Texas (mainly), Sept-Oct 2016

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Travelogue: Texas (mainly), September-October 2016

By Roger W. Reini


By Day:

Seotember 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30
October 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Prologue

This was a reunion year for me, so I knew I would be traveling to Texas. Our reunion would be tied to a football game once again, so once the day and game were selected, I could make my plans. Part of those plans would have included visiting my friend Keith and his family in their new home, but those had to be scrapped after his father had suffered a stroke. I decided to fill in that gap with a few days in Dallas. And with this being an election year, it seemed appropriate to visit two presidential libraries/museums on my way, the Clinton museum and the George W. Bush museum.

Thursday September 22

Today was the last day of work before my vacation. I wrapped up many of the assignments I was doing at the office, or at least I took them as far as I could take them. I had lunch with one current and two former colleagues at the Boneyard restaurant in Dearborn Heights; it was a lunch meeting that we try to hold monthly, and usually we succeed. Because of the proximity of the restaurant to my house, I worked from home the rest of the afternoon and finished wrapping up what needed wrapping up.

When I was done with work, I started to pack my vehicle. This would be different from other recent trips, for I now had a new vehicle. Gone was my 2010 Mercury Mariner; I now had a 2017 Lincoln MKZ hybrid. Since it was a sedan, it had less storage capacity than the SUV. But I was able to get the big things in there; the rest would have to wait until tomorrow.

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Friday September 23

Distance traveled today: 592.3 miles

Distance for this leg of the trip: 592.3 miles

The day started fairly normally with my waking up after 5 AM, but I was not getting ready for work today. No, this was the start of my vacation. After doing my normal e-mail and web checks, I got dressed and finished packing. Everything fit in the car — hooray!

I got underway at 6:38 with a full tank of gas. It was mostly dark outside as I set off towards the west and south. The timing allowed me to participate in my normal QSO with Dave, N8HKU, who was heading into work as usual. Unfortunately, at the end of the QSO, I dropped the microphone and could not easily find it in the dark. I had to pull into a gas station parking lot in Ypsilanti to search for it. I found it and put it back into its proper repository.

As I drove today, satellite radio kept me company, as usual. I listened to 60’s on 6 much of the time, along with Radio Classics. For news, early in the day I had on the BBC World Service and the Newsroom program with Valerie Sanderson, while later in the day I was listening to CNN with the latest on the trouble in Charlotte, NC. I traveled on US 23 towards Ohio, past the old Ford trim plant in Milan, past the big Cabela’s in Dundee. Then I was in Toledo, and then I wasn’t; I was on US 24 heading towards Fort Wayne. A few hours later, I was on I-69 heading towards Indianapolis. I drove on the loop around town, then headed west on I-70 toward Illinois.

Since I now owned (really, leased) a hybrid car, I could go much farther on a tank of gas. My first fuel stop of the trip was at a truck stop in Marshall, Illinois; if I had still had my Mariner, I would have stopped long before then. I also decided to have lunch at a nearby McDonald’s, for it was indeed lunchtime. And I was past the halfway point on the trip for today, for I knew my destination: Cape Girardeau, specifically the Hampton Inn there. My MKZ did not have a built-in navigation system; I could have ordered it with one, but I didn’t. But it did have CarPlay capability; that allowed certain iPhone apps to be controlled from the vehicle touchscreen, and that included Maps. So I entered my destination into the iPhone; it calculated the route, and I was on my way.

Most of the drive to Cape Girardeau was on familiar territory, heading on I-70 and then on I-57. Things changed when I exited at Illinois Highway 146. I stayed on that highway all the way into Cape Girardeau, and shortly thereafter, I was checking into the hotel. Now what would I do for supper? It turned out that a Mexican restaurant, El Acapulco, was just down the street. The parking lot was quite full, but I was able to be seated quickly. The food was very good; I ordered some guacamole and an enchilada platter. The chicken enchilada was covered in a green chile sauce that reminded me of El Azteco in Lansing/East Lansing. The atmosphere? There was loud dance music coming from a speaker that was too close to me for comfort. And it wasn’t mariachi or conjunto pr Tejano music, either; it was mostly modern pop dance music, although I did hear some KC and the Sunshine Band, Hall & Oates, and the B-52’s. I’d go back to that restaurant again if I returned to Cape Girardeau, although I would try to be there at a time other than Friday happy hour.

Back in the room, I rested up from the nearly 600-mile drive. My room number was 319, the second auspicious number for me today. The first was 146, as in Illinois 146, which reminded me of Texas 146, a major highway there I grew up. And 319 was the classroom where I first attended Candy Silcott, one of my favorite teachers from school (she was Candy Sullivan back then). The hotel treated its guests to milk and cookies in the lobby at 8, and I went down to get some. Not long after that, it was lights out.

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Saturday September 24

Distance traveled today: 423.7 miles
Distance for this leg of the trip: 1016 miles

Did I say lights out? It didn’t end up that way. There were bright lights outside, and I couldn’t close the curtains, nor could I pull down the window shade. That, plus being in a strange room, contributed to my sleep not being the best. I got up for good around 5:30 and had breakfast in the lobby between 6:45 and 7. By 7:38, I was on the road.

I stopped at a truck stop in Missouri to get a drink; when I reached Arkansas, I was in need of a bathroom break, so I stopped at their visitor center. The drive down I-55 was uneventful; I listened to the latest podcast of the Thomas Jefferson Hour, which reminded me that it was on a previous vacation (2013) that I discovered the TJH while driving near Amarillo. I also listened to some of the music on my iPhone, including the entirety of the remastered and expanded version of The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album. I got the original LP when it came out in 1977; I remembered getting it from Saxton’s Records in League City; this new CD came from the Best Buy in Westland.

Eventually, I made the turn, west of Memphis, from I-55 to I-40 and headed westward to Little Rock. There, I would take a long break at the Clinton Presidential Center (more on that later). I stopped for gas at a TA truck stop in Earle. As I drove onward, college football games were kicking off, including Wisconsin at Michigan State. I listened to that game for the entire first half; Michigan State was losing at halftime 13-6. As for the second half, I was at the Clinton center and could not hear the game. It was just was well, for MSU got thumped in the second half and ended up losing 30-6.

In this political and presidential election season, it seemed fitting and appropriate to visit two presidential libraries I had not yet visited, with the first being the Clinton Center. It wasn’t too busy at the center when I toured. It was a very informative presentation of Bill Clinton’s life and presidency, with replicas of the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office. Personal photography was not permitted in the replica of the Oval Office (more on that later). There was a restaurant in the basement of the center, but when I went to check it out, it had just closed. No lunch for me that day. At the visitor center, I bought two 3-color pens that had stylus tips that could be used with iPhones, iPads or other devices, along with a two-volume collection of inaugural addresses, current through 2013.

When I left, it was time to get back onto the road. I had a reservation in Texarkana, Arkansas at the Holiday Inn Express there. Some two hours later, after an uneventful drive on I-30, I was there. After checking in and getting my room, I went to pick up something from Wendy’s on State Line Avenue for supper, which I brought back to the room. I watched some of the Stanford-UCLA game as I enjoyed my supper. Once halftime rolled around, though, I was sleepy, and I called it a night.

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Sunday September 25

Distance traveled today: 190 miles (estimated)

Distance for this leg of the trip:  1206 miles (estimated)

Without the bright light outside to distract me, I got a somewhat better sleep that night. I took my time getting ready today; breakfast wouldn’t be served until 7, while the Texas Welcome Center wouldn’t open until 8. But I didn’t have far to drive today; Dallas was less than 200 miles away.

The breakfast was good, and I was prepared for my travels today. When I stopped at the Visitor Center, I picked up a good amount of travel literature for my possible destinations. I headed westward along I-30, stopping for gas and a drink at a Love’s in Mount Vernon. I turned on SiriusXM NFL Radio for the Sunday Drive, radio’s version of the NFL Red Zone channel. I tried to catch what channel the Lions’ broadcast would be on, but I never did. It was just as well, for they would eventually lose to Green Bay.

As I drove through Rockwall, it started to rain, hard. It was coming down so hard that I considered pulling off the freeway. But before I could, the rains eased. Still, there were off and on sprinkles until I reached Dallas. The iPhone guided me to the George W. Bush Presidential Center (I was being bipartisan in visiting museums for presidents of both parties). Once there, though, I had a heck of a time finding where to park. I tried some parking decks, but they were permit-only. What to do? I eventually found signs directing me to visitor parking for the GWB center; it was a lot, not the deck I was expecting. It was paid parking, too, unlike at the Clinton Center. Admission was higher here, too ($17 versus $10), but there was a long line at the admissions desk (no line at the Clinton Center).

After using the restroom, I entered the main exhibit area. There was a brief area devoted to Bush 43’s early life as well as the 2000 campaign. There was a ballot from Florida, although I did not notice any hanging chads. I also saw a collection of baseball memorabilia and on the educational initiatives sponsored by Mrs. Bush. Then there was the 9/11 exhibit. How could there not be? The centerpiece was twisted metal from the World Trade Center, some 20 feet long. Along the wall surrounding those girders were the names of the dead and video monitors showing key news clips and pictures of the events: the attack on the North Tower — the attack on the South Tower — the attack on the Pentagon — the collapse of the South Tower — the crash of Flight 93 — the collapse of the North Tower. Even now, it still gets to me. Another part of the exhibit highlighted the condolences tendered from around the world. Still another showed the megaphone that the president used at Ground Zero, where he told the world that the people who brought the towers down would be hearing from us “real soon”.

Other exhibits detailed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, where I saw some of the playing cards that had pictures of top Iraqi officials. There was a replica of the Oval Office here, too. Like the one at the Clinton center, there was a professional photographer offering to take pictures of visitors seated at the president’s desk; unlike the one at the Clinton center, personal photos WERE permitted. I chose to have my picture taken behind the desk, capturing something that could have been real in an alternate timeline or another branch of the multiverse. I bought my picture at the gift shop, along with a Christmas present for some relatives.

Now it was time to head for the hotel. I was staying at a Days Inn not far from the Trade Mart. There were many hotels in the area, but all of them wee fancier than this one, which was more of a motel, really. The room was comfortable enough, and the air conditioning worked very well. There was a Denny’s across the parking lot; that was where I had supper there that night (a Santa Fe Skillet). Back at the room, I turned on Sunday Night Football, which was being played across town in Arlington: the Cowboys and the Bears. Once again, I watched through halftime but turned it off and turned in shortly thereafter.

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Monday September 26

Today, I did not have to travel anywhere. If I did, I would be returning to the motel. It was nice to be taking a break from the traveling. Now there were some places I wanted to visit today. I wanted to visit the Ham Radio Outlet store in Plano to pick up a microphone for my handheld transmitter. I also needed to look for a Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter so that I could connect my backup drive to my MacBook Pro. It turned out that there was a Fry’s Electronics across the street from the Ham Radio Outlet, so I could combine two trips into one.

As I walked to the lobby for breakfast, I noticed that the stairs closest to the lobby were uneven. The vertical spacing between the steps was not consistent, and that threw off my stride. Someone could possibly be hurt if they weren’t alert. The stairs closest to my room had no such problem. The breakfast bar was small but had all the essentials. For cereal, you could choose from Raisin Bran or Froot Loops. I noticed that the available milk was either whole milk or 2% milk; I would have preferred skim (I can’t remember ever having whole milk).

One thing I was concerned about: would the lease payment on my new Lincoln be deducted automatically? I thought it might have been deducted over the weekend on the official due date, but it wasn’t. However, it was deducted this morning; the delay was probably due to the weekend. But I could be assured that I wouldn’t be dinged for a late payment.

Traffic was heavy as I drove to Plano, I was taking freeways that were not familiar to me; heck, the whole area wasn’t that familiar to me. I-35E had some slowdowns, as did the I-635 loop freeway; US 75, the Central Expressway, wasn’t too bad, and soon I was at Fry’s. I went there first because the HRO store was not yet open. It was laid out very similarly to other Fry’s; one thing I noticed was that the extensive video section had shrunk dramatically (blame streaming media and Amazon). I made my way (slowly) to the Apple section, and there was the adapter. I had one at home, but that was in use on another system.  And soon I was walking out of the store with the adapter in my pocket. Next, I drove across the street to the HRO store. I walked around briefly, than asked the hams at the counter for the microphone. I couldn’t remember the model number, but I knew that it was the one without the built-in camera. He knew the model, and soon I was walking out with that in my hand.

It was still fairly early, way too early to go back to the hotel. What would I do? There was one other thing I wanted to do: visit one of the Buc-ee’s in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There were two, one east of Dallas in Terrell and the other, the one I went to, was across the road from the Texas Motor Speedway. So once again, I was driving on roadways that were very unfamiliar to me. And then I had to contend with rain, sometimes light, sometimes not. But I eventually found my way north of Fort Worth to Buc-ee’s. This was a travel center, very similar to the other travel centers I’d visited. Some of the merchandise would be customized to the area, but overall, the centers are very similar. Among the things sold there are barbecue sandwiches. This was lunchtime, and I was hungry, so I bought a chopped beef barbecue sandwich, a cup of banana pudding, and a bottle of Diet A&W Root Beer. I had to eat in the car, for there was no other place to eat, but that was all right. The barbecue sandwich was very good. Afterwards, I went back inside to see if there was anything else I wanted, but there wasn’t.

I drove back to the hotel on Highway 114, which became a freeway, which led to an exit for the street on which my hotel was located. It wasn’t difficult getting back, not if you exclude the occasional traffic backup. Back at the room, I took that Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter I’d bought in the morning, hooked up my FireWire drive, then plugged the combination into my laptop.This drive was filled with backups from my previous MacBook Pro that I needed to erase before using it for backups here. Once I did that, I started the backup. I knew it would take a long time because it would have to backup everything; little did I know how long it would take (more on that later).

Now I was in search of some drinks and snacks for my stay. There was a small pantry in the lobby, but its selections were limited, and it didn’t have what I wanted. I searched for a nearby grocery store and found listings for two Kroger’s. I decided to go to the one near Parkland Hospital; there, I picked up some Diet Caffeine-Free Dr Pepper (not available in Michigan), some cookies, and some other munchies. Then it was back to the hotel, where I monitored the backup; it was proceeding very slowly. For supper, I went to a nearby Whataburger, got a chicken strips meal and brought it back to the motel. I have to be honest: those chicken strips were pretty good.

I was planning to watch the presidential debate that evening. While I was waiting, I received a message from my former next-door neighbor, Chris Mallios. He asked me when I was due in town; I said Wednesday afternoon. Then he invited me to appear on his radio show on KGBC and MyBayAreaRadio.com, Political Theater, not to talk about politics but to discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of Ross Elementary, our neighborhood school when growing up. Sure, I said, I’d be willing and honored to do so. That would happen this coming Thursday. As for the debate, I watched it on C-Span 2. What did I think of the debate and the candidates? I’ll keep those thoughts to myself. After the debate, I was feeling sleepy, so I went to bed.

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Tuesday September 27

I was waking up later than I had been; perhaps I was finally realizing that I was on vacation. I went down to the lobby at 8:20 to have breakfast. The backup was proceeding very slowly; only 124 GB out of 335 GB had been successfully backed up. This presented me with problems. I was not comfortable leaving my Mac laptop unattended in the room, especially because the current generation of laptops could no longer be secured with a Kensington lock cable. Nor was it feasible to take the laptop and continue the backup on battery power. It looked like I was stuck in the room until the backup completed. To be honest, that wasn’t much of a problem; I didn’t feel like doing much else in Dallas, anyway. So I stayed in and did some reading while the backup proceeded.

By 1 PM, the backup had only progressed by 13 GB. Something was not right here, so I searched for information on slow Time Machine backups. One article I found suggested restarting the Mac in safe mode, then restarting in normal mode. I followed that suggestion, stopping the backup, then restarting in safe mode, then restarting in normal mode and resuming the backup. At first, the backup seemed to proceed slower than ever, but eventually it sped up. It would eventually complete some 8 or 9 hours later.

I went back to the Denny’s next door for supper; this time, I had chicken fried steak, which was pretty good. Back at the motel room, I took an evening shower and then settled in for the night. As I was flipping around the TV channels, my attention was caught by a segment of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on the recent controversy surrounding the national anthem, how it became linked to sporting events,  and athletes protesting during the anthem. That was a very interesting story.

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Wednesday September 28

Distance traveled from Texarkana departure to Dallas departure: 312.6 miles
Distance traveled today: 275.8 miles

Distance for this leg of the trip: 1609.3 miles

Today, I would be leaving Dallas for Seabrook. I had done a good amount of packing last night, so I didn’t have that much to do this morning. I went down to the lobby at 8 to have some Froot Loops and a danish for breakfast, then it was back to the room to finish packing and load the car. It took 3 trips to load the car, and shortly before 9 o’clock, I checked out and headed on my way.

Traffic was heavy on I-35E and I-30, thanks to rush hour and construction, as I made my way to I-45, but once I got onto I-45 southbound, it was smooth sailing. For a change of pace, I got off the freeway at Corsicana and took the business route through Corsicana, although it did not go through downtown. I think it must have been the old bypass around town before the freeway was built. Later on, I got off the freeway again and took Highway 75, the old US 75, from Steadman to Madisonville, passing through Fairfield,Buffalo and Centerville along the way. In its day, it must have been a busy roadway, but it was definitely not busy today.

Once I reached Madisonville, I turned towards the freeway, but not before stopping at Buc-ee’s. First, I filled up the tank and recorded all of the necessary info for diagnosing an issue with my fuel gauge reading too low. Then I went inside, used the restroom, and looked around a bit. This was somewhat smaller than their other travel centers such as the ones in Baytown and Texas City., but it still had everything necessary to be a Buc-ee’s. That included barbecue brisket sandwiches and good desserts like chocolate cream pie cups, both of which I bought to eat as my lunch. I had to sit in my car to eat them, as there was no place to sit down inside or outside. With the windows down, I was reasonably comfortable.

When I left, I could have backtracked to Highway 75 and taken that all the way to Conroe, but I decided to get onto the freeway for this last portion of the drive. I noticed the traffic got heavier around Conroe; I guess I had arrived in “Houston.” It stayed heavy the rest of the way in and beyond. Now would I take a detour to Magnolia to visit the Outback Western Wear store, owned and operated by a high school classmate? Not today I wouldn’t; I wanted to be on the other side of town before the rush hour really got going. I also wanted to avoid downtown, so I took the North Loop to the East Loop to the South Loop before getting onto the Gulf Freeway. I got off at El Dorado to make a bathroom stop at the Walmart and to kill some time, as it was too early to check in at the hotel. As it turned out, there were some clothing purchases I needed to make, including a pair of pants to replace a pair where the zipper had failed.

This part of the Gulf Freeway was under construction, as it had been last year at this time. But things had progressed to the point where the freeway now went over Bay Area Boulevard instead of the other way around. The Nasa 1 interchange still looked weird to me, but it was nice taking the bypass to avoid Webster and get back onto regular roadway in Nassau Bay. And soon, I was at the SpringHills Suites in Seabrook. This hotel was located next to an old HL&P facility (it’s still there but is no longer owned by the power company); it also was pretty close to AER Supply, the marine wholesaler where my mom worked for 10 years. I received the keys for room 125 and brought my stuff in.

When suppertime came around, I knew I wanted to have Mexican food. Being in Seabrook, that naturally meant a trip to Laredo’s, my first favorite Mexican restaurant in the area. The restaurant was not busy, but southbound Highway 146 sure was. It was busy enough where the drivers were able to create a gap for me to turn in from the northbound side. And what did I get when I was there? The Deluxe Dinner, naturally, along with a big cup of water. It was good; what else can I say? I can say this: I decided to get some dessert so that I’d be there longer and the traffic would improve. It turned out that the tres leches cake was on special today, so my bill was smaller than I had anticipated. What luck!

Back at the room, I got things set up, and then I turned on CNN for the presidential town hall meeting with members of the military. I watched that all the way through and then called it a night.

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Thursday September 29

I didn’t have to get up very early today; my commitments weren’t until later in the afternoon. I went out to the lobby for breakfast shortly after 8. The breakfast bar was comparable to those at other hotel chains. There were Froot Loops here, too, as well as Cheerios and Kashi cereal, but I avoided those in favor of oatmeal, meat and cheeses, scrambled eggs and sausage patties.

For the morning and afternoon, I went out and about. First, I stopped at the Target in Kemah to get some aspirin and toothpaste. Next, I drove across town to visit the new Kroger Marketplace at Highway 96 and Hobbs Road. This store had recently opened, replacing the Kroger on the Gulf Freeway, which had replaced the first Kroger on Main Street. To me, it seemed that every 20 years or so, the Kroger in League City was replaced. This new store was one of the largest Kroger’s I’d been in. It wasn’t a superstore like Walmart or Meijer, but it had some products that were more likely to be found in superstores than run-of-the-mill grocery stores (clothing, housewares, toys, etc.). I didn’t get any food today, but I did get some reading glasses and some lid removers.

Next, I drove over to the Best Buy to look for an audio adapter that would let me connect my headphones to the guitar amplifier I’d brought with me. I knew I had one but didn’t think I had it with me. Now if Radio Shack were still around, I could have found the adapter there. Unfortunately, while Best Buy had a number of adapters and cables, the one I was looking for was not one of them. Fry’s also had several adapters, including the reverse of what I was looking for. But reverse was no good, so I left disappointed. I gave up the search in favor of having lunch at Fuddrucker’s (the one on the freeway in the same building with Luby’s). I’ve never had a bad burger at Fuddrucker’s, and today was no exception.

Next, I went over to Baybrook Mall.  It was a little strange getting there, for the intersection of Bay Area and the Gulf Freeway. As part of the ongoing freeway construction, the intersection was reconfigured so that the freeway went over the road rather than the road going over the freeway, the way it had been for 45 years. There were large empty areas near the intersection; it took me a moment to realize that those areas had originally been hills that supported the old overpass. Once I got across, I parked over by Macy’s in our family’s traditional spot, went inside, and walked around. I was interested in visiting the new section, an outdoor section. There were a few stores, but the main attractions were restaurants and a Star Cinema Grill. And farther away, I could see yet another section with Dick’s, Field and Stream and a Container Store that were not yet open. I’m not sure if those were officially part of the mall or not.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon. It was time for me to head over to Nassau Bay to the studios of MyBayAreaRadio, which was operating over KGBC in Galveston. It was in an office building on Space Park Drive and occupied two suites there. I went to the office suite first and was then taken downstairs to the studio suite. There, I met my former neighbor Chris (host of the show on which I was to appear), Rudy Salcedo (the other guest on the show) and the engineer/soundman for the program. After a few preliminaries (mainly having my picture taken with the others), we went into the studio, got a level check, and then we were on the air, talking about our experiences at Ross Elementary (originally Newport Elementary), getting there on the old path, growing up in Newport, and so on. We talked for 36 minutes or so, and then it was over. Nobody called in; did anyone actually hear it? It would eventually be available in an audio archive for later listening.

After the show, I drove over to the school. I had seen conflicting reports about whether the event began at 4 or 4:30. It turned out that 4:30 was the proper time, although signing in was under way. When I signed in, I received a program for the event. At the sign-desk, I ran into Steve Jones, the brother of my sister’s one-time best friend. We spoke briefly; he asked about my sister, and I gave him an update on what she was doing.  I moved on to the gymnasium, where the event was being held; the gym was added on after my time at the school. I found a seat in the back row next to Chris Mallios. The program lasted a little over an hour, with speakers including former teachers and principals, some musical numbers, the unveiling of a roadrunner sculpture (the school mascot, chosen after my time, is a roadrunner) that would permanently reside in the cafeteria, and the unveiling of new school song. That school song was set to the theme of the old Road Runner TV show, which none of these kids would have seen in that form and thus would never have heard the song.

When the formal program was over, refreshments were served in the cafeteria. That cafeteria hadn’t changed too much since my time there. I didn’t get a drink, but I did get a slice of cake. There was a slideshow of historic pictures playing on a screen. Over in a corner was a display of historic class picture books and sign-in books. One of the sign-in books was from 1965, and I recognized “Mr. and Mrs. George Mallios”, our next-door neighbors (and Chris’s parents). One of the class picture books was from 1973-74, the time I was in fifth grade; I found my class’s picture and took a picture of it with my iPhone. Unfortunately, I did not think to look for my sister’s class picture. One of the other people looking at the pictures introduced himself to me; he was the father of one of my classmates, Konni Raines. Later, I walked around the hallways and saw the “new” music room, library, arts and science labs. They were all very nice, much nicer than the versions I remembered from my time there. The library was at least twice the size of the old one. The music room had three or four guitars  and several ukuleles; in my time, we had autoharps. Lastly, I took a walk around the track in back of the school.

When I left, traffic on 518 heading east was very heavy. I took the alternate way through Newport, driving past our old hose, then taking Hobbs Road to Highway 96 and back over to Seabrook. Now it was dinnertime, and where would I eat? Rookie’s Seafood, that’s where! It had opened a few months earlier, and it was owned by the owner of Tookie’s Burgers. The building was built on stilts to help it avoid storm surge damage, which had wiped out the burger restaurant for several years. I decided to have the shrimp scampi, which was very good and very filling. Then it was back to the hotel, where I watched the University of Houston thump the University of Connecticut in college football.

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Friday September 30

It was difficult to determine what was on the TV in the room; I couldn’t find a TV channel listing. Tuning around, I found the usual cable TV offerings, and I found some of the sub-channels on the local stations. In particular, I saw that channel 8, KUHT, the public TV station in town (and the first one in the country), had two audio-only sub-channels that carried the public radio station channels, one devoted to news and one devoted to classical music. I would listen to that classical music channel occasionally.

After I had breakfast in the lobby (including more of that oatmeal), I went back to my room and made out checks for two bills that were coming due and needed to be mailed soon. I also paid two bills online. Thinking back on it, it was my experiences on a previous vacation that led to my increased usage of online payment for bills. I left the hotel room to go to the League City post office to mail the bills; this let me drive down Main Street to see what was different (not that much had changed from last year).. This also let me go visit the new Cabela’s in town, which had opened a few months earlier. I’d only been to Cabela’s a few times before. As I walked around, I saw what was what and what was where. Now I was sort of in the market for shoes, so I took a look at what they had. Some low-cut boots caught my eye; I tried them on, and they felt comfortable, so I decided to buy them. This would prove to be a mistake, as I would learn after the weekend. But now, I was glad to have them.

My next stop was the HEB grocery store down the freeway. My main reason for going here was to get some Whataburger brand ketchup and sauces, which were exclusive to HEB. I found two bottles, along with a bag of Whatafries.  Next, I headed down the freeway to the Texas City Buc-ee’s. No, I didn’t need gas, but I was thirsty, so I got a bottle of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. By this time, it was lunchtime, so I decided to eat at Jimmy Changa’s. It was rather busy at lunchtime, so I had to wait a little bit for a table. Once seated, I decided to pass on the big combination plate and try the rotisserie chicken enchiladas. That proved to be a very good choice, as they were very good. I would definitely eat them again!

After lunch, I went up to the Cinemark movie theaters to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which was opening today. I thought it was decent enough.Then it was back to the hotel to check on my e-mails, take a shower, listen to podcasts of the 1776 Club (for supporters of The Thomas Jefferson Hour) and get ready for tonight’s events. Yes, this was reunion weekend, and official reunion activities were beginning.this evening.

The first activity of reunion weekend was the football game between Clear Creek and Clear Brook. It was being played at the new Challenger-Columbia Memorial Stadium in Webster, which had opened a few months earlier. This was Brook’s homecoming game, and Creek was the visiting team. I wore my class of 81 footballl jersey and my new boots to the game, and I took my 35mm camera with me, along with my iPhone. I wanted to get there early, but there was a bit of a backup at the traffic light for the road to the stadium; fortunately, traffic moved quickly, and I was parked by 6:10 PM. I bought my ticket and went inside. It was a very nice stadium, with a video scoreboard and a large press box. Over by the concession stands were the legacy bricks, commemorative bricks paid for by individuals or companies. I noticed three bricks for JSC Federal Credit Union; I saw several bricks that honored recent graduates. And then I noticed the brick our class paid for (more specifically, the brick that some of our members contributed toward): CLEAR CREEK / HIGH SCHOOL / CLASS OF 1981. That brick was the only one I noticed that was from a specific class. Perhaps there were some bricks on the home side of the stadium from specific classes; I’m glad that ours wasn’t placed over there, for otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it.

Our classmates started to trickle into the stadium. Hank Hughes and his girlfriend found me before I’d taken my seat. Later, after we’d found our seats, Kathy Matchette Douglas and husband Eric arrived. Others that I recall being there include Natalie Gates Footitt, Rob Wohrer and Amy Ellison, Kay Kinney Ellis, Helen Rickards Foreman, Skip Hartley and his wife Christine. I think I saw Joe Pugh as well; his son was an offensive lineman for Creek.

One thing that annoyed me: the Clear Brook team was named the Wolverines. And like that (in)famous college team named the Wolverines, they used “The Victors” as their fight song. That was somewhat Irritating to this loyal Michigan State alumnus. However, I must note that the Clear Brook band played it more slowly than the Michigan band, and they also played it in a different key (F, rather than the A-flat of the original). That helped ease the pain. Unfortunately, the Wildcats of Clear Creek were playing more like Mildcats this evening; they’d lost too many players to graduation. I happened to be making a movie of the action when the Creek quarterback threw a pick-6, an interception that was returned for a touchdown. They would end up losing to Brook, 21-7.

Several of us, including me, left the game before the end to beat the rush and to head to the post-game gathering at T-Bone Tom’s in Kemah. In the car, I’d tuned in KGBC and was surprised to hear that they were broadcasting the Creek-Brook game, so I did listen until the bitter end and slightly beyond. The parking lot at T-Bone Tom’s was pretty full, as one might expect on a Friday night, but I did find a spot in the back. I found the area where our group was sitting; we’d taken over three tables. Some who didn’t make the game did make T-Bone Tom’s, including Dale Fortenberry, Lisa Ward Price, Shawn Merrell and Russell Dimis (actually from the class ahead of ours, and also a former neighbor from Newport on Sunset Ct. N.). I also saw Doug King, whom I don’t believe I’d seen since high school.

There was a live band playing; they did take a break while I was there. Some of us ordered late suppers; I ordered a chicken fried steak plate and a Diet Pepsi. Around midnight, we started heading to other destinations; some went to other late-night establishments, while some of us went home or back to our hotels. I was in the latter group; I didn’t have far to drive to the hotel. I wasn’t quite ready to go to bed, so I downloaded the pictures I’d taken on my iPhone and write down a few things for this travelogue. I think I called it a night around 1 AM.

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Saturday October 1

I downloaded the pictures I’d taken on my DSLR yesterday, but most of them had turned out very dark. I could lighten them up to some extent, but they were still much darker than desired. Well, I knew what the problem was: I had forgotten to check the camera settings before using it. Most of the pictures I’d taken yesterday were with a shutter speed of 1/4000 second, which doesn’t allow much light in. The pictures were dim, but they’d also be very sharp.

When I went to the lobby for breakfast, I saw two of my classmates there: Dale Fortenberry and Glen Harrison (and his wife). Unfortunately, when I saw them, I was unhappy because I’d just put my iPad on a sticky spot on the tabletop and had gotten something on the cover. I had to go to the restroom to find a moist towel to wipe off the gunk (presumably syrup). Fortunately, it cleaned up well enough. After breakfast, I stayed in to update some software on my iPhone and iPad, specifically an offline mapping program. Most of that time was spent downloading the offline map data.

The next reunion activity was lunch at Tookie’s Burgers (the clarifier is now necessary due to Tookie’s Seafood). It was at 11 this year rather than noon in times past, which was better for me, as it avoided a conflict with the KMSC reunion. I made sure to get there early so that I could find a close parking spot. We were out on the deck; in fact, we took over more than half of the tables on the deck. I wonder what the people who weren’t part of our group must have thought. I got a 99 burger with fries, which came out at different times; I was able to finish the burger but had to leave some fries behind.

As 1 o’clock approached, I alerted my server that I had to leave early. He brought out the bill, I paid it, and I was able to leave for the KMSC reunion. I was late in arriving by a few minutes, but I was the first person to arrive. Not many people arrived for the mini-reunion; only four of us made it, but there were at least two who wanted to attend but couldn’t (one couldn’t make the trip, while the other couldn’t find the house). David Horrigan and Karin Hastik had flown in for both reunions, while Sam Byous had come over from his Clear Lake house. The five of us had a wide-ranging, intelligent conversation on multiple topics, including the difficulties of renovating houses and the cost of housing on the coasts versus the mid-section of the country. The occasional medical topic also came up, as Karin was a doctor. We also educated Sam on the history and significance of the KMSC (while Sam had had Candy for a teacher, he had not been part of the KMSC group). It was indeed a nice get-together, though it would have been nicer had more of us shown up. But there was no reason why we couldn’t have a KMSC reunion separately from a class of 81 reunion — or why it had to be in Texas, for that matter.

I made it back to the hotel around 6. There, I changed shirts from the blue Hawaiian shirt I’d worn all day to a dark turtleneck shirt, and put on a jacket. The iPhone case protruded uncomfortably, so I decided to forgo it for the night; I could put the phone in a jacket pocket. I brought the guitar, amplifier, and 4 cans of caffeine-free Diet Dr Pepper out to the car, made sure I had my camera, and then I was ready to go. The Villa Capri was a mile or so west on Nasa 1, so it didn’t take long to get there. There was valet parking, so I got my stuff out of the trunk before giving the keys to the parking attendant.

I brought my gear inside and got my badge, which featured my official graduation picture. On display were several memorabilia from our senior year, including the long panoramic picture, commemorative glasses from the prom, programs from the class musical, senior banquet and graduation, and a senior year memory book. Over in the corner was a display honoring those classmates who had passed away over the years. Badges like the ones we were wearing had been created for each of them. We had lost 22 classmates since our graduation, although it was actually 21, since Cristen Gardiner had been killed early in our senior year, and it might actually have been 20, as Jeff Johnson may have been part of the class of 1982. But I knew that number would be growing in the future.

There was a cash bar out on the patio, although I didn’t have to pay for drinking the caffeine-free Diet Dr Pepper I’d brought in (I did tip the bartenders). We didn’t have a formal dinner, but we were served hors d’oeuvres, crab cakes, some fruits and cheeses, chicken kabob skewers, etc.  I talked to a few friends throughout the evening and saw some more whom I didn’t get a chance to talk to.

Later on, Shawn Merrell, Keith Amyx (husband of Kathleen Ling Amyx) and I set up on the deck behind Villa Capri for a jam session. Shawn and Keith had brought acoustic guitars, while I had my Rickenbacker 350 and a small amp. Shawn had also brought an amp for vocals, but we didn’t end up using it that much.  We warmed up by playing along, or trying to play along , with the songs playing on the PA system; one of those songs was “Against the Wind”. Later along, we played “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Day Tripper”, “Say You Love Me” and “Space Oddity.”  Some people came down to listen to us; I think they were entertained. This was something that must be repeated in the future.

While we were playing, there was an announcement: not enough people had paid/attended to cover the costs of the event, and there was a call for contributions to make up the shortfall. I didn’t give at the time (I was playing), but I would have had there been a second call (there wasn’t; enough had been raised). Later on, after we’d packed up our instruments, all the classmates gathered at the photo booth for a group photo. Many of us wore or carried props; I wore a circus top hat.

The reunion ended at midnight; I left just before midnight. When I got back to the hotel, the parking lot was very full, much fuller than it had been during my stay. I had to go to the other side of the hotel to find a spot; fortunately, the one I found was close to the door. I brought all of my stuff back to the room in two trips, and I had to watch out for some kids running around in the lobby. I wasn’t quite ready to sleep, so I hooked up the laptop and downloaded the pictures from my iPhone. Soon, I was ready to sleep, so I turned in for the night.

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Sunday October 2

I was up pretty late last night, but ended up waking up sooner than I might have liked. But I was up, so I took advantage of it by identifying the iPhone photos I’d uploaded last night, then by uploading the pictures from my DSLR and identifying those,  and then uploading some of those to Facebook. From the notifications I was receiving, others were doing the same thing.

There would be breakfast in the hotel lobby for me today. I was passing on that in favor of breakfast at the Seabrook Classic Cafe, just down the road from the hotel. This was another reunion activity; in fact, it was the last reunion activity for the weekend. How many people would show up for breakfast? Eight in all; 9:30 in the morning, evidently, was too early in the morning for some of us to make it. But those of us who did make it had a good time. I had a San Antonio Omelet (it had chorizo) with both home fries and grits (I was hungry, and I couldn’t decide between the two). It was good, although it was perhaps a bit juicier than I was used to. No, the eggs were not runny, which was a good thing.

After the meal, some of us went to the bar. I did not; I went to the new HEB in League City (the one on Highway 96, not the one on the freeway) to pick up a few items: some more pop, cookies and tortilla chips for snacking in the hotel room, along with some large bandages to cushion that itchy area on my foot. I went back to the hotel, but it turned out that housekeeping had not cleaned my room yet.  Well, they weren’t going to clean the room today, as I put up the Do Not Disturb sign and proceeded to watch some football. I wouldn’t be able to watch NFL Red Zone, so I contented myself with watching the last portion of that week’s game from London (the Colts versus the Jaguars) and then the Titans-Texans game. The Jaguars and Texans won their games. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to watch any more games, because the TV set did not get channel 26 (Fox) or channel 2 (NBC).

I wouldn’t have been watching Sunday Night Football anyway, for I had a dinner date with the Coneys at 7. It took 25 minutes to get from the hotel to their house in the back of Newport. Their cat, Mr. Khan was present; he was a gray former stray who still wandered the neighborhood. For dinner, we had flounder (which Steve had caught himself in the Gulf on his son David’s boat) with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Steve cautioned that there might be bones in the filets, and just as he mentioned it, I bit into a small bone. I got it out and put it aside and was more careful with the bites I took going forward. The meal was good, despite the bone. Afterwards, we had a good conversation, catching up on things. And I learned some things that might prove useful in the future. Here’s one: swimming pools in the desert are COLD! You might not think that, given the high exposure to the sun, but it’s the high rate of evaporation that cools the water. Heaters are almost a necessity out there. That’s a big contrast from the  upper Texas coast, where I knew from personal experience that the summer sun can really warm up the pool water (nowhere near as much evaporation). I learned about Linda’s upcoming class reunion in Pasadena and Steve’s saga of working as a mainframe programmer for Walmart in Bentonville for 10 weeks

I was there until 10 o’clock, and then I drove back to the hotel, listening to the tail end of the Sunday Night Football game; the Steelers were thumping the Chiefs. The drive was uneventful, but when I got back to the hotel, I noticed how empty the parking lot was compared to last night.

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Monday October 3

When I went out to the lobby for breakfast at 8:30, it was definitely less crowded than the last two days. Many folks had checked out, it seems. I’d say nearly everyone who had been there for the reunion was gone, except for me. I still had three more days in town. And I decided to go into town today.

My first destination was the Barnes & Noble in the River Oaks Shopping Center. I made my way there by going up the Gulf Freeway to Allen Parkway, passing by the studios of channel 11 on the way, then south on Waugh Drive. When I came to West Gray, I wasn’t positive of the direction I should turn; then I remembered which way River Oaks neighborhood was from my location, and I turned right. And that was the right call; soon, I was passing by a Kroger and coming up on the River Oaks Theater, with the Barnes & Noble right across the street. I parked, went inside, and spent a good amount of time looking around in there. Their local history section was fairly extensive, but I ended up buying two books on religion, along with two magazines, The Economist (with a special section on globalization) and Harper’s (with a cover story on The Hamilton Cult: has the musical eclipsed the man?). But it turned out that I hadn’t grabbed the Harper’s from the rack; I’d accidentally grabbed a copy of The Atlantic, and I didn’t realize my mistake until I got home. I was not a happy camper. But that was later.

When I left the bookstore, it was after 11. It was lunchtime. I knew I was close to Chuy’s on Westheimer, so I made my way to and then through the intersection of Westheimer and Kirby. As I pulled into the parking lot, I remembered when the building held Boardman’s Seafood Restaurant and when the Clear Creek debate team walked over from Lamar High School to have dinner there. But today, it was Mexican food I would be having. I had my usual Chuy’s meal, the Comida Deluxe. It was good, but it was a big meal, and it was very filling. It was also my third Mexican meal in the last week, but I still enjoyyed it.

Next, I went to the Apple Store in the Highland Village Shopping Center; it was a larger showcase store. I spent some time with the iPad Pros (both sizes) and trying to get the Apple Pencil to work (I wasn’tt successful). While looking at accessories, my attention was drawn to a very large external battery pack that was capable of allowing an iPhone 6s to work for up to 100 hours. That could be very useful for my upcoming train trip and cruise, I thought. But I didn’t need it right away, so I didn’t get it. More on that later.

I got back in the car, which happened to be parked to another MKZ, and got back on Westheimer. I drove westward, past the West Loop, past the Galleria, and on to the location of Evans Music City. Was it still there? Yes, it was, but it had moved to a smaller location in the strip mall where it had been. I’d bought several Rickenbacker guitars from them over the years, but I didn’t remember seeing any on my last visit there, and they didn’t have any today. But they did have the audio adapter I’d been looking for a few days ago, so I picked that up. I was still in their computer system; when the clerk noticed my address, he said he knew that part of the Detroit area and started to ask about a music store on my side of town, but he never said which one. He had another customer to attend to, a preacher looking for a microphone.

I started heading back eastbound. Where would I go next? The Orvis store, that’s where. None of the clothing here would be comfortable in the current weather of southeast Texas. But the pending weather of southeast Michigan was another matter. Last Christmas, at the Orvis store in Leesburg, Virginia, I had bought a sweatshirt/sweater that I found very comfortable for casual wear. I found another one of those today and picked it up. Next, I went to the Central Market. Parking was difficult because the store was being renovated and some of the parking lot was closed off. The inside of the store hadn’t been affected yet. I walked around to see what was what, and I noticed that they were still carrying the glass bottles of Faygo. Imagine that, seeing pop from Detroit’s largest local bottler on sale in Texas! No, I didn’t get any, for it was regular pop (made with sugar rather than corn syrup, I believe). I did get a banana-flavored protein drink and a bottle of Crazy Water, alkaline mineral water from Mineral Wells.

Now it was time to head back to the hotel. I took a different way to get back: I drove down Westheimer until it became Elgin, passing through the Midtown area that was more built-up than I remembered, then reaching the University of Houston campus and getting onto the freeway., then making my way onto the Pasadena Freeway (Texas version, not the LA version) and turning onto Red Bluff Boulevard. Much of the scenery was familiar, although I was surprised to see the Fieldstone Apartments still standing. They had been my first home in Texas (from infancy to 21 months), but I had thought they’d been torn down. I was mistaken. Soon I was back in Seabrook and back in the hotel.

Throughout the day, I’d been feeling occasional pain on the back of my right foot. That had been irritated at the reunion, and I had to wash it after scratching it. Now I’d been wearing the boots I’d bought at Cabela’s yesterday and today. I’d put a bandage on that area to provide some padding, but when I took my shoes and socks off, I discovered I had an open sore. The bandage didn’t prevent the rubbing. Something was not right! After cleaning it up and putting on a new bandage, I’d noted that the problems started when I got the boots. Therefore, the boots caused the problem and needed to be returned. They were still in like-new condition, so I believed I could return them with no problem. And indeed, when I went back to Cabela’s, I was able to return them and get my money back..

It was nearly suppertime; what would I do for my evening meal? I would head to Alvin and Joe’s Barbecue, that’s what I would do. I would go out there and have my usual barbecue-topped baked potato, along with some water. That was a big potato, but I nearly finished it (there wasn’t enough for a doggie bag). As I drove back to Seabrook, I turned on the Monday Night Football game, and once I got back to the hotel, I put the game on TV. The game was well in hand when I turned it off during the 4th quarter and went to bed.

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Tuesday October 4

I was up around 6 this morning. The bandage on my ankle had fallen off overnight, so I put on another one. I read a news report that a young girl had been hit by a car on East Main Street in League City last night and had been helicoptered to the hospital. This was around the time I was returning to the hotel from Alvin; I could have been traveling that road last night, but as it happened, I was on a different road.

I went out to the lobby for breakfast around 8:30; if I’d waited any later, I’d have missed out, and I didn’t want to do that. Now what did I want to do today? I wasn’t sure. I ended up deciding on a drive through the countryside (Cityside? Suburbside?) of Galveston County. First came a stop for gas in Bacliff. Next came a stop at the bayshore to take some pictures; Kemah was easily visible as the shore bent. Then I drove along the shore in Bacliff and San Leon, areas that hadn’t become built up, then went through Dickinson on my way to the freeway. I stopped at the Buc-ee’s for a bathroom break and a bottle of pop, and now I was ready to drive down to Galveston.

It turned out that the only place I stopped in Galveston was the Walmart. I took a look at their bandages but wasn’t sure what to get, so I didn’t get anything. I drove the length of the seawall in both directions but didn’t stop anywhere. Parking along the seawall was no longer free.  There wasn’t anything else I wanted to do there, so I headed back to the mainland and drove up to Bay Area.

What would I do for lunch today? I was considering Genghis Grill, but I’d been disappointed in them on my last visit (to a location in Virginia, not this location), so I ended up going to Pei Wei instead and having their Mongolian Beef entree. Their having a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine tipped things in their favor. The meal was pretty good. Next, I went over to the Best Buy across the parking lot to see what they had. It turned out they had a PowerStation XXL battery pack; this was what I had seen at the Apple Store yesterday. It was the same price as the Apple Store, but I had a $10 reward due from the My Best Buy program, so I bought that battery  pack here. I made a quick visit to the Barnes & Noble to look for that Harper’s Magazine I had intended to buy yesterday, but they didn’t have it, so I went back to the hotel.

Once I got to the hotel, I checked on the sore on my foot. My regular shoe was also rubbing it and irritating it; I clearly needed something else to cover it and treat it. So a few hours later, when I was heading out for supper, I stopped at Target to get some different bandages and a wrap, which I applied in my car in the parking lot. Next, I made a return visit to San Leon to have dinner at Topwater Grill, based on a friend’s recommendation. I made a wrong turn on the way there, so I saw parts of San Leon I hadn’t seen before, but I eventually got there. I had lobster bisque and shrimp brochettes, which were good, but it was too much food. I should have been hungrier when I went there. I should remember that the next time I go there.

Back at the hotel, I checked on the sore again. The wrap and new bandage hadn’t been effective; the shoe was still rubbing the sore. It seemed like I needed a shoe that didn’t have a back, that didn’t contact the sore. The only things I had that fit the bill were bedroom slippers. Could I get away with wearing bedroom slippers for an extended period outdoors, or maybe even drive with them across the country? I was about to find out, but not tonight. Tonight, I would watch the vice-presidential debate.

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Wednesday October 5

Once again, I woke up around 6 and did my regular e-mail and Web checks, but today, I went for breakfast earlier than yesterday (around 7). That oatmeal and sausage were pretty good; I had them most of the days I was there.

After visiting the Clinton and Bush 43 libraries, I had realized that with two exceptions (Nixon and Carter), I had visited the libraries of all of the presidents whom I could remember. I could conceivably visit the Carter library in Atlanta on the way back to Detroit, and it wouldn’t take me too far out of my way or add too many miles to my trip. But that was before hurricane Matthew started heading for the southeastern US. Atlanta was too far from the coast to feel any direct effects, but evacuees might need those hotel rooms in the area, so I ruled that trip out.

Speaking of trips, I was about to start on my return trip to Michigan, but the shoes I had were rubbing the open sore on my right foot, keeping it from healing and bothering me to no end. One possible solution: wear bedroom slippers, which wouldn’t contact that part of my foot. Today would be a day to try it out with a drive around town. When I left the hotel, I was wearing a regular shoe on my left foot and a bedroom slipper on my right. The shoes were not the same height, so I was walking with a bit of a limp, but that sore wasn’t being irritated. And that was a good thing.

I started my drive around town by heading for Buc-ee’s in Baytown, driving up 146 through Shoreacres and La Porte, crossing the Baytown Bridge and taking the old route through town (but not the oldest route that would have gone through downtown Baytown), then doing a slight backtrack to get to the freeway that would take me to I-10. I did make it to I-10, but I should have gotten on the freeway instead of staying on the feeder, for Buc-ee’s was on the other side of railroad tracks, and the feeder road didn’t go through. When I got there, I took a look at the sandals and flip-flops that they had, but I didn’t care for them. They didn’t feel comfortable on my feet, so I didn’t get anything. The slipper felt comfortable enough, so I decided to stick with it. The only thing I got was a bottle of Diet A&W Root Beer for the road, and then I was on my way back into town.

Given my goof in buying a magazine on Monday, I wanted to visit another Barnes & Noble today and look for that Harper’s Magazine again. I had two stores in mind; the first was on Bellaire/Holcombe Boulevard. I had a rough idea where it was but wasn’t completely sure, so I ended up passing it by when I was driving by  Kirby. So I got a little tour of the southwestern inside-the-Loop area (almost, but not quite, Bellaire and West University Place) — Kirby to North Braeswood to Stella Link to Bellaire/Holcombe, and there was the B&N on the right, not too far east of Buffalo Speedway. Did they have the magazine? Yes, they did! I also found a birthday card for my nephew Brandon, and I also picked up a guidebook for New Orleans, which I was considering visiting in November.

The second Barnes & Noble I had wanted to visit was in Pearland at Pearland Town Center. Now I had the magazine I wanted, but I still wanted to go there. So I took Holcombe through the Medical Center and over to the South Freeway, which then took me right to the western part of Pearland and the shopping center. That B&N also had the Harper’s Magazine. No, I didn’t get anything else there. The only thing I got was hungry. And what would I do for lunch? I thought about going to Firehouse Subs in Pearland, but when I reached it, I wasn’t in a good position to get there, so I continued onward. I ended up going all the way through Pearland and Friendswood before turning onto 528 and heading back toward the hotel. That took me past the original Fuddrucker’s in town, the one in Nassau Bay. That would definitely be a good place to eat lunch, and that’s what I did. It had been remodeled somewhat, but the quality of the food was unchanged.

Back at the hotel, I checked my bandage. The scrape had NOT opened up. That confirmed it; I would wear my bedroom slippers for the next few days while I drove home. That would allow the scrape/sore to heal. With that settled, I listened to Political Theater on KGBC, packed some some of the smaller things to bring out to the car (that meant fewer things to pack in the morning), and ponder how to set out tomorrow morning. If I headed east towards Louisiana, I’d avoid most rush hour traffic; if I went up toward Arkansas, I might very well encounter some rush hour traffic. I didn’t make a decision; I would sleep on it. There was one more thing that I did: I found the archive for Political Theater (and the other MyBayAreaRadio shows) and listened to the show that I’d done last week.

For supper, I did what I had done last week and went to Laredo’s and had another Deluxe Dinner. It was my last opportunity this trip and probably my last opportunity for over a year. And I made the most of it, for the meal was good. Back at the hotel, I finished the cake from the Coneys and did some more packing before calling it a night.

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Thursday October 6

Distance traveled today: 462.7 miles
Distance traveled on trip to date: 2101.3 miles (reset to 0)
Distance on this leg of the trip: 462.7 miles

This was it: the beginning of my trip back to Michigan, as well as the beginning of the end of my vacation. I was up by 5:30, not to go to breakfast but to write out two things I needed to mail, one bill and one birthday card for my nephew; I also paid another bill online. I also changed my bandages, which had come loose overnight. Now I needed to decide how I would go home. Would I go east through Louisiana and Missippi, or would I go up to Arkansas? I decided to go to Arkansas, although going that way would expose me to more rush hour traffic. Now I needed to make a hotel reservation for Little Rock, which I did. I finished my packing and then loaded the car, and then I had breakfast before hitting the road just after 8.

My first stop was not far away at all; it was the Seabrook post office on the other side of 146, which is where I mailed the bill and the card. Now I went up 146 past Shoreacres and La Porte, where I took Highway 225, the Pasadena Freeway, all the way over to the East Loop. I took that up to where it became the North Loop, and then I got onto I-69 (or US 59), the Eastex Freeway. I continued out of town — past Humble, Porter and New Caney; past Cleveland and Livingston and Lufkin, where I made a refueling and restroom stop

As I continued further into northeast Texas, I was listening to the satellite radio, like I usually did. I was bouncing around Radio Classics, 60s on 6, and CNN, which was carrying increasingly ominous news reports about hurricane Matthew. I wouldn’t be heading home today if I’d lived in the Southeast! Onward I went, past Nacogdoches and Carthage, then Timpson and Tenaha, and then Marshall, where I stopped at a Lowe’s to use the restroom (I didn’t need gas, nor was I that hungry for lunch, so why not stop there?). I continued through Jefferson, Atlanta and Queen City, and then there was Texarkana, and shortly thereafter, I was in Arkansas. It was 3 PM.

T-Mobile’s data coverage was very poor along I-30 in Arkansas. It really hindered my ability to listen to Political Theater on KGBC (the show that my friend and former neighbor Chris Mallios). I was able to here only 5 to 7 minutes of the program, which dealt with the early history of Friendswood and League City (i heard it via the archive later). Traffic was fairly heavy on I-30 in both directions as I drove toward Little Rock. And it was heavy as I arrived in Little Rock and found my way to the Hampton Inn on the west side of town near I-430; I’d never been in that part of town before. The only parts of Little Rock I’d been in had been the areas along I-30 (and, as of two weeks ago, the Clinton Center). As I neared the hotel, I got in the left lane. Unfortunately, I’d misread a map, for the hotel was on the right side of the road, and I couldn’t get over in time. I tried going around the block, only to discover that there was no block; I’d have to backtrack. I eventually made it to the hotel and checked into room 411.

For supper, I walked over to a nearby Panera Bread and got a half-salad and a bowl of soup. I’d bought a pop as well, but this Panera didn’t have the Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi that the ones by me at home had. So I had water. The soup was good, the salad OK. I liked their broth bowls, but they took the flavors I liked off the menu. Back at the hotel, I turned on Thursday night Football, but I turned it off in favor of CNN and storm coverage.

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Friday October 7

Distance traveled today: 611.3 miles
Distance traveled on this leg of the trip: 1074.0 miles

I didn’t get the world’s best sleep last night, so I was up before 6. I did my normal Web and e-mail checks and then went down to the lobby for breakfast. It was the standard breakfast bar, nothing wrong with that. Afterwards, I finished my packing and checked out, leaving the hotel at 7:52. My departure put me on a Little Rock freeway that I’d never been on before, I-630, which led to downtown and I-30, which then led to I-40. There was some rush hour traffic to contend with, but that cleared up as I headed east out of town.

I stopped for gas in Brinkley, where our family would often stay on our vacation trips to Michigan. Back on I-40, I put on the satellite radio, switching between 60s on 6, CNN and the Weather Channel. The Weather Channel wasn’t normally carried, but due to hurricane Matthew heading for Florida, it was being carried on the Preview channel.

When I reached Memphis, I had a decision to make: proceed east through Memphis and head home via Nashville, Louisville and Cincinnati, or go north and head home through Illinois and Indiana? I went north. I was backtracking my outbound trip, more or less. The drive was uneventful until I reached the turnoff for I-57. I passed by the turnoff deliberately, for it was lunchtime, I was hungry, and several restaurants were two miles ahead.  I went to the McDonald’s and had a Double Quarter Pounder. While I ate, I contemplated where I would stay for the night. It was too far to make it all the way home. Fort Wayne was also too far, and Terre Haute seemed too close, so I decided to stay in Indianapolis. And at what hotel would I stay? I would look for a Hyatt, for I stayed at a hotel from all of the other chains for which I was in their loyalty program. I saw a listing for the Hyatt Place near the Indianapolis airport and made a reservation. Unfortunately, when I was done, I found that I’d actually made a reservation for a different Hyatt Place in the area, one in the northern part of town. Nor could I cancel the reservation without incurring a charge (the deadline was 24 hours in advance), so I was committed. I had a place to stay for the evening, if a bit farther away than I would have liked.

The construction I’d experienced on I-57 coming down was still present on the return drive. The drive was uneventful until I pulled off for a restroom break in Marion, where I nearly got into a wreck; fortunately, I didn’t. After I took care of business, I got back onto the freeway until stopping for gas in Effingham, I turned onto I-70 and headed for Indiana. When I stopped at the Indiana Welcome Center, I noticed that it was called the Clearcreek (one word) Welcome Center; a very apt name, I thought.

There was construction on I-70 through and past Terre Haute; unfortunately, I wasn’t playing close enough attention and was forced to exit the freeway; worse yet, that construction had closed the entrance onto I-70, forcing me into a miles-long detour. I was really unhappy with that, as it was starting to get dark. Perhaps I should have reserved a room in Terre Haute, I thought. But I pressed onward. I listened to Radio Classics, which was airing a good Jack Benny show from Halloween 1938 or 1939. Soon, I was on the loop around Indianapolis, and by 8:30, I was at the Hyatt Place hotel. I was ready to have supper; fortunately, the hotel had a lobby cafe, where I had some cream of mushroom soup and a cafe salad. Back in the room, I did my Web checks with my iPad, as I couldn’t get my laptop to connect to the hotel network. I turned on the Weather Channel to see the latest on the hurricane before calling it a night.

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Saturday October 8

Distance traveled today: 272.1 miles
Distance traveled on this leg of the trip: 1346.1 miles

I woke up around 6 o’clock Eastern time, definitely earlier than I’d been used to on vacation, but I’d have to start getting up this early again for work (even earlier, actually). I did my normal Web and e-mail stuff on the iPad then finished my packing, not that I had that much to pack from an overnight stay. The breakfast bar opened up at 7, and I was down there shortly after it opened. It was a little fancier breakfast bar than other similar hotels (no disposable dinnerware here), but the fare was similar.

By 7:45, I’d checked out and was on the road. But maybe I should have departed earlier or later, for this was right around sunrise, and the sun was very low on the cloudless horizon, and I was staring right into it. That meant I had a hard time seeing the road in front of me; the sun visor was of no use. I missed my exit as a result and had to go to the next one and turn around. Very aggravating! But things got better as I started heading northeast.

As I drove through the countryside, I was listening to the Ko Melina program on the Underground Garage, with occasional listens to CNN and the Weather Channel for the latest on hurricane Matthew. I stopped at a truck stop in Fort Wayne for a bathroom break, then got onto US 24 for the drive to Toledo. As noontime approached, I turned on College Sports Nation to listen to pre-game coverage of the day’s college football games. By this time, I was approaching Toledo. I stopped at a Kroger southwest of town to get gas, to use the restroom, and to buy some frozen Skyline Chili spaghetti covered with Cincinnati-style chili, a product no longer available in Michigan.

Shortly after leaving the store, I turned onto I-475 and then US 23 for the home stretch. Soon, I was back in Michigan, heading towards Ann Arbor. I had an American Top 40 from 1972 on the radio and was enjoying the music, most of which I remembered. Eventually, I reached US 12, which I followed over to I-275. I got onto the freeway, but I shouldn’t have. Unknown to me, there was construction on the freeway, with three lanes narrowing down to one. So I was stuck on the freeway a mile or so from my exit for some 20 minutes. Once I reached the exit, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way, and by 1:30, I was home. Time to unload the car and unpack; time to sort the laundry into piles for tomorrow’s wash; time to make transportation reservations for my next trip; time to relax. My vacation was over.

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THE END

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2016 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
RevisedOctober 29, 2016