How to get around: Denton to Austin TX

I’ve done enough traveling to know a few more things about how to get from 1 place to another. I also realized that some of these journeys may happen again so now I have a place to go where all the research is done. Every trip depends on how much time you have so go slow or fast, enjoy the ride!

One of the 1st pages I use is this one which breaks down the travel riding options such as air bus train even ferry if available. This page located a couple of amazing boat rides on some trips and its always fun to add a new travel method. A search reveals that its bus or train only. Sure flights are an option but not one for under 100$. Now is where you have to ask yourself how in a hurry are you? The 1 truth I learned on a long trip is that it is cheaper if you fit yourself around their schedule.

A big thing is to consider arrival or departure times. Buses run 24 hrs a day and if you want to save even more, you can catch a night bus and wake up at your destination. Always be sure to check the itineraries before you book because there is 1 bus company that likes to make passengers change buses at 2 am. You do not want to do this if you can find a more direct option.

So the train is first option to ATX, only 2 per day and it takes 2x as long as car or bus plus it costs more. Another random thing you learn about buses is that they have assigned stops at certain gas stations or other non marked stops. Just type in whatever city you are really in and they just may have a stop at a station. This is the case with Denton there is a stop at a station just off the highway. This stop connects you to the big Dallas hub where you can go pretty much anywhere in the US. This way is a bit more vs public transportation but it will be faster. Bonus is should this bus be late you can go right to their counter to get remedy.

Greyhound and Megabus are your options. Greyhound has a pick up station in Denton or you can Dart to Greyhound’s hub in downtown Dallas. This is the option I recommend. When you get to the station you need to look for one of the buses to Mexico, as that is the final stop and the name of the bus. Just underneath the final stop are the cities it stops at in-between. Take the express non-stop bus, several times per day and takes 3 hours. You get a electrical plug at every seat, mine worked. So nap read watch a movies or do what you want and you are soon dropped in Austin.

3 hours is not bad even in a car. I had no stops on my trip. I caught some shut eye. I haven’t taken Austins buses yet but I am sure I  will. Keep on reading for more info when that ride happens.

 

 

 

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Trip to Mexico Dia 1 Dallas to Mexico City

This trip occurred in 2014. I had written these posts a long time ago on a different computer which I just gained access to again.  I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as we did. It is a wonderful place to visit and live. 

 

One of the strangest things about living in Texas is despite how strong the Mexican influence is, from food, fashion and holidays, most native Texans have little to no desire to visit the country. Ask anyone and they can surely direct you to the best taco or elotes spot in town or maybe where to pick up some tres leches cake, but to suggest trying these in Mexico, most everyone I told about my trip got a bit queasy. Talks of gangs, kidnapping and water quality issues were raised as reasons for their concern, but isn’t it true that I can drive to certain areas of Dallas where the same things could happen? Better to die traveling and exploring a new city I felt. I had two friends with me so it would be a bit harder to kidnap me or at least I would have witnesses.

The only issue for me was this trip’s early departure time coupled with a late night at work made for a rude awaking. My phone jarred me awake and I noticed that not only had I slept through my alarm twice, I’d missed calls, likely from the shuttle I’d arranged. I frantically ran out to see the blue shuttle waiting. I opened the door and apologized and was greeted with the best words:

Don’t worry about it. You are my only ride today, plus its Thanksgiving. Take your time,’ the driver told me.

Wow, did I need to hear this! Thanksgiving Day is the least crowded time I’ve ever seen both on the roads and at the airport, it was nearly deserted. At least I was able to sleep more and charge my phone with the extra time on my hands. Shuttle services schedule pickups too early, especially this ride as I was the only pick up with zero traffic, I had two full hours before boarding. I really do not like any part of the airplane boarding process. It is way too unknown and I wish it were more efficient, to the point where there is an ER line, should you find yourself near boarding time, but still have to navigate security.

I caught more shut eye on the brief flight south. What I didn’t realize is how close Mexico really is by plane. Maybe two hours in the air and we were in Mexico City. What is remarkable about the City is how massive it is, not large, massive. You hit the outskirts of the city minutes before you land, the entire time you see building after building, and the sprawl is miles in every direction. It’s not like some of the DFW sprawl, this is totally unbroken, downtown cramped, people living feet from each other level sprawl for miles and acres of land.

We had to go through a lot of security and it was then I realized how bad my knowledge of Spanish was. I speak a little Spanish, but not when spoken to me rapid fire that is the style of the locals. The guard switched to English after I answered incorrectly a couple times. He laughed and waved me through. We spied some money changers and I decided to go all in then and there to change my dollars to pesos. I didn’t think we’d get that much of a better rate in town; it was 4 to 1 conversion rate, so we were doing well already. I changed nearly the full amount of cash I brought, save $20, because you never know. As it would turn out, I still had pesos left over; it was very affordable in Mexico.

We had a moment to contemplate taking a bus or a taxi to our hostel. We had a lot of time before we could check in, plus we wanted to see the city so a bus it was. I think it cost maybe five pesos to ride, so maybe a dollar. We crept along on the narrow roads, speeding up and stopping, over and over, there was so much traffic. Also a lot more homeless, graffiti, pretty much amplify anything you see in any other downtown, x10. That is how much larger Mexico City is vs. just about any other big city you can name. NYC is dwarfed by Mexico City in terms of size.

We arrived to Zocolo, the part of the city we were staying near city centre. I had found a very cool hostel, Catedral, which was maybe a block away from the Metro Cathedral and Zocolo train station. We stopped into a 7-eleven and I picked up a Mexican beer. We were still bit early to check in so we walked around the blocks to check out what was in our neighborhood. Lots of small eating, drinking spots, and clothing booths were all around.

 

The hostel is five stories, a bar on the ground floor. The next floors were dorms and a rooftop bar & restaurant that had an amazing panoramic view of much of the City. It was a fine old building, most buildings around were over a hundred years old I’d say. Cranes dotted the areas that were further away. Modern structures mingled with older structures as far as the eye could see. I really enjoyed the view of the square, watching merchants selling, dancers, and people mingling, all unaware anyone was looking.

My friend I was with spoke Spanish and he handled the introduction with the desk clerk. We arrived around a shift change and the morning guy was not having it today. He was not about to check in anymore people, and he was eating, too. He told us to get a drink at the bar and to wait for the afternoon person. The afternoon guy was late, so I asked them to signal us when the guy arrived and grabbed a beer from the bar. After a beer, we were checked in and found our room. We took three out of the four beds in a mixed dorm so it was just like how it would have been at a hotel, but a lot cheaper and closer to city center. Inside we met our roommate, a Canadian, and selected our beds from the bunk options. He was in town for a month, following futbol with some friends. He was about to take a nap and we wanted to walk around some more so we parted company.

We were staying literally a block from the city center square, the square that had held thousands of pissed off protesters burning the president in effigy only days before. This protest was due to 40 students who had disappeared and local, state police where believed to have been involved with their disappearance. They wanted answers and nothing was coming. They wanted to trust their government, the police, someone who supposedly sworn to protect them, but wasn’t for sell. Drug gangs were also suspected and the police either helped them do it or let them get away with it. There were riot police all over the city, at all the busy traffic intersections. The few interactions we had with them asking for directions were all pleasant. It is a bit hard to laugh with someone with several guns strapped to their body, I can say that, but they did smile.

This was my first experience with heavily armed police, basically the military everywhere we went in the City. They had assault weapons, shields, tank like vehicles, and paddy wagons should they need to transport people away. They had to be ready, the various gangs around had guns, too, so it really did come down to who had the most might, the most fire power. Thinking on it now, a war is certainly a possibility. I do not know what keeps the peace, why they do not go after each other? I was also a bit surprised at how many women police there were and most of them were very pretty. All the police wore bulletproof vests; others also wore helmets with face guards or just a black military style hat and knee high boots.

We walked through the immense cathedral, taking it all in. We felt safe in the church, for sure nothing bad would go down there. One of the first things I noticed about Mexican cathedrals is how much more bloody the images of Christ are vs. US images. Lots of focus on the bleeding crown of thorns, more blooon the hands, wrists and feet. I think several statues and paintings were crying blood. They were taking more away from the suffering he had endured instead of say, love and community. I saw many people slowly making their way to the cathedral on their knees. Through pain there would be gain in the afterlife.

 

We then walked our way through the square, in the center stood a very tall flagpole, the red, white and green flag swaying and flapping in the wind. The flag and cathedral behind it was a powerful image so we took many pictures, as did many around us.

mex flag.jpg

Across the street from the square was the garment district. Every building had many small businesses each selling different clothes from dresses to suits, as well as yards of fabrics to make your own. Some stalls were not much larger than a closet, but each made full use of their space. They generally had items on their arms and showed them to passersby or they shouted their deals to anyone walking by in loud Spanish.

We then had to find our way through the immense traffic jam that was occurring out front of the garment stores. It wasn’t even five o’clock, after work time, it was middle of the day. It was chaos and I don’t know why they let cars drive through what is basically an outdoor market. There were certainly many more people on foot than in cars, trucks. We followed a larger group of people out, safety in numbers. A motorcycle would suddenly coast through, nearly hitting a car or pedestrian. Everyone seemed to have ear buds in their heads and seemed more concerned about other things than driving safely. Still, I never saw a wreck when in was in the City, traffic just worked out.

We walked west towards the sunset, hoping for a park or place that wasn’t surrounded by buildings. We walked through an entertainment district or maybe it was a just large boulevard as there were many people dressed up in costumes. Most were dressed as video game characters, like Mario Bros. or Tim Burton movies: Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland. People walked up and paid to take a picture with their favorite character. I presumed this was the street performers’ job? The costumes were spot on and very well made, nothing cheap here, they were movie ready quality.

We then bought some ice cream, which is everywhere in the City. Most of the times if you saw someone eating in public, they were eating ice cream. We located a park and watched the sun go down. Traffic was still backed up from rush hour, which at this point, they should just call it rush day. I don’t think it was ever low traffic when we were downtown. We heard some sounds in the distance as we finished our cones. Was that horns and voices? We turned follow the sounds, which was a great decision. We’d found mariachi plaza! About a dozen small mariachis in full dress milled about the square. All you had to do was talk to them, negotiate a song or two and pay a fee. The band leader would call the songs to the others, sometimes a brief huddle was in order to sort out unknown parts. To my untrained ear, it all sounded pretty much the same. Upbeat with lots of aaaaahhhhhhhs or somber and morose with mourning horns.

Next to the mariachi plaza was a food court. Small operations right next to each other serving sometimes the same foods, others specializing in unique foods. You would walk by a couple places selling meat tacos next to seafood options. The food stall line stretched a long ways and each person would smile and try to get you to buy their food. We walked the length of the place hoping to find something cool, but ended up eating at the first option, which was also the largest. The rational of our choice being that the food court owners hopefully would put the best option first. I ordered goat tacos so I could say I’d had them.

mex taco.jpg

Goat was on most menus that I saw, very common option in Mexico. It was very tasty, a pork/chicken like flavor and texture. The tacos here are just meat, you had to ask for onion and cilantro, but that would the only options they might have. On the table sat four bowls of salsas of all spice levels and colors. They varied in flavor and heat, but most of them were not spicy at all.

mex goat

We took in some more sites on the way back to our hostel. We stopped in at the hostel bar and I had a couple beers. My friends didn’t drink so we all talked with the bartenders and other workers milling about the bar. I tried some Spanish on them, they laughed. We all laughed a lot that night. Mexico City is a lot of fun.

Stevie Ray Vaughn grave site

No doubt the most famous person to die in Dallas would be John F Kennedy, but he isn’t buried here. I started morbidly wondering, ‘What famous people are buried in Dallas?’ The most famous was likely Stevie Ray Vaughn, born and raised in Oak Cliff. He was killed in a helicopter accident after playing a show in Wisconsin in 1990. His grave site is in Dallas, a statue is standing in Austin, where he moved to hone his playing and stage show before Bowie shown light on his talents. These are the only memorials to this local musician fans could visit.

In the coming years, a SRV statue will finally stand in Oak Cliff, but a design has yet to be finalized and they still need money. Long overdue memorial in his hometown, in my estimation, but then again, even the Dallas guys that helped influence SRV, like Freddy King or T-Bone Walker, don’t have statues either. Nor do most people know who they are, yet they are blues legends worthy of being declared a Lone Star legend by the Texas governor. Read up on the SRV statue saga if you like http://vaughanbrosart.com/faq

The Vaughn family has lived around south Dallas for several generations. Stevie and Jimmy went to school around Kiest Park area, and the family has a large plot at Laurel Land Memorial Park just outside the city.

Getting out to see SRV gravesite is a fairly easy drive down I-35 south until you see Laurel Land exit, take that and turn left. You’ll see the cemetery; it is very large and clearly stands out. Take the 2nd entrance on the right into the cemetery, turn left onto the first road you see. Not too far down, on your right, you’ll see a small island with a tree and that is where the grave site is located, you don’t have to get out of your car. There are usually guitar picks, pictures and other memories fans leave behind resting on the ornate slab. Be respectful if you go.

 

srv.jpg

Dream Trip Day 1 DFW to London    delay

Hung with Reine, JP and Erin at Eno’s. Had a few pints.

So hard to say goodbye to people who you love and have done so much for you.

Zero security line so walked right to security and through, no waiting.

Nothing happened at gate until board time. Flight canceled !

Called AA and got afternoon flight next day while standing in long line for ticket agent

Protip= call airline and they will find best flight. Follow up w email demand for miles as compensation. I got a lot of miles, likely enough for free domestic flight or upgrade to higher class!

Reine picked me up and had beers at Strangeways. It was strange to think this would be my last American pint for months.

Watched Ghost brothers show on sofa, hilarious ghost stories. Side ghost!

Beer: Revolver Blood and Honey

Song: Eno 1/1

Looping in Dallas: a drive on Loop 12

I live in Dallas now, but how much do I really know about this city and what there is to do? How many historical events occurred here other than JFK’s assassination and where are they? When people ask me what to do in Dallas or have I ever been to (insert tourist location here) I think I should be able to answer them confidently, as in I have been there. Better yet, I could recommend something uniquely Dallas but not touristy. I mean let’s be real, this isn’t Boston, NYC or DC, rich with history and curiosities…or maybe it is. I intend to find out and share with you my results.

CD’s listened to:
Black Sabbath- Sabotage
The 13th Floor Elevators- The Psychedelic Sounds of…

2.5 roads circle Dallas: Loop 12 (Walton Walker) + 635 (LBJ) and the Geo Bush Turnpike (190). LBJ as I’ve discovered, doesn’t actually circle the city, more like bisects it. In addition it connects to I-20. If you think back to why loop 12 was built, it outlined (or maybe was) the city limits or connected farm roads so they could get downtown easily. By driving this route, I hoped to get a sense or feel for the Dallas of old; how big was the city years ago, what was important back then? Turns out a lot has changed but there are still glimpses of the old if you look.

I started by White Rock Lake at the apex of the loop. There was some sort of event, perhaps a fun run or this park is normally just crowded all the time. The first thing that I noticed about this excursion is that Loop 12 isn’t a freeway. There are stoplights most of the way, except a small part on the west side so the speed limit varies greatly from 30-60 mph. I was under the impression it was a major artery and perhaps it may have been at one time. L12 has many parks along the road as well, at least 3-5. For a big city like Dallas, there are a lot more trees and undeveloped land than I anticipated, you just have to hunt them out. Only a few miles in and I’ve learned something. Ah ha, now I know where Keller’s Hamburgers is located, too, going to have to try that joint out.

L12, like many freeways around here, has different names depending on where you’re at on the road. I don’t know what the predilection is for honoring highways for famous people, but Dallas has that Jones big time which makes listening to traffic reports or navigating a challenge. On the east side it’s called Buckner blvd. After about 10 minutes, Buckner crossed I-20 and became Northwest Rd. This stretch soon became a caricature of a poor neighborhood. Many homeless wandering the streets, people passed out/sleeping and yes I even saw someone throwing up. The sounds of my mom’s voice reverberated through my head, ‘why aren’t they in church, its Sunday!’ there are many paths to salvation it seems…

There were plenty of small ma + pop gas station/bbq/catfish/fried chicken/burger joints peppered along the route. These look a bit shady based off the names and overall cleanliness, but I’ll bet most are probably tasty. Any place that advertises a double meat double cheeseburger for 2 bucks has to be worth checking out. It was eye opening to notice the lack of chain fast food joints. It seems everyone just opened decided to do it themselves, which is refreshing. Some ideas are better than others and I saw several misspelled signs, the most glaring being one that advertised for ‘ciggarets,’ in a permanent, illuminated sign no less. No need to pick up what you’re selling to make sure it’s spelled correctly. Nope, just spell it out the way its pronounced ought to be good enough.

I slowly found my way to a 7-11 as my gas tank hit E. One thing I was for sure on the lookout for were gas prices. Would it be cheaper to fill up in S Dallas vs. Highland Park? There was a 10 cent price difference and it was actually a bit cheaper to fill up in HP, which I wasn’t expecting. As I was filling up, a woman drove up into the parking lot at about 20mph and screeched to a stop at a pump. She got out, curlers still in her hair, a skirt that road up past the bottom of her butt cheeks, and she was yelling. I froze for a moment and glanced at the gas tank; still a few more gallons to go and I had some crazy woman raging who soon would be facing me while she gassed up. It turns out I had nothing to worry as this woman strode out of the station I saw a Blue Tooth in her ear. She wasn’t crazy; she was just on the phone. I gave her a nod, she smiled and that was filling up in south Dallas.

A few minutes after filling up the neighborhood ended and fields emerged. I saw off in the distance the downtown profile. It was a bit southwest Dallas heading into the original OC: Oak Cliff. There were lots of churches along the route, some in different languages. The Korean Baptist church has to be an experience. Do they shout and holler like I’ve seen in other Baptist churches? I also drove by the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star which is such a vague yet specific name that conjures up many images. Was this a school, church or a fraternal organization? Just Google them, their site is worth scanning, but it is an African denomination close to Pentecostal but a bit Catholic.

Shortly after passing the brotherhood, I found myself in Irving and on a ‘new road’: Northwest Hwy. Now that seems far away and it sort of is, but it did help explain why the Cowboys, who played in Irving for all these years, go by the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll bet you at one time that area was in the Dallas City limits and just grew into a suburb. The stadium is still standing with demolition equipment all around it. You know they aren’t going to just tear that down, I mean, it is Jerry Jones, he will find a way to sell as much of that stadium as possible. ‘Want a piece of concrete that Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, and Tony Dorsett spat on, only $19.99!’ Still need to check out the new stadium in Arlington.

Driving on an overpass that crossed I-35 was odd as I’ve driven under it for years and never knew which road it was since there wasn’t an exit. Soon after crossing I-35, the freeway ended and I was back to stopping at lights. The west section of NW Hwy was where the strip clubs used to be as I recall. Not sure where they all moved, probably a good thing. This stretch of road is something to see during the day. Sure I’ve been here at night so you miss lots of details, the essence of an area, hence, driving around town during the day. I mean there is more to see around than just strip clubs.

A few more miles and suddenly I’m in a different city in more than just name: Highland Park. Gaudy comes to mind, opulent is another to describe this area. Even the strip shopping malls look different with shop names you only see in fashion magazines and completely unusual architecture; lots of walls, steeples castle like structures. I am not sure why every place in Dallas, especially HP offers valet service but they do. Indeed, all the shops were filling up with elegantly dressed people. I assume they are going directly from church as I pass a Methodist or was that Baptist church? The houses and lawns are immaculate to an annoying degree; there are professionals manicuring grass and hedges. Interesting to think that moments ago I probably drove through the neighborhoods where those groundskeepers live. That’s indicative of any city I suppose, wealthy on one end, poor on the other.

I learned a lot about Dallas and how it’s laid out from this drive. You hear names or places on the radio but rarely do you go there. I now know what roads go all the way to L12 in each direction so in case of traffic I’ll be able to navigate my way without using major highways. I saw some cool places I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I learned that Dallas is much more than just downtown, more than just the iconic nighttime shot of all the skyscrapers. Dallas has some rough patches, some exclusive nooks and everything in between. Trust me this exploration isn’t to get people to come out here, rather it is to explore the nation’s 9th largest city (of course in TX it’s still only 3rd largest). I still dislike greatly (upgrade from hate) most of Dallas so perhaps exploring the city will change that or at least help me understand why some places suck.