In the summer of 2008, Angela and I embarked on a road trip of semi-epic proportions – New Orleans to Yellowstone and back again. The price of gas soared above $3.50 per gallon, the heat index pushed 100 degrees everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon, and our Ford Focus wagon was starting to fall apart at the seams: air conditioner turned full-time heater, a persistent rear wheel bearing issue, and an engine hiccup just frequent enough to ignore. What better time to tack 5,000 miles onto the odometer?

I spent months tweaking the route to and from Yellowstone, charting each stop on the way in an attempt to visit the most worthy sites. The final course had us traveling west through Texas and New Mexico, up into Colorado, dipping down into Arizona, and back up through Utah and Idaho to Wyoming. Our first stop on the journey was Austin, TX where we would take in a few sites, sounds, and local Tex-Mex cuisine.

James D. Pfluger pedestrian bridge, crossing the Colorado River in Austin. This automobile-free crossing point was erected in 2001 as a solution to the accident-prone Lamar Street Bridge, 200 feet to the west. Here cyclists, joggers, walkers, and many a four-legged-friend can enjoy an amble through Austin. The well maintained path, part of Zilker Metropolitan Park, stretches along both sides of the Colorado and is connected by this bridge. A major attraction along the path is the Congress Avenue Bridge. People gather around the bridge at dusk, not to admire the architechture, but to witness the feeding habits of the world’s largest urban Mexican Free-tailed bat colony.



A gathering of the frendliest leash-free dogs I've ever seen! We strolled down to the 1st Street Bridge and back again, marvelling at Austin's beautiful Zilker Park and all of its inhabitants.


I expressed interest in finding a place to eat with food and music. My brother, who lived in Austin at the time, reccomended that we eat dinner at Threadgill's.


Threadgill's is an Austin institution founded on food and live music. Sadly, the band was much more memorable than the food. Lee Duffy, Marvin Dykhuis, Will Sexton, Joe Manuel, and Floyd Domino kept us entertained with their folky, twangy harmonies as we chewed and swallowed our middle-of-the-road burgers.


Food and music at Threadgill's. Originally founded in 1933 as a gas station and food pit stop.

After dinner we toured the Texas state capitol in Austin. I was surprised to find out that a person can tour the capitol building at 9:00 PM. It was too dark to view the monuments and statues on the grounds, but the interior was totally accessible. We enjoyed views of the rotunda studded with protraits of former Texas state governors. From the Texas State Preservation Board web site:

Completed in 1888 as the winning design from a national competition, the Capitol’s style is Renaissance Revival, based on the architecture of 15th-century Italy and characterized by classical orders, round arches and symmetrical composition. The structural exterior is “sunset red” granite, quarried just 50 miles from the site. Additional structural support is provided by masonry walls and cast iron columns and beams. The foundation is limestone. Texas paid for the construction not in dollars, but in land: some three million acres in the Texas Panhandle that would later become the famous XIT Ranch.

An extraordinary edifice by any measure, the 1888 Texas Capitol is the largest in gross square footage of all state capitols and is second in total size only to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. Like several other state capitols, the 1888 Texas Capitol surpasses the National Capitol in height, rising almost 15 feet above its Washington counterpart.

Find more information on the Texas State Capitol here .


Texas State Capitol in Austin.


There shall be a Seal of the State which shall be kept by the secretary of state, and used by him officially under the direction of the governor. The Seal of the State shall be a star of five points, encircled by olive and live oak branches, and the words, 'The State of Texas" - Texas Constitution, article IV, section 19.

The Republic of Texas was a sovereign nation from 1836 to 1846, and this terrazzo floor harks back to that decade. Surrounding the Texas seal are seals from the United States of America, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Republic of Mexico, and the Confederate States of America.


A magnificent rotunda with a lone star in the center.



From the second floor of the rotunda.


My brother Parker and my wife Angela, standing before an original staircase, cast-iron and restored to the original green and gold paint scheme.

The next day, on our way out of Austin, we followed another reccomendation to Maria’s Taco Xpress. We drove past all the other taco stands, there may be one on every corner in Austin, and stuck to the plan – GET BREAKFAST TACO. Taco Xpress did not dissapoint. This place was nothing if not interesting, with both interior and exterior covered in funky decorations. We arrived quite early in the morning and beat the locals, but from what we were told, this place is hopping for lunch and in the evening.


Maria's Taco Xpress


The place was filled with crazy stuff like "Hippie Sunday Church".


The breakfast tacos were super cheap and were literally finger-licking good. For $2.00 you get two toppings of your choice (extra toppings are $.30), jam-packed into a flour tortilla, and fused together with cheese. We constructed four breakfast tacos with egg, potato, bacon, and cheese. The breakfast snacks were simple but outstanding. We ate them on the go that morning, but we hadn't gone very far before they were all gone. Angela started making them on a semi-regular basis when we returned to New Orleans.


The egg, bacon, potato, and cheese breakfast taco from Taco Xpress! Yummy.

Here is a list of some of the awards won by Taco Xpress:

2003: Best Storefront/Sign
2002: Best Place to Eat Tacos, Read Poetry, and Get Drunk: Not Necessaily in that Order
2001: Best Storefront/Sign
2000: Best Restaurant Decor Design
1998: Most Necessary Restaurant Expansion

Find more information on Maria’s Taco Xpress here .


Next, we headed east 520 miles to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.