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Published: March 3rd 2006
As I continue the search for Mr. Right the idea that he might be wearing a cowboy hat is quite appealing. And riding a bull, even more appealing. So when I stepped into Dallas airport full of anticipation, I was quickly jolted back to my senses; transport, accommodation and food. Maybe when I grow up I'll plan these things ahead of time, but who really wants to grow up that fast?
I scoured the books, the notice boards, anybody wearing a backpack for a lead towards a hostel in town. It seems that people are still influenced by the tv Dallas mansions from the 80's as there certainly wasn't a hostel to be found. Most people just stared at me and commented how I sounded like a combo of the Queen and Keira Knightly. Others tried to correct me by telling me Americans called places to sleep hotels, not hostels. Isn't it funny how a country the size of the United States, does have hostels, but it seems as though just .5% of the population know what they are. I suppose that goes hand in hand with the fact that approximently 18% of Americans hold an up to date
United States, Texas and Dallas Flags
When I finally stepped foot in my hotel (paying an astronomical $45 per night) I was eager to make full use of the extra frills supplied. I ordered an extra towel through room service and then jumped into the swimming pool for a few laps. I watched every channel on the tv for at least 2 minutes (I was there for over 2 hours) before filling up my toiletry bag with every mini bathroom condiment. I emptied the ice machine in the hallway and then ran down to the 'public office' to send a fax. (to myself in England) It was an exhausting late afternoon that next required a food replenishment so I decided to venture into town. I stepped out onto my balcony to have a quick navigation of the area, and was soon mesmerized by the high speed flow of lights under my nose. As within every American city, Dallas has a maze of highways that loop around and over each other before approaching the wide open spaces and six lanes either way. The city skyline that towered above, reflected the colours of Venus direct into my camera. My first Dallas photo was caught.
I roamed over to the West End and chose the cheapest restaurant that seemed able to serve me right away. Daffy Duck took me to my table and then Minnie Mouse herself took my order. I chose a soup and pasta combo and polished of the bowl of hot chicken liquid to be immediately offered a free refill.
"A refill of water?"
"No no honey, a free soup refill!" squeeked my waitress.
I ended up polishing off 4 bowls of soup (I'm a backpacker - obsessed by full value for money!) before asking my untouched pasta dish to be boxed up for my lunch the next day. Considering the size of the portions in America, I think it'll cover my dinner too. Three meals in one, not too shabby.
I figured the walk back to my hotel was only a few minutes but I was apprehensive about cruising the streets on my own until I had found my cowboy. I only needed a couple of stops along the train line and providing it didn't break my bank, it seemed to be my best route home. My jaw dropped as the $4 amount due flashed in front of
Kari and I
Bundled up in the cold and heading into Austin town!
me. Public transport costs certainly vary from city to city, and as my distance was so short I turned on my heel and toughened my stance for the walk back. The security guard behind me then ran up and filled the machine handing me the ticket. "I know what it's like to try and save money wherever you can, so this one's on me!" Too bad he wasn't a cowboy.
Due to the expense of staying in this city, I decided to jump on a train south to Austin. I had a few hours to kill before boarding so I explored an area of Dallas known to many around the world. The grassy knoll and Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy was shot was teaming with tourists and die hards sniffing around for just a few more clues. I walked up to the Old Schoolbook Depository to see where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot JFK. The museum that now resides there was extremely informative, and moved many people to tears recalling the footage of Jackie's reaction to the shots.
I then ambled over to the train station to start my Amtrak education. I've bought a
pass that allows me transport over 30 days all the way to Vancouver, so it's best to figure out the system early on. When the train is scheduled to arrive at 4pm, expect it at 5 or 6pm, maybe even 8 or 9pm. This time delay can be a hindrance, but I still favour this mode of travel in comparison to the American Greyhound. There is room to sleep, to socialize in the restaurant or the cafe, or to stare out the extra viewing windows. And, it's cheaper than the bus!
The sights that I saw as I chugged nearly 200 miles down the tracks, definitely fulfilled my stereotype of American life in the middle of nowhere. Lone figures stood beside decrepit stations in the middle of the flatlands, whilst other stops meandered through more highway mazes. I always caught sight of the stars and stripes flag flapping in the wind above front doors, just in case I forgot what country I was actually in, which has been known to happen on occasion.
When I arrived in Austin I made my way straight to the hostel. To be honest, the only reason my direction was bound
for Austin in the first place was because I knew there was a hostel there! I joined people lazing on the sofas, strumming their guitars and soon enough joined forces with a couple of others for a night on the town. Austin is known for it's live music venues concentrated on 6th Street. Luckily, none of the places made us feel obliged to dress up a bit as Kari (from the Pacific Northwest too...although Portland isn't quite Vancouver!!) and I flip flopped in front of the stage. We found a piano bar that featured a most impressive young man pounding any keys requested. Of course Billy Joel and Elton John had a few songs on the playlist, but even the Nine Inch Nails were converted to melodic tunes for us to take in. We made our request and then winked as we cruised onto the next bar. Donna from NYC found a guitar strummin joint whose main stage man pulled in a few harmonica notes unlike no other. THIS is what Austin is all about!
In the morning, Donna, Keri and I joined forces with another Brit who has been travelling the world, Shakira (not the South American
booty shakin singer on tour!) We strode into town to find some fresh food and casually tried to make our way to one of Austin's hotspots, Barton Springs Pool. Having not absorbed the details of the map, we walked in a few circles and were then forced to ask for directions. Our angel of Austin then appeared and we got a free lift from a local. Texas certainly has a few extra stars in their state, as I've come face to face with a few 'too good to be true' situations! Television may have sculpted a few sterotypes with Dallas, and King of the Hill, but I'm proud to have found a few that broke the mould.
We walked up to the front gates of the hot springs and were greeted with a big sign to burst our bubble...CLOSED. As I had been wearing my suit for most of the day all ready, we decided to check out a few spots further downriver that might allow us to jump in for a swim. Although there were people paddling around the doggy pools, we weren't up for fetching sticks so we continued the search. The perfect spot then jumped
The 6th Floor Museum
This is where Lee Harvey Oswald 'allegedly' shot JFK from...now a museum
out at us like a neon sign from Vegas. Three turtles had poetically pearched themselves on a branch so we stripped down and dove in. Well, some people applied a little mascara and dove in, whilst others dove in with sunglasses on head in order to loose the ninth pair on my trip. Ooops, yeah, that would be me. My clumsiness returned in full force as I also dropped my shiny new little camera into the water. Buggery buggery bugger; let's pray that the hairdryer routine will be successful! To keep things light hearted Kari continued the entertainment with her gangsta type bathing wear bought at the shop down the road.
We rounded off the day jabbering away like travellers do, or more like girls gossiping in the local coffee shop. Sex in the City should have taken notes on our performances, as dramatic tales from past and present unfolded. Too much excitement over the java juice resulted in a quiet night in at the hostel that night, although we still managed to stay up until 4am. I suppose caffeine really does keep you awake! But really it was conversations with others and free wireless computer time that
The window through which the bullet taking JFK's life. As photos weren't allowed this must have accidently taken through my shirt pocket.
held me back from my bunk bed.
In the morning, Keri and I decided to pound the pavement and see what Austin has to offer other than nightlife. As it's the university town that Mathew McConaughey came from, our hopes were high. We devoured a breakfast at a traditional diner and then set off passing the Governor's Mansion, the State Capitol and a few trendy shops. We then realized that we had actually seen it all. Apparently there are cowboy hangouts on the outskirts of town, but for me time time didn't permit. Although I wanted to stay another day with my new mates in Austin, the train schedule wasn't very accommodating.
I didn't mean to cut my time in Texas so short, but finding the blond blue eyed beauty with a sexy drawl didn't happen right away so I lost faith, for this state anyway! I'm now boarding a train to El Paso Texas and transferring immediately up to Albuquerque New Mexico.
My American adventure continues...
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