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Trip Report Trip report : TX-LA-FL-DC-NYC-AZ-CA

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We (husband & 9 yr old son) are on an 8 week trip of a lifetime to the US. At various times we'll be joined by our older daughter and her husband and our younger daughter who is currently studying at the University of Austin (providing the stimulus for our trip!).
Fodors has been a great help in planning the trip so I thought I might share my blog posts as we go in case anyone else is planning something similar.

Day 1 Melbourne to Dallas

Time zones confuse the hell out of me. We left Sydney at 4.30 pm on Sunday, November 18th, traveled for 15 hours and landed in Dallas at 4.15 Sunday, November 18th!

I'm not sure where we were for those 15 hours but it sure felt like the Twilight zone and the missing time stamps would certainly support that. To be honest, the flight wasn't as bad as I expected. The food was edible, we had plenty of leg room behind the galley and the baby travelling across the aisle only cried a couple of times through the endless night.

When we arrived in Dallas the biggest difference we noticed was the lengthy queues at immigration where everyone has their fingerprints scanned and photos taken. The upside was that by the time we got through the lines our bags were ready so we grabbed them and jumped on a shuttle to take us to the rental car site about 10 minutes away. Ambitiously , we anticipated getting to our hotel in time for a leisurely stroll around the city.

Unfortunately, the rental we'd arranged for Dallas Fort Worth airport was actually waiting at Dallas Love Field airport. By law apparently you cannot hire a taxi at the rental car compound so it was back in the shuttle to the first airport so we could get a taxi ($53 & 45 mins away) to the second. The driver was very helpful, although having grown up in pre metric times, I'm pretty sure 80 mph is more than a bit over anyone's speed limit.

Eventually the Dollar rental office was found and Geoff bravely took the driver's seat to negotiate our way into the city on the 'other' side of the road. It's pretty scary having the cars coming the opposite way to your automatic reaction but the combination of light Sunday night traffic and our sat nav bought from home got us to he Crowne Plaza in time for a wander downtown. It was eerily quiet for a big city , very reminiscent of Canberra after dark. We ate at a burger joint, absolutely delicious chicken fried chicken burgers with chilli cheese fries and a green bean salad on the side. Yummo!

Now we're holed up in our hotel room drinking Budweiser and watching a replay of the Cowboys game on TV.

Day 1 survived!

Day 2 Dallas to Austin
I was almost too scared to open my eyes this morning in case I was jet lagged but we all seem to have made the adjustment to -17 hours pretty smoothly.

This morning was devoted to a pilgrimage to the corner of Elm and Main St to visit the site where President John F Kennedy was assassinated almost 50 years ago. Even though I was only very young at the time of the shooting, I remember it well. Maybe it struck a chord because the Kennedys were the same age as my parents or perhaps it was because it was one of the first 'world' events relayed around the world on TV, but the images from that day are well known to me. More recently, Geoff and I have both read Stephen King's 11/63, a great story about the Kennedy assassination & Lee Harvey Oswald.

The School Book Depository building was just a short walk from the Crowne Plaza and we were greeted on the corner by a man who introduced himself as Ron Washington. Our friend Alison had told us about this guy who says he was a witness to the shooting as a child and lo and behold there he was, selling copies of the headlines from 1963 and offering guided tours of the site. It was a coincidence too good to pass up and besides, anyone who can continue to make a living out of a single event for 30 years deserves to be rewarded ! We weren't disappointed with Ron's tour even though it came with an elaborate dose of his own conspiracy theory. He even made a point of using our cameras to make sure we were all in the photos. On reflection, I reckon Ron may well have been the stimulus for King's 'yellow card man' in the book.

Being at the site where someone has been killed is always an eerie feeling. We all experienced the same sense of curiosity mixed with reverence and respect for those who were affected that day.

We were on the road to Austin by lunch time, keen to catch up with Sophie. We took the interstate, a giant mass of tangled ribbons of concrete where, unbelievably , the speed limit is 80 miles per hour (128km). I was white knuckled by the time we pulled over at the Hillsboro outlet mall for our first taste of US retail therapy. The Nike store was amazing. Free runs for $40 and clothing at 1/4 the price you would pay in Aus. Needless to say a couple of big bags were added to our luggage.

We reached Austin just on dark and after a near miss when we turned right into the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road !!, we found Sophie and Ben sitting on the porch of her house in Salado St. Starving, we took a trip to the Wholefoods Market, a wonderland of raw and pre cooked delights. It was like a supermarket/ restaurant and I could have stayed there for hours.

Day 3 Austin to San Antonio
Today we took another trip into Texan history by visiting the Alamo in San Antonio. I've never really known much about the Alamo, except of course that Davy Crockett (King of the Wild Frontier) apparently fought and died there, (wearing his coon skin hat no doubt). Like most of my American history, I learnt that from a movie. Having been to the Alamo today, I still don't really understand the battle but I believe it has something to do with revolution and independence and so I liken it a bit to the battle of Eureka at Ballarat.

There were LOTS of people wandering the beautifully restored and manicured grounds of the Alamo and we saw a lot of squirrels. These are our new, favourite animal and squirrel spotting has become quite a holiday competition. The history itself didn't resonate very strongly, probably because we don't understand it and also because it's quite a manufactured history now, too polished and pretty to represent the events that took place there.

For lunch we strolled through the Riverwalk Market area. Actually we shopped our way through the market. Everything is so cheap here, we feel beholden to do our bit for the economy by buying things ;-). The Riverwalk is beautiful, a narrow, winding strip of water surrounded on both banks by high rise apartments and restaurants that go right down to the water's edge. A water taxi runs up and down with guided commentaries. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and I had a pulled pork sandwich . Sandwiches here bear no resemblance to the two bits of flat bread and filling that we have at home. This particular monster was a glazed bun filled with about half a pig. I managed about half of it washed down with a pitcher of iced tea.

I'm loving everything about Texas except for the traffic. It's ridiculous and I'm afeared for my life every time we get in the car. The speed limit on the freeway is 80 miles per hour. 80! And this appears to be the minimum speed because while we're doing that we've been passed by huge, fully laden trucks and helmet less motorbike riders. Most of them are talking on their phone or texting. At intersections there are stop signs. Sometimes just for the cars traveling in one direction but usually for everyone. So everyone stops and then the person who thinks they got there first (or the bravest/most reckless one) moves off. I've seen lots of Highway Patrol cars booking people but I think you have to be going +100mph to get a ticket!

Tonight we went to Sophie's favourite Tex Mex restaurant, Trudy's. We ate corn chips dipped in guacamole and melted yellow cheese. Then we ate a whole range of nacho/ taco/ enchilada things stuffed and covered in more melted,yellow cheese. It's delicious while you're eating it but then you can literally feel it curling around your arteries and squeezing them.
I believe it may have been this cheese that was ultimately the downfall of the Alamo.

Day 4 Austin
I'm pretty sure we're going to 'shop' our way around the US. The exchange rate has made shopping an affordable pleasure for us and the novelty of different brands and drastically reduced prices on our 'own' brands is irresistible.

Today it was back to Whole Foods to prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Thanksgiving Eve is like the Thursday before Easter in Australia. Everyone thinks they need to shop for a possible holocaust. Whole Foods was packed but that didn't detract from the pleasure of the 1000 varieties of everything in every aisle. We bought a ready cooked smoked turkey ( I admired Sophie's optimism in thinking she could whip one up for 14 people but I'm old enough to know better), pumpkin pie (yes, it's a desert), asparagus, green beans, brussell sprouts (Geoff did remind me that we don't like them but they looked so festive), stuffing, a fruit platter and a couple of one litre bottles of wine (yes, even wine bottles are bigger in Texas!). We also bought some hamburgers & buffalo sausages for dinner tonight. Funnily enough, although eating out is ridiculously cheap here, the meat was very expensive.

Then we took a trip to Barton Springs Mall. It's just a wee shopping centre about the size of Chadstone. I spent a lot of money on clothes for Taine that probably won't fit him when we get to our Winter but at least he'll be warm when we hit colder weather further north.

Back in town we visited the Longhorn Co Op. The Longhorns are the University of Texas football team and their merchandise shop fills three floors! You can buy every conceivable thing in orange. I'll be set for the game tomorrow night and Harmony Day forever!

Our last stop for the day was to add a few more calories in the form of frozen yoghurt covered in an assortment of confectionary. We have something similar in Australia where you get to choose from a dozen or so toppings. This place had hundreds.

Including chocolate covered potato chips.........

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