With producer Sara Schleede whipping up her next podcast, “35,” we’ve been thinking quite a lot about Interstate 35 and the road trips we, staff members at The Drag, have taken in our lifetimes. From busted up cars to kayaking with whales, here are some of our favorite memories from the road.
In October, I jumped straight into my friend’s Jeep after a Thursday afternoon Zoom class and headed to West Texas. The road trip was an escape from the reality of the pandemic. I loved the vast open lands, endless amounts of stars and roosters that woke us up in the morning.
During our trip, the Jeep broke down on the side of the Guadalupe mountains. Instead of stressing out, we laughed and problem solved. After being towed to a mechanic shop that was surrounded by cows and horses, we were on our way back to Austin in time for my Monday morning class.
I took the best road trip of my life my sophomore year of college. My childhood was filled with many family road trips, and that’s how I developed my love for them. Riding in the car and looking out the window can be such a meditative experience, and it allows me to peer into the lives in towns all the way along the route to my destination.
This was my first road trip without my parents, and three friends and I drove to Yosemite National Park in California. We stayed in an Airbnb that doubled as an alpaca farm, so when we weren’t hiking around we were petting fluffy alpacas or the cat that roamed around the barn. The trip was memorable because I got to check an item off my bucket list, but more importantly because it was my first time planning and executing a road trip on my own as an adult.
I’m having difficulty remembering what life was like pre-pandemic when people could travel, but I think my favorite road trip was with my family—my parents, younger brother and younger sister—in the winter of 2012. We travelled all the way from Houston to this little town north of Albuquerque, New Mexico! I can’t remember how long the trip was, but I remember falling asleep several times and reading a huge chunk out of my copy of “Catching Fire” from the Hunger Games series.
The trip was so much fun. We were planning to stay with my mom’s childhood friend for Christmas and New Years, and it was the first time I’d ever been to New Mexico. I remember being shocked at the fact that it snowed there, and it was actually the first time I’d ever seen snow! I was staring out of the window for hours just watching the snowfall on cacti and orange rock. It was all so, so beautiful.
In the summer of 2013, I wanted to take advantage of having some extra time off in the summers as a relatively new professor, so we packed up my two boys and drove all over Texas and into New Mexico. Texas is HUGE. We spent four days driving over 2,000 miles, most of which was in Texas. We saw Palo Duro Canyon, which I highly recommend, went to the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, had steaks at a tourist trap in Amarillo, saw the “aliens” in Roswell, New Mexico and went to Big Bend National Park. We all had a surprisingly great time and saw so much of our state. When I was a kid my parents took me and my two sisters on so many road trips across the country that I can now say I have visited 48 of our 50 states (just missing Maine and Hawaii). I’m so glad I continued the family tradition by hitting the road before my boys got too old for it.
My favorite road trip isn’t just one trip, but a recurring one. Growing up, my family always took a trip or two down to Port Aransas on the Texas coast every summer to spend a week playing in the sun and sand. It’s a tradition I’ve carried over to my adult life, sometimes visiting Port A alone, sometimes with friends, and now, with my husband. It’s not the most fun drive, or the most scenic one, but I’ve found so many spots along the way that I’ve come to love. We drive through Lockhart, occasionally stopping for barbecue at Black’s, through Gonzales, then Goliad, where we often stop at the state park to wander through the beautiful reconstructed mission. By that point, we’re usually hungry again, which takes us to the Whataburger in Cuero…then straight on to Refugio, which is usually where I catch my first glimpse of palm trees, which makes my heart start to race with excitement. After a stop at the giant H-E-B in Aransas Pass, the best part of the trip—the Port Aransas ferry—is usually a long wait with the windows down, and this is where I feel the most at peace, knowing what awaits me on the other side of a brief boat ride: Some seafood, a cooler full of Texas beer, probably a sunburn or two, and a road trip home with a car full of sand.
My favorite road trip was in 1996 when my wife Cory and I traveled in our Isuzu Amigo from Phoenix, Arizona to Villa Jesús María in Baja California, Mexico to go whale watching from an inflatable kayak. There were challenges (getting immediately stuck in the sand on the beach; finding our favored Dos Equis beer in the city of Tecate, or any beer on election day) but also many beautiful sights, like an end-to-end rainbow in the Mexican desert, baby whales swimming under our plastic boat or finding sand dollars at low tide. It is the trip we will remember forever.
When I drive by the coast of Ecuador, my imagination runs wild. On one side, the waves break and seagulls fly around. On the other side, the people of Ecuador mirror the beauty of the ocean. As you make your way through the Ruta del Sol—“The Sun’s Route”—the various stops offer everything from a quiet fishermen’s town to a hectic partying hub. The diversity of the journey is so much fun to explore. A drive down Ecuador’s coast is a magic road trip, and it always makes me feel right at home.
When I lived in Louisiana, we spent our vacations driving to Destin, Florida. It would only take us about three hours to cross four different states, which seems crazy now that I live in Texas, where it takes three hours to cross between cities. My sister and I would always be on the lookout for each state line. We wanted to know what the sign looked like, what it said. In between, we would play this alphabet game with signs. We had to find one sign for each letter of the alphabet and in order.
I never liked long car rides because I’d get car sick, but looking back, these were probably my favorite road trips thanks to the scenery and how I got to see the world change by looking out the window. In Louisiana, the highways are lined with tall pine trees, and everything’s so green. When we would pass through Mobile, Alabama, it was eye-opening to get a look at a big city besides New Orleans. I knew we were in Pensacola when I saw lines of trees once more. By the time we’d arrive in Destin, the sky would be too dark to tell it apart from the water at the beach.