Monday, March 13, 2006

Super 8 Motel, Austin, Texas

Monday, March 13, 2006

This morning, I was on the road at 8:30 and ran head-on into a cold front, featuring a dramatic temperature drop, strong winds and rain.

One thing I had hoped to do in this region is visit an oil refinery. Not far from Winnie, Interstate 10 runs right past a Chevron-Philipps facility. It seemed as good as any. I found the administration offices and inquired at reception. My question whether any refinery offers tours, or even educational exhibits, drew a blank stare. I know that even with the heightened levels of security, school groups visit refineries. A public relations officer made a few inquiries. Her reply was not surprising. She knew of nowhere offering such a tour or educational exhibit.

I know that on-line you can find rather detailed "virtual tours", but I had hoped for the real thing. Maybe back in California.

Stopped at a "Denny's" for breakfast before jumping into Houston. I've been through Houston a number of times. There is nothing really that draws my interest there. Again, I simply passed through. The highways a maze of construction and obstacles, I was happy to put it behind me.

In one construction zone out west of the city, there was a lane reduction and I used the full extent of my lane before moving over. A semi stepped on the gas and came up behind me at high speed. If I remained, I'm fairly sure he would not have stopped. I was forced off into the construction area. I continued to ride alongside (on the wrong side of the construction cones), exchanging some choice words with the jerk. I took the next exit and he followed. I immediately pulled over into a clearing and got off my bike, waiting for him to stop. I pointed to the ground, indicating that we needed to talk. But he refused to get out of the truck, insisting that I should climb up on his running board, which I was not about to do. He finally pulled away.

I was tempted to take down his carrier name and number and license, as I'm pretty sure this would qualify as a felony assault, so I followed until he turned north on a county road. I wanted to keep moving west.

Once off the interstate, the energy changes markedly. It's springtime! The countryside along highway 71 between Houston and Austin is beautiful, with its rolling hills, noble oaks and wildflowers. I find this land much more attractive than the more lush landscapes of the Southeast.

In Austin, I figured my familiarity with the city from last August would make it easy. I looked for the hotel I stayed at last time, a "Quality Inn" on the north side. For some reason, I just couldn't find it, nor was it listed in the phone book. (Later, I did some research and discovered it was in fact a "Wingate Inn" last August.)

So this "Super 8" seemed to be offering a reasonable rate at $45 a night, especially considering the city has filled up for the "South by Southwest" festival. There were bands staying at the hotel. I saw one big black fellow who looked like a real veteran blues musician climb into a car, a "bandolier" of harmonicas across his chest.

After stowing all my things in the room, I drove into downtown, just to see where "Antone's" is, the venue for Friday night's Neko Case show (actually 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning.) I talked with staff members. They said that even though the shows are technically sold out, by showing up for earlier shows (they start at 8:00), there's a possibility of getting in on a space-available basis. Once inside, you can just stay for the later shows.

Returned to the "Little City Expresso Bar", that great little coffee shop and wi-fi hotspot I had found last summer. Tonight it was quiet. Spring Break! No dinner tonight.

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