Notes from Beto and Will’s livestreamed, bipartisan, Texas-to-D.C. town hall road trip


Good day Austin:

Somewhere, about 12 hours into his excellent adventure with his congressional colleague Will Hurd, Beto O’Rourke reflected yesterday on the prerequisites of a great road trip.

  1. There has to be an element of spontaneity. You can’t be planning it weeks or months in advance.
  2. You’ve got to have good tunes.
  3. You’ve got to have some good food and good snacks.
  4.  You’ve got to run into Chuck Todd and Evan Smith.
  5. You must learn some deeper truths about yourself and humanity.



By their own reckoning, yesterday’s road trip, which had them leaving San Antonio by dawn and arriving at their hotel in Nashville at 2:15 this morning  – a little bit better than halfway to their destination of snowbound D.C.  – was quite successful, though, of course, fulfilling the fifth criterion was mostly in the mind of the beholder.

For example, the dynamic duo did learn that if you park by the University of Texas – even if you are two of 535 members of the U.S. Congress – your Dollar rent-a-car, will be ticketed. And that if your goal is to get out of Texas within, say, eight hours, you really ought to avoid a route that takes you through Waco on I-35.

Like any good road trip – and this really was a good road trip – it was self-referential, spinning its own legend as it went, looking back at what happened a half-hour earlier as mythic, every moment invested with meaning.

It was, O’Rourke said from nearly the outset, the “longest cross-country livestream town hall in the history of the world.” And there didn’t really seem to be any arguing with that.

With the exception of some intermittent service interruptions, the whole thing was livestreamed.


They talked about health care, the border, U.S. Rep. Steve King, drug policy, veterans issues, opioid addiction, campaign finance, the budget sequester and on and on.

Their real moment of Zen came early on, at Tantra Coffeehouse in San Marcos, where Adam, while making them their coffee, talked about coffee and the meaning of life.




“Human beings and caffeine have a deep-seated relationship in our consciousness,” said Adam.

“We have spent the last hour talking about health care policy and NATO and Turkey, and this discourse on coffee has gotten more ‘likes’ than anything,” O’Rourke told Adam.

“Let me tie it all together,” Adam replied. And then he did.



The road trip came together as an idea Monday night after Hurd and O’Rourke did a veterans’ event together in San Antonio and Hurd discovered old reliable Southwest wasn’t able to fly into D.C. to get him back for some votes Wednesday evening.

O’Rourke pitched the idea.

Hurd: “He said, `Let’s drive to D.C.” He didn’t think I’d say yes, I said yes.”

They picked up a Dollar rental Chevy Impala in San Antonio predawn and hit the road at around 7.



Politically, the road trip makes perfect sense for both men.

O’Rourke wants to run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz and the road trip was a way to showcase his quirky, outside-the-box persona and his quirky, outside-the-box bipartisanship.

The kind of bipartisanship and interpersonal relationships that were a given among members of Congress for long stretches of American history now seems quaint, maybe even forbidden.


Cruz has proved that he could do filibuster-length talking on the Senate floor, but could he pull off a feat like this, or find a willing companion from the other party?

And Hurd is that rarest birds in Congress – a man who represents a genuinely competitive district, a black Republican with a majority Latino electorate, a Republican member of Congress who never endorsed Donald Trump for president – for whom bipartisanship is not just a nicety but a necessity.

Hurd: “I am in a perpetual race. I am one of the few members of Congress who’s in a 50-50 district.”

Hurd is 39 and O’Rourke is 44.

As in any good buddy movie, the two quickly fell into complementary characters.

O’Rourke, who toured the U.S. with the El Paso band Foss in the early 1990s, is the seasoned road warrior, keeper of the tunes and hard driver who wants to barrel through to their destination.

For Hurd, O’Rourke said, “time is elastic and expansive.” He is the hopeless tourist, eager to pull over at every roadside attraction.

In Austin, talked amicably with a SXSW security guard, who said even the drunks were friendly, and thenthey busted in on Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Meet the Press Moderator Chuck Todd just ahead of Smith’s interview of Todd for his KLRU show, Overheard.


Hurd was asked to offer an example of an issue on which he and O’Rourke agree.

“We both agree a border wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd said.

The two prime-of-life politicians, who represent abutting districts – Hurd’s vast district stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of O’Rourke’s El Paso – have an easy rapport, which wore well over what amounted to  mostly continuous all-day and all-night talkathon.

Hurd: What is that song you wanted to listen to?

O’Rourke:  It’s called “Alex Chilton” by the Replacements.

Hurd:  You know there’s an artist by the name of Alex Chilton.

O’Rourke: Yeah, the song’s about him. Unfortunately, he recently passed away in the last few years. RIP Alex Chilton.

If he was from Venus, would he feed us with a spoon?
If he was from Mars, wouldn’t that be cool?
Standing right on campus, would he stamp us in a file?
Hangin’ down in Memphis all the while.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Cerebral rape and pillage in a village of his choice.
Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice.
Feeling like a hundred bucks, exchanging good lucks face to face.
Checkin’ his stash by the trash at St. Mark’s place.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

I never travel far, without a little Big Star

Runnin’ ’round the house, Mickey Mouse and the Tarot cards.
Falling asleep with a flop pop video on.
If he was from Venus, would he meet us on the moon?
If he died in Memphis, then that’d be cool, babe.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

“I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Sandra Sandoval · 4:15 Loving this!
Like · 1 · 1 hr


Fisher Mays
Fisher Mays · 4:07 Great song choice 👌


Seamus Verde
Seamus Verde · 3:51 ya gotta do Marc Cohn’s “Walkin’ in Memphis” 🙂
Like · 2 · 1 hr



Will: “It’s like Carpool Karaoke.”

Lunch was at a Waco Whataburger.


Will: “Yes Miranda, we’re going to pay the same but can we have it in two bags. It will be a little easier for us.”

O’Rourke: “High maintenance customer.”



Hurd: “No pickles. With cheese, yes ma’am. Thank you for asking.”




U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, old enough to be their father, phoned in to make sure there was no distracted driving going on.

Hurd assured him O’Rourke had a firm hand on the wheel.

But Cornyn’s connection wasn’t so good.

O’Rourke: “We lost Sen. Cornyn.”

Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy called in.

“I have never driven that far in my life,” Kennedy said.

Hurd talked about how his father, a black man who sold wine and liquor across sometimes hostile Texas, taught him the importance of PMA – a positive mental attitude.



O’Rourke suggested the Bad Brains song, “Attitude.”

Don’t care what they may say
We got that attitude!
Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!
I Don’t care what you may say
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

We got that attitude!
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that attitude!
Hey, we got that attitude!

O’Rourke: “Bad Brains invented hard core.”




O’Rourke suggested “Headin’ for the Texas Border” by Flamin’ Groovies.

That was followed by “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.




They apparently packed light.

Both were wearing collared shirts over undershirts and, O’Rourke said, “I may wear the same shirt tomorrow without the undershirt.”



Hurd: “Reagan would wear the same shirt twice.”

O’Rourke: “Without washing it?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “We need a fact check in aisle two.”



They both are very into the White Stripes


“First concert,” said Hurd, throwing out a topic.

O’Rourke: “Quiet Riot. ‘Come on Feel the Noize.’ El Paso County Coliseum.”

Hurd: “My first concert was Hootie and the Blowfish.  Austin, Texas.”



A quick dinner heading  toward Memphis presented a challenge.

O’Rourke: “McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Applebee’s?”

Hurd: “None of this is tickling my fancy. … Is there a Whataburger? We could do a two Whataburger day.”

O’Rourke: “We’d love to do a Waffle House, but we don’t have time.”

Hurd: “One of the things I appreciate about Texas, you can get off the highway and get stuff.”

They ended up pulling into a gas station Subway 15 minutes from Graceland, but it was slow going, so Hurd bought a couple of bananas and O’Rourke picked up a couple of packaged sandwiches to share.



Hurd: “Bon appetit. How do you get the bread this dry. What’s the secret?”


Hurd: “The last time I was in Memphis was when I drove from San Antonio to start my job with the CIA.”




O’Rourke: “Name the song in the first 10 seconds or less.”

Hurd: “I can’t do that.”

“You know from a couple of bars?”

O’Rourke: “I can do that.”


Lo and behold, the only folks outside the locked-up Graceland gate when they got there were a family from San Antonio.

The other most fulfilling moment after Tantra Coffeehouse was their stop at Gibson’s Donuts on their way out of Memphis.





O’Rourke: “I don’t eat that many donuts. I just like them. Some people like cigars  or a good bottle of wine. I like donuts.”



There was a little bit of shop talk.

O’Rourke: “You have a comms director and a press secretary?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “That’s out of control.”


Who will play them in the movie version of the road trip?

O’Rourke; “We’ve already decided the Rock is going to play Will Hurd.”

Hurd: “I think Ryan Gosling (for O’Rourke). I don’t know if he’s tall enough.”

O’Rourke: “Will and I would be a really good name for the Hollywood adaptation.”

Hurd: Like Marley and Me?

O’Rourke: Or the King and I.



Occasionally, the sound would fall out.



1:40 a.m., on the road to Nashvile.

O’Rourke: “I like cake. My mom’s a great baker.”

Hurd: “I like cake, but pie is so much more versatile.”

Hurd: “We left out cobbler.”

O’Rourke: “I think of cobbler as pie. If you have a different understanding please let me know.”




O’Rourke: “What your go-to Luby’s desert?”

Hurd: “Chocolate cake. The chocolate pudding cake

O’Rourke: “I always go to the cherry pie. You know its been out there a while so its’ kind of gelatinous, but i still go for it.”

Hurd, checking their Facebook comments: The Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is getting a lot of love.”




In the dead of night, O’Rourke decides to tell an embarrassing story about his wife, Amy.

“I was born in ’72. Amy was born in ’81.”

It was Halloween.

“I don’t dress up. I don’t know, maybe it’s a character flaw.”

He showed his wife a picture of Kurt Cobain as someone he could dress up as.

“Amy said, `Is this Hard Rock?’ Not only did she not know it was Kurt Cobain and thought it was Kid Rock but she didn’t know that Kid Rock was not Hard Rock. Amy, sorry to tell that story. Youth vs. experience.”



Drivin’ down your freeways
Midnite alleys roam
Cops in cars, the topless bars
Never saw a woman…
So alone, so alone
So alone, so alone

Motel Money Murder Madness
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness

Hurd: “We had a lot of good discussions, like tacos vs. enchiladas.”

O’Rourke: “I’m sorry about getting crossways with you about cake vs. pie. I wish I could take back some of the things I said.”

O’Rourke: “You know somebody who I really respect? Mac Thornberry.”

Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon, represents the vast Texas district that encompasses the Texas Panhandle. He chairs the Armed Services Committee on which O’Rourke serves.

O’Rourke said he’d like to make the same trip with Thornberry, but, unlike his current companion, “I’m not sure he’d want to crush a Whataburger or go to a donut shop in Memphis at midnight.”

Hurd:  “Mac’s a quiet professional. A great guy.”

Hurd: “You would like (Michael) McCaul.”

O’Rourke: “I like McCaul.”

Hurd: “He’s a very funny guy. You would be laughing all the way.”

The lights of Nashville glistened ahead.

Hurd: “It’s been 19 hours, if I’m correct.”

O’Rourke: “I’m not good at math.”

Hurd: “Beto’s finally got a positive PMA.”

O’Rourke: “Finally? Come on.”

Neace-Marcus Tammy THIS reminds me of the time MY Daddy and I drove to Ohio from Pasadena Texas IN less than 17 hours 😂😂😂😂 and nodoze to stay awake! Best time with daddy ! Rock on!
Paul Peters
Paul Peters Great to break out of the partisan bubbles for a few hours with yall
Matt Zeller
Matt Zeller Got any Creedence?


Raymond Tomichek
Raymond TomichekI have wanted to relocate to Texas for a very long time. It makes me feel I could have a much better future surrounded by really good Texans like the two of you. It is so great that you would do something like this….. truly working together and truly listening to each other and the people. This is the coolest !!!

At 6:30 this morning, they were checked out of the Fairfield Inn in Nashville and back on the road headed to Knoxville.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, called in.

Former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, a Democrat, and Bill Frist, a Republican, called in together.

O’Rourke asked his staff and Hurd’s staff to send them a list of the Wednesday night votes they were so determined not to miss.

Throughout the trip, O’Rourke had noted that those first votes were most likely inconsequential suspension votes.

But, hey, the purpose of a good road trip is not the destination, it is the journey.

Though, by late morning, and confronting a detour that might keep them from getting to the votes on time, O’Rourke displayed a slight slip in his PMA.

“Shit man,” O’Rourke said. “We are cutting it close.”


As it turned out, fate and traffic smiled on Beto and Will and they arrived at the Capitol with a half hour to spare.



And this morning, the bipartisan buddies were back, appearing first on Fox & Friends, and then on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.





Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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