This is part 2 of a 5 part series. Missed the first part? Click here to go back!
APRIL 30, 2016
The hotel looked huge and imposing from outside, but that had nothing on the inside.
I walked in and just stood there for a moment, looking around, mesmerized.
“Can I help you ma’am?”
“Oh, uh,” I stammered, having not even seen the greeter. “I’m sorry, I think this hotel is bigger than my whole town! Where…where is the front desk???”
“No problem! The front desk is right over there, they can get you checked in.”
Right over there actually seemed to be just a very long hallway. Until I realized…
The front desk. Was the length. Of this very long hallway.
The hugeness of this place cannot be overstated. Nor can its beauty. Every surface seemed to have thought put into it; everywhere you looked, there was an embellishment like a star, or a bull (so many bulls!). If that sounds gaudy, it wasn’t; it was just so incredibly detailed.
I found my bank of elevators, which was thankfully close to where I already was, and headed to my room. The elevator was glass-walled and showed a view of an incredible atrium as we travelled up to the 5th floor. I opened my door, plopped down my things…
And realized I had a balcony.
It was stunning, like nothing I had ever seen and nowhere I’d ever been. If there was any stress left from the trip, I was so thoroughly distracted by now that there wasn’t an outside thought in my mind. I’m no good at living in the moment. But this place was literally so gorgeous and unique that it left me no choice.
I was hungry, though, and so tired. After grabbing a coffee and a snack from a Starbucks downstairs that was close enough that I didn’t get lost on my way to or from, I just kind of…zoned out. I didn’t nap, I think I was too overwhelmed! I just…ate and then laid on the bed staring at the wall for a while.
Once I collected myself, I messaged my friend C, who lives near Dallas. We were hoping to get together for dinner, but first I had to go track down one of the meeting rooms for my Runaway Tours lanyard—my key to whatever crazy experience lay ahead.
I’ve stayed at many a hotel, and I figured this would just be a quick mission through a maze of nondescript hallways to find this meeting room. I’m honestly not sure what made me think that, given that the hotel-ness of the Gaylord Texan is almost an afterthought to the beautiful atrium. I hurried out on my utilitarian mission only to be stopped dead in my tracks by endless walkways through manicured gardens, some with entire miniature cities and trains perfectly set up inside.
My mom and I used to love visiting a place in the Toronto area called Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village. It’s closed down now, but this brought back so many memories. I wanted to take pictures and video of absolutely everything, but I still had to make my way to this meeting room!
The conference area was clear across the atrium, so I got a really good first look at the place and knew I’d have to explore everything later.
I located the meeting room (thank God for having a good sense of direction) and went inside to collect my lanyard.
The Runaway Tours employees, I swear, were almost as excited as the attendees. The company creates VIP experiences connecting artists and fans, in all kinds of fancy or exotic locales. Combining travel, concerts, and meeting favourite artists.
If that’s not a business model after my own heart…!
Everyone was so nice. I picked up my lanyard, autographed photo, and branded toiletry bag (the one and only toiletry bag I’ve used on every single trip since), talked to them briefly about the events over the next couple days, and headed back to my room in a daze.
It was all getting really real.
A little later, C picked me up outside the hotel and we headed to dinner. I hadn’t gotten to see her in 5 years, not since we saw Lindsey Buckingham on his birthday in Jacksonville, Florida, and it was so much fun to catch up, chat, and fangirl a bit.
By this time, the jean jacket that seemed so insufficient for the -1° weather back home had been abandoned in C’s car. I found summer, and I was loving it!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. C was, originally, just going to drop me off and head home, but she had never seen the place either and it just looked so cool. We said it would be so fun if she could stay for awhile and explore it with me.
A quick call home later, that’s exactly what she did.
We set out to explore every part of the indoor grounds, and a little of the outside as well.
There was a Greek-inspired terrace with a pool, an entire windmill, a creek, a bull…
Click to enlarge photos…
Honestly, we wandered for hours and I’m still not sure we saw everything.
Eventually, I realized that one of the Runaway Tours events had started. There was a welcome party with food and an open bar, happening upstairs in one of the ballrooms.
Aware that it was only for event attendees, but also ever the enterprising fangirl, I headed upstairs with C to ask if they could make an exception.
“No, sorry, but these events are great for making new friends too!”
“Absolutely! But I think for now I’ll hang out with my old friend, we never get to see each other and I know it’s part of the package but don’t mind—it’s worth it to me to get to see her.”
“Fair enough! Definitely come back afterwards though, we’ll be here for awhile!”
I did pop in to the ballroom while I was there, however. Honestly? Again, ever the enterprising fangirl…
I wanted to see if Don was in there. Hey, you never know!
C and I wandered around a fair bit more, and then after she headed home, I took my time making my way back to the ballroom. It was now after 11pm Central time, and although the resort was still distractingly gorgeous and I managed a few more photos, the hours were starting to take their toll.
Click to enlarge photos…
“Hey! You’re back,” the man at the desk greeted me as I appeared outside the ballroom.
“I am,” I said, “but I’m here to say I think I have to call it a night. I’ve been up since 3am Eastern…so like…roughly 21 hours now…!”
The Runaway Tours rep laughed and agreed with me, wished me a good night, and reminded me to make sure I was in line at 6pm the next evening for the main event—the Q&A, concert and photo op.
“Trust me, I wouldn’t miss that for the world!”
I called my husband from just outside the ballroom so that he could go to sleep, and then made my way back across the resort.
There was a miniature version of the resort outside the ballroom, that I was staring at as I spoke with Mr. Coyote. No detail left undone in this place.
I honestly can’t even remember if I took my makeup off—or even if I was wearing makeup to take off—before I collapsed into bed.
I remember falling asleep facing that balcony, still in awe of…well, everything.
I still had realistic expectations for the next day, but so far, I couldn’t have dreamed this trip up any better.
This is part 2 in a 5 part series. Click here for part 3!