One of the first assignments in Blogging 201 (since I’m not one to keep up with assignments or do them in order) was to analyze the statistics for my blog.  I found out that my travel posts are by far the most popular and attract the most readers.

In the summer of 2013, my husband and I took a trip to Texas to visit a friend and then to visit places that were on our ‘bucket list’, such as San Antonio and Memphis, TN.  When I came back, I intended to blog about each of these places, but only posted a few, about Austin.  But here, in a nutshell (in case you are planning a trip to Texas) are “5 things to do” (in each general location) on a trip from Illinois to Texas and back.

(Originally dated July 26, 2013)

5 things to do on a long car trip:
• Rent a Great Course or audio book at your local library and listen to it in the car.
• Work on crossword puzzles or play games, such as thinking of a city that starts with the last letter of the previous word, 20 questions, Guess Who I Am?, finding every letter of the alphabet on road signs or license plates.
• Go off the beaten track: Get off the expressway and travel some back roads. Stop at some unexpected , little known places along the way.
• Stop to read Historical Markers.
• Buy local music at one of your destinations and listen to it on the road.

DSCF2140We are stopped for an hour on the expressway through Missouri in a long line of cars and other vehicles. I’m working on a crossword puzzle, but eventually get hot and impatient. What’s going on? We see billowing smoke way up ahead.  My guess is a car caught on fire.  Once we began moving again, we eventually caught up to the smoldering thing:  a truck, full of beer, had somehow caught on fire! Alcohol being highly flammable, it exploded and we saw flattened, smoldering cans of beer scattered everywhere among the ashes and ruins of the vehicle. Wish I’d taken a picture, but we were anxious to get moving, with a goal of reaching Oklahoma City before nightfall.

5 things to do in Austin, Texas
• Watch the bats at dusk on Congress Ave. Bridge. (See my blog post of July 18, 2013.)
• Visit the capitol.     DSCF2145
• See a show at Esther’s Follies: musical revue in the form of political and social satire, and magic show. Afterward, go to one of the nearby bars to hear live music and have a nightcap.
• Eat Texas barbecue (recommend La Barbecue) at a food trailer – go early before they run out! Then cool off with Amy’s Ice Cream (good choice of flavors + “crush’ns”).
085 amysicecream
• Tour a winery in the countryside outside Austin. Wineries are closed on Wednesdays. If you are there on a Wednesday, other options include: visit LBJ’s boyhood home in Johnsonville and the LBJ ranch about 12 miles from there or go tubing on the San Marcos River.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We happened to arrive in Austin on June 25, which was the day that Senator Wendy Davis filibustered an anti-abortion bill, which ended only after 11 pm that night.  Unfortunately, her efforts didn’t stop the bill, and it became law in 2014, leading to the closing of almost all women’s clinics where abortions were available in Texas. The first picture shows the senator on the floor of the Senate (her pink running shoes are not visible here!); the second shows the balcony where spectators were allowed. Most of these were supporters of the filibuster and many wore orange shirts, the color of their movement around this issue.  See my blog post of August 13, 2013.

5 things to do in San Antonio, Texas
• Take in the River Walk: shop, have lunch or dinner, take a boat tour.
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• Go to Hemisfair Park. See the Institute of Texas Cultures – exhibits of all the immigrant and ethnic groups that have made their home in Texas: Native Americans, Spanish, French, Jewish, African American, many others from Europe. Next to this museum is the Tower of the Americas. For $10.95 you can go up in an elevator to the observation deck. To save money, go in the late afternoon (during Happy Hour) and tell them you are going to the bar. You can get drinks and hors d’eouvres at a reduced price during Happy Hour, enjoy the view and spend less than you would to buy a ticket to the observation deck.

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• Visit King William district of historical homes and take a tour of the Steves’ Homestead.

634 ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

We stayed at this B&B in the King William district, within walking distance of downtown and the River Walk.
We stayed at this B&B in the King William district, within walking distance of downtown and the River Walk.

• Visit the Alamo and the other 4 missions around San Antonio.

Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose
Mission Espada
Mission Espada
Mission Concepcion
Mission Concepcion

• Go to the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) – especially the sections of folk art.

View of SAMA from parking lot
View of SAMA from parking lot

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5 things to do in or near Houston, Texas
• Take a tour of Ima Hogg’s mansion and explore the grounds.
• Go to art installations sponsored by the Orange Show, including: The Orange Show (open W-Su), The Beer Can House, Smither Park.

Smither Park
Smither Park
The Orange Show
The Orange Show
Ima Hogg's mansion
Ima Hogg’s mansion

• In May, go to the Car Parade.
• Visit Johnson Space Center (NASA). About 20 miles south of Houston

• Spend a day in Galveston (about 40 miles from Houston) to: walk along the seawall, swim in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, eat seafood, and/or rent bikes and explore the town.


5 things to do in Memphis, Tennessee:
• Visit Graceland, the iconic home and tribute to Elvis Presley.

Graceland mansion
Graceland mansion
pool room
pool room
Gold records
Gold records

• Spend time at the Rock and Soul Museum, which tells the history of blues, R&B and rock n roll; lots of interesting displays including 4 different jukeboxes that show how it evolved.

• Take a tour of Slave Haven, the former home of a German immigrant who harbored runaway slaves as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

• Visit the Civil Rights Museum, located across the street from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on the balcony in front of his room. Plan plenty of time (3+ hours) to see everything.

1292 1293• Go to the Mississippi River museum, which tells the history of the river.
5 things to do in or near St. Louis:
• Visit the St. Louis arch. There are small tram cars (egg shaped, cramped) that take you to the top, or just enjoy the arch itself at different angles and in different lights. If you want to go to the top1344 to enjoy the view, sit in the sample tram car next to the ticket booth at the entrance to the Jefferson Museum.
• Visit the Old Courthouse (near the arch) where the Dred Scott case took place. Warning: it closes at 4pm. Free.
• Visit the Jefferson Museum of Westward Expansion. Free.
• Take a riverboat ride on the Mississippi. Book your trip in advance at the entrance to the Jefferson Museum.
• Visit Cahokia Mounds. Read about the history and culture of the Mississippean cultures that settled that area and built the mounds. Then take the 3 walking tours to the different areas of the park, including climbing Monks’ Mound and experiencing the woodhenge sun calendar built by these ancient people.

Monks Mound
Monks Mound

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