A Family Road Trip to Texas and One New County in Kansas

It's been a while since we've been to Texas. We were able to visit last Labor Day, and we felt we were overdue for another visit. We decided that the week before Memorial Weekend would be perfect. We got everything in order for the trip.

The nice thing is, unlike last year, Austin is a bit more flexible. He eats what we eat, and we no longer have to bottle-feed him. This would make stopping easier since he could eat a Happy Meal if need be. That said, he has been walking for a while, so there would be a new set of challenges. We would have to make sure we covered our bases and planned accordingly.

As part of the plan, Maya would stay with my parents. Since we could now go into restaurants, having a dog with us would be more complicated. The day before our trip, Victoria was off of work, so she drove Maya up to Marshfield.

In the meantime, I got together some of the gear I bought. I'm slowly but surely finding ways to be more efficient with my road trips. One thing I've been looking into is bags with MOLLE webbing. MOLLE webbing was designed for the Army to allow for modular storage.

Bags can easily hook together, and you can create a custom storage solution. I made the following from the picture above. Besides my clothes, it had everything else I needed for the trip.

On the first Friday of our trip Victoria and I packed her van. We then picked up Austin from daycare. Our first stop was Kwik Trip for a quick lunch.

Victoria typically likes to drive her van, so I let her. It was nice kicking back and enjoying taking in the sights.

It wasn't long before we were in Iowa.

We stopped at a Kwik Star (Kwik Trip but rebranded for Iowa) for Austin's PM snack.

There was a decent amount of traffic around Des Moines, but it was soon open roads.

For supper, we stopped at a KFC\Taco Bell. I consider this combination the most American version of fusion food. So, of course, I took advantage of it and got a taco with a mac and cheese bowl.

Austin was starting to get fussy in the back seat. I sat back with him to hopefully entertain him and keep him happy.

We were soon in Missouri.

We got to the hotel in Kansas City. Austin was sleeping in the car by then. I set up the pack-n-play and turned off the lights. Hopefully, he'd keep sleeping, and we could get to bed soon.

The next morning, we had the hotel breakfast. It was so-so overall. I did appreciate the biscuits and gravy.

We hit the road and were soon in the vastness of Kansas.

We stopped at a travel plaza for lunch and discovered the restaurant was closed. However, we got some pizza to eat in the car.

From there, it was a straight shot to Texas. We stopped another couple of times along the way at gas stations, but it was pretty uneventful. We were soon in Texas!

Austin was fussy again, so I sat in the back.

The sun was shining directly on me, so I got out a battery-powered USB fan and clipped it to the handle. I also had a similar setup on the other side to help keep Austin cool.

For supper, we stopped at McAlister's Deli. I knew I'd eat pretty heavy later throughout the week, so I ordered a salad.

It was late when we got to our hotel near The Domain in Austin.

We've stayed at this hotel in the past. It seems to be going downhill. My gut feeling is that they will eventually tear it down with the rapid expansion around the area. That seems to be happening with many buildings around The Domain. They tear them down and replace them with high rises.

The breakfast was another example of the hotel going downhill. The eggs were watery, and the sausage tasted nasty.

I didn't eat a ton, but that was good anyway. For lunch, we met with a friend at the Texican.

This is one of our favorite places to eat in Austin. I got some shrimp flautas, and they were amazing.

One thing we found is that many hotel rooms aren't baby-proofed at all. Austin is at the stage where he gets into everything. We luckily had double beds so I could do a little playpen hack. I put his pack-n-play between them. I then put the nightstand in front of the outlet and moved everything out of his reach. This gave him enough room to roam that he didn't get upset.

After visiting, we drove around a little bit and headed back to the hotel. Later that night, we met with other friends at Kerbey Lane. This is another Austin institution we loved eating at. I got some salmon tacos.

After dinner, it was time to go back to the hotel. After Austin was in his pack-n-play, I got out my USB-powered fan. People want to claim Texas is a dry heat, but that's only in West Texas. In Austin, it was more humid than in Wisconsin. The fan really helped with things.

Since yesterday's hotel breakfast was horrible, we wanted something better. Tacodeli is always a good bet for breakfast tacos.

After breakfast, we drove around a bit. Austin is a rapidly changing city, and it's crazy how much stuff can change in a year's timeframe. Sadly, things seemed to be changing for the worst. This is a bank near where we used to live.

There were other places that now had bars on the windows. It was sad to see. I am glad to see that certain things were preserved. The Lightbulb Shop building is the same despite being a different business.

I am also happy that many places still have a friendly vibe. For example, we stopped at a carwash due to an excessive amount of bugs on the windshield. The carwash didn't get all the bugs, so they let us go again.

Our final destination in Austin was Dos Batos Tacos. This is my favorite place to eat in Austin. Their woodfired tacos are amazing!

After eating, I rode in the back to keep Austin happy. Our next destination would be Bryan.

We got to Victoria's grandparents and visited a bit. Her aunt and uncle came over, and we eventually ordered takeout from C&J Barbeque. I always love getting brisket and sausage and was delighted to see that was the "Aggie Special."

A bit after dinner, we got to our hotel in College Station.

The following day, we got breakfast at the hotel. This breakfast was pretty good overall. Being the Cheesehead I am, I washed it down with some milk.

After breakfast, we headed over to the Houston area to visit another friend.

For lunch, we got Chipotle. I picked it up, and it was one of the rare times I drove the van.

I got the plant-powered bowl.

On the way back to the Bryan\College Station area, I balanced that out with some jerky from Buc-ee's.

We then visited Victoria's grandparents again. We got takeout from Chicken Express. I was so happy getting to eat chicken with cream gravy. It seems like cream gravy is a rarity in Wisconsin.

When we got back to the hotel, I tested several of the gadgets I carry around in my pocket every day. I have a battery bank and compact charging accessories. They all seemed to work well.

The next morning was another hotel breakfast and some more milk.

For lunch, we went to Fuego. I got a Dodge City Mac & Cheese and also a Rock Star taco.

We then drove around the Texas A&M campus.

It was time to relax again in the hotel. One thing I need to bring next time is outlet covers. Austin seemed to be interested in the outlets. I blocked them with a chair instead.

We met up with Victoria's aunt and uncle at Double Dave's for supper. Their buffet was back, and it was time to pig out on pizza.

The funny thing is you can see how much I had been eating. I was pretty full overall and didn't eat as much pizza. Austin, on the other hand, loved the pizza. I swear he ate just as much as me. That's kind of crazy to think since he's only 15 months old!

After eating, we went back to the hotel and got some sleep. While the La Quinta's breakfast was good, we wanted to try Snooze AM Eatery. I spotted a breakfast tostada on the menu, and I had to try it.

A trip to Texas isn't complete without an H-E-B run. So we loaded up the cart with a few essentials and other unique Texas things.

Eventually, we got lunch at Cooper's. I got more brisket and sausage.

We then visited Victoria's grandparents. For supper, we got Wings 'N More. This is one of the go-to takeout spots we get at least once while visiting. I got the wing and ribs sampler.

We visited for a while and then said our goodbyes. The next morning, we'd be hitting the road for Wisconsin. It was a great visit, and it was nice seeing a lot of people. Before heading home, we grabbed breakfast at Zeitman's. This was a recommendation of Victoria's aunt.

I got the Richie Rich. They did not spare on bacon!

I was stuffed from that breakfast. It was now time to hightail it back to Wisconsin.

One thing I noticed going north on I-35 was the excessive amount of Buc-ee's signs. It was almost obnoxious how many there were. It seems they bought half the billboards all the way to Fort Worth.

We opted out of Buc-ee's for our lunch stop and got Whataburger. I was not very hungry, so I got the JR. Meal.

We ate fast and were soon in Oklahoma.

Victoria was a bit tired, so I took over driving for a bit.

Eventually, we stopped at a Dairy Queen for supper.

Victoria was good to drive again, so I chilled out in the back seat with Austin.

Our planned stop for the night was in Emporia, Kansas. The hotel we got was newly remodeled. The people at the front desk were super efficient in getting us checked in. The internet was also fast there. I was impressed with the place. Our room was also very roomy, which gave Austin some freedom to wander.

The next morning's breakfast was also good. This was the first hotel I stayed at with breakfast burritos.

We chose Emporia because it was the county seat of Lyon County. I had not visited this courthouse, so this allowed me to collect another county.

The town itself was pretty nice. I'd definitely stay here again!

We kept driving and eventually stopped in Northern Missouri for lunch at McDonald's.

We ran low on baby wipes, so I walked across the street to Casey's. Unfortunately, they only had these changing kits, but I guess that would do for the time being.

We drove through Iowa and eventually reached Taco John's in Dubuque for supper.

After eating, we quickly got to Wisconsin. We were finally on the home stretch!

When we got home, there was some nice color in the sky.

While our trip was over, I still needed to take the 5-hour round trip to Marshfield to pick up Maya. I did that the next day.

I visited with my family for a while and then took Maya home.

We took the scenic route down WIS-80.

By the time I made it home, Austin was in bed. I thought I'd make it before he went to bed, but my timing was off. I was glad that there was nowhere else to go. Since the next day was Memorial Day, I could relax at home and recharge a bit from the trip.

I still had many things to do the following week. The lawn needed to be mowed. Clothes needed to be washed. There were a bunch of other tasks, so it was definitely busy.

I'd say this trip went well. Austin would get fussy occasionally, but he did very well, considering all the time in the car. As you can see, this trip was much different from other trips. I didn't go out and see a bunch of stuff. We mainly visited with people and also ate a lot of good food.

It definitely was a bit exhausting since hotels aren't babyproofed. We were constantly on guard watching Austin. I think we found a good balance overall, and I learned a ton from the trip. I should be taking another county collecting trip by myself soon. So, you'll definitely want to stay tuned for that.

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