Terrain Change – Austin, TX and Lafayette, LA

We have departed from the desert lands of the southwest and are now officially in the “South.” It’s  funny how you get a picture of what a place will look like in your mind, and then you go through that place and God and nature show you otherwise. I thought all of Texas would be dry and dusty with horse ranches everywhere and nothing (or not much) green. I was so wrong! We hit Junction, Texas, and the hills were alive! The desert faded into tall trees with different colors of leaves, and streams and rivers. In fact in one town (don’t remember what it was called) we drove over the Colorado River at least four times. It’s been a fascinating landscape. We headed out from El Paso to Austin, Texas, the state capitol. We drove through adorable small towns with so much history. I forgot LBJ, our thirty-sixth president, was a Texas native. (No wonder I failed Political Science in college.) His wife, LadyBird (whose real name was Claudia, I think, but legend has it her nanny said she was “purty as a ladybird” and the name stuck), was quite a Texan as well. She was well-educated for her time, and a successful business woman. Quite a few places and streets were named for her in Austin, including the lake that runs parallel to downtown.

 

Austin is also home to the flagship store for Whole Foods.

My ever-clever friend, Anne, tells her dad that Costco is like his Disneyland, as he loves it there and probably would tell you it’s his “happiest place on earth.” If I had a Disneyland like this, it would be Whole Foods. I am known to spend hours wandering the aisles looking at the natural products, tasting and testing whatever is available, always stopping at the gelato bar for a sample… or two. So to visit the mother of all Whole Foods was the first thing I wanted to do in Austin. Zeph and I got in the car our first morning in town and headed downtown from our RV Park (Lonestar RV Resort, which was pretty crowded with full-timers but felt safe and had lots of nice trees) to my goal. I got a little lost on the way (thank goodness for Google Maps, or I would have been really lost) which allowed me to see parts of downtown I didn’t know about, and we arrived safely to Whole Foods after a fifteen minute or so detour on Congress Avenue… did you know that Texas’s state capitol is supposedly larger than the one in Washington, DC? Anyways, Whole Foods was cool, but probably the same size or a little smaller than my beloved Whole Foods in Tustin, so while it was great to be there and get some of my favorite stuff that we had run out of that normal grocery stores don’t have (Taste Nirvana Coconut Water!), I wasn’t blown away by the store. AND it must have been lunchtime when we were there because all the food at the salad bar that I wanted was… GONE! As in, run out. As in, empty. As in… unheard of!

Upon a recommendation from a buddy, we ventured with Chris to Zilker Park, just outside of downtown Austin, one afternoon. This place was super cool! It is a huge park, plenty of grass on either side of the street, with a hot spring that looks like a huge pool, a really great playground, hills to hang out on and watch the people in the hot spring, even a lizard sanctuary and a TRAIN. That’s right, our boy Zephyr got to go on yet another train ride. This one was more his size than the Grand Canyon Railway.

 

We said good-bye to Austin after a couple days and made our way east again. We stayed one night at Sea Rim State Park, just outside of Port Arthur, Texas, which is pretty much as far east as you can go in Texas on our route. The park was on a peninsula, just past some huge oil refineries, all by itself in what felt like the middle of nowhere. We got there just as the sun was setting (as seems to be our M.O. on travel days) so we couldn’t see much of what surrounded us. It was a little scary for me, and I kept picturing scenes from the movie “Deliverance,” although I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen it. After a fairly sleepless, but extremely quiet night, we woke up to a beautiful landscape right on the Gulf of Mexico’s shores. It felt a little like home, staring out at the ocean that seemed endless. The Texas State Park policeman paid us a friendly visit, telling us the park was pretty much destroyed by Hurricane Ike four years ago. There used to be a two-story building that was his headquarters right in front of where we camped, that there was no longer evidence of. There used to be twenty foot high sand dunes everywhere, also gone. It was lovely and desolate. It was also pretty cold and windy so we didn’t stay too long that morning and decided to make our way to Louisiana.

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So now we are posted up in the lively and scenic state of Louisiana. The people here have serious accents. The lady at the front desk of the park we are at told Chris her name was “Kee-om” which took him a minute and a couple times of her repeating it to figure out she said “Kim.” Everyone here is very friendly, and wherever we go we feel welcomed. Southern hospitality at its finest! They do things a little different around here. Even my favorite candy is packaged and marketed differently here than at home. How can I love Whole Foods so much and processed candy so much too? I am a girl of paradoxes. That’s what keeps life interesting… 🙂

When in the South… we have discovered the local cuisine consists of things called “Boudin” (pronounced Boo-Din) and “Cracklins.” Got a recommendation to head to the small meat shop within walking distance of our campground to get “the best” boudin and cracklins around. Last night for dinner we had cracklins (fried pork fat and skin, kinda like pork rinds… no thanks) and boiled boudin (basically pork and rice stuffed in a sausage casing, which was pretty tasty) and even boudin balls (boudin and cheese rolled into a ball and fried like chicken). Zephyr went crazy for the boudin balls, which was kinda shocking seeing as he’s still stuck on baby food for the most part. But who can blame him? They were delicious! Like spicy fried chicken. Hard to put down.

We are so enjoying our time at our current spot. There’s plenty of room for Z to “wun, wun”  (run, run) as he requests to do every morning as soon as he’s out of bed . I feel it would be wrong not to mention that the news of yesterday’s horrific massacre in Connecticut has affected us deeply as a family. As parents, we are moved to briefly place ourselves in the heart and mindset of those parents of Sandy Hook Elementary students, imagining just for a moment their loss and confusion and sorrow. We are blessed to have our little family whole and healthy and grateful to God for his protection. And I personally am devastated by the school shooting. I mean, it’s not going to get me down, as I can not waste the blessings I’ve been bestowed of my healthy and happy little boy and wonderful and tender husband, but it’s just so hard to comprehend the events in a young man’s life that would lead him to do what he did. I can only see it as evil overcome in his life. I don’t want to discuss gun control as I don’t think it makes much difference whether or not we are allowed to own guns. People will find a way, and if this young man didn’t have guns I’m sure he would have come up with some other disturbing ways to do what he did. I think the issue is more how he got to a place mentally where his actions sounded like a good idea to him, and how can we as a society recognize signs of these overcome people to stop them from acting upon their depraved thoughts? I have no answers. I only have a heavy heart and a responsibility to live and love as well as I can to try to out-do the evil in our world. But enough sadness. This day is my day to make of it what I will, and I know God is with those in mourning. So many unanswered questions. So much compassion in the aftermath. So much love to be shared and I will continue to pursue how to show and share this love as we go forward. Hug your loved ones, friends, like it’s the last hug you’ll ever give them. You never know when it will be.

  • meg

    What a lovely post, Erin. Love reading aboutyour adventures. Safe travels

  • Allie

    I agree with you Erin about all of your post and Connecticut. Amen sister! We love you guys and miss you like crazy and I’m loving reading all about your travels!

  • Ron

    When are we going to read about pensacola

    • zephyrsunrise

      Not until I update about three other cities! NEED. BABYSITTER. 🙂