Well, almost a year after writing my last post about our epic Summer of ’16 Road Trip, I’m finally going to finish the tale. Needless to say, once we returned home, there was a lot of real life to take care of: a job to take, an El Nino winter to endure, a marriage to uphold, a retaining wall to fall, a job to quit, and boys to raise.
However, in the spirit of “better late than never,” I’ll return to our road trip story, as so many of you are setting out on your own summer adventures. Hopefully, the continuation of our journey will resonate with you in some way – be it introducing you to a new place on the map or something fun we did along the way. Who knows? Maybe it will even inspire you to hit the road yourself.
I’ll keep blogging, too, in real time, so I’ll keep going with the “Road Trip ’16” title situation to help us all keep the past and the present straight.
So, without further ado, here we go back in time to the Summer of 2016….. (cue Wayne’s World flashback music….)
We return to our story in Carlsbad, New Mexico. After a glorious day inside one of the largest caverns in the world, we set off for Austin, Texas. Harry and I had set Austin as the sort of half way point on our journey. After lots of touristy fun and a super busy schedule, we were so looking forward to three nights with dear friends in their beautiful home on Lake Austin. For the first time on the trip, we would have no real agenda, other than to catch up with old friends and to relax.
After a little Obi walk and yet another complimentary hotel breakfast, we hit the road. I’ve been to Texas a few times, but never to the western part of the state. I was struck by how green and lush it was, even in the early summer. After so many days of dry, brown and dusty heat dome views, it was a joy to see a greener, crisper version of the now familiar desert. And then, far ahead of us, we saw something rising up on the horizon: mesas. I had never seen a mesa before, and I was completely blown away. The graceful way they rose up from the otherwise completely flat landscape, their stair-step sides and rock topped pinnacles – and then to learn they were formed by my favorite, all-time geographical marvel, the shifting of tectonic plates? It was absolutely love at first sight. We all wondered at the incredibly variety of shapes and sizes, and Harry and I giggled at one of the mesas that loomed before us as a giant green breast, with a hard, stone nipple reaching for the sky. I rapidly googled everything I could about the mesas, and we all learned so much, while zooming along at a brisk Texas Interstate pace.
We stopped to eat lunch in Ozona, Texas, walked the pup, and then merged back on to I-10. A few minutes on the freeway and Harry asked the boys, “What is Obi up to? Is he jumping up and down or something?” The boys peeked back. “No, Dad, he’s just lying down.” “Hmmm.” We kept going. Then, just as Harry was about to pass a semi – he slowed down, and merged behind the truck. “There’s something wrong with the car. I think we might have a flat.”
I immediately began to panic. A flat? We were going like, 1000 miles an hour, and everyone on this stretch of freeway was going even faster. There’s no shoulder to speak of and it’s 93 degrees outside. Once again, I was struck by how this car - its sheet metal and glass - was keeping us all alive, and how, if it were to stop, we would be helpless and incredibly vulnerable. And after our scare with Obi in the heart of the heat dome, I was under no illusion of invincibility – I was painfully aware of how truly fragile we were.
Harry carefully pulled the car over, and managed to get out and inspect the car without getting run over. Now, let me get super specific on the situation. On this stretch of I-10, the speed limit was 80 MPH, and in this part of the state, even the folks in the slow lane – quite literally inches from the left side of our stopped car – were going at least 90 MPH or more. I was absolutely terrified.
The tire was indeed flat, but fortunately it was the back right tire, so at least there would be some protection for the nice AAA man that would come to our aid. I dutifully called the number on our card, and once I gave them the location, I was assured someone would be there in 30 minutes. Phew.
Harry wanted to show the boys a little bit about changing a flat, so he had them come safely out to watch him jack up the car, remove the lug nuts and remove the flat. His thinking was he could get a head start, and then when AAA arrived, it wouldn’t take nearly as long. After some kerfuffle getting the dog in the front seat, unpacking the entire back of the car to get to the spare, it was mission accomplished.
Suddenly, my phone rang. The 30 minute window was now going to be another 90 minutes. I teared up. Harry said, “We’re not going to wait. Call them back. I’ll do it myself.”
He went back there and with a little more help from the boys, got the spare on the car lickety split. We put the damaged tire back where the spare lived, repacked the car, put Obi back in his crate and loaded it back in. Unfortunately, there was no gingerly re-entering the stream of traffic – so, with all fingers and toes crossed, when there was an opening, Harry gunned the car and we were back on the road. We called our friends and let them know we were still coming, but woefully behind and BTW, where’s the best place to get a new spare?
After a fretful, but gratefully uneventful, few hours, we reached the outskirts of Austin, and headed to the Ski Shores Café right on Lake Austin. I cried with relief as we pulled in. The sun was setting over the water, the grass was green the air was cool (well, after the heat dome, 88 degrees was cool to us!) and there was a huge “Dogs Welcome” sign. Obi and I both sprang to life the minute our feet hit the lawn. Our friends had a table right by the water, with cold beers for the grown-ups, and ice-cold water for the boys. We chowed down on burgers and fries and onion rings and shared our journey thus far with the first friends we had seen since leaving our house, some 1,800 miles ago.
After dinner, we drove to their house, and it was an even more beautiful than I had imagined. The property was perfectly situated on a point in the lake, with a little inlet that let to their boathouse. There was a huge swath of lawn along the curving lake wall, and ample shade provided by gorgeous, old-growth oaks. Set up for company, there were two guest rooms, each with its own bath. After the string of economy hotels and motels that had been our shelter over the last few days, it felt like heaven.
As we started to unpack, Roman said, “Is it okay if we change it up a bit? Mom, you always sleep with Dad, and I always sleep with Ford. Can I sleep with you, and Ford sleep with Dad? And then tomorrow night, can we switch again?”
Yes, my love. A thousand times, yes.
We all slept like logs that night. Happy, happy logs.
Where We Ate:
Lake Austin: Ski Shores Cafe