Today I was a man on a mission. The fact that my fellow travellers did not necessarily share that was hardly an impediment. My goal was to have lunch at Antlers in Lafayette, then get to Austin, Texas, in time for a meal at Guero’s and to see Dale Watson at The Continental.
Tim was packing at 4.15am for a departure just 45 minutes later; I am not sure he actually went to bed. There were a lot of expletives which I assume was because he could not find things and he still left his phone charger.
I was down at the front desk at 7.00am anyway, trying to sort out rooms for those staying an extra night. This year I have had real problems in getting some Americans to understand me. Do we speak the same language?
Four of us went to pick up the two SUVs at the Avis office on Canal, returned to the hotel and loaded luggage and everyone else in and headed out by 10.20am. Sarah and I shared the driving in our Ford Edge and Rob and Ken shared in the Mitsubishi Endeavour.
I may have said some nasty things about SUV and 4WD drivers in the past – especialy whn they have tried to run me over on my motorbike – but I take some of it back. They are not all dickheads. The Edge was great with almost everything electrically adjustable, smooth, comfortable and reasonably economical. The 15-seat bus I rented in Mississippi got about 14 mpg – not good.
I was devastated to discover that the stuffed pork chop was not on the Monday lunch menu at Antlers in Lafayette. A fried shrimp po’ boy was second choice by a long way.
The most interesting part of the drive is the initial stage out over the bayous and Lake Ponchartrain and the final part over the rolling Texas hills and their impressively manicured ranches.
The worst part of the drive is skirting Houston which took at least an hour. Apparently, it is the fourth largest city in the USA and as you drive around its enormous outskirts and see the amount of traffic you can believe that statistic. I must remember not to visit it again.
Things were going well until we reached the outskirts of Austin and Sandra’s GPS seemed to suffer a nervous breakdown, sending us around in several circles and insisting we head away from the city. We switched it off and found our own way.
It was similar to the scene in 2001 when HAL melts down – only this was a much more serious situation – there was a man on board who needed Mexican food and music. This took 15 minutes from our valuable refreshment time.
While we hadn’t booked ahead for this night – we were originally scheduled to arrive tomorrow – we managed to get rooms at the Austin Motel and the Hotel San Jose (where I am ensconced). Total travel time: 11 hours.
A quick walk up the hill meant that Sandra and I arrived at Guero’s just in time to get the Monday night steak special. Others had to head further up to the Magnolia Cafe where they enjoyed (gasp!) vegetables.
Dale Watson’s Monday night gig at The Continental is compulsory. The $5 cover charge seems ludicrously low.
Tonight Watson was his usual witty self. My favourite line of his: ‘I don’t drink normally.’ Tonight he was also plugging the $2 Bud Light special. I wonder if he is on commission. They coud give it away and I still wouldn’t drink it.
Watson’s band is tight – with pedal steel and keyboards – his voice is deep and resonant. One of the best country artists never to achieve mainsteam success.