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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.