Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Austin, Texas

At 7:30, I was awakened by a call from Guy Le Roux. He had promised to call to discuss plans for getting together this week. (He thought it was 9:00 a.m.) He wants to show me around the Texas Hill Country (south and west of Austin.) We made plans to meet in New Braunfels tomorrow morning.

Went downstairs for the free breakfast, but found the dining area too crowded. Waited until the end, when staff began shutting down the line (which they do rapidly.) Grabbed a bagel and toasted it.

Pretty much stayed in the room today, working on my blog. Went out for coffee mid afternoon. It was chilly outside, my mind in a fog. Driving downtown, exiting the highway near the University, I almost ran over a curb on one of the Texas "jump-offs".

Texas freeways have struck me as strange ever since I lived here in the late 70s. Throughout the United States, the interstate highway system is remarkable for its consistency and conformity (especially the clover-leaf interchanges), that is until you come to Texas.

Here it has been adapted to Texas' own quirky system. Frontage roads are one-way, the same direction as the lanes nearest to them. In many places, to reach an address on the frontage road, you must to exit before your destination, hoping you haven't overshot it.

Highway entrances, which I call "jump-ons", are short ramps with yield signs at the merge point. If you have to stop at the end of the on-ramp, you often must then accelerate from zero to freeway speeds as fast as possible to avoid traffic coming up fast behind. The exits are just as short and hazardous, usually merging with a frontage road.

One feature I do like is the u-turn lane before some intersections, allowing traffic to pass under the freeway to the opposite frontage road without waiting for the traffic light to change.

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