tour de texas.

December 11, 2018

Our autumn of travel was everything and more, but man, I've been appreciative for some downtime at home. After the sweetest long weekend in Asheville, next we trekked down to the motherland (!!!) for Baylor Homecoming--and to jump on a prime weekend to introduce J to all my nearest and dearest people and places.

We kicked off the long weekend with an early morning straight shot to Austin (and rampant Beto fever!), where we wasted exactly zero time before my sixth sense honed in on those telltale orange stripes, ushering us to the nearest Whataburger. We plotted the agenda for our next couple days over fries drizzled with jalapeno ketchup and magic. After settling in at our adorable east Austin airbnb, we moseyed to South Congress to lazily stroll through all of the iconic shops before settling in for Turbos at Jo's Coffee (where oh yes, we sure did buy a $5 logo-emblazoned tennis ball for Wriggles). 

Up next, we headed back to the east side for flights at Austin East Ciders and Friends & Allies--conveniently located neighbors. The Ginger Armadillo was posted up outside on the perfect 72-degree afternoon, so we pounced on that and inhaled some amazing venison Frito pie while going head-to-head with games on the patio. All-in-all, the quintessential Austin afternoon.

Nighttime took us to Odd Duck for dinner, followed up by brews at Easy Tiger before heading back to snuggle up in preparation for a long weekend of reunioning in Waco.

Friday morning, we gorged at Gordough's, before hilariously attempting to wait at Franklin's for BBQ (the line was 120 deep nearly an hour before the place opened). So we plan B'ed our way to drive around UT's campus and some of the more central murals before grabbing a caffeine jolt at Caffe Medici. A happy accident ensued when--true to form--I squealed at the sight of a tiny, fluffy canine--which prompted us to initiate light conversation with said nugget's owner. This gentleman suggested swinging into Nau's Enfield Drug on the adjacent corner, so we dipped into explore the dusty time warp, and the sweetheart behind the counter whipped us up some bomb breakfast tacos before we hit the road for the hour-and-a-half north to Waco.

First stop in the motherland was--naturally--margaritas with my dear old dad at Ninfa's. We skipped around campus for a while ("this is the super-retro journalism building! ...and this is where I wrecked my bike the summer of my junior year and thought no one saw!") and grabbed milky ways at Common Grounds before meeting up with with J's college roommate (small world!). Finally, we had a tour of HEB (and subsequently procured local beer and Blue Bell) before settling in with my childhood best friend's fam for a night of football and long overdue catch-up.

Saturday started earlier than preferred with the biggest college Homecoming parade (in the country! totally worth the early wake-up!), followed by an 11 a.m. kick-off, that led to a last seconds, unexpected victory over OSU.

Trips to campus ignite mixed feelings sometimes, but Homecoming weekend was so utterly sweet--so many warmly familiar faces and elements of childhood and young adulthood that are steadfast and unwavering and intricately woven into who I am. I was completely in my element, introducing my favorite guy to the rest of favorite people in the world, in one of my all-time favorite places in the world.

Game timing was on our side, as UK kicked off toward the tail end of Baylor's game, so we scrambled to get to a sports bar to cheer on the Cats before heading to my dear friend Amy's for more Operation: Show Off My Favorite Greek to All of My Favorite Texans.

Sunday morning, J had the honor of meeting my Pops' beloved Airedale, Benjamin, and we all took in a dewy morning walk together before getting lost in our breakfast burritos at my favorite hometown haunt. We had the requisite stop at Bucee's before spending the afternoon with my niece and nephews crawling all over us, as we caught up with my SIL and brother. And all too suddenly, it was time to head to the airport, and I was a mess of tears--a trip I'd long anticipated slowly dwindling to a close, with me hopping a plane to the life I've steadily built, 800 miles away from the people and places that built me.

It must be mentioned that my guy was a total champ, and that as I introduced him to no fewer than 31 folks (as well as a smattering of dogs, longhorns and barn cats) in a matter of 48 hours, he was his ever reliable, charming and laidback self: the ideal travel partner. (And yes, I know how fortunate I am.)

Happy to relay more recs anytime you find yourself needing them--and while it may be unpopular to put out there, here goes: do yourself a favor and don't get lost swimming in the Silos. Waco has so, so much more to offer than that, and was plenty cool before Magnolia came around. I love the Gaineses as much as any other millennial gal, but take my word for it--spend your time getting lost elsewhere.

My overarching advice to anyone seeking an authentic Texas experience is to prioritize breakfast tacos and barbecue, find some live music and local shopping, do something outside, and always, above all, stay loose and not too tied to an itinerary. There are simply way too many amazing ways a trip can shake out to be nailed to a rigorous agenda.

Until next time, Texas!


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