend hours upon horse back, cantering in open plains and trotting through the damp forests. It’s just us, the wrangler and the longhorns. After days spent in cities, it couldn’t be more perfect. And when we get back, thighs aching and fingers blistered, the ranch cook serves us up the best food yet. It’s with a heavy heart we move on to San Antonio and a damp tent.

The Alamo might be San Antonio’s drawcard, but it could be America’s most overrated attraction. Little remains of the original structure which was destroyed by General Santa Anna’s forces after the 13 day siege in which they drove the Texans out, and what is left is plagued by a swarm of tourists. The sign in front of the shrine mutters a meek message of ‘Quiet Please’ but it isn’t heeded. The click of cameras and the pushing of people make it almost impossible to learn more about the Alamo, and even if the place was deserted there’s no guarantee what you read is the truth. Despite Davy Crockett being a national icon, there is more than one eye witness account that place him in the group of prisoners as opposed to vowing to fight to the death, and some historians argue that John Bowie was actually in bed sick with TB. But you’re not going to read any of that at The Alamo. What you do read is a mix of pride and patriotism, which might be a good indication of the American spirit, but perhaps not all that historically accurate when it comes to The Alamo.

Walking along San Antonio riverwalk – no doubt the highlight of San Antonio – we are offered a free dinner to tour a hotel. Being the tight tourists we are, we jump at the chance. We then proceed to waste some poor man’s time as we sit through two hours of a Club Wyndham promotion with an offer to join the timeshare program for a mere 65,000 dollars. We decline, are shown the door, and leave with our last two meals in Texas paid for.

From there we head to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and then to Louisiana where the air is thick and different walks of people mingle together to create music, food and an eccentric atmosphere. It’s goodbye to Texas, the desert and the wild west.

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