Rolling Down to Dallas – Part One

When you have a week in Texas to see a gig you want to make the most of the experience. So how do you see the best the Lone Star state has to offer without breaking the bank? Well, chances are you’ll shop around for the best flights and hotels on offer, but here’s a few tips on how to get from A to B and what’s worth a look. 

My wife and I travelled from Manchester to Dallas on British Airways, via Heathrow. If you do have a connecting flight, make sure there’s at least a couple of hours between connections so not only are you not running like Usain Bolt to make the connection, your luggage can also get to your final destination in one piece. 

Sadly we had a mere 20 minutes to make it from one part of Terminal 5 to another. By the time we arrived at our gate it had closed, but we luckily had a few minutes before take off. Just as well as that was the only flight that day.

Texas. Footage: Roger Crow

Once you get to Dallas, take a good book as you may be in for a long wait. We queued a while for the automated passport control, and for some reason I got a large cross on mine so we waited another half an hour to see an actual person (who seemed to do the same thing the machine had just done). And that was like a dream compared to the 45 minutes waiting to hand in our customs form to get out of the airport. 

Hilariously they didn’t even bother with the meticulously completed form. With our friends waiting to pick us up we then spent another half an hour claiming for our lost luggage with a nice but pretty useless BA official who needed a little reminding to give us compensation. 

Apparently lost luggage for a day is worth $47. 
Once we had the right forms, we then waited another half an hour to see an indifferent BA official who had just clocked off. Having taken our forms she then vanished for 20 minutes while we and another couple were left waiting. 

Not a great start to any holiday, but once that farce was over, things started to get a lot better. 

After a trip to Target to get some emergency clothes with our $47, we enjoyed dinner in the picturesque town of Grapevine, a relatively wealthy area which was worth all the hassle of the flight from hell. To be fair the journey itself was pretty good thanks to a great crew, not bad food and excellent inflight entertainment. 

Living the dream, Texas style: Two of our hosts in their glorious home. 

From that point on everything got a lot better thanks partly to staying in the sort of Texas home you see in glossy magazines (stunning doesn’t come close to describing it), and partly because of reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. 

Southfork Ranch

When you’re weaned on the Machiavellian shenanigans of JR Ewing, backstabbing oil baron from TV smash Dallas, the city itself seems as grand as the set of some Hollywood fantasy. 

And then one day, after the glossy reboot seems to have run out of steam, you rock up at Southfork ranch itself. A real ranch in the real Dallas, Texas.

It was a surreal experience seeing that home from countless hours of TV, not to mention getting selfies by Bobby Ewing’s pool. 

“Excuse me. Can you tell me how to get to the Theatre District?”

The middle aged African American bus driver looked at me like I was talking in Klingon. It was a scorching afternoon in Houston and having just walked miles around the city’s art gallery and zoo, we were desperate to get back to the Lancaster Hotel a couple of miles away. Trouble is, having arrived at the tram stop, none of the signs told us a thing about getting to said district. 

I asked her again, slower this time. She recoiled a little, staring at me like I’d just asked to adopt her granddaughter. 

We both spoke a form of English, but she wasn’t willing to bridge that gap between the same language. 

I retreated and finally got an answer from an elusive transport employee. 

Furnished with the right information we were soon on the right tram and heading back to our beloved hotel. 

The reason for 4700 mile trip from Yorkshire England to Houston Texas was David Cook. The winner of American Idol in 2008, he caught my interest in the following year when I was covering the opening of the American Idol attraction for Disney.

However, through some remarkable quirk, this incredible singer songwriter never made a dent on the UK music scene, and in recent years seems to have had trouble making much of a market in the US as well. Which is beyond my comprehension.
However, my better half decided not only was he one of the best musicians she had ever heard of, that he was worth spending a small fortune on as well. So before you can say #ObsessedFan, we were in Texas staying with a friend’s family, and soon discovered that Texas hospitality was everything you’d heard about, and way more.


Austin, Texas 

You could write the number of things I knew about Austin, Texas on the back of a postage stamp before September 5, 2016. Then I turned up after a three hour Megabus ride from Dallas and found out slightly more. 

Rainey Street Bridge, Austin, Texas, September 2016

Catching a bus most of the way to my hotel, the Van Zandt, I then walked the rest of the way in blazing sunshine. It seemed a bit off the beaten track and with no coffee making facilities in our $200 a night room, or easy access to use the fridge, more than a little tight. 
But being relatively close to the cool Rainey st district, home to rustic eateries, bars and the like, it didn’t seem so alienating. 

Austin, Texas, September 2016

A 15 minute walk away was the Rainey street bridge, where thousands of bats swarm every night after dark to go feeding. An hour’s wait at twilight proved a little tiresome thanks to the neighbouring twenty something who spent the duration spitting his body weight into the road and an eccentric local who forced badges upon us in return for a donation. 

Austin, Texas, September 2016

Niggles aside, the evening was blessed with a glorious sunset, and after a lengthy walk up Congress street to Austin’s capital building, it was good to relax a little. 

Congress Street, Austin, Texas, September 2016

A pint in one of the Rainey St bars was more than welcome at the end of the day.