Day Eight: Waltzing Across Texas: Caddo Lake to Austin

Writing this Tuesday evening (I think it’s Tuesday, who knows any more?) coughing and congested, Monday (if indeed yesterday was Monday) already seems like a lifetime ago.

I had a somewhat scratchy throat upon awakening, but assumed a nice cold Diet Coke would cure it, as it does most things. The park we were camping at, Caddo Lake State Park near Uncertain Texas, was full of pine trees, cypress swamp, and Spanish moss everywhere. Ethereal and gorgeous and evocative of my trip through the Everglades and Louisiana bayous in 1993. I had hoped to do a little kayaking, but the boat rental was closed due to high water. The primary hiking trail was also closed as a tree had fallen and knocked out the bridge over a creek (aka: trickle of water I could have easily hopped across).

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So Annie and I puttered around a bit and then I stopped by the Visitor’s Center to clear up a $5 charge that was outstanding on my bill. The woman helping me looked a bit like Ann Richards crossed with, oh, someone a bit more grandmotherly, and a bit less badass. But that’s where I was mistaken. Once she ascertained that I was a woman traveling around (basically) on her own, she informed me that she also recently took up solo adventuring because she decided she wanted to have some exciting escapades in her old age. She continued: “On my first solo trip I went to Oregon and ended up breaking my wrist. My good friend said ‘I guess you won’t be doing anything silly like that again now will you?’ and I replied: ‘You just sit back and watch!'” I am so excited and inspired by all these intrepid women I’m meeting on my trip, and proud to be following in their van tracks.

Finally, there was nothing to do but get on the road.

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Some observations:

the redbuds are blooming all over Texas which makes me smile because my Mom always loved them.

every small town in Texas has its own donut shop. Sometimes two. At least one will be a drive-thru.

small towns in Texas seem on the whole more prosperous than small towns in Tennessee and Kentucky.

the cold is growing worse: full blown sore throat, belly pains, achy muscles, fuzzy head. Since the Diet Coke failed me, it’s on to Plan B:

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Shockingly, even that didn’t help. For whatever reason, my GPS decided to take me the scenic route, which at first seemed fun – seeing all the little small towns rather than just interstate boredom – but the routine got stale fast.

Speed limit: 70mph, 65mph, 60 mph, 45 mph, 40 mph, 35 mph, 40 mph, 45 mph, 50mph, 70 mph . . . lather, rinse, repeat through every. little. town. And there are cops everywhere. Needless to say, the drive is taking longer than expected and I’m getting cranky. With supposedly 40 minutes to go, I need a pee break, and Annie’s BARKBARK indicates she does as well. But I’m tired and just want to be done with the drive and GETTHEREALREADY, so decide to power through. Mistake.  What should be 40 minutes takes easily twice that long as we run smack dab into Austin’s hellscape of rush hour traffic. And we’re on some weird bridge thing that there’s no getting off of. And Annie is BARKBARK and my bladder is bursting and WEARENEVERGETTINGOUTOFTHISVAN!! Finally, FINALLY, we make it to our destination,  Zilker Botanical Garden. I let Annie out first thing, then put her back in the van so that I can use the restroom. Now yes, it’s warm, but I’ve parked in the shade, put the windows 30% down, the van has curtains that make additional shade, she has access to a bowl of water, and the restroom is literally a 1.5 minute hustle away – 5 minutes round trip. But Annie, being Annie, is going to BARKBARK most of those 5 minutes because she too is sick of being in the van. So I take care of business, run back, hop in the back to switch into some shorts, hop out, and go around to let Annie out the driver’s side. At which point some kindly old lady comes up to tell me “they” (I never saw her with anyone else) were worried about my dog. And I get it, but COMEON! She says “you might have been on the other side of the park,” and I want to scream “Lady the only reason I am IN this park is because I spent hours researching things Annie might enjoy doing while we are in Austin! This dog is my reason for being, but I still need five minutes to pee now and again!” But I don’t, although I do get a little grumbly with her.

And finally, FINALLY, we are able to get out of the van and explore the park. And although the cheap new sandals from Target hurt my feet, and my new sunglasses from Nordstrom are two sizes too big (like my underwear) and keep slipping off my face, and even though there are poorly supervised children everywhere, it is still lovely and gorgeous and relaxing. Even when Annie somehow falls in a water display and all I can do is laugh and take pictures. (And yes, that’s a fake dinosaur she was maybe going to investigate when she fell in)

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There was also a really neat arch salvaged from an old mansion, appropriately named . . .

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(Sidebar: it was during this photo shoot that the meddling old woman wandered by, realized how loved Annie is, and got all misty eyed about her own rescue dogs.)

The garden also produced perhaps my new favorite Annie photo:

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After the park, it was time for one of Austin’s coolest traditions: watching the sunset bat flight out from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge! And no, you can’t actually see bats in the second photo. It’s still early in the season so the colony is small, bats in general are small, it’s sunset so the light is poor, and we were on the wrong side of the bridge. Use your imagination. It was still pretty amazing.

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And yes, I DID get the van stuck on a median while trying to exit the parking garage after scraping the roof in one last week in Memphis. And yes, I DID have to go back and forth to Torchy’s twice before I could find a parking space, because everything about driving and parking in Austin is a total clusterflip, especially in Marigold, but damn they were some good tacos.

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And yes this IS where we are staying the next two nights:

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5 thoughts on “Day Eight: Waltzing Across Texas: Caddo Lake to Austin

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