The Best Way To Experience A Road Trip


One day this past week I walked with two colleagues from the Texas State Capitol to a restaurant on Congress Avenue. While waiting to cross an intersection, I noticed a double decker open-air tourist bus. I had the thought: “I’ve never done that in Austin.” I wondered what it would be like. What would the tour guide point out that I don’t already know?


I’ve seen the sights of London from the second level of a tourist bus and looked with interest as the bus driver/narrator highlighted the history of what we were seeing. I remember thinking following the London bus tour experience that the time spent was worth every pound. Seated on the second level of an open-air bus somehow takes away the barrier of looking through the confines of a windshield. It somehow seems more experiential. It takes away the boundaries and somehow you seem thrust in the midst of the experience.


The same is true of Chicago. When I visited the city of Chicago for the first time, I wanted to see and experience it all. I threw caution to the wind regarding the expense involved. After all, I had never been there before.


Some of you know how frugal folks struggle with letting go of a dime unless it is absolutely necessary. My dad was a lot like that. Unfortunately, during my younger years, he and I opted to think differently on the value of a dime. He’d rather have the dime than what it would purchase and often I opted to take the opposite approach. Strange isn’t it? Now when it comes to spending money, I’m pretty much a clone of my dad. I often have a tendency to intuitively fall into that same frugal mindset.


Consequently, going to Chicago was a stretch for me. I spent $ for the architectural boat tour and $ for the boat ride out on Lake Michigan where I saw firsthand how the Chicago River Lock System works related to adjusting water levels between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. It was fascinating. So after spending $ for the architectural boat tour and $ for the boat ride on Lake Michigan could I really afford to spend more $ to see the City of Chicago from the top of the Sears Tower? I almost said “No”. My dad would have said “No”. Okay, so I gave in and as an after-thought changed my mind.


Pardon the pun, but the Sears Tower proved to be a highlight of the trip. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Consequently, I emerged from the experience by thinking, regardless of what a tourist sees in Chicago, unless they see Chicago from the top of the Sear’s Tower, they really haven’t seen the city of Chicago.


That is kind of like the fellow who said to a friend that he had been to Atlantic City. The friend asked, “Did you go to the boardwalk while you were in Atlantic City?” He responded that he had not. The friend replied, “Then you haven’t really seen Atlantic City”.


Interestingly the young woman I met on Friday’s SWA flight from Chicago to Austin confessed that she had never been to the Sears Tower (now named Willis Tower). She said, “My seven-year-old daughter has, but I’ve never been and I lived there for years”. In fact, she still works there one week a month. Somehow I managed to refrain from telling her that her seven year old has a perspective that she’s not experienced. That seemed a littler softer than telling her that she has not actually really seen the city of Chicago. After all, she’s lived on the 40th floor of a high-rise. Maybe that was almost as good? Who am I kidding? The Sear’s Tower (Willis Tower) is 108 stories high.


I’ve said all that to suggest: “If one has the good fortune of living in a destination locality where visitors and tourist flock simply because of the breathtaking beauty or the amenities of interest that are available, why not take the advantage and find enjoyment in those same things?” I don’t know about you, but going forward I plan to do it differently.


I’ve been in the greater Austin neighborhood for over half my life and I’ve somehow gravitated into a routine that I seldom break. I like to think that I’m adventuresome and open to squeezing out every ounce of life that can be found, but I’ve lost some of the spontaneity and inquisitiveness that is characteristic of many first time visitors to Austin. I follow my charted course and I seldom vary from routine. Going forward, I plan to do it differently.


Saturday afternoon the General and I took a route off the beaten path to make our way back home from Fredericksburg. We opted for lunch at the Alamo Springs Café. It is in the community of Alamo Springs. If you don’t know where that is, I don’t have a clue how to tell you to find it. Had it not been for the GPS, we’d still be looking for the location. Reportedly, Alamo Springs Cafe serves one of the 3 best burgers in Texas according to Texas Monthly.


On Saturday afternoon when we arrived at the location targeted on our GPS, I wasn’t sure where we were and I certainly didn’t see a restaurant. Looking down a stree that was marked “No Exit”, I saw a host of cars parked along the roadway.  As it turned out, it was an adventure of sorts for us as we ventured way outside our comfort level by joining about a hundred people (I could be exaggerating) converging on a restaurant that wasn’t equipped to easily handle that kind of crowd.


After waiting 30 minutes for a table, we opted not to turn down the first one offered us. Interestingly, the man managing the seating asked: “Are you sure? I’m not going to take you name off the waiting list until you know that the available table we currently have is in the sun. Did I mention that the General doesn’t do the sun? She is not an outside kind of gal.  I was absolutely amazed when she interjected: “That’s okay”.


I had the thought: “This person looks like my wife, but was she really? It felt like being on a blind date. I was amazed!  She was so relaxed and comfortable setting in an outdoor environment that she’d have never said “yes” to in Austin, that I thought “Wow! Wow! Wow! Who is this person?


We had walked past about twenty motorcycles with sidecars making our way to the restaurant. Do you think there was any chance…? I was pushing my luck with her willingness to sit in the sun. A motorcycle was out of the question.  But oh what a wonderful way to experientially get the feel of an environment.


Saturday was a day of surprises. For one thing, we didn’t realize that once we ordered it would be another hour and fifteen minutes before we were served. To say that we were toast is not that far from true. But we didn’t care. Experientially we were in the midst of springtime and it felt good except for the sun that was beaming down on our faces.


We traveled on roads getting home that were barley wide enough for two vehicles to meet without colliding. We were mesmerized by the scenery. There were picturesque houses that have withstood the test of time scattered here and there. I wondered about the people who lived in them and for how long those structures had been there home. Homes from yesteryear surrounded by the most vivid colors of wildflowers all served to orchestrate a picture perfect view in every direction we looked.


Everywhere there was evidence of the freshness associated to springtime. It was a great day and a great date. We were out of our element and we had fun!


All My Best!



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