Darling Daughter's & Dad's Amazing Adventures - Part 2
Ok, Part 2 of Darling Daughter's & Dad's Amazing Adventures Part 1. An overview, recap, highlight of sites and sounds along our 2,500-mile road trip driving her car back to Iowa from California in time for her wedding.
Austin: Books, Bats, LBJ Hotel and a Speakeasy
When people ask what my favorite city is, Austin is always near the top of the list. I love the atmosphere and people, and there's so much to see and do.
We kicked it off at South Austin Thicket Food Park, one of several locations around town where you'll find multiple food trucks parked together. Even though we arrived in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, at least half of the dozen trucks were open for business. Both DD and I even found vegetarian food, at two separate trucks.
From there it was onto South Congress, a fun shopping and dining area with a lot to offer, especially vintage clothing and items. DD, who has never seen a bookstore she didn't like, especially geeked out at South Congress Books.
Distillery time! We randomly found Still Distillery online and headed that direction. Little did we know it's located in a place called The Yard in South Austin. A very cool entertainment area with two distilleries, two breweries, a sand volleyball place, a nearby winery and even a sake bar.
The Still was offering up frozen old fashions. I had no clue there was such a thing. Never afraid to try something new I gave it shot, can't say I'm a fan. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and no reflection on the Still, it's definitely a nice place and worth a visit.
Time for my geek out. I'd visited Austin a couple of times a few years back and visited the Driskill Hotel. The place is amazing and standing in the lobby back then I hoped maybe I could stay there some day. This was that day.
Seeing it, DD was just as excited. The place just oozes with history. Of course it's rumored to be haunted, aren't all historic hotels? LBJ, the 36th President, met his wife, Lady Bird, there and Jenna Bush, George W.'s daughter was moved there for security reasons following the 9/11 attacks, among a long list of other notable activities there.
Added bonus, the Driskill is located on Austin's famous, perhaps infamous, Sixth Street, a four-block stretch of bars and restaurants similar to Memphis' Beale Street or a not-nearly-as-crazy New Orleans' Bourbon Street. (If you click on the link, that's the Driskill at the beginning of the video.) It's entirely possible we spent some time roaming up and down the street.
I'm throwing the Texas Toy Museum in here because it's one of those quirky American road trip kind of places. It's on the second floor, up a narrow set of stairs, past the frozen Han Solo and Ghostbusters Fabulous Four painting.
At the top you can pay $9 to visit the all-things-science-fiction-collectibles museum in one direction, or buy a beer and play all the video games for free in the other. We didn't take time to visit the museum but definitely bought the beer and played the classic video games.
You can't visit Austin without saying hi to the bats. Real bats. A lot of real bats. This would be another one of those times where I suspect DD was a little skeptical and going along just to humor me. She does that a lot. She's a good daughter.
In the case it paid off for her. She loved it.
If you're on the Congress Avenue Bridge later on in the evening, before sunset, you'll see something pretty amazing. Bats, thousands of them, fly out en masse for their daily meal. Take a look at that water photo above. The black mass just over the trees in the center is the bats, stretching all the way back to the bridge on the right of the photo.
It happens every, single, night. You can join the crowd on top, and either side, side of the bridge, hop a boat ride to get a look from beneath the bridge, or even paddle your own kayak out.
Last note. After finishing up exploring Sixth Street at night we just weren't quite ready to go back to the hotel. Well, ok, "I" wasn't ready to go back to the hotel.
Pulling out the trusty phone we found what looked like a bar right across from the hotel, the perfect last stop, within stumbling distance of our room.
Arriving at the place indicated on my phone we were perplexed to find nothing but the Fireplace Hostel. It really is a hostel.
We stood there for a minute or two when a couple came up, walked into the hostel's front door past the front desk, pulled the bookshelf back and disappeared.
Yep, the bar is inside the first floor of the hostel, hidden behind a very large, and heavy, bookshelf. I'd show you photos from inside but you know the first rule of speakeasy, no one posts photos of speakeasy. Suffice it to say this will be on the top of my list for nighttime stops the next time I'm through Austin. (By the way, as with any good speakeasy, you leave through an anonymous-looking side door.)
Darling Daughter (DD) wasn't sure what all of this Buc-ee's commotion was about when I mentioned having to stop at one along the way. She understood very quickly soon after walking in the door.
I jokingly said, "If you can't find it at Buc-ee's, it's because you aren't looking hard enough." I'm not sure it's a joke, the aisles go on forever.
What really won her over were the bathrooms, they're massive. Really. And, just as importantly, very clean.
Totally by chance, we stopped in two Buc-ee's on the same day. First outside Temple, Texas, and then 160 miles later in Royse City - a two-fer!
Memphis: Alice in Wonderland, Expensive Beers and Men with Roosters
Memphis tends to be on my way to a lot of places so I've slept over there a number of times. It's always a good time.
DD, having played travel softball for many years all over the Midwest is as much of a baseball fan as I so we were lucky the Memphis Redbirds were in town the night we were there. Triple A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Redbirds' Autozone Ballpark is just a couple blocks off Beale Street, the place to party in Memphis and the home of some of the best blues music in the country.
Speaking of Beale Street, quick story. We pretty much closed things down that night. Our next-to-last stop didn't charge a cover when we walked in, probably because the band only had one song left. I felt like I should pay something so ordered two light beers, even though we really didn't want them.
That was a mistake, big mistake. The two larger cups in the back, above photo, are what we got at the mere price of $15 each, $30 total. Safe to say, the most expensive light beers I've ever had. We poured what fit into the smaller cups before we left, and ended up pouring most of that out shortly after that.
On a more positive note, is there anything better than a distillery with a very large painting of an old dude holding a rooster? You can find it at Old Dominick Distillery.
DD is a bourbon fan, I have no idea where she might have gotten that from, snicker, so there were a few distillery visits along the trips. We both give Old Dominick two thumbs up.
And the Memphis Botanic Garden was great. What made it realllly special is they are hosting a special Alice in Wonderland exhibit through the end of October. DD and I once did a joint art show together, "Down the Rabbit Hole", including a lot of Alice in Wonderland-related pieces so we're big fans. Some of the individual pieces contained more than 6,000 plants and flowers.
St. Louis: A Fortune Teller bar, Naked Bicycle Ride and Ballpark Village
Our last overnight of the trip wasn't without its, shall we say, unique quirks; St. Louis.
First up was Cherokee Street, a stretch of shops and other retail businesses about four miles south of the Gateway Arch. It's an area you can tell is really trying but just hasn't quite turned the corner yet. To be fair though, we were there on a Saturday and several businesses were closed.
Our real reason for being there was the Fortune Teller Bar. Sadly, we were there too early to have our fortunes read, maybe that's for the best. It's a fun, rustic, kind of place, and I suspect there'll be a return visit in my future. Do I need a fortune teller to predict that?
While roaming Cherokee Street we ran across a poster advertising a Naked Bicycle Ride for that night.
We didn't need a fortune teller to let us know this was a sign, literally. #dadjokes
I'm not going to give you the cheeky details. Get it, naked, cheeky? #dadjokes
In all seriousness, it was a lot of people just having a general good time and more had some kind of clothing on than did not. It's all part of the World Naked Bike Ride held annually to protest against oil dependency.
A side benefit to checking out the ride was that it exposed us #dadjokes to The Grove, a really fun entertainment area five miles west of the Arch where the ride was kicking off. It's definitely worth checking out if you're ever that way.
We stayed the night at the Hilton at the Ballpark, not because of it's great view of the Arch though it is within walking distance (see photo above), but because of it's proximity to Ballpark Village, right across the street.
I'd been there before but this was DD's first experience and upon walking in she admitted to sensory overload. The area is centered around Bally Sports Live and is absolutely massive with a main concourse featuring one humongous video board surrounded by several others the size of billboards.
It's 20,000-square-feet spread across two levels, a half dozen bars, give or take, and a 100-foot-long retractable roof. It's located right beside the St. Louis Cardinals relatively new stadium and is even busy when the Cardinals are out of town, as was the case when we were there, with fans watching the game on that big 40-foot screen.
The Final Leg: Pink Elephant and Nickorbob
You can't miss the Pink Elephant. Thirty-five miles north of St. Louis on Interstate 55, there's a life-sized pink elephant right out in front of the place, along with a space ship and other larger-than-life figures.
Inside is just as impressive. Situated in an old school, the gymnasium and stage are cram-packed with antiques, collectables and everything else you might imagine. A number of old classrooms next door are just as packed.
You can take a good part of the day exploring it. There's even a small diner and candy shop available for sustenance.
Nickorbob's is about 50 miles further on down I55, a little south of Springfield, Illinois. It's what I would call a large craft and gift building with 90 booths, give or take, and more choices than you would ever need.
The area has grown since my wife and I first stumbled upon it when DD was barely a grade schooler. The surrounding area has grown since then with two or three more similar stores there now and even a modern convenience gas station.
Connie and I discovered it the old fashioned American way, a billboard along the interstate as we were driving south. Finding small antiques to decorate our first home were something we were especially into at the time.
Over the years, whenever we headed down that highway, we always tried to make time for a stop. Since Connie died I've wanted to visit there one last time. Being there with DD as she prepared for her wedding completed the circle.
A little side note about Nickorbob's. It really is spelled with an "or" in the middle as in Nick or Bob, the two brothers who own the place.
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