Did I mention that we had a rock chip the windshield yesterday outside of Austin? I prod Mom into action and we had an appointment to get it fixed before we even arrived at Bunny's. The plan was to drop the car off at 7:30 am and go get breakfast.
But the breakfast place Bunny is taking us to is AWOL. Looks like they may be out of business. Time to pull out the binder -- the four-inch thick mass of materials I gathered and organized for months before the trip. It's like a magic eight ball, and when I shake it this morning ... out falls Taco Express .
Hailing itself a "Hippie Church", they have gospel music for brunch on Sundays. And tacos for breakfast. The girls are really skeptical. They keep trying to reroute us to Ihop. There's a theme in this city -- "Keep Austin Weird." This place wins a medal toward that effort. Tucked in amidst Willie Nelson and Che Guevara images are media mentions of this place in every form. From Diners Drive-Ins and Dives ... to Rachel Ray. Southern Living Magazine calls owner, Maria Corbalan, the Texas Taco Queen.
All hail the Queen. I order a migas taco and add chorizo. It's freaking amazing. My lips are tingling deliciously when we head back to the car. Thankfully, we gassed up last night so we can get right back on the road. Sorry, couldn't help myself.
We stop at the business next door -- Taste No Evil Muffins. We pick up a few for tomorrow's breakfast. The really cool thing about this business is it's in a travel trailer. Like the Hey, Cupcake
business mentioned in my previous post, it's a mobile business that doesn't move. Airstreams and campers parked on the sides of the road selling snow cones, crepes, popcorn -- even Thai food. It's a relatively new thing here in Austin, and a story I'm working on for NPR. Stay tuned.
We decide since Bunny can't come with us to San Antonio, we'll hang out a little longer in Austin. I suggest a visit to KUT, the local NPR station. We pass the original Whole Foods on the way, and I discover that Austinites also call it "Whole Paycheck". At KUT, local Morning Edition host, Jennifer Stayton gives us a tour. We finally get a taste of what I was searching for in this city ... MUSIC!
This great little band -- Shotgun Party -- is getting ready to play live on the air. They're practicing their song "Mean Old Way", which is on their first CD, set to be released in just two days. We meet the band, and they are just fabulous. Band member Jenny Parrot follows us downstairs to talk a little more about our trip. Give them a listen ... it's totally worth your time. Here's us with Jenny:
Then we meet Kinky Friedman, Texas gubernatorial hopeful, singer, songwriter and novelist. We introduce ourselves and tell him about the trip. Bunny introduces herself as a registered voter. His handshake to her seems to last a little longer. As he gets on the elevator to go in for an interview, he peeks out the door and says, "Don't mess with Texas!"
We head to the place where Kinky hopes to work soon -- the state capitol. It's the largest state capitol building in the US, and everything is done in BIG Texas style. Every nook and cranny, including the door hinges, is decorated to the hilt. In silent protest, I ignore Dubya's likeness in the row of Governor's paintings. Mom says that's how she feels about President Obama. I bite my tongue.
Outside the capitol we meet Joanna Demopoulos. She's holding up and trying to take a picture of this little paper doll at the same time. I have no idea what this thing is, but I offer to hold it up for her. She introduces me to Flat Stanley. I offer to take Stanley with us to Las Vegas. How many Stanleys get to travel cross country to Sin City with three hot babes? I'm seriously considering an NC-17 version of Stanley's trip, but Mom insists I keep it G-rated. This Stanley belongs to a third-grader at Bethany Christian School in Tempe, Arizona. Seeing this, I feel terrible about my nefarious plans for Stanley. I promise -- he'll be on the straight and narrow.
As we get ready to leave, I go to shake Joanna's hand. She looks at me like I have a screw loose and says, in her wonderfully warm accent oozing Southern hospitality, "This is Texas -- we HUG." It's just about the best damn hug I've ever received from a total stranger. It makes me think of something Bunny said earlier about the larger-than-life nature of Texans. She called it charming, and I totally agree. I think it must be because it's not malicious. The people of this state really do believe Texas is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Make that Texas Toast. Everything is bigger in Texas, and I have to say -- the hugs are definitely better. I like Texas.
Mom has always wanted to travel with a Flat Stanley. She says she wished she'd had one in Greece since it would have been more fun than the guy she went with. There's not a car in sight, so we walk across the road on a green light. Mom's thinks a car will come flying over the hill. I tell her not to worry -- we'll only have a Flat Grandma to add to our collection. She says they can share a seat. Grandma doesn't think we're funny.
It's been just four four hours since we dropped off the car. Hell of a morning, right?
We're on our way to San Antonio and the car is making a bizarre sound. I've accidentally discovered how to turn overdrive on and off. I laugh and point out all the new things Mom's learning about her car on the trip -- from hidden cup holders to reclining back seats. She says my humor is on overkill. I'm laughing so hard at her I keep missing when the lights change. She's getting irritated. I tell her it's not my fault -- the lights in this town change super fast. The lights in Washington DC take so long you could read through Pride and Prejudice at each stop.
I tell her to pull out the magic eight ball and read up on out next stop -- the Alamo. Apparently when I printed the pages, it got cut off on the right side. I tell her to improvise. This is what she reads:
"An event occured in San Antonio nearly 170 years ago that remembered today. The historic event, as most visitors to the already know, was the epic Siege and Battle of the Alamo. Neve those who look for the remains of the battlefield are often disappo mystified by what they find at 300 Alamo Plaza."
Really ... what the hell kind of co-pilot do I have here?
When we arrive, Grandma asks a guard when they moved the Alamo. He looks at her like she's off her rocker. She insists that the last time she visited it was in the boon docks. He says no. She argues. He firmly, if not indignantly, tells her the Alamo was NOT moved. She seems placated by his explanation that there's just been a lot of development, but I have a sneaking suspicion she's still skeptical.
We take a boat ride along the riverwalk. It's a stunning area filled with all kinds of shops and resaurants. After a grueling death march to the car (my excellent sense of direction obviously impaired by my lack of sleep), we pile in and head for a place my friend Maurice suggested for dinner. He's a Texas native and says Mi Tierra has the best Mexican food around. It's all he's promised and more. Our server, John "Gonzo" Gonzales is from Lansing, Michigan, where I grew up and went to college (Michigan State -- Go, Spartans!). Small freaking world. He recommends the chicken and mole enchiladas, and we are not disappointed.
We're getting so slap happy from exhaustion that we totally forget to drive down Missions Trail on our way out of town. I'm a little bummed, but Mom keeps saying, "homie don't play that" in response to just about everything I say. And poor Grammie looks like she might soon join the legions of the undead without sleep. I need to get these girls to a hotel.
So I drive an hour and a half. We stop in Junction, Texas.
It's now 2:00 am. Do you know where your sanity is?