I was prepared for the drive every summer: a pillow and blanket, whatever Berenstain Bears book I was reading, Oatmeal Creme Pies, my portable CD player, and a backpack full of Lisa Frank coloring books and Highlights magazines. The passenger seat looked as if I’d be in the car for days, when really, I was only riding shotgun from Weatherford to George West—a 6-hour, 340-mile voyage that led me to my grandma’s house, where I’d spend two or so weeks with her hopping around South Texas.
I’d watch out the window as Mom drove us on Highway 281 past herds of speckled Longhorns and sleepy towns. Sometimes we’d stop for breakfast at the Koffee Kup in Hico, and if I was lucky, Dutchman’s Hidden Valley in Hamilton for homemade fudge. “’Bout how long ‘til Marble Falls?” I’d ask, as Marble Falls was Mom and Grandma’s exchange point. Seeing that orange “W” logo about a mile before the Colorado River not only meant that we were eating at Whataburger for lunch, but that my grandma was there to meet us and drive me on to South Texas.
I looked forward to spending time with my grandma every summer, as our laughs usually started when we got in her truck for the second leg of my trip. “All right we’re getting into busy roads up here, so I’m gonna need you to shut up for a minute while I concentrate on the road,” she’d say as we got into bustling San Antonio, a Virginia Slims cigarette flapping between her lips as we ripped through the city.
No matter how tired I was, I’d always head straight for the pool when we arrived at her house. It’s where she taught me to swim when I was 5, and where she’d time me as I dove for colorful metallic coins 12 feet down. I’d spend all day underwater, only coming up for air or when she was trying to shove a poolside fajita in my mouth. In the evenings, she’d let me help with dinner, igniting my interest in cooking at a young age.
Texas State Aquarium memories always bring a smile to my face. We’d pet baby sharks at the touch tank and stand in awe as jellyfish swam past us in the dark, lighting a path as they went. Sometimes, she’d load up the truck and we’d spend the day at Mustang Island, eating cucumber sandwiches out of the cooler and saltwater taffy from souvenir shops.
In my pre-teen years, she moved to Lake Corpus Christi, just up the road from my great aunt Sue. I divided my time between their houses, walking down the road on the southside of the lake to hang with Aunt Sue, eating all of her coffee-table candy and watching jet skiers from the kitchen window. In the afternoon, I’d head back to Grandma’s and put on my swimsuit for a dip in the lake, trying my best to forget the fact that there were definitely alligators somewhere in the water.
Our time together always flew by, and before I knew it I was back in the truck, headed north towards the Whataburger in Marble Falls, where my mom would pick me up and drive me the rest of the way home. It’s a bittersweet feeling, leaving a place and a person you love. But the memories always left me ready for next summer’s adventures.
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“My Favorite Texas Trip” is a series highlighting memorable travel experiences from Texas Highways’ writers and readers.
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