The Wonders of Waco

Mark Being an Eagle
Photo by Julia Vasinda

People always think of travel as going somewhere exotic.  But as I wake up before my alarm, again, I push aside my inability to sleep as I remember today I’m going on a trip.  I don’t struggle long with the decision to just go ahead and get up or lie here for a few more minutes.  I force my feet onto the floor and head downstairs to rummage up something for breakfast.

Even though I woke before my alarm, I barely have time to pull on my workout clothes before Laura, my best friend of 15 years, pulls into the driveway to take me to Zumba.  I love Zumba.  But today I hope it goes quickly so I can put distance between me and the drudgery of every day life.

We’re late to Zumba, not that that is a surprise.  And it is not our normal teacher.  This woman is much more stiff than our fluid salsa stepping instructor who always makes us giggle with her super sexy moves.  This woman causes class to drag, or maybe it is the anticipation.  Although I’m sweating like a pig (as usual) by the time we leave, I almost wish I skipped the strained class.

“I’ll see you in an hour,” I call over my shoulder as I step out of Laura’s car.

“Some of us need longer to do our hair!” she responds as I slam the door and shrug before hurrying up to the shower.  We have to leave in an hour if we want to get to Waco before two, even though one-thirty was the original meeting time.

A thrill of excitement shivers down my spine.  I love going new places.  Well, I’ve been to Waco before, but just stopped there to eat on my way to places like Austin and San Antonio.

Was it really only less than three years, and countless countries, ago that travel really caught my attention?  It seems like it’s always been part of my life.  It almost feels like oxygen.  A need.  That first trip to Spain was like meeting your soul mate, or finding your calling.  It made the world stop and accelerate at the same time.

I don’t remember half the things we did.  But I recall the attempts to walk down cobblestoned streets in heels after my first run in with alcohol.  Climbing in turrets of actual castles, wondering if I was ever going to see anything besides the butt of the person in front of me ever again.  Going to a club that used to be an actual palace.  Oh, and I guess learning absolutely everything there is to know about every place possible.

Hook, line, and sinker.  I was done for.  Next thing you know, I’m signing up for three semesters of study abroad.  After just one week!  Talk about life decisions.

It is like I suddenly saw this whole new world.  There aren’t just other continents to explore, although I’m certainly set on that, there are so many things I’ve never seen miles from home!

Enter Waco.  A city consisting of Baylor University and to the unknowing eye, not much else.  Since it is the closest thing to a halfway point we could find between Dallas and Austin and where Laura and I would be meeting up with my college buddy, Mark, we were determined to find more to do.  Because who wants to drive two hours to go to a mall.  And on top of that, who wants to go to a mall when there are way cooler places just waiting to be discovered.

Although the Dr Pepper Museum is not exactly the Palacio de Oriente and Cameron Park Zoo not the same experience as the Toledo’s countryside, the now familiar excitement fills my stomach.

The $3.00 student discounted entry fee gets us into the Dr Pepper Museum, where we quickly discover a scavenger hunt that leads us room to room.  Mark loudly shouts the answers, and we continually seem to be in every families’ way. Conversation flows between my group and the others around us in line as we pay almost as much for a Dr Pepper mixed right before our eyes as we did to get in the museum.

Still sipping our drinks we get back in our cars to head to the Cameron Park Zoo.  None of us had even been aware this oasis existed, surrounded by a normal neighborhood.  After forking over a significant amount for what we assumed would be a quick trip with glimpses at a few local animals in caged habitats, we hurried down the path leading towards those cages.

As the first few animals come into view, we break into a trot, and lean excitedly over the wooden fence separating us from the cage.  Mark immediately starts to mimic the birds, in sound and stance, and I pull out my camera.  We spend the next few hours running excitedly between the exhibits, received by disapproving looks from the parents who usher their children away from us.

Exhausted from the hours in the beaming Texas sun Laura, Mark and I decide it is only right to enjoy a hearty dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  I relax into the faux leather seats, feeling them pull at my sweat sticky skin and take pleasure in the relief of scratching my travel itch.

But by the time I being driving home, the itch is back.  My eyes gaze longingly at each exit sign we pass, though they should be gazing at the road.  As we come up on the exit for Italy, TX, a smile spreads across my face.

“Let’s do an ‘around the world’ trip in Texas….”

Laura just laughs and rolls her eyes.