Woke up to a cool morning and feeling good from the night before. It was so much fun hanging out with those guys. We packed up our stuff looking forward to seeing some of Austin, which was on yesterday’s agenda but the car had other ideas. Bastrop used to be a very small town that you passed through going to or coming from Houston. Not anymore! I wanted to mail a few postcards and went over to Bastrop to find the post office. We parked in the municipal lot and a woman walking by commented on the trailer. “I like your little house, is it for your dog?” she asked. “Oh no,” I replied, “we both sleep in it.” This must not have impressed her because she kept walking which was ok. Bastrop is a nice little town with a good Texas flavor, lots of activity, and a robust retail environment. Mabel needs food and since I am not allowed to feed her what I eat, a PetSmart run was in order. Thankfully, the new part of Bastrop has a bunch of these big chain stores. Mabel saunters into PetSmart and we find what she needs, the entire trip taking maybe 10 minutes. As we get into the car, an older man walks up looking at the camper. He likes it and looks nice enough so I open it up for him and he is amazed at the room and the air conditioner. He was in the Navy and flew P3-Orions coming in and out of Bergstrom a few times. His granddaughter joined the Navy Reserve because of him and he is very proud of it. "She is thinking of going Active,” he tells me. “I think it’s a good idea.” And he would know better than me.
We head to South Lamar and take it North into the Austin City Limits. I see the Broken Spoke, now crowded by condos. It used to look more at home on the West Texas prairie, now it is fighting for curb appeal. For some reason, I always think of Asleep at The Wheel when I think of the Broken Spoke. Country wasn’t my thing so I never went in, I would like to now though. Lamar is busy, lots of traffic and I practice good situational awareness so no evasive actions are needed. We come to Barton Springs Road and hang a left just after catching a glimpse of the Peter Pan mini golf place. Sheri and I used to go there and funny that it is still in business. I bet some of the holes are the same.
Zilker Park was always a favorite, especially at Christmas time because of the trail of lights. In the summer, we would come to the spring fed pool and sit on the grassy hill looking at girls. There was a great trail to mountain bike on at the end of the parking lot and Shakespeare in the Park was performed on summer nights. Sheri and I picnicked to Othello many years ago. Mabel and I found parking over by the fields, no payment required on weekdays, and we walked over to the pool. It was closed but I got the impression it was opening later in the day. There were plenty of people swimming downstream, and the canoe/SUP rental place was open for business. It was a nice day to just relax.
We continued over the Congress Avenue bridge, passed the building that housed the law firm I worked for in college. I was a runner and bankruptcies were big in the early 90’s so I spent a lot of time at the courthouse. Congress Avenue offers a great view of the Capitol Building and I can remember it adorned with a giant yellow bow after Desert Storm. It felt like the parades lasted longer than the war.
I wanted to see the UT Campus so we point the car towards Guadalupe or the Drag as it is affectionately known. Traffic is heavy and I am very aware that I need to find parking for not just the car but also the trailer. Somehow, we end up near the sororities after a few loops of the one ways and I see a double spot. I am amazed at their houses, but then, Greek life is BIG at Texas and so is the money needed to participate. Classes had just started and Guadalupe was crowded with students rushing to wherever they needed to go. Mabel was stressed with all the people, and I didn’t like it much either. We cross over officially on campus which seemed just as busy as we head for the Tower. I don’t see any other dogs and wonder if it is a dog unfriendly campus, but we continue our progress. All the statues have been taken down, their pedestals shrink wrapped. I guess every one of them had something to do with what is currently held as offensive. I never noticed them much when I was on campus but did read a week or so ago that they were suddenly removed. It is hot so Mabel and I don’t stick around but do find a bench by the Ransom Center. A young girl stops and asks to pet her, telling me she missed her dog. People are generally nice and ask to pet Mabel, it’s the little kids I worry about. They usually come in over the top of her head and that scares her. We make our way back to the car and I am disappointed by the Drag. There was a lot of graffiti and it just seemed grungy, not what I would expect next to such a large educational institution nor what it was when I attended.
We are spending the night at a friend’s home in Pflugerville, which is North of Austin and near Round Rock. Sherry and Chris Hindmarsh will be our hosts and since they are now empty nesters, there was room for Mabel and me to sleep in a real bed under a roof that I can’t reach up and touch. The radio is talking about a rush on the pumps due to the hurricane impacting Houston’s refinery operations. But in their opinion, it is an artificial fuel shortage fueled by social media. Rumor has created a panic, much like the one concerning bottled water before the storm. I can see the results at the stations I pass, lines to get gas, people honking at traffic jams, a few fist fights reported. I am OK on fuel for the moment and have enough for tomorrow but will need to be mindful of stopping sooner rather than later. Some stations are sold out of fuel and don’t know when they will get more while government officials are saying everything will be fine. I think of the fragility of the logistical systems that supply our life goods. All it takes is one key component to be disrupted and our lives are in chaos.
I find Sherry’s house and she greets me in the yard, I don’t remember the last time I saw her but we keep in touch, like so many, through Facebook. I know Sherry through my Air Force days as she was married to one of my first bosses in the Photo Shop at Bergstom, Joe Beard. We worked on the aerial cameras used for reconnaissance; old technology as were the planes but thinking back, it was a cool job. Joe was assigned to Panama, with them moving before I was discharged, his recliner staying stateside with me. His position required flight time on a C-130 reconnaissance bird and tragically he was killed in 1992 when his aircraft was fired upon by Peruvian fighters. Joe was a hell of a guy, knew photo inside and out and was a great boss. I can still see him sitting on the photo truck, laughing or answering our questions.
Sherry’s husband Chris was also a photo troop but worked in the component repair shop at Bergstrom and not on the flight line like we did. He has a cool job now at UT working with GPS systems and I am envious of his travel opportunities. This from a man that is travelling around the country. Somehow circumnavigating the Continental US doesn’t sound as exotic as the locales he has visited. The fajitas, my first since entering Texas, were great as was the conversation. Sherry pulled out her Bergstrom album and I was surprised to see some old ones of me and my Sheri. Were we ever truly that young? Our son Austin is older than we were in this picture. Where has the time gone? Minnesota is playing football on TV so we watch between reminiscing, old names not thought of in years now recognized. It was time for bed in a real house and Mabel parked herself at my feet not moving until morning. It was a good night.
Thankful again for old friends and the familiarity they bring.