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Travel Misconceptions: Demystifying the Lone Star State

A blizzard tore through the Texas Panhandle this weekend. Wipe that disbelieving frown off your face; yes, it snows in Texas. I awoke on my second morning home for the holidays to see white gusts blowing sideways outside my window. We were house-bound, and the snow rendered the roads so impassable that an 80-car pileup slammed into I-40, just outside Amarillo (which is about 120 miles south of my hometown, Perryton). On the rural plains, there are no trees, no tall buildings, no blips on the flat surface of the landscape to break the winds and provide a buffer from the onslaught of winter weather. Not only does it snow in Texas, but the conditions snowstorms bring are fiercer and more violent here than I’ve ever experienced in my going-on-8-years in the Northeast.

With not much to keep me occupied (I taught my sister to play Scrabble, started a jigsaw puzzle, and read four cookbooks cover to cover) I began to think about the misconceptions that plague my not-so-humble home state. As travelers, we encounter misconceptions (others’ and our own) with the regularity of delayed flights; this single phenomenon encompasses one of travel’s greatest challenges and the root of its greatest rewards. And it’s because we understand this that it’s our duty to dispel misconceptions wherever and whenever we are qualified. As a born-and-bred Texan who is actually quite fond of her home state, but whose first impulse upon telling others of her origins is to assure them that she isn’t, I think it’s high time to set the record straight. Please take a moment to get the cowboys-and-guns jokes out of your system. Now, coming to you straight from the Lone Star State, here are the five things every Texan wishes others understood.

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member bmwhd

Writers’ Strike and Broadway Blackout – What to Do in NYC

We’re on day 11 of the writers’ strike, and the Great White Way has been dark for six evenings now. Seeing as New York City is the number one destination this Thanksgiving, there’s bound to be disappointment for travelers hoping to catch a show, whether it’s The Producers or Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

According to Travel Weekly, the Broadway stagehands’ strike is costing NYC $2 million every day in lost revenue. Unless the disputes causing the strikes are resolved soon, travelers will miss out on these uniquely New York experiences this Thanksgiving. Luckily, New York City is no one-trick pony and there’s plenty to do in the Big Apple even if you can’t catch a show. And actually – you can catch a show! Off Broadway productions are lighting up the stage as usual – two of my personal favorites are The Fantasticks and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Keep in mind that there are eight Broadway shows not affected by the strike Mary Poppins and Young Frankenstein among them – but there’s going to be some stiff competition at the TKTS booth, so get there early.

Girls Weekend at Lake Tahoe

This weekend, as wildfires raged across the southern half of California and Governor Schwarzenegger channeled The Terminator to warn all arsonists that he will “hunt them down,” I fled to the east and atop the jack-o-lantern laden Sierra Nevada mountains for my annual “girls weekend” at Lake Tahoe.

Now put your frozen-bra and pillow-fight illusions aside. This fall tradition began about five years ago, when we didn’t even know it was going to be a tradition, just a generous invitation to a friend’s family cabin in the woods with views of the lake, mountains, pink-valentine sunsets, and a woo-hooo witchy-woman moon glowing through the giant glass windows.

Photo: One of the Angora Lakes before this year’s fire.

Why We (Should) Travel

In my youth, I spent a good deal of time playing after-school sports on Randall’s Island in the shadows of Manhattan. On Sunday, however, I sat on the hay and grass field next to Icahn Stadium and took in some great music at Farm Aid. Though the spirit of most open-air concerts, particularly ones headed by Willie Nelson and promoting homegrown food, tends to be pretty friendly, I was still reminded of New York at another time. Immediately after 9/11, New York was transformed in so many ways: it was scarred, terrified, and numb. It was also friendly, kind, and supportive. While I witnessed the typical kindnesses amongst people at the concert—bumming cigarettes, sharing sunscreen, dancing, and chatting—it all felt reminiscent of those precarious days of aftermath when doors, along with handshakes, hugs, and goodbyes, were held for just a little bit longer.