Dodging Extreme Weather to Visit Texas and Get One New County

We try to get to Texas to visit family and friends at least once or twice a year. We typically plan it around a holiday to maximize our vacation days. This year, we decided to plan it around Memorial Day. We'd leave the week before the holiday.

The first order of business was to board Maya. Our vet also offers boarding, so I dropped her off on Friday.

Later that night, the weather forecast showed there was going to be some extreme weather in Texas.

We'd just have to deal with it. The following day, we gassed up and then went to Taco Bell for breakfast.

We then hit the road and were soon in Iowa.

We stopped at another gas station to go to the bathroom. You could tell you were in Iowa due to the sheer amount of Busch Light.

Little Dude has taken an interest in tractors. One nice thing is that you see many of them in the Midwest. That kept him occupied during our drive.

For lunch, we stopped at Taco John's. I got The Boss Bowl.

We soon drove again and made it to Missouri. We stopped at the welcome center, which would be a great place for Little Dude to expend some energy.

As we were there, we heard a bunch of sirens. Soon, a helicopter landed where the trucks were parked. It sounds like there was a bad accident nearby. This is the first I've seen this while on the road.

On the trip to Texas, you're not in Missouri too long. Kansas is another story.

I noticed that it was starting to get darker. It looks like an isolated strong storm was just north of us.

It was blue skies when we got to a travel plaza on the Kansas Turnpike. Lo and behold, there was another Taco John's!

We let Little Dude play after eating. He was incredibly excited to see a cow hauler parked in the parking lot.

I then rode in the back with him. We'd been on the road for about ten hours, and he was getting a bit antsy.

The sky darkened again. It appeared more storms were developing.

We were also ahead of this storm and made it to our hotel in Wichita. This was the first time we tried Hawthorn Suites.

We thought an extended-stay hotel would have more room. This one seemed like it was retrofitted, so It didn't have much more room.

It did have decent internet, though.

Another new thing we tried on this trip was bringing my iPad. This turned out to be a lifesaver in keeping Little Dude occupied.

We were soon ready for breakfast. This one had a little more variety with the tater tots, which you don't see at many hotel breakfasts.

The weather was on, and the forecast for the area for later in the day did not look good. Thankfully, we were leaving soon, so we'd be ahead of this storm.

Before heading towards Texas, we took a slight detour downtown. I was able to claim Sedgwick County, Kansas!

We didn't stay long and were soon in Oklahoma.

By lunchtime, we made it to Guthrie. We stopped at Braum's for lunch.

This was the first time I've been to a Bruam's. I'd always pass by them but never stopped. The food was pretty good. I also thought it was cool that they have a little grocery store. This could definitely be handy on future road trips.

After lunch, we made our way into Texas.

Our first stop was in Plano. That's where Victoria's uncle lives. Little Dude had a great time kicking the soccer ball and looking for bugs in the heat.

We planned to get BBQ for supper, but then we realized we'd have to wait in a long line in the heat.

We decided to go to Plan B, La Hacienda Ranch. They made some amazing Mexican food. I got brisket tacos.

The morning weather forecast appeared right. I was happy we were able to dodge the severe weather.

We made it to our hotel and got a good night's sleep.

We may have slept a little too long. Most of the food was gone by the time we got to breakfast.

I ended up eating breakfast sausage.

We then took our time packing up. We relaxed a bit and then looked for a park to go to. The park we planned to go to really didn't have a playground. It was getting near lunchtime, so we went to Rusty Taco.

We got chips, queso, guacamole, and salsa.

I got the Texican Taco. All the food was really good. The owner (or manager) seemed super friendly, and the service was excellent. I see there's a location near Dubuque, Iowa, so I may have to go there.

We were soon on our way to Bryan, where we'd be staying for most of the week.

It looks like back home in Belleville was getting hit hard by storms.

Little Dude was getting restless, so we stopped at a picnic area to readjust.

We soon made it to Bryan, and it was hot!

We visited with Victoria's grandparents and got C&J BBQ. I tried something a little different this time. Instead of brisket and sausage, I got turkey and pork belly.

After a nice visit, we made it to the hotel. This would be our home away from home for the rest of the week. We wound down and went to bed.

The following day, I noticed that we were avoiding some intense storms back home.

Luckily, the only thing we'd have to worry about that day was the heat. We ate the hotel breakfast and then headed to the park. Even with the heat, it was nice that things were covered in case it got sunny.

We played at the park until a bunch of school buses came. We knew it would get crowded fast, so we left and then drove around.

We then found a place for lunch. We wanted to eat a bit lighter, so we went to Newk's. I got the salmon Caesar salad.

In the meantime, my phone was notifying me of alerts back home.

Thankfully, we were in Texas, so I could ignore them. The potential damage we'd come back to was in the back of my mind, but at least we weren't in harm's way. Later that afternoon, we headed back to Victoria's grandparent's house. For supper, we got Taco Casa. I got a taco salad.

My phone kept sending alerts. At one point, I realized that Belleville was between two different tornado warnings.

Despite being cloudy, the next morning was already turning out to be hot. Before breakfast, the heat index was already 86F.

By lunch, the heat index was 94F!

With this kind of heat, going to a place like Fuego seemed appropriate for lunch.

I got the Fist Bump and Mango Tango tacos.

Later that afternoon, it appeared that we might finally get hit hard with some strong storms.

Fortunately, they all stayed north of us. We were definitely dodging a lot of bad weather!

We went back to Victoria's grandparent's house and visited. For supper, we got Wings 'N More. I was definitely craving a chicken fried steak, so this hit the spot.

The sky seemed a little more threatening on the way back to the hotel.

We got hit with a little storm, but Central Texas got nailed.

The following day, it was still cloudy.

We were getting sick of the hotel breakfast so we went to Blue Baker. I got their smoked salmon bagel.

I also appreciated the fact they were very kid-friendly. They even had wet napkins on each high chair.

It was going to be especially hot that day. We heard College Station had a nice children's museum, so we went there to let Little Dude expend some energy.

For lunch, we got Layne's. They always make great chicken fingers.

We went back to the hotel for nap time. In the meantime, the heat and more storms appeared to be building.

We headed to Victoria's grandparents to visit again. For supper, we had pizza.

Fortunately, the storm system that was building stayed north of us. A county north of us had a tornado warning, so it was a little too close for comfort.

It was finally Friday, and it was time to get ready to head to Austin. We ate the hotel breakfast for efficiency.

In the meantime, it looks like even more strong storms were hitting Wisconsin. At least things looked clear for our upcoming drive.

Before leaving for Austin, we stopped at Fuego again for lunch.

I then rode in the back with Little Dude. We knew we were getting close to Austin when we hit some traffic jams.

It appeared to be a hot haze of pollution as we got to our hotel.

The heat index eventually got to be 105F!

Little Dude and I hung out in the hotel room while Victoria was with her friend Analisa. He seemed to really enjoy watching cars come and go from the parking garage.

After a few hours, Victoria picked us both up. We went to the Texican with Analisa and had supper. I decided to try their pork chops.

The next morning, as we drove around, it was already hot and hazy. It looked like a brutal day in terms of heat.

For breakfast, we wanted to go to Waterloo Ice House. The one on Burnet was packed, so we went to the one on 360. I got a chicken fried steak and eggs.

It appears there was a car club there. I imagine they were trying to get a drive in before the heat got too brutal. I can't imagine those old cars have air conditioning.

The cars were a relic of the past. Waterloo Ice House was definitely embracing the future. They had a robot server. They've always been ahead of the curve with things!

We decided to take another drive around Austin. In many cases, it reminds us why we moved. Austin is a great city, but it has substantial growing pains. We navigated a traffic jam as we looked at the changing skyline.

Austin is starting to remind me of a densely populated Asian city. The rectangular buildings seem so generic. The city feels like it's losing its quirky vibe as it tries to pack in as many people as possible.

On the other end of it, crime seems to have spiked. There is so much graffiti everywhere.

The heat is also unrelenting for much of the year.

We met up with our friends Chris and Amanda at Catch Air. They have children around Austin's age. We figured with the heat, it made sense to play inside.

After that, we walked to Moonie's. It was only a few doors down from Catch Air, and it was also one of our go-to places when we lived in this part of Austin.

I got the Ranch Hand burger.

On the TV, they had a news segment about the population boom. They were talking about some of the things I mentioned before about Austin. I really hate seeing this happen to Austin. It's such an amazing city and I'm glad to have lived there when I did. Heck, we named our son after the city, so it continues to hold a special place in our hearts. I wish it didn't have the growing pains it has now and that it would still be an awesome place to raise a family.

In other news, the weather was front and center on my phone. The next day, we'd be heading to the Kansas City area, and there appeared to be a threat of bad weather.

In many ways, we'd be trading the oppressive heat and unhealthy air for storms.

Before supper, we headed to HEB. Going to a grocery store is usually a staple of my travels. One of the things we miss the most about Austin is the food and HEB. HEB does a phenomenal job overall, and I found some of my favorite things to take home.

They also have cheap gas, so we made sure to fill up.

For supper, we went to Dos Batos Tacos, my favorite place to eat in Austin. Their wood-fired tacos are amazing!

After eating, we hit Burnet Road.

I got a look at Highland Lanes. We liked to go there, but when their lease expires, it will be knocked down to build something new.

Another thing that is declining is the LaQuinta by The Domain. We have stayed here many times, and this last stay will probably be our last. It seems like every time we stay, it gets worse. Our key cards started randomly, not working. There were people next to us who had the same issue, so it appeared to be systemic.

Also, you can tell things are being neglected. The elevator doesn't have its license shown.

The garbage is overflowing.

It seems like they're trying to use up the building as much as possible. I think, eventually, they will sell it out for something new to be built. At least the breakfast the following day was alright.

It was soon time to hit the road. The clouds started to look threatening.

The radar itself didn't show much.

You could see boom trucks heading north. I'm assuming they were going to help with the storm damage.

Shortly after that, traffic came to a halt. There must have been some freak downpour, which caused a semi to flip.

I was riding in the back with Little Dude. The iPad was really helping.

We got to Sanger and noticed a huge traffic jam ahead. It was around lunchtime, so we stopped at Chicken Express. I know we've stopped at this one on other road trips. Victoria and I have always loved Chicken Express, so I was happy to get their chicken.

We came up to that traffic jam again. We were now in Valley View. Google rerouted us, and what we saw was horrific. A gas station had taken a direct hit from a tornado.

It took a while to get to Oklahoma, but we spotted even more tornado damage.

Even the gas station we stopped at appears to have been damaged.

After gassing up, we hit the road. We made a pit stop at an OnCue station in Oklahoma. We hit a milestone where Little Dude could eat in the car while we drove. This definitely helped with our timing on the road. Our stop just included gas and using the bathroom, and we were quickly on the road.

I also had a snack from our HEB haul.

Soon, we were in Kansas. We eventually stopped at a travel plaza and got Dairy Queen for supper.

There appeared to be some rain along the way, but we'd avoid any bad weather.

We made it to the LaQuinta in Olathe, Kansas.

Little Dude watched a bunch of Dino Ranch, so I had to hit the WiFi hard and download some more episodes.

We fell asleep. The following day, we quickly got breakfast and hit the road. I'd ride in the back again to keep Little Dude from getting restless.

The weather was definitely a lot nicer. I appreciated the cooler temperatures.

We drove quickly through Missouri and were soon in Iowa. It was clouding up again, and some things appeared on the radar.

Eventually, it started to rain.

For lunch, we stopped at a Burger King.

We hit Wisconsin, and the light was at the end of the tunnel.

We also would miss another set of storms by a few hours.

When we returned to Belleville, we could see a lot of water standing there.

The temps were cooler, but it was clear the storms knocked out the power when we were gone.

There was also a mess to clean up outside. From my understanding, a tornado came about 4 miles from our house.

For dinner, we ordered JonnyO's, enough for the rest of the week. The next day, we had to go to work, so we were crunched for time.

Watching the morning news before work, we can see we dodge a lot of bad weather.

There was also more bad weather predicted where we were.

Before work, I made sure to pick up Maya. It was nice to have her as my office partner as I worked from home.

As you can see, this trip was relatively low-key. The primary purpose was to visit family and friends. We also had to ensure we kept on our regular schedule as much as possible. If you throw off Little Dude's nap or eating times, prepare for a cranky toddler.

Making these trips can definitely be a challenge. Ten straight days of being within arm's length of each other takes a lot of patience. It takes even more patience when Little Dude is making his opinions known. Despite this, these trips are worth it. The time we spend to see people is invaluable.

Things went relatively smoothly overall. The weather appeared to threaten to put a wrench in things. Fortunately, it seems we missed the worst of it. It is kind of scary how frequent these extreme storms have become.

As I plan future road trips, it's always in the back of my mind. I look forward to my future Texas visits. Hopefully, the weather will calm down a bit, so it's a bit more bearable outside.

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