After of a full year of COVID life, we have decided to embrace the concept of road tripping. Our most recent road trip adventure during our spring break took us to Oklahoma with stops in Waco, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Boise City, Oklahoma; and Amarillo, Texas. It was amazing to be on the road, and we had a great time at our stops.
When we arrived in Waco, Texas, we took a nice evening walk along the Brazos river on Waco’s riverfront. Right near the Waco Suspension Bridge, we visited the Veteran’s Memorial. We also got our first nitrogen ice cream at Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream. They also had keto (low-carb) options.
The next day, we stumbled on a wonderful farmers market on our way to the Magnolia Silos, where we could enjoy some delicious locally grown foods. We also got coffees at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits. The Magnolia Silos was far more of an extensive area than I expected. There are many shops, areas for family fun, and places to eat, including lots of food trucks. One can definitely spend multiple hours there. However, expecting to get into the bakery is wishful thinking. The line was ridiculous.
If you are interested in a bit of true crime history or have seen the most recent “Waco” miniseries, there is a memorial just 20 minutes outside of Waco, where the former Davidian compound was located.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
We had just about one full day in Oklahoma City, and we made the most out of it. We stayed in the part of Oklahoma City that is called Bricktown, which was easy walking distance to everything that we wanted to see. We started the morning by visiting the Myriad Botanical Gardens and the Crystal Bridge Observatory. Then we visited the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which had a very impressive glass art display by Dale Chihuly. As we love to support independent bookstores, we stopped at Commonplace Books before spending a couple house at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. This museum was amazing, and we probably would have spent more than two hours if we hadn’t already had such a full day. It was an emotional museum for sure but 100% worth a visit. To end our day in Oklahoma City, we visited the riverwalk and did a wine tasting at Put a Cork In It. It was a very relaxing way to end a great day in Oklahoma City.
Boise City, Oklahoma
We enjoyed a nice drive across Oklahoma to Oklahoma’s panhandle, where we would visit our next destination – Boise City. After reading Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time and watching Ken Burn’s The Dust Bowl documentary, we wanted to learn more about that time and found that the Cimarron Heritage Center provided a great exhibition related to the dust bowl in Boise City. Before heading to the center, we stopped at the local Bluebonnet Cafe for lunch, where it appeared that the entire town of Boise City, not a large town, was present. It was such a unique experience, realizing that we were in a location where points of discussion that we normally experienced in the city were not relevant here. The people didn’t talk about the current COVID pandemic or politics or world events, they discussed their cattle, farming equipment and what parts of their fields were currently being plowed. These are all hardworking people, who are dedicated to their families and their land. Unfortunately, our trip to the Cimarron Heritage Center was not a success right away. The individual who was running the center that day had to close the center early to attend a funeral. That is what happens in small towns, and luckily we were able to be flexible and come back to visit the center the next day. We are so glad we did. This was far more extensive of a museum than expected. It included much more than the dust bowl, but all topics of history in the area like the Santa Fe Trail, World War I and II, dinosaur and mammoth excavations, and much much more. By far this is the most unique museum and well worth the trip.
Amarillo, Texas was just supposed to be a pitstop for some rest before traveling home, but due to the delay in visiting the Cimarron Heritage Center, we managed to spend a little more time in Amarillo. At least we had enough time to visit Cadillac Ranch (one of the strangest sites we have ever seen) and a local independent bookstore called Burrowing Owl Books, which was conveniently located next to a delicious cookie shop that even had Keto cookies on the menu.That concludes our 2021 Oklahoma Road Trip adventure. Until next time…
Title: Jane of Austin Author: Hillary Manton Lodge Genre: Romance Publisher: Waterbrook Press Publication Date: June 13, 2017 Pages: 312 Format Read: Book Standalone or series: Standalone Where I got the book: Friend Date finished reading: April 6, 2020
Goodreads Description:Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.
While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.
In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.
My Review: I am a sucker for all things Austen, including retellings. Jane of Austin was no exception. I will admit that Sense and Sensibility is not my favorite Jane Austen, but I always loved the sisterly bond of the Dashwood sisters. That bond is prominently displayed in the relationship between the Woodward sisters in Jane of Austin. Their tale of love and loss is assisted with a great cast of interesting supporting characters, including a three-legged dog named Dash.
The Woodward sisters are founders of a tea business called Valencia Street Tea. When their landlords in San Francisco force them out of their location, the sisters decide to pack up and move themselves and their business to Austin. I am a proud coffee lover, but I really appreciated the care Jane Woodward gave in preparing her teas, and I loved all the recipes that were provided throughout the book, many of which included a special tea ingredient. These recipes included cakes, scones, kolaches, etc. This book definitely made me hungry for all baked goods.
Let me face the ultimate reason that I enjoyed Jane of Austin, because I am 100% biased. This is more than an ode to one of Austen’s classic stories, this is an ode to Austin, Texas, one of my favorite cities. As I now live in Texas, I got many of the Texas references. Before moving here, I had never tried a kolache or had brisket. I also just made my first Texas sheet cake a couple months ago. All these Texas dishes were mentioned in the book. I loved the shoutouts to Torchy’s Tacos and Amy’s Ice Cream too.
This sweat and enjoyable novel was exactly what I was needing in my life right now. Maybe I will now have to try some of those amazing recipes in the book, especially the Raspberry Cream Cheese Kolache!
I decided that this would be the year that I attend my first book festival, and the Texas Book Festival in Austin did not disappoint. There were so many different authors from so many different genres and activities for all ages. When you want to attend all the sessions, it is hard to narrow down your must see/do list. I was fortunate enough to attend the book festival with a friend, who help me have the best experience. Here is what we experienced:
DAY ONE – SATURDAY 10/27
Meet the Indie Next Authors! Featuring: R.O. Kwon, Tommy Orange, Nicole Chung
Earth and Beyond: A Conversation with Scott Kelly in the Texas State Capitol
Litsy Meetup on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol
Lit Crawl Austin – American Short Fiction authors play Ex Libris at Stay Gold, featuring Jamel Brinkley, Rita Bullwinkel, Rebecca Makkai, Jennifer duBois, Owen Egerton and Tommy Orange
Lit Crawl Austin – Noir at the Bar where crime fiction authors read from their recent their novels at Stay Gold, featuring Lou Berney, Max Booth, Meg Gardiner, Mike McCrarry and Scott Von Doviak
Won a crime fiction novel raffle with signed copies!
DAY TWO – SUNDAY 10/28
Alternate Realities: Sci Fi in 2018 with V.E. Schwab and John Scalzi
John Scalzi taking a selfie wearing V.E. Schwab’s cat ears
The last presentation was amazing, and we were too tuckered out to continue with any more sessions, so we wandered around Austin a bit longer and then hit the road back to Houston. All the author/presenters we listened to were amazing, personable and friendly. We just wanted to be friends with all of them. Now I have to find a place in my house for all my lovely new books!
I am continuing with my 20 Years of Travel series with one of my most recent travel adventures.
Do I recommend spending only 12 hours in Austin, Texas? NOOOOOO! However, when you just started a new job and only have a weekend for a mini-vacation, you take whatever time you have to enjoy yourself. Since moving to Texas a year and a half ago, Austin has been on my list of places I could not wait to see, and yet it has taken me this long to get there. Thanks to my bestie’s visit, I got to finally go.
We hit the road on Friday morning. As we headed outside of Houston, I had to stop and show my friend (who has never really been to Texas) what a Buckees is. If you have never been to a Buckees either, it is a gas station as well as a great place to buy Texas souvenirs, fudge, brisket and basically anything you might need. It is a must do when you are hitting the long empty roads of Texas.
A couple hours later, we came to the town of Lockhart, Texas, which was our stopping point for lunch. If you are a fan of barbecue, you will find the best Texas barbecue in Lockhart (at least that is what I’ve been told and have not personally had any BBQ in Texas that has contradicted this statement). Lockhart is the home of Black’s BBQ, a cafeteria style restaurant with the best brisket I’ve ever had (see picture on the right). If the line to Black’s is too long, I was told by a gentleman at another table to also try Smitty’s Market just down the main street (on my bucket list for the next time I road trip to Austin). We were so stuffed on barbecue that when we got to Austin, we decided to just relax by the pool. Most of the country was still under feet of snow, so I felt that if we could get some sun by the hotel pool, why not?! On a side note, anyone that knows what real Culver’s frozen custard tastes like, do NOT go to the Culver’s on William Cannon Drive. You will be sad and disappointed. I don’t know what that was, but it was not frozen custard.
The next morning, we got a Lyft into Austin and spent the entire day (at least 12 hours) in the city. This is what we managed to do in our one day in Austin:
Breakfast @ Voodoo Donuts. (I was so excited to find out that I don’t have to go all the way to Portland anymore to enjoy these delicious donuts–not that I would mind going back to Portland).
Local Farmer’s Market.
Short walk to the State Capitol (see picture above), where we took a free tour inside the Capitol. I’m going to be honest. We went through two or three tour guides before finding one that could speak audibly enough to a large group so we could all hear. However, that guide was fantastic. I learned a lot more about Texas history and what makes this capital building unique.
Lunch @ Scholz Garten – which claims to be the oldest German restaurant in America. I have not been able to confirm that information, but the restaurant has been open since 1866. I could drink beer and eat spätzle all day every day. Plus, there was some live music in the biergarten.
Book People – A trip with me has to include a bookstore. I had been dying to visit this independent bookstore for a while. It was even more amazing than I imagined. It is large with two floors of books and gifts, a coffee shop, and plenty of space for events, which they have all the time (including book signings, readings, etc.).
A walk along Town Lake — it was a beautiful day with lots of people soaking up some sun and listening to the Urban Music Festival that was being held at the Auditorium.
A stop @ Stevie Ray Vaughn’s statue (see picture on right).
Riverboat cruise (see picture below) – A must see in Austin is surprisingly….bats. Lots and lots of bats. Around dusk thousands (@ certain times of the year…millions) of bats that are hanging out underneath Congress Avenue Bridge, take flight together in search of food. You can view this scene from a riverboat like we did or by standing on the Congress Avenue Bridge. While I am not a fan of bats (I do not think they are cute!), I dislike mosquitoes even more, so eat up bats!