Texas 2018; Part I

Do you ever get so far in a project that you just stop as if you suddenly lost momentum? That’s the point that we are at now on my solo American Road trip… and apparently on posting this series for the blog, too. Sorry for the disappearance! Technically, the solo portion of my trip has ended at this point or at least for this state- I have lots of connections all over Texas. And after Texas, I just have a few overnight stops until I returned back home. I had to get back to board a plane to Reykjavík and Berlin before Christmas. I was adamant on seeing the Chriskindlmarkts to wrap up the year.

A Quick Thought About Solo VS Companioned Days

I wholeheartedly tried to continue writing even within company of others. If you’ve already read my Arizona post you’ll see that most of that was short- not very detailed. That’s when my dad came out to visit me. I focused on entertaining him and planning itineraries. I wanted to make sure he was having a good time; That doesn’t leave time to just write and have thoughts at the top of a cliff, or while sitting on Devil’s Bridge reflecting on my experience in the moment.

In hindsight, when we are with people I think it is important to be in the moment with them- to just be… but upon reflecting back to that moment it seems like it’s more of a distraction from our internal thoughts. When I am alone and not distracted is when I feel truly in the moment. I think and reflect without human influence/interference and write down my thoughts through sensory perceptions of my surrounding environment. Just a thought to ponder…

my cousin and I in Houston, Texas.

Anyway, there wouldn’t be much silence and space for those thoughts. Now it’s just 2 years shy of my time in Texas and I can only go off pins on maps, photos, and Instagram posts. I can’t remember EVERY detail. I can only remember the feelings after the time I shared with the people I visited there. It was a blast. I even returned back as a temporary resident right after the holidays. I came back and spent over a month exploring the state. *That will be Texas part II- to include places like Big Bend, Marfa, Fort Worth, Austin…

Houston We Have A (potential problem) …Stopover

Houston Texas sunset

I left Las Cruces New Mexico and headed to San Antonio- it was November 15th, 2018. I would spend a night in San Antonio with an ex before heading to Houston to spend some family time with my cousin. When I arrived to San Antonio, my ex took me out for tacos. I don’t remember the name of the place but can picture it- it was in a 2 story strip mall on the lower floor. Nothing to rave about, I hadn’t pinned it on my maps. Afterward we went back to his apartment where I’d already dropped my bags and we caught up on life.

We hadn’t spoken or seen each other in just about 1 year, aside from the few phone calls before my arrival. He broke up with me over the phone just one year before, on Thanksgiving Day. Fast forward 1 year, and neither of us would’ve expected to be spending Thanksgiving together in Texas. To be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to be seeing him again. Actually I had a backup plan, with a friend in Austin if the quick stopover was toxic. It wasn’t Thanksgiving though yet- just a stop en route. The next morning I was headed East to see my amazing cousin David and his husband, Dario.

Best food Scene in Texas

I had so much fun in Houston- it was just a 4 day weekend trip. I arrived Friday and left on Monday. This was my second time ever in Texas but I’d only visited Austin and the surrounding areas. Regardless, and looking back on my almost 2 month stint exploring the vast of Texas, Houston has the best food scene. Sadly, I was so wrapped up in fun I actually seized all documentation- I pinned nothing! No worries though, my cousin has been able to recall most of our stops from his local neighborhood- he frequents them often. I’ve listed my favorite ‘local hotspots’ below. In total I spent a little over 2 weeks in Houston to include the additional return trip after the holidays- January 2019.

All of Houston details shared in part I for simplicity.

Tiny Boxwoods, Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas

Houston is a thriving city full of culture- art and museums. I did a little bit of exploring but mostly just lived the local life. My cousin and I share an almost telepathic bond and enjoyed each other’s company at the expense of Dario. It reminded us of childhood to be together around the holidays. My paternal grandparents used to host all the holiday parties- and this is my father’s sister’s son. But we’re all grown up and our grandparents have passed and most of us have created new traditions. It was nostalgic to be together.

Favorite Restaurants in Houston

BreakfastTiny Boxwoods
BrunchBoheme (drag brunch)
The vietnamese fries are a must! (Shareables) but all the food is great!
Lunch or Happy HourBrasserie 19
Menus are limited currently- with ‘Happy Hour at Home’ option.
Happy HourRosemount Rooftop Bar
(gay bar with great drinks, Adult Capri-Suns, and dancing
Temp closed due to COVID19
DinnerEl Tiempo Cantina
We went to many restaurants- we had Japanese, Greek, and Indian food…. we went to hole in the wall diners; we went everywhere! All of it was great. The above are my most favorite from the visit. Many of the above have made appropriate changes for the time being- with limited menus and curbside options. Menus are linked to the Restaurant name.

Solo Stint in Houston:

Museum in Houston, Texas

I didn’t have too many days alone. If my cousin and Dario were at work I would wander downtown or to a local park. I remember visiting the Houston Museum District. I had planned to check out the Holocaust museum- there is one in DC that I really like visiting. Instead I found myself wandering to the Contemporary Arts Museum. Here I was able to peep some artists in workshops. They were in the midst of switching out exhibits as well. I didn’t have long to explore museums so I wandered the Japanese garden in Hermann Park instead before heading back. Another park I frequented when in Houston was the Buffalo Bayou Park with the dandelion fountain and the seven kneeling men statues. This park has excellent views of the skyline and is safe and walkable.

greyhound sleeping on the couch- cousins home in Houston, Texas.

My first visit here was with my cousin and Dario to walk their greyhound, I came back alone twice. I also asked David to show me some graffiti, he assured me who knew where it all was. I had been on the hunt for the rainbow stairs. Instead, he took me on a fun goose chase and we just hopped out every time we found something colorful! We didn’t find too much but it was a good time since we were secretly exploring the town when we were supposed to be picking up groceries. I later found out there is an entire park for graffiti here- we never did find the stairs or that park. In my 2017 trip to Austin, I had the opportunity to explore Castle Hill.

Last Day in Houston

My time in Houston was a blur. It was tons of fun and exactly what I needed as we approached the holiday. My aunt, uncle, uncle’s mom, and other cousin and his wife were flying in the day I was leaving. I joined David and Dario in picking them up that afternoon. We all hung out for a bit at the house and went to an early dinner before I left. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving and it was ideal. These are the same people I spend Thanksgiving with every year- we just happen to all be in Houston this time.

Back up Plans in Austin

I got back to San Antonio and decided I would stick around for the Holiday instead of defaulting to Plan B, in Austin. An older friend of mine gave me an open invitation to join her family for dinner and a place to stay. Never having met her family before and after being alone for so long- I just wasn’t comfortable spending my favorite holiday being surrounded by unfamiliar faces. I appreciated having a fallback option though, as an alternative to being alone, had the original stop over been toxic. Still… exploring San Antonio was pushed back yet again. I arrived late that Monday, after dinner with family in Houston, Texas. And that following morning we were off to another city.

Are we in Germany?

Before I even arrived to Texas, he told me about a little German town nearby. I’ve had a weird obsession with Germany for most of my young-adult life. We had planned to visit a German town North of the city- Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg’s twin city is Verbeinsgemende Montabauer, Germany. My ex really wanted to take me to Luckenbach, a venue type place/ dance hall of sorts. He had been here prior with friends. I assume they have line dancing and events; when we stopped by nothing was going on. We wandered around the buildings and he told me about the time before when he had come with friends. It sounds like a fun place for festivals.

There was a little post office store and the bar was open. We took some pictures before heading to our hotel to check-in. I was using points so we could wake up close to the Pink Rock; More on this in the next section.  We were in the Greater Hill Country region of Texas now. Tuesday was spent mostly tasting wine. We made our own tasting tour- starting at Fat Ass Ranch and Winery and ending at Grape Creek Vineyards. There are many vineyards in between. We continued to turn down driveways off the ‘tour’ and discovering wineries not listed on Google.

Pink Mountain in Texas

Enchanted Rock is a pink granite mountain in Texas. There is a limited amount of tickets sold each day for people to hike the pink rock; tickets are $7 each. We booked a hotel nearby to the trail since my ex had made failed attempts before to acquire a ticket. We had no problem obtaining 2 of these tickets and climbed to the top. It’s only 1,825 ft tall and doesn’t take too long but it is pretty. And other than Big Bend, I didn’t find many other ‘mountains’ in Texas- it’s VERY flat. Of all of the trips I have taken to TX 2017, 2018 and, 2019- I think my favorite outdoor places are between San Antonio and Austin. I even considered a move to New Braunfels! We didn’t stay too late, unfortunately- we had to get back to San Antonio and shop for tomorrows ‘feast’.

hiking enchanted rock- pink mountain in Texas

The Enchanted Rock is a protected natural park and is known for stargazing- it’s on the Dark Sky list.

Back to San Antonio

On the way back we stopped at Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco, Texas for a beer. This brewery creates handcrafted ales with homegrown ingredients. I highly recommend stopping at this brewery. The taproom is currently closed and they are instead offering curbside pickup or ‘beer-to-go’. I am not sure the regulations on tastings considering the shutdown but you definitely will find at least one you like- pick up a mix and match 6pack!

Just when we thought there were no more stops- a castle appeared out of nowhere- Chateau de Chasse. This beautiful stone castle sat on the side of the highway and I had to stop and see what it was. Clearly, we hadn’t made it out of the hill country yet- turns out, it was a brand new winery. My ex and I went inside and participated in a wine tasting. They had just opened to the public and there were only a few people in the main room. We got to explore the upstairs, check out the fantastic views, and even toured the dungeon! Remember, this was in Nov of 2018. From the looks of their website they are fully operating and have events for the holidays- including a haunted dungeon experience (Halloween). This was a fun find on the way back to San Antonio!

A castle in Texas

Thanksgiving Prep

It would only be the two of us and we didn’t need a whole feast but both had our specific ‘musts’. Off we went to H-E-B, which seems to be every Texans favorite grocery store. Side note: they also have a favorite gas station in Texas: Buc-ee’s. This was confirmed time and time again by multiple Texans- locals and transplants alike.

I can’t remember the rest of the night… obviously we organized the food and tried to plan the timeline for cooking the turkey. I assume we watched something on Netflix and likely ate popcorn paired with a bottle of wine from the previous day. When we were together, there was no tension from the breakup, it honestly felt like it never happened- we picked up where we left off. It was as if the year in between didn’t even happen. Even in Maryland, we would take quick overnight trips to surrounding states- WV, NY, PA which would include similar activities.  

Spoiler Alert: this whole ‘thing’ practically was a full replay of the original relationship just on his turf, this time.

Thanksgiving in Texas

We both really enjoy cooking and ended up with leftovers for weeks! I think it was both of our first time making a Turkey and with our combined effort it turned out pretty perfect. We also had green beans (my favorite), cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. I think we also had homemade bread and mac and cheese? I can’t remember if there was any pie. It was weird having Thanksgiving with him- just the two of us knowing my family was only a couple of hours away. Again, it wasn’t awkward being with him but I think it was awkward not being with family for my favorite holiday. Holidays have all been a bit weird since 2012.

A Little Family History

2012 is the year I graduated college. In college my parents officially divorced and holidays changed; hence why I continued seeing my extended family. Then as my sister and cousins got married and moved and had other people in their life, holidays started to change. For starters, those newly married couples were establishing their own traditions and boundaries around holidays… not to mention I had my own relationship at the time with another person (my ex- fiancé) to factor in.

We all tried to coordinate the alternating year so we could be together but holidays as I knew it would lose their magic. So, 2018 was just as awkward and out of place as those years leading up to it. It’s the reason I planned to be in Texas for the time- I wanted to at least have some familiarity around my favorite holiday. I would be back home for Christmas and the different parties hosted by my individual parents, sisters family, and that same aunt and uncle.

Saying Goodbye for Now

The Friday after Thanksgiving, we went to an AMAZING breakfast diner in San Antonio and had cinnamon bun pancakes before going downtown to explore the Pearl district. I liked Pearl District, it reminded me of Annapolis. We stumbled upon a big craft show while we were wandering down the river. I left San Antonio and my ex with plans to return after the Holiday. He asked me to move-in since I was nomadic at this point, and I otherwise just had a storage unit as my base camp. After a long discussion I agreed to make Texas my new base when I returned from overseas. That is of course after I had Christmas with my family.

cinnamon bun pancakes in San Antonio, Texas

When I had originally reached out to my ex to let him know I was coming through Texas, I was hanging out with a friend of mine in Maryland and he told me he would be in Dallas for Thanksgiving. Thus, I made it a plan to see him on my way up north and to ensure that I wouldn’t stay in San Antonio too long. Well that plan backfired but I did see my friend Chance- one last stop before leaving the state.

Dallas, Texas

Saturday night, I met up with Chance for a BBQ dinner. We caught up on my entire trip since I left Maryland. Chance had been a friend of mine from Annapolis- he was around for the planning days of this trip. While he could see all that I shared on social media it was just different recapping it all in person. And it was the first person I shared my true Vegas experience with. We had a great dinner- I wish I could remember where it was… try searching BBQ joint in the Greater Dallas area. I can picture exactly how it looks and after spending about 3 hours trying to figure it out, I can’t seem to pin point it.

Mirrored wall in Dallas, Texas.

After dinner, I headed to The Indigo Hotel downtown- another IHG hotel where I booked a free night with my points. The hotel was perfectly located in the heart of the city. The city was decorated for Christmas; The park nearby was beautiful. However, it was surprisingly cold. I never thought Texas would get this cold. My trip in 2017 was in the dead of summer IN AUSTIN- I had sun poisoning that trip. Then spending majority of my (2018) time in Houston for late November… it just had very tropical, think Florida, temperature.

Leaving Texas; be back soon.

I would leave Dallas on my way to Oklahoma after breakfast. I REALLY wanted to try out Wild Salsa, on the corner. They were open 6 days of the week and I stopped keeping track of the day. Well it just so happened I showed up on the off day. The restaurant is now temporarily closed for COVID. I continued on and ended up with a very different breakfast than I had built up an appetite for. Instead of authentic Mexican food, I kept walking and ended up at The Crafty Irishman Public House. My brunch was much different than I had envisioned. That morning I had a traditional Irish breakfast. And off to Oklahoma we went- state number 47/50.

Part II will include:
Austin, Marfa and Big Bend, Ft. Wroth and more of San Antonio. Before I come back, I go home… stopping in Oklahoma, Alabama and Tennessee. Then… I fly to Iceland and Germany, back to Maryland for Christmas, and make it back to Texas before New Years.

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