Ode on a Summer Road Trip

What is it about jumping in the car, rolling down the windows and turning up the radio that’s so appealing? If it’s faster and more convenient to fly, why is the summer road trip still so good?

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Tired of being in airports for the last 10 weeks or so, I decided to change things up and drive to my next two destinations for work meetings.  Now, the drive from Albuquerque to West Texas isn’t terribly exciting, but as I began packing I found myself longing for the days of the good old summer road trip.

What is it about jumping in the car, rolling down the windows and turning up the radio  that’s so appealing?  If it’s faster and more convenient to fly, why is the summer road trip still so good?

Is it the memories of childhood road trips?  Hours in the car, antagonizing (or being antagonized by) my kid brother?  Was it the novelty of stopping to eat along the way? Or, because my mother was a teacher, stopping to see the historic sites?  The latter I’ve become increasingly thankful for.  As an adult, I appreciate the fact that I have seen far more of the country than many other people my age because of my mom’s insistence that we learn something along the way.  (Truthfully, the stops probably also gave her some reprieve).  Or is it remembering the impromptu trips I took with friends when we were old enough to head out and explore on our own?  Jumping in the car for a weekend, heading wherever the wind takes you was a fantastic luxury of my 20s that I perhaps didn’t appreciate as much as I should have.

Maybe it’s a combination of all these things, but as I made my 4+ hour drive today, I began to think that it’s the opportunity, alone in a car, to quietly address and resolve the many thoughts rattling around my brain on any given day.  Time to be alone and clear your mind while just focusing on the road going by, letting thoughts come and go.  Thoughts like: “Why in the world does the town of Wagon Wheel, New Mexico have a U-Haul rental?”  (At last count, there were about 350 people in the area surrounding this little town).

photostudio_1494197940047There is a lot of open road between Albuquerque and Lubbock, Texas, but every now and again, driving an old stretch of Route 66, you come upon remnants of homes, gas stations, businesses that were once part of thriving communities before the latest Interstates were developed.  I found myself wondering about the people that lived in these little communities and the handful of people that still eke out their living in towns were little remains.  What happened to the owners of these now dilapidated buildings and abandoned homes?  Where did they go?  Why didn’t the houses pass on to other owners?  I really wonder about the homes that are still full of stuff…

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There are mysteries along Route 66.  One of the most mystifying is the disappearance and probable murder of two couples traveling through the town of Vaughn, New Mexico back in 1935.  The baffling story is still a mystery 82 years later.  (You can read about it here.) I drove through several sites today and found my brain wondering what secrets those old buildings might still hold…. I may never know, but pulled over at the side of the road to get a closer look.

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Lest you think there are only old ruins along the roads, you will find a few curiosities that aren’t so…serious.  Like this giant cowboy on the side of Highway 60 before crossing the Texas border.

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The popular Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, where, the story goes, an eccentric millionaire buried Cadillacs in the ground. Why? I don’t know. (Mind the million empty spray paint cans on the ground).

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Who knows what I’ll find on my return trip, but I plan relish the sound of my voice singing along with a much too loud radio and to enjoy the feel of wind through my hair (even though that means my hair will get tangled).  Let’s go on a road trip – it’ll be an adventure.

The stars at night…..

It’s my busy season for work and that means I’m in Texas.

Well, it’s my busy season for work which means lots and lots of travel and most of it (this year) to Texas.  I’m in Dallas for some meetings and I am staying at one of my favorite hotels in the city…one of my favorites anywhere as a matter of fact.

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Highland Hotel

When you travel a lot for work, your best bet is to pick your airline and your hotel chain and then stay consistent.  That’s how you best max out miles and points (and those pay off when it’s vacation time).  I’m a Hilton girl (you’re welcome, Hilton!) and I adore a hotel in their Curio line here in Dallas.  The Highland is a swanky, sexy hotel close to the campus for Southern Methodist University (which is also beautiful, btw).  There’s an attached spa – who doesn’t love that? – I’m getting my massage on later.  Also on property, a great restaurant called Knife.  Knife is the baby of chef John Tesar. (He’s kind of a big deal…James Beard-nominated and contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef.)

I got upgraded to a suite which is far too sexy for a solo traveler.  I mean, there’s a jacuzzi tub and a photo over the bed that’s got a little bit of a bondage flair.  (Plus a bathroom phone!  Is anyone talking on these things?!  If you have recently had a conversation on a hotel bathroom phone, please comment below.  I need to know about this). Anyway, the steak is delicious and I’m thinking about eating it while in my jacuzzi tub.

Day 2 on my Texas run takes me from the Big D to San Antonio.  Being in San Antonio always reminds me of the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  Wait, you haven’t seen Pee Wee’s Big Adventure?!  It’s a classic!  Pee Wee has a series of, well, travels and misadventures (see what I did there?!) trying to locate his stolen bicycle.  He eventually finds himself in Texas and there’s a great scene in which he calls a friend to announce his location.  When asked to prove he’s really in Texas, he does so by singing out: “The stars at night are big and bright….”  and hundreds of Texan movie extras sing back: “Deep in the heart of Texas.”  On his quest, Pee Wee makes it to The Alamo and so do I…

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Mission San Jose

In fact, I made it to ALL of the missions!  (Ok, ok, but I am (a) an overachiever and (b) a history nerd).  The Mission Trail in San Antonio is easily navigated in a day and spending time relaxing, meditating, praying, and/or walking the grounds of these missions isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours.

The San Antonio Missions have a World Heritage Designation from UNESCO ( that’s the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.) Pretty amazing when you think about it…this is the same designation given to the Taj Mahal, among others.

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Mission Concepcion

The Missions were intended to settle the area around what is now San Antonio for Spain and to enforce Christianity.  Four of the missions that were established by the Spanish in the 1700s are just south of today’s downtown and are set about three miles apart along a 12-mile drive.  The fifth, and most famous mission, The Alamo, is right in downtown San Antonio and is an easy walk from any of the downtown hotels.

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Mission Espada

 

 

 

Each of these missions were beautiful and interesting in their own ways. Mission San José was perhaps the most architecturally interesting. I got the most creepy-crawly feelings at Mission Concepción (anyone else believe in wee ghosties?!) and found Mission Espada to be the lovliest.

On day 3, I made it to The Alamo.  It’s by far the most well known, but it’s well known for a 13-day battle (Santa Anna, Bowie, Crockett, Travis, et al being the main characters) and not for its history as a Spanish Colonial Mission. Let me preface this by saying that it is Spring Break in San Antonio. There was no peace to be found at the Alamo.  The history of the place is fascinating, no doubt, but it was my least favorite of the missions.  Still, if you like American history, I’d recommend a quick jaunt up to The Alamo.  (PS: Take all the pics you want on the outside, but none are allowed indoors.  You will however, be asked to pose for your very own commemorative photo on your way in. I declined).

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The Alamo

From The Alamo, I decided to take a quick walk around the historic downtown before heading to the airport to catch a flight home.  San Antonio’s historic quarter is surprisingly walkable and you can pack a lot of sightseeing in in a short time (which was perfect for me).

If you enjoy a good Catholic church like I do, don’t miss the San Fernando Cathedral.  It’s beautiful and if you want to find where the heroes from the battle at The Alamo are interred, it’s here.  Of course, there are many fun shops and you can keep yourself occupied eating your way up and down the River Walk – it’s worth it!

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San Fernando Cathedral

San Antonio is climbing my list of favorite American cities and I’m kinda sad to leave it behind today.