Virginia and Texas - 2009




Travelogue: Virginia and Texas 2009

By Roger W. Reini



This will be a slightly longer vacation than normal, by one day.  I will be traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia for the weekend of October 24 and 25, and then I’ll be traveling to Texas (Houston and Austin).  This will be a driving trip, unlike the previous trip to Texas in July, which was a flying trip.  I will be taking my bike with me, meaning my normal hybrid upright bike as opposed to my recumbent trike or my new recumbent BikeE.  I would have taken the BikeE had I figured out how to easily load it and secure it on my bike rack, for that’s a comfortable bike.

Thursday October 23

Total miles today: 165.5
Total for trip: 165.5

Today, I would set off for Williamsburg.  It would be a 670-mile trip to get there; I could do it in a single day, albeit a very long day.  Since I didn’t feel like making such a long drive, I decided to break it into a 2-day trip.  Not knowing when I could get off of work, I chose my stopping point for tonight to be relatively close by: the suburbs of Cleveland, more specifically Richfield. That was 170 miles away or so, a 3-hour drive more or less, something I could handle after a day of work.

That day ended up being a little less than usual, because some meetings that I had in the afternoon were postponed.  I’d gone home at lunchtime and was able to finish up my work remotely, and so I finished packing the SUV (I’d started last night).  I’d gassed up on the way home, so I had a nearly full tank as I pulled out of my driveway.  Now ordinarily I would go over to I-275 and take that south to I-75.  But I remembered a construction project in the southbound lanes that caused significant backups between Michigan Avenue and Ecorse Road, and so I avoided that by taking Wayne Road down to I-94, then taking that over to I-275.  That worked out well, even though I did stop in a church parking lot briefly to check that I had indeed brought my camera bag along (I had).  I put on WWJ at the top of the hour to listen to the news.  The major story was the cap on executive pay being imposed by the government on the banks and auto companies that had received government bailout money.  When the traffic report came on, the announcer said that the project I had avoided on I-275 had been removed.  I didn’t have to take that diversion after all, as it turned out.

Traffic was not a problem south of Detroit, through Toledo or on the Ohio Turnpike.  After I turned off the news, I put on Sirius and listened to a few different channels: the Radio Classics channel with “Big Town”; the Book Radio channel with a story about Indians; the World Radio Network with programs from Poland and Korea; and the BBC World Service news, with a story about an interview with the leader of the far-right British National Party that drew lots of vocal protesters.  At one point, I wanted to listen to songs on my iPod touch, but when I plugged it in; there was a problem: the songs would play, but no sound came out.  The connections were securely seated, so I tried shutting the iPod off and doing a reboot.  That forced the Sync system in my Mariner to re-index the iPod, a task that took nearly 30 minutes. I didn’t think it should take that long, but that’s not a topic for this travelogue.

Down the turnpike I went, passing by familiar exits and towns, especially as I neared Lorain and Elyria.  I had worked here for three months in the spring of 1987 on a temporary assignment at Ford’s Lorain Assembly Plant (since closed down and sold off), and I knew the area well.  It was still light out as I exited at the exit for I-77 and Highway 21 and paid my toll.  The tollbooths had signs indicating they now accepted the EZ-Pass toll payment system that’s used in Pennsylvania and other points along the East Coast and Midwest.  Would I have need of an EZ-Pass?  I could see how it would be useful, but unless I increased my usage of the turnpikes, I wouldn’t have a NEED for one. 

Before long, I was checking in at the Hampton Inn and thinking about where I would eat supper tonight.  I decided that I would eat locally; I didn’t really know where else to go.  Within easy walking distance were four restaurants: a bar and grille called Memories, a Subway, a Dairy Queen, and the Richfield Family Restaurant.  The RFR had a sign that looked like it had been in business for some time, so I decided to go there this evening.  I had to cross the highway to do so; fortunately, traffic was not heavy.  There weren’t many people eating at the restaurant this evening; one waitress was able to handle everyone.  The menu said that breakfast was served throughout the day, and that persuaded me to order the blueberry pancakes with bacon and a side of hash browns.  I had my iPod touch and MiFi combination to keep me company as I enjoyed my meal.  Then it was back to the hotel for the evening.  I turned on ESPN for a Thursday night college football game, Florida State at North Carolina, and settled in for the evening.  I’d have a long day’s drive tomorrow.


Friday October 23

Total for today: 498.4
Total for trip: 663.9

In terms of waking up around 5 AM, it was a regular day for me.  But it certainly wasn’t my regular room or bed, and it wasn’t a work day at all.  It was my first full day of vacation.  After checking e-mail and doing some web surfing, I had breakfast in the lobby.  I didn’t have to go “down” to the lobby because my room was on the first floor.  Now I didn’t eat a whole lot this morning; I had a dish of instant oatmeal, two muffins, and a strawberry yogurt, along with a cup of orange juice.  I read some of the paper at the table (a USA Today).   Then it was time to pack up, brush my teeth, and check out.

I was on the road at 7 AM.  It was still dark outside, one of the drawbacks of traveling in the north during the fall and winter.  As I headed down the turnpike, I felt a little bit sleepy, but not so sleepy that I was nodding off.  The feeling passed as the sky became brighter.  By the time I stopped for a restroom break and a refueling at the last service plaza in Ohio, the sun was up.  There wasn’t much construction in Ohio, but there was quite a bit in Pennsylvania.

Today, the Sirius radio stayed on channel 105 for most of the day.  Normally the Laugh USA channel, for the past week it had been Monty Python Radio, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Flying Circus’s debut on BBC TV.  I didn’t begin to follow them until 1976, when I would watch the episodes that aired after Saturday Night Live every weekend.  I hadn’t seen the episodes recently, nor had I heard any of the albums in a long time, but thanks to this special channel, I found myself enjoying the old favorites such as the Parrot Sketch, Nudge Nudge, Spam, the Argument Clinic, the Lumberjack Song, several bits from the Holy Grail, and many more that I can’t remember.  The channel would continue through Sunday, although I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hear it much after today.

I made very few stops in Pennsylvania.  Two of them were at service plazas for restroom breaks.  At one of them, I picked up an application for an EZ-Pass for turnpike tolls; the same pass would work throughout the Northeast, from Illinois to New England. My last stop was at Breezewood, around lunchtime. First, I went to the Pike2Bike trailhead just east of Breezewood, got out and climbed the hill to the trail.  In the summer of 2008, I had ridden the length of the trail on my bike. The bike stayed on the rack today; I just walked the trail down to the swing gate and back.  Then I went to the Bob Evans restaurant in town and had a fish sandwich.

The drive down I-70 to Maryland was uneventful, and by 2:30, I was heading towards the Capital Beltway.  Traffic was building up; I was getting sore, and I had to use the restroom, so I decided to get off the road for a little while.  My destination for the break would be Tysons Corner Center, home to an LL Bean store and one of the first Apple Stores.  I thought the LL Bean store would have rain ponchos (rain was in the forecast for the football game tomorrow), but I couldn’t find any.  Lots of heavy jackets and some long underwear, and quite a few bike-related items, but there were no rain ponchos that I could see.  The Apple Store didn’t have ponchos either (I wouldn’t expect them to), but they did have the new iMac models announced earlier in the week.  The 27-inch model looked great, appearing not much larger than the 24-inch model I have at home.  I got to try one of the Magic Mouses that lack a scroll wheel but substitute a touch-sensitive body; run your fingers down the mouse and scroll the page.  Now if they could only put that into a trackball or create a stand-alone trackpad, I’d buy it.  I wasn’t buying any computer today, though.

I had thoughts of visiting the Barnes & Noble at the other end of the mall, but I thought better of it, knowing that rush hour was nearly upon me.  And so I went back to the parking garage, got in the SUV and got back on the road.  There was construction traffic on the beltway that slowed me down, but the worst traffic was on I-95 south of the beltway.  There were a number of times that I was crawling along.  I listened to a live call-in show on the Python channel being hosted by The Whitest Kids U Know comedy troupe; the calls and the clips being played helped pass the time.  But I was getting tired and wanted to arrive at my destination.

Once past Fredericksburg, the traffic jams ended, and I could make good time.  I had called my niece and let her know where I was; we would hold off on plans until I arrived.  Onward I drove towards Richmond, onto I-295 and then onto I-64.  I had turned off the Python channel and had turned on the Radio Classics channel, which was playing episodes of Suspense from 1959 and Dragnet from 1952.  Now I wasn’t completely sure which exit I should take for my hotel, and so I let the hotel signs on the freeway guide me.  Fortunately, they guided me to the right location.  It was nearly 7 PM when I finished checking in to the Hampton Inn on Capitol Landing Road.  I grabbed a luggage cart and unloaded my car, including guitar and keyboard.  Then I thought of calling my niece to let her know I was here, but there were some problems.  For one, my phone battery was low, and I needed to charge it.  For another, there was absolutely no coverage in my room.  For a third thing, I didn’t have a good hardcopy map of the college campus (said campus being William & Mary).  The first, I started to fix by charging the phone in the room and in the car; the second, I fixed by making calls outside and giving my niece the room’s phone number; and I took care of the third by printing out the map I had in the hotel’s business center.

It was after 8 when I reached Candice.  She’d already had supper and did have some plans for that evening.  I thought it best not to try and find her dorm after dark on an unfamiliar campus, and so I decided to find a place for supper on my own.  I had some instructions from the hotel on getting to restaurants such as Carrabba’s, and so I started heading that way.  On the way, though, I noticed a Golden Corral and stopped there instead.  It was much like any other Golden Corral with its buffet.  The salad I prepared was good, and the chicken I had was all right.  The sautéed mushrooms intended to accompany the steaks were excellent on their own.  Then it was back to the room to unpack and relax.  I turned on the TV and tuned in the Rutgers vs. Army game. I kept it on through the start of the fourth quarter but got tired, and so it was off to bed.


Saturday October 24

I didn’t particularly want to wake up around 4:30 in the morning, but a clogged sinus didn’t give me much choice.  I shifted position to allow it to unclog, but I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up to check e-mail.  I had a note from my sister, who’d heard from Candice that I’d arrived, that I’d sounded tired.  Well, after nearly 12 hours of driving, you’d be tired too!  I read for a while from the recent biography of Charles Schulz. Then I turned on the TV, hoping to catch a weather report for whether or not I’d need a raincoat or poncho at the game today.  One outlet said the rains would come later in the afternoon, after the game.  I hoped they were right.

I took a shower, got dressed, and then went downstairs for breakfast.  I passed on the oatmeal today; instead, I had a bagel topped with baked egg, along with peach yogurt, a Danish, and a blueberry muffin.  The breakfast attendant was going to the tables, asking if we would like one of the muffins.  Then it was time to go outside and clean off the front seat and put up one of the rear seats.  Now I could reasonably carry passengers.

It was around 9 when I left the hotel.  The first thing I did today was to get on the Colonial Parkway and drive towards Yorktown.  I saw one bike rider on the road this morning.  The roadway was not flat; it was definitely rolling terrain in places.  But it was quite scenic, with the tall trees changing color, making for a scenic driving experience.  The mileposts were actually kilometer posts, I noticed.  I also noticed the bridge in the distance that had to be at Yorktown.  But I never made it to Yorktown, for I thought I should increase my pace and head toward campus lest I not be able to get a parking spot for the game.  And so I turned around short of Yorktown and proceeded back to Williamsburg, passing the Visitor Center and going through the tunnel under the Historic Area.  For a short time, I thought I missed the exit south of town for Highway 199, but I soon found it.  It wasn’t hard to follow the highway around town, passing the New Town area and turning in to the campus at the Compton Road entrance.  There was a backup at the entrance, but it moved quickly, and I soon was parked for the day.
There was definitely some tailgating taking place in that parking lot, as well as a few other places on campus as I made my way towards Candice’s dorm.  I had a printout of the campus map to follow, and I used it on several occasions to confirm which way I was going.  I stopped at the Commons building for a bathroom break, then continued on my way.  It was fairly easy to follow the sidewalk to Gooch Hall.  When I got there, I found that building access was restricted to residents and guests; no one without a pass could enter.  That was never true at Michigan State except during overnight hours when I went there, and I don’t believe it’s true today.  I called Candice from the front door and asked her to come down for me, which she did.  We went up to her room briefly, where I met her roommate Maureen and mentally compared their room to the rooms I occupied at State.  The window seemed smaller, but they had proper closets.  We didn’t stay long, as Candice and I left for a short campus tour before the game started.
Candice showed me where she attended many of her classes in the older part of the campus.  We walked through the forested area, the closest way to that part of campus.  I recalled that the last time I’d been in such a forested area was the chimp tracking expedition in Uganda.  Of course, there were no paved trails there, nor were the leaves turning colors.  We passed by a tent where members of the classes of the last 10 years were gathering; we passed by the Sunken Garden; and we went past the Wren Building, oldest building on campus.  There was a lot of activity in Merchant’s Square this morning – a street market, with elements of a farmer’s market.

We headed back toward the stadium, as it was getting closer to game time.  When we got there, we found the Will Call window, where I picked up my tickets.  Once inside the stadium, we walked to where I thought our seats were, only to be told they were on the opposite side of the stadium from where we were.  So we walked around the stadium to get to those seats in section II (that’s two I’s, not the Roman number 2). The trip had us walking on the athletic track; to my feet, it felt padded.  We were in the second row on the end of the aisle, close to the field but also hindered in viewing action at the far end of the field.  As the stands filled, it became clear we were in a mixed crowd: there were a number of W&M fans and alums there, but there were a lot of James Madison fans in front of us and behind us.  It made for some interesting commentary during the game.  W&M alums from the ‘70s passed by frequently, looking older than I thought they should.  Of course, I was miscalculating; a collegiate alum from the Class of ’79 would be six years older than me, on average.  I should be basing my comparisons on the Class of ’85, not my high school class of ’81.  Then again, maybe I’m resisting the idea of my getting older.

Back to the game: it was a tight, defensive affair for most of the first half, with William & Mary kicking a field goal as time expired to take a 10-3 lead into the locker room.  This was Candice’s first Homecoming game as well as her second football game.  For me, it was the first college football game I’d attended since 1983.  I’d attended games at Michigan State my freshman, sophomore and junior years but couldn’t get tickets for my senior year.  The stadium was much smaller than Spartan Stadium, to be sure, but you couldn’t say that about the enthusiasm: the fans were just as passionate about their team as at any Big Ten school.  Rain threatened at times; once, I even put on the lightweight poncho, but I didn’t keep it on long, for the rain stopped in short order.  At one point, I noticed that a woman had tripped on the raceway covering cables used for the TV cameras and had apparently fallen on her nose; paramedics treated her with an ice bag.

I had my camera with me, and I took several pictures of the game action.  The zoom lens helped, as did the ability to take multiple consecutive photos during key action, such as that half-ending field goal. And with the camera, I could fulfill a request texted from Africa by my sister (and Candice’s mother) to take a picture of Candice at her first Homecoming game.  I took two, in fact.  As the second half progressed, the Tribe began to open it up, and midway through the fourth quarter, the James Madison fans began to head for the exits.  We hung in there until the end, and the W&M fans left the stadium happy: their team won, 24-3.  The campus wouldn’t be dead tonight, said Candice.

After leaving the stadium via the Stadler Center, Candice led me on a tour of the new part of campus, where she has her chemistry class.  That science building opened just this year, she said; it was still under construction when the family had taken the tour in July 2008.  She pointed out some recently built housing for upperclassmen; she wanted to get into those next year or whenever she becomes eligible, she said.  We made our way past the building where she had her math class; I said that it looked much like the building at Michigan State where I had my math classes (Wells Hall).  We eventually made our way back to the Wren Building, which was open for visitation today.  Candice showed me the chapel, which would be available to her for her wedding, as well as the dining room where many illustrious persons had dined in the past, including Thomas Jefferson.

The tour over, we went back to Gooch Hall (Candice’s dorm) so she could pick up her bag, and then we walked to my car for a trip to Target.  She wanted to do some birthday shopping for her sister.  I had shopping cart duty as she looked for her things.  I also had some very sore feet; I must have walked more than I thought I did today!  Now there was one item that wasn’t available at Target but might have been at the Best Buy across town.  So after I confirmed where it was, I drove us over there.

As we walked in, I asked Candice if she was backing up her MacBook.  She asked me in reply, “What’s a backup?” That set off internal alarms; she was living dangerously, and we needed to correct that.  Having lost two months’ worth of data last year due to not having up-to-date backups, I could speak from experience about the need for recent backups.  So I told her that after we looked for the computer game, we would get a hard drive for her backups.  The computer game was not available, not in the configuration Candice wanted, and so we went over to the hard drive area.  I selected a 640 MB hard drive, and then we checked out.  As we drove to the other side of town, I told her that using the drive with the Mac’s Time Machine program would be simple and straightforward.

Now it was time for supper.  Where to go?  There weren’t many suitable places on Richmond Road west of Highway 199, but going east, we passed a few.  Captain George’s Seafood Buffet? No, Candice wasn’t much of a seafood fan. A local Mexican place? Outback Steakhouse? What about Carrabba’s? She said she’d never been to one.  Well, it’s one of my favorite places, and so we decided to stop there.  We got on the waiting list and spent about 15 minutes waiting to go in.  Once in, we each had a very good meal.  She got the chicken parmigiana with mashed potatoes and a cup of lentil and sausage soup, while I had the chicken Marsala with mashed potatoes, my own cup of lentil and sausage soup, and a Caesar salad.  I think I made a good suggestion this evening.

I took Candice back to her dorm, where she would do some homework and get set for some Homecoming parties, while I drove back to my hotel.  I heard the kickoff of the Michigan State-Iowa game on WJR, which was booming into the East Coast like it usually does, but I didn’t hear much more than that.  It wasn’t on TV in the hotel, so I turned on other games, eventually settling on the Texas-Missouri game.  That game went well, especially if you were a Longhorn fan.  The score got to the point where ABC switched away from it to the UCLA-Oregon State game, a more competitive affair.  In the meanwhile, I was downloading and identifying the pictures I’d taken today, sending some of them to my relatives, and telling them what I’d done today.  I was following the Michigan State game via live updates on the Free Press website; those updates described a close, defensive struggle, as the teams traded field goals.  Then with 9 seconds left, State had a 4-point lead.  I waited for the next update to come around on TV, but when it did, there was nothing but heartbreak: Iowa had scored in the last seconds to come away a 15-13 victor.


Sunday October 25

I didn’t have sinus problems this morning, but I found myself awake shortly after 5 AM.  The lamp next to the bed was still on; I must have fallen asleep right after turning off the TV.  I lay in bed for a while; when I got up, I started to update the travelogue with the events of yesterday.  I debated whether to go to one of Williamsburg’s multiple pancake houses for breakfast but decided to stay with the hotel’s complimentary breakfast.  Today, it just so happened that waffles were on the menu, and so I got the benefit of the pancake house without actually going to one.

Now there was a definite chill in the air, and there was a bit of a breeze, but these wouldn’t keep me from taking a ride on my bike.  So I got my bike off of the rack, loaded my bag of essentials, put on my helmet and my gloves, and set off down the road.  I wanted to get to the Colonial Parkway and ride that for a while.  I found it, eventually, although I had to circle around the Williamsburg Woodlands resort and the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center to reach it.  The pavement felt odd underneath me as I rode down it; it wasn’t smooth asphalt or concrete.  I saw some other bikers ahead, and so I followed them.  They were headed south, and I wanted to see what they would do to avoid a tunnel from which bikes were barred.  They took an exit ramp just before that tunnel, and I followed their lead.  It led right to an entrance to the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg!  They pedaled inside, and so did I.  Now I lost them at this point, but I didn’t care.  I was following my own pace.  It wasn’t crowded at this time of the morning, and it was interesting to roll down DOG Street, heading towards the Capitol and past the Magazine, taking to avoid the 18th-century road hazard of horse manure.  South of DOG Street, there was traffic, so I had to watch for the occasional vehicle.  I headed towards Merchant’s Square, then found myself on Richmond Road on the north side of the W&M campus.

Was I going to ride through the campus? Of course I was!  I went past the football stadium, now dead quiet after the festivities of yesterday’s win.  I pedaled to where Candice’s dorm was, checking the parking situation for later on.  I didn’t pedal all over campus, though, and soon I was back on Richmond Road, heading for Merchant’s Square.  Now I would stop at the official campus bookstore, looking to see what W&M gear I could find here.  I could find quite a lot!  I chose a cap and a drawstring backpack, paid for my goods, and got ready to ride onward.  That’s when I called Candice to determine what our plans for the day would be.  She said to come over around 11:30.  This was 10:20, and so I started back for the hotel – past Bruton Parish Church, where services were letting out, past the Governor’s Palace, and back onto the Colonial Parkway, the Visitor Center, the Bypass Road, and back at the hotel.

Before leaving on the ride, I had brought down my MacBook and left it in the car so that I didn’t have to go back to my room.  That enabled me to send out a short e-mail about my ride and to update my mileage log for the year.  I tuned in “Breakfast with the Beatles” on Sirius XM while doing my updates.  By the time I was done, it was time for me to head over to the campus.  I got there just before 11:30 and called Candice, but all I got was her voicemail.  I sat on the picnic table outside the dorm and waited for around 10 minutes.  Just as I was about to call her again, the door opened, and she was there.  Up to her room we went.  My task: get the hard drive I had bought for her yesterday set up and complete the first backup.  It wasn’t hard to do: open the box, remove the packaging, plug in the cables, save the software that was already loaded on the drive, okay the formatting of the drive to let it work with Time Machine, and then watch it go to work.  It took around an hour and 15 minutes to complete the backup; I was watching the progress meter inch upward, and Candice was preparing the contents of a package she would be mailing to Uganda.  We were quiet so as not to disturb roommate Maureen; even when she left for brunch, we were still quiet.

Finally, the backup was complete.  Away went the drive into the drawer; off went the Mac; and out the door we went.  We didn’t know where we were going to have lunch, so I set off on westbound Richmond Road.  When we encountered the Applebee’s, Candice said she’d never been to one.  I’d already driven past the restaurant, but we didn’t see anything else ahead, so Applebee’s it was.  We both had salads: Candice had a half-size salad topped with chicken (not to be confused with chicken salad), while I had a full-size shrimp and spinach salad along with a tomato basil soup.  There was so much spinach in my salad, I quipped that I should be like Popeye and find some ruffians who need beating up.  We both enjoyed our meals.

Now where would we go next?  Candice said she’d like to go to Kohl’s; we’d been close to one yesterday when we went to Best Buy.  I agreed to take her there, and we drove across town to get there.  While she went there, I went into the Dick’s Sporting Goods next door, where I found a more substantial rain poncho than what I had yesterday.  Both types have their place, but I felt I should have a more substantial product.  I walked over to Kohl’s and walked all over the store trying to find her with little success.  Just as I was about to head out the exit, I heard her call me.  A few minutes later, she was checking out with some sweaters that were on sale.  Next, we went over to Best Buy again. Candice didn’t stay long; she went over to Target to look for something (a toothbrush, I would later learn).  Meanwhile, I looked for the Family Pack of Windows 7.  I didn’t see it on the shelves, although it was mentioned in the weekly ad, so I knew they would carry it.  But I wouldn’t be getting it today, so I left.  I drove over to the Target, since it was a good distance away and I wanted to save Candice the hike back.  I went through the store trying to find her without success.  I looked in the electronics section to see if they were carrying the Windows 7 Family Pack; they weren’t, nor were they carrying any form of Windows.  Suddenly, I had a barely resistible urge to go to the restroom, so I hurried there as fast as I could.  The call of nature (more like screams at this point) could be answered safely.  My phone rang; it was Candice asking if I was still at Best Buy.  I told her no, I was in the Target men’s room.  A few minutes later, we met at the entrance and headed out to my SUV and thence to home, with a stop for gas along the way.

We went back to her dorm room so that she could give me the package to mail to Uganda.  It was not convenient for her to get to a post office, so she asked if I could mail it.  At one point, I realized two things: one, we needed to get a picture of the two of us together, and two, I no longer had the cap I had bought today.  Was it in the car in the back seat?  When we got out to the car for the picture, I found out that it wasn’t.  Somewhere today, I had left my cap, and I had no realistic idea where.  I was out $22.  That might explain why I looked a little gloomy in the pictures I took with the self-timer on the camera.  Then it was time to say goodbye, and while Candice went back to her homework, I got in the SUV and headed towards downtown.  My first stop was in the parking lot for the bookstore where I bought the cap this morning.  Did they have a suitable replacement?  No, they didn’t; all of the caps had the curved bills, a “feature” I don’t really care for.  The other store in town that sells college merchandise did have some official baseball caps with the flat bills I like, but they didn’t have one in my size, so I would be leaving Williamsburg without a William & Mary hat.
As I drove out of downtown, I realized I would be passing by the post office.  I decided to swing by there to see when they would open tomorrow.  As I drove past the front door, I saw someone inside; he looked to be operating one of the automated postage machines.  If that were true, that meant I wouldn’t have to look for a post office tomorrow on the road; I could mail the package right here, right now.  I stopped and went inside and waited for him to finish his business.  Once he did, I conducted my business.  Five minutes later, Candice’s package had been mailed, and I drove back to the hotel.

Now where would I go for supper tonight? Looking through the Williamsburg booklet gave me the answer: I would go to the Peking buffet on the west side of town.  The restaurant was located near a K-Mart, but that didn’t detract from the pan-Asian cuisine offered inside: Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese, and a little bit of Thai.  I focused on the Chinese and Japanese items tonight.  Everything was all right, not the best I’d ever had but certainly not the worst.  I drove back to the hotel and prepared to work on the travelogue, to start packing for tomorrow and to watch Sunday Night Football (or at least listen to it while doing the other two things).  I brought in the atlas to confirm my route for tomorrow. 


Monday October 26

Total mileage for today: 588.9

I woke up after 5 o’clock, did my e-mail checks, then took a shower.  By this time, it was after 6, and breakfast was now available in the lobby.  I went downstairs, but not to eat; no, I went to get a luggage cart for loading all of my belongings.  Yes, I was leaving Williamsburg and heading towards Texas today.  How far would I get?  I had no idea.

After I’d finished loading the car, I had my breakfast, and then I turned in the room key (I was already checked out).  Shortly after 7, I started the car and headed out.  The sun was not yet up, but it was beginning to get light.  Now which way would I go, the direct route out of town (I-64) or the scenic route to Richmond (Highway 5)?  I decided to take the scenic route, and this took me through downtown and past the campus for the last time on this trip.  Highway 5 was frequently lined with trees, which were beginning to turn colors.  As I drove along the roadway, I saw a large, gray shape move out of the corner of my left eye.  My first instinct: it was a dog.  A second later, I saw that it was a gray deer running across the highway.  I braked fairly hard to avoid it, hard enough to knock some things off of the passenger seat but not so hard that I skidded.  That was the last thing I needed, to run into a deer.  I’d run into a deer once before, and oddly enough, that was in Virginia in 2004.  I slowed down somewhat as I went down the road some more, hoping at one point that the deer would stay off the road. Just as I completed that thought, here came another deer running across the road from the left.  I had to brake harder this time to avoid hitting it; I honked the horn, too, but the deer didn’t care.  By now, I was a little spooked and didn’t want to drive the speed limit.  I was afraid that my next deer encounter would end badly for both of us.  There were a few times when I pulled off of the road to let other traffic pass.

Running along the road for much of the way was a paved bike trail.  I also noticed that the road was signed Bike Route 76, which I would later learn was a national cross-country bike route.  Very interesting, to coin a phrase.  As I drove down the road, I saw the signs advertising several historic plantations, but I didn’t stop at any of them.  They wouldn’t have been open at that time of day, anyway.  Eventually, I found myself at I-295, which I took for a short distance until I found an easy way to cross over to I-95.  Then I took I-95 to Petersburg south of Richmond, where I picked up I-85, which I would travel upon for the rest of the day.  I drove through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia today – but I’m getting ahead of myself here.  I’d never ridden on this stretch of I-85 before, and so I was seeing parts of the country that were new to me – Durham and Charlotte in North Carolina, Greenville in South Carolina, and most of Atlanta.

Most of my day was occupied with the drive, naturally.  I stopped for lunch at a Waffle House west of Durham, and later in the afternoon, I stopped at a Best Buy in Greenville.  There, I was looking for the family pack of Windows 7: load up to 3 machines in the same household for $149.  That price beats $110 for an individual upgrade; unfortunately, Best Buy didn’t have any family packs in stock, nor would they have it for at least 2 weeks.  As I drove through Atlanta, I passed by a Fry’s, but I wasn’t able to exit the freeway in time.  Traffic was fairly heavy, but it became a crawl through downtown.  This was the tail end of rush hour, and this was where I-75 and I-85 ran together for several miles.  Traffic eventually broke free, and I kept on I-85 until I reached my evening destination, the Wellesley Inn near the airport.  I was taking advantage of a Welcome Center special rate.  Although the hotel literature said it had been renovated in 2006, it still seemed like an older property to me.  But everything worked, and the bed was comfortable, and that was what mattered.  For supper, I went to the Italian restaurant next door and had penne pasta with shrimp and sausage.  Unlike the other day at Carrabba’s, I ate more of the bread this evening.  It was excellent bread; so was the bread at Carrabba’s, for that matter, but it was easier to eat the bread when I was the only one eating it.  After dinner, I went back to my room, turned on Monday Night Football, and read some more from the Charles Schulz biography before turning in for the night.


Tuesday October 27

Total Mileage for Today:  580.6
Total for this part of trip: 1169.5

I still hadn’t gotten onto vacation time yet, where I could wake up later than normal.  That may have been because I was still driving and wasn’t settled into my destination.  I was up before 5, and I did my e-mail and web checks before packing up and heading out shortly after 6.  I gassed up at the station down the street before heading back onto I-85.  Now unlike the last few days, I did not have breakfast at the hotel; today, that was because the hotel did not offer it.  I bought a Little Debbie oatmeal cookie and a bottle of water at a truck stop down I-85, and that was my breakfast.  That was not the best way to have oatmeal in the morning, obviously.
Rain had been in the forecast, and the closer I got to Montgomery, the more likely it looked like it would rain.  Eventually, it did rain.  It wasn’t falling too hard as I drove through Montgomery, but it started falling harder after leaving Montgomery on I-65.  At one point, it was raining so hard that I pulled off at a rest area and waited for the rain to ease off.  As I drove down I-65, I was listening to CNN frequently, hoping to hear the launch of the new Ares rocket (I never did, for the launch was eventually scrubbed), and then I bounced around multiple channels, frequently listening to the Old Time Radio channel and the special Halloween channel.  The Halloween channel was interesting, but the programs tended to repeat after a certain period of time.

For lunch, I thought I would eat at a Krystal north of Mobile.  Krystal is the South’s equivalent of White Castle, and I hadn’t eaten there in a while.  A couple of hours later, I would discover why I hadn’t eaten there in a while (besides not being where they were), as I wasn’t feeling very well.  They didn’t agree with me.  I continued on down I-65 through Mobile and picked up I-10 heading west.  I’d pass near cities whose names I recognized from hurricane warnings and damage reports: Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula.  There were many billboards promoting the casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana and which stars would be performing at them.  Some time later, I was in Louisiana at the Welcome Center.  While taking a break from the driving, I was trying to figure out where to stay this evening.  Based on my pace during the day, I figured I could make either Lafayette or Lake Charles.  I checked on the availability of Microtel Inns in both cities.  The one in Lake Charles was more expensive than the one in Lafayette, and it was an hour further down the road.  Something inside me said I should stay in Lafayette this evening, and so I made a reservation for the Microtel in Lafayette.  Ahead lay at least 2 or 3 more hours of driving across the top of Lake Pontchartrain, driving through Baton Rouge and crossing the Atchafalaya River basin before arriving at the evening’s destination.

When I arrived, traffic was very busy in what passed for Lafayette’s rush hour.  The hotel had much of its parking lot blocked by construction materials; yes, the hotel was under renovation.  I got my room and settled in for the evening, although I needed to determine where I would eat supper.  Traffic on the road in front of the hotel was still heavy, and that plus the parking lot situation meant that I didn’t want to drive anywhere.  Three locations were within walking distance: a Burger King, a Wendy’s, and a Waffle House.  Of the three, the Waffle House was closest, and it did not involve crossing any streets.  So I walked over to the Waffle House and had a dinner waffle.  But what was good yesterday for lunch wasn’t as good today for supper.  When I was finished, I walked back to the room and turned on a college football game, one of the oddball games that aren’t on Saturday.  Then it was time for bed.


Wednesday October 28

Total for today: 211.7 (to arrival in League City)
Total for this part of trip: 1381.2

Once again, I woke up close to the time I would for work.  But with the time change, that meant I woke up around 3:45.  I didn’t care for that, but I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I checked e-mail, monitored my key websites, and read some more from the Charles Schulz biography.  I turned on the Weather Channel to get an update on the weather; it said there was fog outside.  I looked out the window, and yes, they were right; it was foggy outside.  That caused me to take my time getting up and started and down for breakfast.  I saw cereal but not any milk, so what good was having the cereal?  I ended up having a juice and a blueberry muffin.  It was a big muffin, so it filled me up.

After checking out and braving Lafayette’s morning rush hour, I was back on I-10 heading west.  KTRH was beginning to come in, and so I turned on their morning news and listened for a while.  KLVI out of Beaumont was much stronger, so I put that on for a time. The drive was uneventful as I headed west through Lake Charles and eventually to the Texas state line.  I took a break at the welcome center and then continued onward.  There was construction between Orange and Beaumont, which slowed me up somewhat at times.  I bounced around again between CNN, Old Time Radio and the Halloween channel, hoping to catch the test launch of the Ares rocket.  This time, I did!  From the description by the CNN anchor afterwards about a great television experience, I gathered that the TV screen was showing the start of the launch and at the same time was showing the president speaking at the award ceremony for former senator Edward Brooke, who was receiving a Congressional Gold Medal.  That may have made for great television, but it was terrible radio!

At times while traveling I-10, I heard a carrier on 146.52, a strong carrier.  One time, I even heard touch tones being typed out.  What was going on? This didn’t sound like a normal amateur radio transmission.  I put out a call on the frequency for a QSO, and I had one with a ham from Anahuac who was heading to Baytown with his wife to pick up some dog food.  By the time I’d reached Mont Belvieu, the QSO was over, and I turned off onto Highway 146 heading south.  Home stretch!  I saw very few overt signs of hurricane destruction; granted, it had been a year, so most of it would have been repaired by now.  Onward I went through Baytown, La Porte and Shoreacres, and then I was in Seabrook.  It was lunchtime, and I was hungry for Laredo’s.  But when I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a sign: Closed 2 Weeks For Repairs.  Oh no!  I wouldn’t be able to eat there during my trip.  That was something I was really looking forward to, and now it wouldn’t be happening.  But I still wanted Mexican food.  I drove down 146 again, noting the For Sale sign in front of Tookie’s, which never reopened after Ike, as well as the remodeled Dairy Queen closer to the bridge.  I thought of going to the Cadillac Bar at the Kemah Boardwalk, but I couldn’t see the sign for the restaurant as I went over the bridge.  Then I went down FM 2094, remembering a fairly new Mexican restaurant that I’d never visited before.  San Lorenzo was the name, and I pulled into their parking lot.  Their chips and salsa were good, as was their enchilada and taco meal: good, solid Tex-Mex food.  I would go back there again, yet I must admit that it wasn’t Laredo’s.

I got some gas at the Kroger station at 518 and 270, and then I took 270 down to 646 and over to I-45 for the trip down to Galveston.  It was way too early to check into the hotel, and this afternoon would be the best opportunity in the next 3 days for bike riding.  The sights along the freeway heading south didn’t look much different to me from the last time I was here in 2007.  I rode a rental bike along the seawall back then, and today, I would be riding my own bike.  As  I approached the north part of the Texas City Wye intersection (the area where Highways 3, 6 and 146 intersect I-45), I couldn’t help but think of the pictures post-Ike that showed these very southbound lanes completely filled with debris, making travel impossible.  At last, I reached the causeway, the rebuilding of which was now complete.  Then it was on to the exit for 61st Street and the seawall.  I saw the sign for Luby’s cafeteria, which I knew had closed last week.  I saw construction equipment at the foot of 61st Street; they were working on rebuilding the fishing pier, which was an Ike casualty.

I parked along the seawall at 59th Street, in front of a Kroger Signature store, and then I removed my bike from its rack and prepared to ride.  The wind was strong, but it was coming from offshore and thus was a pure crosswind to me; it didn’t hinder my travel along the seawall at all.  As I headed east, I saw some signs of destruction but also many spots of rebuilding.  There was a historical marker along the seawall; all that was left of it was the post and the lower left corner of it, the rest having been a victim of the storm.  The memorial to the 1900 storm was now surrounded by a small fence, and on it were memorials to those lost during Ike.  The Flagship Hotel still showed the signs of damage from Ike; the big hole in its front was still there; the ramp that had broken away still lay on the beach below.  I wondered what would become of it (I’d learn the next day that it would be rebuilt and that some pleasure pier attractions would be added to it).  I saw the awning for the Balinese Room, which was all that was left of the historic structure.  I also saw Murdoch’s being rebuilt, targeting a spring 2010 opening.  Along the seawall, it seemed, Galveston was well on the way to recovery.  But I also saw places where the beach had been washed completely away, allowing the Gulf to lap right at the base of the seawall.

I reached the far eastern end of the seawall and stopped for a rest and to take some pictures of the vessels in the Houston Ship Channel passing through, either on their way up to the port or heading out to sea.  Then I rode the top of the seawall back to the west, until that section ended; then it was back to the regular seawall, which I rode to 69th Street.  The skies had grown darker, and it looked like it might rain at any minute.  But it never did, not while I was riding, anyway.  What looked like rain from a distance was merely mist or spray.  I had entertained some thoughts of riding all the way to the west end of the seawall, but I decided against it.  The skies were too threatening. And so, I turned around and went back to my SUV, put the bike back on the rack, and drove down the roadway.  I drove down Seawall Boulevard all the way to Broadway, then turned onto Broadway for the drive back north.  I had seen a car from station KGBC, and so I turned it on to hear what it sounded like these days: lots of local advertisers, and lots of oldies music.  I’d keep that station on in the car quite a bit over the next few days.

The rebuilt causeway was complete now; it seemed to me to be in a slightly different location than the old one.  When I reached FM 646, I exited the freeway so that I could visit Best Buy.  This store had just opened when I was here last time.  I was looking to stretch for a bit; I also wanted to see if they had the Windows 7 Family Pack.  Well, guess what?  They had one!  It was the last one in the store, in fact.  And it was going to become mine.  Then I headed up the feeder, but I got caught in a backup at the new intersection with Highway 96, which had been completely changed from its previous configuration.  The traffic was backed up on both the feeder and the freeway, and so I thought the best course of action was to go a different way.  And that’s what I did: I took Highway 96 to Highway 3 up to Nasa 1.  I saw the Nasa 1 bypass in operation, although I couldn’t enter it from that location – well, I could take it westbound, but not eastbound.  I could take old Nasa 1, though, although it was a bit different where it met the bypass.  Now I actually could enter the bypass and avoid the El Camino light altogether.  Soon, I was checked in at the Microtel.  My room was on the first floor; the view out the window was of Luby’s and its parking lot.  After packing everything away, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for supper.  My first thought was to eat something at the café inside Fry’s (I planned to go there later).
Well, I did go to Fry’s, and I visited the café, but nothing appealed to me, so I didn’t eat there.  I looked around the store and found that, contrary to what I’d seen, they WERE discounting the Windows 7 Family Pack upgrade by $15.  I looked around the store, but I was not in a buying mood, and I left without buying anything.  Now I wanted to get up to Nasa 1, or the old Nasa 1, and here was where things became strange.  I got on the feeder and headed north, but things didn’t look right.  I saw more signs on the road than I thought I should see, and I didn’t see a roadway that had been there for my whole life.  The intersection had been radically altered.  Before, Nasa 1 went over the freeway on an overpass.  Now, it was the freeway that went over Nasa 1, and that gave a whole new look to the intersection.  It was very disconcerting, at least for the first time.  I took Nasa 1 back toward Nassau Bay, still thinking of where I wanted to go for supper.  I passed the Waffle House; no way, not today!  I passed by Chabuca’s; great food, but a bit out of my budget.  Then I remembered the Fuddrucker’s east of Upper Bay Road.  I hadn’t been in a while, and that sounded real good to me!  And it was good.

Back in the room, I debated whether or not to upgrade to Windows 7.  I also had the opportunity to upgrade my virtual machine environment, VMWare Fusion, to the new version 3.  Ultimately, I would do both, but which should I do first? I’d read that the new version of Fusion allowed Windows to work better in Snow Leopard, so I decided to perform that upgrade first.  That meant buying the upgrade for Fusion 3 and downloading it, which I did.  I also had to upgrade the support files and drivers in the virtual machine; that proved to be very difficult, and I spent so much time on that that I didn’t feel like performing the Windows upgrade.  That could wait until tomorrow.


Thursday October 29

I took my sweet time waking up this morning, or I should say getting up this morning.  I didn’t have to travel anywhere, and so I rested up.  It was 7:30 when I went out to the lobby for breakfast, having a dish of cereal and two blueberry muffins.  I had the weather on, trying to get a handle on the weather forecast for today; rain was likely and would become more likely as the day went on.  Did I want to go into town and attempt a bike ride? Yes, I did, but I wanted more certainty in the conditions.

While waiting for that certainty, I decided to start the Windows upgrade.  I opened up the package, took out the DVD for the 32-bit version, and started the upgrade.  While it processed, I watched Robin Hood: Men In Tights on HBO.  The upgrade went smoothly, it seemed, and so at the end of the process, I had a new Windows 7 virtual machine.  Now my primary use of Windows was to login to my work desktop remotely, but I wasn’t going to be doing that during vacation.  I’d figure out how to test my new Win7 installation later.  Now, though, I was going to go into town.  I’d have the bike with me, so if the weather looked favorable, I’d stop and take a ride.  If not, I wouldn’t.

As I drove up the freeway, things looked fairly normal north of Bay Area.  I didn’t notice many major changes along the route.  Now when I got to the South Loop, I had to decide which way to go.  Would I try to ride downtown along Buffalo Bayou, or would I decide to ride along Brays Bayou?  I decided on Brays Bayou, where I could park at Hermann Park.  So I took the South Loop.  As I headed west, though, it started to rain.  It was an off-and-on rain, but that was enough to tell me I wasn’t going to ride today.  So I aborted my plans to go to Hermann Park.  I ended up going to the Meyerland Borders bookstore and spending some time there.  For lunch, I went to the Souper Salad across the street and enjoyed their soup and salad selections.  Then I took Rice Avenue up to the Galleria and went to the Apple Store there, but I didn’t get anything.  Then I went to the Central Market on Westheimer and walked through the store, picking up a few items (nothing that required refrigeration, though).  Then it was time to head back to the hotel.  There was off-and-on rain, but traffic wasn’t too bad as I drove.  Well, it was a little heavy on the Southwest Freeway, but the Gulf Freeway wasn’t bad.

I took it easy back in my room for the afternoon.  When dinnertime came around, I was inspired to go to Joe’s Barbecue in Alvin.  If I couldn’t go to Laredo’s, then I could at least go to another of my favorite restaurants down here.  The drive to Alvin hadn’t changed very much except at the freeway (already noted).  The food at Joe’s hadn’t changed, either, and that was good.  So was the barbecue baked potato, still as large as ever.   I didn’t finish it all, maybe three-quarters of it.  Then I went back to the hotel by way of League City, taking a swing through Newport and down my old street (nobody was home at our old house).  The old Church of God on Newport Boulevard was now a Korean Presbyterian Church.

Back at the hotel, I settled in for the evening, watching game 2 of the World Series and an MLS playoff game between the Houston Dynamo and the Seattle team.  I didn’t see any scoring, but I fell asleep before the game ended.


Friday October 30

I must have been tired last night, for as I said, I fell asleep during the soccer playoff game.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, the TV and the light over the bed were still on.  Off went the light, but I kept the TV on for some reason and tried to go back to sleep.  I succeeded, for I woke up again around 6.  It was raining outside, fairly hard at times.  Yes, the rains finally came overnight.
I took a shower and then went out to the lobby for breakfast.  They had a waffle maker at the breakfast bar, making Texas-shaped waffles.  The instructions said to fill a cup for pouring into the maker, and so I did.  Unfortunately, I shouldn’t have filled that cup all the way to the top, as it overflowed the waffle maker.  The excess overflow was caught, and no major harm was done.

Now what was on the agenda for today? The main item was lunch at 11:30 at a Greek restaurant in Kemah.  I wanted to kill some time before then, so I went over to the Barnes & Noble near Baybrook for a while.  I didn’t get anything there.  Then I went to the Best Buy across Bay Area.  I didn’t get anything there, for they didn’t have what I was looking for.  Neither did the Fry’s.  By this time, it was time to head to Kemah for lunch.

It wasn’t too hard to find the Bakkhus Taverna on 6th Street in Kemah, using Rob Wohrer’s directions to get there.  No one else from our class showed up, so we had a good time talking about things, especially the recent changes in the area.  We both had a Bakkhus Burger for lunch; Rob thought it was the closest one could get to the old 99 Burger from the now-closed Tookie’s.  I thought it was a good burger, regardless.  The rest of the menu looked interesting, too, with lots of Greek/Mediterranean food, as one would expect from a place called the Bakkhus Taverna.  On occasion, I could see a black cat wandering around outside.  That cat was reasonably friendly, as I learned later when I petted it as we left.  It might have been blind in one eye, for something looked strange about its right eye.  As Rob headed off to his son’s school party, I got in my SUV and headed to the Best Buy in the Victory Lakes section of League City.  Here, I found what I was looking for, or considering (a Wacom Bamboo tablet, either the Touch version or the Pen and Touch version).  But I didn’t get one here; all I got was a fillup at the Wal-Mart gas station.  Then it was up to Fry’s again, for now I was looking for a 4 GB memory card for my MacBook.  Installing one would give me 6 GB of memory, which would help in running Windows and keeping other Mac programs running comfortably.  However, one 4 GB chip (or chip board) cost $100 more than 2 2-GB chip boards.  That was money I didn’t think I should spend, and so I left Fry’s empty-handed again.  If that happens too many more times, I’ll have to turn in my geek license (footnote: I did get that 4 GB one month later, back in Michigan).

Now I drove up to Baybrook Mall and walked around there for a while.  First stop: the Apple Store.  Now interestingly enough, it had the Bamboo tablets I was considering at Best Buy, and at the same price, too.  Now could I get some use out of these tablets?  For my iMac at home, I thought I could; there were times when I wanted to replace the trackball I used with that system, and a standalone touchpad similar to a laptop’s might be useful indeed.  So after much consideration, I bought the Bamboo tablet, Touch version (I had an older pen tablet at home).  Then I walked around for a while, buying a cookie at the Nestle Toll House store.  That cookie was good.  As I went past Dillard’s, my eyes noticed the Lego store.  Knowing that my nephew liked Legos and that there was no Lego Store in Detroit, and that Christmas was coming soon, I stopped in.  The clerk suggested a more advanced kit; I took her suggestion and bought it.  I continued walking around, noting the Chinese buffet that took over the old Luby’s location.  When I walked into Macy’s, though, the alarms went off.  Something among my bags was causing a problem.  The clerk said I could go through, but I chose not to; if it beeped here, it would beep at where I would exit, and I didn’t want a hassle there.  So I went out over by Sears and walked outside to my car.  Then it was back to the hotel, but not before trying to get a good connection on my MiFi to allow some iPod apps to finish updating.

Back at the hotel, I checked e-mail and finished reading the Chronicle I’d picked up earlier in the day.  And then I pondered what to do this evening.  I could go out to Alvin to watch Clear Creek play the Wildcats; I could just as easily listen to the game on KACC, though.  And what did I want for supper?  That Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet near Baybrook intrigued me, and that’s where I decided to go.  I navigated there by way of Medical Center Boulevard, past Clear Lake Hospital and the buildings supporting it, past the busy Pappasito’s and past the busy Pappas Seafood House.  Dimassi’s was not busy, though.  I’d be assured of a seat, but would the food be any good?  Fortunately, it was.  The buffet was filled with (presumably) Lebanese Mediterranean food, all halal (for the benefit of observant Muslims, although those who aren’t would also see the benefits).  I took some tabouli, hummus, baba ghanoush, a stuffed grape leaf, and some pita bread for my first plate, along with a small bowl of lentil and spinach soup.  The soup was very good; in fact, I had a second bowl.  The hummus was also good, and the tabouli was all right.  For my second plate, I got some rice, some shish kafta, one piece of falafel, a piece of chicken kabob (onions, too) and some other items I can’t recall.  It was all pretty good.  I thought a buffet like this might work in Detroit; I didn’t understand why it wasn’t drawing more customers here.  Was it the location?  That site had previously hosted a Macaroni Grill that went out of business.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel, listening to the Clear Creek-Alvin game on KACC.  The Alvin Yellow Jackets were winning, but the game was still in the first quarter.  I hoped Creek could pull it out.  Back at the room, I put the game on the clock radio and worked on this travelogue.  I also installed the Bamboo Touch tablet and worked through the tutorial.  I can see how it would be very useful indeed, but I would need a larger table in order to use it with my iMac.  The football game became uninteresting rather quickly, as Creek was never in it.  I turned off the radio when it was 33-9 Alvin with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter (33-16 was how it ended).  Am I glad I didn’t go out to the game in Alvin tonight!


Saturday October 31

I woke up a little after 6.  Now I knew that the Space Station and the HTV supply satellite would be flying almost directly overhead at 6:40 or so (thanks to Amy Ellison for the alert on Facebook).  Was it clear outside for viewing?  It sure was.  The lights in the parking lot made it hard to see the stars, but I found them and oriented myself.  I went outside just before the passes began.  I’d figured that if I looked towards Nasa 1, I would see the start of the passes.  And then I noticed a rapidly moving red light, slightly too rapid for a plane, with no blinking or noise.  That was the HTV supply satellite, soon to burn up in the atmosphere.  Not far behind it was a very bright, rapidly moving light, the brightest in the sky.  This was the Space Station.  I’d seen the space station before, but not in a few years; I’d “heard” it pass a few years ago (heard via amateur radio contacts, that is).  I was standing by my SUV and had the radio downlink frequency tuned in on my transceiver, but I heard nothing; the radio wasn’t active.  Maybe the astronauts were asleep.  Most of the people on the ground were, for sure.  I watched it pass straight overhead and then zoom off to the southeast, becoming dimmer and dimmer.

When I lost sight of it, I went back to my room to start packing.  Yes, I’d be leaving Nassau Bay today and heading up to Austin.  I got a luggage cart from the lobby and brought it back to the room, then started loading most of my belongings.  I took them to the car and packed it as best I could, then went back to the room until it was time to check out.  I would do that closer to 9, when I was supposed to meet with members of the class of ’81 at Seabrook’s Classic Café.  There were just three class members, as it turned out: Rob Wohrer, his wife Amy (Ellison), and myself (as well as Amy’s son Angus).  The café wasn’t terribly busy when we arrived, but it got busier shortly thereafter.  But we didn’t care; we had our table, and we had our breakfast as served by the waitstaff, who were dressed up in honor of Halloween.  Two of the waiters dressed up as Batman and Robin.  Angus amused himself by stacking up the containers of cream and jelly. When our meals arrived, Rob took a picture of my Belgian waffle and posted it on Facebook “for Frederic”, meaning our fellow classmate Frederic Lambert, who came from Belgium and was now in the Pacific Northwest.  He’d respond later that that was no Belgian waffle.

Now Angus wanted me to see their horses, which they kept at a stable in Morgans Point.  I had some time, and so I drove up there. Rob rode with me and guided me there.  It was up near the Barbours Cut shipping terminal, an eastward extension of the Port of Houston, presumably for vessels too big to travel the Houston Ship Channel.  To get there, we ended up passing a church that had taken over an old movie theater: Confrontation Church of God in Christ.  It struck me as odd that a church would have “confrontation” in its name.  Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the stables, and I got to meet young Kiku.  He hadn’t been let out for a couple of days and so had lots of energy.  Amy led him to one of the corrals, one that was smaller but drier than his typical one.  His mother was already in the corral being mellow.  I had my camera out, and I got some video of him running around.  A few times, he slipped and slid in the mud but never completely lost his footing.  I would have stayed longer, but the mosquitoes were out in force and really biting me.

Now I hit the road.  After leaving the stables and the port area, I got on Highway 225 heading west towards Pasadena and its refineries.  Today’s college football action was about to start; I turned on Sirius and tried to find a game I was really interested in (Michigan State played a night game), but I couldn’t find one.  So I turned on 790 AM and the Houston Cougar pre-game show.  Once the game started, I would keep that on until it ended, for it was a good game for fans of high-scoring action.  The Cougars would win, 50-43 and be assured of keeping or improving their national ranking.  To head to Austin, I took the East Loop up to I-10 and headed west, not stopping until Columbus and Highway 71.  By that time, I was getting hungry for lunch, but I’d already passed the restaurants in Columbus and didn’t want to backtrack.  I ended up eating at a Whataburger in La Grange.

[Details of my visit to my friend Keith's have been redacted to protect the honor of Ping the cat. Rest assured that he did not interfere with trick or treat duty.]


Sunday November 1

Today was a day to relax and unwind. The only event I had on the calendar was a meetup at Angel’s Icehouse in Spicewood; Dale Fortenberry had suggested that classmates meet up there and bring guitars if interested.  I left for there around 2:30, listening to the Detroit Lions lose another game….

TIME OUT: Why did I listen to the Lions instead of, say, the Texans? The Texans game was already in hand; they were assured of winning.  The Lions were losing, but it was a close game, and they could pull it out -- in theory.  But it didn’t work out that way.  OK, back to the travelogue.

… and stopping for some money at a surcharge-free ATM along the way.  It took around 40 minutes to get to Angel’s along Highway 71.  The place wasn’t too crowded; there were a few people in the main bar area and some out in the patio and backyard area.  I looked around but didn’t see anyone I recognized.  So I sat down and ordered a Diet Pepsi.  Now I hadn’t had lunch, so I thought I’d eat while waiting for others to arrive.  I ordered a bowl of tomato basil soup and the equivalent of Dairy Queen’s Steak Finger Basket.  The soup was pretty good, but the steak fingers were very hot, and they weren’t as good as I thought they would be. I had my iPod touch and my MiFi with me, so I checked e-mail and Facebook for reports on who might be coming.  Keith and family arrived while I was halfway through my meal; they ordered a few items, too.  As the Minnesota-Green Bay game played on the TV screens, I kept on checking for updates.  Then came the word: due to unexpected visitors and a family emergency, neither Dale nor Shawn would be coming. No guitar-playing today.  So we headed on back home, although I took the long way around, going over to Highway 360 for a chance to take pictures from a scenic overlook.

The opportunity to take pictures went better than planned, for the full moon was rising in the sky, and I saw it framed by the TV towers atop the hill.  I took several pictures of that view, as well as a few pictures of downtown illuminated by the golden setting sun.  I even caught a plane heading for a landing at the airport in one picture.  Then it was back to the house.  Later that evening, Keith and I would watch the new Battlestar Galactica movie, “The Plan.”  He wasn’t impressed with it.  By this time, we were both feeling a bit tired, so we called it a night.


Monday November 2

[Some details removed in order to concentrate on the main event, the bike ride]

Now at some point, I wanted to ride my bike along the trails downtown, which ran along the Colorado River.  With the weather being sunny and warm, this seemed like the perfect day for it, so as soon as the laundry was done, I set out for downtown.  I took a winding road (Westlake) to get there; it wasn’t the easiest drive due to the afternoon glare, the many hills and the many curves.  But I’d been on the road before, so I knew more or less where I was going.  At one point, the road rose over a crest, and you could see the Texas State Capitol directly in front of you.  It would make a great photo opportunity, if one could legally park alongside the roadway.  Once I got downtown, though, I wasn’t sure where to park for the trail.  I ended up crossing the river on the Lamar Street Bridge and parking at a park very close by.

The trail was very popular with walkers and joggers.  It wasn’t possible for a bike rider to build up good speed due to the congestion.  The trail was paved with cinders, mainly; that helped to hold down speed, too.  One section was marked as a leash-free area for dogs, and many dogs and their masters took full advantage of it.  There was a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn close to the river; I rode right past it. To the east I rode – under the 1st Street Bridge; under the Congress Street Bridge; to the end of the main trail a short distance later.  It continued along city sidewalks all the way over to and past I-35.  Part of that distance was uphill, so I was doing some huffing and puffing on those segments.  Now the trail continued past I-35, but it also turned north and went along a pedestrian bridge.  I took that bridge next to the freeway and to the north bank, and then I started riding the trail westbound.  I rode it all the way to the Pfluger pedestrian bridge next to the Lamar Street Bridge, and then I took the pedestrian bridge across the river.  There was a spiral ramp that went up from ground level, and I pedaled up it.  Once on the bridge, there were some very scenic views of downtown Austin and the river.  I had not brought a camera with me, wanting to concentrate on the trail, but now I wanted to come back with my camera.  Perhaps tomorrow I would.  From there, it was a short pedal back to the park where I had parked.


Tuesday November 3

[Focusing on the bike ride again]

Back at the house, I collected my camera and got ready to head back downtown for another ride on the Town Lake Trail.  Thanks to my reviewing trail maps, I found where I could park at the western end of the trail, Eilers Park.  It wasn’t terribly difficult to get there, although one could miss the sign for the turnoff.  The park had two swimming pools, one of which had been drained.  There were several people swimming at the second pool, but I wouldn’t be one of them.  No, I was getting my bike unloaded and prepared for the trail.  I had a false start on my ride when I had to turn back after forgetting my riding gloves.  Once I picked them up, though, I had a nice ride on the trail.  I rode to the intersection with the MoPac Expressway and took the pedestrian bridge across the river.  These were parts of the trail I didn’t see yesterday, and I was making extensive use of my camera.  I took some pictures of dogs swimming in the river to fetch toys thrown by their masters.  I took two pictures of the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue.  I rode to the north side of the river via the 1st Street Bridge and tried to find a way to take a picture of the dome of the Capitol.  I ended up riding on city streets all the way up to the Capitol and even onto the grounds, briefly.  I had some hills to contend with, but I managed to make it up them.

After I left the Capitol, I rode down Congress Street to 6th Street, then made my way back to the trail at the 1st Street Bridge.  Then I rode eastbound all the way over to I-35, riding this end of the trail in reverse to how I’d ridden yesterday.  It was great to ride down some of the hills I’d ridden up yesterday!  I made my way to the water station at the 1st Street Bridge and drank a few cups, and then I continued back over to the Pfluger Bridge.  I took some good pictures there, and then I went back to Eilers Park.  Total mileage: slightly over 12 miles.  Total pictures:  44.  Then it was back to the house for the evening.  I stopped for a bottle of pop along the way; 


Wednesday November 4

[Little of importance happened today, although I did have some Rudy's barbecue for supper]


Thursday November 5

Total for today:  603.7

I had a strange experience overnight: I woke up in the middle of a dream, the contents of which I’ve forgotten.  But when I woke up, it took me a few moments to realize where I was. I looked down and was surprised to see a book and a map there, but they had been there earlier.  Maybe part of my brain was still asleep and took a few moments to wake up.  I went back to sleep.

When I woke up for good, I made an e-mail and web check.  When I started hearing noises in the living room, I got up and started my final packing.  I went out for breakfast (two generic Pop-Tarts), and then I loaded up the car.  Around 7:45, I said my farewells and hit the road.  Now I wasn’t able to make good time for the first half hour due to northwest Austin rush hour, but things opened up once I got to the 45 tollway.  Then it was on to I-35 and north to Dallas.  I drove up through Round Rock, Georgetown, Killeen, Temple, Waco and Waxahachie without incident.  Traffic was heavier in downtown Dallas as I got onto I-30 for the trip to Texarkana.  For most of the morning and afternoon, I listened to the Radio Classics channel on Sirius; the programs were great, as usual.

As I headed out of Dallas, I was thinking about what to have for lunch.  I knew there was a Steak & Shake ahead, so when I saw the sign for it, I exited the freeway and prepared to turn around.  But before I got to the turnaround, I saw a Carino’s restaurant ahead, and I decided I’d rather go there instead.  I got one of my usual meals, the Spicy Shrimp and Chicken.  The food was good, but the service was a bit slow.

The drive to Texarkana was uneventful, if a bit tiring.  There was construction in Texarkana that brought traffic to a halt briefly; once I got past that and made it to the Arkansas border, the driving improved greatly.  Then I pulled into the Arkansas Welcome Center for a bathroom break and a stretch.  The center had TV’s inside carrying CNN, and it was via these TV’s that I learned of the shootings at Fort Hood.  From that point on, I listened to Fox News and CNN for the remainder of the drive.  The drive itself was uneventful, and it was dark when I arrived in Little Rock. I didn’t stop there, though; no, I found my way over to I-40 and headed east. 

Now I had hotel reservations for the Holiday Inn in Forrest City, well on the way to Memphis.  That was some 600 miles away from Austin, making for a good drive for the day.  It wasn’t the halfway point of my return to Michigan, but it was getting close.  I stopped for supper at McDonald’s in Brinkley, some 20 miles before Forrest City, and then finished the drive, arriving at 7:45.  I checked in to my room and then rested up from today’s drive and for tomorrow’s.


Friday November 6

Total for today: 815.0
Total for this segment: 1418.7

I woke up a little before 5 o’clock and turned on the news while I did my e-mail checks and packed up for the continuing trip.  I checked out a little after 6, choosing not to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant, even though it meant not using the $5 off coupon.  Skipping the breakfast was not a concern, for I knew I had a Pop-Tart pack in the car from a week and a half earlier, one I’d not opened yet.  Besides, having traveled 600 miles yesterday, and based on past experience, I knew I had a good chance of making it all the way home today.  But to do that, I’d want to do as much driving as possible, and so I passed on the sit-down breakfast in favor of the Pop-Tarts in the car.

The weather was clear with some ground fog, meaning it would be sunny when the sun rose.  It would also be blinding, as I was driving eastward.  At least it wasn’t due east, for that would have been very difficult.  Now I had to cope with some construction in West Memphis and a bit of Memphis rush hour, but overall, the drive through Arkansas and Tennessee was uneventful.  I stopped for gas in Jackson and got some snack foods; I’d nibble on those during the day.

On I-65 in Nashville, there was a traffic backup, mild in the northbound lanes but heavier in the southbound.  There was a police situation, and I saw a guy in handcuffs.  Once I got through there, traffic was pretty good for the rest of the afternoon.  On the satellite radio, I bounced around from Radio Classics to Fox News and CNN.  As I listened to the latest news on the Fort Hood shootings, there was news of another shooting in Orlando.  As it developed, it turned out to be another case of a disgruntled former employee taking out his inadequacies on his old firm.  One was killed, some five or six wounded.  He was captured a short time later.  Meanwhile, I drove on.

Along I-65, I crossed back into Eastern time.  Given my route, that would put me in Cincinnati at the time of their rush hour.  Taking their I-275 loop around town wasn’t a viable option, as that  loop was huge and went way out of the way, compared to Houston’s I-610.  So I went right through town.  A couple of miles out of downtown, the stop and go traffic began, and it wouldn’t let up for some time.  It was around 6 o’clock when I stopped for supper at the Steak & Shake in Dayton.  I brought in my laptop to check e-mail while I waited for (and ate) my supper. Now I had a decision to make: did I feel like pushing for home?  I didn’t feel unreasonably tired, like I was going to nod off at any moment.  What’s more, I felt tomorrow would be my best opportunity to get the SUV’s oil changed rather than wait until next Saturday.  And I was getting a little tired of hotel rooms.  So I decided to press on.  I got one final fill-up for the push home, and then I got onto I-75 and drove.

I had estimated I would be home by 10 PM.  I missed on that, although I was close: at 10, I was on I-275 north of I-94.  Within 11 minutes, I was indeed home.  Little had changed in two-plus weeks, although I had a big pile of something at my front door.  Had someone delivered a package in my absence? No, it was a pile of leaves blown there by the wind.  I’d have to clean those out tomorrow.  I’d also leave the major unpacking of the car until tomorrow as well.  Tonight, I’d bring in just the two bags I would have brought into a hotel room.  Tomorrow would come the unpacking, the restoration of the back seats, the changing of the oil, the receipt of the held mail, the paying of some bills, the watching of backlogged TV, the watching of college football, and the settling back into normal life.


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©2009 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
Revised May 13, 2014