Our “home is where you park it” sign still hangs just inside the front door of the Woodebago, swinging as we drive from place to place. Now in our 10th month, we love our cozy home on wheels and can’t capture how much we’ve seen and learned in this year on the road. But all the while, we’ve never stopped missing our brick and mortar home back on our little dead-end street in Maryland.
Dunkirk Drive has brought us many special neighbors over the years but none as close as those directly across the street, who moved in just a week after we did more than a dozen years ago. These brave people decided not only to visit us, but to sign up for the full immersion program on BigTrip, flying from DC to Austin to share a week with us in our close quarters at McKinney Falls State Park. Together, we ate, read, swam, played games, and experimented at night with a variety of sleeping arrangements. Turns out the Woodebago sleeps seven pretty well, snoring aside.
Bluebonnets were scattered about at McKinney Falls State Park but we drove out west through Hill Country to see more of them blanketing the fields and roadsides, and to visit the LBJ ranch and his “Texas White House.” Our 36th president evidently ran the country from this ranch for nearly a quarter of his presidency. He had 72 phone lines installed, and phones in every room and in holsters on every one of his chairs, much to the disdain of Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. He died in his ranch bedroom, just a few years after deciding not to run for a second term.
We made it back in time that evening to see the bats fly out from under Congress Street bridge, and to celebrate our second and oldest BigTrip birthday with dinner at Chuy’s followed by fancy pie at the Eastside Cafe (also known as Elaine’s Pork and Pie). Food is a big part of Austin, which we got to appreciate once our friends convinced us to stop eating PB&Js out of our backpack. At Frank & Angie’s pizza we met Mike “Hutch” Hutchinson, who told us how he’d moved to Austin from Buffalo thirty years ago to open up the pizza place named for his mom and Frank Sinatra, and the place next door. We visited Hut’s Hamburgers the next day to try out the famously large onion rings (made with Colossal onions) and pick from the 20+ hamburgers on the menu. Hutch was there, stopping by our table and buying us a round of milkshakes. Nice guy, great spots.
Downtown Austin was bustling with traffic the whole time we were there. But riding all together in the rental minivan, dubbed the Lone Star Limo, made our trips in and out of town all part of the fun. We visited the State Capitol building, which boasts the Texas Lone Star on everything from the chandeliers in the Senate chambers to the hinges on the bathroom doors. Just down the road is the Texas State History Museum with four stories of impressive exhibits that chronicle both the proud and not-so-proud events of this state’s past, and the Blanton art museum, where the kids were introduced to the Walkman and other 90s culture, and an amazing display of other art installations.
Capping our visit with our Dunkirk neighbors was an evening with yet another Dunkirk family, who lived next to us during our kids’ earliest years and now live in Austin. To be all together again was like no time had passed, and yet we know from looking at our babies-turned-kids-turned-preteens that we are all growing up and older faster than we ever thought possible. Another reminder of how fortunate we are as a family to spend this year together on the road, and even moreso to have such a great community to return to back on Dunkirk Drive.