I’m just a traveler on this earth
Sure as my heart’s behind the pocket of my shirt
I’ll just keep rolling till I’m in the dirt
‘Cause I’m a traveler, oh, I’m a traveler
I could have seen Chris Stapleton live. My last visit to USA was so … explorative.
One plan was to drive to Kansas City. The second one could be easily called – death in a car on the road.
New Jersey – Alabama – New Orleans – Austin – Arkansas – Tennessee – New Jersey. About 58 hours drive, ca. 4 000 miles. Lethal joyride, right?
However i came to my senses. Road trip from Fair Lawn to Kansas City (MO) and back. The second trip – exploring something else but by getting there by plane.
I was browsing flight tickets. Well, the plane trip had to be postponed. Road trip first. When i was exploring the biggest city in Show Me State i saw a billboard. 10/26 Chris Stapleton live. Damn! I love Chris’s music. I have all of his 3 albums. Parachute is one of my fav songs ever. I wanted to title this post in his honour but he is from Tennessee slash Kentucky.
If only the flight tickets to Texas were cheaper for a week earlier, i would have been in the the first row ripping my throat off. But they were not.
But BK is from Texas
I remember me wandering the streets of New York in 2009. Last days of my stay in September. I heard
In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
on every corner.
Yeah, jay z was releasing his smash album – the blueprint 3. Alicia was a featuring artists. Two new yorkers in one song. Why no jay’s wife there? Because
BK is from Texas
When i stepped down from Brooklyn Bridge and yet another car passed me with his windows rolled down and loud music pouring out, i decided to buy that masterpiece. After more than 10 years later, i still think it is a huge hit single. An anthem of 00’s you may say. Oh, check the name of my blog. Someone really likes the song, right? (blink)
The flight was to The Lone Star State. Anywhere there would have been good. The only criteria – low price. I tried Austin. Bit expensive. I tried here and there and i ended up in Dallas/Fort Worth. Well, that was the most northest city i had been taking under consideration. And the least fav city to fly in to. But there were perks – cheap flight and super cheap car. I double checked at the desk in Hertz if i was charged for everything and if all my insurances were included. I got the full package for just 250$. A week before, in New Jersey it was almost 500$.
The cons? I had to decide – El Paso and New Mexico or Big Bend National Park.
Today it has been 4 months since i was roadtripping in Texas. Apparently i needed that time to write about this amazing moment in my life.
I had a blast! Howdy Y’all!
Dreams DO come true. You just have to want it to happen so bad.
When I graduated from my college, I wanted to be … an accountant. Fortunately, i failed to do so. Maybe I did not want it that bad.
I wanted to visit Texas. That was my dream, a yearning, a calling. Somehow all those roads i had been taking did not lead there. Until October 2019.
I do not like flying out from NYC. Because it is a nightmare, because it is always a surprise, because something unexpected always happens. It took me more than 2 hours to reach LaGuardia. I will not mention JFK. Twice i almost did not make it on time. First time it was to Charleston, so it would not be a drama, if I did not catch my flight. However, the second time I was going back home, to Warsaw. I made it just 5 minutes before closing the check-in.
I have some problems with renting a car. Well, the Hertz assistant has. Something wrong with the system. After 30 minutes i say that i have a 9 hours drive ahead of me. And it is already after 4 pm. He feels for me, takes my hand and leads me to the parking lot and says:
– take any car you want
– For real? Any car. Even that pick-up? – I say in disbelief. I think he is kidding
– Yes, my friend. Go, open the door. See?
He pushes me into a car. Wood, leather. Dodge RAM. Beast.
YOLO. I mean you only live once Maciej – i say to myself. This is the only opportunity to drive this. Fuel usage worries me only for a second. I do not care. It is my holiday – i like talking to myself. I like talking to someone smart.
When I went to Kansas City in Missouri a week before, Ula asked how Hyundai Sonata was doing and how much „it drank”. I told her almost 34 miles per gallon. Respect – said my friend.
My Dodge Ram 1500 Longhorn is drunk as a skunk! – 16 mpg! I will go bankrupt in Texas!
Aaaaa. I passed one refinery. It was so impressive. Wait a minute! Gas should be cheap here, right?
I am in the car and I do not know what to do. There is no gear stick. But I guess that this knob does it all. I connect the phone and start my 9 hours ride. I do not enjoy my car. I am so scared. This car is gigantic. I want to switch it. However after few lanes changings and other cars passings i decide i will not turn back. Go Maciej!
I stop for a pee, refuelling by the way. I also order some food because my stomach thinks my throat has been cut. I talk to a boy and a girl. They notice my accent. The girl likes road trips too. I like the girl. I wonder if hitchhiking in Texas is also illegal? Anyway i would not like to end up like in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What can i say now? After all those 4 months? I say this:
where have I been all my life? Texas is super nice.
I could have finished miserably there. I am going back from the park, heading to Austin and I think that I will not be refuelling in the park because it is expensive. I pass the first town – more expensive than in the park. I do not stop. And it begins. The wind blows, i am speeding more than i should. I am in the middle of nowhere. No phone and internet reception. The fuel usage has dropped to 15 miles per gallon? I can go for „only” 120 miles. ONLY 120? Or maybe it is just 120 miles here? The state is infinite. Panic. What will happen when i run out of fuel? No phone, no internet, no help. And if the night comes? Nobody will stop to help me. I have passed like few cars in the last 6 hours. I am all alone here. Bears and tigers will eat me alive. I am gonna die here!
The Big Bend National Park is beautiful. When I admire the central part i spot „what to do when you meet black bear or tiger” signs. Hmm. I read the signs thoroughly. You do not mess with nature. Fortunately, I have not met any predators. I like the park very much. Hidden old road. You drive it slowly and still you leave clouds of dust behind you. Canyons, mountains, hidden mines. Breathtaking.
At the end I get to the abandoned city – Terlingua Ghost Town. I was supposed to have a hotel there, but the reviews were poor and I chose the ranch. Hmm. The ranch had only one advantage – a comfortable bed. Everything else was cons – location, conditions at the ranch, house equipment. Anyway i like my ranch house. They have a pool, I even use it. It is almost 100F but the water is freaking cold. It takes me 15 minutes to immerse up to my neck.
And this ghost town is great! I love local people from the very beginning! They wear hats, cowboy boots and speak like in westerns. But everything is for real. It is their real life.
In the meantime I find a liquor store. I buy a small whiskey from Texas. Devils River Bourbon Whiskey. Is it Irish, not Texan? I almost buy another bottle from Texas, but in the last moment I notice “made in Canada”. The lady behind the counter touts my choice. Well, I think that probably that beverage is not too good. I buy a bottle of coke just in case later. I used that coke. So it was a good call.
I stop at the Little Burro store. Very nice shop with a nice … toilet. One donkey even carelessly crosses my path. I stop and let that lazy friend go. Here I buy that coke in question in a very slim bottle.
Well, I am having panic attacks behind the wheel, driving towards Austin. But i pull myself together. I am a big boy goddamnit. Calculation and common sense prevail. Maths was my major in high school.
Citing my fav band of all time:
A wise man once said that everything could be explained with mathematics
I tell myself:
Maciek, you are so stupid. The nearest village is like 30 miles from here, and you have fuel for 97. You will get there! No biggie.
I tell you, it is so good to talk to someone wise!
I decide to go to the hotel early that day to finally have a decent rest. But Texas is not New Jersey or Pennsylvania where you have Lodging Areas every 10 miles. And here? A scarce commodity.
Alright. There is gonna be a city in 20 something miles. Ozun. There must be life. I manage to Google some inn. I set it as a destination. But on the way I see a sign with a name i am not familiar with. Fuck it. You only live once. My room is only 74$. Wow. Cheap. I wonder what the standard is. Receptionist is nice and very friendly. I enter the room and … shock! Beautiful, clean, nice, renewed! I leave my luggage and go that place i was recommended for a bite. Texas! Live music in the non-smoking room. Country, folk and stuff. But somehow it is lifeless. I sit down in „for smokers” room. Later it turns out that the clothes stink awfully with ciggies. The waitress takes about 5$ for a club membership in order i could have a drink. I have seen it once before. It is not a pub, it is a private place, so I have to agree to drink and pay the entry fee. Ok, no biggie. The guys are wearing hats, cowboy boots. English mixing with Spanish. Spanglish. Nice!
I leave quickly. I am in my hotel room. Spacious room.
And the wind is blowing so strong that I have the impression that the door will be shattered in a second. Eh, Texas baby!
I have a great companion for two days in Texas.
Ula is my personal Austin guide. I love this city right away. I recommend it. The Capitol is a must see. The second largest in the US and … the largest in terms of area. Eh, America. Everything must be the best. And in Texas everything must be the biggest too. And it is.
I have a hotel in an interesting location. I have to wait for the room for almost 2 hours, so I google the restaurant for lunch. I know right away that I will not go to Wendy’s. I have eaten there 3 times – the first time, last time and one time too many. I find a Honduran place with very good reviews. It is a foodtruck! I do not mind. Cool, no problem. It is a pity that the wind is blowing unbelievably. The weather in Texas has been very good so far, except … Austin. It is super windy. The lady in the “restaurant” does not speak English, but we get along in Spanish just fine, sometimes using hands. The food is tasty. And it even looks good on a plate.
Ula picks me up from the hotel and we go to Austin’s downtown. Two festivals are being held simultaneously – Austin Film Festival and Book Festival. So lots of people on the streets. 6th street is nice, full of pubs. The city is throbbing. Apparently a favorite place for young people. But Ula takes me for a german sausage at Banger’s on Rainey St. Apparently a cool place for a tad older. Because it is not so loud. The area differs but i like it even more. Pubs and restaurants are in the houses. One after another. Many people everywhere. You feel like you are in the heart of the town, in the middle of the urban buzz but somehow you have intimacity, privacy, you can feel the friendliness. It is not the street anymore. You are in the house. Safe. Oh it is Friday evening already.
The following day we decide to visit San Antonio. I hope Ula will take her bi-motherfucking-awesome-red-em-double-oh-you. But no. My friend does not think that I could have had enough of driving and one day break from driving would be a real blessing. Women are weird. At the end of our getaway, Ula tells me that it is great that I have been a driver because she does not feel like driving. Women ARE strange (the joke is obvious).
San Antonio is sensational. Both, River Walk and Alamo impress me. And what a weather! Sunny and warm. Although I really thought that Alamo was in New Mexico.
What a beautiful mistake. To err is human. For lunch I take 16 oz t-bone steak. Half a kilo (almost)! Jessus. I learn during the meal that the next time 11-12 oz will be just fine.
Before entering the city we visit McNay Art. Museum. At first it looks like a regular museum. You enter a regular building. But all of a sudden you are in a spanish colonial revival-style mansion with landscapes with fountains, broad lawns and a japanese-inspired garden and fishpond.
We return to Leander around 7 pm. Mwah mwah with Ula and I move on. It is hard to drive around the States at night because everything is dark or in dim light.
Oh, i find my friend’s crib nice and cozy. So in … Texan style. I like it.
After an hour i decide to call it a day. I find American Best Value Inn in… Temple. Coincidence or a sign from the Above? The receptionist named Freddy has an indelible mark on his’s neck. Hickey left by his lover? But no, another glimpse, and i know it is a tattoo. Odd. Freddy is quite quaint but friendly. He checks me in right away. The hotel is so so. Looks clean. Bed is comfy. I do not care about anything else. Nothing tops that crap for 129$ somewhere on the East Coast. My last night of my Kansas City road trip. Brrrr.
Early in the morning I come to the Fort Worth Stockyards, a historic district. A-we-someeeee! Yeehaw! Cowboys, rodeo, wild wild west!
This time i take 12 oz rib-eye. Delicious! But ther is a poor choice of side dish. I do some more laps around the wild west dressed with the permanent smile. Is this heaven on earth? Sadly, all good things come to an end. I move to Dallas.
Strange city. Somehow cool, somehow large, somehow modern. But there is only one thing missing – people. On the street i see only homeless or some tourists. Weird feeling. The Marriott hotel is two blocks from Downtown. A good call for only 98$. The best accommodation at the very end of my trips. I google must see places – JFK Memorial, nice city park, Downtown, to name but a few.
I feel hunger. On the map there is The Iron Mexican or something. I remember Ula praised that place. I follow there. But in the meantime I see Banh Mi on the map. Vietnamese taproom. I enter. I take almost everything from the menu because it is still happy hour so you can have this and that for nothing really. Delicious, but, imho, they could learn how to make Banh Mi sandwiches from the one and only Fat Daddy from Warsaw. For real. If you are ever in Warsaw, go to the Night Market during the summer season. Fat Daddy joint rules the place there, serving the most yummy Vietnamese buns. Mmmm it makes me already hungry. Damn you winter time.
Just shy after 4 a.m. i get up and drive to the airport.
While writing this post on my blog now i think of this one particular song. It is not Texan song, it is not a Texan artist, it is not a song about Texas. Lyrics are so appealling to me right now. Dunno why. Apparently i needed that time to look back at my trip to Texas with a distance. Once the dust has settled. Apparently i needed those 4 months.
I’ll give you countless amounts
Of outright acceptance, if you want it
I will give you encouragement
To choose the path that you want, if you need it
You can speak of anger and doubts
Your fears and freak outs and I’ll hold it
You can share your so-called shame-filled accounts
Of times in your life and I won’t judge it
(And there are no strings attached to it)
You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving, it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return
Texas is amazing. I honestly reccomend that state. And i love the highways. New Jersey could never hold a candle to Texas as far as roads are concerned. You can go up to 75 mph. Garden State is so restricted.
I do not agree with calling Texans rednecks. It is just unfair and offensive. I met nothing but kindness, friendly people, amazing views and breathtaking nature.
I have been in the States 14 times already. The only hostility or unfriendliness i have met in this country was in the heart of Manhattan from … Polish people. We are really rednecks to each other abroad. Why? Beats me!