I’ve long been fascinated with Texas. Explosions in the Sky, The Mars Volta, chicken fried steak and the accent all made me want to go there. Americans themselves seem to either love it or hate it, regardless of whether they’ve been there or not. People in Boston couldn’t understand why I wanted to go, saying it was another world in Texas, while the people I met from Pennsylvania said they love Texas, and that I will too.

The welcome sign in the airport terminal said, “Welcome to Austin, the live music capital of the world.” It didn’t take long to realise that this wasn’t just arrogance. You can hear live music coming from every bar in downtown Austin. In fact, the first night I arrived more than 100 venues in town had live bands playing. I had found the coolest city in America, in the centre one of the most conservative states.

In some ways Austin reminds me of Montréal: a wonderfully cosmopolitan city, with a vibrant music scene, friendly residents, and party atmosphere. It’s definitely a city, like Montréal, that I could see myself living in. I met people who had moved there from San Antonio, Dallas, Philadelphia, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, California, and New York. I didn’t meet a single person who was born in Austin – it seems most people had moved there for its music scene, nightlife, and laid back attitude.

I stayed at the only hostel in Texas: the corporate, characterless, and charmless Hostel International, and the only hostel I know of where alcohol is banned. There were five Brits staying there when I arrived. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent 18 hours travelling to Austin from Boston, and when I arrive, I’m greeted by a guy who lives in Milton Keynes!

State capitol building, AustinIn the three days I was there I got to do (almost) all the Texan things I wanted to do. I ate chicken fried steak, watched a real Texan blues band (with cowboy hats and everything), went to a comedy club, and went to a cinema to see ‘Xmas Porn’ – a cut n’ paste job of Christmas-themed porn films with all the porn taken out, leaving only the ‘storylines.’ Unfortunately I never made it to a gun range, they were all too far out of town, and between-town public transport was non-existent.

I had some good times with people I met in the hostel. I hung out with two Australians guys and a Peruvian guy for a couple of days. I hope to meet more people like them in hostels in the future. I also met a few crazies who provided us with much entertainment, including a guy from Montana and a girl from England, who both believed that aliens built the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids.

I left Austin a day before I was due to fly out from Dallas, and headed to Waco. Someone told me, “When you go there, you can see why it happened.” So I went there. It was the most depressingly awful town I have ever been to. I had four hours to kill until the next bus to Dallas, and I struggled to find anything to do to pass the time. Downtown Waco consists of parking lots, warehouses, and old industrial-looking buildings. In 3 hours of wandering around trying to find something, I found a pawnshop, a clothes store that had a ‘going out of business’ sale, and the one restaurant I found was closed because of a gas leak. Incredibly, this town actually has a tourist information centre. However, there are no shops or supermarkets, so the only way I ate was by finding a sinfully patriotic pro-Bush gift shop with a closed cafeteria and persuading the staff there to make me a sandwich. The gift shop, by the way, was wonderful. It sold George Bush t-shirts and badges with “My heroes have always been cowboys” written on them, American flag-coloured doorbells that read “Let freedom ring,” and best of all, mugs that read – without any hint of irony – “2003: Celebrating 150 years of peace between the USA and Japan.”

I spent the last hour in Waco at the bus terminal staring at the out-of-order signs. The water fountain, toilet, lockers and telephone were all out of order. I amused myself by writing down the ramblings of one crazy guy talking to another. He said, “When I was talking about the Lord, a light came on, then another light, then another, while I was in a barbershop. One day I woke up and I told her I was Saddam Hussein. She tortured me bad. She tortured me for all those years. Jesus showed me the people who have eyes in the back of their head…Jesus told me that you learn how to build a pyramid with Pythagoras’ theorem. That’s why calculus is a form of witchcraft. The Lord can turn you into a pervert in a microsecond. I saw billboards with satanic offerings. I’d never seen them before. First I thought it was the aliens, but after they put me into a mental institute, I knew it was the CIA.” Hearing him talk like that for half an hour was worth the visit to Waco alone.

It was already 10pm by the time I got to Dallas. The one budget hotel in my guidebook no longer existed, and it was probably for the best, since when I asked locals about the location of said budget hotel, they replied, “Oh my god, you don’t want to go there, no white guy can make out of there alive!” That was the opinion of the area by the police, a white restaurant owner, and a black woman working in an expensive hotel. All the hotels in downtown Dallas were over $200 a night. I gave up and went to get the train to the airport to spend the night there. The metro train was packed, yet I was the only white guy on the train. When I got off, a black guy about my age ran off the train onto the platform, punched me in the head, and then ran back onto the train. The driver saw what happened and called the police. Other people on the platform also saw what happened, but they merely laughed. I saw a middle-aged black woman laughing at someone (me) being punched in the head. The guy who punched me started shouting, “He called me a nigger!” I was almost laughing in disbelief.

So the police came, said there was nothing they could do, and told me there is no way I can get to the airport at 11pm without spending $50 on a cab. I convinced them to drive me to a cheap hotel. The cheapest one was $100 a night. After bargaining with the receptionist I only got it down to $80. I was there for less than 10 hours, yet I had spent more than I had on accommodation for four nights in Austin.

Book depository building, Elm Street and the Grassy Knoll, DallasThe only plus side to my trip to Dallas was that I saved $10 by getting in free to the Sixth Floor Book Depository museum. Somehow though, I don’t think that was worth the $80-a-night hotel and having a lump on the back of my head. After the museum visit, I caught the train to the airport. The guidebook lied and said it takes 30 minutes to get there from downtown Dallas. It actually took 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to the airport, so as a goodbye present from Dallas, I missed my flight!