Marriage,  Military and Veteran Life,  Travel

Our Unforgettable 10th Wedding Anniversary Trip to Texas

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We’ve been talking about our 10th anniversary for several years now. We’ve been throwing ideas at each other of where we should go, what we should do, how we should celebrate. We thought about New York City, the Florida Keys, going back to Boulder Crest for the 3rd time, and visiting a variety of other locales. But I think that whenever we talked about taking a trip back to Texas, I got just a little bit more excited. Finally, Russ decided for me, by making plans for our 10th anniversary all on his own, as a surprise to me.

Now, for being a former intelligence analyst, Russ has a pretty challenging time holding his secrets. I think it came out at some point in January, but I knew as far back as Christmas that he had something planned for our anniversary. I just didn’t know what.

Having six weeks or so to plan was good for me, while still being less stressful. My parents had helped my husband arrange the flights, hotel, and rental car. So all I had to plan was clothes and prepping the boys for my mother-in-law, who graciously kept them for me while we were gone.

We lived in Texas for just under two years, cumulatively but not together. Russ began his duty assignment at Fort Hood, Texas in October of 2007, living on post in the barracks with his roommate, Ezra (our son’s namesake). I joined him after we got married in March of 2008. Russ deployed on July 10th, four months and two days later. I remained living there, alone, for the duration of the following year. When Russ returned in June of 2009, we had a whopping two months living there before moving on to Kentucky. So, if we do the math, I spent 17 months in Texas and Russ spent 11 months in Texas. Only 6 of those months were we together (oh, and the 21 days we had when he was home on RnR).

What we lacked in time we made up for in memories. We packed so much into those six months.

We made one trip to Galveston, two trips to to Corpus Christi, two trips to San Antonio, one trip to Dallas. We visited three state parks, a half dozen zoos and aquariums, Sea World, and two different Six Flags locations. When we weren’t gallivanting all over Texas, we were hunkered down in our one-bedroom apartment eating Little Caesars and watching either movies from Blockbuster or hours upon hours of Stargate SG1.

Those days were spontaneous. Late nights. Sleeping in. Watching so much TV that we lost grips with reality a few times. More trips to Starbucks than we could count. In between all of that? Fighting. Making up. Learning how to love. Dealing with the Army’s crap. Hurry up and wait. Never knowing that what coming. Never knowing how much time we were going to have. Getting ready for him to leave. Holding each other and every moment so tightly, knowing it would never really be enough.

Those intense months matched the roller coaster rides we rode at Six Flags – like the Superman ride where I lost my sunglasses for the umpteenth time.

There’s just something about being newlyweds who aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite memory from those six months we had together. Pictured above was that time we spent back-to-back nights at the Palms MnM in Galveston. He bought me a “beach dress” at Ross – the only time I’ve ever gone sleeveless in public. There was a $100 steak on the menu and Russ had to try it. I remember thinking about the cost, the impulsivity – that no way was a piece of meat worth that much. Then I remembered he was going to war and might not come back alive. If he died, I didn’t want to have any regrets. Give the man a steak, please! 

The steak might not have been worth it. But the memory definitely was.

But I think if I WERE to pick a favorite, it would be a series of events that took place about a month after we got married. Directly on our one-month anniversary, I totaled my car in an accident that was entirely my fault. I was a fairly inexperienced driver at the time, and it shook me.  So I felt horrible. We received word fairly quickly that we were going to get an amount for the total loss of a vehicle that was more than my parents had paid for the car when they bought it for me. That is only one part of the story.

Three days later – on the morning of April 11th, 2008 – we woke up and promptly had a bad fight. Over what, I have absolutely no idea. But I remember it was awful. Then, as we often did to make up from fights, we popped in a cute movie. I vividly remember that it was License to Wed. By the time we had gotten done with the movie, it was nearly lunch. At which point, Russ told me to get dressed and get in the car. We took off heading who knows where. We ended up three hours south in San Antonio, just in time to have a lovely dinner on the Riverwalk.

After dinner, Russ paid the extra to get me serenaded by the Mariachi band. A memory that will forever go down in infamy:

After our dinner, we attempted to drive the three hours back home. The traffic was heavy, which was infuriating to Russ. Just north of Austin, we ended up pulling off and checking into some crummy motel with nothing but the clothes on our back. I put my contact lenses in water cups and we went to sleep. In the morning, we showered and put our dirty clothes back on. We hit Starbucks for breakfast, and “just in case” went by the Carmax just off the interstate to look at vehicles.

That day, we signed the papers for the vehicle that was ours for the next ten years – and Russ still drives it today. We affectionately call it “Mommy Car” (thanks to Ezra). It’s the car we brought both of our babies home from the hospital in. It saw us through two cross-country moves and multiple trips to state parks all over the country. (I digress. For #allthefeels about Mommy Car, you can read this post.)

Those 36 hours and the trip down to San Antonio and back were the epitome of those six months. The fighting, the frustration – the spontaneity, the romance.

Ten years later, we are smarter and wiser. We spend less time fighting each other and more time fighting our kids to go to sleep. We are less spontaneous. (Kids tend to do that to you.) I’m nearly 80 pounds heavier. Russ still looks 100% the same – which is rather unfair, don’t you think? We make fewer trips to Starbucks and spend more money on important things like groceries and diapers. We no longer hang on to every moment like it’s our last because he’s home for good now. I need a heck of a lot more alone time. We have upgraded our one-bedroom apartment to a four-bedroom house in a neighborhood with a community pool.

So taking this trip was our attempt to capture the past and that feeling – one last time.

The trip delivered. We packed more into the 48 hours we had in Texas than I thought was humanly possible – including two walks on the Riverwalk, a visit to two different state parks, and a trip up to see a few places in Killeen and Fort Hood.

Russ started out the trip by joking with the lady at the rental car center that he was there for the Porsche. (This being in true Russ form – he often jokes in fast food drive thru windows about how he ordered the lobster…) The rental car lady offered him an upgrade and he jumped at the chance to take on an “American Muscle Car.”

The next thing I knew we were sitting in a cherry red Camaro and I spent the next 48 hours praying we wouldn’t get pulled over.

It was the $100 steak all over again – and it was worth every penny.

He was so eager to take the car out that rather than having a quiet evening getting settled and having a quiet dinner, we hit the highway and promptly got stuck in 5 mile an hour traffic trying to get out of San Antonio at rush hour. This is the worst nightmare of every man who has ever driven a Camaro. This also meant that we didn’t arrive at Pedernales Falls until dusk, which meant it was too dark to recreate any of the pictures we took when we visited in 2009. However, hiking at dusk was creepy and thrilling and will be another memory I think will stay with us for a very long time.

After we left the park, we pulled off at the Pedernales Falls Trading Post to use the bathroom…er outhouse…and drink some sodas. This authentic Texas watering hole felt like stepping into a movie.

The outhouses had regular plumbing though, which was nice.

It was SO late when we finally got back to San Antonio, but we still hadn’t eaten dinner. So after showering, we went BACK out and ended up eating dinner about 10:30PM (Central time – which felt much later for my Eastern time body)!! We ate at the same restaurant we ate on that epic night ten years ago.

We had been awake for 18 hours! Can you tell how exhausted I am?!?!

The next morning we headed out of town again, this time for Fort Hood and Killeen. Traffic continued to be a burr in our saddle. (See what I did there?) But we finally arrived a little bit before lunch. Our first stop was the church we attended right after we got married.

Next up, our first apartment:

Our best attempt at a photo recreation:

Then onto Fort Hood. Honestly, this part was probably the most disappointing for me. Either my memory is bad or things have just changed a lot. We were able to find Russell’s old S2 shop building after walking around for about 30 minutes arguing about the details of how we remembered it:

We couldn’t find the gazebo where we used to eat lunch together nor a few other places we wanted to find. But I did grab a few pictures of the Fort Hood post office that I can use for this post which I recently resurrected from my archives.

There were other places we wanted to visit around town that we decided to scrap. Instead, we grabbed a quick lunch at Dairy Queen and headed down to Enchanted Rock, one of our favorite hikes from our time in Texas before.

Enchanted Rock, July 2009

Of the 260 pictures we took on our trip, 160 were taken at Enchanted Rock, so we definitely made the right call. In spite of it being 93 degrees, we enjoyed nearly every minute of the hike and got to see so many awesome things and do so much great exploring.

After exploring the rocks and caves for a long while, we started back down the rock just as the sun was setting:

We arrived back at our car just at dusk and again began driving back to San Antonio. This time, though, we stopped off in Fredericksburg, Texas – a town we had stopped at back in 2009 as well. We grabbed another late dinner at a lovely little Italian place – in a quiet back room with a dirt floor. The food was incredible, and they also had cheesecake. Since we had cheesecake at our wedding, we could not resist taking some to-go to eat once we were back in our hotel later that night.

Our phones were both dead but another couple – also celebrating their tenth anniversary! – was gracious enough to take a picture on their phone and text it to us.

The next morning, we slept in. Russ got up and left to “go get gas.” I stayed behind to pack as much introverting as I could into a two hour timespan. Coffee, bed, and Pinterest on my phone. Packing up our bags. When he got back from “getting gas,” we took a few last shots with the Camaro.

We still hadn’t recreated any of our Riverwalk photos, because it had been dark the night before. So before heading up to the airport, we rushed over walked the fastest walk in the history of walks on the Riverwalk hoping to find the arches and the waterfalls we had used for backdrops before. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find them!

But we did capture these:

Our Unforgettable 10th Anniversary Texas Trip

The second leg of our flight – from Dallas to Charlotte – was delayed, which allowed us extra time to squeeze in one last nice meal at a restaurant at the Dallas Airport. We ended our trip with a dessert of creme brulee – fitting, as we both had it for the first time…on our wedding night!

The trip truly was a whirlwind. Perfect? No. The hotel wasn’t as nice as I thought it would be. Traffic was a beast. We lost the Sudoku book that we’ve taken on trips dating all the way back to 2008. We took pictures outside of two different apartments because we couldn’t agree on which one was ours. We didn’t make it to Stillhouse Hollow Lake or the park in Killeen where we used to walk. We didn’t make it to the Carmax where we bought Mommy Car. We never did find the arches to recreate that one picture that I bought myself a new t-shirt for. And I had a legit panic attack climbing into a cave up on Enchanted Rock – convinced I wouldn’t make it home alive to see my babies.

But we packed more into the trip than I ever dreamed we would be able to accomplish. While it may not have been that restful, it was unforgettable.

We were fun and spontaneous. We stayed out late and lived on the edge for 48 hours.

Memories can’t always be recreated. But that doesn’t make them any less special or precious.

This trip to Texas truly was a celebration of everything we’ve been through over the last 10 years – and how far we’ve come.

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