The Great Pre-Departure Texas Trek


Fault lines? Or guilt lines?

Prior to any departure for a foreign land, it’s customary to connect with friends and family, touch base with old acquaintances and in general affirm the bonds of blood and friendship. Especially when the pending journey promises a long separation, or a permanent one, we tend to immerse ourselves in the bosom of loved ones and associates in an effort to reassure them of our intent to not forget, to confirm our tribal identity, as it were. Such was the case with us as we prepared to leave Columbus for Panama: we embarked on the Great Pre-Departure Texas Trek. All we can say about our 3,500+ mile, 27 day, 2 rental car, 8 airplane odyssey is that…it’s over.

The solid blue line depicted above marks the highway part of our loooooong journey, Columbus Ohio, to Austin Texas and back, driving and flying, with ten (or more) stops in between.

The dashed lines are flight legs. Mariah’s in blue took her from Houston to Atlanta/Warner-Robins GA, then on to Chicago and Cedar Rapids Iowa, then back to Austin. The red line is my flight leg from Austin to Columbus for ten days with our grandson, then back to Austin.

The squiggles above may look like fault lines on a seismographer’s map, but they’re actually ‘guilt’ lines. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I suggest that our aforementioned pre-departure travel is often driven not by bonds of affection, but by goads of guilt. There are other emotions involved, but a lot of the attention we pay to associates and family before leaving their admiring presence is done because of expectation and long-standing ritual.


Day 2: New Harmony Indiana, and the NH Inn. A place marked by calm contemplation.

(It even has a labyrinth)

New Harmony in southwestern Indiana is the site of at least two former Utopian societies, the Harmonists & the Owenites. Neither sect survived. Restrictions against communal living, music and dance didn’t help; rules against sexual interaction didn’t either, not just from the standpoint of a dwindling population, but from the official disdain for the good old ‘urge to merge’ that folks tend to enjoy on occasion. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the gracious dining experience of the Red Geranium, the town of New Harmony despite the suffocating heat, then embarked for Arkansas by way of… Sikeston Missouri?


Itching for a throwed roll? Here you go.

Lunchtime on Day 2 found us where I-55 & I-57 meet, near Sikeston Missouri. Sikeston is the home of Lambert’s Restaurant where the specialty isn’t BBQ ribs, Cole-slaw in buckets, hush puppies or fried okra nuggets by the handful. No, what makes hundreds of travelers veer off the Interstate and shlep on in to Lambert’s is hungry travelers’ inexplicable desire to be pelted with steamy, flying dinner rolls. Home of ‘Throwed Rolls,’ in local parlance, ( Lambert’s staffers won’t hand you a dinner roll, but they’re more than happy to toss one across the cavernous dining room to you. Just raise a greedy mitt, and soon a fresh from the oven bread missile careens your way. Intercept the doughy projectile, slap it onto a saucer and slather it with rich, melt-in-your mouth butter–yum! Note: Cash or check only, no Credit Cards. There is an ATM in the lobby.


Nice catch, Bertina! Butter, please!

Day 3: Little Rock Arkansas, William J. Clinton Library & Museum

Presidential Limo——–Walls of executive papers—The William J. Clinton Library

A short drive past Memphis on I-40 brought us to Little Rock, home of, among other things, President Bill Clinton’s shiny new (LEED platinum) library & museum. The 17,000 square foot building contains many of our 42nd president’s executive papers, and a well presented timeline of his years in office. History buffs and writers could inhabit this museum for days and weeks. We spent several hours perusing the displays, and reliving some of the high (and low) points of the Clinton administration. One of the high points of Clinton’s years in office was the ’96 Summer games in Atlanta. A focus to any museum visit is the interactive displays, and the Clinton library is no exception. We had the opportunity to win gold, silver & bronze in Olympic perusing. Here’s proof. Gold to Bertina; Silver to Mariah; and Bronze to yours truly.


The winners for Olympic Perusing

Day 4: Dallas/Plano

With Little Rock in the rear-view, we trekked on to Dallas & Plano Texas, where friend Bertina spent an hour with a friend she’d never met. We spent the night in Plano at a unique hotel called NYLO, (for New York Loft. A cross between industrial chic and incarceration, it was a bit like spending the night at Shawshank Prison, without the Rita Hayworth movie, but delightful nonetheless. Then it was on to Austin, where things are still weird, the music’s served up eclectic & plentiful and the heat can fry ostrich eggs. We spent two days in weird old hot Austin, then clipped the grandson into his car seat and headed east to Galveston Island & the Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The lad was pleased. The waterpark brought out the boy’s inner dolphin. I’m sure I noticed fins sprouting on his back and arms. You can lead a six-year-old to water, but you can’t make him get out of it and towel off. At Schlitterbahn friend Bertina qualified for yet another gold medal, this one for backward boogie-boarding, a waterlogged effort promising to become an Olympic sport. Here she is below.

Go, Bertina! And we thought the throwed-roll catch was amazing!

Next stop: Houston. 

From Galveston Island we crossed the causeway into Houston and checked out the attractions. First on the list was the Houston Museum of Natural Science. If your museum preference tends toward fascinating, ancient, historic and engaging, the HMNS is world class. Impossible to see in one day, or one week, the HMNS was a refuge from the sticky heat and a great way to spend an afternoon. The IMAX style planetarium alone is worth the price of entry. Next it was downtown Houston to see the Downtown Aquarium, possibly the only disappointment of the Texas trek. The Houston aquarium is a good place to see all manner of fish/cephalopods/crustaceans/and various other marine critters. But the major attraction seems to be…the white tigers?

                        Something’s fishy, Mariah                 Nero, the rare White Tiger

From Houston, Mariah and Bertina went their separate ways: M to Atlanta and Warner-Robins to see the youngest daughter; Bertina back to Columbus to recover from her travels with the likes of us, and enjoy her medals.

I headed back to Austin with the grand lad, stayed one full day at an AirBnB place that was delightful, (review here) and then Wednesday, 8/11, the youngster and I flew from Austin to Columbus. On the 20th he and I flew back to Austin on the cross-country flight from Hades, and met up with Mariah once more. Two more nights in Austin at a terrific hotel called the Lone Star Court, then it was on the road, back through Arkansas, and on to Nashville where we had an appointment with the good folks at CBP, Customs and Border Protection. We’re now officially registered with the CBP in their Global Access Program. Registry in the GOES (Global Online Enrollment System)  allows us automatic TSA-Pre-check anytime we leave the country, and much easier reentry through customs on our return, to the U.S at least. Next post I’ll write about the GOES program, and why travelers should consider enrolling in it.

So…the guilt lines have been crossed, family and friends are assuaged, and we’re ready to return to Boquete and our new life turning expat into a verb. We also intend to refurbish the blog to better reflect our traveling endeavors, making it less specific to Panama. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.