Dream Trip: Texas

January 24, 2012 — OTIS is stuffed with cool places that I’ve been, but there are way more cool places that I haven’ t been. Take Texas. Not only have I somehow never been to this state, I don’t even think I’ve ever said its name aloud. But there’s so much in this gigantic hind leg of the continental U.S. that I want to see. After some shallow soul-searching, and taking into account my current level of ignorance on the matter, I came up with a list of ten sites in the Lonely Star state that, had I a chance to visit, would be top on my list. In no particular order:

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats: Bats are one of my proofs against the existence of a Creator. Had there been a mastermind behind this ball of biology, he’d of made bats the dominant species. And you know what? They almost are in Texas. The state has giant colonies of the flying mammals all over the place, but none so large as under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. Up to 1.5 million bats roost there, flying out every summer night in a dark column of ominous flapping to take over the skies like some black aurora borealis.

Jason Tinder, Flickr

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Restaurant: I’d actually want to visit every location from that most important of all pieces of cinema, but I’d settle on Leatherface’s home sweet home, if only for the fact that the cannibal abode was moved from its original location to the town of Kingsland, where it was renovated and turned into a restaurant called the Junction House, which touts its cinema provenance with various signs throughout the place. Chains [aws] of events like this one make me believe in a Creator.

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr

Odessa Meteor Crater: Speaking of craters, why would anyone pass up the chance to walk across a 60,000-year old, 550-foot-diamater depression made from space rock? I mean, it’s the kind of first contact you don’t want to be around for, but thousands of years afterward it’s a party. Unfortunately it’s filled in quite a bit over the years, but that’s cool. It’s not like I’m from Tunguska and can be picky about such things. Actually, there’s an older, larger impact crater in Sierra Madre, but that’s on private land, and if The Texas Chain Saw Massacre taught me anything, it’s not to trespass in Texas. 

chadada, Flickr

National Museum of Funerary History: Death is fascinating, but almost more so because of all the ritual we’ve placed around it. This Houston museum is supposed to have everything you want to see about the funereal without having to go through the whole mourning over dead family members part.

Robert Kennedy, Flickr

Johnson Space Center: All our rockets and shuttles might’ve been launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, but Houston is the home of NASA Mission Control and where the astronauts do all their training. And while I’ll never forgive them for what happened to Major Tom, I’m too big a fan of space to pass up seeing the reason why the city’s baseball team is named the Astros. 

Francois Roche, Flickr

Waco Siege Site: I’ve done my best not to make this list of sites completely morbid, but I think this falls more under the Historical Event category. It’s not my fault that history itself is morbid. The Waco siege happened in 1993 when I was a teenager and was probably the first time I paid attention to the news, so it’s kind of stuck with me. I’m not sure what all is on the site today, but there are memorials to the standoff between the FBI and the David Koresh-led Branch Davidians. 

Mark Miller, Flickr

Marfa Lights: I mentioned earlier that I was a big fan of space. Well, that encompasses both the fact and the fiction of it. An example of the latter is the Marfa Lights. Every night, on the plain east of the town of Marfa, surreal globular lighting effects can be witnessed…and then completely misinterpreted as UFOs or ghosts or extradimensional shenanigans. And while they’ve long been debunked as distorted car lights, the town throws an annual festival dedicated to it and has built a viewing center specifically for it. And that’s the kind of party I want to go to. Wonder what cocktail pairs best with strange phenomenon?

Jon Hansen, Flickr

Graves of Bonnie and Clyde: I am programmed beyond my power to overcome to visit graveyards everywhere I go, and while Texas has some pretty famous frontiersmen and gunslingers under its dust, I’m going to pass up the six-shooters and coonskin caps for tommy guns and fedoras, in this case, and see the separate burial sites of the famous criminal lovers in Dallas. Plus this way I can fit two graves into this list. 

Michael W. Pocock, Wikipedia
Michael W. Pocock, Wikipedia

Hueco Tanks: Just Northeast of El Paso are a series of small rocky hills that that act as natural reservoirs. They’re covered in hundreds of strange Native American drawings dating back about a thousand years, and give lay-bastards like us the chance to play archeologist without having to duck Nazi scum. 

Chad Horwedel, Flickr

Moonlight Towers: In the late 1800s a serial killer, dubbed the Servant Girl Annihilator (by author O. Henry of all people), began a reign of terror that was so reign of terror-y that the city of Austin erected 165-foot-tall moonlight towers to banish the cover of darkness for him. And they’re still there and operating. Oh, you’ve seen ‘em before: “Party at the moon tower.

Matthew Rutledge, Flickr

Narrowing down this list was an extremely hard task. Honorable mention goes to the Museum of the Weird, the Kennedy assassination site and Sixth Floor Museum, Dinosaur Valley, the Alien Grave of Aurora, and the Alamo...but only because of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. And if any of you more knowledgeable about Texas think that this list goes awry at some point, definitely let me know what, why, and offer some replacement sites in the Comments section below or on the OTIS Facebook page.

Check out my Dream Trip: Iowa piece, as well.