The United States are known as the country of freedom and no other state is representing this feeling better than Texas. You will get your freedom there at the same time with a huge steak, cowboy boots and empty roads.
My trip to Texas had already been a while ago, to be exact: in 2012. My travel buds and me were like let's go the whole hog and so we went there in July. Yes, Texas in July. As an European. I know, it's utterly crazy and I've never experienced any place around the world, hotter than this state. Well, Havana got close but didn't beat the 113°F / 45°C we had in Texas, but other than that, it was a really great time there.
Why Texas? Because it's the embodiment of a typical western movie. The cowboys, the cattle drives, the farms, the empty and wide roads but there is so much more. Natural reserves, the culture of the state that is shaped by its neighbor Mexico and the mixture of modern world and fine traditions.
We started our road trip in Dallas, after an almost twelve hour flight from Schiphol in Amsterdam and picked up our rental car there. We had booked a small SUV. If you're in Texas, you have to do it the Texan way.
Well, there's the saying that 'Everything's bigger in Texas' and when they talk about a small SUV, they're talking about a Dodge Nitro and yes, we weren't the biggest car on the highway but damn, that car was huge.
First problem, getting out of the airport and onto the route to Fort Worth. We had to pay toll and everyone, who's seen an American-made movie knows those little booths, you have to pass by, pay your toll and afterwards, you're able to hit the road. Well, there weren't just three or four booths, where you could get in line – there were about ten. Us, on the right side. The road we had to take, after paying our toll, on the left side. In front of us, a huge construction are. Well, as I'm sitting here, typing this article right now, is prove, I'm still alive but for a few tiny seconds I was thinkig that we were going to die while changing the lanes. Heavy breathing, but we made it - props to our driver Jenn.
Once you're out of the airport, driving in the United States isn't too bad. There is no obligation to drive on the right side of the road like in Germany, it's rather unusual to pass all the time. You choose your lane and then you stay on it, everyone's driving on cruise control anyway.
The first big adventure was for free and called Walmart in Fort Worth. As an European, you're just stunned. I've been to New York before but never visited a real supermarket there and it was kind of like a funfair visit. You don't get to see the baby clothes next to the weapon department in a German supermarket, neither are 4 lbs / 2 kg steaks, packaged in the shape of a heart, sold. And the cereal section, all colors, shapes and tastes you could ever dream of. Everyone's becoming a child again, when seeing something like this.
If you're visiting Fort Worth, there is something else you should see. I'm pretty sure it's known as a tourist attraction, but – once again - I hadn't heard about it, before we went to Texas and only got there, because a friend of mine did an internship at Fort Worth and asked, if we would like to meet up there. The Fort Worth Stockyards.
It's a historic district that offers everything, the cowboy heart wants to see. Burgers (actually, Texas is THE burger-state), famous long horn cattle, country music and the stockyard championship rodeo, every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm. Locals are entering in several competitions like bull riding, bare back riding, barrel racing and tie-down roping. Entrance fee is 17,50 Dollars / 15 Euros as an adult. I really enjoyed the show. Good vibes, lots to see and I promise you, you want to become a cowboy / cowgirl afterwards.
Next point on our list was Hamilton Pool, a historic swimming hole, near Austin. A natural reserve, located in the Travis County Parks. We were looking forward to the pool since it had been the hottest day of our trip - 115°F / 46°C. The thing is, with rental cars in the United States, they are always equipped with an AC. A really good AC. There are only three states. Cold, colder and Antarctica and as you're driving you even start freezing. We tried driving without an AC and keep the windows down, but that didn't work out either. So, when you get out of the car, it's so hot, like you're running into a wall.
We arrived at Hamilton Pool, hiked through the nature, looking forward to our refreshing jump into the natural swimming hole but we didn't consider one important thing. The more hot it gets, the higher the bacteria level in the water becomes and exactly that had been the case.
We arrived at the pool, a warning label told us that couldn't enter the water. A few tears were shed, not to many since we couldn't risk dehydration, a 'God, why are you doing this?' could be heard but then, we finally enjoyed the sight.
Despite the fact that the water had a really nasty greenish color it was pretty beautiful. High scarp, the edge jutting out above the water, the tiny remains of a 50 foot / 15 meter waterfall. There weren't too many people and we could enjoy some shade and cool down, without getting into the water.
After that, we headed to San Antonio, famous for the Alamo and the river walk. The Alamo is a remnant of the Texan independence war, a mission that is still open for visits and tells you everything about the history of the war. What I liked most about San Antonio was the river walk, you can stroll along the water, sit down and enjoy good food and a cocktail and watch the people pass by, the Mexican market El Mercado at the market square with the never-closing Mexican bakery MiTierra, displaying a weird decoration of skeletons and christmas stuff, and the Tower of the Americas, where you get the best view on the sunset. Usually, you pay 12 Dollars / 10 Euros to get to the observation deck, but we were lucky. Some random guy just showed up, gave us his vouchers and told us to have a great time. There are still good people out there.
If you're into ghost stories, you should visited the Menger Hotel (still open for bookings). Its said to be the most haunted hotel in Texas with about thirty-eight ghost walking abroad inside of it. I've just seen it from the outside and it looks quite nice but who knows whats happening behind those walls ;)
Last stop of our tour was Houston. Since Hurricane season had just started, the air was unbelievably humid and we gladly enjoyed our first afternoon there at one of the huge malls – the Galleria. You could really get lost inside of there, it even had an ice-rink.
Of course, we've visited the NASA. If you're in Houston, you cannot leave that one out. Our tour had been interrupted by the guides hurrying us back to our shuttle, so we could drive back to the main building since the local weather station had issued a lightning alert. The clouds had already been piling up on the horizon and we didn't even get to our golf carts. It wasn't just raining, it felt like somebody tipped a huge bucket of warm water out on or heads. Within seconds, we were ankle-deep in the water, rushing to the shuttle while lightning struck around us. Back in the main building, we froze our ass off since our clothes were all soaked and the AC inside of the building cooled the air down to at least 64°F / 18°C. Well, American people seem to enjoy a sudden drop in temperature.
Altogether, it was quite a fun trip and I'll definitely be visiting Texas once again but be aware, if you're vegetarian, it'll be kinda hard for you to find something to eat there. All you vegans, better not come and visit ;)
Until then, happy traveling and don't mess with Texas.