After New Orleans we drove west to Texas. We spent a night outside Huston with Taylor’s good family friends the Schreibers and drove back into the city the next day to see a friend from college, John Eigege and his new baby girl. Houston had all the traffic and ugliness I had expected, but we learned that it’s also a surprisingly young and diverse city. Many international corporations are based there so it collects people from all around the globe. We learned that half the population is younger than 30. We would have spent more time exploring this city, but we were eager to meet up with our friends in Austin.
Austin surprised us in that it is an incredibly active town. They have separate pedestrian and bicycle paths along the river and both were packed with people enjoying the outdoors the entire time we were there. We stayed with Taylor’s dear college friends Gabe and Liz and their two boys. It was a treat to get to know their family better. They took us to the farmers market, on a hike in the hills, to eclectic shops, to a great french-korean restaurant, and to a fancy donut food truck. The buildings were a lot newer than in most cities which was a refreshing experience.
After Austin, we drove north to Stephenville to spend the night with Taylor’s aunt and uncle. As soon as we arrived we were informed that we would not be sleeping in our van and we would not be going home hungry. We were incredibly well fed and well taken care of by them. The four of us stayed at the table talking and laughing until midnight and in the morning we were loaded up with treats for our journey. We were very happy that we were able to spend the night with them.
We had been warned that the drive across west Texas would be incredibly long and boring, but we enjoyed watching the landscape turn to desert. Eventually there weren’t even any cows out on the range. It went from swamp to forest to desert. A wonderful progression to experience on the road.
At the far edge of Texas we arrived at the second cave of our journey, Carlsbad Caverns. We probably enjoyed these even more than Mammoth Caves because you could explore it without being a part of a guided tour. Most of the cave is one huge room full of interesting formations that stretches seven football fields long. It was incredible to see all that space and variety underground. While we marveled at it for quite awhile, eventually we went around looking for formations that looked naughty. It was great fun.
Just past the caves we had a little scare. We passed a sign saying there’d be no gas stations for the next 150 miles. Taylor did the calculation and figured we had enough gas to get us there, but we hadn’t realized how much elevation change there would be. When the fuel light started blinking and we were still 30 miles out of El Paso we got pretty nervous, but thankfully we made it without incident. We hope never to cut it that close again.
Finally we arrived in Phoenix. It felt wonderful to be at home again with Taylor’s parents. They were hosting a Calvin alumni gathering so we joined right in. Taylor’s aunt and uncle were there as well so we got to spend some time with them at the start of the week. While we did many fun things in Phoenix, the highlight was having conversations with Taylor’s parents about our future.