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Today was the long drive day — 10+ hours from San Antonio to Roswell, NM.  We stopped along the way — below is a small photo album of what we saw.  If it was tacky-touristy, we stopped the car, took some photos, and Pilot relieved himself.

Tonight, we are taking it easy before tomorrows tour of the Roswell UFO Museum and some sites around here. Then we are off to spend some time in Santa Fe — Brian has a good friend we are seeing for dinner. I have been to SF before, but am looking to see it again — it really is a beautiful place.

Stonehenge II near Kerrville, TX.  A 2/3 replica of the real Stoneghenge in the middle of nowhere, made of concrete and chickenwire.

Stonehenge II near Kerrville, TX. A 2/3 replica of the real Stoneghenge in the middle of nowhere, made of concrete and chickenwire.

A Moab at the Stonehenge II site. The guy also built two Moabs as a tribute to a trip he took to Easter Island. Pretty fun.

A Moab at the Stonehenge II site. The guy also built two Moabs as a tribute to a trip he took to Easter Island. Pretty fun.

A tree made of Deer Antlers in Junction, TX -- which must be a huge hunting town, as every business is a "processor" or sells hunting gear -- and guns.

A tree made of Deer Antlers in Junction, TX -- which must be a huge hunting town, as every business is a "processor" or sells hunting gear -- and guns.

A giant Road Runner in the middle of the street to welcome you to Fort Stockton, TX.  He is nicely dressed for the holidays.

A giant Road Runner in the middle of the street to welcome you to Fort Stockton, TX. He is nicely dressed for the holidays.

The car broke down, so we hitched Pilot up to this period cart.  A little museum in Pecos, TX -- which was closed, so we just shmyed around and did our own thing.

The car broke down, so we hitched Pilot up to this period cart. A little museum in Pecos, TX -- which was closed, so we just shmyed around and did our own thing.

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pepperAfter our day of sloth in the city of Dallas, we eased back into our trip with a short drive to Austin. Our drive was uneventful—but we did continue our foody tour of the United States. Our first find was in West, TX (the name of the town is West)—it’s a small area with a strong Czech heritage. Completely by accident, we found a gas station with the most incredible bakery in it (I LOVE America!  Lol)  after filling the car with gas and filling ourselves with Colachies (Czech buns filled with either sausage and cheese or with apricot  or other fruit filling) we squeezed ourselves back into the Kia and drove to Waco where we stopped at the Dr.Pepper museum. It took approximately 15 minutes for us to see all that we wanted to and try a small cup of the original Dr.Pepper from the olde time soda fountain there. After that, it was off to Austin, with only one stop on the way—for natural beef jerky at a little country store off the highway.

In Austin, Jon’s friends Chris and Carey met us at another gas station with incredible food (are you seeing a theme here folks?). This time it was incredible BBQ—Rudy’s—the setting was really rustic—big picnic tables and butcher paper used as plates, but the food was amazing. After filling the car with gas and filling ourselves with BBQ (my gawd we’re soooooo predictable  LOL) we squeezed ourselves into Chris/Carey’s rental car and got the chauffeur-driven tour of Austin, courtesy of Chris (he’s an Austin native who currently lives in DC, but was in Texas visiting family for the holidays).

alamoWe saw Zilker Park, which is a big community park with a spring-fed pool in the center. The pool was empty for the winter, but we were told that it stays a refreshing 68 degrees year round (brrrrrrrrrrr). We got a great tour of downtown Austin—the beautiful city hall building, UT campus, and 6th Street. Feeling peckish after our grueling hour in the  car touring around, we decided to refuel by going to Amy’s Ice Cream—ohmygawd YUM! It’s a marble slab type of ice cream place, where the funny and offbeat staff joke and laugh as they mix the ice cream and fixin’s (yours truly had Mexican Vanilla mixed with Pumpkin and ginger snaps mixed in if you were curious)…

We managed to drive the 90 miles to San Antonio without filling ourselves with more food/drink. We spent a couple of hours seeing the Alamo—I had been there before, but this was Jon’s first trip—and then over to the Riverwalk. Jon and I both agree that the Alamo is much smaller than imagined, but the grounds are beautiful. The Riverwalk is just an outdoor mall with man-made stream running down the middle.

This evening we decided to have a mellow evening at the hotel. Tomorrow is a full day of travel through western Texas—probably 10 hours of travel, with some really fun and quirky stops planned. Our destination is Roswell, NM. More to come. ..   (I am off to have a Metamucil nightcap before a full night’s sleep).

Brian

Arkansas to Dallas in Brief:
clintonAs soon as we crossed the Mississippi, the skies cleared up and were blue and beautiful.  Maybe we were not meant to be in Memphis, afterall.  Drive.  Flat.  Flat.  Smell of skunk.  Flat.  Then a turn into Little Rock, whose downtown was kinda cute. The William J. Clinton Library and Museum was beautiful and interesting. Makes you reminisce about the “good ol’ post-college days.”  The economy was hot, yet dance clubs were dying. Go figure.  Back on the highway for more driving.  Flat.  Flat.  Then a turn-off for a picnic dinner in Hope, Arkansas in a parking lot next to Clinton’s birth home.  Rest.  Drive.  Flat.  Flat.  Stop in Texarkana because it is there.  Pilot pees on the border of the two states, showing no preference for either side of the town.  Drive.  Flat.  Hit wolf (everyone and the car is OK.  The wolf, not so much.)  Brian cries.  Drive on.  Smell of skunk.  Flat.  Arrive in Dallas.

“24 Hours in Dallas,” or “The Only Thing In Texas that was Really Big was the Plate of Jellyfish”
The myth of everything in Texas being big is somewhat true.  Yes, there is land galore — as far as your eyes can see.  And the cities are so spread out, they are as large as eastern states.  But some parts — especially the ones that are hyped up — are really rather small. Dare I say, tiny?

danBrian, Pilot and I arrived at around 10pm on Christmas eve to the office of my Jr. High School friend, Dan. Dan works at KLIV radio, and was filling in on the holiday as the token Jew.  I would call Dan a DJ or radio personality, but the cold reality of modern radio is that it is all computerized and automated.  Basically, Dan now punches a button every 30 minutes and signs computer-generated log books so the FCC sees that the show and advertising were monitored.  Sad, because he really is a talent and has the ability to liven peoples’ days.  Corporate radio killed the radio star.

After his shift ended, we went back to his apartment in a newly-trendy area of town. The two bedroom unit was on the third floor — the first stairs we had to schlep our bags up all week.  Now, Dan is a great, unselfish and funny guy.  He just needs a little help in the organizing departments. He seems to be obsessed with collecting things: stuffed animals, cell phones, lava lamps.  Anyway, he generously cleared spaces for us to sleep, we chatted for a bit and everyone (three men, two cats and one dog) crashed big time.

decoChristmas morning, we awoke, got ready, and tried to find a place for breakfast.  Dallas must be more religious than I thought, for locating an open diner turned out to be quite a challenge.  Finally, we found an open Denny’s and started the day with Grand Slams all around.  Filled with carbs and fat, the sightseeing commenced!

Dan took us everywhere we asked: Fair Park, the site of the Texas State Fair (very cool art deco buildings surrounding the Cotton Bowl stadium and permanent fair rides), South Fork Ranch, used as the setting for the 1970s smash TV show “Dallas” (and no, I could not stop humming the Dallas theme song over and over), and a tour of the cities’ skyscrapers — some of which are quite impressive.  But the one stop we desperately needed to see was the Dallas Schoolbook Depository and the Grassy Knoll — the site of the JFK assassination.

knollMaybe because it has been hyped up over the years, and maybe because from the grainy Zapruder films, I always thought the expanse of the assassination site was a large area. Guess what — it’s not.  The Grassy Knoll is really just a median strip separating the street from the freeway entrance a few hundred feet down the road.  On the street corners, seedy-looking men hock conspiracy theory papers and photos of the event — including autopsy pics.  Two Xs are spray painted on the street indicating the location of the first and second bullet shot.  Sightseers, history buffs and conspiracy theorists mull up and down the street pointing to the site and the book depository, explaining the horrible series of events, or pondering possible new insights and explanations for the magic bullet.

Around the corner from the site is the JFK Memorial — a shining example of bad 1960s brutalist architecture. The open crypt is an eyesore of white concrete “legos” stuck together to create an “room” which surrounds a low pedestal. The area was covered in leaves, and Dan said that once there were flames which burned inside. Today, it looked like a forgotten landmark — a sad tribute to one of the 20th centuries’ greatest presidents.

longhornWe needed a palette cleanser — and nothing works like longshorns!  In front of the convention center is a wonderful sculpture of about three dozen longhorns being wrangled by three cowboys. The life-size sculptures are strategically placed over the cascading landscape.  Dozens of families were enjoying the beautiful day (high 60s,) and the kid-friendly public art space.  Even Pilot liked the statues — and had a field day marking as many of the cattle as he could.

Before meeting Dan’s partner, Lloyd, and a friend for dinner, we took advantage of some much needed downtime and caught a quick cat nap.  Easy to do when everything is covered in cat.

Lloyd’s house was beautifully decorated for the holidays. His 10′ tree was covered in glass and ceramic ornaments, and the house was peppered with tasteful holiday decorations.  We had a few minutes to chat (mostly about Dan as a young adult), before their friend, Jackie, arrived. Once the decision was made to have dinner, the big question was “where?!”  Evidently, restaurants in Dallas stay closed all Christmas day.  Each of us took out our phones or PDAs and searched until we discovered a single Chinese restaurant was open.  It was getting late, and I didn’t care if the food was slop — we needed to do something and soon.

I am not one to track the dietary likes and habits of my friends. I can barely remember who is a vegetarian, let alone that “he” only eats red meats and “she” won’t eat anything made from rice.  So when we began to order, it was fascinating to see what food phobias came to light.  Brian and I will eat just about anything. In my travels, I have eaten insects, raw meats, plants of every shape and size — the only thing I truly detest are canned peas.  Anyway, when I suggested the Kung Pao Squid, you should have seen the reaction!  I can understand LLoyd’s indifference — I chalk up the fear of fish by midwesterners to be a valid one — where does one get fresh saltwater seafood in the middle of Oklahoma?  But Dan, who grew up an an influential suburb of Washington DC?!  And when Brian and I contemplated ordering the jellyfish appetizer, as soon as Dan coiled in horror, that solidified our decision to get it (by the way — it was slices of pickled jellyfish and was completely devoid of any taste.)

Thankfully, the conversation and company were much better than the food quality.  We finished our relaxing “Jewish Christmas” and headed home. Dan tried to rally us to have a drink at the Eagle (local gay leather bar), but I was much too tired.  So we cleaned up a bit and crashed hard.

This morning, we woke up, showered, packed (thanks again, Dan, for allowing us to do some laundry), and headed out towards Austin.  Today is a trek to meet some DC friends for BBQ in the capital of Texas, then continue on to San Antonio for a quick look at the Alamo and some TexMex food.

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