April 2007- Spring Break in Texas

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Another successful spring break comes and goes! I had a wonderful time over my break. I started off with a (horribly long) bus ride to Costa Rica with two friends, Brian and Ana. We left Managua at noon and got to the CR border around 3 pm. Three hours later we had made it through the Nicaraguan and the Costa Rican sides, and were back on our bus to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. We arrived at 11 pm and had to find a hostel (not a lot of planning had gone into this trip). Luckily, a girl we had met on the bus referred us to a great place called Pangea. It was a fabulous hostel and I completely recommend it to anyone staying in San Jose. It has a mechanical bull you can ride!
We spent the next day walking around the city, visiting some shops and museums. We went to the Pre-Columbian Gold museum and also the Numismatic (Coins) Museum. They had a great exhibit that showed the different money systems the area has used, starting with the Real from the Spanish, through various coins and scripts used by tobacco, banana, and coffee companies, up through the Colones that is now used.
That night, back at our hostel, we ran into Kathleen and her two friends, who had just arrived in San Jose. We went to dinner and then stayed up playing cards and drinking. The next morning, Kathleen and her two friends went south to a beach, and Brian and Ana headed north to a different town, and I got on a flight to Houston. I arrived in Houston around 6 pm and picked up Chris from the airport around 8 pm. Our first stop was a true, Texan dinner of chicken fried chicken, okra, mashed potatoes, and sweet iced tea.
Wednesday morning we left Houston and headed straight to Brenham, home of the Bluebell Ice Creamery. We toured the factory and had a taste of the freshest ice cream I’ve ever had. I tell you, that is some great stuff. Nothing beats fresh Bluebell. And, this is their 100th anniversary! After our tour, we made our way to College Station, also passing by Washington-on-the-Brazos and checking out the heritage museum there. The weather was warm and the bluebonnets were in bloom along the sides of the roads. We stayed off the main highways and took smaller roads our whole trip, which really increased the beauty of the Texas scenery. On the way we stopped at Messina Hof winery and bought some wine. Once we arrived in College Station, we spent the evening at the Dixie Chicken and Fitzwilly’s, eating Tijuana Fries and playing shuffleboard and dominos.
The next morning we continued our journey west (after a brief stop at the original Freebirds), and wound up in Shiner, Texas, home of the Spoetzl brewery. We missed the tour but still got to taste four free samples of different Shiner beers. Definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area. From there we went to New Braunfels for some German weinerschnitzel and sausage and potatoes. We spent the night there.
On Friday we backtracked to the south just a bit to hit the Natural Bridge Caverns, and took our time exploring the cave. Fascinating geology there. I remember going as a child. Leaving the caverns, we took the back route through New Braunfels, San Marcos, and up to Gruene. I really enjoyed walking through the tiny (like, 1 block!) city of Gruene. We got a great picture of the dance hall, and found out our favorite artist, Guy Forsythe, was actually having a cd-release party there the next night. We visited a western outfitter store where Chris picked up a great aussie hat- should come in handy when he’s in Africa. We ate lunch (it was more like breakfast, lunch, and dinner) at Adobe Verde, the best Tex-Mex I’ve had. They should really put a warning on the menu about the size of their burrito.
We were just a few miles south of Austin, but we were trying to stay out of the big cities, so we passed straight through (not that Austin is a huge city). We went up to Pflugerville, where we had read that Guy Forsyth was playing that night, but there were no hotels in the city where we could stay if we went to the show. There were also no hotels available in Round Rock or in Georgetown. Apparently there was a high school championship game in the area and literally everywhere we looked was booked. The temperature was rapidly dropping, so we headed on to Waco and spent the night there.
The next morning, Saturday, we awoke to a surprise: 30 degree weather and rain, which later turned into sleet and then snow! The Texas Ranger Museum was a block from our hotel, so we toured that and spent a couple of hours learning about the Rangers (the law enforcers, not the baseball players). Then it was time to head to West, for our rendezvous with Ken and Mysti, who had arranged to meet us for lunch. We met at the Czech stop, picked up some kolaches, and then went down the street for some barbecue. We wound up spending several hours there, eating great barbecue and playing country songs on the juke box, practicing our two-step and drinking beer. We got some cute pictures outside of us in the snow, and Chris, Ken, and Mysti had a snowball fight (I was in the car with the doors locked).
Finally it was time to leave West and head south again, hoping to find warmer weather. We wound up again in College Station. We took advantage of us being in the States for a bit and went shopping at Target and Old Navy, and ate sushi at a Japanese restaurant.
On Sunday we drove east to Huntsville, looking for the Texas State Prison Museum (even though we knew it would be closed, being Easter Sunday). Instead, we found Sam Houston’s grave, which was ironic, as I am teaching a chapter on Texas and the West in my history class this week. From there we went back to Houston, as we both had to fly out of town the next morning. Although we had been avoiding chain restaurants all week (Freebird’s doesn’t count), we couldn’t resist a final steak dinner at Saltgrass Steakhouse in Houston. And it was totally worth it.
Monday came too soon, and it wa time for Chris to head to Africa and me to return to Nicaragua. Luckily for him, he had a direct flight from Houston (15 hours) and so did I (only 3 1/2 hours). We both made it back to our respective homes, safe and sound, and started another week at work. For me, I can feel the school year wrapping up- we are about to give Stanford tests, my AP kids have only 15 days of class before their AP exams, and I have just 3 chapters left with my 8th graders.
Last night, Kathleen and Kristen and I went to a movie, Last King of Scotland (great movie, somewhat disturbing), and this afternoon we are going to Granada, a small city south of Managua, to visit the town and then to go on a zipline tour of a cloudforest there. I’ve been wanting to do that all year. Now that I have only two months left in Nicaragua, I need to make full use of my weekends to do the fun things the country has to offer. Ignoring the fact that it’s 95 degrees with full humidity (feels like…. a rain forest!), we’re trying to have a good time for these last two months together.

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