Monday, November 03, 2008

Notes from the Road(trip)

This was a great weekend. I hadn't done an out-of-town roadtrip since late March, and I hadn't really gone out of town, period, since July. It was time. And even though, in less than 24 hours, I managed to pull a muscle in my leg, got my first speeding ticket in over 17 years, and got my car stuck in the sand--twice--I also got a free dinner, walked on a beach for the first time in years, and played both a marimba duet and a saxophone/piano duet, the latter with one of my nephews. It was truly a superb time.

As always, here's a random list of things I noticed on the trip:
  • A funny sign seen in Jarrell, just north of Austin: "THIS IS GOD'S COUNTRY. PLEASE DON'T DRIVE LIKE HELL THROUGH HERE."

  • Coming into greater Austin near Friday afternoon rush hour, I decided to try the new SH-130 tollway, which goes around Austin. It's a nice route, save for one problem: The connecting road back to I-35, SH45-SE, is not done yet, so I detoured onto SH 71 near the Austin airport--and got caught in some of the traffic I'd hoped to avoid. (It turns out that 130 is now open to SH 183--which is not yet acknowledged by either Google Maps or Mapquest--and a far better way would be to take 183 south to SH 21 and rejoin I-35 in San Marcos. Of course, I discovered this route after my trip was over.)

  • I participated in the Chipotle "Boo-Rito" promotion again (that's three years in a row for me and my Fit Brother, Coop), and it seems like the costumes were more minimal than usual this year (maybe it's the economy?), though people did make a lot more elaborate hats. It was funny to see the looks on the faces of people who had no idea that the promotion was going on.

  • If you're in the airport area of San Antonio and need to kill some time, Alamo Quarry Market is a pretty cool place to visit. (And yes, the iconic smokestacks are original equipment from back when there really was a quarry at the site.)

  • There's no way to sugarcoat it: Interstate 37 between San Antonio and Corpus is boooooorrring, especially at night (yes, this was the area where I got the ticket). Thank goodness for the iPod...

  • On the way to Austin, I noticed that the new "Safety Rest Area" had opened near Salado, at least on the southbound side of I-35, and indeed, it does look a lot nicer (and, yes, safer) than the old, cruddy ones. But it was funny when we stopped at one along I-37 and noticed a sign reading, WATCH FOR SNAKES. Somehow, I don't usually think of "safety" and "snakes" in the same sentence very often.

  • On the other side of the coin, there are usually two types of rest stops in Texas: a Rest Area (facilities, picnic tables, vending machines, maps) or a Picnic Area (picnic tables without facilities, which always sounded silly to me). But on the way to Corpus, I saw yet a third classification: a Parking Area (pavement, pretty much). It appears that a Parking Area is to a Rest Area as a Yugo is to a Jaguar.

  • The beaches at Mustang Island require a parking permit, which is available at any local convenience store. It's 12 bucks for a year, but there doesn't seem to be a day pass of any sort. Good thing I was with a local who could use the pass later...

  • During the weekend, I had the chance to visit a pair of two-story versions of places that are usually limited to a single story: Whataburger by the Bay in downtown Corpus, the flagship restaurant of the locally-based chain, and a Starbucks with a loft (and a "green roof") in south Austin.

  • On the way to Austin on Saturday night, I made "a short Schlotzsky's stop in Schertz." Say that ten times fast...

  • And finally, it was a good weekend to take a roadtrip, since gas was so cheap. I paid $2.00 a gallon just north of Waco on Friday afternoon and $1.99 in Corpus the next morning. I also saw the same Waco stations showing $1.94 in on my way back on Sunday. But why was it around $2.19 when I got home? I had to go a few miles away to find it in the $2.10's, and I didn't see anything approaching sub-$2 prices.
It was great to get away for a weekend, and I look forward to the next time.

The return of DWT: Another thing that happened during this weekend was the traditional switching of the clocks to Daylight Wasting Time. I was at my sister's in Austin by that time, and by then, I was quite tired. This was probably the first time since early high school that I didn't stay up for the time change.

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