It’s About the People

We’ve seen some great places, and some less interesting places, but it’s the people who are making the journey interesting. So many different people, the quirky artist in Las Vegas, the kind artist airbnb host in Santa Fe who had dinner waiting for us when we arrived after a long drive from Sedona. She also took us to the beautiful Tent Rocks for hiking, and to a concert on New Year’s Eve.

The amazing Tent Rocks

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There was the slightly dotty older waitress in the restaurant in Tucumcari New Mexico, who took our drinks order, then wandered past 5 minutes later and asked if we wanted any drinks, we gave her our order. 10 minutes later she came by and asked if we wanted anything to drink… and so the evening went on!

Blue Swallow Margarita, named after the Route 66 motel Blue Swallow (where we stayed)

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In Amarillo Texas, we went out to dinner one evening, and found a great wine and beer bar called Crush. We decided to sit at the bar. There were so many beers and wine on tap, yes wines on tap, they have a system to keep them fresh. It was hard to choose. Luckily the bartender was very happy to give us tastes of anything we wanted. As we chatted to the barman and tasted different beers, the gentleman next to us at the bar joined in the discussion. After a few minutes, he politely asked if he could detect an accent, and where were we from. We told him. He asked what we were doing in Amarillo, we told him we had run away from home, and shared some of our story. We ordered dinner, and kept talking with our friendly bar neighbour. After a while we exchanged names and business cards. As he gave me his card he said “it’s not a get out of jail free card, but it might help”! John B. Board, 181st District Court, District Judge. Oh my, we were drinking with the judge! He was a charming Texan gentleman, and I couldn’t help my curiosity as I asked if judges in Texas were elected or appointed. We talked politics for a short time, then I jokily asked if we should switch to religion!

He talked about his job, and said the part he liked most was drug court, then invited us to visit, if we were interested. Drug court was in a couple of days’ time, and we were interested. We went along, had to sign a promise not to disclose any personal information we might hear that day. There were perhaps a dozen people waiting in the court, together with a few friends and family, including a father with his baby. Judge Board called up each person, talked to them in a friendly, concerned fashion, asked after their families, their jobs and living situations, and gave each one his undivided and personal attention, together with words of support, praise and encouragement. Most of them received a token, which he explained to us later they could use to reduce their fines. It was a very interesting experience. Judge Board told us he didn’t select the “easy” cases, to boost the statistics, and the recidivism rate was about 50%, but this system does give some people a fighting chance of staying out of jail.

After our visit to court, the Judge most kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the Santa Fe building. Frances, one of the assistants in court, was kind enough to meet us back at the Santa Fe building, and started our tour, then handed us over to one of her colleagues, as she was recovering from a damaged knee. The building was completed in 1930 and was the headquarters of the Santa Fe Railway company. It stood empty for many years before Potter County bought it. Fortunately many of its wonderful art deco features have been retained and we enjoyed our tour very much.

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Tropical house in botanical gardens in Amarillo Texas

On our travels we have had mail forwarded to us at many places we have stayed. We were expecting mail to arrive in Amarillo, but because of the terrible weather in the east of the country (our forwarded mail goes on its own journey to reach us!) this time it was delayed, and did not arrive before we left. We hadn’t been able to find an airbnb place in Amarillo, so we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott. The ladies at reception were always very friendly, and asked if we had enjoyed our day when we came in, and often gave suggestions of places to visit – including the amazing Palo Duro Canyon.

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We explained our problem to Kayleigh on reception, who promised to watch for it, and to forward it on to us. A few days later I received a phone call telling me our mail had arrived, and Kayleigh promised to send it on. Sure enough, the very next day it arrived at our airbnb hosts in Austin. Great service!

Austin…. maybe one of our favourite places so far! Music everywhere, food, and friends. New friends beyond compare! We were hosted by Edie and Alberto, in their charming airbnb bungalow in the garden of their home. They were so friendly and welcoming. They gave us many suggestions of places to visit, and lent us bicycles which we used every day. They were planning to go out of town a couple days after we arrived, and wanted to introduce us to their friends and neighbours Janine and Bill.

on left: Danila, Edie, Alberto. On right, Bill & Janine.

Just as we had with Edie and Alberto, we hit it off immediately with Janine and Bill. They were planning to go to a private house concert in a couple of days’ time, and invited us along. Of course we said yes! That was a wonderful experience! In a private home in the hills above Austin, a young group called Harpeth Rising was hosted to play their eclectic brand of music, to an audience of perhaps 50 people. The house Great Danes were let lose during the last song, and joined the band.

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Janine and Bill invited us to many musical events during our two week stay, and when Edie and Alberto returned, they joined us too. During the course of conversation, it emerged that Bill, and Janine, who is South African, spend a few months each year in their home outside Cape Town in the first biosphere reserve in South Africa, and they invited us to stay with them! Of course we said yes!

On the drive to Austin we stopped for lunch at the Owl Drug Store Old Fashioned Soda Fountain and Grill in Coleman Texas. Home of the OwlvisBurger and much much more! This place is such fun! Old fashioned soda fountain, great burgers, fried pickles, yes indeedy, and lots of Elvis memorabilia in the store. Really friendly people, a great old fashioned lunch, plus a real limeade from the soda fountain. Great fun to sit at the counter and just pass the time of day with the friendly servers and other customers. Every town needs one of these!

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deep fried pickles! (surprisingly good)

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In a few days’ time we’re moving on to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and we certainly hope and expect to meet more friendly people, and maybe a few quirky characters too!

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