Everything is Delayed

Everything is Delayed 1920 1245 Greg Ellifritz

Although I haven’t been out of the country since my Ecuador adventure a couple months ago, I have been traveling quite a bit within the USA.


In the last two months I attempted to drive to a music festival in New York (until my car broke down).  I also flew to Dallas, Texas to teach a couple classes.  After my Dallas classes, I drove to Austin to spend a few days finding a new place to live.  I was home for two days and then drove to Nashville for a training class.  I drove straight from Nashville to southern Ohio for a hiking/camping getaway.


Every one of my trips was negatively affected by massive staff shortages.


When my car broke down on the way to New York, I had it towed to a garage I regularly use.  It was a Friday.  The manager told me that half of their techs had either quit or were out with Covid.  He couldn’t get me in until the following Wednesday.


I ended up fixing the car myself in the garage’s parking lot, but it took so long I missed the concert I was going to attend.


When I got to the airport for my flight to Dallas, the bag check line was massive.  You guessed it.  The airline was short staffed.


The TSA screening line was hundreds of meters long (Pre-check saved me).  When I got to the metal detector I asked the screener about the line.  The TSA is short staffed too.


All the airport restaurants had huge lines.  There weren’t enough servers to allow full seating in the restaurants.


As I was teaching a gun class, I flew with firearms.  They don’t come out on the baggage conveyor belt, but instead are delivered by a person to the baggage office.  That process normally takes 10-15 minutes.  I waited nearly an hour.  When the guy came with my checked guns he explained that the airports was extremely short staffed and while he normally only serviced three luggage belts, he was doing all the work for the entire terminal.


I got my guns and went to wait for the bus to the rental car building.  It was another 40 minute wait (normally less than 10 minutes).  The airport was short bus drivers.


The rental car lines were massive.  Some had more than 50 people waiting.  It took an hour to get a pre-booked rental car.  The car rental staff complained that they were running with approximately half of their normal employees.


I visited eight different apartment complexes in Texas looking for a new place to live.  Staff missed my appointments.  Some leasing offices were completely without workers and closed down.  I spoke to two employees who couldn’t answer my questions because they were temporary workers  who had only been hired the day before.


In Nashville, several of the restaurants I went to visit were temporarily closed due to lack of staff.  The service was exceptionally slow in the restaurants that were open because they only had 20% of their normal wait staff working.


Even Uber in Nashville took far longer than usual.  When a friend had to leave the class to go to the airport, it took the Uber app almost 15 minutes just to match him with an available driver.


Some of the roadside rests between Ohio and Tennessee had sections that were closed down.  Entire wings in the restroom facilities were closed.  The state couldn’t find the staff to keep the entire building cleaned.


Despite all of the closures and delays, there is some good news for travelers.  In two of the three hotels where I stayed (including my favorite quirky Ruby Hotel in Round Rock) daily room cleaning had resumed.  Hopefully, uncleaned rooms as remnant of Covid-19 will rapidly disappear.


The point of this article is to illustrate the fact that almost everything in the travel industry is pretty screwed up right now.  Don’t expect any semblance of smooth sailing for your next adventure.  Plan for everything to take significantly longer than you expect.  Be flexible, because some of your destinations will likely be crowded, closed, or operating with limited services.


I think travelers will have a rocky road for quite some time to come.

Travel Log- Texas in the Pandemic

Travel Log- Texas in the Pandemic 640 480 Greg Ellifritz

I would like to be enjoying my police retirement and writing a lot more of these travel log articles, but Covid-19 has put a damper on my international travel adventures.  I tried to make up for it last week by exploring a bit of Texas instead.


I flew into Dallas to teach at the annual Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup class.  As I no longer have a full time job, I was able to extend my stay and explore a bit of Texas that I hadn’t seen before.


I’ve long considered relocating to Texas in my retirement.  The weather is much better than in Ohio and the gun culture is strong (therefore good for my firearms training business).  My goal was to explore some of the territory down there and have some fun with friends in an environment with fewer Covid-19 restrictions than in Ohio.

A warm Dallas sunset from the hotel’s outdoor pool.


I had a direct flight from Columbus to Dallas on American Airlines.  The flight went smoothly.  In Columbus. I checked in (with three guns) and made it through TSA security in a timed seven minutes from walking into the terminal.  If you aren’t afraid of the Covid-19 virus, now is a really easy time to fly.  The only downsides are that many airport restaurants and shops are closed and drinks aren’t served on most flights.


My flight down to Dallas was about 3/4 full.  My flight home was only about 50% full.


After teaching my class in Dallas (and eating an amazing chicken fried steak with my friends at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House), I hit the road to Austin.  I had never visited the city before, but I’d heard good things about the area.


I got a room in the iconic downtown Holiday Inn- Austin Town Lake in the heart of downtown Austin.  The hotel rooms were a bit dated, but they were clean and very inexpensive.  The location was perfect and it was the only hotel in the downtown area to offer free parking.


Driving in, I was honestly surprised at the numbers of homeless people inhabiting the downtown area.  Every city park had its own tent city.  Even more people were camping under highway overpasses.  I’d heard there was a problem, but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.


As soon as I got in town, I walked to nearby Rainey Street for lunch.  All of the establishments were open, but business was a bit slow because of the pandemic.


I had dinner plans with a high school classmate who lived in the area.  She turned out to be Austin’s best ambassador and an amazing tour guide.  When we were talking, I told her I wanted to explore some of the suburbs (I’m not an inner city kind of person) and hopefully see some live music (difficult to find in Ohio where the bars stop serving alcohol at 10 pm).  She organized some perfect excursions for us.


We started off by exploring the southern and western areas outside the city.  They were a bit remote, but quite fun.  Dinner (“truck stop enchiladas”) was at the Hays City Store.  It was a great outdoor venue with live music and was completely packed on a Monday night.


A photo from the Hays City Store’s Facebook page showing the outdoor dining venue and a tasty desert.



W.C. Clark playing on the outdoor stage


After eating and catching up a bit, we adjourned to the Moontower Saloon.  It was another outdoor bar filled with picnic tables and comfy chairs surrounding a series of gas fire pits.  It was nice having a couple adult beverages outside around a modern campfire.


From Moontower Saloon’s Facebook page


I wish Ohio has some places like these two venues.  I suppose the cold winters probably would make outdoor dining a harder sell.


I woke up the next morning and went for a walk around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake, enjoying the sun and 75 degree temperatures.


I met my friend in the afternoon for a tour of some of the northern suburbs where she and her family lived.  We started out with lunch at the Red Horn Coffee and Brewery.


We then drove around some of the northern suburbs and visited her house nearby.  We picked up her family and some friends and ended up in downtown Georgetown at 600 Degrees Pizzeria for some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.


I found Georgetown to be a fun, quaint, little town with a country feel.  The downtown area was filled with lighted up Live Oak trees.


Part of the downtown square in Georgetown.


The next day, I woke up with a hike around the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The facility has formal gardens and several long hiking trails surrounded by native Texas plants.  My undergraduate degree is in natural resource management and I’m a bit of a plant and tree geek.  At home I can identify just about every plant and tree by sight.


I was at a bit of a loss in Texas.  On my hike, I only recognized two plants!  Texas has 53 different species of oak trees and none of them look like the oak leaves I see in Ohio.  If I move down here, I’m going to have to learn a bunch more plants.


A sign you won’t see in Ohio


After my hike, I headed back towards Dallas with a pit stop halfway in Waco to check out the Texas Ranger Museum.  It was a very cool piece of history that should be on every gun lover’s agenda.  It was a relatively small museum, but the exhibits were well done and fantastically illustrated the history of the Texas Rangers and some of the more legendary rangers themselves.



The .30-06 Colt Monitor machine gun that stopped Bonnie and Clyde along with the rifle Frank Hamer used in the shootout.


Once I got back into Dallas, I met Caleb Causey (of Lone Star Medics fame) along with his his wife and son for dinner at Mariano’s Hacienda Ranch, the home of the frozen margarita.  After a great meal and some fine conversation, I headed to the hotel to hit the bed in preparation for my early flight home.


At Mariano’s. Isn’t this what you are supposed to do in Texas? Having a pull from the whiskey bottle while sitting in a saddle.


Thank you to all my friends who showed me a wonderful time.  I really enjoyed Texas and will be back soon.  I have at least two and as many as five more classes scheduled down there (depending on the Covid-19 situation) next year.  I’m looking forward to returning.


Caleb, Lincoln, and I with a random stuffed bear.


Those of you who don’t want to travel outside the USA yet should consider a few days’ vacation in the Austin area.  It’s a guaranteed good time.


Gretchen, my amazing friend and tour guide