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Austin, Texas (14)

I get to Austin in the dark, so I can't get the feel of the city. I will wait patiently for tomorrow.

Remember Dawn from Big Bend? I am staying at her house for the next three days. I'm glad I have another opportunity to spend time with her. I also have the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Robyn, Dawn's roommate.

The first thing on my schedule today is to do my first oil change on this road trip. At this point, I traveled 4,830 miles in two months. Later I am meeting with Brenda and Tyler at the Capitol building.

Yes, everything's big here in Texas! The Capitol building is the largest capitol building in the United States. It is genuinely a beautiful structure with craftsmanship details all around.

Before Brenda and Tyler meet me, I get a chance to walk around and get a sense of it all. I am lucky to be at the rotunda when a chorus of students sing Christmas songs. It is truly a wonderful feeling being present in this great space and listening to holiday music.

When Tyler and Brenda join me, we take a guided tour. Luckily, it's only the three of us. I am enjoying spending time with both of them and hope to bump into them again.

This journey started out as an adventure, but undoubtedly, it is a journey of self-discovery. With each connection, I learn so much about myself. The brick castle I built as a child to protect myself is crumbling slowly and steadily.

Dawn is certainly a gift! She is full of knowledge on so many levels, and again, I can tour a place from the passenger side and absorb Austin for the exciting city it is. We make a few stops that are not on the tourists' list but are a genuine part of Austin. Being at the top of Mount Bonnell gives me a beautiful view of Austin. Our next stop is at Mayfield Park, with a historic cottage, gardens, and nature preserves in west Austin. It is also a place where peacocks find a peaceful home.

One of the structures that captured my heart is the Pigeon Cote (a dovecote is a structure intended to house pigeons or doves), and I let my imagination go into a remodeling mood to turn it into my tiny home.

We enjoy a delicious dinner at Guero's and walk a few blocks to watch a screening of the film Blood Road, with a live Q&A with Rebecca Rusch, an American athlete, and the movie's star. Rebecca's story truly resonates with me and encourages me to keep sharing my own story.

Thank you, Dawn, for your warm hospitality and your friendship. I do hope our paths will cross again. I hope Dawn will come and visit me when I get back home so I can be her guide in exploring my beautiful area.

It's time to pack my car again. I'm going to visit Suzanne and spend two days with her. Suzanne is another new friend from a solo traveler Facebook group. Back in October, when I was working on my travel plans in Texas, I had some ideas for the places I wanted to see, but was a bit overwhelmed by the size of Texas. I reached out for suggestions from the group, and Suzanne responded with so many suggestions. We started to communicate, and I asked her if we could speak on the phone as she had so much information to share with me. From the start, we clicked beautifully. Suzanne's help was tremendous! She offered me a place to stay if I needed. Even though she lived a bit off my route (a small town called Paige near Bastrop), it was important for me to go meet her in person.

I just have one more place to see in Austin before getting on the highway. It is time for another history lesson. I am visiting the Bullock Texas State History Museum. What an incredible museum! It is absolutely a must-visit, and don't skip the movie The Spirit of Texas.

The conversation with Suzanne is always fun. She knows how to tell a good story, and I enjoy hearing them all. She is a retired history teacher, so you can imagine how much I enjoy learning more about the history of Texas. More so, she is an amazing baker. I had the privilege of watching her make an apple pie. What was even more delightful, is I got to taste one of the best apple pies ever! Let's just say one slice was not enough; I had to go for a second. By midnight we realized we better get to bed. Tomorrow we will see Hamilton Pool.

Suzanne also offered me the opportunity to clean my car. Yay, my car is nice and clean!

It's a gloomy rainy day here in Hamilton Pool. Since it's been an arid year, I don't see the same picture I saw on Google while searching about Hamilton Pool. Of course, there was some disappointment in not seeing it as I was hoping to, but it's still a beautiful area. I'm happy we made the drive, and hope the rain will return to Texas soon so people will get back the true Hamilton full view.

We toast the end of our incredible time together with a delicious frozen margarita!

It's a foggy morning here in Paige, and it is time to pack my car again.

I am heading to my last stop in Texas, Palo Duro State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. I am looking forward to three days of camping and hiking.

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