On our final leg of the trip, we wanted to end strong. A little history, a little pretty and a whole lotta Aggie. It was the Fourth of July, after all.
We finished our trip to Galveston by stopping at the Bishop’s Palace. It was too early for it to be open, but pretty enough to make us want to come back and take a tour. The church across the street was equally gorgeous.
Even though we had enjoyed many of our hotel breakfasts, on this final morning we decided to skip it and grab a taquito from Whataburger. Because, TEXAS.
Fueled up on breakfast, we headed to the San Jacinto Memorial, just past Texas City. We arrived and noticed you could take an elevator ride to the top. We were all in. As we rode the elevator up, I asked the attendant how tall the monument was. In classic Texas response she said, “I don’t know, but we’re fifteen feet taller than the Washington Monument.” She knew exactly why I asked. Oh, Texas, how I love thee.
The Battle of San Jacinto marked Texas’ freedom from Mexico. The battle cry was reportedly, “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” Hundreds of Mexican soldiers were killed while less than 10 Texans lost their lives. The important date? April 21, also the date of Aggie Muster where we honor those Aggies that have died in the previous year. Another reason to adore my collegiate alma mater.
Some of you know my mom was a Texas history teacher for fifteen years. When we reached the top of the monument the boys told me I should text a photo to her to see if she knew where we were. One minute later, she responded, “Buffalo Bayou at San Jacinto.” She wins! Why did they even doubt? She even named all the rivers in Texas in one minute flat. A little random trivia for you. All the streets in downtown Austin are named after the rivers of Texas, from west to east, starting with Rio Grande and ending with Red River. So, if you know your geography, getting around downtown is a piece of cake.
Got a little story about this next photo. There’s a video on Facebook that shows a couple hiking together and arguing the whole way. They stop for a five-second reprieve to shoot a smiling photo to post on Instagram and then go right back to arguing. It’s a reminder to us that what we see on social media is never the whole story. Just a few minutes before we shot this picture there was some serious sibling crazy going down. John Paul had touched Anna-Laura’s shoulder and WWIII ensued. Luke was crying, Gianna was fussing and Will was rolling his eyes. Clare was just an innocent bystander. Scott and I snapped and I think we may have said, “For the love, people. Smile and act like you love each other.”
This was the result.
So you see, no family is perfect and this image will forever remind me of that lesson. It was a great family vacation, no matter the crazy, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Battleship Texas was just across the street. Gianna was fading, so we did a drive by and promised to greet her properly next time. The kids were thrilled when we told them our lunch stop would be at a gas station. Those in central and south Texas know the greatness of Bucee’s. Think HEB, Target, Rudy’s BBQ and super clean restrooms all lobbed into one. You could seriously do all your Christmas shopping at this place. The chopped BBQ sandwiches were delicious, as were their fresh peaches. If you ask the kids, they just might say this stop was their most favorite one of the trip.
Culture. We bring it.
We ate lunch in the van and headed northwest to Washington-on-the-Brazos, the birthplace of Texas. It’s where we signed our independence from Mexico and the reason why March 2 is celebrated every year. That’s Texas’ Independence Day! Yes, we are a proud bunch. When you live in the Lone Star State we think it’s important for our kids to know our history. The fourth of July brought tons of activity here, so we enjoyed the trivia quiz in the visitor’s center (and the A/C!) and pledged to come back when the crowds weren’t as big. As a sidenote, Will took all the photos below. If not for him, there would be no evidence we even went!
We set sail for our final destination, the other Holy Land, College Station. Home to our beloved Aggieland! Time afforded us the pleasure of driving around campus, oohing and aahing over the progress of the football stadium, making a quick pit stop in front of the Academic Building and the Old YMCA Building. Scott even led a yell for me. Perks of being a yell leader’s wife <wink>. Hey, and don’t diss his shorts. I love them!
It’s not a trip to Aggieland unless we eat a burger at the Chicken Oil Company. Those Tijuana fries are the best. Horribly bad for your heart, but oh so good for your soul. We were blessed to be joined by Gianna’s Godfather, Deacon Tom, who’s serving his transitional diaconate year at St. Joseph’s in Bryan. In typical Whitaker fashion, I let him know we were rolling into town a whole 18 hours ahead of time. A record for this trip!
And with that, we pointed the sweet Honda Odyssey home and made the short drive to Austin. Here’s Will, holding up Luke’s held and patting Gianna during that final leg home.
2,400 miles. 1 state. 17 cities. 7 days. priceless memories.
Yeah, there was some crazy. Of course there were some moments when I wanted to strap everyone under the age of 13 to the top of the van. But mostly? I was thankful for this life. This final story sums it up best, I think.
During one of our hotel stays, we hopped on the elevator just as a sweet, young, 20-something blonde joined us. Her hair was perfect and she was sporting the latest in sunglasses. She was tan, toned and her outfit was ridiculously fashionable. I stood just a few feet away. Luke was tugging on my too-tight boyfriend capris and nursing tank, begging to be held. Gianna was perched on my shoulder, gnawing on her hands. Scott and the boys were engaged in some sports talk and the girls were curiously peering at the scenery below through the glass elevator wall asking lots of questions.
I could see that sweet blonde’s eyes. There were, perhaps, shocked at this sight she had just been exposed. For a half second I wondered what it was like to be her. Wished I was her, maybe, if just for a moment. And then the doors opened and she quickly exited. Four kids ago or maybe even just one ago, I might’ve envied her. But on this day, I looked around at all our crazy and just embraced it. We don’t have a fancy car, my closet isn’t full of fashion and I haven’t owned a pair of sunglasses in years. I am the palest brunette you will ever spy and there is no perfect hair here. I do so love my life, with all its imperfections. Perfection will come soon enough.
To all you wondering if you should tour Texas, I say yes. No doubt we will be revisiting some of these sights and staying a bit longer the next ‘go-round. Until then, I’ll hold on to these memories. They’re pretty fantastic.