Don't Mess with Texas

Last week was Gwen's Spring Break, so out we headed! Texas has always intimidated me, so it was a big (huge, monstrous!) hole in our map. Well earlier this year I sat down and plotted out what a road trip through Texas could actually look like and behold, it wasn't so crazy after all!

The longest day was 7.5 hrs, which if you know us, wasn't all that bad!

We headed out to Amarillo first. We stayed in an AirB&B this time around. Which made things so easy and relaxed when we arrived. We dropped off our stuff, then headed to a park for Gwen to blow off some energy.

Then, we had to get some steak. And as a tourist in Amarillo, that means Big Texan! Gwen loved it, and the food was damn good, so I was happy too. 

When we got back we discovered that our side table light was perfect for shadow puppets, so that's how we ended our first night!

Amarillo was really just a stop over this first time around, so the next day it was on to Austin, where we stayed in another cute little AirB&B for two nights. We loved Austin, it has such a chill vibe. After settling in we headed out for some dinner and to try to catch the bats! We did get to see some emerge, though it wasn't a huge group, a little to cold for them still.

The next day we had our full day to explore. We went to Cenote (a cafe recommended by a friend), before heading to the Austin Nature and Science Center, which we loved!

There were rescued animals, trails to explore, and interactive exhibits. 


We headed to a diner for some lunch (24 hour), then on to Zilker Park to climb rocks, do some yoga, pet some dogs, and get some sun.

The Botanic Gardens was our last big stop of the day, and helped push us over 13k steps! We loved the whole thing, but found the Japanese Garden and the Prehistoric Garden to be the prettiest.

We were hungry, so I asked Gwen if she could have anything, what would she eat? She chose pizza, so we headed into Austin and hit up Home Slice for some really yummy pizza, and grabbed some ice cream just down the street. Then it was back to our room to get some sleep.

After Austin it was a super quick and easy trip to my girlfriend's house in Houston. So quick and easy that we were able to make a little detour to the town of Gruene to see their cute General Store, and to see some bluebonnets!

I have a bunch of friends that live in or near Houston, but we stayed with my friend Nicole this time. It was a blast, and such a good choice as Gwen hit it off with her son Ryker. 

They have lots of interests in common and are only a few months apart in age, so it was a perfect match. Nicole took us to a local brewery, and we got ice cream...

(Nicole's daughter is younger, but they also got along well.)  I actually got in a run this afternoon as well, while the kids played and Nicole handle a quick business call.

 After a sleepover, we tried more of the food that Houston had to offer.

We were all sad to go, but that afternoon (we're now up to Wednesday), it was time to make the trip to the Dallas-Ft.Worth area. That night we just settled in and made some dinner... mine was a reminder of Houston... bread from a Mexican bakery with blue cheese from a cheese shop Nicole took us too.

The next morning we headed to the Dallas Arboretum, and specifically the Children's Garden, where we easily passed the whole morning.

So many wonderful, interactive exhibits to teach kids about gardening, health, energy, the environment (etc!). 

We only spent a time bit of time in the rest of the Arboretum, but already decided we would go back there again sometime and bring a picnic lunch with us.

After that we headed downtown to get some lunch and look around. We ate at the Mudhen, where I had the best salad I'd eaten in ages, and Gwen had a burger patty that she declared the best she'd ever eaten!

We also had some really amazing macarons we'd picked up at the Dallas Farmer's Market, right next door. 

We explored the Farmer's Market a little more, and picked up some really great shaved ice before driving through center city Dallas, and then making our way over to Ft. Worth. 

We headed straight to the Water Gardens in Ft.W, looking at all the pretty fountains, and scrambling up and down the cook "rock" structures.

If I worked in Ft. Worth, I would eat lunch there all the time. It was such a cool place.

We got a recommendation there for Little Red Wasp, which gave us a tasty dinner... then we headed over to Steel City Pops for some fancy popsicles.

It was a quick trip back to our AirB&B, then the next morning we headed to our last stop, back up in Amarillo, and some camping in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It was a little crazy taking a road trip and only camping once (very unusual for us), but being as we were mostly in cities, its just how it worked out! And boy was our camping night one to remember!!

It started off with getting the tent set up, and a little bit of nearby exploring (they were calling for storms, so we wanted to stay close to our site). 

Then we ate a quick dinner and put on our warm PJs. We settled into the tent for some reading and games. 

 That's when things started to get exciting...

A tornado watch, then warning, then the cops came through the campgrounds sending everyone into the bathrooms to bunker down. Thankfully the canyon was one of the safer places to be, and the warning expired. We hoped back in the car and headed back to the tent... but by that point we had... hail!!

Marble sized and quite noisy. We waited it out in the car until it slowed, then ran for the tent, where we got to listen to the biggest thunderstorm I think I've ever experienced! The lightning was blinding, and at one point occurring every 5-10 seconds, with incredibly loud, almost continuous thunder.

We survived, dry and warm, and our tent survived as well. The next day dawned chilly, but beautiful, with raindrops clinging to the trees.

We packed up and headed out, enjoying one last view of the canyon from the top.

Finally, it was back home to Trav and Daisy! It was so nice to see them!

I'm so happy with this whole trip. It was our work out the cobwebs trip, and there were definitely things I forgot (our camping cook gear for example 🙈... and pillows)! But nothing was insurmountable, and we not only had a great trip but we were able to brainstorm together on ways to make our next trips even more fun, healthier experiences. Thank you Texas! We will be back.