Day 2 of our journey to Austin started blissfully slow with sleeping in seamlessly rolling into a serene 2+ hour coffee break on the cabin’s deck over the pond. Confirming a late checkout with our host granted time to sit quietly taking in the buzz of a nearby tractor and hum of farm insects, feed the pond’s feisty fish, and take photos of the AirBnB we had come to adore in our short stay.
We hit the road energized, stopping more than a few times to capture memorable scenes from the increasingly rural surroundings along its winding, rolling side roads. About an hour in we screeched into a left turn so as not to miss “Old Thyme Pantry,” an Amish deli deep in Missouri that creeped up just in time to satiate our growing road trip hunger.
While chomping on our classic cold cuts hoagies, we set to researching our next overnight waypoint and AirBnB rental. We discovered a tipi for rent at a property called “Music Springs” just a casual 8 hours away in Hawkins, Texas, and because you obviously can't say NO to a night in a tipi, our search ended there. Working against our late start, we sped off towards our sure-to-be-intriguing tipi adventure, but never too rushed for copious amounts of hair whipping, car dancing and windows down singing to Shovels and Rope.
...the remainder of the day’s journey was only able to be captured in this open letter to Mark Zuckerberg written in our complete delirium the following morning:
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
Thank you. Last night, on a stop along a road trip from Chicago to Austin, we spent a rather incredible evening in an authentic tipi (tepee/teepee) found on AirBnB called the “Warrior Spirit” on a religious compound in Hawkins, Texas called “Music Springs.” You might at this point believe that a thank you for the unique experience may be more appropriately in order for Brian Chesky at AirBnB. But alas, you would be mistaken Mark, for it was Facebook that truly saved our evening, and debatably, our lives. Now it may have been the debilitating heartburn from our recent roadside Mexican meal, or perhaps it was the 8+ hours of trance-inducing driving along winding rural roads or maybe even the conversation my boyfriend/road trip companion and I had just engaged in regarding ghosts and spirits, but as we turned down the rudimentary single car dirt road marked by the crucifix and musical note adorned sign at the tipi’s GPS address just after midnight, we began to grow just a tad bit concerned for our wellbeing. This unmistakable nervous inkling did not necessarily improve as we creeped our rental car deeper and deeper into the dark, dense woods, navigating our futures by the scantly placed hand scribbled “Warrior Spirit Tipi” signs dotting our surely doomed path.
Just in time for our once "just nervous excitement" to turn into the first heavy onset of genuine fear, the darkness was broken by the beam of a flashlight wielded by a portly silhouette up ahead. As we approached, this figure beckoned us towards him and identified himself as “Mike,” our host for the evening. After mumbled introductions, Mike motioned us to follow his lead. Obediently, we inched our rental car deeper into the woods tracing his lumbering steps until we reached the “Warrior Spirit." Perhaps now it might have been the recent binge watching of True Detective Season 1 or maybe it was our ill-timed car ride discussion that evening about crazy cult-like religions, or even possibly just general fatigue, but we couldn’t help but experience an increasingly alarming suspicion about the nature of our stay at “Music Springs.” This snowballing concern was only exacerbated by Mike’s casual mentioning of things like “good luck getting your car out of here in a hurry!” and “oh don’t mind that little tent next to your tipi, just a visiting friend that I’m SURE will not harm you” and “you’re just in time - tomorrow we begin a 3 day praise and worship retreat here” as we stared at the towering 15 foot wooden cross casting a large shadow on our evening’s quarters.
After Mike bid us good night and informed us he would soon be cutting all of the lights on the property (great), we entered the “Warrior Sprit” tipi, wide eyed with a touch of trembling. After a few moments of "WTF is going on" silence, we did a quick survey of our current conditions, more than slightly alarmed by facts that included:
our complete disorientation deep in the woods of Texas down a one way dirt road chokepoint on a strangers property
our rental car wedged tightly between perfectly positioned pine trees that ensured we had no possibility of a quick escape
no one we know having any inkling of our whereabouts, or even what state we were in
our lack of weaponry
our cell service hovering between zilch and a single bar (how will we call 911??)
getting so excited about the prospect of staying in a tipi that we failed to read any reviews of our host to confirm or deny whether they were in fact zealous murderers who lured victims by the promise of an evening in their majestic tipi
and not the least concerning:
our mysterious nameless visitor neighbor in his strange little tent a mere feet from our sleeping quarters, who by this point, we were basically convinced was only camped on site to murder us in our sleep as part of a sacrifice to kick off the next days "praise and worship" convention
As our minds continued to race in increasingly irrational fear, we made the decision to retreat to our vehicle to plan out our way ahead (should we pre-escape? should we go on the offensive? should we just settle down and enjoy this damn tipi?) so we frantically scurried out of the tipi, hopped in the car, locked the doors and began to devise our plan for when things inevitably turned violent. Our plan proved diverse: diversionary camera flashes and car alarms, using tripods as weapons, how we might put out the tipi fire we were sure Mike would start to smoke us out, establishing a rally point at the preacher’s stage, and a debate over the potential weight and build of our nearby tent dwelling aggressor to determine who would fight him first. With our defense plan loosely constructed, we spent a moment contemplating whether connecting to the host’s Wi-Fi would somehow result in our phones being hacked and used against us in the elaborate plot to turn us into sacrificial lambs for the upcoming praise fest. We settled on risking it and logged onto AirBnB to finally read the mere 2 uneventful reviews on “Warrior Spirit” from back in March. Unsatisfied and now adding "why a tipi this seemingly majestic hadn’t had a visitor in months" to our list of concerns, we needed more information... so we turned to our trusty, loyal friend - Facebook.
See Mark, this is where you come in to save the day; I hope I haven’t lost you. Anyways, a quick search for “Music Springs Texas” yielded a matching business Facebook page, AHA! We scrolled frantically, looking for any semblance of a clue that would help us unravel this elaborate rouse staged by Mike and his mysterious tent “guest” that we were now sure involved our imminent death. Our hearts nearly stopped when we saw that just 2 hours earlier Mike had posted a photo of the tipi to the page’s wall publicly announcing our arrival and ETA referring to us as “travelers passing through from Illinois to Austin,” or as we translated: "hey guys, our sacrificial lambs have arrived according to plan!" Panic stricken, we dug deeper, and stumbled upon the tip off we only could have dreamed of – the full name of our tent dwelling neighbor/likely aggressor – in a post Mike had made announcing his guest’s arrival to “Music Springs” the previous day. A Google search of his name returned thousands of results getting us no closer to thwarting his master plan to murder us that very evening. So, Mark, we did it again, we trusted you. Back to Facebook we went. A search of Mike’s friends on his personal page delivered our answer – a link to the tent man’s own page. There we gathered our clues: photos from his roadtrip to Music Springs from Washington state, posts about his arrival and the upcoming worship retreat, and most importantly, a video of him strumming an acoustic guitar in the woods and signing gently along to a song about sending glory to God.
For reasons unbeknownst to either of us Mark, that video - all 4½ minutes of it - of our tent residing aggressor so timidly singing Jesus’ praises for his public Facebook audience, calmed our fears. Suddenly the thought of sleeping in the "Warrior Sprit" tipi wasn’t entirely terrifying, and having watched his video, we knew that if our tented neighbor should in fact decide to attack, we now had the confidence that either of us could certainly take him. Our fear subdued, we unlocked our doors, re-entered the tipi, and slept peacefully, basking in a sense of gratitude for you, Mark, and for Facebook and its less-than-iron-clad privacy policies that allowed us to learn so much so quickly about our potential attackers.
As it turns out, “Musical Springs” was delightful, a serene glamping retreat of sorts but not without it quirks and character. Our hosts were gracious and accommodating, and the “Warrior Spirit Tipi” proved relaxing and surprisingly comfortable. Well, Mark, I echo my earlier sentiment – thank you. Thank you for helping us combat our fears, for finding that epic video of the tent man crooning to Christ (trust us, it has viral potential), and for salvaging our evening - certainly one for the books. We owe ya one.
love + praise,