The Keith family loaded up the family truckster and took a three-day trip to our state capital recently. I love Austin, although being a desert rat for over 30 years now means any humidity makes me feel like I need to shower every five minutes. And it was humid. 

Moving so fast, you would think that we wouldn't have any time so soak things up (other than the clothes in my laundry bag...TMI? Yeah, huh?), especially spending 18 hours of a three-day vay-cay on the road. But that would be wrong. There were lots of things that we either saw, noticed, or instigated that really set this trip apart -- some things of those BECAUSE we were on the road...

  • Duke Keith
    Duke Keith

    Ozona's Awesome Old-School Park

    My Kids Played On Ancient Playground Equipment and Still Have All Their Fingers!

    Chances are, if you're roaring down I-10 at 80 mph (Thank you, Texas legislators, for speed limit signs that begin with "8"!) and you still have a solid tank of gas, you might not notice Ozona, TX. But if you're below a quarter-tank and you've already blown by Fort Stockton headed east or Sonora headed west, Ozona is an oasis, complete with trees and drive-thru ice cream treats ready for you just off the freeway.

    Turns out they have a pretty cool park, too. With a car full of youngsters who haven't been able to move for nearly five hours, a park is a wonderful thing. An old-school park complete with see-saws and a merry-go-round is even better!

    I've told my kids about parks like this, but after being raised around playgrounds with soft cedar chips and foam and rides made of plastic, I just got blank stares and disbelief.

    Visitor's Center Park in Ozona was a revelation. There really are parks like this! And they're very educational with things like real wooden see-saws where my kids could discover weight differential, the laws of gravity and hypodermic wound care. You know, the bigger kid deliberately lands one end of the see-saw real hard, launching the smaller kid who barely hangs on to the other end and then comes down with butt-numbing force, and everybody gets splinters.

    There was a real, honest-to-goodness merry-go-round -- the kind made out of a circular slab of metal ringed with pipes and inviting children to test the law of centrifugal force -- grabbing a pipe and running around the merry-go-round as fast as possible, hoisting yourself onto the thing, spinning until you're dizzy, laughing, then losing your lunch.

    It even had swingsets with metal chains that could pinch your fingers if you put them near too near the joint.

    What a great old park!

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    My Grandson Is Going to Be a Rapper

    "Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game, Grampa!"

    For anyone who has or has had a toddler, you know that keeping a two-year-old restrained in a car seat for nine hours is almost a crime against toddler nature. One way we kept our grandson, Kaleb, occupied was by finding his favorite tunes. Turns out his favorite tuneage is R&B. How did we figure this out? Take a look at the video.

    Move over, Diddy.

  • Duke Keith
    Duke Keith

    Myth-Busted: Austin Is America's New Chic, Urban Capital

    Apparently, He Doesn't Mind Her Riding His Ass

    Austin, TX, is Hipster Heaven. The Coffeehouse Capital of the Confederacy. The Seattle of the Sun Belt.

    My ass.

    Actually, somebody else's ass.

    As we were preparing to leave for home, gassing up -- both the car and ourselves at a drive-thru -- we were contemplating all the great things we had experienced. Amazing live music, complete with an incredible light show and pyrotechnics (and that was at a commencement ceremony!). Wonderful food along South Congress Avenue, where we were served (and were surrounded) by some of the hottest, hippest people you will meet in this land.

    And then, just when you think Bubba has been banished inside the Austin City Limits, we saw this couple riding their mule up South Congress and over the US 290 overpass!

    You can lead a mule to water, but you can't make him drink a latté.

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    A Desert Sunset AND The Solar Eclipse in Balmorhea, TX

    What Does It Mean...Other Than We're Not Getting Home Until WAY After Dark?!

    There is nothing quite like watching a desert sunset, and we were driving into a spectacular one as we made our back to El Paso -- mountains fired by the deep orange the sun showed as it neared the horizon. The hills and valleys surrounding us hidden from the sun in shadows of purple and blue.

    Then, just before dusk about five miles east of Balmorhea, we could see it with our own eyes -- a solar eclipse that turned the sun into a fiery crescent moon!

    Double Rainbow Guy Paul Vasquez would have crapped a brick.

    Couldn't get the tripod out to steady the shot, but if I'd taken the time we would have missed the moment.

  • Duke Keith
    Duke Keith

    THE Most Amazing Thing We Saw on Our Trip to Austin

    Ysaac Keith, B.L.A. -- Linguistics, Univ. of Texas, Class of 2012

    This isn't amazing in the sense that we didn't think it would ever happen -- far from it! It was amazing just was.

    Way to go, Ysaac. We're proud of you.