Road Trip: Dallas, Waco, and Austin, Texas

My wife and I had planned a trip to Florida this spring, our thirtieth something trip to Florida in the forty-nine years we’ve been married.  We were going to go during Spring break and meet up with some old friends (Joyce & Greg) in Navarre Beach, Florida.  I was really looking forward to the trip because our friends live in Louisville, Kentucky and we don’t get to see them that much (but they were on the Cleveland trip with us), and because it was a new place we’d never been to before that look to be pretty interesting, and because it was going to be a much easier drive than the normal trip to St. Pete’s Beach.  We ended up cancelling at the last minute because the coronavirus updates were getting worse (there were no lockdowns yet – those started a week later) and it didn’t seem like it would be a good time to be out of town.

But we did have a road trip during Spring break the year before.  Our road trip to Cleveland had been so much fun I looked at the road atlas to see where else we could drive to.  Taking into account our previous trips to South Dakota and Colorado; Cleveland, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Orange Beach, Alabama, the Southwest seemed to be the direction to go this time.

My wife and the other ladies we travel with are big fans of the TV show Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines.  The show takes place in Waco, Texas where the Gaines rehab houses.  My wife has always wanted to go to Waco and visit the Gaines’ Magnolia Market Place store.  I suggested we go to Austin, Texas as a primary destination with stops in Dallas/Fort Worth, and Waco.  After a few days and several text messages it was agreed we’d go on the trip.  The ladies got on their phones together and coordinated hotel bookings so we would all be staying in the same hotels on the trip.

So here is the plan.  My wife and I are riding with Pat & Bob in their car.  For the first night we will drive to Little Rock, Arkansas and meet up with Joyce & Greg from Louisville.  The next day we will drive to Dallas, Texas and connect with John & Susan who live there and who we’ve all known for more than fifty years.  We’ll spend the night in Dallas, go to Fort Worth and Waco the next day, spend the night in Waco, and then on to Austin.

Here we go.

As mentioned earlier, we spent the first night in Little Rock, Arkansas so we could meet up with Joyce & Greg.  Below is the Junction Railroad Bridge which was converted to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in May 2008.  The bridge is a vertical lift span over the Arkansas river.  Unlike a drawbridge which “breaks” in the center as the two ends raise up to let water traffic pass under, this bridge lifts a span up over the water so traffic can pass under.  You can see that the span closest to the camera has been permanently been left up for river traffic.  This is the span that is open for walking.

At the very front there is a glass enclosed vertical structure with a slanting red roof.  This is an elevator to take you from ground level to the top.  There is also a staircase.  Once we got onto the span I notice a lot of padlocks on the guard rails and chain-link fencing.  This is a thing were lovers write or engrave their first names on the lock, attach it to the bridge and then throw the key in the river.  This is to symbolize their everlasting love.  (Then what the hell is that expensive ring we have to buy for?)  — Pardon the editorial comment.

I had never hear of this before but about a month or so ago I was watching a made for TV movie.  Two lovers in Paris, France (there is a Paris in Texas and Illinois, that’s why I specified France here) were on a bridge over the Seine and they watch a couple do the lock thing.  At the end of the movie there was announcement acknowledging the romantic gesture.  But, it went on to say that the particular bridge in Paris where this all started was losing it’s structural integrity because of the weight of the locks.  They are estimated to weigh over 40 tons.

As mentioned, the photo below shows how one span has been raised to accommodate river traffic.  The top of the lower span is shown in the next photo.

 

 

Arkansas River swirling around one of the bridge pilings.

 

This is the restaurant were we ate diner during our overnight stay in Little Rock.  It was one of those super casual places where you stand in line to give your order and continue to wait in line for them to prepare it and had it to you on a tray.  Then you go out into a big room with large tables and look for a place where all six of you can sit together.  We lucked out and found small table (compared to all the others) next to another with the eaters getting up.  Bingo, we put the tables together and got to eat together.

I do not like fish or seafood.  Never have, never will, this despite being raised Catholic when you still could not eat meat on Friday.  Of course there is an exception to every rule.  I did use to eat my mother-in-law’s homemade fried catfish (minus the head and tail) dredged in milk and cornmeal.  There had to be plenty of ketchup on hand.  If need be I can also (but I prefer not to) eat a fried cod sandwich – again if plenty of ketchup is on hand.

I don’t remember what I ate at this restaurant but I know it wasn’t fish which everyone else at the table ate.  I do remember I really enjoyed whatever I had as did everyone else.  One of those pleasant surprises where you find a really good meal at a hole-in-the wall type of place.

 

We left Little Rock the next morning and headed to Dallas to meet up with our friends John & Susan who live there.  We got there right after lunch and John took us on short tour of downtown Dallas as he drove us to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  He pretty much insisted that we go to the Museum.

I think everyone in the US my age or older knows what Dealey Plaza is and the significance of the 6th floor.  Dealey Plaza is where the building, originally called the Texas School Book Depository building (now the museum), is located and the 6th floor is where Lee Harvey Oswald sat in wait for John F. Kennedy.

I wasn’t super excited about going to the museum.  I’ve seen the photos, the film, the video clips, Walter Cronkite taking off his glasses and announcing JFK’s official time of death.  I watched Lee Harvey Oswald double over as Jack Ruby shot him on live TV.  I watched live coverage of people paying their respects to the president as he laid in rest in the Capitol Rotunda.  With millions of others I watched live as the flag draped casket, on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, passed John Jr. and he saluted – it was his third birthday.  It seems like I’ve seen all these things a thousand times since November 22, 1963 and I didn’t see how another display of the John F. Kennedy assassination and following events would be of interest.

I was wrong.  Yes everything was rehashed for the umpteenth time but it was done so well and there were enough new tidbits and side stories that I stopped and looked at everything and read almost all the information placards.  My favorite part?

I have two favorites.  First, the huge scale model of Dealey Plaza and everything around it created by the FBI for their analysis of what happened.  Remember these are pre-desktop computer times.  They didn’t have 3-D graphics to model the crime scene and run multiple possible scenarios.  It has models of the buildings, the cars in the motorcade along with models of the passengers.  Colored thread coming out a window of the 6th story of the book depository to JFK show paths of the bullets fired.  None are shown coming from the grassy knoll :).

My other favorite was being able to look out the 6th story window just as Lee Harvey Oswald did.  It stirred something in me that I really don’t know how to describe or explain, but of course I’m going to try.  I guess it’s kind of like the feeling when you see a bad car accident, or some other accident, and don’t want to look but you can’t help but look, and you see something that maybe you wish you hadn’t seen, and in the end you are glad you saw it but still wish you hadn’t.  Like I said the feeling is kind of hard for me to explain.  Anyway, I looked … and this is my shot of his shot.

 

After a couple of hours in the museum I went outside to take some shots around the museum building.  And yes I took some shots from the grassy knoll.

What gets me about this photo is I wonder if either one is old enough to remember him.  If not, what makes them stop and stare at the spot like that.  Have they read enough about JFK that they’ve developed a sense of loss.  Or maybe is it just seeing in real life, and with no uncertainty, the spot where a good man was killed for reasons unknown.

 

After finishing in the museum I went outside to see if there was anything to photograph.  On the other side of Dealey Plaza I thought this building with the pointed tower was pretty awesome.  As I took my camera down from my face I noticed something in the sky to the right of these buildings.  When I saw what it was I realized I might be in luck and waited for things to line up for the second shot.

 

 

I like the bright sun and boldness or (to use a word I’ve never used before) gravitas of this building.

 

From a different perspective it seems a little bit more fragile.

 

After our time at the museum we went back to John & Susan’s house for some adult beverages and snacks on the patio while waiting for diner.  We spent hours that afternoon catching up with what was going on in everyone’s life and reminisced about the good times in high school, and when we were all just married and everyone was still living in St. Louis.  After several hours of wine, whisky, and good food with some really good friends it was time for us to head back to the hotel.  But we still had one more adventure in store before we headed on down to Waco the next day.

The next morning we all drove over to Fort Worth and the Stockyards.  In addition to lots of shops and restaurants, everyday they have a cattle drive on one of the main streets.  Below are photos of some of the longhorn steers in the cattle drive.

 

 

You’re right.  This is a horse; not a steer.

 

 

This is an extreme close up of a longhorn steer that was hitched to a fence on the sidewalk in the shade.  People could pay to get up on it and have their picture taken.  Our friend Pat was sitting on him as I took this picture.  I also backed up and got several pictures of Pat.

 

So after lunch in Fort Worth (I had all you can eat BBQ beef ribs) we said our goodbyes to John & Susan and headed for Waco.  I took pictures in Waco, mainly around the Magnolia Farms store and the bakery and restaurant.  They were all photos of friends and my wife so I have nothing to show here of our time in Waco.  We ate lunch at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ restaurant and then headed to San Antonio.

All of the following photos were taken in San Antonio.

Construction work can be grueling.  I didn’t crop out the guy on the left from this picture because I thought he added interest and because it’s my friend Greg.  But I just now took a piece of 8 x 10 paper, folded it in half, and held it up to the screen so that it eliminated everything to the right of center of the small blockade in the foreground with three horizontal striped boards.  That gave me a short vertical white line from the left half of the blockade and the vertical lines of the light pole, the man’s body, and the sign he is holding.  That seems like a much better composition.

 

This red sandstone building is the the Bexar County Courthouse.  I didn’t know what it was so I looked it up when preparing post.

I came from a small town in Illinois that was the county seat and I assumed that was the way government was organized through the US.  That is, starting at the most local level:  town, city, village etc.; then county (parish in Louisiana and boroughs in Alaska – but both basically the same thing as a county); then state; then total US.  So basically it is town, county, state, US.  I was surprised when I moved to the St. Louis area, just a few miles from the St. Louis city limits, to learn that my new county, St. Louis County, does not include St. Louis.

I was even more surprised the other day when looking up the name of this building to learn that Bexar County is one of eight counties in the city of San Antonio.  That has really rocked my lifetime world view that there are multiple municipalities in a county but not multiple counties in a municipality.   

 

This is a great-tailed grackle.  I saw them all over Dealey Plaza in Dallas, they covered the Magnolia Farms grounds in Waco like pigeons in Central Park, and they were very common here in San Antonio.  Given all the brown feathers on this one I’m guessing it’s a female.  Adult males are all black and have a longer tail.

 

This is the Tower Life building, a commercial building in the downtown area.

 

Sign outside the Aztec Theatre building, a historical entertainment and events venue.

 

I’m just not a fan of gold statues; to me they always look kind of gaudy.

 

I forget what they make at this plant.

 

And I forget what this is.  (If you’re a Texan I’m just kidding, really!)

 

A glimpse of the Tower Life building while waiting in line to get into the Alamo.

 

Bus service is so bad here.

 

After the Alamo probably the biggest tourist attraction in San Antonio is The River Walk.   Due to some smart farsightedness and clever design and engineering, The River Walk is a city park with interconnecting walkways and shops and restaurants one story below street level (out in the open) along the banks of the San Antonio River.  In addition to walking along the bank of the river you can also take a very enjoyable boat ride.

I don’t know what he wanted but he was going one way in his boat and we were going the other way in ours so I never found out.

 

This is an iconic shot that everyone who comes here takes and it shows up in a lot of the tourism shots promoting San Antonio and The River Walk.  With all those colorful umbrellas lined up it’s hard not to stop and take a picture.

 

This turned out to be a super fun fun and interesting road trip.

 

Thanks y’all  for stopping by.

David

All photos taken with a Nikon D7100 and a Nikkor 24-85mm zoom lens.   

6 thoughts on “Road Trip: Dallas, Waco, and Austin, Texas

  1. David this was a fun and interesting trip and you did and a great job of taking us alone with you, Thanks. That shot out the window of where the shot came from … yeah, I think I can understand your feelings, nicely done David.

    Liked by 1 person

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