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The Vacation I Carry with Me

Visit Fort Worth
The Fiesta Garden at Joe T. Garcia’s in fort Worth


The water laps gently against the pool’s edge. On my table, sun shining through beads of condensation illuminate a pitcher of margaritas. At the next table, a waiter delivers a sizzling skillet of fajitas. I’ve ordered the traditional dinner, so my large cheddar-covered tortilla chips will arrive soon and they’ll be followed by waves of other Tex-Mex favorites.

A wave crashing on the shore of Moonstone Beach reminded me Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant was about 1500 miles away.  Around me, travelers from all over the world snapped pictures of seals sunning on wave-drenched rocks.  Cambria, California is a popular tourist destination, but I wasn’t on vacation.

Bill and I lived on the Central Coast of California for six years.  We built a beautiful house over-looking Pismo Beach and I’m proud to call a lot of people who live there friends, but it wasn’t home.  When life in the land of fruits and nuts closed in on me, I’d grab Precious, my darling Shih-Tzu, and drive to Moonstone Beach.  I hate to admit it, but I’d stand there on that beautiful beach and cry my eyes out, wishing I could be in the Fiesta Gardens at Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant in Fort, Worth, Texas.


Visit Dallas
My Place by the Creek

So, now I’m back in Dallas.  Instead of staring into the Pacific Ocean from my rooftop patio, I sit in my office and look out at a leg of White Rock Creek making its way to the Trinity River.  Given my California tears, you’d be justified in thinking that I’m at Joe T. Garcia’s every Friday night, but I really only go there a few times each year.  It’s one of the places I save for special occasions – but from California, Joe T.’s seemed to epitomize every thing I missed about Texas.


Let me take a moment to tell you about Joe T. Garcia’s.  No matter where you live in the world, you need to put Joe T.’s on your bucket list.  The fact that it’s been left out of 1000 Places to See Before You Die is a crying shame.  Naysayer’s will tell you there’s better Tex-Mex in the world, but don’t believe them.  For an experience which transcends mere dining out, you need to go to Joe T.’s – but go early or you won’t get a seat.  (And bring green, because they don’t take credit cards.)   Since I’m making confessions here, I’ll tell you that every time I walk into the Fiesta Gardens these days my eyes tear up.  I’m tempted to fall on my knees and kiss the ground, but instead I order a pitcher of margaritas and that seems to help.


Joe T.’s Fiesta Garden is one of the vacations I carry in my head – along with sitting on rocks in Oak Creek Canyon‘s Indian Springs, riding a camel next to the Pyramids, watching ballet in Schonbrunn Palace and strolling through the pre-1991 Jeu de Paume in Paris.  There’s no airfare, no rental cars and no bags to pack.  I can just close my eyes and go there.  It’s OK, that they’ve built  a bunch of houses on my favorite stretch of Sedona and moved my favorite Impressionists paintings to another museum.  I can even be sitting at a stoplight and immediately escape to one of my favorite places.  Everyone needs to carry their vacations with them.

I go to Moonstone Beach often, now.  There’s a lot on my plate and the sound of the crashing waves, the smell of the verdant vegetation and the taste of salt on my lips can transform a bad day.  Now, I don’t even have to put up with all those tourists chattering in a polyglot of languages.  I just listen to the seals bark.  Where do you go on the vacations in your mind?

UPDATE January 1, 2015 – I took an actual road trip to Moonstone Beach in June of 2014.  Read about it here.  I also sold my creekside home and am building one in Heath.

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