each year, the tiny town (and i do mean tiny…population 90) of round top, texas, plays host to over 100,000 visitors as they descend upon the area for the world’s largest antique fair. vendors range from a blanket laid out covered in treasures, to the ‘big red barn’, a full free-standing building chocked full of antiques and curious objects of interest. shelly and i counted for two of the 100,000 visitors this year. armed with our 12 foot truck, we were determined to pack it full of one-of-a-kind finds to bring back to rare bird.
shelly began one year ago planning the trip. it started with a $99 one way ticket to austin, texas. after setting the alarm clock for 4:30 am travel day, we were on our way. once in austin, we picked up our truck and headed for round top! nothing more bad ass than two girls and a uhaul on a texas highway. we stopped along the way at the HWY 290 diner, where we had our first taste ever of fried green tomatoes! when in the south…
as we traveled closer to round top, we noticed tents and people popped up along the way. “is this it?” we were still an entire town before round top proper, we had arrived in warrenton, or as locals called it “warrington”. we were so excited to see what texas had in store for us. just steps away from the truck, we knew we had arrived! treasures as far as the eye could see. it was difficult to focus, as eye candy exploded and went on for acres. we were fortunate enough to land in the right place at the right time. we stepped into jill suzanne’s shed, and our collecting had begun. upon cashing out, we had asked her kindly to guide us in the right direction, as we were not only new to texas, but, fresh off the truck from socal. we were new to the antique fair, yes we were round top virgins. she gasped, took a step back, only to return with two disposable glasses filled to the brim with chilled chardonnay (again, perfect timing, as the temperature read 95 degrees!). she proceeded to give us the lay-of-the-land complete with a list and sketched out map. after hugging us good bye, we loaded our first haul, where we discovered the secret beer cozies, donning “JUNK DRUNK” that jill suzanne had slipped into our loot as a take-away! this was the first of friends we made along the way, and our first experience of true southern hospitality. we were giddy beyond belief! the rainbow in the sky was proof that we were right where we belonged.
jill suzanne later spotted us, with her happy trails greeting…wine glass in hand half full, steering with her knee, while beeping her horn of her white suburban! we filled the rest of the day with shopping until we could no longer find anyone left open to do business. we were amazed at just how many vendors were there as we drove past the longhorns into round top. we put our name on the waiting list of one of the two restaurants town, a lively mexican hot spot, where you could hear from blocks away. three immediate observations…texans like their food, they like their booze and they sure do like to make new friends! we were in no shortage for company. we settled into our table, had a great meal thanks to los patrones. we were lulled into the southern pace by a combination of the local chatter, the two margaritas, and the balmy night. this place is so colorful, and full with surprises and characters around every turn. as we paid our bill, we walked to our car serenaded by an ice cream truck playing a loop of christmas songs. only in texas.
we set the address in our iPhone for our hotel destination, which we had not yet seen. it was getting late now, really late, and we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep, just when our google maps sent us here…
needless to say, it was a long night! eventually, we made it to our hotel safe and sound. in the morning, we were eager to get an early start and were on the road by early morning. we put in a full day and were able to find quite a few treasures.
we were fortunate enough to stumble upon the famous ‘cole’s antiques’, as they hosted a reception for shoppers. we got the full texan serenade, fiddles and all.
later that night, we were lucky to get late night dinner reservations at ‘royer’s cafe’, a quirky country cafe serving down home cooking (the pork tenderloin was ridiculous!), and off course, a full pie menu. big bud himself called us to our table. that night, we had the pleasure to dine with three different parties. we met people from nearby, from austin, and the netherlands at our community table! we felt like celebrities walking through, as friends we had made thorough the day, called out and waived with smiles ear to ear.
the next morning, we were up at sunrise, and took some time to organize our loot and repack the truck. with ice in our cooler and our payload secured, we were off for another full day of shopping, rewarded by some of the biggest purchases of the trip. we also paused for a moment to make some generalizations about texans. first, and foremost, they are some the friendliest people that we have ever had the pleasure to meet. they went out of their way to help us or to lend a hand. the women are beautiful! and very decorated! shelly and i both felt as though we were being stared at, due to our lack or adornment. most texan women we came across were elegant beyond belief and donned at least ten costume jewelry pieces…all at once! in fact, one woman even wore a necklace with a deer antler pendant. and the men, SO CHIVALROUS! they were polite and respectful, calling us ‘mam’ at every chance. in fact, when we thanked them for calling us mam, one man asked “why, what else would you be called?” our response…”dude!”, “yo”, and the best one, “hey you”. these gentlemen laughed as though we were pulling their leg!
after getting the truck stuck under a low-hanging tree branch, we decided the texas highway was beckoning us to take our leave and head to austin. we had three full days of shopping, negotiating, packing and bbq, and decided it was time to say “until next time” to round top texas y’all.
we were off to austin. we had originally planned that last night to stay near columbus, but after hearing shelly’s tale of the austin bats at sunset, we felt inspired to get to austin by sunset and visit the 1.5 million bats emerge from under the congress avenue bridge. we managed to book a hotel blindly off the internet and were pleasantly surprisedly by the kimber modern hotel. it was easy to get to (just off south congress street), easy to get into (self check in with a pin number unlocking the front door as well as our guest room), a friendly manager (she called and stopped in to introduce herself and the property) and a beautifully appointed and comfortable room. this place was top shelf.
after resting an hour and freshening up, we ‘ubered’ to the congress avenue bridge and waited out sunset. the bridge was packed. some were locals, others from across the globe. 7:30 came and went, then 8:00, then 8:30. NO BATS. we had to look online to double check to see if we had missed something. we discovered that there were indeed nights in which the bats stayed put under the bridge and chose not to come out for the night. we called it and headed to dinner at the congress street cafe. it was here we had the dinner of dinners and the finest wine of our trip. we strolled along south congress street peeking in the windows of the shops, cafe’s and boutiques that had already closed. we needed no more motivation to schedule another austin trip for the future. we topped the evening off by listening to music pool-side at the hotel san jose and browsing their boutique. what a beautiful and mellow vibe this hotel has. we chalked it up on our list for ‘nextime’.
the next morning, we filled our bellies with a hardy breakfast and hit the open road under the big open texas skies. this was the core of our trip. we were headed to marfa texas, an artist community full of art galleries, and installments. we were on our way to the high desert of west texas.
we even passed through the small town of fort stockton texas, where we stopped to take a snapshot of their very own version of ‘the bird’. we had around an 8-hour drive, with plenty to see and plenty to talk about.
we arrived at the ever so chic ‘el cosmico’, a small overnight campground hotel providing teepees, yurts, and trailers for overnight guests. we were excited to see what all the excitement over the el cosmico was. we planned a relaxing dinner in our trailer (away for the mosquitos that were terrorizing shelly). we had just one stop to make first, to ‘the get go’ we went. this market was described online as a bodega meets dean and de luca in the high desert. we picked up lemongrass spiced pistachios, chorizo salami, a baguette, apples, sweet olive oil crackers, triple creme and purple haze cheeses, a nice bottle of cabernet, and mexican chocolat. tab, $80. what a relaxing night, though. we were able to relax, unwind, check in with home and get a good nights sleep. just what the doctor ordered.
the change in weather was shocking. it was around 100 degree when we arrived and by early morning, it had dropped down to the low 50s. we made use of the ever-present wagons that carried our bags back to the truck. we couldn’t help but linger at the gift shop in the lobby, as it was chock full of unique (yet pricey) goodies. it was there that we picked up gifts for our families and a few treats for ourselves (i had to get their signature frangrace bottled!) the interior was a feast for the eyes, up cycled and repurposed furniture seasoned with southwestern flair and just the right amount of the absurd. this place was a hipster haven.
with the truck re-packed and water bottles filled, we grabbed a quick croissant at the neighborhood cafe, ‘squeeze’ to go, and then hit the road. next stop, tucson, arizona. we had another 8 hours to drive before arriving at our next destination. about 20 miles outside of maria, we drove by the ever-so-popular and talked about – marfa prada store.
it was during this next stretch of road that we estimated a round number of public bathrooms we had been in (roughly 40) thus far, were side-swiped by a bus, had made two road-side pit stops (one emergency one), and took in the fine scenery of new mexico and then finally, arizona.
we were now headed to the gold at the end of our rainbow, the ritzs-carlton at dove mountain. it was there that we would spend our last night of this trip in luxury. we pulled in after sunset (darn) as the sky was beautiful that night. we did enjoy the rest of the night fire-side over dinner and flaming (as in ignited) margaritas. with full bellies, we drifted off to dreamland as we sank into our down -topped beds and 1000 thread count sheets!
in the morning, we eased into our day with huevos rancheros and tea, then off to the pool. we made an executive decision to try out their waterslide and ended up staying pool-side until after lunch. we finally tore ourselves away around 4pm, and set out for home. we missed our families and were ready to spend the night in our own beds.
i don’t know about shelly, but i was feeling pretty melancholy on the drive, as it seemed the week went by so fast. i absolutely loved this trip. it reminded me of how much i love my work, how much i appreciate shelly and so enjoy her company, and how brave we really are. i was so grateful that we were able to take this trip. so thankful to shelly for coordinating it all. i soaked up every minute of it. what an adventure. we recapped our trip, laughing until we cried at all the mishaps, anecdotes, and tales we had lived through over the past week. not bad for two girls in a big truck. we unanimously agreed, we would do it again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and…